Q & A    Archive
Page 110

Name: John Rambo
E-mail: thisisjohnrambo@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

How's it going? It's good to stop by again. I was curious about your opinion of the movie Kill Bill. Personally I thought that the stunt work and martial arts were great, but that it was too violent.

Thanks,

John

Dear John:

I wouldn't see "Kill Bill" if they were giving away money at the theater. From all appreances it looks like the worst movie ever made, but I could be overestimating it. I'm sure it's minimally just plain old miserable. It also looks like screenwriting of the very lowest order. I also have no doubt it shouldn't be two full-length films. It doesn't sound like he's got enough story for one film. After having staged and shot about fifty martial arts fights on Herc and Xena, I truly don't care about them in the slightest anymore.

Josh

Name: an old friend
E-mail: seekingthetruth_22@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I think you are one of the smartest directors around. Your articles on the biz are outstanding. However, I could not call myself your friend without saying the following. I am a Gentile. There is only one God. The God of the Jews. There is only one salvation- the Messiah of the Jews. The only man who ever fulfilled every prophecy in the Tenach (Old Testament) concerning the Messiah was Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth. Gentiles MUST accept your God and your Messiah; If you, being a Jew, reject your own God and your own Messiah, you will be without excuse on Judgment Day. I would encourage you to get in touch with Jacob Prasch at http://www.moriel.org/ He could explain it all a lot better than me. Don't let people like Mel Gibson poison your spirit. He's on his way to hell as it is. Don't let him drag you down with him. Don't let all the idiots who have falsely professed to be Christians to rob you of a divine birthright God promised your ancestor Abraham. I wish you good fortune on your journey for the Truth.

Dear an old friend:

Once at a family party, my mother caught my religious, 95-year-old grandmother from Budapest, eating a shrimp, which is of course traif, meaning it's not Kosher. My mother offhandedly quipped, "You don't want to go to heaven anyway, none of your friends are there." What's so wonderfully sad and ironic about religious people is that they lie to themselves in the name of truth. It all comes back to one of my favorite quotes by Mark Twain, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." The first step toward transcendence is to realize that there is a path, and the second step is to get on the path. You'll never even realize that there is a path toward transcendence unless you stop lying to yourself.

Josh

Name: Dylan
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

Hope you had a decent holiday and contacted those who are close to you.

I just read the criticism you received about the foreign films. Wow, I can't believe it, because I know you love quite a few foreign films. I mean, you're a very well-read person deeply passionate about film, you're supposed to have your own opinions and criteria. You shouldn't get attacked for it.

A very generous amount of my favorite movies are foreign. I have a big library of them. My all-time favorite movie (i.e. desert island film) is Fellini's "8 1/2." Here's a question, what are your top 10 favorite foreign films?

Best Regards,
Dylan

Dear Dylan:

Hey, that's a good question. Okay, in no particular order (just as they occur to me):

1. 8 1/2 (1963)
2. Forbidden Games (1951)
3. Seven Samurai (1954)
4. The Fallen Idol (1948)
5. Breathless (1959)
6. M (1931)
7. Los Olvidados (1950)
8. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
9. The Conformist (1971)
10. The Mystery of Kasper Hauser (Every Man For Himself and God Against All)
(1975)

Josh

Name: Andres
E-mail: antontondi@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Ok, I'm not debating you anymore, I don't see the point. But OH YES! Us foreigners are very violent, since we're so poor we don't care if we kill a few dogs and have them for supper if that will make a good hand-held shot movie, that's for sure. Let me just point out that the ASPCA is present everywhere, and you'll find their logo at the end of the credits. Those are professionaly sedated dogs, and during the 2 second long fighting shots you never see a single bite, the dogs are actually playing but the soundtrack was changed to make it look like they are actually fighthing. Their mouths are closed shut with very thin wire the color of their hair. AGI pointed out the dogs were treated better than the actors themselves. But I don't think you'll believe me anyway, because you just don't think we have the money to pull that off, we're just too wild here outside the borders. :)

Andres

Dear Andres:

Oh, calm down. We're talking about a movie here, not your national identity. And of course you don't want to debate me, I give reasons for my opinions and you don't. I've brought this hand-held topic up with asveral of my filmmaker friends, and they all agree with me, shooting an entire feature hand-held is a cop-out. The director has thrown in the towel and a very important aspect of their job. And to be hand-held the entire film means your camerawork has no dynamics.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Happy Thanksgiving! I, too, was recommended "Amores Perros" by a good friend of mine (someone whose opinion on film I greatly respect) who really loved it. He also admitted that the main reason was because he had the hots for the young male star, who is, admittedly, very good-looking. But after about an hour, I gave up, too, and still have no desire to re-visit that film. I have been roundly criticized for this and am glad to see I'm not alone. The camera work wasn't as much of a problem for me as the fact that the story hadn't drawn me in yet, and after 60 minutes, your time is up if I don't care about the characters you've created.

I was riding home on a Greyhound bus the other day and was forced to watch "Serving Sara." Oh. My. God. I thought I had seen some shitty movies, but this one took the prize. Damn. Bruce's five-minute part was not nearly enough to make up for the incredibly bad script and the fact that I was forced to watch Matthew Perry try to act for 90 minutes. Whoa. I am still looking for a great movie to watch in order to kick that out of my head...haven't seen much good stuff lately. Gotta dip back into the classics.

Take care and I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

--Cindy

Dear Cindy:

Luckily for me, I got to watch "Serving Sara" with Bruce sitting next to me at the Medford premeire. Bruce intentionally crinkled a candy wrapper in my ear just to annoy and amuse me, which was more than the film did. Bruce particularly hates that film. After the screening he went up front to answer questions and sign posters, but there were no questions, and no one wanted a poster. The wrongheadedness of its story still boggles me -- Bruce is a rich Texan who's trying to get rid of his super-model wife, Elizabeth Hurley, for his dim-wit secretary. Talk about not making sense.

Josh

Name: Scotty
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Josh,

I just realized that I spelled duct tape "duck tape". it made me laugh.

Keith Moon was a "nutter" as the english would say. He was like Curly from the Three Stooges, but more intelligent. I have been on forums where tight assed musicians really reemed on his drumming, but being a drummer, I adored his style. although, he has his own sense of time and unorthodox style, his bashing was so energetic that it not only was a big part of the band, it was Rock & Roll.

I agree that the classic albums series is excellent. Did you see the Bob Marley one yet? I have to rent "Who's Next" now, since watching "The Kids are Alright". I own the Phil Collins "Face Value" release.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Yeah, I saw the Bob Marley "Catch a Fire" episode, and it was good. Sadly, in that case, neither Bob Marley nor Peter Tosh are alive to talk to anymore. In "Electric Ladyland" they have both Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, as well as Dave Mason and Stevie Winwood. Quite frankly, though, if they'd asked me I'd have done "Are You Experienced" instead of "Electric Ladyland," which I think was a more seminal album. The "Who's Next" episode was very good. Pete Townsend is a very talented guy, and his acoustic renditions of the songs are wonderful. He also has this resentment that his vocal renditions are better than Roger Daltrey's, which, of course, is insane. Bit the songwriting on that album is amazing. The "Graceland" ep was great, too, BTW.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Josh,

Concerning your list of favorite films, I noticed that The Caine Mutiny is not included. I have always considered this among my favorites and judging by the types of movies on your list, it seems as though it should be included. Do you really not like The Caine Mutiny, or do you think you might add it whenever you get around to updating the list?

On another Kane note, I did view Citizen Kane for the first time, the DVD which was released recently. I decided to see it in part based on it being on your list which is an implicit recommendation. I did enjoy it, although I don't know if I can call it my favorite movie, but it definitely seemed to be ahead of its time. The make up techniques,as far as the aging of the characters, seemed to be state of the art for that time, about as good as that Star Trek ep. when they all got old, which was made 25 years later. The use of sets and miniturization was also done about as well as possible I thought. The artifacts inside 'Xanadu' might have been the cheesiest part of the movie. It looked like they scraped the bottom of the barrel of the props department for some of that stuff. Except when they were doing an above ground shot of all the crates, it looked like an aerial of a city. The fake newspapers were realistic too. So overall I guess I liked the movie, and it was educational to be reminded of some of the political issues that were discussed in the movie.

Hope you have a good Thanksgiving.

Dear Bob:

Well, I'm glad you kind of liked it. I'd personally say that the old-age make-up is a lot better than Star Trek. Of course, black and white helps a lot. Meanwhile, I like "The Caine Mutiny," but it's not one of my favorite films. I can certainly live without the entire sub-plot of the kid and his mother and his girlfriend, and them riding horses on his liberty. That kid's just weak, as is that whole section of the film. I understand that Jose Ferrar's turning on them at the end is supoosed to be ironic or shocking, but I've never believed it. Capt. Queeg is just too crazy to start defending the guy as a patriot at the end, particularly after he's cracked-up on the stand in front of everybody. Otherwise, though, it's a good film, and Bogart is great. Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, and Jose Ferrar are all very good, too.

Josh

Name: Andres
E-mail: antontondi@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Ok, thats fine with me. I don't care if you thought "Amores Perros" was the dumbest film of all time, we all have different opinnions and thats ok. I just don't understand why you should judge and actually dislike a film that uses hand-held shots...that statement has absolutley no value in my book, with all due respect. That you couldn't stand the dog fighting? that's ok, some people have harder stomachs than others (Although I just don't get why you sat through "Saving Private Ryan" didn't that freak you out at all? I recall you calling the normandy scene the best scene in the film although unnecessary...did fighting dogs really freak you out?or is the dog fighting an excuse to not watching the rest of the film? honestly.)That you didn't care for the characters, is completley acceptable, since you don't share their culture and their everyday problems, and that is the only reason you gave that I accepted by the way. But to say you got tired of handheld shots is very dumb. I don't understand why. Most americans complain about handheld with no reason at all, and that is the only bad thing anyone has had to say about "21 Grams". A movie is not bad, because it was shot with a handheld camera, it is bad because it has mediocre writing, or poor acting, but mostly mediocre writing. Handheld is just a style, like steadicam, dolly shots, over or under exposed film or even closeups, and could never get in the way of a good or bad film if it tried. Wouldn't you agree, that this argument is totally stupid? "It is an amazingly written story, and has great performances, but it is a horrible film because it was shot with a hand-held camera" That's just my opinnion man, don't say a movie is bad because its handheld.....use the real reasons you didn't sit through the entire film....you were too lazy to read the subtitles or to disgusted by the actually sleeping dogs with makeup that is fine by me.

this is why some people prefer handheld by the way: "handheld gives out the illusion of reality, the lack of cutting, makes you feel you are watching a documentary and the action is going on right in front of you..." -AGI

Dear Andres:

Jeez, throw a hairy fit, why don't you. Objecting to hand-held photography is, in my humble opinion, a completely valid criticism. A big part of filmmaking, for me, is the director's choice of camera set-ups, and how these set-ups juxtapose with one another. That's what made Hitchcock and Kubrick so damn good. If a director makes a blanket decision to hand-hold the entire film, they've entirely copped-out on their responsibility as a visual film director, as far as I'm concerned. To me, hand-held doesn't "give the illusion of reality," it gives me the distinct sense of laziness; of not being willing to sit down and visually think your way through your story. And it's an automatic turn-off for me. As far as the characters not sharing my culture or daily problems, that means nothing. They were dull, poorly-written, shallow characters, and I don't care where they came from. And I think there's a world of difference between watching humans covered with effects make-up and blood squibs, to watching animals legitimately fighting each other. And since the film was being shot in a foreign country, where I doubt the ASPCA holds jurisdiction, I wouldn't be half surprised if those were real dead dogs I was seeing getting tossed around. But to attempt to pawn off my dislike of the film to me being disgusted by subtitles -- when I've probably seen ten times more films with subtitles than you -- is plain old stupid. I appreciate your right to be stupid, too, but don't think you're being anything other than that.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Josh,

I rented newly restored "The Who: The Kid's are Alright" from Netflix and I watched it last night. It was a joy to see it again. I haven't seen it in years and I think it is one of the best Rock Docs out there.

I forgot about what a character Keith Moon was back then. The band had so much energy. I started to laugh because I forgot that Moon duck taped his headphones to his head while doing the live songs in Shepperton Studios and recording "Who Are You?",in the studio.

I am getting the bonus disc this week to check out. Should be interesting.


Scott

Dear Scott:

Keith Moon was an honest-to-God wild man. I remember some silly music award show about 20 years ago (for some assinine award that no longer exists), and Keith Moon was absolutely out of his mind throughout the entire show. He kept coming up on stage when other people were accepting their awards, jumping around like a monkey, and making of fun of people behind their backs. Moon was also a hell of a drummer. I just watched the Classic Albums making of Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, which was very interesting. Hendrix played bass on most of it, which really pissed off Noel Redding. Hendrix also did all of the background vocals, too. That's a great series, the Classic Albums.

Josh

Name: Andres
E-mail: antontondi@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

Remmember me? Ever get to watch Amores Perros like I asked? I'm back to make some more propaganda, I feel it's my job. I just can't keep a good movie to myself. If you haven't catched "21 Grams" I suggest you do it soon......extremly powerfull, you will not walk out of that theater unamazed, and you will not be able to get it out of your mind for a while...at least I didn't. 21 grams was made in the US by the mexican creative team from Amores Perros, Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, Writer Guillermo Arriaga, DP Rodrigo Prieto, and Composer Gustvo Santaolalla.....

Dear Andres:

I couldn't sit through "Amores Perros." I watched about 45 minutes and bailed. I didn't like any of the characters, nor did I care at all about the story or dog fighting, and I couldn't stand that every single shot was shaky and hand-held. I certainly will not go out of my way to see another film by the same folks. Sorry.

Josh

Name: August
E-mail: joxerfan@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

That review came from a site called Digitally Obsessed. The link is http://www.digitallyobsessed.com/showrevpdf.php3?ID=811

Good for you on that stage adaptation thing, and good luck. I read somewhere that Mel Brooks refers to himself as a "hummer" - he writes all the songs for his movies plus the big stage version of "The Producers," and simply gets other people to transcribe and arrange them.

BTW - I can't believe you ended up seeing "8 Mile." I'm guessing either it was a slow rainy day, or you were just curious about the Detroit locations. Anyone you know work on it?


Regards,

August

Dear August:

Yeah, I knew a few people on the crew. Detroit doesn't look like that from my suburban POV, but then I don't live in that shit-hole neighborhood. But what passes for clever these days amazes me. Alan Jay Lerner's lyrics for "My Fair Lady" are clever (Higgins sings a song entitled "A Hymn to Him" -- that's clever), calling a man "a bitch" is not clever, nor are any of the simpleminded rhymes in any rap song. Here's the first verse of "A Hymn to Him" (sorry gals):

Women are irrational, that's all there is to that
They're heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags
They're nothing but exasperating
Irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating
And infuriating hags

Josh

Name: Garret Harkawik
E-mail: funktaisia@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Speaking of the differences between film and video, you're right about them affecting different parts of the brain. I don't remember where, but I read something about a study that showed that when viewing TV (or video), because it is displayed at 29.97 fps, it puts the viewer in a subtle hypnotized state. Film's 24 fps puts the viewer in a dreamlike state. Aside from the science behind it, I think that film is just more absorbing than video. When I'm watching a movie shot on video, I feel like I'm holding the video camera that's recording the actors which is just not true with film.

Dear Garret:

The difference between watching anything on a TV and watching a film projected on a screen is completely different. Light reflecting off a screen back into your eyes excites your brain and puts you in an energized state of mind, watching anything on TV puts you into a slightly hypnotized state that's closer to sleeping. It's also much easier to achieve a sense of visual beauty in film simply because it's a better-looking medium with much higher resolution.

Josh

Name: Lee
E-mail:

Hey Josh

I found the review of Running Time here:

http://www.digitallyobsessed.com/showreview.php3?ID=811

I did a search for 'Running Time review' and this was the first web site that popped up.

Josh is right, Dee - doing it is the best way to learn all aspects of film-making. If you're absolutely new to the medium then it might be worth experimenting on video. Learn about the 180 line rule, how to shoot a conversation... video's just a great way to let film language seep into your brain - and it's dirt cheap.

When you feel confident, move onto 16mm. You won't be able to shoot as much as video, so you'll need to pre-plan. This is where your video experience will pay off.

This is what I did - started telling silly little stories on video when I was about 14. I've shot my first 16mm short at the age of 32 - 18 years after starting. Man that's scary when it's written down! The MOST important thing in my progression is that I took time out to learn how to write. This is Josh's big thing and he's right. Learn how to write. To get you started, I suggest you read Screenwriting by by Lew Hunter and Lajos Egri's The Art of Dramatic Writing. You'll get structure from Lew and character from Lajos.

I got an agent after writing five screenplays. A while later I got a few gigs writing for UK children's TV. I went BACK to dirtecting when I discovered how frustrating being a writer can be. There's a whole slew of middle management and readers and assistant producers that, as a writer, you have to wade through. However, if you're a writer-director you don't need ANYBODY's permission. You can write your short and make it yourself. YOU then create your own showreel. The key is to spend loads of time on the script; there's a temptation to rush into production cos the kit is at hand - you have to hold back.

I've learnt so much by doing it yourself. At the end of the day that's what it's all about. Hard-wiring all that info' into your own brain - and that only happens when you do it.

Good luck. Have fun with video. But when it comes to 16mm, don't pick up that camera until you have something to say, a story that excites you.

Best


Lee

Dear Lee:

That's all good, solid advice. Instead of video, my friends and I started on super-8 which was the cheapest form around at the time. We shot super-8 films for ten years before moving up to 16mm. But working in 16mm doesn't have to be all that expensive if, as you mentioned, you plan the hell out of your shoot. It's ultimately about $100 for 2 1/2 minutes of 16mm film -- $35 for 100' of film, $35 for processing, and $35 for either video transfer or workprint. A feature film in 16mm is about 4,000 feet long, which could theoretically be put in the can for about $4,000, if you're shooting at one-to-one, which isn't really feasible. Nevertheless, it doesn't have to be all that expensive, and if you're going to work in film you'd better start getting used to the prices of things.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Hey Josh,

I am glad that someone finally made a comment about "The Cat in the Hat" movie. When I saw that it was coming out last year, I was sickened, since the Dr. Suess books were some of my favorites growing up,(two of my favorites were "One Fish Two fish Red Fish Blue Fish", and "The Lorax", and "The Sneeches".).

I am going to see "Master and Commander" at some point. I am sure I will enjoy much of it and for what it is, it looks not half bad.

I did see the French Canadian film "Barbarian Invasions" (Les Invasions barbares) this past weekend and it was very good! It is the continuation of of the film "The Decline of the American Empire" ( (Le Déclin de l'empire américain) which was released in 1986 by the same director Denys Arcand.

I felt the film was one of the best I have seen this year and I suspect that you may enjoy both of them.

Also, I give "Whale Rider"a thumbs up! I also belive you would enjoy that film and don't forget "City of God" it should be released soon on DVD.

Take Care,
Scott

Dear Scott:

Thanks for the recommendations. I'll keep my eyes peeled for them. "Master and Commander" could have been so much better than it is that I find it distressing. It's not terrible, but it's nowhere near to good. If they'd set up a cat-and-mouse situation between the two ships, like "The Enemy Below" (1957), where Robert Mitchum is a battleship commander in the North Atlantic during WWII, and Curt Jurgens is the captain of a German submarine, and the two of them are trying to outwit the other one, they would have had a dramtic story that was worth telling. As it is, though, in M&C they have a big battle right away, which, in my opinion, is a big mistake, since we don't know anyone yet and doesn't matter, then they stall for over two hours until the next battle. Along the way, a number of the ship's crew die, but since we don't know any of them, it doesn't mean a thing. They keep trying to push the sentimental button with these deaths, but it fails every time. You only get a bit of characterization for the guys that live through it. Russell Crowe called the film "a $150 million art movie," alas, he's wrong. It's a $150 million poorly written, somewhat less than mediocre, unfocused, action film.

Josh

Name: Dee
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

While I have seen you say that one needs to read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies to understand good stories,etc...But how do you suggest learning the technical aspect of filmmaking? The editing, splicing, sound, camera work aspect? Experience? Classes?

Dear Dee:

I think the very best way of learning filmmaking is to just do it. No books or classes will teach you nearly as well as hands-on experience. Shoot a five or ten minute film on 16mm, then take it all the way to completion. After one or two of those, you'll technically understand nearly everything you'll need to know. You'll undoubtedly make mistakes, but if you're paying attention you'll learn from them and never make those mistakes again. And if it's a short little film, there won't be much money at stake. Good luck.

Josh

Name: leepy
E-mail:

Hey Royler

Have this - an independent review of one of Becker's films I found on the internet in 10 seconds:

The perfect heist. It's been the theme of many films, books, and other forms of entertainment for decades. I guess the romantic luster of being able to steal a couple million cleanly and without consequences is the ultimate fantasy. In Josh Becker's Running Time, this theme is explored in a unique and adept way.

Carl (Bruce Campbell) is getting out of prison. His good behavior and kissing-up to the warden has earned him an early release. The minute he gets out, though, he's already got another robbery planned. He hooks up with his friend Patrick (Jeremy Roberts) and they immediately set out to commit the theft with two other fellows. Unfortunately, a few snags get into their plan and, before they realize it, the scheme goes awry. Carl is forced into a difficult situation where he must not only make important life choices, but also figure out a way to escape capture for his newest crime.

Running Time is a taut thriller that not only unfolds in real time, but also stands as only the second film in history to be presented in a single, continuous shot (the first being Alfred Hitchcock's Rope in 1948). Now, this doesn't mean the film was done in one take; it means that there are no cut-aways, alternate angles, or any other similar technique. The trick is that whenever you have to insert an edit (since filming a movie in one take is unrealistic), you do it in a place where it won't be noticed. In Hitchcock's Rope this was accomplished by ending cuts by focusing on still objects or darkness. Becker uses similar technique, disguising his edits in very clever ways.

Be assured, though, that Running Time is not just a 'gimmick' film. The story and drama itself is quite interesting, and the fact that it's played out in such urgent, real-time settings makes it all the more involving. Bruce Campbell is in great form here as the slick Carl; easily his best non-Evil Dead performance. Also worthy of mention is how Becker manipulates the film into something with heart and humor (basically the story of how Carl re-develops a relationship with his high school girlfriend), rather than just some kind of ultra-violent thriller with no real point or message. Perhaps the best praise I can offer the film is that it feels wholly satisfying. It doesn't overdo the style aspect at all; rather, it simply uses it as the framework.

While a 70-minute running time (no pun intended) might seem thin, it works well with this concept. The 'continuous shot' aspect does not overstay its welcome and the pace is kept fresh and rewarding. With all sorts of over-hyped, low-budget, independent movies getting way more press than they deserve, Running Time's relative obscurity is disheartening, because it's an earnestly entertaining and superbly managed piece of work.

Lee

Dear Lee:

That's a nice review, where did it come from?

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Hey Josh

Just to follow on from Saul's posting, Dr Seuss' OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO is a heartening book for children AND adults. A real treasure.

Lee

Dear Lee:

Let's face it, pretty much all of Dr. Seuss's books are good. They're great kid's books and they're not syrupy or pandering. And I love his rhymes. I think "The Sneetches on the Beaches" is a perfect metaphor for all of the religions of the world -- Oh, we've got stars on our bellies and you don't, so we're better than you. And I can't read "23 Daves" without laughing out loud. Anyone see "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" (1953), the only live-action film Theodore Geisel ever wrote? It's pretty interesting, and was produced by Stanley Kramer.

Josh

Name: John Hunt
E-mail: chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

You're absolutely right about "Naked Prey". The elephant slaughter is haunting. It's amazing how those huge animals just get mowed down; it makes one appreciate the efforts that have been made to save the animals. As for the seen on the spit, that is one of the more disturbing scenes I have ever seen. It was used in a "Xena" episode, by the way. Joxer's son and his friend are captured by "The Horde" and the friend gets roasted. Renee O'Connor gets trussed up but, fortunately, Xena saves the day. The scene even bothered me in "Xena", though I knew where it was from.

John

Dear John:

It's worse than haunting, it's disgusting. I really, really hate and object to the killing of animals for a movie. Meanwhile, though, "The Naked Prey" is kind of a good film. Very simple, and very effective and suspenseful. Cornel Wilde also directed a WWII film called "Beach Red" that I also kind of liked.

Josh

Name: Reggie
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I have a couple questions about "guerrilla" shooting...Let's say you are filming a character walking down a street past several businesses, but you don't actually see the names of the businesses. Could you get into any kind of trouble for not getting permission from the business owners? What if you DO show the name of the business, and the film miraculously ends up becoming a big hit...what are the odds that the business owner would get pissed enough to sue you or something? Do you think they would even want to go through that kind of trouble? Did you do any of this kind of shooting for THOU?

Thanks,
Paranoid Reggie

Dear Reggie:

Why would a business a character passes on the street bother to sue you? I don't worry about shit like that at all. In TSNKE I have a scene in front of the VA hospital here in Detroit. I called the Veteran's Administration to get permission, immediately got caught in a mass of red tape, was told I'd have to speak to the main office in Washington, D.C. and it would take months. So, instead I just went there and shot the scene. It's been 19 years and I haven't heard a word about it. In both "Lunatics" and "Running Time" characters are passing businesses on the street that we didn't get permission from, but so what? Look, anybody can sue anybody about anything, but do they have a reason? Like are you taking money away from them somehow? It's expensive as hell to sue somebody, and if you don't have a legitimate case it'll never get to court. Just passing someone's business in a low-budget film is no reason for a law suit. I say, don't worry about it.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Wait a minute--lyrics? You're writing songs? What instrument (if any) do you play? I'm a songwriter, myself--I play the guitar.

I find that writing actual song lyrics is one of the hardest things in the world (if I want to like the song). It's easy to write bad songs, joke songs, "Tenacious D"-type songs (not that I'm dissing The D, just that you have to admit, those songs have "Hey! I just got high with my best friend and we're fucking around on the guitars!" written all over them), but actual, good lyrics are very difficult. With that said, I find that it's easier to just come up with a guitar line, and compose lyrics right into the microphone off the top of my head. Generally, I get some pretty good stuff that way!

Just a thought.

And regarding Royler, he and I had a back-and-forth about you, and after a few points that he made, I decided it wasn't worth arguing with him any more. One of the statements that made me run away was, "I also would like to watch 'Running Time' but find the purposeful use of black and white annoying. It's not artistically superior. If most movies could've been filmed in color in the 1920s, they would have. To voluntarily shoot that way makes no sense." RUN AWAY!

You rock,

C.

Dear Cindy:

Yes, that's certainly a dumb comment of Mr. Royler's, and flatly untrue as well. Throughout the 1950s and most of the '60s (up to about 1967), filmmakers could choose whether they wanted to shoot in color or b&w, and many still chose b&w. The idea being that b&w was more realistic, and better suited for serious subjects, which I agree with. I also think that, for the most part, b&w just looks better than color, mainly because it's much easier to light. You can do a half-assed job of lighting b&w and it will still look good, whereas color is much more difficult to make look good. Meanwhile, I've been attempting to adapt "Lunatics" into a stage musical. It actually functions quite well as a play, being as confined as the story is. I've written about 20 songs, and I've rewritten the first song about 20 times. None of the songs are all that good, though. I don't play any instrument, but then, neither did Oscar Hammerstein II or Alan Jay Lerner.

Josh

Name: Blake Eckard
E-mail: bseckard@ccp.com

Josh,

Re your inquiry about the feature documentary I'm making, "Sasquatch, The Great Conspiracy."

It's all been shot on color 16mm (7274 and 7246)on locations in Oregon, Washington, and northern California. I've been filming off and on since October of 2000. Completely self financed. To date I've invested approx. $25,000.00 and have processed and transfered to video over 10 hours of footage.

To keep costs as low as possible I've run all the location sound myself with a DAT recorder (which I learned how to operate less than one hour before filming, a horribly nightmarish moment). The DAT has run $100/day plus shipping. I've hired the same DP for $600/day and one assistant at $100/day. Camera package has run about $600/day. I've paid over 10 people between $50.00 and $350.00 for appearence fees.

The only time anything other than a tripod has been used was one day with a jib (don't remember off hand what it cost), which did everything a stedicam and dolly would have done for the same scene...And it was very easy to get up and working, I might add. Much faster than putting down dolly track.

I live and work in Missouri and five months work affords me 3 days of filming, and that's saving every penny. So far it's worked but it certainly does take time (tons of it).

The fact that my film is a documentary is the only reason it has taken solong to shoot. With a specific amount of pages to be shot, I believe an 80-90 page screenplay could have been shot well over a year ago under the same circumstances. That's taking into consideration the appearence fees which would go to paying 3-4 actors (certainly not SAG) with everything else remaining the same. Would probably need to add an AC and Sound Recorder.

An interesting tid bit...A fairly well known New York Producer's Rep (several sales to HBO, New Yorker Films, and a credit in "The Blair Witch Project,") became interested in the film last fall and asked to see something. I hadn't put any scenes together, so had to go looking. I got one helluva deal with a small post house in California (Red Rocket Pictures of San Jose) to cut a promo tape for a flat fee of 2 grand. Having no clue as to what reps look for in an in-progress film I assumed it should be something short and to the point. No more than 10 minutes. We cut an eight minute teaser, then cut that down to five minutes. This took almost two months. It's finally done and off it goes to New York. When this rep came around to watching the tape it did absolutely nothing to help me because, and I quote, "it was too short." Reps when looking at an in-progress picture want to see something that represents the first 20-30 minutes of a movie. They must have a feeling for what, in this case, was of interest to this person from a producing stand point (going out and finding completion funds). Big financial mistake on my part.

As of now I'm hoping to be done shooting this winter (knock on wood). For editing I plan to spend next to nothing. I've learned that to sit in a editing suite using an avid, without an editor no less, runs up to 2 grand per day! No way that's happening. There are other options...It's just that finding them often takes a long time. I have thought about buying Final Cut Pro. Someone told me I could get it for around $3,000.00, but I haven't yet looked into that. Getting intouch with state film commissions also helps when looking for deals. They really try to help filmmakers.

I hope you can apply some of this to your new film.
Thanks for the interest. Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

It all sounds very cool. And it seems like you've done quite a lot of the work already, so you're nearer the end than the beginning. You may want to look into leasing an Apple G-2 (or is it a G-4 now?) and getting Final Cut Pro and doing it all yourself. Also keep in mind that producer's reps, or sales agents, take 33% of the sale price and their fee can easily be the difference between profit and loss. Therefore, any deal you make has to have an additional 33% added to it or you won't end up with any profit at all. That's good info about the promo reel, and it having to be 20-30 minutes long. Keep up the good work and finish the film. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Calvin
E-mail: calvin AT twu DOT net

Hey folks,

I thought I'd just quickly share this little nugget of joy, as a few people were smart enough to pick up on Roger Ebert's screenwriting credits for Trash-Master Russ Meyer. (Just to note, Roger wrote two more scripts for Meyer: "Up!" and "Beneath the Valley of the Super-Vixens.")

A couple years ago, The Onion ("America's Finest News Source," a satirical newspaper) and their more serious arts & entertainment section "The A.V. Club" did an interview with Meyer. The following quote is fucking priceless:

Onion: How did your collaboration with Roger Ebert come about?
RM: Tits. Plain and simple, Roger loves tits.

Kinda puts a new light on such a respected critic, eh?


Good Luck and Best Wishes,
C.G.

Dear Calvin:

Another movie geek adds in their two cents worth. I didn't know Ebert wrote those other Russ Meyer films. I'm impressed, although "Beneath the Valley of the Super-Vixens" is complete and utter shit. And those are the credentials of America's foremost film critic. My credits are better than his.

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: wakko@icon-stl.net

Josh,

I just saw Richard Linklater's film Waking Life, and I found it endlessly dull. I also hated the fact that the entire movie was animated using Rotoscope, which I've thought is extremely hideous and freaky. I realize the fact that it had no structure was intentional, because dreams are unstructured, and the film was meant to represent a dream. But that didn't make it any less boring or stupid. Watching the film is what I would imagine it would be like to be the only sober person at a party in which everyone had been taking large quantities of drugs. Have you seen this film? What did you think of it? Also to Royler, I often disagree with Josh's opinions, but he is much more mature than I, and has a much more developed film palate than most people I know. Thank you Josh, for seeing beyond what's popular. Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Ben:

I watched the first five minutes of "Waking Life" and that was enough for me. I must say, though, that I did like "Tape," although I think Linklater's direction is the worst aspect of it. Rotoscoping was kind of cool in 1937 when they used it for "Snow White," making her rotoscoped and everything else fully animated, and that was probably the last time it was interesting.

Josh

Name: Lee
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hey Josh

Yeah, my right bicep is extraordinary after humping that Arri BL! Regarding the Zeiss lenses, I've extensively used my Zeiss 8mm after looking at the first lot of rushes. It's made my Century 5.7 a little redundant, now (apart from when I'm shooting in a VERY small room, I guess).

Making these short 16mm films is an adventure. We have to wait approx. two weeks before seeing the footage, then we do a reshoot. But it's worth the wait. After working on video for so long, I keep turning to my colleague and saying, "It LOOKS like film!"

I read a great explanation of the difference between film and video. Basically the theory is this: video is associated with TV and particularly news. It's immediate, whereas film (with its latent image) has to go to be developed, then printed. It's a recording of an event that also puts a little distance between it and the viewer.

I kinda like this theory - it's like the difference between video and film is more of a cultural thang, rather than purely a technical issue.

Just wondered what your thoughts were on this.

Anyhow - long live 16mm! Lovin' it.

Lata.

Lee

PS Withnail and I. I won't be hurt if ya hate it!!!

Dear Lee:

I think there's even more of a difference between film and video than that. I think they affect different parts of the brain. Certainly light beaming off a screen affects the brain entirely differently than a TV set. But there's still something impressive about a photographic image, moving or still, that an electronic image simply doesn't have. No, I haven't seen "Withnail." I did start watching it once, but didn't really give it a chance. I'll try again.

Josh

Name: Saul Trabal
E-mail: ghost_kingdom@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

An interesting review of Mike Myers' THE CAT IN THE HAT:

http://www.boston.com/movies/display?display=movie&id=2287

After I read it-and one line in particular-I immediately thought of you.
:)

Dear Saul:

Well, thanks. That was a pointed, well-written, slightly scathing attack on the horrible shit that is Hollywood. And the use of "Sneetches on the Beaches" was particularly apt as it was my favorite Dr. Seuss book as a kid, and I still have it. Hollywood now cheapens and degrades every piece of material they lay their grubby hands on, even if it was schlock to begin with, like "Shaft" or "Mission: Impossible" (but certainly not Dr. Seuss, by any means -- Theodore Geisel was great).

Josh

Name: Alice Schultz
E-mail: alice.schultz@sympatico.ca

Dear Josh,

I'm pretty religious (RC). Just mentioning that however I may differ on the particulars, I consider that in central concept that's a pretty religious article you wrote on the subject, in a way you probably wouldn't resent if I went into it.

Pax vobiscum

Alice

Dear Alice:

Hey, I'm a deeply spiritual guy. I just don't like organized religion, which I feel cheapens the idea of God. But I certainly believe in the mighty cohesive power that holds everything together so that everything doesn't go flying off into a million pieces at any given moment. Something obsessively drives me to want to tell stories on motion picture film, and keeps put silly stories in my head. What's that all about, huh? I simply resent anybody who thinks they have the slightest inkling of a key into quantifying that power, which is nothing more than ignorant human vanity--"I call the power Jehovah, and I'm right!" "No, I call the power Allah, and I'm right and you're wrong!" "No, I call it Shiva and you're both wrong!" Blah, blah, blah. All of that, to me, trivializes the concept.

Josh

Name: John Ford
E-mail:

Howdy Josh- Long Time No Hear

Note to Royler: You stated "Ebert didn't attempt to make a living writing screenplays." Are you speaking of Chicago Sun Times Movie Critic Roger Ebert? If you are then maybe you should check out "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." Basically, Ebert is a failed screenplay writer. So this qualifies him as a movie critic.

Dear John:

Ah, movie geeks! We all jumped in on that one. It's like we're all coiled, our fangs bared, ready to strike. What, by the way, qualifies anyone to be a film critic? That they got the gig, and that's it.

Josh

Name: Dee
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Have you considered commercials? My cousin is an agent for directors and commercials and from what she told me, a lot of big directors do commercials. Have you ever considered trying this?

Dear Dee:

Yeah, but I'm not a big director. I spent from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s working on the crews on commercials, industrials, music videos, etc. Being a director on a commercial may be the single most ass-kissing position a director can possibly put themselves into. I'm no good at that part of the job, that's why I didn't keep working in TV. If I make my own movies then no one gets to tell me what to do. I'm poor but I'm free, Goddamnit!

Josh

Name: Saul Trabal
E-mail: ghost_kingdom@yahoo.com

Hi Josh,

If I recall correctly, you wrote a novel at one point. If so, my question is this: which do you find to be more difficult-writing a novel or a script?

Also, I assume the more you understand using imagery in stories, the easier it would be to incorporate scenes properly in a script. What would be some good examples of this? I'd like to find examples of both the script and the final film, so I can do a comparison and learn from them.

Saul

Dear Saul:

As the old expression goes: "It's hard to make a good movie; and it's hard to make a bad movie." Well, writing a good anything is hard. I've been tring to write lyrics for the past several months, and that's ridiculously difficult to do, too. I've taken one crack at a novel twenty years ago, and though I finished it, the writing is very, very poor. So poor, in fact, that I've never had the guts to post it. Your prose doesn't have to be all that good for a screenplay, so what makes that good is yet a whole other thing. As for your question, "Also, I assume the more you understand using imagery in stories, the easier it would be to incorporate scenes properly in a script. What would be some good examples of this?" I'm not sure I understand what you're asking.

Josh

Name: Andy De Cusati
E-mail: lilnemo1863@hotmail.com

Hi,

Came across your site at work. Not much time to look around. Is The Devil Dogs script a movie you are planning to do? If so when? I served in 1st Batt 6th Marines in the early 1980's but the battalion served in Belleau Wood in WW1 so I would be interested in seeing the finished product.
Thanks.
Andy De Cusati

Dear Andy:

Semper fi, dude. I'd love to shoot that script, but it would take at least $10 million, and I don't know where to put my grubby paws on that much money. But it's definitely a story that ought to be told. Those guys were real heroes, unlike say, Jessica Lynch, who was taken as a hostage, then let go. Big deal. Try standing up with a thousand German machine guns firing at you, attack, fight in hand-to-hand combat for a month, not be resupplied with food or ammo, and actually succeed. Those Marines are all unsung heroes and deserve a film made about them.

Josh

Name: Lee
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hey Josh

Just finished my second short on the Arri BL you recommended. It's a lovely camera. And SO easy to load. Ok, it's a bit heavy, and after 24 set ups in one day I ached, but it was worth it.

Just looked at your favourite films list. Have you seen Bruce Robinson's Withnail and I? I think it's a terrific film. A very simple plot but terrifically watchable characters and quite, quite surreal. I could watch Richard E Grant (who has the scene eating lines) over and over. If you've not caught it, please do.

Of course, you may hate it (!) but that's what makes life interesting.

Oh, and Royler... go away, there's a good lad. You're just nasty and angry.

Lata

Lee

Dear Lee:

Oh, Royler's just challenging me, which is fine. I mean, where do I come off bad-mouthing these popular filmmakers anyway? If everyone decides that eating dirt is the new hip thing to do, who am I to say it tastes bad? Regarding the weight of the Arri-BL, you know you could put it on a tripod occasionally. But it really is a nice, well-made camera, as are all Arriflex cameras (Stanley Kubrick wouldn't use anything else). And having used a Panavision camera the last time, I'm back to Arriflex forever (admittedly, Panavision cut me a great deal, but that camera was nearly impossible to load, and the second-tier Panavision lenses don't come close to the Zeiss lenses, even the second-tier Zeiss Super Speeds). Meanwhile, I'll bet your right bicep is in terrific shape.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail: JEaganFilm@aol.com

Josh,

Don't you think that most filmmakers enter the business with some expectation/hope that they will make "hit" movies? I don't think that the desire to make a hit movie is necessarily a bad thing, its just that most filmmakers these days figure that a hit movie is the same thing as a good movie. I don't know what young filmmakers were like 50 years ago, but in my experience the typical young filmmaker right now is mostly interested in creating something flashy and non-linear. A movie like Memento is very much a representation of what most young filmmakers would love to make. I personally believe that this comes from the fact that fewer and fewer kids are reading anymore. I think that filmmakers from 50 years ago came from a somewhat literary background. They knew what a good story was from actually reading it. Nowadays, all the movie ideas come from other movies, music videos, etc. Pop-culture is the breeding ground for movies, which in our current state of affairs is a pretty bad thing to base a movie on.

Jim

Dear Jim:

I agree that everyone wants to do well and make money, but I certainly didn't go into the film business for just that reason, or even for mainly that reason. I wanted, and still want, to make great films. And I know a lot of other talented filmmakers who also went into movies for the same reasons. Yes, we all of us hope that what we think is good will appeal to a wide audience, but I definitely don't ever even consider what "they" will think is good, it's always what I think is good. If my taste and the public's taste ever sync up, I suppose I'll make some money. If not, I'll still keep trying to make what I consider to be good, even if the masses don't agree. But I think pandering to what you believe are the taste of the masses is a big mistake. To thine own self be true.

Josh

Name: dave
E-mail: ddruc40@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

the 99 cent story is one of the funniest stories i have read. But it is true. I bought a sony cd-rw from them and it is locked and unable to erase to use it so it went in the trash. just hate to bring it back for 99cents.

Dear Dave:

You pay your 99-cents and you take your chances. Since no one at the 99-cent store near me in Santa Monica spoke English, I would never even consider bringing anything back. They actually sold meat products there, too, which always scared me. There's nothing like buying out-of-date meat products from another country. I still have my 99-cent broom, made in Mexico, that has functioned fine for about five years. Unlike the mop I bought there that broke into fifty pieces the first time I tried to use it. If you wanted a mop to break into that many pieces in a movie it would never work.

Josh

Name: John Hunt
E-mail: Chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

Another point of clarification, this time for Mr. Royler. I believe Roger Ebert did actually make his name as a screenwriter with "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls," which, released in 1970.

I might also suggest that you step back a bit and lighten up a little. This site is about opinions, which will always be subjective. Most of us have films which we like but Josh does not and the reverse is also true. What we at this site are interested in, however, is the reasoning behind those opinions, much more than the opinions themselves. Your opinions on specific films or genres would, I have no doubt, be more than welcome. Ad hominem attacks, however, serve no one's interests.

On a different note, Josh, I had a comment on horror films, as you're developing an idea with BC in mind. It has always seemed to me that hopelessness ruins any horror film or thriller. If you "...just can't kill the beast," to coin a phrase, what's the point. I've always thought that the key to horror and thriller movies is the tension of whether or not the protagonist will find way out and attain it, but it has to be made clear at some point that such a way exists. I happen to think that failure is often a better ending. What was the movie about the white man running across Africa chased by African tribesmen only to die within sight of safety? The name escapes me just now but that ending is haunting. Just wondered about your thoughts. Thanks, as always,

John

Dear John:

"The Naked Prey" with Cornel Wilde is the film you're referring to. It has that one truly horrifying image of his white buddy having been caught by the natives, covered in mud, then roasted over a fire on a spit, that has never left my mind. Horrifyingly, the film begins with a montage of shooting elephants that's real, and I can't stand seeing it. And yes, I agree with you that the protaganist in a horror film (or any film) needs to have a sense of hope that they will succeed at whatever it is they're caught in. That's why stories of famous actors or musicians drinking or doing drugs until they die -- like Charlie Parker, Bix Beiderbecke, Jim Morrison, or John Belushi -- is always tough to watch because the dramatic arc is going straight down. And that's why "Alien" or "Aliens" is so good, because we not only never give up hope on Ripley, but she seems like she may well be able to handle whatever is thrown at her.

Josh

Name: Brian
E-mail: KumiteENT@aol.com

Hey Josh,

I just saw Fred Zinnemann's "High Noon" for the first time last week. Man that was a great film! I also love the fact that it was a parable of the time for the red manace. A nice fuck you to mccarthyism. I was never a fan of the western genre, I think seeing "Shane" when I was very young ruined it for me, but after "High Noon" I wanted to go to the video store and rent others. I got "Butch Cassidy and the sundance kid" and "The Gunfighter" with Gregory Peck. Are there any that you'd recommend for me to see?

-Brian

p.s. I too am in no relation to you and I own both "Running Time" and TSNKE....just a clarification.

Dear Brian:

And I thought you were my long-lost brother. Jeez. Yes, "High Noon" is an impressive film, particularly being rather low-budget, and it certainly got Coop's career going again. Grace Kelly seems too young for him, but what the hell. It's always a kick seeing Lee Van Cleef that young, too. I think Fred Zinneman is one of the really terrific directors, with a great sense of cinema. As for other good westerns, I must say that "Ulzana's Raid" with Burt Lancaster really sticks in my mind. I'm also a big fan of: "The Big Country," "True Grit," "The Wild Bunch," "The Professionals," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "Warlock," "Rio Bravo," "Hell's Heroes," and "The Magnificent Seven" to name a few.

Josh

Name: Blake Eckard
E-mail:

Josh,

The mention that you ARE trying to get another picture up and going (horror, with B.C. no less) is good news. Really made me perk up. From your top ten pic of the genre I'd say you understand the category well. (Not to mention your treatment for "Terrified," which I still feel holds an interesting premise.)

Two years ago when you planned to shoot "Warpath" in OR, I was living up on Mt. Hood. I told you I'd make the drive to Medford\Jacksonville to help out in any way, free of charge. The offer still stands. Would be a worthy cause, plus a lot of fun.

And in reference to something you said a while back about going out and making my own 60K film...I am, and have been for over three years now. Check out my site, if you wish. It's brand-skankin' new.

www.sasquatchdocu.com

Hey, have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

Very cool. Are you shooting on film or DV? Have you shot it yet, or is it like a weekend type of deal? Details, man, details! And thanks for the offer to work on the crew. It's a problem having crew members come in from out of town because they need to be housed and fed, which my tiny budgets don't allow for (not that I even have a budget yet). Anyway, tell us about your film.

Josh

Name: Royler
E-mail: Royler20@aol.com

"The entire basis of his attack, whether he cares to own up to it or not, is money."

Utter bullshit. The basis of my "attack" is simply where I find irony in a under-radar filmmaker taking more accomplished filmmakers to task for what he perceives to be a lack of talent.

It's not enough for Becker to say, "Sorry, but 'Pulp' was just not my cup of tea." (Film is, after all, a subjective medium: there is no "right" or wrong" answer.) Instead, Tarantino is a Z-grade hack with no talent and no conception of structure. Becker's complaints have nothing to do with the end product and everything to do with the competency level of the scenarist.

*I* find that humorous simply because remorseless thief Tarantino has reached and satisfied a far larger audience and critic pool than Becker has. For all his supposed faults, he still managed to completely shake up independent film for a decade following "Pulp" and spawned hundreds and hundreds of imitations. Like it or don't, that is simply not an indicator of a talentless bum.

I don't like every movie I see. Hell, I don't like most movies I see. Becker's nonsensical diatribe about me only respecting the "event" film is insanity. Michael Bay deserves a special hallway in Hell for the garbage he's foisted upon us. Ditto Adam Sandler and anyone who panders to the lowest common denominator. I haven't been to the movies in two years. I use my own tastes to determine what I'll bother with on DVD.

That Becker not only dislikes "Clerks" or its ilk but thinks it's some kind of natural disaster smacks of petty jealousy to me. Certain films may bore me to tears, but I'm still able to acknowledge a degree of craftsmanship or unique POV that earns respect for not being assembly line garbage.

I'm sorry, but I can't wrap my brain around Becker's incessant babble about "structure" or his old-man-on-a-porch, condescending attitude. In light of the fucking swill that fills multiplexes, I'm shocked that Becker can't appreciate some of these films and filmmakers as - at the least - non-conforming.

There is no "Gone With The Wind" collecting dust on someone's PC. Good material finds a way to the surface. If Becker were as competent in telling a story as the others, he would occupy the same space in newspapers and store shelves.

Scratch that: perhaps Becker's tastes are just too eclectic for the populace at large. I simply have a hard time believing someone with ties to Sam Raimi and a solid background in television couldn't get a project off the ground if he wanted to. That is, if the material were worth pursuing.

If you care to toil on movies with obtuse subject matter that appeals only to you, great, but why cop the elitist attitude? Why not temper a criticism of Smith (admittedly a mundane shooter) with, "But at least the guy is trying something different with the dialogue and has his own distinctive POV?"

Fuck, man, have some respect for guys who started with nothing and turned it into something: some critical acclaim, some audience satisfaction, and something unique to add to the medium.

Dear Royler:

I honestly do appreciate your criticism, and I'm not trying to diss you, but there are a few basic facts you clearly don't understand, which is perfectly understandable for someone who's not in the film business. For instance, "I simply have a hard time believing someone with ties to Sam Raimi and a solid background in television couldn't get a project off the ground if he wanted to." Anyone that could make that statement hasn't got the first clue how the film business functions. Getting a film financed in Hollywood is possibly one of the most difficult human undertakings at this time, takes years, tons of luck, and an almost endless amount of ass-kissing. There are truly about a million people vying for about 250 films each year, and the reasons those films get financed are beyong mortal man's understanding. Knowing Sam Raimi won't buy me a cup of coffee, and working in TV, just like your attitude, only works against you now in Hollywood. The small-minded MBA film execs believe there's some great difference between shooting TV and shooting movies. The only difference is that TV is much harder because you have to go so much faster. Nevertheless, just like you pointing a finger at me and saying, "But you directed Xena," like that's a black mark on my resume, that's how the execs see it, too, and they'd rather a hire a kid who's directed one music video. Your second misinformed statement is, "There is no 'Gone With The Wind' collecting dust on someone's PC. Good material finds a way to the surface. If Becker were as competent in telling a story as the others, he would occupy the same space in newspapers and store shelves." That is, once again, flatly untrue, and why I accused you of only thinking about money. Good material does not necessarily find its way to the surface. Most execs and producers will no longer read a script, mainly because there are millions of them clogging the system. There may very well be a lot of good scripts out there, but quality scripts have nothing to do with the Hollywood system anymore, and no one is searching for them. Scripts are now written as a big committee ordeal, putting the writers through endless rewrites that have nothing to do with their taste or sense of what's good. It's a severely screwed-up system, run by huge conglomerates, that's in a serious state of decay. I recommend that you read "Monster" by John Gregory Dunne; "Adventures in the Screen Trade" and "Which Lie Did I Tell," both by William Goldman.

Meanwhile, I have my own standards of what is a quality film, and Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino don't live up to any of them, and I simply won't grade on a curve. That they may be popular at this exact moment means nothing to me. Liking what's momentarily popular in movies is exactly the same thing as liking whatever's most popular in music at the moment, like Britney Spears or Ashanti. Just because they sell, doesn't make them good. To me "Clerks" is badly written, horribly shot, and poorly acted (and it's Kevin Smith's best movie), so why should I have to give it any respect? Just because he got it released and the stupid critics glommed on to it? Sorry, that's just not good enough for me.

And maybe you're right, maybe my tastes are too eclectic for the general public, but that's perfectly okay with me. Do keep in mind (not that I'm comparing myself here) that Vincent Van Gogh never sold a painting during his lifetime. What's good is frequently not what's popular.

Josh

Name: Diana Hawkes
E-mail: upon request

Dear Josh:

Point of clarification:

I thought Roger Ebert DID in fact try to make a living as a screenwriter.

((({{{JOSH}}}))) ...those are corny cyberhugs

Dear Diana:

He did write "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" for Russ Meyer in 1970. I'm not sure that counts as "making a living as a screenwriter," but, unlike most critics, he has actually worked in the business, albeit somewhat briefly. I still think he's a lousy critic.

Josh

Name: Daniel
E-mail: danjfox@rogers.com

Dear Josh:

Just to let Royler know, Memento holds to the three act structure. It starts with the mystery of the dead man, moves into the obstacles of finding out the truth about the hero's relationship with said corpse, and finally the truth is revealed. The storyline may be gimmicked up, but the structure ain't: Beginning, middle, and end.

Elsewhere someone mentioned that they liked the cinematography of Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Just to let them know, Robert Rodriguez probably did it himself. I know he did for the last Spy Kids movies, he likes to do as much as possible - eg. he did the music and production design for the later Spy Kids movies and I think it was his intention to keep this up. It's too bad he didn't get some help on the script though. I enjoyed Desperado and El Mariachi, but Once Upon A Time was a complete mess.

Josh, have you seen Whale Rider? I thought it was going to be a sappy kids movie but it turned out to be better than expected. The grandfather could have been shown in a more sympathetic light, but other than that it's not too shabby.

Dear Daniel:

Nope, I haven't seen that one yet, either. I was just at a family gathering and it got both thumbs up and thumbs down from various folks. I'll see it, too, very soon I'm sure.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Josh,

I just caught "Nowhere in Africa" this past weekend on "On Demand".

I missed it in the theatre when it came out. I thought the film was beautifully shot and even though, I felt it had some holes with character development, I felt the film was pretty good.

The problem is that I am getting tired of films about holocaust survivors and the like. I do belive their was efinitley a good story with this film, but I was a little torn with it.

Have you seen it yet?

Scott

Dear Scott:

No, not yet, but it was recommended to me several times in the past few days. If everyone else has recently seen it, I'm sure it will be available for me to see very soon. I did see "Master and Commander," though, which got glowing reviews, and it's okay, but definitely not good. And highly unmemorable. At least Russell Crowe speaks with a British accent, which is close to his Aussie accent, so he isn't doing his weird American imitation that sounds like he's badly dubbed. It's also a particularly ugly film for the great Australian DP, Russell Boyd.

Josh

Name: Keith
E-mail: KeithRobinson@krobin.freeisp.co.uk

Dear Josh,

I don't see why there are certain individuals giving you flak because of your opinions or your feature films. Everyone's entitled to an opinion, so why should everyone get so ratty cos you dont like Quinten Tarantino films or Kevin Smith? In my opinion Tarantino just rips off lower profile, higher quality Hong Kong movies and always has done. And Kevin Smith is just shit. Just my personal opinion, no big deal.

I think most of the "critics" on your Q&A pages haven't even MADE a feature film, especially independantly or with no budget, let alone sell and get it distributed which everyone seems to think is some walk in the park. So they have no idea how hard it is to get anywhere in this business and what the nature of the word success is really attributed by.

Try making a film first, then feel free to criticise...

Keith

Dear Keith:

I don't think that's the point. You don't have to be a filmmaker to be able to criticize. This Royler person doesn't have to be a filmmaker to criticize me, but it would certainly strengthen his stance if he'd seen any of my films. He's attacking me strictly based on his never having heard of my films, ergo they weren't hits and didn't make a lot of money. The entire basis of his attack, whether he cares to own up to it or not, is money. And that's perfectly representative of the time period we live in. Anything that's made big money is good; anything that hasn't made big money is bad. Money is everything. Art, opinion, and taste are all subverted by money. That's why the concept of "selling out" has vanished from the vernacular. The point to every filmmaker now is making the big score, not making art, or even making anything good, just selling tickets. Selling out is the point. All young filmmakers dream of making on low-budget feature on DV, then being hired for a million dollars to make "Free Willy 5." That's the dream, and anything that goes against it must be wrong. Royler is simply expressing the contemporary point of view, which I of course consider pathetic.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Royler,

Years ago, I rented a movie because Ted Raimi was in it. It was called "Lunatics: A Love Story" and I thought it was great. Funny. Weird. Different. I was the assistant manager of a video store at the time, and encouraged my customers to rent it when they were looking for a 'different' romantic comedy. I had appreciated Ted in various other bit parts, and was happy that he could carry a film. What I soon learned was that it was the script and the director, not just Mr. Raimi, which made it so great, and the director/writer was Josh Becker.

I was stunned, years later, to discover that not only did this kick-ass writer and director have other movies that were well worth watching, ("Running Time," "If I Had a Hammer,") but a website on which he would actually write back to you if you said something to him! I was thrilled to the teeth.

And here you are, telling him that he sucks because he doesn't like the same Hollywood crap that you yourself admit to hating. Why is this? Why can't he have an opinion? Don't you, as a roofer, recognize shoddy work? You might not put up a website, but there aren't many roofing websites. There are, however, thousands and thousands of movie websites, Quentin Tarantino-worshipping sites, etc. So this site makes sense. People say, "Schindler's List was great!" and Josh says, "Nope. It sucked." Just like you can, too. See?

Now...why are you so angry, again?

--Cindy

p.s. HAVE you seen any of Mr. Becker's movies that you're dissing?

Dear Cindy:

Thanks for the support.

Josh

Name: Royler
E-mail: Royler20@aol.com

Dear Josh:

I felt the need to follow up on my post of 11/17 documenting my amusement at Becker's holier-than-Quentin tirades.

Becker, you portend to criticize cult figures like Tarantino and Smith and hide behind the belief that one does not need to do better in order to find fault.

Know what? That's fine for people who don't make movies. Ebert and Kael didn't attempt to make their living writing screenplays. Paying customers are entitled to their opinions. As a fight fan, I chuckle when people respond to criticism of a fighter's abilities or performance with a seething, "Yeah, well let's see you get in the ring!" It's inane.

However, what is rarely seen is a fighter sitting down and lambasting another fighter's technique, unless they happen to be heading toward an actual bout with one another. As a (fringe) peer to these people, you're held to a higher standard than someone who rented one of their videos.

You taking more accomplished filmmakers to task smacks of petty jealousy. If I'm a roofer, do I go and heckle another roofer's shitty work if my own house is leaking every time it rains? I could, but only if I wanted to look like a clueless boob.

As for labeling me as a "kiss-ass" who thinks "making money" is the point of living or filmmaking: D'oh. I couldn't give two shits if a movie has "legs" or breaks even overseas or falls face first on opening weekend. "Titanic" was a deadly-dull bore. The "Star Wars" prequels are nothing but pseudo-cartoons wrapped in packaging attractive enough for a McDonald's tie-in. "Memento," which made all of two bucks, is the most original work I've seen in years (and shock of shocks, completely dismantles your precious "structure").

It seems incomprehensible to you that someone enjoys the work of these people based on their own merits. You appear to enjoy being a crackpot for no other reason than your own fuming self-apathy. Ellison can get away with it because he's one of the better storytellers of the last century. Would you really find his commentary that respectable if he churned out "Xena" episodes? Is there a reason Carrot Top would be laughed out of existence if he started a web site and trashed 99% of comic acts?

Please.

P.S. Isn't it Filmmaking 101 to come up with a title that intrigues viewers and cuts to the point? "If I Had a Hammer" rolls off the tongue like a boulder.

Dear Royler:

Jeez. Well, you can thank Pete Seeger and Lee Hays for "If I Had a Hammer," I just borrowed the title. Although you m ay think that I am "held to a higher standard" than a film critic, I flatly disagree. First and foremost, I am movie fan -- a deep, unregenerate, obsessive, move geek -- and as such, I'm allowed my opinion just like you are. Meanwhile, I still don't think you've seen any of my movies, so your whole argument is on pretty shaky ground. And to pick on my experience of directing TV, which has been incredibly useful in making low-budget independent features, is silly. Everybody's worked in TV. Do you hold "Bossom Buddies" against Tom Hanks? Do you hold "Rawhide" against Clint Eastwood? Working in TV is great experience. I shot my last movie in three weeks, and the one before that in two weeks, and that's because I spent ten years directing TV. So shut up.

Josh

Name: kevin
E-mail: smit12092000@aol.com

Dear Josh:

i have been making films on video for some time now...i would like to move on to film, but i dont know where i could find a 8mm or 16mm camera
--any ideas

also if i did have a 8 or 16mm camera would i need a editing machine to edit the film together,and where would i be able to get the film devolped

thank you

Dear Kevin:

You've got to get the film developed. The questions is, will you be cutting on film with a splicer, or will you be cutting digitally on a computer? What have you got acccess to? As for 8mm or 16mm, I absolutely vote for 16mm, with which you can do everything -- show in a theater, transfer to video, etc. It's basically impossible to get anything professional-looking with Super-8. And equipment is easier than ever to find these days with the handy-dandy internet. I bought a 16mm Bolex camera, and five lenses, including a big zoom lens, for $999 off the internet. My friend Paul has been using it for the past year to shoot his movie, and the footage looks great, if you do everything right, that is.

Josh

Name: Dee
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

This should be an easy one for you to answer. Do you use a script writing software to write a screenplay? Or just Microsoft Word? I have always wondered what most people use?

Dear Dee:

I just use whatever word processing software I've got, which was previously MS Word, but this new Dell came with Word Perfect 10, so I'm using that now. But considering it's only four tab stops, I don't think it's a very big issue. Keep in mind, though, that there are very few characters per page in a screenplay. And since it's not very dense, like prose in a novel, for instance, and most of the page is actually blank, the actual typing of it isn't the real issue -- the issue is, what story are you writing, and the main thinking about that does not occur sitting at a keyboard. You can just as easily write with a pen and paper, which is the mode I most prefer. When you've got something worth typing, then type it.

Josh

Name: Kim
E-mail: mrsdagle@yahoo.com

Josh,

Don't you just love the charitable characters that blow through here to give advice and insult your filmography? I especially applaud Royler's lack of consistency when he first suggests that perhaps you're an "untapped genius" but later derides your lack of success in filmmaking. hehe I can personally attest that I'm not related to you, Josh, and I saw Running Time.
If any film of yours "challenges" the likes of other independent (or codependent) films, it's If I Had a Hammer. It's a period piece without the cliches. It's adult without the trash.
So, who's gonna make the documentary about you, titled, "UnTapped".
Kim

Dear Kim:

It certainly is a running theme here at Beckerfilms.com, calling Josh a bitter, disappointed asshole, who has the outrageous temerity to actually speak his mind. I apologize to each and every one for saying that the emperor wears no clothes. He's really in a terrific-looking outfit. I see it now. It's beautiful!

Josh

Name: Dee
E-mail: dhsmith@mail.smu.edu

Dear Josh:

Would you ever consider writing a "hollywood" movie?What I mean is, would you ever attempt to write the type of movie you despise and hate so that you could make a lot more money to produce more of the quality films that you like? I mean, I know that is sounds like a dumb question, but sometimes people have to sacrifice what they believe in to achieve their goals. I listened to that radio show you were on the other day(or maybe it was a while back) and you said you wished you could get a lot of money and you would make 30 or 40 quality, good films instead a giant, hollywood crap film. My real question is whether you would consider biting the bullet and write a film you knew wouldn't be that great, but would make you enough money to pursue some quality films?

Sorry if my grammar is terrible, I am a Real Estate Finance major, not english...Thanks for your time.

Dear Dee:

But isn't that the modern delusion -- write crap and it sells? What if you write and it's just crap? The fact is, most screenplays don't sell, crap or otherwise. Sitting down to write everyday is its own challenge, and for me, if I'm not trying to write something that at least I think is good, I can't find the wherewithall to attack the blank page. And it's not that I didn't think I was making films that were both good and salable when I produced at least my first three films. But distribution for indie features is very difficult to get. The closest I can peronally get to this concept is to make a film in a genre that has more hope of distribution, which I'm now trying to do, which is a horror film starring Bruce Campbell. But I'm certainly not trying to make it crap, I'm trying to make it the best horror film I can possibly make. Maybe I'll be wrong and it won't sell or be a hit, but since filmmaking is such a huge undertaking, costs a lot of money, and takes an enormous amount of time and effort, it's imperative, in my opinion, to end up with a movie that you yourself can sit through. If you make a film that even you can't watch, why would you expect anyone else to be able to watch it? But don't kid yourself, if you sit down to write salable crap, you'll probably end up with just crap that won't even sell.

Josh

Name: Royler
E-mail: Royler20@aol.com

Mr. Becker,

I recently stumbled across your site and thought perusing your Q&A pages would be a good way to kill some time. I'm always interested in the candid complaints of Hollywood fringe players.

"Kill" being the operative word. I've never been exposed to someone so deeply embittered about their own creative failures. If I could recap:

Tarantino is a hack. Every major Hollywood release sucks. The Coens aren't talented. "Clerks" sucks. You've grown dissonant from former friends who have enjoyed success (Raimi).

Now, I figure a guy with such heady opinions must be some kind of untapped genius. A quick trip over to the IMDB was sure to reveal a laundry list of American classics. After all, you're a filmmaker, not merely some anonymous Internet blowhard. You have the means to show these failed auteurs how it's really done!

"Jack of All Trades"? I assume you owed somebody a lot of money and needed work fast. Even being a hard-core Campbell fetishist couldn't make me sit through five minutes of this pap, which would've been four more than it was actually around for.

"Lunatics" and "Running Time"? For God's sake, were these films viewed by anyone outside of your family? Would they garner even a centimeter of film geek columnist space if not for the presence of Campbell?

All I see on this site is page after page of prattling about how writers don't know how to write, and a geriatric "They don't make 'em like they used to" attitude. Becker, 90% of anything in any medium sucks! That goes for books, comics, TV, and most certainly, movies. The ratio of good to bad is no different from what it was in the 1940s or 1970s. Everyone's "Golden Age" is different and I have no doubt people in 2030 will be bemoaning the lack of quality material and referencing lost classics like "Memento."

I find it comical that you have harsh words for Tarantino and Smith when you've done absolutely nothing to challenge their status. They stink? So write something better than "Pulp" or "Clerks." Are you a plumber or a filmmaker?

As someone who values an original piece of work, I'd much rather lay claim to "Raising Arizona" or "Chasing Amy" on my resume than "Hercules and the Amazon Women."

You are really a piece of work. Best of luck on whatever no-budget, invisible waste of time you fool someone into financing next.

Dear Royler:

Thanks so much for the critique, it will be very helpful to me in the future. As I've explained before, and I will now explain again, what I've done has nothing to do with my taste and opinions on other films. You don't have to be Stanley Kubrick to be a critic, and the best critics we've had so far weren't filmmakers. And since you clearly haven't seen any of my movies, how do you know I haven't "challenged their status"? Do you think writing me off as "embittered by my own creative failures" when you haven't seen my films makes you a sharp, incisive critic? How do you know they're failures? You're one more example of the modern, kiss-ass, you've-got-to-be-nice-to-everybody, nobodies who foolishly think that making money is the whole game. If my films had made more money would my opinion would be validated? I'm sorry, but your assessments are idiotic and worthless, but thanks for stopping by.

Josh

Name: telly lasalle
E-mail: kelly_kelly_123_12345_12@yahoo.com

hello i feel in love with the moive i want to know if u can plase send me a pic of the elect chair for me ok bye

Dear telly:

You must have been a communications major in college, or perhaps English is your second or third language.

Josh


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