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FILM FIRE SALE
by Marc Beurteaux

FILM FIRE SALE by MARC BEURTEAUX

FIRE-SALE!!!! Ahhh, one of my favourite hyphenated words, especially when it refers to the purchasing of cheap film equipment. I really like to own as much equipment as possible, mostly because stop-motion animation takes so long to do that it's actually cheaper to own this stuff than rent it. However, I can't afford everything, especially things like C-stands (those spring loaded stands with the boom arms and knuckles that can hold anything - oh so handy) and camera lenses - which one can never have enough of.

Anyway, last week I received an email with the heading FIRE-SALE AT THE ORPHANAGE. Now, it's not what you think - an adoption centre was NOT selling kids at dirt cheap prices. However, if they were I'd have ten kids in my basement making Gucci bags for the streets of New York as you read this. No, The Orphanage was a stop-motion animation studio that'd gone belly up and by the sounds of the above-mentioned email it seemed like they were getting rid of everything. Oh baby!

So, bright and early one day last week I stopped off at the nearest bank, got out as much cash I could afford and headed to The Orphanage. I was excited, but drove slowly and took deep breathes. Visions of cheap geared tripod heads and studio lights danced in my head. It's a fire-sale, right? So the studio just wants to get rid of this stuff quickly. I knew they were moving out of this space and had no where else to go. I was ready to pillage and pillage hard.

I met my friend (a fellow animator and pillager) at the studio and we started sniffing around. The building was about 20 000 square feet and full of equipment, props, tools, supplies - you name it. Our hearts raced. There was so much stuff here that two poor animators needed for their films. It was going to be a good day.

It was kind of weird to see such a huge building filled with so much stuff just collecting dust. The show it produced hadn't been in production for almost two years. Everything had just sat around since then. But who was paying the rent for this place? It must've been a tonne of money each month. I know the studio had made a stop-motion series for the CBC that aired briefly, but was the CBC renting this space? Were taxpayers paying for a building that made a defunct TV show that never did 2 cents of business? My friend and I started to feel a little angry.

I knew one of the department heads at the CBC produced this show and had since distanced himself - due to a conflict of interest, or had he? Either way big money was spent on this show and still was being spent. In a way, all of this equipment that lay before us, belonged to taxpayers, ie: my friend and I. Regardless, we were prepared to buy what we could afford.

Finally, the guy who was in charge of the fire-sale turned up. We made a beeline to him and his, er, "assistant". We bombarded him with questions about the prices of the equipment we wanted. He stared at us blankly and then.... the penny dropped.

"Oh no," he smiled. "You can't buy any of this equipment today, there's a whole process involved. First you have to email my assistant with your offer, who then emails it to me and then I email it to the owner of the merchandise, who then makes his decision, emails me back, I email my assistant and she emails you."

My friend I were silent, the blood rising in our veins.

I answered, "We thought that this would be more of a cash and carry thing."

The blonde assistant chimed in, " Nooooo, it's not like a fire-sale or anything!"

"Well, the email said it was indeed a fire-sale." I pointed out.

"No, no, no." she said. "We don't have the authority to make the final decision on this stuff, that's up to..... (NOTE: Name Deleted.)"

As soon as I heard the name of the guy who owned this stuff, a cold shiver sped through my body. The studio lights flickered and somewhere in the distance, a dog howled. The guy who owned this stuff was also the creator of the show - someone I swore I would never do business with ever again - and I am just one of many, many people who swore the same thing.

Actually, my colleagues and I did a lot of swearing, usually at this guy. Why, you might ask? Three reasons, both very, very common in the film industry. Number one: this guy had such an enormous ego, even though he only made one noteworthy short film before his failed dabblings in an animated TV series. Number two: He directed from the editing room - too little, too late. Number three (and this is a direct result of his enormous ego): HE WOULD NEVER LISTEN TO ANYONE!

It was astounding really. Even when it came to technical aspects of shooting an animated TV show, which he knew nothing of (and failed to learn) he wouldn't listen to people who knew what they were talking about. As for making decisions about the writing of the show he really should've listened to someone who knew what good comedy writing was before he locked those scripts. It was one of the most beautiful stop-motion animated shows to look at (the props/sets crew and animators were amazing) but I don't think I ever sat through an entire show and never met anyone who did.

With yet one more disappointment caused by this guy and his show, my friend and I walked away from 20 000 square feet full of equipment. Who would get it, we didn't know. We didn't care. We knew the guy who "owned" it didn't care. The last I heard, he's now an American citizen and has a condo on the beach in Santa Monica, California.

Don't get me wrong I love the CBC and will always fight to keep it strong and we need to keep making animated shows in Canada, but this guy and his show represents what happens when the wrong people are put in charge. Did anyone enjoy "Godfather 3"? Enough said.

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