20 octobre 2006

Doug Cawker: Artiste à l'honneur

DOUG CAWKER is a brillant photographer and filmmaker. Born in Canada, he began a career in the Motion Picture Industry in LA when he won a green card in the US Immigration Lottery. He worked as an apprentice editor on Quentin Tarentino's Reservoir Dogs, Michael Moore's Canadian Bacon and Roger Corman's Ultra Violet. Then he wrote, directed and produced the independant feature Born to Lose
He wrote a new screenplay The Great Beast with his partner Danny Porfirio (Dominick & Eugene) and they were invited at the Robert Redford's Sundance Producers Conference with this project which is still under consideration by many producers.
To see his complete bio, please visit his website http://www.hdrphotography.ca

If you want to contact him, you can write him at astorfilms@gmail.com
I had the privilege to get an interview from Doug a couple of months ago.
e it is!
In the same time, let's enjoy some of his beautiful photographies...
© All right reserved Doug Cawker photography

Hi Doug! Thank you for your time.
How did you break into Hollywood?

I moved to Los Angeles in 1991 and my friend Pat was working as an apprentice editor at B movie pioneer, Roger Corman’s film studio, Concorde Pictures in Venice Beach. On his last day of work, he needed to drop by and pick up his pay check and I asked him if I could come along. While we were there, I was introduced to editor, Kevin Tent and Kevin had previously edited “Basket Case 2,” and “Frankenhooker,” two horror films that I’d seen and enjoyed immensely. I believe that Kevin was impressed with my film knowledge and liked me so he offered me a job as an apprentice editor on the spot for his next picture, “Ultra Violet” starring Esai Morales (“La Bamba”). The funny thing is that in the editing rooms at Corman’s studios, I was surrounded by graduates of NYU and UCLA and I was just a Canadian film fan who didn’t have to spend $150,000 dollars of daddy’s money for a film degree to get the same job & the irony wasn’t lost on me! J By the way, Kevin ended up editing the indie smash hit “Sideways” and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow!

You worked with Michael Moore and Quentin Tarantino, could you talk a little about your experience with these two men?

Sure! I worked with Quentin first. What people frequently forget is that when I was the apprentice editor on “Reservoir Dogs,” no one knew who Quentin was as because it was his first film.. He drove a Geo Metro at the time. We got along like a ‘house on fire’ because we had similar film influences. We both loved art house directors like Godard, Truffaut, and Wim Wenders, as well as b-movie directors like Roger Corman and Ed Wood. The weird thing was that a few of the other apprentices and assistants didn’t seem to know anything about film history! It was really odd, but I suppose a great number of people enter the industry because they think it’s a ‘cool profession’ but really don’t have the passion to enjoying a broad spectrum of motion pictures. I used to sit with Quentin and editor Salley Menke every day during our lunch breaks and talk about movies like we were back in the video store. The sad part is that once “Reservoir Dogs” was finished and came to the Toronto Festival, I happened to be in the city at the same time and I put a call into the festival office to try and track him down and never got a call – actually I didn’t speak with him ever again after working on the film. I really don’t blame Quentin though as his rise to fame as a director was really meteoric and I’m sure that everybody came out of the ‘wood work’ and wanted something from him and I was likely one call out of dozens of people who wanted to be Quentin’s new friend so I let it slide. I didn’t want to turn into one of those L.A. types who eventually ask, “Can you HELP me?” I understand that after “Pulp Fiction,” people would bow to him on the streets of Japan – like her was visiting royalty or something. What I saw in the editing room all those years ago was how serious he was about crafting a great debut film and I’m sure that he’s just as committed to the projects that he’s producing today.

I only worked with Michael Moore very briefly while he was getting his movie “Canadian Bacon” prepared for the American Film Market in Santa Monica. I thought that film was pretty awful too and I’m always surprised when I meet people who found it funny! Most people don’t know this but Madonna’s company, Maverick, co-produced that movie as well and I met her briefly at a screening at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. She arrived with a ‘boy-toy’, dressed head-to-toe exactly like she was and I found it slightly creepy to be honest with you, but in person she also commanded a lot of power. No one told me that she was coming to the screening and it scared the hell out of me! The other producing partners from Propaganda Films (largely a music video production house) also showed up and it feels good to finally say this to your internet audience.. They were complete jerks! I was the only one privy to this but I also heard one of them screaming at Michael Moore after the screening about the “third act” in a hallway and Michael didn’t deserve this from some rich, connected film dink at all. Michael was a great guy and also seemed to really like Canada too, which was nice to discover. By the way, I really love all of his documentaries and it was vindicating to see him win the Palm d’Or at Cannes for “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Do you think somebody who wants to become a filmmaker should go to film school?

Good question! From what I’ve learned over the years, film school is great for connections and that’s about it. If someone’s considering taking the plunge I’d recommend USC, UCLA, or NYU as almost all of the sons and daughters of the studio executives, actors, and agents attend these schools. If someone wants to learn how to make a film, they should just go and do it. Join a local film co-op (if one’s available) or get a good digital camcorder & Final Cut Pro and off you go! I wish that I’d made a few shorts before embarking on my first feature to be honest with you but ego got in the way, as it frequently does with first-timers.

What advises would you give to people who’d like to become a documentary of film director?

Features are so different from the world of documentaries and I know much more about full-length motion pictures so I believe that I can speak somewhat authoritatively on that subject. First, make sure that you’re script is solid! If it’s not on paper, it’s not going to mysteriously get better with fancy camera angles and cool editing. Second, hire casting people with experience and listen to them and cast the strongest actors. Don’t go for the best-looking people or girlfriends or boyfriends in the supporting lead roles. Seriously, I’ve seen whole feature films ruined with this kind of casting and hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted because the distributors walked out of the screening room half of the way through their movies, never to return. Third, know your audience! Just because you think its great doesn’t mean that everyone else will. Ego is one of the biggest detriments to the whole filmmaking process. Fourth, surround yourself with skilled people and listen to them! All of their expertise will make you look better because in the end you’ll have a stronger film. Lastly, shoot the movie that you really want to live with for a few years. I’d met so many people who would say to me “I’m shooting a genre picture first – I’ll recoup the money, make a big profit, and then make the art house film that I really want next.” And because they really don’t have a feel for the horror genre or b-movies, they end up making a complete turd and lose all of their money.

How did you come to direct a movie dedicated to a Punk Band?

Frankly, I’m a punk rocker so I know the subject well! J I’d played in bands for years including a group with Dead Kennedy’s guitarist East Bay Ray in San Francisco many years ago and recently recorded with members of Social Distortion, T.S.O.L., and the Adolescents so I’m still active in the scene, even though I’m pretty grizzled now. Another huge factor was that back in the mid-90’s, all of the shoestring features that were getting noticed and garnering careers for these first-time directors were gun movies like “Laws of Gravity” and “El Mariachi” and I wanted to do something original and also more importantly, a film that fit my minuscule budget. That’s another mistake that first-timers frequently make is that they try to create “Lawrence of Arabia” with no money and it really shows on screen. A $100,000 credit card film isn’t going to LOOK like the 20 to 100 million dollar film that influenced them and people will flee the screening room in horror! But back to the big “why”.. I also felt that punk hadn’t been represented accurately in Hollywood films as most of the people writing and directing punk rock-themed movies haven’t been ever been in the punk scene and it shows in their pictures. But then again, some people also might not feel that my shoestring picture represented their reality of what punk is either so I suppose that it’s subjective.

Which difficulties did you encounter to achieve this project?

Oh God, how much time have you got? J When I shot my film back in the mid-90’s the video revolution hadn’t begun so I was forced to shoot in 16mm film and it was SO expensive. I ended up selling my house in Toronto to finish it but only after being approached by a senior executive from Miramax Films at a work-in-progress screening in New York who told me that they were tracking my work, so I wasn’t completely convoluted. J I also somehow alienated some family members and long-time friends in this whole six-year process as well. Another huge problem was that I made it in Los Angeles and as it’s the ‘movie capital of the world’, everyone thinks that you’re going to create a huge piece of crap and some members of the cast and crew largely looked at my film as selected scenes for their demo reels. Having to barter for services for the better part of six years was exhausting at best too. The actors were excellent in “Born to Lose” but there’s also the inevitable arguments that go along with this part of the creative process as well. Then there’s the whole politics involved in trying to gain acceptance to the prestigious film festivals and don’t forget about trying to secure distribution from a myriad of snakes and weasels! It really was like going to war for all of those years but the weirdest thing is that after all of this rather negative stuff, I still don’t regret a moment of the process in the creation & distribution of my film. Seeing it on video shelves across North America and getting the soundtrack released all over the world really made it worth while. It got OUT THERE and it meant a lot to me to make it to the proverbial finish line. J If I did it all over again with what I know now though, it would be a WAY better film.

Where and how did you get this passion for the punk music?

I’ve always loved rock and roll since I was a kid. I was a complete nut for Alice Cooper and used to buy magazines like Hit Parader and Creem and look at these weird photos of bands like the Ramones, The Stooges, and the New York Dolls and wonder, “who ARE these freaky bands?” Then I bought the Dolls first record and as corny as it sounds, their music changed my life. They sounded like a rawer version of the Rolling Stones with WAY better lyrics and I really liked their rather shocking ‘drag’ appearance too. From there it was a straight line to the Ramones and Iggy, and then I moved to Toronto in the late 70’s just when punk was started to get huge and I jumped head-first into the scene. To me punk was always just stripped down, raw rock n’roll – the kind of music that made me feel like I could get up on stage and play in a band. It had violence and sex in it too which was also appealing, and the early punk rockers like Lou Reed and John Lydon had something to say.. no more “dragons & queens” in their lyrics, which seemed to permeate the music in the 70’s and I could never relate to that kind of rock n’ roll.

Why did you decide to leave hollywood and come back to Canada?

I left Hollywood about a year ago after twelve years in the States. The first nine years were great – working in editing and writing, producing, and directing my own feature film – living on the Venice Canals surrounded by successful artists.. it was an excellent life. When I moved to no-man’s land between Hollywood and Venice for my final three years, I was pretty poor and living a shoddy existence. Persistent gun fire, neighbourhood Cholos giving me dirty looks, it wasn’t good. I felt like Kevin Bacon in “The Big Picture.” My mother’s also extremely elderly and as she really needed me here, the timing felt right to come back and help her out.

Today, you’re doing photography and you’re very talented.

Would you like to pursue a career as a professional photographer or do you plan to go back to your filmmaking career?

Thanks for the kind words, Cecile! Over the past six months, I’ve worked really hard at learning how to craft an HDR photograph.. Sometimes I take as many as 250 shots a day and tone-blending the pictures with a variety of exposures so it’s been a lot of work but the positive comments have been really rewarding as well! The thing that I like about photography is that it’s an ACHEIVABLE creative medium. You don’t need tens of millions of dollars to do it – just a camera and good ideas. I’ll still try to get Danny’s screenplays to executives that hopefully have vision and are willing to go out on a huge limb but I’m not optimistic as there are so many other factors at play in the world of film producing – like nepotism, connections, and money! J

How did you discover the HDR photography?

A friend of mine in Calgary was searching for something unrelated on the web and somehow stumbled upon a page which showed some HDR photographs and he called me up to check them out. From there we found Flickr and the Photomatix and HDR group pages and were completely blown away by the beautiful shots that we discovered there. I used to be into 3D photography.. I still have my 3D camera actually, but the U.S. lab went out of business in the late 90’s so I’ve always been peripherally interested in photography. My world really changed once I bought a Nikon d70 and the program Photomatix though. People don’t realize that it’s a lot of work with layers and blending in Photoshop to create these shots though. Sometimes it takes over two to three hours to get a picture the way that I like it.

What advises would you give to beginners in photography and to beginners in HDR technique?

Take a lot of photographs! Seriously, out of about forty shots, I’ll get one that I think is really strong. Read advice on the different message boards on Flickr. It’s been an invaluable source to learn more about tone-blending and how to make my shots look better. Try to develop your own style.. That’s one of the things that I love about photos from people like ‘stuckincustoms’ and 'kris kros’; you can tell that it’s one of their pictures.

Would you like to say something else about you, your hopes, your life or your projects?

I’d love to see someone in one of the large cities like New York, London, Paris, or Los Angeles get a group show going featuring some of the most interesting HDR photographers. This medium is so new and it’s needs to “punch through” to the above ground media much more to become a viable commercial entity. The New York Times article featuring HDR photography and Kris Kros’s work was excellent. I’ve seen the HDR haters calling this a fad, etc. and to me they just seem nuts. I mean, who doesn’t want to see a photo with a broader dynamic range? It’s a gimmick? Tell the creators of Photoshop that as they just built tone-blending into their newest version of the program! HDR is the future and the future is now!

Thank you Doug!!!

;-))) I really wish you a great success Doug. I love the vision you have through your camera! So PLEASE KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK for our delight!

To see the trailer of Born to Lose: CLICK!

La version française de cet article ne sera peut-être pas en ligne très vite ou bien attendra-t-elle de figurer sur mon nouveau site en construction! Un peu de patience les amis, mon travail et mon petit garçon me prennent beaucoup beaucoup de temps... et il file si vite !!! Merci pour votre indulgence ;-)

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