Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Great Many Thanks

For the past twenty years I've always fancied myself a writer before most any other creative endeavor.

Just over five years ago I realized that my commitment to writing had waned and my output had slowed to a trickle... I was losing my edge. So, I decided to open up my creative faucet by starting this blog with a promise to write an entry everyday for a year. And I did.

And that's how this all started... as a way to get my artistic booty into gear.

Now, five years later, it's coming to an end. So many things have changed over that time.

My marriage moved from 12.5 to 17.5 years. I could not be more happy with my relationship with my wife. We are truly blessed.

My children moved from childhood into young adulthood. My daughter was 11 when we started and my son eight. They have grown into such fine, young, driven, faithful people. I am amazed by them, inspired by them and can't believe I have the honor of being their father.

My understanding of my Catholic faith has grown exponentially over the past five years. What was a small spark has grown to consume me more and more, enough that I put my faith and my passions together into one vocational endeavor called Sonlight Pictures.

Within the past five years I lost my father. His passing, though sad, was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and which I chronicled on this website. I will never fear death again.

Over the past five years I shot a couple of award-winning projects. The micro-budget digital feature The Box, the first Sonlight Pictures project Club God and the web series Nikki & Babs (formerly Purgatory, USA).

I've watched my beautiful wife become involved with our Lifteen Mass band called Messenger. Her visible display of faith during Mass has inspired many... I know, I've heard it over and over again. They've released a CD and now I get to hear her sing whenever I want.

I've been blessed with good health and consistent employment during this last half-decade. Two things of which I NEVER take for granted.

I've coached my son's baseball teams saw a group of young, talented boys turn into young, talented men. I've seen my gifted son be a better person than a baseball player. He is known by coaches, players and umpires alike for both his competitiveness and his compassion on and off the field.

I've helped my daughter with her acting homework and saw her touch the lives of her friends by her faith and her example. I've grown to love many of her friends as if they were my own children and am awed at their passion for Jesus Christ.

I have been very, very blessed.

On this, the last entry of this five year blog experiment, I'd like to say a few thanks. Granted, over the 1800 or so days of its existence we've had many of visitors. However, there have been a few very consistent followers of this humble acre in cyberspace and I'd like to thank them for their kindness and support.

My Mother - My mom has been the most consistent visitor of this site and, by far, the greatest contributor to our comments section. So, thank you, Ma, for your wonderful love and support these past five years. Her weekly Carolina Chronicles that she sends out via email for the past decade has inspired us all.

Paul - having moved away from the family to Texas and taking our mother's lead, took the Bauer family's first foray into the blogosphere with his now defunct blog called the Houston Chronicles. He's also been a great supporter and consistent visitor to the site and a selfless enabler of my creative endeavors.

KT and Rett - Both my niece Katie and my sister Loretta are about tied with their visits to the website and their comments. They always filled their input with humor and heart-felt support.

Steve, Chuckles, Laura and the rest - For the other family members who made this place a part of their lives, I want to thank you as well! Your witty, wise and timely comments comforted me when I feared this blog was merely an unintentionally selfish exercise by which I would only hear my own voice.


Over the past five years, I've shared an awful lot about myself here. Funny stuff, family challenges, growing pains and faith struggles. I've tried to be honest and humorous and I even attempted being insightful at times. Don't know how successful I've been, but I will say that it has been a pleasure to be part of your lives these past five years.

I hope the grace of the Almighty will inspire you, guide you and protect you, not only in 2010 or the next five years, but for the rest of your days.

God bless you all!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Little Felicity

My daughter, Dorothea, has started her own blog, named after her Confirmation Saint, St. Felicity.


Check it out. She's a talented writer :) Yeah, I'm a little biased.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Acting is the Thing

Christians want to support good Christian films. They yearn for something to latch onto... a group of filmmakers like those at Sherwood Baptist church making films like Fireproof that extols the virtues of saving a marriage. Or movies like Bella, which extols the virtues of saving a child from abortion. Or even The Passion of the Christ, which tells a historically accurate representation of a Roman flogging on Jesus Christ and his subsequent sacrifice on the cross.

Christians want to support films that tell a story they want to see and one that flies in the face of the hedonism that rules the day in Hollywood. They're searching for entertainment that is not filled with sexual innuendo and showcases vices as virtues or lust as love.

If, as a filmmaker, you happen upon such a movement, its important that you have everything in place to ride that large, growing wave all the way to the shore.

Two recent Christian films could be considered case studies of potential Christian game changers, that, instead of the growing into a tidal wave, slowly dissipated into another wave among many due to the same fundamental reason.

Come What May and Pendragon are both independent Christian films that were ambitious and very successful in almost every way. Their approaches were timely and inventive and touched the core of Christian film audiences.

In a growing anti-Christian social and political climate, Come What May had the ingenious approach of attacking the legal case surrounding the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling by having a student in a Christian college tasked with arguing against the ruling in a moot court, which has real judges and/or retired judges in an arena that simulates Supreme Court proceedings. The lead character struggled with taking on the task of trying to overturn Roe v. Wade and was searching for a compromise solution. When forced to face the issue head on, he had to rely on his faith as well as overcome opposing viewpoints on the issue from his own parents.

The script was very well written and, for a Christian film, the production value was quite good. Having access to a relatively new, small Christian college that looked like a historic Ivy League school elevated the look of the film to higher than normal levels. The lead actors were good looking, wholesome young people which was appropriate for the characters.

Pendragon: Sword of His Father is an incredibly ambitious film from home school families that started small, but ended up being massively grand and epic in scale. The film takes place in 411 A.D. when the Romans left Britain and left a void of power that various groups tried to fill by attacking villages and acquiring slaves and wealth. Pendragon follows the son of a village leader that is killed by marauders who destroy his town. At first he is enslaved, then escapes, then leads a group of other fighters to defeat the marauders that killed his father. The film talks about the need to follow Christ's example and that God's plans last more than just one generation.

The film has tremendous production value, with special effects, swords, battles, explosions, etc. It has over 600 extras, full sized sets that look like real villages, chases on horse back and fisticuffs.

Both films were on the verge of being powerhouses. They both garnered tremendous press and support within the Christian film community. Come What May was a selected film of the American Family Association and was offered for sale via the AFA in a number of the AFA's email updates. Pendragon won numerous awards and was written up in a number of Christian film blogs and websites.

The problem that both films struggled with that kept them from being blockbusters was the basic and fundamental issue of acting. Both films had everything going for them, except one of the three fundamentals of film making. When people watch films they need to see it, hear it and believe it. Believing it comes from the writing and the acting. Both films have good scripts, but the acting completely undermines everything else.

It's just an example of how difficult it is to put together a completely successful film. And it also shows that some of the core items, acting, lighting, writing and directing, are at the root of a successful film experience.

In both films, Come What May and Pendragon, once the initial impressiveness of scope and approach wore off, you are still stuck with the core items. Once we grasp the amount of effort and time it took to make the world of Pendragon come alive, once we've accepted it as the reality of the film, the only thing that is left is the character journeys. And the believability and effectiveness of those journeys are fueled by the quality of the acting.

I hope we can, someday, put together a project that has reached some social and spiritual critical mass like these two films, where we can leverage the press and attention, growing one small ripple into a tidal wave of both critical and financial Christian film success.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas

To my family and friends that have been visiting this website for five years, I want to thank you for your support and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

I hope you all are blessed with an abundance of God's graces this holy holiday and throughout all of 2010.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Microcinema Flashback - Breath Mints, Microcinema and the American Film Market (2004)

The last of my microcinema articles which was printed online as the microcinema revolution neared its end. This one talks about the American Film Market and the lessons we can learn from it for the microcinema filmmaker. Funny how things had, well, not changed much as far as quality film creation during these years in microcinema. As many amateur filmmakers cried foul at the lack of respect for their work, in reality, most of the product created during this immensely prolific time were just bad cinema.

From May 2004.


Breath Mints, Microcinema and the American Film Market
By Pete Bauer

After the Round table that produced a theoretical "ten commandments" of microcinema, there was some heated discussion on the Microcinema Scene message boards about the topic. One of the outcomes of that discussion was that, as Mike Amato stated so succinctly, some microcinema filmmakers are "Breath Mints" and some are "Candy Mints." Breath Mints are those microcinema filmmakers who want their projects to "smell nice" and would love to make movies for a career. Candy Mints are those who simply have fun making movies and don't have any real movie making career ambitions.

Well, this article is for all of the Breath Mints out there.

For those of you who are hoping that your creative jaunts in microcinema will somehow propel you into the fray that is the Hollywood movie machine, there is a simple way to see if your projects are up to snuff, to see just how far microcinema has to go to reach any sort of globally accepted quality level... attend an American Film Market (AFM).

If you've never been to the AFM, I strongly suggest you attend one. It is the place where films are screened and sold, primarily by U.S.-based distributors to international markets, however there are some U.S. distribution rights that are acquired from domestic and international films too. Everything from the next big Universal release to latest batch of Troma films are there. I attended the AFM in 1999 to see how the process worked as friends of mine assisted their distributor to get our low-budget action flick out into the market.

When you go to the AFM, what you will find is a very large group of below average films vying for the limited international distribution deals. If you can't actually attend the AFM, it wouldn't hurt to at least pick up the AFM edition of the Hollywood Reporter (usually comes out the month of the market... February this year, moving to November next year). In it you will find a lot of information about the films, a lot of advertising for films looking for distribution and a detailed list of every company and the films they have to offer. When scanning this years Hollywood Reporter, some interesting things come to mind in regards to microcinema.

First, some real distribution companies make the absolute worst posters. Its amazing how cheesy these things are. Maybe its on purpose, maybe in some twisted way they sell because they look stupid. I don't know, but there is enough of them that it makes me wonder.

Along with bad posters, there's a lot of movies with actors that scream "this movies going to suck, but at least you'll recognize the name of the star." Names like Eric Roberts, Gary Busey and Lorenzo Lamas come to mind. I've often been of the mind that I'd rather have the right no-name actor in a movie than the wrong name actor. But, that may not help me sell anything. The President of MTI Home Video says in the mag "I'll take all the Eric Roberts films I can find" because they fill a niche market. Scanning through you'll also find out that movies such as Ginger Snaps 2 & 3 are in post-production and that Corman's The Keeper of Time looks A LOT like Lord of the Rings.

You'll also find the estimated prices for worldwide markets. For films budgeted between $750,000-$1 million (the lowest budget covered), for example, you could make:

- between $30,000-$90,000 from the German/Austria market.
- $10,000-$15,000 in Malaysia.
- $2,000-$5,000 in Pakistan.

Compare that for films between $6 million-$12 million:

- you could make $500,000-$1.1 million in German/Austria market.
- $90,000-$150,000 in Malaysia.
- $20,000-$30,000 in Pakistan.

But even in Hollywood, making your money back is hard work. Consider that if you were in the lowest category ($750,000 - $1 million budget) the MOST you could make back (if their estimates are correct in the magazine) if you sold to ALL of the international markets at their HIGHEST value is $1.24 million. For the $6 million - $12 million budget range, the most you could make is just under $11 million. Of course, there are other ways to make money on a film (domestic, etc.) but this clearly shows that international sales has its limitations. I guess the key is to make a movie that LOOKS like $750,000 film, but costs much less. I don't think the technology used in microcinema is there yet, but perhaps someday it will.

What does all of this have to do with the Breath Mints of microcinema? I think you could safely say that many of the films at the AFM are what we most of us would consider crap. But, if you look at the difference in production value, story and acting, most are vastly superior to what is available on the microcinema scene. Granted, the nature of the microcinema scene promotes experimentation and imitation from learning filmmakers. But, I also get a sense from a lot of microcinema filmmakers that because we made a movie over 74 minutes long, people should consider it just as valid or valuable as the features Hollywood churns out. Yet, most microcinema efforts don't equate in quality to any of the features available at the AFM. As sad as a movie like SCI-FIGHTERS starring Lorenzo Lamas and Don "The Dragon" Wilson looks, it would still kick most of our microcinema asses.

In the end, as microcinema filmmakers, we may not give a crap about Hollywood's financial paradigm. Like Candy Mints, we may just make movies for ourselves. But, if one thinks that their next microcinema effort is going to be able to compete with even the lowest quality product selling at the AFM, unfortunately for the Breath Mints, we still have a long way to go.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

God Only Wants 100%

This will appear over at our Sonlight Pictures blog next week, but since it applied to the family, I thought I'd post it here as well.


The good news is that God does not want from us more than we can offer. He doesn't expect us to give 110%.

He does, however, expect us to give 100%... of us... to him.

God wants us entirely, mind, body and soul. He wants us to embrace him with our every goal, hope, aspiration, need, desire and challenge. He wants to lead us down the path we need to take to reach salvation and live eternally in his presence.

Like his chosen people in the Old Testament, that journey may not be an easy one, but a necessary one. When Moses led them out to the wilderness it would take 40 years of a level-setting spiritual boot camp for his people Israel to purge their 400 year connection to the gods of Egypt. God forced them to rely solely on his own mercy to provide food everyday. And when they lost faith, like building the golden calf, they had to pay the price for their spiritual weakness. Even Moses, who answered God's call time and time again, failed to do as God spoke and was punished by not being allowed to enter the land they were promised.

It was not until the Egyptian generation had died away, and their children only born in the wilderness with the strong reliance on God's mercy, did his chosen people finally make it into the land of milk and honey.

The funny thing about offering ourselves up to God is that, well, he will take it.

My daughter, for example, had been struggling with managing her stress level this year in school. We had prayed often and asked for God's guidance. As we neared her final exams and prayed we realized this final exam was not a test of math, but a test of faith. My daughter understood that and accepted God's guidance and went to bed, ready to trust God's will.

The next day, the day of the exam, she awoke with a high fever. She opened her eyes and said "Thanks, God. Still testing my faith, huh?" And he was.

After she took the final exam she waited for the teacher to let her know what was her final score. The teacher scored the test and told her she had failed.

My daughter left the classroom devastated. The result of the test would require her changing her entire college plans. She had prayed and put her faith in God and she failed anyway. She knew God must have had other plans for her. She wept to herself, but knew it was God's will and accepted it. She didn't like it, but she accepted it.

However, it was another test of faith.

As she walked outside of the classroom the teacher ran out after her and told her she had given her the wrong person's results. She had actually passed and received a B.

As her faith grew, God's test of that faith grew. The more she was tested, the more she had to offer more faith. The more she offered faith, the more she was tested. She started giving 10%, God wanted 11. When she gave 11, God wanted 12. Why?

Because God wants all of us. 100%. Nothing less. We are his creation, after all. Why would he want less?

The saints have often complained about God's continual and growing moral tests of faith. I can't remember the saint's name, but one of them said to God, after a very hard moral challenge, "if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies."

Think of Mother Theresa. After giving her life to Jesus, she did not feel his presence again, except one brief moment. For fifty years she felt nothing, but lived everyday for him.


Because God wants 100%. Any amount of ourselves we do not give to God is tainted by our own imperfection. When we offer ourselves up, God must purify us from our own sinfulness by testing us, forcing us to rely on him.

For my daughter, she did not have faith when it came to school work. Her fear was interfering with her faith. When she offered that up, God had to push her more and more until he had finally forced the fear from where she could replace that void with faith.

Our moral journey, our path toward heaven will not be easy because it can't be. We are holding on to too many percentages of our lives, not giving God all of us.

We are his children. He wants all of us. Not just once a week on Sundays. Not just when life treats us poorly. He wants us when we work, when we talk to our kids, when we mow our yards, when we wash the car, when we face illness, when we lose our jobs or lose a relative close to us.

God wants us all. Whatever you can give him, he will take... and wait for the rest.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Microcinema Flashback - THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE... An Example That Anything Can Happen! (2003)

Two years earlier I had written an article about how to overcome writers block by focusing on the phrase Anything Can Happen. In November 2003 I share a Coen Bros. story that shows just that.


THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE... An Example That Anything Can Happen!
By Pete Bauer

I spent last night watching the Coen Brother's film THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE and was surprised at the amount of plot twists that happened in what appears to be a realitively innocuous storyline. It empitomized my belief, in screenwriting, that anything can happen. The film takes place in 1949 and stars Billy Bob Thorton as Ed Crane, a second-chair barber working for his brother-in-law at a three-chaired barber shop. Crane's wife Doris, played by Coen regular Frances McDormand, works as a bookkeeper in a local department store. The store is managed by Big Dave, played by Soprano James Gandolfini, who got the job as a manager by marrying Ann, who's family owns the department store chain.

Crane's professional and personal life are stagnate. He doesn't speak much and doesn't like to be spoken to either. One night, during dinner with Big Dave and Ann, he comes to the conclusion the Big Dave and his wife, Doris, are having an affair. Big Dave is excited that he's about to open his own new store in the department store chain and that Doris would be promoted to Comptroller. Even though Crane believes his wife is unfaithful with Big Dave, he is uninspired to confront it. However, the next morning a stranger, named Tolliver, comes into the barber shop venting his frustration on failing to acquire venture capital to start a new thing called Dry Cleaning. He's already approached and been dismissed by Big Dave and he's ready to leave town. Crane, realizing he's never pursued any of his own dreams, tells Tolliver that he'd be able to provide the $10,000 investment by the end of the week.

Crane then drafts a ransom note to Big Dave stating he knows he's having an affair with a married woman (he does not name Doris by name) and he's demanding $10,000. At a department store party, Big Dave confides in Crane that he's been having an affair with a married woman (not necessarily Doris) and that if the news gets out, he'll lose his job and his dream of owning his own department store. Big Dave believes Tolliver is behind it and the only way to get the money would be to ask Doris to cook the books (embezzle) the get the cash.

Big Dave has Doris embezzle and he deposits the money as the ransom note has stated. Crane picks up the money and gives it to Tolliver, signing contracts for the partnership in the Dry Cleaning business. A few evenings later, after a family wedding that left Doris passed out from drinking, Crane gets a call from Big Dave to meet him at the store. Crane uses Doris' keys and her car and meets Big Dave in his office. He discovers that Big Dave had beaten Tolliver and found out Crane was behind the ransom note. Big Dave then tries to choke Crane, but Crane slashes his throat with Big Dave's lucky knife, who drops to the floor and dies in a pool of his own blood. Not knowing what to do, Crane goes home.

The next day police arrive at the barbershop. Crane, expecting as much, all but confesses before they interrupt him to tell him his wife had been picked up for the murder. Apparently, they theorize, she killed Big Dave to cover up the embezzlement activity, for which they believe she was solely responsible. This is where the story really takes off creatively.

- Crane's brother-in-law and fellow barber gets a loan against the barber shop to pay for the best attorney, played brilliantly by Tony Shalhoub.
- Ann, Big Dave's wife, stops by on the way home from Big Dave's funeral to tell Crane that, while camping a few years ago, Big Dave and Ann were abducted by aliens and that Big Dave had not been the same since.
- In a meeting at the prison with Shaloub, Doris and Crane, Crane confesses to the crime, but it's dismissed by Shalhoub as a ineffective defense ploy.
- On lonely nights Crane finds comfort at his friend's house, listening to the piano playing of his friends teen daughter.
- Tolliver has disappeared. Crane surmises he left with the money and his dreams and his reality are now hoplessly lost.
- Shalhoub hires a private eye who discovers all of Big Dave's WWII claims were false and they would use the potential revelation of that info as the motive, replacing the embezzlement motive.

Ann speaks of UFOs

- As they are about to begin the trial, Doris commits suicide by hanging herself herself.
- The brother-in-law is so distraught he no longer works, so Crane handles the barbershop to keep it out of foreclosure.
- The Medical Examiner tells Crane, in confidence, that Doris was pregnant. Crane tells him that they hadn't made love in years, which means she was having the affair.
- Crane, intent on doing something important, pays for his friends daughter to play piano for a master teacher, in the hopes that she would go on to become a great pianist.
- The teacher states the student has talent, but no heart for music.
- On the drive back the teen girl makes passes at Crane and attempts to give him a blow job, causing an accident.
- Crane awakens to find the police in his room, arresting him for the beating death of Tolliver, who was found at the bottom of a river. The contracts with his name and the money are found and are used as motive.
- Crane gets a loan on his house to pay Shalhoub for defense, but an unexpected tirade by Crane's brother-in-law's during the trial causes a mistrial.
- Unable to pay for a good attorney, the state appointed one convinces Crane to plead guilty and hope for the best.
- He is sentenced to die in the electric chair.
- He dreams of a UFO visiting him at the jail.
- He is walked down and executed.

The amazing thing about this screenplay is that every fifteen minutes or so something outrageously new is interjected. As is typical with a Coen Brothers film, these unexpected and intriguing turns spin a world that seems familiar to most of us into something oddly unique. They take the classic film noir and turn it into their own brand of black and white reality.

The script and the path the storyline travels is a prime example that anything can happen.