The White Knight, The Brass Ring, and the Red Camera

You are right about that guy. He always surprises me with how hard he really works to improve life for himself and those around him. He's helping me out, working with me on the film, even though he has more than a full time workload. He doesn't have much time between flights around the world for meetings, but he progresses the project with each interaction, and devotes what spare time he has to working with me.
 
Looks like multimillion dollar movie to me. The pressure and responsibility must be enormous.

Harry Harrison's Deathworld is a series of books. Are you doing all of them at the same time or just the 1st? Alex Cox is a film director himself. Is he gonna help you? Looking at your reels and past work (Silicon Valley Timelapse) it seems that you haven't directed actors before.

The 2 landscape pictures you posted seem heavily CGI to me. I was hoping for a more natural look.
 
Looks like multimillion dollar movie to me. The pressure and responsibility must be enormous.

Harry Harrison's Deathworld is a series of books. Are you doing all of them at the same time or just the 1st? Alex Cox is a film director himself. Is he gonna help you? Looking at your reels and past work (Silicon Valley Timelapse) it seems that you haven't directed actors before.

The 2 landscape pictures you posted seem heavily CGI to me. I was hoping for a more natural look.
It is a very large project financially. And the pressure does get to me some days. Financing this thing is a spectacular undertaking.

As for us, we are planning on producing only the first book. We get this question a lot, and the real answer is that though all 3 books in the original trilogy are good, the second and third books have much different settings, that don't escalate the franchise the way I would like. I think what we want to do here is to make one great movie, and then never tarnish it's value with weaker sequels. The big attraction here is the "Living Jungle of Death" and that only exists in the first book.

I have directed actors in corporate videos and the like. But mainly that is something I'll be developing over the next 2 years, before production starts. I'll have experienced guys helping me out, and I'm already very familiar with virtually every other aspect. Actors are the most expensive part of a budget, so that's where I'm least experienced right now. But I'm going to be directing several projects this year with actors, and I can definitely hold down a room already. Most skills I learn very quickly, and I have no reason to believe this will be different. When we get to the final production, I'll have several years experience, other directors assisting me, and real actors that know their craft, and take time to understand the script. Sometimes I see directors in their 20s doing fine with actors, so I don't think this is something that takes a decade to learn.

Those are not shots from the movie, those are CGI concept art. The real film will rely very little on CGI, and will be using real photography over CGI in every situation where that's possible. PM me and I'll send you a 73 page illustrated book about it.

Alex Cox is a really nice guy, who wrote out a script treatment of deathworld a few years ago with Harry, we haven't talked about him coming out to help yet, but I'll definitely mention it once theres a few more hundred grand in the bank. Right now I think he's somewhat busy with a few projects of his own, from his conversation, which is somewhat terse. I think he's really exited to see Deathworld made though.
 
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2 years is a long time. I hope you'll keep us updated about your progress and share footage of the Epic (especially with HDRx if possible).

I'm gonna ask another obvious question you've probably answered a 1000 times already. The 1st Deathworld book you're gonna shoot was published in 1960, about half a century ago. If it's that good, how come it hasn't been adapted already?

A scifi flick with high grade production values done by an indie guy without Hollywood backing, that's almost unheard of. I can only think of "Moon" by Duncan Jones (5 million) and "Monsters" by Gareth Edwards (15,000-800,000). I've only seen trailers of both movies. "Moon" looks as good as say Soderbergh's "Solaris". "Monsters" less so but is still notches above the usual indie stuff. "Deathworld" seems one order of magnitude more ambitious than both movies. I was thinking you must have a secret weapon. Gareth Edwards worked for years in VFX I believe. Maybe it's the same with you. Now you're saying your movie will rely very little on CGI.
 
2 years is a long time. I hope you'll keep us updated about your progress and share footage of the Epic (especially with HDRx if possible).

I'm gonna ask another obvious question you've probably answered a 1000 times already. The 1st Deathworld book you're gonna shoot was published in 1960, about half a century ago. If it's that good, how come it hasn't been adapted already?

A scifi flick with high grade production values done by an indie guy without Hollywood backing, that's almost unheard of. I can only think of "Moon" by Duncan Jones (5 million) and "Monsters" by Gareth Edwards (15,000-800,000). I've only seen trailers of both movies. "Moon" looks as good as say Soderbergh's "Solaris". "Monsters" less so but is still notches above the usual indie stuff. "Deathworld" seems one order of magnitude more ambitious than both movies. I was thinking you must have a secret weapon. Gareth Edwards worked for years in VFX I believe. Maybe it's the same with you. Now you're saying your movie will rely very little on CGI.
Posting Epic footage, Have no fear, you couldn't stop me if you tried. I'll send out raw clips to the forum at large, and you guys can have at it,

Why hasn't Deathworld been made. I'm not sure. I think becuase it would have been so expensive. Also it has been made. You saw Avatar right. Go read deathworld. Avatar is just PG deathworld, with a couple other sci fi stories from the same time period thrown in for good measure. Oh, and they changed the names.

It was optioned as recently as 3 years ago. Hollywood seems to avoid Harry for some reason. Can't figure out why. He did make Soylent Green.

We're trying to do something unheard of. Our pitch is "The first independent blockbuster"
The gist of the investment pitch is that the vertical integration of the hollywood studio system takes a vast amount of the profits from each film. So we want to sell private investors on the idea of funding it independently so amazing cash rewards can be possible.

EG. Harry potter 7 is produced for 120 million. Sells for 900 million plus gross. Studio says, Oh crap, sorry guys, it turns out that after taxes and everything you only made 140 million back.

Another film is produced for 120 million, and sells for 500 million. Studio says, Gee, how did this happen, looks like that was all overhead on our end except for 130 million.

Welcome to the glass ceiling. What is happening here behind the scenes is vertical integration. Did the studio keep your money, legally no. They paid it out to subcontractors just like it says in their accounting records, the one that shows all your money gone. Thing is, these subcontractors are also all owned by the studio. So they take your 700 million dollar profit, hand it to their best friend, and then when you leave with your 10 mil, the friend hands the money back in the form of closed circuit business with the studio.

So we want to see what happens with a blockbuster film, when we don't actively involve criminally greedy people that decided to screw us before even meeting us.

Maybe we'll walk out of this with 300 million. Maybe nothing. It's just an honest attempt at doing things differently.
 
"What is happening here behind the scenes is vertical integration. Did the studio keep your money, legally no. They paid it out to subcontractors just like it says in their accounting records, the one that shows all your money gone. Thing is, these subcontractors are also all owned by the studio. "

Very concise explanation of how the system works.
 
I like Nate North.

And I hear you! Tools go hand-in-hand with the Tale!

lastly, I really do get what you are saying here. I've just grown to believe that this is more a game of skill than chance, and for that reason, I dedicate. Look at sports. People that do it recreationally almost never appear in the pros. People that win the Olympics practice every day all day, crazy hours. I do that with film. That's not exactly the same mentality as beating my chest and yelling, "I am the one"
It is NOT the same mentality, and yeah this discussion was here on the forums before. I'm right there with you.
 
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Welcome to the glass ceiling. What is happening here behind the scenes is vertical integration. Did the studio keep your money, legally no. They paid it out to subcontractors just like it says in their accounting records, the one that shows all your money gone. Thing is, these subcontractors are also all owned by the studio. So they take your 700 million dollar profit, hand it to their best friend, and then when you leave with your 10 mil, the friend hands the money back in the form of closed circuit business with the studio.
Very interesting. I had actually heard before that outsiders, even wealthy ones, find it difficult to make money in Hollywood. That was in this article:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2010/04/guest-post-wall-streets-revenge-on-hollywood.html

The reasons the article gives, however, are different from yours.

The article says that even Wall Street guys get fleeced by Hollywood. And they're so pissed off that they're trying to establish some kinda futures market so they can trade movies like a commodity. That was one year ago. I haven't heard about that since, so it looks like it didn't pan.



Thanks for sending me the booklet. The project seems even more gigantic than I thought. I guess "Tiny Furniture" isn't for everybody.

I dig the look of the industrial ruins. They're gorgeous. Sure would like to see that filmed with an Epic and color graded with the "Nate" setting.

I remember watching a BBC documentary called "Blue Planet". At some point they showed some hideous deep sea creature and the narrator said it was the inspiration for "Alien". I didn't quite catch the resemblance so I thought it was a bit of a gratuitous claim. But, after seeing your booklet, I guess it could be true. Filmmakers do take inspiration from nature to create out-of-space monsters.

What you sent me is a very early draft, so I guess the business plan has changed a lot. Is phase 1 (demo) still on?
 
A scifi flick with high grade production values done by an indie guy without Hollywood backing, that's almost unheard of. I can only think of "Moon" by Duncan Jones (5 million) and "Monsters" by Gareth Edwards (15,000-800,000). I've only seen trailers of both movies. "Moon" looks as good as say Soderbergh's "Solaris". "Monsters" less so but is still notches above the usual indie stuff. "Deathworld" seems one order of magnitude more ambitious than both movies. I was thinking you must have a secret weapon. Gareth Edwards worked for years in VFX I believe. Maybe it's the same with you. Now you're saying your movie will rely very little on CGI.
I was going to mention this as well but you got it: everyone listed here has been doing it as a director for some time, in some capacity, and has the right connections to move projects forward in a way that sees major results.

So, as much of a gear head as I am (I've shot EPIC, on one of the first cams out of the stable) and as much as I swear by high quality video, it's not enough to make anything. It doesn't truly impress anyone that can really put you into a place that counts, because these people get gear for free from various sources.

It's just contacts and being prolific, that's about the only thing that you can rely on. No chance, no gear, no good stories either. Just making sure your work gets out there and make as many contacts as you can, starve half-to-death if need be, so on and so forth.
 
A scifi flick with high grade production values done by an indie guy without Hollywood backing, that's almost unheard of. I can only think of "Moon" by Duncan Jones (5 million) and "Monsters" by Gareth Edwards (15,000-800,000). I've only seen trailers of both movies. "Moon" looks as good as say Soderbergh's "Solaris". "Monsters" less so but is still notches above the usual indie stuff. "Deathworld" seems one order of magnitude more ambitious than both movies. I was thinking you must have a secret weapon. Gareth Edwards worked for years in VFX I believe. Maybe it's the same with you. Now you're saying your movie will rely very little on CGI.
I've been meaning to get back to this one. Basically, I had every skill except the camera ready to go well before I had the resources to buy the camera. The epic is the final missing piece for me, that allows me to immediately land spaceships on alien worlds, throw myself through a brick wall, levitate in midair, turn into fire, or shatter into a million pieces of glass when a mosquito lands on me. I can use it to splice together different lifeforms, collapse a building in reverse, or make the grass of the white house lawn grow into the shape of my name.

That's a reasonably good secret weapon if you can get your script, cast, and budget right. Personally I agree that great footage isn't enough, but it's certainly a benefit.

Good points by Kholi also, and thanks for the kind words.

As far as relying very little on CG, I actually said we'd use it as little as possible. Now in a film such as Deathworld, it would probably be impossible not to use CG in 20% of the film. So it will have a lot of CG. Also if you count advanced compositing techniques as CG, well, there's going to be a huge amount of that. We have to create these mega lightning storms and such.
 
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Keeping the music metaphor (gee, surprising), take Nirvana. Kurt Cobain is not David Lee Roth...hell, I know a dozen better guitarists on my street. They were in the right place at the right time to gain regional popularity (put out an indie record, translate that to making a low-budget feature) that caught the right attention. How did they turn that into mainstream success? By going into a big studio, with proper equipment and engineers and producers that could turn their low-fi rock into something that could be a big hit.
To me this is an apples and oranges comparison. DLR (singer) & Eddie Van Halen (guitarist) are performers who write songs in order to show off their chops. Chopin was the same way, he wrote songs for piano that took advantage of his huge hands; at the time no one else could play Chopin quite like Chopin. Cobain was the quintessential singer/songwriter, not a performer interested in showing off his chops. He was all about the song and the lyric. I will agree, however, that it took the proper tools (professional recording studio) and an experienced engineer/producer to give the band and its material mass appeal. What the engineer/producer did was to capture the Nirvanas rawness and vitality in the studio; Van Halen was all about the studio tricks.


I've said many times that it doesn't matter what your budget is, you are competing with the Hollywood machine. Your audience has become accustomed to high quality production values and expects it in almost every film they see. This includes the quality of the audio (HAH! You knew I would get to that, didn't you?)
 
I've said many times that it doesn't matter what your budget is, you are competing with the Hollywood machine. Your audience has become accustomed to high quality production values and expects it in almost every film they see. This includes the quality of the audio (HAH! You knew I would get to that, didn't you?)
Audio is the tech area most indies fall short on too. A shame because it's actually one of the most economical elements to do right.
 
I've said many times that it doesn't matter what your budget is, you are competing with the Hollywood machine. Your audience has become accustomed to high quality production values and expects it in almost every film they see. This includes the quality of the audio (HAH! You knew I would get to that, didn't you?)
Damned straight. You are definitely competing for the same attention as Hollywood, but worse, VIDEO GAMES. They're becoming a force to be reckoned with.


Nate, do you have a reel?
 
Of course. I have many reels. Nothing up to date though, stuff I did 2-3 years back. Once I got a job, I didn't really have to produce reels any more.

Check the website I made for daily show movie by clicking on website under my name to the left.
 
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I've said many times that it doesn't matter what your budget is, you are competing with the Hollywood machine. Your audience has become accustomed to high quality production values and expects it in almost every film they see. This includes the quality of the audio (HAH! You knew I would get to that, didn't you?)
Spot on Alcove. They're used to the best and they expect the best, I don't blame them, I'm the same way.
 
I finaly sat down to read this whole post! I found it verry interesting and you did a good job writing it. I also find it interesting that people would work with you just becaus of your equiptment. I kind of understand that but If you gave james camron a dslr and me a red, and we both had the same thing to shoot, his would still come out way better. I see where you re comming from and belief you. I just think its dumb of other people to not look at your work and instead look at your gear.
 
Nate, brilliant post. Seriously. I enjoyed the read, very much, and agree with a great deal of your sentiment.

However, and I don't say this to annoy you, but, uhh...story is most important.

Lemme get back to that, because you made the point, very clearly, that just because you want better image, that doesn't mean you've forgotten the importance of story. I get what you're saying, I'm with you, but there is a reason I point this out. Back to that later.

As many people have mentioned, it doesn't really work for you to make a blanket statement about what everyone should be striving for, in their immediate future, filmmaking-wise. I mean, to be honest, a lot of people might read your post as coming off like, "Hey, poor people. You should stop being poor. Get some money, already. Get some money, and be rich. Because having things is better than not having things."

Dude. We all want the Red. We all want to shoot on the Red. We all want a large, professional cast & crew. We all want budgets!

You've argued that it's a waste of time to make significant filmmaking efforts, if you don't have the top gear. It was a waste of time for you, but it hasn't been a waste of time for me, and it hasn't been a waste of time for the great number of small-time filmmakers I personally know, who are working through their own struggles.

To counter your story, here's mine:

After high school, never seriously considered filmmaking as a career, thinking it was too much of an impossible dream. Took the "safe" route, got a college degree, moved on to a "normal" career.

Wasn't happy with "normal" career. Decided I wouldn't be happy, unless working professionally as a musician. Went back to school, for a degree in music.

While preparing for music degree, discovered that I'm actually kinda good at my true passion -- filmmaking. Decided to continue working in a restaurant, while practicing my skills as a filmmaker. Decided to be a stereotypical "starving artist".

Did this for years. Got better at my craft. Grew increasingly frustrated with crappy actual-career in restaurant biz. Dealt with countless frustrations, invested pretty much every penny I could save, into my chosen art.

Eventually, I reached a boiling-point. I couldn't just do the starving-artist thing, anymore. I needed some sort of breakthrough, or else I simply had to call it quits, and go back to a "normal" job. I NEEDED TO MAKE A FEATURE FILM!!!

I would make my feature film with whatever resources I could gather. And that meant shooting it with a cheap camera that was built for photography, with only a kit lens, a cheap light-kit that I would barely even use, and a whopping crew of 2, including myself.

Now, I'm not afraid to admit that I dream just as big as the next person -- I couldn't help but dream that this tiny production could somehow gain national exposure and that I could sell it. But I never planned on that. From the beginning, the plan was nothing more than for me to make this movie as a showcase of what I'm capable of creating. And, hopefully, that might lead to somebody choosing to invest in my next feature.

The point is -- FOR ME, it made perfect sense to shoot a feature film on the most humble of equipment, with no real crew. And you know what? I personally know a good deal of filmmakers for whom it makes all the sense in the world for them to continue shooting on the equipment they've got.

Filmmaking isn't always the simple profit-oriented scheme that you've painted it to be. For many of us, the equation is a bit more complex, and I personally don't know any small-time filmmakers who would characterize their efforts as a waste of time. Though, yes, we'd all like to shoot on the Red.

Now, back to that catch-phrase that annoys you -- "Story is most important". I understand why it annoys you, as you've pointed out that it is often implied that just because someone cares about the picture that they don't care about story. But of course we know that they are not mutually exclusive -- the best films have a brilliant story AND gorgeous visuals.

However, that catch-phrase is nonetheless important to remember, for a couple reasons. First, for some of us, story is all we've got. I'm not a cinematographer, dude. I don't do SFX. I suck at audio. I'm a shitty colorist. The list goes on. But you know what? I kinda kick-ass at story, and so that is what I focus my efforts on.

Secondly, it's simply not true that a good story can't flourish without the best visuals. Don't believe me? Ask the Duplass bros.
 
That was a long opening post ;)
Great story!
Especially the white knight you mention. Sometimes one can be too enthousiastic, ending up with spending money to help someone else... In the end you just can't eat 'credits'.

Btw, there is a small gap in your story: you bought a 30D and shot a 3k 4:4:4 feature with it? Was it stopmotion?

Anyway: I'm curious about your first independant blockbuster :)
 
"You've argued that it's a waste of time to make significant filmmaking efforts, if you don't have the top gear. It was a waste of time for you, but it hasn't been a waste of time for me, and it hasn't been a waste of time for the great number of small-time filmmakers I personally know, who are working through their own struggles."

First of all, thanks for that well thought out reply,

I think I under-explained my base topic in a way that gives a different slant to my meanings. I'm always talking from within the context of self sustaining film efforts. To me if a film doesn't pay for itself and it's crew's salary, it's a failure. Free crew and untrained friends working spare time will only get you so far.

That said, I'm definitely not condescending to the poor. I'm poor. How is that possible with all this I have going on. Simple, I spend everything I have, literally, on providing advantages to the film. Large sums of the money come from the creation of outside offsets through other businesses. I recruit, and the recruits recruit. I'm a lot more "guerrilla" than my posts make me sound. I think I have 68 dollars of spending money left for the next 30 days, but I have my film bases covered. Even when we start filming the demo, I'll only be paying myself as much as the grips, which is below the poverty line in my town.

the first thing to understand is that you shouldn't have to spend your own money. You think many directors bankroll their own 50 million dollar films? Investor relations is a huge part of the process. Maybe not a fun forum discussion, but huge nonetheless.

Part of the strategy here is to embrace the economy of scale. When you go for marketing investments, the rule of thumb for those investors is to add in the budget of your film again in marketing dollars. This varies of course, but if you have a solid film it's around an even split. It's like buying additional sides of a dice you're about to bet on. The other aspect is what I call "driving up the minimum bet". I just started by saving up 10k, and then went out talking about investment in that denomination. "I've put 10k into this, do you want to put 10k in?", that sort of thing. It gets angel investors to see what you've personally invested in the film as a denomination relative to that deal. The marketers later see the total as a new denomination.

If you're making films only for fun, then basically none of what I say applies to you, even though I also find films a fun community experience. So no offense intended towards recreational filmmakers.

@walter, yes, it was a timelapse film like Chronos, using all still frames at around 3k, and often 3 frame HDR.
 
Hey Nate,
Seems like most people here are making shorts. Short films I mean, not the clothing apparel. Shorts have the default status of not making money. They might attract money, or lead to money, but generally they're just for the sake of themselves. So 60 grand for an Epic doesn't make a lot of sense for a lot here. If I had a feature project and money to make it, I would rent something good. R1, Epic, something hot.
 
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