I have been busy again. I’ve been wrapping up a few projects, and nor Uncle Pete is on way hold for a short time while I finish up the paying work. Not the least of which placed upon hold will be the continuation of work on my next feature. We’re only a few weeks away from the big trip to do the documentary on the weighty subject of the Holocaust and a survivor’s story. I’ve been plugging away finishing off the non-fiction book and I can say I’m floored. I’m gripped and to hear the real life person tell her tale will put my best foot forward.
In the world of UNCLE PETE, the big news is that I got featured on the main page twice in one day on Will Ferrell’s FUNNY OR DIE, and then the next day I got my notice that the first installment will be featured on their Verizon VCAST on the mobile devices. These are big scores and a boon for a comedy short.
One of the stipulations for getting selected for the mobile devices was that there must be no cursing, which lead me to the real meat of this blog entry.
I tend to go against having cursing in most of my movies. Early on, I had a few scripts and then movies that had a lot of cursing, but in the years since, I tend to tone it down to the point of nonexistence. I curse like a horny sailor in New Orleans Parish in real life, but not so much in my scripts. If I allow a curse word, it had better be pretty intense or appropriate. I’m a stickler for making my movies not only accessible, but curse words are a weapon and they have to be used sparingly and to effect.
At the very least use of profanity had better be perfectly in character for the person saying them, or the potency of the language is lost to minutiae. Some people have a character swear up and down and so the power of those words becomes meaningless, and there was no reason for that character to even use the bad words.
How many times have we seen a movie or video online and the people swear… and swear, and then you realize it’s almost every other word? It’s numbing to the point that you wonder if they have any clue how much they are using profanity. If the choice of words doesn’t emphasize anything, then where do you go with the language?
I’m not against the use of profanity in movies, just against their OVERUSE. I cannot emphasize enough the potency of WORDS…
That leads to nudity in film. I have always maintained that at the stage where I’m at, and have been at, that it would be a failure if I had to resort to nudity to sell a movie I’m doing. Again, I’m not against nudity in film, and have no problem with other people using sex to sell their own movies. Anyone else can do whatever they want and my respect level doesn’t raise or lower – I can only put this mandate on myself and my own movies.
It was suggested in my first feature, HORRORS OF WAR in case you didn’t know the name, that we have a nude scene… in a World War II Sci-Fi-Horror-Action movie. Sure, that’s the kind of movie that has a gratuitous sex scene in it. This set my mind ablaze. I was dead set against it, but knew it might effect whether or not we get the money and distribution, so I decided I would give them their nudity and sex scene all right… but I made it a rape scene. The cliché in horror films is a gratuitous and plotless sex scene, so I made it a plot important, and unsexy, unappealing rape scene. No one will watch this and jerk off, and I placated the nudity mandate, and I got to deal with weighty, dramatic fodder. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever directed and the emotional repercussions weighed in on me.
Nudity in film is fine. I have no problems with it when other directors or films have them, but for myself, I can only use it if it’s truly essential to story, character, or plot. In movies like THE ENGLISH PATIENT or hell even PORKY’S, nudity and sex were used eloquently in their respective genres and films, but I’m not ready to make a film like that yet. Maybe, even soon perhaps, I might have a tasteful sex scene, or a shot of a naked person, but I’m still in the learning phase of filmmaking. I don’t want to use something like nudity as a crutch or titillating sellable element until I know it’s something I can control the situation and work very very very comfortably with the actors with a great deal of discretion, maturity, and sensitivity – none of which am I capable of yet.
Am I still raising the bar on myself as a filmmaker?
Both elements, cursing and nudity also relate directly to marketability. In the realm of short films, if I have a single curse word, or even the slightest edge of a nipple, I can kiss several opportunities for distribution or exhibition goodbye. There are several far “better”, or funnier shorts on FUNNYORDIE.COM, but why did Uncle Pete get selected to be on their Verizon VCAST? Because it was “clean”. I was aware of those elements as a producer, and as a director, I found it more challenging to make a dark, intense, very adult series without cursing. No one really wanted to see George nude, except maybe Micah, but still… I am making the choice to sparingly use profanity and not use nudity as artistic decisions, actually challenges to myself, but they have the side benefit for marketability.
I can’t speak for anyone else, nor am I passing judgment on anyone else’s films, choices. Believe me, I could not have made it through puberty without some of the finest Cinemax movies on after 11:00PM. God bless Shannon Tweed and Andrew Stevens!
Something should also be said about filmmakers waiving around Non Disclosure Agreements as if their ideas are sacred and have such value that they are desperate to keep a lid on it…. then have their cast/crew already telling everyone about specifics. It’s a waste of time to do NDA’s if you don’t have any significant money involved in the process. Who will really be scared by a contract if the filmmakers can’t afford to pay anyone $5 a day or $10 a day to participate? Then they obviously can’t sue anyone and the NDA is worth less than the paper it was ink jet printed on.
Come on kids! If you aren’t investing money in an attorney to draft the specific Non Disclosure Agreement and you’re using the free one from SONNYBOO.COM (your source for free paperwork for filmmakers), then it’s very much the fodder for giggles behind your back. What can you do about it if someone breaches the contract? Write a blog about them? That’s about as intense as the retribution can possibly be when you have NO MONEY.
Seriously, if no one has ever paid you for your ideas or movies, then you can pretty much be assured, they aren’t actually worth anything… YET. That’s not to say that you won’t later need one, but not when making a DV short that has made no money and probably won’t. No reason to get ahead of yourself and pretend to be someone and somewhere you are not. When you have an investment that goes beyond buying people a few pizza’s to be on set, like maybe when you get beyond the tens of dollars and into the tens of thousands of dollars, the Non Disclosure Agreement might be a good idea, and make sure that a real attorney makes revisions specific to your needs. If you can’t afford an attorney, then do NOT waive a NDA in front of an actor with an ounce of experience and expect them to take it or you seriously.
The whole point of the Non Disclosure Agreement is that it represents consequences if the contract gets broken. If you can’t do anything to anyone that breaches the contract, then all you are doing is masturbating to your own ingenuity for having an NDA, but then everyone will blab anyway, long before your epic DV short gets on YouTube.
Who are you protecting the idea from? Other DV wannabes? Stop acting a fool! Get over yourself. Who are these idea thieves wanting the incredibly valuable movie ideas from unknown filmmakers that have never made anyone, anywhere a penny? If you can’t sell anyone the idea for your movie, then no one is stealing the idea and making it themselves. Spend these precious moments on an aspect of the film that might actually mean something… like investors, or a post production workflow, or casting or anything else that might be of more use than a Non Disclosure Agreement that has no teeth.
Well my droogies, the Boo must rest. He hits the gym early in the A.M. I’m sustaining my 4 times a week at the gym and I haven’t failed to maintain, so I intend to keep at it. I only have 51 pounds to lose till I am happy. That sounds like a lot, but it’s really even more than it sounds. It feels more like 100 pounds, and looks like 150.
Peace and harmony, plus a side order of ham!
Peter John Ross