Surviving as a Director and Where Do You Go

With the Killers Mask from Cider Springs Slaughter

With the Killers Mask from Cider Springs Slaughter

As a kid I remember dreaming of being on the set. The actions inside my head took place in dolly moves and crane shots. I did not grow up to be a director. I did grow up with a love for film and those who make them. I also feel I have gained a little bit of an understanding o what makes filmmakers tick.

Making a movie is always a mixed bag of emotions and agendas. Directors pin their hopes on a film and what it might do for them. Good directors usually can manage both and keep their focus on the film itself.

Continuum Motion Pictures The Team

Continuum Motion Pictures

It’s the agenda I want to focus on. I am making a basic assumption here, that the director wishes to make another film, make a bigger film and hopefully someday have a shot at making the big films.

I will share with you a bit of history I know. I have a friend who has directed a couple of big movies. He even went number 1 in the box office twice. His secret before he got to direct his first almost major film, he had directed probably a good 15 to 20 short films. With the digital world being what it is and the fact that all the filmmaking tools are now in the hands of almost anyone who wants to make a movie. Make movies. Make a lot of them. Set some rules so that if one of them gets attention it can go some where. Rules as I mentioned before about music and logos. Be working every chance you get.

The Worst Movie Ever and it is seen every where.

The Worst Movie Ever and it is seen every where.

I have had the chance to talk to many filmmakers around the world. Those that set their minds to it and take action make movies. Not always the best movies but they make them.  That has been our approach. Stay in production. Along the way you meet others that want to make movies as well. Work with them. Build a team.

The failure is rarely in the production values or technique, people just want to hear and see a good story. Take a moment on your stories. Work on a couple of ideas at the same time. Try and work with many writers or people who are trying to be writers. The number of drafts is what is important on a script. By definition a first draft no matter how good it is, is bad. Work out the stories so they make sense. And if you are making a movie that does not make sense intentionally embrace it and people will notice.

To quote World War Z when Brad Pitts character is talking to the Latino family: Those that keep moving live, those that stay die. There is truth to that in filmmaking. Keep moving and keep filming.


Getting a Movie Started: Step One – Team Building

On Set: Cider Springs Slaughter

On Set: Cider Springs Slaughter

I realize for many people this will be an “ox before the cart beginning”. I have always been told, find a project then find the team to make it. I know that can work. I also know that the world is littered with the bodies of unfinished films. By the way I define a finished film by; is it out there and people can see it.

Getting a film from point A to Z is almost impossible. It is easy to get people excited about a project. It is difficult to keep them excited when they find out that it is more work than it is fun. This is why I say building your team is the first step. You want to find people who are committed to the work that is filmmaking. You want people who see your project and you as a necessary step along the way to their dream of becoming something in film.

Another contradicting point: It does not matter if they know what they are doing. It matters are they willing to learn. Odds are you don’t know what you are doing either. Once you have a group who want to make a movie, find out what each person does know, or more importantly who they know that can help you a little bit along the way.

James Duval, Mustafa Waiz Dylan Kellihg (Delkha)

James Duval, Mustafa Waiz Dylan Kellihg (Delkha)

My first experience with this was with Devon Ryan. I was attending San Francisco State University with a friend. We met another young man there who had shot a short film. I had a script (which surprised him. I guess people had ideas not paper). He knew more than we did. We began our journey that lead us to meeting Devon Ryan a special effects guru, who had taught many people in the industry. I meet with him with my fairly standard slasher pick screenplay and asked, would he help us. He gave me a budget for the effects which we could not afford naturally, and then made an offer. If we gave his students the credits, he would do it at cost.

As I was leaving, he said I had learned the most important thing in making movies, Ask. And he was right. I ask lots of questions. What do you want to do? Do you know how to do it? Will you let us shoot here? Will you help us make a movie?

James DuvalEveryone wants to make a movie. It takes dedicated people at every point to make it happen. If you have them, you can make any movie. It simply takes time. You need to be excited about your movie. More importantly, you need to be excited about being able to actually finish the movie.

I quietly sneak out an help students on films and first time filmmakers. Usually the ones who ask. I don’t get to do it as much now, but I always have time to talk about how they can do it.

Continuum Motion Pictures The Team

Continuum Motion Pictures: The Team

Much of my team has been with me for years and I miss the ones who are not with us now. People get feelings hurt, or have girl friends or boy friends, sometimes both, parents and responsibilities that find them in life. These can get in the way. In the end it has to be about the dream and making the dream real.

Finding a team and sticking by them, makes the dreams more likely to become reality.

Jame Duval
Continuum Motion Pictuers

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.

Response by Danny Torres Continuum Motion Pictures Producer

Continuum Motion Pictures CEO Danny torres on location.

Continuum Motion Pictures CEO Danny torres on location.

When I was in the fourth grade, I did something stupid. My teacher, in an effort to instruct my class on how to properly write correspondence, had everyone write a letter to a sixth grader. I was randomly assigned a particular student who was a bit unusual, but overall a nice kid who had never done a thing to me in my life. I, in an attempt to be funny or playful or perhaps not even knowing what else to write, proceeded to compose a letter to this student where I called him weird, odd and an assortment of other things that were honestly, mean and undeserved. Two days later, my teacher started the day by lecturing to my class about what had happened, though she refused to name the student who had written the letter. She stated she wanted everyone to know about this act of cruelty and that she would deal with the offending student later in private. As she continued on explaining how what I had done was wrong, I raised my hand, and then simply said aloud, “I did it.” I ended up apologizing to my teacher, the student, and the student’s teacher. I don’t know or remember why I wrote the letter and I don’t know or remember why I admitted to my class that I was the one who did it, and to this day, I regret any harm I may have done to that student. But the two things I learned that day were—one, learn to treat others well; and two, my teacher respected me for having the willingness to admit to my mistake.

Danny Torres speaking to Cameras at IV Film Festival

Danny Torres speaking to Cameras at IV Film Festival

As you may or may not know, there is currently an individual anonymously posting things about me online under the guise of different people. I know who the individual is, but I will not name them here or at any point publicly because frankly, what purpose would that serve? Would it not just maintain a perpetual circle of malice? In the film industry, you will come across a lot of people, some of whom you will love and some of whom you wish to part ways with as you simply don’t mesh. But unfortunately, there are times that you meet people who have become embittered and hardened by the difficulty of this industry, and in truth, it is hard. To quote Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.” But unfortunately, rather than just continue pushing forward, people feel the need to place their anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction on whatever or whomever they feel has wronged them, whether legitimate or not.

Gossip and innuendo can be fun for people. There are magazines, websites, and TV shows that all profit off the gossip of many a famous people. Now, I am certainly not famous, far from it, but I do understand that part of human nature that derives some type of satisfaction from seeing a person being torn down, giving way to a dark sentiment inside of us that secretly says, “my life’s not great but at least I’m doing better than that person.” And yet, the same people willing to tear you down are the same people that perhaps once sung your praises. I can’t speak for everyone, but I rather learn about people by speaking with them and meeting with them than by judging them based on what I read in a magazine, or saw on some news show, or, God forbid, read about them on the Internet.

Now, with my particular situation, am I to assume that this person thinks that my success is growing to the point where he or she needs to spend as much time and effort to try and debase me? Or do they simply not trust that when people meet me, or speak with me on the phone, or interact with me in any manner, they can’t make a judgment for themselves as to whether or not they wish to work with me? If anyone ever wishes to ask me about my dealings in the industry or the business relationships I have taken part of, I’d be more than willing to have an open, honest conversation. I’m not hard to reach.

Now, I don’t wish to address anything written about me because honestly, it’s not worth dignifying. However, there is one matter I do wish to say something about and it is this—I was once accused of taking a sum of money from an investor with a time, place and amount stated. I’d just like to be on the record of saying that I love telling that story because at the accused time, I was in the sixth grade living on the other side of the country. That’s the fun of the Internet—anyone can write anything about anyone. In the words of Mark Twain, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Then again, he also said, “Most of what’s on the Internet is true.”

And finally, to the person who keeps writing things about me, I just have this last thing to say to you: Thank you. Thank you for spending so much time thinking about me and my company and my business partners. It’s nice to know that I have not been forgotten. I’m sorry for the fact that I can’t pay you the same compliment, outside of writing this, as I spend my time, energy, and day working on moving my company forward by producing more movies and helping other filmmakers have the opportunity to distribute their films to the public. I honest to God wish you the best of luck on your own projects when you finally decide to spend your time working on those, instead of trying to defame my reputation. By posting on the Internet. Anonymously. Like a fourth grader would.

Continuum Pictures Open Message to Our Internet Stalker

Thought I should Reblog this.

Continuum Motion Pictures

Open message to our internet stalker: Just want to acknowledge the years of internet creative writing that you have done. We also want you to know that everyone we work with is aware of it. That is a lot of people. It is funny you use fake emails and fake names, even pretending to be female in your writing. People know the truth and they know who you are, including your name and project. People know we make movies and get them out,  which is why they still work with us. More importantly, they know we treat people well and would never post anything anonymously about them on the internet. We would never pretend we were someone else.  We are proud of the Continuum Pictures name, which is why we use it everywhere.


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The End of the World as We Know It-If Only: James Duval Continuum Motion Pictures

The End of the World As We Know It. If only.

James Duval Continuum Motion Pictures: Today the world was supposed to end by many peoples interpretation of the Mayan Calendar, and well as many of you noticed, it did not happen. So like us you are stuck with some assholes out there who do nothing but try to make your life worse. Maybe they are bill collectors, or neighbors, for us in the film business it’s the guy you met and you thought was cool.

James Duval 4th grade

James Duval 4th grade

Over the years we have helped many people get their first projects done. We have often taken great pride in this. Yet at times events occur that make you go, “do I want to know anyone else.” Often there is a reason people have not made it before. The problem is you discover why somewhere in production or post. Now, this is not to say that some people have legitimate frustrations, post can take a long time. Every movie is different. You just can’t edit it. You have to find the right editor and the right vision, and that is just the reality of postproduction. Anne Hall and Pulp Fiction are films that well took great editors.  On the indie side of things, it is just a long journey in finding a good editor. Some get this, other do not. The ones, who get it, sit quietly for the most part. Oh, they will yell at you or whisper in your ear their frustration and doubts, but they get it. Others on the other hand will see it as a betrayal, failure to do, etc… And they will not sit quietly as their film reaches the best conclusion, even though they have never done this before. No they will speak, write and chatter to the world like dying birds, squawking their mothers lies.

Near My Home in Alaska

Near My Home in Alaska

Now we have had to deal with this many times, and if you are making it in the film industry so have you. Actors you have replaced will write shit and say shit on the Internet. Directors you have tried to help will some how make you responsible for their dream, even though since working with you they have done nothing. Yet somehow the movie they messed up, and you are trying to fix will be your fault.

Being a producer, you volunteer for the abuse, this is why Producers probably get Best Picture in various awards shows. If you are making it as a producer and climbing out of the indie world, just know that other producer get it when people say something about you.

Continuum Pictures Logo Now, in our modern age, and please note a Mayan Apocalypse would have cured this, there is a definite no responsibility for what you post issue. Even with the latest tragedy in Connecticut, people abused the Internet and the suffering of those victims families and community. The Internet is like a loaded gun handed to every child and every childish adult. They can say things because well supposedly the constitution says they can.

James Duval letting it fly by

James Duval letting it fly by

My Company and I have had our share of stalkers and crap talkers. We even know their names. They should not check their email at the same location they post crap. Now we can pursue or we can create and leave them behind. This is the choice for many of you. Yes some people will believe the crap written or worse get scared and make coward’s choices. But in the end you have to believe in what you are doing.  We have a stack of movies and three films coming out in theaters that prove we know what we are doing. What do they have, just what they write.  You must never give power to those who would black mail you and besmirch your name. You must create and show the world you can do it.

We live in an age where what people post often drive the victims of their posting to harm themselves. We have seen this in the news also. It is tragic. It often seems we live in a world of fools. I have lost, “friends” because of what others say, but I have gained more.

In 2013 we march forward and I will blame my Mayan calendar for the idiots, stalkers and fools that still trail our success.  I am proud of my team, and those who don’t get it sadden me. Making movies is not easy. It is hard at the studio level and harder on the indie level.

I hope in 2013 we will still feel the bravery it takes to work with new people and to help them with their first projects. I look forward to creating and making the world better.

James Duval
Continuum Motion Pictures

#continuummotionpictures #continuumpictures #dannytorres #jamesduval #jasondurdon #news #update. #reponse

James Duval Senior, the man who taught me to forgive every one.

James Duval Senior, the man who taught me to forgive every one.

Continuum Pictures

The Bouncer directed by Joel Murray, Produced by Danny Torres, James Duval

The Bouncer

It is now 2012 and each day i find myself facing what often appears to be a never ending supply of problems ranging from high school level issues to financial. I have found a commonality in each of the problems, people. It seems we are in the business of people. I know this seems obvious, except when you are in the middle of the problem, you often on see the problem, the I need this or that. When you pull back you begin to see some common issues with problems in film.

Lets take the issue of money in film. Well it really is not an issue, films make money, and believe it or not most films can make money if the film is made for the right budget. It is not the needing of money. There are lots of people who want to invest in film because the see the value of it. The problem is simply getting past the people that say they have money so that you can spend your time with the people who actually do have money.

Everyone says they can finance a film. Which is why you hear so many promises which never happen. This leaves you and for that matter myself scratching yours and my head. (not sure that sentence works, but you get the message). I have stood astounded and amazed why would someone spend so much time trying to deliver something they don’t have. Half the time I would work with them even if they couldn’t. It is this time that kills you as a filmmaker. You need your time to go towards people and projects that can move forward. The other part of the problem is the people who have made movies, but have never been involved in the financing of them. They always say they know how it is done, and spend so much time getting in your way, trying to make you do it their way. Their way does not work. How do you know this? If it did they would not need you.

Danny Torres CEO Continuum Pictures & Austin Anderson

Danny Torres & Austin Anderson

Once you have financed a film no matter no matter how small, you probably have a real idea on how it is done. I have heard that it works in this ratio: 1 to 10. If you financed a 100K film you now  can finance a 1M film. I hope this is true. There is no real right way, but there are a whole bunch of wrong ways to finance a film which I will simply say is this. If it feels like a short cut, it probably is and will not work. And if it does work, will most likely get you or your project in trouble.

Now onto the high School problems. These are issues of egos, yours, mine and especially theirs. If you keep it about the project, which is defined as getting it made, financed or out, you probably are doing okay. The problem is many people chase the feeling. They need film to justify themselves as having some value. Film does not do that. It entertains and their is no salvation in entertainment. I have sat in many rooms and been told how it is, by people who have never been actually been responsible for actually making it happen. They have always been “involved” in an aspect and saw how someone else or worse yet read how someone else did it. If they have not produced, financed, or distributed the film they probably no nothing about making it happen. Directing is the iffy part of all of this. The directors depending on how involved in the project they were, might be able to do it. Often their egos correction creative drive, interfere with the clear sightedness required to move a deal from point A to Z.

Continuum Pictures Studios

Continuum Pictures Studios

Now Application: Continuum Pictures has been the effort of many people inside the company and outside. We have often had people helping us. The hardest part is teaching people to do it our way. When people start working with us they want to do it the way they have “seen” or “heard”. A prophet is never accepted in their own land. This is true with building a team. The moment you get to know someone, the strangers advice is always truer. The reason for this is simple. When you work close to someone, you begin to see their faults, and even more scarier what you may interpret as leaps of faith, which are in all reality instinct combined with experience. Because of your own lack of experience it is confusing. This confusion leads to fear and fear well, you know what Yoda says. I prefer to quote Dune: “Fear is the mind killer.” I have seen this over and over. People quitting just before you cross the finish line, or simply needing desperately to be right.

This need to be right and fear, has destroyed more projects than you can imagine. I have watched it even hurt our own team. People see being right as part of their self esteem. Film is not self esteem, it is simply film. It is was you do and it is what you get done. If you do it right, it can do amazing physical things for you, from health to owning things. Film is not a spiritual journey. How you make film can be a spiritual journey, if it applies to how you see people and their foibles.

Now there will always be those who bring chaos, haters. Often times in film you will meet people who you think see the journey the same way you do. And sadly they don’t. This is rough. You want to help them, but they are chasing a feeling much like an addict will chase a drug. And when you will not give them that drug or if in their opinion you are some how amazingly responsible for their not getting the drug, they will attack you. It happens all the time. The stalker situation in the film industry is horrific. It often simply taking form of using the internet to cause someone harm, much like cyber-bullying. They will take a small truth and make it big, they will make up stuff and they are simply desperate fools. And there is almost never anything you can do about it. They are bullies. You will find them in your projects, in your meetings. People their for their own purposes. When it happens you move on.

The team members of Continuum Pictures have been through it all, enough to fill a novel. Somehow we have always gotten through by just focusing on the movie. When we are distracted by people, one of us will always say, does that get the movie done or out. That brings us to our senses. Making movies is work. Getting the deal is work. Film is hard. If it were easy then everyone would do it.

I can only hope each week as I face the problems in front of us, that I keep it about the movie.

– James Duval –
Continuum Pictures Studios