Saturday, December 30, 2006

Next movie update :: Previous movie (Date Number One) update

Next movie/"Untitled January 07 Production" update: Jennifer Blakemore (pictured) from Date Number One (Jen played Sunshine in Story 2 of DNO) will be one of the lead actors in my next movie (for some appreciation of her acting work, check here and here). I have two completed scripts (one from '96, one from '98) & one of these will be updated & produced, with pre-production starting around January 15, 2007. It will be a no budget DV feature. A comedy/comedy-drama. And I hope to make it available on DVD (mail-order & through some retail stores) in the first quarter of '07, while it screens wherever I can get it to screen.


Previous movie/"Date Number One" update: My May '06 completed feature Date Number One will be available on DVD (mail-order & through some retail stores) starting at some point in January '07. Will know the exact date in a few days - w/ in the first week of January - will announce the exact availability date here as soon as I know it (I am pretty sure at this point that the DNO DVD will be available for purchase before 1/15/07). The DVD will be available for purchase through mail order from the web at the Wild Diner Films Store. DNO will also be screening at various venues in '07, get screening info. here. Thanks, & I hope you have an awesome New Years Eve & day! '07 is here baby, '07 is here, we are going deeper into the future - pretty wild.

- Sujewa


" Happy New Year Baby!" (click on the words to see who said them)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Workbook's Theatrical Venue Mapping Project or how to get your indie screening venue noticed by motivated new filmmakers & overactive bloggers

Well, overactive bloggers might be stretching things a bit, but this blog, Indie Features blog & The Workbook does get a fair amount of traffic & stuff we talk about in those blogs get mentioned in other indie film blogs sooner or later, so, indie screening venue owners (including microcinemas) who might want to get the attention of motivated new filmmakers & new & old bloggers might want to go here on Workbook blog & add their venue's info. & booking contact info. One great way for real indie venues to compete with the Landmarks of America is to offer totally unique programming (as Pioneer in NYC & a few other real indie venues do) and that means being in the lookout for good films that either never made it to the festivals or did well at festivals but did not get distributor attention. Indie filmmakers & indie theaters dealing directly with each other can perhaps offer a competitive advantage to some indie venues. Sure it's a bit of extra work, but what's the point of offering what the chain indie theaters are offering, when, if you are a bold & imaginative enough programmer, you can stand out creatively & financially from the pack by offering radically different content. Even if none of that makes sense, at least check out & add to this indie venue database. Thanks!

- Sujewa

6 Favorite Film Blogs of 2006

I think I read about 20 - 30 film blogs on a regular basis (let's say every week). One that I should read more but didn't get in the habit of doing so in '06 is Cinematical. Also, The House Next Door. Perhaps in '07 I can work Cinematical & House Next Door in more. So, out of the ones I read frequently, here are my favorite blogs from this year. I am treating the indieWIRE's blogs page as a blog because some days I just go there & read parts of posts from several blogs. Looking forward to discovering more good film blogs in '07 (feel free to suggest some in Comments). OK, the '06 faves list:

1. GreenCine Daily

2. IndieWIRE's Blogs page

3. Anthony Kaufman's blog

4. Filmmaker Magazine's Blog AND Hollywood Is Talking (we've got a tie here, Filmmaker's got some solid indie coverage, & H.I.T.'s got a nice mixture of DIY/Indie & Hollywood film stuff/sensational Hollywood stuff, equally rewarding reading)

5. The Chutry Experiment

6. Drifting

Thanks for all the posts this year bloggers! You make the days better.

- Sujewa

Janus, Biograph, Outer Circle, Visions: Places of former DC art film glory

Cool DC movie theaters that are no longer there. Nice to think back on them though, as some people in the comments section of the following pages have done:

i was in their projector room once

The Janus
saw several movies there, saw Hi Fidelity in their theater with the "column"

Outer Circle (didn't find a page i can link to)
where i saw Amelie about 5 times when it first came out

where i screened my film 17 DC Poets

- Sujewa

Thursday, December 28, 2006

James Brown Lives! (in an upcoming Spike Lee movie)

Read about it here. Thanks indieWIRE for the link.

- Sujewa

The Great New Wonderful is not "A Brilliant Comedy"

I just watched the movie The Great New Wonderful, a movie that Vivendi Visual Entertainment is pushing as a comedy (on the DVD box front they call it: A Brilliant Comedy, and on the back they forget to mention the real story of the movie). Wonderful is a drama about several New Yorkers dealing with the aftershock of the 9-11 attacks. It is a good drama, with some humor, and a diverse cast. But definitely not a comedy. Also not brilliant. Vivendi or whoever OK'd the DVD box packaging owes me a comedy.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back to editing, radical changes happening to Date Number One

For one, it may end up being a 90 minute film as opposed to the 115 minute film that it was in '06. After not touching the Final Cut Express files for a couple of months & just thinking about the movie, I think I've come up with several ways to polish up the movie (so that the very rough edges mentioned in several reviews can be gotten rid of) and make it flow faster & better. Also, any scenes with significant/un-fixable visual or audio problems will be cut out & the stories will be re-written through editing so that they still make sense. Also, one whole story may be taken out of the movie or one story may be drastically shortened (so, as opposed to 5 stories, we may end up with 4 stories or 4.25 stories). Back to editing. The Date Number One that people will see in '07 will be a vastly different (& hopefully much better) movie than the one they saw in '06. Very exciting. On the distribution/exhibition front I will be submitting to some festivals in '07 (did not submit to any festivals in '06). Even though financially festivals may be a total loss, some reviews that can come out of festival play may become very useful for distribution. Also, now that I Am A Sex Addict is safely out of theatrical & on DVD, I will be open once again to looking at working with Landmark Theaters in places where there are no real indie theatrical options (or very few, impossibly few - like in DC). Hmm, what other big changes? That's about it. The film will still be distributed 100% indie/DIY/self on all media/world wide, even though there is a nice amount of small distributor (mostly DVD, some theatrical possibly, some cable possibly) interest in the project. I think it would take longer for me to distribute it myself but I think I will learn more (& possibly earn more), things very useful to the career, by self-distributing the flick. I can always look at going with other distributors on other projects. On the blogging front this blog will now be reserved exclusively for Date Number One news & info. on other Wild Diner Films movies. General film news & stuff about other movies will be blogged about at Indie Features. Sri Lanka related stuff will be blogged about at Out Of This Fire. Generally that will be the approach, there maybe some exceptions from time to time. And that's the latest. More soon on Date Number One here no doubt.

2006: The Year US Independent Film Embraced Self-Distribution

Some of the most interesting art/indie movies that I saw or heard about this year were self-distributed movies. In celebration, here are some lists (titles in alphabetical order):

List 1: Select 2006 Theatrically Self-Distributed* Low Budget Indie Films (*multiple cities, commercial screenings outside of film fests or similar events):

Date Number One

Four Eyed Monsters

Head Trauma

Jumping Off Bridges

Kicking Bird


Manhattan, Kansas

Mardi Gras: Made in China

Mutual Appreciation

List 2: Select Indie Features That Took At Least 1 Step Outside of the Film Festival Circuit (at least 1 DIY theatrical or alterna venue screening in '06):

Cocaine Angel

Dance Party, U.S.A.


The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah

List 3: Select 2006 Hybrid (Indiewood & DIY) or New Distribution Projects Worth Checking Out:

51 Birch Street


I Am A Sex Addict

List 4: A well known director self-distributes an art movie list:

Inland Empire

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Article about new biz MY MOVIE NETWORK at E-Commerce News

Here's the link to My Movie Network's site.

And the first couple of lines from E-Commerce News' article on the biz:

"My Movie Network is a very interesting free service which allows users to film their own independent movies by finding the right cast members through the embedded user network and then upload these videos for evaluation by the community. A staff member at MMN told me that the goal of their service is to showcase “the work of true filmmakers, independent, indie and student film makers who would like to create quality content such as short or feature films they would be proud to enter into a film festival or a contest.” "

Read the rest of that article here.

More on MMN soon.

- Sujewa

Green Cine's Best of 2006 Lists Page

Over half a dozen lists, all in one place, from the fine & sexy folks at Green Cine (the people who bring you the mighty GreenCine Daily blog & exactly a gazillion cool movies on DVD & VOD, along with great web articles). Check it out here.

- Sujewa

CustomFlix announces support for internet downloads of indie movies through Amazon Unbox

Thanks News of the Dead for the link. Here is the opening paragraph of CustomFlix's press release re: the new service (links by me):

" CustomFlix Labs, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of, Inc., (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced its support for's video download service, Amazon Unbox, by adding video downloads to its current DVD and CD on Demand services. This new CustomFlix service now enables independent filmmakers and other DVD content owners to make their content available as video downloads to tens of millions of customers through Unbox."

Read the rest of it here.

I checked out a download time chart of theirs, with a high speed cable connection (6 Mbps) you can start watching a 2 hour movie in less than 3 minutes through this download service, & you can watch the downloaded material on your TV once you hook your computer up to your TV (more on the Amazon Unbox FAQ).

- Sujewa

Date Number One 2006: Post 1: The Ad Art From World Premiere

So, 2006 is coming to an end, the Date Number One DVD & 2007 screenings are on the way. I am going to take the next few days of the year to revisit highlights from DNO Year 1. This was the art part of the Washington City Paper ad for the May 13, 2006 World Premiere of Date Number One. I should have another, complete version of this ad - with the location & times on it, somewhere. More '06 DNO stuff coming soon.

- Sujewa

Tsunami warning tower (1st of 100) & replica of demolished Afghani Buddha statue are now up in Sri Lanka

This AP article says that the 1st of 100 tsunami warning towers have been unveiled in Sri Lanka, on the 2nd anniversary of the 2004 tragedy. It also mentions an unveiling of a shorter replica of the Buddha statue from Afghanistan. The ancient Afghani Buddha statue was destroyed in '01 by the Taliban.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays from Date Number One!

And that's (from L to R) Rupa, the ex-Buddhist nun, creator of a new religion (in-progress) (played by Dele Williams), Sunshine, the woman who is working on a book to help save the world (Jennifer Blakemore), and Kamal, the indie rock star who is really into quantum physics (Shervin Boloorian), from Story 2 of Date Number One.

Happy holidays everyone!

photo copyright 2006 sujewa ekanayake/wild diner films

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jim Jarmusch & Martin Scorsese talk about docs

Dang! This event happened like 5 mins from my house but I did not know about it 'till later!!! From Silverdocs '06:

Alex Pacheco & new feature Praxis, blog

DC based Filipino-Canadian (how's that for some local & international flavor? :) filmmaker Alex Pacheco is working on finishing up a feature called Praxis - "about a young writer who develops a fragmented identity". I've seen short films by Alex & liked 'em. They were also well received by festivals, reviewers & audiences. Here is Alex's Praxis blog. And here is the web site for Praxis.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Update on the war in Sri Lanka: the separatist rebels are in trouble

The latest news from Sri Lanka is that the government forces are doing well against the separatist LTTE rebels - a group that is banned by many governments (including the US gov) due to their terroristic activities (suicide bombing, killing or trying to kill all major critics & challengers - including Tamils - the people they claim to be liberating, recruiting child soldiers, etc.). The sooner the 20 some year old war is over, the better it will be for everyone in Sri Lanka. Here is a Hindustan Times story with an update on the war.

For more news stories on Sri Lanka, these two sites are good:

Lanka Page

The Lanka Academic

For an often less official but often very informative take on the news, check out:


And, for info. on one major event that we can never forget, the anti-Tamil progroms of Black July - July of 1983 (by conservative estimates 1,000 - 3,000 Tamils killed by Sinhala mobs while the then government stood aside for several days. the government has changed for the better in recent years), events that can't be allowed to happen again, go here.

Looking forward to the war being over. Once that horror is out of the way, Sri Lankans can focus on fully recovering from colonialism (the hard religious & ethnic divisions that brought the war into being is partially a result of colonialism & also of course due to greedy & evil Sri Lankans manipulating their fellow citizens into f***ed up situations. sri lanka gained freedom from the british in 1948). The island has a long history of civilization (over 2,500 years, with a written "history"/tales of epic accounts covering key events from much of that period - the Mahavansa and the Dipavamsa) and great natural resources - of which the people are possibly one of the most valuable.

For more general Sri Lanka related links & info, check out this Wikipedia page.

And check out this new blog that I started, Out Of This Fire, a blog for Sri Lanka, that I hope to write a lot in during the coming year.

- Sujewa

Friday, December 22, 2006


December 23rd is Festivus, the festival for the rest of us! Originated in a Seinfeld episode in '97, Festivus is a fast growing celebration. Over here in the DC area, at College Park, MD, there is a Festivus pole outside of the cafe College Perk. Here is the Wikipedia entry on Festivus, with a lot of interesting links (did ya know St. Louis, MO claims to be the city with one of the biggest Festivus celebrations? :).

Off the Black a "lovely, ghostly work" - The Boston Globe :: Message from director James Ponsoldt

Off the Black, the off-beat drama starring Nick Nolte, opens in DC & Boston today. The film's director James Ponsoldt has a brief message that he wants to share, so here is James:

Hey there--

"OFF THE BLACK" opens today in BOSTON (AMC LOEWS HARVARD 5) and WASHINGTON D.C. (E STREET CINEMA). Please check it out if you're in one of those cities and let your friends know that it's playing.

We need all your support! We're a low-budget independent film with a next-to-nothing advertising budget (I'm really not kidding--practically no ads!), so word of mouth is vital...or else we'll be bumped from the theater by studio flicks (like "Eragon").

Thank you so much and enjoy your holidays!

Yours and I am,

P.S. In addition to getting raves today in "The Boston Herald" and "The Boston Phoenix," we just received a beautiful review in "The Boston Globe." I've included it below...

'Off the Black' is on target By Ty Burr, Globe Staff December 22, 2006

"Off the Black" is a small, dry, emotionally loaded short story that has been carried to film like baked fish to a platter. Nick Nolte's character goes fishing in one scene, and he certainly drinks like one, but the allusive power of writer-director James Ponsoldt's debut is entirely a matter of scale. It's a lovely, ghostly work.

Read the rest of the review here.


Here's my review of Off the Black and a long, informative & entertaining interview with James re: directing the movie - his first feature.

And if you live in DC or Boston, go check out Off the Black, it should be time & money well spent.

- Sujewa

Thursday, December 21, 2006

US Art/Indie/Foreign/Alt Critics List

Here is the link for the indieWIRE page with the names of the critics (& their publications) who participated in iW's year end poll re: best films & performances, etc. (which is a feature imported from Village Voice). Filmmaker/distributors who are distributing a film next year may want to get a screener to the hands of some or all of the critics listed on the page. If a lot of them like your film, it will be another useful marketing thing. The list includes print & web critics.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

NOW is a great time to start your fimmaking career

Talented (if not & want to be, you can learn stuff by reading about it & doing it on a small scale - short films)? A filmmaker? Storyteller? Don't have a lot of money or access to a lot of money to blow on film production & distribution? Don't have any indiewood or Hollywood connections? If you said yes to all those questions then you can still launch a filmmaking career by doing the following things, now at a lower cost than ever before: 1) study filmmaking & story telling & life & history well & then write an awesome script for a feature length project that can be produced for no money or very little money. You have plenty of projects for inspiration (any early Jim Jarmusch film, any early Hal Hartley film, Clerks, Slacker, most Woody Allen movies, most Ed Burns movies, She's Gotta Have It, just to name a few), 2) shoot the film on DV or another affordable, high quality video format (& remember to keep your day job during this entire process), 3) make DVDs - 1000 of them can be made for about $1250, or you can make 1 at a time on your computer as orders come in, 4) set up a web site for the film & blog about the film & yourself, 5) submit the film to bloggers & any other interested media people who may talk about your film, 6) start promoting & selling the DVD as soon as possible, mail order is an easy way to go, also local retailers perhaps, also web retailers like Amazon (and even if another company wants to help you distribute your film down the road, it shouldn't be a problem since however many copies of the DVD you sell by that point will most likely be small in number compared to what a professional distributor with wide contacts & access can move), 7) while you sell your first film on DVD through mail-order & promote it through DIY screenings & film fest screenings & look at wider theatrical & home distribution possibilities & other, new alternatives such as internet VOD (video on demand), make your 2nd feature & repeat the getting-it-to-the-market-on-DVD process, 8) keep making & selling movies & quit your dayjob when you have enough money saved up from DVD sales & other filmmaking related revenue streams & when you know you have more - an adequate amount - of $s coming from your film work. There are no more excuses for not making movies if you really want to make them. And if your movies find a big enough audience, you will be able to do just movie making for a living. Even if the movies/DVDs don't sell that well, if you still feel passionate about what you have to say through your movies, keep making them & keep making them available on DVD 'cause, if you are lucky, one or two of those movies may just change someone's life for the better. What happens when DVD goes out of style you say? Don't worry, some other, better format will take its place, thanks to the gods of the open market & capitalism. As long as you can keep making interesting movies, the format that the audience gets to see it in does not matter as much. People are always going to be hungry for good stories.

The final battle between Caesar & Pompey was weak :: Egypt not done well in Episode 8 :: Other ROME stuff

Just finished watching Episodes 6 - 8 of HBO's mostly excellent series Rome. I say mostly excellent because in Episode 6 & 8 they glossed over 2 huge battles. The final battle between Caesar & Pompey (where Caesar was outnumbered 5 to 1 by Pompey's forces) was depicted in like 1 or 2 minutes using fuzzy, slow-mo soldiers fighting medium shots. Where is the attention to detail HBO? A gigantic battle that was the last obstacle in Caesar's path to turning the Roman republic into an empire depicted in fuzzy, slow-mo medium shots?????!!!!??? That battle alone should have been 1 whole episode, depicted in an epic manner. Also, in Episode 8 we get to see Cleopatra's Egypt. The relatively awesome production design that showed up on Episodes 1 - 3 are sadly absent when it comes to bringing Egypt to life. The main city (Alexandria?) where the Egyptian action takes place looks horribly underpopulated & it does not look like the rulers of Egypt had an army. The battle between Caesar's troops and their Egyptian enemies is not shown at all (we learn about the battle by seeing the young king Ptolemy's corpse). But the continuing focus on at times Forrest Gump like adventures of the very lucky legionnaires Vorenus (a nobel centurion; a commander of 100 legionnaires) & Pullo (a less accomplished soldier who makes questionable but amusing & entertaining choices) is still very good. I am going to watch Episodes 9 & 10 soon, hopefully they will be better. For anyone interested, here is a breakdown of Season 1's episodes at the show's site. In early '07 Season 2 will begin.

Heard the interview re: David Lynch's self-distribution plans for INLAND EMPIRE

David Lynch (center) working with actors.

I just listened to Lance Weiler's interview with Absurda's (David Lynch's company) Eric Bassett re: distribution plans for INLAND EMPIRE. Very informative interview & it is encouraging to see a well known director embrace self-distribution. In the interview Bassett said that Lynch will not be working inside the Hollywood system again & that on his next film he will handle not just US distribution but also world distribution. On a more local note, Lynch is supposed to be in DC for INLAND EMPIRE premiere in January (exact date & venue info. coming as soon as I figure those out), looking forward to that. Maybe he'll bring the cow. Check out the Bassett interview here.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lance Weiler interviews Absurda's Eric Bassett re: INLAND EMPIRE self-distribution

Sounds very exciting. Check it out here & hear all about how David Lynch & co. is gonna do their INLAND EMPIRE self-distribution magic.

- Sujewa

Monday, December 18, 2006

From GreenCine Daily's review of Date Number One

Still a few time consuming things to do before I can start selling the Date Number One DVD. Hopefully by the end of this week all that stuff will be finished & I can at least make 100 DVDs available for sale. Grrrr. But it will be worth the wait, the film is looking & sounding a lot better. Also, much theatrical screening plans for '07 are being worked on. Will have more March '07 screening dates to announce very soon. In the meantime, & on the bright side, here is a segment of the Date Number One review from my favorite film blog GreenCine Daily (w/ some words made large by me):

"...witty (I particularly like the recurring references to a band's unlikely popularity in Ohio), often inventive (the story in which the first date isn't really the first date at all is particularly well-written and performed) and, even better, airy: characters are given time and space to spell out their views on abortion, Buddhism, quantum physics or the ongoing war in Sri Lanka, views that never bear the artificial markings of a Hollywood screenwriter's compulsion to reduce them to sound-bites."

- David Hudson, GreenCine Daily blog

The difference between us and "Rome" is The Enlightenment

I just watched the first two episodes of the HBO series Rome. Good stuff - as historical dramas go, probably the best production design of any of the movies or TV shows about the Roman old republic/empire that I've seen. Also HBO's take on Rome is more socially nuanced - with humor & greater attention to social & religious customs. In Episode 2 the Senate or whatever the political assembly in Rome is called takes a vote on declaring Julius Caesar an enemy of the republic BUT the whole procedure is treated as a religious event, with an old priest presiding over the whole affair & having the final word on what happened. So one of the main differences between old Rome and modern US & other European offshoot countries - governmentally speaking - is that the government is no longer intertwined with religion. I guess we have The Enlightenment to thank for that. Also, according to this Wikipedia entry, Enlightenment also led to liberalism & capitalism - not bad results for one movement, actually - pretty awesome results, since the separation of religion and government, liberalism, and capitalism are three major factors that have created our world (at least in the "first world" countries), a world that is far different than the world of the ancients such as Romans of the old republic/empire periods . It would be cool to see HBO do a series on the Age of Enlightenment - maybe starting the show a couple of hundred years before the event - in the dark ages/middle ages - & then finishing the show a couple of hundred years later, when ideas cooked up during the Age of Enlightenment have drastically changed very significant parts of the world.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Congrats Four Eyed Monsters!

One of the self-distributed indie films that I've blogged about this year - Four Eyed Monsters - is gonna get some additional help with distribution now that they've won a Sundance Channel award. Read all about it at indieWIRE.

- Sujewa

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saw The Evens & Soccer Team at a Positive Force benefit in DC

Went to DC for a Positive Force benefit tonight. Soccer Team & The Evens played. $s from the show was to benefit The Washington Free Clinic. Got to hang out with Mark Andersen, Chad Clark (of Beauty Pill fame) & say hello to a person (dang, i do not remember her name, she had a nice jacket, a cool looking camera & a nice smile) who came to the 11/4 Date Number One screening/We Are Family benefit (& also finally delivered the $s raised at that event to Mark A. of We Are Family), & said hello to Ian MacKaye. It is nice to live in a city where a lot of the creative & activist people I dig are very accessible - or at least I can talk to them at shows.

The Evens sounded a lot better than when I first heard/saw them live at the same church (St. Stephen's (sp?) at 16th & Newton, NW DC) a year or two ago. The sound was a lot more fuller & felt more confident. The two member band sounded like a four member or three member band - a lot fuller sound than a duo might usually make.

Gonna hang out with some Buddhist monks at dad's house tomorrow AM, too early on a Sat AM - grrr. A family religious event tomorrow. I think they'll let me in even though I am not Buddhist. Should be a "blast!" :)

Now must sleep. Goo'night!

- Sujewa

Friday, December 15, 2006

Yellow Fever/I Was Only Supposed To Live Five Days/Panama Canal/Walter Reed

Had lunch with my mom & sister today - to celebrate my recent birthday. Mom told me that when I was born in Sri Lanka in the early 1970's the doctors said I would only live for 5 days because I had yellow fever. But a nurse told her to ignore the doctors & breastfeed her new baby & that it would survive. Thanks nurse! :) So obviously I did not die from yellow fever. Very cool. There is a hospital, a military hospital here in the DC area & it is called Walter Reed. According to Don, my boss/the owner of the bookstore, Walter Reed was a military doctor who figured out how to treat yellow fever. Reed figured out his yellow fever treatment when the Panama Canal was being built. Go Walter Reed! Good job. Childbirth in 1970's Sri Lanka sounded like very tough work. Mom said she was 22, knew very little about child birth, & that there were no drugs to numb the pain - & that giving birth to me was very painful. Apparently I came out with the umbilical cord wrapped around me - & that made the procedure more difficult. And of course the yellow fever thing. But I am super glad mom & dad stabilized their first baby & got it/me healthy. It would be difficult to write blog entries from the land of the dead.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Articles on hooking up your Mac to a TV, and other ways to get web video on a big home screen (including '07's iTV option from Apple)

A lot of people are going to be making movies now that movie making is affordable, actually a lot of people are already making movies & of course a lot have already made movies in the past 100+ years. But it still costs a lot of money (& it is a lot of work) to distribute the finished movies theatrically. It costs less money or a far less amount of money in some cases to place a movie on DVD & make it available to customers all over the country - that's if you can convince various retailers to carry your DVD. Filmmakers can however stream their movies through a internet VOD (video-on-demand) service such as GreenCine VOD (note: according to GreenCine "for the moment, most Macs are not supported" by them so mostly only PCs can be used for their video-on-demand service, for now) or many other companies that offer the VOD service & get the film to the consumer's computer/to the consumers "hands" for a lower cost - both to the filmmaker & the consumer (after spreading the word about the movie through the web - cheap to do). One of the big current drawbacks to streamed movies is that a lot of people would rather watch their movies on their TV, not on their computer monitor. Apple will be introducing the iTV device in early 2007. iTV will display web transferred video on your TV. Here are links to 2 documents that offer other options for getting web downloaded or streaming video played back on your TV: 1) hooking up your Mac to a TV & creating a home media center, 2) iTV & several other options for getting movies in your computer on your TV screen. And if all this is too much work (& or not enough consumers care about it), filmmakers can always make a website for their DVDs (& also promote the DVDs through blogs & e-mails & other web options), ask interested people to send a check & distribute a given DVD through mail-order, but we all know about that option already. The watching-web-downloaded-movies-on-the-TV option looks very attractive, might catch on big, could be the thing that makes internet Video On Demand a popular entertainment option.

Kelly Dobson's unstable robots

Apparently soon humans won't be the only highly intelligent beings who are unstable. From Renew Media 's website: "Companion Projects. A collection of robots with complicated psychological states, such as anxiety or other neuroses, in an on-going exploration of how to facilitate empathic communication between machines and humans. The machines respond to human touch in provocatively unstable ways, presenting their human companions with emotional dilemmas."

Here's the link.

Provocatively unstable robots are the best!

- Sujewa

Time article says David Lynch self-distributed Eraserhead

Then I guess Lynch is no stranger to self-distribution.

Here is the line from the Time article re: Inland Empire & Lynch self-distributing it: "...says Lynch, who released his first film, Eraserhead, himself in 1977."

Here's the URL to the article:,9171,1568472,00.html

Exactly 30 years later & gettin' back to the roots!

- Sujewa

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

1 major goal for my 34th year: wide (as wide as possible) DIY distribution of Date Number One

This week is my birthday week. My best accomplishment of the previous personal year, my 33rd year, was completing Date Number One & doing 12 screenings of the movie in 5 cities. In the new year I want to do many times that many screenings & also complete some new features.
Off to prep for the new year & celebrate the birthday, so here are some Date Number One related images until I get back to bloggin' in a few days. The Date Number One DVD will be available very soon - w/in this month.

A very special thanks to everyone who made the previous year a most awesome one.

- Sujewa

James "Afro-Punk" Spooner's new movie White Lies, Black Sheep has a MySpace page

James Spooner is the director & as far as I know the distributor or one of the distributors of the doc Afro-Punk. Now it seems like he is near completion on his new movie, this one is fiction. Here is the MySpace page for White Lies, Black Sheep. And here is the description of the story & the film from that same page: " A.J.'s real name is Ajamu Talib. His dislike for his African name is the least of his problems, still it says a lot about him. Brooklyn born and bred yet outcast by his peers, his only escape was music. A.J. found freedom in rock n roll. Tight clothes, straightened hair, popular with girls and partying every night, he is fully entrenched, in the debaucherous New York rock n roll scene. For once he feels like everyone else. Well almost. He begins to find that his chosen community, the white rock world, only seems to run smoothly for white rockers. A series of events force him to recognize his friends both exotify him and are in denial of his blackness. Black, but not "really" black. What's a young black rocker to do?

"White Lies, Black Sheep" is one of those films where the locations and the city itself are as important as the story. Much like Taxi Driver, Wild Style, Downtown 81, or Kids, "White Lies" is sure to be used as a reference point, establishing for future generations just what New York was like, back in early second millennium. "

Capitol of Punk piece on YouTube :: !Ulysses!

Check it out here, entertaining - if you are at all into DC punk music. The last piece of music (with lines "you're my miss washington, dc") you'll hear on that YouTube piece is from The Nation of Ulysses - one of the best/most entertaining DC punk bands of all time & one of my favorite - the 1st punk band (or post-punk/noise band) that I really liked. I think that line is from a song on their '92 album Plays Pretty for Baby. Some of the elements of the DC punk scene (DIY production & distribution, community, etc.) are very influential in how I am going about creating a DIY film production & distribution business. Also, this blog and its habit of sharing production & distribution info. mirrors DC musicians sharing music making info (Simple Machines, a local punk/indie label, published a guide to releasing music).

- Sujewa


Nation of Ulysses: Plays Pretty for Baby
-->Ian Svenonius - vocals
Steve Kroner - guitar
Tim Green - guitar
Steve Gamboa - bass
James Canty - drums
13 songs Recorded: February 1992
Released: August 1992
Available on vinyl, $10.00 Available on cassette, $4.00 Available on cd (remastered 2002), with #62(*), $10.00
1. N-Sub Ulysses
2. A Comment on Ritual
3. The Hickey Underworld
4. Perpetual Motion Machine
5. N.O.U. Future-Vision Hypothesis
6. 50,000 Watts of Goodwill
7. Maniac Dragstrip
8. Last Train to Cool
9. Shakedown
10. Mockingbird, Yeah!
11. Depression III
12. S.S. Exploder
13. The Kingdom of Heaven Must be Taken By Storm
14. The Sound of Jazz to Come*
15. N.O.U.S.P.T.D.A.*
16. Presidents of Vice*
Recorded at Inner Ear Studios
Produced by Ian MacKaye

PS 2: I need to buy another copy of that album, this time on CD, my cassette tape from '92 is broken.

The Self-Distribution Sub Culture & The 9 Layers of the Indie Film Scene

Yup, a self-distribution sub culture has definitely formed in the indie filmmaking scene. This year was a pretty big year for us. This blog, also Indie Features (ex-Indie Features 06), and Lance Weiler's The Workbook Project, indieWIRE (specially indieLOOP) & GreenCine Daily blog, Hollywood Is Talking blog, & sometimes Filmmaker Magazine blog, DV Guru, The Chutry Experiment are some of the places on the web to learn more about/keep up with this latest development in indie film. Individual filmmakers have self-distributed in the past, focusing for the most part on their own projects, but this year several filmmakers got into self-distribution and most of us know each other & keep in touch from time to time & also, at times, help each other out. The web/e-mail has been very useful in this community coming into existence. Looking forward to seeing where we take things in '07.

I see several layers in the indie filmmaking scene right now: 1) indie filmmakers (filmmakers who make movies outside of Hollywood, ultra low/no budget, no-star movies), 2) indie filmmakers who self-distribute (The Self-Distribution Sub Culture), 3) the film festival sub culture - lead by festival programmers, and indie filmmaking non-profits (IFP, FIND, etc.) & their award ceremonies - there are only a few such organizations & events and what they do or help do: production, publicity, etc., get spread throughout the various layers of the indie film scene, 4) the indie screening venue programmers, 5) indie distributors, 6) indie film media/press - including blogs & professional journalists, reviewers & critics who pay attention to & sometimes go out of their way to champion certain indie projects or indie films in general, 7) Indiewood filmmakers - filmmakers who are in-between indie & Hollywood, or filmmakers with projects that have independent & Hollywood elements - from some of the casts & crews to some or all of the financing to some or all of the distribution, often from project to project (maybe Kevin Smith? maybe Ed Burns? Jim Jarmusch definitely - well, at least on Broken Flowers), and, though the following people exist typically outside of the indie orbit, they become relevant to the indie film industry due to self-distribution: 8) famous art/indie filmmakers who self-distribute (such as David "Inland Empire" Lynch this year, there could be more soon), 9) Hollywood filmmakers who occasionally self-distribute (Gibson, Lucas, etc.). There it is, 9 layers of the indie film scene (this is not counting the fake "indies" - or just low budget Hollywood movies such as Little Miss Sunshine & Sideways). Hopefully I did not leave anyone very relevant out of this break down of the indie film scene, and if I did, let me know through the Comments. Thanks!

Screen Door Film in Austin, TX

Screen Door Film is a screening series in Austin, TX. Maybe worth checking out, here's the link. You might be able to get your film screened in Austin through Screen Door, which will give you an excuse to take a trip to that cool Texas town. And there is no submission fee for sending them your film, which is very helpful to broke indie filmmakers :)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Added 3 books on Dogme 95 & digital filmmaking to my Amazon Indie Film Store

Check it out here! Dogme 95 is like so 90's man, but it is still very relevant, quite possibly the most important development in low budget & independent filmmaking since the French New Wave.

Getting your DVD on, research notes set 1

I am slowly walking towards having Date Number One on DVD (this month! it'll be a December miracle! :), & so I am looking at places to sell the DVD - is definitely a place I want to get my DVD in to. So I just did a little bit of research on how a DIY filmmaker & ultra low budget self-distributor such as myself can get my DVD on Amazon. Looks like there are three options: 1) "ALL AMAZON" (my term): CustomFlix - Amazon's wholly owned subsidiary CustomFlix makes copies of the flick, Amzaon lists the DVDs on their site & mails 'em out to customers, costs: unknown to me at this point, more research is necessary, 2) "YOU & AMAZON": Advantage - you make the DVD & Amazon stocks a few & lists the titles on their site & fulfills orders & you get to keep up on the transactions on a regular basis & replenish DVDs as they sell 'em, costs: $29.95 a year & 55% commission, there maybe other costs, more research is necessary, and option 3) "ALL YOU": Pro Merchant selling - you make & stock the DVD & fulfill the orders & list stuff on Amazon, cost - $39.99 a month (they are having a sale now, $19.99 for the first two months), plus there maybe other costs, more research is necessary. Well, I have a rough idea now about what the Amazon options are for selling my DVD through their site. The Advantage option looks like the best one for me at the moment; just the right combination of self-distro & Amazon support, & checks & balances to make my control freak self comfortable :)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Official website for Inland Empire release info.

This seems to be the official website for David Lynch's Inland Empire. Hopefully everyone who is trying to find out when & if the flick will get to their creepy suburbs or logging towns or tawdry entertainment capitals can find the answers there. Good luck! The movie is coming to DC in January 07, I'm gonna be there with a big grin on my face. With Lynch embracing film ART & digital production & self-distribution, the movies are gonna be alright in this new century I think.

Doug said the 51 Birch Street screening today at The Avalon in DC was sold out!

And that's no small feat, the main theater at DC's Avalon (Avalon 1) - I assume the screening was held there - holds over 400 people. I spoke with the film's director Doug Block briefly on the phone a few minutes ago (had I known earlier that he would be down here for a few hours for the screening & Q & A, we could have hung out. next time). Congrats Doug & 51 Birch Street! Perhaps this will mean more DC screenings of the film.

" Students do not have to ritually wash their hands before studying Hegel " :)

I've been doing some reading on the topic of philosophy vs. religion last night & today, and here is a link to an interesting doc I found.

Here is a segment from that article, re: the difference between religion and philosophy:

" To begin with, of the two only religions have rituals. In religions, there are ceremonies for important life events (birth, death, marriage, etc.) and for important times of the year (days commemorating spring, harvest, etc.). Philosophies, however, do not have their adherents engage in ritualistic actions. Students do not have to ritually wash their hands before studying Hegel and professors do not celebrate a “Utilitarian Day” every year."

I am not religious but I do like the fact that religions constantly (or are at least said to be, or are supposed to/generally believed to be) deal with the BIG questions of life (the meaning - if any - of it, how to live, death, post-death scenarios, etc.) In that sense, philosophy maybe a good substitute for religion, for the Faithless (that's Faith of the official kind, I've got the regular kind, with a small f) indie/DIY filmmaking rock stars like me :)

Happy Sunday!

- Sujewa

For all the Jim Jarmusch fans on your holiday shopping list







& Night On Earth is also recommended, one of my favorites, but I could not find the appropriate Amazon link to it; maybe later. In the meantime, any of the above should be of interest to Jim Jarmusch fans.

Go here for a few other suggestions, by other filmmakers.

- Sujewa

Saturday, December 09, 2006

51 Birch Street at The Avalon in DC tomorrow (Sun 12/10)

I've heard good things about Doug Block's doc 51 Birch Street (a flick about his parents' marriage) & it is being distributed in a new/interesting/kinda DIY way (with the help of Landmark's Truly Indie program). Here is the Washington City Paper showtimes listing for the flick. Go check it out at The Avalon tomorrow DC doc fans.

Project # 2 for '07, Wild Diner review by Amir Motlagh

I had dinner with one of the stars of Date Number One a couple of nights ago, Jennifer Blakemore from Story 2 (she played the lead in that story, the blonde). Jen's always got a lot of amusing (to say the least) stuff going on but Thu night's dinner at Mimi's in DC was one of the least "insane" hang out sessions with her in a long time (good food & service at Mimi's by the way, P & 21st, NW DC, they've got singing servers). Energetic Model/actresses, or I guess in this case Actress/models, are a handful - can be stressful to hang with. But on the bright side, if they are excited about a project, working with them can be fun & you just might end up with a good film. So I am thinking about re-making my failed feature Wild Diner (1999) with Jen in the lead. We are going to explore the possibility, and if it does not work out, no biggie, we are still going to be working on Date Number One promo & possibly other projects in '07.

So, the Wild Diner re-make will be Project # 2 for '07. Project # 1 is of course Date Number One distribution. On top of those two projects, I would like to shoot two more no-budget features in '07 (Project # 3, & # 4). Getting oooolllldddd (turning 34 soon! yikes), gotta get more work done.

For people who are not familiar with Wild Diner, here is a segment of a review of the movie, written by filmmaker Amir Motlagh. I wrote, produced, directed, starred in, edited & distributed (just screenings in DC, about 20 some of them, didn't like the movie enough after that to put more time & work into wider distribution) Wild Diner. WD was shot in '98 & released in '99. Here's the review segment & the link:

" The film chronicles a young filmmaker played by Sujewa (at times perfect for the role, at times not so much, as he himself would attest) and a group of young adults who inhabit a diner all day and night discussing the philosophical attributes that make one young, human, and filled with angst and desire. The lead is deciding on shooting his next film, in the dinner that acts as his second home. The film certainly showcases in particular Sujewa’s immense writing talent, with witty dialogue, and truthful youthful intellectualizing. These are a group of kids who are jaded, smart, hip, and little twisted. That’s where the vibrancy of the film exists, and the 16mm adds a touch of homemade aesthetics, that is made even more interesting by the fluid acting and writing. There are also some wonderful shots of the DC, and the night photography shot through a moving vehicle is excellent. It is very regional, and that accentuated the honesty."

Read the rest of the review here.

In the re-make the lead character will most likely not be a filmmaker & if Jen plays the role, the character will obviously be female. Also, now that I've got DV, Acts I & III may happen away from the central location, a lot more exterior stuff compared to Wild Diner. I like how Ed Burns used a whole lot of New York exteriors in Looking for Kitty, perhaps something similar could be done with DC.

Will let ya know about the project as things happen. I am thinking I'll be able to shoot this new flick in Spring '07.

- Sujewa

Gothamist interview with Ian MacKaye

Check it out here. Aside from the regular dose of awesomness that comes with MacKaye related stuff, this interview has some funny & interesting observations about musicians and bars.

Friday, December 08, 2006

PBS web video on micro-lending

Just heard about this on TV. Here is the link: And here is a segment of the introduction to the story from the PBS web site: " How can a $20 loan completely change the life of a farmer in India? In this web-exclusive video, billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla tells David Brancaccio how making tiny loans, a process called micro-lending or micro-credit, can make a tremendous difference to the lives of people in developing countries. " Sounds very interesting. Here's the link again.

Village Voice has a good review of Off the Black

Of course by good I mean one that more or less feels the same way I do about the movie :) No, I read some of the other reviews that have come out & I was starting to wonder if those reviewers saw an entirely different movie. So I like this Village Voice review.

Scroll down 1 post to see my review of Off the Black. The movie opens in NYC & LA today. Check it out. I liked the movie a lot.

- Sujewa

Robots attack Pioneer Theater starting December 13! Will New York City survive?!!!

What some people are saying about the film Automatons:

"AUTOMATONS is a smart, thought-provoking tale equipped with the moody ambiance and intellectual integrity of a classic episode of THE OUTER LIMITS. That's high praise indeed."-- Steven Puchalski, SHOCK CINEMA

"...this is one of the “must see” films you always hear about but never take the time to actually check out. Folks, check it out. AUTOMATONS is politically charged; a provocative and compelling Sci-Fi Thriller."-- Brian Harris, JOE HORROR.COM

"The robot action is often much more riveting than similar scenes in movies with many times the budget and technical sophistication."-- Jay Seaver, UGO.COM

"AUTOMATONS is a wonderfully made, socially conscious low budget film and I cannot recommend it enough."-- Brian Harris, JOE HORROR.COM

"AUTOMATONS does what all good sci fi stories should."-- Adam Barnick, ENTERTAINMENT INSIDERS

"The beautiful indie sci-fi film AUTOMATONS is a troubling vision of things to come.Enough to make you think, worry and pray."-- Louis Fowler, ROCKY MOUNTAIN CHRONICLE

The Pioneer Theater must LOVE this low-budget, black & white sci-fi movie about a girl who leads an army of patched-together robots against her enemies, 'cause the flick is gonna play there for about 2 weeks starting December 13. I saw a few minutes of it, it is not slick sci-fi, thus definitely for people who want to see exactly this kind of low budget/rough looking sci-fi (there are fans for this movie, see the quotes at Pioneer's page for the movie & above). Maybe I'll get in the mood to watch the rest of the flick, maybe I won't, but if I do, I'll write about it. The curious can go here to get more info. on the screenings & here for the flick's web site. I hope the good human(s?) wins over the evil robots, & hopefully both the Pioneer & NYC will survive their epic battle.

- Sujewa

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Off the Black review

James Ponsoldt's debut feature Off the Black is a funny, unpredictable drama featuring perhaps one of the best performances of Nick Nolte's career.

When I first heard about this movie & saw its theatrical poster & trailer & its indiewood credentials (selected by Sundance 06, distributed by THINKFilm) I was not automatically seized with epic enthusiasm for the project. However, the fact that this movie was produced by a veteran indie producer's company (Scott Macaulay's Forensic Films) made me want to look deeper into it. Forensic has produced several very interesting films, including Raising Victor Vargas, Gummo & Clean. So off I went to a special screening in Washington, DC last Sunday to see what Off the Black was all about.

Here is the basic plot of the film: an aging, cranky, lonely auto junk yard worker/ part time high school baseball umpire (Nick Nolte) who drinks way too much & possibly is not in the best of health befriends a neglected teenager (Trevor Morgan) and pretends the teen is his son at his 40th high school reunion. Morgan's teenage character is living without his mother (she took off, the film does not explain the details) and with his unavailable & largely uninterested dad (he seems very depressed) and his younger sister. Morgan's character meets Nolte's character during a vandalism scene; the teen & a couple of his friends toilet paper & graffiti the umpire's house bacause they did not like an important call the umpire made, a call that made their team lose an important game. The umpire hears the noises in his yard, grabs a gun, & Morgan's character is caught red handed. In exchange for not turning the teen into the police or his father, Nolte's character demands that the teen clean up the mess that he & his friends made. During the teen's cleaning visits over the next couple of days, the two characters talk & get to know each other a little. While a friendship begins to develop, Nolte's character invites Morgan's character to come to his 40th high school reunion & pretend to be his son. Seems that would help make Nolte's character look like a winner in the eyes of his old high school buddies. This basic situation; the development of an unlikely friendship, offers many lighthearted moments and an excellent, at times Tom Waits like, performance by Nolte.

I was worried that this movie would turn out to be a Hallmarkish movie where PEOPLE LEARN SOMETHING. But one of the beautiful things about Off the Black is how it repeatedly makes sharp turns away from predictable, cliched developments. Ponsoldt takes his time telling the story but only reveals as much as he needs to and often in an indirect way, leaving space and time for the audience to fill in the details or at least wonder about the untold things; a welcome break from most movies that say & show too much. Also, there is much beauty and grace in the details: in shots of the small town where the story takes place, cosmically charged music (that's the feeling I got from the music, it is music that opens up the small town visions by linking them to sounds that feel like they are from far far away places, perhaps from even another dimension or another universe all together), and a camera that warmly lingers for a while longer than absolutely necessary on the minor characters. Off the Black tells its story through small moments. Even though the characters may not realize it at the times that we see them, those small moments may turn out to be epic events in the complete story of their lives.

The movie celebrates both the bleakness and the intimidating potential for change that ordinary existence can bring - but not with too much off-putting noise, but rather quietly. The many small beautiful moments in Off the Black , & Nolte's performance, is well worth the ticket price. And if those don't work for you, there is always the scene in the grandfather's hospital room - guaranteed to make most people laugh. Off the Black is highly recommended.

- Sujewa

December 13 Is The Goal

Many deadlines for the Date Number One DVD have come & gone but this new one I am definitely going to do all I can to meet: the DVD ready for sale by December 13, 2006. So I am going to be doing less blogging for the next 6 - 7 days or so. Only essential stuff: Off the Black review tomorrow, & a post about Automatons - playing at the Pioneer starting 12/13 I believe, and whatever other essential stuff that comes up. DNO had its world premiere on May 13, 2006 so having the DVD ready by Dec. 13, exactly 7 months later, sounds like a well balanced idea to me. OK, back to work.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lance Weiler interview is up!

Go here to read it. It should be up here on the blog but I started working on that post a couple of days ago, so it appears after a few posts, below. Thanks!

- Sujewa

Looking forward to Days of Glory

It wasn't just light skinned Europeans & Americans & the like that saved the world from Germany, Italy & Japan; lots of other people were involved too (I know at least one of my relatives from Sri Lanka fought for the British in WW II, also thousands of Indians) but many films about THE WAR have not adequately celebrated the non-"white" contributions to securing victory in that epic conflict. So I am looking forward to watching the French film Days of Glory this weekend or next. Here is a synopsis from Films Distribution:

"1943. They had never stepped foot on French soil but because France was at war, Saïd, Abdelkader, Messaoud and Yassir enlisted in the French Army, along with 130,000 other “indigenous soldiers,” to liberate the “fatherland” from the Nazi enemy. These heroes that history forgot won battles in Italy, Provence and the Vosges before finding themselves alone to defend an Alsatian village against a German battalion."

- Sujewa

2006: The Year of Self-Distribution comes to a vibrant finish with Inland Empire, Four Eyed Monsters and Mutual Appreciation in theaters in December

The latest film to partake in the '06 self-distribution trend is David Lynch's Inland Empire, which opens in New York this week. Four Eyed Monsters and Mutual Appreciation can also be seen on screens this month. Go here to get some links for Inland Empire, including to an excellent review at the New York Times. Go here to get links to Four Eyed Monsters, Mutual Appreciation & other self-distributed films that I have been tracking this year. The Year of Self-Distribution or perhaps Year 1 of the New Self-Distribution Movement in American indie filmmaking is coming to a close with a lot of activity in both theatrical & DVD fronts. More on this soon.

- Sujewa

Conan's Horny Manatee Sex Site

NBC late night talk show host Conan O'Brien wants you to send him "amateur horny manatee pictures or stories". Check out the web site here. I thought my friend Amanda was the only one who was into watching giant sea mamals/people dressed as them in funny suits getting it on; I guess now she'll have a lot of company.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Added a CLIPS page to the Wild Diner Films website

I just added a CLIPS page to the Wild Diner Films website, for Date Number One clips. The video clips get uploaded to YouTube & then I embed the HTML code thingy that YT gives into the clips page at my web site at So when you go to my site & go the the Clips page, you get to watch the video clips that I've uploaded to YT. Got it? :) In case you want to do the same with your movie/site/& YouTube, that's how I did it.

Hmmm, maybe indie movie theaters should do this on their blogs & websites, to promote movies that they show, movies that may not have a huge publicity budget. Maybe some of them are doing that already.

I still need to figure out how to add video clips to this blog. If anyone out there knows, let me know. Thanksalot!

Go here to check out the Clips page at the web site for Date Number One.

By the way, my YouTube clip has been viewed over 175 times so far, since 11/30 (w/ about 20-30 of those views coming from me). And I've received 4 very positive responses to the clip & 1 request for more clips.

I plan on adding at least 5 more Date Number One clips to the CLIPS page in the coming weeks & months.


- Sujewa

Monday, December 04, 2006

Let us now speak with a filmmaker who has grossed over 4 million $s through self-distribution (& still owns his movies!): LANCE WEILER interview

When I grow up I want to be like Lance Weiler. His first self-distributed indie feature The Last Broadcast (Wikipedia), from the late 90's, has reportedly earned (gross) over 4 million dollars so far. His second self-distributed feature, this year's title Head Trauma, played in 17 cities this fall and is now available on DVD at stores nation & web wide. Here is an e-conversation I had with Weiler re: his work & DIY film:

Sujewa: I think we are creating a new field of existence for indie filmmakers (or developing it further); the DIY field. Previously we had the indie field (make your movie independently & get it out with the help of Hollywood), and we had pure Hollywood (get Hollywood to finance & distribute the film, the filmmaker as director for hire). Now we have you, me & several other indie filmmakers such as the Mutual Appreciation team, the Four Eyed Monsters team, the Jumping Off Bridges team, & others - who are working on making the movies independently & distributing them independently - this I think is a healthy way to go - more options for filmmakers - what do you think about this new development?

Lance: I think it's an amazing time to be making work. The new push toward DIY and self distro is cool in the sense that people are making it a first choice. For a long time people looked down on self distro as if it was a sign of failure. But I think that filmmakers are coming to realization that they don't need to wait for someone else to validate their work, that they can get it to an audience on their own terms. The most important aspect to me is developing an audience, because over time filmmakers will be able to sell directly to their audience and that is an exciting thing.

Sujewa: In the low-budget genre arena (horror, sci-fi), an area of the film biz that I am not too familiar with - are there several totally indie filmmakers - people who make their movies outside of Hollywood & get them distributed through their own efforts & make a living, as you do?

Lance: Yes, there are a few filmmakers making lower budgeted films who are getting them out on their own in a variety of ways. Theaters, DVD, online and in some cases TV and maybe a little foreign sales. A number of them rely on the convention circuit.

Sujewa: I liked the interview you did at The Workbook Project with the person from Heretic Films. How is your DVD distribution partnership with them going? Is Head Trauma selling enough DVD units at this point? Are your own personal sales goals being met?

Lance: HEAD TRAUMA has been performing very well. The DVD is in retail / rental outlets and for sale online. And the fact that HEAD TRAUMA and a re-release of my first feature THE LAST BROADCAST hit DVD at the same time, has really helped to increase exposure for both titles. The coolest aspect is that the sales have been amazing and are increasing over time, which usually isn't the case.

We also made an alternate soundtrack entitled "CURSED the HEAD TRAUMA movie project" which was released on Park the Van records. Similar to the way you can line up Pink Floyd's "Darkside of the Moon" with the WIZARD of OZ you can line up "CURSED" with the HEAD TRAUMA DVD. Just turn down the volume on the TV and turn up the volume on the stereo for a cool alternate soundtrack to the film. The soundtrack has been selling very well and has introduced a lot of music fans to the movie, which is cool. Plus we'll be doing a number of special screenings that feature the movie with a live score by some of the musicians from the soundtrack. The soundtrack features music by Bardo Pond, Bitter Bitter Weeks, Capitol Years, Dr. Dog, The Novenas, Steve Garvey (Buzzcocks), Marshall Allen (SunRa), Espers and many many more.

Sujewa: About two years ago self-distribution was kind of a dirty word with some indie filmmakers & bloggers (i remember seeing some bloggers say stuff like so-and-so's deal with x distributor is barely better than self-distribution, as if self-distribution is this horrible & unfortunate situation), but I think we have turned things around this year on that front, many high quality indie filmmakers - new & old - are taking a look at self-distribution as a legitimate & wise option. What do you think about indie filmmakers & the indie film press reconsidering self - distribution?

Lance: Reality is setting in as more and more films are being made every year. The tools are accessible, which allows for a diversity of voices but the flood of work is putting a strangle hold on an already strained system. Self-distribution is not a new thing, many filmmakers over the years have struggled to get their work to audiences. Melvin Van Peebles (Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song), Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack) and Russ Meyer (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) all did DIY releases back in the 60's and 70's. Self-distribution for a while has been seen as a last resort but it feels like the tide is turning. Filmmakers being able to retain some type of control over their work is starting to gain traction. For a long time success has always been measured by a migration to the studio system. But now filmmakers can work within and outside the system and still reach their audiences.

Sujewa: The Last Broadcast was independently produced, on video, & self-distributed in the late 90's. A rare thing in the indie film arena at that time, as far as I know. What made you go in that bold direction with The Last Broadcast?

Lance: At the time we had a number of studios who were interested in the movie for all rights but we had already set up a deal with Hollywood Video. A deal which allowed us to keep all our rights, which was worth almost as much as the studio offers. So Stefan and I decided to continue our self-distribution efforts. In the end it really worked out. To date THE LAST BROADCAST has grossed over 4 million worldwide and can be seen in 26 countries around the world.

Sujewa: I don't think distribution is as difficult as directing & making a low-budget, high quality film. What do you think?

Lance: I think all parts of the process can be difficult at times. Pulling together funding, guiding the film through production and post, can be very difficult. But distribution can be just as difficult if not more so. Cutting through the static to get to your audience can be very challenging. In fact you can never start too early when it comes to marketing and promotion of your work. There is so much competition for people's time these days.

Sujewa: What made you get into filmmaking? Who were your early influences?

Lance: I studied still photography and then fell in love with the concept of 24 fps telling a story. Early influences were a mixed bag of films and filmmakers. Fredrick Wiseman's work made me want to find the truth. Stan Brackage, Bruce Baille, and Jean-Luc Godard made me want to be experimental in my structure. Ozu, Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch made me realize the power of pacing. Cassavetes made me realize the value of raw intensity and the power of performance. And Roman Polanski just screwed with my head.

Sujewa: I think our filmmaker's group blog Indie Features (formerly Indie Features 06) is pretty special - I have not seen anything like it before and so far the idea has not been successfully duplicated - is that because indie filmmakers (& all filmmakers in general perhaps) are more competitive (outside of their own projects) than cooperative or perhaps they do not grasp the importance/value of blogging (i've met some very helpful-to-my-career people through blogging, and each blog entry is/can be an advertisement for your project/yourself as a filmmaker)?

Lance: I think it's a mixture of things. First and foremost there is usually an unspoken level of competition and I think at times parts of the industry and the process of making a film creates that. The other side of it is a competition to find time. But I can say that some of the best resources for filmmakers are other filmmakers. So things like the Indie Features group blog or the Workbook Project that I've set up are a good starting point.

Sujewa: I think indie film in America, as a fully realized idea, is just coming into existence with the increasing popularity of self-distribution (the post-Stranger Than Paradise generation gave birth to indiewood, but modern self-distributing indie filmmakers are creating an alternative, an outside-of-Hollywood film industry in America), what do you think?

Lance: I think these are exciting times. Mass media is being re-written and the consumption of media is totally changing. The making part of the process is easier but to me the real hurdle is getting it to an audience and seeing a return so that you can continue to make films. Sure no budget films can see their money back over time but my hope is with the advancements in tech, an open exchange of information and audiences, we can create an open market for "truly" independent work.

Sujewa: One reason I push self-distribution & low budget filmmaking is because I want people who do not have easy access to a lot of money but want to make movies to be able to do so. Also I want to see more movies by minorities & women (quality movies of course, not just an increase in quantity), and young people from all backgrounds. How do you feel about the current amount of ethnic background diversity & gender diversity in indie film and in overall American film in general? Also, there aren't too many teen or post-teen (18-21 or so) filmmakers getting works out, as far as I know. Do you think that unlike music making, filmmaking is too difficult to properly master for a young person or do you think it is just a matter of time until more teens start making & distributing movies - as cheap DV production & self-distribution becomes more known?

Lance: I think a diversity of voices and stories is very important. Since the tools are more accessible it's easier to learn by doing, which is important. Younger filmmakers are thinking in totally different terms. Sure getting into a festival or playing in a theater is great but for most youth the power of creating something and sharing it immediately with their friends and the world is much stronger. Look at the success of YouTube and Myspace for example. Some of the things that I've seen teenagers do with filmmaking is very cool. It is raw and speaks to them. In fact the studio system is using video sharing and social networks as a talent selection pool similar to what they use certain festivals for.

Sujewa: How do you feel about film festivals? I have mixed feelings about them. Are they generally useful for most indie filmmakers, an essential thing or are they an optional thing?

Lance: Festivals are great for networking, travel and seeing films. At one time they were a viable market path for films, but now they're overloaded. I wish they would give filmmakers some type of rental fee for their film. I've been to a lot of festivals and seen numerous screenings of 400 or 500 seat theaters sell out. Also I think filmmakers put too much faith in festivals as some type of ticket to jump starting their filmmaking career. Don't loose sleep over them.

Sujewa: Are there useful things that genre (horror, sci-fi) filmmakers do but indie (comedy, drama) filmmakers do not know about & are not doing - in production, distribution, publicity, etc.?

Lance: Horror and sci-fi fans are rabid. So one thing that can be useful to filmmakers is the convention circuit. I've gone to a number of horror conventions to do signings and the response has been overwhelming. It is an excellent way to build word of mouth and has helped me in the past. Other than that I think it's pretty much the same.

Sujewa: Are you happy with how Head Trauma performed in '06, so far (financially, audience & critical response)? Will you do an even wider theatrical release later? And what's the next project for you, besides working on The Last Broadcast distribution & Head Trauma distribution & The Workbook Project?

Lance: I'm thrilled with the performance of HEAD TRAUMA this year. It was a great year for the movie and things are only getting better. We're working on some TV and foreign sales deals. The movie has sold very well on DVD and can be found in retail outlets like Best Buy, rental outlets like Hollywood Video and Netflix and online at places like Amazon. We have a couple of one off screenings coming up in December and few in the new year. But after doing a 17 city theatrical run the movie is pretty much finished its theatrical play dates here in the States. I've got a couple new projects in the works. I'm close to packaging a much larger film and I'm hoping if all goes well it will go into pre-production some time next year. I've had a a ton of interest from managers and agents so I think this might be the time that I finally settle down and get some representation.

Sujewa: More on The Workbook Project; what's the essential idea and how would you like the project to grow and how would you like to see filmmakers use the Workbook?

Lance: On the DIY front I'm working hard on the Workbook Project, for me it's a way to give something back to the filmmaking community. I really want it to assist filmmakers and I hope it can help to prime a new open market. Because there is no one way to do something I'm hoping that it can become an organic resource that grows over time. The workbook will live as a free downloadable resource that filmmakers can use online or off. Over the next few months I'll be continuing a series of podcasts with people from all sides of the film industry. Each week I'll post a new interview at Last week I discussed building audiences with Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix. This week I sit down with Scott Kirsner to discuss his new book "The Future of Web Video" and how filmmakers can monetize work online. Lastly, since the workbook project is a social open source experiment we're looking for people to contribute the following to:

* Tell us about your project (status, sites, budget, screenings, etc.)
* Find any cool links about filmmaking, send them our way
* Know of a great digital venue - add it to the theatrical mapping project
* Take and use whatever you want from the workbook project it is all free and open
* Got a suggestion on something you want us to cover let us know

Thanks a lot Lance!

- Sujewa

Fylmz interview about Date Number One & self-distribution

The indie film website Fylmz interviewed me about my movie Date Number One & its self-distribution project. Check out the interview here. Here is a segment of the interview: "Q: Can you explain DIY filmmaking to me? Isn’t every film really a kind of DIY endeavor? * A: DIY is a term borrowed from punk rock. DIY refers to artists making work and distributing the work without the assistance of the mainstream production and distribution industry or other large corporate involvement. For indie film in the US, that means Hollywood or Indiewood. DIYness is only relevant, as far as I see, in cases where the filmmaker does not have a lot of money or is not already a part of Hollywood or Indiewood. If you have $200,000 to make and distribute an indie movie, at this point in time, it does not matter if you claim you are DIY or not, because the amount of money you have will make it easy for you to get the work done. On the other hand, a young filmmaker with no industry connections making and self-distributing a high quality $3,000 movie is a DIY thing and is very exciting. Because of the democratizing potential that story and example contains or the fact that a good film is made and gotten out with a relatively little bit of money and a lot of work could mean many other film artists with good ideas but not a lot of money may be able to get their work made and out." Read the entire interview here. Thanks Fylmz!

An old fashioned independent film success story; OFF THE BLACK director James Ponsoldt interview

James Ponsoldt is having a couple of years that most film school students dream of; his plan to make a low budget debut feature got improved upon with the addition of a famous actor (Nick Nolte) & a veteran indie producer (Scott Macaulay), & his film got selected to Sundance 06 & now the movie, Off the Black, will be opening theatrically thanks to the respected indie distributor THINKFilm. In spite of or just maybe even because of all the breaks, Off the Black is an excellent movie; fresh & unpredictable & a lot funnier than it looks in its promotional material - I will have a review of it here this week. I spent about 12 hours today (Sunday 12/3, starting with a 10:30 AM screening at The Avalon in DC that was attended by 300 - 400 people!) talking about, & first watching on screen, the world of Off the Black & the world of Ponsoldt. His quick rise to indie success has not been a 100% smooth ride & his current situation is not without frustrations, but those are comparatively smallish details to be re-visited & dissected & learned from at a later point in time. For now, it is time to celebrate - the movie is opening this coming Friday in NYC & LA, so I spoke with Ponsoldt to get an update on the project directly from its creator: * James Ponsoldt Interview *
Sujewa: Hey James, thanks a lot for taking the time out for this interview. I just saw your excellent off-beat drama Off The Black, but before we get to discussing the movie, let's go over some of the highlights of the production story & distribution story of this project so far: 1. how did you hook up with the veteran producer Scott Macaulay's company on this project, 2. how did this project land Nick Nolte for the lead role, and 3. how did the film get into Sundance and 4. how did the film end up with THINKFilm for distribution? I ask these biz questions because, for a typical indiewood film those are not anything too odd, but for a first time feature that was initially planned as a low budget DV movie, those are very interesting, & some would say impressive, achievements. I think for new filmmakers out there, how those things happened with this project - kind of home runs on some key fronts - will be a very interesting thing to hear about. *
James: I'd known of Scott for years because of the many films he's produced ("Raising Victor Vargas","Gummo", etc.) and from his position with Filmmaker magazine, but ultimately it took an agent to put us in touch. As soon as I sat down and met with Scott--as well as his producing partner at Forensic, Robin O'Hara--I knew I was in good company. Their taste, knowledge of the film industry, and integrity is impressive as hell. Also, Scott speaks faster than pretty much anyone I know. I talk fast, and yet Scott can talk laps around me. I'm not sure that this is helpful in any way whatsoever, but I certainly feel a kinship with people who open their mouths and a flood of ideas spills out.
We were very lucky to have a great casting director agree to work on the film (Avy Kaufman, who casts films for Ang Lee, Jim Sheridan, and Lars von Trier, among other directors), and she knew Nick and has cast him before. However, it was really Scott and Robin that helped the most in terms of getting the script to Nick. Forensic Films (Scott and Robin's company) co-produced a couple films from Oliver Assayas including "Demonlover" and "Clean", which Maggie Cheung starred in with Nick Nolte. So they were able to get the script directly to Nick. Also, Nick trusts them, so when he read the script and liked it, he assumed that Scott and Robin wouldn't work with a jerk. They were a seal of approval for me, because nobody knew who the hell I was. I still had to fly to L.A. to meet with Nick, but it was incredibly friendly and informal.
As for Sundance, we just applied like everybody else. We were lucky, because we didn't start shooting until September (2005), so what we sent them was a very, very rough cut. I think we cut 40 minutes from the version that we sent to Sundance. But we found out that we were in around Thanksgiving, and kept working on the film basically until the day before the film premiered (in the middle of January, 2006). It's a cliche, but the print of "Off the Black" was virtually dripping wet.
We had a sales rep for the film (Andrew Herwitz), and we spoke with different distributors, but THINKFilm seemed like the best match. When you talk about THINKFilm, in many ways you're talking about Mark Urman, who's a force of nature. Urman lives and breathes independent film, and his knowledge of the business is encyclopedic. Also, with a company who's recently distributed films like "Murderball","Born into Brothels","Half Nelson","Spellbound", and "Shortbus" (among many others), I feel like I'm in good company. There aren't many truly independent distributors out there--companies like Kino, Zeitgeist, or THINKFilm are few and far between. They're doing what October Films was doing in the early 90's, which is to intelligently bring smaller films to a specific audience, and sometimes they have cross-over hits. Their films might not be for everyone, but I feel like for real film lovers, they're essential.
Sujewa: Even though Nick Nolte is in it & it was shot on 35 MM, is your movie a low budget movie by Hollywood & Indiewood standards? A real low budget movie as in less than a million dollars or a few hundred thousand dollars for production?

James: Our film was pretty damn low budget by Hollywood standards. There's a number of "independent" films that come out that ultimately have major corporations behind them, and it completely calls into question what it means to be independent. Our film was 100% independently financed, we took it to Sundance, and sold it to an independent distributor. I loved my cast and crew (I was able to have the brilliant Tim Orr as my cinematographer and Sabine Hoffman as my editor!), but we felt the crunch in terms of time. I guess that's always the complaint on indie films--not enough time--but that's what I really wish we had more money for...shooting days.
I'm incredibly proud of the film, I put my heart into it, and I'm grateful I got to make it. The "Thank you" part of our end credits is massive because there's no way we could've made the film without calling in a million favors, our actors working for a fraction of what they deserve, and Scott and Robin being experts on how to make a low budget film look like it cost more than it actually did.
Sujewa: Can you describe the movie, the plot mainly.
James: In a nutshell: "Off the Black" is a funny-sad story about a middle-aged high school baseball umpire that convinces a screwed-up, lonely teenager to come to his 40th year high school reunion and pretend to be his son.

Sujewa: I usually shy away from heavy handed dramas because I've seen many of them and at this point I seriously doubt I would see a whole new take on that kind of storytelling; but, at first I though Off The Black was going to be a simple drama but then it turned out to be an off-beat, unpredictable movies with a lot of humor - not the impression I got from the poster & the trailer - and at this morning's screening a lot of people laughed - your movie, at points, reminded me of Jim Jarmusch moments and early Gus Van Sant moments - unpredictable and steers clear of cliches. Can you comment on the first impression that people (like myself) get about your movie & what they say about it after they've seen it?
James: I think there's certain terms that are used to refer to a lot of independent films...terms like "slow burning drama",or "coming of age" or "small town drama". They've become their own genres, like "action" or "sci-fi", except they're usually made by people like John Sayles, not Tony Scott. And labels are fine, I guess, because we like to classify things. But they also create certain expectations for an audience. And it's the job of a storyteller to subvert expectation and to surprise the audience, even if it's in low-key, subtle, human terms.
I think people expect "Off the Black" to be intense and an angry punch in the gut--perhaps in the vein of "Affliction". And it's not. I like humanistic tragicomedies--whether they were made by Hal Ashby, Bob Rafelson, and Paul Mazursky in the early 70's, or Ozu and Renoir 30 years earlier. Most of those films can't properly be called a drama or a comedy, and I gravitate towards stories like that because they resemble the world as I know it. Again, we like to label. We have a compulsive need to label. But life for me seems mostly funny-sad...I laugh a lot, and I mean well, but like everyone, I'm deeply flawed, and sometimes bad things happen to people I care about. And we all hope for the best and keep trying 'cause what else can you do? I guess I like stories about flawed people who mean well but fail a lot yet keep trying. And sometimes the stories end with them failing. But at least they're trying to be good.
Anyway, that was a bit of a digression, but most people that see "Off the Black" are surprised by how much they laughed. The humor is sometimes born out of awkward situations, sad situations, and the comedy is a relief. I think I could've told essentially the same story and had it be very, very depressing. But it's not. It's funny and surprisingly optimistic. I almost wish we could change the tagline on the poster to: "Don't worry--this movie won't make you feel like shit!"
Sujewa: You seem fascinated with small towns & factory towns - the world of Off The Black is certainly not cosmopolitan New York (kinda the Whit Stillman territory) nor downtown bohemian indie/art scene (kinda Mutual Appreciation territory) - yet you yourself are a young (late 20's) creative person who lives & works in the two major entertainment cities in the US (New York & LA), can you talk a little about why you set the story in a small town even though you probably could have told a story that takes place in a big city?
James: Well, I've lived in New York for the past five years, but I was born in Athens, Georgia, lived in the exact same house until I was 18, and go back to Georgia all the time. Right now I'm a bit itinerant, sometimes crashing in Brooklyn and sometimes in Los Feliz (on the east side of Los Angeles), but Athens is the only place that feels like home. And I'm acutely aware of the fact that I'm not a city person. I may live there at times, but it's not part of my DNA. And it comes across in the way I made "Off the Black". I grew up in the woods, and spent a lot of time looking at power lines and trains and abandoned factories and steadily became fascinated by the sound of crickets as well as the electric hum of power generators. That all being said, I'm much more interested in telling stories about the people that I grew up with--when my consciousness and sense of self was being formed--than stories about 20-something hipsters. And there's great films to be made about those 20-something hipsters, but I don't feel like I have a choice in the matter. I just want to tell the stories that seem compelling to me, and it's that simple. If and when I make a film that takes place in a metropolitan area, which I'd definitely like to at some point, I think it will be from the point of view of an outsider. *
Sujewa: Now to the question that probably every other person has asked - what was it like to work with Nick Nolte? Were you scared? By the way, I though Nolte did a magnificent job in Off The Black.
James: Thank you--I agree with you! And before I met Nick, yes, I was terrified. I thought he'd violate me. Ahem. That being said, after I met him I realized two things: 1) Public perceptions of celebrities rarely bare any relation to what they're really like (and those perceptions are cultivated by publications and TV shows that are trying to make money). And 2) Nick Nolte is a sweetheart. On set, he's a complete professional, unbelievably prepared, works without ego, and loves to play and imagine like a child. It's a gift to be able to work with an actor like Nick Nolte. He's so brutally honest to the point of being incapable of lying that it's sometimes painful...because the truth can be ugly. Unlike many actors, Nick doesn't mind being ugly in service of honesty. *
Sujewa: The lead character's (played by Trevor Morgan) sexuality & romantic life was oddly muted I thought - he does not seem to have a girlfriend, he seems straight. Did you leave out showing that aspect of the character's life because it was not very relevant to the main story that you were telling - which is these two strangers stumbling into a slightly odd but kind of important, healing platonic friendship for a brief period of time?
James: I think you said it perfectly. No, it's not that relevant to the main story. That being said, Dave (the character played by Trevor Morgan) has abandonment issues--stemming from an AWOL mother and a less-than-perfect father--that will probably make it really tough for him to trust other people and create intimate relationships. That includes sexual relationships as well as friendships. For that reason, the brief encounter he has with Ray (Nolte's character) becomes quite important to him (whether or not he realizes it).

Sujewa: Even though this was a first time feature, it looks, sounds & plays/feels like the work of an old pro. I am sure your cast & crew had a lot to do with it. Can you talk a little about the contributions made by your key crew members and your cast?
James: I think one of the biggest crimes on films is that the director and stars end up becoming the face of the film, when in fact it took so many people working their asses off to make it. So, here we go: Tim Orr (cinematographer) is a genius visual poet who is one of the greatest young DP's working today; Tony Gasparro (production designer) made the world feel real, lived in, and added tiny details that were inspired and memorable; Caroline Duncan (costume designer) created outfits that seemed honest and simple but were subtly defined and specific enough to enhance the personalities of the characters; Sabine Hoffman (editor) is a mother hen, and a collaborator, and simply a wonderful storyteller who helped me find the story; Avy Kaufman (casting director) loves great actors and is simply the best at what she does; Claire Campbell (composer) is a brilliant, soulful, haunting musician who, being from where I'm from in the south, understands the pulse and rhythm of the film I wanted to make. The main and supporting actors in the film--Nick Nolte, Trevor Morgan, Timothy Hutton, Sonia Feigelson, Sally Kirkland, Rosemarie Dewitt, Michael Higgins, Jonathan Tchaikovsky, and Noah Fleiss--were so talented, imaginative, surprising, and honest that I can't imagine the film with another cast. They gave life to a paper document I and I consider them artists and collaborators. And I was unspeakably lucky to work with them all.

Sujewa: I know Off The Black is opening on December 8 in NYC & LA. What other cities will the movie play in & where can people find more info. about the project?
James: "Off the Black" is scheduled right now to also play in San Francisco, Berkeley, San Diego, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C, Charlotte, Honolulu, Denver, Salt Lake City, Athens, and Atlanta. How it does in New York and L.A. (as well as the other cities) will determine whether it goes into even wider release. I'm hoping for the best, but if you want to see it and it's playing near you, see it early (and often)! The best sites to go to for information are and

Thanks James!



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