Jump to content




Photo

Hallmark/Lifetime films


  • Please log in to reply
36 replies to this topic

#1 Matthew Kakaris

Matthew Kakaris

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 6 posts
  • Student
  • Chicago

Posted 19 September 2015 - 05:11 PM

Does anyone here ever work on these films? Is it a separate world from studio or indie pictures? I assume that there's not a huge amount of overlap because there seems to be a distinctive cinematic quality specific to the flicks I see.


There are obviously exceptions, quite a few I'm sure, but the trend seems to be that this style of film is of lower image quality. (Lighting, framing. Etc) Is this mostly due to budget/time constraints? What would you say causes this?

Also if anyone has a more extensive knowledge of this style of film, I think it'd be a worthwhile discussion to point out the characteristics common to this style of film/how it differs from the other styles.

Thanks in advance for your replies. Hopefully I can contribute to the conversation as well!
  • 0




#2 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 18789 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 19 September 2015 - 06:08 PM

I did several movies in the late 1990's for a non-union production company that somewhat overlapped the movies at Hallmark Productions, similar crews, similar budgets, locations, etc.  At the time, the model was sort of the $700,000 35mm feature made in 18 or 21 days, but that was over a decade ago.  Most of these movies were made by Larry Levinson Productions.

 

Do a Google search under "Larry Levinson" and "unions" and you'll see many news items over the decade, like these:

http://deadline.com/...ing-scabs-9399/

http://www.glassdoor...03381.11,37.htm

http://deadline.com/...dispute-718327/

 

If there is a plus side, similar to working for Corman back then, these sorts of companies are a good training ground for beginners in Los Angeles who need experience and the qualifying days to join the union.  I'm reminded of that story that Ron Howard tells about directing his first movie for Corman, who told Howard "Look, if you do a good enough job for me, you'll hopefully never have to work for me again."  Something like that.  

 

As for myself, all I can say is that I did the best I could back then with those budgets and schedules, but to some degree, the style gets tied to the genre and market, which doesn't encourage a lot of experimenting or bold stylistic choices.  I remember at the time that I was told that everything had to be sharp, with nothing like lens flares allowed, no diffusion, no smoke, nothing too bright or too dark, all because the main buyer was German television, who would reject low-budget movies over the most minor technical grounds.  It was rather limiting artistically, though it was also a good training ground in terms of delivering material of a certain standard, if a somewhat bland standard.  Plus you could count on the post being fairly consistent, they couldn't go TOO cheap or else risk failing QC with the buyer.

 

It's not too dissimilar to the output of the old B-movie division at the major studios of the 1940's.


  • 0

#3 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2574 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 19 September 2015 - 06:18 PM

I've shot a couple of movies for Lifetime. They were low budget TV movies, where the schedule is tight (15-18 days) and the network doesn't like you to do anything too 'risky'. I was lucky to have a director that trusted me, and so we were able to be darker and more daring than most of their output, but, as David says, generally they don't want any flares or smoke, and everything has to be be fairly flat. One the last one I did, I actually had to protect for 4:3 TVs, something I hadn't been asked to do in about 15 years.


  • 0

#4 Matthew Kakaris

Matthew Kakaris

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 6 posts
  • Student
  • Chicago

Posted 19 September 2015 - 07:02 PM

David and Stuart, thanks for your insight.

On such a tight, network-controlled production, would the DP have any involvement in color grading, or is that a privilege reserved for A-list cinematographers? Or perhaps on productions with less control from "above" so to speak?

How do you feel about these productions relative to your career? Positively? Negatively? Were they training grounds as alluded to by David? Jobs to put food on the table?

Would you say that belonging to a union should be a goal of any cinematographer?
  • 0

#5 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2574 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 19 September 2015 - 07:32 PM

I was involved in color-timing, although unpaid. There was no particular pressure from above, but both the Director and I were well aware of our boundaries. Productions like this don't have a negative effect on your career, unless you do a bad job. For me, I was always striving to do the best I could, regardless of what restrictions were placed on me.

 

Joining the union is a necessity if you want to work on any production with a budget larger than $1m, but it doesn't guarantee you work.


  • 0

#6 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 18789 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 19 September 2015 - 08:22 PM

I also supervised the answer printing and transfer to video back then, unpaid of course.  Again, you were restricted by the mandate that nothing be too dark or too bright, no clipping or crushing.  In my case (and these weren't Hallmark movies though many of them have showed up on Lifetime over the years) they were all in the family thriller genre and allowed me more mood than if they were family comedies/romances/adventures probably, just not as much as I probably would have liked.

 

At some point, I consciously moved towards indie art films that had a chance of festival distribution, just because I was worried about having too many titles on my resume all in the same straight-to-video thriller genre.  I did an indie movie called "Twin Falls Idaho" in 1998, my thirteenth feature, that got into Sundance and got me an agent.  I joined the union in late 2002 after doing "Northfork", my 23rd feature.

 

Basically in Los Angeles, any feature made for more than 2 million is likely to be a union shoot, so once I started getting interviews for those movies, I figured it was time to join.

 

I don't want to beat up on those non-union Hallmark movies too much, some of them are well-photographed considering the restrictions, and everyone works very hard on them.  Some probably cut corners too much, though that's also been driven by the market today, everyone has to deal with shrinking budgets and shorter schedules.


  • 0

#7 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5195 posts
  • Director

Posted 19 September 2015 - 10:25 PM

Southern Ontario, specifically Hamilton, is now the epicentre of where Hallmark movies are shot.  Hallmark uses producers here to take advantage of the stable tax credit and to lower their costs.  One production company here that turns these things out like sausages has the production schedule down to 12 days, then the crew is recycled to do the next one.

 

If you want to shoot one, better apply for Canadian residency :)

 

R,


  • 0

#8 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11228 posts
  • Other

Posted 20 September 2015 - 04:13 AM

At the time, the model was sort of the $700,000 35mm feature made in 18 or 21 days

 

Sob. Wail.


  • 0

#9 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5195 posts
  • Director

Posted 20 September 2015 - 02:05 PM

That was the late 80s and early 90s Phil, and a surprising amount of that money would go to above the line costs, especially the usually two leads who may get at least 100K each even on a budget that size.  This didn't leave a whole lot left over to actually make the movie, hence the very short schedule and very few locations.

 

R,


  • 0

#10 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11228 posts
  • Other

Posted 20 September 2015 - 03:02 PM

I'll take it.


  • 0

#11 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5195 posts
  • Director

Posted 20 September 2015 - 05:23 PM

It's all relative isn't it?  Many Hollywood people consider low budget to be anything under 80 million these days.

 

Micro budget is now less than 2 million.  I wonder what a 100K movie is called these days?

 

R,


  • 0

#12 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11228 posts
  • Other

Posted 20 September 2015 - 05:39 PM

Nirvana, round here.


  • 0

#13 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 18789 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 20 September 2015 - 05:48 PM

I suspect that many of those Hallmark-Lifetime feature budgets are still just below 1 million even today, but now they are shooting in HD and in fewer days.  But they probably also have a range of budgets.  If you have a slate of movies to make in a year, sometimes you shift more money to one and take it away from another.


  • 0

#14 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2574 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 20 September 2015 - 06:09 PM

  I wonder what a 100K movie is called these days?

 

 

 

 

Nirvana, round here.

 

A $100k movie means no money to do anything right, and the entire crew on minimum wage (or less). Be careful what you wish for.


  • 0

#15 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5195 posts
  • Director

Posted 20 September 2015 - 07:34 PM

 

 

 

A $100k movie means no money to do anything right, and the entire crew on minimum wage (or less). Be careful what you wish for.

 

If the crew is paid minimum wage what laws are being broken?  People work on 100K movies to gain a foothold in the industry.

Now, there's a guy up here named Andrew Cividino, he just made a feature film called Sleeping Giant on a budget of $60, 000.00.  The movie premiered at Cannes this year and was also selected for TIFF.  Anyone here interested in filmmaking and what is possible should enter this into Google: Andrew Cividino Sleeping Giant.

 

You'll be stunned by how many pages come up, how many reviews there are, and the amount of press he got.  Then try and tell me you can't do anything with just $60, 000.00.

 

BTW, now for the kicker, Andrew used a 100% non-union crew and non-union actors, yep, non union actors.  Just kids he found in Thunder Bay Ontario, which is a real slap in the face to ACTRA and SAG.

 

So when people groan about "only" having a million dollars, good grief, Andrew just accomplished more with $60, 000.00 shooting in Canada than many filmmakers accomplish with 10 million shooting in LA!

 

Do the Google search I suggested if you don't believe me.  There is a real lesson here for up and coming filmmakers.  Here I'll get you started....a Variety review and a Cannes premiere, it doesn't get much bigger than that.

 

http://variety.com/2...iew-1201496985/

 

R,


  • 0

#16 Miguel Angel

Miguel Angel
  • Sustaining Members
  • 562 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Spain / Ireland / South Africa

Posted 20 September 2015 - 07:37 PM

I take those $60.000 and put down an Irish movie made for €3000 with international praise, awards, etc and absolutely fantastic: "Pilgrim Hill"

To me, one of the best Irish movies of all times.

Google it and be amazed! ;)
  • 0

#17 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5195 posts
  • Director

Posted 20 September 2015 - 07:44 PM

And many others Miguel, yes.

 

R,


  • 0

#18 Miguel Angel

Miguel Angel
  • Sustaining Members
  • 562 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Spain / Ireland / South Africa

Posted 20 September 2015 - 07:55 PM

By the way, I would love to work with Roger Corman.
He is "the legend" and many of his movies are just fantastic.

I would say tho that movies made by 100.000 or less have to be really really good and very well planned to be spotted or else it will end up on the "Tesco DVD" section.

There is a great Spanish movie called Musgo which was made by friends during their holidays, and it looks really really good,
The plot is quite interesting and the actors are surprisingly well.

Musgo by Gami Orbegoso


However, it is very difficult to find the script AND the director together in this "it is good enough" era.

Have a good day!
  • 0

#19 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11228 posts
  • Other

Posted 20 September 2015 - 08:00 PM

A $100k movie means no money to do anything right, and the entire crew on minimum wage (or less)

 

What sort of stuff d'you think usually gets made round here? You may recall I reported a while ago being asked to shoot a four-week feature for £1k, bring all my own gear. And that was a good one.

 

If we had $100k movies, we'd have the first or second stepping stone to something better. We don't. That's exactly, precisely the problem.

 

P


  • 0

#20 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5195 posts
  • Director

Posted 20 September 2015 - 08:58 PM

A thousand pounds Phil? Well that is certainly getting down there!

 

R,


  • 0


Technodolly

Abel Cine

Willys Widgets

Visual Products

Tai Audio

CineLab

CineTape

Zylight

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Pro 8mm

rebotnix Technologies

Glidecam

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

The Slider

Rig Wheels Passport

CineTape

Willys Widgets

Glidecam

Technodolly

Pro 8mm

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineLab

Paralinx LLC

Zylight

Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

The Slider

Visual Products

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

rebotnix Technologies