What Kinds of Film Should You Make

James Duval on Mano a Mano

James Duval on Mano a Mano

I always hear that you should do a horror film. I have often given this advice myself. I still think it is good advice but the world is changing. With the rise of the little to medium platforms and the requirements of nearly every film doing a multi-platform release. That advice may actually no longer be as accurate as it was in the past.

I think much of what is right really depends on what your personal agenda is – Now all of this is assuming you have already made at least one. Your first film need only serve the purpose of being a first film. The only advice I would give on a first film is how long should it be. Don’t be in the situation where you almost have a feature. If it is a short great, if it is a feature it has to be at least 70 minutes long. Also, if you think you do want a chance at getting it out into the world, do not include logos, copyrighted images, copyrighted music etc… in your film. If you do and you are doing it for artistic reasons, don’t expect anyone else to be able to get your film out.

Now you have made your first short or feature (remember 70 minutes minimum), you want to make another movie. I think it is now about where your heart is. There is making films for business reasons, and then there is making ones to show you are a director/write or producer. Both Business and the heart can now lead you to becoming a studio director. Passion will always lead you to making a better movie – assuming you know how to make a movie. If you do not know how it will lead you to getting through the process.

I know what I see when I view directors films and as a partner in Continuum Motion Pictures I review many films. I look for something that says this persons vision is special, he sees the world differently. Things like angles, effects and sadly even story can be fixed by bringing other people in. It is about that little quirk that exist in every great director discovered or undiscovered.

Continuum Motion Pictures Presents Zombies Vol. !

Continuum Motion Pictures Presents Zombies Vol. !

I love horror and science fiction films. It is my go to place. I think the genre allows for a lot of latitude and creativity. Dramas require a real understanding of the story as you are showing people the lives of other people and they have to be believable. I have seen very few well written dramas on the indie side of things. It is hard to fix it on the set with a drama. Additionally the actors need to be top notch. They have to transform. In horror and other action based genre’s much of the time your actors just need to react. Now when you do get a great horror film it is always acting plus story and great directing.

Coming of age films: Hmm love them most are really bad. Why? The person who is telling them rarely has come of age. I almost think you need to be over 35 to even have a chance to make one of those work from scratch. Though I have seen exceptions. And in those cases the directors and the writers have been over 40 in their hearts. What ever you do in this genre, do not be cliche and that is hard.

Your personal story: Probably not interesting. I don’t even think mine is and I am over 50 years old. Lots of people think their lives would make a great story. Yes if you fictionalize it. Some of the best bio-pics have very fictional moments to capture the essence of someones life. Also very few people can truly hide their personal story in a fiction environment.

I was once told that nearly everyones first films were about their sexuality or their politics. I have found this to be consistently true. It is probably best to avoid both and explore the world as an astronomer explores the night sky. There is so much out there why would you want to stare a the ground. Have fun with life and its possibilities.

Now Shock and Awe: After the 60s and early 70s it becomes a little hard to shock. Oh you can gore it up and their are many people who love that. You can surprise people by putting someone in a shocking position and it can work. But it only works if the story is solid. Gross out is easy at every level. Put your efforts into a solid story.

These are just my opinions of course. Let no one dissuade you from the film you want to make. Sometimes it really is this is the only film you could make. It is always better to be making a movie than not. The suggestions I am making are if you actually have a choice. Shoot within your resources and never apologize for that. If all you have is one room, hell make it the best one room film you can. I have seen some. It can work.

Next, keep track of reality. If it is your first or even second film, well it is only your first or second film. Just keep working to get better. Watch great films, it will help. And most important BELIEVE.

James Duval


The Making of A Movie: Mano a Mano – Continuum Motion Pictures

Danny Torres CEO: Continuum Pictures

Danny Torres CEO: Continuum Motion Pictures

We began the project Mano a Mano a while back. It seemed at the time that it would be a pretty straightforward project.  Well that is until Bruce, the pick up truck, began to behave like Bruce the shark, in Jaws. We went through five tires, a battery, were towed out of the desert nearly every day we shot with the truck, caught on fire and just sometimes stopped working.

Mano a Mano is the story of a group of Latin immigrants crossing the Arizona Boarder illegally. Shortly after crossing they run across two Minutemen in a truck who begin to hunt them down. It is a thriller in the tradition of Spielberg’s Dual and El Norte.

We were lucky our two leads Mesindo Pompa and Luis Villafranca both are phenomenal actors.  They brought rare depth to the characters, which is one of the reason the film is getting as much pre-release attention that it is.  I myself James Duval and Austin Anderson play the Minutemen. I think we may have be typed cast based on our looks.

Matt Dyer writer/director and Danny Torres producer/DP ran the show.  It was a definite group effort on all parts. The entire Continuum Pictures team was involved from its inset.  We would leave LA at 4am and drive out to Apple Valley every day.

The film is a testament to the actors and crew’s dedication. It has definitely been quite the journey.  Bruce broke down at least three times on the way to the location. Can’t really complain. When you see what we put Bruce the pickup truck through it is amazing it survived at all.

We chose to shoot Mano a Mano in Spanish. The script was originally in English, but as we moved into the material, it was obvious that this film had a voice and that voice was the voice of the people crossing the boarder.

Unlike many chase movies, the film takes the time to explore the reasons for the crossing beyond the standard cliché statements on immigration.  Mesindo Pompa’s character is driven by his own past, while Luis Villafranca’s is driven by a dream.

Danny Torres, the son of immigrants from El Salvador,  found a way to guide this film as a DP and Producer that has kept the film fresh and new.  When Matt could not be on the set, Danny would take the helm. This is definitely a team vision, down to the dialogue.

Danny Torres

worked with Matt through many drafts before giving his green light. It has become the flagship project for Continuum Pictures and its move into the studio system.  It shows how a little company started in the San Francisco Bay area, can come to LA and actually make a movie.

Mano a Mano Temp Poster

Mano a mano directed by Danny Torres CEO Continuum Motion Pictures

Continuum Motion Pictures since mid 2007 as of this date has completed five features from pre to post, Convict directed by Austin Anderson, The Absent directed by Jason Durdon, Sabor Tropical directed by Jorge Ameer, Ocean Front Property directed by Joseph Neibich and Mano a Mano.  Additionally Continuum Pictures has reposted House of Adam directed by Jorge Ameer,  posted Ten Cents Short directed by Austin Anderson, and many short films.

Mano a Mano represents a leap in Continuum Pictures production ability. These lessons now take us into our next slate of projects. The whole team moves forward, with us recasting Mesindo Pompa and Luis Villa Franca in roles, as well embracing a new set of directors from our team, Quan Tran, David Scruggs, P. David Miller and Tyler Ross.

Danny Torres CEO Continuum Pictures & Austin Anderson

Danny Torres on location

A movie is often a metaphor for the life experience of its director.  Mano a Mano has become that metaphor for us as filmmakers and as a company. The Continuum Pictures team has learned along the way, you really have to want to be here and do this for it to work. Mano a Mano is the journey of two men who want to really be here. It is a reflection of the American Dream and the difficulties in finding it.

Continuum Pictures and the Future – 2012 and Onward a Personal Perspective

The Future and Continuum Pictures – 2012 and Onward

Dir. Jason Durdon, Prod. Danny Torres

I always want to start these blogs out like a spy novel where you are never sure where the story is going to end up. For me this always seems more appropriate than a straightforward approach to explaining the journey. I always know who the good guys are and am almost always surprised who turns out to be the bad guys. There is always the internal struggle amongst the team as to which direction to go, and even though I don’t know how, the good guys seem to always end the novel, the winners.

Continuum Pictures journey has been much like that. Somehow even though we struggle to understand the why of the silly events of each day, it almost always adds up to a win. And when it does not, after a while we are grateful for the understanding that it is not always best to get what you want.
Last year (2011) was quite the year. As always we began it with great difficulty and impending doom. We were stuck in production and post, still trying to move into some business model that made sense. We had stuck to our business plan, as we always do and it seemed to be taking us forward, even if painfully.
We had accrued a few haters along the way as well. And an understanding about why some people even friends don’t make it. People seem to think this is supposed to be easy, or that their personal agendas are more important than the group agenda. Even the word “nice” had to be redefined for us. December further clarified this for us.
I personally learned that people do not understand silence, that seem to think it is a form of agreement, when it really is a form of  “I can’t really tell you what I think because my mother raised me not to say such mean things.” Hmmm
We had some casualties and some wounded that may or may not make it along the way. Friendship and trust are often put to trial within the film industry. It is a hard thing ro realize that you really don’t know people.
I have learned once again for the 500th time that people are fragile and scared, and most base their lives on these fears. Fear is the number one killer of careers, friendship and really all around trust. People forget that they are responsible for the knowledge in their heads. I have had to use the phrase, remember when we helped you – we are the good guys, we are not those people.
We live in an age where if it is written it must be true. We have forgotten that people say things, lie or just simply misrepresent for their own gain, or more sadly emotional satisfaction, even to their own destruction. I don’t know why, I think people have been trying to figure out that question a long time.  I think it is fear.
Continuum Pictures Studios for me represents a chance to work with people who still believe in their dreams, or are at least trying too.
2012 will be like any year since the beginning of our film journeys. It will be painful, hard and difficult, we will even sometimes pay to much on personal levels, but in the end we will end up further ahead.
P. David Miller, Scott Hayman, Danny Torres
I am grateful to team I work with and belong to. I am grateful to Danny Torres, CEO of Continuum Pictures, Stephan Langford and Robert Dudelson of Dream Factory, I am grateful to Paramount Studios for the opportunity and privilege of being on the lot. I am grateful to my family who allow me the time under difficult circumstances to pursue this journey and I am grateful to the entire Continuum Pictures team and our many friends who have taken the journey with us.
James Duval

ReBlog: Writing In Alaska when it is -50 below

Near My Home in Alaska

Winter 2005: Live Journal Blog (original link)

It is starting to be Winter in Alaska flash back to 2005

September 28th, 2010
Current Location:Delta Junction
Alaska and the Cold:

My friends accuse me of not writing much about my bazaar life. For that reason when I come across anything that is a snippet of the experience I don’t talk about, well now I share it.

Emails from 50 below zero Fahrenheit. January 2005

Okay I was wondering why at 20 below zero the propane stopped working. So my mother in law calls this morning, lives about 800 feet up the hill and says its 50 below. So I look at our thermometer out the window and it reads 22 or 25. So I tell Robin oh by the way the propane isn’t working on the stove. Now I should have put two and two together, but hell I was in the middle of putting a chinese college kid, a leftist white girl and his goofy friend up against some Nazis and hell I am on page 25. So me in my wonderland, well it clicked. so I went outside to turn off the propane so that it doesn’t start working with no pilot lights and then explode the house when the furnace kicks on and low and behold I flick the thermometer and just like in the movies that needle drops down to 50 below.

Well that means we are not sending our kids to school today. And we are not going to town. And we are making the mormon missionaries stay in town and not drive the 30 miles or so to our house and die along the way for dinner. But it means I will probably get a lot of writing done because that means I also don’t have to do the work outside today.

Continuum Pictures – Producer James Duval – Links Around The Web

Continuum Pictures – Producer James Duval – Links Around The Web.

This is a Blog that Shares the information that is available on the Web for James Duval. It inlcudes a brief history, links, early film posters and photographs.

The Official Company Continuum Pictures:  Site Blog

Welcome To The Blog About James Duval – Continuum Pictures

James Duval on Mano a Mano

James Duval

This is an on going blog and discussion regarding the creative efforts of James Duval. James Duval began his filmmaking career the late 80’s after meeting a writer. His first screenplay was titled Bloodless Scream. In 1991 he moved to San Francisco to attend San Francisco state University. This is where he met his friend and fellow filmmaker Mark Lillig. Shortly after this meeting, both he and Mark left San Fransico State to pursue production on their first feature.  After several attempts to complete a film it was descided to form a studio. Mark Lillig and James Duval where joined by Richard Scott and Tyler Ross. In the mid 90s Independent Image Entertainment was born in Oakland California. Under the (IIE) banner the team began to experiment with production models, shooting short films, music videos and features.  Four  films were born out of this model, No Strings Attached, written and directed by Mark Lillig, Wrestling Days and Troubadours, both written and directed by Dan Albracht, and Ten Cents Short written and directed by Austin Anderson. Through these productions Jaes was able to build the team that ultimately became Continuum Pictures in 2005.

In early 2005 James Duval stepped down as head of Independent Image Entertainment. Danny Torres was appointed by the long time partners at the age of 21 to head the company. At the end of 2005 the team decided to form a more studio driven company called Continuum Pictures and to step away from the indie film model. Using James’ production model Continuum Pictures began producing film in Los Angeles.

James Duval, Mustafa Waiz, Dylan Kellihg (Delkha)

In October 2008 after discussions with Austin Anderson who had made the move to Los Angeles as well, it was descided to create Filmplane Entertainment for the purpose of creating high quality independent films on any format in any genre. Additionally Filmplane was to develop new talent in writer, directors, producers and actors. On Halloween night at a company party it was annouced that Austin Anderson would head the new independent company. Filmplane went on to do award winning short, music videos and co-produced the feature Sabor Tropical,, written and directed by Jorge Ameer in Panama

James Duval in Alaska wiht family

In late 2010 Austin Anderson made the move back to San Francisco to pursue his own creative endeavors.  It was descided to appoint Jason Durdon head of Filmplane. Jason Durdon and James Duval had previously worked together on the The Absents, written and directed by Jason Durdon and the prize winning short film Thirteen or So Minutes, written and directed by William Branden Blinn.

In 2011 Jason Durdon became a full partner in Continuum Pictures along with Mesindo Pompa the lead of Mano a Mano and Taught in Cold Blood.  James Duval focuses on team building, financing and distribution of both Continuum Pictures and Filmplane’s feature films.  Additionally James is a writer having written many of the original screenplays upon which Continuum Pictures is built.