Thursday, June 21, 2012

Indie Filmmakers on Digital Filmmaking

Recently, at the Produced By Conference on the Sony Lot in Culver City, director Christopher Nolan said that he will definitely not be making a fourth Batman movie, and he believes that digital filmmaking is “devaluing of what we do as filmmakers.”

The Dark Knight Rises director’s comments sparked an avalanche of commentary. One responded with “…Admire Nolan for his stance…it is one, however, that will be lost in the long run… the benefits from technology are often good yet this technology leaves a toxic trail in its path….because [they] think it is less costly than film… not necessarily better for the shoot… just cheaper.”

Nolan was quick to dismiss those who praise the low cost of digital filmmaking… So I decided to check in with a few of our Latino indie filmmakers to ask them what they thought of Nolan’s lack of love for digital.

JoJo Hendricksen
“I think Chris Nolan,” said JoJo Hendricksen, writer of Ladron que Roba a Ladron and writer/co-director of GB2525, “can certainly afford that opinion but at my level, I can't. I'm extremely grateful for the many breakthroughs digital filmmaking has had on the entertainment industry. It's allowed myself and many other people with tiny micro 'not Batman Rises,' budgets to tell their stories and in the end isn't that what filmmaking is all about… the telling of a good story?”

When I mentioned that Nolan said that using digital, “is reducing most theaters to showing TV commercials…. comparing video, like television,” Hendricksen countered with: I watched Nolan’s Inception, which was shot on 35mm and I was still confused!”

Patricia Cunliffe, filmmaker and journalist (A Language of Passion, The Pueblo Revolt) thinks Chris Nolan is an excellent filmmaker, who has had a very unique and fortunate situation. “His [Nolan] access to the family camera at a young age and although, he claims that he never went to film school, he was still making 16mm films through the Film Society at University College. Chris Nolan began using film [from the start] and is in an enviable position to say whatever he wants and to shoot on whatever he pleases.”

Patricia Cunliffe

Cunliffe added, “This is a great time to be making films, because digital technology has helped to level the playing field across the board. This is the first time in the history of movies, that people who are not especially well-connected, or do not have an abundance of resources, are still able to tell their stories on an affordable medium, and to have them accessible for viewing in a variety of ways beyond the traditional. In fact, filmmakers are being much more creative in their methods of storytelling because of the digital medium. Yes, film is beautiful, but the bottom line is still about story. Is your story engaging? In my opinion, it is the content that matters most...not what medium it was shot on.”

Miguel Najera
Independent filmmaker/writer/actor Miguel Najera is as nostalgic for the purity of film as Nolan.  

“Its beauty is still unmatchable by digital,”said Najera. But he understands the change. “Look, I started out cutting film on flatbeds but do I want to go back to that? Even 35mm film is digitized today for easier editing and it took only a few years to move on to digital cameras. The quality isn't perfect but the reality is most kids under 25 already live in a digital world and don't understand what all the fuss is about. I disagree with Nolan when he says they are just 'video' movies. Like any medium it’s how you use it to tell great stories. What Nolan needs to do is be a part of improving the medium not complaining.  Somebody ought to put some of the new cameras in his hands, take away his budget and see what he comes with.” Najera's credits include his award-winning indie Libertad and Dancing on the Edge, won the Outstanding Documentary at the IMAGEeNation Film Festival. His AIDS documentary Phillip's Story, also was a film festival favorite. 

“No one would argue that film captures a layer of mood,” commented a filmmaker at the Produced By Conference, “that is lacking with digital, can enhance a feeling you’d take away from watching, but does that ultimately matter in today’s world of entertainment?”  I don’t think so with the new way of how we watch movies: ipad, plasma, LEDs, PC, etc.

And, all three directors agreed that there is no way that any of them would give up turing their stories into movies simply because they do not have the money to shoot on film.

At the end of the day, film or digital, it is like JoJo Hendricksen said, “it is the story that matters.”

Check out JoJo Hendricksen’s website for his GB2525 film:

Indie Filmmakers on Digital Filmmaking
2012 ©, All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 14, 2012

TNT’s “Dallas”Verdict: A Hit! 2 Patas Up!

Best English-Language Telenovela Ever!

Hollywood, CA—I decided to watch last night’s premiere of TNT’s Dallas revival with a bit of trepidation because I am so tired of network executive snobs turning their noses up on fresh and new ideas especially Latino themed storylines. I wasn’t thrilled about another failed remake by the network vultures who are clueless as to the viewing audience—the Generation X’ers who now make up the center of the coveted adults 18-49 demographic.

So when I made myself cozy and comfy in bed, I watched not as a critic or a frustrated Latina working in the entertainment industry, no I watched strictly for entertainment reasons. I was happy that the show had cast a couple of Latinos in significant roles-- Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos) and Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos-- who play daughter and mother respectively.

Jordana Brewster

As a self-proclaimed expert of the original Dallas, I felt sufficiently confident I would know instantly if this new century greed loving-cheating-lying-scheming-psycho-women loving- men loving show was true to its legacy….

And, Yes! WooHoo! This viewer was entertained and addicted enough to stay up for the second hour! I breathed a sigh of relief the instant I realized this new show was being true to the original.

TNT’s Dallas opened nostalgically embracing the past. I didn’t think of the show as a remake but rather as a sequel, as another reviewer mentioned. This new show brings back three original cast members (Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray) from the super-hit CBS original soap and they play prominent roles in the new one. I’m not sure if the new show would be as appealing if the three originals were not present. It would have felt like how I felt watching Hawaii 5-O (CBS)... cheated.

The new Dallas telenovela unfolds with the introduction of John Ross Ewing (Josh Henderson) and Christopher Ewing (Jesse Metcalfe) who have are perfectly cast as JR and Bobby Ewing’s sons. Both handsome young men are chips off the old block. Their loves are Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), the Ewing long-time cook’s daughter and who was once engaged to Christopher and is now with John Ross. Then there is the sweet Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo), Christopher’s bride… but don’t let her sweet demeanor fool you, there’s a lot more here than meets the eye.

My niece, who is here from Mexico visiting for a few weeks, was absolutely captivated! She speaks just sufficient English to understand. She never saw the original version but loved where the storyline is heading. It was interesting to get a Spanish-language viewer’s feedback. She’s hooked! Listen up, TNT marketing executives, here’s another demographic you can tap into: Spanish-language viewers! They love telenovelas! Trust me, they’ll understand it enough to get hooked!

The new story works because the show catches up with the original Kane and Able brother rivalry. Seeing J.R. and Bobby again brought back many memories, not just of the show, but also of my life during the 80’s… a time dealing with so much backbiting, office politics, envy… Ah, but that is a story for another time.

In the series premiere, John Ross (Henderson) is secretly drilling for oil on Southfork—a Ewing family absolute sin that dates back 100 years. Uncle Bobby (Duffy), who inherited the ranch and has hopes to turn it over to a land conservancy, blows a gasket when he finds out and orders the drilling stopped. And, the legal war begins on the day Bobby’s adopted son Christopher (Metcalfe) is getting married.

John Ross is exactly like his father JR, greedy, conniving, will stop at nothing to win or get his way or get any woman he wants. Christopher, on the other hand is like his father, a good man who is looking for a breakthrough in alternative energy.  The green factor is woven into storyline… that’s good. Christopher, however, doesn’t agree with his dad’s conservation plans. Not yet, any how.

The show promises to sizzle in a love triangle that I wish had held back a little in the premiere. Refreshing and beautiful is Jordana Brewster who plays Elena, the daughter of the Ewings’ cook Carmen (Forte). Elena grew up on Southfork and is educated and loves mining for oil. As an engineer she has set her sights on land leases she believes will yield her oil to take her and her mom to new heights (financially that is).  Although the women play an important part like the original series, it is the men the storyline is centered on. It will be interesting to see how these young Ewing sons develop without being clones of their father.
Marlene Forte

Can’t wait to see what other twists and turns this new Dallas has in store for its faithful fans. This “sequel” is built with a potent addictive soap-hooking storylines and new characters that do not embarrass their predecessor.

Latinowood’s buzz for Dallas 2012 is “Southfork never looked better!” Especially with Jordana Brewster and Marlene Forte and all the other Latinos on the show!

I would be remiss not to mention Executive Producer, Cynthia Cidre (Cane/CBS), another Latina who from behind the scenes gives us hope for purity of storyline when ever it concerns Latinos. Oh, and one more thing, for any complaints about another Latina cast in a domestic (maid/cook) role, well, baby you're in Texas working with billionaires... I bet our Carmen Ramos makes a fat six-figures, carries an American Express Platinum card, and will probably later reveal she owns some of Ewing stock. Not concerned that this character is suffering too much with her image.

Dallas broadcasts Wednesday nights, 9 p.m. on TNT.