I thought it might be nice to talk to a friend about her opinion of Memphis film.
I thought it might be nice to talk to a friend about her opinion of Memphis film.
So the other day my merry band of classmates and myself went on a field trip (!) to Music+Arts Recording Studio in Memphis. It doesn’t really look like a studio. Really its just a converted house in Midtown with plenty of rooms for storage, a refrigerator, and an absolutely sweetass recording studio.
The guys that work there, Ward Archer and Kevin Houston, are responsible for recording and mixing some of the best local musicians in the area, including Amy LeVere and Charlie Wood, as well as the sound for a couple of movies you might have heard of like Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan (along with a few you probably haven’t).
Houston told us that an average day of editing work ranges on the low end from 10 hours a day to about 15 (more like the 15 for a movie). He seemed like one of the happiest, most content people I’ve met in a long time.
Somebody get me in a studio. I love this stuff.
So I’m working on an article about the film incentive offered by Tennessee, as opposed to the tax refunds of Georgia and Louisiana. Despite going through the actual forms provided by the state of TN and actually speaking to a member of the Memphis Film Commission, Sharon O’Guin, I’m still confused.
I’m confused because I can’t figure out why no one else seems to know about this, and because I myself am wondering if maybe they do, and that they don’t know how to make it work in their favor either.
In Tennessee, you can get up to 32 percent back of what you spent on production while you were in the state. That’s a hell of a deal. So what’s the catch? Well first off you have to have spent over a million dollars to get the full check, and second off, you’re only getting a refund for what you shot here.
So why is this a big deal? Fair right? Well, you see, from what I understand, due to the state income taxes of GA and LA, those states will give you a nice 30% back in tax refunds if you shoot in their state. Have to send the film to your editor’s studio in LA? Need to do some reshoots on a soundstage? That’s fine. It’s included in your rebate. You shot the film in GA regardless.
Once you’ve sent a crew to Atlanta to film, why not just stay there? Hotels are cheaper there, there are local crews because all kinds of stuff is being filmed there and its become commonplace by now to shoot there. The area is scenic, and most importantly, you can still use all of your pros in LA and all of the perks that come with it. For you to shoot on a stage in TN, you would have to build the damn thing to get your 32 percent, and that negates the whole purpose of shooting there.
I get it, really I do. Tennessee was and is trying to be practical with their incentive, so as not to be taken advantage of. They don’t want a bunch of B roll footage of the Appalachian mountains being shot, no new jobs being made, and being left with a 20 million dollar bill.
Atlanta and New Orleans look like they’re doing alright with it though.
I came to the University of Memphis to learn how to operate a camera and use editing tools. I learned those things, as well as how to compose a shot, mic a subject, operate a light board, and generally avoid being yelled at. Once you get to the actual film production classes, chances are you’ll be settling time with a legend, Roxie Gee.
I’ve never heard a single person call Roxie professor. It’s rare that you even hear something like Ms. Gee. No, it’s just Roxie. She doesn’t mind, that’s just the way it works. Roxie cares about two things: professionalism and efficiency. She does not give a rat’s ass about creativity, and in some ways, discourages it. That’s not to say that she does it because she hates you or your ideas (although often she does), only that for her purposes, you aren’t here to just use the University’s equipment and her time for you to make something akin to a Warhol film, you are here to learn the rules. After learning the rules, feel free to break them, just not in her class.
Classes involve small groups. I’ve been at the U of M for only a year and a half and I feel like I know almost all of the film and video production students. We see each other in the same classes, we share a specific interest that for some of us can be found in very few other places (some of us, there are a couple of students who seem to genuinely have no interest in movies, beats me). We work together, sometimes arguing, most of the time getting along. Some of us are strange, some are creepy, others lazy, but most of us are damn good.
Once you make it to TV Studio Production things are almost over. By this point in time you should be a senior and well past burned out, realizing that you’re finally going to have to get that job you’ve been reassuring your parents and partner about for forever and ready to get on with things. TV Studio is not a class that I think anyone particularly loves. Not that we don’t enjoy doing it, I mean, we still get to use cameras and play with light plots and do demonstrations, it’s just that most of us would rather be working on our own scripts somewhere instead of demonstrating again and again how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while one of us directs the others 10 people on zooming in and out and cueing the music.
This is the last course you take for a reason: because this is the culmination of your skills. It’s time to make a paycheck. By this time everyone knows how to set up a shot, light the lights, etc. By this time you’re hopefully accepting the fact that while you’re waiting for Steven Spielberg to say, perfect, here’s a 100 million dollars, go make this movie, you might want to actually, you know, eat. Working in a news room does that, and while working with changing, breaking news is sure to be a hell of a lot more fun (I personally am one of the only students in the room who loves the speed of working live), getting the skills down cold to make a living is quite worthwhile.
If the graduates of the U of M’s film and video production are able to get a job somewhere using their cameras to produce something that people will actually see, than that is a definite step up from several universities who claim to have a program, and if they don’t, they should. We’ve been trained.
In case you didn’t realize this, most filmmakers don’t come out swinging straight out of graduation, get handed 85 million dollars, and make something that wins the Golden Lion and the biggest grossing film of all time.
No, for the most part they end up either A. going to grad school, which is no big help, B. moving to a big film city, working on crews, sweeping floors, trying to cut a break, or C. working in a news room. Personally, I don’t mind the idea of working in a news room for a while, that’s why I chose journalism as my minor. I feel that access to the news is essential and important to any nation, to take a page out of our Founding Father’s books.
That being said, its amazing to see the discrepency between Memphis print, and Memphis broadcast.
Memphis print varies from your standard, more conservative newspapers such as the Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal to weekly establishments like the Memphis Flyer or Memphis Magazine, both of which are slighltly more liberal. Nothing is wrong with this. Both sides to a good job reporting the news as far as I can see, and both try to be more fair than one would ordinarily expect.
In the pages of any of these magazines though, is good, rich material that varies from national news, to local politics and debacles (Memphis is never short of debacles), to of course, crime. But that’s the thing, there is actual news. Not just who got shot. One will be much more educated about the city that they live in by reading any of these papers, and for the better.
The same unfortunately cannot be said for Memphis broadcast news. First things first, its not their fault. They have an audience to appeal to, an audience that can very easily change the channel, and they only have a limited amount of time to work in. Thirty minutes is not very long, not nearly as long as you have to soak over the paper, and the amount of information in a big story is best presented in words than crammed into a two minute video.
Its no shocker to say that Memphis has a bit of a problem with crime. This has to be reported, and if there is a shooting in Whitehaven, and there’s always a shooting in Whitehaven, you best believe that if they don’t put it in the news, they’re going to catch hell over it. If there’s a robbery on Winchester, its gotta make the evening news.
The sad thing is that this news doesn’t really educate the public. They try to finish it off with a puff piece, something to leave the viewer on a happy note, and give you five minutes of the weather, even though there’s a whole channel devoted to just that, and leave you. You don’t get a lot of nourishment with local news anymore. Its like pancakes, it goes down easy and then you’re hungry 45 minutes later.
I’m not saying that this is all bad though. Just that both are necessary to stay informed in this city. Putting a film image to something can really help convey what is going on much greater than words on a page can, I mean that’s why I want to get into this business in the first place. I only mean that if one wants to stay informed in their city, not just Memphis, they have to be reading the paper, watching the news, and have an eye on the blogsphere. It’s a lot of work these days. And until people stop caring more about who got shot and where than the local political sphere, things don’t have much chance of changing. Such is life.
I like Craig Brewer. The man has energy that shows in his filmmaking. I liked Hustle and Flow a lot and thought Black Snake Moan was underrated, but I was unsure about Footloose. It looked cliched, and I thought the original sucked (except for Bacon, who doesn’t love Bacon?).
Turns out it is cliched, and the new Ren, Kenny Wormald is no Kevin Bacon, but its also pretty damn good.
Brewer, not unlike other more esteemed filmmakers (one legend in particular comes to mind) knows how to take a cliche and make it fresh. There’s a reason its a cliche, it works. The story is still ridiculous, but Brewer not only knows this, he takes it and runs with it. The soundtrack is made up of covers of the 1984 original’s as well as a couple of choice songs thrown in as well (love the White Stripes playing during the film’s most famous scene). In fact the film itself is so close to its original that Brewer stated that he saw it more as a companion piece than a remake.
Its also much more full of life than its predecessor. The town itself feels like a real community. Black people! White people! Hispanic people! Getting along! Being a Memphis native I’m sure this director has seen his fair share of racism and political strife, so its a tribute to both Brewer’s skills as a filmmaker and a person that he pulls off making Beamont feel like a place you wouldn’t mind living in despite its ridiculous laws.
Also, I don’t care what the story is, you can’t ban dancing, Its still ridiculous. As is the warehouse scene, although I liked this one much better if just for the fact that Wormald is actually dancing. I mentioned before that he’s no Bacon, its true, but he’s a hell of a dancer and he doesn’t scare me to death like Mr. Six Degrees does.
The real scene stealer of the movie is Miles Tiller as Willard. This guy should be getting movie offers soon, he’s terrific. As for movie offers, Dennis Quaid and Andie McDowell really need to start taking some more adventurous roles. Its good to see them here, but these are sleepwalking roles. As for Julianne Hough, she looks and dances well, but for her acting skills she has much to learn.
All in all, the remake of Footloose is a good time. Its run time breezes by and its fun to watch. By the end of the movie, even I was ready to cut loose in spite of myself. Its just another example of how a talented filmmaker can elevate a mediocre movie to something worthwhile.