Category Archives: Must See

Award-winnners that Cinemahead recommends

Why good stories make you want to have a better life.

Recently I liked this far away three-pointer by Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed.  They always struck me as adventurous storytelling characters, Super-people from the quiet wild side.

Their quote was about finding ways to get through life.

One: “Don’t be afraid of anyone. Now, can you imagine living your life afraid of no one?”

Two: “Get a really good bullshit detector.”

Three: “Three is be really, really tender.”

“And with those three things” – Laurie said – “you don’t need anything else.”

In the full wide range that stretches from street hobos to rich presidents and from Ivy-league dropouts to post-celebrity rehabs, there is a common thread:  life is ripe with conflict.

Sure, conflict is what made humans sharper, problem solvers until the last beat. Storytellers know that ultimately conflict alone can float identity through a sea of half-truths, up, up to the surface where the sun plays catch with flying fish. However important our culture of conflict may be, the search for less human pain, suffering, and crisis may also be a story to pursue. A peaceful target to shoot for.

In dramatic movies, the ending may be, in terms of plot, happy or unhappy. In either case, if the story works, the viewer is rewarded with insights into the depths of human life.

The ancient Greeks attended Tragedies more than school, feasting on pop-corn-less morality with cathartic heroes like Oedipus (an unknowing motherfucker) or universal strategists like Ulysses, king of the surprise climax.


Endings in these stories didn’t seem to matter much. The deus ex machina finale at times gave Gods the task of resolving plot indecision or confusion. This over-the-top device released authors from spending too much stage-time on predictable closing show and tell details. (They lived happily ever after! was another shortcut).  The middle of the story is where it all happened. Development, substance, focus, now.

So, what can we learn about “making our life better” by watching a film story?  It is true that caped Super-heroes are our cultural diet now, just as Commedia dell’Arte theatre masks were dominant wanderers from town to town for four centuries.


Masks are types. Types embody in broad strokes the infinite relationships among standard folk: the rich man, the poor woman, the young lovers, the old doctor, the cop, the thief, the servant.

It’s all about relationships, stupid.

A film I would watch again is one that leads to my relationship with the story. Titanic was a lesson in teen-age blockbuster making, who would have thought it? Multiple viewings create a relationship, characters become familiar: it’s the key to the new TV series mania.

Note for debate: Characters are not people, but they’re close enough to pretend. Characters stand in a story because the plot says so, and the writer cast them for a role.  No script? No character. They look like people, however. Or should.

This is not the case in real life where life may be scripted but in all likelihood is not very good. Determinists saw destiny play a bigger part than individuals. In the west we famously trust individual agency and will to drive success and failure.

You want to be the big boss man? Slay the dragons. Dominate your universe and plunge forward. Action films seem equivalent to playing Mozart with only Major chords. (Male chords, duh)

I have a preference for the Minor Key in film. Movies that don’t try and impress only with underlined cinematic cartwheeling. I have the same bias meeting people at parties.

If a film reveals a personal insight, I am Up.  If there is a label that explains everything or indicates next to each action, I am turned off. I follow film-makers that make movies that matter, even a little.

As a producer of youth-cinema, I see film conflict not as a medieval head-to-head battle to release adrenaline, but a personal texture, an inside chess game of question marks: where to go? what to do? How? Who with? Well told conflict can be hesitation pure and simple. Or an identity short-circuit. Or lack of clarity, loss of vision. How to take direct action choices, then? Voting can be Hamletic too, in hard times.

Even without a simple top-down final duel on a skyscraper, a film can lead to a character’s foggy melting point, the quiet intersection of dramatic need, desire and urgency in search of identity.

Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed are not film characters.


Their lingo is story with sound. They quest to stay away from trouble, they are grounded in their shape-shifting personae. Who they want to be? Simple:  happier spending time together.  Popcorn flicks too could explore that engagement vibe.

In the script of life rewritten, I would try reducing, not adding, conflict to stories.  Better conflict, of course, the one worth fighting for without fists and watching with senses aloft. As James Joyce said, the cinema is a “screen of consciousness”.

Luckily I am not afraid of fear, I can smell bullshit from outside the playground, and I still want to hear my kids tell me I was kind. That’s a step towards a better now, even for a callous storyteller like me.

There is already enough conflict to go around in the world.

Danny Alegi is a filmmaker, story development coach and speaker.  Read more of Danny’s blogs at ‘Movies Without Cameras‘.

GIVE IT ALL AWAY! Show your movie for free and watch what happens…

Crazy and Thief from Cory McAbee on Vimeo.

I am convinced that films should be screened for free. This is crazy by Industry standards of course, because there is still a bums (asses) in the seats mentality for film product, like there was from the age of Lumiere, Edison and Nickelodeons.

The “shoot for cash” mentality has lead us to awesome films and now heads for infinite action hero sequels. More coming on your visual plate by the way. The stock of Marvel stories is infinite, and there will always be a Ben Affleck to take a Batman role.

4-10K digital magic and FX do the box-office magic. From “Transformers” high-end production value have ridiculed and knocked-out indie filmmakers trapped in adult or teenage drama themes investigating life and its real-life dilemmas.

Here today you find a film distributed for free and made for passion. More and more movies that matter are made because someone has something to say, sell or not. Undistributed films find lots of places online to screen and enlarge their followings from festival appearances.

Getting your movie made requires no budget and no stars, no pre-sales and no big business. Now, if you wrote an A-listhe screenplay and have a star attached, go for the option, the sale and the kill – with all its compromises attached. But if you have an idea for a quirky film that bends the marketing rules, why not go for it anyway and shoot it rather than try and twist, butter and sugar the script.

There are so many ways to make a first picture open gates for you and start-up your careers. Career, yes. From simple ideas developed well and given away.

enjoy the show

read the full article on the film here

“APPLAUD or DIE!!” Must see Award-Winning Short (10 min)

Contemporary film studies commonly use the feature film as the basic, common dramatic space and format. The three acts, the familiar setups and characters populate what film students examine the most. If you are learning how to write screenplays, you probably have read and reread “Chinatown” and “Ordinary People” and “Tootsie” ay nd “Casablanca” and other classics. These films of course are awesome and history and deserve attention, respect, awe. But they are not the only source out there and, in my POV, they can frankly be too much. If you are learning to swim, laps are more manageable than crossing the Channel. If you are a beginner at Chess, you can learn how to “castle” from a friend, without having to study a whole Fischer-Spassky match.

This new category in the “Movies Without Cameras” Blog suggests different award-winning short films to watch and perhaps explore. Shorts can have alternative structures, fewer characters and streamlined scenes. What better gym for short-film makers to flex their imaginary muscles in?

The first short I offer for thought is called “Applaud or Die” by and with Benson Simmonds as a desperate man in an alley playing for his life. Not recent, but a timeless CLASSIC.

Seen “GOD’s HAND” lately?

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 4.51.58 PM

I started talking to Adolf El Assal when he was posting his funny feature film “Les Fameux Gars”. “God’s Hand” is his earlier short, with some of the same actors.

the story:

An Argentinean immigrant living illegally for nearly half his life in Luxembourg must struggle daily for survival. Inspired partly by a quote from the late American auteur Orson Welles, the film depicts a loner who must fight his way out of the illusion that no one else exists around him.

MANO DE DIOS is an award-winning short film written, produced & directed by Luxembourg filmmaker Adolf EL ASSAL. Born in Egypt in 1981, El Assal grew up in Dubai, London and Luxembourg, where he set up his company, Independent Spirit Productions. After over 60 music videos and mini-docs, he began to make “no-budget” guerilla films.

you can see the whole film for .99c on Vimeo, which I have never done myself, but supporting awesome makers like Adolf is rarely a bad idea.

MeLTDoWN: with a little help from Yoko

make media that matters, personal action.

yoko says: active meltdown!

This is a repost of a Yoko Ono campaign from the Guardian. Grab your busy, inspired, crazy, shining life by the horns and say what think and show what you feel. About activism, apathy and silence of course. About personal passion for the places where Big Global meets Local and personal. Making one minute of honest media a day may also (eventually) lower unemployment levels (yours)…

Check out micro documentary films here

Can Hit-Film Scripts be driven by Equations and Data-bases?

Check out this article in my blog series about the Death of Cinema.

This is from the New York Times page. the article itself is not so revealing of any deep insights: Hollywood is data-analyzing films to predict box-office success. Like Netflix, Facebook or any other interactive service, use and preferences can and will be used for (or against) you. What is worth reading is the set of 300+ comments to this article, showing how many filmmakers hold different views.

Here is one comment, verbatim, the others you should check out yourself.

Pure Snake Oil
When you hire execs who can’t read a script, have no movie, literature, or artistic insight or training, you create a mentality that everything can be measured by meta-data and statistics. The best film experience is an emotional experience, connecting to the heart and soul of an audience. These are not the elements that an algorithm can measure, it’s a measure of humanity itself. It’s art. Why do multimillion dollar projects fail while there was a line around the block to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Answer– an emotional connection to the audience. While embracing statistics and algorithms to seek a formula for success and profit, these clueless execs are banking on failure.


What if the real Harry Potter solved our Energy need?

What would happen if a teenage science genius invented a simple and cheap way to alleviate (or solve) earth’s energy needs? Could it affect climate changes?

What story do you see? An action film about the powerful who own and protect the sources of power and profit? Celebration of ingenuity and youth genius with optimism?
Or an ego-driven idea/dream/fraud that could never see deployment, let alone commercial standing?

PREMISE: what if a young scientist discovers a useful and safe nuclear power-source but is antagonised, challenged, and threatened by those in power to the point that, in order to survive, he must give up his altruistic ideas.

Come to the Cinemahead forum and contribute to this story in the making.

Is there enough conflict for a script here?
Is the kid hero interesting?
Does he have the will it takes?
Are the stakes high enough for crowds to care?
Does what happens with glocal nuclear energy matter?

to the core!

FeetyourFilm. Take your movie out for air.

A new cinemahead game: Feeturfilms. Longer than a feature film, further than you can walk alone.

It’s a contest for taking films around the world by foot or bike. You take a film. You take it with you, and hand it off to someone.

Yes, let’s look at a film Launch again. “Launching” means PR distribution campaings, big events and shiny lights. But what if filmmakers played along and let go of a film altogether? A film, in any format preferrably small (like USB) can be released into the environment in a dynamic way, meaning that a launch should allow the “vehicle” to carry on, to keep moving. To Launch is to let go in a way that the film (in whatever forms it is) keeps moving.

“Launching” a film the FeeturFilm way is not a radical event, not unlike “premiering” a film in a small town festival. You present your work, you answer some questions about your process, and you meet the people whom your film has just met.

A Launch could be leaving a film on a parkbench in a central park, in a visible place where it is likely to get picke up and moved forward. Launch packets can have QR codes for those who want info. A launch can be anywhere, but the idea is that it not be ignored, but rather spark an action-reaction chain that sets the film in motion, on its own feet.

Feeturfilms are longer than feature films. They go the whole way, they can go around the world even, but they travel slow: no engines, no fossil fuels, no inorganic waste.

Feeturfilms walk your way if you can give them a hitch, a ride, or just stick them in your pocket as far as you can go with them.

Think Geocaching.
you go treasure hunting for hidden caches armed only with smart GPSs.

Think Natural currents
Dropping a container with a USB drive from a ship into an ocean current to see where it lands. I once saw a golfer hit one off a cruise ship into the gulf current. That was in the 80s..

|| @dannialegi