When Big Names and Big Money Go Horribly Wrong

By Susie Cantalope


Back near the end of last year, kickstarter lit up with a film project that was written by Bret Easton Ellis, going to be directed by Paul Schrader (the screenwriter behind Scorcese’s Taxi Driver) and produced by Braxton Pope. This team was going to produce a $100,000 feature film called THE CANYONS starring Lindsay Lohan and the top male porn star in America, James Deen. Watchbox Blogger, Laura Zinger, interviewed Ellis and Pope via phone for an hour prior to the end of the kickstarter campaign, which did reach its $100,000 goal and then some.

This week, NYT.com release an article updating the universe about THE CANYONS which has actually been completed.

Here’s What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie

Highlights from the article:

1) Against THE CANYONS’ high hopes, the film DID NOT get into Sundance (It was also denied into SXSW for “Quality issues”).

2) Lindsay Lohan was a nightmare to work with.

3) Director, Paul Schrader, the WRITER, of Taxi Driver got naked for a sex scene to make Lohan more comfy with her 4 way sex     scene.

4) The best actor was probably James Deen, the most popular male porn star in America whose parents are apparently Pasadena Rocket Scientists, NO JOKE.

5) The writer of THE CANYONS, Bret Easton Ellis, did not seem to like the finished film and  he may lose his condo which is a damn shame because he’s a good writer.


6) Steven frickin’ Soderbergh saw a cut and offered to re-edit it in 72 hours and Schrader said NO ( Not that Soderbergh is impressing anyone at all with his filmmaking these days. I actually saw Magic Mike BECAUSE it was Soderbergh. It was one of my best girlfriends and I and a party of ten gay men at a theater you could drink at. 15 min into the film, WITH A BEER MIND YOU, I started to hate myself for watching this film that was just objectifying men how women are objectified. No depth whatsoever, bad acting, ugh so maybe Schrader made the best choice but STILL if Soderbergh is offering to recut your film, your film pretty much SUCKS! ).

Really, the problem with the film was not Lindsay Lohan, it’s that this this film is basically porn that is trying to be passed off as an indie film. If you want to make 4 way sex scenes with Lindsay Lohan and cast a HUGE male porn star, don’t act like you’re making high art. Because, in fact, what THE CANYONS IS is a $100,000 plus, kickstarter-funded porno.

And here is the original UNCUT audio interview with WB Blogger, Laura Zinger and Pope and Ellis about THE CANYONS before the kickstarter campaign ended.

Watchbox partners with Key West Film Festival


The mission of the Key West Film Festival is to showcase films that exhibit excellence in storytelling and capture the essence of what Key West is all about: Creativity, Diversity, Sustainability, and Beauty.

In addition to parties, VIP events, contests, a live performance by artist Mat Kearney, and perfect weather, what’s not to like? Heck, add in a phenomenal line-up of films with stars like Eric Bana, Clive Owen, and Dustin Hoffman and the Key West Film Festival is not to be missed! You can preview the trailers for all films in their program here on Watchbox.  To learn more information, please visit their website.  


Meet Indie Musical Filmmaker, Joseph Richard Lewis, Who Just Might be the Reincarnation of Walt Disney

This week’s audio podcast from thewatchbox.com features indie filmmaker, Joseph Richard Lewis, who just might possibly be the reincarnation of Walt Disney and is the director of Sci Fi Sol, the “silent movie, super hero, video game, comic book musical.” Sci Fi Sol is a 45 minutes feature that ends with both an incredible raygun battle and car chase even though the entire budget was only $11,000. The incredible production value and special effects that Joseph gave his film on such a small budget makes it alone worth watching. Joseph talks about the Colorado Batman Shooting, internet addition, and how influenced he was by Daniel Burnham, the Director of Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

I’m A Stranger Here Myself

This week’s audio podcast from thewatchbox.com features one of the newest and most exciting female indie filmmakers, Ashley McKenzie, who is also the most unassuming, humble filmmaker you will ever meet, partly because she is Canadian, but mostly because she is from a small working class town in Nova Scotia. With only two short films to her name, she has won a host of awards, and funding and her short films, RHONDA’S PARTY and WHEN YOU SLEEP (currently playing the festival circuit) have played in numerous festivals for the former and for the latter at Cannes 2012 as part of the “Not Short on Talent” Canadian Program.
Ashley is such a cinephile, that it wouldn’t have been right to not squeeze a top ten film list out of her, even if it is, according to her “random” and “a bit unfairly weighted to more recent decades of cinema.” (Click the links below to watch the trailers. Go ahead, give yourself a quick film education today.)

L’argent (Robert Bresson, 1983)
Le Boucher/ The Butcher (Claude Chabrol, 1970)
Trust (Hal Hartley, 1990)
The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
Thieves Like Us (Robert Altman, 1974)
The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001)
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
Rosetta (Dardenne Brothers, 1999)
Happy Together (Wong Kar-Wai, 1997)

Ashley also wanted to give a correction for something she said in her interview: “Also, the early Chabrol film that I saw the swimming pool scene from during a university film class was actually Les Bonne Femmes, which came out the year after Les Cousins. So that was a little factual error on my part!”
Listen to The Watchbox interview with Ashley here:
You can follow Ashley all over the internet on her production company, Grass Fire Films’ Website,Twitter , and Facebook page. You can also follow her lastest short film, When You Sleep on Facebook as well.
Watch the WHEN YOU SLEEP TEASERS HERE: (And you should, because Ashley’s DP, Stephanie Anne Weber Biron, on When You Sleep was the DP for Xaviar Dolan’s  first two feature films which both played at Cannes.)



From Watchbox Staffer Laura Z

Come on, you know that you judge a film on its first five minutes. We all know right away if we are going to enjoy the next 90 minutes of a film. Some might even argue that the first five minutes of a film are the most important. 

With this in mind, The Watchbox is now offering FIRST FIVE reviews, where we take a nice long, hard look at the first five minutes of films on The Watchbox and share our thoughts with The Watchbox audience. Enjoy!

The first five minutes of ARMLESS doesn’t get you completely out of the credit sequence, but they tell you several things about the two main characters who are introduced in spurts abruptly interspersed with the credits themselves.

We learn:

1) These people have an answering machine. Who the hell has an answering machine these days? Do they live in Idaho? Why do I feel like people living in Idaho would still have answering machines? I don’t know. Maybe it’s like how in Japan, 59% of households still have a fax machine. Some places just have delayed tech, I suppose.

2) And there’s still more delayed tech in that the female lead after listening to the alarming answering machine message that the male lead left for her, ran upstairs, ran through several doors to find…a cordless phone!! Again, who are these people?! What era do they live in? Maybe it’s the 80s? But it can’t be, because she uses the cordless phone to call the male lead’s modern looking cell phone, so we’re at least in the 90s? Maybe we’re definitely in the 90s, because people were still transitioning from cordless or wireless phones to cell phones? I don’t know. This troubles me.

3) The only other clue I got during the first five minutes as to what time period this story takes place in is that music cuts in and out statically with the characters, which sounds pretty 80s but could definitely fit into the early 90s. It’s bizarre. Sort of like Drive, where the music really made that film according to one of the actors in the film, whom I completely agree with. At least that’s my impression so far.

4) This woman and man in this film live together in a house, she knows his moods, she cares about him. He has issues. Serious issues. She’s friends with his mother.

This film’s first five are really interesting, set the tone for the film already, bizarre, bizarre, and more bizarre, which I personally like, so I will watch this. Plus I don’t see many American indie films directed by someone with an Arabic last name, so that is interesting to note as well.

You can check out Armless on Watchbox here.

Director, Stephen Cone, on Cosmic Dealings and His Profoundly Moving Film, The Wise Kids.

This week’s audio podcast from thewatchbox.com features indie filmmaker, Stephen Cone, the Director of The Wise Kids and most recently Black Box, which is currently in post-production.

I was lucky enough to get to watch The Wise Kids before interviewing Stephen, and it made me cry–unexpectedly, because the film was so pure, and profoundly moving. I highly recommend everyone in the universe watching it once it gets distribution. (Stephen is hopefully making a decision soon.)

I basically just told Stephen he was amazing during the entire interview, because I loved his film so much, which is probably the most annoying thing you’ve ever heard, but  we did have an amazing conversation about the importance of working well with actors, and about Stephen’s cinephile past in which his film knowledge took hold at 6 years old and just grew from there.

Stephen shared his favorite films and filmmakers which include many French filmmakers like Claire Denis and the quinessential American independent, John Cassavetes.

You can find out more about Stephen and his work here: http://www.thewisekids.com/

And you can contact him via Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.cone.1

Producer, Brett Thompson, Talks Smart about Working with Artists, What Makes an Attractive Project, and Kickstarter

This week’s audio podcast from thewatchbox.com features Producer, Brett Thompson, who produced the independent film, The Scenesters, which screened at Slamdance and most recently the feature, It’s a Disaster, starring Julia Stiles and David Cross, and is premiering at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 20th and 23rd. (If you want to go, ticket info is below.)

Brett shares how his finance background and love for creativity contributed to his entryway into producing, as well as what he looks for as a Producer when selecting his projects such as good pacing and a script that isn’t over descriptive. Brett likes his screenplays lean.

Brett also shared his opinions on The Canyons Kickstarter campaign. He also thinks that a billion dollars was waaaaaaay too much for Facebook to pay for Instagram.

You can purchase The Scenesters on Amazon.com here. and iTunes here.

You can purchase tickets to It’s a Disaster here.

Bret Easton Ellis & Paul Schrader Go Micro-budget with The Canyons on Kickstarter

Writer Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) has teamed up with writer-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), and producer Braxton Pope to create a  film titled, The Canyons.  And guess what?  They are using Kickstarter to crowdfund it online! Yep, Hollywood types are encroaching on the crowdfunding craze. Click “play” to the left and check out the insightful and comedic interview by the fast-talking female voice of indie film, Laura Zinger, owner of Chicago based 20K Films.

If you’ve never heard of Kickstarter or crowdfunding, get with the program! Here’s a great primer on Kickstarter compliments of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. Also check out The Canyons Kickstarter Page. And here’s a great infographic explaining crowdfunding. If you are going to be a modern moviemaker, then you need to get used to the fact that you will, at some point in your filmmaking career, be using crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc) as part of your fundraising strategy. Not only that, but you’re going to have to sell yourself just as much as you will have to sell your film. That topic, however is for another post.

For everyone else already familiar with crowdfunding, check out The Canyons Kickstarter Page. It’s well worth it–if only for seeing the rewards being offered. I’ve looked at a lot of Kickstarter Campaigns over the past year, and this one is one of my favorites in terms of the rewards it offers. Everything from Producer’s coffee with Braxton Pope (only 2 out of 15 are remaining) to a money clip autographed and given to Paul Schrader by Robert De Niro on the set of Taxi Driver many a moon ago. Price tag? $10,000. Sold? You better believe it.

Bret and Braxton feel that crowdfunding is allowing them this kind of transparency and openness with their audience. In line with their belief in transparency, The Canyons’ team has offered a $10 Kickstarter reward in which you can Help us cast the film! You will be given access to a private link on www.LetItCast.com that will allow you to vote on our casting finalists.” Oddly, only 83 backers have signed onto this reward, but the implication of being allowed to have an opinion in the casting of a feature film is game-changing. Will this crowdfunding, the-fan-is-all mentality combined with the transparency philosophy that Bret, Braxton, and Ted Hope all subscribe to turn modern filmmaking into a loose execution of the popular Choose Your Own Adventure novels? Will this make modern films better or worse? Is this the only way that crowdfunding can actually work? At what point does fan engagement with crowdfunding lead to pandering to your audience, which is the supreme philosophy of the Studio System? These are definitely questions worth asking, that modern moviemakers should ask themselves as they navigate the seemingly wonderful, dolphin and sprite-filled waters that are crowdfunding. (Sprites are a race of fairies with green skin and wings for those of you not in the know. And if you don’t know what a dolphin is, god bless you, Google it.)

You can listen to the hour long phone interview between Bret, Braxton, and myself if you’d like by clicking “play” above. I highly recommend you do listen to the interview in its entirety, because Bret Easton Ellis is so funny and insightful, I would definitely venture to call him comedic. In the interview, he claims that there is humor in all of his stories, and if you have never read his novel, American Psycho, nor seen the excellent film adaptation of it, his claim might not completely blow your mind the way it should.

Enjoy and good luck, Modern Moviemakers!

Laura Zinger


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“Dreams Do Come True, They Just Take Longer to Happen.” A filmmaker interview with Steve Garrett

This week’s audio podcast from thewatchbox.com features filmmaker, Steve Garrett, the Director of Wake, currently available on The Watchbox.

Steve Garrett is a hilarious guy. But Wake is the furthest a film can get from comedy. Steve shot Wake guerrilla style over the course of two years, which included only paying for one location during the entire production, opting just to pretend they were just tourists when shooting scenes at Venice Beach.

Wake is surprising in how much it aimed to have a heart and to massage the viewers’ hearts during the film. All characters, as troubled as they were, still tried to do the best they could. There’s something infinitely touching in a film that tries to show the goodness in people, instead of leaving their evil asses hanging off of cliffs literally and metaphorically at the end of the film.

Steve and I talked about the making of Wake, how much he wanted to quit every day, and how he battled his feelings of never wanting to make another film again because it was so hard. (He’s working on his second film now.) Then we talked about video games and how they may or may not be ruining today’s youth.

You can find out more about Steve here:
Facebook Page for Wake the Movie: http://www.wix.com/adriennezi/wake#!production

Steve’s Website (Wake the movie’s working title was “Skate or Die:” http://www.alwaysmovingpictures.com


Have you ever wanted to live abroad? Want to know what it’s like being chased by a typhoon? Well, for this week’s filmmaker audio podcast from thewatchbox.com you can take a trip overseas with Ben Hicks.

After making two award winning short films through his company, Elephant Dream Pictures, he set off to live in Japan, Taiwan, and Germany in order to shoot his first feature film, Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time., a film, shot in three chapters, about the evolution of a couple’s relationship as they travel around the globe.

To make this film, Ben  was able to shoot the first chapter (on 16mm) after living two years in the bustling streets of Tokyo and through a successful kickstarter campaign. In 2010, Ben moved to the countryside of Taiwan where he currently teaches English, lives with flying squirrels, and is ramping up to shoot chapter two of this truly original film.