Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Paranormal Activity"

Have you guys been following what’s happening with “Paranormal Activity?” It is INSANE – five weeks into its release, it lands in the number one box office slot, ABOVE “Saw VI!” And on nearly half the screens, as well. Do you know insane that is? How freaking unpredictable and AWESOME?!

Quick sum-up for those who don’t know the story: The director, Oren Peli, wanted to make a cheap movie. He came up with a great hook, found a couple actors, and shot a creepy psychological in his house for $11,000. Sound familiar? It went to Slamdance two years ago, was purchased by Paramount/Dreamworks, and is now on its way to being one of the most financially successful films of all time.

So what can we take from all this? It’s hard to say. Certainly, I think it’s great news for "Fugue." When we approach distributors, we have a very fresh example of a low-budget thriller with no stars that made tons o’ cash. But Hollywood is a fickle town, and some similarities on paper are not enough to seal the deal. You could release two nearly identical movies within six months of each other, and they could perform vastly differently.

What’s happening with “Paranormal” is a cinematic fluke – it was brilliantly marketed, had a unique concept with a built-in advertising hook, and it hit at a time when audiences were tired of traditional, big-budget scary movies. The cool thing is, one of these flukes seems to show up every couple years – “The Blair Witch Project,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “Open Water” – the list goes on and on. You can hope it will happen to your film, but there’s absolutely no way to arrange it. The only rule in Hollywood? There are no rules.

For right now, it’s just cool there’s another example of huge success we can point to. I’ve seen the movie, and while it’s not fantastic, the scary scenes are legitimately scary. Which, for a jaded cinephile like me, is saying a lot.

As an example of how inspired and unusual the marketing for this was, check out the trailer below:

There’s more footage of the audience than there is of the actual movie! Very gutsy. (And also, very jealous of the 4.5 MILLION views. I was happy that we just cracked 1000, especially considering we haven't done any publicity yet.)

If you haven’t already, go see “Paranormal Activity” this week. Help make it into a cinematic success story, so we can hopefully follow in its footsteps! (And barring that, leech off its notoriety in any way possible.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


We picture locked the movie last week! It’s taken me awhile to actually write about it, because we had to send the latest cut off to some festivals, and frankly, I needed a couple days off. The last few weeks there, we were editing for 10, 12 hours a day, looking at takes and line readings over and over, and generally thinking about the movie non-stop. My head was so occupied with the movie I was having insomnia. Any time someone would talk to me, random words would make me think of lines from the film. It was definitely nice to be done.

For those not in the movie business, let me explain why picture lock is such a big deal. It basically means the end of picture editing. Everyone agrees it’s done, and the film is handed off to the sound designers, composer, and color correction people. Once it’s “locked,” you can’t make any more changes in the timing or shot choices. This is so the sound matches up. If there’s a huge error or fix needed, you can alter the soundtrack, but it’s a HUGE hassle.

Emotionally, picture lock is very similar to finishing principal photography. You’ve reached the end of a very intense working relationship, and are moving on to the next stage. It’s relieving and worrisome and bittersweet all at the same time.

In terms of “Fugue” specifically, I feel good about it. I feel like we took the time to get it right, and we did the best we can with the footage we had. Yes, it could be better or different, but it could always be better or different. At a certain point, you have to trust the work.

There were some very last-minute changes. A lot of them entailed going back to how things were originally, but there were some additions. We added a creepy sound design moment in the very first scene, which had never been intended when we shot it. We took out a beat in the second act that was kind of cheesy. But the greatest change was finding some different takes of Victoria in a crucial third act scene. We’d gotten so used to the takes in this scene, we forgot to check the other performances. And we ended up finding something that completely altered the whole tone of the moment, and definitely for the better. It was a huge relief to find something like that in the eleventh hour.

All in all, we feel good. Stephanie our editor did a great job, and was extremely patient and dedicated over the last five months. We’re taking her out for a celebratory dinner tonight, but there’s still plenty of work. Our composer Dana is starting to work on the score, Adrian and his sound team are beginning their work, and we’re still finishing up the visual effects.

We’ve also started applying to festivals. The movie has gone to six so far, and we’ll probably send it to another ten or so before the year is out. We should start hearing whether or not we’re in toward the beginning of December.

In the meantime, we’re working on sound and thinking about ideas for the next project. Gotta keep the machine moving.