A New Twist on the Nigerian Scam Letter

I haven’t seen a good Nigerian 419 scam letter in a while, I think because Gmail filters them out. But this one was smart enough to target me as a filmmaker and it got through the filters. It’s a pitch for a film called “Bear Beer Dear.”

Dear Sir,

Unique thrilling movie script is the basis, movie Producer and Company need to make a breathtaking production.

Roger is a hard working husband and father but is addicted to alcoholism. What becomes of Douglas, Rogers’s second son who took to his brevity but a singular learnt habit of alcoholism has done him worst in life. Rogers’s companion billy his dog is more than a pet to him, not even his family can come in between him and billy. How many animals must die by barrel? billy saved the life of Rogers’ at the hunting expedition by maneuvering whisky, Rogers’s horse. billy was brilliant to have manipulated Ashley to drive Rogers home and thwarted Trevor’s pilfering plan on Rogers who is drunk to stupor. Georgiana’s manhandle by Rogers. Rogers’ scolded by Douglas at the birthday party of Mabel. Morris manipulated Douglas his friend to play hanky panky love game with Mabel. Trevor make comic of Douglas’s dad as Douglas reply lead to bloody fight at the night club. Ahmed chase of Douglas and Patton over an escaped accident. Roman, Douglas, Mabel and Patton mimic Roger’s their dad who is drunk as Georgiana got provoked. Roman shot. Douglas and Morris hunt the perpetrator to a death. Beer please let Rogers alone!

I like the ingenuity here, and the willingness to do the work to track down people actually involved in film, but nobody would want to even watch that movie, let alone invest in it. It’s hard enough to raise money for movies that aren’t completely incoherent. My advice: pitch classic films that might not be caught by the weak-minded people you’re trying to scam.

Dear Sir,

A unique movie script forms groundwork for your opportunity for riches. Seeking a Producer & production company to storm the gates of Hollywood.

Roger Coleman, his apprentice Douglas Hooker, and they endorsed Joe Huron’s latest swindle them sometime US$11,000, enough for an old Roger thought retiring from grifting. However, they are not aware that the money belongs to extortionist Trevor, whose thugs Roger in revenge killed. Before Roger’s death, he suggested that he contact George, his old friend in Chicago on the art of the great far to learn. Who after he had burned his last big con retired. George decided to assist retirement just to get back at Trevor for Roger’s murder. In the pull of the big con, and Douglas require the assistance of a number George’s old associates, as well as a number of small time grifters. The last group includes Huron, his small part to do in revenge Roger’s death. Beyond Trevor or anyone else to find out about the con, there are many potential obstacles to pull the stinger out as a controlling and overly cautious to things like Trevor his own way to do this, and some people run to George, including a crooked cop, the lower level thugs and a hired hit man. Through the process, George, who saw himself as a dealer Wheeler may have a better deal than that to him by Douglas come.

Special thanks to Google Translate for providing that authentic machine translation feel.

Why Are These People So Angry?

I’ve seen a couple videos making the rounds among the film nerd websites this week that seem to be made by what I can only describe as disgruntled old farts. First was the “Cinematographer vs. Producer” video in which a comically clueless producer has the ABSOLUTELY INSANE plan to shoot a feature film on a Canon 7D.

Frankly, this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. What’s so special about “Feature Films” anyway? People used to shoot feature films on DV cameras for God’s sake! And depending on the look you’re going for, you might not need a lot of lights. I’m in pre-production on a feature right now that will be shot on a 7D and I have absolutely no qualms about it. This imaginary producer is an idiot, but clearly this is the wrong DP for the job. Maybe they should give Shane Hurlbut a call.

The one that really drove me nuts was a little closer to home. “So, you’re an editor…”

It’s another straw man talking with a professional editor who apparently can’t figure out how to use Final Cut Pro. I’ve certainly never had the problems he describes. This one is upsetting on a couple levels. First, why should anyone expect the average person to understand what an editor does? It’s a specialized and confusing job. I don’t know what middle managers do all day either. And as a lifelong freelancer, I still fundamentally don’t understand how vacation/sick/personal days work. Mocking people who don’t know about editing and don’t need to know about editing is just petty.

Second, of course is the attitude about Final Cut Pro. Like the 7D video, it takes a fear-based approach to things that are outside the comfort zone of the author. Rather than take the time to learn how to use the extremely flexible and powerful Final Cut Pro software, the author calls it a piece of prosumer crap and repeats a bunch of scary myths about how it works. With the 7D the author is on better ground, since all of the things he says about the 7D are true, but they are less of a problem than he makes them out to be.

My point is, I for one welcome our new insect overlords. I’m perfectly happy to round you people up to toil in the 7D’s underground sugar caves.

Do it Yourself

I have a never-ending need to understand the tools I work with, and the new tools that might help me make movies in better and less expensive ways. It’s why I continue to build my own computers and insist on understanding how to run the Mac OS on those computers. It would be a lot easier, and potentially cheaper to just buy a Mac Pro and be done with it, but for me it’s no fun unless I can get under the hood and tinker with it.

I’ve written before about inexpensive production equipment, but today I’m thinking about something I know a little more about; do-it-yourself post production.

At this point, picture editing is wide open. You can do it any way you want and you don’t have to pay a lot for equipment. To really get the most of your gear though, you should have a good, expandable desktop. iMacs and laptops can hold you back when it comes to finishing a film. Obviously the Mac Pro is the simple choice. I built a system around a quad core Core 2 Duo a few years ago and overclocked it from 2.4 to 3 GHz. It’s served me well, but it’s due for an upgrade. Rendering HD is one of the most processor intensive things you can do, and working on 8 core Nehalems makes me jealous.

The best piece of equipment I have is a Blackmagic Intensity Pro card, which you can get for less than $200. It outputs almost any kind of HD or SD video you could want. I have it attached via component cables to my trusty 37-inch Panasonic 9UK plasma. It will take any video the Intensity throws at it, including 25 fps formats. Blackmagic has also just released a USB 3.0 Intensity Shuttle which will be great if Apple & Intel get on board with USB 3.0. It would allow laptop or iMac-based video outputs. For now, unless you’re editing on Premiere in Windows 7 and have USB 3.0, stick with the card.

I haven’t worked on a tape-based project in at least a year. If a film is shot on a tapeless format I can take the camera originals, convert them to ProRes, edit the picture, and color correct, all without bringing in an outside vendor. Now, I can tell you that the Panasonic plasma is far from a reference monitor. But there’s perfect, and there’s good enough. If the budget allows, I always go to a professional colorist, but if you’re making an indie film for a few grand, you can’t afford perfect. And if you’re doing the color correct yourself, you can futz around all you want for weeks if that’s something you want to spend your time on. The great thing about Color is that even when I go to a professional colorist (who also uses Color) I can still make a tweak here and there if I see something I don’t like a few weeks later.

Now, what about sound? If you’re making anything you plan to distribute beyond YouTube, you better believe you need a 5.1 mix. You can’t do that in FCP, but you can do it in Soundtrack Pro. You’ll need 6 audio outputs. I’m just starting to investigate the “home 5.1 mix” angle, but I like the look of the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra, which is less than $300, has 8 in and 8 out, and works with Pro Tools M-Powered.

Audio is another situation where you want a good room, and the professional mixers with dedicated equipment have a real edge. But in the do-it-yourself “good enough” range, you can run those 6 outputs to a consumer 5.1 receiver and speaker set. Reducing noise in the room becomes crucial here. You don’t want to find yourself in a quiet theater and hear things that were masked by fan noise in your improvised mixing room.

The moral here is not that you necessarily should do any of this stuff. But you can. You’re not required to make a perfect mix or a perfect color correct. If it looks good to you, it looks good to your audience. A lot of dialogue-driven films will be just fine with a 5.1 mix that puts 90% of the audio in the Center speaker. Some films look fine without any post-production color grading beyond a basic legalization process.

In order to pull this off though, you need good source material. You need a well-shot film with well-recorded audio. You can do a lot with these tools, but don’t force yourself to. Make it easy on yourself by getting it right on set.

And of course, you need to know how to operate all this software to get what you want out of it. You might consider hiring someone like me to do that.