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The year-end Holidays are a time for giving and sharing and also oddly a time for crass commercial pushing of products, goods and services.  In the spirit of those Holidays I’d like to offer some DVD titles that are, in my humble opinion, great projects and in need of support.  INDIE film is a mercurial thing and it takes dedication, hard work and luck for any one movie to find an audience.  In full disclosure I’d also like to submit that I was involved with these movies in one way or another, but I am so impressed with them I wanted to share them with all of you.

Let’s start with an HD INDIE feature called “Box Elder”.  This is a project in the spirit of (maybe) Kevin Smith and I think the tag line sums it up nicely – “On the road to nowhere these guys call – SHOTGUN!”  I had the pleasure of mixing this movie and working closely with Director Todd Sklar and Producer Brock Williams.

Whenever I am bidding on a feature project one of my first questions is “Do you have distribution?”  There are a number of reasons for this but for my bidding purposes this will mean that if the answer is “yes”, I will get a long list of “deliverables” which will specify how the audio is to be finalized and delivered.  Often I hear “no distribution, we’re going to hit the festival circuit and then it’ll get picked up.”  I won’t go into the pitfalls of this “model” at this time, but filmmakers following this “plan” may well be disappointed.

The team from Box Elder had/have a quite novel approach.  When I asked Todd Sklar about distribution or film festivals for “Box Elder” he said “no, I have a different plan.”  He instead was “going on tour.”  There is a lot of heat about Todd and his tour which can be found here on his website. I also did an interview with Todd for this blog in which he discusses his unique model.  Those who are interested in the trials, pitfalls, triumphs and solutions to INDIE filmmaking should give it a read.  Those who are particularly interested in sound for film should read it.  And not just “sound people”, Todd had many insights regarding audio when he got the post stage and also about his location recordist Mr. Jesse “C-Nug” Brown.  Kudos to Todd for spying back on the process and understanding how to make things even better next time.  And kudos to the Box Elder team for such an entertaining production on a shoe string budget.  The new 2-disk set is available from Todd on the “Box Elder” website. Buy two and share!

Next up is the documentary “Fat Head” produced and starring Tom Naughton.  A perceptive and well researched project that concludes that everything you know about food, diet and eating is wrong.  Tom makes a very persuasive argument.  In the process he tackles the FDA, The Center For Science in the Public Interest, the US Government and documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock.  This is a highly recommended documentary for those interested in better nutrition, weight loss and the often dubious practices of the government and documentary filmmakers.fathead

A wealth of additional information on the doc is available on the movie’s website. Tom is a recovering stand-up comic and a highly intelligent and entertaining guy.  His doc is deeply researched, filled with great facts and figures that are fleshed out by wonderful and funny animations and sharp observations about “the great experiment” that the US government has foisted on an unsuspecting populace.  It is not available in US until Feb 3, 2009 but it can be purchased directly through

One of my New Years wishes will come true in ’09 if I can see Tom and Morgan sitting across from Oprah and debating the merits of a “fast food diet!”  As you can see from the picture “You’ve been fed a load of bologna!”  I have many favorite moments from this movie but I particularly like the news footage of the McGovern sub-committee telling the scientists to “develop cholesterol free eggs.”  Yep, we vote ’em in….

Finally I want to bring to your attention a very different sort of documentary by filmmaker Costa Mantis.  “Flying Pumpkins – The Legend of Punkin Chunkin”.  Costa made a delightful feature doc about an annual event held in Delaware each year.  Started as a simple challenge between two bored neighbors about who could throw a pumpkin farther across a field with a home-made contraption, it’s now a four day event that benefits charity.  It’s a fascinating look at an obsession of kids, young adults and the young at heart who build awe-inspiring contraptions to throw – pumpkins.

flyingpumpkinsYou can find a wealth of information regarding the movie and and Costa at his website here. You’ll see retired IBM execs, journalists, mechanics and engineers, scouts and students perfecting all sorts of machines to toss pumpkins.  It’s grown to a point that there are categories for catapults, air canons, torsion contraptions and more as well as kid and adult divisions.  It is beautifully photographed with a terrific bluegrass score.  This one is for the family.  In a time of ever decreasing quality family fare this one is truly for the young and old.  Kudos to Costa and the Pumpkin team as well as all the participants in the annual event.  The doc shows a cross section of event participants as they build and assemble their monster machines and then shoot pumpkins across a field! This disk is available on the website listed above.

Again in the interest of full disclosure I am not a producer, investor or financial participant of these movies in any way.  There is no financial incentive or renumeration for this post or any of my endless PR for these shows.  I am a true fan and friend of all these filmmakers and understand the difficulty of INDIE film and documentary filmmaking.  I am a champion of them and their grit and determination to finish these projects and I, in my small way, want to spread the word about their acheivements.  Rent, buy, or attend a screening of these movies and become a supporter of INDIE filmmaking!