- 21 February 2009 by Chris HockingFinal Cut Studio 3 Predictions
- 11 August 2011 by Chris HockingCalculating Timecode in Excel
- 10 May 2009 by Chris HockingAvid vs FCP – My thoughts…
- 8 March 2012 by Chris HockingFilmapalooza 2011
- 18 November 2011 by Chris HockingSPAA Conference 2011
- 20 February 2013 by Nicholas CollaTropfest: The Rock Show of Film Festivals
- 19 May 2013 by Michael ShanksKeeping up with the Comstocks
- 25 April 2013 by Guest BloggerThe OceanMaker
- 13 April 2013 by Chris HockingImporting AVCHD Footage into Avid
- 9 March 2013 by Nicholas CollaAWG Screenwriters Conference – Part Three
- 4 March 2013 by Nicholas CollaAWG Screenwriters Conference – Part Two
- 24 February 2013 by Nicholas CollaThe Oscars 2013
Posted: 19 May 2013 by Michael Shanks
Meanwhile, in a Parallel Universe…
WARNING: This video may contain game spoilers.
Directed and Edited by Michael Shanks
Written by Michael Shanks with Nick Issell
Special Thanks to:
Louie McNamara, Laura Lethlean and Ryan Keenan
Posted: 25 April 2013 by Guest Blogger
After working in this industry for many years now, one amazing and almost unexpected trend we constantly see is that most people, even if they’re Academy Award Winning, are more than happy to share their knowledge, experience and advice. This is one of the greatest things about the filmmaking world – generally speaking, the most talented people at the top of their chosen craft, are more than happy to chat about the lessons they’ve learnt along their long careers, share tips and trips, and just get people excited. We’re massive supporters and fan’s of people such Stan Winston (who has sadly passed away, however his legacy lives on!), Stu Maschwitz, Andrew Kramer, Mike Seymour, Kanen Flowers, Philip Bloom… the list is almost endless. All of these people are hugely well respected and highly regarded, are expects at what they do, have an amazing list of credits, but still go above and beyond to share their knowledge about the industry they all love. The person we’re chatting to today in this blog entry fits perfectly into this category. He’s stupidly talented, doing absolutely amazing work, but is also more than happy to share his knowledge with like-minded people.
Lucas Martell’s first foray into animation was his short film Pigeon: Impossible. The 6-minute short took nearly 5 years to complete and was a crash course on every aspect of CG production. In addition to writing and directing, Lucas did all of the lighting, rigging, pipeline development, and most of the character animation. The final film has been shown in over 200 festivals in 43 countries, and won more than 20 awards including Best Short at the Oscar-qualifying Montreal World Film Festival, and Best in Show at ArtFutura in Spain. The film was also a viral hit, having passed 8 million views on YouTube alone.
Since Pigeon: Impossible, Lucas has created several original feature projects, all in various states of development, as well as working on a new short film entitled The OceanMaker.
Here’s an interview we did with Lucas, talking about this amazingly exciting new project (that we really hope you’ll help support!)…
Tell us about The OceanMaker.
The OceanMaker is a 9-minute animated short set after all the earth’s oceans have mysteriously disappeared. The story is about a pilot who has learned how to seed the clouds, but in order to do so, she must fend off vicious sky pirates who roam the skies, stealing every last drop of water out of the clouds using these huge nets. It’s a very fun, inventive action-packed story, but there’s also a lot of emotion and the ending in particular is going to be very powerful… not something you find in your typical airplane movie.
Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from my love of old airplanes. For years I had imagined this fun world where people flew around in these junkyard planes that they had cobbled together from spare parts. It was very “Mad Max in the sky” but it didn’t have much of a story. When I finally was able to spend more time with it, I deconstructed the idea and realized that the world needed to be post apocalyptic in order to justify this old, decaying imagery I had envisioned. The last step was figuring out why planes would be so important in a world like this, and the idea came up that maybe they would be fighting over the clouds. From there it was clear that water needed to be a scarce resource, so that was pretty much the setup for the story.
It’s quite a departure from your first film “Pigeon: Impossible”.
Yeah Pigeon: Impossible was a lot of fun, but I knew that when I did my next short I wanted to do something totally different. It didn’t make sense to do something that had the same tone and feel. I’ve got a few feature projects that are right in line with the style of Pigeon: Impossible, so I thought I’d try something that would stretch my range creatively and do something that was more of an action-drama than a comedy. The big thing I’ve learned is that drama requires a lot more screen time. With comedy, its usually best to be quick and punchy. With drama, you really need more time to spend with the characters in order for the audience to bond with them. This was especially challenging because OceanMaker doesn’t have any dialogue, and our hero character is sitting in a plane the entire time, so creating those touchstone emotional moments has been the biggest hurdle, but I think we’ve found some really good solutions.
Was the production process pretty much the same for OceanMaker as it was for Pigeon: Impossible?
OceanMaker was definitely a lot more “professional”. As I’ve become better at writing stories, I was able to put together a pretty solid script in just a few days, and about 80% of that survived to make it to the screen. On Pigeon: Impossible I was just learning storytelling and animation, so it was much more like filmmaking by trial and error. OceanMaker also had a much larger crew… at least in the sense that most of the hands-on work was done by other people. I also had some help on Pigeon: Impossible, but it came in short chunks here and there. For the main stretch of production on the OceanMaker, we had a crew of 8 working full time for 6 and a half weeks.
That six and a half weeks was also pretty unique. Can you talk about that production process?
Yeah, the big thing I took away from Pigeon: Impossible and several other projects I had done, was that having people working remotely in their spare time isn’t a very productive way to go. I always said that if I were going to do another film, we needed to find a way to assemble a crew and get them all in the same location. I had saved up a good chunk of money, but not enough to hire all the artists I needed. So instead, I “bribed” them by moving production to a small island in the Caribbean. It was a bit like animation camp. We flew everyone down, and we all worked our butts off for the month and a half. The great thing was it was incredibly focused. People were there to work, and of course we still enjoyed the location, but having everyone in one place and totally dedicated to the project made us incredibly productive, and we were able to finish more than half of the film in the time we were there. That’s pretty remarkable for an animated film of this caliber, and it not only made it a great life experience for the whole crew, but it also let us do the film for a fraction of what it would have cost to do thing a more traditional way.
You mentioned that you’ve finished more than half of the film. What’s left to do?
Well since we’ve returned we’ve had to go back to the more traditional indie way of working. People put in an hour here and there when they have the time, but its not consistent. At this point we’re probably about 65% finished, which means that the story is pretty much locked but we’re still tweaking a few moments. Animation is about 80% finished, and most of the assets are done. We still have quite a bit of lighting and rendering left to do, but that’s a more technical process and we can’t do much more until all the assets are 100% finished.
How long will it take to finish the film?
That’s a tough question. If we were to keep working like we are now, it would probably take from 6 months to a year to completely finish it. However, if we were able to get the crew back together, we could probably finish all the animation and rendering in about a month, and then there would just be a little left to do with music and post. That’s one of the reasons we’ve started an IndieGoGo campaign. We’re most certainly going to finish the film, but in addition to doing things more efficiently, there’s a few “extras” we’d like to add to the film such as a second character and recording the score with a live orchestra. At this point there’s just a few days left in the IndieGoGo campaign, but even what we’ve raised so far is going to help immensely in getting the film finished.
Any other final thoughts?
Just a huge thank you to the people who have supported this project so far, and to you for helping spread the word. It’s a very special project, both in terms of the story, but also how we’re making it. We were a little nervous to see how people would react, but it’s been fantastic to see so many people get what we’re doing and rally behind us. I can’t wait for everyone to see the finished film!
Posted: 13 April 2013 by Chris Hocking
We have thrown together a quick little PDF tutorial on how to import AVCHD footage (specifically footage from a Sony NX5) into Avid Media Composer 6.5 using AMA. This tutorial assumes you are a beginner to Avid Media Composer, so it goes through all the steps in quite a bit of detail.
You can download the PDF here.
For more detailed technical information, it’s also worth checking out Avid’s AVCHD AMA Plug-in Guide.
If you’re doing a more traditional offline/online workflow, then it’s worth checking out this video:
Any questions, let me know!
Posted: 9 March 2013 by Nicholas Colla
I made a film with ping pong balls flying out of an Asian stripper which was a huge success, then one with a dude fisting a sheep which was a complete disaster – no one knows nothing!
Stephan Elliot, 2013
Writer/Director, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
In Conversation with Tom Schulman
Day 3 kicked off with another “In Conversation With” session with one of the international guests, a man that I’d already heard talk a number of times over the conference, Tom Schulman. What I loved about listening to Tom Schulman and Paul Abbott (the two international guests) were that they weren’t afraid to be completely open and honest with their failures as well as their success. Tom spoke at great length about the difficulty of being a writer in Hollywood and his love affair with movies.
Early on in his life, Tom had been a philosophy major which he said he found to be rather uninspiring. What set him on his path to Hollywood was a task that was set for one of his philosophy classes in which he had the choice to either write a term paper or make a short film about the subject matter. As most students would’ve done, he decided to shoot a film.
This little experience got him hooked on telling stories through the medium of film and soon after completing the short he began to borrow the college’s old Arriflex camera so he could shoot his own little shorts. He even got a job at a small film studio and instead of getting paid a wage he would get stock and the guy who ran the studio to shoot his films for him. At this point he never saw himself as a writer and ended up going to USC film school where he wanted to direct rather than write. That want to direct is what got his writing started as he felt (like many of us) that to be able to direct, he needed to be able to write.
After graduating from USC he started writing as a way of getting by and his first ‘Hollywood’ experience was having one of his treatments bought by ABC, only to be entirely re-written by another writer. He was told constantly that his writing didn’t have any humanity and shopped Dead Poets Society around for years with no luck. In talking about Dead Poets Society he said:
- It took him two to three years to figure out if he wanted to write it or not
- He wrote a one hundred and seventy five page outline before even beginning the script
- Was told by a studio that no one gave a shit about poetry and to rewrite it as a dance movie
- Another studio offered to make it as a TV movie, Tom’s response – “Go Fuck Yourself!”
- Alec Baldwin & Liam Neeson were originally courted to play the Robin Williams role, at the time they were complete unknowns
- The film went through two directors before finally getting underway with Australian Peter Weir at the helm
He also chatted about his successful comedy feature Honey, I Shrunk the Kids which was a rewrite on an original drama concept that Disney had called Rounded. When Schulman was first contacted they told him that he had seven days to turn the film into a comedy as they started shooting in ten days. The entire project hinged on Schulman’s rewrite as Rick Moranis was threatening to walk off the film.
He finished with this quote which I found rather cool:
“Writing is a wonderful exercise into the imagination. You get to play God.”
Recipe for Success: The Ingredients of a Smash Hit Comedy Feature
The last official session for the conference for me was about writing comedy features, something that I was a little bit dubious about going in (due to the lack of these in Australia for some time) but I felt instantly better when I discovered the panel consisted of Tom Schulman (you know the drill), Stephan Elliot (writer, Priscilla) and David Parker (writer, Malcolm).
This session was basically a case study where each writer spoke about their projects and how and why they succeeded in the marketplace. Of Malcolm, David Parker told the audience that distributers didn’t want to touch it in Australia but as soon as he took it abroad and sold it in the States they were automatically interested. He also mentioned that rather than shoot the script that had been rewritten for funding approval, they took the money and shot their original script – ballsy, and something I doubt you’d get away with these days!
Stephan Elliot spoke extensively about the timing of movies. He said that Priscilla came at a time when HIV/AIDS was a topic that had been flogged to death and that people were getting tired of the dreariness of how it was being dealt with in the media. Priscilla showed an uplifting spin on the topic which is why Stephan feels it found an audience. This was a point that Tony Briggs also touched on when talking about The Sapphires and how the Stolen Generation had been previously represented before they made the film.
Tom Schulman pretty much touched on everything he’d spoken about in the other 500 sessions that I’d seen him in so not much to report on there.
What ended this session though, was a discussion that arose from an audience member asking why Australian comedy or even film in general didn’t “travel” well overseas. What made this discussion interesting was an American woman (who had been a staff writer in at Disney for twenty years before marrying an Australian and moving here ten years ago) had to say. She said that American’s make movies for an audience whereas Australian’s make movies to please the funding bodies and the industry as a whole.
This is something that, to be honest, I kind of agree with. I think due to the lack of a studio system here, it means that we are limited in terms of where we can go to get money and the biggest source comes from film funding bodies like Screen Australia and the state funding bodies. Unfortunately for us these funding bodies are government run and therefore have to adhere to certain guidelines when it comes to financing film, which is understandable.
I think this is starting to shift with some bolder, more independent projects, starting to come to the fore in the last few years thanks to private investment and crowd funding (Red Hill, Undead, The Tunnel, Crawlspace, etc) however it’s an interesting thing to think about. What makes our industry tick? Do we make films for the market place like Seph, Emile, Penny, Tom and others had mentioned continually during the three days of the conference?
Maybe it’s time we had a good hard look at the kind of films we make and possibly make some bold steps to change it for the better. And perhaps this is already happening with films like The Rover, Son of a Gun and Predestination all currently in production. I’m not saying there isn’t room for our art house dramas like Snowtown, Wish You Were Here and Animal Kingdom – they are all amazing films in their own right. However we need to start looking at a balance between our art house cinema and our slightly more popcorn cinema so we can start to be more sustainable as an industry.
That’s it from the AWG conference. Hope my ramblings have been useful/done the conference justice.
Posted: 4 March 2013 by Nicholas Colla
Having failed at everything as a writer, that’s how I got to where I am.
Academy Award winning writer of Dead Poets Society, 2013.
So day two rolled around and unfortunately due to the commute back and forth from Melbourne I managed to miss what I was told was a brilliant networking breakfast. Although to be honest every time I hear that word networking I cringe a little. I just feel like the word makes me feel like I’m supposed to be friendly with people because I may need them at some stage. I’d rather think of it as an opportunity to meet like minded people in film who i’ll hopefully have long lasting relationships with. Either way I missed it, so onto the first session for the day.
Moneyball: The High Stakes World of Development for the International Market.
I was looking forward to this session more than most as it was about developing content that works on an international scale rather than just a local scale and it also had one of the best panels of the weekend. It was chaired by Jan Sardi (writer, Shine) and featured Penny Chapman (Producer, Matchbox Pictures), Seph McKenna (Head Australian Production, Village Roadshow) and Emile Sherman (Producer, The King’s Speech, Shame). Looking forward to where Chris and I would like LateNite to head, this was a very important session as we want to think big in terms of the film and television that we want to produce.
The conversation started off with Seph talking about the “10 point plan” that Roadshow use to judge a project before jumping on board as a distributer. They basically allocate 10 points to 5 categories which include Screenplay, Director, Cast, Producer and Budget. It’s an important concept to think about because as filmmakers it’s easy to forget about the business side of making films.
He also spoke about Original Concepts as opposed to pre built franchise/brand ideas, sighting examples and thoughts behind both models. In regards to original concepts he spoke about the importance of cast as, without a pre built audience, they are what you’re selling on the poster. In the case of a pre built brand he used the example of Mao’s Last Dancer which, before going into production, was based on a book that had sold 1.3 million copies worldwide so you could argue that you potentially already have 1.3 million ticket sales in the bank before you even start rolling.
Seph is a man that I have been lucky enough to meet on a number of occasions through friends and projects I have been attached to and I have to say he is an incredibly generous and intelligent man. His parting advice at the end of his spiel: Market is key. The script must be beyond fantastic but at the end of the day, who are you making it for?
Emile Sherman was next cab off the rank and he spoke in depth about the four categories that he feels Australian film fall into. They were:
- Makes some sales in Australia and some small art house sales world wide
- Snowtown, Wish You Were Here
- Often comedy (perhaps based on a book)
- Don’t really work overseas but hit big with the local market
- Red Dog, Wog Boy
- Can have a wide release throughout Australia
- Works as a film overseas
- Bought and distributed by bigger art house distributers worldwide
- Have something a bit different, perhaps a bit of publicity or festival driven
- The Sapphires, The King’s Speech
- Requires a wide release, not only here but overseas
- Needs a decent PA/Marketing budget
- Competes directly with Hollywood movies
- Has to put an Australian cast up against American casts, how do they compete?
- A Few Best Men, Mental
He also spoke about what he called, the writing paradox for producers, “Everyone wants the new original thing that’s worked before”. A really interesting concept which had me thinking for quite a few days about that in relation to my own projects. It seems to have been a constant theme throughout the three days, how do you take what’s already been done and find that hook, that original twist?
In terms of the business side of things, Emile echoed Seph’s comments about knowing your market. He said it distresses him to see writers working on concepts that don’t have an audience and that his job a lot of the time is to work with writers to shape their film into something that has market appeal. He also mentioned thinking about budget early on when writing. For example The King’s Speech was made on a budget of 13 million as they knew with Firth, Rush, Pearce and Bonham Carter starring that would be able to safely recoup their budget from box office numbers. With his other film Shame, they knew it would only have a very small art house release due to the subject matter and therefore only had a budget of 6 million.
Penny Chapman was last in line and she spoke at great length about her experience at working in the Hollywood system after her company Matchbox was bought up by NBC Universal back in 2011. She spoke about the writers being the ones who sell projects in the States and that as television “takes over” from film thanks to HBO, a great showrunner (head writer) and writing team is gonna be what gets a project up.
They finished off with a story about a writer called Graeme Simsion, a man who I’ve had the pleasure of working with through a table read of his script The Rosie Project a few years back. Graeme won an AWGie award for his script but just couldn’t get the project up, no one wanted to touch it. After a few years he managed to get the script bought as a novel, with a publisher putting forward quite a substantial amount of money to get it written. And would you believe it – now people are chasing him for the film rights… what a strange industry we work in!
Warp Factor None: Writing Sci Fi Film & TV in Australia
I went to sit in on this talk due to a couple of projects that Chris and I have been working on in the last few years that have a bit of a Sci Fi twist to them. I was thoroughly disappointed with the talk which didn’t really seem to go anywhere. The panel seemed to talk mainly about the fact that Sci Fi could definitely and should be made in Australia, but really it isn’t that much. It was a real shame because the session was packed with writers who I think were expecting a bit more of an insight into Sci Fi writing and the deconstruction of what makes it work in Hollywood but perhaps currently not here.
The one thing I did pull out of this talk was the idea of Sci Fi content being impossible on low budget and that’s why it’s not really funded in Australia. The panel members sighted a few examples of low budget Sci Fi which have kicked huge goals around the world including Primer ($7,000), Cube ($350,000), Moon (5,000,000) and of course our very own Mad Max (350,000).
Before I move on I’d like to point out the huge slate of Sci Fi films being made in Australia including:
- The Rover (David Michôd)
- These Final Hours (Zac Hilditch)
- Predestination (Speirig Brothers)
- Tremula (Shane Krause)
Check them out if you get the chance.
Horror, The Horror
This talk involved writers Shane Krause, Shayne Armstrong and legendary genre producer Anthony Ginane and was about the issues that producers often find with first time screen writers. The two Shane’s had literally just come off judging the Terror Australis Competition and so got an insight as writers as what producers must have to put up with when reading a huge volume of scripts (they had to read 130 and pick 12 for the competition). They broke the talk up into 13 “rules” which I’ve attempted to summarise below.
- Make them short and sharp / make sure people can spell and remember it
- Allow them to have multiple meanings within the screenplay
- Try to make it eye catching
Size Does Matter
- For genre in particular, longer scripts aren’t necessarily better
- People hate reading these days, don’t give ridiculously sized treatments/supporting material
- Make your pitch document as interesting and compelling as possible, don’t fill it with useless shit
Write like a Demon, NOT a Psycho
- Be professional (typo’s, grammar, punctuation etc)
- Energy, creativity and commitment come across on the page
- Use correct formatting
- Keep in mind Australian paper size is bigger than American paper size
Density Controls your Destiny
- A fast read is a good read
- Be careful that you don’t overwrite the BIG print
- If it’s taking you 6 lines to say something, can it be said in 1 or 2?
Your Soul is Judged within Two Pages
- Within two pages, the reader knows if you can write or not (can you write evocatively, character, situation etc)
- The more scripts you have to read, the quicker the judgements are when reading
- If it’s shit in the first two pages, it’s unlikely it will get better
Prepare to be Decimated
- Your script must be compelling in the first 10 pages
- Always a concern when the opening is too slow a burn
- If the premise isn’t knock-out interesting, you have to find a way to hook your reader immediately
- Don’t leave things too late in the read!
Death to Dilettantes!
- Know the genre, know the market, know the reader
- Horror scripts should be scary / if it’s not thrilling it’s not a thriller
- Be passionate about your genre
- You can only break the rules and conventions if you know them back to front
Premise is King
- Have to be able to distill your premise/hook in a couple of sentences
- What’s different about your premise/idea
- If you want it to be a theatrical movie what about your film cuts through?
Go for the Jugular (or Heart)
- Comedy horror, make sure it’s funny but still scary
- Go for an emotional/visceral response to the material
- The art in it is the passion you develop for a particular genre
Achievability can Make or Break a Script
- Want a producer to think: that’s a good concept AND I can find the money for this
- Don’t pitch to a producer who doesn’t work in the style/genre of your film
In a Digital World, Hard Copies Rule
- Better read when you hand over a hard copy
- Just cause we live in a digital world doesn’t mean everyone reads on an iPad/kindle
Break the Rules BUT Only if You Know Them
- Fuck with the system
- Look at Wolf Creek for a good Australian example
The Numbers are Against You
- In the spec script market, 20% are good, 5% are GREAT and the rest are rubbish
- There are a hell of a lot of scripts out there
A couple of interesting points in there but the discussion ended up descending into Anthony Ginane telling everyone that the industry is hard and eventually people have to start being realistic about their careers. Perhaps not the best forum for negativity but he makes an interesting point all the same.
The Eclectic Writer: Pleasures and Pains of working in multiple genres
A great session to finish the day with as again it featured a rip roaring panel which included Tom Schulman (writer, Dead Poet’s Society, Honey I Shrunk the Kids), Andrew Knight (one of Australia’s greats, writer of SeaChange, Rake, Jack Irish), Jacquelin Perske (writer Love My Way, Little Fish) and Keith Thompson (writer, The Sapphires, Clubland).
I really enjoyed this session because it started off with all of the panel talking about how they got into writing and what made them want to write for film and television. The stories were diverse and all interesting, my favourites being Oscar winner Tom Schulman who started writing in multiple genres due to depression setting in when he couldn’t sell a script in Hollywood, Keith Thompson who got a job writing for television for Crawfords back in the day and got so bored writing for TV that he used to try to write album names and song titles into the shows dialogue and Andrew Knight who claims to have started writing after getting fired from his job for flooding the paint factory he worked in.
These four incredibly intelligent writers spoke throughout the session about the importance of finding your voice as a writer and allowing yourself to fail. Keith Thompson spoke a lot about being terrified every time he sits down to write and having to give himself a few days before getting started as he know that he will be so terrified he’ll waste a few days just staring at the screen.
They also spoke about sticking to your guns and gave their advice on (this is a quote) dealing with “fucking idiots” when selling your scripts. Their advice?
- Be polite and open to advice, don’t argue
- If you don’t agree with something just nod your head and ignore it later
- Listen and use your instincts as a writer
- Work with people that you’ve chosen to work with and check your ego at the door.
I enjoyed day two far more than day one and even though it was a long one, I felt I came out of it with a lot of interesting thoughts to ponder about story telling and the business of the industry that I’ve chosen to be a part of. I decided to miss the networking dinner to retire to my motel for some local Chinese food and to catch up on work.
Posted: 24 February 2013 by Nicholas Colla
Who should win, will win and the politics of it all…
(in my own humble opinion of course!)
So it’s that time of year again where the people that you watch on the big screen, and the hard working team that make them look so damn good come together to celebrate another year of films. I’m excited this year because for once I have seen almost all (I’m short a Lincoln and a Zero Dark Thirty) the films nominated in both performance and technical categories. I’m pretty opinionated about stuff like this so please take whatever I say with a grain of salt, no use tearing me to shreds – just a humble movie goer’s opinion.
Let’s start with the technical shall we:
The field is an interesting one as majority of the films nominated are films people think under delivered on story and performance but had shit hot visual effects (which is what I like to call the “Michael Bay” effect). After realizing I have absolutely no idea about visual effects I decided to palm it off to Chris, our post guru and tech director to answer this one, here is what he had to say…
Before I get into the actual films – this year is a REALLY important year for the whole Visual Effects industry in regards to the Academy Awards, because for the first time, it looks like visual effects artists are finally going to take a stand and protest at the big event. For those that don’t know, the last few months have been depressing and incredibly scary for the whole visual effects industry – with the bankruptcy and re-emergence of Digital Domain, medium size post production facilities falling left, right and centre – and recently Rhythm & Hues filing for Chapter 11 hit right before the VES Awards. What makes this so frustrating and confusing is that Rhythm & Hues was the company that brought Richard Parker to life (aka the incredible Tiger in Life of Pi), and well as doing a bulk of the visual effects on Snow White & The Huntsman. Together these two films have grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide, so it’s absolutely insane and mind-boggling to think that a company with so much talent, and such a good track record, can be forced to file for bankruptcy. What’s even more depressing is that many of the artists who worked nights and weekends to create these incredible effects are out of work, and still unpaid for weeks of work (including many late nights and weekends) on NEW tent-pole films managed by the same film studios (Fox & Universal). Visual Effects artists are creating INCREDIBLE IMAGES, that are translating into HUGE box office numbers – and yet the companies that create the work are going out of business. Sadly – the Hollywood Visual Effects industry is broken, and drastic measures need to be taken to restore it. Unfortunately I don’t have any magical solutions – but all I can ask is that people try and support the protest in any way they can – even if it’s just posting your support on Twitter. And on that depressing note – let’s discuss the actual films.
The nominations this year include some really solid visual effects films - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Life of Pi, Marvel’s The Avengers, Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman. The only film I haven’t managed to check out yet is Snow White - although it’s definitely on my “to watch” list.
Peter Jackson is one of my heroes - and although I was never a big fan of Lord of the Rings – checking out The Hobbit in VMAX was definitely one of my biggest priorities at the start of the year – not only because I was sure it was going to be an epic and enjoyable film, but also because it was the first film I’ve ever seen filmed and projected at 48fps. If you think about this in a VFX sense for just a second – this means that each of Joe Letteri’s talented VFX artists at Weta Digital had pretty much double the amount of work to do – double the roto, double the renders, double the storage (i.e. about 6 petabyte’s!). This is a huge achievement in itself – but then when you consider this film was also shot in stereo, your head starts hurting. This film really pushed the boundary in every sense – and I won’t go into too much more detail (check out this INCREDIBLE fxguide article if you want to get really geeky) – and although some audiences complained about 48fps and the use of stereo on a whole, I don’t think anyone can argue that the “Gollum” scene was nothing short of spectacular. This was one of the most technically brilliant, but also entertaining and captivating scenes of any films this year. It’s also proof that VFX doesn’t have to be all about big explosions and out-of-this-world set extensions – Gollum looked so real, that you instantly forgot his a digital creation, and just got sucked into the scene. Sadly, for me, there were some other sequences that didn’t really hold up on the big screen, so I don’t think this film will win Best Visual Effects – but huge points to the incredible team in New Zealand for bringing Gollum to life in 48fps Stereo! Epic effort!
I was fortunate enough to see Prometheus on opening night at IMAX – and despite lots of people having complaints about the logic and storyline of the film, I personally loved it. I’m a MASSIVE fan of the whole Alien series – and personally this film really lived up to my expectations. In terms of Visual Effects – the skin work that was done for the Engineer at the opening of the film was absolutely incredible (and basically proof that VFX can now basically create photo-realistic humans) – make sure you check out this fxguide article for all the details. Another really impressive sequence is when David (the android) uncovers a three-dimensional star map inside the Orrery (the Engineers’ spacecraft control room) – and the whole space transforms into a giant virtual map of the universe – a true work of art (both creatively – but also technically, as they used deep compositing to great effect). Overall – I was a massive fan of this movie, but although there were same incredible effects – I still don’t think it’s the best of the bunch.
I really need to see this film again, because every seemed to love it – and I just got bored in the cinema. Admittedly I saw it late at night – so maybe I was just too exhausted for a epic VFX-fueled superhero roller-coaster ride. However, from a VFX point of view – this film was incredibly impressive. ILM always does an unbelievably good job with Iron Man – but this was a step-up yet again. This film has massive explosions, giant set extensions, virtual body doubles, completely digital characters and really cool HUD’s. The effects work was incredible – but again, I don’t think this will take out the Best Visual Effects Oscar.
So given I haven’t seen Snow White yet… that leaves us with my favorite film of the bunch – Life of Pi. This film is a visual masterpiece. With digital oceans and water, completely photo-realistic digital animals, incredible fur and hair simulations (including creatures that are wet) and the fact that this film was shot in stereo – there really is a lot to take in. This film truly is magical – both in terms of it’s story, the look, and of course, the visual effects. It’s also one of the few films that I would highly recommend trying to see in a 3D cinema – the whale scene alone is spectacular. Again, for all the nerdy details, make sure you check out fxguide’s article – it’s especially worth checking out some of the breakdowns just so you can see how much work is in fact all VFX.
And so, I have to agree with the The VFX Predictinator - I think Life of Pi will definitely take out Best Visual Effects this year round – which is both incredibly exciting because I think it’s well deserved, but also really sad when you think that Rhythm & Hues is now bankrupt, and a lot of the incredible artists that worked on this film are now struggling to find work. Hopefully though, if it does win – it will spark further conversation about the state of the VFX industry, and we will be able to find a way to make VFX profitable once again.
Heart Says: Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
Head Says: Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
OK… Back to Nick…
Having just come back from the AWG National Screenwriters Conference, and spent the last 3 days listening to many Oscar nominated/winning screen writers speak (Tom Schulman, Stephan Elliott, Jan Sardi), this is a category that I am very interested in. I loved all the films nominated (except obviously Lincoln as I’m still yet to see it). My heart would love to see Silver Linings win as I think it’s one of the best, most intelligent romantic comedies in years but my head says Argo is probably more deserving. Relative new comer Chris Terrio has produced a thrilling, tense screenplay based on a very unique American story.
It’s always interesting when Quentin Tarantino is nominated in a category that has original in its title. He is arguably one of the most unoriginal, yet so ridiculously original writer/directors in Hollywood history. He would be my pick but I have a sneaking suspicion that with the controversy surrounding his script (particularly the use of the n word) he may get pipped at the post by Zero Dark Thirty writer Mark Boal who seems to have had a bit of buzz going in. But honestly, could you get more original than a German bounty hunter pretending to be a dentist… I think not. Don’t think there will be much competition from Moonrise Kingdom, Flight or Amour.
Again I’ll handball over to Chris for this one…
OK, so I’m probably not the best person to comment on this, as I’ve only seen two (Argo & Life of Pi) of the five nominations (Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook & Zero Dark Thirty) – but the two films I have seen both had incredibly strong editing.
Argo’s editor, William Goldenberg (who also cut Zero Dark Thirty!) has now earned his third and fourth nominations without a win – but given he lost out to The Matrix and Return of the King in previous years, he’s in pretty amazing company even without a statue! The odds seem to be very much in his favor statistically – but the reason I think he’s in with a really good chance is that Argo is just a really fantastic film – and when you have a really solid film, you tend to forget the craft of editing all together, and just get sucked into the film. Admittedly I never once thought during the film “man, that’s a really good cut” – but I think that’s what makes a well edited film – you don’t want to actually notice the cuts at all, you just want to escape your world and be transported somewhere else. Argo definitely pulls you in.
Everything about Life of Pi is technically brilliant – it looks incredible, it sounds amazing. Even if you hated the film, you can’t deny that it’s a visual masterpiece. Life of Pi’s editor, Tim Squyres did an absolutely incredible job tying such a complex and visually breathtaking film together – but the only thing that could potentially go against him is that the visual effects may outshine the actual cutting. When you have a film that has so many incredible visual effects – it’s really hard to separate what’s offline editing, and what’s done in online. Given this, I think Argo has the edge out of the two films I’ve seen.
Back to Nick again…
Again this is a tough one without having seen Lincoln and also not really being where my talent lies as a filmmaker. However I gotta go with the ridiculously talented Roger Deakins for Skyfall. I can’t deny that I loved the look of Life of Pi and applaud Claudio Miranda for that film but if for no other reason, the poor bastard has been nominated ten times without a win. TEN TIMES! I think it’s time for Roger to shine and I think this article I saw online sums it up best.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
This category is slightly hilarious considering every person nominated has won an Oscar before. I’m going to be a bit controversial here and say that I think the underdog in this category should win, the underdog in this case being Robert De Niro. His performance in Silver Linings is so subtle and nuanced and is without a doubt his best performance in years. I have heard Tommy Lee Jones is a stand out in Lincoln and the obvious buzz around Waltz is undeniable but I really do hope De Niro takes it out.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
A particularly hard one for me to judge based on the fact that I’ve only seen three out of the five performances. So based on what I’ve heard and seen from the lead up awards I would say that Hathaway’s performance in Les Misérables is a shoe in.
Another category that you’d have to be a gypsy to be able to predict. You have Day-Lewis, arguably the finest actor of our generation, Hugh Jackman who is a knock out in Les Mis, Joaquin Phoenix who put in a remarkable performance in the underrated The Master and Bradley Cooper who blew me away in Silver Linings Playbook with a career defining performance. As for Denzel… maybe not this year mate.
Having the oldest AND youngest nominees ever makes this a rather unique category this year. Jennifer Lawrence was breathtaking in Silver Linings in what I think is the best performance of her short but already brilliant career and little Quvenzhane Wallis was a knockout in Beasts of the Southern Wild. However, I don’t think I could go past Emmanuelle Riva’s performance in Amour. It was a horrifying and affecting portrayal of an ageing woman whose body and mind starts to succumb to old age. It was certainly a performance that I won’t forget for a long time to come.
The most controversial category this year thanks to the surprise omission of Ben Affleck who has already won a string of director awards for his political thriller Argo. The press have made it a race between Ang Lee and Spielberg, with the latter seeming to be the current favourite. I’m going to go against all odds and cheer for the director who has absolutely no chance of winning but probably deserves to. Benh Zeitlin took a piss poor budget of 1.8 million dollars and managed to make one of the most unique films of the last ten years. It is a film that is beautifully written, designed, shot, scored, edited and with performances (from non actors mind you) that were so powerful you were left wondering why you’d never heard of them before. His direction was perfect and it made me so excited to see what this enormous talent will do next.
So with Argo being a guaranteed yes considering its performance on the award circuit leading up to the Oscars, I again am going to be bold and pick the underdog. Beasts of the Southern Wild should win Best Film in 2013, and here is why. Benh Zeitlin is a young filmmaker (the youngest Best Director nominee ever in fact) that has made one of the most unique films I have seen in years. A film that is beautiful and poetic and is truly a film that has to be seen at the cinema. It made me laugh, made me cry and moved me in such a profound way that I was thinking about it for weeks after I’d seen it. It won’t win because it doesn’t have the marketing power or studio backing like the rest of the films do, and Zeitland and its cast are complete unknowns, but it should. If this film won it will be making a huge statement for independent film and be a huge inspiration for independent filmmakers worldwide. In a period where Hollywood has continued to churn out the same films year after year, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a reminder that there are unique ideas out there waiting to be explored, they just need to be given a chance.
I’m really thankful for this year as I think based on the nominated films, it has been an incredibly successful year. Argo constantly had me on the edge of my seat, Life of Pi allowed me to get lost in a story of beauty and wonder, Silver Linings showed me the importance and power of love, Amour somehow managed to show me what love is whilst breaking my heart, Django showed me a damn good time and Beasts most importantly of all reminded me of why I go to the cinema.
Would love to hear your thoughts but otherwise, Happy Oscars friends.
Posted: 23 February 2013 by Nicholas Colla
Write what you know about the world emotionally. Just because you’re a canteen lady doesn’t mean you need to write about canteen ladies. Unless they’re fucking serial killers – be imaginative.
Paul Abbott, 2013.
On the drive up to the Mornington Peninsula to my first ever National Screenwriters Conference, I thought about what I wanted to get out of the next three days. Somebody had asked me previously why I was going and I couldn’t clearly express exactly why. Sometimes I think about exactly what the hell I’m doing in Film & Television, especially when people ask who I am, what I do and what my profession is. Am I an actor, a writer, a producer, a director, a filmmaker? Is it too bold and egotistical to say all of the above, am I under selling if I only say one? Believe me when I say, it’s a constant confusion.
I think what I enjoy about coming to these conferences (this is my third after attending the Screen Producers Conference last year and also SPAA Fringe in Sydney) is that it gives you a perspective from every corner of the industry. What are writers currently doing, how do they feel about the content that is being produced, what are their frustrations, their hopes, their dreams for the future of Australian Film & Television. I also do have aspirations of being a writer. At the moment I enjoy working with writers in a collaborative sense as I think it’s an incredibly efficient and enjoyable way of working. What I came to discover over the next few days was that word collaboration was an extremely important one, and one that I think quite often as young, curious filmmakers we forget about…
Paul Abbott in Conversation
Paul Abbott is a UK writer who has had a ridiculously successful career in film & television, with his original series Shameless running for ten years in the UK before being bought up and produced in the states by Showtime. He has also written the film State of Play with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, the critically acclaimed UK show Hit & Miss starring Chloe Sevigny, has been nominated for a shitload of BAFTA’s and won a Prime Time Emmy. Not bad if you ask me.
The thing I loved about his talk with Max Gudgeon, is that Paul spoke a lot about being daring in your writing and keeping an open mind to any and all possibilities. I felt like he empowered many people in the room to not be scared and to always be bold when sitting down to work on a new project. Some things that he said that stuck in my mind were:
- When writing State of Play he didn’t know shit about politics or journalism and he refused to research claiming that “research gets in the way of a good story. Write the story first and then research the technicalities later.”
- When asked how he writes female characters so well he responded with “If a writer can’t write a woman with the same flair that they can write a man, dog or any other living being, then they’re not a writer”
- When talking about keeping an open mind and embracing your mistakes he spoke about writing a character once and misspelling her dialogue. After reading over it a couple of times he discovered “Fuck. She does talk like that.”
- Again on the subject of creativity, originality and open mindedness he said “go left or right without making a judgment on which one is right, writers should close their eyes more”
He also sighted specific examples from his own work. About Hit & Miss he said that originally the idea was that it was to be a show about a transexual that becomes a mother of five. He didn’t feel like it was a high enough concept, so he decided to make her a hitman cause he knew that was an idea that would (and this is a quote) “blow they’re (audience) tit’s off.” You can now begin to understand where UK and US television has well and truly started to head thanks to networks like HBO and writers like Paul, basically they take a run of the mill idea, and fuck with it – high concept film and television.
Paul was a pleasure to listen to and I really think captured the imagination of the room, speaking openly and confidently about his triumphs, his failures and his way of working with intellect and good humour. The session concluded with Max Gudgeon asking what he felt made a good writer and Paul responded with:
“Fireworks and discipline. Be messy, be violent, be surprising but be a disciplined practitioner”
Sapphires: A Case Study
The session started with Tony and Keith talking about how they fell into writing, which is something I always find fascinating to listen to. Tony chatted about his love of story telling from an early age (making a few embarrassed references to Phil Collins being his inspiration) and in particular his love of cinema. His family would put up a bed sheet when he was young and project as yet unreleased movies that his dad brought home from overseas (his dad was in the airforce). Keith was much the same, with film being part of his life really early on in the UK, which was where he was brought up. He was obsessed with movies, going to the cinema once or twice a week to catch the latest Roger Corman flick. He spoke of the magic of cinema and how it completely grabbed enthralled him as a youngster. Certainly sounds familiar!
The rest of the conversation was all about the development of The Sapphires and how it came to being on stage, and then the big screen. Basically Tony was doing a play called Stolen for Playbox about the stolen generation and felt he wanted to do something that showed the aboriginal people and their stories in a different light. Something that would make him laugh. One thing led to another and before he knew it he was asked to workshop the play with the MTC in Melbourne and got a brilliant response.
Once the play got up, Keith (who had a pre existing relationship with Tony) told producer Kylie Du Fresne from Goalpost Pictures to go and check it out (he had been working with her on Clubland at the time). From that point on, Goalpost jumped on board and allowed Keith and Tony to develop the script over the next 6 years.
What was most interesting about hearing these too writers talk was listening to their different backgrounds and approaches to writing, and how they coped with collaboration. Tony, an actor as well as a writer, would love to jump up and put the text on it’s feet, giving it an excitable, nervous energy. Keith would then grab his paper and pen and start furiously writing as Tony would be up on his feet, making sure they didn’t miss anything.
The other thing that came up was how Keith handled the fact that this was Tony’s story as it was about his family. Keith said he got Tony to just write EVERYTHING down that he could think of in terms of story and then it was his job to whittle it down and help craft the script, sighting specific examples of scenes from the film that were either different or completely not in the stage play.
As the talk neared the end, one thing that did come up was Chris O’Dowd’s involvement in the project. When he was sent the script, he was the last character (and piece of the puzzle as financing was also already in place) to be cast, so the script was more or less locked into a shooting draft. What they got back from O’Dowd was a series of notes pertaining to the Dave character along with the sentence “I’m an amiable man and this is an amiable character, he needs a bit more edge.” So the writers worked furiously to give the Dave character more light and shade based on O’Dowd’s notes and their own thoughts and what came from it was a more in depth character which helped take the movie in a completely different direction. The writers even admitted themselves that before the last rewrite, the Dave character had a “pretty flimsy backstory.”
A very smart actor (and writers) if you ask me.
So that was it for Day 1. Short and sharp with only the two sessions as I had to head back to Melbourne for the evening. Had a great half day though and saw lots of people who I know and love so was excited about the next two days ahead.
Posted: 20 February 2013 by Nicholas Colla
A couple of days after spending a few glorious hours in the sunshine at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl watching short films and drinking glorious cider, I read an article in the paper that referred to Tropfest (the World’s largest short film competition as we are often told) as the ‘rock show’ of short film festivals. To be fair, i’d say that was pretty accurate.
The celebrity guests and judges, the celebrity entrants, the name actors and directors, the red carpet, the huge prizes (a car? really?) and all the free booze the VIP’s can drink (this assumption is based on John Polson’s closing speech) makes the description of a rock show style festival pretty much bang on. Unfortunately though what seems to get forgotten every year is the standard of films and storytelling which we get presented with as our top 16 out of what we’re told is hundreds and hundreds of entrants.
Now to quickly answer your questions, no I am not a bitter entrant that didn’t make it in, no I don’t have a vendetta against the festival OR John Polson and most importantly, no I am not going to be banging on about what I think is wrong with Tropfest as a film festival. I think plenty have articulated their issues already to great effect. I highly recommend you read two of my favourite blog posts about this here:
What I do want to do though is give my thoughts on the films this year. Same as every year, I loved some, I hated some, and I’ll try my very best to give reasons why.
The festival kicked off with Great Day, a film by a young female filmmaker named Hannah May Reilly. To be perfectly honest I didn’t love the film but what I did love is that it was a young filmmaker having a crack (note: not trying to be patronising here). The film had some genuinely funny moments and the performance of the young star was solid. Unfortunately compared with some of the other, higher end films, this little one didn’t really match up in terms of production quality, story or performance (the dudes in the car gave me the shits). Not an epic fail by any stretch and like I said, a really solid effort from a young 20 year old aspiring filmmaker.
> Watch Here.
Let It Rain
This one created a little bit of tension in my camp as most people that I was with really loved it. Straight up I thought it was pretty shit. To be fair it was a funny little sketch that you’d have a giggle at and give a decent mark for in a second year uni class but again it suffered from similar things that Great Day suffered from. I think it was a good idea (even if it was more sketch comedy than short film) marred by a badly written script (the unnecessary use of the word fuck thirty times by the female actress at the end) and average performances. Again not an epic fail but compared to the good ones it didn’t really rate.
> Watch Here.
This film created a little bit of controversy as a few people claimed they saw the Screen NSW & Screen Aus logo/name flash up in the credits which I could imagine would’ve pissed a few people off. If they did have a touch of funding it certainly showed with a very impressive looking film which featured some pretty expensive elements including a beautiful sweeping helicopter shot and a car crashing into a lake. Certainly not something you could do on a couple of hundred bucks. That said I really enjoyed the film with great performances from the kids and a really smart story. You could see the ending from a mile away but that didn’t really distract too much from the film. Not a bad entry and my favourite so far – things were looking up.
EDITOR’S NOTE: It was actually Scene 16 which was funded by Screen Australia & Metro Screen as part of their First Break/Raw Nerve Initiative. Apologies Lucas Thyer, Julie Forster and Brad Francis.
> Watch Here.
This is a bit of a hard one to judge as I think as an actor I could relate to this and found it funny but as a regular joe, I think a lot of this would’ve been lost. The film looked impressive once again and starred the always brilliant Emma Booth and Ewen Leslie who seems to be actor of the moment ever since his turn in Richard III for the MTC a couple of years back (he was last seen on screen in the impressive Dead Europe). The film is about an actress going through a tough time with her boyfriend whilst trying to prepare for a difficult scene she has coming up on the soapie she is shooting. I thought it was a great idea with a really lovely set up but nothing that really blew me out of the water as being mind blowingly original. I do love Ewen Leslie and Emma Booth though so extra points cause they were both great.
> Watch Here.
Very weird and felt like something you’d see on Funny or Die that’s been submitted by a user rather than one of the folks that makes the videos for the website (if that makes sense). Had it’s moments and the instructional video/advert thing in the short was hilarious but the rest of it was pretty crappy. Down to the bottom of the pile it went.
> Watch Here.
I don’t wanna say much about this but in short, I hated it. The performance by the woman in the short was incredible but literally wanted to stab my eyes out. Guy behind me who said it looked like an advert for a colour printer company summed it up best. Bottom of the pile it goes for now.
> Watch Here.
The Pledge for Mr Bunny
A film I liked but many didn’t. I think what I did like about this film was it was different and carried with it a dark humour which I loved. It had a twist that caught you by surprise and you weren’t really sure whether to laugh or be disgusted. Time had my dramatic vote, but this went to the top of the comedy list for me. Favourite moment was the bike falling apart before being engulfed in flames at the end.
> Watch Here.
Cash Cow – a 63% True Story
Funnily enough it was also a 63% shit film. Every year there seems to be those bullshit entry’s which wow the general public cause they managed to get a minor Australian celebrity into their film. Proof is in the pudding as a different guy behind me thought this would win cause “it’s just so amazing that they got Mel and Koshie in their film”. Head shakes and disappointed forehead slaps all round. Anyway this lame attempt at a comedy was clearly just a bullshit PR entry as it featured both the hosts of the Today show AND Sunrise. I’d mention their names but the fact I’ve written anything about this film means i’ve given them way too much of a plug already. So in short – bullshit film and my new bottom of the list.
> Watch Here.
I really dug this little take on a Zombie film. It had a great, simplistic concept and was executed really well. The cinematography and sound design were impressive and all the actors turned in really solid performances. For some reason I think it was lacking a little bit of the wow factor that made Time such a solid entry but still a really great little short.
> Watch Here.
This is a difficult one because I seem to be in the minority of people that thought this was the worst short on the night by far. I commend the filmmakers for dealing with such a difficult and daring subject matter but feel like the importance of what they were trying to say was undermined by lazy writing and not solid enough performances despite having brilliant actors like Firass Dirani on board. I could pick the story to pieces and give you a hundred reasons why the short doesn’t make sense is just plain silly but I’ll sum it up by saying this. If you witness a shooting, see a guy bleeding out in the gutter, and your wife calls to tell you her water has broken perhaps a) call the police and explain the situation before attending to your wife b) when the police turn up don’t run away, stop and explain the situation and c) when the cops yell stop and you’ve just witnessed a shooting, maybe stop? Special mention goes to the bikkie who looks like he is putting his gun in his beard.
> Watch Here.
A really cute little animation made by a couple of young Sydney-siders. Really enjoyed this film as it made great use of the TSI which normally goes by the way side and told a really beautiful, sweet little story. Animation and sound design tied together beautifully to boost this somewhere near the top of the pile.
> Watch Here.
Better Than Sinatra
I know this was another film that split people but I really enjoyed it. Much like Summer de Roche & Andrea Distefano’s documentary The Globe Collectior, which took out St Kilda Film Fest, Better than Sinatra was a beautifully made short film about a lovable, quirky character that refuses to let life get him down. It followed Raymond Borzelli, a 80-year-old man with very little money to his name who loves to dance and who believes he is better than Sinatra. It had a lot to say about life and doing what you love and I think it was a simple yet well told story with a fascinating character to focus on. Not the most original doco in the world but a well told one none the less.
> Watch Here.
There really isn’t much to say about this one. I laughed out loud at the punchline but it really was just a sketch. One rather similar to a previous Tropfest winner which starred Clayton Jacobson and ended with him having to dig up his car keys after burying a dead body with his keys.
> Watch Here.
A little biased with this one cause it starred a few mates of mine. I thought this was a cool little premise, certainly not an original one, but which was executed soundly. Performances were great from all the actors (especially Ben Ridgwell & Nickolai Nikolaeff) and the cinematography wasn’t too shabby either. Don’t think it was up there with the top couple in my books but certainly a solid entry from Victoria.
> Watch Here.
A Man Walk’s Into A Bar…
Much like Cash Cow, I imagine this entry got into the finals based on the strengths of Sophie Lowe and Rhys Wakefield. Both household names who starred, wrote and directed the short. The problem I have with this film is if it was made by anyone else I could guarantee you it wouldn’t have gotten in. The gag is a tired one, it was shot terribly and really wasn’t great. Again it wasn’t horrible or offensive but just well below par of what you would expect from supposedly hundred and hundreds of entrys. I imagine films with names always float to the top of the pile, being a rock star festival and all, but this has worn out it’s welcome cause these films are ALWAYS below par.
> Watch Here.
We’ve All Been There
And finally to the winner. A film made by a Victorian (the second year in a row that a Vic film has won) and my favourite of the night. Sure the premise was simple but what I enjoyed about the film was it wasn’t just a gag, a comedy sketch, a pisstake or a parody. It was a film which had a clear arc, a beginning/middle/end and had a message to convey to it’s audience. You could see that time, effort and love went into this film with the production design, score, sound design, performances and cinematography all playing a huge part in the telling of this sweet, simple story. The steadicam shot early on is one of the best shots I’ve seen in a Tropfest film in a long time. I think it absolutely deserved to win, so to the judges I thank you for giving the top prize to a filmmaker clearly with some talent and with some vision and not just to some schmo who made a Tropfest film to win a free car.
One thing I will touch on before I go is the prizes that are offered at Tropfest every year, a festival which boasts about supporting young filmmakers. I’d like for you to take a moment to check out this little competition that those talented New Zealanders hold every year – the New Zealand 48 Hour Film Competition.
A competition which has a prize pool of over 100,000 dollars every year, most of which comes in the form of gear hire, post production services, camera equipment, cash grants from New Zealand Film Commission & WingNut Films which are to go solely to film production. Now maybe I’m just silly, but do you think that perhaps that might be a little more useful in supporting young filmmakers than a brand new Toyota Corolla?
I’ll leave it up to you.
Posted: 15 February 2013 by Nicholas Colla
Now let’s not beat around the bush here. When you go and see a movie titled Hansel & Gretel: Witchhunters, you clearly aren’t expecting a film that is going to have a clean sweep come awards season. What you are expecting though is a great, bad movie. A movie with such a ridiculous concept (and title for that matter) that you are expecting to spend an hour and a half laughing at a bunch of characters in a ridiculous circumstance, perhaps some kick ass action sequences and of course the odd one liner of two (see The Expendables 2 for another great example of this!)
When I heard about Hansel & Gretel, I was excited for a couple of reasons. For starters, it is directed by a bat shit crazy Norwegian gentleman by the name of Tommy Wirkola who gave us the 2009 cult hit Dead Snow, a film with an equally ridiculous concept in that it was a zombie film where the zombies were Nazi’s… yep that’s right, Nazi’s. Anyway reason number two was that it featured Gemma Arterton, Jeremy Renner and Famke Janssen, three actors who I very much adore. And last but definitely not least, it was produced by none other than Saturday Night Live Alumni and the team behind such films as Anchorman and Step Brothers, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. I did say bat-shit crazy right?
In short, the film is about our heroes, siblings Hansel & Gretel, who have had a rather traumatic experience as children having been kidnapped by a witch in her candy house only to make a narrow mistake by pushing her into an oven (so keeping very close to the fairytale we all know and love). Flash forward 20 years and the pair are now bonafide witch-hunters, traveling from town to town to rid the world of witches with their sweet fighting skills and ridiculously advanced weaponry. When they finally arrive at a town close by to where they were brought up as kids, they encounter a Grand Witch in the form of Famke Janssen who apparently shouldn’t be messed with. Cue action sequences, convenient plot devices and ridiculous one liners.
I’m not going to lie to you – the film is anything but a work of art, but one thing it most definitely is is fun and does exactly what I expected it to do. The action sequences are tightly choreographed and exciting, the one liners are corny and there are some rather strange moments which I’m sure were included at the request of McKay and Ferrell (a rather awkward scene where a Troll covers two fingers in what appears to be vaseline to tend to one of Gretel’s wounds but looks like he may be prepping for something a touch more sinister).
I do really like Wirkola as I really think he has a great mind for the absurd and ridiculous and that seems to be where he is most comfortable. Dead Snow had some particular stand out scenes (a death in an outdoor toilet just to name one) much the same way that Hansel and Gretel does. What it says to me is that he is a director that isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with his audience and I think he is very conscious of the fact that the film is completely ridiculous which is what makes it so fun. It certainly isn’t for the squeamish (lot’s of exploding heads and what not) but all in all if you are a movie goer who likes a film where they can switch their brain off and have some harmless fun then this is the movie for you.
Oh and if you can avoid it, don’t go and see it in 3D – utterly pointless.
Posted: 13 January 2013 by Michael Shanks
47 different ways to play. Give or take 47.
Director/Editor: Michael Shanks
DOP: Sam McCabe
Sound Design: Craig Jansson
Production Assistant: Chris Hocking
Starring: Alistair Marks, Ashley Weidner
With: Mark Taylor, Jackson McInerney, Michael Shanks, Louie McNamara, Eden Row
Thanks to Laura Lethlean, Seaworks Williamstown and the lovely Louie McNamara.