Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"The Spirits of Detroit" short documentary

What goes bump in the night in the Motor City?

Well.....probably many things.....

But I'm referring to the ghosts, phantoms, and ghoulish creatures that may be lurking inside the abandoned factories, in the woods, and through the outskirts of town.

Watch "The Spirits of Detroit", a short documentary, right HERE.

"The Spirits of Detroit" was written and directed by Derek Quint through Addovolt Productions and narrated by Chris Chavez.  It features original music compositions by Chad Nini and Kodjo Atiogbe.

The film premiered online October 30th, 2012.  It has been featured on Mysterious Heartland, Unearthly News, Unexplained Mysteries, Timothy Yohe's Paranormal Insights, Paranormal Globe, Midwestern Gothic, Legends of America, the News-Herald, and Creepy Pasta among other publications.

The press release for this project is HERE.

I'm from Metro Detroit and I've wanted to do something Detroit-oriented for a long time.

For a while, I've also wanted to make a very traditional ghost documentary like the kind that my family and I enjoy watching on The History Channel or on PBS or "Unsolved Mysteries"--a project along those lines.

So I made a documentary about ghosts in Detroit.  Two birds with one stone.

Sometimes I like to be traditional, and fit within a certain tonal framework, which is what I was aiming for with this project.

I wanted to maintain that particular sensibility that those television paranormal documentaries have.  How do I put it....?

They're always pretty informative and fascinating.  But deeply nerdy too.  You can count on some history and legends getting mixed up together.  These kinds of documentaries are somewhat melancholic but also whimsical and absurd.

It was easy to hit upon all of those qualities with the material that I had to work with regarding Detroit and its ghostlore.

Detroit is unusual even by local-interest paranormal standards.  You could encounter African relics that move by themselves, Native American demons, and Red Dwarves alongside traditional, mysterious men in suits and White Ladies.

Detroit has some good stuff to talk about if you're into these kinds of things.

There are MANY legends and ghost stories circulating around this city.  In "The Spirits of Detroit", I've tackled only a small number of them.  There are always more to do.  This project is in the public domain so, if any one wants to take the torch and do a "Spirits of Detroit" part II, that would be amazing!

I had to specifically pick and choose which stories to discuss and portray.  There are a bunch of creepy tales what we never got to take on (we didn't have the time and money to do everything) so I had to reign it in and decide where to put the cap on this project.  Fortunately, we were able to do my favorite legends and the ones that seem to be the most infamous and important around Detroit (i.e. the Nain Rouge).

It was a fun little project to make and I hope that you enjoy watching it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How Do You Solve A Problem Like "Bianca"?

Advertising?  Guerrilla screenings downtown?  Torture bondage, "Clockwork Orange"-style viewing?

No one watches "Bianca".  And, yes, this is a sensitive subject (but that doesn't mean that we can't make fun of it).

The other projects, as far as bare bones/not-overannouncing-them-to-friends-and-relatives-via-Facebook/not-being-annoying/not-becoming-a-pest-about-them, etc. are doing fine.

People don't watch my projects as much as they watch the videos of Justin Bieber and Keyboard Cat.  I don't get millions of hits.  I'm just a simple, straight-up indie filmmaker with no corporate backing and my projects just aren't of a viral nature (maybe I'm okay with that....).  I usually don't even advertise them.  That has to change with projects coming up.  My era of not-advertising is coming to a close--I have some important projects coming up and taking the slacker approach to announcing them is not in the cards.

When it all comes down to it, I make independent art films. As pretentious as that sounds.  If we had to sum it up in a sentence, though, I think that saying "He makes independent art films." cuts to the truth of it and makes things quite clear.

People don't watch my projects and email their friends about them with an LOLZ in the subject line.  That's not the kind of stuff that I do.  Plus, I'm not a scenester and I'm not a chatty kathy when it comes to my personal life nor my life within the indie film community (from a survival standpoint, I do realize that I have to "put myself out there" more for a number of different reasons).  I have a small bit of a base (for which I am extremely grateful) and they tend to have certain personality types that are kind of similar to my own.  Which makes sense.

"Salome" gets watched, "Danse Macabre" gets watched, the newer music videos are doing fine for being true indies.  Things are on the upswing and people seem to be enthusiastic and curious about forthcoming projects which is a great thing.

But then there's "Bianca".  The big project from last year.  It was long, exhausting, and cost 3 times as much as I thought it would.  It was supposed to be a short but then it almost ended up being a kind of abbreviated feature length.  It was a tiring and humbling experience.

Only about 100 hits as of this time.  Oh dear....

Is it because it's 5 parts?  Is it because it's not bite-sized and you're sort of forced to invest in 5 segments in order to fully understand the story?  And you don't want to time-invest in a 5-part indie project if you have no idea what you're getting yourself into?  Yes?

I think that that may have something to do with it.  But, truthfully, I have no idea what went wrong in that arena.  Obviously I didn't advertise "Bianca" at all or, just through sheer mathematics, I would have higher viewings for it.  Maybe what bothers me is that I think that, perhaps, people just aren't into "Bianca".  I hate to say it but that hurts my feelings (all sympathy cards and muffin baskets can be sent to Warner Avenue in Chicago).

"Bianca" is actually pretty cute, strange, and funny.  It's indie as hell and a bit rough around the edges in some parts (the restaurant scene) but it's a good little story and it's enjoyable.  The performances are strong.

But, yeah, "Bianca" is an odd duck.  I realize that.

If you read all about the Making Of and why the project was done in the first place, you'll know that "Bianca" was produced to be a segment within the "Four In Chicago" collaborative film project.  I wasn't strong-armed into it; I gladly volunteered to be a part of it.  Were there moments when I wondered why in the hell I had done this to myself?  Well, duh.  But I went full blast into this collaboration and the rest is deeply obscure, indie film history.  I don't typically do romantic comedy material.  I thought that it would be a challenge.  I was right about that.

Do I regret it?

No, no, no.  Absolutely not.

Yes, I did go into debt for a while over this project (I don't enjoy doing that--I prefer to stay exactly on budget) but I learned a crapload of "What Not To Do" when it comes to technical aspects.  Sometimes "What Not To Do"'s are just as valuable as "How To"'s.

"Bianca" has a lot of "What Not To Do"'s.  But there are, however, some strong points:  the actors, some of the aesthetics are strong, the costumes are cool, the writing works, the tone works, the music works, I did some good directing throughout most of it (trying to nail that cheesy 80's-style vibe that inspired this project, i.e. "Heathers", "Girls Just Want To Have Fun", etc.) so it wasn't a total trainwreck.  But could it have been better with some more time and care (and advertising!  and technical finessing!) put into it?  Undoubtedly.  "Bianca" has its reckless moments.  Despite the negatives, I still like "Bianca".  I hope that you like "Bianca" too.  At least give her a try.  Pretty please?

I've talked a little bit (not a lot, obviously) about "Bianca" with my friends, family, and a few other film people.  They've said "Well, why don't you spend some time advertsing it?  That way more people will watch it, you'll get more hits, more people will enjoy it, it will be closer to the worth of the time/energy/money you spent on it, etc., etc.  Enter it into film festivals, especially festivals centered on comedy.".  You get the jist.  I don't do film festivals when it comes to very small/ short film/low-low-budget projects like "Forgive Me, Bianca" because I don't have time for that.  For bigger projects coming up, sure I'll (begrudgingly) do the film festival thing, but I'm not going to be going down that route every time a new little project pops up.  The entry fee's are annoying, the paperwork is obnoxious, and I don't know that I'll actually be able to show up to the theater on that day (I work full-time--more than full-time, actually--and I have grad school; my schedule is as ruthless as a medieval demon).

I don't have the time to dedicate to "Bianca".  It's now an old project.


Do not overload on projects.  Films (and people) suffer when you are trying to tackle too many films.

Over the last few years, this has been my biggest mistake.  I didn't spend enough time making some projects and I didn't spend enough time promoting some (okay, all actually) projects.

My world is Go Go Go Go Go! all the fucking time.  Even though I'm straightedge (no alcohol, no drugs), I have always been able to relate to cokeheads because we're sort of on the same wavelength (see upcoming film:  "Secretly Crazy").

The rest of 2012 and all of 2013 will continue on the same batshit Go Go Go Go Go! rocket trail, filled with numerous film projects, that was carved out back in 2010.  So, really, I'm being a hypocrite.

But after the "Secretly Crazy" feature film is done being promoted, I look forward to slowing things down a bit and putting more love, care, time, and prioritizing into upcoming projects.  One or two projects a year is fine.  5 or 6 is just fucking stupid.

"Forgive Me, Bianca" comes from the 5 or 6 projects a year plan.

As a short(ish) film, it has entertainment value but it could have been produced better and it should have been promoted as an enjoyable piece of indie cheese.

But it's too late now because it's time to move on to other projects.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Oh, "Alice"....

Through the (cracked) looking glass.....

One more glimpse at "Go Ask Alice in Wonderland (Cliff Notes Edit)".  Watch it HERE.

Because it's the end of summer, and because it's just for fun, I thought that we should have one more step into Wonderland.  Let's put the proverbial cap on this conversation.

This film (if that's what we should call it) is from 2010 (in truth, it was really made in 2008).

The "Buckles and Breadbowls" documentary will be online in September.  I'm busy as hell right now, we were going to do a re-feature on "Go Ask Alice...." anyway, so here it is. I was going to do it next month but I'm having these two project features switch places instead.

It all boils down to timing.

So.....what about "Alice"?

It feels like we made "Alice" 15 years ago.  In truth, it is closer to 5 years ago.

The whole rundown with the story about this project, the whole Making Of trainwreck associated with it (a dying camera, crazy weather, wiped-out audio, and so on) is detailed on the official page for this project HERE.


I just watched it recently (the first time in a long time) and has sort of an early Internet 2.0 junkiness that makes sense for when it was made.  Very meme, "Funny Or Die", photobomb-y, WTF-y, LOLCats, that type of shit.

I kind of like it because it's so weird and off-center.

It's obvious that she's supposed to be a drug addict from the get-go, so at least that's established early on and helps explain the tone of the overall video.

The messiness of it (it was conceived to be that way) is too too much.  The fact that the story (and the project) is supposed to be "fucked up" could have been approached with a bit more digestible subtlety.....but  (clearly) it's too late now.

The actors (especially Britney Collins) are great.  Britney is always kind of perfect and has an understanding of complex comedic tonalities that could throw other people off.  She's dependable and I love working with her (I look forward to working with her again on upcoming projects).  Michael Marius Massett as the White Rabbit is brilliant too--like Britney, he's dependably wonderful in everything he does.

The editing of "Alice" is obnoxious and the camera work ranges from surprisingly attractive to straight-up crapola.  No consistency in those areas.....

But whatever.

It's an old, deeply imperfect project, it's fun, and people like it when they're high.  Maybe that's the only time they can understand what's going on with it.

"Alice" will always hold a special place in my heart.....but a place in my heart that doesn't necessarily have the best table and lighting.  The cheap seats.  That's fine for "Alice".

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Baby Magic "See Means Yes" music video

This isn't the first video that we've done together and it won't be our last.

Lots of different locations but (as always) a breeze.

Throw some "Dora The Explorer", a reel of lost ABBA footage from 1974, a plastic figurine of Marty Moose from your last trip to Walley World, a busted Rosetta Stone kit from your neighbor's garage sale, and half a packet of Fruit Punch Kool-Aid mix into an Indiana Jones thermos, shake it around for about 10 seconds while humming that "It's A Small World" song followed by The Beach Boys' "California Girls" and what you'll end up with is (essentially) the music video for "See Means Yes" from The Baby Magic album "Whoopsy Daisy".

Very Special Thanks to the wonderful K. Kriesel and Lolah DeLo for their contributions to this project.  "See Means Yes" premiered online July 21st, 2012.

Watch the music video for "See Means Yes" right HERE and enjoy!

The Baby Magic:


The Baby Magic "It's Hard Pissing With A Boner" music video

The Baby Magic just wants you to keep that little tidbit of knowledge in mind the next time you're multitasking.

Performance footage recorded at The Empty Bottle in Chicago, November 15th, 2009.  The video premiered online February 18th, 2010.

Watch it HERE.

Enjoy more of The Baby Magic:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where The Embers Fall "Fleeting Moments" music video

Easy, quick, and thoroughly enjoyable shoot with Jennifer and Kevin of Where The Embers Fall.

Our main visual/tonal ques for this project came from Depeche Mode and Peter Murphy music videos (along with videos by The Smiths, Morrissey, Human League, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Cranberries, and The Cocteau Twins) for a constrasting raw/refined black-and-white series of scenes featuring technical performances and fantasyscapes.  Since our influences for the video were, primarily, projects from the late 1980's and early/mid 1990's, we wanted to create something that we felt was a visual tribute to that era and those genres of dark-toned rock and electronica music-making.

From a visual standpoint, I wanted to include that elegant, unusual, postmodern mixture of industrial and Victorian that is one of the trademarks of this band.  Their look is extremely modern gothic and turn-of-the-20th Century; American and European.  How they're able to make that work for them (and they DO, definitely) is one of the things that I find really interesting about them.  They make it seem strangely effortless and natural; a beautiful collision of the past, present, and future.

But what I love most about them is their music.  I certainly tried to make the visual aspects of this video a good link to the sound and feeling of this particular song.  Violin alongside steely, delicate electronica?  Count me in.
Everything was shot in Battle Creek, Michigan in May, 2012.

As I expected, Where The Embers Fall was a dream to work with.

The music video for "Fleeting Moments" is right HERE.  It premiered online June 20th, 2012.

Where The Embers Fall website:  http://wheretheembersfall.com/

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Head Case

Making indie films is stressful. From the money to the production itself to releasing them to arranging the right exhibition spaces for screenings.

But as long as you think ahead (and by "ahead" I'm talking months and sometimes even years) you're in a much better place with getting it all figured out. Deal with the ugly aspects of it, straight on, along with the more fun parts. Don't delude yourself when it comes to money and scheduling.....EVER.