November 17, 2013

@MysteryExec Speaks Out; Urges Filmmakers to Take Risks & Kick Crotches

Every once in a while you come across a piece of advice that just kicks you right in the crotch and leaves you weak and heaving in the middle of a crowded mall or desolate highway -- in a good way. This is what @MysteryExec does for filmmakers daily. If you're an avid Twitter user, you might've come across this mysterious individual who dispenses sardonic wisdom 140 very honest words at a time, but recently Tribeca gave him/her the opportunity to not only expound on his/her "kick someone in the crotch" message, but also how taking the anonymity route brings back some of what he/she thinks cinema has lost.

Be prepared -- whether you enjoy or are put off by in-your-face observations and ugly truths, @MysteryExec, as always, delivers. With over 7,000 followers and counting, @MysteryExec's message is slowly but surely reaching more and more filmmakers hungry for new, honest observations on the industry. This post on Tribeca's blog reads like a longer, more intent version of his/her at times scathing tweets, but with a focus on what's missing in movies these days and what filmmakers can do to get the good back.

Italian neorealism, French New Wave, and New Hollywood didn’t happen because people waited by idly thumb-twiddling and staring at the sky. Filmmaking fools found unconventional ways of subverting the system or inventing a brand new one to service their artistic goals.

It's that all-important filmmaking tenet: go out and make a film. "But, I can't because --" No, just go out and make a film. "But, I don't know anyone who --" Go out and make a film. When it comes to being a filmmaker, nothing is more important or integral to the very nature of the profession than making films. And that doesn't even scratch the surface on how emboldened you have to be to make something unconventional.

Perhaps, though, the issue worth focusing on isn't Hollywood, but ourselves. Hollywood can set their standards. We, too, can set ours. @MysteryExec urges filmmakers to think less about how bankable your film is and more about how passionate you are about your vision. Doing this cuts you free from the expectations and strings that come with putting money and investments at the forefront of a project.

@MysteryExec explains why he/she started this Twitter account anonymously -- "to bring something back that I missed about the movies: magic and mystery." At the root of all of the rants, that is the message. Ingenuity, authenticity, and passion is what makes movies magical, not bankability and broad strokes. And because those things have been the crux of Hollywood filmmaking for so long, we know what's coming out before anything is ever announced. Sequel after sequel, reduxes, franchise films -- they don't carry the mystery that a strange new film by some new filmmaker does.

I'm hopeful that creators, generous producers, and audiences will get together and say, “Holy shit, we need to embrace variety and find some new goddamn voices to get behind because the current batch is pretty goddamn stale.”

So, what should we do with @MysteryExec's observations? Well, we should go out, inspired and on fire, and make the films we want to make. We should take risks. We should laugh in the face of failure. We should take the filmmaking world by storm. We should boldly bring our unique projects and crazy ideas to the table, or as @MysteryExec puts it, "Kick somebody in the crotch."

For more musings about the filmmaking world, be sure to follow @MysteryExec on Twitter.

What are your reactions to @MysteryExec's thoughts on filmmaking? Let us know in the comments.

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16 Comments

I can't because I don't have a Sony F65 (just kidding).

I think there is a certain conflict in trying to understand how the "pros" do things and copying a scaled down version of that vs just cracking on with something. I once read that Roger Corman lost light shooting into the evening so he asked the crew to line up their cars with the lights switched on.

Re MysteryExec's observations, maybe it's better to forget about the making of Avatar and see how guys really did "go out and make a film", so any insight on the making of Bicycle Thieves or Breathless would be great.

November 17, 2013 at 5:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Saied

He's right in general. The problem in particular is that Hollywood made the cost of production via the major channels far too expensive than it should be. Add to that the cost of marketing and, as many have mentioned, the risks of making small films is prohibitive.
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On that note - whenever I search for the video gear online, I create a slew of subsequent gear ads - Adorama, B&H, Sony, Canon, Nikon, etc. - following me everywhere. But I search for a ton films too. Yet I get zippo in film ads. At some point, you should figure out how to reach at least the niche markets via Google, YouTube, Yahoo, etc.
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PS. I saw "Don Jon" last night. An entertaining, though not extremely deep, film made for $6M, that has already grossed $30M.

November 17, 2013 at 8:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Banner adds are in general quite a waste of money unless you are a blog or something and you don't have much other choice to monetize your business.. We all now share something called "banner blindness" when searching the web as we are so used to ignoring banners that now our brains don't even engage them. Seriously, my partner works in marketing and the actual click rates on banner adds are super small. Like ridiculously small to the point where they don't take them out anymore, they would rather spend the money on billboards/bus adds/newspapers etc. Think about it... When did you last click on a banner? :)

Great post NFS, gonna check out more! Thanks!

November 18, 2013 at 3:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kraig

Kraig, I click on the banners constantly. I only ignore pop-up's and intrusive videos (and have always ignored them). However, this is different with the film advertising. I may look at a Tigers Direct, Amazon or Circuit City ad but not click through on it but seeing a film ad does the job in and of itself. The costs of running ads reflect the click-through's, not the exposure to those ads. (and, by the way, a great percentage of these ads is bogus - gain muscle mass in one easy step - and constant over time. You see the same ad for years running. With films, you run an ad for a VOD but then run a different ad for different films the following month. Of course, another way to do this is to market a streaming site itself or a particular streaming channel as coming attractions to a theater/laptop screen near you. The YouTube trailers generate millions of hits. I don't see why this would be vastly different. In fact, a trailer that generates a high number of hits can pay for itself in almost perpetuity)

November 18, 2013 at 7:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

The best advice for making a film is, and always will be, 'go out and make one.'

Sounds so obtuse and vague, but it's truly the best advice ever. Prior to my first feature I rubbed, scratched and smacked my head waiting for the mystical piece of advice or knowledge that would send me forward in my career. "Just go out and shoot a film." was akin to saying, "Just hit it with a stick" when someone asks how to play the drums. There's no magic to it, just action.

I'll tune into this twitter feed - hopefully there's some nuggets of wisdom!

November 18, 2013 at 11:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brock

Considering this further, I think what is being described is to shoot a feature film more in the method of what is now commonly called "run and gun", rather than elaborate set-ups for a shot. I am assuming, maybe wrongly, that films like Breathless were made this way ? Also, didn't film noir originally arise due to the desire to simply replace complicated lighting with a basic set up, yet then became it's own aesthetic ?

November 18, 2013 at 12:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Saied

Pretty much. Run-and-gun, micro-budget, guerilla filmmaking, DIY, etc; all refer to roughly the same thing... making it by any means necessary.

But not all French New Wave would fit the definitions above. 500,000.00 francs for Godard's Breathless is not what I'd consider micro-budget, though I do believe guerilla tactics were employed. As defined by director's hailing from Cahiers du cinéma , La Nouvelle Vague was a 'return to pure aesthetics'. A reclamation of the 'art' to it's rightful author (auteur), ie. the Director.

Smaller cameras/equipment, simple approaches to setups, direct abolition to modern 'status quo' filmmaking techniques and social relevance (often to youth culture at the time) defined the movement.

I'd say we live in similar times with our inexpensive equipment, crumbling 'established MO' regarding classic film production, online distribution and overall exposure to indie films.

Exciting times!

November 18, 2013 at 1:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brock

Thanks, exciting times !

November 18, 2013 at 2:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Saied

Check out the early films from John Casavettes as well - his debut SHADOWS cost about $40k. He shot most of his work in a handheld documentary style, using mostly natural and diegetic lighting. The films aren't much to look at, but he did so to allow the actors to perform uninhibited.

November 18, 2013 at 3:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I guess it is possible to make a feature film with a consumer camcorder, such as a Canon HF G30. Maybe it could work via HDMI uncompressed and still give 60p, though shallow DOF would be difficult.

I understand Crank 2: High Voltage, a cinema action film starring Jason Statham, was shot on consumer camcorders

November 18, 2013 at 2:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Saied

Gear. Budgets. Gear. Gear. Gear. Gear.

It's so easy to speak of money and gear, money and gear.

There are 11 comments at the time of my posting this. My goodness, there is a comment here that speaks of the cost of Breathless. The COST?!

You guys are not getting it.

@MysteryExec has two quotes in this article. Please read them again.

Voice. Point-of-view. Voice. Voice. Voice. Voice.

November 19, 2013 at 10:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Sam

Re Breathless, I think the gentleman was indicating that the cost would be considered high even today for a one man band looking to "just do it". Film was an excellent and reliable medium, but digital is constantly evolving and there comes a point when a guy has to drop money even on some basic kit and I think it is prudent to calculate a certain use cycle, hence my previous question about film-making on consumer camcorders.

I'm guessing a Canon HF-G30 or similar, a few led lights, some willing friends or cheaper actors who could be cast to type, and a half decent script could go far. One piece of software I find very intriguing is Hitfilm 2.

I'd appreciate it if you could elaborate a little if I am missing something obvious.

November 19, 2013 at 1:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Saied

RE Breathless, if that was the intention then I completely missed it. My bad.

I check out posts here, bmcuser, eoshd, the CML lists, etc. etc. so I too have an interest in the latest gear. There, I have outed myself.

The thing is, here we have an article about this @MysteryExec who is grousing about the lack "new goddamn voices", not a lack of movies with shallow depth of field, greater than 8 bits o'depth, or c-log versus s-log. The equipment ain't the problem. The problem is that the folks using this amazing high quality low cost gear are still "pretty goddamn stale," to quote @MysteryExec. That goes not only for Hwood, but for so called indies as well.

Where are the daring voices? Where are the fresh points of view? We don't need another romcom, coming of age story, family drama, etc wether it cost 8 grand or 800 grand.

And it's not just WHAT you say with cinema, it's also HOW you say it. Most films are radio dramas with pictures. The medium is RARELY used to it's fullest capacity.

I guess I would caution that before you plunk darn your hard-earned on any gear at all, you should first work on your voice, you should understand why what your voice wants to say needs to be said with film and not some other medium. I LOVE cinema and am afraid we are smothering it under a pile of mediocrity.

I'm putting my money where my mouth is too. In fact, when hit the submit button I'm going back to scriptwriting.

Be well.

November 19, 2013 at 10:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Sam

Voice, voice, voice. You are correct, Sir or Madam, on the importance of voice. No one here is arguing against that. But a camera IS cinema. I'm not saying the pricier the better, the more pixels the better, or even that you need a camera in your hands to study the craft... but a painter needs a canvas or he's just an asshole that hasn't 'done his work.'

I suppose my point in your argument of voice vs. equipment is that one finds their voice by doing their work.

To answer your question, the daring voices and fresh pov's are out there with their cameras, or working to get in a position to create with whatever they can. What's relevant to my previous post is that the 'just do it' attitude of creating a film is empowered by the affordability of tools and resources one needs to put their voice on the screen. What's on the screen is all that matters. Everything else is a thought, an idea, a pipe dream, a wet dream, etc.

Re: Mediocrity. You're afraid cinema will be piled under mediocrity? That's an odd statement. I assume you're referring to either;
1. Uninspired, tired and clichéd Hollywood films.
2. Plethora of low/no- budget films that, frankly, aren't very good.
I won't argue #1 as the Hollywood snake often feeds on it's own tale and will ultimately be its demise... but #2 is often the 'new voices' that are finding their voice. Lena Dunham, Adam Wingard, EL Katz, etc... Look at their first work. It's mediocre at best but these people are artists finding their voices (many of whom are hitting full stride at the moment).

Kindly put, put your money where your mouth is, buy a recording device of any sort (I can recommend a few) and film something. It WILL require a camera and it WON'T be the best work you're capable of (be it great or 'mediocre', I'm sure your voice will grow).

November 20, 2013 at 1:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brock

Sam, once someone knows how to use his gear, then s/he can concentrate on the voice. But you do have have to know how to use your gear or it'll look like a tourist video. And that no one, aside of your family and friends, will want to watch.

November 19, 2013 at 9:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Hi DLD. For me, that just sounds backwards. Knowing the gear will not give anyone a voice. It just won't.

November 19, 2013 at 10:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Sam