Is There a Future for Physical Media Formats?

December 2, 2016

For decades the joy of home video relied upon physical media: Betamax, VHS, Laserdiscs, DVDs, Blu-rays. One after another, new formats improved not just our experience of “movies”, but also our relationship with them. Cassettes were first bringing us the bare bones: just the film. Eventually they evolved to give us a couple of trailers that we all hated while pressing the fast-forward. Laserdiscs were never as popular as cassettes. They remained a niche product (except in Japan, land of all exceptions) with advantages and drawbacks. Depending on who you ask, the drawbacks were kind of a minor problem: not as portable as cassettes, films being split over several disc sides and (among more) no freeze frame depending on the disc you have and the player you are using. The advantages, however, were amazing: clearly superior sound and image, a non-linear reading system based on disc chapters and (depending on the disc) some extras.

Those advantages changed the way we (who were lucky enough to be able to afford the format) related ourselves to the films. The linear transportation system of the cassettes pretty much made the existence of extras a bit silly, since going back and forth trying to locate extras took too long as we waited for the transport mechanism to move tape from one reel to the other. Rewinding or fast-forwarding was as anti-climax as it could be. Just ask any teenager from 1984 how angry we used to be when we got home from the rental shop only to find out we would have to rewind the whole film in order to start watching it. The rental shops knew it and started imposing fees on customers who were not kind enough to rewind.

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Trying to locate one specific extra using rewind and fast-forward would never work. Non-linear chapters changed all that. Just like on the CD, with a Laserdisc we could jump from point A to point Z in seconds… well… if they were on the same disc.

DVDs brought together the best of both worlds: extreme portability, non-linearity, perfect sound and image, lots of space for extras without the need to change sides/discs, great price… and only one caveat: no recording from the TV (which helped prolong the life of VHS for a few more years). With the DVD, extras became a sure thing. The disc space was there and the always-perfect image was indeed perfect for the multiple rewindings and pausings at, for example, Sharon Stone’s megastar-making moment. Thanks to the DVD, something very important and fast was happening: we were spending more time around a film. It was not just the 90-minutes experience anymore: it was the supreme achievement of being truly entertained beyond the film. Suddenly, a new industry was born: the “extras industry”.

At a certain point, we were not buying THE MATRIX (1999) because of the film. We were buying the DVD because those extras were even more interesting than the film we already had seen on theaters. Marketing DVDs became a new art form and even those who could never afford the Laserdisc experience were now being able to see how a scene was made. Suddenly (and ironically) some DVD editions started bringing three, four or more discs just for extras – something Laserdisc never dared to do!

Director’s Cuts, Special Editions, Platinum Editions, Collector’s Editions, all became a staple in every shelf in every home. Plus: we were buying films and not just renting them. The first home video edition of GREMLINS (1984) was released on VHS in late 1985. The price? $79,95 (back then, movies were marketed and  priced for rental shops. It took at least six months until the price dropped to $19,99 for direct sale). At that time, people did not have the urgency of owning a film. Rental was the business. DVDs changed all that. Did home video change or did we? Both.

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After a steady sales growth that peaked around 2006, with the digital revolution well under way, disc sales started a steady decline. The same thing had already happened with music CDs years before. Faster internet, the too-easy to find and download movie file, Pirate Bay (and its many smaller incarnations), You Tube and the lawlessness that results from the impossibility of effectively enforcing copyright laws marked the twilight of the DVD. What about Blu-Ray? Ironically, the hi-def format that emerged as the winner after a brief (yet bloody) format war with HD-DVD did not really win anything. By the time it arrived, people were already abandoning paying for contend in favor of piracy. Plus: streaming is now the de facto way most paying consumers want to enjoy home video. Blu-Ray sales numbers never compensated the decline of DVD. As a whole, physical media seems to be going the VHS way.

It seems many of us are regressing to the 80’s when simply buying a film (to own) was an alien concept (and I have always wondered who bought the GREMLINS VHS tape in 1985 for $79,95 to have at home). Well, yes and no. The advent of Video on Demand (VoD) either through set-top boxes or subscription platforms like Netflix or Amazon made something that was not possible in the 80’s: it brought the entire rental shop into our own homes. Or better yet: we now live inside rental shops. Plus: the rentals are free. Well, they are not really free, but they taste that way with a monthly subscription that is very low against all that we can watch.

When living inside the rental shop, the urgency of owning a film is very limited and debatable. There are hundreds of films there just waiting for our finger on the remote. That sheer saturation of always-available content is a disincentive to ownership – especially to that portion of the audience that is too lazy to go buy a disc. And why would they? Most films will only be watched once, anyway.

But physical media is far from dead. Really. What is happening is just an advancement in the sophistication of our relationship with films. To some of us, physical media plays a role that VoD will never replace. With the untouchable, invisible, uncharacteristic, generic, inconsequential, fast, and cheap face of VoD, there is a celebratory dimension to physical media that makes more sense now than it ever did. Physical media is love, homage, Art, dedication, fandom, respectfulness, acknowledgement, and haptic. It has soul, a face, a body, a touch. Holding it on the hand gives one pleasure. Looking at it on the shelf or displayed inside a glass cabinet makes us feel we belong. It puts us in state of admiration, adoration, awe. It brings back memories, feelings, sounds and flavors. It captures our eyes, our desires… us.

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What other reason on Earth would drive someone to spend $999,99 on a 31-disc abso-fucking-lutely gorgeous HARRY POTTER box? Or circa $600,00 on the highly collectable Platinum Series Special Extended Edition Collector’s Gift Set of the three LORD OF THE RINGS films? Or the MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE: PHASE ONE – AVENGERS ASSEMBLED for $505,99? How about $259,99 on the ALIEN ANTHOLOGY EGG PACKING? For the same price you can also get the incredible THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON 2 whose discs come lodged inside a zombie head with a screwdriver stuck in the eye. To put it differently, if you were the person who bought for $2.250,00 on Ebay a replica of the lightsaber used by Obi-Wan Kenobi, would you be satisfied with a computer file of the films? Of course not.

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In a way, our relationship with the films we adore (not just love) is reaching new plateaux never imagined before. Today, an 85-inch UHD TV costs over $5.000,00. That same TV will probably be much more affordable in less than three years. Things like High Dynamic Range and Dolby Atmos will also become more and more common in middle class homes. In that context films should speak closer to the ear of many moviegoers who will demand a type of wholeness only physical media can offer.

So physical media is not dead. It has its role inside a home video universe that is changing – from a cheap object into an object of desire for a special type of customer: the fan. There is no need to go to the $100,00+ price point to see that happening. The market is already offering highly desirable editions to those who also love the films but have a more modest spending fire power. For just $79,54 one can buy the DIE HARD collection inside a replica of the Nakatomi Plaza; and for only £19,99 one can get a Big Sleeve Edition of GUARDIANS OF GALAXY that resembles a Laserdisc edition (this is a UK-only edition). It holds a Blu-ray disc, a DVD (no actual Laserdisc here) and five large cards with exclusive key art.

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Refusing to die easily, physical media is trying to make an offer you cannot refuse, regardless of how mush money you’ve got. And the studios are making them because, well, they sell and show a profit – otherwise physical media would already be where VHS is today.

The bad news lies elsewhere. In no moment I mentioned that Hungarian-Belgian-Dutch co-production that played at Un Certain Regard in Cannes, three years ago. Or that Argentinian art-house film that played at the IFFR last year. For those films, physical media is kinda dead. They don’t move enough audiences in order to justify the investment needed to turn mere discs into a more desirable object. They will eventually get a release on DVD with a low number of copies. Their audience is rarefied and will probably become more and more so, as those editions naturally fail to reflect the sophistication and care that is more and more in demand by those whose relationship with physical media is also evolving. We have traveled a long distance since the old generic typefaces and templates used in VHS.

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The message is very simple: physical media as a celebration works fine for two kinds of films: the classics (where a timeless value is always renewing its viewers and being continuously rediscovered) and the films that have a large fan base (who look at the film as a part of them).

Beyond that, nobody knows. Of course physical media is just one slice of a larger cake. However, the evolution and future of Film favors the works that can adapt and make good use of the here and now. Other films, beware! Their slice lies somewhere else in this mess we call the digital revolution.

How Do You Feel About Remakes?

November 28, 2016

Some people say remakes are a sign of Hollywood’s lack of good ideas. However, film producers have been doing remakes since before there was even a Hollywood. And Hollywood began producing them since it was born. The important thing to retain here is that there is nothing extraordinary about great stories getting a second, third or fourth versions. It just means those stories are that great. Take a look at A STAR IS BORN. It was made three times (1937, 1954, 1976 and another version coming in 2018). Take a look at the cast and you’ll understand why: Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and soon Lady Gaga. It’s obvious that it’s not a creative problem driving those remakes. It’s the opportunity of bringing a great intellectual property to new audiences.

The horror genre did not arrive late to the party. Just look at DRACULA. It is such a great property that it has been remade (as a major film, that is) at least once every decade. And if you look at Lugosi’s classic of 1931, well, that version had a Spanish language remake as it was being made. DRACULA is a great example. Which version do people prefer? Ask people who grew in different decades and you’ll be surprised. Really, it is a matter of personal taste and affection.

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The opportunity of a remake is clear: new (and more popular) stars, a more contemporary setting, better visual effects, better (or updated) production values, etc. Of course fans of the original GHOSTBUSTERS, THE EVIL DEAD, HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13th and so many other great horror classics get a taste of disrespect in their mouths when they hear about a remake of the films they have loved all their lives. And that’s very understandable, after all, those films are forever linked to times when we solidified our love for the genre or the movies. We love them as part of our youth. They are a part of us. More than that, they are our family.

But even when we question the occasional heavy hand of stupid studio execs making decisions that clearly prove to be misguided (GHOSTBUSTERS comes to mind), it is also clear that the films we love always come up swinging. Remakes rarely touch the originals we love. Instead, they are (for us) an alternate reality we don’t even have to watch if we don’t feel like to. You like some, you hate others.

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The version you love is always there on your shelf waiting for you to celebrate it. Pick it up. Admire it. Talk to it. Watch it again and soon you’ll both be laughing like old friends.

So you were – like me – a teen when GHOSTBUSTERS was released in 1984? Well, the version made in 2016 is not for you and me. The jokes are not the same, the visuals are not the same, the spirit is not the same, but here’s the truth: we’re not in 1984. I did not hate the new version. I understood it. And because it wasn’t for me, I was left kind of indifferent to it (I’ll be dedicating a full post about audience hate and indifference soon). Thank God I can enjoy on Blu-ray the version I love.

Some remakes, however, are so far from the original and, yet, made with so much care (for us who loved the original) that it’s hard to find the taste of disrespect. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) comes to mind: clearly a great film in its own right. In the horror genre, I like the new versions of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009) and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2010). But since I love revenge stories, I could easily find myself in those remakes – while I still love the originals.

The landscape is diverse and we have to understand the films instead of judge them. Some remakes are for us. Some aren’t. The originals live forever.

Horror and Politics.

November 27, 2016

Nazi Cinema never produced a horror film. Soviet Cinema only slightly touched the genre in one film – VIY (1967) – that only escaped the censors because it was adapted from an old folktale. Why? Because totalitarian regimes will hate any genre that will tell its people that there is no utopia. It’s harder to keep the people under control when you tell stories where horrible things happen to innocent people. It’s harder for the regime to justify its actions when horror stories tell you that the universe is chaos.

Through their existence, horror films have told us that the most gorgeous people get slaughtered by horrible monsters. The political undertone in so many horror films is clear: we are all alone and help is not coming.

Film trailers, many times, summarize the whole idea of a film in order to attract its target audiences. Eli Roth’s THE GREEN INFERNO (2013) had this very effective trailer.

The trailer is amazing because it clearly shows one of the essences of the horror genre: a disparity between how we think things are (or would like them to be) and the way things really are. It’s the same issue author Robert Bloch nailed when he says “horror is the removal of masks”. Sometimes we are the ones taking off the masks. Other times it is the entire universe taking off its mask.

Poor gringos. They left the comfort of their country (the comfort of free market economy) and went to the Amazon jungle to fight for a cause (and change the world). Well, expect the world to fight back.

Of course the political orientation is irrelevant to the genre. Instead of young dreamers, the film could be about a ruthless real estate developer trying to build a hotel in the middle of the jungle. Well, expect the jungle to fight back too.

The lesson here is this: horror is subversive. It will always throw a couple of “what ifs” that will make you question the powers that be. So the tightest the regime is and the more authoritarian the leader is, the more unwelcome the horror genre is. Other genres merely like to start discussions. Horror usually ends them.

That is why the horror genre is essential. We should support it, celebrate it and respect it as a fundamental contributor to our sanity.

Which Zombie Type You’ll Have in Your Film?

November 5, 2016

Here’s something to consider when you start thinking of making a zombie film: it’s been 48 years since the great George A. Romero made his seminal NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and the zombie genre has given us many classic films. As the genre evolved, many types of zombies began to be used in very different films. Here is just a small list to help you understand the pros and cons of writing for one type or the other and help you decide what are the attributes that better fit your zombies and your story.

1 – THE DEAD.

Yes, of course. This is the classic zombie made famous by Mr. Romero – and for years the only zombies around. In a nutshell, these zombies are dead corpses who were reanimated through some process. We can subdivide this group according to the what and why. What type or reanimated corpses? Recently deceased like RE-ANIMATOR (1985) and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) or the long-dead putrefying masses of dead flesh like BURIAL GROUND (1981)? And why were they reanimated? Perhaps a chemical origin, like in THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) or a pure supernatural reason like CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (1972) and DEAD SNOW (2009)? Regardless of your answer, these zombies were indeed dead people before they were reanimated and they look just like it!

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Pros: usually these are the scariest zombies, since most audiences are truly scared by death and corpses.

Cons: The cost of making a film with these zombies has gone way up since THE WALKING DEAD started spending big money in its makeup department. This means that the audience nowadays expects elaborate and shocking zombie makeups, a clear contrast with the next type:

2 – THE GREEN DEAD.

These zombies are rare these days. We could see them in the early Romero films like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). They are dead people just like in the previous type. However, the level of makeup on them is kept at a minimum that sometimes derails into a simple green face. Of course we love those classic films, but we have to admit that such makeup job would be unacceptable by today’s standards.

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Pros: cheap to produce, these zombies can be a matter of personal taste. Also great when far from the camera.

Cons: since the 80’s zombie makeup has evolved a lot. THE WALKING DEAD brought the zombie makeup into state of the Art. Now this type of zombie is just a sign of a no-budget film. That in itself is not a bad thing at all. THE BATTERY (2012) mixes several minimalist zombie makeups with tremendous success.

3 – THE SICK

Contrary to the above, these zombies are not dead. They are sick people who simply transition from healthy to infected to zombie. The time may vary from infection to full zombie. 28 DAYS LATER (2002) is a great example: it just takes seconds. RESIDENT EVIL (2002) tries to walk between the dead and the sick: we know it’s the T-virus alright, but there is a brief moment of inactivity the audience perceives as death. In PONTYPOOL (2008), the virus spread through language!

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Pros: in the age of AIDS, Ebola and so many deadly epidemics, this is a very contemporary zombie type that pleases many audiences.

Cons: they have been a bit overused. By now, the “virus” with a strange, enigmatic name (in the air or contained inside some sophisticated glass work) that turns people into zombies has became a huge cliché. This means you have to bring some clever ideas if you want to go with these.

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4 – THE SUPER-HERO

These zombies are kinda annoying. They can jump over anything and crawl on walls and ceilings like in the  remake-in-title-only DAY OF THE DEAD (2008). The problem here is that these zombies defy reality and easily become implausible and too farfetched. The strange vampiric zombies in I AM LEGEND (2007) also fall here.

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Pros: perhaps the deadliest of all zombies. You can amp the stakes whenever your protagonist meets one of those. Or 200.

Cons: they are mostly implausible and signal a poorly written or sloppy script.

5 – THE JUST LIKE THEY WERE WHEN ALIVE

These are truly rare to see, but with lots of potential if you manage to create a great story from them. These zombies are simply people who were dead, but came back in perfect replicas of themselves just like they were when alive. Yuck factor = zero here. However, these zombies can be disturbing and eerie. This is the case with the French film THEY CAME BACK (2004) and the much better series made by the same filmmakers THE RETURNED (2012). Again, no flesh-eating zombies here, but plenty of space for great ideas and innovations in the genre.

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Pros: there is limitless potential in these very rare and strange zombies, since they tap into a more complex and highly emotional horror.

Cons: how do you keep the interest of your horror audience and create a horror story out of this? It is very possible, but very hard – and the horror you can create here will not fall in the usual zombie brackets. The potential is there, but this type of project needs a lot of development, talent and imagination.

6 – ZOMBIES FROM OUTER SPACE

Just like the sick zombies, these have also a  relatively clear origin: something alien. At times it keeps a straight face like in LIFEFORCE (1985) where a group of life-energy-sucking-space-vampires manage to turn Londoners into zombies. Other times it goes for a lighter comedic tone like in NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1985) where parasitic space slugs turn their hosts into zombies. This type of zombie usually mixes horror, comedy and sci-fi with mixed results.

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Pros: the sci-fi part can help the writer create some amazing new setups that can be quite inventive. Plus, you can create zombies that can be more that the basic flesh eating beasts.

Cons: sometimes audiences feel confused and frustrated due to some genre/tone fluctuation if at times it goes all the way to horror or to sci-fi, to seriousness or comedy.

7 – THE HYBRID

These zombies exist in combination with a different monster. Vampires are a common choice. Bob Clark’s DEATHDREAM (1974) is a great example: a soldier who died in Vietnam comes home but needs blood to survive. Or he will fall apart. Here the main character walks a fine line between a zombie and a vampire. But there are more extreme versions like the Lickers we see in the RESIDENT EVIL series: larger monstrosities that can be very dangerous.

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Pros: visually, they can be quite arresting. Strong, violent and deadly. If you want to create something over the top, maybe you should consider working here.

Cons: they cost more to produce than the regular zombies IF you want to go the RESIDENT EVIL way. Plus, they may lose some scare power since those zombies tend to lose some human familiarity.

8 – INTELLIGENT

These zombies can talk and do things just like we do. They can exist under a ghost form like in PET SEMATARY (1989) and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) or they can be real, functioning (although still very evil) beings like in NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984). They can get as close to a living person as possible just to get what they want. Like Rachel Creed in (again) PET SEMATARY and the zombie who says “send more cops” in THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. And let’s not forget Ben in HOUSE (1986).

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Pros: a screenwriter can create memorable zombies here, since they often breathe a fresher look into the protagonist’s situation – not to mention some poignant commentary on what is is to be alive or dead.

Cons: those are not the usual zombies and may give the writer a tougher time finding the right story. Some audiences may prefer a more classic approach as they may still favor more flesh-eating and less talking.

FINAL NOTE

The good thing when you are writing a zombie story (on prose or screenplay) is that there are so many ways you can combine those types and so many other degrees and qualities you can add. Zombies do not have to be a boring monster. They can be really a great horror element if you devote some time thinking about what works best in your premise.

INNER GHOSTS: notas sobre um development.

November 4, 2014

É um prazer poder anunciar que INNER GHOSTS acaba de entrar em produção.

INNER GHOSTS será o nosso primeiro projecto a ser produzido e promete nos dar montes de trabalho nos próximos meses. Se tudo correr bem, Portugal irá adicionar mais uma longa-metragem de terror à sua quase inexistente lista de obras do género lá para o terceiro trimestre de 2015. Mas aquilo que as pessoas não sabem é que INNER GHOSTS tem estado em desenvolvimento há já bastante tempo.

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O projecto começou a ser escrito em finais de 2012 sob o título provisório RED PARTY. Acontece que ao longo das várias versões do argumento (vamos na 19ª) o título foi progressivamente deixando de fazer sentido. Elementos essenciais como o plot, o número e o perfil das personagens foram mudando muito de versão para versão. Aliás, poderíamos fazer dois filmes radicalmente distintos a partir da 2ª e da 12ª versões e ninguém diria que ambas são versões do mesmo projecto.

Foi muito recentemente que INNER GHOSTS passou a ser o título mais adequado – isto após longas sessões de brainstorming que descambavam sempre para títulos malucos (era o cansaço já às três da manhã). Mas isto apenas nos serviu para chamar a atenção para a extrema importância de ter um título adequado ao projecto o quanto antes. Ou dito de outra forma, pode ser danoso para o projecto mudar de título já depois da filmagem ou antes do lançamento. Se precisamos mudar de título pelo facto do primeiro já não fazer sentido temos de fazê-lo já.

INNER GHOSTS é perfeito! 🙂

Pelo caminho seguido ao longo das várias versões do guião, ficaram muitas ideias, cenas e efeitos que foram sendo substituídas. Mas o processo de reescrita é longo e fértil se pensarmos que a cada versão, o guião ia ficando cada vez melhor, mais claro e coerente – e as suas forças mais polidas e evidentes.

Aliás, acerca da reescrita, uma coisa fomos aprendendo com o tempo: reescrever pode parecer difícil. No entanto, a dificuldade é apenas inicial. Assim que começamos a sentir que o projecto vai naturalmente encontrando a sua “verdade”, passamos de uma versão para a próxima sabendo que não há volta a dar: cada versão será melhor que a anterior. “Nesta versão, o problema X ainda lá está. A prioridade da próxima versão será resolvê-lo”. Tem sido assim com todos os guiões que temos desenvolvido nestes anos em que estamos a funcionar.

Ao longo do processo, várias pessoas foram lendo aquilo que ia sendo escrito: sales agents, distribuidores estrangeiros e profissionais amigos que fazem parte do nosso círculo de confiança. Estas pessoas são a nossa rede de “trusted feedback” constituída por profissionais que gostam do género, que nele trabalham e que estão em permanente contacto com aquilo que está a chegar ao mercado. Sem o feedback delas, provavelmente não teríamos encontrado algumas das melhores soluções que encontrámos ao longo do processo.

Por fim, temos de agradecer às pessoas que têm acreditado no nosso trabalho. Agradecemos a paciência com a qual ouviram inúmeras vezes o nosso “o guião ainda não está como queremos”. Agora está. 🙂

A página do INNER GHOSTS no Facebook é https://www.facebook.com/innerghosts

A Cidade dos Livros.

August 24, 2014

De visita à Portland, Oregon, estivemos na Powell’s Books, ou como é chamada, a Powell’s City of Books – aquela que é considerada a maior livraria independente de livros novos e usados do mundo. Trata-se de um lugar impressionante, com milhões de volumes todos para venda num espaço lindo de mais de 6000 metros quadrados.

Powell's City of Books

Uma olhada no mapa poupa tempo.

A primeira coisa que chamou a nossa atenção foi o facto de – ao contrário do que acontece nas livrarias de Lisboa – o espaço ser frequentado por muita gente. E de todas as idades. Aliás, a primeira impressão não foi a estarmos numa livraria, mas sim numa loja que vende conhecimento. Ou talvez melhor ainda: experiências criativas.

A “cidade” está dividida em salas e pisos cuidadosamente organizados, onde o cliente encontra-se facilmente cercado daquilo que lhe interessa. Poesia, romances, ciências, banda desenhada, livros raros, tudo lá está representado. Autores contemporâneos chineses? Sim. Softcore erotic pulp dos anos 60? Sim.

Cthulhu Avenue :-)

Cthulhu Avenue 🙂

Mas o espaço possui três secções verdadeiramente imbatíveis que nos interessam particularmente: banda desenhada, horror e ficção científica. Basta ir até a Avenida Cthulhu (e corredores próximos) e fica-se prisioneiro de qualquer coisa imperdível. E como não podia deixar de ser, o staff é composto por gente que sabe o que está a vender. Basta olhar casualmente para qualquer prateleira e apanha-se logo um “staff’s pick” onde alguém explica o motivo pelo qual devemos arriscar uma obra ou outra. Na secção de banda desenhada, há uma parte inteiramente dedicada às obras banidas e censuradas, onde se explica onde a obra foi banida e o porquê. Fascinante!

A secção de livros de Cinema é outra jóia, com livros sobre todos os temas possíveis. Os preços? Bastante acessíveis se optarmos por versões usadas (que em quase nada diferem das versões novas). Incrível.

A secção de livros de cinema possui um corredor sem fim.

A secção de livros de cinema possui milhares de títulos.

A Powell’s é uma livraria inteiramente situada no século XXI, que percebeu que o seu negócio não é simplesmente “vender livros”. O seu negócio é vender-se a si própria como um lugar onde temos vontade de estar horas e horas a procura daquilo que queremos – até encontrarmos. 🙂 E mesmo que não estejamos a procura de algo, algo irá nos encontrar. 🙂 É impossível sair-se da loja de mãos vazias.

Temos muito a aprender em espaços como este.

O Evento que Mudou o Cinema de Terror Foi Há 45 Anos.

August 8, 2014

Foi há precisamente 45 anos que a linda Sharon Tate, esposa de Roman Polanski, foi brutalmente assassinada na companhia de amigos, a mando de um tal Charles Manson. O crime que mais tarde se chamaria “The Tate-LaBianca Murders” foi um dos momentos mais marcantes da segunda metade do século XX, pois não poderia haver uma forma PIOR de fechar os anos 60, a “Era de Aquário”, o “Paz e Amor”, o “Summer of Love” e todas aquelas coisas que nos vêm à cabeça quando pensamos naquela década.

A relevância dos crimes possui várias dimensões – todas com impacto claro no cinema de terror que se passou a fazer a seguir. Mas por que motivo estes eventos foram tão decisivos? Este post tentará explicar alguns.

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É preciso perceber que os serial killers nunca foram uma coisa nova (e antes que os leitores mais conhecedores venham dizer que Charles Manson – ou os crimes em causa – têm pouco a ver com a classificação de “serial killer“, descansem e continuem a ler) e que já há muito faziam parte do universo dos filmes. THE BOSTON STRANGLER (1968) de Richard Fleischer é um excelente exemplo: um filme que narra os assassinatos cometidos por Albert DeSalvo. PSYCHO de Alfred Hitchcock e PEEPING TOM de Michael Powell (ambos de 1960) são apenas os exemplos mais sonantes que mostram como o cinema já há muito se apaixonara pelos serial killers. Ora, qual é a mudança operada pelo assassinato de Sharon Tate?

Se olharmos bem para os filmes citados, temos de admitir que eles não estão 100% dentro do cinema de terror da mesma forma que NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) de George A. Romero, THE HAUNTING (1963) de Robert Wise ou ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) estão. O universo dos serial killers (mais ou menos sórdido do ponto de vista visual) no cinema sempre esteve mais próximo do género Policial mais ou menos violento, com mais ou menos drama, mais ou menos tenso – mas quase sempre Policial.

Ora, o assassinato de Sharon Tate traz algo de diferente. Não se tratavam de vítimas anónimas (donas de casa, adolescentes ou prostitutas que raramente inspiram curiosidade pública – quem é que sabe o nome de algum vítima do Albert DeSalvo ou do Ted Bundy?). Pelo contrário, aqui tratava-se da realeza de Hollywood: uma starlet absolutamente linda, em clara ascensão, hiper-publicitada e querida; casada com um realizador do momento. No meio, estava ainda uma herdeira milionária (Abigail Folger) e mais algumas pessoas do meio cinematográfico.

Mas mais do que isto, Manson não estava preocupado apenas com a quantidade de assassinatos, mas sim com a qualidade dos mesmos enquanto espetáculo. Ele sabia muito bem que na época em que estava, mais do que matar, era preciso chocar – e quem conhece o aftermath (o livro HELTER SKELTER (1974) editado pelo procurador Vincent Bugliosi continua a ser uma referência no assunto) facilmente admite que a “Família” Manson deu ao público meses e meses de choques consecutivos.

Charles Manson muda o conceito de “monstro-estrela” – algo que até a época, no cinema, pertencia apenas a criaturas de fora da realidade (Drácula, Godzilla, fantasmas, etc.). Manson traz para dentro deste conceito o homem comum, banal e quase invisível, mas capaz de coisas muito piores do que qualquer outro monstro da Universal.

A evolução do género terror nos anos 70 tomou o curso que tomou porque em grande parte Charles Manson mostrou ao Cinema tudo aquilo que este levaria anos a perceber: a) como a violência pode ser espetacular, b) como os assassinos podem se transformar em personagens ainda mais atraentes do que os heróis, c) o quão gostamos de ver beleza, juventude e inocência serem amoralmente destruídas e d) o quão negra é a escuridão num país de luzes tão intensas. Manson mostrou ao cinema o quanto gostamos de estimular a nossa curiosidade pelo mórbido. O mundo pode ter criado os serial killers, mas Charles Manson criou os slashers.

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THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) de Tobe Hooper, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) de Ruggero Deodato e FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) de Sean S. Cunningham jamais teriam sido possíveis sem Charles Manson. Leatherface (que também possuía a sua “família”), Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees e Freddy Krueger (só para citar os mais conhecidos) somente são espectaculares porque Charles Manson foi espectacular. E eles não morrem também porque ano após ano Charles Manson continua a regressar – já não como um assassino, mas como mito. Seria difícil tentar perceber quem tem mais fãs: se Manson ou Leatherface. Chega a ser muito interessante o facto de que, ao contrário dos assassinos da ficção, Manson não matou (pelas suas próprias mão, isto é) nenhuma das vítimas que o tornaram célebre – a mostrar como o cinema é eficaz a simplificar o complexo e a corrigir as eventuais subtilezas da realidade que não caibam em 90 minutos.

Este post não tem como objectivo engrandecer a figura de Charles Manson ou perdoar/justificar os seus actos. Muito pelo contrário, é mais do que óbvio que o conjunto de horrores e vidas destruídas por aquele grupo de pessoas será sempre algo a lamentar. Mas a História é composta em igual medida pelos bons e pelos maus; e no cinema de terror, a partir de 1970, Manson, seus seguidores, seus actos e vítimas tiveram um impacto claro. Elas mostraram ao cinema alguns dos nossos maiores medos enquanto sociedade: a aleatoriedade do Mal, da violência, a escuridão possível no interior de cada desconhecido e a forma como estas coisas nos atraem – coisas que 45 anos depois continuam profundamente contemporâneas.

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Amazing Strange Shapes.

August 5, 2014

Strange Shapes é um blog magnífico dedicado aos filmes ALIEN (1979), PROMETHEUS (2012) de Ridley Scott, ALIENS (1986) de James Cameron e ALIEN3 (1992) de David Fincher. O blog possui um pouco de tudo: memorabilia, entrevistas, bastidores e imagens imperdíveis.

Valaquen é o criador do blog – um escocês que, como ele próprio conta, teve o seu primeiro contacto com o universo através de uma cópia em VHS do ALIENS. A paixão só cresceu desde emtão. Sorte nossa. 🙂

ALIEN BLINK

Deliverables 101: Making Great Publicity Photos for Your Film.

August 4, 2014

It happens so many times. We open a magazine or visit a website and find screenshots of the film we want to see. We may not pay a lot of attention to it. However, a lot of our decision to watch a film is directly linked to the existence of great promotional materials.

Among those material, the “publicity photos” are a a key elements on a film’s deliverables list (note: the deliverables are a set of things the producer must deliver to the sales agent or distributor with the film). Those who are experienced in the production department know that the production of those deliverables are as important as the film itself. Put in a different way, a good production work will generate a great film AND quality deliverables.

The publicity photos are a part of that list that should never be left for later. On the contrary, you should think about them with the same care as you plan your shoot – and have a strategy for it just in the same way. Without that kind of care, the promotion of the film will not be able to push your film with the efficacy it could have. So, thinking about this in advance will help you in the future in ways you could not imagine.

That’s what this post is about.

Let’s start by categorizing the publicity photos in 4 groups.

  1. Screenshots.
  2. Crew and behind the scenes.
  3. Director and talent.
  4. Characters.

1 – Screenshots are the most common type of publicity photos. Those are the ones we see in most magazines and websites. They show images from the film with the goal of giving the audience an idea of how great things the film has: the stars/characters they love, the great special effects, the great sets, the action scenes, etc. However, some people tend to think that those photos are a) images taken from the film or b) faithful representations of the shots in the film (just like the audience will see them in the film).

These ideas are misconceptions when it comes to most of the films.

The usage of screenshots in websites, magazines, TV, posters and other promotional instances and outlets demands VERSATILITY to those photos. In the old days of film, a 35mm frame rarely had the quality that could be used for a poster or quality printing (in magazines, for example). Back then, taking a frame from the film was rarely a good option and the screenshots we see from the classics were done by dedicated publicity crews working in the studio. Here’s one of them:

psycho lobby card 1

People may think that if a certain frame is good enough to be projected on a screen, then it will be good enough for a magazine. However, on the screen, we have movement and sound – all helping us get immersed in the narrative. That’s not what happens when we look at a magazine page. Here the limitations of the medium get visible. And worse than that, on a magazine or on a website, before we get to the screenshot of the film, we’ve already passed through other ads where the quality of their photos raises our expectancy. If you are not careful, the screenshots of your film will be the least interesting things people see.

That’s why Hollywood never takes publicity photos directly from films. Instead, dedicated photographers will produce those photos at the best resolution, the best quality, especially for publicity.

What we see on the film may not be ideal to be reproduced in the printed media. In this case, a dedicated photographer can help the producer get a number of images specifically for that end. DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988) gives us a great example. Even the differences in framing have a function: in the film, we are concentrating on the character and what she is saying. On the publicity photo there is no “what she is saying”, there’s no sound. So the framing is trying to show production value: the star, the gorgeous porcelain tea set, wardrobe. In the film, showing the tea set would be a distraction from the action. On the photo, it makes all the sense. The light and the colors are not the same either.

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It would be absurd to try to compare what is the better photo. Their goal is not the same. What matters here is to understand the function and the impact of each on the commercial life of the film – because they will never be seen at the same time or in the same conditions. One is for the screen. The other is for magazines.

Another myth says that the publicity photos should try to emulate or reproduce what the final shot will be or what the camera captures. While in theory this can make some sense, in reality, the image captured by the motion picture camera may not be the best way to represent the whole scene or the film. Keep in mind that in a film, each shot is conceived as part of a set that will make sense through the editing. They also take advantage of the fact that the audience has a considerable knowledge of the story and characters when a particular shot comes along. but take that shot out of the set and it stops making sense (from the publicity’s perspective). Those shots were not meant to be seen out of the edit by someone who has not yet started to watch the film and has not been through the previous scenes in the story – lacking precious information. That shot splashed on a magazine may be meaningless. From this point of view, the goal is to obtain photos that, by themselves and removed from any viewing experience, represents the entire scene or the whole film. FRANTIC (1988) gives us a great example: one of the best publicity photos of the film is a shot that is absent from the scene it represents.

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The photo taken communicates tension, danger much more effectively. And for those who haven’t yet seen the film, they show the best production value of them all: the stars (now facing the camera). The photo also show more effectively the object everybody is looking for (almost lost in the shot from the movie). On a magazine, the original shot would make no sense: two people whose faces we cannot see stretching towards an object we can barely figure out what it is. The publicity photo does a much better job communicating the scene, its goal and the film’s stars.

And that photo is so good that is was used everywhere to represent the film. Just take a look at the two home video versions of the film. From all the photos available, they selected this one.

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It is fundamental to understand that, more than show the film, the publicity photos sell the film. And for that to happen, they have to (when necessary) abandon the director’s camera setup and try to truly represent the best things the film has.

Another example shows two images with different functions.

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In the previous scene, Dr. Richard Walker finds a box of matches from a club called “Blue Parrot”. On the next scene, (left photo) the emphasis is on the connection between the finding of the matches and his arrival at the club (with the neon sign standing on a similar level of importance as the star). Harrison Ford’s presence is obvious. There is no need to draw all the attention to him. By the time the audience gets here, the star is taken for granted. But more, this is just a quick transition scene that situates the next scene: the interior of the club. The publicity photo, however, tells a different story. No box of matches, no transition, no next scene. Just the main character under neon lights. How is it possible that a scene of no importance becomes one of the key photos of the film (take another look at the DVD back cover)? It’s very simple: there is no necessary connection between the importance of a scene and a great photo taken from it.

Imagine that the camera shows a two people kissing 500 feet away from the camera against a gorgeous scenery of mountains and sky. In the movie, we know who they are. We can afford to see them kiss from afar. It would make no sense to keep the publicity photo so far from the kiss. On a magazine, they would be size of an ant (and probably we would see no kiss). But for those who haven’t seen the film, a much closer photo where we can actually see the characters kissing would be much more important than the sky and the mountains. Unless there is something drastically dramatic about the sky and mountains like a tornado coming to get them.

2 – Crew and behind the scenes will be more or less interesting (and valuable for publicity) depending on the type of film you are making. However, the importance of those photos as deliverables should never be underestimated. In a film where the special effects are an essential part (no matter how simple or complex), capturing images of how it was made fuels the interest of that part of the audience who gets fascinated by the film making process and the more specialized press that caters that audience. But more than that, those photos show the technical, creative and financial investment made in the film – giving the producer some leverage to try to bring up the the price of the film when comes the time to sell it. If the film is a co-production, these photos will document the different nationalities coming together to make the film. They are also a good public relations tool that shows the creation of value, making a bridge between filmmakers (those who make the movies) and financiers (who are seldom in the terrain and, sometimes, know very little about how their money is spent).

Great behind-the-scenes photos like the ones below are loved by the press, since they bring the production values to the front, sparkling the curiosity of the audience.

Alien behind

They do not need to be spectacular, but they should try to communicate the uniqueness of the film.

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Sometimes they put the audience on a privileged a point of view that instantly generates curiosity.

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Stanley Kubrick was also noted for having the perfect notion that quality and quantity of behind the scenes help keep a film on people’s minds. And decades after the release of his films, we still see photos that extend our look into his work. Very few films can be that lucky.

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3 – Director and talent are ALWAYS important because they bring forward the excellence of the creative work and the film’s biggest production values (its stars). The director must be photographed in different contexts. The most usual one is during the shoot (below) as he works.

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Or interacting with the cast:

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Or completely immersed in his own universe:

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Or simply alone for any use the market demands – like festival catalogs and the press.

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David Cronenberg is a director who’s very aware of the importance of being photographed in the most different contexts – something that he does since the beginning of his career.

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4 – Character photos are extremely valuable regardless of if they are or not part of the film (just like the screenshots). The photo below supplied by the producers of ORLANDO (1992) is not part of the film. However it is gorgeous and it offers us something about the character that goes beyond the film:

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The photo is so good that it was used for the film’s re-release.

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It was also used on the tie-in – in this case Virginia Woolf’s book.

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In some cases, the characters are taken from the scenes and photographed together. In the example below – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVON (2011) – the characters Eva (Tilda Swinton) is photographed alongside her son Kevin through all of his ages during the film – something that cannot happen in the film. This is a great way to call attention to the evolution of the character:

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Going back to FRANTIC , we have an example o characters who look directly at the audience.

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The photo below works very well and comes from a scene that was cut from the film.

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The goal of this post is to call your attention to the importance of thinking the promotional life of your film from a strategic point of view with the care and love it needs. A lack of attention to this element of your film’s production will cost you dearly later on since you won’t be able to take advantage of everything that promotion can do for you – specially when you have little money and need the best results.

 

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RED PARTY Casting Call #1.

June 4, 2014

Enquanto damos os toques finais para o arranque da pré-produção da primeira longa-metragem de terror do João Alves – RED PARTY – é chegada a altura de começar com o trabalho de casting. Ao longo das próximas semanas, vamos fazer vários convites a actores e actrizes (estrangeiros e portugueses) para que os possamos conhecer e ir compondo o nosso package. Este é o primeiro.

CASTING 1A

Para este primeiro convite estamos a procura de actrizes e actores naturais de língua inglesa (britânicos, americanos, etc.) para um conjunto de papéis muito especiais no nosso argumento. Procuramos pessoas de ambos os sexos e que residam na zona de Lisboa e arredores. A idade não é importante. A experiência é algo preferível mas jamais será por si só um factor de exclusão.

Neste sentido, gostaríamos que as pessoas interessadas nos enviassem um e-mail para badbehavior@sapo.pt com a informação habitual: algumas fotos, um showreel, um currículo curto e os respectivos contactos.

Why don’t you give it a try! 🙂


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