Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Without a Box, Helpful or Harmful?

I know the frustration of film festivals. We personally have dropped close to $500 on entry fees alone with no real results. Today I will drop another $160 into 4 festivals and see what comes of it. I am using the service Without a Box which makes entering festivals as easy as clicking a button.

However, upon looking at another rogue film festival's website and their slamming of withoutabox, I may reconsider.

Check out what the Dark Carnival Film Festival thinks about withoutabox.

Q. Why don't you use for submissions?
A. We don't really need them, since we have our own online submission system. It works pretty well for us, and collects all the information that distributors and sponsors request. Beyond that - our position is that Withoutabox has done as much harm as good to indie filmmakers. Basically, WAB puts the filmmaker at the bottom of the foodchain - even though they claim the opposite.

They streamline the submission process, but they also create an environment where the process itself becomes nothing more than a means to generate revenue. WAB can funnel tons of submissions to a festival, which makes the festival lots of money. However WAB also charges festivals a lot of money to use their service - and those charges are passed on to you in the form of higher submission fees. That means everybody is making money from indie films EXCEPT for the people who make them!

What's even worse, some film fests take in so many submissions that their selection committees can't watch them all. So who ends up deciding the fate of your movie?

For these reasons, Dark Carnival currently boycotts WAB, and we urge filmmakers to do the same.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


As some of you may know, we are starting a series of educational videos that deal with several aspects of filmmaking, pre-production, production and even distribution.

We feel we need to share tips, ideas and warn you against some of the issues we have faced.

These videos are previews of longer versions that we will have available soon at an official site.
So make sure you sign up to receive them as part of a monthly newsletter. You can sign up here on this page or at my facebook page here:
(bottom left of page)

Some of these preview videos may be simple to some but little by little our aim to to guide you through many aspects of the filmmaking process that sometimes they don't talk about in film school.

The links to videos are found here:


BASICS OF LIGHTING part 1- 3 point lighting


Many more will be available in the next few weeks.  :)


I've posted this before and it seemed to get a lot of responses, because I am currently dealing with a similar situation, I feel it is cool to re-post this again here:


One of the things I've always been interested in is to work and be surrounded with people with passion, at least people with my same interests.

I've always looked for cool and interesting people to work with. In the biz I always wanted to learn from the I went out and looked for the best. And always...I felt that insane desire of shooting in film (and playing music too, but that's another story).

There was always a desire for knowledge, to get better at something, to learn from a good source, etc. No matter what wall was placed in front of me, I would climb it and conquer.

I have the privilege of teaching Cinematography, what I consider the basis of filmmaking. The art of blocking, framing, lighting and bringing the story written on the page into the screen. That is where the magic happens.

Any director that seriously calls himself or herself a Director needs to know these concepts. A HUGE deal of what a Director does involves concepts of Cinematography, blocking and scene exploration, NOT JUST DEALING WITH THE TALENT!.

I would assume the students that come to this class I teach have at least...a little interest in the subject. In fact, me being me, I expect everyone to be insanely fanatic about the subject.

But the reality is that not everyone is going to be interested, and that's ok. There are people that truly inspire me now and then, people that truly want to do film. But in my situation, its almost nobody interested!!!.and this is before I utter a word. I guess one can call it bad luck.

Of course, there are always exceptions...out of 100 I usually get at least 4 to 5 jewels. Great students that ASK the right questions and that truly look to learn as much as they can. Sponges, enthusiastic and full of drive. Those people make the process worthwhile. SO I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE AT ALL, lets be clear about this part. I love them and I love sharing my love of film with them.

BUT It seems to me that the new generation of film students going to a film school are more full of complaints that of actions. Quentin Tarantino once said...: "In film school you have Film MAKERS or Film FANS.." Not many want to do the hard work.

I use to invite an average of 50 to 60 students to shoots to end up with 3 to 4 left the following day. As soon as they realize it's work, they vanish.
I see film fans everyday, not many filmmakers....

It seems that the majority wants everything served to them, but not many want to go out and practice, polish their skills, fill the remaining 50% they won't get in school. And the info is available to them 24/7 via the net, its there to be found and learned!

I am confronted at times with a class that sits in front of a HD or 35mm camera and cannot wait to leave the class and go home. When I was in my early 20's I was prepared to kill and go to prison if I had to in order to touch a 35mm camera!

I have students that fail to realize that life is short and the time of action is NOW. They come to me and tell me they will direct when they leave school. But yet I see more and more of them working eventually at Taco Bell. (nothing wrong with Taco Bell by the way :)

Passion and love for the craft. If you don't have it, accept it, know it then don't waste your time. Or mine. Passion and love for MORE THAN ONE CRAFT, that is key.

That passion that drives people like Tony Scott, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin and Wes Anderson and many more dedicated filmmakers seems lost.

It seems easy to complain and blame something else, and (like I've been guilty of in the past) many fail to put that giant mirror in front of them and confront the truth.

And as professional I face week after week countless of clueless directors that are unable to simply block a scene. They just turn to me and ask me to make it look pretty. Then I see those same directors get fired or fail down the road, and fade away.

For the future filmmakers reading this, the ones in school, here is a bit of advice:

-You have to love this, really love it, like you cannot leave without it. Like sex, like breathing, like eating.

-You have to practice, if you don't have a film camera, take still pictures (even if its a "Tickle Me Elmo" shitty Fisher Price Camera), practice framing, practice blocking, just go out and practice some part of the craft.
Go out, right now, do something about your career!!!!!
(and this goes for the actors too, you know the ones that woke up one day and decided to do acting, and then only go for the lead role without a clue, experience or study, its a CRAFT, study it!!!!)

-Learn to observe, look how lighting affects people, faces, structures. be aware of your surroundings. There, "its a dude putting gas on his car tank" would you block or frame this scene?, how?

-Watch older films, not just the new crapfest on the new release section in Blockbuster. Most films now days look and feel the same (not all... but lots of them).
SEE Hitchcock, Kubrick, dePalma, Lumet, Scorcese, Scott, Cronenberg, etc, compare those to other filmmakers, take notes, how does one person block versus the other one, what made them different?. How do they tell a story versus the other filmmaker?


Its like an athlete getting ready for the Olimpics, you have to eat the right food and nutrients.

-Never cease to be exited about filmmaking. What can you do TODAY to enhance or improve your skills?, ask that always.
I constantly hear..."well, they never told us that or this, etc..."

Mr. Sean Connery in THE ROCK (can you believe I am quoting a Michael Bay movie?!), said "LOSERS ALWAYS WHINE ABOUT GIVING THEIR BEST...WINNERS GO HOME AND FUCK THE PROM QUEEN!

I think, when it comes to life and to film, that sums it all perfectly.