Monday, March 22, 2010

Hello to Goodbye by Brian Durkin

It is guest blog week here on this Film Courage blog. I am really proud to introduce you to a close friend and colleague. He started his own blog on March 10th, entitled "Taking The Last Shot." His talent level is through the roof. If you are a fan of this blog, I highly recommend you also follow his blog. It is possible that you may have already come across the following blog in other places as I posted it on Facebook and Twitter. In case you have not, hoping you will enjoy this guest blog by Brian Durkin.

Guest Blog by Brian Durkin

This past fall I was asked by a close friend, director David Branin, to take a part in an indie feature he was planning to shoot around the Los Angeles area. The concept surrounds a man, played by Gregor Collins, who has reached the end of his seven year promise to "make it" and travels around LA to say good bye to those he has known and loved over the course of his efforts.

It was an idea close to my heart because I had experienced it. Not only from the perspective of the person thinking of hanging em up, but from the view point of the man who had had to say goodbye and let so many friends and loved ones go as they took that drive out of town.

I've thought of that drive "back east." I think of it vividly as the inverse of the drive "Out West." It's hard for us as we get older to remember the energy we had at that waking age of the early twenties. All promise and spark and fire. The world was going to be glittering sapphires on the bottoms of our conquering feet. Things were easier, decisions a bit quicker...the consequences seemed small...and anything bad, surmountable and laughable. What could happen? Like young marines told to take that hill, we were going to take it. No matter what career we decided to pursue, we felt this conquering, bright eyed belief.

And so it was on my drive out West. The sun was out there setting on the land that held a future I saw so clearly. Everything was set. I even had my inspirational mix tape planned out...a tape...cough...pencil at the ready in case any re-spooling was needed. Zepplin's "Going to California" was cued up first. Then Petty's "Running Down a Dream." If you give your self five minutes and a chug of cliche, you can probably conjure up ten more of those songs. They were obvious, I was obvious...but man did they work and wow did I believe.

The first shot of the Mississippi, the impossible horrifying claustrophobic flat of the Mid West, the relief of the Rockies, the Roadrunner cartoon Buttes and rock formations of Utah. All leading to the bursting green video game freeways of LA. I wasn't even sure where I would live and it didn't matter. I had hope.

This film "Goodbye Promise" is about the other end of that necessary hope, a hope we all had that is the engine that turns a better world. The other end fills the eyes with a haunted quality, something Gregor Collins brings in spades. The other end tests belief. The other end makes a person question every decision, beginning with the first one...the decision to believe in the big dream.

I believe this film will act as medicine. To anyone, anywhere, who is in the midst of their career, their lives, their those maybe wondering if that dream has faded, this film demands you question if you should give up or find a new. This film lays out in stark terms the consequence of walking away and urges you to take another look at the costs of one more shot.
Are you committed? Committed to living your best life? In every respect? Committed to your loved ones? Committed to your health? Committed to bringing your best everyday?
If you are reading this I think you are or are finding your way back to that place, back to a grounded and directed rebirth of your first "waking" energies.

I'd like to ask you to visit "Goodbye Promise" on Facebook or follow the link to their Kickstarter campaign.

Take a look, take a listen. This film represents the effort of many folks giving it their all and the filmmakers David Branin and Gregor Collins could use some encouragement, maybe just by you becoming a fan, leaving a note or donating a few dollars to help them finish the project through KickStarter.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

'True Game Changers and What Indies Can Learn From Them' by John Wayne Bosley

One of my objectives is to open up the dialogue here on this Film Courage Blog. I am certainly not the only one on a filmmaking journey. Over the past year, I have been very fortunate to connect with a good number of fellow Filmmakers. Not only have I connected with them, but I have learned from their lessons and insights. For many months I have been meaning to feature writings of those who's wisdom I value. This was on my new year's resolution blog (but as you may know, I have attacked this new year with such fervor that I never finished that blog *smile*)

I have seen Producer
Ted Hope and others taking this approach of featuring guest bloggers. I believe we will see it become a more common occurrence. Whether or not it happens elsewhere, you will certainly see it here.

I am proud to introduce you to Filmmaker
John Wayne Bosley as my first guest blogger. Hhas so often provided me tremendous commentary on Facebook and even here on this blog. John's work includes the film 'Amnesia: The Allan Carter Saga' & the upcoming 'The House.' John is also Founder of RebFest.

John has been kind enough to write this blog for us.

True Game Changers and What Indies Can Learn From Them
Guest Blog Post By John Wayne Bosley

Many Indie filmmakers claim that the game changers in the film biz are things like kickstarter, indiegogo, openindie, VOD or even social media, but these are just tools. It's not the tools that change the game, but what you do with them. When we look at cinema history, we need to see things that truly changed cinema and had a long-term impact on the business. Below are a few examples. They are not an exhaustive list but just examples:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White was the first full-length animation film ever created. At that time in cinema history it was considered too expensive to create a full-length animated film and Disney had only a hand full of trained animators at his small studio. What Disney came up with was an innovative process that is now known as "keyframing" (editing, compositing, sound and animation programs now use this technique). The idea was that the master artist would be parternered with one or two apprentice artists for a scene. The master artist would draw the "key frame" and the apprentice or two would draw the less prioritized frames. For instance, in a sequence with a character jumping, the master artist would draw the actual frame where the character jumped while the apprentices would draw the before and after jump frames. By creating scenes in this manner, Disney was able to complete the film

"Snow White was one of only two animated films to rank in the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest American films of all time in 1997 (the other being Disney's Fantasia), ranking number 49. It achieved a higher ranking (#34) in the list's 2007 update, this time being the only traditionally animated film on the list. The following year AFI would name the film as the greatest American animated film of all time." (from Wikipedia)

The Planet of the Apes, and Beneath the Planet of the Apes 1968, 1970

Arthur P. Jacobs, former agent for Marilyn Monroe, after his success in producing What a Way to Go!, was given a two picture deal with Twentieth Century Fox. He pitched to them Doctor Doolittle, which was produced and then The Planet of the Apes. Fox was apprehensive of doing Apes because the original script called for a futuristic world with elaborate sets. Jacobs had more scripts written, which eventually had a more primitive world of the apes, which cut down on the budget while still keeping the essence of the story. However, the one main problem the film had was the makeup. Up until this time prosthetic makeup looked cheesy and unrealistic. Instead of giving up Jacobs searched for someone who could pull off the effect. Jacobs found his answer in John Chambers who created a new way of doing prosthetic makeup. Instead of making one piece of prosthetic for a face, he created it in pieces so that they moved. Actors were taught to over act with their face to create more motion in the mask.

"John Chambers had actually tested the ape makeup some time earlier, in the TV series Lost in Space (1965-1968) (another 20th Century Fox production at the time). In one episode, Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) and Major West are imprisoned along with an ape-like alien. (from wikipedia)

Jacobs was given a small budget to have John Chambers create a test screening of the makeup and act out a scene. The executives at Fox were finally convinced and the production was underway on a 5 million dollar budget.

The final scene in the film Heston finds the statue of Liberty, half-submerged in the beach sand. The first few shots are created with in-camera tricks with a smaller statue, shot down in such a way to seem bigger. However, the last final shot, a pull-back to reveal Heston's character and the statue, is created by using compositing.

The sequel to the film was made for less than the 5 million that Planet of the Apes was made for. The human characters Brent and Nova enter a post-nuclear-apocalyptic New York City. How did they do that? CGI? No, computer animation wasn't around to create this effect. Instead, the production had people photograph important buildings in New York City, then use a razor blade to cut and deform the buildings to create matte paintings. By doing this, they were able to give the impression that the characters were indeed in this city of the future.

Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977)

George Lucas was given around a 10 million dollar budget to create his epic space opera. A careful study of the film a viewer can see that the vast majority of it is actually shot in interiors. The death star interiors are intentionally simplistic and shot in such a way so that the audience can never truly tell how many people inhibit the setting. Lucas utilizes the use of matte paintings and model miniatures throughout the film, especially in the death star. The soldiers being masked is a great advantage to the production because they would only need about a dozen extras dressed up as Stormtroopers to pull off the scenes.

Simple composting images like the iconic shot of Luke looking out at the desert of Tatooine with the two suns in the background are simplistic to create, but give it more character.

The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003)

To shoot all three movies that make up The Lord of the Rings is an epic accomplishment, but to shoot all three at the same time is even bigger. How can a director pull that all off by himself? He doesn't. Peter Jackson brought on other directors to work with him. He would delegate to each one exactly what he wanted. He would shoot his scene while other scenes were being shot, simultaneously. By doing this, the epic was simplified in the production.

How does he pull off making the huge crowd scenes in the battles? All these CGI-based characters have to have personalities, they interact, battle each other. To do this with each character would be too time consuming. Weta Digital created a solution: make a new animation program called Massive.

El Mariachi (1992)

Yes, I put an Indie, micro-budget film, in this list. Why? Why does this film stand out? Many other filmmakers make films for around $7,000 dollars. 1.) He shot on film stock for $7,000 and it wasn't a film shot in interiors with people standing around talking the whole time, 2.) He utilizes a ton of muzzle flashes and bullet hits throughout the film as characters shoot each other, 3.) It was made in 1992! (nothing under that description was being made in 1992)

Now Rodriguez did break some laws on pyrotechnic issues. You're supposed to have a licensed pyrotech doing the effects. You can mame or kill someone if you do these effects wrong. He actually bruised the actors that were in the film. I've seen photage of people who've been injured by handmade squibs (small explosives used for bullet hits). I would never use squibs now. We have animation and compositing for that.

The point is that Rodriguez made something that defied conventional wisdom and he did it in 2 weeks of shooting with non-actors, with non-conventional lighting and a limited budget. How does he do this? He creates a shot list and a style that cuts down on time. Did I mention the size of his crew? One. Himself.

Calling Cards and Satellites

-Calling Cards

When someone sees your film, it makes a statement about what you can make and make to expect next. Like a business card, what do you want your identity to be? You film is your chance to make a statement. Make the one you want to be remembered for.


Think about each film like launching a satellite into space and keeping it orbiting around the earth. In order to do this a satellite needs to be big enough to stay in orbit and it also needs to go high enough to break the stratosphere. Many films, sadly never make it high enough in impact to be remembered or even noticed at all.

The main focus people have in the Indie film business is the marketing/distribution side. In recent years, Indie filmmakers have complained because the distribution process has left them out in the cold. However, maybe we're focusing on the wrong thing. If you create an innovative, bold, courageous project than the statement it makes will draw people to see your project. Why did people go to see AVATAR when it first came out in theaters? Because of the trailer? Because it was in 3D or IMAX? No, because it was all you heard about it. You want your project to be so great that people can't shut up about it!

The usual slogan I hear with Indies is: cheap, fast, quick. Hollywood is trying to "Up It's Game" and we run with cheap, fast, quick? Supposedly the digital revolution came out in the last decade, yet if the results for Indies aren't revolutonary filmmaking than it's just an upgrade. We should feel empowered by the digital revolution to go out and make the film you want to, not the one you assume you have to.

The usual response I get is: Indies can't do effects. First it's not about effects, but about being innovative. Finding ways to beat the odds. Doing more with less. Second, why can't they do effects? People assume that if Indies do effects that it will look cheesy and unrealistic. That's not true. If you put the right amount of time and care into the effects as you do with the rest of the film they can be realistic.

When I screened my feature film, The Allan Carter Saga Part I: AMNESIA, no one ever left theater saying, "I love the skyreplacement!" because you're not suppose to realize I replaced the blue skies with cloudy skies. Or people coming out of the theater saying, "great matte backgrounds", that would be kind of an odd compliment. The audience is suppose to think that everything was shot in camera. If I got any criticism on AMNESIA it was never the effects. The only effects people thought were in the film was the color design and the helicopters (and the helicopters aren't CGI, well, not entirely). My point is that it is possible!

If Hollywood is "Up-ing Their Game" we need to as well. Even better, we need to knock their socks off! The truth is the magic of revolutionary filmmaking is just inches from our hands with each project we envision. All we have to do is "push the envelope", to grab that thing that is beyond our reach. We need to be bold, daring, defy gravity and change the status quo. The truth is we are only restricted by the limits of our imaginations. It's time for change, it's time for a revolution!

For more on John's work, please visit

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Strength In Numbers

The title above refers to what is going through my mind regarding our current Goodbye Promise Kickstarter Campaign. Before I get to those thoughts, I would like to share some exciting things happening for Karen and I.

Some of you may be aware that two years ago we wrote up a list of goals that we have on our refrigerator. I am almost ashamed to admit that the majority of them have not been crossed off. It has been that way for two years. Just as embarrassed I am by what I just wrote, I am just as proud to say that we have now been able to cross of two of our goals (we actually cross them out & then write SUCCESS!) in the last few weeks.

When we originally wrote the list, we had just returned from San Diego. We wanted to return, so we wrote down that we wanted to spend another weekend there. Two years later and we have still not yet been back. That changes in two weeks. We have been asked to speak as Panelists at the San Diego Indie Fest on Saturday March 27th from 10:30am to 11:15am. We will be joined by Jenn Page from & Matt Jarbo from We have never really imagined being panelists so this is quite an honor for us. The panel is on Marketing Your Film. Karen and I will be representing 'Dealing with the Media.'

Back to the goal list. We also wrote down that we wanted to attend the Film Independent Spirit Awards as invitees. We applied for media credentials a few months ago and we were approved several weeks ago. This past Friday our dream came true. We arrived early and watched the red carpet arrivals before being led up to the Press Tent upstairs. We broke away from the Press Tent to the Cabana Tent next door where there was a food buffet and a bar. We had a nice meal before returning to the Press Tent where we decided to sit right up front. We were just a few feet away from all of the night's Award Winners who came to speak to the press.

What really floors me about these two goals is they are directly related to our Film Courage radio show. Yet we wrote these goals down well over a year before we ever thought about doing a show. This is just another example of the mystical forces of the universe at work. What do we learn? 1) It doesn't always happen when we want it to happen. (God's time, not our time) 2) Write your goals down (magical things can happen for you.)

As of the time of this writing, we are 10 days into our Kickstarter Campaign for Goodbye Promise. We have been blessed so far with 32 Backers who have pledged a total of $1931. Our end goal is to raise at least $15,000 by April 22nd, 2010. We have 41 days left. The way Kickstarter works is that it is ALL or NOTHING. We either raise at least $15,000 by our deadline or we will not see any of the money.

One thing interesting that is happening is the number of folks who are backing the project, then saying they wish they could 'pledge' more. In addition, I believe there are a good number of folks who have yet to 'pledge' because they are embarrassed to contribute an amount less than $5. My response to that is that no one should feel embarrassed by any amount they are able to pledge. Your $1 pledge may lead to a $20 pledge or a $100 pledge. Your pledge may generate a chain reaction to future pledges.

I liken this effect to a bartender who is working hard, serving drink after drink to a long line of people. Yet no one has tipped her. Then one gracious fellow puts a one dollar bill on the bar. The woman behind that fellow sees the gesture and pulls out money from her purse to also tip the bartender. This leads to a steady stream of tips for the hard-working bartender.

A Kickstarter campaign is reliant on this same kind of energy. Our campaign gains momentum when several people 'pledge' on the same day. There is Strength in Numbers. Strength in the Number of Backers who support our project. The higher the number of our Backers, the easier it becomes for others to believe in our project and also contribute.

Another great feature about Kickstarter is you have the right to adjust your pledge amount. You can pledge $1 now and any time before the deadline you can raise the amount. Also, in case you are not aware, no money is taken from your account unless the project reaches it's fundraising goal. We will only receive the money from our Backers if we reach $15,000 by April 22nd, 201o and money is not taken from their accounts until after the clock strikes zero.

This blog would not be complete if I did not thank all of the Backers we have gained since my last blog entry. Thank you for believing and supporting our little film. I am so incredibly grateful to each of you! Mike Hedge, Nathan Cole, Erika Benites, Melissa Darpino, Owen Thomas, Peter Bernhard Altmann, Sally Outlaw, Kevin Deen, Matt Anderson, Marcella Selbach, Cassandra M. Bellantoni, Gia Milani, Chad Davis, Jeff Kinney, Thomas Corkran, Patrick Mosher, Joe Lessard, Todd Cattell & Phoebe Owens.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Project Launch: Goodbye Promise on Kickstarter

I know some of you have been anticipating my foray into the world of Crowd Funding. Well, that time is now here! I can't help but think of the analogy that Lance Weiler used on this past week's Film Courage radio show about being on the end of a diving board and diving into risk. He wasn't referring to a Kickstarter campaign but I believe the reference is appropriate in this case.

I have officially jumped off the diving board. Though as of right now, I cannot say whether I am going to hit pavement or be welcomed by a pool of bliss.

In my days leading up to our launch I found myself over analyzing every detail. This campaign means so much to me for where I am right now with my career. I have more eyeballs watching me than ever before. Though it is welcome and necessary, it also adds a new layer of pressure.

My original plan was to launch a 45 day Kickstarter campaign, which would land us right around an end date of April 15th. My thinking was that we could use the tax deadline for additional promotion. In the end, I agreed with Karen and a few others that folks will be too engrossed with their state of affairs and taxes. So we added 7 extra days to the campaign. For those of you getting a refund this year....

We are now a few days into our campaign and the early support has been thrilling. In our first two days online we attracted 12 backers. We are now up to 15 backers and we are almost 5% funded. Our end goal is to raise at least $15,000 by April 22nd, 2010.

For those of you not aware, reaching 25% in a Kickstarter campaign is a critical benchmark. Of all of the projects that Kickstarter has had in it's brief history, those projects which can reach the 25% mark have a 90% chance of success. So the sooner we can reach $3750, the more confident I will be. There is no contribution that is too small. That is why the lowest contribution amount is $1. If that is all you have to contribute, we do not take that lightly. You would be just as important to us as every other backer. Most indie filmmakers could make a living if everyone contributed just $1 for their work.

As promised amongst the incentives we have listed for the campaign... I would like to take this opportunity to thank these individuals for their pioneering support of Goodbye Promise and our vision. I cannot tell you how much it means that each of you would be so generous with your contributions and that you have shown your support in these early stages. I thank Gary King, Paul Borgonia, Sheri Candler, Roger Richards, Kiowa & Jamin Winans, Greg Goldman, Andrea Shreeman, Len Cordova, Brian Durkin, Phillip Calderone, Bill Houskeeper, Janet Caliri, Nicholas James Murphy, ai loon, & Susan Williamson.

I am hoping that many of you will help us with this campaign by helping to spread the word any way you can. Person to person, on the phone, email, facebook, twitter, etc. Help us meet our end goal so that true independent film can have another hero. We need more examples, we need more heroes. And for those who support me, I want you to know that a successful campaign here puts me in a position to begin laying the groundwork for my next feature film which I would love to shoot this year. It is a pure comedy that is going to be bananas.

For those of you who have yet to stop by our Kickstarter Campaign page for Goodbye Pomise, here is the link. Please click on the video so that you can witness the 'Inspirational Teaser Trailer' to the film.

I look forward to sharing updates on our progress in the upcoming weeks. We are going to begin rolling out video interviews with members of the cast and crew involved in the project very soon. If you have any ideas or suggestions on outlets or ways we can get the word out on our project, please send them my way.