Fear The Walking Dead – The Beginning of The End

by Cassandra Hennessey

(The following review has MAJOR SPOILERS, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

There are a lot of fans comparing “The Walking Dead” and “Fear The Walking Dead”. It’s natural, of course, to want to find similarities between the two, but that’s not necessarily reasonable. One story takes place in the midst of the global pandemic of zombification, while the other chronicles the contagion from its outset.ftwd-logo

Is there any correlation between the two shows’ main characters (TWD) Rick and (FTWD) Nick (English actor Frank Dillane)?

Well, Rick’s a cop.

Nick’s a teenaged junkie.

Opposite ends of the spectrum, wouldn’t you say?

The only similarity they have is Rick sees the horror of the Zombie Apocalypse in the hospital after awakening from a coma; and Nick sees the horror, tries to flee from it and a minor run-in with a car lands him in the hospital.

No one believes Nick when he says he’s seeing “dead people”. After all, he’s an addict, fresh off a mind-altering high. He’s in restraints on a hospital gurney. He probably hallucinated the whole thing, right?

I mean, it brings to mind the song “Rosetta Stoned” by Tool. All right, maybe Nick wasn’t ranting like that, but the dialog did allude to him sounding irrational to the police and medical staff as he was relaying reality as he saw it– fellow junkie Gloria was nom-nomming some dude’s face like it was seven layer nacho dip.

And when Travis (Cliff Curtis) goes to that horrible husk of a church where the addicts all congregate for “Junkie Communion”, he discovers a BIG pool of blood and gore; however no bodies.

Who wouldn’t doubt Nick’s story?

It’s like Travis said, “Dead bodies don’t get up and walk away.”

The badge of dubiousness is pinned securely to Nick just because he’s an addict and a wayward son; he’s deemed unreliable by — of all people — his own mother.

As Maddie (Kim Dickson) rationalized to Travis as he tried to argue the validity of Nick’s story about the church, “Bad things happen there.” She’s a mother who has been through disappointment and despair time and time again with her son, while working as a guidance counselor, setting teenaged students on the path toward their hopeful futures. Seeing her own child throwing his future away must be gut-wrenching. Kim Dickson’s performance depicts a woman who is about to throw up her hands and walk away from her own flesh and blood.

At first, I didn’t like Maddie (nowhere next to the almost obligatory universal disdain for Lori Grimes, but…) However, I did give consideration to her reactions towards her son. It seems he’s been on a downward spiral for a while; and there’s been a series of interventions, rehabilitation and epic failures. She’s in the midst of another of these cycles, and losing hope. Then I “got” her character, and the seemingly “blasé” exterior. But believe me, it’s only a veneer.

But what about the walkers?! We want more walkers, some viewers were yelling.

Patience is a virtue, my friends.

Character development — when it is done well– does require some time. After all, this is the pilot, the show’s premiere, and it is formally introducing us to new “people”. How else are we going to acquaint and grow to know these characters if they are not fully developed? Why would we care for them if we didn’t feel we “know” them?

The deliberate slow pacing of the show is to be commended and not condemned, for it is realistically depicting the genesis of any outbreak scenario. Trust me, the chaos and collapse of society as we know it is imminent. Imagine it being like turning a faucet; first a few drips and then a mighty gush!

What I found interesting was Nick’s dysfunctional family unit; two previously married adults (Travis and Maddie) in love, trying to merge their families together, while dealing with tumultuous estranged relationships and emotional baggage. (Maddie’s daughter Alicia harbors resentment toward her brother Nick — the Prodigal Son — and yearns to escape the drama when she goes to college after her senior year; and Travis’ estranged son Christopher holds a grudge against his father’s compassion for Nick).

This is a classic example of a “modern-day” family with all its faults and foibles.

I believe we’re going to see some powerful moments with this family; and their struggles to stay together and ALIVE.

The other touches of modern-day tropes of technology were all-too-familiar; Alicia’s (Alycia Debnam Carey) text messages to her artist boyfriend Matt (Maestro Harrell) going unanswered and being miffed but not-yet-concerned; in class watching the viral video via smartphone of a police confrontation with an insanely violent suspect that just wouldn’t stay down, even after being loaded with lead.

Signs of the times, wouldn’t you say?

Both Gloria and the “crazed” guy on the back-board who attacked the EMS worker and was gunned down in the viral video by police were direct references to the “Miami Zombie of 2012”.

I mean, we all look like Zombies during the day, skulking around, head hanging, reading tweets, texting, or checking e-mail.

Think of how often you utilize your own smartphone. A lot, right?

When the “collapse of civilization” does happen, there will be no more tech, no more net, hell, no electricity. The sudden inability to get “information” will definitely be a huge shock to the system for these characters, as it would be for us in real-life.

Anyone who has been through a power outage when neglecting to charge one’s phone before the lights went out will attest to that!

Okay. Time for the section I like to call “Things I Didn’t Like”…

…The “Oo, is this guy a Walker?” teases. Namely, The Student with his head on his desk in Travis’ English class; and Maddie’s POV shot of the back of the Principal as he sat suspiciously motionless, but was merely eavesdropping on classes through the PA system, “evaluating teachers’ performances”. These were not “OMG!” moments; they were unnecessary and annoying anticlimactic moments of manufactured suspense.

Shame! Shame on using this cheap trick! I’m surprised there wasn’t a cat used for a jump-scare in the church scene, then!

And the “Nick Escapes The Hospital Scene”. People expire in the hospital all the time. You mean to tell me there wasn’t one instance of some corpse going “full on Walker” somewhere in that hospital? In the ER? In the morgue? Just saying. I think they missed an opportunity to really freak Nick out and send him running for Cal for his hookup to dull his memories of the horror.

Now, “Little” things I did like: The SOUND of LA. Police sirens. Copters overhead. Anyone who’s ever been there knows these sounds are an authentic Los Angeles experience.

The MUSIC. The Nine Inch Nails inspired despair-and-dystopia soundtrack is unnerving and frenetic. Brings to mind the “Fragile” album of 1999. (By the way, my discerning ear “nailed” it; NIN producer Atticus Ross crafted the music).

Hmm… 1999. Strange. Back in ’99, we were wondering if the world was going to end. Not by a Zombie Apocalypse, but by Y2k. Lest, I digress…

I don’t know. Maybe we TWD fans have been unwittingly bestowed the powers of Nostradamus; seeing what is to come before it actually happens in this tale of contagion and chaos. We’ve witnessed the full-blown effects of a Walker-riddled world before seeing the slow descent into destruction.

“Fear the Walking Dead” is The Beginning of The End.

The trickle of incidentals. Missing persons reports. Strange news stories of irrationally violent suspects attacking innocent civilians. More and more children absent from school. Adults not showing up to work. All precursors to something much more sinister.

This hell wouldn’t suddenly break loose. But when it does… Oh, but when it does, it does so in an exponential, uncontrollable fashion.

I have to say I really liked the Internet conspiracy-theory savvy kid Tobias. I do feel sorry that he’s found himself caught in a real-life Creepy Pasta. I can’t tell you how many kids his age I’ve met who are well-verse of the latest “underground information”. They make Jesse Ventura look like Ryan Seacrest.

The climax of the pilot’s building suspense had a freak-out factor of 10; the freshly-turned Cal getting run over not once but twice by Nick in Travis’ truck, and still moving in his reanimated crumpled-heap state, much to the horror of Maddie and Travis.

The atmosphere of the show is tense, unsettling. The walkers in their “freshly-deceased” state are unnerving, because their previous visages of humanity are still very much there. Hats off to Greg Nicotero for creating the nightmarish vision of “new” walkers.

It’s going to be interesting to discern the method to the madness of a city being plunged into chaos. We as viewers will get to see what happens to LA as opposed to not actually witnessing the fall of Atlanta.

Despite some critics and tweeters complaining about the slow pace of the pilot, 10.1 million viewers tuned in, making “Fear the Walking Dead” the Number 1 all-time pilot premiere in cable history and ensuring a legacy of Walker-driven programming for AMC.

Unlike the harsher critics, I’m just saying give the show a chance. Let it creep up on you. I’m sure once the Zombie Apocalypse hits its full stride in LA, it will be a gripping, nail-biting extravaganza.

Stay tuned.

Larry Brody Reads “Shoot Like Tarantino”

by Larry Brody

tarantinobookThe Good and the Bad:

As a loyal member of the Writers Guild of America, West, I’ve never let myself get too attached to Quentin Tarantino because for all his brilliance as a writer and director (and I really do think he’s brilliant) he’s also a great danger to all the professional TV and film writers out doing their thing these days.

He’s a danger because he refuses to join the Guild. And, you know, if enough brilliant writers never join or secede from the WGA it’s going to hurt all TV and film writers where we live: In the departments of health care benefits and that very scary “P” word – pensions. It’s a studio contribution problem. If studios hire more and more non-members of the Guild to do their things, employer funds that are the basis of our benefits will dwindle, and you knmow where they can lead.

But in spite of the dood setting such a bad precedent, I decided to sit down and read Christopher Kenworthy’s new book about him. It’s called Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling, and it’s damned good.

As in helpful.

Even inspiring.

Kenworthy doesn’t mess around. He analyzes the techniques Tarantino uses as a director and explains how all of us can use them as well. Yes, even as writers because elements like, oh, dialog and characterization, begin on the page. And he does it clearly and concisely, like – well, like a very good teacher, dammit, and not just a worshipping fanboy.

Check this thing out, gang.

ASAP.

Shoot Like Tarantino at Amazon

 

 

 

Indie Video: Everything you need to know to get a SAG actor on the set of your non-union production

Lately, we’ve been inundated with requests for more tricks of the trade. And since the way see it is that writing is only part of the trade of TV, film, and, yes, web production, and stars are a big deal everywhere, finding this article a couple of days ago is perfect timing:


 

SAG-Actor-Frank-865x505by Johnathan Paul

First, before we get started, let’s make sure everyone knows exactly what SAG is. If this word isn’t new to you, then know that it stands for the Screen Actors Guild. This is the official labor union for working professional actors. Much like the Directors Guild of America (DGA) or the Producers Guild of America (PGA), SAG offers its members collective bargaining services such as compensation, benefits, and working condition stipulations.

Whenever I’m directing a film, whether it’s fictional or a documentary with reenactments, I meet with actors to play roles for the parts I need. For the longest time, I never worked with SAG actors. I would instead try to find my talent from a pool of stage actors. And let me say, some of the stage talent I’ve worked with over the years are incredibly skilled at their craft — sometimes more so than the “professionals”.

However, that great stage talent joined SAG, which forced me to learn how to handle the details of working with the union. So, I’m going to impart to you the tips I’ve learned. Hopefully it gives you a leg up on securing the talent for your next project.

1. Hire a Casting Director

gather talent and make the phone calls. This was the single biggest move I’ve made in securing talent. While you can do all of this yourself (and believe me, I’ve done it), having a dedicated person to find talent is tremendously helpful. It frees you up to focus your energy on preparing for principle photography.

2. Take advantage of SAG’s agreements.

Before I started using SAG actors I thought they would be way too pricy for me to ever use in my micro-budget films. And then some of the actors I wanted to work with didn’t know for sure if they could work on non-union projects. What did I find out after talking with a few Agents? Yes, they can work on non-union projects. And, no. SAGactors aren’t always pricy.

SAG has done a great job of diversifying their agreements for student, documentary, experimental, and short narrative films. The rates for each are actually really reasonable. Plus, there’s also the possibility that the actor will wave their rate. But, if they do this, be sure to pick up the tab in other areas….

There’s more! Read it all at Premium Beat

John Ostrander Examines the Power of Pop

by John Ostrander

Uncle-Toms-CabinI had reason a week ago to watch Ken Burns’ classic documentary The Civil War – part of the research for Kros: Hallowed Ground, now fully funded at Kickstarter, thank you very much.

Briefly, the series mentioned Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the famed novel written by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in 1852. It was the most popular novel of its day and is credited as a cause of the Civil War. Lincoln supposedly told Ms. Stowe on meeting her after the war started, “’So this is the little lady who started this great war.’” The story is apocryphal, according to most historians.

Pop culture has the ability to change the society of which it is a part. Mind you, that’s not always its intent or even aim. Sometimes a comic book is just a comic book. And maybe it doesn’t change things as overtly and dramatically as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I do think, however, that pop culture has considerable power.

Pop TV, by featuring black characters and, later, gay and lesbian characters, helped normalize the unknown to the wider audience. People who didn’t know (or realized they knew) or were friends with anyone who was black or gay or lesbian now welcomed them into their living room. Part of the sense of betrayal that people feel with Bill Cosby is that they thought themselves friends with Cliff Huxtable. It was as if they suddenly didn’t know him.

Roots also had a profound effect on the American audience at large. White people found themselves identifying with generations of African-Americans. The show was a phenomenon.

Hillary Clinton, in a semi-private discussion with members of BlackLivesMatter, recently said, “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts, and change some systems, and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them.”

In many ways, I admire what she said. I thought it was far more direct, far more candid, than what you ordinarily hear from presidential candidates.

However, I disagree with it.

I think you do change hearts with the arts and especially pop culture. A show, a song, a movie, a play may reach people and open up their minds a bit because it first opens the heart in ways that arguments, sermons, speeches and so on cannot. In those cases, we’re a bit more guarded. We anticipate our thoughts, our beliefs, our biases being challenged and we may have our defenses up. These days, I post far less political stuff on my Facebook page, not because I believe in certain things any less but because I don’t see any of the discussions/arguments changing anyone’s mind – not mine and not with the person with whom I am having that discussion/argument. That becomes, to me, a waste of time.

I think the way to change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate is by opening the mind and that is done by first opening the heart, by creating a groundswell of demand within the population for that change. Pop culture can do that by skirting the defenses; after all, it wants to entertain us. It must do that first in order to have a right to speak its mind. Our defenses may be lowered and we may be more receptive.

I’m not saying that Pop Culture is the most important agent of change. It’s not Rosa Parks, it’s not the March on Selma, it’s not the Stonewall Riots, it’s not Harvey Milk, or any of a thousand other events that changed our world. However, it is a part of that change or, at least, can be. Sometimes. It reflects where we are, it shows where we can go. To make a change you first have to imagine and visualize that change.

As I said, Pop Culture doesn’t always do that and often, it’s not trying to do that. Sometimes, however, it can. Mrs. Clinton’s view is very pragmatic but, if she wants to win, if she wants to govern, she needs to engage our hearts as well as our minds. She needs to take a few lessons from Pop Culture.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. This post originally appeared in his blog at ComicMix.

Cartoon: “The Secret”

Grant Snider isn’t an ordinary snitch. He’s telling us a secret that definitely needs to be shared:

The Secret Capture

See more, more, more of Grant’s wise and beautiful Incidental Comics HERE

How to Market Your Film on a Small Budget

Hard as it is to make your indie film, having a completed work doesn’t mean your job is over. Oh, no, kiddo – you gotta sell it. As LB puts it, “No matter our job description, all of us in show business are salesmen.” Here are some excellent thoughts on getting over this all-too-often heartbreaking obstacle:


 

marketing-film-865x505

by Johnathan Paul

Marketing your film is one of the most important aspects of the filmmaking process. Your film can be the most important independent film of the last decade, but without a good marketing strategy, you’re going to hamstring its potential. So, let’s look at some simple and easy ways to market your film on a small budget.

1. Create a Marketing Materials Packet

You’re going to need marketing materials. This means you’re going to need to have a concrete brand for the film. Then you’ll want to build your materials from that branding. This includes cover images and profile images for all of your social media platforms, a movie poster for your film, and the imagery for your website and Facebook page.

As Charles Judson at Indiewire shows in his piece on marketing materials for film, there are countless small pieces of material that you’ll need. If this is something that you have no experience in doing on your own, try to reach out to a local artist artist.

2. Utilize the Internet and Social Media

The easiest way to build your audience is to use the internet and its main outlets, those being a personal website and social media platforms. First, let’s create a website for your film. For that you’ll want to use WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix. I preferred to use WordPress for my film’s official site, because it gave me the most flexibility.

Next, you want to utilize social media and its many platforms. For my film, I use Facebook as the primary launching point, then I use my personal Twitter account as a secondary site to keep content rolling. Find out what works best for you. That could be any combination of platforms including Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, etc.

3. Generate Press Releases….

Read it all at Premium Beat