Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Independent Doctrine of J. Todd Harris: How To Get Your Movie Made and Distributed

One of Hollywood's Busiest Producers Talks Indie's Future 

By Lars Trodson

J. Todd Harris, CEO and founder of Branded Pictures Entertainment, has made or helped to get made 37 movies in the past 16 years. Even Woody Allen can't keep pace with that. The films range from last year's Oscar nominee "The Kids Are All Right" (on which he was an executive producer) to the big-splash "Piranha 3D" to the much admired "Bottle Shock" from 2008.

Harris is, if anything, the embodiment of the modern independent producer. He's funnelling movies through the system for a wide range of audiences, and he's adapting his methods to the times. He now takes time everyday to work on social and business networking. He's even recruiting athletes for his lacrosse movie through Facebook and other platforms on the Internet. He's juggling projects between major Hollywood players such as the Weinstein Company to a new filmmaker working out of Georgia.

He seemed the best person for Roundtable Pictures to talk to about the challenges facing the independent movie scene. The movie business, Harris readily admits, is changing as rapidly as the music scene. And there are many questions: How do you get your movie distributed? How do you combat piracy? How do you raise money and how do you market a small independent film when the competition has $50 million to spend on a marketing campaign?

He also answers a central question -- and young, independent filmmakers in places all over the country outside of LA should pay attention to this: Do you need to be in Los Angeles to have a career in the movies?

Harris is voluble, blunt, likable and smart -- he's a New Yorker. When he talks about the movies he's obviously onto a topic that he's in love with, after all these years, and one that he knows intimately. He's also a man on the go. "I’m on my way to Vermont -- I’m making this ski movie in Vermont," he said when we first got him on the phone. "I flew into Manchester (NH) last week and drove up to a ski resort to discuss shooting the movie at their resort."

He adds: "In the meantime" -- in the meantime! --  "I’m gearing up to do a lacrosse film in about eight weeks."

So we grabbed a little time with Harris while we could.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Snapshots of Street Art

Here's a look at our five short videos featuring the street artists who recently visited Portsmouth, NH, as part of the Portsmouth Museum of Fine Art's street art exhibition. The videos can be seen at the museum during its Street A.K.A Museum exhibit through September. For more information on the exhibit and museum, visit

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kubrick and Kelly In 'The Box'

By Lars Trodson 

The confluence of Richard Kelly, the creator of “Donnie Darko”, and Stanley Kubrick is a compelling one, but it doesn’t seem that the convoluted psycho-sci-fi thriller “The Box” was the right venue for the combination. 

The Kubrick flourishes that can be seen in “The Box” (from 2009) don’t seem terribly organic to the kind of story being told. Kubrick, of course, could tell any kind of story in any kind of style he wanted. That was his business. But if you’re going to copy a style as distinct and as famous as the one Kubrick formed in the films between “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Eyes Wide Shut” I think there had better be a pretty good reason for it. 

The only reason I can think of why Kelly conjured up Kubrick in "The Box" was because maybe, unfortunately, he didn’t have any visual ideas of his own. The Kubrick found in “The Box” seems to be both random and not, in the end, quite enough. Either go all in or let it go. In “The Box”, it’s somewhere in between. 

Still, it’s an interesting trip if you’re into this kind of cinematic puzzle. I found almost a dozen Kubrick cues in “The Box.” Maybe you can find more. Or maybe I’ve made connections that aren't there. Here’s the list:

    •    The cheerless Christmas atmosphere -- Found in “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999)

    •    Big, creepy mansions -- “Eyes Wide Shut” and “The Shining” (1980)

    •    Oval overhead sectional hanging light fixture -- Seen in “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)

    •    Snowy landscape -- “The Shining”

    •    The “Kubrick look.” (Head tilted down with eyes looking up and out, distantly.) -- Everything between “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “Full Metal Jacket” (1987). I can't find it in "Eyes Wide Shut"

    •    Obligatory bathroom scene. Just about everything, it seems, including “Spartacus” (1960).

    •    Gaudy wallpaper. Reminiscent of what can be seen in P & M’s apartment in “A Clockwork Orange” (1971)

    •    Kid with a bowl haircut who is randomly victimized. “The Shining”

    •     Strange baroque room interiors -- “2001” and “Eyes Wide Shut”
    •    Glacially paced conversations -- “Lolita” (1962), “2001”, “Clockwork”, “Barry Lyndon” (1975), “The Shining”, “Full Metal Jacket”, “Eyes Wide Shut”

    •    Sideways tracking shots -- Everything from “Clockwork” through “Eyes Wide Shut”

Marilyn Monroe - Born June 1, 1926