Stilldependent Films

"We're definitely not in Cannes anymore...actually, we've never been there."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CalArts Update! And Long Time No See!


Hey y’all,

It’s been awhile. I know. I’ve been lame. We’ve been lame. We’ve all been hopeless since our lynchpin and leader, Felipe, had to take some time off. We dropped the ball. Not cool.

So I thought I’d give you guys an update on what’s been happening with me, now that the school year is over and we’re going into summer, and maybe there are still some people out there who are wondering, hey, what’s going on with those super-awesome-wonderful-talented stilldependent folks (or something like that).

Personally, I’ve felt unable to catch my breath with all the stuff going on (it’s good to stay busy), and I’m not sure how to explain it all, but I guess I’ll start with the biggest stuff first.

I finished a rough cut of my first year film, “Taped,” which will screen this week with the rest of the Film Directing Program MFA 1 projects. It’s about a girl who works at a convenience store and becomes obsessed with her own image on the surveillance tapes. Eventually, she takes ownership of herself, rather than depending on her taped image to draw conclusions about her appearance and behavior.

It was a crazy, chaotic, educational experience to make this movie, and fun, too. I found a great Director of Photography, Jason Georgiades, who’s also in my FDP class. I found several extremely talented actors. Megan Rippey was the star of the film, and she was a pleasure to work with, I really owe a lot to her because she had many great ideas and she really carries the film. Also, I worked with Casey Jackson (who I live with in the grad dorms), Jim Giannini, an experienced actor in tv and film, and with Emma Green, Richard Pluim, and a favorite of all the StillDependents, Will Stahl.

Additionally, I got to rewrite a Western that I wrote last summer, after taking a class on the Western this semester, which was great. I actually feel informed about John Ford now. But I noticed something. Women really do not get a good place in the Western genre. I know, that seems obvious, but it’s even more poignant and disturbing when you watch a different film every week (and a good variety of styles and time periods) and all of them have that common theme. So my screenplay is an especially violent portrayal of a prostitute who gets revenge on these “cowboys” (though only the bad ones).

To keep this a reasonable length, I’ll just list what else I’ve been up to. If you’d like a full post on any of this, let me know in the comments and I’ll get on it right away. I’ve done sound (boom and mixing) for a couple projects for the awesome second year directors in my program, Giulia Caruso (for her project “Shooting Stars”) and Vivian Chen (for her project “Sidewalk Chalk”). I got my first opportunity to be a script supervisor (whoa they have a crazy job I didn’t even realize!) for Martha Williams’s project “Brandonville.” I worked as an Assistant Director as well for my classmate Jaymes Camery’s film “Time to Grow Up” (he’s also from Virginia, woo represent!).

This summer, I managed to land an unpaid internship at a Script Development Agency called Scenario, and I’m very excited to be A) working in West Hollywood and B) driving on Sunset Boulevard, and past the Chinese Theater, every day on my way to work.

On another positive note, I managed to get a good amount of grant money from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which will allow me to pay my rent and get around this summer instead of having to get another job to cover my expenses. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

Let me know if you guys are still reading! I will have more time to post this summer, I’ll let you know how my internship is, and I have lots still to say about my past year at CalArts!

If you'd like to check out what I've been up to, here's my youtube page:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cinematic Tourism: absurd stories about absurd times

Cabaret BalkanThis is the first installment of an occassional series in which we will survey the film landscape of particular nations around the world.  Today, Ivana Cvarkovic writes about growing up during the 1990's in the region formerly known as Yugoslavia and the most interesting films that managed to sprout from such a clusterfucked situation. 

Dear reader, if there's a particular country whose film tradition you are dying to inform the world about, then write to us at and we will arrange for your article to be published.

Take it away, Ivana...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Colin Firth: Inside The Actors Studio!


Hey y'all!

This is just a quick post to say that Colin Firth, winner of both the HFPA Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for Best Actor (for his role in The King's Speech), is on Inside the Actors Studio!

It's a great episode, as I know personally. I was lucky enough to score a seat at the taping, and geez is he as sexy, British, funny, and articulate in real life as he is in the movies.

Here's hoping he sweeps by winning for his Oscar nomination! And, if you haven't seen it, definitely check out The King's Speech. It's shot well, and Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush deliver wonderful performances in it.

Here's a link with more info:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A heartfelt "see you later, I hope" from Felipe

Valued readers:

For about a year and a half now, I have been pretending to be someone whose opinion on film making is at all relevant.  As of the time of publishing, you and I both know that I am not.  Since the inception of this website, I have made a handful of shitty videos for shitty contests.  I've put on my best "I'm a professional" face and underperformed while doing paid gigs for local advertisers and graduate students.  I even tried to write an adaptation that was gonna get pitched to pretend producers by a guy who's films I have never seen.  I didn't even finish that, either.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monthly Progress Report #1 (Jan.)


I made some resolutions at the end of last year and here I am, following them up. Don't give me too much credit, though, as it's only been a month.

Monthly goals? I met 1 out of 2, but there were extenuating circumstances (other than me being a lazy asshole).

Film vs. Video : The Soap Opera Effect

The other week, when Felipe and I were having our M Night Shyamalanathon, I kept remarking that the The Last Airbender looked weird. In fact, I specifically said that it resembled "a cutscene from a mid-90s Star Wars video game" or "a feature film made by the Mormon Church." I couldn't tell what the hell the problem was but, in short, it looked like Shyamalan had shot the movie on video. And not fancy new video that tried to look like film, but the most video-y video ever. The production values were high, no doubt, as was the quality of the images, but the motion of the images resembled that of classic 29.97 interlaced frame video. You know, like the stuff your camcorder used to shoot.

This was odd to me. Given the theme of the night, I just chalked it up to M Night Shyamalan making a weird creative decision. Then I checked online.
The Last Airbender was shot on film. This... made no sense. As someone who makes movies and is totally familiar with the differences (both technical and aesthetic) between film and video, I was thoroughly confused: shot on film, looks like video. Something in the chain of technology between the celluloid and my eyes must have been goofy. At first I thought it was the brand of TV. I googled "Sony TV looks weird." No dice. I gave up, engrossed in the complexity of Shyamalan's narrative (that was sarcasm).

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011 Movie Preview (or, what to see if you can't get into Transformers 3)


I'll admit it: a list looking ahead at the year's best offerings is almost futile. When I made last year's list (at my other website Saint Eliot & Co.), I chose 3 films that were later pushed back a year, 2 films that were eh, and 2 films that just plain stank. Only 3 I picked ended up being memorable (those were Inception, Black Swan, and Rabbit Hole). Many of the films that meant the most to me came out of nowhere or, more specifically, a little festival in Utah. Still, it's worth getting excited by a whole slew of new films, even if we risk disappointment. If last year was any indication, there are many poignant experiences still to be had in the dark of a movie theatre.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Best Viral Campaign Ever! (FRINGE FRIDAY!)


Yes, here I am again to promote my favorite (and hopefully not doomed) sci-fi series, which also doubles as a JJ Abrams update, since he created the show.

FRINGE, which is in its third season, has been seeing their ratings drop this season, and as punishment, or possibly a last ditch effort to maintain a solid audience for the show, FOX is moving it to Friday night, the legendary ‘death slot.’

“Why have its ratings dropped if it’s such a good show?” you may ask.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Raging Bull on the big screen = Raging Boner in my pants


For those of you in Chicago who have seen a horrible movie recently and are looking to cleanse your palate, I provide this free plug for the Martin Scorsese series at Doc Films in Hyde Park.  Is there anything better than DeNiro and Pesci screaming and punching each other on a giant screen?  From now until early March, every Wednesday night will feature a film by this veritable genius.  Notable, at least for me, are the Jan. 26 screening of Raging Bull and, of course, the Feb. 9 screening of Goodfella's

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Stilldependent Movie Night: The Last Airbender (Open thread inside!)

The moment has arrived, people!  Is it weird that I feel as though I'm about the watch the Super Bowl?  But try to think of a topic that has been chronicled better on this site than the track of M Night Shyamalan's career.  You can't. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

SAVE THE DATE: share with us the joy of ripping on M. Night's The Last Airbender--live!

Well, it's finally time to keep our promise and survey the wreckage of M. Night Shyamalan's career ourselves. We're inviting you to join us.  This coming Wednesday, January 12, at 10 pm US Eastern/9pm Central, we'll be hosting the first installment of what I henceforth will refer to as Stilldependent Movie Night, in which we'll watch a movie and discuss it in real time using the comments.  Mike and I will be reporting live from my living room, and you can follow along from home, starting the film right when we do, and comment along with us.  If none of you come, then I guess it'll just be Mike and I expressing our rage and disdain (what else is new?).  Although Mike still holds some hope that he'll like this movie, which will obviously lead him to bitter disappointment.  Myself, my expectations could not be lower.

We're live-blogging a static event that doesn't really exist in time and that's already been out for months.  How innovative! 

If this experiment doesn't totally suck, expect it to happen again. 

So go out and secure a copy of The Last Airbender in time for Wednesday night and let's have a good old fashioned movie night.  And please, be a gracious guest and bring some popcorn.  See you then!

It's time to hand out some Stilldies (2010 retrospective Roundup!)

 In this edition of the roundup, we look back at our highlights from 2010 and hand out some arbitrary awards.  Fun!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Selections from Alexander Mackendrick’s book On Filmmaking


One of the first faculty members for the CalArts Film Directing Program, Alexander Mackendrick, the director of films like The Sweet Smell of Success and The Ladykillers (original), has a great book called On Filmmaking.

Since we’re in the midst of talking about the creative process, I thought I’d share some sayings from a chapter he titles “Slogans for the Screenwriter’s Wall.”

These are literally on my wall now, and I read them to myself over and over again. They’re simple, and worth keeping in mind when trying to construct a story. This whole book is awesome, every chapter is full of suggestions to aspiring filmmakers, and they’re all pragmatic, with the pep talk, graphs, and neat tricks cut out.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Young Documentarians Take Note: Fair Use

FairUseThis is just a quick post to give everyone, especially documentary filmmakers, a heads up about fair use.

Over the past couple of decades, a clearance culture has built up, so that everyone is scared shitless that someone is going to sue their asses off if they include some copyrighted material in their movie without paying for it.
For example, you are making a documentary, and one of your characters is a kid, and while you are shooting with them, they put on their favorite cartoon. And maybe this cartoon is really important to them, and it's a scene you want to include in your movie. But you don't. Because you are just a young filmmaker with no budget, and you can't pay Time/Warner five thousand dollars to use a clip from their show and you're worried they'll sue the hell out of you if this ever gets in to festivals.

STOP. Use the clip. This is an example of Fair Use.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Video Collective


We here at Stilldependent Films have officially become a bit less dependent. We've relied on all sorts of people in the past: our families graciously funding our movies, our filmmaker friends helping us out with equipment needs, our former schools not noticing when we borrowed their gear... All of that changed yesterday when I pressed the 'Proceed to Checkout' button on the B and H website.

The Implications of Mise-en-Scene in Max Ophuls' Lola Montes

Lola Montes
In the sequence analysis I did for my midterm, I theorized that the sequence from Lola Montes that we were to analyze was essentially a demonstration on a microcosmic level of the film’s basic idea, that those who perform for a living—specifically those women who perform for a living, since Lola is female and essentially trades exclusively on her desirability to her audience, whether it be the men in the private life expressed through flashbacks, or the cardboard cutouts who make up her audience in her present day job as a circus attraction (as, for that matter, did the actress playing her, Martine Carol)—inevitably end up blurring the lines between performance and life, until one becomes indistinguishable from the other, the end result being a ruinous emotional confinement.

Open Forum X response: Working Conditions - A New Year's Resolution

Joe and Felipe both offer great takes on this important subject. Joe stresses internal working conditions over external ones while Felipe tries to replicate the conditions that have historically worked for him - long bus rides.

I feel I cannot offer a good alternative, due to the fact that this year - my first year out of college - I have not settled into any sort of productive groove. While I had plenty of new experiences, I disappointed myself with what I put out creatively. In fact, it's the thing I'm least satisfied with in my life right now.

Open Forum X response: Insomnia and Coffee are a Great Combination


My best bout of writing came last summer, when I wrote five feature-length screenplays and two one-hour drama tv specs (their quality is yet to be determined). So what did I do when I was writing last summer? 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Urban Space in Richard Linklater's Slacker and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing

In some ways the question of spatial representation in film is deceptively simple. It’s tempting just to think of cinematic space as either expansive or claustrophobic, and to a certain extent this can be taken as a baseline truth. But the implications of each extreme can differ on their own continuum, with its own extremes. Spatial expansiveness, in particular, can signify the opposite of what one would imagine; it can be the sign of some thematic or narrative liberty, or it can be paralyzing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Film in Review: Jake Teresi's Take


I think I'm losing my edge. There were years in which I'd defend an underrated film to the death. This year, my list seems to align with everyone else's. Am I turning into a cog?

This isn't, by any means, a definitive list. There are a bunch films I regret not seeing - Blue Valentine, Another Year, Vincere, The Ghost Writer, Restrepo, Rabbit Hole, The Illusionist - and one that I was half-asleep for, Winter's Bone, which I surmised might be really great.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

CalArts Guest Artist Workshop: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and


We got pretty lucky for one of our Guest Artist Workshops this quarter, cause Joseph Gordon-Levitt (from movies such as Inception, (500) Days of Summer, Brick, and the tv show "3rd Rock from the Sun") came to visit and talk with us at CalArts. It was especially impressive that he came out, too, because very recently his brother died, so he was dealing with that as well.

But if you’re here to read about how awesome it was working on Inception, that’s not what I’ll be talking about in this post, cause that’s not what he talked about. What he did talk about was his website/production company/collaboration thingy,

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Open Forum X Response: Brain space

BrainSpace"Letter to Someone Trying to Make Art"
(Letter from My Current Conscious to My Future Subconscious)

You are alone.
There is no one telling you what to do, but there is also no one holding your hand.
Everything you have learned, heard, read or seen is useless until you apply it in your own way. Every structure around you, everyone you collaborate with or workshop with, can only help after you produce something to work with.
This means total responsibility.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Real life crime now immitates art

So this black guy in Ohio was arrested, accused of committing a series of bank robberies, one of which was pictured to the right.  Six of seven tellers identified him.  His own mother identified him from this photograph.  Except it wasn't him who did it, you RACIST.  It was a white guy, using a really expensive special effects mask that was custom-made for him in California.  Like those masks from Mission Impossible, except that now they're possible and very much real and very much used for crimes. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Open Forum X: In search of the ideal working setup

WorkingSetUpLately there's been lots of talk around here concerning goals, and work ethic, and resolutions.  Lofty and admirable talk, but so hard to put into practice, at least for me, judging by my so far disastrous results.

I can't think of better way to end the year, as we write up our new year's resolutions, than to trade tips on what makes a productive working environment.  Open Forum!

Keep in mind that we're honing in on personal working environments (where you do your writing, editing, storyboarding, etc.) as opposed to collective environments (so save your "try to find a workplace where M. Night Shyamalan isn't insulting your intelligence by making you flesh out his idiotic ideas" for a later discussion).  Does your creativity and work ethic reach full throttle by the pool?  In your attic?  At work?  At night?  During the morning?  Why do you think this works?  We want to hear it all. 

Put that script you've been working on aside and waste some time with us talking about being productive.  First off, I discuss buses.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Children are Art Poison

I'm not planning to have children. I believe that children will voraciously consume my time and energy, thus ending any dreams or aspirations I might have. I have always believed this, but now I think I have confirmation. Let me explain.

I recently got a puppy. Direct your eyes to the photo at right. That's my dog, Betty, eating a stuffed Chicago-style hotdog. Now, I'm aware that a puppy and a baby are not the same thing. Puppies are cuter. Puppies eat dog food. Puppies don't go to college. There are many differences, I know. Point is, raising a puppy is probably easier than raising a child, and my brief experience as a puppy dad has taught me that children will use their soft, brown, puppydog eyes to murder my art.