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Cool Tools Series: Intro – Free tools change filmmaking game

I have been checking out all the great tools on the Internet lately that can help with artistic creation especially animation, games and indie filmmaking.  There are a lot of good tools out there and they seem to be getting better everyday.  Most of them are free and fun and liberating.  So I guess this will be a series because there is no way I can talk about all of them in one post.

First there are a lot of really good animation tools out there. For me this is significant because one, I like animation and two I am frustrated with trying to make my film Star Kids live action. More on that later. Actually this all came about (this tool research project) because I remembered seeing a tool that would basically make a animated cartoon from just typing text called XtraNormal, more on that later too.  It’s very cheesy but I thought it would be handy for pre-visualization and story boarding scenes. I could not remember the name of it so I kept searching Google, I eventually found it but in the process I stumbled upon all kinds of other neat cool tools.  This really changed my whole perspective.  For one I began to realize that one could make a complete film by themselves or with help from online friends completely on the computer.  These tools are powerful and getting more and more powerful everyday.  And they are easy and fun to use too.  I mean, at the end of the day, we enjoy the creative process but in the “real world”  it cost lots of money and time to get people and resources together.  This is especially true when it come to making live action films.  I know that Hollywood is producing lots of new 3d films and whenever I see an industry cranking out stuff I know there are really good tools behind it.  So I knew or had a hunch that for 3d animation there must be some good tools out but I had never really looked until now.  Basically what is happening is that the computer and the internet are liberating the artist in all of us.  It’s getting to the point that, like writing, it’s not so much about the cost or difficulty but your creativity.  This is especially true with animation.  It used to be that to do animation it took lots of time and cost lots of money but with these tools one could conceivably do their own animated film fairly easily.

I don’t know how he did it, but the creator of the Anime hit “Voices of a Distant Star” by by Makoto Shinkai, made his own animated film completely on his home computer. It chronicles a long-distance relationship between a teenage couple who communicate by sending emails via their mobile phones across interstellar space. The series has been broadcast across Japan by the anime satellite television network, Animax. You can watch it on Youtube here:

This was Shinkai’s first film and supposedly he did it all by himself on his home computer.  I think it shows what is possible with a good idea and some creativity and for those of us who just want to create this is really good news.

Next I will talk a cool tool called Pivot.

 

Posted in Animation, Anime, Filmmaking, My Favorite Films | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mammoth, a great film about what’s really important in life.

 

Photo by Maurice Wooltneck

 

I just watched a really moving film called Mammoth, I don’t know why the name, in the film it’s a reference to a pen.  It was really, really good. It moved me in so many ways and it had so many good messages.  It’s about a family in New York with a nanny.  The wife is a surgeon and the guy is a software entrepreneur, a net entrepreneur really.  They have a nanny from the Philippines who watches their only daughter.  During the course of the movie it becomes apparent that in the pursuit of money and career success they have all disowned their true lives.  The dad goes away on a business trip, the mom works all the time, the nanny is far away from her two boys.  Why do they all do this  – one word — money.  Well maybe not for the doctor she seems genuinely interested in her work and I am sure the dad is too but at the end of the day they have all sacrificed things much more important than career and that is family and love and togetherness.  As the movie moves forward this dichotomy between career and family becomes more and more apparent.  Also it’s about the fact that in the end we are all looking for the same thing — Love.  But in our crazy world we are constantly distracted from that by the false appeal of worldly success.

The film also showed the stark contrast in wealth between the wealthy nations and the poor of the third world and the dire conditions they must live in.  It’s really a very sad commentary on our world. I mean watching this film made me ashamed to be human, really ashamed to live on this earth at this time.  There are so many problems and so much of it is cause by our desperation, greed and selfishness and just plain lack of concern for our fellow human beings.  When will we wake up as a society and stop this madness.

This film is a mirror, it shows the false promise of money and success for all of us, rich and poor.   In all three cases everyone was so willing or felt so compelled and they all had really good reasons, to sacrifice the moment for some future success and financial security.  Anywhere but here.   The husband had to go across the world to get millions, the nanny had to travel across the world to make a better life for her sons, the doctor had to save all the people at the hospital.  I don’t want to give too much more of the film away but it shows the emptiness of success versus the true substance of real love and family love and what’s really important in life and how that is priceless and we don’t have to have millions to have it.  There is a priceless scene in the movie (no pun intended) where the daughter, because she spends most of her time with her nanny, wants to hang out with the nanny more than the mom.  Then the mom tries to buy the girls love but it doesn’t work, in that moment all of the surgeons skill, and money and career success is worthless for her girls attention.  The film shows that the most valuable things like spending time with our love ones and doing things like giving our kids attention and going for walks with them are very valuable indeed.  The film made me wonder if I spend enough time with my kids.  What am I taking for granted?  How much more time do I really have with them? It’s a great film and I highly recommend it.  It’s not rated but it should be rated R for sexual references, one bedrooms scene and some bloody operating room scenes.  I guess those scenes had to be in the film but its too bad because I wish my kids could see it.  It really demonstrates what’s important in life and I want them to see that while they are still young.  The director/writer is someone I have never heard of named Lukas Moodysson, I am sure we will be hearing more from him.  This is the kind of film I want to make, a good captivating story, that really reaches into our hearts and gets us thinking about the big pictures in life, and helps us to understand what really matters.

Posted in Examples, Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

My Favorite Scenes from My Favorite Movies: The Matrix – The Jump Scene

I love the “Jump Program” scene in the move The Matrix because it’s so true.  To move to the 5th dimension (the spiritual dimension of life) we have to make a jump.  That jump requires everything Morpheus talks about here:  We have to let it all go… Fear, doubt, disbelief. It is only by letting these things go can we crossover.  It’s scary at first but once you jump you will discover that there is another side to safely land on.

Haven’t seen the Movie in awhile? Check out the new 10th anniversary edition.

Posted in Examples, My Favorite Films, My Favorite Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Raise Money for Your Project: The best crowdfunding sites

I just learned about crowd funding about 3 months ago and it sounds like an excellent idea. Now for the first time one can fund or fund seed financing for any idea without having to be a non profit or get real investors.

Here is what crowd funding is in a nutshell:  Imagine standing in front of a huge crowd of thousands of people on a stage and yelling out “Does anyone have a car I can use!” and some one raises their hand, that is “crowd sourcing”.  “Crowd funding” is a similar idea but instead of asking for a car you yell out “Hey I need $500 for a camera to film a new movie!” and someone raises their hand.   In exchange the “investor or donor get a thank you gift of some kind like an autographed poster etc.  Now imagine that crows is in the virtual world of the Internet and you have crowd funding via facebook, twitter etc.

I have been doing crowd funding in the real world for my film Star Kids for sometime now with limited success and I think that limit is because I have not been able to use social network effectively to create a viral effect with my fundraising.  In the real world I am pretty much limited to the people I make direct contact with. But in a viral social networked world, it’s the people you make contact with and the people they make contact with and … you get the idea.

These new crowd funding sites can help you take better advantage of the viral aspect of social networks.   At first I was totally confused about what crowd funding was, and how it worked and which sites offered the best tools to help you achieve your fund raising goals.  Because we only have so much time and I don’t have time to invest in a bad site.  So here are the results of my research. I have yet to actually raise money with these sites but when I do I will update you.   If you know of any pother crowd funding or sourcing sites please let me know as well as your comments and opinions on the matter.

No 1. Indiegogo.com
Facebook fans:  4000
Fee: 4% to 9% (if you don’t reach your funding goal)
Seems to have a good track record, many independent films have been produced on this one and gone on to Sundance and other high profile festivals.  The seem to give you lots of freedom to do what you want.  Looks like any project can be funded here, uses paypal, has lots of fans on facebook, is film oriented. You can still get the funds even if you do not reach your fundraising goals but you pay almost double in fees.  This is my first choice and the one I plan to use for my projects.

No. 2  kickstarter.com
Facebook fans: 12,000
Fee:  5%
This site was one of the first on the crowdfunding scene.  They seem to be very new York oriented and I feel they try to exert too much control over your project.  They seem to prefer very creative artistic projects.  To me they seem to be very New York Artsy oriented if you know what I mean.  Your project must reach the funding goal to get funded otherwise all funds go back to donors. I am not sure about this all or nothing approach. You might spend a lot of time and work to fundraise and if you are just a little under your goal it’s all for naught.  There is No Paypal connection so getting funds is more complicated. I think they mail you a check at the end of the funding period if you reach your goal.  Also only payment service they work with Amazon and takes 14 days to get the funds. I even suspect the lack of Paypal might mean this is an Amazon funded company..   So given all of that I say this site is a second after Indiegogo. But, donors might like this better precisely because the funds are not released unless the goal is achieved.  So in the end you might actually raise more money with a site such as this but again it’s a risk.

No. 3: Gofundme.com
Been around 9/mo.
Facebook Fans: 78
This site seems too new and does not have enough followers but the software tools on this site look like they could really help with your fundraising efforts especially via facebook and twitter etc. One good thing is this site is not film oriented, looks like you are free to try to raise funds for any project you can think of.

No. 4 invested.in
This site is very new and seems to be in a beta stage of development.  They don’t seem to be funding many projects right now.  Invested In seems cool and it looks like it has lots of promise but most of the project are not getting funded right now so either it’s too new or it just doesn’t work.  We’ll keep an eye on it though.    It looks like it’s great for connecting to social networks like facebook and twitter which I think is key to crowd funding properly.

Other Crowdfunding sites
During my research I discovered these crowdfunding sites but I have not had a chance to check em out so I can’t rank em yet.

Kapipal
Kapipal is a service to easily collect money through the Internet.

Rocket Hub
RocketHub is a community for Creatives by Creatives. We are a purely indie outfit, not backed by any venture or corporate money. RocketHub is accountable to you, not bankers or the old guard.  Crowdfunding is the foundation of the New Creative Economy and that a new power now rests in the hands of the Creatives. This is a grassroots movement for funding creativity. Welcome to the crowdfunding revolution.

Buzz Bank
Buzzbank is an online marketplace connecting social ventures from all walks of life with backers, supporters and fans. At Buzzbank, we believe together we can make good things happen by supporting and/ or lending to social ventures, innovating and changing the world for the better.

Fund Break
Crowdfunding creative projects and ideas.  UK’s Crowdfunding platform developed for creative individuals, groups and organizations.

Posted in Filmmaking, Financing, producing, The Business of Movies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Avatar Sequel “The Legend of Korra” set for 2011

A new sequel to “The Last Airbender Series” is being planned by Nick.
Maybe it will make up for M. Shyamalan’s disaster of a movie.

Guest post from RaceBending.com:

Avatar: The Legend of Korra (2011) - A girl in a steampunk world

Nickelodeon sets `Last Airbender’ sequel for 2011
(AP)

LOS ANGELES — A sequel to Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is in the works.
The channel said Wednesday the new animated TV series will premiere in 2011. It has the working title, “The Legend of Korra.”

Nickelodeon says the series will build on the “mythology” of the original “The Last Airbender” series, which inspired this summer’s live-action movie from filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan (SHAH-muh-lahn).

The “Legend of Korra” is from the creator-producers of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Nickelodeon executive Brown Johnson says the new series will focus on a teenage girl avatar named Korra. Brown describes her as hotheaded, independent and “ready to take on the world.”

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” has ranked among the highest-rate series on the Nickelodeon and Nicktoons channels.

An “independent” female lead? Perhaps not unlike a waterbender already familiar to us? “Water” follows “Air” in the Avatar cycle.

More from WSJ:

The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the events of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ and follows the adventures of the Avatar after Aang – a passionate, rebellious, and fearless teenaged girl from the Southern Water Tribe named Korra.

You can read the full official press release here.

“With three of the four elements under her belt (Earth, Water, and Fire), Korra seeks to master the final element, Air. Her quest leads her to the epicenter of the modern “Avatar” world, Republic City – a metropolis that is fueled by steampunk technology. It is a virtual melting pot where benders and non-benders from all nations live and thrive. However, Korra discovers that Republic City is plagued by crime as well as a growing anti-bending revolution that threatens to rip it apart. Under the tutelage of Aang’s son, Tenzin, Korra begins her airbending training while dealing with the dangers at large.”

For reference, Tenzin shares his name with the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso – the spiritual leader of Tibet. Aang’s mentor in the original animated series, Monk Gyatso, also shared his name with the Dalai Lama.

The staff at Racebending.com is really excited. Hopefully Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko will bring back all the things the film left out: the Pan-Asian/Inuit influence and the strong, three-dimensional female characters!


we’re pretty sure Avatar fans across the world are doing this today…

Posted in Anime, Movie Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Letter to Hollywood on Piracy

A letter to Hollywood by Jenna

Her response to the news article “Hollywood faces new piracy threat”

Why do we pirate?

Because we can, and it’s fun!
Advertising/Product Placement/previews, forcing people who’ve paid out the nose already to watch commercials before the movie and during the movie.

Impatience.
If you would release everything in every format, at a fair price, most people would choose quality over piracy any day. People don’t like to wait. Why would you wait when you can have it now for free? You seem to think you are the disney vault and anticipation’s going to make you want to pay more for it….umm no. That only works if you have no other choice and the movie is really special- more often that not- it isnt. If i want a diet coke i dont want to wait 6 months, i want it now. If i have access to a free soda fountain im not going to pay for that either. I figures it evens out for overpaying for it before.

Quality.
The amount of crap we’ve already been forced to pay for but didn’t find out it wasnt worth a penny until it was too late.

Overpaid Celebrities.
Giving spoiled selfish, stupid, undeserving, robber barrons… ie actors/producers/CEO’s too much money, which makes it feel really good to steal from you. (sticking it to the man). Don’t get me started on A-list actors. There is no reason this person should be making that kind of money when a geriatric nurse wont see one weeks’ worth of it in her lifetime. Plus, we have to listen to thier phony balony crap all the time whether we want to or not. We dont care who you think we should vote for, everyone knows all actors are functionally retarded.

Piracy is not really “free”
still have to pay internet/computer maybe a other upfront cost’s.  People who pirate usually buy the movie in some other way. Do you like watching movies on your computer? i dont. i want the dvd with all the extras. They usually buy the dvd or previously viewed dvd’s or rent them. Hence, you paid for it, you just want a preview.  Pirate’s exist because we make it so hard for some people to make an honest living. Ever try to get a job with a criminal record? Bad Credit? no jobs available? No schooling? Viola: Pirate. It’s safer for both parties. I’d rather they pirate than any other criminal activity they could get up to. Better than mugging me to my face.

Why bother feeding the beast that cannot be fed?
You won’t be happy until we’ve signed over our first paycheck every month. You never have enough to be satisfied. Pure greed. You don’t even want to pay the cinemas a fair price for showing your movies and that’s why they always smell.

Quantity.
There is too much entertainment to choose from for most people’s budget. Granted, we don’t have to buy it, but we hate to be out of the loop, we want to talk to our friends about it. Don’t want to miss out on a pop culture thing.

Don’t you steal ideas and reuse formulas everyday?
Largely from other movies they’ve already made. Why don’t you have to pay a fine for stealing? for making romcom #11,157 the same as romcom #11,156. You are the original pirates. You plagerise all the time.

The horror of going to the movies.
In the 50’s people were polite at the movie. Not anymore. Now people just ruin the experience, talk, kick us in the head, burb, bring thier babies, swear, basically remind us of the decline of civilzation. No, we dont have to buy the food, but that popcorn smell is irresitable- and you know it. On top of that it is artery clogging- so you’re trying to kill us too, but you don’t even care and that hurts so don’t ask us to care about you and it has a mark up of about 3000%.

You are trying to be a dictator.
Diabolically scheming to tell people how to live, what is right, be politically correct, life should be PG-13 unless it’s oscar season. well, screw you hollywood. oh, but you’re exempt.

You need to stop congratulating yourselves all the time.
Enough backslapping already. Don’t you have enought recogition yet?

by Jenna
Her response to the news article
“Hollywood faces new piracy threat”

Posted in Distribution, Hollywood, Internet Distribution, The Business of Movies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment