Arabel is an official selection at the SENE Film Fest April 20-25th in Providence, Rhode Island! More details to come!
Arabel had it's premiere at the New Hampshire Film Fest in October! It was a great event (a favorite moment for me was Michelle MacLaren, director of my favorite Breaking Bad episodes, giving a behind-the-scenes panel). Check out some of the highlights!
Arabel was also one of four short films chosen to open the Cape Ann Film Fest in Gloucester, MA on October 30th! We're really honored to be a part of these great events and in the company of such amazing talent. Thanks to everyone involved!
By Guest Blogger Kate McAuley.
Kate is a filmmaker and recent college graduate from Northern Ireland. You can check out her work on youtube.
I recently made a film for my dissertation that was inspired by Quentin Tarantino. When I tell
people this, their initial response is something along the lines of “cool, there must’ve been a lot of violence in it”. I can’t argue with them because I, too, associate Tarantino’s films with violence. I also associate them with non-linear story-lines, gangsters, long monologues, brightly coloured sets, hybrid genres, and Samuel L. Jackson. In fact, because of his frequent usage of these elements, it’s fairly reasonable to say that he has his own style, and that when you’re watching a Tarantino film, you know you’re watching a Tarantino film. So that’s great, he’s an auteur then. And yet so much of Tarantino’s work is a combination of other films that he has recreated and placed into his own story. Whether it’s taking themes from the spaghetti western genre of film, or more specific instances, like creating the Bride/Black Mamba’s suit to closely resemble Bruce Lee’s suit in The Game of Death. This inspiration from previous work would then be considered postmodern.
So which is he: an auteur, or a postmodern director? Could he possibly be both? Does it even matter? I guess all of the above can be argued. I, myself, believe that he is a new hybrid of postmodern and auteur. A postmodern auteur, if you will. Yes, the two theories do contradict each other, because an auteur is meant to be someone so original that they have their own unique and distinguishable style, and a postmodern director is someone who is very clearly influenced by other films and directors. But Tarantino seems to use postmodernism as a way of being an auteur - taking inspiration from other films is his style.
This works because he uses these borrowed elements in a unique way. He uses juxtaposition. He mixes shocking violence with humour, depicted in the scene in Pulp Fiction when Vince accidentally shoots the guy in the back of the car. It’s a shock and it’s graphic, but the reactions from Vince and Jules are more comical than they are serious. He mixes together Japanese cinema (notably Lady Snowblood) with the spaghetti western in the Kill Bill films. Furthermore, the spaghetti western genre is present in a few of his films, including Inglourious Basterds, which is set in Germany during the second world war. Not necessarily something that would be expected, but Tarantino sees no reason why the two can’t mix.
When it comes to films, Tarantino knows what he is talking about and it’s clear when listening to him in interviews that he truly loves the medium of film. Therefore, it’s not surprising that his own films seem to act as an outlet for him to show his audience what he has admired in films and share with them certain scenes that he has been drawn to, or thought were effective. However, he doesn’t just do this to show audiences what he’s been liking these days, but rather he blends together pieces from here and there to better tell his own story.
To me, he’s the poster boy for this form of storytelling. To the point where, even if I notice others with a similar technique, I will most likely refer to it as ‘Tarantino-esque’. He’s the man who tells his stories by using other stories: a postmodern auteur.
Review of the film, Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman, 2014)
by guest blogger Alison McMahan
Alison is an award-winning screenwriter, author and filmmaker. Check out her work at Homunculus Productions and on twitter @AlisonMcMahan
Like most Hollywood films, Edge of Tomorrow, the 2014 summer tent-pole sci-fi film directed by Doug Liman (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the Bourne Series) and starring Tom Cruise (Oblivion) and Emily Blunt (Adjustment Bureau, Looper), started out life as a book. And not just any book, but a young-adult sci-fi novel. The book was originally written in Japanese by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (born in Tokyo in 1970) as Ōru Yū Nīdo Izu Kiru, (All You Need Is Kill). The genre in Japan is "Japanese Military sci-fi light" novel. "Light" is the Japanese term that is roughly equivalent to our "young adult" classification.
All You Need Is Kill was not Hiroshi's first novel, but it was his first to break out. A manga adaptation, written by Ryōsuke Takeuchi and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, began serialization in Shueisha's Weekly Young Jump magazine in January 2014 and is also published by Viz Media in its Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. A graphic novel adaptation was released in North America in May 2014. All You Need Is Kill was re-released as the movie tie-in novel, in paperback form with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt on the cover, and re-titled The Edge of Tomorrow.
So, the story started out life as a fast, light read for adolescent, geeky sci-fi fans in Japan. It's safe to assume that in order to produce a blockbuster sci-fi film with all the requisite special effects, Hollywood needed a major star in order to generate the requisite marketing. Brad Pitt turned the role down, but Tom Cruise accepted, and his films Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow were shot back-to-back.
In the book, All You Need is Kill, the hero is Keiji Kiriya, newly enlisted to serve in a war against the Mimics that has already been going on for twenty years and has already taken the lives of most of the world's able soldiers. Keiji is emotionally and physically unprepared for the D-Day style battle that he faces on the morrow. He enlisted because a librarian back home broke his heart when she married someone else, but now he's starting to realize he's made a terrible mistake. The novel begins with him waking up, preparing for the next day's battle, going to battle, and getting killed within 45 minutes. To his credit, he takes out a Mimic with him, and not just any mimic: a special one that has antennas.
And then he wakes up again. It's the day before the battle… he goes through his day with only moderate changes… he thinks his sense of deja vu is because he had some vivid dreams…he goes into battle and gets killed within the first 48 minutes.
Once he figures out that each time he dies his life is reset, as if he were in a computer game, he starts doing what gamers do: learning from each experience to get a little further into the loop before getting killed again, in the hopes of eventually getting out of the loop altogether.
In the book, and in an early script adaptation by D.W. Harper, Cage (the transliteration for Keiji in English) finds out that the great war hero, Rita Vrataski, was also caught in a loop for some time, but managed to escape it. She recognizes his problem and tries to help him use his (curse? superpower?) to get a tactical advantage in the war against the Mimics. Of course, a love story develops, though courting a woman that forgets all about you every 48 hours has all the tragedy and none of the comedy of movies like 50 First Dates.
That's the part that's the same in book and movie.
The movie, of course, has to age up Cage so that Cruise can play him as more of a man in the throes of a mid-life crisis a la Groundhog Day than as a coming of age a la Source Code. To make this work, the film actually makes some improvements on the book: it combines a slimey American journalist whose got a thing for Vrataski with the Cage character, and it has Vrataski train Cage, instead of Ferrell, Cage's military superior. Cage's platoon of misfits are given more rounded personalities, which is properly paid off. The movie has a better logic for what causes the time loop to begin and end: the Mimics in the book really are robots sent from the aliens that will invade after the Earth is terraformed for them, but the movie makes the Mimics the aliens and institutes an alien hierarchy. This makes possible the idea of alien blood, which confers time-looping powers on those who are drenched in it.
In spite of these improvements, the looping plot poses certain challenges. First of all, in order to fit so many iterations of the story into the length of a commercial feature film (remember Run Lola Run only had three iterations of its plot), a lot had to be elided. This means that we miss Cage's transformation from self-absorbed, cowardly media mannequin into a skilled soldier willing to sacrifice himself for the world, the team, and the woman.
Paul Gulino has discussed this aspect of the story intelligently and completely, so I will refer readers to his article in Script Magazine, which can be found here: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/storytelling-strategies-edge-ending
The looping structure itself can be challenging for some viewers. Even though as a genre, the time-loop sci-fi story, TV episodes, and movies have been with us for nearly one hundred years: there are numerous time-loop stories from the 40s and 50s, and more recently, excellent films as Source Code and Groundhog Day, not to mention episodes on Star Trek, STNG, The Outer Limits, and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In spite of all the examples of the genre that have come before, the time-loop story is still a challenge, and the challenging character has been reflected at the box office, just as it did for the sadly under-appreciated Source Code and 12 Monkeys.
Those who can follow the plot still find issues with it. Why, for example, does Cage wake up in an earlier point in his last loop than he did in all the previous loops? Also, the departure from the main character's point of view, which happens when he's dead, and other characters comment on his death (this happened in Ground Hog Day too).
The Time-loop story, by its very nature, violates causality. This is especially true of stories where a character's consciousness travels through time, but not his body (every time Cage resets, his body is the same: as Keiji says a few times in the original novel, it is his OS that is getting improved, not his muscle tone). What makes a time-loop story coherent is not sci-fi genre tropes, but the tropes of some other genre with which the time-loop story is often combined. In Source Code and Deja Vu, the hero is trying to find a terrorist. In other words, those films are sci-fi mysteries, although there are love story b-plots.
In Ground Hog Day the hero needs to become a better man, and he does it through love. In other words, GroundHog Day is a sci-fi Romance, or sci-fi love story. And, in spite of all the battle scenes and CGI alien monsters, so is Edge of Tomorrow. What holds the complicated plot together, and what makes the film accessible to a wider audience, is that the filmmakers chose to remain true to the love story logic. Cage and Rita Vrataski have a shared goal—to destroy the "hive mastermind" alien—but Cage has an additional goal that becomes more and more important to him as the story progresses, and comes more and more into conflict with his first goal, and that is to keep Rita alive long enough to win her love. Like the hero in Butterfly Effect, he gradually realizes that the only way to accomplish this is not to have Rita fight at his side at all. The only way she can live through a timeline is if she never goes with him -- if he leaves her doing her one-armed plank in the training room. And because that is the one moment of contact with her where he can choose to not have her fight at his side, when the story ends that is the moment he has to come back to, this moment of first meeting. The filmmakers try to justify it visually by having Cage completely drenched in the blood of the super-alien, in the hopes that in the rush of climactic events we will make an easy equation, "more blood=more control over timeline reset."
Yes, it's a plot hole. But it works, because it's true to love-story logic. Love is redeeming, love gives us new life, love powers resurrections. In the end, all you need is love.
Photos by Sevastra Photography.
The Emerge Film Fest was last weekend and our film Detour was nominated for Best Short Film!
They organized a great event and we were really honored to not only have our film shown but to be nominated. We saw a lot of fantastic films and met some really cool people. Well done, Emerge!
All photos by Sevastra Photography (except the blurry brick one), check out her other work!
When I first started watching Mad Men, I hated it. The way that sexism in the late 1950s and early 1960s was portrayed was so real and so relatable to modern issues women face and our history of the workplace, I couldn't separate the rawness from the masterfulness of it. The show tackles these issues in a fictional world set in 1960s Madison Avenue that no one had seen portrayed before. Once I was able to set myself apart from it, I realized how brilliant the show is, and my hatred soon began filtering in on one person: Don Draper.
I hate Don Draper, but it's a complicated hatred. I’ll use “hatred” in a broad, vague way. We’re talking about a fictional character so I don’t mind using such a strong term. He's a boozin', cheatin', ego-maniac. But if you remember, he's the only man in the show who's been consistently supportive of women, in his own, complicated way.
His marriage to Betty is a 1950s facade--he has the perfect life, with the (seemingly) sweet blond who does whatever he says, a woman locked inside a prison she can't get out of without Don talking to her therapist and not allowing her to follow her modeling dreams. Yet, every woman he has had an affair with (which is a lot, we'll be here for days if we go over the entire list) have all been independent, strong, intelligent women.
Let's take a stroll down Don Draper Lane:
These women are anomalies of the time--or at least within the Mad Men "universe." There were others as well (the flight stewardess who he had a one-night stand with, Candace the prostitute, Bethany the young actress, Allison his secretary and Sylvia Rosen), but these accomplished women were the ones he had to try the hardest to seduce. The dichotomy of Don being attracted to and appreciating the beauty of a strong, independent woman and yet being the biggest womanizer east of the Mississippi makes me want to scream at the TV "You're disgusting!" and then "But thanks for valuing intelligence!" Is he trying to take power away from these women by seducing them and then destroying and sabotaging his relationships with them? Is it a reflection of the time? Or, outside of his marriage, is he searching for his female equal within a social constraint that doesn't allow them to be his equals? Enter: Peggy Olson.
Peggy is Don's protege, and for many seasons, his only true friend. When he wasn't being an alcohol-abusing jerk, that is.
Don sees himself in Peggy, and it's no secret--he's told her this. The narrative of Don and Peggy throughout the series is, for me, a central story. The central story. It's two generations clashing together, 1950s man and progressive 1960s woman, it's two incredibly creative people with nothing else in their lives but their work, and therefore, each other. In many ways, they are representative of the same person, or a ying and yang. The season I felt was the least engaging for me was season 6 when Peggy and Don barely spoke to each other or were even in physical proximity to each other. The episode The Suitcase (which I previously wrote about) was a masterpiece of TV and film--just Don and Peggy trying to work out an ad for a suitcase, while really working out their own relationship. Last week's episode, The Strategy, brought them together again.
Peggy seems to be the only one, up until recently, who challenged Don not only about work but about himself. In this season (season 7), to be able to work at the agency again, he had to work UNDER Peggy. He finally accepted it, and although we saw Peggy go from disdain to swelling with sweet revenge over her mentor who hadn't treated her well in the last few seasons, she wasn't entirely comfortable with this arrangement. When they finally meet one-on-one, the friendship and that bond we have watched from the beginning, was reclaimed. Once again, it's Don who believes in her. He tells her to do it her way, as Frank Sinatra's "My Way" plays in the background. Not even Ted, one of the nicer guys in the show (until they have an affair), has said something so direct and empowering to her.
It's not quite paternal with Peggy, but it is interesting too that Don's oldest child is a daughter.
Sally Draper has been witness to some of the most horrifying secrets a child could be exposed to, and she always seems to have a front-row seat to her father's indiscretions. Sally's defiance has always been chided by her mother Betty, but when it comes to Don, he takes a different approach: he tells the truth. But the truth doesn't come easy. Sally challenges her father. There's something about Sally that sees through his bullshit and I think that's a relief to him. When it comes to Peggy, Sally and even Anna and her niece Stephanie, Don can become a completely different person. And perhaps that's because he is a completely different person than we were led to believe.
Perhaps Don's biggest secret in the series, is that he isn't even Don Draper at all. He's Dick Whitman. He became Don Draper after Don died in the Korean War, and Dick assumed his identity. With this new identity, he goes from being a poor orphaned kid who grew up in a "whorehouse" to the slick, smooth, creative genius that tells lies and stories for large amounts of money on Madison Avenue. He became good friends with Anna, the wife of the real Don Draper, until she died. Her niece, Stephanie came to know Don's secret as well. When Stephanie calls Don for help, Megan doesn't want her around. It seems as though Megan fears Stephanie will lure Don away but Megan's got it all wrong, and I think the underlying fear is that Stephanie knows things about Don that Megan still doesn't. This realization for Megan drives her to try desperate things to save their marriage, but in the end, she gives up.
Don lies to women like it's part of his job. He's a genius Ad Man---a creative soul who could've been a free-roaming hippie from a younger generation if it wasn't for his incredible drive to be the best and to take "Don Draper" to limits I don't think he even knows about. His lies, his drunken trysts, his scheming and poor decision-making led him to lose his wife and his job. This past season I enjoyed watching him suffer--he deserved it. But, as I saw him try to not cheat on Megan (and succeed!) and put his ego aside and do the grunt work under Peggy's leadership, I felt like he might be able to redeem himself. Can the world forgive him? Will his efforts make any difference? At the end of the last episode of this half-season finale, he chooses his job and money over anything else, and we see him in the very last seconds as Burt's apparition sings to him "The best things in life are free." It sure has taken him a long time to understand this. But, better late than never.
Ok, I know he didn't improvise. But having just finished True Detective, and remembering Matthew McConaughey's Academy Award, SAG and Golden Globe acceptance speeches, I'm now wondering if he improvised all his dialogue in the show as Rust Cohle. Think about it--long meandering, philosophical rants. Who knew he'd be so close to his character, Rust! (Amazing acting, by the way--I am blown away!).
Pop quiz--was the following from True Detective or one of his acceptance speeches this year?
"And to my hero, that's who I chase. When I was 15 years old I had a very important person in my life ask me who was my hero, and I said 'I don't know. I gotta think about that, give me a few weeks.' And I come back two weeks later, and they said 'Who's your hero?' and I said, 'You know, I thought about it. It's me in 10 years. So I turn 25 ten years later, and that same person asked me 'Are you your hero?' and I was like, 'Not even close.' And she said 'Why not?' and I said, 'My hero is me at 35.' So every day, every week, every month, every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I'm never going to attain that, I know I'm not. That keeps me the somebody to keep on chasing."
Rust Cohle or MM acceptance speech?
"There's a man I met 20 years ago. He escaped Russia. He was not even a carpenter, built a 17-foot boat and sailed across the Atlantic for decades he held the world record for smallest vessel single-man sailed across the Atlantic. He told me this, he said, 'A genius can be anybody he wants to, but a genius is always one person at a time.' So to that I say, that's what we get to do, isn't it? One man, one woman, one human. At a time. When we do it well. Just keep doing that. Just keep living."
Rust Cohle or MM acceptance speech?
"it feels like they could put a blindfold on you and put you on a spaceship and take you to Neptune and you could hop off on the planet and they better have the sprock control and you get off that spaceship because you are going to behave as your man."
All from his acceptance speeches.
Detour, which I wrote (and was AD on) and directed by Dean Merrill and Gary Robinov, starring Brian Chamberlain and Astrea Campbell-Cobb (with Bill McDonough, Jennifer Nichole Porter and Dana Packard) has been nominated for the following at the Lewiston-Auburn Film Fest!
Best Maine Film
Best in Festival
LAFF was named one of "The Coolest Film Fests in the World" in 2013 by MovieMaker Magazine
Thanks to everyone for their hard work on the film! Check out the Fest April 4-6, 2014.
I feel kind of devastated by this news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death. Not only was he an incredible actor, but he is directly tied to my first working film experience. He was in the film Empire Falls, and I was a production assistant--my first big feature. There were a lot of big name actors, for the time--Helen Hunt, Ed Harris, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodword, Robin Wright, Aidan Quinn, and PSH. The three months it took to film, were three months of me forming my first thoughts about Hollywood. I have a lot of crazy stories from that film--way more than I can tell here--or that I can share in a public forum like this. I got to see the drug use on set, I saw the excess of a "Hollywood" production. I almost got fired when they put me in charge of the stand-ins and Helen Hunt's stand-in disappeared and I couldn't find her anywhere. But the more they trusted me, the more I got to do, and eventually got to be right on set. It was my first time being that close to real "celebrity" and it wasn't always a pretty sight. But Phillip Seymour Hoffman was the first one I spoke to, on the first day. In my state of terror, I stood by the craft service table at 6am and when I turned he was standing beside me and said "Good morning" as he squeezed oranges for juice. I nodded and turned away fast. I wasn't sure what to say, or what was wrong to say, or if I was even supposed to talk to him. I didn't want to get fired the first day, so I chose not to interact. Another day he stood behind me at the breakfast truck (there was a lot of food involved on this shoot). He was the ONLY actor who got his own food instead of having it brought to him. Although I had an internal battle going on about how he's just a person! I can talk to a person! And, he's a famous person and he probably doesn't want to talk! --I asked him how he was and we chatted for a bit. He was the most down to earth, the most gracious and the most real. I've learned a lot about actors since then, and I understand their process on set a lot better, but he deserved a million Academy Awards just for being such a decent human being.
Another time, in Kennebunk, we were filming at a hotel and he just sat on the stairs and talked to a couple of us and I remember him saying that people always asked why he wasn't married and how it bothered him. Another day, during our down time when there's nothing to do except to be quiet and yell "Rolling! Cut!" when you hear it in your ear piece, I sat on a stone wall just outside the scene they were filming inside. Phillip would come outside during cuts and smoke a cigarette and walk in a circle and talk to himself. I pretended to be deeply engrossed in the call sheet so I wouldn't bother him, but I was amazed at the intensity and the frame of mind he had to get himself into. I think if he hadn't been in this film, my views on production and set life would be even more cynical than they are now. I struggled at the time, with questioning whether or not you could still be a good person and do this kind of work, because there's a lot of shady shit that goes on. I still regret not telling him about my favorite scene of him ever. I didn't dare to at the time because I wasn't sure if he would see the humor in it or be offended. I laughed so hard when he yells at Adam Sandler "Shut up! Shut the fuck up!" over and over again in Punch Drunk Love. His acting is worth so much more than this scene, but no one else could bring the same hilarity to it. Anyway, I feel honored to have been able to see him work first-hand and that he was the first actor I met, my hands trembling as he made freshly squeezed orange juice at the craft service table, half awake at 6am, here in Maine. Truly honored and so saddened by this news. Thanks for being my first film experience, Phillip!