Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Call To Screens

Hey LCLs,

So there's a lot going on right now. As you may have noticed, the official "Humboldt County" website has been temporarily been taken down. We're in the midst of retrofitting it to fit MPAA standards and add a host of new features and doohickeys.

Also, Darren mentioned it in the post-script of his previous post but I wanted to write it here. Bigger. And in bold:


Now that's exciting. The downside is that I now can't figure out how to turn the bold off. Well, the rest of this post is going to seem really important. Or maybe you'll just get used to it. Like melting ice caps.

So, once again, to reiterate (because you will be tested), our first week in theaters will be in the following cities/areas:

Austin, Texas
Berkeley, California
Portland, Oregon
Seattle, Washington
San Francisco, California

...and, of course
Humboldt County, California

Hey! I just figured out how to turn the bold off! Neato!!! Anyhoo -- Darren and I are treating the release like a political campaign. A grassroots campaign, to be more specific.

We're pretty sure that never before in the history of cinema has a film literally turned over its marketing efforts to fans themselves. But that's exactly what we want to do. We're a small, independent film without the millions of dollars the big studios spend to market their pictures. There are many cynical movie-lovers
(and industry insiders as well) out there that think independent film is dead. They say there is no marketplace for it anymore, that the audiences don't want them, that the age of movie theaters is coming to a close and that the only thing people will go see are the 200 million dollar blockbusters shilled to us every weekend through nonstop commercials and adverts. Well we think that's hogwash. We think that if you have a compelling story, interesting and complex characters and beautiful cinematography that people will come. Oh yes, Ray, people will most definitely come.

But to pull this off...


If our current political season has taught us anything, it's that grassroots organization really does work and that people can take back power for themselves. It is US who determines what films we want to see, not some New York advertising company doing it for us.

So here's what we have in mind - we want to create "Lost Coast Local" city teams that work to spread the word from now until the opening of the film - a get out the vote kind of situation. These teams would meet in their respective cities, plan events (maybe even sneak preview screenings!), send out emails, etc. We'll provide all the materials (postcards, rolling papers, posters) that you'll need. Then, as opening night approaches, the LCL City Teams will be coordinating to get everyone they know to the theater.

Now, we wouldn't ask you to become a part of this if you didn't believe in the film. So we'll be making sure that every LCL City Team gets a special, private opportunity to see the film before anyone else. How could we ask you to organize your networks if you haven't even seen the film?
So that will be just one perk, of many, that will come your way when you join this historic movement to take back cinema.

So how do we proceed? Simple. Let us know if you're interested in helping out (especially if you live in Humboldt, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago or Austin). Email us directly at info@humboldtcountymovie.com

Let's take back the multiplex, people. What do you say?


Monday, July 28, 2008

The Danny & Darren Mentor Program...


Did we ever tell you about The Danny & Darren Mentor Program? When we first arrived in Los Angeles wide eyed and eager to make movies, we knew absolutely no one. All we knew was that we wanted to write and direct films, so we sought out relationships (mentorships really) from several successful filmmakers with whom we shared something in common.

Because we knew that going through agents and managers would be a waste of time, we risked life and limb to obtain the personal contact information of several notable filmmakers (using methods we cannot share here), and we called to ask them to be the flagship members of our "mentor program". We had an initial call and, in some cases, a follow up letter. What we needed from them was simple: their time. We wanted to ask questions, and beyond that our expectations were nil.


1) To our surprise and delight, our efforts actually proved fruitful. We were able to get terrific support and guidance from Pete Farrelly, who along with his brother has been one of the more successful co-directors in recent Hollywood.

2) As we've mentioned before, we were also extremely fortunate to lunch several times with famed cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, with whom we (and Peter Bogdanovich) shared a magical evening during which we screened an early cut of Humboldt County, having no idea that just a few nights later Laszlo would pass away.

3) Not long after our arrival in Los Angeles, we had the opportunity to meet the man who would become -- without a doubt -- our closest mentor and eventually a dear friend: Larry Bridges. Larry runs Red Car, a commercial editing company with offices around the world, and to be perfectly honest, he deserves his own post which we'll be sure to include soon.

4) But the first member of the Mentor Program was a filmmaker who had done something we intended to emulate: make a feature film in his 20s.

That first Mentor was buying us lunches to help us avoid starvation in our mid-20s, and so it was pretty spectacular to be there with him again today, as we lunched together for the first time in almost 3 years.

That first mentor was Jake Kasdan.

From his first feature (Zero Effect) a decade ago to last year's The TV Set and Walk Hard, Jake has been an excellent mentor and model. One of our first and greatest on-set experiences was when Jake invited us -- the "Two Jews from St. Louis" as he called us -- onto the set of his TV pilot of Zero Effect, starring Alan Cumming (who was excited to meet the "Two Jews" after Jake had hyped us up).

Today, as we sat there at Fred 62 on Vermont, I thought a lot about how far we've come, and how much it meant (and still means) to have someone whose been through all the wars before offering moral support and advice.

Today, we'd like to acknowledge and thank the first member of The Danny & Darren Mentor Program: Mr. Jake Kasdan.


P.S. A quick perusal through our blog and I'm not sure we've shared the latest news here (though it was posted over at the producer's blog, linked at right):

Humboldt County is opening in its initial 5 cites on September 26, 2008.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Press, Schmess

Yesterday, Darren and I hung with Mark Cuban. Mark, if you are unaware, is one of the richest human beings alive. He owns Magnolia pictures, which is releasing "Humboldt County" this fall. He owns 2929 Entertainment, which is a production company in Hollywood. He owns HDnet movies. He owns Landmark Theaters. He owns the Dallas Mavericks. He probably owns you.

We filmed him a little bit for the ending of the VOD promo we're making for HC. He was really down to Earth and cool. Especially when he offered to buy my colon for 25k. I accepted.

After the shoot, which we did guerrilla style right outside the Beverly Hilton in LA, we joined Mark and Peter Bogdanovich for a press conference at the Television Critics Association (TCA) conference. The TCAs are a big, 8-day conference held every year for all the television press to meet, mingle, drink, go to press conferences and drink some more.

Our particular event was focused on Cuban's HDnet movies and the unique business model Magnolia uses to release films into theaters, VOD, and DVD as well as getting the word out about "Humboldt County." We also focused on the quick changing landscape for independent films and the future of watching a new release on an ipod. But mostly, our event was a chance for Darren and I to look like a couple of dummies.

Pictures below


Our producer, Captain Deadpan, in front of the snack table in the green room before the press conference started. He looks scared.

Me pretending like I have something important to say at the podium. Of course, the auditorium is empty at this point.

Look! It's a video feed!!!

Darren and Me and PBogs during the press conference. Can you tell how much Pbogs hates these things? We can.

The money shot. Darren, Me, PBogs, and Mark Cuban. Which two of these are not like the others?

Darren and I trying to answer reporters' questions. I think that here, I'm extolling the virtues of In N' Out over Fatburger.

By for now!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Comings and Goings

I've been catching up on some movies recently. The greatest of which is one you've all heard of: Wall-E. It's superb, not just as an animated movie, but as a film. I'm so glad that a place like Pixar exists, proving over and over again that taking business decisions out of the artistic process is the best business decision you can make.

This week's a big week - we're hopefully going to shoot Mark Cuban for the ending of our Video On Demand piece. The rest of the piece is being edited by our good buddy and filmmaker in his own right, Mr. Sebastian Davis. Tomorrow we're going to sit down with Seabass and take a look at an assembly cut. So that should be great.

Shooting this VOD piece has reminded me how unbelievably talented our cast was/is. We didn't give Brad, Frannie or PBogs much lead time to figure out what they were doing and still, they delivered in spades. It's really incredible how ridiculously amazing they are in front of a camera. Professionals all around.

Finally, this Tuesday, Darren and I will be on a panel with Mark Cuban and Peter Bogdanovich at the Television Critics Association conference in LA. It's an insane notion that we deserve to be on stage with those guys, but hey, that's life.

Happy Fourth everybody,

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Humboldt Happenings

Hey LCLs,

Boy. It's been a busy week. First of all, we've been working away on a Video on Demand promo for HC that will be airing on cable leading up to and during the film's release this fall. Magnolia has graciously allowed us to have control over the creation of this promo so Darren and I have reciprocated that foolish overconfidence in our abilities by creating a pretty ridiculous little piece. Yesterday was day one of shooting and it went really smoothly. We went out to Tarzana and shot a little interview with Brad Dourif which was a blast. It was great to see Brad again and revisit a bit about our times on set. We also shot at the Landmark Theater in LA (Pico and Westwood). Because Mark Cuban owns Landmark as well as Magnolia we were able to get pretty much the run of the place without too much trouble. Which, let me tell you, is a great way to shoot. We've got one more day of shooting tomorrow when we're hoping to sit down with PBogs, Fairuza and Frannie. Should be a good time.

In other news, Humboldt the actual county has been getting some attention in recent days. Federal agents have completed a massive raid throughout southern Humboldt (where our film is set) and northern Mendecino counties. Check out some news reports here, here and here. Having spent a great deal of time in Southern Humboldt over the years, getting to know the locals and the area, I know that it must be a very stressful time for everyone up there right now. I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe.

Finally, we're in Time magazine! The issue on local news stands now (dated July 7th) has a brief mention of our little film. It's on page 60. Just in case you live in a place without news stands, I've pasted the article for you all below. Take care LCLs, and let's talk soon....d

Pot: Now Starring in Your Favorite Movie

Thursday, Jun. 26, 2008 By BELINDA LUSCOMBE

Judd Apatow had a problem. The test screenings for his movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin were killing. But the jokes that were really landing were the ones featuring pot. Sophomoric, Cheech-and-Chong-y cheap yuks about weed. But funny ones. He called his old friend Garry Shandling to ask whether he should leave them in. They went with the only responsible choice: comedy comes first.

The film opened, and nobody made a big deal about the pot. Nor did Apatow get called out when the lead character in his next big hit, Knocked Up, was an inveterate stoner. And on Aug. 8, Pineapple Express, which he produced, arrives; it's named after a particularly potent (and fictional) strain of Cannabis sativa.

Time was, pot movies were like Grateful Dead concerts or parent-teacher conferences: you had to be wasted to enjoy them. And the genre had two tones, either apoplectic or apologist. But this summer is bringing us a bumper crop of movies and TV shows--Pineapple Express, The Wackness, Humboldt County and Showtime's Weeds among them--with THC in their DNA. Not stoner stories so much as plots that happen to involve pot, they ask, 37 years after the war on drugs was declared, whether there's a place in the culture for treatments of pot that neither criminalize nor celebrate it.

Marijuana is growing onscreen while use of the drug, which has been widespread for nigh on 40 years, is flattening. About 6% of Americans smoked it regularly in 2002, and about 6% of them lit up in 2006. And no, it's not the same 15 million stoners. Many users tend to pick it up in their teens, then drop it in their 20s. And 50% of them don't use any other drugs. Selling it is still illegal, but the pot dealer is no longer the panic-inducing bogeyman he used to be. In movieland, he's become a stock character, about as threatening as the hot woman's quirky roommate.

But funnier. "I'm always a proponent for the comedy involved in people who are under the influence," says Apatow. "I just think it's fun watching anyone acting like an idiot." Alcohol, the comic intoxicant of choice for generations of filmmakers, is now too strongly associated in people's minds with spousal battery and drunk driving to be truly hilarious.
Gandhi Does Ganja

So ran a recent headline on a story about Sir Ben Kingsley's appearance in The Wackness, a genial coming-of-age film in which Kingsley plays a shrink who trades therapy for dope and eventually joins his young patient Luke in dealing drugs. "For me, the pot was just a device," says Kingsley. "Through it we tell the lovely story of a fatherless child and childless father. And because I become his assistant in dealing with the stuff he's selling, I'm revealed to be the child."

Although their new movies feature drugs, Sir Ben and Apatow rarely use the D word when discussing them, as if willing pot out of delinquency and into mere dysfunction. For The Wackness, weed's a crutch; it takes the edge off loneliness, ennui or the shyness people feel around the opposite sex. Luke, the dealer, lives on Manhattan's Upper East Side and is on his way to college--his safety school, but still. In Weeds, Mary-Louise Parker's a pot dealer who sells to successful, bored, suburban business types. Even the protagonists of Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay, the closest thing we have to a modern Cheech and Chong, are a banker and a med student. Pot smokers aren't outsiders anymore; at worst, they're arrested adolescents.

The cultural disconnect between marijuana (the illegal drug) and pot (that stuff that lots of regular people consume) is the comic fulcrum of Pineapple Express, in which a process server (Seth Rogen) and his pot dealer (James Franco) earn the ire of risibly bloodthirsty marijuana kingpins. Their escape is hampered, of course, by the fact that they're stoned. It's a high action comedy. Literally.

Audiences appear ready for such a thing--even beyond those 15 million people, many of prime moviegoing age, who share the protagonists' appetites. Pot films are making out like criminals. The second of Harold and Kumar's trips, not nearly as critically acclaimed as the first, nevertheless did twice as well at the box office. And while the presence of (legal) tobacco cigarettes in films has become a cause célèbre among public-health advocates, there's not a lot of protest that putting pot in movies, even ones as silly as Pineapple Express, glamorizes it.
Except maybe from the film's cast and crew. "Seth and I always argue whether or not this is an anti-pot movie," says Apatow. "To me, it clearly is. Most of the film is people trying to murder these two guys, them trying not to get murdered, and it's all because they're smoking pot." He pauses. "Seth thinks that's too subtle."