July 7, 2010

Cardboard Warfare & The New Do It Yourself Filmmaking

One day you will be able to make "Avatar" in your own home with a tiny budget. Yesterday, I was emailed this short entitled "Cardboard Warfare," and while I'm not a cardboard enthusiast, I do like action/war/fighting movies so I was intrigued. Sure the actors aren't convicing, there is no story, and they're using carboard, but the effects, a plethora of computer generated trickery are top notch.

Using programs like AFTER FX and MAYA young filmmakers like the ones above are now able to create shockingly real effects. Before when a person got shot, there had to be squibs loaded onto the body, now it's just a computer program that needs to render. Other effects which used to take time and money are now accessible to kids who only want to read the manual. That last part is important, the work and time which used to be done on the set, is now taking place primarily in a dark room in front of a screen.

And this is only the beginning. Recently there has been a gamut of short films taking Hollywood by storm. Effects, just like ones I saw as child in "Jurassic Park"  will always amaze us, so becoming a wizard is a quicker way to rise in the film world, than say being a really good screenwriter. Short films like "Panic Attack" and "The Raven" all have landed their directors deals or serious meetings. Let us not forget techno wiz kid Neill Blomkamp, who blew people's minds to bloody pieces last year with "District 9." More recently, filmmaker Garreth Edwards shattered the audience's brain with his ultra-cheap, FX heavy film "Monsters."

Just months ago, acclaimed director John Hillcoat ("The Road") made a 30 minute film on the computer using the video game engine from "Red Dead Redemption." And what is Avatar but a really really really good movie made with a powerful video game engine (Note, in no way am I diminishing Avatar, Avatar is the greatest). In time tools like the ones James Cameron used will become accessible to all. 

Think about the music industry. In the past, in order to make a studio quality song, you needed live musicians, mixers, producers, and more. Now anyone can make a hit in garage-band and the music industry is completely up-ended or screwed by this auto-tuned/computer made robot rock sound. Soon Imovie will have rendered 3D objects, people, and backgrounds for people to mess around with.

If Avatar showed us that a movie can be primarily made in the computer, the only real barrier now is telling the actual story. And that's what "Carboard Warfare" lacks, a good narrative. Avatar succeeds because of the story, same with "District 9." The tool box is becoming more and more accessible to anyone, but someone still needs to make us look beyond the bullets and make us care.

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