Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Sparkies: My awards for 2005

Personally, 2005 has been great fun and what's more, I made it to Finally. Like practically everyone else. I had about five minutes of screen time in six movies that came out this year. About three minutes and 50 seconds were in "Slow Down ... You're Dating Too Fast" by M. David Lee III, and under a minute was spent on the Hurra Torpedo documentary/misadventure. So that gives you some perspective on everything else.

I do want to thank everyone who helped make those four minutes as much fun as Poor Monkey's jook joint in the Delta on a Saturday night. I can't possibly thank everyone, but let me highlight some of the folks that made this year memorable:

David Lee's dedication and love of movies was manifested in the "Slow Down ..." saga. He gave a lot of local actors a lot of leeway and good material and we all have to thank him for that. It was so grueling, however, that he took a job in New York City so he could, uh, slow down. He let me write my part, that of the incomprehensibly overprepared Farnsworth Kuhl, so here's to you, David. Also thanks to Mandy Lane for being opposite me and for being incredibly gifted and gracious.

John Harvey is a talented young director at U of M and we're all eagerly awaiting his short graduate student project "Across the River." As for me, I got to point a Sig Sauer at my head. I'm pretty sure it wasn't loaded. Dennis Phillippi and Ric Chetter (Rock 103 guys in the cast) were supposed to check it for me, but they left.

Bevan Bell's "Divine Manipulation of the Threads" oughta be one terrific feature. His colorful blog details how to put together a movie on weekends with the added benefit that you can learn from his mistakes. Apparently he makes many of them. As for me, I got to wrestle Bevan to the ground.

Kris and Natalie Boyatt's "Rookie Bookie" told a grim story that should be a lesson to us all: stay away from high stakes gambling, especially if you're Ralph Hatley. As for me, I got to glare at J.W. Williams in the High Point Pinch.

Thanks to James Mangold for letting me wear Folsom prison blues for 14 hours, shuffling around with no belt and no shoelaces, while Joaquin Phoenix warbled "Cocaine Blues" all day long. You might be able to see me in one of those long shots, but I'm not sure.

Big thanks to Ira Sachs for his thoughtful "Forty Shades of Blue," a work that dares to dispense with chase scenes and glamor, relying instead on examining relationships as they slowly shatter. As for me, I got to gesticulate like an idiot while chatting with Rip Torn.

A special thanks to Craig Brewer, although I've never gotten a thing in any of his productions. I was supposed to read for him for "Black Snake Moan," but two days beforehand, I got a call saying the part had already been cast. Obviously a terrible mistake. But the fact is that Craig is riding one helluva roller coaster going from doing what he wanted to do when he was, shall we say, poor and hungry and then finding that fame brings not only major H'wood deals but also major H'wood interference. He's had heaps of criticism piled on him, a significant amount of which came from people who just can't bear for others to succeed. Ultimately, however, you only have to understand that he's doing what his creative self needs to do. His stories about Memphis are vivid and textured and powerful. May he never stop.

A big thanks to Robert Saba, who'll take out your heart and stomp on it to get his films made. He's young and driven and is compelled to make movies. He put together "Delusions," a dark and gritty tale, over just a few weekends. He inspired his actors and crew to give everything to the project and it paid off in a film that is the more remarkable since it cost a mere $500 to make. His goal is to use that film to interest investors in other projects. He's one to watch. As for me, I got to do a sex scene in "Delusions" and fortunately for viewers, I was practically invisible.

Keenon Nikita's film "Just the Two of Us" is one of the most anticipated indie films coming in 2006. It's autobiographical, telling a compelling story about him and his daughter. There is some exceptional talent in this production as well, and I'm not just talking about myself. But since we are talking about me, I have a scene as a doctor who ... well, Keenon doesn't want me to say. Plan to see this one.

Large performing thanks to Muck Sticky who, having heard me do "They're Coming to Take Me Away" in karaoke one night, had the foresight to invite me to perform it on the New Daisy stage during the Muck Sticky Revue, and the wisdom to not ask me to do it again.

Edward Valibus Phillips of Corduroy Wednesday Productions was kind enough to cast me in his production of "Grim Sweeper." It's a fascinating psychological study and has some fine young talent working on it. As for me, I get to be a priest offering some wise counsel. Yes, I know you're all saying I'm perfect for that role.

David S. Merrill was instrumental in getting me that nice gig with the Hurra Torpedo documentary. It was quick, it was improv, it paid a little and it was a blast. And it's all about putting film work on the Internet as the primary medium.

Purest thanks to my brother Forrest Pruett for being relentlessly in love with film. He's there in sickness and in health, devoted, inspirational, good humored, forward thinking. He wants everyone else to work too (he also helped get me that Hurra Torpedo action) -- that's why he started Actors First agency. And just wait till you get a load of his thriller, "Inherit the Earth." He is one dark pussycat.

A particularly special thanks to Amber O'Daniels who is, among many other things, a teacher of the Meisner method and refreshing burst of inspiration. She helped dissipate the creative fog and allowed me to observe. "Someone to Call My Clone" is a short film I wrote and helped put together with members of our Meisner class. It would not have been possible without Amber.

There is another special thanks to Tom Walter, who retired in 2005 as the reporter covering TV and radio for the CA. I got the idea of doing a mockumentary for Tom that would interview his co-workers and folks he'd covered over the years. I had no idea I was in way over my head. I figured it would be a modest 10-minute riff and roast -- instead it was a 40-minute production interviewing about 30-plus people, including Joe Birch, Dave Brown, Mike Fleming, the Wake Up Crew and many others. I weighed in as a TV reporter of the Mike Matthews school of doom. It was a helluva project and got the best review of all from Tom himself, who spent about 40 minutes rolling on the floor in stitches. It was an inside job, but one I am pleased with.

Finally, there is the primo figure of my small personal acting adventure. I especially want to thank the man who gets it: Red West. With a special salute to his family, Pat and John Boyd.

As for me, I'm looking forward to 2006.

Looking back and looking ahead

In many ways, 2005 was like being made to watch "3000 Miles from Graceland" over and over. On the other hand, 2005 was like being able to get away from that Kevin Costner disaster and check out the excellent real-life adventures of the scrappy Memphis movie scene. All of you can recite the Big Moments but allow me to refresh your recollection: Ira Sachs' "40 Shades of Blue" taking the big prize at Sundance, Craig Brewer's "Hustle and Flow" taking the other big prize at Sundance and "Walk the Line" being released to delirious reviews. But wait, there's more! There was the Elvis miniseries on CBS, a presence of Memphis and Memphis actors in "Elizabethtown" and then the "Black Snake Moan" shoot that kept things hopping in town.

That's only the Hollywood component; it's also been a lively year for local independent productions. Morgan Jon Fox seized on the controversial "Love in Action" group that claims to be able to turn gays straight. Fox's documentary, "What Does Love In Action Look Like," was screened at Indie Memphis and remains an ongoing project. Kentucker Audley’s film "Bright Sunny South" took Best Local Feature honors at the Indie Memphis Film Fest, and has been selected to screen at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival. "Act One" from Old School Pictures won Best Narrative Feature in the Hometowner category of Indie Memphis. Some of the other projects that made it to screening included "Delusions" by controversial director Robert Saba who had the cast improv the feature in John Cassavetes style; "Slow Down ... You're Dating Too
Fast" by M. David Lee III, which featured a large ensemble of area talent; touted young director Ben Siler's "Prom Queen"; Kris and Natalie Boyatt's "Rookie Bookie" (New Bridge Films) starring J.W. Williams played at the Memphis International Film Festival as well as the Appalachian Film Fest, the Magnolia Film Fest and the Tupelo Film Festival.

Production started and is continuing on many others, including "Divine Manipulation of the Threads" by Rusted Sun's Bevan Bell; "Just the Two of Us" by Keenon Nikita; Grim Sweeper by Edward Valibus Phillips and John Harvey's short "Across the River."

This wasn't intended to be a complete list. And that's great news for the local film scene, that there are so many things going on that it's tough to keep track. Meanwhile, other efforts have come about to make the most of Memphis movies. Two web sites have evolved to keep track of what's going on: the excellent that is mandatory for anyone in movies, music and any of the arts in and around town. It's got news, a calendar of events, showcase videos and a directory of folks involved in creative Memphis. And of course this immodest blog known as Memphis Cool Movies, really more of a bulletin board of info about auditions and links to relevant news items and such. You're here now, and I thank you.

The biggest issue was and is whether Tennessee will enact legislation to offer incentives to filmmakers the way Louisiana has done it. Louisiana has been raking in the money by luring movie and TV people to the state. Not even Katrina could much slow down the effort as productions moved from battered New Orleans to Shreveport which is still churning out entertainment. Tennessee cannot hope to stay in the game without competitive incentives. Linn Sitler of the Memphis and Shelby County Film and Television Commission has been working hard to bring this about at the state level. A deal allowing "Black Snake Moan" to use The Pyramid was a nice coup, but it was only a one-time event. Gov. Phil Bredesen formed a committee to gather facts and opinions on the benefits and intricacies of offering incentives and the committee has been touring the state. A report will be given to the General Assembly in a few weeks and that's when the lobbying begins. As much as it seems a no-brainer to allow incentives that more than pay for themselves, the fact is that it's all politics and many legislators will have to be convinced.

We may even have to offer them parts in our films. But that may be OK -- some of them have proven to be enormously entertaining.

That means that 2006 will be a huge year for moviemaking here. If competitive incentives are passed, the landscape will change overnight as it did in Louisiana. If not, then talent will be lured away and the state can forget about hosting a significant number of major productions.

But the indie spirit will thrive as it has been for years. "Delusions," for example, was made over a few weekends for $500. Indie directors are shooting when and where they can with whatever resources they can beg and borrow. Local crew and actors are game to help out to get some experience and be part of a lively creative spirit.

Stanley Kubrick was once asked by a young hopeful how to get into the movie making business. Kubrick replied: "Go make movies."

So go already.

Extras needed -- paying positions

Actors First is looking for actors/extras for the local film - "Lovely By Surprise." This is paying.

Please contact Forrest Pruett at 382-3305 for dates and times or contact Actors First.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

State incentives

Memphis Biz Journal takes a look back at 2005:
"This has been one of our biggest years," says Memphis & Shelby County film commissioner Linn Sitler. But it's an upswing that is bound to take a nosedive if action is not taken in Nashville in 2006, she says. For three years, the Memphis & Shelby County Film Commission has fought to get the state Legislature to implement incentives for filmmakers to come to Tennessee. Other states already have such incentives, and competition is growing ever tighter.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The way of the future

The latest Slate article on Hollywood economics gives us a clue:
The small screen—which includes computers, portable DVD players, and iPods as well as televisions—provides 85.6 percent (of movie studios' revenues).

Premiere of a Ben Siler film this week

“Prom Queen,” a half-hour short from -- according to the CA -- Memphis’ most promising emerging filmmaker, Ben Siler, is 8 p.m. Thursday (29th) at the MeDiA Co-op at First Congo, 1000 South Cooper. The film, as tantalizingly described in the CA, "is a series of eccentrically cropped snapshot-like video images accompanied by odd captions or slogans. The result is not so much a biography of its title character (played by Katherine Dohan of the band Scandaliz Vandalistz) as a geography of the dreaded East Memphis-Germantown nexus as experienced by clever young people preparing for the bittersweet separation of college life."

Also on the bill is the Kentucker Audley short “Bright Sunny South,” named the best local short film at the 2005 Indie Memphis Film Fest and almost featuring Memphis Cool in a scene that was, tragically, deleted.

Admission is $5. Visit

Friday, December 23, 2005

Meisner reminder

The next Meisner for the Creative classes start in less then one month and there are still 11 spots left. The cost is a paltry $100 for an eight-week class. Make the commitment and change your life. Contact Amber O'Daniels at

Let us all hustle together

Thanks to Preston Johnson for forwarding this view of some of the best ensemble work last year.
(Not counting those of us in "Slow Down ... You're Dating Too Fast).

Why all the remakes?

This Slate article gives us a clue:

What's the attraction of remakes, and how do they get made? King Kong, The Producers, and Fun With Dick and Jane are each representative of a different kind: Those fueled by a powerful cheerleader; those riding on the coattails of a previous success; and those that are repurposed simply because the studio can.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Film Families debuts with Lil' Film Fest

You know about the exceptional local movie/music/art site, right? And if you haven't been checking it regularly, you're gonna have to now.

Sarah Fleming and Christopher Reyes have put together "Memphis Film Families: The Source for Memphis Film News and Information" on the site and you'll need to go there at least as often as you come to memphis . cool . movies.

It's got news, a calendar of upcoming events and links. And there's an announcement of what should be the first of many quarterly "Lil' Film Fests." The theme for the first one is the implosion of
Baptist Memorial Hospital. Rules are: each film submission must contain footage of BMH imploding, films are 5 minutes max and deadline is Feb. 28. The winner gets $100 and a spot in next year's Memphis Indie Festival.

Sarah and Christopher are taking excellent advantage of the burgeoning indie movement in Memphis. As Key, that sage of "Hustle & Flow" said,
There are two types of people: those that talk the talk and those that walk the walk. People who walk the walk sometimes talk the talk but most times they don't talk at all, 'cause they walkin'."

Sarah and Christopher are walkin'.

Brooks movie coming

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art will screen a new documentary, "Music From the Inside Out," Thursday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m. Selected by the International Documentary Association as one of the top documentaries of 2005, "Music From the Inside Out" is an inspirational exploration of music through the stories, the passion, and the artistry of world-class musicians of every genre. Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s musical director David Loebel will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterwards.

"Music From the Inside Out" is the result of a five-year collaboration between Oscar-nominated filmmaker Daniel Anker and the 105 musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In an exhilarating 90-minute journey, the film explores the mystery and magic of the musical experience, weaving together an eclectic mix of musical performance and personal reflections. Whether onstage at the symphony hall or playing bluegrass or salsa at a local bar, these musicians embody the art of living as well as performance.

Cost for the film will be $6 for Brooks members and $8 for non-members. Tickets will be available on the day of the film. For more information, call 544-6208.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Time to party

Thanks to our social director and sublime actor Forrest Pruett for making this happen:

C H R I S T M A S P A R T Y !!!

It's beginning to look, sound, and feel like Christmas! So here one last chance to get together and toast each other before the fat man slides down the chimney.

A lot of my fellow actors are getting together for our own Actors Christmas Party. Feel free to put on your Santa caps or reindeer antlers, cause when we get together it's guaranteed to be a fun night. We're starting our night ...

Thursday Dec 22nd

7 p.m. at Willie Moffat's in Bartlett, 2779 Whitten Rd. 386.2710

THEN some of us will move over to sing karaoke at --

10 p.m. at Flashbacks, 5703 Raleigh-Lagrange, 383-7330

You're invited to show up and recap the year of acting and discuss the new year ahead. This will be a party, but its also a great place/time to find out who's doing what and when.

Big Studios and little movies

Here's a fascinating look at Paramount's acquisition of DreamWorks. It's the latest in the Slate series on Hollywood Economics and is an instructive look at what drives the movie business. It is not, in case you wondered, creativity.

Preston Johnson wonders what impact this acquisition might have on "Black Snake Moan." "If Paramount had a skimpy slate of films for the next year or so," he says, "and if BSM was one of them, and if they thus bought DreamWorks in order to have more product, does this mean BSM (a relatively inexpensive film) will be more likely to get lost in the shuffle, ignored in favor of other, higher-profile releases?"

What do you think?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Give an actor a break

Here's an invitation from Amber O'Daniels on a free Meisner workshop Tuesday:

Dec 20th at 7:30 there will be a free Meisner workshop at the Media Co-Op.
(It's free, but donations to the Media Co-Op are always appreciated).

About the workshop:

Recently I have received e-mails from parents looking for a class for their talented children. While I have taught all age groups this method, this particular class is only open for ages 16 and up. I think this workshop would be a wonderful opportunity for parent and teenage to check out what I am doing and see if this is the workshop they both agree on. If there are parents out there who have a child who is say 12 and they feel that adult language is nothing new, check this workshop out. I would allow a child under 16 to be part of the class, but only with parental approval, and only if the parent talks with me first. Because this workshop just scratches the surface it is relatively safe for all age groups, although, adult language might be used. I strongly encourage curious teens and parents to attend.

This is a workshop that gives a synopsis of what the entire class is about. Each time I offer a class I try to give a free workshop so that people know what they are getting or figure out what they want. I only wish all classes had a free workshop before I signed up for it. I know for a fact I would not have taken my child psych class at U of M (gosh was that a bad class).
This is your chance as a possible student to see what I do and to ask all sorts of questions before committing to an eight week class. It is also a way for me to get the message out there in hopes of filling up the next class.

What should you plan on for this workshop: plan to get some basic information about the class, plan to have some fun, and plan on ... it being free (unless you bring a donation).

Even if you think you will not be able to come to the actual class but you can make it to the workshop, great! Come to the workshop.

For more information check out (click on the Meisner link) or

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Off topic: Are you a blogger?

There's a get-together of bloggers in the area on Wed., Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. at Quetzal. It's informal and social for people who like to post. It's open to anyone who has a blog, a Livejournal or a MySpace page, or any other blog-like website. The space is wi-fied, so you can bring your laptop and do liveblogging.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Black Snake Moan update

Stuff you mostly already know from a story in IGN FilmForce:

By Steve Head
December 14, 2005 - You'd think the former *NSYNC star would hit a few notes in his first major movie, which happens to be about one man's love for the blues. But that's not the case with Black Snake Moan, director Craig Brewer's follow-up to Hustle & Flow. Brewer tells IGN FilmForce, Timberlake "doesn't sing. He gives a terrific acting performance. He's really someone that I've always wanted to work with. He's done a fantastic job on my movie. I'm really excited that we're working together now."

The real shining star of Black Snake Moan is Samuel L. Jackson. "He sings and plays his own guitar," says Brewer. "He also recorded his own tracks."

As for the particulars of the story, "it's about this older, black Memphis bluesman who has kind of been retired and he's now returned," says Brewer. "He kind of helps this girl. He finds this one white, redneck girl, who is kind of like the town floozy. He kind of nurses her back to health. He believes it's kind of curing her nymphomania. That's Christina Ricci, and her boyfriend is played by Justin Timberlake. He's in the Guard and he's going off to Iraq. Justin's from Memphis, as am I. And he's just terrific in the part. I really can't go into much more detail about it."

After receiving critical acclaim for the rap-based rawness of Hustle & Flow, Brewer says the same music-loving intensity will propel Black Snake Moan. "I thought it was about time to do a real blues movie. The kind of blues that I know. A blues movie that really reflects the blues music, where I'm from. It's got a lot more sex in it, a lot more anger, a lot more raw emotion to it. You know, a lot like rap."

Having completed principal photography, Brewer is currently editing Black Snake Moan in Los Angeles. "It's going pretty good," he says. "I'm looking at another couple of weeks of editing. We'll have the movie out sometime next year."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Micro Cinema Club -- good stuff

The December meeting of the Indie Memphis Micro Cinema Club will be Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. The program:
  • West Bank Story (2005 Sundance film)
  • Art Thief Musical (2005 USC graduate film school)
  • Different
  • Child Psychology
  • Walking Between the Lines
  • Genesis 3:19
  • and other gems TBA

As always, the location is the Power House at Front and G.E. Patterson. Please bring any DVDs you would like to donate to Operation Entertainment, an initiative that sends movies to the troops stationed the Afghanistan and Iraq.

Box office blues

Hollywood ends its most disappointing year in nearly two decades.
"It's not just a slump in box office, but also in sales of DVDs. This is mainly because of unattractive movies that don't appeal to young male audiences, the cost of movie tickets, parking, the shrinking window a movie's theatrical and DVD releases."
ack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp

Lights, camera, CGI...

Super graphics and special effects will be the end of us, as we learn in this Slate story:

Fewer and fewer directors have the clout with the studios—or the budget flexibility—to control, even if it means redoing, the CGI side of the production. If this new economy of illusion allows the CGI side of a production to overwhelm the director's ability to tell a coherent story in his live-action side, digital effects may prove to be the ruination of movies.

Golden Globe nominees

Here's the list. Of local interest, "Walk the Line," "Hustle & Flow" and the "Elvis" TV miniseries got some of the action:

Actor, Drama: Russell Crowe, "Cinderella Man"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"; Terrence Howard, "Hustle & Flow"; Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"; David Strathairn, "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Picture, Musical or Comedy: "Mrs. Henderson Presents," "Pride & Prejudice," "The Producers," "The Squid and the Whale," "Walk the Line."

Actress, Musical or Comedy: Judi Dench, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"; Keira Knightley, "Pride & Prejudice"; Laura Linney, "The Squid and the Whale"; Sarah Jessica Parker, "The Family Stone"; Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line."

Actor, Musical or Comedy: Pierce Brosnan, "The Matador"; Jeff Daniels, "The Squid and the Whale"; Johnny Depp, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"; Nathan Lane, "The Producers"; Cillian Murphy, "Breakfast on Pluto"; Joaquin Phoenix, "Walk the Line."

Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Kenneth Branagh, "Warm Springs"; Ed Harris, "Empire Falls"; Jonathan Rhys Meyers, "Elvis"; Bill Nighy, "The Girl in the Cafe"; Donald Sutherland, "Human Trafficking."

Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Candice Bergen, "Boston Legal"; Camryn Manheim, "Elvis"; Sandra Oh, "Grey's Anatomy"; Elizabeth Perkins, "Weeds"; Joanne Woodward, "Empire Falls."

Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Naveen Andres, "Lost"; Paul Newman, "Empire Falls"; Jeremy Piven, "Entourage"; Randy Quaid, "Elvis"; Donald Sutherland, "Commander in Chief."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Crits dis Bluff City

Passing on this note from Preston Johnson:

Awards season is heating up, and some of the critics' lists are coming out. Unlike the Spirit Awards, they mostly ignore the Memphis movies "Hustle and Flow" and "Forty Shades of Blue." Too bad.

However, Terrence Howard is getting some well-deserved notice for his big year of 4 movies ("H&F", "Crash," "Four Brothers" and "Get Rich or Die Tryin' ").

The L.A. Film Critics Association gave their "New Generation" award to him.

And the New York Film Critics Online gave him their "Breakthrough Performer" award. Go here and here.

Also, the Broadcast Film Critics announced their nominations: 3 (!) for Howard (2 for H&F, 1 for "Crash"), and 4 noms for "Walk the Line."

But there's no mention of H&F, FSOB or WTL in the AFI Awards (which lists the top ten movies only).

I'm sure the Memphis movies will do better in the Oscars, the Golden Globes, etc.!

10-Minute Play Contest

Theatre Oxford’s Seventh Annual International 10 Minute Play Contest deadline is approaching. Submittals of 10 minute plays must be received by February 15, 2006 to be eligible to win the L. W. Thomas Award which includes $1,000, a production of the winning play, a night at Puddin’ Place B & B, lunch at City Grocery and a subscription to Y’all Magazine.

Entries must be typed on no more than 10 pages. There are no theme or content requirements, but casts of less than six characters are recommended. Plays must be original and unproduced. A $10 entry fee must accompany entries. Contest rules are on the web at or for more information call contest director, Dr. Dinah Swan, 662-236-5052.

Plays (only one per writer) should be sent to:
Theatre Oxford 10 Minute Play Contest
P. O. Box 1321
Oxford, MS 38655

Friday, December 09, 2005

Casting -- TV commercial

Lunar Productions is casting speaking and non-speaking roles in a
television commercial for a national restaurant franchise. One day of shooting/Production will be scheduled during the first week
of January 2006.

Please call 722-8571 after 1 p.m. for further information.
Auditions will be held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, December 14 -
16 at Lunar Productions, 1575 Madison Avenue.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

William Shatner wants YOU

Just got this from a press release:

The media circus surrounding Peter Jackson's $200 million production "King Kong" may be overshadowing this genius director's true legacy. Long before Universal Pictures was willing to give him a blank check, Peter Jackson directed epically entertaining movies like "Bad Taste" and "Meet the Feebles" with combined total production budgets of under $1 million. Shortly thereafter, Peter Jackson directed the cult fantasy film, "Braindead," on a budget of just $3 million. These three movies showcase the directorial talent behind the beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy before special effects and infinite budgets replaced the super fighting ninja priests and full-on zombie sex that set these movies apart from its peers.

One fan of Peter Jackson's early work is William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk over three decades of evolving budgets and technology. Although the special effects kept improving, many fans still felt a deeper emotional connection with the early Star Trek films. William Shatner has recently launched a DVD Club dedicated to helping Hollywood fans find great sci-fi movies, like Peter Jackson's early films, that didn't receive a modern day marketing blitz. William Shatner commented, "Movie fans should definitely see Peter Jackson's latest epic, but I hope that moviegoers who enjoy King Kong will take the time to discover his earlier movies."

In the end, most people will remember Peter Jackson as the director of blockbuster movies like King Kong and Lord of the Rings. But real genius doesn't need a $200 million budget, and Peter Jackson's less costly films demonstrate his creativity, his sense of humor, and his mastery of the craft of film-making in a personal way that these latter day epics do not.

So all you indie directors, keep at it. Someday you'll get your blockbusters.

Acting class tonight

This evening's class at Red West's Acting for the Camera is the last of the year, so come on out. You might read a scene, you might improv, you might sing. And just maybe it'll lead to an audition. It's 7:30 p.m. at 6676 Memphis-Arlington Rd. Call 489-8197.

Job posting

This just went up on Craigslist:

Seeking crew for all departments for internet film project filming January through February. Please forward resumes. Specifically seeking production accountant, script supervisor, sound recorder and video assist. People that can work as locals only please.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Any lithe ladies out there?

From the Hollywood Reporter:

James Cameron is moving forward on his long-awaited follow-up to "Titanic," with a casting call going out for an agile young actress to star in his sci-fi thriller "Battle Angel." The project is in development at 20th Century Fox, which declined comment. But Mali Finn Casting has placed an online ad seeking women aged 16 to mid-20s who are athletic and agile with graceful movement and have an ear for languages and dialects. Submissions are due December 19, the firm said.


A coupla sites to visit if you haven't been lately:

Sarah Fleming's Piranha Empire Productions is streaming trailers and shorts.

The Live From Memphis site oughta be a frequent if not daily pilgrimage for local film and music and art lovers. It's a vital site and will become more so as people and organizations add their profiles to the directory.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bearded Child Film Festival All Stars ... and more!

Indie Memphis' Micro Cinema Club has a juicy offering Wednesday night.

The Bearded Child All Stars is this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Power House, 45 G.E. Patterson (between Main & Front Streets). Admission, please note, is free.

Northern Minnesota's Bearded Child Film Festival features a selection of experimental, low-budget, and extremely bizarre short films. For the past five years, the festival has thrived within the obscurity of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, a mill town of under 8000 people located 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis. In order to develop a niche within the crowded world of festivals, the Bearded Child specifically seeks out work that is often "too weird" or too "lo-fi" for many festivals. The festival has encouraged filmmakers to push the boundaries of corporate film culture, while entertaining local crowds of pseudo-lumberjacks and old women in the process-- a curious venture to be sure. After five years of obscurity, the Bearded Child Film Festival is now crisscrossing the nation with a selection of "All Star" films from the past five years. While the tour will hit major cities such as San Francisco, Montreal, and New York, their main focus is on smaller towns and rural areas. "Cultural missionary work!" says founder, Dan Anderson. The tour will hit such sites as Kirksville, Missouri and Harrison, Arkansas, along with several stops in the South, including Memphis. The tour kicked off at the Burning Man Festival in late August, and will continue well into the Christmas holidays. Attendees should expect a mix of experimental films, oddball comedies, and the bizarre. Many of the films have never been shown outside of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

And then next week is the Indie Memphis Micro Cinema Club on December 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Entering its second year, the Indie Memphis Micro Cinema Club presents short films from around the world. On the second Wednesday of every month, this free event highlights a selection of short films curated by Will O'Loughlin. December's program will highlight musicals, featuring:

West Bank Story (2005 Sundance film); Art Thief Musical (2005 USC graduate film school); Different; Child Psychology; Walking Between the Lines; Genesis 3:19 and other gems TBA.

In addition, Indie Memphis will collect DVDs in new or good condition for Operation Entertainment, an effort to bring movies to soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bring em with you.

Burlesque is alive and -- well!

Christine Gladney is a shrewd entrepre- neur, gorgeous starlet, accomp- lished musician, smart performance artist and excellent exercise instructor. She is also a terrible cigarette girl, but that's a personal story for another time. Her latest endeavor is Naughty Pilates, a brilliant concept blending burlesque and fitness.

Filmmaker John Michael McCarthy hosts the exercise video and music is from local groups 68 Comeback,The Preachers Kids, The Oblivians, Redondo Beat, Mr. Airplane Man, Lorette Velvette and others.

This is a for-real exercise video and if you do it, you'll shape up. It's also a great entertainment starring Memphis talent. It makes a great Christmas gift -- G-rated enough for your pastor's wife but wild enough for your especially imaginative friends. Check it out.

Bad guy cliches

The latest Slate article on H'wood economics wonders: Who you gonna blame?
Why don't the movies have plausible, real-world villains anymore? One reason is that a plethora of stereotype-sensitive advocacy groups, representing everyone from hyphenated ethnic minorities and the physically handicapped to Army and CIA veterans, now maintain liaisons in Hollywood to protect their images.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Memphis Cool says Memphis is cool

Hurra Torpedo and groupie
Just the other day memphis . cool . movies topped 10,000 hits since its modest beginnings back in July. Thank you all for visiting, for sending info, for clicking on the annoying Google ads and for keeping this going with your interest. I'll keep doing it as long as you find it useful.

Meanwhile, as a reward -- or punishment -- check out Memphis Cool in this exciting episode of the Hurra Torpedo saga. And be sure to email it to everyone you know, because you shouldn't have to suffer alone.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Harmless Internet Chain Letter Joke

Here's a one-minute local film in the New York Minute Film Festival. Check it out and vote.

Not rapturous

The latest "Left Behind" movie is out and being marketed in a novel way. But asks if it's any good as a movie. A hint:
While each installment's budget is estimated to be around $17.4 million, I think that number might be off by $16 million or so.

Spike Lee speaks

Interview on with the filmmaker. An excerpt:
People are getting tired of seeing TV shows remade, or movies from the 1950s, and comic books, and sequels. People say, well, it can't be the films; it's the video games, it's the 900 channels, it's this and that. All those things are a factor, but I think the biggest factor is that films aren't connecting with the audience. I mean, look. March of the Penguins. ... People went to see that film because there was nothing else to see. If there were good movies in the theater, they're not going to see a documentary about penguins.