(SNN) - The entertainment world is changing and where we see the most change is how movies are being produced and distributed to the viewer. The days have come when award winning, high production value motion pictures are being made available online to the viewing public. One such entry is the movie "A Lonely Place For Dying", a film that has been an Official Selection of 46 festivals, nominated for 51 awards and won 27 including 18 as Best Picture. Available for viewing online and now on the Roku with a Gold Account from Pub-D-Hub, or for rent or purchase in iTunes, the tale of a Russian defector exposing the CIA in 1972 is a gripping tale any spy film buff will enjoy.
From the official news release we get the following:
A Lonely Place For Dying defies conventional wisdom, industry dogma and audience expectations. With fantastic acting, a great script, over 300 visual effects, a 50 minute original score and a top-notch 5.1 surround sound mix, the film looks and feels like a studio film...and yet, it is anything but. It's a cold war spy thriller that challenges genre expectations by placing character development and well-crafted dialogue side-by-side with gun battles, fist fights and aerial bombing raids. It's a high-tech production disguised by its devotion to classic '70's cinema. It's an intimate art house film and a multiplex popcorn flick.
"The corporate film industry wants the general public to believe that budget equals quality. That's why their budgets are part of their publicity. And, the independent film community often uses this same myth to justify marginal production values. The result is a polarized industry in which independent filmmakers dogmatically accept that limited resources means telling smaller stories with lower production values. They believe under-lit, grainy images can't be avoided. Studio films believe their slick production values eliminates the need for quality dialogue and three-dimensional characters. In essence, we have a mega-budget industry that gives us razzle dazzle and a micro-budget industry that delivers character and content -- but neither industry is willing to deliver both at the same time. From our first day of production we decided to challenge this conventional wisdom and set out to give the audience the best of both worlds," says writer/director Justin Eugene Evans.
"We took the list of everything you're not supposed to do on a micro-budget movie and repurposed that as our task list. This is a period film set in the Cold War. We wrote characters that required flawless Soviet-era Russian accents. We opened the film with a bombing raid on Ventianne, Laos, which required complicated visual effects work. We wrote action sequences that required our actors to study martial arts and firearms. We demanded that the film have studio quality audio because, as Francis Ford Coppola said, half of what you see is what you hear. We wrote an intelligent spy thriller that demanded we find CIA, Special Forces and Contract Military consultants because we wanted their expertise to enhance our film's authenticity. And, we did it all for $250,000.00. To put that into context, the typical independent film has 10 times our financial resources -- and the standard studio film has 400 times."
A Lonely Place For Dying's heavy use of visual effects illustrates how effectively the team closed the gap between mega-budget corporate films and micro-budget indies. With over 300 visual effects, the film boasts an average of one visual effect for every twenty seconds of screen time. And yet, most audience members won't notice the film's heavy use of visual effects. "Forrest Gump opened my eyes to what visual effects can and should be used for," says Justin Eugene Evans. "Forrest Gump proved that visual effects can be used to increase the grandeur of an intimate story. We adopted that same philosophy. We replaced every sky in the film. We created virtual dust storms. We digitally added volumetric lighting to give sets depth and dimension."
Visual Effects artist Marc Leonard says, "When I joined the film as a visual effects artist I understood that I'd be doing muzzle flares and blood spatter...but as time went by it became clear that Justin wanted me to be an extension of his cinematography. I'd wrap up a shot and Justin would ask me to add more dust, add rays of light and animate the clouds." Justin adds, "I've lived in New Mexico for three years and I've never seen a film properly capture the Southwest's weather. These big budget movies come through town and focus on Southwest cliches. They make it hot. They make it gritty. That's boring. Instead, I wanted to capture the vast cloudscapes that race across the sky 300 days a year. I wanted to capture the majesty of the Southwest's desert and air. Here in the Southwest we humans are small...it's the landscape that's big."
The film also boasts an impressive cast. Ross Marquand's portrayal of KGB turncoat Nikolai Dzerzhinsky is a career maker. Daniel Boyer of Critical Corner writes, "Ross Marquand gives a performance we only see from the most seasoned of actors, taking this movie to another level...and transcending the independent genre in the process." He is joined by Academy Award nominee James Cromwell and indie-favorite Michael Wincott. Michael Wincott's body of work includes The Crow, The Doors, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Diving Bell & The Butterfly and his scene- stealing performance in The Assassination of Richard Nixon. So, what brought him to perform in a micro-budget feature film? "It's the same thing, whether the budget is fifty million or fifty cents. It's the writing," says Wincott. Jason Moore was working as a regular on NBC's “Kings.” Luis Robledo had been a guest-star on “The X-Files,” “Six Feet Under” and “The Shield.” Mike Peebler was concurrently working on Valkyrie with Tom Cruise. And, yet, what drew all these experienced actors to the project was the screenplay. Luis Robledo says "I couldn't put the script down. I read it in one sitting." Editor Brad Stoddard says, "Several times I told Justin he should sell the script to a studio. It was that good. It wasn't an independent film. It was this huge, epic story. I thought he could sell it and finance another movie."
And, while visual effects, great actors, and excellent writing are a perfectly legitimate way to measure a movie, there are thousands of other nuanced choices that aren't normally mentioned in the press. Some would sayit is because the general public doesn't care. Perhaps, a more accurate statement is because they so rarely happen at this budget level. "Brent Daniels is my secret weapon," says Justin. "He's a fellow perfectionist. Both of us often make artistic choices that are contrary to our paygrade. We refuse to be limited by our financial resources. We are making the very best movies we can...and that means excellence in every department, every category, every task." This is evident in the film's costumes and props. It can be seen in Brent Daniels’ haunting score. It is hinted at in the hand- painted theatrical posters, advertising materials -- and even this website.
"The film's website is the primary way audiences first become familiar with our film. I asked Brent to create our site and we discussed what we both wanted to achieve. Number one on our list was to create an Adobe Flash- less, iOS compliant site," says Justin. Brent adds, "This may seem like some esoteric technical discussion inappropriate for film publicity but it isn't. There are over 100 million potential audience members on iphones, ipod touches and ipads. Not one of them can view a studio website because the studios create their sites in Flash. Sometimes the user is redirected to an html mobile version of the film’s site, but if the studio even made one, they tend to be pretty slim on style and content," Justin Evans says "Steve Jobs challenged the creative community when he said HTML5 can do anything Flash can do. Despite the studio's wealth and size they haven't risen to that challenge. They seem content that 100 million people cannot view their film's websites as they intended. Indies often use WordPress, which can be viewed on any device but often results in lackluster, cookie-cutter sites. We weren't satisfied with the laptop and desktop crowd. We also refused to have a boring site filled with static pages. We wanted everyone to be able to learn about our movie regardless of what device they use to surf the web. Steve, we hope we proved you right."
As Justin & Brent talk it is clear that these two artists are far more than co- workers. What began ten years ago as a traditional director/composer work-for-hire relationship has evolved into a true collaboration. When the movie was first conceived it began as a solo project created by Justin. However, as the project went through the trials and tribulations that all ambitious projects experience, many of the crew members found the project too demanding...except Brent. Often Brent found himself in the position of taking on another herculean task because it was too difficult to find qualified vendors at the film's budget level. "In the end, we both realized that it was possible to do studio quality work, but only if we did it ourselves. Most of the boutique companies in audio, graphic design and visual effects didn't have the chops. We're perfectionists. So, time and again Brent and I would do the work ourselves." And, Brent's role evolved from composer to sound designer to re-recording mixer to technical support and finally to producer. "I grew frustrated with so many people because they'd ask me to join the production and then fail to deliver,” Justin says. “Brent was the only one who always came through. Always. I began relying on him for tasks completely outside his job description. One day he asked if he could receive a co-producer credit. As I thought about it I realized that wasn't big enough. Brent had been involved from beginning to end, from conception to distribution -- and that's what producers do. It was clear that despite the ad hoc manner in which our relationship had evolved, Brent had become my producing partner on this film."
It is common for independent filmmakers to wear many hats. But being a multi-hyphenate is usually an act of necessity. For Justin Eugene Evans and Brent Daniels, they relish the challenge. "I began my career as a graphic designer, photographer and art director. And, because I didn't understand how corporate films were made I assumed to be a film director meant I needed to master every department. So, I taught myself logo design, motion graphics, visual effects theory, writing, cinematography, editing and a host of other skills because I thought they were job requirements. It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties and I'd moved to Los Angeles that I learned this wasn't industry standard protocol." Brent Daniels adds, "I’m a bit of a control freak. So even if we would have had a large budget and I could’ve farmed out more of the roles I played in this production, I think I still would’ve chosen to be as hands-on as possible -- sometime the most direct way to ensure you get something you want is to save yourself the hassle and ultimately just do it yourself. But at the same time, advances in technology and commensurate affordability allow us to do more ourselves, to pull things off creatively and technically that would be impossible for a individual or small team 10 years ago, so it’s very alluring. But you’ve got to be completely dedicated to it, to be willing to work your ass off. I love wearing all these hats, I love the challenge, I love the work. To me, and to Justin, there’s only swinging for the fences, every time, on all fronts. Artistically, there’s simply no other reason to do it.”
Audiences have showered the film with praise, focusing on Justin Eugene Evans' classic approach to cinematography and razor-sharp dialogue, Ross Marquand's amazing performance and Brent Daniels' stunning score. Justin says, "A Lonely Place For Dying is a micro-budget feature film. It is also a handcrafted epic. First and foremost I hope audiences simply enjoy themselves as they watch our film. However, I also hope they see through the house of cards corporate filmmaking is built upon. A movie should not be measured by how big its budget is, but how engaged its audiences are. A movie should not be praised for relying on an army of vendors but on how few it took to craft an excellent piece of work. We've been told by publicists, distributors and industry professionals that we shouldn't discuss our meager budget. The conventional wisdom seems to be that we'd diminish audiences’ preconceived notions of the film's value. I disagree. Audiences have seen micro-budget movies that look like micro-budget movies and they've seen incredibly expensive epics that look like expensive epics. We're a micro-budget movie that is also an epic movie. That's something new. That's worth the audience's time."
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