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Daily Reads: 'Snowpiercer' an Indie Savior or Casualty, the Music of 'Twin Peaks' and More

Criticwire By Max O'Connell | Criticwire July 28, 2014 at 9:18AM

Plus: the history of TMZ, and Joe Swanberg on the financial life of an independent filmmaker.
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Chris Evans and Song Kang-ho in Bong Joon-ho's 'Snowpiercer'
Chris Evans and Song Kang-ho in Bong Joon-ho's 'Snowpiercer'

Criticwire's Daily Reads brings today's essential news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. "Snowpiercer": Indie Savior or Casualty? The road to the screen for Bong Joon-ho's English-language debut "Snowpiercer" has been a long and hard one, but has it come out triumphant? After a spectacular first two weeks in theaters, Radius-TWC has moved the film onto VOD platforms, and while the film has done very well in that arena so far, box office experts have crunched the numbers and determined it might have done even better had it stayed primarily in theaters for a little while longer.

Indiewire’s Anne Thompson and Tom Brueggemann crunched the numbers, comparing the potential returns of a successful wide theatrical release for "Snowpiercer" and a successful theatrical-VOD combination. Their conclusion: The theatrical option would have ultimately netted about $18 million, after deducting all other costs and factoring in ancillary revenue from later VOD, home video sales, and streaming services such as Netflix. The current limited-release-VOD option may end up netting about $13 million. Read more.


2. The Financial Life of an Independent Filmmaker. 
Aspiring directors dream of breaking through at Sundance, but what are the financial realities of being an indie filmmaker? Prolific indie director Joe Swanberg (whose new film "Happy Christmas" is now in theaters) talked to Filmmaker Magazine about the lag time between his making a film and his getting paid for it, as well as his raising a family on what's not always the steadiest income.

With "Drinking Buddies," which I shot in the summer of 2012, I [got paid] to make the movie. I haven’t made any [additional] money from "Drinking Buddies," and I probably won’t. But what it’s changed for my career has been huge. Because of that, I directed an episode of the HBO show "Looking," which was great. I did a movie called "Happy Christmas," where I worked with some of the same actors. So, the residual effects of "Drinking Buddies" have been really helpful in getting Kris and I to a place where we feel neutral. I still don’t feel like I’m making money, but 2013 was the first year where I felt like I wasn’t going further into debt. Read more.


3. The Music of "Twin Peaks." David Lynch fanatics might not have the new project they'd prefer from the director, but the release of the new Blu-Ray box set of "Twin Peaks" has enthusiasm for the show as high as its been in years. Rolling Stone's Kory Grow talked to composer Angelo Badalamenti and singer Julee Cruise about the cult show's haunting score, as well as their collaboration on his film "Blue Velvet." 

Badalamenti recalls working on the soundtrack to "Twin Peaks" concurrently with several other projects, including "Floating Into the Night." But he says the heart of the series' music came from sitting side-by-side with Lynch, as he improvised what became "Laura Palmer's Theme," on a piano. "David said, 'Start it off foreboding, like you're in a dark wood, and then segue into something beautiful to reflect the trouble of a beautiful teenage girl. Then, once you've got that, go back and do something that's sad and go back into that sad, foreboding darkness,'" the composer recalls. "Maybe it was luck, but literally, in one take, I translated those words into music." Read more.


4. The History of TMZ. Few popular websites have (deservedly) earned the ire that TMZ has. The scandal and gossip rag has become a giant that's so click-hungry that it'll tolerate poor reporting and worse from its reporters for the sake of a story. BuzzFeed's Anne Helen Petersen has the down and dirty history of TMZ, its founder Harvey Levin, and how an organization became a self-sustaining monster.

 In November 2006, for example, a source came forward with the recording of the Michael Richards racist comedy routine. The source wanted several thousand dollars for the tape, and TMZ would pay it, but the source wanted the cash immediately — as in before-the-banks-opened immediately. Levin couldn’t write a personal check and allow the money to be traced back to him, and he, like everyone else, had a limit on the amount of cash he could take out in a single day from the ATM. His solution, according to multiple staffers working for the site at the time: Call every TMZ staffer and force them to immediately take out their ATM max and bring it down to the TMZ offices. The staffers were reimbursed, but the story highlights just what lengths TMZ was willing to go to obtain — and pay — a source. Read more.


5. Measuring the Social Impact of Documentary Films...Or Not. Some socially-oriented documentaries exist to spur change or awareness, but the best transcend this and work first and foremost as films. That's as it should be, says Alison Byrne Fields, the president of the creative strategy group Aggregate. Writing for PhilanThropic, Fields wrote about the possible drawbacks of measuring the effectiveness of these documentaries by how much the get people to act.

Yes, let's measure the emotional impact that films create: the anger, sadness, sense of injustice, and/or empathy and admiration for those who are suffering or those who are working against the odds to create change. At the same time, let's not dismiss films that do not, on their own, provoke immediate outrage or action as being somehow less important to social change work. Think of the stories that have introduced you to new ideas, new worlds, and new people. Think of the films that have challenged your deeply held beliefs. They are no less valuable in the grand scheme of things just because they didn't cause you to sign a petition or join a protest.

Read more.

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This article is related to: Snowpiercer, VOD, Documentary, Joe Swanberg, Daily Reads


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