Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stars Make a Difference: Jake Gyllenhaal

At the Jake Gyllenhaal fansite Wet Dark & Wild, we have just a few more signs of the PR value of having quite a few lead actors in New Mexico.

Shooting "Brothers" near Santa Fe (with Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman), Jake's avid fans responded nicely to pictures of Santa fe and talk of the Santa Fe Film Festival. More at the site: Wet Dark & Wild

The Santa Fe Film Festival

Just one day after filming on Brothers begins next week (27 November) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Santa Fe Film Festival begins, running through to 2 December. Modelling itself to some degree perhaps on TIFF, the exceptionally fine Toronto Festival, the eighth Santa Fe Film Festival 'showcases more than 80 programs encompassing roughly 200 films, shorts and features of all genres, themes and topics. The festival is divided into seven series: Independent Spirits, Making it Reel, Eye on the World, Art Matters, Southwest Showcase and Gala films from the major distributors as well as retrospective titles drawn from the careers of our annual Luminaria Tributees. Last year, over 7,000 attendees from around the world purchased nearly 21,000 tickets.'

'Deputy Director, Stephen Rubin says “Our patrons will find the quality of our presentations amidst the backdrop of our beautiful city makes this among the top destination film festivals in the country. We’ve attracted many new national sponsors including Heineken and CBS and we will continue to attract more as we expand into the future. We are proud to say that this is our strongest slate yet, based on higher quality submissions, more interest from major and international distributors, and more interest in people attending. Thanks to Festivals like ours and the nearly 2,000 world-wide, a whole new quality of films can gain exposure and offer patrons a substantive and original alternative to mainstream theaters.”'

In previous years, one of the films to get an advance screening at Santa Fe was Brokeback Mountain and, of course, this time around, the organisers are well aware that they have a major Hollywood production on its doorstep. According to The Alburquerque Tribune: 'A major film, "Brothers," is scheduled to begin shooting in Santa Fe this week, and three of the hottest young actors in Hollywood might be kicking around town during the film festival. "Brothers" stars Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman. Festival Director Stephen Rubin isn't shying away from the celebrity factor. He says he has put out the word to other actors filming this month in New Mexico, including Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Kyra Sedgwick, that they are welcome to hang out.'

Here is a picture of a Santa Fe market from the New Mexico Tourism Department, for all those like myself who know too little about this beautiful city.

Without doubt, Santa Fe is the place to be next week - this guy's about!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

News & Event Update

New Studio @ Traditions!
Tromadance New Mexico
Games in NM
More on Spirit at Albuquerque Studios
Jake Gyllenhall & Tobey Maguire in NM

More on all these (except the last one) below...


NEW STUDIO @ TRADITIONS! SPACE
From Susan Stiger @ the Albuquerque Journal
Pass the popcorn. New Mexico is getting another film studio.
The Sandoval County Commission approved a planning and zoning change for ¡Traditions! Festival Marketplace from special use retail to film studio Thursday night, freeing a group out of California to transform the site into New Mexico Film Studios.
What was once the outlet mall, then festival marketplace, off the Budaghers exit on Interstate 25 went on the market early this year at a price of $8 million. Another $20 million to $25 million will turn it into New Mexico Film Studios: four soundstages and everything a producer and director need to make a movie— except actors.
"You walk in with a script. We help you find a producer/director (if you don't have them) and financing, you can headquarter there, use a soundstage and post-production," said Michael Harbert, a writer-producer moving from Los Angeles to be president and CEO. Harbert has written screenplays for "Law & Order," "ER" and "The West Wing," among others.
New Mexico Studios will start out with about half the filming space of New Mexico's other major movie studio— the $74 million Albuquerque Studios, south of Albuquerque International Sunport.

Also of note is the involvement of Worldscape & Pete Rogina, who you may have heard speak at last year's NM Media Industries Conference.
As of Thursday morning, New Mexico Studios included a newborn technology called immersive imaging created by New Jersey-based WorldScapes Inc., which will base its WorldScapes New Mexico on-site. Using a CamArray, a sea of overlapping cameras filming continuously, it creates a you-are-there-fully-surrounded experience now being used in military and law-enforcement training. WorldScapes already works with Los Alamos National Laboratory in research and development.
One prototype CamArray, with only 30 cameras, filmed at 1.2 billion pixels per second continually, said company president Peter Rogina. "We plan to build CamArrays with thousands of cameras to use at the studios and on location around the world," he said.
Rogina said he hopes to create 30 to 100 jobs here over the next 10 to 15 years.
More at the article: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/262317nm11-16-07.htm


TROMADANCE @ THE GUILD
From Dan Mayfield @ the Albuquerque Journal
Sure, we have a lot of big-time movies coming to shoot in New Mexico. Have you been Downtown to see the enormous “Game” set? Have you been out to Albuquerque Studios to see all the activity out there?
Big-time movies get the spotlight — but that’s not all that’s going on in the movie industry, especially in New Mexico.
Dozens of local folks are making movies every year, shorts and full-length features. These are small films, the kind the Governor’s Office doesn’t announce. They’re the kind that get made when a couple of guys scrape together a few bucks to pay the crew in cigarettes and beer.
Once a year, you get a chance to see some of these films at events like the TromaDance film festival, run by well-known horror-flick director Lloyd Kaufman. The event showcases the work of local filmmakers.
This year, Kaufman and the owner of Burning Paradise video, Kurly Tlapoyawa, will bring TromaDance Albuquerque to The Guild Cinema for the fourth year. The festival will show several locally made films: “Gimme Skelter” by Scott Phillips at 8:40 p.m. Saturday; “Necroville” by Billy Garberina at 8:50 p.m. Sunday; “The Faithful and the Foul” by Aaron Hendren at 7:25 p.m. Sunday; and “Land of Entrapment” by Craig Butler at 3:05 p.m. Sunday, as well as a host of short films by local folks.


GAMES IN NEW MEXICO
A 2-part story from Megan Kamerick in the New Mexico Business Weekly checks in on New Mexico's growing game industry, both the companies that are growing and the educational programs that are being developed to meet their needs.
http://albuquerque.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/stories/2007/11/12/story2.html?b=1194843600%5E1547919&t=printable
http://albuquerque.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/stories/2007/11/19/story5.html?t=printable

There's also a neat tidbit on *another* New Mexican who's making it big as a game player:
(from Greg Per\etti at the Albuquerque Journal)
Spike TV (cable channel 47) will air a one-hour Game Head special on Friday at 11 p.m., dedicated to the World Cyber Games 2007 Grand Final from Seattle.

During the Grand Final, Albuquerque's Jeremy Florence won the "Dead or Alive 4" title.

Jeremy Florence of Albuquerque bested Sweden's Niklas Lagerborg Saturday to take the "Dead or Alive 4" title at the World Cyber Games in Seattle, Wash.

In the championship match against Sweden, Florence wasted little time as he defeated his opponent 2-0. In the semifinals, Florence defeated teammate Carl “Perfect Legend” White, a rematch of the U.S. National Championship Final.


Finally, there's a lot out there on Will Eisner's the Spirit. Some of it is at:
http://nm-medianews.blogspot.com

Spirit in Albuquerque at MTV

I know I know... Will Eisner's The Spirit is getting press and pictures all over these days, because there are lots of great stories whether you like movie stars, innovative filmmakers, classic comic books, new technology -- or Albuquerque.

But I thought I should add this because it's from MTV:
http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1574465/story.jhtml

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — You have more objects in your living room than are present on the massive soundstage housing the production of "Will Eisner's 'The Spirit.' " The director is a Hollywood newcomer, on the verge of his 51st birthday. Samuel L. Jackson is wearing a black-and-white fur coat, with similarly colored eyebrows to match. Welcome to the set of Tinseltown's most unlikely potential blockbuster.

"This is the only way I have been trained to direct, and I love it because it brings [directing] closer to the art of the page," Frank Miller explained this week, moving from his "Sin City" co-directing apprenticeship to his very own Home-Depot-size warehouse drenched in green. "I am a kid in a candy store."

The candy store is called "Will Eisner's 'The Spirit,' " based on a 67-year-old character and the decades-long friendship Miller shared with its creator. Eisner may not have lived long enough to see actors like Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johannson and Gabriel Macht bring his eccentric characters to the silver screen, but Miller still feels his presence every day.

"I was just 13 years old when I came across Will Eisner's 'The Spirit,' published by Jim Warren, and was blown away," the graphic novelist-turned-filmmaker remembered. "I thought it was somebody new to comics, because it was so far ahead of anything else coming out. I felt it, religiously. There was one night when I picked up the latest issue of 'The Spirit,' and I was so excited, I had to stop by a lamppost in Vermont where I lived and read it on the spot. That was the Sand Saref story, which is now the basis of this movie."

The plot revolves around one of comic-dom's oldest heroes, but there is no cape involved. The most expensive-looking prop to be seen is a patch of ground that the actors occasionally stand on, referred to as "the grassy knoll." Some might be inclined to wonder how all this is going to add up to make a decent movie, but be warned: The same questions were asked throughout the groundbreaking shoots of Miller's "Sin City" and "300."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Set @ Spirit w/ Samuel L Jackson, Frank Miller & More

First of all, I wish... Spirit has been pretty tight, though I have heard of a lucky few who've made it on set.

But folks in the comic book/movie world are visiting, and sending reports.

The article at http://www.superheroflix.com/news/07/24407.php
includes all sorts of good tidbits, an interview with the Spirit himself and director Frank Miller...


I was headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico for another set visit. Two, actually. The first was "Will Eisner's The Spirit". A green screen extravaganza being directed by Frank Miller. It is based on an old comic book, and stars Gabriel Macht as The Spirit and Samuel L. Jackson as the Octopus. Also appearing in the film are Louis Lombardi and Eva Mendes. Not much is known about the exact plot, but when I interviewed Mendes a few months back for We Own the Night, she seemed extremely excited about the project. She is playing femme fatale Sand Saref in the film. The screenplay is derived mostly from her storyline in the comics. The second set visit was for the untitled Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor thriller formerly known as Game, which stars Gerard Butler. But more on that in the next column over.

The first stop we made upon arriving at Albuquerque Studios, home of Will Eisner's The Spirit, was the catering tent. I picked up my plastic plate and went down the line. Pork. Fried chicken. Shrimp tostada. Sam Jackson. The actor stood at the plastic salad trough. He picked through a bucket of sliced fruit, still in costume. He studied each piece of pineapple before carefully putting it on his plate. He then studied some cantaloupe. I'm not sure if he is a method actor. Maybe he was still in character. This was the first look I'd gotten of The Octopus; Master Villain. I won't be able to watch his performance now without thinking about his salad selections. The guy was spooky.

A circle of dots rested directly in the middle of his forehead. He was wearing white eye shadow, and his eyebrows were trimmed in the most unusual fashion. He wore a scarf, and a long sleeve red cotton shirt. Thick black glasses obscured his eyes. Best of all, he was wearing a pair of black patent leather boots and a pair of black patent leather genie pants. As The Octopus is not really seen in the comic books, except for his gloved hands, this was Frank Miller's interpretation of the character.


More at superheroflix...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Defining Animation

Variety talks with Sony Pictures Imageworks VP Barry Weiss about how the Academy defines 'animation'

"Since the (Oscar) category was first created, the challenge has been to define what is an animated film," says Barry Weiss, a senior VP at Sony Pictures Imageworks and member of the executive committee of the Academy's animation branch. "Not a year goes by when we're not trying to clarify a certain section of the rule."

In fact, the Academy recently changed its definition of an animated feature, in anticipation of a certain kind of film that may look like animation but really isn't.

"In defining what an animated film is, the consistent thinking in the branch has been that the thing we need to hold onto is the performance of the characters," Weiss says. "In the creation of the visual look of the film, the only thing we can call our own is the characters. That is the department of the film that is uniquely the domain of animation and animators. Again, I'm being a purist here, but animation is the art of creating a character that otherwise doesn't exist."

Yet thanks to the march of technology, even that concept has its gray areas.

The Acad's new rules specify: An animated feature must be at least 70 minutes long; "a significant number of the major characters must be animated"; their movement and performances "are created using a frame-by-frame technique"; and animation must figure in no less than 75% of the film's running time.

Even a rule as simple as that 75% requirement is complicated in practice. Last year's "Arthur and the Invisibles," which mixed animation sequences with live action, was ruled out because its animation didn't reach the 75% mark. "Literally we took a stopwatch to the thing," Weiss says.

...
The new language exempts films like "A Scanner Darkly," in which live-action footage is altered to look like drawings, unless animators do major work altering the actors' performances.

The same requirement ruled out "Team America," which was submitted to the animated feature category. "We said no, those aren't animated characters, those are puppeted," Weiss says. "The art of animation is the art of creating these non-existent characters on a frame-by-frame basis, rather than pointing a camera at a puppet in real time."

The impetus behind this rule change is the growth of motion-capture animation.

Last year, the Academy gave animated-film honors to "Happy Feet," which had a significant mo-cap component, and Sony's all mo-cap "Monster House" got a nomination. So the Academy's animation branch has no beef with motion capture per se.

But Academy executive director Bruce Davis explains, "What they're trying to do is to make a distinction between a kind of pure motion capture, where nothing is done to the footage after it's shot, and techniques where there is some (keyframe) work after an initial motion-capture phase."

Nonetheless, this fall's big mo-cap release, "Beowulf," may stump the rules -- or at least have the Acad asking the filmmakers to answer a few questions.

With mo-cap, actors' performances are "captured" digitally as coordinates in space rather than photographed on a light-sensitive emulsion, but they are captured nonetheless. So while the images shown on the screen may be created in a computer, the characters are, in a sense, live action.

"It does seem to be clear that we're looking at a new form of cinema altogether, doesn't it?" says "Beowulf" producer Steve Starkey. "That's what everybody's slowly circling around, that the movies we make don't fit into a genre type in this big thing we call motion pictures. It came on so fast that it defies categorization."

Starkey has worked with director Robert Zemeckis since "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (another notable live-action/animation hybrid), and says of the helmer: "He has made a life commitment to this form of cinema. He finds that it is the closest thing from writing and imagining what he sees to being able to show it visually on the bigscreen."

With motion capture, Starkey says, Zemeckis is able to concentrate on getting his actors' performances first, without having to bother with placing the camera, lighting the scene, etc. Later, he can choose to put the "camera" anywhere, lighting and decorating the scene digitally.

But such advances are exactly what worries the Acad's animation branch. As Weiss explains, "If the technology were ever to get to the point where you go on the motion-capture set, you do your performance with your cast, and that is the sum total of how the performance is created, it becomes akin to puppeteering."

Full article here: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117975479.html?categoryId=1050&cs=1

Thursday, November 8, 2007

NM in 3D for "Dark Country"

Screen Actor Thomas Jane's directorial debut will be here in New Mexico...

From Film School Rejects, here's an excerpt:

As Jane told ShockTilYouDrop in June, Dark Country follows a couple who are driving across the desert from Las Vegas. “They come across a body in the road who seems to be a terrible accident,” Jane elaborated. “He’s still alive, so they pick him up and try to find a hospital. The guy wakes up in the backseat terrified and freaked-out, wondering if people are after him. [The couple are] trying to get the story out of him but he’s been horribly wounded. He’s just a mess, broken and bloody. He starts talking all paranoid and then attacks the husband. Tries to kill him. They almost crash the car. The husband - our hero - picks up a rock and ends up killing the guy and they don’t know what to do with him. So, they start to panic and bury him out in the desert. Everything goes downhill from there.”

Jane will also star in the project, which is being produced by Raw Entertainment, a company that Jane created alongside 30 Days of Night scribe Steve Niles and acclaimed artist Tim Bradstreet. Lauren German (Hostel: Part II) will also star.

Of course, the most interesting thing about Dark Country is that it will be shot for 3D. Jane has enlisted a company called Paradise FX who have worked on films such as Terminator 3D to bring this R-rated adult-oriented thriller to life. When speaking of the 3D aspect, Jane stressed that they will be steering clear of the 3D gags that audiences experienced at the height of 3D in the late-’80s. “We’re going for the effect that Hitchcock used when he made ‘Dial M for Murder’ than what we saw in Vincent Price’s ‘House of Wax.’ It’s a more sophisticated use of the technology which is what we’re striving for.” In a word: cool.

Production has begun on The Dark Country in the desert of New Mexico. Joined by Director of Photography Geoff Boyle, Tim Bradstreet and producers from Sony’s Stage 6 films, Jane has been scouting various locations. Bradstreet has been blogging it all via a Production Diary, which can be found here.
More info and production photos at the site: http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/news/first-look-thomas-jane-scouts-the-dark-country.php

Incentives keep NM in the news

For an overview of incentive programs, there's a good article in today's Backstage (which highlights Louisiana and New Mexico's programs... and how nice Wilmington is).

Some of the basics are below, but for more, visit the article here.

When looking at the specifics of the incentives offered by each state, it's useful to get a primer on the broad definitions of what sort of lures are offered. According to the Axium report, production companies need to be familiar with several key bits of terminology when researching enticements.

A "certified credit" is an investment tool, one that has been approved by the state for sale to investors. A "loan-out company" works as something of a headhunting service in the filming location, providing contacts of qualified actors and crew. A "qualified expense" is one that each individual state allows to be included when a rebate or credit calculation is made. A "refundable credit" is a payment made by the state to the production company, given that the production company doesn't owe any income tax and that a verifiable tax return has already been filed. Finally, there is the "transferable credit," one that may be transferred one or more times and is applied against a taxpayer's state income tax.

It's a lot of jargon, but knowing the ropes can truly help productions, according to Jeff Begun, who wrote the 2007 report for Axium. "Five years ago, it went from no incentives to a lot," he says. "New states are getting into it, amounts that are being given are going up, and regulations are being refined."


Read the full article, With Incentives, Filmmakers Remain Stateside