Tag Archives: classic film

Calling All Trigonauts! (‘Cause “Trigonaut” Sounds Cooler Than “Intern”)

The time has come for expansion, and I cannot do it alone!

As many of you probably know, I’ve been putting out crowdfunding advice for filmmakers and various other content creators and storymakers for over five years. Ever since I successfully crowdfunded my short film Cerise, I’ve been mentoring crowdfunding filmmakers and content creators in the fine art of online fundraising through Twitter, via my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and exclusively for Indiegogo. But there’s so much more I want to do, mostly by way of content creation and various new ways of distributing that content and knowledge (Meerkat and Periscope, anyone?), so I’m looking for a Trigonaut –– an fellow explorer –– to work with me, to learn about and explore the chartered and unchartered realms of crowdfunding for independent film, and to help create more top quality content so that we, together, can keep the “indie” in independent film and make sure that creators are crowdfunding using only the best tools, advice and insights available.

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So here’s what I’m looking for, specifically:

QUALIFICATIONS / “A PARTICULAR SET OF SKILLS”
– Writing and editing (basic grammar and usage skills)
– Strong interest in crowdfunding, particularly for film (or creative projects)
– Graphic design (skills in Adobe Creative Suite, mainly Photoshop and InDesign)
– Editing content for social media that’s on-brand
– Organizational abilities
– Creativity and wit
– Speed (ability to execute tasks quickly)

REC’D (BUT NOT REQ’D)
– Owns a DSLR (or similar camera) and microphone
– Video editing skills (proficiency in either Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere)
– A moderate knowledge of digital advertising (Google AdWords, Facebook Ads / “dark posts”, etc.)
– Listens to The #AskGaryVee Show religiously

JOB DESCRIPTION / “TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO [TRIGONAUT] HAS GONE BEFORE”
– Outreach (to film festivals for speaking gigs, blogs / movie websites, etc.)
– Writing content for Medium (will be credited as guest writer under my personal culture / branding
– Content creation (if we go the Gary Vee route; TBD)
– Filming any local events, speaking gigs
– Research on the crowdfunding space in general, but specifically crowdfunding for indie film / web / video content
– Discover and attend events, Meet-Ups, Tweetups, etc. pertaining to film and / or crowdfunding

DAYS / HOURS
– 2 -3 hours a day,
– Three days per week (preferably Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, to start, but I’m totally flexible here

COMPENSATION / “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?!”
– Crowdfunding (for filmmaking) knowledge and insights from a noted expert and practitioner in the field
– Travel to and from events (subway / Lyft)
– Lunch once a week, during our weekly meetings, preferably on Mondays
– Drinks (at events, and just in general –– there’s always something to celebrate)
– Depending on performance, we can talk…

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
– What it takes to be a proper crowdfunding consultant and / or manager
– How to utilize various forms of social media (FB / Twitter, plus Instagram & Periscope, perhaps) for crowdfunding
– How to build, broaden, and make “Beliebers” out of your community (really, how to turn your networks into actual relationships)

Now, if by reading this you feel like you’re standing in front of a mirror, then I want to hear from you sooner rather than later, so reach out to me at jtrigonis@gmail.com and let’s get ready to explore the ever-changing landscape of the crowdfunding filmmakers together.

Oh, and a neat hat and soul patch to match are not requirements 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you all soon!

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Top Eight Movies I Saw in Theaters in 2011 (Because I Only Saw Eight Movies in Theaters in 2011)

As many of my closer friends on Facebook and those who follow me on Twitter probably know, I spent the bulk of 2011 writing, teaching, and doing research for my second feature-length screenplay Caput. That research took the form of film noir, and I spent just about all of my free time seated in front of an old 23-inch Magnavox tube television watching everything from Billy Wilder to Nicholas Ray, from Jimmy Cagney in The Public Enemy, White Heat, and a bunch of what falls between to everything from Humphrey Bogart and a few titles from Edward G. Robinson.

So needless to say it’s a bit difficult to pull together a “Top Ten” list when you’ve only seen eight movies in total through the course of a whole year. And even though I spent an entire week in Cannes during the Festival du Cannes with my short film Cerise, I didn’t even get to see one film while I was there. Not one!

But out of what I did see in theaters during 2011, here’s how they rank up:

8: Green Lantern –– Okay, it was “Boys Day Out” and my buddy Dave and I saw this in 3-D and afterwards compared the movie to all the Green Lantern comics we’d ever read, and concluded that this isn’t really the best interpretation of GL.

7. Captain America: The First Avenger –– It’s been a heavy year for comic-related movies and me, and although I’m not much a fan of Marvel Comics or even Captain America and the Avengers for that matter, I found this movie to be entertaining at best, and quite ridiculous at worst.

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo –– This was the last movie I saw in 2011, and while it was very well-done with great performances by both Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, it’s really nothing more than a straight remake of the superior Swedish version (and not the best testament to any skill David Fincher may have as a director).

5. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold –– The only doc I saw this year, and a humorous and informative one at that! I definitely recommend this one.

4. X-Men: First Class –– Entertainment at its best. I thoroughly enjoyed this installment of the X-Franchise, with wonderful performances by both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the conflicting “brothers” Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto).

3. Source Code –– A semi-brainy film for sure (Oh, how I love anything dealing with parallel worlds and other Michio Kaku-like stuff!) in the guise of an action drama. A fun ride which offered up a few minutes of heady conversation at the diner afterwards.

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes –– By far the most entertaining action film I’ve seen in a long time, and although the CGIed apes could be a bit distracting (mainly at the beginning), my enjoyment wasn’t all that hindered. This experience was enhanced by the fact that I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes in an AMC Dine-In Theater in Menlo Park, NJ (there’s something to be said about watching a movie like this over a juicy burger, crisp fries, and a Blue Moon fast at your side!)

1. Midnight in Paris –– An absolutely beautiful film and (in my opinion) Woody Allen’s best work to date (but that could also be because it caters to every fiber in my being as a writer and aficionado of classic literature!) This experience, of course, was made even more special because I saw it with my Lady Marinell in Paris (around the midnight hour, too) with French subtitles. Viva la Paris!

As an added bonus, here’s a proper Top Ten List of Films I Wanted to See (But Didn’t) in 2011:

1. L’Artiste
2. The Flowers of War
3. Anonymous
4. Melancholia
5. Another Earth
6. The Skin I Live In
7. The Adjustment Bureau
8. Coriolanus
9. Sleeping Beauty
10. Win Win

Most of these are on my Netflix, and once I’m done with my brief James Bond phase, I’ll start catching up on these 2011 films.

That’s all for now, folks. It’s been a superb year for blog writing, poetry writing, classic movies, and book writing for me, and I’m hoping 2012 continues this tradition tenfold.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading!

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Cagney, City for Conquest, and the Invention of the Postmodern Protagonist

As many of you may know from reading my late night tweets and Facebook updates, I’ve been immersing myself in James Cagney movies ever since I stumbled on his old residence in New York a couple months ago.

This phase of film watching is partly for further research on Caput, my feature-length hit man screenplay, which I’ll be rewriting within the next month or so. Before that, I spent a few solid months watching a ton of Humphrey Bogart classics like In a Lonely Place, To Have and Have Not, Casablanca (of course!) and The Roaring Twenties, in which I discovered Cagney and all his tough guy glory to come.

The plaque (L) that’s attached to the building where Cagney lived (R).

Now you might not guess it by looking at me, but when I was a younger man, the only movies I ever watched were action movies. If you asked me to name the top actors, the “Holy Trinity” would’ve been Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Segal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Kickboxer, Out for Justice, Commando­­––if you can name it, I most likely watched it (dozens of times, too, on account of my Dad and our first VCR). Stir in a bit of Return of the Jedi and Back to the Future, Part II and that about rounded out my “eclectic” taste in movies back in the day. Then the American Beauty drama bug bit me in 1999, and the virus spread on with Requiem for a Dream so that by the time Donnie Darko nailed my brain, there was no hope for remedy. This virus crescendoed when Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind edged me on towards a decent into the madness of foreign films from Italy, France, Japan, Hong Kong and beyond. I was ready for renaissance.

But today, I find myself lost in classical Hollywood, circa 1920 to 1950, and rediscovering the lure of the anti-hero while most filmmakers are busy finding new ways to exploit their R-rated comedies. More so, I’m taking on tough guy tales because in many cases they are much deeper character studies into basic human behavior than most people might give them credit for. They’re not shallow reprisals of stories told over and again to supplement an “explosions quota” or the underscore of some grisly killing by demon or devil. The films of Cagney are films about characters who have faults and attempt to overcome them. They’re rooted in the ancient Greek tradition of the tragic hero, and through evolution they’ve worked their magic into the postmodern world.

Even now, I’m still fascinated how I could be so empathetic to big time baddies Tom Powers and Cody Jarrett when they get their just deserts at the end of The Public Enemy and White Heat, two of his very best films. Or even poor Eddie Bartlett sprawled dead on the steps in The Roaring Twenties. These are hard-wired gangsters who made their way in the world loaded with lead, and of course, the bulk of these characters are the basis for most of the anti- and Byronic-heroes that populate today’s more indie films and TV shows.

Original poster art for City for Conquest.

One of Cagney’s films in particular had more of a profound impact on me than I ever had expected––the 1940 film City for Conquest, beautifully directed by Anatole Litvak. In a nutshell, City for Conquest tells of a trio of street tough Irish kids growing up on Forsyth and Delancey in New York City, each determined to get out and make something of his or her life. Eddie Kenny dreams of playing a dark symphony in a city spellbound by swing; Peggy Nash wants to see her name in Broadway lights as a famous dancer; and Danny Kenny (Cagney)? Well, he has no aspirations whatsoever. He’s content with his girl Peggy and his job driving a truck until his brother Eddie comes up short for his payments to study music at school. That’s when Danny launches a career in boxing––until then something he did only for exercise––all the while longing to be back home with his girl, who spends her time tripping the light fantastic with dance hall celebrity Murray Burns, masterfully played by Anthony Quinn.

Perhaps what struck me most about Danny’s character is how all-too-human he really is. Through the film’s second act, Danny wins match upon match, and there’s a wonderful nugget of a moment when an “old timer” mentions to a crowd listening to the match that perhaps Danny wins every match because he doesn’t care whether he wins or loses, and that perhaps if he did want to win, he’d end up losing. The men to whom the hobo speaks crook their heads at him like confused puppies, as would anyone today, more than 70 years later.

You see, in today’s world, in any city up for conquest, this is a difficult sentiment to maintain since the very idea of “not caring” surely insinuates that what you’re doing is not important. But I find that’s simply not so. There are dreamers who give their all, there are those who fall asleep, and there are also those who stand somewhere in the middle. And there are those, like me, who don’t dream or do but simply are. Surely I’ve attained my one and only dream since I was a kid––being a published poet. But did I ever dream I’d be an indie filmmaker? Never. Did I ever do anything to learn how to be an indie filmmaker? Not once. But here I am, an indie filmmaker with a short film like Cerise, which has been putting smiles on lots of people’s faces, and another movie on the way, a music video in between, two feature-length scripts in the works and plenty more ideas to breathe life into.

Being successful, I find, is all about going with the flow. Perhaps it’s all that Douglas Adams I’ve been reading, but if you go in the direction the universe is pushing you, you can’t ever steer yourself wrong. In City for Conquest, Danny becomes a boxer because he simply boxes. Sure, it’s his decision, partly motivated by the need to pay for his brother’s schooling, but boxing has always been there, waiting for him all along. Like acting had been for Cagney. Like making films has been for me. Like who knows what else further down the road…

James Cagney in one of his finest (tough guy) roles ever.

Granted, Danny from City for Conquest is much more of a serious role for Cagney than, say, Danny Kean in Picture Snatcher or Dan Quigley in Lady Killer, but this Danny is still a tough guy who gets around by way of his fists, a hot-headed little Irishmen who by the end learns that his toughness can only get him so far, but consequently it elevates his spirit to the heights of Sainthood (and that’s all I’ll say about that––I don’t wanna spoil the end of the movie for you!) That’s what I found so uplifting that I was moved to tears by the final frame of the film––a character who at the beginning of the film has no motivation for anything ends up motivating others simply by being who he is through his whole life, and ultimately that is all the motivation he ever really needed. In a world where identity changes as often as a pair of socks, that says a lot about toughness; you’ve gotta be tough to trust in what you’re doing and not think about the end result.

Though a majority of Cagney’s famous roles (Frank Ross in Each Dawn I Die and “Brick” Davis in “G”Men) are less complicated than City for Conquest’s Danny Kenny and mostly motivated by money, greed, power, or revenge, I’d like Teddy Caputo, the protagonist in Caput, to be one who’s carved out of the same stock of emotions that makes audiences connect with a cold-blooded robber like Cody Jarrett and a straight and narrow guy like Danny. And to achieve that, it means more hours in front of my midnight tube lighting up my eyes with classic Hollywood noir, and I’m excited to carry the black and white torch of my journey deeper into the soul of the anti-hero that began with Bogie and continues with Cagney, and lights on the directors that helped these two titans of the silver screen endure through the decades.

What are some noir films that have left an strong impression on YOU? List ’em in the “Comments” section!

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Trigonis’s Top 8½ Fellini Films

Federico Fellini (1920 – 1993) holds a very special place in my heart. The first foreign film I ever watched was Roberto Benigni’s 1997 masterpiece Life is Beautiful, and I was moved beyond expression. And though that film wasn’t directed by Fellini, it was the spark that launched me on a journey into the belly of Italian cinema, which ultimately led me to its ringmaster.

When I first watched Fellini’s , I remember not liking it very much. I was, however, quite inebriated at the time, so I’m sure that had inhibited my enjoyment somewhat. But when I woke up, I did so with a dreamy sensation and strange black and white visions. I attributed this to the movie, so I watched it again, sober and sensible, and I was enthralled by the story, the dialog, and the masterfully crafted cinematography. In short, I was hooked.

So in honor of the Italian auteur’s birthday, I’ve compiled a Top 8½ Fellini Films list. I recommend that every film enthusiast (and most especially if you’re also a filmmaker!) should see each of them at least once. And here they are, in reverse order:

8. Orchestra Rehearsal (1978) This doc-style movie made me see instruments and their players in a whole new light.

7. Il Bidone (1955) A wonderful little swindle film with one downer of an ending.

6. Fellini Satyricon (1969) A visionary (and oftentimes disturbing) take on Petronius’s ancient Roman satire. Occasionally I’ll show an excerpt or two from the film in my Civilizations courses. My students are never quite the same afterward.

5. I Vitelloni (1953) A fun film with a hopeful, somewhat happy ending. Somewhat. I’d watch it again.

4. Nights of Cabiria (1957) A touching tale of a prostitute (played by Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina) searching in circles for happiness, but finding only heartache at every turn.

3. The White Sheik (1952) One of Fellini’s funnier films, but still a poignant tale.

2. La Strada (1954) It’s Beauty and the Beast (sort of) and this masterpiece has the most heart wrenching ending I have ever seen.

1. (1963) Of course, this insurmountable piece of surrealistic cinema about a director who hasn’t anything left to say speaks volumes to most aspiring directors who long to say something with their own voices and visions.

½. City of Women (1980) Early on I realized I’m not a big fan of Fellini’s color films. However, City of Women is a pretty wacky film, though the first half is a bit slow moving, but it picks up visually by the second half. Hence, it takes the ½ spot in the list.

What Fellini film do YOU recommend and why? Leave your comments below!

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The 3-D Re-Invasion! (Even This Blog Post is 3-D!)

This past Friday the Film Forum opened a special two week program of “Classic 3-D” films that once upon a Golden Age leapt off screens during 1953 – 1954. The line up includes some lesser known noir like Man in the Dark as well as the more notable champs like Dial M for Murder and Kiss Me Kate.

Classic 3-D

A New York Times article by Dave Kehr opens with the question on every filmmaker’s mind: “Does 3-D represent the future of the movies?” This is a question that taps at the back of my mind from time to time, too, and I think that filmmakers might be taking the current 3-D renaissance a little too seriously.

There’s a good article in The Village Voice penned by J. Hoberman that’s worth a read on this subject. It outlines “The Problem With 3-D,” highlighting the current CGI-based trend’s inferiority to photography-based 3-D. Besides claiming that most current CG3-D has an “underwhelming mediocre quality” to it, Hoberman also believes it may detract from the story being told in most 3-D features today (or in my view, tries to compensate poor script for powerful graphics.)

Earlier this year I saw my very first 3-D movie ever. And yes, it was Avatar, which is a movie worth all the fuss of filming with this enhanced technology. I even paid the extra few bucks to see the film on the ginormous IMAX screen. Barring a grossly Hollywood storyline and lack of unforeseeable twists, I was entertained primarily because of how James Cameron’s world opened up to me because of its IMAX 3-D format.

Disney's TRON: LEGACY in IMAX 3-D

3-D should therefore be reserved for films that truly warrant it. Let’s face it, Avatar was made for 3-D, and so are films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Tron: Legacy and maybe even (gulp!) The Expendibles. If your story is one that has its most climactic scene set in a café between two people dialoging back and forth, it’s a safe bet that 3-D’s not for your film; so instead of worrying about leaping off your two-dimensional playing field onto this retro-bandwagon, filmmakers should stay focused on story they can.

Dail M for Murder is constantly hailed as a prime example of 3-D being used to actually enhance, not detract from, the storyline. Hitchcock used it in a minimalist way and achieved maximum results, successfully heightening the tension during the attempted murder of Grace Kelley’s character.

Hitchcock 3-D

Alfred Hitchcock used 3-D sparingly to heighten the audience's tension during particular moments.

The real question is whether or not the current 3-D phenomenon will truly revolutionize the cinematic experience. Or will it simply fizzle out into another brief stereophonic excursion until future mad cinescientists can discover a bridge to the third dimension without the use of glasses that induce headache, nausea, and a plethora of other fine print side effects.

And if you truly want to watch a story unfold between two people at a diner or coffee shop for an hour and a half in three dimensions, you can see a good play for the same price as an IMAX admission. (This piece from the 2010 New York Fringe Festival really pops out at you!)

Either way, a story told in 3-D needs to be one that can only be told in 3-D, one that in any other format would do a disservice to its excellence. Had I watched Avatar on a normal sized flat screen, I’m certain I would have been utterly disappointed. But 3-D opened the doorway to the film’s potential to dazzle and bring out the child-like wonder of film. If only it had a better story, it might have been worthy of that “Best Picture” nomination it received, and might’ve won as well.

What are your thoughts on 3-D and the future of cinema? Of storytelling?

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