The toughest part about making a movie is, well, everything. You need a good story. Someone has to make that story into a decent script. Actors have to bring the script to life. A director has to realize the world the actors inhabit, giving the movie its shape and style. A host of people bring that director’s vision to fruition. There’s editing, effects, sound, score, and that doesn’t even get to distribution and marketing and how much fizzy sugar water is this all going to sell anyway. Making movies is hard, and every one that gets done is a minor miracle.
That puts CineCoup in the minor miracle business. Founded by J. Joly and Brian Wideen in May of 2012, the CineCoup Film Accelerator is a new model for filmmaking. They decided to put the power in social media, and let people decide where their tastes lie, before the film actually gets made. Trailers are what open the doors. This past weekend, CineCoup opened the curtain on ninety-one trailers from indie filmmakers across Canada. They run the gamut from comedy to drama to horror to sci-fi. Each one is two-minutes of first impression, to make you want to see a movie that hasn’t even been made. By leveraging Facebook, Twitter and the like, these scrappy teams can duke it out for fans, and CineCoup gets to see what plays with a bunch of different audiences. Over three months and through weekly media exercises, the teams will build on their feature ideas, and CineCoup will relentlessly narrow the field, à la American Idol. The winning team gets a million dollars toward the production of their film, backed by Cineplex Odeon. Not Avengers money, but enough to get a good little indie film really rolling.
I didn’t expect to be pulled into the tow of a new Canadian film contest. I’m more a musician, though I’ve written a few short films and an unproduced TV pilot over the years. But my director pal Paul Thompson called me up with his vision for a horror thriller called Starkers, and my “what the hell” instincts kicked in. A frenzied three weeks followed, bashing out trailer ideas and trying to get some kind of coherent story together, while Paul and his producer Ricky Jang assembled cast and crew for a breakneck shoot. Locations dropped out, perturbed by the captivity story Paul wanted to tell. Crew was called away on paying gigs. As the deadline got closer and closer, I was certain this crazy two-minute movie was going off the rails. The team wrapped shooting a scant two days before the finished teaser had to be submitted, sending Paul into the waking coma known as editing hell. But he got it done. And that’s what a contest like this is all about. This one’s for the guerilla finishers.
Now the trailers are live, and already it’s cage-match snippet cinema. Here’s a few of the teasers that are swapping top spots like seventies swingers on a weekend bender:
• Grade Nine, a quirky dramedy about a violent small town high school in 1989, where a geeky teen and his comrades navigate the complexities of violence, friendship and Dungeons & Dragons.
• Long Distance, a wry romance about an art director and a stand-up comic who fall in love online and struggle to overcome the 338-mile distance that consumes them.
• Uprising, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie where a group of young men fight to protect their meager colony from the totalitarian society that excluded them.
• Interstate 90, a slick action thriller about an ex-enforcer sent to Boston to settle an old score, while he’s hunted by a man known only as The Frenchman.
• Bad, a crime-gone-wrong movie about a brother and sister with no other way to survive.
Some are a little rough around the edges, for sure. Some are surprisingly slick. There’s great energy here, and watching gives you a window onto the leading edge of Canadian filmmaking. Even in the horror genre, my team’s effort Starkers is in with edgy and entertaining company:
• Van Gore, the world’s first post mortem artist, who paints with his victims’ blood.
• Wolf Cop, pretty much exactly how it sounds.
• Starkers, a creepy thriller about a mother leaving the porn industry behind, while a psychotic fan has other plans.
• Slay to Rest, about a metal band that loses their lead singer to vampirism.
The regional coverage showcases the talent all over Canada, too, with hotbeds in Vancouver and Edmonton vying against the production hub of Toronto.
The CineCoup contest runs for the next fifteen weeks. Each team will be given weekly exercises to flesh out their feature idea and build an audience. The competition and voting is already getting heated. I’m not sure what to expect, but I bet it’s full of hectic, insane fun. There’s bloodsport in the weeks ahead to watch, and anyone can help choose who gets CineCoup’s first million-dollar green-light. If you ever wanted to be a big shark film exec, deciding the fate of artists and hacks, this is your chance. Just don’t wait around for a parking space on the lot.
[Luke Sneyd will return with bi-weekly updates as the Starkers team busts its collective ass in CineCoup’s feature-funding challenge.]