“Beyond the Door” Cast/Crew Screening Last Night

23 05 2011

"Beyond the Door" Official Poster Copyright 2011 Shining Rock Productions

Last night was the first semi-public screening of the short I directed last fall, Beyond the Door.  Invites were sent to all the cast and crew of the film, as well as to select supporters, local filmmakers and other industry personnel for a premiere screening of the film.  Being that the film itself is still in the process of festival submissions, many of which have strict guidelines for screenings, this event was not wholly open to the public and was a free screening for only those closely involved with the project.

The event was held at Aperture Cinema in downtown Winston-Salem which is a small, independent movie theatre that shows arthouse films, foreign movies and other selections that the area multiplexes usually don’t screen.  It was a perfect atmosphere for the screening and I strongly urge anyone who is thinking of a Piedmont, North Carolina screening to consider this quaint two-screen theatre.

Needless to say, my nerves were at an all time high.  For projects that I shoot I usually get anxious, but nothing compares with being a producer/director in the hot seat during a first screening.  The screening was to start at 8:30 p.m. and I think I started feeling butterflies in my stomach about noon yesterday.  Relaxation didn’t fully set in until the opening title credit appeared on the screen.

Before the screening, I took some time and thanked the many people involved with helping get this film made.  I feel the silliest and most pretentious thing a film can promote is the “A film by ____” credit, because filmmaking is most definitely a collaborative effort from many technical and creative personnel.  As a director, it is my job for a singular vision to be achieved; however, this film is not “my” film, it is “ours”.

I was elated to sense an overall warm reception of the film last night and am greatly looking forward to its continued life.  The film, which is based on Philip K. Dick’s public domain short story of the same name, has already been submitted to a handful of festivals and more submissions are going out with each passing week.  After a festival run, a limited DVD edition will be available for sale to the general public and, eventually, marketing through various outlets on the internet.

A sincere “thank you” to all of those who were able to make it out last night for your kind words and support!  I look forward to continued life in this project for the next year to year and a half and am already bouncing around ideas for future films.  Don’t be mislead, however, as I am still a DP at heart and am continuing to shoot projects.  I will be shooting with a team for this year’s 48-Hour Film Project in Greensboro in June and in talks with several other directors about upcoming short and feature length projects as a Director of Photography.

The Thing (1982) Review

5 04 2011

Copyright 1982 Universal Pictures

★ ★ ★ ★

John Carpenter is a master at low budget horror and science fiction films.  Before watching this, I had seen Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13, Escape from New York, Escape from L.A. and, of course, Halloween. With most of these films, I have been surprised at the level of enjoyment I’ve experience watching them, being that I don’t necessarily consider myself a huge fan of the genres.

The Thing is a remake of Howard Hawk’s 1951 The Thing from Another World, which itself was based on a novella by John W. Campbell Jr. called Who Goes There? This version takes place at an American research station in Antartica, where the inhabitants are currently waiting out the harsh winter.  They are alerted when a sled dog comes running to their station from across the snow-filled, empty plains; the dog is being chased by two gunmen in a Norwegian helicopter.  They kill the Norwegians for firing at their base and take in this strange dog.  The dog, in classic sci-fi nature, turns out to be an incarnation of a strange extraterrestrial life-form.

It’s a classic science-fiction tale, you have a group of guys who are fighting a strange alien life form in hopes of saving the world.  However, this film is exceptionally well done for the genre.  The tension between the characters, who don’t know which of them is still human and which has been afflicted, keeps the suspense high during the entire film.  Furthermore, Rob Bottin’s special effects in this film are top notch.  This was before the era of CGI, so all the amazing effects are done using makeup, prosthetics and camera tricks.  Sure, there are a couple shots that look a little hokey, but all in all, the effects in this film really sell.

The all male cast is headed up by Carpenter favorite, Kurt Russell, who plays the usual rogue-like character that he seems to excel at.  There’s also a lot of familiar faces in the supporting cast who, you may not know by name, but definitely would know the face.  Supporting characters include Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat, Keith David and Richard Dysart.  All the cast do a fine job.  These aren’t Oscar worthy performances by any means, but for the story, it’s a perfect group of actors for what was needed.

For those of you who like happy endings and upbeat stories, this is not a film for you.  If, however, you like a thrilling science-fiction film that presents the bleak realities of a possible apocalyptic disaster, then they don’t get much better than this.  This is the type of film Carpenter was born to make.  Upon it’s release in 1982, this film didn’t do very well at the box office and that’s a real shame, because I think it’s a fine example for this genre.

Timecrimes (2007) Review

24 03 2011

Copyright 2007 Magnolia Pictures

★ ★ ★ ★

I will be the first to admit that I am a sucker for movies that deal with time travel.  Ever since I was a child the concept has interested me and I am always immediately drawn to watch any movie, read any book or play any video game that revolves around the idea.  When I was cued in to this movie from a co-worker, I immediately put it on my instant queue on Netflix and am very glad I did.

The film is the debut feature from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo, who had previously received an Oscar nomination for his short musical film 7:35 a.m. (which is conveniently located in the Special Features section of this film in its entirety).  The story focuses on the character of Hector who has just bought a new home in the Spanish countryside with his wife Clara.  When Clara goes to get groceries from the local store, Hector is left sitting in the back yard with his binoculars looking over the lush, mountainous landscape.  Something he spots through his binoculars leads him to further investigation which, in turn, spawns a series of events that lead him to a research facility containing a time machine.  Without giving too much away, the film contains many intricacies dealing with the problems of time travel, primarily the causation paradox.

Being a primarily plot-based film, character building is minimal.  However, for the type of film that it is, I didn’t feel like it detracted much from my viewing experience.  Films that deal with dreams, time travel or other complex happenings have to spend a certain amount of running time explaining the theory behind the plot motivation and, to me, this almost becomes a character in itself.  And, let’s face it, when we go to see or rent a film that deals with one of these complex topics, we are specifically watching for the mind bending phenomena of the plot, so it’s hard pressed for me to get too excited about two dimensional characters.

Timecrimes is a low budget feature.  There is nothing really flashy about the photography, set design or locations.  It’s a breath of fresh air in this era of filmmaking to see something that is organic like this though.  Everything you need for the story to be conveyed is in place and works smoothly without extra millions being thrown into digital effects.  Granted, I strongly oppose most digital effects in movies unless it is absolutely pertinent to the telling of the story.  I feel too many films over the past 10 years have worried more about their effects value then about how well the story structure evolves.

In conclusion, if you get a chance to catch this one, I would definitely recommend it.  If you are a time travel junkie like myself, then it is a must see and you need to sign on to Netflix or go by the local video store and get it right now.  Vigalondo’s sophomore effort will be coming out soon entitled Extraterrestre. I hope this budding director continues to make films as good as this one, because if so, then he’ll definitely be someone to keep an eye on over the next few years.

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