Runaway Production No Laughing Matter

In Moviemaker’s “10 Best Cities in North America for
Independent Moviemakers,” (Issue 49, Vol. 10) Ruba Nadda states
“Torontonians are laughing because we see the CNN tower.” Well,
as a freelance grip who worked on three features and several shorts
in 2002, I’d like Ms. Nadda to know that we here in Chicago aren’t
laughing. We’re starving. We know damn well that if it weren’t for
runaway movies, we’d be number one (okay, at least number three)
on MM’s Top 10. On the bright side, nobody—and I mean nobody—can
spot a faux (not to mention, stupid-looking) cityscape as the moviegoing
public in the proud city of Chicago.

Keep up the great work at MM magazine. Let’s
hope the industry prevails for all American film crews in 2003.

—Jerry ‘daGrip’ Foreman, Chicago, IL

MM Film School 101

I love the article you did about the Pro8mm camera
(Issue 49, Vol. 10). I just started my own film company, here in
the small town of Puyallup, Washington. My son is working to be
a director, and I’ve wanted to get him the right camera. Your article
has helped me to make the right choice.

Your magazine has really been a wonderful learning
tool for me. I’ve wanted to go to New York to learn film, but the
financing is beyond what I have at the moment, so I’m learning on
my own. Your magazine is the best thing I’ve found. Thanks!

—Marie Moren, Reel Life Productions, Puyallup, WA

Getting Down to Business

In Walter J. Coady’s article “Your Film: Blockbuster
Hit… or Lawsuit-in-Waiting?” (Issue 49, Vol. 10), the writer states
that “Technically, a title can’t be copyrighted unless it’s a series
such as The Hobbit or Tarzan.”

That is incorrect. There is no “unless” concerning
copyrighting a title. A title cannot be copyrighted. Period. There
are various other protections available for titles, but copyrighting
a title is specifically prohibited by law.

He further states that “It’s impossible to distribute
a film without insurance, since distributors require it.” It is
certainly not impossible to distribute a film without insurance,
only foolish (much like it’s not impossible to drive a car without

While E&O insurance is a normal deliverable, if a
distributor wants a film badly enough—and the producer has no money
to buy it—the distributor will provide their own insurance. Of course,
the article was written by a guy who sells insurance, which is why
he glosses over things before getting down to the business he does

—David Stephens

Indie Film’s Class War

Your Fall, 2002 issue (Issue 48, Vol. 9) is a testament
to the class war raging within the independent community. On the
one hand were the excellent articles like Steve Hamilton’s “Digital
Post-Production Democracy,” which cites the new demographics of
film festivals entrants; and John Gaspard and Dale Newton’s “The
Dos and Don’ts of DV Moviemaking” and Eric Sherman’s “So You Want
to Direct Movies,” both of which cite the importance of story over
format and film school stylistics.

On the other hand were David Geffner’s “The Indie
Distribution Crisis,” lamenting the crisis in theatrical distribution
for independent (art) films and Shelley Friedman’s interview with
Ray Carney, in which Carney blasts the “special interest demographics”
of gays, blacks and feminists for getting all the distribution deals
rightfully reserved for art films made by white upper-middle-class,
academic straight men like himself.

It is ironic that Geffner pronounces “the” independent
film community as being in a distribution crisis at the precise
moment when so many of us in Carney’s “special interest demographic”
categories are celebrating the virtual explosion of our microbudget
independent movies on the shelves of Blockbuster, and the solid
growth of the direct-to-video distributors which put them there.
Most of these movies have never been near a festival, and their
producers and directors have never appeared between the covers of
trade magazines like MM. I find this omission singular. After all,
don’t we all make movies?

The producers of independent art films need to acknowledge
that theirs is but a single star in the constellation of independent
movies. The “artists” seeking “self expression in film” will soon
have to accept that they own nothing more than their own genre:
not the entire independent movie phenomenon, the motion picture
medium or the exclusive right to define and employ “art.”

Do small and independent book publishers measure their
health by the success of only their “literary” authors? Of course
not. It would stand to reason then, that the “artists” and academics
among us not pronounce a galactic apocalypse just because their
particular star happens to have gone dim.

—Beverly Garside, Odenton, MD

MovieMaker’s Influence

Dear Tim,

I’m not sure if you will remember me or not, but I
thought it would be a good time to write you after receiving MM’s
Winter 2003 issue. Your notebook editorial covering, among other
things, why the independent film industry will survive was of particular

The article “Jousting at the Moon for Fun and Profit”
helped me explore the reason I continue to write screenplays and
make short films, while at the same time understanding the motivations
of others (which are as many and varied as the individuals themselves).

There was a time when I was angry about how little
people realize or appreciate the work and expense involved in making
a film. I thought I was good enough to make it in the industry,
only to find that I wasn’t half as good as I thought I was—and only
knew a tenth of what I needed to (however, I am an “award winning
moviemaker” ;-).

Today, I’m quite happy to write (as it’s the least
expensive aspect of the filmmaking process), and when I feel passionate
enough about one of my stories, I begin the arduous task of conducting
all the necessary pre-planning. Assembling the cast and crew needed
to just make a short film (a broad stroke on a small canvas, if
you will) is in itself a feat.

No ambition exists in me to make money at filmmaking
anymore (not that I couldn’t use it if you have any lying around),
and now I only make movies for the love of the art and challenge
to improve at the craft. I can only hope that one of my projects
will inspire and move someone in the way others have moved me. Filmmaking
is a cathartic process that helps me understand myself better and
a magic carpet ride to a more rewarding and gratifying life.

I can’t thank you and your staff at MM enough
for all of the valuable information and knowledge I have gained
from reading your magazine, and the richness that it has brought
to my life.

—Wayne Baimbridge, Hollywood, CA

Everybody Got a Stake in Hungry Hearts

I’m Timothy E. Wurtz. With Glenn M. Benest, I co-wrote
and co-produced the film Hungry Hearts. I am responding to
the article “The Making of Hungry Hearts,” written by Glenn and
published in MM in Summer, 2002 (Issue 47, Vol. 9).

I would like to correct the impression that Glenn
did all the work by himself. The facts of the piece are correct,
but all along the way Glenn had a full-time partner. He and I began
writing together in the early 1980s and continued to do so through
the production and post-production of Hungry Hearts. In addition
to my extensive work on the screenplay,
I was also the on-set producer of the film.

Glenn and I first discussed the notion of producing
a low-budget “festival film” in the mid-1990s. I began work on the
screenplay in 1997, and the final credits for the film are: Written
by Glenn M. Benest & Timothy E. Wurtz; Produced by Glenn M.
Benest, Timothy E. Wurtz, Hagai Shaham.

—Timothy E. Wurtz, Valley Village, CA

Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles

MovieMaker—please, if you’ve got one tiny testicle
amongst you, print this letter:

For the second time in a year you dismissed LA as
a second rate indie film town. Last year it was fourth, this year
seventh or eighth, behind places like Philadelphia and Austin, Texas—ha
ha ha. It’s sad that there are so many suckers that believe your
terrible, attitude-driven lies, but here’s the truth everybody:
LA is a great place for indie film! And I’ll tell you why.

I just made a feature with 35 SAG actors and it cost
me $14,000. No lie, no exaggeration. How did I do it? The glut of
talent in LA is astonishing. There are so many people who want to
work in every facet—acting, producing, writing, directing and, just
in general, helping. Everybody worked for free with percentages
in the film (outside the AD and the soundman, who worked for peanuts).

People come to LA to be in the industry, and nowhere
in the world do you have such a wealth of talent and hunger to create
film. LA, for a metropolis. is also a relatively inexpensive city.
It’s too big to be contained, unlike New York and San Francisco.
It’s not maxed out, so you can always find alternatives to all expenses.
If one grocery store won’t give it to you for free, another one
will. It’s also so big that the whole city can’t be jaded by the
industry. I didn’t pay for one location except $20 for a public
golf course—and they let us stay all day.
Here’s another factor: weather and location. We have city, vertical
and horizontal; we have suburbia (lord knows we have suburbia);
we have mountains, desert, snow, beaches, ocean, lakes, forest and
72 degree weather the whole year except summer. Hey, MM,
why don’t you go to Chicago and shoot an indie in January and let
us know how you liked the “lake effect.”

Wall Street runs New York; Hollywood runs LA. That
means equipment stores and rental stores are a dime a dozen, and
willing to be incredibly competitive if you shop around. How many
choices do you really have in Austin, Texas?

And here’s the last thing: In LA you can fake Toronto,
Vancouver and New York, but you can’t fake LA in any of those places.
The reason MM trashes us is because when you live in LA, you’re
not allowed to like it. You have to pine for all the places the
transplants came from and will never go back to. The posturing of
the self-loathing Angeleno is a strange phenomenon, but believe
me, some of us do like it here. And many of us—the MM staff
included—have taken great advantage of it.

—Adam White, 4th Park Films, Los Angeles, CA