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    #31
    Senior Member Batutta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldCorpse View Post
    Look, it may not be your fault - but hey, you know how it is... no matter what goes wrong, it's always the fault of the director ... as it is s/he who is responsible for the final effect regardless... totally unfair, but such is life. More than once I've heard "the film is really dark, the DP - or director - is a moron", meanwhile the problem was bad projection - happened just recently on this very board where someone complained about how bad it was, and I had to point out that it probably was the fault of the theater projection. So here I am, doing the same darn thing with you and sound
    I'm nearly certain it's an issue with the centre channel not downmixing properly, as it's not supposed to sound the way you characterized it. A clue for me is how you said the scene with the Coroner and the Nurse sounded like it was on a camcorder mic. It sounds like that with the centre channel off, as what's in the stereo and surrounds is quieter and with more room echo added in the mix, so it sounds boomier. I checked and double-checked the mix in my home theater and my bedroom tv, and the dialogue is clear and intelligible. I supplied the distributor with separate 5.1 and Stereo mixes, but it's possible Amazon only takes the 5.1 and does their own stereo down mix on the fly. This could cause issues. The way you are watching, on your iMac from a browser I think is probably not typical and may be another factor. There is only so much I can control.

    As for your notes, I appreciate you not sold pedaling. Not all your comments are useful, as there are practical, logistical reasons for why some things are shot the way they are that weren't in my control, the result of one man banding on no budget. For example, comment (5), about the car door. That scene was supposed to feature another actor, with some dialogue that made it clear who and what Richard was. Well, that actor flaked at the last minute and I couldn't cancel the shoot, so I shot it wordlessly with just Richard. It was 9000 degrees that day, so I had to shoot later as the sun was going down and only had a couple hours to do a ton of shots. When I cut it together it wasn't clear if Richard was a Detective, or a Coroner, or a Reporter. Would I have liked to shoot a shot of the car door driving into frame, and the camera craning up to show Richard, and then following him to the crime scene with a dramatic pull back and crane up. Yeah, but I was in another country by then, with no access to the actor or location. And that shot would have been near impossible with no crew. So I had a choice, have the audience be confused about this, or shoot that artless insert in my driveway in another country. I chose the latter. Another example. I had planned to shoot lots of b-roll of Los Angeles low profile, with just my actor, of him walking around downtown on my last couple days in Los Angeles, to get more of the feel of the city and establishing shots with him in the frame. But I got pneumonia and ended up in the hospital on the last day of principal photography. So I had to convalesce in my hotel room until traveling back home. Hoping I'd be able to get back and shoot more. But I couldn't, for various financial and personal reasons. So I filled it out with stock footage. This is the stuff that happens constantly when you shoot something for no money, with no assistance. I realize this matters not a whit to anyone watching the movie, but it is what it is.
    Last edited by Batutta; 12-05-2019 at 04:43 AM.
    "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog


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    #32
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    Continuing - for anyone who has not seen this, stop reading, as spoilers may follow.


    **************SPOILER WARNING***********************************

    OK, so Batutta has gone the extra mile in tracking down the sound issues - and has kindly provided me with an alternate streaming source. Upon listening to the new source and comparing A/B with Amazon, I can conclusively say that it is Amazon that is responsible for the unintelligibly low volume of dialogue. Let me repeat: BATUTTA DID NOT SCREW UP THE SOUND IN HIS MOVIE!!!

    I'm sorry if anyone reading my complaint got the impression that Batutta was responsible - I did think it rather odd that anyone with any experience (as clearly Batutta has loads of!) could mess up sound on the 101 level, but I guess when dealing with an indie I still thought it possible, even if strange and unlikely. My bad. Now I'm angry with Amazon!

    Anyhow, moving on. Batutta mentioned that several things that I observed were outside of his control, due to actors flaking out and his getting very sick and so on. I get it. And I never said that those complaints somehow made Batutta a bad or incompetent director - I fully acknowledged that ultra low or no budget productions are where sh|t happens the most and out of any one person's control. So, those observations were not meant as a criticism of Batutta's directorial skills, but simply as an observation "hey, this here is an issue"... in other words, "not saying you are responsible, or you could've done anything about it, but hey, it's an issue nonetheless". I hope you can understand my position too - I can't sit here and speculate why something was done this way or that way - I wasn't there - all I can say is "this is how it looks". Bottom line, nothing I say is meant as a criticism of Batutta's skillz, just my reaction to the movie and nothing more.

    All right, with all these disclaimers out of the way, let's get back to the core issue - is the very premise of the movie a "grabber". I harp on it, because this is where it all starts, before a dime is spent and before a second of footage is recorded. A director once said - I think it was Cronenberg, but I am not 100% sure - that film is an artform of "big juice, not little juice". What he meant was that you need a big emotional effect to register in the film medium. You are not dealing with tiny emotional subtleties - those won't come across in film. If you want to delve into rarified subtleties, poetry or literature is your medium - there you can spend pages upon pages ruminating on the psychological effects of a cookie dipped in tea. Sure, there are the European artfilms or avantgarde works where filmmakers have tried to push the envelope, but in the mass entertainment space, film is for "big juice"; if you want to do "little juice", do it in literature.

    When contemplating an idea for film, it's best to go for the big juice. The Terminator - KILL, KILL, KILL. The Thing - TAKE OVER, WIPE OUT. And so on, if you think of most films. Ruminating about alien beings in a different dimension, who all only think in a collective without the capability of individual thought and so must send representatives to Earth to learn(?) what individual thought is - that strikes me, as "little juice"... nothing wrong with it per se, but maybe better explored at leisure in a sci-fi novel. It's too subtle, over-intellectualized for film. Take the "intellectual" film, with a big philosophical theme - about as philosophical as you'll get in a sci-fi film, Blade Runner... even here the themes are pretty "big juice" in the overall scheme of things - androids/robots made in human form with all human desires, but used as SLAVES, limited in lifespan to a few paltry years, desperate to live and love as any human ever did - that's the tragedy, and the rebellion and the seeking of MORE LIFE - and they are hunted and killed... and the detective falls in love with a new model, who also only wants what any human woman would... if they're so human, shouldn't they have the rights of humans? It's about as intellectual as you'll get. And the themes are BIG - SLAVES, REBELLION, HUNTING/KILLING, LIFE AND LOVE. Those are big themes. Big Juice. Look at the history of the film - based on a Philip K. Dick novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" - but the novel has a bunch of complicated philosophical sub-themes involving religions and so on... all of which was stripped away from the novel - because film needs BIG JUICE, simple, strong, clear - leave the subtleties for the novel. I don't mean every sci-fi has to be as simplistic as Independence Day, but while Blade Runner is a cult classic, guess which one did more business to begin with? In fact, initially BR was a box-office disappointment, and ID one of all time BO hits.

    Take another comparison - Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. I did a giant post critical of BR2049 here in the thread devoted to it, but my #1 criticism was the screenplay. BR2049 had a lot of external advantages compared to the original - it already had the built-in audience from the original BR, it had a much bigger budget, it had access to SFX that Ridley Scott could only dream of. But it was a giant flop. And as I predicted - nobody would talk about it as soon as it was off the screens - it would not go on to become a cult classic a la the original BR. And as I said at the time - and still believe today - the screenplay was reason #1. I won't recapitulate all that, but for our purposes I'll just highlight the contrast - tell me, which of these two screenplays the original BR and BR2049 had the "big juice" themes/emotions/concerns? Philosophical as it was, the original BR was still squarely "big juice"... meanwhile, can anyone even remember what the premise behind BR2049 was? Exactly. FAIL.

    The other thing you need to pay attention to - again, before a single page is written - where is the locus of interest? Don't divide the audience attention too much. That bandwidth is narrow. Simplify. The villain - usually the alien - must have extremely simple and transparent motivations, and you should not need to spend almost any time on it... there should be no questions that arise in the audience's mind - otherwise you're leading it to a divided attention. The Thing - we don't know, or care about the alien life form its history or anything - we understand that it has a very simple and understandable goal - infiltrate and take over the world. Period. Nothing else about the "alien" matters. Take the film "Alien" - nobody is interested in the subtleties of the internal life or history of the insectoid aliens - we don't know and don't care - we understand it has a very simple and understandable goal, use humans as incubators. They need to be wiped out, or they'll destroy us. End of story. No other questions. The Terminator is a machine designed for one thing only - to kill. It has no thoughts, emotions or concerns - the goals of SkyNet are very simple, total domination, the human leader must be killed. Period. We are not asking about the structure of the SkyNet society or anything else. Kill or be killed. As the movie goes on, we have no real questions about The Terminator machine - it wants to KILL. Period. Even Independence Day - nobody asks WHY the aliens want to conquer Earth. No need to ask.

    That makes things simple for the viewer - the attention is not divided. It's all about simple motivation that needs to be opposed. We will pull for the hero and against the villain. That's 100% of our attention. No wandering minds, no wandering attentions, no niggling questions, no doubts and side-thoughts.

    Now let's look at your locus of interest. The alien beings - they need to learn what different thoughts are? Come again? Huh? Oh, it's because they only have a single thought/consciousness... uhm, that's pretty deep man.... whaaa...? The motives of those beings are pretty opaque - nothing as clear-cut as KILL-TAKE-OVER-USE AS FODDER. And when you have motives that are pretty opaque, it invites questions... why do they only have one thought - how bizarre! That's not understandable. KILL-TAKE-OVER - understandable, I don't need to spend one second thinking about it. And so there's in the back of our mind - "one thought, you say, huh? weird, man" - maybe in a novel you can explain it all in 700 pages, but here in the land of BIG JUICE you got 90 minutes to do a whole lot - we're only gonna be able to cover the big points. Our protagonist - Derelict - is an alien on a mission. Is he a good guy bad guy what guy - The Terminator - no question about it... and even when you complicate it, you can say, yes, one is GOOD TERMINATOR, and one is BAD TERMINATOR - simple. No real questions. But our hero Derelict has some some kind of internal life that's opaque to us. Even if he's ultimately GOOD (good terminator) and the "guardian" is BAD (bad terminator) - in neither case is the internal life as question-free as in the case of the Terminator movies - or Alien - or The Thing - or indeed in the highly philosophical Blade Runner - we understand the motivations and desires of the Androids perfectly well - 100%. We really HAVE NO QUESTIONS. But the same cannot be said about the Derelict and Guardian - they're somewhat opaque. That leaves questions in the back of the mind - just as it leaves questions about the alien being one-thought-civilization. It splits out attention, our bandwidth.

    What is Derelict's mission - is there a sense of urgency? Can you see the urgency in Alien - The Thing - Terminator - XYZ? The fate of humanity and the world hangs in the balance. What's the urgency here? A soul might not get collected? The guardian/villain might collect it even if Derelict won't? Ooh, terrible...I guess? Not a villain that I lose sleep over. It's all pretty low stakes - or at least, "little juice". Not a grabber - for a movie. A FILM NEEDS URGENCY.

    SIMPLE - don't cause folks to think too much about how the alien civilization works - make the mission super clear and the stakes super high. Keep it SIMPLE. Don't allow thoughts to stray from the action immediatly in front of your eyes. You'll split the attention of the audience - particularly deadly for a low-budget indie, they'll start paying attention to the wrong things, poor quality locations and so on. The cure for all those technical issues is - make it compelling, keep attention FOCUSED. And that means, don't distract. Keep it SIMPLE. When the knife is on the throat and blood is seeping, nobody is paying attention to the background furniture - this I mean metaphorically, the "knife" can be an emotional "knife on throat", not physical. Laser focused attention allows tunnel vision - very useful in a no-budget movie.

    When designing a film, always ask - how can I make it simpler, so there are fewer questions. The only questions I want from the viewer are the ones I pose myself - take control of the viewer's attention and thought process. There are entirely too many peripheral questions with the Derelict. The question of locus of interest - where is the greatest interest in your film? It's split six ways from Sunday - way too fragmented. Alien civilization - Derelict - Guardian - Humans (Coroner, Shelter Lady etc.) - Alien Subjects (who are being collected)... and all pretty evenly split. Terminator - where is the locus of interest? Will the Terminator hunt down and kill his prey? That's pretty much it! We're not thinking about SkyNet, or too much about Sarah, or the internal life of Arnold, or anything really. Locus of interest is super precise and super concentrated. Not in Derelict - it's all over the place. When you have a lot of locuses of interest, you can't devote enough time to each anyway, and you leave the viewer dissatisfied anyhow - what's the point?

    How is the story told? That's next. But I wanted to start with just the idea, because it involves $0 and it determines everything that flows from this.


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    #33
    Senior Member Batutta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldCorpse View Post
    Ruminating about alien beings in a different dimension, who all only think in a collective without the capability of individual thought and so must send representatives to Earth to learn(?) what individual thought is - that strikes me, as "little juice"... nothing wrong with it per se, but maybe better explored at leisure in a sci-fi novel. It's too subtle, over-intellectualized for film.
    Your entire essay here is focused on this plot element, but this information gets revealed late in the film. Up until then, the film is about a possibly insane Derelict killing people in mysterious ways, and the Coroner trying to figure out what's happening. That's how I intended to grab the audience. With mystery. It's more of a science fiction take on the serial killer genre. The urgency is in stopping him before he kills again. Now, the twist obviously is, he is not killing anyone, because they weren't people to begin with. This isn't The Terminator. It's not an action movie. I would NEVER have been able to compete on that level. Even the first Terminator, which was a six million dollar movie (probably 30 million now). So I told the story in this fashion, as a mystery where the layers are slowly peeled back. More importantly, that concept of the alien beings was not impetus for writing this story. I didn't think, cool hook, how do I make that into a plot? It evolved backwards from themes I was interested in at the time, as I had lost several people close to me and was grappling with existential issues, and feelings of isolation. As a minority growing up in a white culture, and specifically where I grew up, with people who followed a different religion, I was always an outsider looking in, trying to understand and connect with people. I felt like a literal alien. I'm kind of borderline apserger's too, so I was looking at a metaphor for all this stuff and came up with this. It's a personal film cloaked in the guise of genre. "Little juice"...maybe, if that's how you want to characterize it...but if it only works for a smaller audience, that's fine, as I made it for a buck and a quarter. I wasn't interested in doing an empty genre exercise, because I knew with the resources I had it would have been at best third rate, as I couldn't afford great action, or great visual effects, or buckets of gore. So I made an existiential genre piece that I hoped would at least be interesting, and express something personal at the same time.
    "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog


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    #34
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    *******SPOILERS ALERT********

    Your entire essay here is focused on this plot element, but this information gets revealed late in the film.

    If you got that impression, then I explained myself poorly. No, my thesis was not focused on that single plot element. Rather, to quote myself:

    "There are entirely too many peripheral questions with the Derelict. The question of locus of interest - where is the greatest interest in your film? It's split six ways from Sunday - way too fragmented. Alien civilization - Derelict - Guardian - Humans (Coroner, Shelter Lady etc.) - Alien Subjects (who are being collected)... and all pretty evenly split. Terminator - where is the locus of interest? Will the Terminator hunt down and kill his prey? That's pretty much it! We're not thinking about SkyNet, or too much about Sarah, or the internal life of Arnold, or anything really. Locus of interest is super precise and super concentrated. Not in Derelict - it's all over the place. When you have a lot of locuses of interest, you can't devote enough time to each anyway, and you leave the viewer dissatisfied anyhow - what's the point?"

    So, the alien civilization, is only one of a multiple locuses of interest - and I enumerated them, not necessarily sequentially as they appear in the film, just simply as a list showing that there are just too many competing for the viewer's psychological bandwidth. In contrast The Terminator has pretty much one locus of interest "will the machine manage to kill the human leader". The idea being that filmmakers structure their stories to limit and focus the viewer's attention and avoid multiple distracting concerns. Now, Terminator has just one, but you can make perhaps 2-3 locuses of interest that are equally important before you start getting into trouble. Even a movie as complex as Blade Runner has basically 3 - "what is the Android's deal" "what's Dekkard's deal" "love story". Sometimes you can get away with one major locus and 3 minor, but the idea is always to constrict. That was the reason behind eliminating many subplots and concerns of the P.K. Dick novel, and boiling it down. Think how much more complicated and unwieldy it would all be if the Androids in BR were actual aliens in human form - there'd be a million questions, a major locus of interest. Instead the origin story is very self-contained without inviting more questions. You have 4-5 locuses of interest in Derelict, of more or less equal weight - too much, IMHO.

    Up until then, the film is about a possibly insane Derelict killing people in mysterious ways, and the Coroner trying to figure out what's happening. That's how I intended to grab the audience. With mystery. It's more of a science fiction take on the serial killer genre.

    OK, so I can only report on how it came across to me (one viewer). Right off the bat we're clued in that this is sci-fi and someone is being sent on a mission - yes? I've already discussed my problems with this part of the intro (where I compared it to the "spaceship crashing" in Carpenter's The Thing), but I'm afraid that you immediately clue the viewer into a mental state where you don't for a second think that the Derelict is "insane" - clearly he's been sent from another civilization (he's hardly familiar with the human form, as he looks at his hands - btw. not very inspiring, as you'd imagine he's been pretty schooled in how human bodies work before he was sent to Earth on such a critical mission, so why TF is he looking at his hands like he's never seen 'em before?)... at no point does the viewer (at least not me) think - it doesn't even occur to me! - that the Derelict is "insane"... if this was part of the mystery, I'm afraid it completely misfired. I knew he was an alien - not "insane" - the mystery was in what's he doing here and what his "mission" was. Now, maybe the Coroner thought he was insane, but we just assume "well, of course, the coroner is clueless at this stage - that's hardly a mystery that he doesn't cotton on to the fact that it's an alien - duh". The next issue with the "serial killer" meme is that the victims were peculiar right off the bat. Start with the very first victim - the guy seemed to recognize the Derelict... that right there doesn't make it look like a serial killer is picking victims at random (I'm reporting my thoughts and reactions as I was watching this - I thought "OK, so he recognizes him... and who recognizes an alien.... yeah, this is not just a 'victim'"). Then with the chase, the victim is not simply trying to get away - he's trying to kill Derelict... that's a very unusual "victim"! That's clue #3 to me that Derelict is not simply a serial killer - and the victim is not just a random innocent human schmoe out there (he recognizes aliens!). Then with the gardening lady "I was waiting for you" - of course the cat is out of the bag, but again, at no point in this film, from the very start, did I think that Derelict was either insane, or a serial killer.

    That also makes not possible to feel any urgency: "The urgency is in stopping him before he kills again." We (at least I) never thought at any moment that somehow Derelict was a bad guy that needed to be stopped. Even with the very first "victim" - the victim was too willing to himself be a killer and he clearly knew alien Derelict - but also, and this is key, look at where we do think that the alien is clearly a bad guy - think Predator (1987) - that's a serial killer (trophy hunter)... Derelict - nah. Plus the "mysterious way" of "killing" also works against the thesis that this is a guy who needs to be stopped - it's not gruesome, sadistic or recognizably "bad guy crime behavior".

    In that sense, that attempt at "urgency" fails (at least for me). After that first killing my thought was not "he's gotta be stopped", it was "wonder why - what is his mission?". And I don't think I'm some kind of psychopath who doesn't care about killers - I assure you, as much as the next guy, I was pulling for the humans and not the trophy hunting Predator or the insectoids in Alien ... simply Derelict at no point felt like a bad guy (to me).

    This isn't The Terminator. It's not an action movie. I would NEVER have been able to compete on that level. Even the first Terminator, which was a six million dollar movie (probably 30 million now).

    What can I say - I find it very hard to agree with you here. There's plenty of action in Derelict (to my mind), and I wouldn't bat an eye if someone said it's an action sci-fi - as is The Terminator. And I disagree that you can't do a sci-fi on a super low budget. Here is an exercise - something I already mentioned: please intro an alien character on a budget of $5.

    1)The Terminator - naked guy, electric storm.

    2)Derelict - homeless-looking clothing, unkempt guy walks into the frame

    I'd say about the same $5. Bum clothing was maybe $5 - OK, let's say it was $0, donated. Naked guy - $0 costume, and "electric storm" SFX donated (I assume nobody got paid for doing the SFX in Derelict) - that's a cheap effect (which you did many times in Derelict). Sure, the rest of the movies are in a different class, but my point is that you can have a very key scene (like a main protagonist/antagonist intro) and Terminator pulled off that scene better (more dramatically) for no more money (I mean potentially - I am aware there's a crew etc., but you could one-man it). My point - you did no more, actually you did less in effect than The Terminator when the budgets for the scene were equivalent... so giving you $6 million (or $30 million) who says you'd have done equally well, given that precedent...

    Another example of both you and a mainstream budget movie having exactly the same $ scene - you could've done just as well. Again, an example I already gave. The Thing, when we open on Antarctica - the genius psychological effect of simply swaying the camera, instead of doing the usual stock still. Swaying the camera costs $0. But has a huge psychological effect - it's about creative attention to detail, not money. You could've done it for equal $0. What I mean is not that you should've swayed the camera - I mean that deeply effective film techniques are available to all, and what counts is creativity not money.

    I wasn't interested in doing an empty genre exercise, because I knew with the resources I had it would have been at best third rate, as I couldn't afford great action, or great visual effects, or buckets of gore.

    I hope you don't think that all this time I was arguing that you should've made an "empty genre exercise". Nor do I think that my examples of The Terminator, Alien, The Thing, Blade Runner are examples of "empty genre exercises" - they just happen to be some of the most celebrated masterpieces of sci-fi cinema. I invoked those films for some common art/craft principles that make effective cinema, regardless of genre. SIMPLE. STRONG. CLEAR-CUT. I went at length about what and why all commercial successful cinema is "big juice", not "little juice". Ultimately, I also disagree that sci-fi automatically means big $ - there were plenty of indie sci-fi films with pretty meager budgets.

    I suggest that the problem is not the genre - it's that you didn't follow the principles of successful film creation. Now, you are welcome to break any "principle" - as a matter of fact, you won't find anyone on these boards who is more of an advocate of allowing artists to break any supposed "rule" or principle - but the key is for the final effect to be successful artistically. Breaking rules/principles is easy - what's hard is doing so while still doing effective work. Your choice is to follow the principles - or break them successfully. If you do neither, there's your problem.

    [...]I had lost several people close to me and was grappling with existential issues[...]

    Honest question - why did you pick sci-fi at all? You have a very emotional, human concern here. Why not address it straight on, here on Earth, with actual Human Beings? Seems far more straightforward to just address this like what it really is: drama - going at this through the intermediary of sci-fi seems extremely roundabout and unnessasarily removed. The strengths of sci-fi is imagination and creation of new worlds and societies, opportunities for marvellous spectacle and special effects (if you wish for that), amazing sets, bizarre life-forms, action, fate-of-the-world urgency. I don't see you using or needing to use any of these for your most human of concerns - you are not playing to any of the sci-fi strengths, so why pick this genre to explore something that could be much better addressed in a drama. Particularly, that you complain about budget and consign the strong points of sci-fi to supposedly exclusive territory of big budgets! Drama is about the cheapest there is, and the most direct - addressng your concerns through the genre of sci-fi is like going from NY to LA, but starting from NY going East, so you travel across the globe to reach LA.

    May I make a recommendation here for a super low budget drama that deals with the themes of love and loss for pretty much zero money - by a renowned director - Amour (2012). It's a deeply affecting film and man, you couldve done it for your "buck and a half" - or even less (there are no special effects). Again, let me recommend it strongly regardless of any of our discussions here - this is human drama, a superbly executed film (love, love, love the camera work!). Highly, highly recommended! Won Palm d'Or at Cannes, best film, best director, best actor and more, plus British Academy of Film Awards and Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and a ton of other accolades. Deservedly.

    All I'm saying is - and this is not snark, this is meant sincerely - I honestly think you should have made a drama... that was your genre.

    As a minority growing up in a white culture, and specifically where I grew up, with people who followed a different religion, I was always an outsider looking in[...]

    May I make another Michael Haneke movie that's also super brilliant (can you tell, he's one of my favorite directors!): Cache (2005)

    Talk about grabbing people with a mystery - and could've also been done on a "buck and a quarter" budget. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. And if you feel sort of outside looking in - I wonder what you think of this film...

    I can't say I'm a minority, but fwiw (probably not much), I have lived abroad in many different countries and cultures for long periods of time - so while I obviously can't know how you feel, I can identify a little with the idea of being an outsider looking in. Anyhow, see the movie!

    I'll continue with the Derelict in another post, whew!
    Last edited by OldCorpse; 12-06-2019 at 07:14 PM.


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    Senior Member Batutta's Avatar
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    A lot of this is fair enough. Your previous approach seemed to be reviewing the movie for what it's not, and the movie that should have been made, not reviewing the movie on its own terms, in how well it pulled off what it was trying to do.

    "This isn't The Terminator. It's not an action movie. I would NEVER have been able to compete on that level. Even the first Terminator, which was a six million dollar movie (probably 30 million now).

    What can I say - I find it very hard to agree with you here. There's plenty of action in Derelict (to my mind), and I wouldn't bat an eye if someone said it's an action sci-fi - as is The Terminator.
    "

    My point was that I knew I couldn't distinguish the film on this level, so it needed to have something more, a different approach, unusual emphasis of themes, to stand out. Too making people making low budget indies, especially in this genre, try to compete with bigger films. When you try to make Terminator without Terminator money, you end up making schlock. Sure some of those effects in that film are simple to do, but there are still tons of stunts and visual effects and production value that requires real money. I had no real money. And this was designed from page one to be shot on a micro budget. It wasn't a case where I wrote it, nobody wanted it, so I decide to make it myself. If I had ten million dollars, I probably would have approached it differently. So I tried to do something a little different and riskier that didn't follow traditional rules. And I do know what those rules are. Maybe I didn't succeed at breaking them, but I would rather have failed here trying to do something different, as being unique would be my primary way of standing out in this genre.

    I hope you don't think that all this time I was arguing that you should've made an "empty genre exercise". Nor do I think that my examples of The Terminator, Alien, The Thing, Blade Runner are examples of "empty genre exercises"

    No, I revere those movies as much as anyone. I meant empty for me. I can't write anything without putting myself into it. If I come up with a story concept, I find it hard to get excited about it and start writing unless I have some personal connection to the themes and characters. Otherwise it ends up feeling empty. I know because I've done it.

    Honest question - why did you pick sci-fi at all? You have a very emotional, human concern here. Why not address it straight on, here on Earth, with actual Human Beings?

    Because I love the genre. Tackling it straight on isn't that interesting to me. My two favourite films, or should I say, the two films that most made me want to become a filmmaker are Raiders of the Lost Ark and Taxi Driver. Those movies couldn't be more different, and my approach as a filmmaker I think is to merge those two sides of my brain, the pure genre film with the personal statement film. Maybe that won't work. I'd like to try. I can afford to risk doing so. While this film was an insane amount of work, I didn't go into debt making it.

    The question of locus of interest - where is the greatest interest in your film? It's split six ways from Sunday - way too fragmented. Alien civilization - Derelict - Guardian - Humans (Coroner, Shelter Lady etc.) - Alien Subjects (who are being collected)... and all pretty evenly split.

    I don't think it's that evenly split. I think the two threads are The Derelict and The Coroner and every sub story branches off from there. But I do like stories that do this. Michael Mann's Heat was a film I looked at when thinking about this film, and he splits his focus between the cops and robbers and spending a lot of time with the tertiary characters.
    "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog


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    I still think that you set yourself a much harder task when you tackle those concerns (loss) through the genre of sci-fi. It's not impossible for sure, but at that point you need to be particularly focused on limiting the locus of interest so you avoid external considerations. To give just one example - you are exploring the pain of losing someone close to you... in this context having the audience think about something totally disconnected from it, an alien civilization that's governed by a collective thought is just completely external to that. I'd have skipped all that - with a drama you're dealing with human beings, that's it... why introduce alien civilizations here at all? Loss of psychological focus. Again, I'm not saying it's not possible to explore such deeply human issues through the genre of sci-fi, it certainly has been done very successfully, just at that point you must be absolutely focused on cutting down on the locuses of interest and eliminating totally stuff that's 100% non-relevant.

    Because I love the genre. Tackling it straight on isn't that interesting to me. My two favourite films, or should I say, the two films that most made me want to become a filmmaker are Raiders of the Lost Ark and Taxi Driver.


    That's a little bit at an angle - I've never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark classified as belonging to the sci-fi genre - on IMDB, Wikipedia etc. it's "action/adventure" and I've seen "action/fantasy", but anyhow what's very notable about that film is that it's much more focused on the elements of action-adventure-plot. It's not human emotions - it's not a philosophical film, the way f.ex. the definitely sci-fi genre Blade Runner is. Blade Runner really is a meditation on what it means to be human - can "androids/robots" be human, if they share our emotions, even love, can a human be in a love relationship to a robot? Can we really treat them as slaves? What are our responsibilities in creating such beings? There isn't much action in Blade Runner. It's the opposite with Raiders - there is no meditation or philosophy, not much exploration of the human condition, it's pretty much "action, adventure, fantasy". I could see someone who was impacted formatively by the philosophical kinds of sci-fi movies saying to themselves "yeah, I can explore human loss through sci-fi" - but you were impacted formatively by a very non-mediatative film RoTLA. Taxi Driver is a different kettle of fish, but you referenced sci-fi in Derelict, and the formative film that's most sci-fi adjacent between the (TD and RoTLA) is of course RoTLA... a very non-meditative film. I'd have thought you'd say Blade Runner, given your predilections, but I'd have guessed wrong

    Anyway, I think it's time to get back to Derelict. What I see in many indie movies - most really - is the filmmakers focused on the mechanics of storytelling. There are hints of this in Derelict too. The filmmaker is intent on telling us "the story" and so they feel they need to lay down the plot step by step - usually all very mechanical - as if they're just stepping stones to their key concerns. The man is "sad" to lose his wife - so we show him with pictures of the wife in happier days, maybe he's handling some object of sentimental value, the "sad music" swells, and so on (I'm talking about films in general, not limited to Derelict). It's all paint by numbers. It's meant to "convey information". This really kills a movie and makes everything feel perfunctory and like we've seen it all a million times. Instead, a mature filmmaker understands that the audience has seen these things and doesn't need to see them more. S/he trusts that the audience is smart enough not to need to be spoonfed pre-fab scenes, interchangeable in every film, to "convey information" - they've been around, that "information" is not necessary most of the time.

    The whole meaning behind the exhortation of not doing dialogue or stuff in general "on the nose" is exactly an exhortation against such an approach. DON'T just "convey information". Tarantino built his whole career on this insight. An insight that completely eludes the vast majority of indie filmmakers. QT very conciously (as he said in interviews) - openend Reservoir Dogs with a roundtable conversation that had *nothing* to do with crimes or discussing "the job" or any of that nonsense. It was purely riffing on completely human concerns - perhaps revealing bits of personalities of the characters, but talking about ordinary things - in an entertaining fashion of course. That's a bold way of opening your movie. What would 99.9% of indies do instead? They'd have the discussion about "the job". Or their criminal lives. Or some other "step" in exposition of the plot. QT threw all that away - there was NO exposition in that dialogue. How refreshing! This is real life. Not "movie life" as seen in a million movies. And that's a huge WIN. And btw. it costs no money.

    And the same is true of everything, including "the plot" - the ostensible aims/goals/key objects, in Hitchcockian terms "the MacGuffin" is not necessarily the focus of the audience. In Reservoir Dogs, QT completely disregarded the actual "crime", the robbery. He focused on the interactions between characters, because that's where the fun was. The audience doesn't care about the particulars of the plot in, say, The Good The Bad and The Ugly - it's just fun to watch the characters interact. In film noir, it's fun to listen to snappy dialogue - the mechanics of the plot action is only an excuse to highlight those "fun" elements - or more accurately the "audience engaging elements".

    Now, ask yourself where Derelict falls. As scenes unfold, what's the point of them? Do they exist simply to advance the action, or are they an excuse to engage the audience Tarantino-style (I use Tarantino, but I mean any director of substance in any genre). If you focus on scenes that just advance the plot, you miss the whole point of the movie experience. In this view, such scenes are pretty much discardable, and so often don't even exist (like cutting out the actual robbery from RD). That was my biggest problem with Derelict - I was following scene after scene but they just told me stuff, I wasn't being engaged. When the coroner first talks to his assistant as they wash their hands, they were conveying plot info to me - stuff I could see with my own eyes, and didn't need to be told - I'd much rather hear a different conversation, perhaps an insight into who they are and how that could shape what follows. I'd like more oblique and deeper conversations between Derelict and people - not the expected stuff we all anticipate "how he doens't know basic things about the world, his own name etc." - a lot of time is wasted on stuff I already know, intuit, or don't need to be told. That creates two problems - boredom of the expected, and lack of time left over for interesting stuff. "Oh, but how can I convey my key points without giving all this basic info to the audience!" - aha! Now you asked "how can I be an artist". That's the challenge of filmmaking - as opposed to film-recording which is what most indies (and established filmmakers too!) do. My best advice would be to simply relax - you don't "need" to do anything; there are no scenes that need to be there to "inform the audience". Just relax and think of doing stuff that's interesting and only then figure out how to put it together. Take a lesson from successful novelists - the advice is "just skip all the boring stuff". JUST SKIP IT. The audience won't miss it. When a novel starts describing the weather and this and that, most readers skip it anyway - why not just, as a writer, hit "delete" on that passage? Because writers feel they "need" such an introduction. They don't. Again - Tarantino built his whole career on this insight - just do the fun parts; that's why he can do a movie that's not linear in time (RD or PF) - because who cares about being sequential, if it's more engaging to play with time, fine. If it's engaging to have a 5 page dialogue, do so. There are no rules, but one - engage the audience. If you sense something boring ahead - CUT IT - film is not like broccoli that you have to eat for your health, you don't have to have a scene just to "convey information", you don't have to start a story at the beginning; don't write scenes that are boring, but "needed for information" or "plot advancement". Relax, and play - and amaze and engage your audience. And none of that costs $.

    I don't think there is much point to discussing technical stuff, other than to say that I was not distracted by big blunders in lighting or camera work (and now I know the sound was not your fault) - it was thoroughly competently done... which on your budget is a big compliment.

    And again - congratulations on accomplishing a feature. For every thousand that talk, a hundred that start, only one finishes.

    Anyway, that's enough from me. I hope it is helpful, and if not, I apologize for my limitations. I have one question, if I may - are you based in LA? I had the impression for some reason that you're an Aussie, but I'm probably confusing folks - I'm not very good with screen-names (apologies!) - if you'd rather not answer, or send me a PM, that's fine too. Best of luck on your next film - you should keep working!


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    I've never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark classified as belonging to the sci-fi genre.

    I wasn't implying it was sci-fi, only a movie that is firmly entrenched in, and following the conventions of a specific genre, and that I'm attracted to telling personal stories within genre work.
    "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog


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    Quote Originally Posted by OldCorpse View Post
    I have one question, if I may - are you based in LA?
    Lived in LA for 20 years. Moved to Canada ten years ago for the sake of my family, as I can do my day job, editing, from anywhere with a high speed internet connection. I went back to shoot this movie there because I knew I'd have access to better actors, most of them being friends of mine I wrote the roles for, and other resources. I'll probably shoot my next movie up here though.
    "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog


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    Thanks, Batutta. I thought that the choice of LA for this story was a good one; yes, in many ways the story is universal, so not specific to LA, but the "derelict" aspect of it certainly fit in. And it makes sense re: actors. I can't imagine that Canada is lacking for actors though - there's enough of them so they export a ton to the U.S. anyway

    Best of luck, and thank you again for letting us see the film - I hope you get to shoot your next one soon!


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    Quote Originally Posted by OldCorpse View Post
    I don't think there is much point to discussing technical stuff, other than to say that I was not distracted by big blunders in lighting or camera work (and now I know the sound was not your fault) - it was thoroughly competently done... which on your budget is a big compliment.

    And again - congratulations on accomplishing a feature. For every thousand that talk, a hundred that start, only one finishes.
    Thanks, I appreciate you giving it so much consideration and sharing your thoughts. I am human, so I thought for sure this would make me want to curl up into a ball and cry, but I've been dealing with client notes for twenty years now so I'm oddly okay with your criticisms. I think so long as they are specific and considerate I can handle them. It's when they are vague and inarticulate that it drives me nuts.
    "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog


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