The Indie Auteur Musings on filmmaking by Stephan Vladimir Bugaj. Mon, 11 Jul 2011 19:01:11 +0000 en hourly 1 On hiatus Tue, 31 May 2011 22:39:22 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj I’ve been on hiatus to deal with various family issues ranging from the bad, to the fantastic (preparation for, and the birth of my daughter, Nadja). I will return to film blogging in July or August (2011).

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Cinequest 21 Second-Place Winner Sat, 23 Apr 2011 20:57:00 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj My screenplay “Welcome To Akron” took second place in the Cinequest 21 screenplay competition. I went down to San Jose for the event, and found Cinequest to be a well-run, enjoyable festival with an interesting selection of films and script finalists. Thank you to everyone involved. I would be happy to return in future years.

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Finalist: Cinequest 21 Fri, 28 Jan 2011 15:53:49 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj My script “Welcome To Akron” is a finalist in this year’s Cinequest screenplay competition. A winner will be announced at Cinequest, which is in San Jose, CA and runs March 1st through March 13th, 2011. I’m happy to be a Finalist (or better) in any competition, but it’s particularly nice (and convenient) to be recognized by the best festival in “my own backyard” of the SF/SJ/Oakland Bay Area.

The particular script that was chosen, “Welcome To Akron”, has also placed in several other competitions (including as a semifinalist at Nicholl). This story asks the rhetorical question: “Dying’s boring, why rush into it?” Young Deathrocker Akron Szabo comes to realize this with a little help from a cantankerous, old terminal cancer patient named Izzy Mendelbaum. Akron’s dead-end path of worthless jobs, methamphetamine abuse and hiding from life within the Gothic party scene leads him to take a job at a hospital. He doesn’t plan to clean up, work hard and get out of his old life, but rather to use the job to maintain his party lifestyle while he hangs his hopes on a long-shot win at a national synthesizer building contest – dreaming that he’ll luck into a life of fame by parlaying contest money into his own music studio and become a big name music producer. But in the hospital he meets Izzy, who clings to life in order to make amends to himself for his own angry, debauched past. Through Izzy, Akron starts to see that there’s really something to life — but then his world falls apart around him. His girlfriend dies in a meth lab explosion, and he spirals deeper into self denial and abuse, and finally loses his job, his remaining friends, and misses the deadline for his dream contest. It’s his friendship with Izzy that saves him. When it seems Akron has lost the battle with himself, Izzy gives him just the kick in the ass he needs to pick himself up. Akron sends himself packing off to Los Angeles to try to win the contest despite missing the entry deadline and open his own studio. Finally realizing the foolishness of living in fear and trying to fake your way through life, Akron returns home able to accept himself for who he is, and face life’s challenges without crumbling before them.

This is my most personal of all my scripts so far, and the one I’m most passionate about making “at all costs.” I’ve been trying to get financing for it for quite a while. Hopefully Cinequest, along with its placing in Nicholl and several other competitions, will help with that.

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Free Jafar Panahi Tue, 21 Dec 2010 08:37:42 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been jailed for six years, and banned from making films for twenty, for his criticisms of the Iranian government. Censorship is the greatest threat to our work, and we filmmakers need to stand together to support the free exchange of ideas, and the right to practice our art.

You can sign a petition supporting his release, but given the Iranian “revolutionary” government’s history, it seems likely to be an unfortunately symbolic gesture.

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2010 Gimme Credit Screenplay Competition Winner Mon, 06 Dec 2010 13:57:22 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj I am the first place winner in the 2010 Gimme Credit Screenwriting Competition. While winning a competition like this is not an end goal, in that it does not directly result in the script being made into a film, it is still very nice to have external validation that one’s ideas and writing style are considered worthy by someone other than friends and family.

The particular script that won, “Let The Games Begin”, is a family story about nerdy video game entrepreneur Dave whose perfect geek world has become unbalanced by his teenage daughter Star, whose love of sports is seen by her parents as mere teenage rebellion. Dave, feeling his youth slipping, his family unraveling, and his company stagnating deals with this midlife crisis by attempting to regain his teen status as a video game champion. Star,feeling distanced from her family, and her chance for sports success slipping away, deals with this teen crisis by joining the boys’ football team. Dave’s quest to show the world that “old me” can still be great video gamers parallels Star’s attempts to prove herself in the male-dominated world of sports, and father and daughter must learn that in the end what really matters is family, fun and self respect.

I wrote it because my wife and I have been discussing having kids, and I am trying to imagine myself as a father. And I keep seeing fellow geeks and nerds I work with becoming parents, and buying their kids video games and Legos and Star Wars everything and trying to imagine how they’re going to rebel.

It’s the ultimate horror for nerd and geek families that one of their kids might turn out to be jocks. But since I’m also a baseball fan (the sport of statisticians), and my wife’s brother is a hardcore sports nerd through and through, I know that the distance between one sort of geekery and another isn’t as great a chasm as many would like to think. (The Onion article “Walking Sports Database Scorns Walking Sci-Fi Database” really sums that up.) So I decided that this idea would make a fun, unique family film. I’m glad the Wildcard readers agreed.

It’s done well in a few other competitions as well, including being selected as a winner of the juried portion of WildSound, and I’m just happy that family stories are something people still consider worthwhile (because there are so few being made right now). I truly am a fan of genre pictures, action packed fight sequences, epic special effects, and adult themes as much as the next guy, but I think the family story definitely has a place in the medium and would love to see it come back.

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VES Handbook of Visual Effects released Tue, 27 Jul 2010 07:19:20 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj The VES Handbook that I contributed to is now available for purchase. Hopefully, you will find it both interesting and useful.

Image of The VES Handbook of Visual Effects: Industry Standard VFX Practices and Procedures

I wrote several sections accounting for approximately 40 pages of the book, and co-edited two of the chapters (the Pipeline and Animation chapters).

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Contest Season Tue, 27 Jul 2010 07:14:42 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj Blogging has taken a serious third seat to both ongoing major production projects at my day job, and the travails of prepping rewrites and new scripts for Contest Season. But now the season is winding down (by the end of August). I will follow-up soon with one or more post-contest-season articles with my opinion about contests in general, and also my thoughts about a number of contests in particular.

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Friends’ Films: Bartek Rainski’s The Thief Tue, 06 Apr 2010 14:56:30 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj Check out Bartek Rainski’s Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (aka The Thief), starring Zbigniew Zamachowski. This short is a prototype for a feature film that Bartek is working on.

Shooting a short that focuses on the main character of a proposed feature, and sets-up some key element of the story, is a common fund-raising tool for independent productions. Productions as varying in tone from The Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple to Napoleon Dynamite have all started off as prototype shorts that were used to generate interest in the intended feature.

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The VES Handbook of Visual Effects Mon, 05 Apr 2010 08:05:30 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj I just turned in my second draft edits for the approximately 40 pages I’m contributing to The VES Handbook of Visual Effects. This handbook covers a wide range of visual effects topics (my sections are about animation and general pipeline issues), broken down into sections on Preproduction, Shooting, Postproduction and Digital Element Creation. 

More than 85 members of the Visual Effects Society, all visual effects practitioners in areas ranging from vfx supervisors to technical artists to animators to vfx producers, contributed subsections about their areas of expertise.  If you are interested in Visual Effects, whether as a hand-on practitioner, or as a Director, Producer or Production Designer, this book will give you a comprehensive overview of the field.

It is currently available for pre-order on (it is slated to come out in August 2010). Click the cover image below to buy your copy today:

Image of The VES Handbook of Visual Effects: Industry Standard VFX Practices and Procedures

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Please vote for “Let The Games Begin” for Audience Favorite Wed, 31 Mar 2010 17:40:33 +0000 Stephan Vladimir Bugaj Please take a moment to help me out and vote for my screenplay “Let The Games Begin” in the WildSound feature screenplay contest audience favorite phase at this link:

It was one of 3 juried winners of the contest, and now there is an audience choice award.

The way this particular contest works is that the first acts of each of the 3 winning scripts is read aloud in front of an audience, and the videos are then posted and the Internet audience at large can vote for an audience favorite winner.

That Internet audience favorite winner then gets the full script read in May, in front of an audience in Toronto, which would be a useful tool for me for refining the script further.

You can view a video of a reading of the first act by clicking on the thumbnail at the left of that page. A few minutes of your time to view and vote would be much appreciated.

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