Friday, April 26, 2013

Kickstarter and the Future of Big Budget Film Financing

            “Hell, there are no rules here – We’re trying to accomplish something.” Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State) quotes Edison on the Kickstarter profile for Wish I Was Here, a personal film that he’s looking to finance through this platform. And indeed, rules aren’t set in stone, especially in this third wave, web 2.0 world we live in. However, people on both sides of the coin have interesting things to say in regards to this method of funding that is rising in popularity the way Instagram and cat videos are.

            Braff’s film, which he’ll be directing, starring in, and co-wrote with his brother, is a follow-up to his critically acclaimed directorial debut, Garden State, which came out almost nine years ago. The art film, which is very personal to him, is about a struggling actor in his thirties who ends up having to home school his two children. After attempting to finance both through the studio and independent system, he was inspired by the success of Veronica Mars. For those of you who live in a cave, Veronica Mars raised $5.7 million of the $2 million it set as a goal in order to finance a film version of the CW show.

            The Kickstarter project was launched two days ago. It seeks a generous $2 million and as of now (April 26, 14:52 EST), it has reached $1.8 million with over 25,000 backers. I wish my little project for Vicissitude, which I launched almost two years ago, had reached that unimaginable amount of money, which takes me to my next point.

            Some people are all for it and others have determined points of view.
The fans love it. They get to be a part of the project and get rewarded with cool perks depending on the amount of money they donate. Hey, I’m in if Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd launch a campaign for Modern Family. Also, it opens new doors for niche or art films to be funded. On the other hand, some people think that bigger, well-established filmmakers, such as Braff, shouldn’t be taking advantage of this method. Tim Anderson is an Orlando-based filmmaker and runs the monthly Film Slam festival at the Enzian theater. Anderson believes that people who are helping finance films this way are ignorant. Not only are they paying them to make them money, but they’ll pay them again when they go see it at the movies, rent it, or buy it. “Take your $25 dollars and give it to a homeless person, or a charity for battered women, or someone in your community that is trying to make art for a living. Don't give it to Zach Braff whose residual checks each month for Scrubs are worth more than your house,” he stated last night.

            Personally, it’s up to you to do what you want with your money. Going back to Edison’s quote, “there are no rules.” However, I believe that Kickstarter and other campaign websites such as Indiegogo are meant for filmmakers, artists, and creators who seriously lack capital, to seek contributions. I completely understand that as a fan, it’s thrilling to know your name has the potential of appearing at the end credits or that you’ll receive exclusive goodies (Hey, I admitted I would donate if Modern Family were to go down the same path), but there are hundreds of projects out there by aspiring artists that deserve a shot. About 59% of Kickstarter projects fail to get funded.

            It will be interesting to see if this will truly be the future of film financing for big budget projects, or if it’s just a phase that will have it’s fifteen minutes of fame. We shall see.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Popular Recording Artists Follow the Same Trend

            Last night was the premiere of My Crazy, Beautiful Life, a docuseries about Ke$ha’s trajectory over the past couple years. The 30-minute MTV show was actually fun to watch due to its high-energy edit and storytelling with the use of lots of B-roll footage. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this blog post is not to praise the show of someone who parties and drinks religiously, but because a thought came to mind as I turned off the TV and got ready to review for a test before going to sleep.

            It suddenly hit me that some of the most successful recording artists of the moment are following a trend that is appealing to their fans and their wallets. No, it’s not season-long reality shows, but rather big screen or made-for-TV documentaries about their lives and careers.

            The first in the wave, at least to the best of my recollection, started in February 11, 2011 with the release of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Then Katy Perry released hers on July 5, 2012, titled Katy Perry: Part of Me. Both are Paramount releases and according to Box Office Mojo, are in the Top 10 highest grossing documentaries at the box office. Even though the Biebs came in number three right after Fahrenheit 9/11 and March of the Penguins, many debate whether it’s really a documentary or not. Among these people is a dear documentary professor of mine, Mr. Jim Martin.

            On the other hand, there has also been a presence on the silver screen with either documentaries or docuseries (documentaries split into a few episodes).
Nicki Minaj: My Truth on E! Entertainment, Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream on HBO, and Rihanna 777, which comes out May 7 on Fox.

            The British boy band One Direction is currently working on One Direction: This Is Us, which is ironically surprising that it is being directed by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold). Lady Gaga will include a documentary with the release of her fourth studio album, Art Pop, later this year. Also, I just found out through a Jennifer Lopez Facebook fan page that a 3D documentary will be released this summer.

            If you ask me, I believe it’s a strong move for recording artists and their labels to take on projects such as these, especially in this day and age when the music industry is struggling significantly. However, the debate of whether they should be considered documentaries, reality shows, or something else, is still in my bubble of thoughts. What are your opinions in regards to classifying these projects and what are your overall opinions in regards to this trend?

            Thanks for taking the time to read my post, have a good one!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What Would Ryan Lochte Do?

“What would Ryan Lochte do with his own television show?”

            And so this slogan kicks off the first season of the 11-time Olympic medalist’s show, and indeed, we’ll have to see. My post is an honest point of view on E!’s new show, and I must warn you, there are spoilers.

            The viewer is first introduced to his group of close friends, which include his assistant and brother. They do “cool” things like play flag football and drink at Ryan’s place.

            Then, the most annoying element of the show is introduced, and that would be his signature phrase, ”Jeah.” It’s like a bad pop song from a one-hit wonder that you just can’t stop mumbling.

            I must say though that the few scenes that include his swimming life are the most appealing. That’s probably because as someone who swam competitively for many years, they are relatable; from an editor’s point of view, they don’t feel fabricated and they flow smoothly.

            The Lochte clan is then introduced at his family bowling alley and Ryan makes it clear that family is the most important part of his life. It is so important, that an emotional scene could not be absent. Then again, you can’t have a good reality show without some drama and conflict. Ryan Lochte crying for the first time in front of the camera! This completely threw me off. You’re being introduced to this 28 year-old guy who to me, seems like a high school sophomore trapped in a ripped body, and then all of a sudden we’re taken to a crying scene. This should have been left until the end or should have been saved for another episode with more depth and emotion. This completely threw me out, but I must say it made me laugh out loud.

            The sushi date was funny, mainly because we know he is not looking to settle down, even though he claims true love is what he’s looking for. They bring this up way too much to the point that it feels overly manipulated.

            I wrote the first paragraph as I first started watching the show, but I think I got a chance to see in 30 minutes what the show will more than likely be about. Swimmer, wannabe rockstar, trying to find his place. I think I had enough with one episode and I highly doubt this show will get renewed for a second season. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much, but it’s sad to see your high school idol be part of a show that feels like a copy of previously existing shows. Ryan tries too hard to the point that it doesn’t feel real and organic, and it’s obvious that ideas will run short. If you’re a young swimmer trying to get into the life of your role model, this is not the show for you. But if you watched Jersey Shore religiously, be my guest.

             Catch What Would Ryan Lochte Do? every Sunday on E! Entertainment at 10/9c.

Ryan and I at an autograph signing in Orlando, FL. I told him I liked his watch... Jeah!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

China, Transformers, and Reality TV? (The Best of Both Worlds)


             If you keep up with my blog, you may remember that I’ve mentioned a couple of times the expansion and rise of the industry in China, such as James Cameron’s contributions over there to build new studios and expand the knowledge of 3D technology.

            I’m writing this post because as I was scrolling down through the top news in IMDb this morning, I came across several articles that involve China, Transformers 4, and reality television.

            What? A blockbuster franchise whose last installment generated $165 million in that country and reality television, TV’s hottest market?

            To get to the point of my excitement, it was just announced that a reality show will begin airing this summer in China with the purpose of finding four Chinese actors who will join the cast of Michael Bay’s fourth installment. Two will be experienced actors, and the other couple won’t need to have experience.
The panel of judges will consist of Sid Ganis, former head of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences; Lorenzo DiBonaventura, producer of the film; Denise Chamian, casting director; and Megan Colligan, the marketing and distribution chief for Paramount.

            In my opinion, this is quite exciting because it’s a project I haven’t seen before. It is smart to merge both worlds, especially in a country where Dark of the Moon ranks as the fourth highest grossing film in the box office. Also, the film will be shot over there.

            This will get fans involved with the entire process even earlier, and having the show will increase awareness of the film, garnering even more fans. This opens more possibilities for new, fresh projects domestically. I wish the show would air in the States, simply because I’d love to see what kinds of challenges the contestants will have to face, the panel of judges is pretty legitimate, and the whole idea is amazing.

            What are your thoughts? Comment below or tweet me. Have a great day!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Collaboration During My Spring Break

            My spring break was last week and I had an amazing time visiting my family and friends back in the border cities of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. While I was there, I decided to call an old friend from middle school to collaborate on a photo shoot. Cassandra Arredondo, also known as Cachis by her friends, is a visionary who is working her craft in many different forms of fashion and art. She launched her own make-up services line (instagram @rebelblush), she is in the process of developing a fashion magazine to promote local boutiques, and is hungry to gain knowledge in other fields such as photography and design.

            Our session took place on a slightly windy afternoon at golden hour on Friday, April the fifth. We shot in a parking lot at Sunland Park Mall and at a park near her neighborhood. The parking lot proved to be a great location. A beautiful sunset that only El Paso can provide, served as our source of lighting, and we were even lucky to get the Asarco towers as you’ll see in one of the pictures.

            For those of you who don’t know, the Asarco towers were demolished yesterday (April thirteenth). It was a bittersweet morning for many El Pasoans since it served as a monument for the city; however, it was not being used, and back when it was in business, it was known for heavily polluting the Sun City.

            Anyway, I hope you like this collection, which I had to narrow from 500+ pictures down to five. All pictures were shot with a Nikon D3100, have a focal length of 55mm, and an F-stop of 5.6. You can check out these and more pictures on my Facebook page.

            Have a great week, and I will leave you with a quote from the film I Am Number Four, which kind of defines my spring break back home: “A place is only as good as the people you know.” Keep them close to you!