Archive for August, 2006

Interview with South Eastern Jewish News

Yesterday Michael Shwartz from Inside Business investigated our model for business investment.  That should be an interesting piece.  Just finished an interview with South Eastern Jewish News an hour ago.  Ended up being one of the toughest interviews yet.  No softballs here….

SEJN:  “How do you know this won’t be shlock?  You wern’t making Citizen Kane here!”

Turned out to be a very probing and productive process.  We were able to speak about the model we are constructing for development and production.  It is interesting to see how the financial side of our company and the creative have a wonderful symbiotic relationship. 

I like to think we create the conflict on screen for story and character development.  You won’t find that between finance and creative.  Everyone knows that great stories, well produced will work for the investor.  While at the same time — everything we have done with tech saves budget, and gives us more creative freedom.

Looking forward to Mr. Shwartz’s and SEJN’s coverage.





Cue the Computers

How Star Circle Pictures is remaking moviemaking.

From: Issue 108 | September 2006 | Page 37 | By: Adam L. Penenberg

Every time you say “film” on the set of a Star Circle Pictures project, you risk getting fined 25 cents. That’s because the Virginia Beach company doesn’t “film” movies anymore. It doesn’t even use digital video or high-definition tape. It has made the world’s first short movie with the Panasonic AG-HVX-200 high-definition camera using memory cards. The goal: to reduce the risk associated with movies, which can cost tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars with no guaranteed return on investment.

Read the rest at the link below:

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/108/open_next-work-in-progress.html




August 15th would be my fathers 85th birthday. So you can celebrate along with the family we are sharing one of his favorite adventures. If you are a Plan 9 from Outer Space fan or someone who enjoys a good story read on! This is how Pop (Albert E. Marten) brought Plan 9 From Outer Space or Grave Robbers from Outer Space for you aficianados out of the Celluloid Closet and into our hearts!

Albert E. Marten was born in the Harlem section of New York in 1921 and grew up along (and under) the boardwalk in Coney Island. Pee Wee (or Pee Vee in the Yiddish cadence of the immigrant Jews) grew up and hut gemakht shtiferai (raised hell) during the 1920s and 30s in the home of Dreamland and Luna Park. Decades and a world war later, he took me and my brothers to the old neighborhood in Coney Island to show us where he and his pals battled other first generation American gangs and where he hung out with Murray Handwerker, son of the owner of Nathans Famous (five cents bought a kosher all-beef dog and a soda).

By way of biographical information, my Pop was a prominent entertainment and theatrical attorney. At one time an up and comer in the Democratic Party, he headed the Speakers Bureau for Congressman Franklin Roosevelt Jr. and escorted Eleanor Roosevelt to political functions. Pop took an independent path in politics and in life. To say that he had a dynamic presence would be an understatement. The dinner table was always lively and full of outrageous laughter. Mom had her hands full with her five boys. Pop was an original who defied convention.

Pop was active in the post-World War II film industry, representing talent, producers, and distributors, negotiating co-production deals, and arranging financing for more than 150 feature films. Panic Button, starring Maurice Chevalier, Jayne Mansfield, Akim Tamaroff, and Mike Connors, and television series such as Wild Bill Hickock starring Guy Madison and Andy Devine, and such Broadway productions as Peter Ustinovs Love of Four Colonels and Picnic were among his credits. In his obituary in Variety, Albert Marten was credited with introducing the completion bond to the motion picture industry in the United States.
His clients ranged from famous Hollywood swashbuckler Errol Flynn to best-selling author Harold Robbins, from Allied Artists Distribution Co. to producer Edward Pressman. He dealt with such luminaries as Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne; however, we knew our old man was an important guy when Moe Howard of The Three Stooges invited him to bring his kids to the set during filming. He once tore up a $50,000 option check for Mickey Rooney when the actor failed to show for a meeting for which Dad had flown in especially from the East Coast (Mickey was at the track!). However, of all his many achievements in show business, the one that gave him the biggest kick and brought the most laughter around the dinner table, was his having rescued from oblivion the picture consistently voted the worst movie ever made. Without my Dad, Edward Wood, Jrs originally titled Grave Robbers From Outer Space would not have become the cult classic: Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Here for the first time is the never-before-published story of how Plan 9 came out of the celluloid closet and into our hearts!

One day an Atlanta theatre owner walked into Albert Martens Manhattan law office carrying canisters of film under his arm. With the preamble that often introduced an off-the-wall proposal or a nutsy scheme Mr. Marten, I understand youre a big theatrical attorney he proceeded to explain that he had put $40,000 (big money in the 1950s) into a picture and he needed to get it out. If my father could sell the picture for him, anything above the $40,000 was his to keep. The picture starred Bela Lugosi, the venerable star of Dracula and other horror classics.

It so happened that my father had a relationship with DCA Distributors Corporation of America a successful, albeit low-rent, indie distributor. And they owed him a favor for having earlier let them out of a contract with Maurice Valency, a well-known screenwriter of the day and another client of my Dads. So Pop called up his buddy, Irv Wermser, at DCA, and told him: “Irv, Im calling my marker. I want you to screen a picture tonight.”

After office hours, the three principals of DCA and Pop were sitting in their screening room. The lights went down and the projector began to roll the film. Remember, he had never seen the movie. He just assumed it was, if not grade A material, at least screenable with Bela Lugosi. What he saw on the screen paralyzed him like a stun gun used to immobilize cattle just before slaughter. My fathers blood turned to ice water in his veins. Words alone could not describe his horror (unfortunately something not represented on the screen) at what he was watching. The strings holding up the flying saucers carrying the grave robbers from outer space were clearly visible. To say the acting was execrable was an understatement. In the middle of the picture, the role played by tall, Hungarian-accented Bela Lugosi was suddenly inhabited by a short, roly-poly actor with a deep southern accent. (After production was well underway, poor Lugosi had been re-institutionalized for morphine addiction and replaced by the very same theatre owner who brought the picture to my father!). The caped, crooked arm that hid the Lugosi impersonator’s face dropped several times during the movie revealing the “actor” half made up. The attempt to save budget gave the effect on screen of a facial floodline.

Utterly and completely mortified, sinking lower and lower in his seat, silently saying Kaddish for any future relationship with the DCA principals who surrounded him, my father wondered how he could possibly escape without getting pilloried.

After an excruciating running time, the flap-flap-flap of the film projector stopped and the lights came on. Pop straightened himself in his seat waited for the lambasting that was due and coming. One principal broke the silence: “I like it. Irv, what do you think?”

“I do too,” Irv said nodding his approval. “Al, how much do you want for it?”

Quickly recovering, my father sat up and threw out a number double the cost of the production. They hondled a little and finally agreed on a dollar figure. DCA bought Grave Robbers From Outer Space and distributed it under its new title Plan 9 From Outer Space. The movie went down in the annals of film history as the worst movie ever made, and DCA made nothing but money in the years to come.

Humberto J. Gettys InterviewPhotobucket – Video and Image Hosting

Peruvian-Born Actor/Playwright, Humberto Gettys, recently played one of the Principal Characters (Detective Escobar) in Star Circle Picture’s new movie Samaritan. Gettys wrote Mama’s Boys which has just had its first staged reading and was produced by Art Group in New York City. He is currently writing a screenplay dealing with homelessness. Humberto relocated from New York to Virginia Beach last year. He accompanied his sister-in-law, who was pregnant at the time with his nephew, while his brother served in Iraq. What was supposed to be a temporary stay ended up a permanent move.

Ethan Marten: So one day you’re a New York City Actor/Playwright, and next thing you know you’re in Virginia Beach, Virginia. What happened?

Humberto Gettys: Well, I was born in Lima Peru and raised here in the United States. I was already well traveled. I grew up in a military family — moving from state to state. My family still lives in Southern California. That’s where I caught the acting bug, and I haven’t been able to shake it.
EM: You had the acting bug, graduated high school in Southern California, and –

HG: Enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, served four years as a Telecommunications Specialist and attended school part-time at Chapman University.
EM: How do you go from acting bug to Marines?

HG: That could be my next screenplay. I wanted to serve my country, and it gave me a chance to gain some needed perspective.

EM: At what point did you think acting might be a better career choice than the Marines?

HG: I was ready by the time my service was up.

EM: Then what?

HG: Shortly after leaving the Marines I became serious about acting and moved to New York.
EM: What did you do when you first got there?

HG: Years training, auditioning, working survival jobs, auditioning and working in all aspects of the industry. From stage-managing, to acting in coffee shops, back alleys,
EM: Back alleys? What was your best back alley performance?

HG: I could show you now, but you might need your wallet later!
EM: A toughguy, huh?

G: Nah. How much you got in your wallet, anyway?

EM: Never mind that. You’re more versatile than I thought! This is the part where we swipe some of your luster for Samaritan by bragging about what else you’ve been in. What were some of your credits?

HG: Lots of off and off/off-off Broadway, television from extra to principal roles…Sopranos, Law & Order S.V.U., Independent and Feature films, and Commercials both in New York City and Washington D.C.
EM: Any good stories from the Sopranos or S.V.U.?

HG: None I can say here.

EM: C’mon, this is practically cable. You can add some later when you see this on the DiaBlog.

HG: DiaBlog? You think of that?

EM: I’m a tad cleverer than I look. Not much, though.

HG: That’s pretty good.

EM: You must have hit a soap in the Big Apple. C’mon, we have a bunch of people whose guilty pleasure can be satiated right here. Fess up!

HG: How can you be so sure?

EM: I’ve got your resume. This is a loaded deck Humberto. C’mon give!

HG: Guiding Light.
EM: You made a lot of people very happy. Now don’t you feel better?

HG: As long as people feel better. Besides, I was happy for the work. People make fun of soap actors, but it is a lot of work, and very difficult to do well.
EM: True. We kid, because we love. What do you do when you’re not performing?

HG: Reading, running, writing, taking care of my little nephew and actively participating in my church.

EM: You seem to put your actions behind your words.

HG: I started a Homeless Outreach Ministry (Romans 10:9-10).

EM: Impressive. I thought those were box scores. “Romans are up two games on Boston and tied with the Yankees in the American League East! Seriously, you are one incredible human being. You spend Sunday mornings picking up and dropping off the homeless bringing them to church and preparing and delivering lunches.

HG: I minister to the homeless and needy at the oceanfront area on a weekly basis. It has been a passion of mine to help the needy and homeless both while living in New York City and here in Virginia Beach. I was totally into the Samaritan story dealing with the main character being homeless. (I still believe he was an Angel.)

EM: That’s an actor’s choice, but we just don’t know who or what Victor the Samaritan is. How was your experience on Samaritan?

HG: I enjoyed working with all the cast & crew of Star Circle Pictures. My agent, Karen Whitlow-Jones of Atlantic Talent submitted me for the part of Detective Crawford, which was originally created for a non-Latino.

EM: Crawford isn’t a Latino name? Actually, Crawford was a Yiddish character. His real real name was Mascowitz, but they changed his grandfather’s name at Ellis Island.

HG: You’re kidding me.

EM: Absolutely. Actually, Kimball (Kimball Carr, the director) and I were so pleased with your performance at audition we knew what we had to do.

HG: Thanks.
EM: Ya. We have to convert you, and change your name to Mascowitz!

HG: That may present some difficulty.

EM: You can still do outreach — might just have to add Saturdays.

HG: That’s cool.

EM: So are you. We were lucky when we cast you and rewrote the part into Detective Escobar Mr. Gettys.

HG: I was really honored you had so much confidence in me as an actor to not only cast me but also to change the character to a Latino.

EM: The honor was ours. You were outstanding on screen and to work with — you owned the role.

HG: Everyone was so courteous and professional — from my fellow actors to all the crew. Kimball, you and your brother Richard–the whole Star Circle Pictures team–were all so encouraging, and motivating in getting the best performances out of all of us. I am proud being a part of motion picture history.
EM: Yup, that’s pretty cool!

HG: We made the first movie in the world with the Panasonic AG-HVX200 HD camera. Everything went so smoothly on the set and everyone was so loyal, professional and dedicated to this project. I even received a free haircut and chiropractic adjustment!

EM: Kim and Michael Rizzo were great with hair and makeup. Everyone looked great on camera, and was out on time. Highly recommend them for any shoot. Then there was Dr. Dan Cohen, The Rock Doc!

HG: This is usually back breaking — not healing! I would love to work with Star Circle Pictures again and look forward future projects.

EM: You’re a class act Humberto. You would be a welcome addition on any set.
HG: Thanks.

Let’s have a DiaBlog

I’ve been writing most of these thoughts down as much for myself as anyone else, because, hey, I’m not sure anyone really reads my random thoughts or ramblings other than, well, me. Hmnnn.

I am as interested in what you, my imagined reader, has to say. I want your thoughts, your opinions about creating, producing and bringing movies to the market–a diablog, so to speak. I’m approaching the business of the biz from an actor/producer point-of-view. Marketing is also a part of my background. Mostly, I’m a regular sort who would like to do business with friendly, creative people. I was as proud of the way we executed the production of Samaritan as with the finished product. I’d like to share some of that experience with anyone who is interested; and I’d like you to share your production experiences/achievements, as well. If I have developed a friendship or a relationship that can help one of you — I’m more than happy to share it without expecting quid pro quo.

So anyone dreaming of motion picture independence or making a living as an actor, share your questions, as well as your answers. Some of you who have already been invited to participate have more experience. If you are willing to share your experience — I would be grateful.

One request for all who choose to participate. Diversity is welcome; however, I ask that the questions and answers be constructive and respectful in nature, with the intent of mutual growth and support of everyone’s dream of motion picture and creative independence.

Thanks for indulging me.

Best,
Ethan

Marketing Your Indie Movie

This was a letter to FilmDailies.com a filmmaker’s Blog. There had been a flap concerning the length of Samaritan, and that we were taking advantage of the technical first we had achieved to market our baby. I thought some indie folks were missing the point. If your Indie project screens in the forest, and you’re the only one clapping with one hand…does it make a sound? Anyway, I hope this helps some of you get the word out.

ethan-camera-atlantis-down

Hello Kraz. I am enjoying your site. I have seen a great deal of debate over the length of “Samaritan.” We are just movie makers wanting to create and needing to get the word out like everyone else. I’m puzzled by the controversy regarding the movie’s length. The first reference to Samaritan in the digitalfilmmaker.com story that started it all clearly refers to it as a “micro-feature.”

(From digitalfilmmaker.com)
Samaritan

Digital Filmmaker: “Star Circle Pictures based in Virginia Beach, Virginia has just wrapped production on a micro feature called Samaritan, the third venture for Star Circle, which represents the next chapter in the firm’s evolution. The project was shot for the express purpose of demonstrating the company’s belief in cost efficiency, faster production flow and good quality.
(End quote)

Has Star Circle Pictures pioneered a new phrase as well? I don’t think so,[actually, it appears we did!] but it is clear, Star Circle never referred to Samaritan as a full length feature. Hopefully, that will help mitigate if not stop the misapprehension.

You made an astute observation:

“Heres an indie producer whos learned his lesson well. This techie interview will probably get him more exposure (at least in indie circles) than all the PR about the movie itself.”

Though Digital Filmmaker is doing a follow up story on the movie — the hard news for their audience was the completion of the first movie to use the Panasonic AG-HVX200.

We believe movies need an audience. Something movie makers need to understand is that in order to obtain that audience, they need to be aware your movie exists. On many levels it is very difficult for an artist to “market” his/her work. Some find the marketing aspect distasteful. You believe everyone should understand that you’re a serious artist who has put blood, sweat and tears into making it, and that should be enough. To a certain degree, this is understandable, but its not a healthy attitude for the life of your motion picture. Some just know how to make the movie, and hope sheer love and passion for the project might rub off on others. I am so proud of my team and its efforts, and am willing to find the angles that will bring my movies to light and thereby light up screens. It is more important to us the independent movie making community when we have launched and even completed a picture. Not as much so for your own local media, much less a national media. To them, we’re one of maybe 1,500 indies a year. [I believe Sundance had 1,700 submissions this past year.] To top it off, unless you come from a major market or at least out of state the fact that you’re a local is usually a hindrance to getting serious coverage. Don’t fight this. Understand it, and work with it. If you’re talking to the Digital Filmmaker and other national media forums understand what that editor knows his core audience is first and foremost interested in. If you’re talking to your local media understand what makes your story news to them, too. Knowing the seven criteria for news will help each movie maker get the word out on his or her film as much as the movie itself. I’m not a proponent of this reality — just a realist.

Here they are, courtesy of Jack Driscoll: Timeliness, Importance, High General Interest to Public, Relevance, Involves Public’s Right to Know, Involves Public’s Need to Know, Whether Story Informs, Educates, Guides or Entertains Reader.

Best of Luck [broken legs] to all our Movie Making Family. May your efforts be rewarding and rewarded.

Ethan

Flashback: The Morning After with Digital Filmmaker Magazine

Found this letter written to Roger Richards of Digital Filmmaker Magazine the morning we wrapped (January 18, 2006) Samaritan. His was the first published article about our production – the first movie, according to Panasonic, completed with the HVX and P2 card technology.

Okay, here I am — fresh (or not so fresh) from the trenches of Glorious
Sleep Depravity and the Bleeding Edge of motion picture technology! Star
Circle Pictures has just wrapped our well-crafted Samaritan. Before the
revelry, allow me to thank you for yesterday’s uplifting conversation. I
was operating on my thirty-third hour when I finally dozed off in a chair.
My phone was charging on my lap and I finally remembered to bring the AC
charger out to keep the laptop from beating me to sleep. I felt like a techno-cowboy — my cell phone charging in my right holster and my laptop in my left.

Anyway, a series of frustrating calls with local media representatives who
didn’t ‘know what the big deal was about a camera,’ and hey, ‘didn’t we do a
story on your last movie?!’ had finally done what thirty-three hours straight on and
off set couldn’t – sent me into a catatonic state of unconsciousness. If I
was dreaming – I was too tired to remember anything except the buzzing,
vibrating sensations that follow knowing, “I’m not going to be able to hold my
eyes open or my head up much longer, and no I’m not in the car, so it’s all
right to give in.” Ahhh sleep.

When my eyes drew open I saw that I had missed your call…. Well, you know the rest. You lifted my spirits, and it was great news to deliver to my Star Circle Pictures partners (my brother Richard Marten and Kimball Carr), cast and crew – every one of whom had been busting their backs to make Samaritan. (And, when I say busting their backs – I mean it. We had “The Rock Doc” — Dr. Daniel Cohen on set giving chiropractic treatments to the cast and crew.) Anyway, we shot more than 80 set ups in two days, and wrapped this morning in Virginia Beach’s 2nd Precinct at 6:45am.

The Panasonic AG HVX 200 was lovingly packed and immediately shipped back home to Chicago’s Zacuto Rentals.

Now that I have enjoyed some extended sleep – let me once again say, thanks to you and Digital Filmmaker Magazine! Oh, and please send our appreciation to Norm at the Virginian-Pilot for hooking us up. He was very gracious.

I look forward to speaking with you soon. Remain Happy, and Healthy.

Ethan

Love to have your feedback. We shot all eighty-one Samaritan set ups in two nights. Great crew. Great performances. Great Chiropractor (the one — the only Dr. Dan Cohen of Olde Towne Family Chiropractic, 757-399-4700)! I think we had the only cast and crew that finished such an intense shoot in better shape than when they began.

View SAMARITAN TRAILER

Samaritan, shot in January, is the first HD movie completed with Panasonic’s AG HVX200 High Definition camera. Maverick-made, two nights, 81 setups (we’re crazy). We used Previz storyboards to help achieve this insane schedule. Star Circle Pictures is obviously excited (and biased). So who doesn’t think their baby is supremely beautiful?! We actually shot this without any film or tape. That’s right bubbalas — no film. No tape. Everything went straight onto P2 cards, hot swapped, and downloaded onto our hard drive. Star Circle was editing on set…. We’re definitely grassroots, guerrilla, and very independent spirits.

Anyway, read more in Fast Company magazine’s September issue (on stands August 18). Adam Penenberg, (Broken Glass) wrote the story on our micro motion picture and is breaking the story on our upcoming full-length feature (a psychological thriller) within the Fast Company pages.

Samaritan has been selected by the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, and will be exhibited sometime between November 9 – 16. We’re submitted all over the world, and are awaiting answers like everyone else out there! (Break Legs Everyone Else out there.)

By the way, if you’re a festival maven or a news mensch interested in a DVD screener — you obviously know how to get in touch!

All the Best, (and we invite your feedback — no, I mean it — really!) Ethan

View SAMARITAN TRAILER