Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We Have A New Website!

I am pleased to announce that Markee 2.0 magazine has completely redesigned its website. It is now much easier to navigate, looks better (more modern design), and more prominently features the photos and videos that accompany our terrific articles.

Speaking of enhancements, did you realize that with our July/August issue we launched a fully digital version of publication as well? Markee 2.0 is now available in a digital magazine format for industry professionals looking for an easier way to access their favorite content while on the go. The new “flip-page” format is compatible with smartphones and tablet computers. We have partnered with one of the publishing world’s leading rich media content providers to provide a fully immersive and interactive reader experience with our digital publication.

Click here to browse through our current digital issues to see just how easy and intuitive the navigation process can be. We hope you enjoy this extension of our services to you! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Music and Cinema

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a performance by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, but it wasn't just any performance. To be clear, this group of talented musicians could bring the most knowledgeable and experienced symphony aficionados to their feet. But on this night, the ASO was playing the music of legendary composer and Academy Award winner John Williams, and Mr. Williams was their conductor! 
John Williams and Steven Spielberg with the ASO.
Photo courtesy of ASO/Jeff Roffman.

The event – "An Evening With John Williams, Stephen Spielberg and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra" – showcased the most legendary movie scores in Hollywood history, many of them for Spielberg's films, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, and Schindler's List. Mr. Spielberg was on hand to introduce some of the music and talk about how his films just wouldn't be the same without the brilliant scores composed by Williams. It was a privilege to be in their company for an evening and to see Mr. Williams in action. At 80 years old, this living legend – who has essentially provided the soundtrack to the lives of multiple generations – is as spry and energetic as any octogenarian I've seen.

I think the music must keep him young at heart. I certainly feel young again every time I hear "The Imperial March" or any other piece of music from the first three Star Wars movies. And I bet you do too. These movies are a rite of passage for people around the world, and their scores – Williams' music – stays with you.

This special evening had me thinking about how crucial music is to cinema. Sure, on one level it is obvious that music is needed to help convey emotions and move the story along. But the relationship between the two is much deeper. As Spielberg said at one point during that magical October evening, if movies are lightening then music is the thunder. They're natural companions, and you just can't have the same level of enjoyment with one of those components missing. Just try watching one of your favorite movies with the TV muted. You'll be reaching for your remote within minutes.

As Christine Bunish writes in our Sept/Oct 2012 feature article on Original Music, music has the power to propel plots and evoke emotion to deliver the impact intended by filmmakers. She explores this idea with four sound design/composers in great detail: Breed Music, Robert Etoll, The Music Factory, and Endless Noise. You can read her article on our website. And, of course, there's always the print edition to which I encourage you to subscribe.

So what are your favorite film scores? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Giving Football Movies More Respect

Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side. Photo: Georgia Dept. of Economic Development
As much as I love watching professional and college football, it occurs to me that I don't give football movies as much respect and attention as I willingly give baseball movies. (I've already written about my favorite baseball movies below on this blog.) So with football season well underway, I decided to make a list of my favorite films set on the gridiron. However, it quickly occurred to me that I hadn't yet seen many of the movies considered among the best football films. How could this be? I wasn't intentionally avoiding these movies. I don't let many baseball movies slide past without at least a glance – save for those movies where some kid ends up playing professionally, or angels help a team win games.

Instead of making a short list of my favorite football movies among the ones I've actually seen, I decided to make a list of the ones I want to see. There are many films that depict the dramatic and comedic lives of football players (and their families). Films that have won Academy Awards. Films based on best-selling books. Films that are considered classics. But before I get to the classics (Brian's Song, North Dallas Forty), I'm going to watch a collection of modern football movies, perhaps in a marathon fashion. Below is a list (in no particular order) of some of the modern football movies I most want to see. Upon reading, please let me know what your favorite football films are and what other football films I should see.

Leatherheads – This is a comedy about the early days of football, when actual protection from bodily harm was relegated mostly to a leather helmet. The movie stars George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, and John Krasinski. The plot is loosely based on Chicago Bears owner George Halas' pursuit of Red Grange. I like all three stars in the movie, especially Clooney, so why have I not seen this?

The Blind Side – Based on Michael Oher's life story (Oher plays for the Baltimore Ravens), this film stars Sandra Bullock (who won an Oscar for her role) and Tim McGraw (personally, I like my country singers-turned-actors in the form of Dwight Yoakam, but still...). It's a drama about how a poor kid – with the help of a wealthy family – makes it to the NFL. This movie grossed more than $200 million domestically, so even casual sports fans found this one entertaining. But again, I somehow missed it.

We Are Marshall – Stars the two Matthews (McConaughey and Fox) and David Strathairn. This film is about the tragic plane crash that takes the lives of virtually the entire Marshall football team in 1970, as well has how the team, the school, and the community copes and rebuilds. I know all about the tragedy – it still is talked about during Marshall football broadcasts today – but I haven't seen this dramatization. Long overdue.

Friday Night Lights – Texas football. Does it get any better? No, it does not, which is why so many football movies are set there. This one is based on H.G. Bissinger's book of the same name about a high school football team in Odessa, Texas. This story would eventually be made into a popular TV series, which I also haven't seen. I gotta get with the program, right?!

Invincible – This one stars Mark Walberg as Vince Papale, a guy who really did make it as a Philadelphia Eagle during an open tryout. I was aware of the film during its release, but never got around to seeing it. Again, this is another almost-too-good-to-be-true football story – much like The Blind Side – but with an action hero in the starring role. What's not to love? Adding to Netflix queue...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Men in Hats

A&E's Longmire. Warner Bros. Television Entertainment/Ursula Coyote©2012 WBEI. 

If you watch a great deal of television (if you’re reading this blog, then I assume you do), you’ve probably noticed a trend of late: There are a lot of men in hats. And I don’t mean some character trying to look hip by wearing an ill-fitting straw fedora. I am talking about characters who wouldn’t be the same without their hats; the hats are an extension – or perhaps a reflection – of who they are. Such accouterment helps viewers get into the story – and certainly helps the actors get into character. I’m rarely seen without some sort of chapeau, so this is a trend I can get behind.

Allow me to run down a list of some of the shows to which I am referring: Longmire (A&E), Dallas (TNT), Vegas (CBS, premieres Sept. 25), Justified (FX), Hell on Wheels (AMC), and Copper (BBC America). Granted, most of these programs are period dramas, reflecting times in which few men left their homes without a hat. Still, I think there is a deeper issue here than simply the idea of producing a TV show set in the Old West (Hell on Wheels) or Civil War-era New York (Copper).

These shows are reminders that America used to have ideals about working hard, living off the land, and actually producing tangible goods. The work was tough, but the men were tougher. Men wore hats more so out of need rather than want of being fashionable. They were outdoors all day – rain or shine – getting things done. Hats provided protection from the elements. Most of us today work in office buildings, sitting in front of computer screens. No hat is required for that!

Sure, we’re looking at our history through a romanticized lens. Everything wasn’t rosy, and these shows reflect that in many ways. But even today, you can look at a character on TV, or a man on the street for that matter, and know his character based solely on his choice of hat. One glance at Robert Taylor as Sheriff Walt Longmire, and you know he’s a gritty, no-nonsense lawman. There’s a heavy burden on this man’s soul, and that brown wool hat is the only thing keeping him from falling apart.

I don’t lament progress, and I don’t hate my desk job. I don’t wish to live in another era. But like the producers and viewers of these TV shows (I particularly enjoy Longmire and Hell on Wheels), I enjoy escaping into a world where the good guys wear hats – cowboy hats. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Film is dead. Long live film.

IMAX film negative. Copyright 2012 Company Films LLC.

Is it time to stop referring to movies as “films”? This is a question I’ve been pondering since June, when I read that movie studios will cease producing film prints for major markets by the end of 2013. At the very least, should we stop referring to new movies as films? In most cases, what we’re watching these days was recorded digitally – no celluloid involved. Hardly anything in theaters or on TV is “filmed” anymore; it’s recorded to hard drives. (There are exceptions, such as ABC’s Castle, which we noted here: http://markeemag.com/Article/613/.) So this leaves me wondering if we need a new term for digital movies, or if we just refer to them simply as “movies.”

My only hesitation is that, for as long as I can remember, I have differentiated between movies that simply were made for entertainment (“movies”) and those also made with the intent to educate, inform, document and, perhaps, change the world in some small way (“films”). How would I make this distinction in the future? Fast and Furious 20 certainly is not the same form of entertainment as March of the Penguins

I posed this question recently on Quora. (Please add your two cents: http://b.qr.ae/PdpwJb.) Chris Keath, director of production workflows at Current TV, was kind enough to answer. He said: “I see no need. ‘Movie’ and ‘Film’ are already more or less inter-changeable terms for a general public point of view. It may fall out of fashion over time, but I find the whole notion of being able to intentionally remove a common definition from the public lexicon to be pretty suspect.”

I am inclined to agree. For now, let’s leave well enough alone. I suppose we may not need an ideological push in the direction of referring to all films as movies; it may eventually happen without our consent. As our technologies change, so does our vocabulary. For example, we don’t tape our favorite music or TV programs anymore; we simply record them. And many people have taken to using the acronym DVR as a verb. (“I DVR’d that show so I can watch it later.”) So until we’re all DVR’ing documentary “movies” to our web-enabled wristwatches and eyeglasses, you can find me at the multiplex viewing the latest silent “film” from France. 

There are some in Hollywood looking to make a distinction as well – or least trying to make sense of how this digital transition will affect their business and their lives. For instance, actor Keanu Reeves produced a documentary titled Side by Side, which aims to investigate the history, process and workflow of both digital and photochemical film creation. According to the project's website (http://sidebysidethemovie.com/), "Through interviews with directors, cinematographers, film students, producers, technologists, editors, and exhibitors, Side by Side examines all aspects of filmmaking – from capture to edit, visual effects to color correction, distribution to archive. At this moment when digital and photochemical filmmaking coexist, Side by Side explores what has been gained, what is lost, and what the future might bring."

Monday, July 2, 2012

AFCI Locations Show 2012

The Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) hosted a great 2012 event in mid-June at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The annual show is designed to give the production community access to a vast range of incentives, production locations, and business and support services essential to the industry. This year, show organizers say the event featured more than $2.5 billion of incentives, services and support for film and television production. It also coincided with the opening weekend of Film Independent’s Los Angeles Film Festival.

Approximately 2,500 filmmakers and locations professionals were in attendance for Locations 2012, and they had the unique opportunity to engage with more than 170 film commissioners from more than 40 countries. The bottom line: If you're an independent producer or represent a small production company, the AFCI Locations Show is a must-attend. You'll make a lot of new contacts and you'll learn a great deal.

Those who attended this year can attest to the quality of the seminars and guest speakers. This year’s event offered 15 panel sessions and workshops featuring industry leaders, filmmakers and the creative teams behind some of the most talked-about films of the last two years, the AFCI says. I sat in on several sessions myself, including The Future of Film Incentives, a panel discussion about the next five years in film incentives may look like; and the LA Film Festival Keynote Speech, with Christopher McGurk, CEO of Cinedigm. He spoke about the future of independent film. I came away from both sessions thinking our industry has a very bright future.

Learn more about the show here: http://www.afcilocationsshow.com/about. Perhaps I will see you there next year!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fairy Tale TV is ‘Must-See’ TV

Grimm's Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), seen here in his CG Bludbot incarnation created by HIVE-FX of Portland, Ore. Photo: HIVE-FX
With few exceptions, compelling TV dramas used to be the exclusive property of cable/satellite channels. This was not because network shows were subject to more stringent regulations regarding colorful language and nudity. Often, the cable shows simply had bigger budgets for their original dramas, because they may only be producing a few at a time – and for a shorter season than is typical of network TV. Sure, you could rely on your Big Three networks for passable one-hour dramas and the occasional made-for-television movie or miniseries, but for gripping, human drama, one had to be willing to pay for the viewing privilege. Millions of Americans, myself included, have been – and will continue to be – eager to spend a monthly fee to view series such as Band of Brothers and The Sopranos (HBO), Mad Men (AMC), Battlestar Galactica (Syfy), and Homeland (Showtime). However, during the last few years, the major networks have turned their attention toward producing better dramatic series with sizeable casts, big budgets, and even on-location shooting.
Programs such as The West Wing (NBC), Lost (ABC), NCIS (CBS) and now Grimm (NBC) have brought creative storytelling, captivating action, and high production values back to the masses. Grimm, as featured in the May/June issue of Markee, is the latest TV drama to charm the U.S. television viewing audience. In fact, its recent May season finale won its Friday night timeslot with nearly 6 million viewers.
Grimm is a rather unique program that reinterprets the well-known “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” with a modern twist. Portland police detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) has inherited the ability to see supernatural creatures, and as a “Grimm,” he is tasked with keeping the balance between mankind and the mythological. There’s truly nothing like it on TV, so Christine Bunish spoke with the show’s visual effects team at HIVE-FX to learn how some of Grimm’s scariest monsters are created as viewers watch them change from their human forms. 
As you will see in our May/June issue, the production values of today’s network dramas certainly are on par with those of the pay channels. And the success of effects-heavy programming such as Grimm should lead to more shows in that vein. In turn, that will put more VFX artists and companies to work, the prospect of which pleases me a great deal.  
If you've never seen the show, be sure to catch up on Grimm during its hiatus, and tune in this fall when it returns.