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How Can B Movies Exist?


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#1 Peter Ellner

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 01:29 PM

I am saddened by the existence of B movies, those terribly written/directed, badly acted, horribly uninspired movies that usually go straight to DVD or Netflix, or are made specifically for TV.

But I just can't get over the fact that they even exist. How? Isn't it rather difficult to get into the movie-making business if one doesn't have some talent and understands how to make films? Haven't the people behind B movies gone to film school and learned about lighting, composition, how to tell a story, etc.? It seems like a huge embarrassment to have one's name even associated with a bad B movie, yet there are so many of them and they're made all the time. Where do they find people to make these movies, I mean how can they not realize how unbearably bad the movie is while they're making it? They must, right...I'm sure none of the movies they enjoy watching are B movies, but rather well-made, interesting films with actual artistic merit.

I'm sorry if this is coming across as arrogant or pretentious, but I'm just a student who would like to become a director or DP, and the thought of creating something so painfully bad as some of the films made by The Asylum scares me more than anything. And I really just don't understand how these films get made...it's not like everyone's just doing it for the money, since the budgets are by definition very low.

So can someone please help me understand B movies? And if you were ever involved with making one perhaps you can enlighten me with your experience.

Thank you so much!
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 01:44 PM

Low budget=possible bigger return on investment
some people don't know any better
many people (or enough people) enjoy and buy them to make them profitable
they used to be stipulated as part of matinees in the old days to keep people in the theaters (you'd have your big movie then a few B movies, normally shorter using leftovers)
they are a proving/training ground for new talent
they can be quite inspirational inasmuch as learning what not to do as what to do
they can be enjoyable as well because they are so bad (comically so, such as films like Troll 2, where it's funny how badly done it is and that gives enjoyment).
it's not hard to get into film if you have money or connections
most film people didn't go to film school i'd wager-- and film school will not teach you how to make a good movie.
a lot of people are doing it for the money.. they're often referred to as producers.
often the best intentioned films go awry, especially because in the end it's the producers who often have the power-- not the director, so the intentions of the director of DP is very often overshadowed by a producer looking for an ROI.


You must must must remember that it's the film INDUSTRY. While we can make artful PRODUCT it is still in the end a product designed to be sold. It needs to make a profit for the studio so they can stay in business, and truth be told I'd bet that a "B" movie can make better money than most artful films. Also, what is a good or bad film? Is there a hard/fast definition to that or is it a matter of personal taste? Granted there are cultural associations and expectations of what a film should/could be, but at the same time, it's all about whether or not the person watching the movie likes it.And lastly they can exist because people make mistakes.. and often you don't realize it until you're already done shooting... so what do you do? Show nothing and take a loss, or polish the turd as much as you can and put it out there to make some money back to make another film?

Also, what is people really enjoy making bad movies? some folk are sadistic.. hell you should see my x girlfriends....
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#3 Chance Shirley

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 04:35 PM

I have financed two "B" movies with my personal credit cards. Okay, the budgets were very low (I'm not rich), so maybe they're "C" movies.

Neither film was hugely successful, but neither were total failures. The first, Hide and Creep, played on the Sci Fi (now SyFy) channel a few times. It's now streaming (legally) on YouTube. The second, Interplanetary, will be available soon via Netflix "Watch Instantly."

Why did I make these movies? Because I love films and I love making films. Both movies were shot on nights and weekends. Most of the cast and crew were people, like me, with more enthusiasm than filmmaking experience.

> Haven't the people behind B movies gone to film school and learned about lighting, composition, how to tell a story, etc.?

School and experience are great, but filmmaking is both an art and a science. And time and money, both of which are limited in the production of a "B" movie, are necessary for even the greatest cinematographer to do his or her best work. As for story, all the education in the world won't create a good screenplay. Have you ever written a feature-length screenplay? It ain't easy.

> It seems like a huge embarrassment to have one's name even associated with a bad B movie...

I'm proud of both of my movies, despite their flaws. And, though I have read plenty of negative reviews of my work, it makes me very happy to read the positive reviews. It's a great feeling to hear how someone watched your movie and appreciated what you accomplished.

> I'm sure none of the movies they enjoy watching are B movies...

You're wrong about this. I love many "B" movies. I love plenty of "A" movies, too. At the same time, I understand that there are plenty of bad movies in the "A" and "B" categories. If I have learned anything from filmmaking, it's that a good movie is something of a miracle, regardless of budget and the talent involved.

> I mean how can they not realize how unbearably bad the movie is while they're making it?

Sometimes you realize that the badness is creeping in, sometimes you don't. When you're filming a movie with limited means, compromises will happen. Usually, I am trying my best to execute what I think is a good plan to create a scene. When those scenes don't work, I don't realize it until much later, when it is too late for a do-over. Sometimes, though, I am aware that I am compromising too much during the actual filming of a scene. Those times, I try to make the best out of a bad situation, and hope that the results of the one scene don't sink the whole production.

> ...it's not like everyone's just doing it for the money, since the budgets are by definition very low.

You're 100% right about this. That said, I'm sure most people working on bigger "B" movies (like those made by the Asylum) at least get paid a little. You should also keep in mind that many of today's successful and popular directors, like Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, got their start working for Roger Corman, the man considered by many to be "king of the 'B' movies." (I believe James Cameron's first director credit is for Piranha II, a movie about killer flying fish.)

> I am saddened by the existence of B movies...

I am saddened by the existence of movies that aren't entertaining. But I learn from bad movies (as I learn from the mistakes I made filming my own movies), and those bad movies make me appreciate the good and great movies even more.

I have a question for you: what are your favorite movies? I ask because I'm curious about how you define "good" movies.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 04:47 PM

Peter, once you make your first low-budget feature, you are suddenly going to become a lot more sympathetic towards "B-movie" filmmakers.

Look, there is no "talent and quality" police out there making sure that no one makes bad horror films or black velvet paintings of dogs playing poker. Those who get the money get to make the movies. Those who make money off of their movies might get more money to make more movies. And being able to raise funds to make a movie is no guarantee of being a good filmmaker. And making a movie that makes a profit also isn't proof that the person is a good filmmaker.

But there are also B-movies that are fine for fans of those sorts of movies but might not be considered artistic or even good by other people's standards. You just have to understand that there are different audiences out there and you might not be who these movies were made for.
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#5 Richard Boddington

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 05:02 PM

Exactly Chance I agree with you 100%!!

None of us should sit here while some pretentious film student assumes that as soon as he graduates from film school he'll be shooting and directing the next Citizen Kane.

I look forward to seeing how Peter makes the leap from film school to "high art" completely by-passing the "B-movies" he looks upon with such contempt.

R,
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#6 Keith Walters

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 07:45 PM

B movies mostly exist these days because of the very large number of cable networks with a voracious appetite for just about anything that hasn't been screened before (at least by them).
When Australia still had a film industry of sorts, it was kept alive in a large part by US production companies looking for the cheapest place to make their diabolically awful "movies of the week".

Like Peter I was intitially baffled as to exactly WHO was going to want to watch this crap, until one of the producers patiently explained it all to me. They may take a long time to turn a profit, he explained, but most of them eventually do, and for an extended period. The former Soviet Bloc countries in particular have seen a ready market for what I would have thought complete rubbish.

Just about all of Steven Seagal's movies have gone straight to DVD, and they've brought in billions of dollars in revenue over the years, although they'd probably have trouble scraping up a "C" rating! And you know, despite the cheesy one-dimensional plots and cookie-cutter characterization, the production values are surprisingly high, and if you were starting out, you could a lot worse than landing a job on the set of one of those.
As others have pointed out, everybody has to start somewhere.
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#7 Richard Boddington

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 07:57 PM

Anyone who makes a movie that ends up in the .99 bin at Walmart has done a damn good job.

Anyone who disagrees with me has clearly never made and sold a movie.

R,
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 08:01 PM

Selling it, of course, being the hard bit.

I still have no idea how you pulled that off. It is generally completely impossible; it simply does not occur. People do not make movies and sell them; people make movies that sit on their shelves for years.

You can't sell a really independent feature (and I don't mean one made by Fox Searchlight). It's impossible. Bleah?

P
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#9 Richard Boddington

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 08:39 PM

You can't sell a really independent feature (and I don't mean one made by Fox Searchlight). It's impossible. Bleah?

P


Dark Reprieve got main stream distribution as you know, retail, NetFlix, cable TV. The Dogfather was destined for distribution, not guaranteed, but a much better shot than Dark Reprieve that's for sure.

My secret Phil.....I was smart enough to hire the best cover art guy in the business. :)

R,
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 09:42 PM

Technically, since I've seen Dogfather on Netflix, it's gotten a form of distribution; yes?
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#11 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 10:44 PM

What amazes me is that, outside of Richard, not a one of you fellows whom I respect can put this arrogant bloke in his place (no, I'm not Aussie but I love the word bloke!)

I think, Peter, that those B directors have achieved a greater level of success than you are likely to attain. Especially those who continue to actually get a working budget to do more films in the future. It is clear by your attitude just how amateur you are. If you were anything other than amateur, you would realize how much of an achievement it is to even complete a feature and then to get some level of public interest and/or distribution.

I can tell you this...I have seen quite a few pseudo-Tarantinos that go to film school (or dont) and think they corner the market on edgy and artist films but the end result? A crappy and boring film that cant appease the film snobs or the general public...basically useless garbage.

I may be harsh to you but I dont apologize. This forum is full of people who have built their career on those "terribly bad" movies while you sit their with no noteworthy credits to your name. Shame on you, mate.
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#12 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 11:00 PM

I think one of the bigger more significant problems in the film industry is not B movies, but the fact that a really large portion of first-time feature film directors... never go on to make another film. Then you take a look at the extremely small but well known portion of big directors, their first films are usually awful work.

If these B movie directors are moving on to direct again, they're obviously doing something right.

And no amount of film school can ever teach someone to have a vision, or even understand filmmaking anywhere near the level of someone like Stanley Kubrick or Peter Jackson. You have to figure that out on your own and not everyone can.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 02:02 AM

I don't necessarily see a "problem" with Peter's arrogance -- it's the nature of youth... film school should be about seeing great movies and really understanding what movies are capable of being in the hands of a master. If you want to be a painter, you don't study mediocrity, you study the Great Masters. When I was a beginner, I was inspired by Kurosawa, Welles, Lean, Kubrick, Hitchcock, Ford -- and of course the average movie is going to look lame next to theirs, and a cheap B-movie perhaps even worse.

But life experiences are a humbling thing as you discover just how hard it is to make a good movie, let alone a great movie. Compromises come fast and furious; to some extent almost anyone who finishes a feature film at a professional level -- no matter whether it is any good or not -- has accomplished something that is very difficult to do. You start out as a beginner wondering why there aren't more movies like "Citizen Kane" or "2001" and a decade later you are asking Richard how he managed to get "Dogfather" made and distributed because even the littlest movie is very hard to get made if it is going to be done in the traditional way in terms of crew, cast, post-production, etc.

So go ahead and have high personal standards, strive for excellence, try to be the best, don't settle for being mediocre or a hack, push yourself... but be sympathetic to all filmmakers because this is not an easy way to make a living. You can hold yourself to very high standards without necessarily demanding that everyone else have them.
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#14 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 07:18 AM

I reckon it'd be fun to work on a B movie.
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#15 Pat Murray

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 08:42 AM

I don't think Peter's post is arrogant, I just consider his opinion an indication that he is undereducated in the wider breadth of his choosen field of study. It is like a University Math student asking, why 2 + 2 = 4 or, "what's the use of algebra?"

I don't know if this is due to the film school he's attending (I didn't just see the films of the greats, I also saw B films, low budget films made by Carpenter, Kubrick, Hitchcock et al and even took a whole semester course on American exploitation/grindhouse films circa late 60s to early 80s).

Or, maybe Peter is an excited student who just finished his first year and decided to go to film school because he grew up watching A list Hollywood actors and Hollywood studio films and wants to be a part of that aspect of the industry. To him, quality could simply mean big budget like "Pirates of the Caribbean", not necessarily quailty such as "Psycho"; a low budget "B" type movie at the time. Other aspects of the industry and the history of film in general was of no interest to him before going to film school. This isn't a negative judgement, everybody has their reasons for wanting to be in the film industry (or digital video industry these days).

I do hope that in future courses and through life experience in the film industry Peter will come to respect, understand and enjoy the rich history of B movies in the history of the motion picture industry.

Heck, a widely respected genre/period today, Film Noir, mostly consisted of films regarded as "B" by studios at the time. I'd also take Carpenter's "Assault On Precint 13" and Corman's "Death Race 2000" over many of the big budget quality films of today.

That said, I saw Bill Murray being interviewed on TMC last night. I didn't recognize the interviewer or the program, but Bill was making a similar argument/rant as Peter. Bill was talking about his experiences in France during his hiatus in the mid 80s and how he watched this program that started with the earliest silent films. He was awestruck by the quality of the films and wondered how we could justify making inferior films with superior technology. Although I think he was mainly attacking the Hollywood system and not B and low budget films.

Peter, some great stories have been told through the "B" movie industry. Check it out. You're missing out on a gold mine.

Edited by Pat Murray, 27 July 2011 - 08:43 AM.

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#16 Richard Boddington

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 12:44 PM

Technically, since I've seen Dogfather on Netflix, it's gotten a form of distribution; yes?


Right, and iTunes. Plus we shipped quite a load, thousands, to Walmart. Walmart FYI to those that don't know is the biggest DVD seller in the USA now by far. So filmmakers may run down Walmart and view it in a less than positive light. Fact is, if you want your work to be seen these days it will need to be in Walmart. James Cameron and Steven Spielberg understand this fact quite well.

R,
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#17 Pat Murray

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 01:53 PM

Right, and iTunes. Plus we shipped quite a load, thousands, to Walmart. Walmart FYI to those that don't know is the biggest DVD seller in the USA now by far. So filmmakers may run down Walmart and view it in a less than positive light. Fact is, if you want your work to be seen these days it will need to be in Walmart. James Cameron and Steven Spielberg understand this fact quite well.

R,


Congrats, Richard. I've got Netflix at home (I'm assuming Canadian Netflix too?) so will put it on for my niece/nephew the next time they are over.

How does Netflix work? Do they give you a royalty everytime somebody watches the movie or did they pay a flat rate for the right to stream the movie for subscribers?
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#18 Richard Boddington

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 02:30 PM

Congrats, Richard. I've got Netflix at home (I'm assuming Canadian Netflix too?) so will put it on for my niece/nephew the next time they are over.

How does Netflix work? Do they give you a royalty everytime somebody watches the movie or did they pay a flat rate for the right to stream the movie for subscribers?


I'm not seeing it on NetFlix Canada, yet. They usually run a bit behind the USA arm.

NetFlix does a wide range of deals with distributors based on what they think the title will do for them. Usually advance plus rev share.

R,
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#19 Richard Boddington

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 02:38 PM

Oh and of course Amazon.com has become a major DVD retailer, and both of my features are available on there as DVD and streaming.

Now will one of you please go and BUY a damn copy!! :D

R,
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#20 Chance Shirley

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 02:49 PM

And after you buy one of Richard's movies from Amazon, please pick up one of mine!
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