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Blomkamp's short films and the state of directors in Hollywood today.


Adam Paul
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I'm sure most of you are aware of Blomkamp's short films he has been posting on youtube.

 

They are professionally produced high concept works. He has posted 2 so far.

 

Now youtube is full with interesting stuff. But what made me start thinking is that Blomkamp is an established filmmaker with several studio features under his belt. Yet here he is, posting shorts on youtbe that to me look like job applications of sorts.

 

He doesn't seem to be working on any studio projects at the moment and these shorts look like he is trying to show what he can do, or that he has ideas. In other words they look like a pitch. Again nothing new. Youtube is full of that. But not from an established professional such as Blomkamp. Even though the fact he has no projects announced is not a guarantee he is not working on some studio project, it seems he is not working on anything now or he would neither have the time and maybe also not the motivation.

 

I understand his last few movies didn't do well. But is that enough to push him out?

 

That got me thinking. If a established filmmaker such as Blomkamp has to start putting his own money and time to try to get studio work, what hope is there for all the other people trying to have their first crack? Is that the current state of the industry? With the firing of Lord and Miller from Star Wars and now a established director making youtube movies which look like job applications, the tide seems to be shifting somehow.

 

I may be reading too much into this. I know directors do passion projects all the time and also work on shorts. But the way these Blomkamp movies are being presented to the public, it makes me feel like he is only doing them because he is somehow out of work. Either trying to get a studio interested in him or his ideas or trying to sell himself or his movies in an alternative way outside of the studio system. Which again could only mean he is not getting any studio work.

 

What do you think? Like I said, if a guy like Blomkamp can't get work, what about new directors? Or it's just a case of the supply gotten so much higher above the demand that studios are not giving much chance to filmmakers that strike out only a couple of times? With digital it's much easier for people to show what they can do and get the attention of the studios. So many newcomers are being given big movies these days after just one semi successful indie project. But are studio then less forgiving? Are directors becoming expandable? All interesting topics to discuss.

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I thought he had started his own studio which was focusing on shorts? As a way to be disruptive in the industry or something like that.

Beyond that, though, yes, if a director strikes out there is a good chance it's over. As for what chance you or I or anyone has, not much of one. It is supply and demand, but also beyond that, there's so much noise out there anyway, so many people making content, that even getting your stuff seen is a challenge.

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No doubt studios are plucking young up and coming directors out of Sundance and dropping them on tent pole franchises these days. I assumed it was because guys like Neil Blomkamp aren't as "collaborative" with the studio as a newcomer might be. I haven't been to Sundance in a while, but I've wondered if there were often rumors about big studios lurking about. Like, "I heard some guys from Universal watched so and so's movie." Stuff like that.

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The thing is, do you even want a blockbuster?

 

Unless you're one of half a dozen people on the planet, nobody directing a very large budget really gets that much choice or direct authority.

 

The fantasy of someone giving you nine figures to produce films to your own specifications and nobody else's is just that.

 

P

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The thing is, do you even want a blockbuster?

 

 

 

It's funny, I mostly direct smaller budget commercials and it's amazing how many other people than me have to approve an actor's shirt. My best part of the day is looking over to the 10 people gathered around a monitor and getting a thumbs up. I can't imagine the number of people looking over Colin Trevorrow's shoulders on "Jurassic World" and scrutinizing every thought he has in his brain.

 

I imagine every night I would cry in a beer about all the battles I lost that day.

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Do you believe it's OVER in terms of features or OVER in terms of big budget features? If the notion of him "striking out" is true.

 

Would a smaller studio with a smaller budget really pass up on a guy like that? Or is it that he would pass up on them?

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It is my observation that 'pitches' are far more extensive than in the past. In the past, perhaps a script, perhaps a name, perhaps a art board presentations.

 

These days it appears one needs to have something like a short, a presentation, executive package for financials, etc.

 

And of course someone with a name always helps...

 

While I'm not in contact with Blomkamp... I suspect he's doing some self promotion, for some types of projects. "Chappie"(2015) wasn't absolutely phenomenally successful... and the industry seems to ask... 'what have you done lately'... regardless of past achievements... doing self promotion seems to be a popular way to get one's name out... again...

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The thing is, do you even want a blockbuster?

 

Unless you're one of half a dozen people on the planet, nobody directing a very large budget really gets that much choice or direct authority.

 

The fantasy of someone giving you nine figures to produce films to your own specifications and nobody else's is just that.

 

P

 

As a career move, yes. If the blockbuster does modestly (as in, makes money and the studio wants you to do another), then a director can use his/her newly gained notoriety to acquire investors for his/her own personal features. Or, if they play nice with the studio, they can take the Chris Nolan route in the long run.

 

It's still a good move to shoot blockbusters, but foolish to think directing one will be like directing an indie.

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It was nice to see the BMW films revisited with the Escape. It was as good as the original ones. It really does seem there has been a shift toward the small screen. In an interview, probably two years old now, David Lynch proclaimed feature films as DEAD, not dying but dead and that the talent has moved to TV. I tend to agree with him. A season of Game Of Thrones cost approximately 100 million, and that is 10 hours. A two hour feature film released to the megaplexes of the same type cost about 200 million, maybe a little less.

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No doubt studios are plucking young up and coming directors out of Sundance and dropping them on tent pole franchises these days.

 

I haven't heard this, any recent examples in the press?

 

R,

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What do you think? Like I said, if a guy like Blomkamp can't get work, what about new directors?

 

It took Steven Spielberg 10 years to get Lincoln made, and he's freaking Steven Spielberg!!!!

 

Getting anything off the ground is very difficult. The only person I know right now going from project-to-project with no signs of a break is Brad Peyton, from Gander Newfoundland. And he was "discovered" at TIFF via a short film. Only case I know where this actually happened.

 

R,

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I haven't heard this, any recent examples in the press?

 

R,

That article I posted two posts above this one...

 

"Want to know why Trevorrow was picked to direct “Jurassic World” when his only previous credit was a nifty little sci-fi indie called “Safety Not Guaranteed”? It’s because he plays well with others, willing to follow exec producer Steven Spielberg’s lead when necessary. Going in to the assignment, Trevorrow had no experience directing complicated action sequences or overseeing massive-budget special effects. He didn’t need it, because those aspects of the movie were delegated to seasoned heads of department, while Trevorrow focused on what he does best: handling the interpersonal chemistry between the lead characters."

 

Variety article

 

It seems like it started with Jon Favreau doing "Iron Man". Don't get me wrong, I think Jon Favreau is a fantastic director (freaking love "Chef"), and he had a lot more experience with VFX from some of his past films than some of these current directors do, but I read an article where someone asked him how he tackled the action sequences in "Iron Man" and he said something to the effect that he had nothing to do with that, they only hired him to talk to the actors.

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He didn’t need it, because those aspects of the movie were delegated to seasoned heads of department, while Trevorrow focused on what he does best: handling the interpersonal chemistry between the lead characters."

Ah, so his "director" credit is dubious at best. I know when I direct a movie, I direct the movie.

 

R,

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There have always been second units shooting the action pieces in action movies.

 

Usually those are handed by people who shoot second units for a living because they are their own world and when you have a €20 million second unit and everything has to be in sync, there can be no delays or messing around.

 

The conversations between the second unit and the first unit are really long and most of the time the main director is able to spread his / her ideas through the second unit and then the second unit does what it does best, transforming those ideas into something achievable and within the look of the 1st unit with the 1st unit director's bless! :D

 

So, Trevorrow might have not shot the second unit (rarely a 1st unit director shoots a 2nd unit, mainly because both units shoot at the same time) but I'm pretty sure that he was able to say yes or no to some things because at the end of the day, the second unit sequences have to follow certain aesthetics within the films they are shot.

 

As the saying goes, a good director is the one who hires the best people available for them to do what he doesn't know! :D :D :D

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There have always been second units shooting the action pieces in action movies.

 

 

 

We're talking about two different things. I'm not talking about John McTiernan having a 2nd unit team on "Die Hard". These are micro budget, indie, film directors getting tentpole, blockbuster, franchises for their sophomore efforts. Look at Sam Raimi's "Spiderman" movies. I'm sure he had 2nd and 3rd units shooting, but every frame of those movies looked like a Sam Raimi film. And he had a laundry list of films to show he was clearly prepared to handle a tentpole superhero movie... "Evil Dead", "Darkman", "The Quick and the Dead" to name a few. Then look at Mark Webb's "The Amazing Spiderman". The dialogue sequences and the action sequences don't even feel like they're from the same movie. Even the lighting style changes. But all Mark Webb had done before were some music videos and a tiny indie film about a young on again and off again couple called "500 Days of Summer" which makes him perfect to handle the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, while leaving the big scenes to people that have done it a million times before. It's a perfect "bean counter" mentality. And I actually don't knock it. I understand their reasoning.

 

Before Lord and Miller I think Josh Trank was the only guy they felt was a miss fire. He had the found footage indie movie, "Chronicle" which landed him "Fantastic Four", but he didn't play nice and he lost a "Star Wars" gig.

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We're talking about two different things. I'm not talking about John McTiernan having a 2nd unit team on "Die Hard". These are micro budget, indie, film directors getting tentpole, blockbuster, franchises for their sophomore efforts. Look at Sam Raimi's "Spiderman" movies. I'm sure he had 2nd and 3rd units shooting, but every frame of those movies looked like a Sam Raimi film. And he had a laundry list of films to show he was clearly prepared to handle a tentpole superhero movie... "Evil Dead", "Darkman", "The Quick and the Dead" to name a few. Then look at Mark Webb's "The Amazing Spiderman". The dialogue sequences and the action sequences don't even feel like they're from the same movie. Even the lighting style changes. But all Mark Webb had done before were some music videos and a tiny indie film about a young on again and off again couple called "500 Days of Summer" which makes him perfect to handle the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, while leaving the big scenes to people that have done it a million times before. It's a perfect "bean counter" mentality. And I actually don't knock it. I understand their reasoning.

 

 

I do think that we are talking about the same thing, aren't we?

 

A 2nd unit is a unit which takes a lot of pressure out of the main unit to shoot either action sequences or scenes that the main unit can't shoot because they were dropped off because of time issues and it is managed by people who have done that million times as you said.

 

So, it makes perfect sense to leave the big action sequences in the hands of those people who do that better than anybody else, doesn't it?

 

As for the part of hiring "indie" directors to direct the other parts of the movie which are more focused on the drama, why not? The article you linked is spot on in one point, you don't need to be the most amazing director in the world to go and shoot Star Wars, you just have to get along really well with the people who are going to be above you and you have to be able to interiorise that the movie is going to be dictated by somebody else other than you because they want you to focus on what you do best, which is the actors' performance within the guidelines that the bosses are giving to you.

 

If you can't follow those guidelines then you can't shoot Star Wars or Jurassic World.

 

It is not that different from shooting a commercial, right? There are going to be people who have the final decision on things (client), the ones who created the idea (agency) and the ones in between them and you (producers) :D :D

 

And regarding Mark Webb's Spiderman.. that's a different conversation XD, but Star Wars, Marvel movies and Jurassic World have an integrity in both, main unit and 2nd unit.

 

Have a good day.

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  • 3 weeks later...

But the way these Blomkamp movies are being presented to the public, it makes me feel like he is only doing them because he is somehow out of work. Either trying to get a studio interested in him or his ideas or trying to sell himself or his movies in an alternative way outside of the studio system. Which again could only mean he is not getting any studio work.

 

I think that's a slightly old-fashion, hierarchichal way of looking at things.

 

The only absolute requirement for movie making is film-makers, film viewers and some way for them to be connected. Based on what he's said, Bloomkamp isn't touting for work in any way, he's making his own work, as he wants to.

 

In this are the movie industry is probably some way behind other entertainment, for example Valve becoming their own game distribution platform, bands releasing their own records, comedians making their own specials.

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