Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Strong Bad Explains: Indie vs. Independent

Hey kids! Ever wondered what the true difference is between "Independent film" and "Indie film"? Would you like to be schooled on this subject by a weird little flash animated wrestler dude? Well, hot damn! Here's your chance:


I can't believe how long Homestarrunner has been funny...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Calvin Lee Reeder, part 2-- THE INTERVIEW!

Calvin Lee Reeder

Praise be to nice people who answer e-mail questions from obscure bloggers! In this case, I am speaking specifically of Calvin Lee Reeder, the filmmaker we just talked about in the previous post. He very kindly agreed to answer some questions about his work, for the edification of all of us. Sweet! Here be those questions...

LB: How did you get into filmmaking? You started as a musician, right? What was the turn of events? Along those lines, do you still play in bands?

CALVIN: Just sorta hit me one day, I was a ditch digger for company called Dreamcraft Homes in rainy Seattle Wa, played in a shitty punk band and my life basically sucked. I was about 19. I met a guy named Brady Hall who had a beard and NPR 16mm package so we made a film about Jesus. It's really hard to get through, but we shot on film and cut by hand on a Steinbeck. Today the movie exists only on VHS and it generally bums us out. It's called Polterchrist, about 70 min.

Play in a band now called Private Beach, we use to cover Buffett but we stopped doing that.

LB: I've read about your feature "Jerkbeast", which you seem to have a pretty low opinion of nowadays. How did that come about and what was it like to make?

CALVIN: Jerkbeast was originally a public access show and the brain child of Brady Hall. It consisted of viewers calling the live show and exchanging insults with us while Brady wore a paper mache and chicken wire monster suit. It should be noted that when Brady is in the Jerkbeast suit he is absolutely peerless when it comes to quick and disgusting torrential insults. It's actually pretty amazing.

We got sort of popular around town and decided to make Jerkbeast the movie that features, Steaming Wolf Penis, a band , Jerkbeast plays drums. This time we shot on super 16mm and the film turned out just as bad as Polterchrist. A real bummer. However, we some how managed to get a small following in the UK and toured England twice as Steaming Wolf Penis, most shows were poorly attended.

Both films took about year to make respectively, shot nights and weekends paycheck to paycheck.

LB: What was the first short you made that you were proud of? What was it about it that made it feel more complete, or whatever the right word would be?

CALVIN: After two gutterball features I was ready to try something else. So I made a short film called Piledriver. It was the first time I had written and directed solo and also the first time I didn't hate a film that I made. I met my girlfriend Lindsay, as well. I recognize its faults but I'm still proud of it, it was the beginning of a new type of filmmaking for me.

LB: I was blown away by "Little Farm" and have watched it a zillion times. How did that movie start to be born‑‑ what was your initial idea for it?

CALVIN: I was ready to start making films more loose. It's hard to say where any idea comes from, but it did feel natural and came to me all at once. I also wanted to make something that was both kinda funny and kinda scary depending on what brain you have.

I would like to make something really scary one day.

LB: There is this quality to "Little Farm", as well as "The Rambler", where the story unfolds without a lot of exposition, and then ends kind of abruptly, before we get any explanations. How did you come across this style of writing? Is it a reaction to things in other movies that you either like or hate? Or is it just how you like to write?

CALVIN: I guess it started evolving that way with Little Farm, it wasn't like a big change in me I just realized I was better at expressing myself in a more abstract way. Our early attempts were so damned dialogue heavy and never really said anything at all. I don't really consider myself a writer, its just a formality to get ideas on film.

LB: In your films, there is a lot of use of 16mm artifacting‑‑ double‑exposure, flashing, etc. How did this start to become part of your style, and do you plan when you will be using it ahead of time, or is it more in‑the‑moment? Do you tend to storyboard ahead of time, compose shots on set, or a combination of both?

CALVIN: Everything shot on 16 has artifact, it's just a lot of people try to cut it out or hide it. I was done with trying to impress people with how slick or well edited my films where because they were never slick or well edited in the first place. I wanted to make my weakness my strength, I guess.

It's not really something you can plan in advance because you never know where that stuff will show up on the roll. There's something really natural and unpredictable about it, I think it's bad to try to control everything anyway.

I am a fan of the shot list but tend to deviate.

LB: In the indie world, it seems like digital video has taken over as far as the medium of choice, probably because it's relatively cheap to shoot. Are you planning to stick with film, or is there a chance that you will be dabbling with DV sometime in the future? Do you have any thoughts on one versus the other?

CALVIN: Sticking with film for now, old habits die hard. I've made some shorts on DV but they feel like stepchildren. I guess I still think you can feel the difference between film and video if even nowadays you can't see it as much.

I once met John Sayles at the airport, he told me that film talks to your alpha waves and video talks to your beta waves. I guess he knows about brain shit.

LB: Likewise, your use of color is AMAZING, both film‑wise and lighting‑wise. How much of the filmic color is gotten through telecine, and how much is done with color correction in post? Also, how much do you repaint rooms in order to get cool color stuff happening? I'm thinking of the overwhelmingly orange room in "The Rambler" or the red kitchen wall in "Little Farm", for example...

CALVIN: Well telecine is when and where I do all my color correction and at times have gone a little wild in there with my DP, Ryan Adams, at the helm. Little Farm was as much about the color red as it is about incest and ghosts so we cranked it at times to bring it out.

I have done a lot of painting for the films. Lindsay helps me, she's good at it.

LB: Along those lines, sound seems equally important to you. Do you do your own sound design? What can you tell us about your audio philosophy?

CALVIN: A lot of the time my sound design begins in the script, just about every time I see an image a sound comes with it, I get excited. That being said in post I always collaborate on sound design with either Brady Hall or Buzz Pierce, they seem to get me and can expand and show me shit I never thought of.

Sound is the perfect tone setter and creates the vibration of the film. I don't know why everybody doesn't experiment with it more.

LB: The songs in your movies are also quite strong and mood-setting. Do you know way in advance what songs you'll be using, or is it decided on during post? If you know in advance, do they ever act somehow as catalysts for the story? Also, where do you get the music from, generally? Are they friends' bands, or do you just go looking?

CALVIN: I sometimes know in advance what songs I will use, but they haven't been a story catalyst so far. It's important that the songs are recorded in a way that doesn't sound to produced or big, the less pro the better. Seems to compliment the image that way.
I use to tour with this band called The Intelligence. I was lucky enough to meet some of the radest bands around. A bunch of them really got into Jerkbeast so they are usually stoked when I ask them.

Also we were on the label In The Red and Larry Hardy has allowed me to use just about anything from that label for free.

LB: I assume you have pretty low budgets to work with. How do you stretch your filmmaking money to make it go as far as possible? What are your priorities when you initially budget something? Also, how much filmstock do you shoot, compared to how much is actually used in the finished short?

CALVIN: Yes, the budgets have been low, but fortunately I spent about 3 1/2 years working for Alphacine Film labs in Seattle. My DP Ryan Adams has been a color timer there for years. It would be hard to tell exactly how much we saved, but it was a lot.

Film, camera and location are my first priorities, we usually get by with somewhere between a 2 to1 or 3 to 1 shooting ratio. But we also do one takers and hope for the best.

LB: Do you edit your own movies, or use an editor? If you use an editor, how involved are you in the process‑‑ do you let them make a first cut on their own, or do you have a pretty extensive idea of what to do from the beginning?

CALVIN: It's always been a collaboration between the editor and myself. I did not make the jump into the computer world very smoothly and it always seems to be updating itself to make things worse. I've become very dependent on people that know that stuff. Mostly Brady Hall and Buzz Pierce, those guys are great. I'm there every step of the way because I shoot a lot of things that don't make it to the script and I have to be sure they make the film, mostly detail shots that could be overlooked. So far, it's worked great for me. I like to talk about shots and bounce off creative ways to tell the story in post. Those guys always end up blowing my mind with new stuff I hadn't thought of.

LB: Who are some filmmakers and or films you admire and consider to be influences? Are you a fan of horror movies in general?

CALVIN: I always find myself thinking of James Szalapski's Heartworn Highways, I watch it probably 3 or 4 times a year , it gets me back to form when other movies bum me out too much. It might be my favorite one ever. I also love Daryl Duke's Payday, Bruce Beresford's Tender Mercies, Richard Donner's Inside Moves and stuff like that. I love movies that show American landscape. That being said I also watch the hell out of Jodowrowski and Nicholas Roeg, a lot to be learned from them.

I like horror movies, but am usually disappointed by them. Films generally don't inspire my story's, that comes from other places.

LB: Lastly, do you have any tips for aspiring filmmakers that you would like to share?

CALVIN: I guess just don't be afraid to suck at it. Try to find what your good at doing not what the people you admire are good at doing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Calvin Lee Reeder!

So, like, awhile back I stumbled across a short film called THE RAMBLER, which was written and directed by a fellow named Calvin Lee Reeder, who I had read about a little when he was named one of Filmmaker Magazines’ 25 New Faces of Independent Film. There was something hypnotic and creepified-to-the-billionth-degree about the movie, and it was even sort of comedic. Make sure you note the "sort of" part there, because I'm sure many folks will find nothing to giggle about, which probably speaks well for your character...

He specializes in these weird short "horror movies" that play out as if you've wandered into somebody else's nightmare and get to watch their worst fears manifest. His films are also quite beautiful and use color and sound in powerful ways.

At the time, I hesitated to post THE RAMBLER on this site, because it's so incredibly disturbing. He once described it as being about "mummies and vomit". That's the kind of thing Lou Reed would say if he was trying to be cool in an interview. In the case of Mr. Reeder, he's being 100% truthful. I guess I was afraid that some kids might see it and get overly freaked out.

It hit me the other day, though (when I found out that Mr. Reeder and Co. are about to embark on a feature length project this winter-- yahoo!), that I had been somewhat hypocritical on that point since I also posted TREEVENGE not long ago, and that's about as disturbing as it gets as far as viewing by kids goes. "Good point, self," I remember thinking...

Today, then, is truly your lucky day if you have yet to experience one of Calvin's short movies. There is just something about them that defies logical explanation (for me at least). You could argue that they seem somewhat unfinished, but I feel like it's part of the charm. When was the last time you had a nightmare that ended in some neat, logical way? The open-ended nature of the following two movies really works for me-- wonder what you'll think?

Before you watch these, please keep in mind that THEY ARE NOT FOR KIDS AT ALL, so PLEASE DON'T SHOW THEM TO ANY YOUNGSTERS, and they are pretty damn disturbing. If you were weirded out by ERASERHEAD or have a low tolerance for yuck, please do yourself a favor and skip these. Dig? We won't think any less of you...

For those still interested, here is THE RAMBLER:

The Rambler from calvin reeder on Vimeo.

Yummy, eh? If you want more, how's about this one-- LITTLE FARM:

Little Farm

Man, I just love this guy's movies! I'm gonna write to him and see if he might be up for a quick interview on the blogatorium. What the heck, eh? Worst thing that can happen is he sends some poltergeists to blow up my head, right?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Big Night of Premieres!

We here at Lionbelly are getting awfully excited about Saturday, September 26th, 2009. Why? Thank you for asking! It's because...


Yes, you heard it right-- our almost-3-years-in-the-making surreal cowboy comedy feature EDENWOOD is finally going to have its coming out party, along with the world debut of the pilot episode of our "supernatural investigator charlatans in trouble" horror-comedy series, DARKIVES. And you are invited. No, really-- you are!

The premiere is September 26, 2009, 8:00 PM, at the EMU Student Center Auditorium. The cost for all this entertainment? Free, baby. That's right-- it's a single payer system, and Lionbelly is the payer.

Here's the brand-spanking new trailer for Edenwood, and the official synopsis:

Dallas and Thursday, the infamous Fortune Brothers, are two cowboy heroes who never shrink from a challenge, even when it's WAY over their heads. What they find in the candy‑colored community of Edenwood will make them question their own Personal Value Quotients, as they are sucked into a mystery that pits the Haves against Some Other Haves in a battle for the ideal consumerist identity. Along the way, they will find romance, danger, lots of gold guns, and several parties. There will be barbecues and fisticuffs, videogames and singing, beautiful villains and men in ten thousand dollar suits, henchmen with PhDs and many many products and services.

Will the Fortune Brothers prevail in this brave new world of excess and frivolity? Will the residents of Edenwood survive a slab of good old‑fashioned Frontier Justice? Or will Social Club President Platinum Vallance have her way? And what of the mysterious Flip Willickers and his Value Seekers?

Wanna see some behind-the-scenes photos from the Edenwood set? Click here.

Though we aren't fancy enough to have a "real" rating, the evening is pretty much a PG affair. The movies don't have any cussing or nudity (sorry!), but they do have a few adult themes, a pinch of the old ultra-violence, and in the case of DARKIVES, some cheesy ghost effects that probably wouldn't scare anybody, but you never know with youths...

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Little Knowledge!

Hey again, folks. I'm back with one more mention about the 48 Hour Film Fest. I wanted to post the movie that won "Best of Detroit" and will go on to represent that fair city in the nationals in Las Vegas in eary 2010.

It's called "A Little Knowledge" and it's a really stylish horror story with some amazing visuals. I am frankly amazed at how much they were able to pull off in 48 hours, and how cool a lot of the editing is. This little gem was directed by Clark A. Eagling, written by Nancy Nall Derringer, and produced by Michael Einheuser and Connie Mangilin.

They kicked some ass and we wish them all the best in the national competition at Filmapalooza.

Check it out yourself:

Woo Hoo!!!

So, like, we went to the 48 Hour Film Project banquet on Saturday and our movie won 5 AWARDS!!! Yeah, baby! We got Best Acting, Best Writing, Best Comedy, Best Use of Required Character, and Best Use of Required Dialog. These mark our first awards as a movie making entity and we are awfully excited about that...

Based on the positive response, we've sent "The Most Difficult Thing" out to a couple comedy film festivals in New York and Los Angeles, and are now officially crossing our fingers whenever possible...

This almost makes up for all those "I Tried" ribbons from elementary school...