Into the Woods
Creating no-budget films can be a frustrating experience. You have to live
with the reality that the final product is not going to look the way you have
imagined it in your dreams. Ennio Morricone and John Williams are not going to
beat down your door and beg to write your score. Cate Blanchett and Leo
DiCaprio aren't going to donate their time to help you fulfill your dream.
Industrial Light and Magic is not going to be creating your effects.
Christopher Rouse is not going to appear on your doorstep looking for editing
work. Caleb Deschanel is not going to volunteer to be your cinematographer,
and even if he did, you couldn't afford his crew of lighting and other
That does not necessarily stop you from making an entertaining and
watchable film. The key is to create a script that can minimize your
- Since you are working with actors of limited range and your sound will
be imperfect at best, you need to tell the story with a minimum of words,
and cover up bad ambient sound with a score whenever possible.
- You absolutely must not create any elements that would require special
effects, costumes or make-up because nothing looks worse than grade-z
ghosts, splatter, and monsters.
- Forget period pieces and locate your story today, because it costs a lot
of money to get period details right.
- If you locate every scene outdoors in natural light in the real world,
your images will look as good as anyone else's.
- Make you story short and to the point. Long movies get that way because
authors want to develop dimensional characters or deliver clever dialogue.
You can't spend a lot of time on character development because your amateur
actors won't be able to handle the nuances, and they'll ruin your genius
dialogue with bad delivery. Plot, on the other hand, is almost actor-proof.
Create a good one and have it drive quickly to the point.
- Finally, there are certain things that contribute to the marketability
of your product and are free. One of the most useful is nudity. It is
axiomatic that a genre film with a naked women in the woods will sell more
DVDs than one with a clothed woman, and the nudity also saves on the costume
Phil Herman, the auteur of Into The Woods, followed most of the rules above
and delivered a pretty good little movie that kept me away from the remote.
Post-credits, Nancy Feliciano finds herself in a deserted building
somewhere on a remote beach. She is stark naked and has no memory of why she
is there or how she got there. She assembles a piecemeal outfit and goes
walking through the wilderness. At various times she finds care packages,
messages, ringing cell phones, and other items planted by an unseen tormenter,
the cat to her mouse. She walks for what seems like days and then realizes
that she seems to be covering the very same routes she has already covered.
She seems to be trapped on some kind of a cosmic treadmill. As the film tells
her story, it gradually cuts away from the main storyline to more and more
flashbacks, based upon the premise that they represent her memory's gradual
If I reveal much more, I'll be spoiling the film's value, which lies in the
explanation of the identity of her tormentor, her location, and the reason she
is in this predicament.
If you look at the film clips and promotional stills, which center around a
naked Nancy Feliciano, you may derive the idea that it's some kind of bondage
film, or even torture porn. It is not. It it essentially a psychological
drama. There is a good reason why she is naked, once you understand the
storyteller's POV. There is also a good reason why some details seem surreal
or illogical. Remember that it is a plot-driven mystery film, sort of a
Twilight Zone with tits, and the illogical will eventually seem appropriate.
My comparison to the Twilight Zone was not made casually. One of Rod
Serling's favorite plot devices was the terror of isolation - the loneliness
of being the only one on earth, or the only one of your species or your time,
for example. Nancy Feliciano basically finds herself in that situation. She
wanders through the woods forever, sees no other living person, and seems to
cover the same ground again and again. Later she is in a car driving through
city streets, and experiences the same phenomenon: she sees the same
completely deserted streets again and again.
I think the ultimate explanation may even surprise you.
Is it a great movie? No, and it can be very clumsy at times. But sometimes
the distance between a great film like Memento and a modest effort like this
can be smaller than you expect. In fact, if Hollywood bought this script and
re-made it with professionals, featuring (let's say) Jessica Biel naked for
most of the film, it might be damned good! I would pay to see it.
Nancy Feliciano film clips.
There is much more nudity, but this gives you the idea.
This Beautiful City
The title is ironic, at least on one level. While the film's version of
Toronto does indeed look quite beautiful in its way, from the glittering
skyscrapers to the funky forgotten corners, the film is essentially about the
negative effects of modern city life. For the rich couple in the richly
appointed condo, the city life is turning him into a shallow snob and her into
a frustrated hausfrau who endures his condescension. For the poor junkies on
the streets below, life forces them into ever lower levels of degradation. For
the cop who connects the other characters, every day promises additional
disappointments in the behavior of his fellow urbanites.
The film begins with the rich woman falling or jumping from her balcony to
the streets below. She lives, but never does say whether she fell or jumped.
I guess you can tell it's the feel-good comedy of the year!
It's yet another one of those "urban lives are interdependent .. and yet
totally suck" movies mined from the same general vein as Crash, except that it
substitutes Toronto for LA and class for race.
As home-grown fare, it was reasonably well received at the Toronto film
festival last year, and has won several awards at minor film festivals, but
faint praise on the second tier festival circuit represents the zenith of its
potential. Despite some good acting and cinematography, it's too depressing to
be a mainstream film, and too mundane to attract an arthouse audience. I found
it to be both tedious and depressing, and I can handle one or the other, but
The nudity, however, is not bad at all!
These clips were made by Deep at Sea, who had finished his clips earlier
tonight before I watched the film. Since mine would have been identical
quality from the same source, I chose not to duplicate his efforts.