Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'Haynesville' shows potential of local indie scene

Pop quiz, hotshot! Who said the following about making movies in The Shreve? "Look, these people are gamblers and roughnecks. They know all about boom and bust. This is a second-chance town. I just read that there may be a huge reserve of gas right under the city that was not discovered until very recently."

a) Denzel Washington, on the set of "The Great Debaters.
b) Oliver Stone, on the set of "W."
c) Jim Carrey, on the set of "I Love You Phillip Morris."
d) Alexandyr Kent, on the set of "I Can't Believe He's Not Butter: An Unauthorized Biography of Fabio."

As much as d makes perfect sense, it was b, Oliver Stone, on the set of "W.," speaking to David Carr of The New York Times. (If you failed this quiz, don't call me for at least a week.)

What Mr. Stone didn't know in May 2008 was that local producer-director Gregory Kallenberg was preparing to make "Haynesville," a documentary about the area's growing natural gas industry. Today, The Times published my first piece on the project. Local audiences could get to see the project in the fall. (It all hinges on Kallenberg's distribution/festival plans.)

In the above pic, Kallenberg and three members of his production team sit in their editing suite in downtown Shreveport. To me, what's cool about "Haynesville" is it shows that our region -- or more specifically, our filmmakers and artists -- is fully capable of growing and nurturing a self-sustaining independent film industry. Kallenberg believes as much. I tend to agree with him. Why?
  • Almost everything about "Haynesville," from its subjects to its producers to its editor to its cinematographer, is homegrown.
  • The project didn't require a studio or Calif.-based production company to greenlight it.
  • To the tenacious, there are oodles of interesting subjects in NWLA that beg for a closer look.
  • As we've also seen with narrative filmmakers like Jeffrey Goodman ("The Last Lullaby," feature) and Jonathan Rothell ("Silent Treatment," short), local investors will fund filmmakers with local roots.
  • As "Haynesville" demonstrates, some movies can not only be shot in NWLA but they also can largely be finished in Louisiana, too. "Haynesville" will do almost all of its post- within the state's boundaries.
Kallenberg touched on these ideas in my Times' article, which raises even more interesting questions:
  • Does the future of the state's industry hinge on more Oliver Stones, or more Gregory Kallenbergs?
  • Do lawmakers, industry critics, and industry advocates make clear distinctions between Hollywood-driven imports (like "W.") and local indie projects (like "Haynesville"), or between the business of narrative filmmaking and the business of documentary filmmaking?
  • Is the state creating a production environment wherein the making of studio features and the making of indie movies (documentary, narrative features or otherwise) make equal sense?
  • Is our our entertainment industry diverse, deep and artistically rich enough to ultimately become self-sustaining?
  • And put simply, is there enough Louisiana in the Louisiana film industry?
I'd love to field your thoughts on this.

PHOTO (clockwise from the topic): Chris Lyon, editor; Gregory Kallenberg, producer-director; Mark Bullard, producer; Patrick Long, associate producer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

'Year One' opens; 'Silent Treatment' gets 90; Tax credits coming up for vote

Is it just me, or was this week the busiest week in the history of humankind? Hence, my blog absence. Forgive me? You do. But again, let's tidy up:
  • "Year One" opens in theaters today, and this should be a nifty event for local theatergoers. It was shot in Sibley and at the StageWorks of Louisiana soundstage in downtown Shreveport. (Desert scenes in New Mexico, too.) The project required oodles of extras and crew pros, and I wish I could have spoken with all'ya'all. Big, big Sony thang.
    I got in touch with production designer Jefferson Sage (pictured: "On the fifth day, Jefferson created Sodom") -- and a few others -- and all had cool insights.
    How will "Year One" perform? Probably not as well as expected. As a whole, critics are giving it a below average grade, and it looks like it might come in third in the weekend box office race with just under $20 million. "The Hangover" and "The Proposal" should battle it out for no. 1, but neither will earn much more than "Year One."
    It will be a pretty tight weekend at the top, and "Year One" will contend with "The Guardian" as The Shreve's biggest opener. "The Guardian" earned $18 million during opening weekend in Sept. 2006, and went on to tally $55M domestically (still a record for Shreve-made movies).
    "Year One" actress Olivia Wilde had some funny things to say about The Shreve and it's lack of foot traffic: " ... the producers gave us video cameras. David Cross made a film about whether he could make it through a day without walking—because there was no pedestrian activity in Shreveport. He went to Wal-Mart and took a cab from the car to the entrance." Hope that's on the DVD extras.
    If you have an opinion about the movie, please share it with the crowd on Facebook. (For the next week, I won't be moderating comments on LaMovBlog.)
  • Speaking of opinions about The Shreve, did you read Tucker Max's recent rant? His book-turned-movie "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" was shot in Shreveport during the summer of 2008, and should be released this fall. Apparently, Max won't be returning to The Shreve to celebrate. While his tone may irk sensitive Shrevapolitans, my advice is to lighten up. I find his honesty grossly refreshing: kind of like a stale Jr. Mint.
  • Were you one of the 90 who made it to the screening of "Silent Treatment" on Thursday? Great turnout, and I was glad to see folks supporting this short film project. My thanks to director Jonathan Rothell (pictured and framed ... sorry, Jon), composer Kermit Poling, exec producer Red Vanderkuy and all the cast, crew and musicians who showed. (Note to McIver: If I leave you out of an intro again, you have my permission to spit-ball me.)
    Again, congrats to everyone -- including the audience -- for making it a fun night, and a big shout-out to the Robinson Film Center's Chris Jay and Mike Woodfork for ironing out the behind-the-scenes details. Jay, Woodfork and the event staff work their butts off to make these events successful.
  • "Weather Girl," written and directed by Blayne Weaver and exec produced by Brandon Barrera (both Bossier City natives), is garnering distribution interest. Really good sign.
  • Have you been keeping tabs of the Louisiana tax credit news? Caddo Parish officially passed its incentives, and next week will be a big, big week in the state Legislature. Two tax credit bills are awaiting the OK (or no-K). If passed, they'd bump the production credit up to 30 percent. There are lots of little nuances in the story linked above: my advice is to familiarize yourself with them. And if you want to talk to your legislators about their votes, you better act now.
  • Are those bullet points enough to keep you satisfied? I won't be blogging or reporting during the coming week, because I'll be on furlough. Don't worry: our bureau reporter, Mike Hasten, will keep track of the lawmakers. My advice to you is to check shreveporttimes.com daily for film news. The paper does its best to keep you informed.
    I'll return to my desk June 29. If your news can't wait, email astingley@gannett.com.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Six reasons to see 'Silent Treatment' 7:30 Thursday at Robinson Film Center

The short film, shot on 35, was lensed in Shreveport during two days September 2008. Here's my story. Below illustrates why you should attend the free screening.

Michelle Loridans and Don Hooper.

Cervantes Reck.

The sky is falling.

Michelle Loridans.

Don Hooper and John Fertitta.

McIver Williams and David Beier.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What on tap for June 2009?

Here's the latest update from the state film office:

Welcome to (225) 342-FILM, the official hotline of Louisiana Entertainment. Here’s what’s happening for the third week of June 2009:

Pre-Production (8)

The Screen Gems feature film Straw Dogs starring James Marsden is in pre-production in Shreveport with shooting scheduled to begin Aug. 17 for eight weeks. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at strawdogslouisiana@gmail.com.

Horizon Entertainment’s first feature film Father of Invention starring Kevin Spacey and Johnny Knoxville is in pre-production in Jefferson Parish (New Orleans) with five weeks of shooting scheduled to begin June 29. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at fatherofinvention2009@gmail.com

The HBO television series True Blood starring Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer is in pre-production in the Baton Rouge area with shooting scheduled through July 13. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at truebloodbr@gmail.com. For extras casting information, please visit www.bamcastingla.com

The Films in Motion feature film Wrong Side of Town Part II starring Rob Van Dam and Batiste is pre-production in Baton Rouge with three weeks of shooting scheduled to begin during the second week of July. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at info@filmsinmotion.com.

The Most Wanted Films feature film Death House is in pre-production in Baton Rouge with shooting scheduled from July 15 through August 15. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at info@mostwantedfilms.com.

The Bullet Films feature film Jaws of the Mississippi is in pre-production in Lafayette with shooting scheduled to begin July 27. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at jobs@bulletfilms.net.

The Bullet Films feature film Stormbringer is in soft-prep Lafayette with shooting scheduled for to begin October 5. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at jobs@bulletfilms.net

The independent feature film Roadkill is in soft-prep in South Louisiana with shooting scheduled to begin in August. Resumes are being accepted by e-mail at roadkillresumes@gmail.com.

Now Filming (7)

The second season of the September Films A&E reality television series The Exterminators starring Billy Bretherton is shooting in the Shreveport area through the end of August. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at vexcon@bellsouth.net.

The Nu Image/Millennium feature film The Expendables starring Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Jason Statham and a host of others is shooting in Jefferson Parish and the New Orleans area through July 31. Resumes for crew and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at theexpendablesmovie@gmail.com.

The Fallen Angels Productions feature film Cotton is shooting in New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish through June 14. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail cottonfilm@gmail.com.

The independent docu-fiction feature film Jar People is shooting in New Orleans through July 2. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at jarpeople@gmail.com.

The Conquest Films feature film Punishment is in shooting in Hammond with shooting scheduled through early July. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at punishment@rocketmail.com.

The Warner Bros. feature film Jonah Hex starring Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, and Megan Fox is shooting in St. Francisville and the New Orleans area through June 19. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at jonahhexnola@gmail.com. For extras casting, e-mail Jonahhex.extras@gmail.com

The Disney Channel children’s television series The Imagination Movers is shooting in Jefferson Parish through September 17. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at imaginationmovers1@earthlink.net.

And for more information about the film and television industry in Louisiana please visit us online at www.louisianaentertainment.gov.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Let's tidy up, shall we?

For me, it's a been a busy week of typing. I love typing. You? How about voicemail? That's fun, too. Meetings? Can't wait for the next!

Let me offer you some bullet points for fun:
  • Coming Tuesday, got a great piece on "Silent Treatment" (pictured is actress Michelle Loridans), a short film by Jonathan Rothell. It plays June 18 at the Robinson Film Center. I'm hosting. Cast and crew will be there. You should be there too. This is a stellar piece of work, and a great example of what can be done with local, professional resources.
  • I've received two rumors about productions breaking away from The Shreve. I can confirm nothing to substantiate these rumors. Regarding "Straw Dogs," Shreveport film liaison Arlena Acree said it's here and confirmed they are setting up offices at StageWorks of Louisiana. "I met the director (Rod Lurie) this week," Acree said. "I'm finding house for them right now." Regarding "The Mechanic," it's still officially slated for The Shreve with a summer start date. I can't nail down an exact date when it will start, but I've checked my sources and there's nothing new to report.
    As always, if you have info to the contrary, email at akent@gannett.com. Tips are fine, but on-the-record, first-hand knowledge is best.
  • On June 18, you'll read a story about "Year One," the Sony flick opening June 19. Talked to production designer Jefferson Sage, who conjured up an ancient Sodom in the hamlet of Sibley, La. Should be fun to hear from him and local artisans.
  • In advance of its production of "Dirty Blonde," River City Repertory Theatre will screen the Mae West-starrer "My Little Chickadee" at the Robinson Film Center at 7:30 p.m. June 19. Totally worth the ticket.
  • "The Exterminators," the A&E series about bugs in northwestern Louisiana, is shooting season two right now. Check out the city film slate here.
  • And if you're a "True Blood" fan, you better go to the Author! Author! Shreveport-Bossier Book Festival on Saturday (June 13). Charlaine Harris (novelist and Sookie Stackhouse inventor) speaks at 2 p.m.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

La. Produces meet-up at 7 tonight

SAG Regional Exec Jason Tomlinson will speak at tonight's (June 9) Louisiana Produces meet-up. Starts at 7 p.m. at Robinson Film Center, 617 Texas St. This would be a good time to ask about SAG negotiations, membership benefits, and any in-state labor issues.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Sookie Stackhouse ('True Blood') author coming to Shreve book festival Saturday

Hey, "True Blood" fans. Did you catch my Charlaine Harris article? There's still time. The Sookie Stackhouse series author will be in Shreveport Saturday for the Author! Author! Shreveport-Bossier Book Festival.

On a semi-related note, you got to hand it to HBO and their media tie-in savvy: check out some of this schwag, which is available here.

The second season of "True Blood" debuts Sunday on HBO.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Caddo Parish now offers rebate

The Caddo Parish Commission approved a film incentive on Thursday. Read the story here. That means that if you film in The Shreve:
  • Caddo Parish offers: $20,000 sales tax rebate for first production; $22,000 for follow-up productions. Minimum budget is $75,000.
  • The City of Shreveport offers: $150,000 to $175,000 sales tax rebate per project. Mininum budget is $300,000.
  • The state offers a 25% production tax credit on in-state expenses, plus a 10% bump for in-state labor costs. The state leg is currently considering legislation to increase it or extend it.

BPCC producing ‘At War with the Ants,’ family comedy by local screenwriter

Bossier Parish Community College's Film Institute is a week into producing "At War with the Ants." To provide on-set training, these summer movie projects pull together a student crew, faculty and local talent.

"We have a lot of new students," said BPCC prof Paul Kaszuba, "and they are very excited about the experiences they've received this week."

The project, BPCC's seventh, shoots through June 26.

The screenplay comes from Timothy Miller, of Bossier City, who's answered a few questions for LaMovBloggers.

Alexandyr Kent: Have you ever had a screenplay produced before? If yes, what? If yes or no, what are you hopes for this project?

Timothy Miller: This will be the first script I've had produced. Besides the satisfaction of seeing my characters come to life, having a produced script gives a writer more credibility with producers, as well as a work sample they can actually SEE.

AK: What's "At War with the Ants" about, and what's the genre?

TM: "AWWTA" is a family comedy about a young couple at loggerheads over whether to have a baby, with the husband's entire family arrayed against him in his wife's favor. Ultimately it's about overcoming fear and learning to put your trust in love.

AK: Did you draw inspiration from particular filmmakers or screenwriters?

TM: There's something that really good movies (and novels) set in the South do, and that's suspend time, which is what happens down here. People aren't slower, it's just that clocks don't exist. Robert Altman got it right, especially with Ann Rapp in "Cookie's Fortune." Shainee Gabel got it with "Love Song for Bobby Long," Craig Brewer with "Black Snake Moan." That's something I tried to do with this script.

AK: Do you work with any local writers groups, or are you a lone wolf?

TM: I have an online family of aspiring screenwriters that read each others' work and cheer each other on, but I haven't met any other screenwriters (or playwrights) here yet. I'd enjoy that.

Cast and a few crew

Dodie Brown as Hannah Buckley

Matt Carroll* as Evan Buckley

Tommy Wallace as Cyrus

Grace La Rocca as Jordan Buckley

Dusty Graham as Faith

Angela Vo* as Maggie

Nathan Prestidge* as Kirby

Corey DeCastillo as Tristan

LaShana Harris as Nikki

Veronica Stanton as Demi

Kevin Stafford Jr.* as A.J.

Jonathan Posey as Jason (also 1st AD)

*BPCC students

Larry Powell and Paula Kaszuba, producers

Eric Tuxen, director

For questions about BPCC's Film Institute, call 318.678.6304.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tax credit rally planned for Baton Rouge

Happening bright and early tomorrow morning. Details here.

Local artist gets development deal

Bossier City artist Al Bohl has scored a development deal for his cartoon series, "Way Out There!" A Toronto-based animation and distribution company, 9 Story Entertainment, is making a pilot about a boy who attends a boarding school on the Planet Nu-B-On. Kind of like an intergalactic foreign exchange student whose best friend is a city in a glass jar, whose bully is a jock, and whose teacher goes by "Blah Blah."

Sounds vaguely like my cousin, Daryl. Hmmm.

"For all practical purposes, he might as well be on Earth," Bohl said. "He's going to run into the same problems there that he's going to run into here."

For years, Bohl has been developing series and refining his pitch strategy at festivals and animators workshops. At the Ottawa International Animation Festival, Bohl was approached by 9 Story.

"They were looking for something for boys 8 to 12 years old," or the tweenage boy market, Bohl said. "That's really the hot area, and there are a lot of opportunities opening up."

What's they key making a good pitch?

"It's really finding that certain place where you don't overdevelop it and you don't underdevelop it," Bohl said. You can read his pitch here. Pretty direct stuff, really.

"We were thrilled to be introduced to such a fresh and highly creative property," said Liliana Vogt, vp of development for Story 9, in a release. "Al's designs and concept for the series instantly resonated with our sensibilities, our brand, and our objective which is to find unique, character-driven comedy material with solid international appeal."

By day, Bohl works as art director at Sci-Port: Louisiana's Science Center. He's also working on a documentary about 1918 documentary, "Tarzan of the Apes," which was shot in Morgan City, La. For more about Bohl, visit albohl.com.