Posts Tagged ‘Jon Reiss’

Writing and Directing Your First Feature: From Your Story to “Epic Fail”

October 19, 2011

Last fall, when the initial burst of energy to write the script for this movie came about (and I still had a job), I subscribed to both Script and Creative Screenwriting. The March/April 2011 issue came along in the mail. This particular issue had some articles that offered advice for new writer/directors, and I was interested in seeing how their advice lined up with the stuff that I’ve learned the past few years.

One article that really caught my eye was “Writing and Directing Your First Feature: From Your Story to ‘Film By'”, penned by USC Grad Student Robert Piluso. The article is focused on the hardware and software associated with filmmaking and its uses. Of course, there’s a discussion of Final Draft (Script is owned by Final Draft), Gorilla, Movie Magic Scheduling, and Final Cut Pro. I don’t think I would’ve had as much of a problem, had Piluso kept to his main focus–software and hardware–rather than veering off into festival submission and exhibition, which is article unto itself. Piluso could’ve heeded his own advice and used his two interviewees as a jumping off point for his own research rather than designating them as authorities.

That’s not to say that Piluso doesn’t get a few things right. He manages to avoid making his article into a collection of press releases and soundbites, as Script‘s articles tend to be. He does recognize that with a smaller budget, your film will need to be more personal in nature in order to work. Having a tight script doesn’t hurt. Finally, he stays away from making hackneyed references to El Mariachi and Clerks, two broadly known microbudget classics that have no bearing on today’s indie film landscape.

As someone with a few bad specs in my past, I know that spec writers are used to taking dogmatic advice from people who have worked mainly on the periphery of screenwriting (The late Blake Snyder and J. Michael Straczynski are exceptions to this rule), and are used to tailoring scripts for a market that’s becoming increasingly narrower in taste. In turn, these gurus have very rigid ideas as to what makes a good story. The festival circuit, with its more diverse aesthetic, is more interested in personal vision than a product aimed at a demographic. As I recall overhearing filmmaker Benny Safdie saying outside of a screening at this year’s BAM Cinemafest, “These films aren’t for everybody, but they’re for anybody.”

I’ve uploaded a PDF of Piluso’s original article for you to read and judge for yourself. The article is copyright its respective owners.



Staying Positive, Staying Sane

March 18, 2010

As the days go by, I try to hold an image in my head about making this movie. That’s going to get a little tougher, though, since I found out this morning that I have seven weeks left on unemployment. I’m not really that freaked out about it, but it does mean that I may have to put certain things on the back burner for the moment. Like this movie.

Recently, I have been taking a self-directed course in Copy Editing from It would be nice to find work in this field, specifically on the web, which is where most of the Copy Editing work is to be found these days. At this point and in this economy, though, I’m prepared for anything.

On a lighter note, an interview I did with Jon Reiss is now up at The Film Panel Notetaker. As you may recall, I reviewed his book back in January. To read my interview, click on the cover of Jon’s book below:

Book Review: Think Outside The Box Office

January 11, 2010

The successes of low-budget independent films at Sundance like Slacker, Clerks, and El Mariachi in the early 1990s created the myth of the independent film “discovery”, a myth that continues to pervade to this day. For this year’s festival, Sundance recieved 9,816 submissions (113 were eventually picked), even as studios have pulled out of the specialty business.

Last year, three movies got picked up at Sundance. In other words, having your movie at a major festival is no longer a guarantee to secure distribution, nor was it ever, really. Even the movies I mentioned in the first paragraph had much more complicated backstories that one might believe.

Although always a firm believer in the DIY aesthetic, Jon Reiss always preferred to leave the distribution to others. His previous documentary, Better Living Through Circuitry, was handled by the small distributor 7th Art, and at the time of its release, benefitted from the electronic musicians profiled in the film: The Crystal Method, Roni Size, Moby, and BT. (As Reiss explains in the book there were two other movies in release at the time, and all the releases complimented one another.) When it came to debut Bomb It at Tribeca in 2007, Reiss believed that Bomb It would follow the same pattern. Except that it didn’t.


New Ideas, New Priorities

January 6, 2010

You know how I said that I would start writing this week? I lied.

After reading Jon Reiss’ Think Outside The Box Office and setting up a new YouTube account, I’ve decided to work on getting my previous film, Are You From Bingo? on DVD. I’ve actually been working on DVD release for quite some time, but I believe that it’s time to push ahead and get it over with. Not only will I be able to move on after it’s done, but it’ll also give me a precedent to say I’ve done this before.

Kentucker Audley uploaded three clips of his new movie, Open Five, which gave me some ideas. The clips caught some of the flavor of Memphis I caught onto passing through there last March. Here are two of the clips:

Happy New Year 2010!

December 31, 2009

I have spent much of my Holiday reflecting and revaluating a lot of things going on right now. I’m working on how to approach the script, and I’m hoping to start writing next week.

Today I got Jon Reiss’ Think Outside the Box Office in the mail, and I hope to read and review it soon.

See you next decade!