Everything Counts (Pasadena Rose Bowl Version)

Depeche Mode

101

Played 89 times

3rd Anniversary of the ‘Lilith’ Blog!

Music for a Black Celebration: Everything Counts (Live) by Depeche Mode.

Three years, 550 posts and 51k followers later and we’re still going strong. Frankly when I started this blog I had my own doubts whether or not I’d be able to sustain 2-3 original posts per week, knowing my penchant for writing a lot and that I insist on not repeating myself. I’ve tried to make every post meaningful, entertaining and informative, and I’ve hope you’ve enjoyed them.

One of the truly satisfying parts of this blog is the interaction I’ve had with young filmmakers over the years. I’ve had both student and beginning filmmakers who are readers of this blog send me scripts, ask for business advice on fundraising and crowdsourcing, and even a few who just needed a sounding board for the natural frustrations that this business fosters. There are eleven young filmmakers from this blog who I regularly keep in touch with, all of whom started their relationship with me by simply sending me a message.

Of course what made me want to help these specific eleven is that they demonstrated the sheer passion, drive, dedication and work ethic that it takes to make it in this business. When they share their thoughts with me, they let me know of the work they’re doing and the efforts they’re making to be better. Their efforts, energy and desire to succeed motivates me as much as this blog motivates them. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Maybe we can devise a name for this group someday.

This blog continues to grow and I continue to grow along with it. If you’ve been with me from the start you’ve seen me through a feature and two short films, and I’ve got my next feature on the way, which I do hope to be writing about shortly. I’ve wondered whether I should re-brand this blog to suit my next feature, but I’ve decided to keep it as ‘Lilithfilm,’ because the spirit of ‘Lilith’ is the spirit of how I want to make films, and I don’t ever want to change that. I cherish the freedom I had on ‘Lilith’ - the freedom to express myself without censor, the freedom to make films on my terms, the freedom to make mistakes by my own hand. That is the spirit of ‘Lilith’ - the spirit of independence.

As we start year four of this blog I want to continue to discuss our craft and the evolution of it. As I review my old posts I can see that I’ve already modified my thinking and approach to writing, directing and producing. There are missteps I made on ‘Lilith,’ on ‘7x6x2’ and my other films, moments that have opened my eyes to new techniques and ideas, and I will continue to share my findings. In that sense I want this blog to slowly evolve from a document of filmmaking into a filmmaking lab, where we experiment with ideas and bounce them off one another. I hope to bring more young filmmakers into the fold and expand beyond eleven dedicated artists, people who know that filmmaking is so much more than buying a DSLR and expensive gear.

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Filmmaking is a fine art, a craft and a way of life. Our goal is to become professionals, where we have something unique to say and we get paid to say it. If film is in your blood, then you live for it and know what you must do to make it happen. I’m just happy to be by your side on your journey.

Lastly, I’ve had the great joy of not only chronicling my own growth and experiences as a filmmaker on this blog, but I’ve also had the tremendous privilege of watching my fellow ‘Lilith’ collaborators grow and spread their wings as well, and they have in spades. They are as much a part of this blog as I am, and on behalf of myself, Julia Voth, Bianca Christians, Lili Reinhart, Nancy Telzerow, Jeremy Kendall, Spencer Kim, Lauren Ondecker, Damon Taylor, Faroukh Mistry, Kristen Adams, Eric Morrell, Will Brooks and Alap Momin (aka dälek), Chris Stangroom and the rest of the insanely talented artists that I get to call dear friends in the ‘Lilith’ family, we thank you so much for three years of continual, loving support.

Your humble director,
Sridhar.

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Peace.

My reel.

So after three different versions and grappling with the philosophy of what and what not to show, this is my final 2013 reel.

Besides Lilith there are some real deep cuts in here, including footage from my first feature, 19 Revolutions and a ton of sneak-peek footage from 7x6x2, my collaboration with graphic novelist Paul Pope. Enjoy!

Sridhar Reddy Directing Reel from Sridhar Reddy on Vimeo.

Interpreting Sundance.

First and foremost, massive congrats to Lilith actress Lili Reinhart, as her film Toy’s House, which is in dramatic competition at this year’s Sundance, was just acquired for distribution by CBS Films. Lili’s worked super hard and this is a huge step in her career, and I can’t wait for what the future holds for her.


Toy’s House.

Toy’s House is one of many high-profile acquisitions that have occurred early in the schedule at Sundance, with films fetching prices in the $4-9m range from both major and upstart distributors. The trend is very promising and exciting for all of us involved in film.

Ever since the recession began in 2006 (has it been that long already?), the days of high prices for film acquisition at Sundance and other film markets like AFM, Berlin and Cannes had all but dried up. Distributors didn’t have cash to borrow from banks and what they could pay wasn’t anywhere near able to cover the cost of production. As the years progressed, the number of acquisitions plummeted into the single digits. Not only did this mean that less films were finding quality distribution, it had a much more detrimental effect upon film investment. If films were not able to find distribution, then what possible vote of confidence could be given to an investor to put money in a film. As distribution dried up, so too did confidence - and therefore money - in new films to be made.

I know this because I made Lilith at the peak of the financial desert. My efforts to sell the film were consistently met with the same story - “we like the film, we just don’t have any money to give you for it.” Luckily I found a distributor, but I was indeed lucky. Very lucky. There were so many films - great films - made in the past five years that have fallen victim of the financial landscape. In addition there were so many great scripts that even despite having high-profile directors and actors attached to them, simply could not find funding because of the lack of confidence in film distribution.

This might seem puzzling given that the theatrical movie business has posted a record financial profit in 2012. It blew the previous figure out of the water, this despite fewer films being made, acquired and released. As with every year, ticket prices have gone up, but the real factor of profitability was the foreign market. Films recouped as much as three times their domestic box office abroad, and it’s been an absolute godsend for the studios. With digital delivery and projection, P&A costs were slashed dramatically, and countries that relied upon 35mm projection would simply receive prints cycled through other countries.

But note that this success was seen predominantly by big-budget studio tentpole films, movies that had a pedigree or built-in audience. These movies were relatively easy sells in foreign markets - James Bond is an international commodity and Skyfall bolstered the appeal by being a well-made and well-told story. It also pandered to its target market by setting itself in China. The Avengers was an actioner that could translate across cultures, and reaped the benefit of almost a decade of films that had a built-in audience. These were slam-dunk calculated risks, and as a result of smart choices and smart filmmaking, the profits were there to be taken.


'Skyfall' in China.

But not everyone can afford to make The Avengers or Skyfall, and selling a film like Wuthering Heights or We Need to Talk About Kevin internationally is a deadly proposition. So while the studio tentpoles flourished, smaller and independent films struggled mightily. But despite this, producers got smarter and made films that took a page from the studios, focusing on genre filmmaking and reducing their costs. A film like Looper grabbed science fiction by the horns, leveraged a rising star in Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and took advantage of Chinese distribution by incorporating it into the narrative. But for every Looper there are a few dozen Lilith's, small indie genre films that have niche appeal and require niche distribution that is woefully underfunded. In the past six years the number of niche distributors has plummeted, with many of them buckling under financial pressure and closing their doors. With the loss of niche distribution, so too did the money for investment in independent films dry up. Throw in the changing environment of digital / streaming distribution (Netflix pays out little to nothing for indie filmmakers), and it's been a really, really tough ten years for independent film.

But the recent acquisitions at Sundance give a signal that the times are changing. Money is flowing at a rate that is unheard of in the past six years, and when distributors spend money, investors are more inclined to put money into the system. It’s basic business - you put money in places where it can turn a profit. The onus is still on the distributors to make money at the box office, but they wouldn’t pay for these films if they didn’t feel they couldn’t be sold. It also means that filmmakers are getting smart as well, trimming their costs of production and negotiating star salaries down or offering participation on the back end. Lili’s film - besides being reviewed favorably as funny and charming - has a cast that can sell, with Nick Offerman and Alison Brie rounding off a very polished and talented cast. A cast like that five years ago would be unaffordable on an indie budget, but producers have adjusted to challenging times, as have actors, who realize that less films being made means less available work, and to participate on a quality project on a reduced salary means the potential for greater returns is multiplied.

If investors see that smaller budget, smartly made genre films with magnetic, well-assembled casts are making money, they’ll be more inclined to invest in them. And that’s a very, very good thing for independent filmmakers. It makes me excited for the future. I’m glad that I’ve been able to weather the storm and still somehow make quality movies during that time period, and I’m looking forward to the brighter future. It’s no free pass - we’ll have to be smarter than ever because while investor confidence will be rising, it doesn’t mean they’ll be less cautious. In fact investors will be all the more cautious because they have to find projects that fit this current environment. The economy hasn’t recovered, it’s only showing signs of it. But a smart investor knows it’s important to strike early, and strike intelligently. So we have to be intelligent with what we present. Study the trends and make them your own. See what’s selling and innovate on them, make them high concept and low budget, and I guarantee you’ll get a nibble of interest.

Time to strike is not when the iron is hot, but when it’s just heating up. We’re at that stage right now, so let’s get to work!!

hernamewaseponine ASKED:

I'm sorry if you've had this question asked before, but why the title Lilith?


I did indeed address this a long, long time ago, but it wasn’t in great detail because when I made the post I had still yet to shoot the film. It was still in the script phase, and I didn’t want to reveal too much. But I think your question is fortuitous and it’s indeed time to talk more about the origins of Lilith.

NOTE: There might be some slight spoilers in the following text.

Lilith is the name of one of the characters in the film, played by actress Lili Reinhart. She is the sister of Sarah, played by Julia Voth. In the film Lilith has died, a decade before the point when the story takes place. Lilith was the victim of an evil within her home - I won’t get specific, but imagine the worst possible thing that could happen to a twelve year old girl - and she was blamed for it by her own mother. It’ll make more sense when you see the film.


Lilith, played by Lili Reinhart.

This is a dynamic that centers around unjust punishment, one based upon the suppression of free will and the robbing of innocence. I gleaned these themes from the Hebrew mythology of Lilith, who was Adam’s first wife - the first woman - before Eve. In the Garden of Eden, Lilith refused to lay beneath Adam, and declared him to be her equal. For this she was banished by God from the Garden, and cursed to be a succubus - a seducer of men - and a harbinger of death.

When I first read the story of Lilith, I felt she was harshly and unfairly punished for doing something that wasn’t even a crime. She stood up for herself, her dignity, and her free will, and for that she was banished. I layered in these sentiments in my Lilith, a girl who was accused of being a lewd temptation and was unjustly banished from her home (by death) under the mores of the adult world. In the film, Lilith is seen as a demon by those who don’t understand her, and the only person who doesn’t see her in this way is the one who understands Lilith from a place of true love - her sister, Sarah.


Sarah, played by Julia Voth.

From the root of the Lilith mythology, I branched out and extended it into my script. The name of Julia’s character, Sarah, is derived from the Alphabet of Ben-Sira, the Hebrew text where Lilith is first introduced. Sarah is also a note from the Book of Genesis, wherein she was misinformed by the Devil of Isaac’s death, and upon hearing this she ultimately died of grief. The character of Sarah in the film is stricken with grief over the loss of her sister, to the point where she has killed her inner fire. Here is the legend in full:

Satan came to Sarah disguised as an old man, and told her that Isaac had been sacrificed. Believing it to be true, she cried bitterly, but soon comforted herself with the thought that the sacrifice had been offered at the command of God. She started from Beer-sheba to Hebron, asking everyone she met if he knew in which direction Abraham had gone. Then Satan came again in human shape and told her that it was not true that Isaac had been sacrificed, but that he was living and would soon return with his father. Sarah, on hearing this, died of joy at Hebron.

When you see the film, you can connect the dots and see its origins.

Further derivation was drawn from Lilith in the naming of her father, Samuel. It is taken from Samael, one of the archangels in the Talmud. Samael is an enigma, seen as both good and evil, and is a seducer and destroyer. He is often confused with the Devil - something which is alluded to in a line of dialogue in the screenplay. Perhaps more poignantly, in Kaballah, Samael is also said to have taken Lilith as his bride, a note which reveals a disturbing connection in the film.

Of course none of this mythology is ever explicitly stated in the film - I am not a religious person at all, in fact far from it - instead it is implied and used as the story’s roots. It also represents a small fraction of the massive amounts of research I put into the movie. To me however the story of Lilith is one that honors her determination to be herself, to stand proudly for what she believed in and to overcome the injustices that were meted out upon her. As it is all placed within the structure of Dante’s Inferno (which itself assembled different mythologies within one tale), the story is about going to the depths of darkness so that one can see the faintest of lights. In my story Lilith is no demon, rather she is a woman, a girl, an individual who is deserved of respect and compassion. But as it is a horror film, you’ll have to watch the movie to see her final fate!

We’re all going to die today…

…or was that last month? I keep losing track of our supposed Armageddon days. I suppose now is the time to give you a ‘live today / everyday like it’s your last’ speech but hey that’s kind of maudlin and fey. It’s been a tough week, what with kids getting shot, kids getting killed in Pakistan drone strikes, kids getting shot in Chicago’s South Side for the past umpteen years with no news coverage, kids getting maimed in the countless civil wars in Africa, kids getting sold as sex slaves in the Middle East, and just basically kids getting the blunt end of every adult dysfunction we can dream of.

It’s hard not to watch the news and think that this is a pretty shitty world we live in, in fact the news seems to make it a point to reinforce that idea by making things sound worse than they actually are. I know for every killing there’s tens of thousands of acts of kindness and compassion in this world, ranging from selfless service in Kolkata’s slums to the girl behind the register telling me to ‘have a nice day.’ But I have to admit, these instances seem to be diminishing over the years, as we seem to be buckling under the pressures applied by an adult, cynical world. We’re drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid, and the cracks are starting to show.

Maybe the Mayans were right in that it’s not so much the end of the world, but the end of civilization as we know it. They could’ve been off by a hundred years, but there’s a definite disintegration of all that was built before. I see people dying of cancer, mighty brick buildings being struck down and replaced with feeble, ready-to-break sheds, animals going extinct and no snow on the mighty mountains of Colorado.

If you don’t feel like blowing your brains out already (we can all-too-easily source an assault weapon from Wal-Mart to assist in that endeavor), hold on, hold on. Let’s think this through a bit.

Bad things happen. Every day. I can try to rationalize it as some kind of circle-of-life shit but it’s hard to do that in the face of injustice. A cute gazelle getting eaten by a cheetah is not injustice - there’s some basal purpose behind that act of killing. What happened last week and in Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech and basically all over the country was not done for survival or food, it was acts of deluded power, anxiety and illness.

The thing is that we can control and manage those things using the tools we have developed over thousands of years as a civilization. At this moment, more important than any one given law, legislation or gun purchase, the most important thing we have to embrace as a country is philosophy. We have to ask ourselves “why” and not so much “how” these things keep happening. And as cogent creatures we are fully capable of it.

I’m not so clueless as to suggest a complete ban on guns - sure I don’t like them but they have a role to play just as any other weapon does. War is a constant, we will have true evil forces in the future to dispatch, i.e. Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, etc.. You can’t just ask a Navy Seal to go into a compound and slit a tyrant’s throat (although I’m sure it can be done). But I recall a conversation I had with an old high school friend of mine who returned from two tours in Afghanistan. We were hanging out on the porch and I asked him what it was like over there. He said it’s pretty much what we think it is, but what was really bothering him was that he had shot someone in Afghanistan. A civilian who was suspect. There wasn’t any time to deduce who was friend or foe, action had to be taken, and he pulled the trigger. He told me that a part of him died when he puled that trigger, and that at that moment, his fear was what was propelling that bullet. I reassured him that he was fighting the good fight, but I also told him that as a civilian I could never relate to what he was feeling, only so much a sense of loss that accompanies a deep moral decision.

Fear is a powerful thing, and the end result of fear is ultimately loss. To live in fear is paralysis, and everything that is unknown becomes a threat, and what is known becomes suspect. The purpose of philosophy is to make the unknown a little more known, to give us a sense of context and meaning. Philosophy is not justifying something, it is merely contextualizing it. Where does a senseless act of violence fit into the greater whole of existence? What are the determining factors not for this guy to buy an assault weapon, but to want to kill in the first place? While I do think the access to an assault weapon and ammunition is a major problem, it is only one piece of it. Mental illness is a large problem, but it’s not exclusive to mass killings and homicides. There are plenty of people without mental illness who pull the trigger.

We must use philosophy to tackle anger, and to me, anger stems from one thing - resentment. When we harbor resentment - be it from loss or injustice - our anger festers and seeks release. The main way to deal with resentment is forgiveness, and to forgive someone is the absolute highest level of compassion that can diffuse any kind of powder keg of a situation. It lifts the burden of anger that can lead to irrational and immoral decisions. Forgiveness - even if the other side refuses to accept it - is the cure to violence.

To ask the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook killings to forgive the young man who killed their children is no small task. Even though he is dead. To ask them to forgive the people who sold him a high-powered assault rifle is just as hard. To show compassion and bring a universality to the death of their children, to place their tragedy alongside those of other families around the world, is to achieve transcendence and to help heal wounds of senseless violence everywhere. This is the essential starting point, and from there we can tackle guns and mental health. It would be impossible to do so with resentment and anger in our hearts.

The world might very well end today, tomorrow, next week or nine million years from now. But to die with bitterness and acid in our soul is to disrespect the gift of existence and consciousness. I don’t want to go out that way, mad at the world and doing nothing to make it better. I accept that I will die, and so will everything around me. Nothing is permanent except energy, a shimmering field of it that constitutes the collective dynamic of what we are. We can control where it goes and how it is used, a gift bestowed upon our species, a gift we readily take for granted. That, my friends, is the root of our change.

But if the Mayans were right and indeed we all die, just know that I love you all - even the folks who made Twilight. You’ve made this world amazing and I’m blessed to share it with you. And when we wake up tomorrow towards a new day, let us renew our commitment to making the world an even better place to live in for us, for future generations, and for every being in the universe. Be well.

Lilies

Bat For Lashes

The Haunted Man

Played 499 times

Music for the Weekend: Lilies by Bat for Lashes.

I’ve hit the ground running as we gear up for our two-day shoot next week. Crew is locked, camera tests on Monday, casting and storyboards will be done by Tuesday, creature effects and production design done by Friday, and then out to the desert to shoot Saturday and Sunday into Monday morning. Somewhere in there I’ll find time to sleep and dream a few dreams.

There’s something exhilarating about shooting a picture without the benefit of time. A lot of our calls are on gut instinct simply because we don’t have the time for analysis. This is filmmaking by doing what simply feels right. It’s a new way for me to work, and I’m enjoying every moment. But then any time I get to create, I’ll enjoy it with all my heart. We’ve got some truly amazing collaborators on this project, artists who are willing to step up and help out because it’s just a really great script and high concept. And we all believe in it, wholeheartedly.

Have a safe, wonderful weekend!

Going back to Cali.

Going back to California to shoot this short. It’s my first time going to Hollywood to actually direct and shoot something, and not just go for financing/ scriptwriting. It’s a big moment for me.

I’ve got a backlog of questions and messages to answer, so those who submitted to me I ask for your patience, as I’m averaging about 19-hour work days for this past week and for the foreseeable month. But my blog will soldier on - I’ll do my best to keep writing interesting stuff and progress updates.

In the meantime please remember to support Lilith on its facebook page. You can download the film right away and/or pre-order your copies of the super-cool DVD. Your support is appreciated!

Alternate Lilith Trailer and new HD trailer!

So there’s an alternate 2-min trailer that I cut which has TONS of new footage from the film and music from the score by dälek. It’s on the ‘Lilith’ facebook page if you’d like to see it PLUS the new official HD trailer of the film!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lilith/313092187396?ref=hl

Yes. This is my fey attempt to guide traffic.

BUT IT’S TOTALLY WORTH IT. GO GO GO GO GO GOOOO!