Q & A    Archive
Page 127

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends@yahoo.com

<<I haven't seen "Eternal Sunshine" so I can't comment, although I must admit that I have yet to be impressed with any of Charlie Kaufman's writing.>>

It was an interesting idea with a good message, that was boringly executed and they show the ending at the beginning taking the suspense out of it. I think I'll watch it again to be sure.

Dear kdn:

That's a common practice now, showing the end at the beginning, just to make sure there's no suspense at all. Like "One Hour Photo," where it begins with him already in custody -- okay, we don't have to worry that he got away with anything. Whew! That was close, I almost got interested.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends@yahoo.com

dear josh,

Have you ever participated in any of those research studies where they pay you say $4,000 for two weeks of possible pain and suffering?

What about plasma and blood donations? I just donated plasma for $20 and found out right afterwards that the air conditioning in my car would be enough to give me a cold.

Oh yeah, Ted was only in the first ten minutes of the film. I'd have known to bolt the second they showed the bees and the bad candyman dialogue at the beginning credits. I once went to the movie premier of A PROMISE KEPT (released on video as THE GUNMAN with Sean Patrick Flanery and that chick from Chasing Amy), where my cousin was the stunt double for Mimi Rogers. I knew the film was going to be godawful from just the opening credits, I stayed long enough to see my cousin pop up on screen as the Ninja Pedophile Killer and walked out. I sat in the lobby without a ride, and watched the director walk out too. I don't remember if he went back in. oh yeah, I found out earlier that morning my wife in the army was pregnant, then I found myself watching a badly acted, badly shot, badly written film about pedophiles getting killed (badly) by the ninja pedophile ranger.

Dear kdn:

What a drag. I've found myself sitting in movie theater lobbies or outside smoking many times waiting for my friends to come out of films I had already walked out on. And I've wanted to walk out of a whole more, but just didn't. So that's why I rarely go out to the movies anymore. I'd say I now don't finish watching at least half of the films I begin watching. Something like say, "Runaway Jury," which certainly has a good cast, was utterly unbearable before the front titles were over.

Josh

Name: Matt David T.
E-mail: msturnbull@comcast.net

Dear Josh:

You Stated:
"Actually, you are overstating the ubiquity of themes. Although all stories should have themes, most don't. Therefore, theme can't be the reason most films are made. It's very common to see film stories without themes. In fact, it's very rare to see a film with a theme anymore. If a story doesn't have a theme, then it's shallow, and ultimately insignificant because it doesn't say anything. But the writing is certainly the biggest problem with movies now, and most screenwriters can't even make their stupid plots function, let alone working in a theme."

My Reply:
I suppose I am overstating things. I have a tendency to don rose-colored glasses when it comes to films.

Since I'm in my own segment of the entertainment industry, I'm completely jaded to it. I haven't played a truly great video game in 4 years.

I tend to hunt out and manufacture themes for films, even if they're not there. This tends to make me just as guilty as modern film critics of forgiving problems in cinema, just so I can glean some form of media> entertainment other than from the printed page.

This leads me to my next question; which should be my last for a while, as we've finished our "crunch" time, and I won't be at the computer for 19 hours a day.

I'm very likely going to soon be handling the development of a new project, that in 5 years time will most likely have a movie made based on it.

What can I do to make a property like a video-game (and keep in mind every video-game is not about someone wearing tights and fighting bad guys,) into something that will make a decent film, given a half-decent (quite possibly me) screenwriter?

The biggest problem I'm facing is that something that's fun in a video-game doesn't translate well to film, since you're not interacting with it. This is obvious, but not insurmountable, and I think I can handle this one on my own.

The more difficult aspect, the one for which I seek your counsel, is in the theme. The themes of video games are very self centered.

When watching a film, generally you involve yourself with the main character, who you're sympathetic to in some fashion. It has to be that way, and that's one of the important reasons to have a main character who epitomizes the theme, instead of this mind-numbing modern obsession with "ensemble casts" with no leads, and main characters with no purpose.

The paradox here, is that the main character in a video-game can be completely unsympathetic, and yet the player of the game is forced to identify with him somehow, because, metaphorically speaking, he/she is slipping into the character's skin and running around with him. Since he/she is taking on the role of this individual, they identify with him in advance, no matter how shallow or pathetic the character really is.

I find myself often making backstories that never existed from the developers or publishers of video-games in my head to rationalize my actions in video-games, but I think I'm in the minority here.

What can I add to this game, to take this kind of shallow character, this kind of story (generally involving high-action and heroism,) and make it into something (in advance) that will lend itself to movie credibility?

The most important caveat here being that the game can't be a movie itself.

Gosh, this is a really tough situation I've gotten myself into? But I'm in a more enviable place than many, I definitely see that.

I just don't want to screw it up, so any thoughts/feelings on what I've said would be appreciated/helpful.

Thanks!

P.S. See Serenity, this April.

P.P.S. Vote Kerry. (Der.)

Dear Matt:

I don't play video games so it's rather difficult for me to commiserate. Has there ever been a video game that was made into a decent movie? But as you alluded to, in some sense movies and video games are sort of opposites -- a video game is interactive and the player is imperative to the process; whereas with a movie, it's entirely passive, and it all occurs in front of you, whether you pay attention or not. I think I'd just try to make it the best video game is could possibly be and not worry about movies.

Josh

Name: Matt David T.
E-mail: msturnbull@comcast.net

Dear Josh:

You stated:
"It's truly an indictment. The Republicans are strong on defense? They're all draft-dodgers. My question is, what's "(4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.')" that got Rush Limbaugh off? Is that in the ass or the brain?"

My Reply:
It's in/on the ass, at the end of the tailbone. But an argument could be made that since his brain and ass share the same space that it was both.

Dear Matt:

Well, if you have a cyst on your ass, and that's where your brain is located, it probably hurts so much it's necessary to take 30 Oxycontin a day. As Bill Maher said, Rush Limbaugh is living proof that you can be a complete drug-addict and still do your job every day.

Josh

Name: The Real Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I read about a neighborhood in Detroit called Corktown. It sounds like an intriguing area, maybe a nice place to spend an evening. Did you ever spend any time in Corktown, or do you have any impressions of it. Have any movies ever been set in Corktown or would you consider making a movie set there, or would it be workable at all?

Dear Real Bob:

My friend Paul shot some scenes for a super-8 film there. It's just a couple of blocks. I don't come up with stories based on locations.

Josh

Name: Carrie
E-mail: carrierosser@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

What would you say are the three most truly frightening films?

Dear Carrie:

The three films that scared me the most are:

1. Rosemary's Baby
2. Carrie (it's about you)
3. Aliens

Josh

Name: CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I just watched Running Time on IFC. I love the 'realtime' aspect. I was wondering if you knew how many 'realtime' movies are out there. I know of three. Running Time, Rope and another low budget one done on video called Big Monday (I think). I can't think of any others.

Did Running Time play at festivals? Did it win any awards?

I wrote a 'realtime' script myself (sci-fi action) and it was extremely difficult. Those who read it do ask me why 'realtime'? I answer by telling them that the 'realtime' aspect of the script 'amped' up the action. I thought that that was a good enough reason (not to mention it's also not done often). Maybe not. It would be extremely difficult to film though (which is why it will probably never get made).

Dear CD:

The only other films I know of that really stick to the real time concept are "Rope" and "Russian Ark," and the latter uses digital effects to get in and out, so that doesn't count in my opinion. I don't think real time "amps up the action," unless there's a ticking clock. If there's no ticking clock, and time isn't the issue, then there's no need to be in real time, where a minute is really a minute.

RT played some festivals, like Sao Paulo, Brazil; Helsinki, Finland; The NY Underground; Chicago Underground; Orlando; and it won first place in Phoenix.

Josh

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

Josh,

In regards to your reply about DP's, I have to say that I agree with you on some levels of your argument, and I also agree with David Worth's philosophy of lighting, however, there are a few things that I do not agree with in what you said and it perplexes me.

First, I must say that the reason older DP's are faster is because they have all the experience behind them of seeing and knowing how to come into a situation and light it. They also have learned what compromise means on a shoot and the good ones know when to stop tweaking lights and start shooting.

Vilmos is very fast, I have worked with him several times, so that is not my argument, I did not necessarily agree with what he said in the article I sited, but I could also understand his point about films being made so fast just to get them out for a certain release date, month or season.

He went on to say that there was definitely a happy medium in the 70's that doesn't exist today, and I have to agree with him about that., and just because they make less films now doesn't mean that they have more time to make them when in fact they are rushed through more so now and more pressure is put on the opening weekend than in the past which is just plain silly.

I think the time frame of 15-20 minutes in which you are willing to give to DP's to light is fine for television where there is more or less a formula established for a series. I have been on the set of "Law and Order" here and all of the court room interiors as well as the police station interiors are shot on a sound stage, and the lighting doesn't change that much from show to show on those sets.

I know you shot "Zena" and Hercules primarily on location, so it wasn't as easy to adhere to a formula with lighting, however, those shows all have a formula, and that is why a feature film is different than television in that respect. Plus, in TV, you have to deliver fast and that is why you developed your chops so well in that respect doing television. It allowed you to realize that you could make a feature in far less time than Hollywood can with the same quality.

With that said, my argument is that fast isn't always better.

Directors and Actors normally always have time to rehearse, where as a DP rarely has the opportunity to actually rehearse lighting set ups before they actually have to light. It all comes from within their own heads and eyes. You walk into a place that you may or may not have seen already through a location scout and you have to light that place from virtually nothing.

Of course the script describes the scene, but then that has to be interpreted visually by the DP as much as the actors have to interpret the dialogue and action through direction.

Feature filmmaking is a visual medium and a visual way to tell a story, and unlike reading a novel, the visual aspect of the film is "as" important as the script and the acting. I think if it did not matter than you should just stick to reading books for stories. If nobody really gave a shit about the lighting and look of a film how long would you think feature films would have survived? It is an art from and time for lighting in Cinematography is part of that art form that has evolved over the years.

I believe a good DP who can work with all of the compromises and limitations applied to them is worth every penny.

When you say "I don't care what it looks like" it becomes somewhat contradictory to our discussion involving DV versus film when I said that the visuals of the film should compliment the script and enhance the story, but not detract form it, and you stated that it dies matter that a film looks good.

I do agree with you that DP's who work on big Hollywood features have more time than working on a film with a small budget, and plus they have access to more lights and more equipment., and depending on the complexity of the scene and how big the set up has to be, I am still a big believer in Sven Nykvist's philosophy that "Less is more".

Of course, as you said said to me just before you left to shoot 'Alien Apocalypse"; "Sometimes more is more in the case of this project. We are not shooting a Bergman Drama", but I know from speaking to you about how David Worth shot the film, he actually used the philosophy of "Less is more".



Scott

Dear Scott:

Okay, I didn't exactly express what I mean. I do care what a film looks like, but I'm still not willing to let a DP use up all the time on the set. I want it to look as good as the DP can make it, in the limited amount of time they have. But I'm not interested in sitting around for an hour waiting for the lighting, and I don't care if it's Sven Nykvist or Vilmos Zsigmond. I've got a schedule to keep, and it's my job to make sure that everything that's planned for the day gets done. Very few DPs I've worked with seem to give much of a shit about the schedule, but seriously, it's more important than the lighting. If I have 25 set-ups scheduled for the day it's more important to get those 25 set-ups, no matter what they look like, than to get 12 of them looking great. Bottom line. The film has to look as good as it will look in the amount of time available, and if anyone is going to get some extra time it's me, not the DP. Bruce has told me about when he worked with Jack Green (on the "Brisco" pilot), when the AD asked, "How long on the lighting?" Green always replied, "I'm ready," then just kept lighting. Whenever he actually had to stop, he'd stop. But the really good DPs, from my POV, never slow you down. And BTW, I generally don't get any rehearsal time.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

<<Ted and Debbie spend the entire middle of the movie in his apartment together.>>

That's what I like about it. I didn't say I didn't like it. I thought it was pretty good.

<<And it's not like I gave Bruce a very good part. He does the most he can with what he's got.>>

That's why people love him.

<<"The lowest I'll go on a Vietnam flick is PLATOON?" It's by far the best of all the Vietnam movies, in my humble opinion.>>

You're goddamn right it is. I love that part where the soldiers are talking shit about Tom Berringer for killing Elias, and he walks in the room drunk and starts talking shit back to them, taunting them to kill him right then and there.

Do you have any favorite Vincent Price movies? What do you love about them? I haven't seen many, but I like THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES, that part where he sucks that doctors blood out in the jars, and then later he embalms himself alive. I watched SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, and fell alseep... that's just sad, They advertise Vincent Price and Christopher Lee as the main stars of the film and they're barely in it (although Vincent is cool when he is). Instead, we're stuck with the two cops for almost the whole movie. I also watched CANDYMAN recently... funny, I recall the movie used to be able to scare the shit out of me, now its just silly, the violence is cool, but the whole story is silly. It had this cool twist going that it could all be in the woman's head, and then they ruined it by proving he exists in the insane asylum office. It would've been better if we weren't sure if it was the ghost or her the whole film. plus the most the main black actors speaking ghetto sounded like Anthony Anderson and Taye Diggs in MALIBU'S MOST WANTED. oh yeah, the actress says it five times in front of a mirror, I don't recall her dying, that makes the whole notion bullshit.

Dear kdn:

I mean, come on, who gives a shit about "Candyman"? If Ted wasn't in it I'd regret having wasted any part of my life having seen it. But back to"Platoon," yes, that's a very good scene, when Berenger drunkenly confronts them in the stoner's hooch. Cutting Charlie Sheen's face at the end is done perfectly. The use of Smokey Robinson's "Tears of a Clown" in the pot smoking scene is fantastic. Willem Dafoe asks, "First time?" Sheen nods."Then the worm has definitely turned." Everybody in that cast, including Charlie Sheen, is terrific. And there's even baby Johnny Depp running around. I do love that film.

Josh

Name: Joe Malofe
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Do you see much anti-semitism in Detroit?

Dear Joe:

I've never seen any anti-semitism in Detroit. The only anti-semitism I've ever seen was in LA and was directed at my late friend Rick, who was not Jewish, but wore a yarmulka for his own amusement. We were walking across a street in West Hollywood and a panhandler asked Rick and I for money and we ignored him. A fellow walking the other way told the panhandler, "You won't get money from that guy, he's a Jew." Rick took this as a tremendous triumph, that he was actually managing to "pass" as a Jew. I could read his mind and knew he was thinking of himself as Gregory Peck in "Gentlemen's Agreement." But Detroit's an odd place. Most people don't realize that Detroit, and it's environs, have the largest population of Arabs anywhere outside of the middle east. The all-night restaurant where my friends and I would hang out in the middle of the night when we were younger, The Ram's Horn, was generally filled with a third black kids, a third Arab kids, and a third white kids, predominately Jews, and everyone got along fine. Admittedly, each group stayed to themselves, but nobody ever had any issue with anyone else.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greenebrett@spymac.com

Dear Josh:

Perhaps genius was the wrong word - the base of the argument was that "hard" TV is better written than most films and films that don't shy away from violence when necessary are better than sugarcoated ones. Do you believe this is true, and why?

Dear Brett:

I don't see what violence has to do with quality. There are a lot of violent films, but there aren't many good ones. And maybe "hard" TV is better written than most movies, I don't know because I don't watch TV shows.

Josh

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

Josh,

Thanks for the suggested readings; I was always interested in reading the novel for "Day of the Locust".

Ditto on your assessment of cops, the odd thing is that the only show I actually watch on TV is "Law & Order", all three versions. I guess we all have faults.

Anyhow, cops in real life were either traditionally bullies that had know idea what to so with their lives, or sons of other cops. The fact is the old school cops just used a badge as an excuse to have more power to bully people.

These days, I have met some very nice guys here in NYC who are cops, but the biggest joke in NYC is never ask a cop for directions because most of them are from New Jersey and they have know idea.

In regards to the reason films look different now is fundamentally close to what you mentioned, however there are also other things to mention.

In the interview I read with Vilmos, he talks about how the first weekend gross mentality and getting the film out ASAP has affected every job and aspect of making a Hollywood film, The DP's of today have much less time now to light a film than they did years ago, and even the masters have frustration with that.

Also, with the advances in postproduction, there is a mentality by producers that they can fix everything in post which is just nonsense. There is no excuse for covering up mistakes that rarely happen when scenes and shots are planned out and executed the way the Director and the DP decide them to be.

I also feel that there is a problem with DP's that are trying to be directors and create visual jerk-offs, which serve no other purpose than to make the visuals an orgasmic mess with over use of unmotivated lighting and colors.

I recently watched a film called "Ash Wednesday" and the whole film had this yellow hue throughout which made absolutely no sense what so ever and it was obviously done for effect, but it did not help the story, nor was it motivated in any way by anything.

It just made the film incredibly difficult to watch.

It was just a bad choice, but I see this a lot in films as well as bad editing these days.


Scott

Dear Scott:

I have to disagree with the idea that DPs have less time to light now. Since they make a lot less films now, and most have much higher budgets, the average length of a Hollywood production is now longer, so the DPs in fact have more time to light. Personally, I can't stand DPs that take a long time to light a scene, I don't care what it looks like. Lighting is only one aspect of what goes on making a film, and DPs that use up most of that time, which is most of them, have got their heads up their asses. The entire cast and crew didn't show up just watch the lighting department work. Unless it's a very big set-up, any DP that takes more than 15-20 minutes to light is automatically on my shit-list. What's interesting, I think, is that older DPs can usually light faster than young ones. The DP on "Alien Apocalypse," David Worth, who is about 60 and is fast as hell, made a joke about most other DPs, "They all use available light; that means using every light that's available." The really good DPs know when to put in one light and back off. Bruce worked with Clint Eastwood's DP, Jack Green (formerly David Worth's assistant), and he was incredibly fast, as per Bruce. David liked to quote the great British DP, David Watkin (Oscar for "Out of Africa"), who said, "One light is a statement, two lights are less of a statement, three lights are no statement at all."

Josh

Name: Carrie
E-mail: carrierosser@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

"I like both bands, but I didn't get tickets. I must admit that I really don't like crowds." You missed a really great show. Everyone was really good humor. Very exciting.

Dear carrie:

That's what I hear. Excellent. The groundswell is occurring. Kerry's momentum will just keep climbing from now until the election. I called Trinidad-Mayorga and Hopkins-De La Hoya, I've got this one sussed, too.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail:

Hiya Josh,

A couple of things, all of them film related, this time.

I saw you went to a school in Ypsi for a while - I'm assuming that was Eastern Michigan University? Went there myself, and got a telecommunications/film BA, which did fuck-all when it came to teaching me how to make movies. The learn-by-doing approach has always held more water in my humble oppinion. Although this is a pretty broad generalization, having worked with quite a few, it struck me how process oriented people who went to bona-fide Film Schools can be - they got wrapped up in shit like having fancy light kits, editing on whatever flavor software their school taught them on, etc. I've seen shorts that were lit with $50 work lights and turned out beautifully - projects that might never have gotten off the ground if they'd waited around to get the money to rent or buy an expensive light kit. The people knew what they were doing and could get good results with what they had. Furthermore, when you ask these folks how much time they spend learning to light and shoot versus how much time they spend learning story-craft and writing you usually get looked at like some kind of Flat Earther. Granted, a good number of these people go to Hollywood they fall into specialized roles and don't have to worry about story quality. But it's alarming that it's something that doesn't even enter into their notion of what's important in film making. Call it a by-product of Hollywood's profit driven film factory. As I recall, you didn't go the way of the 4-6 year film program, right? Do you have any observations here? What are your thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the self-made film school vs. the formal approach?

Also, it seems like a lot of people contemplating making a movie are very keen on adapting the works of others to a screenplay. What do you think is behind the aversion to writing one's own story? Is it, as Il Presidente is so fond of saying, hard work? Are we turning into a less literate society? Do large sections of our society feel that they can't come up with stories worth telling? Is it a reflection of Hollywood's tendency to make movies based on videogames and comic books?

Okay, that was longer than I'd intended. Anyway, thanks again for your time,

Mike

Dear Mike:

My, my, but aren't you the inquisitive soul. You should go to your local church, temple or mosque if you have this many questions. But, seriously, I do think it's sheer laziness. God forbid George Bush should be right about anything, but to do good stuff is hard work, particularly at the writing level. Perhaps society presently does feel that they haven't got any new stories worth telling. It seems that way to me. If I never see cops show up at a crime scene ever again, it will be too soon. You know what, I don't like cops. I don't even like to be around off-duty cops. They make me nervous; they're not my heroes. But it's directly connected to thie whole thread of themes in stories, which they generally don't have anymore. Why? Because you have to think of it and put it there. And yes, I went to one semester of EMU, Fall 1975.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greenebrett@spymac.com

Josh

I was trying to explain something about the state of American entertainment to some folks in my residence and I'll see if I can get it straight:
There's an overriding feeling that you can flash a copious amount of blood and violence on the screen but not mention what happens during sex? If you look at the shows (for the moment I'll use them since some of the best content comes from them), the best of them and the ones seeming to rake the most accolades are those like Oz and the Sopranos which although are character driven, feature intense sex and violence. Is this an outlet? Is this coincidental?
I watched a flick recently called The Butterfly Effect and was suprised (which surprised me, to be honest) that it tried - it really did - to ask questions of the audience and to toy with ideas of change and regret. What would you change if you had the chance, and would that be in your right to do so? It was also jarring and violence and somewhat disturbing. Is it a new trend that only R-rated movies get this stroke of genius?

Dear Brett:

Genius? What are you talking about?

Josh

Name: Jonathan Moody
E-mail: jondoe_555@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I was wondering if you've seen the documentary "American Movie". I'm sure you have but I was wondering what you thought of it. I consider Mark Borchardt to be the redneck version of Ed Wood. And he tries so hard and you want him to succeed because he really cares about what he's doing. Right now he's trying to get a feature called, "Scare Me" made and distributed it. I hope he gets it out there. He really deserves to be making movies. I think highly of "American Movie" and I think filmmakers could learn from that movie. Just thought I'd say that.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Look around, dude, there's a review of it on the site.

Josh

Name: JohnnyO
E-mail:

Hi,

I picked this up on Moby's website:

I "love" it when republicans say that Democrats are soft on defense and show no ability to lead in time of war. here are some of our contemporary leaders indicating who served in the Military and those who did not!

DEMOCRATS
Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th engineer Brigade.
Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-'47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V Purple Hearts.
John Edwards: did not serve.
Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam.
Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-1953.
Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII, receiving the Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier's Medal.
Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
Chuck Robb: Vietnam
Howell Heflin: Silver Star
George McGovern: Silver Star &DFC during WWII.
Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received 311.
Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.
Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.
Wesley Clark: U.S. Army, 1966-2000, West Point, Vietnam, Purple Heart, Silver Star. Retired 4-star general.
John Dingell: WWII vet
John Conyers: Army 1950-57, Korea

REPUBLICANS
Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
Tom Delay: did not serve.
House Whiip Roy Blunt: did not serve.
Bill Frist: did not serve.
Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
George Pataki: did not serve.
Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
Rick Santorum: did not serve.
Trent Lott: did not serve.
Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage ("too busy to go").
John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
Jeb Bush: did not serve.
Karl Rove: did not serve.
Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." The man who attacked Max Cleland's patriotism.
Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
Vin Weber: did not serve.
Richard Perle: did not serve.
Douglas Feith: did not serve.
Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
Richard Shelby: did not serve.
Jon Kyl: did not serve.
Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
Christopher Cox: did not serve.
Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
JC Watts: did not serve.
Phil Gramm: did not serve.
Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
Clarence Thomas: did not serve
George W. Bush: six-year Nat'l Guard commitment (incomplete).
Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making movies.
Gerald Ford: Navy, WWII
John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. (defends Kerry's war record)
Bob Dole: an honorable veteran.
Chuck Hagel: two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, Vietnam.
Jeff Sessions: Army Reserves, 1973-1986
Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
G.H.W. Bush: Pilot in WWII. Shot down by the Japanese.
Tom Ridge: Bronze Star for Valor in Vietnam.
Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as aviator and flight instructor.

PUNDITS AND PREACHERS
Sean Hannity: did not serve.
Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.') Bill
O'Reilly: did not serve.
Michael Savage: did not serve.
George Will: did not serve.
Chris Matthews: did not serve.
Paul Gigot: did not serve.
Bill Bennett: did not serve.
Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
Bill Kristol: did not serve.
Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
Michael Medved: did not serve.

Dear JohnnyO:

It's truly an indictment. The Republicans are strong on defense? They're all draft-dodgers. My question is, what's "(4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.')" that got Rush Limbaugh off? Is that in the ass or the brain?

Josh

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

Josh,

I agree with you about Karen Black's character in "Day of the Locust" it was very weak, but I did enjoy Burgess Meredith who played her tragic father.

I found the main problem with that film is that it was too long and its point wasn't very clear really and there wasn't much of one just the same old Hollywood is slimy cliches etc...

I need to clarify what I meant when I said the film still holds up is of course the Cinematography and the look for a period piece. The story was mediocre at best, but some of the performances I enjoyed.

I did like "Man with the Golden Arm" though, and yes it was difficult not to take Arnold Stang the voice of many cartoon characters seriously, although, his character wasn't that serious in the film.

I actually enjoyed Sinatra's performance, and I don't really like him in many films. Eleanor Parker's character Zosch was annoying, but Kim Novak was hot in that film.

A young Darren Mcgavin (Kolchack, The Night Stalker") as the heroin dealer was pretty funny, and the fact that Sinatra only plays drums about only three times in the movie was weird to me, since there was such a big deal made out him getting to be such a good drummer in rehab. I did like the scene where he completely fails the audition and just walks out without saying a word.

I have actually seen that happen before.

I guess the film is pretty dated, but I must have been in the mood for it.

I must now see "Hatful of Rain" as per your request!

Thanks,
Scott

Dear Scott:

You could also read Nathanael West's book "The Day of the Locust," which is a very easy read, and fun, and see how it got fucked up in the translation. West's book "Miss Lonelyhearts" has also been filmed several times. He's an interesting character who died young, 36 years old, in Hollywood, in 1940. He co-wrote the film "Five Came Back" (1939), which is a pretty good B-picture with a young Lucille Ball. The script was co-written by a very young Dalton Trumbo, years before he was blacklisted and became one of The Hollywood Ten.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

In response to the guy asking about why older movies tend to look different from newer movies, I'd say that's just as much a part of the video transfer and the age of the film itself as part of the stock used. Many DVDs these days of older movies have been re-mastered from the original elements and often look pretty damn good, close to what a brand new movie looks like. Sure, part of it is the stock, but when you see an old, washed out movie on TBS from like 1975 it may just be an old tape from a bad print. Film has always looked pretty great. Newer stocks tend to make the job easier on the DP because they are more forgiving, but a great DP 30, 40 years ago could make an amazing looking color film if he knew what he was doing. I just saw the Apocalypse Now DVD (original not redux) and it looked great, just as beautiful in terms of its colors, lights, darks, etc. as a brand new film. I think that film took alot of risks in it's photography and it worked out amazingly well.

Dear Jim:

It's Vittorio Fucking Stararo, if you'll excuse me. He's basically only the best DP alive. I still chuckle thinking of the very first shot of "Tucker," which is this gorgeous sunset behind a farmhouse, absolutely breathtaking, and the title comes up, "Ypsilanti, Michigan," which is where I went to college for a short time and is kind of a dump. It's near Ann Arbor, so it's got that going for it. But why do old movies look better than new movies? Because they're paying more attention to their image in the old films. When color came in directors would really choose their palette thoughtfully, particularly when they had the choice between shooting B&W or color.

Josh

Name: Caitlin
E-mail: caitlinjl23@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I want to produce a (very) low-budget movie. I'd like to adapt somebody's short story. I was curious about how much it costs to buy the rights to short fiction? Thnk u!!!

Dear Caitlin:

Number one rule in business -- Everybody makes their own deal. But if it's any kind of known author and the story is still under copyright, just assume that it's more than you can afford. The legal costs are probably more than you can afford. So, how about this? Write your own story. Use your imagination. Give it a try. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Nate
E-mail: vlad1377@aol.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

I know in past posts, you have stated the you believe that good films will be made again and that we are in an extended time of poor film making, but I don't know if we will see films get better. I saw "Ladder 49" this weekend (not my choice) and when I brought up the fact that there was absolutely no character development for any character, the people I saw it with shrugged their shoulders and said "oh well." I find that this happens continuously with my age group (college students), where they don't want to think when they see a movie. All they want is a visual ride with something of little substance to hold together the images. It is very distressing, especially if these are the potential filmmakers of the future.
Nate

Dear Nate:

Yes, it is. But when I say the cycle will change, I'm thinking more in geologic terms, like the time it takes to form a glacier. We may well not get many more good movies in our short lifetimes. Not until human's brains grow larger, and we lose our useless baby toes. I'll avoid "Ladder 49," not that I was going to see it anyway.

Josh

Name: Calvin Gray
E-mail: Meh.

Josh -

I thought I'd share this with you, seeing as it relates to both film and some of the politically-charged discussion around here.

I was watching AMC a week or two ago, and miraculously managed to find something in their programming that wasn't utter bunk. It was a documentary focusing on the "Conservative side" of the entertaiment industry, called RATED R: REPUBLICANS IN HOLLYWOOD. It follows the director, a staunch liberal, as he examines some of the tried and true conservatives out there in movies and television; folks like Ben Stein, Drew Carey, and Ivan Reitman. I guess he couldn't really get interviews with some of the bigger names, like Bruce Willis and Chuck Heston.

What struck me during the movie was an interview with a screenwriter named Lionel Chetwynd. He's the scribe of such TV movies as Showtime's "DC 9/11: Time Of Crisis," a jingoistic little pat on the back for Bush's heroism during the September 11th attacks. Lionel spouts off about how "alone" he felt as a Republican in L.A., until sometime in the early 80s. That is where he noticed a lot more right-winger MBAs started showing up, and taking up positions of power in the studios.

That seemed a little telling, if you ask me. As someone who subscribes to the popular idea that Hollywood stopped giving a shit about good filmmaking in the very late 1970s (after the big success or JAWS and STAR WARS, 'natch), there seemed to be a corrolation between Chetwynd's observation and the drop in quality films. Seems to me like the up-and-coming moneymen got wind of the fortunes to be had in slickly packaged B-movies like what Lucas and Spielberg were making, and hitched their wagons to Hollywood. And their greed and lack of regard for a higher grade of films are responsible for the weak shit being fobbed off on us in theaters every week.

Or, I dunno, maybe I'm just reading too much into it. You tell me - is there some way to chart the drop in the quality of filmmaking as it intersects with the rising influx of "Young Republican" studio executives?

- C.G.

Dear Calvin:

It's a bigger issue than that, it's all of society. As the speed of information dispersal has increased, the information being dispersed has simplified, and the core markets have correspondingly gotten younger. Meaning, it's easier to sell dumb movies to kids than smarter movies to adults. So businesses pursue that which can be more easily quantified. If you make a film that's rated-G, has this many digital effects, cost at least $100 million, and is preferably based on a known comic book, then spend $50 million on advertising, it will almost assuredly generate this much money on it's opening weekend, then this much more from ancillary markets. It's about business. That's why we must make our own films, and we must make them better.

Josh

Name: Boston
E-mail:

Josh,

I have a couple of film questions for you. What is the difference between an associate producer, executive producer, producer, co-producer, and a film produced by such-and-such production company? Do the studios control film distribution? Who decides which films get picked up and which one's end up going straight to video?

Boston

Dear Boston:

The executive producer is the head honcho, the guy who put the deal together and controls all of the money. The producer is the one is who is actually there making the film, controlling the money on the day to day level. All other producers are folks who made deals to get those credits due to extenuating circumstances, like they owned the rights to the script, or they're the director's business partner, or the star's manager. Yes, the studios control the distribution, and executives make those inter-office decisions.

Josh

Name: Boston
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

Rick seemed like a cool guy. Why was he in Hollywood? Did he originally have ambition to become an actor or a director or something? I wish you'd write a screenplay about his life. As much as I like your films and screenplays, I'd like to see you write something a little grittier like "Midnight Cowboy" or "Taxi Driver."

Boston

Dear Boston:

Rick was a severe movie fan, and where better to be one than in Hollywood? I think initially, back in 1969 when he first got there, he harbored dreams of being an actor (he was in acting group with Mark Hamill early on), but that faded pretty quickly. The idea of being a writer didn't come to him until much later, partially due to me bugging him about it. The idea of writing something grittier isn't a bad one, thanks.

Josh

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

Josh,

I realized I butchered the word medieval in my last post, I apologize to all for my bad grammar, but shit happens when one is typing.

The song "My God" is one of my favorite songs by Jethro Tull and incidently, Ian Anderson sites Roy Harper as an inspiration and he has played flute on two of Roy's songs in the past. It was also through Roy that Ian picked up acoustic guitar and started playing it in addition to the flute in their live act.

On the movie front, I just rented and watched "Day of the Locust" and "Man with the Golden Arm". I think "Day of the Locust holds up ok, but it is a period piece, however, it is a little too long. I forgot how good Billy Barty is in that film.

I hadn't seen "Man with the Golden Arm" in such a long time, I forgot what an excellent film that was, and of course the great score by Elmer Bernstein.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I don't care for either of those films. Karen Black is so seriously miscast that it ruins the entire film -- she's supposed to be 18 and gorgeous, a movie starlet. The finale with the masks is too theatrical and doesn't work at all. Nice photography, though, by Conrad Hall. "The Man with the Golden Arm" is just silly, and Arnold Stang is a cartoon character ("We're gonna have to kill him!"). A much better early junkie movie is "A Hatful of Rain" with Don Murray and Tony Franciosa, written by Michael V. Gazzo, who would later in his life become an actor and was great in "Godfather II"-- "They say, say this about Michael Corleone, say that about him, I say, 'Sure!'" They bring his brother in from Sicily to shut him up, then he cuts his wrists in the bathtub. Frankie Five-Angels. Anyway, "A Hatful of Rain" is a better early junkie movie.

Josh

Name: Matt David T.
E-mail: msturnbull@comcast.net

Dear Josh:

To clarify: That's what I'm a producer of.

Video Games.

A good video game has (in addition to the ever important being fun and pretty) a good theme. The best selling video games are thematically strong, as are the best reviewed.

As we both know, just because something reviews well and sells well doesn't make it anything other marketable, but in the video game industry that's everything (that might just be the producer in me talking.)

None the less, video games (like novels) are a lot longer than movies, and there's a lot more time in there in order to establish thematic significance. They are both structured things, and they are not structured like a film. Like a film/novel/video game/any work of fiction - Theme is key, critical, crucial, and should be the focus.

The reason I brought up video games was just as an example of another form of expression that can explore multiple themes, however in your response you brought up an even better one; books!

None the less, theme is the reason you make a story.

Serenity (the only film I'm looking forward to next year at all,) is a Sci-Fi film based around the theme of freedom. More succinctly put, what it means to be "free."

The Writer/Director is someone who makes good TV as a rule, at the very least it's thematically significant with well written dialogue (which is the best you're going to get out of TV.)

I'm greatly looking forward to his feature film directorial debut.

Think you'll check it out? I'll record Alien Apocalypse on my TiVo if you will...

Dear Matt:

I don't know, we'll see. Getting my weary ass up and out the movies doesn't occur all that often anymore. I did go see a restoration of E.A. Dupont's 1929 film, "Picadilly" recently, starring Anna May Wong, and that was interesting.

Actually, you are overstating the ubiquity of themes. Although all stories should have themes, most don't. Therefore, theme can't be the reason most films are made. It's very common to see film stories without themes. In fact, it's very rare to see a film with a theme anymore. If a story doesn't have a theme, then it's shallow, and ultimately insignificant because it doesn't say anything. But the writing is certainly the biggest problem with movies now, and most screenwriters can't even make their stupid plots function, let alone working in a theme.

Josh

Name: Rich
E-mail: bigrich70@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

Trinidad KO8 Mayorga...You pegged it right. I have egg on my face saying Trinidad wasn't a smart fighter.I really thought the layoff would have a dramatic effect on his ability. He looked damn sharp, added in some lateral movement to his game and was just plain vicious. Mayorga had no Plan B and looked like a man drowning in a lot of exchanges. I applaud him for his heart though. I thought he was finished after the first knockdown but he jumped back up and took his beating.

I do have a film question this time for you lest I turn your website into a boxing forum...Because of finances I'm a DV advocate but want to make the jump to film. My question is, are the film stocks available now the same film stocks that were available twenty, thirty or even fifty years ago?? I recently re-watched some classics like "The Setup" and the 70s b-movie classic "The Warriors" and was impressed with the way both films look. "The Setup" is of course black and white and the blacks are very rich, it looks good in my opinion while the "The Warriors" has a grittiness that makes you keep watching. I mean, one can turn on the t.v., flip the channels and gauge by the look of the different shows/movies what era it was made, judging not only by the hairstyles/clothing but by the image quality itself. In my opinion, most everything nowadays looks so cookie-cutter in terms of aesthetic.....So it got me thinking how much has the quality of film stock lessened or were cinematographers in previous eras simply better than they are now?

Keep punchin',

Rich

Dear Rich:

Like I said, Mayorga isn't in Trindad's class. But sadly for Tito, he's not in Hopkins' class, and will get his ass whupped yet again, if they fight again.

No, the film stocks aren't the same as they used to be, but that's not why a film looks good or doesn't look good. It's the coice of stocks crossed with the DP. The fact is, most productions now use exactly the same stock as everybody else, the 200 ASA stock, combined with the 500 ASA stock. But there are plenty of others to choose from. I used color ASA 64 on "Hammer" and it looks like an older, technicolor movie. I used 100 ASA black and white on RT, and I think it looks great, with very deep blacks. I am a big fan of B&W, and it's way easier to make it look good than color, particularly the 200 ASA stock that everyone uses now. Many DPs avoid the lower ASA stocks due to the contrast, which becomes very obvious in the video transfer. Personally, I like contrast and anything that makes a film look different. I've always paid attention to the film stocks I use, but many filmmakers don't. I think it's a very creative decision which stock you choose.

Josh

Name: Gary Thorne
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

"So far, 31 scripts along, I haven't used the same theme twice." So, Josh, can you list each script and what theme you used?
I'd be very interested to see all 31... thanks!

Dear Gary:

No, I won't. There are over 20 of my scripts posted, read them at your leisure. But it's not for the writer to be pointing out their themes, it's for the reader or the viewer to discover them.

Josh

Name: Tanya
E-mail: tanya852@mail.ru

Hello,

Do you for counter-cultural movement? I mean movie counter-cultural movement (although it's not exist yet)? Do you think that Steven Spielberg is a huge part of stupidity of today's Hollywood movies? Do you think that when he will retire (he will someday, not soon though) Hollywood will restore to what it was at the beginning? Or it's too late? Will counter-cultural movie movement change people's minds?

Dear Tanya:

I don't think there is a movie counter-culture. Indies are just as bad as Hollywood films, just lower-budget. And why on Earth would Spielberg retire? He owns the studio and can make whatever films he wants whenever he wants. But I don't think Spielberg's status has anything to do with anyone else. The change must come from the younger filmmakers, who must show that they are tired of shitty movies and are willing to put in the thought and effort to make good ones. It's never too late.

Josh

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

Josh,

I can totally understand why you don't read anyone's script anymore, and your recollections of your friend Rick were great to read.

I too lost a good friend to suicide ten years ago, and it was a total shock to me and to everyone. I can only speculate as to why he did it, and there were no outward signs of the impending act and I was very close to him.

It's funny, that Rick did not own a car, I tried that for some time in Michigan, and I would ride my bike everywhere because I was against cars, but it sucked in the winter, and eventually, I had to use my vehicle, but anytime I could, I would not use it. I haven't had a car in NYC for 6 years now, and it has been wonderful, although, that will change in 6 months time.

I also did not own a TV for about 4 years, and my boss would always get mad at me here because I wasn't keeping up with he new trends in commercials etc... as an editor. I told him that "I have other inspirations outside of TV and I don't follow trends." There was nothing he could say or do.

I realized that I wasn't missing anything on television and now that I have one and cable as well, I only watch movies anyhow.

Rick seemed like a very geniune guy and a great friend to have in L.A..

I have a remark for Bird, and the his analogy of fanatical christians versus Islamic fanatics.

He doesn't seem to realize that the Christian religion had its very fanatical period during the medevil period in the form of the "Holy Crusades", and the Church of England and the Catholic church were killing and imprisoning people constantly "In the name of God".

Now, it is just the Islamic religion's turn, and it is really not very different from what the fanatical Christians were during to convert people to Christianity.

Religions are fundementally all the same when it comes to fanaticism because just to believe that your way is right while others is wrong is completely bullshit and just an excuse to go and kill people.

One of my favorite song lyrics about Religion is by Roy Harper from a song called the "The Spirit Lives";

"The history of religion is the history of the State Incestuous
exploiters of a catalogue of hate. The man of peace was over-run by
armies of the "Lord" Who signed their names to any war
and sang to praise the sword.

The words get much more meaningless
-even plainer to tell
That those who would pronounce this God
are those who make this hell.

LOVE IS THE great triumph over christianity.
She made a fool of silly priests. She mocked authority.
She filled her bed with happiness. She gripped his loins for joy. And felt
ecstatic agonies and screamed the sweetest cry.

Her children are the legacy of failure to be chained
An everasting mutiny of flowers where it rained.
They rise out of oppression. They speak with one accord. The fountains breath- the spirit lives-
The future rests assured."

Scott

Dear Scott:

If we're quoting song lyrics, how about "My God" by Jethro Tull:

People, what have you done?
Locked him in his golden cage
Made him invent your religion
And resurrected him from the grave

He's the god of nothing
If that's all that you can see
He is the God of everything
He's inside you and me

So lean upon him gently
And don't call on him to save
You from your social graces
Oh, oh, and the sins you used to wave

The bloody Church of England
In chains of history
Requests your earthly presence
At a vicerage for tea

Confessing to the endless sins
The endless winding sound
You'll be praying till next Thursday
To all the Gods that you can count

(by Ian Anderson)

Josh

Name: Boston
E-mail:

Josh,

What was your friend Rick S. like? How long did you know him? Who got his novel published after he died?

Boston

Dear Boston:

I met Rick Sandford at the beginning of 1977 on the set of John Casavettes' film "Opening Night," on which we were both extras. Rick died in Sept. of 1995 of AIDS (actually, Lymphoma brought on by the AIDS), at the age of 45. During the course of those years Rick and I saw about 1,000 films together at the movie theater. Rick didn't own a TV, nor would he watch any movies on TV. He didn't have a driver's license and rode his bicycle everywhere or took the bus. He didn't have a bank account or a credit card. He worked as an extra on many, many movies, and was an editor of gay porn for a while, then for the last seven years of his life he was a stand-in on the sitcoms"The Sandy Duncan Show," then "The Hogan Family." Being a stand-in was nearly a perfect job for Rick because he basically got paid to sit on a film set and read all day long. As he liked to say, "I'm the lowest-paid union worker on the show." Rick read thousands of books, and saw many thousand movies, all in the theater, and all in their proper formats. Rick had seen over 5,000 films when he died, whereas I have yet to see 4,000. Rick was attempting to see every film ever nominated for an Oscar--not just the winners, but every nominee in every category. Sometimes in the 1930s and '40s they used to nominate ten films in a category, too. Anyway, he was well along in that task, and he dragged me to a lot of obscure films that had nothing more going for them than a nomination for sound recording. Everyday Rick checked what was showing at every theater in LA, then called me in the morning to let me know what he was going to see. If I wanted to join him, great, if not, he was still going. What I decided to do had no effect on what he was going to do. And if he didn't like a movie, look out."Excremental!" he would proclaim. Or, "What were they thinking?" At the end of "Godfather III" at the Chinese Theater on opening day, I turned to him and he had slid down so his head was at the level of the arm rest. He stated flatly, "Disaster." As apt and succinct of a review as that film
could get.

That's a tiny glimpse of Rick.

Josh

Name: Bird Jenkins
E-mail: bird@jjandbird.com

Howdy Josh.

The first debate has sure emboldened the Dems. Every Bush-hater I know is strutting around talking shit about W's body language, and how he looked agitated and annoyed while Senator Kerry was speaking. You say "Bush is a goner," and compare this to the Nixon/Kennedy debate where a cool and collected JFK handily defeated a sweaty, shifty-eyed Nixon.

Submitted for your disapproval, below is a quote from your favorite American President, which I and other Bush-supporters think is relevant to the discussion.

"It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
Teddy Roosevelt

I would also like to submit that those who like and support the President never liked or supported him because of his skills as an orator. I concur that Kerry is an eloquent speaker; unfortunately, the substance of his arguments, I cannot abide.

I agree with the President about North Korea, that bilateral talks with them are a bad idea and an invitation for nations like China, Russia, and Japan to pass the buck to us. Why is it Kerry wants multilateral cooperation in Iraq, but not North Korea? What is his "global test"? To work in the best interest of others at all times, our own opinions and concerns be damned? Another thing that Kerry and/or Edwards have said which scares me is their intention of giving Iran nuclear fuel to "call their bluff". They seem to be falling into the same trap as their brother-in-delusion Jimmy Carter when he went to North Korea and trusted them to keep their nuclear program peaceful under the Agreed Framework. Of course, they reneged and now we're still having this discussion. The concept of doing the same thing with Iran is incredibly naive and stupid. The only consolation is the likelihood that if such a farce becomes reality, Israel will do the right thing and bomb the living shit out of their nuclear facilities without asking anyone's permission or rattling any swords.

I'm voting for Bush because I have seen liberals go after Bush with the same murderous glint in their eyes that the right-wingers had for Bill Clinton. Such hate is fueled by irrational emotion, and when a person is consumed by it they cannot be trusted to make any kind of logical decision. These types can only be trusted to do whatever they can to injure their opponent, and truth or the country's best interests are of no consequence to them. They're only bent on character assasination, and therefore can't see the forest for the trees. That's how things like the Dan Rather fiasco happen. Because of Rather's partisanship, he was so sure the content of the documents was valid, he didn't bother to check the validity of the documents themselves. And while Kenneth Starr was wasting the country's time with the Monica Lewinsky scandal, terrorists were planning how to attack our country, and our President was forced to spend all his time deflecting stupid partisan criticism. This type of negativity wins no points with me, and I feel like Kerry has built his career on it.

I'm voting for Bush because I believe we have seen the beginning of World War III. It's been said that we don't have a clear enemy, that a "war on terrorism" cannot be won. I'd agree with the latter, but not the former. A war on terrorism cannot be won, because terrorism is a tactic, how can one wage war on a tactic? We do, however, have a clear enemy, and the sooner people realize it, the better off we will be. Our enemies are Islamofascists, and there are more of them then we're admitting. Why is it there are no demonstrations against terrorist tactics in the middle east? Why don't the mullahs and clerics speak out against those who are supposedly "hijacking" their "beautiful, peaceful" religion? The answer is because this terrorism is sanctioned by their religion. No muslim will dare speak out against jihad when it is explicitly endorsed by the Quran. The fact is, there are entire regions and cities(like Fallujah) where these viloent and barbaric attitudes are consensus. There are no civilians in places like Fallujah. All are insurgents. Terrorist tactics have been elevated to legitimacy in this culture. The way to stop it is to turn all terrorists into international pariahs. Certain death and destruction must come to not only the terrorists, but even those who celebrate them or keep company with them. We can give them no quarter. We must crush them without mercy, utterly and completely. And we cannot stop there. We must continue to fight this enemy wherever he is, we must break the back of islamofascism, just as we did nazi-ism and fascism in Europe. I'm afraid the forces of globalism are imminent, and the question now is whose influence will be the dominant one. I prefer the American model of a democratic republic to socialism or an islamic autocracy.

I know this hardline attitude gives you much displeasure, Josh. I'm sure you think I'm a warmonger or an unfeeling person, as a liberal friend of mine called me the other day when I told him the same thing. I assure you my sentiments don't come from any kind of lack of feeling. On the contrary. I believe we are fighting for the very survival of civilization, and the costs of defeat are too high to mince words or to lose sight of our basic need of self-preservation because we're trying to be "tolerant" and "open-minded" about other cultures. You say religion is evil, and if this is true, what does that say about those who are fanatically religious? I have the feeling your liberal sensibilities haven't been tested by the islamofascist mindset, or else I'd hear you bitching about them more. It probably wouldn't take too many Christians sawing off people's heads and videotaping it to sell on dvd before you'd call it what it is: backward and entirely unacceptable. Imagine the enemy was the World Church of the Creator, or another fanatical Christian militia. I have the feeling you wouldn't be opposed to bringing out the heavy ordinance then.


Your friend,
Bird

Dear Bird:

The hard-line gives me displeasure because it's wrong, and won't make us any safer from terrorism, but in fact makes us more susceptible to terrorist attacks. Israel has taken the "hard-line" against the "terrorists" now for almost 40 years and it hasn't worked at all, and it never will. Here in the west we see it as a Palestinian suicide bomber blows themselves up in a cafe in Jerusalem in act of "terrorism" that kills 20 people, so the Israelis stage a "military retaliation," going into Ramallah with air strikes, helicopters, tanks and bulldozers and kill 100 people. Whose act was worse? To the west, it was the "terrorism" that killed 20 people, to the Arab world it was the "military retaliation" that killed 100 people, and is therefore five times worse. Guess what? Killing 100 people *is* five times worse than killing 20 people, and just because it's termed a military retaliation doesn't make it any less horrible. Killing is killing. In Iraq we're the invaders, the occupiers. We have wreaked far more terrorism on them then they have on us, but we also call it "military retaliation," so it's okay. We somehow think it's perfectly fine to kill them, but it's wrong for them to kill us. Well, it's every bit as wrong for us to kill them as for them to kill us. Every "insurgent" we kill, and every rocket we fire into a populated area MAKES THE SITUATION WORSE, NOT BETTER. As long as we are viewed as arrogant, muslim-hating barbarians, the only way to deal with us is using terrorism. The same goes for Israel, where the situation has not improved in 40 years. If, however, the Israelis were to finally try taking the moral high-ground and grant freedom and the right to vote to the Palestinians, which they've never done, it might very well make a difference. Military retaliation will NEVER make a difference, it simply perpetuates the problem. Needlessly attacking Iraq has not made us safer, but conversely has made us far more susceptible to terrorism. We go on and on about the 3,000 people killed in the WTC attacks ike it's the worst thing that's ever happened in history, but what about the tens of thousands of people we've killed in Iraq already, most of whom were innocent civilians. What we've done there is worse than the WTC attacks because so many more people are now dead. You think that makes us more feared? It doesn't. It makes us more hated, and it's much easier to kill someone you hate. Bush is not a tough guy, he's fucking wimp -- he's a freshman who got pushed by a big senior so he went and beat up the school retard, and I assure you, no seniors will fear him for that.

Josh

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

Josh,

That letter by David McKenna is excellent. Thanks for posting it and thanks to Alan for sending it.

I had a similar dilemma in giving a good friend of mine who lives in L.A. a criticism of his script that he asked me to take a look at and give him some feedback.

I was very sincere in how I felt about the script and he was less than happy with my response.

It is always funny to me when somebody asks you to give him or her feedback back or let him or her know what you think of something, and then they get angry when you do.

When I realized my friend's script was really bad and needed a lot of work, I tried to tell him in a constructive way knowing he could do much better; in turn he acted as if I just killed his only child.

I told him if he felt I was full of shit then tell me I'm full of shit and make his film the way he wants to, but please don't ask me to read a script and give you feedback, and then turn into a child about it when I give you constructive criticism.

I had another friend read it and he said that I was pretty easy on him, so I did not feel so bad and the points I made about it were quite valid.

I realized living in L.A. and Hollywood could actually be a negative aspect of trying to get a film made or written. My friend's script suffered from a variety of things including poor characterization, but I also felt that the story was an example that he had been living in L.A. far too long and he needed to get away for awhile and separate himself from that unfocussed world because he was writing Hollywood clichés throughout his entire script.

I know how much you disliked living in L.A. and I am wondering if What I just said is really justifiable when it comes to writing scripts and living in L.A.?

I know it is easier to get work as a Cinematographer, editor, and actor living in L.A. and even here in NYC, but is it the same for a writer trying to sell scripts or make their own films?

Scott

Dear Scott:

You can't imagine how many times I've gone through that same experience of reading someone's script, telling them honestly what I thought, then getting ripped a new asshole. My late friend Rick got thrown out of a gay writer's group for not being positive enough. If you don't blow smoke up the person's ass then you're not a nice person. That's why I don't read anyone's scripts anymore -- nobody can take criticism. And how could the horrible, cliched vibe of LA not rub off on you? Film executives are stupidest people on the planet, and that's who you're stuck dealing with.

Josh

Name: Carrie
E-mail: carrierosser@hotmail.com

Josh,

Are you going to the Vote for Change show tomorrow night? It's for a good cause, and you get to see Springsteen and REM.

Dear Carrie:

I like both bands, but I didn't get tickets. I must admit that I really don't like crowds.

Josh

Name: Matt David T.
E-mail: msturnbull@comcast.net

Dear Josh:

"And all you need is one theme."

Unless you're making video games.

(I know this isn't a question, but it bore mentioning.)

Dear Matt:

But who's talking about that? A good screenplay has one theme. A novel can have more than one.

Josh

Name: Alan Smithee Jr
E-mail:

Hi,

This is for the guy asking about "Bully." It's from the screenwriter to the director and producers. It ties in with what Josh has been saying about recent Hollywood movies all along:

1-22-01

To:

Larry Clark
Don Murphy
Fernando Sulichin

Re: Bully

The purpose of this letter is to inform the above parties that I, in conjunction with my attorney, am removing my name from the film Bully. I will instead be utilizing the pseudonym Zachary Long for my writing credit. The Writer's Guild has been informed of my intent to use this pseudonym. My reasons follow.


When Don Murphy gave me this book to adapt, I looked at it as a gift from the gods. Here was a story and a character study unlike anything I had ever read before. Bully was an insight into youth that hadn't been documented since Larry Clark's first film, Kids. And, unlike many, I did not feel Kids or Bully was irresponsible. Honest, poignant and terrifying maybe, but not irresponsible.


As far as the translation of Bully from book to script. I felt we had achieved greatness. After meeting with Larry in New York and conjointly making some great changes, the result, I felt, was some of the best work I had ever been associated with.


The film I watched on December 1st left me completely dumbfounded. What I witnessed was revolting, offensive and childish. I could not believe what had been done to what was once an extremely compelling and emotional story. Though I realize that at this point I have no control over what ultimately happens with this film, I can only hope that others associated with it will understand and agree with my stance.


After all, this is not a movie. It much more closely resembles a porno. It has all the qualities to verify that claim:Ê Unbelievably gratuitous sex, no story, zero motivation, no character development, and horrible acting. IÊ knew early on the discontent I was going to have once Bijou Phillips said "his dick was beautiful and he ate my pussy for an hour." I knew right then what the directors vision was and I immediately regretted ever giving him the script. It was clear that he had forgone drama and character development in order to gratuitously create a one dimensional pornographic whore. In the book and in the script, Ali is a character with depth and complexity. The compelling aspect of Ali is how beautiful and presentable she is on the outside, and how stupid, insecure and diabolical she is on the inside. none of this is explored in this movie. She merely exists for perverse crotch shots and grotesque sexual escapades. Virtually all scenes involving Ali are nothing short of repulsive. And to what end?


The same holds true for Lisa Connely. first of all, Rachel Miner, as sweet as she is, should not have been in this movie. She was clearly miscast. The character of Lisa demands a fat, ugly loser who's ridiculed by Bobby so bad that she's driven to kill him. Here, she's portrayed as someone who's actually beautiful and proud of her body. I can find no reason for so haphazardly destroying the character development and motivation that script provides other than for the director to showcase the half dozen or so wonderfully gratuitous shorts of her vagina. Additionally, we never see the growing hatred of Bobby that her character demands. The only scene that might be able to justify her motivation to kill, the Doberman attack scene, is nowhere to be found. Therefore, once again, what's left is no character motivation and no believability, and only several gratuitous sex scenes that leave the audience repulsed and wondering why this movie was ever made.


The direction of the other actors also greatly disappoints. Renfro is all over the place. In the beginning he's playing coy, nervous and shy (i.e. the deli, the Camaro, the Copa), ten minutes later he's singing Eminem, talking shit, and being abusive to Lisa (Note: This went down in 1992, when Eminem was still in high school). Renfro laughs through his speech about the first time he tried pot with Bobby and then offers some bullshit cry that is nothing more than a feeble attempt for sympathy.


Derek Dzvirko also hails from the Bully school of acting. The method? Pretend you're a zombie and say your lines as fast as you can.


Michael Pitt at least has some energy to his character, but where's the other dimension of Donny Semenee? Where's the sweet, caring kid who's manipulated into this by Ali? The same holds true for the Hitman. Leo Fitspatrick, who has in other films demonstrated that the is a talented actor, screams this way through every scene. Where's the humor behind the stupid camp counselor leading the kids into battle? Where's the umm's and uhh's? the only notable performance comes from Nick Stahl. The kid's a great actor, but, then, again, his likeability makes him miscast. He garners sympathy form the audience, when the reality should be that the audience detests him to such a degree that they understand what led these kids to murder him. It's a travesty. Nearly every aspect of this story that drove me to want to get this movie made has been destroyed.


What is this movie truly about now? In all honesty, I think it's a $2.2 million exercise in perversion.Ê Every scene Ali and Lisa are in, the camera is focused on their vaginas. The sexual distractions are amateurish, unnecessary and offensive. Crotch shots over pedicures, giving blow jobs in the cars (another long lasting crotch shot), pinching nipples, putting clothes pins on nipples, Lisa fucking Marty five times, Ali fucking Bobby twice, Ali fucking Donny, Ali making out with Donny, Heather rubbing Donny, Donny making out with Heather, Heather making out with Ali, where's the fucking story?! The bottom line is that by all appearances, the intelligence of this film has been desecrated in lieu of perverse and childish intentions.


What makes a movie great are the little things. It is no surprise that with these little things Bully fails miserably. Here, Iíll explore just a few that I felt contribute to the demise of this film. After the first attempt of the murder fails, Donny says to the girls "you guys need professional help." Where is Aliís epiphany of seeking out "professional help?" All you see in the next scene is the Hitman with a bunch of children saying nothing of importance to each other. Itís like theyíre trying to say something but can't think of anything. so a few face shots are inserted to kill time until the mother comes outside with the phone. Then we see Cousin Derek outside cutting grass. Not only can he hear his cell phone over the deafening machine, he automatically knows that it's Lisa. Later, when the kids arrive to seek out the help of the Hitman, a camera shot, clearly stolen from Scorsese in The Color of Money, is used and abused. Here we have one of the most important scenes with the Hitman and instead of the scene moving the story forward, the audience is left completely dizzy and again wondering why. Here I've mentioned four justifiable complaints within a period of five minutes.


It is with much sadness and regret that I remove my name from this film. It was a story very close to my heart, one that I fought long and hard for. It is not easy to let two years of hard work and perseverance go down the drain, but there is no doubt that in order to preserve my name, I must.


Sincerely,

David McKenna

Dear Alan:

I loved your work on "Death of a Gunfighter."

Josh

Name: Matt David T.
E-mail: msturnbull@comcast.net

Dear Josh:

In regards to my earlier question, I wasn't really specific about the theme/themes we're exploring here where I work. You're absolutely right in stating I was describing moods/storytelling devices with which we describe the theme.

To further explain: The irony in breaking the fourth wall (and the humor derived) is the tool we're using to describe the fact that art is something human created, and this piece of art no matter how interesting is also simply the work of another individual with thoughts/feelings not unlike (Your) own.

Heroism is something that could absolutely be considered a theme, although in our usage I again am forced to agree that it's mereley a tool for an end. The theme that's coming across here is that any individual from any beginning is capable of greatness given that they're just that: capable.

We use humor to soften the blow of people's reactions to these, and also to illustrate that things needn't always be taken seriously.

Our core theme:
Possibility (the old "anything's possible" bit.)

Secondary themes: Human frailty, artistic integrity.


SO... Here's my question (because obviously I wasn't just submitting a question in order to vindicate my earlier statements...):

What's your favorite theme?

Dear Matt:

I don't have a favorite theme. Whatever theme develops as I'm writing the story is the one I like. So far, 31 scripts along, I haven't used the same theme twice. But I still think the best themes are simple, one-word concepts, like anger or duty or trust. Heroism is too vague. My script "Devil Dogs" is about the most-decorated enlisted Marine ever, Sgt. Dan Daly. I spent a year writing that script thinking my theme was heroism, and I could never get the character to come to life or the story to function. I met the director Noel Black, who directed "Pretty Poison" with Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld, and I was telling him about "Devil Dogs" and he said he'd read it, which he promptly did (right there is a very special thing in the world, particularly in Hollywood). He said, "I didn't care. Why is this guy such a hero?" And I was stuck, but said, "Patriotism." Mr. Black said, "That's not good enough." And he was absolutely right. So I dropped the script. A year or two later I came across an old quote from the 1600s that said, "Anger is the whetstone of valor," and a light went on over my head. Being a hero isn't about heroism, it's about a personal issue that causes you to be a hero, or fearless in a dangerous situation. What if Sgt. Daly had an anger problem, and nothing made him angrier than seeing his men get killed around him, which would cause him to stand up in the middle of machine-gun fire to get his men to safety. The theme suddenly became anger, and anger is a good theme. Heroism isn't. And all you need is one theme.

Josh

Name: Gary Thorne
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Voting for Bush for four more years this November is a disgrace, but lost in the shuffle a bit is the increasingly likely retirement of several key judges (including many older member of the Supreme Court). The next President of the United States will make many judicial appointments which could literally shape our country for the next 25+ years. I don't want a bunch of conservative assholes given a 25+ lifetime of free-reign decisions, and somehow I think who is appointed will be almost as important as who becomes President: Kerry or Bush.

Dear Gary:

That, too. Meanwhile, if Tucker Carlson, the right side of "Crossfire," isn't voting for Bush, then Bush has got to be fucked.

Josh

Name: evan
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

because of all the DV talk i figured this was a good place to ask this question

me and my partner are going to make a 45 min film, we finished the script and have people lined up to do the movie. but me and my partner have different ideas on how to shoot

i want to shoot on 16mm black and white, he wants to shoot on DV. his reasons are: DV is faster, cheaper, its easy to do the sound, somewhat easy to edit. and my only argument is 16mm will look better -- but it will> cost more and the sound is harder( i think its just as easy to edit 16 as it is to edit DV)

what would you do in this type of thing

--off topic question--have you ever seen the sketch show "mr show" i think its the best sketch show ever, if you have not seen it or only seen one eposide please give it a try, its great

Dear evan:

I took out the DVD of "Mr. Show," watched a few episodes and didn't find them funny. Sorry. Meanwhile, what are your intentions for this movie? Is this just for practice, or do you intend to try and do something with it? 45-minutes is long for a short, and too short for a feature, so I'm not sure what your point is. If it's for your own amusement and the experience of doing it, shoot DV. If you really intend to get out and hustle the film, and you want people to potentially be impressed, shoot film.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I'm glad to hear you liked Kerry's performance at the debates. I was pleased as well, and it was nice to watch Kerry shove Bush's shitty record down his throat. Once the debate on domestic issues takes place, Bush will be in a lot of trouble since his record on domestic issues is embarassingly piss poor.

What shocks me is that the media polls are stating that Kerry won by a landslide, however a lot of the commentators are considering the debate to be a draw. Are they blind? Bush kept repeating himself, and couldn't deliver concise rebuttals to save his life. I was very impressed with Kerry, and believe he did a much better job than Al Gore, who came across as a cocky know-it-all with a lethargic demenor. I am really interested in seeing the Cheney/Edwards debate. Cheney always comes across as shadowy, and distrustful, whereas Edwards exudes charm, charisma, and was one of the best trial lawyers in the country. I can't wait! Have you met any undecided voters as of late who are now leaning toward the Dems?

Dear Scott:

I don't know any undecided voters. The issues are much too clear at this point in history. Even my dad, the Republican, isn't voting for Bush. I don't care how the media reports any of this, I know what I'm seeing and feeling from those around me. Bush is a goner.

Josh

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

Josh,

I am glad you said something about "Requiem for a Dream" because "Pi" > was one of my favorite contemporary films from this decade, yet "Requiem for a Dream" is by far one of the worst and most miserable films ever made and it goes into the category of "what were you thinking?"

I was one of the few people i know who actually despised that film. i know we talked about it before, but i could not give two shits about any of the characters in that film.

Regarding the debate, we read the transcript here at work and you would be amazed at how many times Bush said "hard work" and "mixed messages".

Kerry definitely had Bush on the ropes and he was clearly not happy about that, but his defense was so poor he had to keep repeating the same things over and over, and it was obvious that he did not have any intelligent answers of his own and all these catch phrases were a product of an intensive spoon fed prep rehearsal session.

It was like a bad rap song, which gives me an idea....

Scott

Dear Scott:

We just watched the first of the Nixon-Kennedy debates. Nixon was the favorite going in, the vice-president, and supposedly a good debater, but he looked nervous and agitated beside the calm, cool and collected Kennedy, and that was all it took. Bush is going down.

Josh

Name: Joshua Becker
E-mail: beckerj2@michigan.gov

Dear Josh:

I didn't really have a question, but I just wanted to tell you Hello from another Josh Becker from Michigan :)

-JoSh

Dear Joshua Becker:

How weird. Well, hello.

Josh

Name: Richard
E-mail: filmfan_1@hotmail.com

"Since nobody's seems able to make a decent movie anymore, what's to look forward to? Watching one more previously all right filmmaker fall on their ass?"

Josh,

I've been reading your site daily for about a year now and I've heard you say this statement a hundred times. It seems to be that you're so READY to hate everything that comes down the pike, that you're hamstringing yourself before you can even give anything a chance.

I just can't figure you out. Case in pont: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I know, I know, you hated it.

Dude, it was an original story, well thought out, heartfelt, well-acted, interestingly staged and executed. In my book, the best film of the year so far.

You can't even like something like Finding Nemo, which is pure, warm, funny, and beautiful to look at.

I mean this in all respect, but why are you in this business? You HATE it!

Richard

Dear Richard:

First of all, you clearly haven't been reading the Q&A enough because I've clearly stated several times that I did like "Finding Nemo," and I've watched it several times. I haven't seen "Eternal Sunshine" so I can't comment, although I must admit that I have yet to be impressed with any of Charlie Kaufman's writing. But just because I hate the contemporary state of cinema, doesn't mean I hate movies. As I've said before, and I'll say again, I simply won't grade on a curve. I know what a good movie is, and I won't elevate crap to decent status because that's all that's coming out. After all of the bad reviews "The Human Stain" received I was as ready to hate it as anything else, but in fact I liked it, and I watched it again. If the filmmaker has it in them to get me to like, I will like it, but most filmmakers today haven't got that in them. I also just saw a terrific German film from 1946 called "The Muderers Among Us," that was well-written, interestingly directed, and well-acted, too. It was the first German film made after the war, and it's set in Berlin which is nothing but rubble as far as the eye can see. Miles and miles of rubble. It was kind of amazing, actually.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greenebrett@spymac.com

Josh

Here in Belfast we didn't get to catch the broadcast of the Presidential Debate from Florida until quite late, around 2:30 in the morning, but I'm sure my senses weren't quite stripped by then. Did Bush keep mentioning Poland as a war resource? Did he not retort without respect to the mediator? Did he not look flabbergasted and gasping for air when not reading from scripted notes? His aides must have just pulled their earplugs out, said 'what the fuck, he'll screw it up on his own.' Kerry, though, shouldn't be let off - stodgy bastard. It seems this election will hail the lesser of two evils.

What did you think?

Dear Brett:

It always was the lesser of two evils, that's our two-party system. But *not* voting for someone is every bit as important as voting *for* someone else. If the debate was a boxing match, which it kind of was, there was no KO, nor even any knockdowns, but Kerry took every round and clearly showed ring generalship throughout the proceedings. I'd say Bush got knocked into the ropes when they were talking about Iraq and he blurted out, "We were attacked," which allowed John Kerry a fatherly, adult-to-child moment, informing him, "Saddam Hussein is not Osama bin Laden." Bush shot back, "I *know* that." I thought Bush might add, "Get off my case, man!" It's almost like in Bush's little insulated bubble no one ever disagrees with him, so just having someone flatly contradict his nonsense clearly infuriated him. I think this can only get better in upcoming debates, too. How in hell is Bush going to defend the economy, or the loss of jobs, or the out-sourcing of jobs. I think Bush may be fucked, and there's plenty of precedents for candidates self-destructing at the debates. Let's just hope.

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: dalty_smilth@hotmail.com

Josh,

I don't think I'm ever going to agree with you about this election or this war and I'm pretty sure you're probably not going to agree with me either. Frankly, I'm sick of talking about both and I'm sure you are as well. So as someone once said, "Sir, while I do not agree with what you say I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Anyway, you mentioned the movie Pi in an earlier post, and I assume you meant Darren Aronofsky's freshman effort. Have you actually seen the film, or were you just using it as an example? If you have seen it, what did you think of it? And have you seen Aronofsky's second opus Requiem for a Dream? If so, what did you think of that?

Dear Ben:

I wouldn't have used it as an example if I hadn't seen it. I liked "Pi," and I watched it twice. I think it has a legitimately good story, and it's very interestingly shot. I love the look of the black and white reversal stock, and there's a great example of why to shoot film and not to shoot DV. Nobody would have paid the slightest attention to that film had it been shot on DV. A huge part of the enjoyment of that movie is the visual look of that film stock and the lighting, which was achieved with ten cents. Meanwhile, I'd honestly say that "Requiem for a Dream" is one of the worst films I've ever had the displeasure of sitting through in my entire life, and extra awful because it was such a letdown from "Pi." Darren Aronofsky took his big chance and showed us he's nothing more than a camera jerk-off.

Josh

Name: Jonathan Moody
E-mail: jondoe_555@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I was talking with my brother tonight after he got done work. He doesn't really like movies much because he doesn't think anything good has been coming out. He actually said the last good movie he's seen was, "Bully". I wasn't sure if you've seen that or not. I told him that the guy who made "Bully" was the guy who did, "Kids" Larry Clark. He said he didn't like Kids because it, "left a bad taste in my mouth". Which I kind of agree with, I guess. I have liked a good amount of movies since "Bully" so I can't back him by saying it was the best movie to be made in the last 10 or so years. But I can understand him liking the movie. Also, have you seen any movies by David Gordon Green; I.E. George Washington or All the Real girls? He's coming out with a new movie "Undertow" and the trailer looks good. Makes me want to check out the flicks.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

I thought both "Kids" and Bully" were garbage, and exploitive, offensive garbage, at that. Larry Clark has no ability to get me to give the slightest shit about his characters, he's very simply trying to be shocking -- oh my god, teenagers use drugs and have sex? Big fucking deal. It seems to me I watched 15 minutes of "George Washington" and bailed out, but it's already hazy and dim.

Josh

Name: Rich
E-mail: bigrich70@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Bobby Chacon was just as self-destructive as Jake Lamotta minus the mean streak. He battled drugs/alcohol throughout his career and his wife commited suicide shortly before his fourth and final fight against Bazooka Limon for the Junior Lightweight title. His son was murdered around '91 and he himself ended up living in a crackhouse until a minister found out about his situation and took him in. His life has been a downward spiral without boxing. He's truly one of the forgotten champions.

I can't argue with your list although I liked Rocky II. You're right, it's hard to make a good boxing movie. It seems that Hollywood can't do boxing simply because it doesn't know boxing... "Hurricane" was a farce, they fabricate the entire Hurricane Carter-Joey Giardello bout to make it look like Carter was robbed because he was black...Giardello got so upset he sued and put up the real fight for download on his website, LOL (Giardello appears to have clearly outboxed Carter). I thought HBO's "Undefeated" with John Leguizamo had some potential but it was one of the worse movies ever made by HBO. So, yeah, I can't really think of a good boxing movie in recent memory. The last one would probably be "Diggstown" if you've ever seen that.

On the flip side, it seems that boxing makes for great documentaries. HBO's "Legendary Nights", "Sonny Liston", and "Dark Lights, Ray Robinson" we're all riveting in my opinion. "When They Were Kings" had some interesting anecdotes as well.

Enjoy the fights this weekend. It is rare that I find an intelligent fight fan.

Rich

Dear Rich:

I thought "When We Were Kings" was great, and I've watched it several times. I think Muhammed Ali is one of the really great, important characters of at least the past 50 years. He was personally responsible for kick-starting the American anti-war movement in 1964, and he was a great champion. Michael Mann's film does him as big a disservice as any biopic ever made; it's a severely badly-written, uninformed smear-job. Meanwhile, "Diggstown" was cute. A perfectly reasonable boxing film of recent times was "Joe and Max," about Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, although it's more of a portrait of the times and the politics than about boxing. The Joe Louis story should be remade because they did such a lousy, low-budget job of it the first time. And yes, "Hurricane" was crap and unthruthful, Carter absolutely lost the fight to Giardello.

Josh

Name: karen
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What did you think of the Prez Debate? You always have insightful and intelligent political views. I saw it and I think that Kerry held his own fairly well and kept mostly on topic. Although I think that both of them seemed to get a little petty at times; the repetitive arguments of Kerry being too wishy washy and Kerry relying on his military service to appeal to people was unnecessary.

Dear karen:

I thought John Kerry kicked Bush's ass. Kerry came off as intelligent and presidential, Bush seems like the human emodiment of Alfred E. Neuman and"What, me worry?" It was particularly interesting watching it on C-Span, where they kept the two in split-screen the entire time and Bush made a thousand and one annoyed, irritated, stupid faces, clearly got flustered, and seemed to have run out of anything to say about halfway through the debate. It got to a point in the last quarter where Bush couldn't even use up his 90 seconds. I surfed all of the news channels afterward and everyone of them felt that Kerry won, including Fox News. This is just what Kerry needed.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

John Waters needs to fucking quit. Right now. What a waste of an X-Rating. What a waste of Johnny Knoxville, a guy who fucking mutilates himself naked on film in an R-RATED movie, and he's totally wasted. John Waters wants a new form of sex, cut his moustache off, don't shave it, CUT IT, stick it in a jar, and throw it at his head. That movie was nothing like Pink Flamingos, and that's what it was advertised as. Screw him. The best part about the film was I went to Papa John's next store and got a free copy of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY with my meal. I hope Chucky cuts his moustache off in his next movie.

Dear kdn:

Ha-ha! Told you so.

Josh

Name: Matt David T.
E-mail: msturnbull@comcast.net

Dear Josh:

What kinds of themes interest you these days in film? Obviously not in films being produced in Hollywood, but in your writing, what has been your inspiration as of late?

In my producing/design/writing the themes I'm constantly subjected to are humor and heroism, with a bit of irony coming from breaking the 4th wall. That comes with my industry.

But on my own I tend to explore the ideas surrounding psychological horror. I'm of the ilk of people that enjoy a horror movie that disturbs, instead of frightens. Something that makes me go home uneasy about some aspect of life makes me genuinely more frightened than any number of "Jump" scares.

But that also tends to be why I read books instead of watching movies.

None the less, what is it that moves you, the ever loving film cynic, these days? What's keeping the joy for you?

Dear Matt:

Sorry to be contrary (although it comes very naturally to me), but humor, heroism and irony are not themes, they're simply possible aspects of storytelling, like metaphor or allegory. A theme is more specific than that, like: duty or trust or success or anger. A theme is an issue that can be explored by one or more of the characters in a story. You can explore your theme with humor or irony, or you can not bother with that and still have a theme. The is no joy in Mudville these days. I get my kicks from watching old movies, and reading books, like you.

Josh

Name: Matt David T.
E-mail: msturnbull@comcast.net

Dear Josh:

Looking forward to any feature films next year Mr. Becker?

I'm looking forward to precisely ONE:
Serenity.

Every other movie coming next year strikes me as being the same movies that came out this year.
Alexander = Troy
Batman Begins = Catwoman
Star Wars Episode 3 = Spider-Man 2
Etc. Etc.

Anything worthwhile coming up the pipeline?

Dear Matt:

I have no idea what's coming up, nor do I care. Since nobody's seems able to make a decent movie anymore, what's to look forward to? Watching one more previously all right filmmaker fall on their ass? I'm far more interested in upcoming boxing matches.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

perhaps I should wait and see A DIRTY SHAME tonight before I comment on it. I don't really watch these kind of movies anymore.
I just want to see if John Waters has the guts to be as sick as he was in Pink Flamingos, Desperate Living, and Female Trouble. I'll be happy if the acting is stupid and I come home disturbed. I'll be pissed if it got an NC-17 for no reason other than language and insinuation (like ORGAZMO wtf). By the way, the best part of LUNATICS A LOVE STORY was the small scenes between Ted Raimi and Deborah Foreman. I hate 90s rap (I actually shelled out to see how bad the Vanilla Ice movie was COOL AS ICE), but it seemed okay in this one cause it was in his head, it wasn't trying to be cool. The special effects were nifty to watch, but I felt no real danger for Ted as it was all in his head. It was more disturbing and involving to watch Foreman put a gun in her mouth and almost pull the trigger cause that was real. And Bruce Campbell's acting definately improved between this movie and Running Time. Once again, since I cared for these characters, that makes it a step up from TSNK...E (but that's biased, I can't sit through cheap vietnam movies like this and COMBAT SHOCK, maybe not APOCALYPSE NOW but I'll give it a try, I think the lowest I'll go on a vietnam flick is PLATOON. I like PLATOON). I can't wait to see ALIEN APOCALYPSE. So have yourself a NERVOUS -- BREAKDOWN. scratch record Breakdown Breakdown.

Dear kdn:

Small scenes? Ted and Debbie spend the entire middle of the movie in his apartment together. And it's not like I gave Bruce a very good part. He does the most he can with what he's got. "The lowest I'll go on a Vietnam flick is PLATOON?" It's by far the best of all the Vietnam movies, in my humble opinion.

Josh

Name: Al Upshaw
E-mail:

Hey Josh, love this discussion forum I read it all the time.

Are you a fan of Fritz Lang's work? I saw one of the Dr. Mabuse films recently and it is seriously frightening.

Dear Al:

I must admit in embarrassment that I haven't seen his Dr. Mabuse films. Fritz Lang is up and down with me; some of his films, like "M," "Fury" and"The Big Heat" are very good, but many others aren't all that hot. I've actually walked out of a few of his films. He gives a great interview in Peter Bogdanovich's "Who the Devil Made It."

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Are you going to see John Water's A Dirty Shame? whenever someone mentions John Waters, you complain that he sold out and didn't have much to work with when he lost the true nastiness of his films (true even though, technically, he went to jail for some of them and most his friends died, I can't picture somebody doing that forever). Well, here it is, a new NC-17 return to form freak you out balls to the walls John Waters film. At least as the reviewer states. I still need to see it. Yeah that is ironic that he sold out and made Cecil B. Demented. At least Terror Firmer had the decency to be balls to the walls... I can't picture you liking that movie. I saw John Waters answering questions on IFC once, he stated families would watch Hairspray, laugh, and then when they're at the video store see Pink Flamingos on the shelf "Oh, I just loved Hairspray, let's go watch ANOTHER John Waters movie" and about the part where the singing butthole pops up they call the cops and Waters and company pleads guilty for less time. I hope if this ones good, he starts making more nasty X-rated comedies; in a world with jackass, why fake it anymore, right?

Dear kdn:

It got a bad review in the NY Times, and they said it was just basically boring, which is how I've found all of his films since "Female Trouble." I personally don't hold out much hope.

Josh

Name: Jo
E-mail: jo.field1@ntlworld.com

Hi Josh,

in reference to my last post: It would be great if they did make an overseas version, but even if they dont I'd just buy it from the US and get it shipped over, thats what i have to do with a lot of the films i wanna see that dont come out over here!! Good old multi-region DVD players!! :) It would be good to know if they do make a deal for an overseas version, if u find out could u post to let us know please!!...if it isnt too much trouble!!

Loadsa Luv
JO xx

Dear Jo:

Yeah, if they bother to let me know.

Josh

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

Josh,

Your analogy of using DV in the same vain as you guys used Super 8mm is an excellent one, and I must say to Jim that even though I agree that the Canon XL2 is a very nice camera, I would shoot DV only as practice for honing your skills until you can get to shoot a better format just as Josh and the boys did with Super 8mm.

I believe that any tool you can find which will allow you to express whatever it is you want express in filmmaking should never be ruled out, but this DV craze is just that, a craze and the only people who are obtaining distribution for DV shot features are already established in the business and have a decent budget.

There is a company here in NYC "IndigEnt" that has put out about 10 features shot on DV, and the movie "Tape" which you had seen is one of them. I have seen most of them. "Tadpole" was mentioned on this site by someone before, and the other one I thought was pretty decent was "Pieces of April". The problem is that all the releases looked terrible, but they had big names and good budgets.

I think "Pieces of April" looked the worst of all the releases, and there were a few people in the theater who made comments about that, but I could not get a good sense of whether many people noticed the bad visuals or not. So, the question is, what does the public really notice, and do they really give shit?

I know I did, and I know you do Josh because you walked out of "Silver City" for that reason. I did not walk out of these films, but it was difficult for me to sit through many of the scenes which looked like shit, and I really liked the characters in "Pieces of April, and I wanted to watch the movie, so it was difficult for me.

These films are good experiments, but I think we are still better served shooting with film, and as far as Super 8 goes Kodacrhome is a really a cool stock to use and you are right, the colors are great, also the new Kodak negative vision stocks are wonderful, and they do look better than DV.

I just read a wonderful interview with Vilmos Zsigmund and he said;

"People talk about technology where you turn on the camera and it can capture some kind of image even in darkness. When producers here that, some of them start to think a cinematographer doesn't have to light it, doesn't have to do anything. And that's absolutely wrong. Narrative moviemaking isn't the same as documentary filmmaking. In a documentary, it can be best to use no lights or limited lights. You shoot the reality. But when you're telling a story with actors and a script, a certain look, a mood, is part of that. And you have to create that look. You have to light for that look.

You can work with just a few footcandles today, and that allows us to be more artistic and do a better job of creating mood, but the danger is that some people think you can skip that part of the process. Today's digital technologies can't handle that kind of situation as well as film. In order to make something look good on film the way the eye sees it in real life, you have to use light creatively. I used to call what we do when we light for movies "poetic realism". A scene should look real, but it should also have poetry".

Whewwww!

Scott

Dear Scott (and Vilmos):

Yeah, what they said. Actually, I didn't walk out of "Silver City" primarily because of the rotten photography, it was because of the awful script combined with the terrible visuals. Shit, I didn't even walk out of"Heaven's Gate," and that's entirely because of Mr. Zsigmond's lighting and no other reason. Had it been shot on DV I'd have been out of there in 30-minutes.

Josh

Name: Dale Richardson
E-mail: dsrichardson@firstam.com

Dear Josh:

No need to post this, just a comment:

After some pointed commentary on 'Kill Bill' Josh Becker writes:

"But I go on.

Josh"



Dude, that was brilliant. Thanks for that.

Dear Dale:

I don't think I honestly want to hate Tarantino's movies going in, but they're so easy to hate; they're so fucked up.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

I have to comment on this whole notion of "going after terrorist nations"> and military solutions to the terrorist threat. Newsflash, folks - there is *no* military solution to terrorism. We tried that in Afghanistan - remember Afghanistan? Are the terrorists gone? No. Did we catch Osama? No. Did we destroy Al Qaeda? No. Are terrorists still launching attacks across the world? Yes. Once Bush's many critics were vindicated in their assertions that he was completely full of shit about Iraq having WMDs, Iraq suddenly became all about fighting terrorism. Fine. What has that accomplished? Are terrorists still launching attacks across the world? Yes. If anything we essentially handed Al Qaeda a gift wrapped multi-billion dollar recruiting campaign.

Chew on this - these people want to isolate America from its allies, force its citizens to live in fear, and ultimately destroy it. So far 2 out of 3 have been accomplished, and one could argue that the fascist style centralization of power in the executive branch is well on the way to destroying America. And all of this has been done at the behest of Bush and his owners. Simply put, the terrorists have no greater ally than Bush - he's playing directly into their hands.

What these people consistently fail to understand is that terrorism is not a military issue. It's what happens when first world countries like America and the Soviet Union go into third world countries and act like arrogant, unrepentant, blue-veined dicks. We let our military, intelligence agencies, and civilian companies pollute their land, beat, torture, and harass their people, support dictators who rape and slaughter them and use chemical weapons on them (don't we gave Saddam the VX he used on the Kurds!), buy and sell their little girls for sex slaves, use up their resources, and move on when they're done. All of those are verifiable, acknowledged acts perpetrated by the US and/or its corporations & subcontractors on various sovereign nations including Czechoslovakia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, India, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and many others. In short - all the places terrorists are coming from.

Terrorism isn't born of people "hating freedom" - that's total bullshit. It's born of people being pushed against the wall and being allowed no recourse other than violence. Crashing planes into buildings, blowing up nightclubs, and beheading people are deplorable and subhuman acts. Only a psychopath would disagree with that. But we'll never see the end of it if we don't address the underlying causes - namely the so-called developed world's shitty and abusive foreign policies. We can send another hundred thousand, or million, or 5 million troops to the Middle East, we can bomb them back into the Paleolithic era, we can nuke the Middle East until it's a radioactive plain of glass. It will never make a damn bit of difference. If a single person sees a Haliburton subcontractor rape his mother, or watches his little brother get his legs blown off by a American landmine, and cannot be accorded the justice to have that wrong righted, we will always face the threat of terrorism. End of story, end of argument.

Peace to all,

Mike

Dear Mike:

Well stated, sir.

Josh

Name: Colin Hives
E-mail: colinhives@msn.com

Hi Josh

I've just started trying to make reeal films over the past 18 months after about 60 shorts. I've gotten myself a bunch of really good actors and written what we all believe to be a ok script. Because I'm doing a no budget movie I've written a dialogue heavy screenplay to accommodate my lack of funds.

A questions for you.

When shooting a four way dialogue scene across a table how would you cover it? Master and close ups on all? Would you shoot the same scene numerous times?

One shot and try to follow?

This terrifies me know end.

My shorts have mostly been shot after shot and not a blocked scene, if that makes any sense?

Cheers
Colin Hives
Liverpool, England

Dear Colin:

Your question goes right to the heart of film direction. It's a question I confronted over and over in my film "If I Had a Hammer," which has an hour-long sequence in a club, so the entire scene is constant reconfigurations of people at tables talking to each other. So, you need to make some calculations, like how much time do you have to shoot each scene, meaning how much coverage do you think you can get? And if you think you're going to get more than seven pages a day you're probably kidding yourself. So, in any scene of four people talking at a table, there's generally a featured person, often times the star, so you're probably shooting into their face, and the eyelines are all based on them. Now, how do you arrange them? You could have the star on the left (or right) facing the other three people, and you'd fundamentally need a wide shot and four close-ups, one facing one way, three facing the other way -- that's five set-ups. But you could also possibly feature one of the three other people with a close-up, but to save time only shoot a two-shot of the other two -- that's four set-ups. If it's more like the star is talking to the bad guy, who has two henchman with him who only have one line each, you could get the wide, the star's close-up, and the bad guy's close-up and skip both of the other close-ups, cutting wide for their short lines -- three set-ups. Or you could start wide and push past the other two guys into a two-shot of the star and the bad guy -- one set-up. How you cover a scene has got to be based on how much time you have to do it. And you probably can't get a new set-up any faster than 30-minutes, and that's if you're cooking with a good DP. Another way is to get two people talking to two people, which you can cover in two two-shots -- that's two set-ups. A variation of that, with two people talking to two people, can be two over-the-shoulder shots -- two set-ups. A good film to watch for this, BTW, is "Casablanca." If you have more questions, or don't understand me, write back. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Dave
E-mail: david@streatfield.fsbusiness.co.uk

Dear Josh:

It's not just Al-Qaida. JohnRambo states that "there are a number of nations that fund and support terrorism against us, other Western nations, and Israel." This is indeed true, for many years the IRA (a UK-based terrorist group, for the uninformed) have received a great deal of funding from the good old US of A. Following current Republican logic this surely warrants an attack on Canada or something?

Writing from the UK I've got to say that I am continually surprised by the Americans I meet, the vast majority of whom seem intelligent, friendly, thoughtful and vehemently opposed to Bush. This is in stark contrast to the current worldview of your American brethren. Unfortunately these guys are unlikely to be voting, as they will be over here during the elections. I hope there's enough of you left Stateside to get the result that you, and the rest of us so desperately need. With the upcoming election, it's scary for me as an Englishman to have no say in something that could have a direct effect on my life expectancy.

Changing the subject, could you tell us if you've had any joy with the Sci-Fi channel, or have they succeeded in starting your new film with a 20-minute action sequence? Will the eventual DVD give you any chance to redeem the film if they have fucked it around?

Dear Dave:

No, I don't think so. I'd have to rescore it and remix it, and there's no one to pay for that. It's been okay. Look, it was a silly premise to begin with, that it's now somewhat sillier than I originally imagined isn't the end of the world. You now get a much better chance to see the practical alien, which is a cool item. The movies I can control are my own productions, and that's all. If I work for someone else, and sell them the rights to the script, it's theirs. Sad but true.

Getting back to politics, I too find it shocking that so many Americans seem to support Bush. Yet I still feel hopeful, which is not my normal state. I believe the anger against Bush is strong enough to shake a bunch of apathetic liberals out of the trees and we'll get a large turnout, and that always goes to the Democrat.

Josh

Name: Ron
E-mail:

Josh,

I was just watching Larry King Live and he had various guests (a Catholic priest, Jew, Muslim, Deepok Chopra, and a Fundamentalist Christian) on talking about war, religion, good and evil, etc. Larry asked the panel about gay marriage, and one guy (can't remember his name, but he was Jewish)gave the typical rightwing reply about "is it okay for three people, or brothers and sisters to marry?" Then the guy hounded Deepak Chopra to answer the question. It seemed to stump Chopra. I am a liberal who is for gay marriage, but I didn't know how I would've answered that question either. I admire your opinions, and I'd really like to know how you would've answered him?

Cheers,
Ron

Dear Ron:

The government should not be in the marriage business, only the civil union business, and that ought to include everybody. If you want a religious person to "sanctify" your union, then you should go to your local church, mosque, temple, or what have you, and have your holy man sanctify it. The concept that gay marriage is a slippery slope that leads directly to sex with animals or with one's siblings, is the insane rantings of fundamentalists who sincerely believe that their holy book is the word of god, and all other holy books are blasphemy. These crackpots should have no say in our government, as we are constitutionally guaranteed the seperation of church and state. This concept seems to have completely eluded our president, who believes that Jesus elected him, whereas in actuality, the partisan supreme court selected him in the most illegal, irrational decision that court has made in over 200 years.

Josh

Name: Ron Zwang
E-mail: RonZwang@earthlink.net

Hi Josh,

Long time fan, first time caller. You told a tale of my nightmare pitch meeting earlier. To fill in the details --

At the start of my pitch I began to tell the first act when the exec interrupted: "The strength of any film is the second act. Start there." > "OK but the premise is..." "Get to the second act!" I pitched the second act and then started to go back to the first act. He stopped me: "The second most important part of a story is the third act. Let's hear it." "But getting back to the premise -- the film starts..." "The third act!" After I pitch the third act the exec condescendingly says: "OK. Let's hear the first act you love so much." I pitch it. Exec: "Your story is too confusing." During all this my hand nervously reached between the couch cushions that I was sitting on. I found some change in it. I got up and handed it to him. "Here's 35 cents. Buy yourself a personality." I left.

Two years later -- I'm seated at the WGA Theater. The man next to me turns and asks: "Are you Ron Zwang?" "Perhaps.." It turns out this was the silent guy taking notes at the pitch meeting (every pitch meeting has one of these guys for some reason) He told me he was thrilled with my "Buy yourself a personality" response. He waited quietly for a year for someone to finally tell him off.

Another case free associated from your answer, Josh. Another exec took his SECOND call interrupting me mid-pitch and he just wasn't ending his call. I noticed a board behind me listing his development projects. I got up, picked up the sharpie and started adding projects such as "Pitch Meeting From Hell" and "The Ron Zwang Story." He got off the phone quickly.


Ron Zwang

Dear Ron:

I love that story. Sorry if I didn't relate it all that well. Did you write on that development board, "A Ron Zwang Joint"? I don't know about you, but for me Disney wins for the worst, most obnoxious executives. The schnook who took off his socks and shoes, then cleaned between his toes while I was pitching, went on to produce "The Nutty Nut," so you know who I'm referring to, and I'm sure you're not surprised, either. Thanks for joining into the merriment here.

Josh

Name: Jonas Talkington- aka Bounty Hunter #3
E-mail: jotek@fastmail.fm

Hey Josh! After working on your film, I started checking your site periodically, and really like it! Even though I like many films you think are shit, I think that says something about my lack of personal film integrity more than anything else! (although I also love many of the films you like, as well. I guess i have a low setting on my stink-o-meter) How is everything going with Alien Apocalypse? Any time frame as to when it might possibly be out? (p.s. If you find time in the next couple of months, and if you have the possibility, would you mind adding me to the IMDB page :D If not, no worries) Hope things are going well for you!
Jonas

Dear Jonas:

I don't have anything to do with the IMDB listings, nor am I even a registered member there. Meanwhile, Jonas, it was a pleasure working with you, and I think you did a very good job, even if you had to wear a crappy fake beard. AA is supposed to air on SciFi in January, then it will be out on video/DVD at some point thereafter, although I don't know about Bulgaria. Once again, it was a total pleasure working with you.

Josh

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

Josh,

I can indeed add to Alex's question about editing footage on a home computer and burning it to film.

You covered it pretty well, but the one thing he should ask himself is what type of home computer does he have and what software is he going to use?

If you cut the piece in Apple's Final Cut Pro which costs about $1,000 - $1,200 just for the software, plus using an uncompressed third party video card which is another $5,000., you may get way with trying to burn your footage back to film and having it look good, but that also depends on how well it has been shot and with what is being shot with on the camera end.

The third party video card is important in this whole process because this allows you to input and output with no compression.

All DV software editing systems capture footage at a 5:1 ratio which is the standard compression for DV. This includes Adobe Premier, Vegas video, Final Cut Pro, and a host of other DV editing programs.

Unless you use one of these 3rd party video cards, your footage will suffer pretty badly burning back to 35mm film.

You could try and output your edit to an uncompressed quicktime movie and then have it converted at a post house, however, you need a lot of drive space for that and it would take forever to convert a feature length film into a quicktime movie.

This option is best done if you end product is going to go to a website like a did for Josh's super 8 shorts, and if the edits are short pieces, but if you are going to want to burn back to film then you better input and output uncompressed to a digital tape format which has no compression and that will cost you some bucks unless you can pull favors in getting a digi-beta or something like that.

I can illustrate a good example of why it is so important to make people understand that just because all of this software is out there for DV and home computers doesn't mean that you can go out and shoot your own movie on DV or HD and have it run in a theater or even on television.

I met this guy who is a lawyer by day, and decided to make a film with some other friends.

He took the time to shoot a feature film on 35mm(A Sci-Fi film). He used an old Arri IIC camera for most of it. Now, this is a great camera just an old model Arri, so I am sure if things were done correctly, then it would have looked pretty good.

However, when he went to edit it, they did not have the money to pay someone with a higher end system to do it, so they cut it on a home computer with Adobe Premier. They had all the footage converted to DV and input it that way.

The problem occurred when they output the film and tried to shop it around to distributors. The output from Adobe Premier wasn't uncompressed and the film looked crappy because of that oversight, and no distributor would touch it. The only distributor interested was Trauma films, but when I talked to the guy, it did not seem like a decent deal to me.

Anyhow, most anything of quality equipment wise in this business costs money and if you try to skimp on things that matter the most, your film will suffer for it in the end and distributors won't be interested. That is the reality.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Thanks for adding your expertise to the discussion. The bottom-line here is that, at this time, DV is the equivilant of Bruce, Sam and I shooting super-8 when we were younger--it was a great learning experience, but none of it was salable.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Just to respond to Scott: I've shot on both the DVX100 and Super8 and I don't agree that Super8 always looks better. In some cases it does, certainly projected it tends to look better because of the shadow detail. But Super8 imposes a certain look and style that is hard to get away from. I have shots in my reel that include super8, older SVHS, and some DV, and I think that DV stuff tends to look the closest to how I originally saw it in my head (its at www.infusefilms.com). The kodakchrome to me looked pretty bad, the ektachrome looked better. Since this was a music video I used it for, it fit the style that I wanted. But for the most part, I prefer being able to get what I want on set and I'm simply not as confident shooting in the dark. Its a preference , more due to my lack of experience than anything. Its also a monetary issue, in that (for example) the super8 film cost me almost $1k to get processing and a decent video transfer. With DV I could have shot it practically for free, and maybe gotten 70-80% of what I wanted. I also have to say that with new cameras like the Canon XL2 with 24p, interchangeable lenses, gamma/knee controls you really can get some great images from DV. I hate how 'filmlook' filters added in post look. But I do think that the newest cameras look great, to my eye anyway. As they quality gets better, I think the film/HD debate will boil down more to personal preference than to any significant quality differences. I'm also for digital projection, which is a whole other issue related to the fact that theaters nowadays are absolutely horrible at projecting film properly, and digital projection happens to look very good and eliminates alot of human error. For me it comes down to a consistent look, from what I like on the set to what gets on the screen. With digital, I feel like this is much easier to accomplish.

Dear Jim:

Thanks for the input into the discussion. Of course with music videos no one expects anything to look good, make sense, or cut together in any semblence of a logical form, so it's not comparable to feature films. If you expose Kodachrome properly it looks great, and is one of my favorite looks in film. I shot Kodak 64 ASA 35mm stock on "Hammer" (which is akin to Kodachrome) and even though it's pretty contrasty, which I like, the colors are incredibly vibrant and rich. But preference isn't the issue. The discussion, as I see it, is what can you legitimately sell when it's done? What i don't think most young filmmakers understand is that there is an enormous amount of feature films made every year, and I'm only referring to the ones shot on 35mm film, that are not released in any way, shape or form, and these are all given preference over anything shot on DV. The chances of making a feature film and getting it released are so ridiculously slim that it's crazy to do anything to lessen those chances, like shooting DV right now. If you give a distributor any reason to reject your film, they'll reject it.

Josh

Name: Phillip J Rigamorta
E-mail: the0ne@dodgeit.com

Dear Josh:

Are you still making movies?
I've seen better scripts come out of my septic tank seriously man
what kind of drugs must one do;
to be in your position?

Dear Phillip:

Oh, yeah? Have you ever typed on 120 pages of paper and had someone give you $50,000 for it? I have, so fuck you.

Josh

Name: Rich
E-mail: bigrich70@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

> You're not thinking about Oliver McCall, are you?
No, LOL. I was thinking about Bobby "Schoolboy" Chacon, I'm sure you remember him. His life is a movie waiting to happen but unfortunately most everyone has forgotten about him. I did some research and currently he lives in a basement of a church in East LA. His pugilistic dementia is evidently really bad, he has no short memory.

I never really considered Trinidad to be a smart fighter in the same vein has Hopkins, Lewis, or even ODLH. I considered him to be a guy who walked his opponents down and if he couldn't do that, (i.e., vs. Hopkins, ODLH) he really had no plan B himself. As Hopkins said "Trinidad is a car with no reverse"...Nontheless he's going to have the entire Madison Square Garden screaming "Tito!" so that's a big boost. I really can't wait for that bout...Its going to be a big boxing weekend, there are about 7-8 significant fights if you include the Showtime bouts as well.

Thanks for the eye-opener about the sales agent.

Dear Rich:

It's all true what you say about Trinidad, but I still like him. He reminds me of Rocky, as in the first "Rocky" film, where you really need to hit him hard in the head for at least three or four rounds before he even wakes up, then he kills you. Yes, I do remember Bobby Chacon, but I didn't know what happened to him. But meanwhile, there hasn't been a good boxing movie in 25-years, not since "Raging Bull." Okay, I'll even give you "Rocky III," but that was still 1982--22 years ago. What have we had since then, "Undisputed"? That was crap. "Ali"? That was offensive it was so bad. My point is, boxing films are very hard to do. I don't think there's been ten really good boxing films ever. I'll take a crack at it.

1. Raging Bull (1980)
2. Rocky (1976)
3. Body and Soul (1947)
4. Gentleman Jim (1942)
5. Rocky III (1982)
6. Fat City (1972)
7. Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)

I can't go any farther. I mean, what? "City For Conquest" with James Cagney. Leon Isaac Kennedy's remake of "Body and Soul." There's "Requiem for a Heavyweight," but there's almost no boxing in it (just the first scene with young Cassius Clay).

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greenebrett@spymac.com

Josh

re: my last post - I just was commenting that someone should have told the other bar patrons here in Belfast about no smoking. You can still light up in pubs here and blow smoke all about. In our halls of residence you can even smoke in your room!

Dear Brett:

It's a good thing they passed that no smoking law. I'm very pleased to hear that no one is paying any attention to it. Here in Michigan, where you can still smoke everywhere, they leave up to the business owner, which is how it should be. They just built a new restaurant across the street and the whole place is no smoking. Fine. The restaurant across from there you can smoke until 10:00 AM, then it's no smoking for the rest of the day and night. Fine. In a "free country" it should be up to the business owner, then the patrons can make their own decisions about going in or not.

Josh

Name: Peter Isgune
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Boomtown was a very good television show with emphasis on characters and theme. Of course, having so much substance, it was canceled after only 24 episodes were aired by NBC. Ah, well. Did you ever watch it, Josh?

Dear Peter:

I've never even heard of it, but then I don't watch TV shows. I have just watched six of the eight episodes of "The Beatles Anthology" and it's really terrific and I can't wait for the final two eps. It's truly exhaustive, and I'm fascinated by every detail. That and movies are the stuff I watch.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

By the "Hollywood perspective", I mean that of many people in the entertainment industry. I can be quite liberal myself on a number of things, but I mean that a lot of people in the entertainment business don't support Bush. That's fine. Everyone has their reasons. That's what a democracy is about I guess. Anyway, sorry to disagree but my idea of security is not avoiding upsetting the Arab world. Or North Korea. Or any of those types of countries (dictatorships and that sort of thing). There is a time for diplomacy, and there is a time to show strength. I think post 9-11 is time for some major strength showing. Nobody attacks us like that and gets away with it. Not necessarily a direct link with Iraq, but according to news with another terrorist nation in the region. They're all going down! I'm sure John Kerry is a qualified candidate, but I think naturally people vote on issues that are most important to them. Of the two candidates I think Bush's approach is stronger and has a better chance of taking all those terrorist nations down. See it's not only Al-Qaida. There are a number of nations that fund and support terrorism against us, other Western nations, and Israel. Those regimes need to be taken down hard. No softness. I'll always be a kid at heart. I'm very saddened by the loss of life to our troops and pained with every news of it that I hear. But some issues are worth fighting for. I wish we could push a magic button and fix all the world's problems, but I don't think that will ever happen.

Great news about Alien Apocalypse! Will the DVD have any interviews and behind the scenes? Way cool man!

Also I'm glad to hear you met with your friends lately and especially Lucy. I love her very much you know. As a fan of course. I've been trying to take your advice and mellow out (relax), but boy it sure is hard when she does hot sexy live makeout scenes omigod man YEAH BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE LUCY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry, calming down, relaxing.

Have a great one. I'm sorry we don't agree on some politics but always glad to chat.

Thanks,

John

Dear John:

It utterly amazes me that this point will not make it into conservatives' brains -- attacking the wrong country does not show strength, it shows stupidity. This would be like attacking Indonesia after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Do you think that would have scared the Japanese out of having a war with us? No. The Japanese would have thought to themselves, "These Americans are stupider than we thought so they'll be easy to take down." The more we are hated in the rest of the world, the greater chance there is of more terrorist attacks. If the big bully in school beats you up, then you go and beat up a wimpy kid because he's "a better target" and you've got a far greater chance of winning that fight, do you think the bully is now afraid of you? Get real. This is the worst foreign policy in America ever. It does not show strength.

Josh

Name: Jonathan Moody
E-mail: jondoe_555@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Have you ever tried to write your own sitcom or regular TV show? I'm trying to write a TV show about a kid who's a black belt in Karate growing up through highschool. I had an idea for it a while ago but it wasn't till I made a joke today at work to call one of my episodes, "No Reciept, No Surrender" that I realized maybe I should pursue it. But I don't know how to begin just yet. Could you give me some advice?

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Trying to get anyone in Hollywood to pay attention to a TV pilot is even harder than getting them to pay attention to a feature script. First of all, you need to write the pilot episode. If it's a sitcom then it's: a one-minute teaser, two 11-minute acts, and a one-minute tag. If it's a one-hour drama, then it's: a one-minute teaser, four 11-minute acts, and possibly a one-minute tag, although frequently not. If you intend to try and sell it to someone in Hollywood, they'll demand the script for at least one other episode, probably two others, as well as a bible, which explains in great detail how every episode is structured, who all of the characters are in detail, as well as thumbnail sketches of at least 13 other episodes. It all sounds like a huge drag to me, but good luck.

Josh

Name: Steve Cauley
E-mail: scauley_ict@yahoo.com

Josh,

My first question to you about what step I should take upon completing my screenplay was sent to you before I read the other questions posted on your site. In keeping more with the spirit of those questions (I will avoid politics, however) I am curious to know your opinion of 'Donnie Darko' since 'Evil Dead' makes an appearance in it. What do you think of Richard Kelly's writing and directing?

-Steve

Dear Steve:

I thought "Donnie Darko" was pure shit. The monster is a giant bunny rabbit? Come on.

Josh

Name: Steve Cauley
E-mail: scauley_ict@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

I am in the process of finishing my first screenplay which I wrote (as you recommend in your 1997 essay) "for myself." It's a simple story, but one I believe is funny and touching and easily as good or better as most independent films being produced today. Now my question: What's my next step and would you have the time or interest to read and comment on a script from an 'unknown' such as myself?
Thanks for your consideration.
-Steve Cauley

Dear Steve:

Sorry, but no thanks, I don't want to read it. See if you can get some friends or family to read it, ones who will be kind enough to tell you the truth. That right there won't be easy since most people don't read anymore, and if they do, most people will just pay you lip-service and say, "It was good," which means nothing. You need people who will actually read it and discuss it with you. Very honestly, I believe that after you finish your first script you ought to just move on to the next one. I don't think most people's first script is worth the paper it's written on, let alone shooting it or trying to get an agent with it. I think it takes at least a couple of scripts before you even get the hang of it (it took me five). However, once you have a script that you sincerely believe in, then you have to decide if you want to produce it independently, or try to go the Hollywood route, which is a million to one shot. Then you need to get an agent. I wish you all the best of luck.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

ah well, sorry you found empire so boring. don't be so down about Hammer. I heard somewhere it took Richard Attenborough 20 years to get GANDHI to the screen. I haven't seen that movie, but hey, that's commitment. You've probably seen it, is it any good? I have a question regarding movies that take place over long periods of time. See, whenever I say, watch Lord of the Rings, Malcolm X, or Brian DePalma's Scarface, I'm introduced to these characters, but just when you get to like them at the beginning, their story arc changes over time and they're completely different people. So I'm stuck with either liking the beginning of the movie, or the end of the movie... but never the whole thing. Now if the character change had happened in say a month, that would've been a good story. But I only liked the beginning of Malcolm X, how he got out of being a hood, and everytime I sit through Lord of the Rings or Kill Bill, I'm left looking back on the beginning scenes that we sat an hour through as pointless. We met a cop in Kill Bill, who doesn't show up again in the story, so the only point of his long speech scene was to name Uma Thurman The Bride, which we never hear again for the rest of the film, so that's pointless. I liked THE DEER HUNTER, you met these nice peaceful characters, and then halfway through the movie, you find out the film is about russian roulette scarring these guys for life. I love that out of their whole stay in Vietnam, filmmakers only chose to focus on the one part of the war that would later affect their life. We didn't need to know their whole story in Vietnam. I'm tired, I forgot where I was going with this. Break a leg, film isn't dead yet. Also, I'm impressed you knew the answer to #2 off the bat that was hell to look up. I think Peter O'Toole made 24 films between Lawrence and Stunt Man.

Dear kdn:

Within your weary rant is a good question, why do so many Act III's suck so bad? And many Act IIs, as well. First of all, on a very basic level, the rise to power is always more interesting than being in power, or losing one's power. I just watched "Scarface" again, and the first two acts are good, but the third act is terrible, a complete disaster. Up until then it's a believable story, but there's no way that an army of Columbian drug thugs are going to attack a mansion in Miami with automatic weapons and RPGs, nor could one man hold them off for as long as he does, no matter how much cocaine he snorts. Not to mention it has a huge time problem -- the thugs are in the compound and right outside the house, then there's a long scene with his sister dying, and all of the thugs conveniently just stop and have a cigarette before breaking in. But in general, the reason Act IIIs aren't very good, or just suck, is that the writer didn't know where they were going from the beginning, so when they arrive there they're not sure why they're there or what's supposed to happen. That's why you must always know your ending before you begin writing the script, so that everything is leading you to that conclusion. Using my favorite example, when you get to the end of "Bridge on the River Kwai," everything has been leading you to this moment, and because it's the correct situation they can now tie up every thread they've set up along the way. But if you don't know your ending while you're writing, how can you set anything up and have it pay off? You can't.

Meanwhile, I tried again to watch "Kill Bill, Volume 1" last night and bailed out in just under an hour. Probably the worst aspect of the film, and my friend Paul's biggest gripe, is that it's edited poorly and is ridiculously flabby -- every single scene could have a minute or two cut out of it (which is a lot), because they're just stretching it out to end up with two feature films. It might actually have been stupid but amusing if it had been snappy; but to have such an inane, derivative, ridiculous story and have it move that slowly is a crime. What the film really seems like to me is a look into the mind of a frightened, somewhat untalented filmmaker, who received much more success than he deserved and can't figure out how to follow it up, so he's throwing everything and the kitchen sink at you. But none of it is all that good. Not the fights, not the camerwork, certainly not the writing. And the anime sucked. Do you suppose they couldn't afford decent animators? But by far the editing is the worst problem. As an example, there's that completely stolen scene from "Francis" of the orderly letting men have sex with her while she's in a coma. She ends up banging that guy's head in the door (from "Raging Bull"), but not doing the damage it ought to be doing, and she takes his car keys that say "Pussy Wagon." She wheels herself down to the garage and sees the pussy wagon. In a normal movie we could have just cut to it, and probably have gotten a laugh, too. But no, we have to take a minute for her to get there, then see the truck, then look back at the keys, then look back at the truck, then hold for 15 seconds on a meaningless reaction shot before she finally gets in. It's just minutes of wasted film. When the truck finally pulls away it just holds on an empty frame for ten seconds. This is called flabby editing, and it's exactly the wrong approach for this kind of film.

But I go on.

Josh

Name: alex
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

im not a film maker or anything but i read your web site quite a bit

im just woundering if this is possable- (please make corrections because i dont know what im talking about)

lets say a person rents a HD camera (which works like a dv camera right?) shoots a movie, edits it on a home computer, use's "magic bullit" (which i think gives it a more film look) and then puts the finished movie on video tape. would a person be able to put that video onto film?

thanks

Dear alex:

Sure, you can burn anything to film, it just won't look very good. To edit it on your home computer you would have to severely reduce the size of the files, which means decreasing the picture's resolution, and at that point you've already fucked it up, so using Film Look or Magic Bullit wouldn't matter. When you shoot HD or film transferred to Digi-Beta, you cut it digitally with shrunken files, make an edit list (EDL), then when you're done you have to have an online session (at about $400 an hour) and go back and conform the original tapes to your edit. I'm sure Mr. Pelzel has something to add to this, since he knows more about digital than I.

Josh

Name: Scottie P.
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Josh,

You can call me Scott, I will let you. LOL.

I am not quite sure what the President is being tough on other than completely ignoring the rest of the world and fucking up all our relations with many of our long stand allies.

As Waters stated in his interview "He is like a frightened infant".

He is compensating by trying to take this arrogant tough attitude because he doesn't have a clue as to what he is doing about Iraq.

This is psychology 101. Like all the Bullies you can remember in Grammar school or High School, they were all just insecure frightened kids who channeled that through violence or "getting tough" as you call it.

Here is a suggestion, how about making some intelligent decisions and try and mend the ties that have been broken with other countries and correct the mistakes you deny making? Is that too much to ask from a world leader?

As for the DV issue, this is in regards to Jim's comment on DPs and DV. I have worked with many DP's including two of my favorites; Vilmos Zsigmund, and Philippe Rousselot, and as much as they are interested in working with HD, not one of them considers DV the future of theatrical films or television, and they would still rather shoot 16mm film over regular DV.

Regular DV just doesn't cut it and I doubt it ever will no matter how well you light it (believe me, I have tried). You may get close by a stroke of luck, but you waste more time actually lighting DV to look good or "like film" and you have a monitor to aid you.

As for the low end Panasonic AG-DVX 1000 24p HD cam that you mention, it suffers greatly from not being able to swap out the stock lens for better lenses and this is something that is important to all DP's who would prefer to have the ability and flexibilty of making their image look the best it can.

As far as the technology goes with chip size, it is still a far way to go to get the resolution of 35mm film in a three chip camera. Right now, the high end Digital still cameras made by Canon and Nikon are the closest, however, 35mm film still has a 10x greater resolution adn quality than even these high end cameras.

Josh is right about Super 8 film, it does look better than regular DV, I just shot some not too long ago and Kodak is making versions of their new Vision 2 stock. It's good stuff.

I think I have said enough about that and we will see what the future holds.

Scott

Dear Scott:

As Al Franken put it, the Republicans' relationship to the country is like an infant to its mother who can never be wrong; whereas a Democrat's relationship to the country is like two grown married people who both realize that the other one can make mistakes and they both adjust for that. I'm convinced that if Bush gets reelected he will have us up to 50,000 troops in Iraq in the next four years, just like in Vietnam in 1968. The whole issue comes down to: do we cut and run with a few thousand dead U.S. soldiers, and tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, or do we cut and run with 50,000 dead U.S. soldiers (like in Vietnam) and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis? Those are the choices. The idea that Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Baathists, Chaldeans (Christian Iraqis), and Syrians along the border can have a democracy is completely and utterly absurd. The first aspect of democracy is that you must want to have a democracy, and none of those folks do. You cannot force democracy down people's throats, it will never ever work. Also, there is a huge illogic in this because if they actually had a democracy in Iraq, and everybody voted, the Shiites would win and immediately make it a fundamentalist Muslim country, which we won't allow. So, we want there to be a democracy in Iraq, but we can't allow the majority to win. As I said, cut and run now or cut and run later, those are the choices, just like Vietnam and Korea.

Josh

Name: Jo
E-mail: jo.field1@ntlworld.com

hey Josh,

So glad to hear that "Alien Apocalypse" is commin out on DVD...I was so disappointed when i heard that it was just being released on to the American Sci-Fi channel, I thought I was goin to miss out!! Great News...Cant wait to see it, Bruce and Renee in a film together, how cool is that!! Looking foward to it big time!! :)


Rock On Josh!! ;)

Loadsa Love
JO xx

Dear Jo:

I'm pretty sure that Anchor Bay video/DVD deal is just for the U.S. I'm sure they'll also make a on overseas video/DVD deal, too, I just haven't heard about it.

Josh


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