Archive for July, 2008

The Cyberchase Team is Ready to Get Up and Go!

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Coming to your neighborhood, PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! continue on week #9 on a road trip about being engaged and healthy. Throughout the summer, this virtual trip encourages kids to fuel their minds and bodies by making healthy choices with inspiration from health-themed episodes and online activities.These programs and learning games show kids how their favorite character role models in ten different series live healthy and smart. See more at pbskidsgo.org and listen to They Might Be Giants sing the summer theme song “Get Up and Go!”Enjoy the following terrific episodes on “Cyberchase”7.30.08 CYBERCHASE #608 A PERFECT SCOREWhen Buzz and Delete waltz off with Inez, Jackie must be Hacker’s partner in a dance competition to ensure her friend’s safe return.7.31.08 CYBERCHASE #609 CHAOS AS USUALOverpowered by Hacker’s team of titans, the kids track patterns in player performance to improve their chances of winning.8.1.08 CYBERCHASE #403 PENGUIN TEARSThe CyberSquad tries to stop Hacker from taking the Prism of Penguia.Parents and teachers can find articles, activities and book suggestions from CYBERCHASE to complement this week of programs by clicking here.

An Interview with the Creator of “Adventures of Food Boy”

Monday, July 28th, 2008

From lawyer to filmmaker, Marc Mangum tells us about his journey through the filming of  “The Adventures of Food Boy” starring Lucas Grabeel, Brittany Curran, Kunal Sharma, Ryne Sanborn, Noah Bastian and McCall Clark.CP: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey into filmmaking.MM:  I’ve always loved movies. As a kid I made some very simple (and very lame) stop action type films with a VHS camera and Star Wars figures. In 9th grade I made a commercial for a school project using a VHS camera with some very, very low-budget special effects that won an award and made everyone laugh. My father ran a film distribution company while I was a teenager, and I worked for him a few summers in high school so I had some exposure to the business side of films back then. My favorite classes in college were creative writing classes. But even though I wanted to tell stories in some way and at some point in my life, for a variety of reasons I decided to go to law school. I worked as a corporate attorney for 10 years before starting Cold Spark Films. As different as being a lawyer may seem from filmmaking, I gained a lot of experience that has been invaluable as a producer. A huge component of being a producer is putting together deals and negotiating contracts, which is exactly what I did for 10 years as a lawyer.About 4 years ago, I knew that I wanted to do something other than being a lawyer for the rest of my life, and I had an idea for a script. I wrote that script and showed it to a few people, and I got pretty good feedback on it. I tried to shop it around, but had a very hard time getting anyone in the industry to take me seriously. One day I was talking to a director who had just finished directing his first big-budget studio movie. He told me that I was the “50th person” who had approached him with a script or an idea since he finished directing his latest film, and he really didn’t have any insight or special knowledge on how to get my script into the hands of the right people. Coming out of that conversation, I was convinced that the only way I was going to get movies made that I wanted to make was to do it myself.Not really knowing much about the nuts-and-bolts of filmmaking, I figured that I needed to start small. My youngest brother was just finishing up film school so he and I decided that we’d produce a short film that we could then turn into a feature film. We had a list of a dozen or so different ideas that we thought could work, and we decided to go forward with the “Food Boy” concept. I wrote a short film script based on the concept, and in the summer of 2006 we shot a short film called “Food Boy.”  For us it was a test run and learning experience. We screened the film at several different festivals, including KIDS FIRST! (the first festival that accepted our short), and we won 2nd place in 2007 from KIDS FIRST! Best awards for the Best Indie Short For Kids Age 12-18. Ranny Levy and the entire KIDS FIRST! team were very supportive of our short film.I then wrote the full length script for “The Adventures of Food Boy” and with the short film went out to raise money. My experience as an attorney (I had spent several years working with start-ups and venture capital funds) was very helpful throughout that process. We raised the money in about six months, and then went into production in the summer of 2007.As we started casting our movie, shortly after finishing fund raising, I was amazed at the level of acting talent that was interested in being part of our movie. We were thrilled to bring Lucas Grabeel in as our lead actor and Brittany Curran as our lead actress. They were both fantastic to work with, and do a great job in the film.CP: Where did the idea for “Adventures of Food Boy” originate?MM:  I first told the story of “Food Boy” to one of my sons as a bedtime story several years ago. It started with a simple “…once upon a time, there was a boy who could make peanut butter sandwiches in his hands.”  My son laughed at that simple beginning, and I told him a few stories about this “food boy” over the next couple of weeks. A few years later as I was searching for a idea for a script, I remembered those stories and that my son liked the idea. So from there I revisited the concept and developed it into a more complete story.CP: How did the movie change from the way you first visualized it?MM:  It’s much better than the way I first visualized it. The process of bringing in a talented director in Dane Cannon and then adding our cinematographer Ryan Cannon (who is not related to Dane) really added a lot to the original vision. They both worked with us on the short film so we’ve collaborated together on this for a long time. Dane brought many helpful insights to the story and was able to get really great performances from our actors. Ryan brought a great visual style to the movie that is much better than I had initially anticipated. My brother Sam (who is also a producer and editor on the movie) was extremely helpful in making sure the film stays together and is cohesive. I think the music also turned out a lot better than I anticipated initially. Dane and our composer Bill Wandel did a great job on the music, and we were able to complement Bill’s music with some really fun tunes from some up-and-coming bands.CP: What was one of the more surprising elements you discovered whiledoing the filming?MM:  The power of collaboration. We tried to create an environment on set where everyone felt comfortable expressing their opinions. I was very surprised and pleased to see how we found great ideas from lot of different people on set. I had always heard how filmmaking is such a collaborative effort, and I found that to be very true.CP: What was the trickiest part of dealing with all the special effectsso it looked like he really made food?MM:  Clearly, it was the mustard. We did most of the food special effects “in camera” which means that we actually filmed food (or something that would look like food) on set as opposed to creating a lot of visual or digital effects. We also have some digital effects shots in the movie, but the majority of what you see in the movie was actually flying around the set while we shot it. We wanted to add to the realism of what was happening (if that’s even possible to do considering that we’re talking about a movie where a kid makes food appear in his hands) by doing that.There’s a scene in the movie where “Food Boy” unintentionally shoots mustard from his hands. We had built some equipment to shoot mustard for that scene, and we had tested it a couple of times using real mustard and it worked great. Then a couple of days before we were to shoot that scene, the actor playing “Food Boy” (Lucas Grabeel) mentioned to me that the smell of mustard makes him sick so he was a little bit nervous about being able to shoot that scene without throwing up. But, he said he’d do whatever we wanted him to do. Of course, I didn’t want our lead actor to get sick in the middle of this scene so we scrambled for a few days to see if we could find something that would still look like mustard but didn’t smell as bad. Finally, the morning of the shoot, we had figured out that hand lotion with yellow food coloring looks exactly like mustard. So we thought we’d found the solution…until we tested it and realized that the lotion wouldn’t shoot at all. It just sort of dribbled out of Food Boy’s hands. Of course, Lucas was great about it and said it wouldn’t be a problem with real mustard. Later that afternoon, when we finally shot the scene, I was worried the whole time that Lucas was going to get sick. The smell of the real mustard was VERY, VERY strong. But, luckily Lucas made it through the entire scene without any…incidents. We did a very funny interview with Lucas in between takes of that scene (with Lucas covered in real mustard) that will be on the DVD special features.CP: What advice to you have to offer aspiring independent producers intheir filmmaking ventures?MM:  One thing I learned is that making a movie on some levels is a matter of will power. You will encounter a lot of obstacles, many of them unanticipated, and if you want to get your movie made you just have to persevere, respond to the obstacles and keep moving towards you goal. Filmmaking is both an artistic and business venture. As the producer, you have to keep the business side of the movie in mind at all times. Everyone involved in the project will focus on the artistic side, but it’s up to the producer to keep reminding everyone about the business aspects as well. The producer is going to be the person trying to find an audience and market for the movie long after everyone else has finished his/her artistic part. The more you’ve kept the business aspects in mind, the better your chances will be at finding distribution later on. Ultimately, you want your movie to be seen by an audience so understanding and keeping in mind what it will take to get your movie to an audience is key in the entire process. Finally, I’d say you have to network…a lot. I really didn’t know very many people in the industry before I started on this project. But I talked to the few people I knew and asked them to introduce me to others who I could talk to. I’d suggest networking with distributors, international distributors, film festival directors, directors, other indie producers and pretty much anyone else you might meet who can give you insights. Almost everyone I talked to was willing to give some advice and help us. I also found KIDS FIRST! and Film Independent to be very helpful and valuable sources of information.CP:  What’s next for you? What projects are you working on now?MM:  We’ve just finished securing both domestic and international distribution for “The Adventures of Food Boy.”  We’re planning a limited theatrical release followed by a DVD release this fall. So now that all of that is behind me, I’ve just recently felt like I could really focus on our next projects. Right now we have three main projects we’re working on. We’re partnering with an established production company to develop a popular kids book’s series into a TV series. We’re also working on a feature film that is similar to “Food Boy” in that it takes a unique approach to a common genre…it’s a really funny concept that I think kids will love. And we’re developing a sports mockumentary feature film that should be hysterical.CP: Will we ever get to see a “Food Boy” sequel?MM:  You know, I would love to do a Food Boy sequel. It’s definitely something that I’ve thought about. Ezra (aka Food Boy) is only a junior in high school when he discovers his gift, so there’s plenty of time in his high school years to learn and explore more about his gift. I’ve also thought that the story would be great as a TV show, and I have plenty of ideas that we could use in a sequel or develop into a TV series. I would also love to explore Grandma’s food gift with a prequel about how she discovered and developed her abilities with the food gift.

Gundling, an Eleven-Year-Old, Talks About His Filmmaking

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Eleven-year-old Peter Gundling is not only one of the youngest filmmakers of KIDS FIRST! film festival titles, but it’s his third year of acceptance! Fans of Gundling might want to head to the theater to check out “Super Kitten and the Power Pets.”CP: Please tell me a bit about “Power Pets” including where you got the idea for this title.PG: I got the idea of Super Kitten when I adopted my cats. I got the idea for the Power Pets because I thought I should be fair and have other animals as well. I also wanted to do a film about how Super Kitten became Super Kitten and I included the Power Pets.CP: What equipment/computer programs work best for you in your filmmaking?PG: For my filmmaking I use a Panasonic PV-GS80 camcorder that plugs into my Mac through a firewire. Using the program Boinx iStopMotion the computer takes the pictures through the camera. I then import the clips to iMovie and add sound with GarageBand.CP: This is your third year with KIDS FIRST!, how do you feel your filmmaking has evolved over the past three years?PG: The quality of the animation has improved over the years. In “Toys: the Homemaker’s Tale” you can see some things sliding around that aren’t supposed to be moving. “Super Kitten and the Great Cheese Robbery” was my first all-clay film and the animation was somewhat choppy. This time the animation was more fluid and had less things moving in the background.CP: You are still very young, but already have vast filmmaking experience. What advice do you have to offer other young filmmakers?PG:  Always be serious about your filmmaking. The story is the most important part of the movie.CP: What do your friends and schoolmates think about your filmmaking?PG:  My friends and schoolmates all enjoy my films. Even if they don’t know me too well or are not my friend. They tell me that my film made them laugh or their siblings enjoy watching them over and over on the web. After they see it they ask me, “How did you do that?” and I tell them, but not too many understand.CP: Are you going to continue working with clay?PG:  Yes I think I will. I might do a Lego thing or a documentary, but I will continue to work with clay.CP: What do you plan to do next in regard to film?PG:  Next I will make “Super Kitten and the Escape,” the sequel to “Super Kitten and the Power Pets.”CP: Is there anything you would like to add?PG:  Something happens in “Super Kitten and the Escape,” but it’s a secret!

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