Thursday, September 09, 2010

Corbin Bernsen

According to the bio at IMDB, "Rugged, hirsutely handsome Corbin Bernsen blazed to TV stardom in 1986 on "L.A. Law" (1986) as opportunistic divorce lawyer Arnie Becker." I was probably more familiar with his appearance in Major League, and his role as the father of the main character, Shawn Spencer, in the TV show Psych.

But Bernsen is also intensely interested in independent film, having produced several including Carpool Guy, and 25 Hill which is about the All-American Soap Box Derby and is currently in post-production.

Bernsen's speech at the Canon Expo was perhaps the most unexpected one I attended; he may not know the details of the technology, but he's madly excited about what it makes possible. As he says; he just get's his kids to explain the technology to him. He's also a bit of a wheeler-dealer; always looking for ways to fund movies, whether that means thinking about target markets while writing the script, working on cross-promotion, or even wondering if an idea might work as a commercial. Normally that kind of thing turns me off, and yet it didn't in his case; perhaps because he was so up front about his methods.

Corbin Bernsen on 3D, independent film and how new technology enables people to make them

The following quotes are taken from his speech:

All of this is great, wonderful technology. The one thing that I still warn kids about is to tell story. Doesn’t have to be in the narrative form that we know, but there has to be something that compels an audience to go forward.
Believe it or not, I don’t care how big you get, people always look at you as an actor, "that’s okay, and we like your little story, but no, you can’t have money." They don’t trust us. So I had to find these alternative ways to get money to make these movies.
It used to be the thing [that] anyone who’s got a video camera can make a movie. Well, yeah, kind of... [but] you take the 5D or 7D, anybody can make a movie and they can make a movie that can be shown anywhere. You have to make sure the sound is good, you have to have some good acting, you have to have that story, but people can buy the equipment and make a movie for 20 grand.
The point is, the barrier to entry to make an independent film is just way down.
I’ve heard of another actor on a show with a couple of numbers in it, who when they brought the 5D to set, said “I’m not acting in front of that thing,” because it didn’t look enough like a camera.
The other thing that a lot of people don’t know is that with independent film, every time you shrink something down, you shrink everything down. So the camera department gets a little bit smaller, the crew gets a bit smaller, the number of people you have to cater gets smaller and everything becomes less expensive, which is also going to help a lot of these kids make movies.
Typically, the [film] cameras are too big to cross shoot, but with the 5D and 7D, I envisage a set where you can have three, four, five cameras going at once, and for me, as a director, it’s great, because everybody is reacting to the same thing. [...] and you could conceivably shoot a scene in a quarter the amount of time, which again, in independent film, brings the cost down.
With the 5D and 7D, and it’s ability to deal with light, which is extraordinary, and extraordinarily different from everything out there. I’ve seen stuff that was just point and shoot that was exquisite.
[Shooting in Canada with the 5D] The remarkable thing, beside it looking really, really nice, is that the RED froze all the time - it was 30 below - but the 5D just kept working. Now maybe part of that was you could keep it in a nice warm spot.
I’m a story freak. Script is everything to me. [...] That said, as much as I like story, and I think story pulls you forward, there may be a new art form that emerges. And who are we to say, a combination of music and images and 90 minutes, and a little bit of a story, and oh that feels a bit like Romeo & Juliet, but it doesn’t have all the twists, turns, boy meets girl, boy looses girl, you know. Who’s to say that, if it’s entertaining, that it’s not valid.
Darren Aronofsky, I think he makes exquisite films. I think the stories suck. And you can quote me on that. I think he makes exquisite movies. I think The Wrestler was a wonderful, great Mickey Rourke vehicle. The story? There just was no story. The other one before that, Fountain. Exquisite movie. I can watch it, I sit through it and my kids love it. But I don’t see a story. I don’t see the narrative story that I’m used to.
It’s all great. By the way, we aren’t making movies like Charlie Chaplin used to either. We’ve moved. Entertainment, technology, the way of expression, that’s all changing, and I embrace it all. At the end of the day I have one piece of criteria, and it’s this; does it work, or does it not work? Not is it good or is it bad, that’s a qualitative judgement. Does it work? There’s something human about us when something works or doesn’t work.
I tell this to young actors and filmmakers. Don’t just go and make something that only you care about. First and foremost, take your story and make it universal.
I try to make sure that there’s eight tracks. Eight ways I can go out socially networking a film. That’s sort of our internal thing. And I do that as I write the script. It’s nothing new. Hollywood sort of does it, they just generally do it with actors and names.
Feed your crew well. It’s surprising.
One of the things that makes me grow during the production, more than anything, is being faced with problems. Finding those solutions, and finding them quick, it just makes you think. Sometimes, I get on these big Hollywood movies and it’s just “ah, the door’s not right, let’s just have lunch, we’ll come back at three,” On a little independent film, if the door’s not right, she goes out the window.
I have no problem with art and commerce crossing. None whatsoever. I’d love to see a commercial that’s nothing to do with a product, and just a little short on TV, instead of some of these ridiculous, ludicrous commercials. Just be something great for thirty seconds, brought to you by so and so. I’ll go buy that product quicker than I will from some stupid commercial.

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