Q & A    Archive
Page 134

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

Josh,

I finally got to read the shooting script for "AA" today. I don't know why my kids let me do it, but I don't look gift-horses in the mouth. In turns out that, in snippets of all three original showings, I managed to catch almost the entire film. I somehow missed the beginning all three times, however.

Between the essay and the script I can guess that I would have wished for your original idea for the opening credits. One, it pays homage to a direct inspiration, "Planet of the Apes". Two, I think it's an excellent device for showing a long journey without needing to interpose dialogue simply to keep the viewer's attention.

I also thought that it would have been a nice idea if the slaves in the pit had been eating off of gold utensils. Wood, which they actually had, was considered a valuable commodity by the 'Mites, while gold, presumably, held no special charms for them (there was no mention of strip-mining, for example). Moreover, gold, as a very soft metal, would have posed no threat to the millers or bounty-hunters as it won't take an edge. Finally, Ivan would have found slaves using gold utensils ironic, particularly given his own aspirations towards worldly success.

I did wonder about several things. First, why did the Probe ship crash? The 'Mite leader says specifically that they did not interfere with its operation.

Second, you mentioned in an earlier post that the "Fleet" which had originally destroyed the Earth was long gone, yet you also state that the wood was being harvested for export and that the 'Mites, once the Earth became barren, would be moving on. Both statements imply, or allude to, the existence of an as-yet present alien fleet of significant capacity.

Finally, Carbon Dioxide came to mind a number of times while reading the script. As you know, Carbon Dioxide is heavier than air which means that a pit with burning fires inside of it would quickly run out of usable oxygen as the CO2 settled back down to the bottom. That's what my brother would describe as a "Bad High".

It also occurred to me that, were the 'Mites to have an acute reaction to Carbon Dioxide, which acidifies the blood in animals, it could have been an Achilles heel for the 'Mites, much like the cold virus was in "War of the Worlds". If Ivan deduced from the 'Mites behavior (never themselves entering the pit, avoiding being downwind of fires) that they avoided high concentrations of CO2 he might reasonably hypothesize that CO2 would make a good weapon against them (common fire-extinguishers found at the President's retreat, for example). If, like terrestrial insects the 'Mites absorbed oxygen directly rather than taking it in through lungs, then CO2 acidosis combined with high absorption rates could have made for some really cool visuals as Aliens exploded from internal acidotic pressures. This scenario would also have allowed Ivan to make use of specialized medical knowledge which would have contributed to character development and the acceptance of him as an inspiring leader who knows all.

All of the best scripts leave me thinking "What if..." I still think this is a marvelous piece of work and a tremendous accomplishment.

John

Dear John:

If the film hadn't gotten such good ratings I think I'd be embarrassed by it. I guess I am anyway. I don't suppose anyone noticed that the Saturday Night Sci-Fi Original Movies are *supposed* to be silly, that's the point of that time-slot. And I also guess that since it was the highest-rated Sci-Fi original movie ever, the elements of it's story and cast were exactly right for its purpose. As a film against all other films, it's severely insignificant, but for it's purpose, and compared to the other Sc-Fi originals, it's not bad. The irony is that it's the most important film in my career, so far. Whereas, "If I Had a Hammer," which I believe is my best film so far, nobody saw. C'est la vie.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

Who was it that you quoted as saying "old directors don't die, they become cinematographers?" It seems to fit Mr. Coppola, although maybe he just shot his load as a filmaker. Certainly, the same thing happened to Oliver Stone and Akira Kurosawa [that must be the first time anyone mentioned those two directors in the same sentence!]; time and fame distorted their focus as directors.

On a different tack, what did you think of the talents of Jim Varney? I just bought one of his last films, and was thinking that he was highly underrated as a comedic talent, since he was typecast in the character of Ernest P. Worrell in all those Ernest movies. Certainly, he was very good as Jed Clampett in the remake of "The Beverly Hillbillies" [in a side note, what did you think of Lily Tomlin as Ms. Jane?], and all of the other characters he created were well fleshed out and creative. Any thoughts, know what I mean there, Vern?

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I had the grave displeasure of sitting through his first Ernest film, and if he's actually talented, I couldn't tell. Oddly, I didn't see "The Beverly Hillbillies" remake. Meanwhile, I'm not sure who said that "Great directors don't die, they become cinematographers." It's an old quote, though. Almost every creative person burns out sooner or later, most sooner, and when it's gone it never returns. Francis Coppola was on fire between 1970 and 1979 (winning five Oscars), and every film he's made since then is utterly worthless. This phenomenon fascinates me.

Josh

Name: Bruce
E-mail: Bruce@goat.cx

Dear Josh:

Hey buddy, I just thought I'd let you know what the millions already do by saying you're not fit enough to eat from Steven Spielberg's ass. He could shit better crap than what you call "movies". Aliens Apocalypse sucks hard and so do you.

Dear Bruce:

Thanks for the lovely image. I'll bet you're the smartest kid in the remedial, slow-readers, Step-up class.

Josh

Name: Patrick Mendota
E-mail:

Re: Sideways

WARNING: avoid 'Sideways; like the plague; it's that bad.

Self absorbed wine snobs create unrealisitic drama. A few good performances lurk beneath all the muck but the writing and lack of story sink it.

Dear Patrick:

I smelled that from the first second. Also, this idea that Paul Giametti is a great actor is pretty silly; he's an all right character actor, at best. But I can be pretty certain at this point that whatever wins the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay will be very poorly written.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Pinkham
E-mail: forms@serapion.com

Dear Josh:

"If I Had a Hammer" arrived yesterday, and I watched it last night. I have to say my reaction was mixed: amazement at how fucking great it was, mixed with frustration that so much work by you, the actors, and the crew has just been sitting on the shelf, completely unrecognized. It's was like finding a thousand bucks while cleaning out the sofa.

I watched "Hammer" after watching all of your other films, and I'm glad I did, because I felt myself rooting for you to hit a home run as your skills progressed with each film, and "Hammer" was the payoff to that contest, although a surrealistic triumph of a homer in a nearly empty stadium where the rest of the people who should have been cheering on the victory lap stayed at home watching Ed Sullivan. I hope that situation will change in time and the piece will find an audience. The advantage of this being a period piece with no famous actors is that the film won't become obviously dated with time.

The thing that immediately knocked me out about the film was the color. This really kicked in for me when Max is walking down the street and meets Lorraine the first time. That wonderful faded, creamy brownish/pastel look in the bright daylight contrasted with her blue sweater is totally evocative of an earlier time -- though I can't say where that cultural memory comes from, as I was born just after the Beatles broke up, rather than when they were first hitting it big. The music shop just glows with this golden light, it's like the sun has fallen in love with Lorraine like everyone else, and taken on the color of her luscious folkie hair. The nightclub colors were T-U-F-F as well.

I did catch one anachronistic element... As a Mad Magazine afficianado, I immediately noticed that Phil had the cover of Maria Reidelbach's "Completely Mad" book taped next to his bedroom mirror in several scenes... That book wasn't published until 1992. Most people aren't going to likely care or notice, as the cover of that book was designed to emulate the look of '50s Mad, so it's a mini-nitpick at best.

The opening part of the nightclub sequence captures with pitch perfection that feeling of being an insecure dude entering an unfamiliar, ego-threatening environment in tow to a beautiful woman, and discovering she already has a lot of much hipper men in hot pursuit. This is part of one of the other main strengths of this film: it's mourning the loss of a social phenomenon, yet it doesn't mythologize or sugar-coat that scene, showing us all of the phoniness and pretention which coexisted with the sincerity and emotional connections amongst the scenesters. In some ways it almost looks like the entire activist movement is based on lust for Lorraine's feminine assets, and Lorraine herself is a spoiled rich girl, yet there are definite consequences when she loses her faith in social commitment. We need sincere young women to draw impressionable young men into political action. As a recruitment tool, Ralph Nader's personal magnetism can't compete with a college girl's intense yearning for social truth.

I loved the contrast between the more experienced Terry and Phil -- they're both after the same thing, but Terry, as the more mature, cynical dude realizes that it's okay to stand by some of his own cultural opinions, rather than totally caving in to impress Lorraine. Then again, Lorraine does send him away at the end of the night, and kisses Phil, so perhaps it was smart of Phil to keep his opinions somewhat to himself. The humor in this film is so much more subtle than that in Alien Apocalypse (okay, there was the one slapstick gag with the intense blues singer's cigarette landing in the woman's coffee cup and her subsequent disgust take on drinking from the butt cup); I don't think there's any way I could recognize this film as coming from the same guy.

The shot of the light of the TV screens as seen through the apartment windows as Sullivan trumps the Springfield Five was genuinely spooky. The genius of this movie is that you pit things I love against each other, so there is no easy, strident moralizing sentiment, just a quiet sadness that the quality of social interaction has devolved in the withering glow of almighty teevee. You pit the great aspects of the folkie era against rock and roll, Mad Magazine, and the Twilight Zone. Compared to today's world, those things the film argues against are the classic culture to be revered and protected. Yet in their time, classic TV shows and spectator rock acts to be screamed at rather than sung along with were definitely a step down from actually being involved with other neighborhood people singing in a club and sharing political enthusiasm and optimism. It's like the contrast between Lorraine and Phil's renditions of their song. Phil's rendition is charming and creative. But it totally bulldozes the simple sincerity of Lorraine's delivery. His performance tears down the social bond Lorraine's performance built up; people can't clap along to his performance, due to his erratic delivery, let alone sing along. He's directly responsible for no one showing up to the next day's Springfield Five benefit, as his frightened, ego-defending buffoonery made it okay for no one else to care.

Well, I've gone on too much already. I guess you get the point. I definitely appreciated the film.

Dear Jeremy:

I'm glad you did, and I'm pleased you got what I was saying. The film actually looks quite a bit better than that, but I did a cheap video transfer from the print instead of from the negative ($1,000 as opposed to $5,000) and it got rather contrasty. Someday, when I have an extra five Gs, I'll transfer it again, even if it's only for me. But it's the only film I've made so far that says many of the things I believe, and has a number of important issues in it. I also feel that, good or bad, it's unique; there isn't another film like it. I'm proud of it, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Josh

Name: tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

whats the time difference between short films and feature length films? 70 min - 75min - 80min ???

Dear tom:

As per the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, 59 minutes and down is a short, 60 minutes and up is a feature. As per distributors, however, the unwritten rule is that it ought to be minimally 85 minutes. I flaunted that rule with "Running Time" which is only 70 minutes, but people were quite concerned all around me, and it could have blown the deal.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Pinkham
E-mail: forms@serapion.com

Hey, Josh.

More on Lunatics. This is probably an annoying question, but how much is Hank an expression of things you may have been feeling yourself at the time the film was made, given that he's an artistic character with few options for sharing his work with society trapped in a violently inhospitable L.A.? Obviously the character is exaggerated, and I'm not suggesting the character's mental illness is autobiographical, just certain aspects of the character. For instance, when he talks to his mother on the phone, he tells her "Some guys are just bachelors, mom. Get used to it." That reminded me of some things you've written on the subject of marriage on the site. I can imagine that there must have been times when it has been difficult to keep up your determination to hold onto your artistic goals in the face of possible (just guessing based on human nature) parental concerns about your financial situation (lack of health insurance, etc.) and the social bleakness of struggling against a system that was (and is) so inhospitable to your goal to do art that matters. Anyway, forgive me if this line of inquiry is overly invasive. It just seems to me that in some ways the film is a fairly accurate picture of the psychological difficulties presented to an intelligent artist in a society where one is confronted with the spectacles of social, political, and aesthetic pheonomena that seem outright insane to an intelligent person, in a world wherein one is grossly outnumbered by people who don't seem disturbed by those same phenomena. That kind of stress has to be enough to make tinfoiling the walls seem like a good idea.

Dear Jeremy:

All of that is there. Very possibly not dramatized all that well, but it's there nevertheless. A number of those lines come back to haunt me all the time. The one that has come up most often is when he's talking to his mom and she says, "I don't get it, you just sit there in your apartment all day writing poetry?" And he replies, "No, I have to think it up first, that's the hard part." Hank's character is based on me in several ways. Although I'm not really an agorophobic, I don't go out all that much anymore. When I was writing "Lunatics" I was just coming off perhaps the worst time of my whole life, I had just broken up with my writing partner of five years who had just gotten a gig writing for Clint Eastwood without me, I had no money at all, no income, I was living in a tiny bungalow with my ex-writing partner who now hated me, plus another guy, I hadn't paid rent in months, and I had no prospects. So that certainly had to color my writing at the time.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

I'm groping in the mists of memory here, but I seem to recall that Hackman's character in "The Conversation" always played the same piece of jazz on his saxophone, which would fit with his meticulous, almost obsessive-compulsive nature. As for the final shot, can that simply be artistic whimsy on the part of the director, to underline the idea that the watcher has now become the watched by making the shot look like video surveillance? It seemed to me that some of the devices in the film were put in as deliberate stumbling blocks to keep the audience guessing. One thing I didn't necessarily buy about the film was that Gene Hackman's character would have an attractive girlfriend, or any at all for that matter. The charater is something of neurotic as well as a voyeur, and to have him live alone would fit better. Perhaps the writer and director feared that no one would buy the idea of Gene Hackman not having a girlfriend, or they wanted to accentuate the notion that the character wasn't always the same man you see in the story.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I honestly don't think that "The Conversation" is a great film, but I think it's a pretty darn good one, and if you consider that Coppola made it the same year as "The Godfather, Part II," both of which were nominated for Best Picture, it's extra impressive. 1974 is most definitely the creative high-point for Francis Coppola. I just watched him on "Inside the Actor's Studio" again, and I think he's a very impressive man. He's intelligent and wise and funny, and he did some absolutely terrific work. But then on the stroke of his fortieth birthday it all stopped, never to return. Isn't that fascinating? The Ford in his name is for Henry Ford Hospital here in Detroit where he was born.

Josh

Name: Frank Demne
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Did you design the screenplay titles that appear in your screenplay download section? I think they are very cool, and am wondering who made them.

P.S. - When are you going to see "Sideways"?

Dear Frank:

The cool title graphics were all created by the wonderful webmaster here at Beckerfilms, Shirley LeVasseur. Take a bow, Shirley. As for "Sideways," it hasn't yet appeared on my TV set, and I'm sure as hell not going to pay money to see it. I was in LA last weekend and at a party I met a fellow who directs commercials who was very bright and funny and articulate (which immediately made me suspect he didn't live in LA, and he didn't, he was in from San Francisco), and he went on for a bit about what he termed "the 'Sideways' Syndrome," which is when everybody embraces something new and calls it great, when in fact it's not even good. I suspect that when I finally do see the film I will agree with this fellow. The clips all look awful. I've been through this little scenario now in my life a thousand times, with everybody jumping up and down about the new great film which more often than not turns out to be crap.

Josh

Name: Brian Dauth
E-mail: magcomm@ix.netcom.com

Dear Mr. Becker:

I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful defense of William Wyler's artistry. Though he should not need a defense, sadly he does in these CGI times. Personally, I think all aspiring directors should be mandated to see the recently released dvd of "Carrie" at least 10 times.

Good luck with your films.

Brian

Dear Brian:

Not many people have seen William Wyler's film "Carrie" (based on Theodore Dreiser's book "Sister Carrie"); tell me what you thought. I like the film a lot, and I saw it the first time when I was about 15, and it really affected me. Without giving it away, I thought the ending was like getting punched in the stomach. I also think it's one of Laurence Olivier's best screen performances, and Eddie Albert is great, too. Jennifer Jones is actually well-cast and does pretty well, even though I'm not one of her biggest fans. Have you seen "The Big Country"?

Josh

Name: Finnian
E-mail:

Josh,

Is the life of a filmmaker a lonely life? Do you ever find romance or time to reproduce? If it is lonely, is it worth it?

Dear Finnian:

I haven't reproduced yet, but I believe that I'm still fertile and possibly could, should the right circumstances present themselves. But I no longer expect it. The life of a writer is lonely because it's an internal world. The life of a director isn't necessarily lonely, though. Is it worth it? Sure, it's what I do. I don't know anything else. But I don't have to get up and go to work everyday, and for the most part, nobody tells me what to do. And I must say, having kids doesn't look all that great to me -- I mean, hell, you can't even hit them anymore -- and there's certainly plenty of other folks having more than enough of them, so no one will miss me not having them. I'm not content, but neither am I unhappy, and that's a lot.

Josh

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

Josh,

Regarding British TV series, did you ever enjoy "The Prisoner"? I think that is one of the best TV series the British let alone anyone has ever made.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I liked it when I was a kid and it originally aired, but even then we could all see it wasn't going anywhere. It was like the "Twin Peaks" of its day; after a few episodes you got the picture.

Josh

Name: Duffy
E-mail: g_duffy@bellsouth.net

Josh,

In regards to writing action blocks in a script what are the "standards" for pronouns? I.E. if only two characters are in a scene can you write (He looked at her in shock) (She smiled at him) etc.. or must it be (BOB looked at SUE in shock) and (LILY smiled at TOM ) all the time? and if it is a large block of action such as (She grabbed her keys and headed for the door. He called to her but she didn't answer. He sat in the chair she had just vacated and hung his head in misery.) Etc... Must the character's names be used ALL the time in these instances? I ask your opinion as a director and writer. Too many pronouns can confuse the reader but it seems to be a hard read to use the names constantly. It's like "Ok we get it his name is BOB" Thanks

Dear Duffy:

As a writer you have to do what you believe sounds (or reads) the best. It's the same as writing prose. Once you've established the character's names, and who is in the scene, you don't have to keep repeating the names over and over, particularly like your example, if it's a boy and a girl then "he" and "she" work fine. It becomes more difficult when you have six or eight guys talking to each other. I think like in evrything else in life, you simply have to do what you personally believe is best. If it sounds good to you, and seems clear, then it's probably all right. Also, don't make your blocks of action too large. Big paragraphs frighten small Hollywood minds. If you have a paragraph of action that's bigger than about three inches, break it up.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

I recall John Carpenter saying on the DVD commentary that the budget on "Escape from New York" was about $5 million, which is fairly low budget for a studio-backed but independently made picture. But I saw in someone else's post that you mentioned "The Conversation" with Gene Hackman, and wanted to comment on that. I saw the movie on DVD from Netflix a few years ago, and recall that the director crapped out on the DVD commentary and refused to say where the bug was (he took the artist route and said that he would "leave it up" to the audience's imagination) in the final scene. However, it always seemed to me that there was no bug in the first place, but that they played a tape to Gene Hackman. Remember how he used to record his saxophone playing, and play it back on the reel to reel tape recorder? When the call girl left his apartment after the surveilance convention party, Hackman discovered the tape missing off of the tape player; obviously, the girl was hired to get the recording of the conversation and goofed. The saxophone music that was played back to Hackman over the phone was the same piece that he recorded on the stolen tape, so I think that the conspirators were just trying to rattle his cage and fuck with his mind.

On yet another note, I watched "The Name of the Rose" last night, and enjoyed it immensely. It was a thoroughly superior piece, beautifully photographed and very well written (as I recall, it was taken from Umberto Eco's novel of the same name, which I can't wait to read). If you've seen it, what did you think of it?

Sorry, but I had alot of stuff on my mind, today,

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

That's a good explanation of the ending of "The Conversation," I'll buy that. But I personally think the bug is in the phone, and they showed us how it worked at the bugger's convention--you call someone, say nothing and hang up, then the receiver becomes the bug. It certainly seemed like they played him back exactly what he had just played. But is that last shot supposed to be a surveillance camera? It pans left, stops, then pan right, stops, etc. If so, how would a surveillance expert not see a camera mounted right outside his window? Meanwhile, I saw "In the Name of the Rose" when it came out, and I was sort of underwhelmed, and most of it has dribbled out of my brain like earwax. It's certainly an odd time period, but it all seemed pretty dull. On some level detective stories, no matter when they're set, kind of bore me.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Pinkham
E-mail: forms@serapion.com

Dear Josh:

Well, not technically extra time on my hands... I have a lot to do. But yes, as you surmised, I was burning time rather foolishly there.

I do, in fact, know the meaning of the word allude; I used it rather weaselly there to pretend I didn't know that Sci-Fi prefers films that use the *exact* word "Alien" in the title rather than simply alluding to them, so that I could through a few jokes in there that didn't involve the actual word "alien." All-in-all, an extremely silly exercise that I hope you didn't find offensive. My goal was to amuse at the expense of Sci-Fi's naming policy rather than to belittle the work involved in your screenplays.

"If I Had a Hammer" has not arrived yet. On the same night I ordered that from you, I ordered "Thou Shalt Not Kill," "Running Time," and "Lunatics" from various Internet sources and they've all arrived, but no "Hammer." I can't wait to make like a trucker and shout "hammer down," but for now the hammer remains skyborne and hidden from view, shrouded in the mists of wayward mail.

I watched "Lunatics" last night. I couldn't really relate to the romantic optimism of the piece, because my observations of romance have been so different from those shown in the film. In my pessimistic view, Nancy could never have fallen for a Hank, because it would ruin their friendship, and she prefers abusive guys. Hank, having a soft spot for the gal, agrees to let her stay in his apartment on that basis, hoping he will change her mind, and then wakes up one night to discover that she's hooked back up with Ray, who's sprawled on the couch wearing Hank's bathrobe, drinking beers and and listening to rap music. Ray marries Nancy, kicks Hank out of his own apartment, and Hank dies in the gutter, abandoned even by his spiders and his doctor with the red liquid. Dames, sheesh.

Dear Jeremy:

Yeah, that sounds like a more realistic scenario. Poor Hank, even abandoned by the spiders, eh? Giant spiders are fair weather friends. Anyway, Media Mail is strange in that it can take a few days or a few weeks. You'll have it momentarily, then you'll have to share your views with the rest of us. Sorry about my rant about "allude," but those goddman sportscasters drive me nuts and you gave me a chance to vent. In the original version of "Lunatics," Nancy was a phone-sex operator and there's no mix-up in the call. Having lost that motivation, the story has never made much sense to me afterward.

Josh

Name: Aida Abreu
E-mail: apca99@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

I am in North Carolina and I attend UNC at Chapel Hill. I am from Brazil and I am a Ph.D. student at the Romance Languages Dept. My major is in Portuguese Literature. Now you wonder. What the hell is this about? ;)

My minor is in Communication Studies and I took very interesting classes such as History of Film, Documentary Theory and Production. I also took a class on Women and Film. Now I am taking a class on ADAPTATION. Yes, I am learning how to write screenplays. The first adaptation I wrote is based on Anton Chekhov's short story THE KISS and I am going to present it this Friday.

I read your "journal" on shooting "Alien Apocalypse" and it really makes one feel passionate about making movies. Of course there is a lot of waiting in the process (you waited about 12 years!) ;) just kidding.

Anyways, I am writing to thank you for the wonderful job you did directing Xena, Warrior Princess. We are huge fans of the show, me and my two other sisters, Carolina and Fernanda. (just to make clear, we are straight and the appealing of the show was regarding the drama, the action and the comedy, not because of subtext).

What would you suggest for someone who wants to sell their scripts in the American market? What basic steps would you advise?

Not many directors have a website to establish a connection with the fans or people in general. Congratulations for this great initiative and let us know about your terrific work.

Best Regards,

Aida Abreu

PS. On his book tour Bruce Campbell came to Chapel Hill in 2003. Got a chance to meet him briefly. When I watched the Evil Dead, I was probably 13 or 14! ;)

Dear Aida:

What a lovely name you have. It looks like a name I should be seeing up on the big screen. Three straight Brazilian sisters, eh? My mind reels. Regarding selling screenplays, which is a very difficult thing to do, first you need to get good at it, which means writing several to quite a few scripts (I'm working on script #33 right now). Once you're adept at it, and believe that you have some projects that folks in Hollywood might be interested in (and, oddly, I don't believe anyone there cares about Anton Chekhov), then you need to get an agent. Sort of the bottom-line in Hollwyood is that if you can't interest an agent in your work, then no one else wants to see it, either. Once you have an agent, then it becomes a whole new can of worms, like trying to get them off their lazy asses and do something. But one step at a time. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Pinkham
E-mail: forms@serapion.com

Dear Josh:

Since the Sci-Fi Network prefers films that allude to aliens in the title, I've done you the favor of renaming some of the screenplays on your screenplay page in order to help them sell to these guys:

* Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except Aliens
* Teddy Roosevelt vs. the Aliens
* Running Alien, aka Get a Rope
* Alien Devil Dogs: The Battle of Alpha Centauri
* Alien Impregnation: The Biological Clock
* The President's UFO is Missing, aka Things to Do in Roswell When You're Dead
* Ball Breakers from Uranus
* Space Buds
* Centauri Smith: The Alien Bounty Hunter Who Hunts Aliens
* Alien Crime After Alien Crime: An Alien Crime Story
* The Happiest Guy in the Galaxy
* Abducted Moon: A Tale of Alien Mischief
* Behind Alien Lines
* Head Shot from Space, or JFK's Alien Autopsy They Didn't Want You To See
* Alien Apocalypse 2: If I Had a Finger

Dear Jeremy:

Extra time on your hands? Did you get the tape? Meanwhile, I must take exception to your use of the word "allude," which sportscasters now use the same way. If you say "Alien Apocalypse," you're not alluding to aliens, you're flatly saying it. If you say, "those green bug-eyed things," then you're alluding to aliens. An allusion is a reference and an inference. On Friday Night Fights, sportscaster Teddy Atlas is always saying that. The other guy, Joe Tessitore, says, "He should use the uppercut," then Teddy Atlas says, "I'm glad you alluded to uppercuts because that's what he should do." Anyway, you pushed one of my buttons.

Josh

Name: Leslie
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Has Bruce ever told you what he thinks about you personally as a director? Does he prefer you to other directors?

Also, is it weird for you when a new, young hot shot director comes out of seemingly nowhere and spreads like wild fire? Like a Zach Braff or a Wes Anderson? Do you get upset if they're more talented than you? Do you think some of them are?

P.S. Do you like Robert Altman's movies?

Dear Leslie:

LOL. Well, there's a barrage of interesting questions. Let's see . . . Bruce made one comment about my directorial style during this last shoot in Bulgaria, he said that I was like Phil Silvers in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and he quoted this line, "What is this, a staring contest? Come on, come on, let's move!" I asked, "Is that bad?" Bruce smiled and shook his head, "No, it's what you've got to do." As far as whether he "prefers" me or not, you'd have to ask him, but I love working with Bruce because we have such a great time. We have so much fun working together that we usually get together afterward for dinner, then just keep laughing like idiots. Meanwhile, it's not weird for me at all when young directors shoot to the top, we have to keep throwing heroes up the pop-charts, that's what we do. Anything new is exciting and good. Of course, it isn't really, it's just new. But I'm in this thing for the long-haul, and whatever occurs during that time is simply what happens in my lifetime. I don't even know who Zach Braff is, nor do I even feel like looking him up. Is he that ED-ripoff, "Cabin Fever" guy? So what? He'll be gone and forgotten before I can even find my good roachclip (which must be in the couch, I guess). Regarding Wes Anderson, I think his movies are DOGSHIT, so no, his awesome talents neither upset me, nor have I even recognized them yet. And I've never been much of a Robert Altman fan, and any time I now see one of his films I like it less than I did originally. I just tried watching "Images" two nights ago, and I bailed out within 15 minutes. I tried watching "The Company" about three weeks ago and bailed after maybe 30 minutes. I sort of like "The Long Goodbye" and "M*A*S*H" and "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and "The Player," but I don't love any of them.

Josh

Name: KS
E-mail:

Heya Josh... I just want to say thankyou. The essays you have produced have made me a better screenwriter (not to say I was any good in the first place, but you've really made my screenwriting so much better) I just want to say thank you. I hope that every thing you tuch turns to gold.

One question... have you ever seen / heard of a British science fiction show called "Doctor Who" ? It's an amazing little show that is at worst, a British version of Flash Gordon, and at best, a show that enables the writers to go anywhere / go anywhere....

Dear KS:

It's my pleasure to share what little I know with this who might be interested. I've seen "Dr. Who" a few times over the years, and it's not my cup of tea. As far as set-bound British TV series go, I'm much more interested in something like "I, Claudius." I saw an interesting Korean film the other night, "The Way Home" (2002), which couldn't have been simpler, but knew exactly what it was doing and why. A spoiled 7-year-old city boy from Seoul is left with his extremely bent-over, deaf-mute grandmother in a rural village, and now the kid must assimilate whether he likes it or not. That's it, and there's something very fulfilling about it. He completely ignores his grandmother for days and just plays his gameboy. Well, sooner or later the batteries must wear out, and clearly there are no replacements in this place. The inevitablity was kind of intense. And where it was leading was a place I wanted to go, which was seeing this kid grow up a little and learn to appreciate his kind-hearted grandmother. Having a nice, simple, clear goal and point for your drama seems to be entirely beyond Americans these days.

Josh

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

Josh,

As much as I agree with about kids being a crap-shoot, you can say that about life in general. Everything is a crap-shoot, Relationships, kids, filmmaking, and generally living and health as well.

I also believe that you don't just end up with loud mouth obnoxious kids and much of it has to do with how you deal with your child. Of course, most all teenagers are loud mouthed and obnoxious, but that is just the way it is.

Teaching kids that they are entitled to everything seems to be what parents teach their kids now which can breed the environment for a loud mouth, obnoxious, know it all kid, but I have to say that most of my friends don't have children like this and I don't think my son will be this way either.

You are right though, kids take a lot of patience and mainly when they are small like I am going through right now, so if you never thought you had the patience then being an uncle is a wise choice.

I went to the Tribeca film Festival today to see one film and it was> terrible. Unfortunately, it was picked by a friend of mine visiting from L.A.(Go figure..). It was a film called "L.A. Riot Spectacular" which was a comedy that parodied the Rodney King beating and the riots in L.A. It was shot on video, but it had many big name actors in it and I was amazed by that.

The film worked better as short skits than a feature film. There were a few laughable moments, but for the most part it was better served to be cut up into vignettes and put on "Mad TV" or something like that.

I am going to attend a workshop with the editor Walter Murch this weekend, so that should be interesting. He is going to discuss cutting a low budget feature with Apple's Final Cut Pro software, which is the program that many people are turning to now over Avid, since it costs 1/4 of the price and performs as well as Avid.

I have used the program and it is great, so the workshop will be interesting.

Scott

Dear Scott:

You just don't know how kids will turn out. You could be the nicest person in the world and still end up with Charles Manson as a child. Meanwhile, Final Cut Pro seems like a great editing program. Bruce has it and it seems to do most everything the Avid does. Walter Murch certainly has had an interesting career, although I couldn't read his book, "In the Blink of An Eye," which was very poorly written. Ask him for me, should you get a chance, if the last shot of "The Conversation," from outside looking in through Hackman's window to him play sax, is supposed to be a surveillance camera? And isn't the final bug obviously in the telephone?

Josh

Name: Sidney
E-mail: sidney@unsw.edu.au

Hi!

Could you and Bruce Campbell at some point in time make Bubba Ho Tep 2 ? I enjoyed the first one and a second would be great! Please consider it.

Thank you for Bubba Ho Tep!
Sidney
:)

Dear Sidney:

I didn't make "Bubba Hotep," Don Coscarelli did. I believe he's trying to get the financing for a sequel.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

I would've thought that the photogenic qualities of the landscape would have something to do with it, but I'll defer to your greater knowledge in this area.
On another tack, I'll add something to our discussion of special effects and how they blend into a finished film. I know you don't care for John Carpenter's work, but his film "Escape from New York" has some excellent examples of seamless special effects. For example, only two nights of principle photography were actually done in New York, St. Louis, MO being the main stand-in for Manhattan. All of the night shots of the city skyline, with a helicopter patrolling the area, were photographic effects, using a city miniature, a front screen, and an animated model helicopter (this is per John Carpenter's commentary on the DVD). Also, there is a really nice hidden cut in the beginning of the film, from the security station on Liberty Island where Tom Atkins is talking (Liberty Island Security Control, which was shot on Liberty Island), to the airfield where the bus taking Snake Plisken to jail first comes into view (which is the reservoir near the Sepulveda basin in California). I thought it ran pretty smoothly, and I wouldn't have guessed on my own that those shots were effects, which was the point.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I watched "Escape From New York" again last year, and it's a pretty silly little movie. Given that it's a fairly low-budget film, the effects do look reasonably good, as does the photography. But all of Carpenter's films seem disappointing to me. They all seem like they'll be better than the actually turn out to be.

Josh

Name: Orlando Hamar
E-mail: tdol.dragon@dsl.pipex.com

Dear Josh:

I just read you're "Religiion is Evil" story, and must say that I agree 100%. I used to believe in a god, and I used to care whether or not I went to heaven or hell. But then I grew up and began to think logically.
I would like to ask if people ever complain about that story, and what it is they say, since it's very amusing...I mean INTERESTING to read other people's opinions or preachings on a subject as important as the evils of religion and such.

Thanks,
OJ Hamar

Dear Orlando:

I guess there were a few objections early on, but I really don't hear all that much about it anymore. As each of my various Jewish family members and friends have asked in the past few days what I'm doing for Passover, I tell them that I made sure to smear lamb's blood on the doorpost, so I'm covered.

Josh

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

Josh,

I agree that if you don't really care about your craft that it is going to show in the final output and that goes for most anything in life and not just filmmaking.

I also believe that once you put money in front of the quality of your work, it will show as well.

I think we need to understand that since movies are difficult to make then we better make damn sure that we are motivated to do our jobs, otherwise, what's the point?

The Directors, Writers, DP's, and Editors that inspire me the most are the ones that really care and put the extra effort towards their craft, and I do agree that you can never stop learning, as soon as you think you have learned everything then you should quit what your doing and do something else.

I think modern day Hollywood films are a good example of the failure to learn anything new and the system has become a worn out old horse that needs to retire to a farm somewhere back east.

Lastly, You have never had kids, but I believe you have made a good father to all of your children(Your scripts and your films) and this has a great deal to do with the fact that you still care a great deal more than most people would about them, and just like raising kids, your films are not perfect, but you do your best and have you had children, I have no doubt that you would have made a good father even if you would disagree with me on that.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I just had to play uncle at a family function, and I certainly wasn't very patient with the snotty, ill-mannered kids, which wasn't all of them by any means. So, I guess if I had had good kids I would be a good father, but if I had bad kids I'd probably be a bad father. I wasn't willing to take that chance. You get stuck with some loud-mouth obnoxious brat of a kid and on some level your life is now fucked. Having a kid is a crap-shoot, and since I didn't have to play, I didn't.

Josh

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

Josh

Re: '8 Mile'
It's not that the premise keeps the film from being good (after all, it's the classic underdog story), it's that Curtis Hanson hasn't got a fucking clue what the story's about and doesn't have a grip on the source material. He worked fine enough for 'Wonder Boys' and 'LA Confidential' (both of which I liked, although the former was pretty laborious) but wasn't suited to this material.
Meanwhile, was dragged to see Cursed last night. I can only hope that no more of these movies will be made. 'Teen Wolf' and Jack Nicholson's 'Wolf' were fare better werewolf flicks. Guess nobody makes 'em like they used to these days.

Dear Brett:

Just because one is working with "the classic underdog story" doesn't mean it will be any good, that's just a starting point. I thought "Wonder Boys" was bogus, too. I like about three-quarters of "LA Confidential," and maybe two-thirds of "The River Wild."

Josh

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

Hey Josh

Long time no speak. Got a thought I wanted to share with you. We corresponded here on your site a year or so ago about which 16mm camera I should invest in. It turned out to be the Arri BL. I've shot three 16mm shorts now; one's completed, second is almost there and the third goes into post v' soon.

I'm shooting my next project... and it's on mini DV. I've done this cos I'm working very differently on this story. I have two great actors who are very good at improv'. We've workshopped the story in rehearsals. I noticed that when I let the actors have free-reign, the story went nowhere. But when they know where a scene is headed, they can really give it life. So I wrote a very loose script based on these rehearsals. The script details the point of the scene; the turning points the character/s have to go through. I also give a few lines to get the scene up and running.

And you know what? This process is generating great results.

I'm still going to make shorts on 16mm, but I'm also going to use mini DV. I've realised that, on a limited budget, you pick the format to suit the story. (Obviously if money wasn't a problem I'd shoot everything on 16mm film - but I can't afford to do that right now). This story benefits from an improv' approach. And I can afford to record it on a shoestring on mini dv.

It's a liberating way to create a story in moving pictures. Hey, it works for Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Shane Meadows...

I'm enjoying it.

Lata


Lee UK :-)

Dear Lee:

That sounds good. As you've clearly realized (as most non-filmmakers haven't), improvisation needs to be in a very controlled environment, with direction and goals already planned. It's not something you do from nothing. Mike Leigh knows why every scene is there, what basically needs to be said, or conveyed somehow. I particularly like improvisation when doing comedy, because when you play with a scene you can generally find at least one more laugh.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

Thanks for the correction (although Bart Pierce is also a good effects artist). I saw a little bit of "The Invisible Man" a few years ago, and was pleased with the performances. I'll check it out again.

I just read your essay on the making of "Alien Apocalypse," and was curious as to how it became a hotspot for filmakers. I understand that the conditions are conducive to filmaking (varied terrain, good monetary exchange rate, low cost of labor), but how did it get discovered? Does Bulgaria have a government film agency, or did a few production companies simply start doing business there?

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

The super-low-budget filmmakers like Roger Corman and Avi Lerner and Boaz Davidson are always on the lookout for the cheapest places in the world to shoot. Gary Jones shot a film for Lerner and Davidson in Hyderabad, India. But it's entirely about the low cost of labor, combined with the exchange rate, and has nothing to do with anything else, like varied terrain. Money is the issue, and the only issue.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Sorry about that ridiculously-long video game rant. I just get worked up about the subject some times.

Like film, video games is one of those incredibly commercialized art forms (possibly moreso) which means the really great stuff is few and far between, and generally conflicts with the greater goal of its creation ("making money", not "being terrific.")

I just can't criticize the medium for that, much as I can't criticize film because every movie made today sucks, and they're all done for the exclusive purpose of appealing to a lowest common denominator - I'm looking in your general direction, Movie Buff.

I've got a film question about dialogue, if you've got a second to answer it.

When writing believable dialogue, you mentioned at one point that speeches are a no-no.

How is it possible to get across important expositionary dialogue, between two characters who would both already know what's going on? Or should a whole section like that be rewritten so that it happens between people who wouldn't know what's going on? I keep encountering this dilemma, which possibly means I have too much exposition in general, but that's a question for another time...

Dear Matt:

That's a good question. Speeches are very easy to fall back on, and most times are just dull. It's very difficult writing speeches that are worth listening to, and expositional speeches are the worst. The best I can recommend is to try and keep them to a minimum. The second I hear actors deliver any speeches I've wriiten, my next move is to condense them hell out of them.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Pinkham
E-mail: forms@serapion.com

Dear Josh:

I just watched "Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except" the other day and found it quite enjoyable -- mainly, I think, because it seemed infused with a sort of friendliness between tough yet easygoing guys that wasn't so macho that it grated on the nerves. The relationships between the marines, and between Stryker and his girlfriend's grandpa had a sort of aggressive friendliness that struck the right balance between mocking jabs and gruff comraderie. I have never been that type of guy, myself, but have enjoyed having friends like that from time to time, who like to blow crap up with guns for no particular reason.

Anyhoo, my question is this: story-wise, would it have been too cliche and convenient for the seriously wounded Marine at the end to have been 2nd Lt. Miller rather than Sgt. Jackson? I ask this because the character's goal is to redeem himself for getting Stryker crippled by being so stupid back in 'Nam. He does pretty much prove himself by being one of the band of brothers (nice kicks!) who saves the day, but I guess the typical thing to have done would have been for him to have been seriously wounded in order to "make amends in blood" for screwing over Stryker. Then again, we probably care more about Jackson's character getting hurt because he's a more outgoing guy, without the weasel past. Anyway, not a critical question. Just thought I'd run it by ya since you offer this interesting forum.

Dear Jeremy:

You ought to have "Hammer" any day now, it was sent out earlier this week. I suppose it could've been Miller who Stryker saved, but it paid off Jackson saving him at the beginning. Good god, it's been so long since I wrote that script that it all seems chiseled in granite. I wrote the first draft of that script 26 years ago, and I shot the film 21 years ago. At a point, discussing other story possibilities is like suggesting alternative storylines for "Birth of a Nation" (why didn't the Pinkerton cop stop Booth from shooting Lincoln?).

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I have been watching a lot of TV shows that were made in the Pacific Northwest: Stargate, Millenium, Northern Exposure, I guess X Files was too. These shows have a lot of outdoor filming. One of the things that I have noticed is that the sunlight seems more muted than if it were filmed, in say Southern California. I am not sure if that is due to the latitude or cloud cover, since the Spaghetti Western are actually a relatively northern latitude yet the sun seems blazingly hot. I guess the question is do you think the latitude affects the type of sunlight and therefore the atmosphere of a film.

Dear Bob:

Absolutely. The spaghetti westerns were all shot in Spain, which is a southern, hot climate. The Pacific northwest has a lot of moisture in the air, which mutes and softens the look. Evey film shot in Australia has that great, warm, southern hemisphere look to it. New Zealand has it, too, during the summer months. The light in LA, due to the smog and prevailing weather conditions, is very flat, and quite difficult to make look good, although great DPs can overcome it, like Sven Nykvist's photography on the Jack Nicholson remake of "The Postman Always Rings Twice." But most DPs aren't that good.

Josh

Name: Christine
E-mail: cackerman@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

I wasn't sure if you updated the essays on your site, but the price of a star on the Hollywood walk of fame is 15,000 to pretend Ryan Seacrest has acheived something.

Bye,
Christine

Dear Christine:

Thanks for the update.

Josh

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

Josh,

I am calm.

With regards to the comment of your last DP and the dailies, I think that any DP that reacts like that doesn't really care about the project or they are just looking at as a paycheck.

I don't know many DP's who work with the editors either, and a DP like Roy Wagner is rare, but He is also an assest to any production for being this way.

I have to say that I enjoy it when it does happen and I respect DP's who are interested in doing this as long as it doesn't interfere with the vision of the film.

Even though it is rare for a DP to attend an edit session, I know many DP's who are proactive in going to color correction sessions and most of them do it without getting paid. To me, this shows how important the work is to them and they really care about making sure the look they are trying to achieve remains that way through the whole process.

Scott

Dear Scott:

You're right, DPs should care and go to the color timing sessions, but most don't. Screewnrwiters should all be deeply aware of the concepts of script structure, theme, irony, etc., but most haven't got a clue, and apparently don't care. That's the bottom-line of why movies suck, too many important people in the process don't give a shit. At least if a DP doesn't hassle me on the set, that's enough for me.

Josh

Name: Seth
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Anyone who thinks 8 Mile sucked is a dumbass it's a real emotional movie and is great for people who do like rap AND those that don't. It's only rated R because of the swearing and a very brief sexual scene. Go see it and if you don't like it, fuck you. (The performances are amazing, especialy Eminem's, and it's his first movie he's a natural)

Dear Seth:

No, fuck you. M&M can't act at all, Kim Basinger completely sucks, and the"rap-wars" are utterly ludicrous -- "Your mama wears army boots/Your sister be ugly." It's a good movie for morons.

Josh

Name: John Brodsky
E-mail: johnbrod@charter.net

Hello. Can you give me directions to the property where the cabin used to be located in Morristown? I have directions to Morristown but that's where I come up empty handed - no directions to the cabin's property. I'm planning a road trip to the site where the cabin was located. I e-mail the Morristown tourism bureau and they confirmed that the property is not open to the public but that doesn't bother me - I'm sure I'll just trespass with my video camera in hand. :o) Any help in directions in the form of road names would be greatly appreciated. Also, any other Evil Dead landmarks (bridge, long driveway, etc.) would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
A True (from when the movie was new) Evil Dead fan,
John Brodsky
johnbrod@charter.net

Dear John:

Sorry, I can't help you. It was over half my life ago, and it's now like a dream within a dream. Ask Bruce. Good luck.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Quick Addendum in response to this comment:
"Art is a reflection of the human condition, and as many times as you play a game you won't find out anything new about humanity. It's always the same 52 cards, they just come up in a different order. But when you see a good movie and get some new glimpse of the human condition, with which you empathize or are revulsed by, you've grown a little bit."

I personally learned more about the frailty of the mind and emotions, the tragedy of personal horror and death, and the intense sadness derived from it from the game "Silent Hill" than from any movie I've ever scene.

Dear Matt:

I'll respond to your quick addendum, because your full-fledged rant on video games wouldn't end. If you're getting what you need from video games, good on ya.

Josh

Name: Alex Simmons
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I wanted to chime in on your comment about our food supply being "poisoned". I completely agree with you. High fructose corn syrup is in everything; its probably in the air we breath at this point. How does the quotation go, "there is no debate if 'it' is a poison but rather the quantity of it that causes it to be one"? Considering the ubiquitiousness of high frutctose corn syrup, dextrose, hydrogentated oils, and many other subtstances in machine-made "foods", I'd say we reached that threshold long ago.

Have you read "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser? A real eye-opener for me, and I recommend it to all the readers of this forum. The connection between our poisoned food supply and many mental disorders is undeniable. For example, the insane rise of ADHD cases in the past 20 years has more to do with what children are eating than anything else. Surges in blood sugar are caused by the endless amounts of corn syrup, detrose (among many other names for refined sugars), and the countless other high glycemic index substances that we are ingesting on a daily baseis. When changes in blood sugar occur often and rapidly they lead to mood swings and difficulty concentrating. This is something I have experienced myself, but also well documented in scientific literature. Thus, the food one eats affects one's mental stability, in turn causing us to give Ritalin and other ADHD drugs for a problem that can be cured by a change in eating habits 90% of the time.

Dear Alex:

This isn't my theory, I simply agree with it. Something's responsible for the plummet in creativity, and to say the really creative people just aren't going into movies is ridiculous because it's same sad state of affairs for music and literature, too. So, call it short attention spans or ADD or ADHD or just dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks, it all comes to the same thing and something is causing it. The usual reason a civilization fails is that it fucks up its food supply, and that's what we've done.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<And what do you mean "Seven Year Itch" was cut so that you don't even see Marilyn on the subway grate? It's been in the film every time I've seen it, including the last time on TCM. I love her commercial for mouthwash or toothpaste.>>

I loved the movie, I go paranoid like tom ewell all the time, its hilarious. I meant you always see this one shot of her dress flying right over her head and she has to hold it down to cover her, but in the movie even though they show that scene, it is never that specific shot (at least on my dvd), its some toned down angle where her dress just flies up a little bit. I'm in the middle of the GUNS OF NAVARONE, its pretty entertaining although there are strangly some scenery similarities with LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS. Why does the movie look like it was shot by David Lean when its only the same writer as BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. One of the actresses looks like she was in ZORBA THE GREEK (reminds me of the lady whose throat was cut). I don't have a computer, so I only get one chance every few days to write what I have to say. SIN CITY is most definately Rodriguez best film whether you liked it or not. FORBIDDEN ZONE is also like a cartoon, I finally got into that movie when it hit dvd (but there's a glitch with the special features and I don't care enough to mail it in). The first time I saw it on video I didn't know what to make of it, now its more like a monty pythonish rocky horror film. I'm still waiting for SHOCK TREATMENT to hit dvd, but I saw Stanley Kubricks PATHS OF GLORY on the shelf the other day.

Dear kdn:

You're like Spiccolli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Whoa, I know that song" and it's "Wooly-Bully." Yes, the same actress, Irene Pappas, is in both "Zorba the Greek" and "The Guns of Navarone." I don't think the direction of "Navarone," by journeyman, J. Lee Thompson, is anything like David Lean's direction for "Lawrence." Thompson just covers scenes. He does it well, but he's rarely inspired. David Lean seemed to be constantly inspired, with beautiful compositions and gorgeous tracking shots. It's a world of difference to me. But "Guns of Navarone" is pretty darn good movie.

Josh

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

Josh,

I don't really like Michael Mann either, but He makes the films he wants to make and I think that is why Roy used him as an example.

I disagree with your assessment of collaboration and filmmaking, although, I do agree that the Director and Writer are at the top of being the most important part of a film's vision and message, however, I do not follow your belief that the DP and the Editor should not communicate to each other, and I think I am on the same page as Roy when it comes to this idea.

It definitely helps and not hinders the film if the DP is allowed to talk with the editor about many things.

As an Editor, I enjoy talking with the DP or the Cameraman, as much as the Director about different issues of the shoot and if green screen or matting is involved, I think it is even more important.

Another instance is this:

I don't know how many times I have cut something where the take is good, yet there is not enough at the end of the take to make the transition or cut I need to make mainly when a move is being done.

This may be the Director's fault, it may be the DP's fault or it may be The Camera Assistant's fault for not leaving a little tail at the end of each take before stopping the camera.

Regardless of who's at fault, I think it is the communication between the Director, DP, and Editor to sort out these things. A great many Directors are not that technical, and many issues are left to the DP and the Editor, so why is it such a bad idea that they communicate to each other?

There is so much cross over in terms of color correction and other issues that overlap between the DP's job and the editor's job now that it is a good thing for them to communicate to each other.

Anyhow, that is just one example of many that I like to discuss with DP's before the production commences and with all due respect Josh, I think any director who is against this type of collaboration is seriously taking their film down the wrong path.

It is one thing to jeopardize the cut of the film, but it is another to run into mistakes that can be prevented by embracing this type collaboration. I am not saying it has to happen on every film, but there certainly is a place for it and to deny that on every film you make is not reaching its full potential at the least.

BTW, you should stick to your expertise with filmmaking and not matters of science. Your assessment of Mad Cow disease is borderline junk science. Even John Hunt's assessment of the Prion's causing the disease has been disproved many times over.

Prions are proteins, which supposedly cause Mad Cow Disease and variants such as Scrapies. The claim that a protein can do the same thing as infectious agents is in conflict with all scientific principles involved. There are better theories. Spiroplasma appears to be the most likely cause of those diseases.

Prion proteins lack genetic material for creating their own evolution. When the genetic material is in the host, it's a genetic disease; but prion diseases are obviously not genetic diseases.

These types of diseases have been around for a long time such as Scrapies, which was originally seen in sheep back before the 50's. They just did not appear within the past ten to twenty years, and some Humans are susceptible to acquiring them from animals and some are not.


Scott

Dear Scott:

Calm down. I don't deny the editor and the DP from communicating, I just said there's no DP cut and I don't ever need to discuss editing with the DP. But if the DP and the editor want to discuss technical issues, like leaving extra tail on shots, or composite issues, or whatever, it's none of my business. I've worked with a lot of different DPs and editors, and from what I've seen there isn't much discussion between the departments. For the most part, I've found, production never thinks about post-production. As soon as the film leaves their hands, the production crew never thinks about those scenes again. The only people that really watch the footage are the director and the editor. The DP and the producer usually fast-forward through them. The DP on this last film didn't watch dailies at all, with the comment, "If something's wrong someone will tell me, and if nobody says anything then it's fine."

Josh

Name: Diana Hawkes
E-mail: upon request

Josh -

As I recall, one of your criticisms of "Million Dollar Baby" was that the death of Swank's character was ludicrous. This month a female boxer did indeed die from a sanctioned match. According to the article, Juan Silva III was the last fighter to die as result of in-ring injuries in May 2000.

http://www.lowellsun.com/sports/ci_2643022

http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/boxing/bal-as.sport17apr17,1,6792949.story?coll=bal-sports-headlines&ctrack=1&cset=true

Of course such a happening is still extraordinarily unusual, but I wondered if what happened to Becky Zerlentes changes your mind about that plot-point to any degree. I haven't seen Eastwood's film myself and was avoiding it, based on your take of the 3rd act. (I assume there's still the lameness of his decision to unplug her life support?)

Dear Diana:

I heard about Becky Zerlentes, and no, it doesn't change my opinion at all. I have no gripes with a boxer getting killed in the ring, that happens almost every year, it's the method in which it was achieved -- Swank get's sucker-punched after the bell has rung, then falls and breaks her neck on the stool. That's ridiculous! There's only one case of a sucker-punch after the bell, which was James "The Harlem Hammer" Butler, about 5-6 years ago. He sucker-punched his opponent after the bell, without his boxing gloves, and broke the guy's jaw. What was truly fascinating about the event, though, which "Baby" of course doesn't touch, is that it was immediately considered an assault & battery, Butler was arrested in the ring, handcuffed and taken straight to Riker's Island. So that's why casting Lucia Rijker in that part was insulting to those of us who know women's boxing -- Rijker doesn't need to sucker-punch anybody, she's the best. It would be like casting Mohammad Ali as a criminal cheater. Beyond any of that, there's a final piece of silliness in "Baby" that goes beyond my comprehension: since Morgan Freeman narrates the story, and it's entirely illogical for him to know what went on in private between the incapacitated Swank and her trainer, Eastwood, Freeman is conveniently hiding in the closet watching the final scene. Except he's best buddies with both of them, why would he be hiding?

Josh

Name: Steve Manning
E-mail: spygame401k@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Where did you get the narrative about Walter Reed and Bethesda? I'm confident none of the men quoted gave it up? Can you comment on this? I don't mean to sound like a skeptic because I've long been familar with the Walter Reed story but never heard so much detail. Was Dr. Finck one of the Surgeons? Thats what I had originally heard?


PS

Who are you?
Thanks
Steve Manning

Dear Steve:

What do you mean, "gave it up"? None of them spoke to me. That script is my best explanation of how the facts of the case came to be. Nobody else has ever bothered to explain it clearly, at least not to me. I don't recall anything about a Dr. Finck, but it's been a while since I wrote it. And to be skeptical about any explanation of the JFK assassination is to be human.

Josh

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

<<Note to Bruce Willis: since "Pulp Fiction" movies have gotten worse and worse, you didn't help anything; and the reason movies cost so much is because stars like you charge so much.>>

The stories in Pulp Fiction took forever, Sin City merely wins cause its faster... oh but you don't grade on a curve. Bruce Willis's acting in the prologue sucked.

Dear kdn:

Got a bug to write in here today, eh? From what I've seen of "Sin City," it sounds like a stilted noir homage, and looks like a Max Fleischer Betty Boop cartoon from 1935.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Wouldn't that be funny if they stuffed the old pope and made him a tourist attraction like Eva Peron (she had it comin)? What do you think about the new pope being "forced" to be a nazi when he was 15? Wasn't that the point of Judgment at Nuremburg that people had an idea what was going on but they were coerced into it by their own pride of country? Were there any American concentration camps in germany during WW2? My cousin says his friend survived one and kept a diary of the experience but they don't mention it in the history books... then again, I can't really validate what I hear in third person but I wouldn't be surprised.

Dear kdn:

All young men were forced into the Hitler Youth because the Nazis knew that's how you really brainwash people, get to them young. "Judgement At Nuremburg" was about Nazi judges. Do keep in mind that during WWII 60 million people lived in Germany, but there were only one million Nazi Party members. Most Germans weren't Nazis. But young men had no choice, they were forced into the Hitler Youth, so you can't blame that on the new pope. Meanwhile, there were no American concentration camps. Imprisoned Americans were POWs. The concentration camps, most of which were in Poland, were for Jews, gays, political prisoners, gypsies, and sundry others, but not Americans or American soldiers. There were some camps in Germany, like Dachau, but it was a forced labor camp, not a death camp.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

Did Bruce Willis say that when he was on "Inside the Actor's Studio?" I never saw the entire show when he was on, and was curious. As I recall, he also said that when he filmed "The Sixth Sense," he had his head shaved in his now trademark close-cropped style, and that his hair was added into every frame with CGI. And the unions are to blame for high production costs?
Speaking of CGI and effects in general, I sometimes find that bad or insufficient effects can detract from a movie as much as too many can. Case in point: "The Wolfman." I enjoyed this film (especially because I am a big Claude Rains fan), but I'm always put off by the Universal makeup. Granted, Bart Pierce was delving into uncharted territory and did a highly innovative job for his time, but the end result still looks like a guy in makeup to me, and it effects my enjoyment of the story. I sometimes wish that I could take the creature effects from "The Howling" or "An American Werewolf in London" (both fine contributions to the genre in their own right) and put them into "The Wolfman." I guess the best effects are not obvious, or at least are done artfully enough to hide the machinery of the filmaker. In "The Howling" it legitimately looks like Robert Picardo is turning into a giant wolf in real time, although I know that it took several hours of applied makeup, numerous cuts, and several bladder-filled animatronic dummy heads and appendages to create the sequence. I can't detract from Pierce's work (without which there would have been no precedent for other artists to work on) but it is one case where the trick is obvious. What do you think?

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Jack Pierce. Bart Pierce did the effects on "Evil Dead," and used to live with my sister. If you haven't seen the 1932 "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" with Fredric March, you ought to check it out. The transformation scenes were done much better than "The Wolf Man," made nine years later. I actually spoke with the DP, Karl Struss, about the transformations and he said it was done with a series of colored filters (it's a B&W film), as well as the various make-up and facial hairs were in different colors, and each filter canceled different color make-up and hair, then the filters were pulled out one by one.

Josh

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

<<Does the Y stand for "yuck"? There's a scene in John Steinbeck's "The Red Pony" I really like where the ranch hand (played by Robert Mitchum in the movie) asks the the mother (Mary Astor) if her 7-year-old son can stay up and watch their horse give birth, and the mother says something like, Yes, because sooner or later you will hear everything and see everything, so you may as well just get on with it.>>

With the exception of the Goonies and possibly Rugrats, I hate kids films that star kids and everyone adult has the mentality of a kid, I fucking hate them... And after the joke of seeing Robert Rodriguez make one wore of, I can't stand the idea of SPY KIDS anymore... but thankfully, I liked SIN CITY's dialogue and storytelling (which are Frank Miller's fault) even though I didn't like the acting or the technique it was shot in (probably Rodriguez fault) but I did like how some of the shots were staged (like Frank Miller's fault) and thankfully Elijah Wood was given a silent role that featured him getting his limbs sawed off and fed alive to his hungry dog. Mickey Rourke's Marv and Goldie saved the film (cause I was fixing to walk out after the first segments with Bruce Willis and Josh Hartnett Prologues).

I liked the kids films where its adults in fantasy stories like Erroll Flynn's the ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD or FORBIDDEN PLANET (I shouldn't have ripped on that film it was well staged (with effects from a walt disney person) and a step up from STAR TREK and STAR WARS)

I just watched the SEVEN YEAR ITCH which was cut down to a hard G thanks to those fuckers at the Hayes Office, they don't even show that famous shot where Marlyn Monroe's skirt flies up (and embarrassed the hell out of her husband), its all cut down. How dirty was the original play anyways. Also it kind of reminds me of Savage Steve Holland when the guy keeps wandering off into his paranoid fantasies.

finally, on THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, it says that all the characters are based on movie moguls, which ones, and what are some of the truly scummy things they did (or better yet, what are some of their best movies that came from it... hey you didn't mention it had a sequel, TWO (or 3?) WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, how was that one?

Dear kdn:

"Two Weeks In Another Town" isn't a sequel, it's a completely different story based on a novel by Irwin Shaw and made ten years later. They both star Kirk Douglas, are about the film business, and were directed by Vincente Minnelli, but that's the extent of the similarities. "Two Weeks" isn't very good, though. And what do you mean "Seven Year Itch" was cut so that you don't even see Marilyn on the subway grate? It's been in the film every time I've seen it, including the last time on TCM. I love her commercial for mouthwash or toothpaste. Regarding "The Bad and the Beautiful," it's certainly an amalgamation of real characters, but Kirk Douglas and Barry Sullivan have always seemed like Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur to me.

Josh

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

Josh,

Actually, Mad Cow Disease, as with all prion-based diseases, does occurr spontaneously in populations. Given enough time and a sufficient population the proteins will mutate and the disease will make an appearance. Prion diseases in the human food chain have their effects amplified by human interventions (crowding, refeeding, distribution, zootic transfer), but they would be there with or without us. They are a naturally occurring, internally produced phenomenon.

Otherwise, I'll agree to disagree. Have you had a chance to see "Upside of Anger" yet, or are you going to wait for the DVD release?

John

Dear John:

I'll wait for the DVD. Mad Cow Disease isn't a naturally occurring phenomenon, it's due to feeding cow's spinal columns back to themselves, as well as their waste products, and cardboard, too.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Did you get a chance to see "Ring Of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story" on the USA network last night? If so, what did you think of it? I thought it was definitely one of the better boxing documentaries of recent memory.

Rich

Dear Rich:

Nope, but I'll keep my eyes peeled.

Josh

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

Josh,

I agree that Roy Wagner is a very wise man and after his workshop, I too became wiser. We went out to dinner after the workshop that evening and one of the things that is most enjoyable about him is he is genuinely interested in other people's aspirations in this business.

He is willing to share many experiences and he wants to always be challenged with engaging questions.

At dinner that night We started talking about collaboration between the DP and the Director and the DP and the editor. He is one of the few Cinematographer's that I know who always communicates with the editor to find out what works for them. He did say that "I can only speak for myself. I try to meet with the editor often. I find what works and doesn't work for the editor. Although I might not agree it is important to hear other points of view if you are to grow as an artist."

Lastly, We talked about the importance of film as a collaborative art form and how this works and does not work. He reminded me a little bit of you and his views on how he feels about making films.

One of the wisest things he said at the workshop that bled into our dinner conversation was this:

"Film making is a collaborative art and must be done with an embracable nature. You must be preapred to defend and/or discard your ideas or the ideas of others. Ultimately a film belongs to the director and producer. If you are to participate in the commerce of filmmaking you must understand that your opinion is only that. It should be considered by the director and melded into the construction of the film.

None of us are so talented that we can't learn something new from a new member of the team. There are very few Michael Mann's. Frankly, how good is Michael Mann? His films, although innovative, are not completely successful. I admire his vision but frankly I think most of the film going community would prefer being told a story over whether they were viewing some film making technique. It reminds me again that the public continues to seek out the fundamentally simple works of William Wyler, Preston Sturges, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, and Frank Capra. All gifted filmmakers are technologically innovative and yet none interfered with their collaborators."

He is a big fan of Preston Sturges and I was wondering how you felt about his films, since you don't mention his films very often?


Scott

Dear Scott:

Of course, I think Michael Mann sucks eggs. I don't think he's ever made a good film. As to the DP conferring with the editor, it makes no sense to me and I would personally be against it. It's absolutely no business of the DP how the film cuts together, that's entirely the director's domain. Anytime a DP begins to discuss editing, which they often do, I get aggravated because it's a pure and utter waste of time, and I've said to the various DPs on several occasions when this occurs, "Is there a DP cut I don't know about?" DPs have NOTHING to do with editing, and since they spend no time in an editing room, their opinions on the issue are worthless. Also, I'm not a big fan of this modern viewpoint that filmmaking is all a big collaboration. As far as I'm concerned, everybody in the cast and crew is working for me helping to get my vision up on the screen. If they've got a vision, they can make their own movie. I didn't get into that director's chair by giving somebody a blowjob, I got there because I worked for it, and as long as I'm in that chair how the film cuts together is my business (as well as the editor's), and the vision going up on the screen is mine. As Alfred Hitchcock said (and I completely agree with), "You *never* put the camera someplace because the cameraman thinks it's a good idea." Film at it's worst is a collaborative form, but at it's best is the vision of one or two people (the director and the writer).

Josh

Name: Hyde Flippo
E-mail: hflippo2001@yahoo.com

Josh -

I'm interested in the research you did for DEVIL DOGS. According to H.L. Mencken ('The American Language'), the German term "Teufelhunde" for the Marines was made up by a US newspaper correspondent. Despite the long Marine tradition and legend, I can find no evidence that the Germans actually used that expression to describe the Marines in WWI. Did you find any evidence to prove otherwise?

Btw, I like some of your essays on Wyler, Hollywood, etc. Any chance of reprinting a couple of them at my site (below)--with a link to you?

- Hyde

The German-Hollywood Connection http://www.germanhollywood.com

Dear Hyde:

The American newspaper correspondent Mencken was referring to was Floyd Gibbons, who got his eye shot out at the Battle of Belleau Wood (his trademark after that was his black eyepatch). But he was just reporting, I don't think he was making things up. And why would an American correspondent come up with a German nickname for the US Marines? My understanding is that the German newspapers coined the term. Sadly, all of my research on this was done quite a few years ago and I no longer have any of the reference material. And reprint any pieces that you'd like.

Josh

Name: renee
E-mail:

hey josh,

i want to direct a sequence in which we would intercut the same character sitting in the passenger seat of several different vehicles, with different drivers.

do you think its going to be an ugly sequence if i am cutting from the same size shots? i will shoot cut-aways, but ideally i dont want to use them. im hoping the different vehicles and drivers will help the cutting along. what do you think? are there any films you can think of that use any similar device? or any techniques which would help? thanks very much for any thoughts or comments you may have. renee.

Dear renee:

An interesting problem. One possibility is to keep cutting from driver to different driver, then pan over to the passenger, thus revealing it's the same person in different cars, which would establish what you're doing, then the cutting between them wouldn't be as confusing. You could also make sure that the interiors of the different cars are different colors, or that the sizes of the shots in each case are somewhat different -- framed to the right, to the left, tighter, and even tighter still. You could always cut in an exterior shot of the different cars in between the close-ups with the dialog on top of it. I don't know if this fits in with your story, but the person in the passenger seat could also be in different outfits each time. Let us know what you actually do. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

Unfortunately for us (and this is a point I keep getting stuck on when arguing about this with my friends) there is no choice. 99% of the movies released by Hollywood this year and in the year before it fell into one of the following categories:

1.) Remake of an older film/television show.
2.) Based on a comic book.
3.) Based on a video game.
4.) Inferior sequel to a successful film or to a film in one of the above categories, or both.

Now, I don't know what ticket prices are in Michigan, but in Connecticut, they range between $8 and $11, depending on the theater chain and whether or not it is a matinee showing. Concessions are similarly expensive; one theater chain offers a small popcorn for $5.25. With the easy availability of video rentals (both store and internet based), DVR, my VCR, and satellite television, if I'm going to spend on the average $30 per person for one 90-120 minute movie, then it had damn well better be worth the price and inconvenience of going to the theater. So far this year, it's been a wash; I went to see "Constantine" with some friends, and the argument we had in the parking lot afterwards about the logic of the movie was more fun than the movie itself.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

And all four categories generate nothing but stupid awful movies. I saw an interview with Bruce Willis last night, and he smugly said that "Pulp Fiction" "changed everything," and now independent filmmakers have the ability to make intelligent films, and it's all due to QT and him. There's a guy who lives in an insulated cocoon high above Beverly Hills and hasn't got a clue what's going on. He's the same schnook who said that the reason movies cost so much is because of the union crew members and Teamsters -- this from a guy who gets $20 million a picture. Note to Bruce Willis: since "Pulp Fiction" movies have gotten worse and worse, you didn't help anything; and the reason movies cost so much is because stars like you charge so much.

Josh

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

Josh

From time to time, I take on the responsibility of editing friend's papers, theses, essays and/or creative material and give feedback plus corrections. It might just be my own experiences, but I feel I have a piece of the answer as to why intelligence in film is falling quickly and with a thud.
Structure, semantics, syntax, reference, irony, and even good taste (though subjective) has been thrown out the window. I can't count the number of times I've been awestruck as to the incompetency of writer's today. I have faith in people's ability to think, but from what I've read, it's hard to imagine anyone can successfully convey ideas if they can't even spell. Comma splices, missing punctuation, run-on sentences, vague and formless prose all combine to make editing papers even at the university level a nightmare.
Then we still have to consider the souce of inspiration today. Is no one reading Kafka? Sandburg? Browning, Joyce, Burroughs, Eliot or Pound? No. Inspiration is second- and third-hand filtered and it's coming from homage makers like Tarantino and QT-devotees. Perhaps if fresher inspiration was used, we'd be seeing better ideas on screen. Whew. Right, got off on a tangent there...

Dear Brett:

You go! I don't even bother bitching about that much anymore. But I don't even think that's crucial to being a good screenwriter. There have been any number of screenwriters who didn't even work in complete sentences. But if you can convey your thoughts, and your thoughts are indeed worth conveying, one need not be Franz Kafka to be a good screenwriter. It's important to have an ear for dialog, too.

Josh

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

Josh,

To jump in to your discussion with Scott (I believe), I don't agree with your assessment that people are getting more stupid. For one thing, I'm not entirely sure what "stupid" in this context means. Is a stupid person one who can see what is required but fails to do it or one who fails to see what is required and fails? Either way there must be a goal which one is trying to achieve. It strikes me that what people of today consider worthwhile goals differs considerably from what people considered worthwhile even a generation ago. If the paradigm has shifted, then comparison to the previous paradigm is always going to be problematic.

I don't think, for instance, that people are any less intelligent than they used to be. Intelligence in the general population is primarily linked to nutrition, after all, which does continue to improve, obesity issues not withstanding. And as my wife is fond of pointing out, the average IQ is 100, always has been and always will be. It is the nature of people's education which has changed; an increased emphasis on specificity at the cost of being well-rounded. The well-rounded individual suffers now because the values of a system of specificity are at direct odds with Encyclopaedist values (Try getting a job with a "Liberal Arts" degree). "A Man For All Seasons" is replaced by "A Man for a Specific Day and Time". The shift which has occurred, I think, is therefore cultural rather than personal. If and when the culture shifts again, movies, music and the Arts in general may again appeal to the those who have a more liberal interest, in the traditional sense of the word. I would include myself in that group along with many of those who post here.

Anyway, it's a thought. It doesn't change the fact that movies of today are generally lousy, but I don't think that the "stupidity" of people in general is to blame. Now for Hollywood-types, I defer, as always, to your greater experience. Thanks,

John

Dear John:

As I mentioned (and will now mention again), our food supply is probably poisoned, between the high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and trans-fats, not to mention the way our society mistreats all animals and feeds waste products, cardboard, and their own species back to themselves. Mad Cow Disease didn't appear out of nowhere, we caused it. So I don't agree that nutrition has improved. Nor do I think any paradigms have shifted. People still want to see compelling narrative dramas about human beings. Every generation thinks that they're special, but they're not. This just happens to be the time we're living in, and there's nothing particulary special about it. If Clint Eastwood should get his shit back together again and make a film as good as "Unforgiven," it will be as big a hit as before. We're all waiting for it, and we'll even take his second-rate attempts like "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby" in lieu of anything else. Narrative drama has not changed in 2,000 years, and this generation is no different than the 1,000 generations before it. It's just that some generations are more artistic than others, and this happens to be a lesser one.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I just finished watching "Play it again Sam" and I have to say that so far this is one of my favorite Woody Allen written movies. It's well directed, of course well acted, and a really well done Humphrey Bogart/Casablanca spoof while not being entirely a spoof. When you first saw this movie did you like it? I'm going to watch "The Purple Rose of Cairo" next.

I have come to the conclusion that even though I did like "Deconstructing Harry" and "Hollywood Ending" that Woody has lost his writing touch. He almost seems like he's writing movies for the sake of doing something and not being retired with only a couple good oneliners per new movie he puts out.

I hope one of his next films is critically acclaimed and decides "I'm done with this. I have made enough money not to make any more movies" and that's how he finishes. He's a good writer/director who just happen to peak and just won't give up. People are going to see his movies regardless. And I HATE all those people who when I say I'm a Woody Allen fan they say, "He's Pedophile"... and can't seperate his private life from his movies. What he does is his own business. That should not affect his movies.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

When I first saw "Play It Again, Sam" I thought I would die I was laughing so hard. I felt like he had made the movie just for me, since I happened to be a "Casablanca" freak (in the days before video tape, I had cassette taped the film off of TV and would just listen to it). I actually saw that film more times in a theater than other film (18 times). There's no question that Woody Allen does not put in the time on his script that he once did, and it blatantly shows. In fact, he simply outlines his stories now, goes into production, then writes tomorrow's scenes while he's shooting, which is a the method of an idiot who no longer cares how his films turn out. Regarding his personal life, that means nothing to me. I think one must separate the artist from the art. I don't care at all that Richard Wagner was a virulent anti-Semite, his music was beautiful.

Josh

Name: Movie Buff
E-mail: movie_buff2005@mail.com

Dear Josh:

In response to the "fans" that commenting on our little conversation...I must say it's farely easy to "throw" blows considering we all have different opinions. I have never said your view of Entertainment is wrong, I've just defended myself and my generation.

You and I, for the most part, have the same taste in movies however our views, as film makers, are very different. The "movie goers" or "fans" that are speaking their mind are forgetful and/or unaware of our tone.

It's simple Josh, you want to be the true artist...I want to be the entertainer. At the same time, we wouldn't mind having a little of both qualities.

I bet it bothers you when those "industry critics" critique your movies and/or rip them apart? Me...as long as the movie makes 250 Million at the box office, I'll be ok. Why?...Cus' that would mean the "audience", of whom I truly work for, loves my work and wants to see it.

I'm finalizing a project that looks to shoot in November...trust me, you'll know what it is, when it comes out! I'll stop back by and say hi, so you can rip the shit out of it!:-)

Warmest Regards,
Movie Buff

Dear Movie Buff:

I hope I love it, and I wish you all the luck in the world.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Pinkham
E-mail: forms@serapion.com

Dear Josh:

Just a note to the discussion of video games as art. I would agree that in a universe of ideal forms, a video game could be art, because they contain storytelling, visuals, and music. However, in our imperfect world, video games are not art, because they are created by committee. In the early days of video games, when they had more primitive graphics, video games were ironically closer to real art than they are today, because in the early days, one or two people could sit down and create an entire video game, and the video game could thus be an expression of a singular vision. The graphics on early games were so crude (by limitations of the technology) that the programmer who created the game mechanics was usually the same guy who created the graphics. Once graphics technology got to the point of 3D realism, games could only be created by teams of individuals (3D graphics specialists, 2D "texture artists," programming specialists, level designers, writers, etc.) hired by game-making companies to grind out product. Superficially this resembles the filmmaking process, but given that storytelling and aestetic vision are secondary elements to compulsive gameplay in the video game industry, there is little reason for the video game business to respect the vision of a "director" of video games. There are a few game designers in the business who have auteur-like reputations, but they are, by the sheer complexity of the technology involved, so removed from the process of constructing a game that I would argue they are not sufficiently in control of the elements of their product to be an artist. The game designer is not writing most of the programming code in his games, nor is he creating most of the artwork, and most of the time he isn't even the one writing the dialogue and script of the game. These are all divided up into separate departments and handled by different people. The result is rarely even close to art.

The other factor that stands in the way of video games as art is the entire purpose of video games: the killing of time. Video game reviews focus intensely on how many hours of gameplay a game has to offer, and the review is usually negative if the game lasts fewer than at least 16-24 or so hours or so of play before the player reaches the end of the story. Otherwise the game is seen as a rip-off. This extended playing time in comparison to films is not filled up with art, it's filled with mindless repetition. In action games, this non-narrative time is filled up with dexterity challenges (jumping, shooting, etc.) and in adventure games, the time is filled up with the tedious collection of inventory items (weapons, spells, treasure, powerful objects). These games take days and weeks to finish because they are filled with repetitive actions designed to fill, and kill, time. They cannot hope to provide an artistic experience, because the the purpose of games is almost the exact opposite to the purpose of art. Video games deaden their audiences to the passing of their lives, while art enhances their audience's appreciation of life. Art involves the artist and the audience removing themselves from the flow of life for awhile in order to attain a more meaningful understanding of life, while video games are about surrendering one's life to the anesthetic effects of electronic fantasy for as many hours as possible before one becomes bored and moves on to the next game's excitement fix.

Dear Jeremy:

That's a very bright, clear assessment that coincides with how I see it, too. But since I don't play video games, if I had put forth that theory (and I almost did), people would jump down my throat for not knowing what I was talking about. But as far as I can see, the entire point of games is to kill time. Whether you're playing Solitaire or Grand Theft Auto or Candyland, you're just killing time. Art is a reflection of the human condition, and as many times as you play a game you won't find out anything new about humanity. It's always the same 52 cards, they just come up in a different order. But when you see a good movie and get some new glimpse of the human condition, with which you empathize or are revulsed by, you've grown a little bit.

Josh

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

Josh,

I'm curious about your writing habits. Do you set a daily schedule for yourself to write? And since you're a screenwriter, is this all that you write? Or do you occasionally write poetry, short stories, etc.? I know you have a variety on this website, but nothing recent from what I've seen.

I guess I just never knew exactly how a screenwriter "worked" as far as a daily schedule. I assume you do one script at a time, get it as good as you can get it, hoping one will turn out to be something great? It's an interesting way of working, because I see so many screenwriters (or wanna-be screenwriters) that basically spend all their time working on that "one great script", and if it doesn't get bought then they slow down, and then try to work on that "next great script", but maybe they'll do 2 scripts over a 5 year period. But with 31 scripts under your belt, obviously you just keep moving forward regardless.

And do you think it's reasonable for someone that's not writing stories on a daily basis to be able to write a great screenplay? I have a long list of ideas, but between shooting, editing, and other things that I do, I find it hard to find the time to flesh any of this stuff out. Is it unrealistic to think that in 5 years I could finish one of these ideas as a great screenplay, or is it really the day-to-day learning experience of a screenwriter that is required to make something great?

Jim

Dear Jim:

As far as writing something great goes, I'm not sure what that takes because I don't think I've written anything great. Nor can I say that the method I use would work for anyone else. BTW, I'm actually writing script #33 right now. Between this Q&A and my journal, I write everyday. I have written short stories and poetry and essays (I have new essay on the making of "AA," which will be posted very soon) . I used to keep a schedule of how much I was writing, but I haven't done that in a long time. But it really isn't one script at a time, necessarily. I still need to do a rewrite of "The Horribleness," but my buddy Paul and I are now beating out the basic structure of the next script. I do seem to get most of my meaningful writing done in the early morning hours, before anyone else is awake and the phone starts to ring. From my POV I don't think you can just sit down and write a good script, or story, or anything, if you're not writing all the time. It's akin to lifting weights, I think. You can't just go in and press 200 lbs., you have to work your way up to it and be in good enough shape to initially lift it.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I wonder how any young writers could HATE sitting in front of the computer and writing. That's how you write. Sure, I can get frustrated when I have writer's block but I love to come to the computer and write. Sometimes I'll just write lyrics or something just so I can be writing. Writing is a beautiful thing to me and when my "muse" hits me it's even more beautiful. The people who hate to write SHOULDN'T write. They are probably the ones who are making scripts we'll never see because they just think its a quick way to get rich and it's not or after the 12 years or so that I started writing scripts I should be a millionaire by now.

I have an off topic question though. I was reading your book and you said can call up the DGA and get a first assistant director from them. Would they have some that might be in Virginia or would I have to find some from New York that could come down here? And how much would you spend on one a week? Thanks for reading this and keep up the writing.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

I'd suspect most DGA directors would be found in either LA or NY, and the best way to find them would be through the DGA. You would have to speak to one and negotiate a deal, or get a recommendation of a 2nd AD who wants to step up to 1st AD. Meanwhile, I'm totally with you, I love writing. I sit here and answer all of these Q&As basically because I love to write. As Andre Gide said, "If a young writer can refrain from writing, he shouldn't hesitate to do so."

Josh

Name: Arch
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Do you ever get offers to direct studio pictures? If you have in the past, I'd love to know which you've turned down, and additionally, why do you do it? If you'll settle for Sci-Fi Alien Apocalypse why not do a B movie on a studio level and make some real money, and in turn, get closer to creative freedom?

Dear Arch:

I've turned down a few things over the years, like "CHUD II," and "Shotgun Love Dolls" for MTV, whatever the hell that turned out to be. But it's not like I've turned down any studio movies; I've never been offered one. I did just turn down selling a script of mine, but that's a different story. I'm trying to make a deal right now with the same company to write a script work-for-hire, so they'll own it from the outset and I won't have to feel like my baby is being disfigured. In this case I'll sort of be the surrogate mother. I think I'm retaining a decent level of creative freedom, or at least I'm trying.

Josh

Name: Alex Welp
E-mail: Poisonwasthecure@insightbb.com

Dear Josh:

I don't know if my first question got through or you're just not man enough to take a little abuse, but you suck ass as a director and Alien Apocalpyse was thee worst movie ever!!!

Dear Alex:

Thanks for sharing.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail: Trogdor7899@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Well, I'm not interesting in directing a film, but I am very much interested in writing screenplays. I'm a writer, I'm going to school for an english degree, and I have dabbled in thespianism.

Okay, now the thing to tie all this nonsense together: Can a person really thrive in the profession of screen writing?

Dear Mike:

Fuck yeah, if you're any good. You could live on selling one script a year, even a TV script, if you knew how to do it, and where and how to sell it.

Josh

Name: Loretta Miller
E-mail: imagine943@wowway.com

Hi Josh.

I know the best way to learn something is by "doing", so I have a good short script that I'm in pre-production right now on. (Searching for locations, etc). My question: while I'm stuck for the time being in Warren, MI (I know...'bloom where I'm planted') I am in need of a great cast. I don't want to put my energies into something that comes off as really amateurish. I'm willing to pay, of course, where would you recommend I start looking? Talent agencies or local theatre groups (pro and semi-pro) or another resource I haven't considered. Thanks! --Loretta

Dear Loretta:

You're exactly right, talent agencies and local theater groups. That's I how I cast both the films I made in MI. There's plenty of talented actors around that I will happily work on a movie, particularly a feature, for free or very little (I think it's better to pay something, even if it's nominal, than nothing, BTW). Casting is crucial, and if the actors suck the movie will suck. Since you don't have a deadline, take your time and look around. Hooking up with a talent agency is a particularly good idea because they
know everybody. Every casting director I've ever worked with has been nice, and exceptionally helpful; they're a good breed of people. Good luck and keep us posted how it's going.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just wanted you to check out two documentaries that I think you might enjoy if you haven't seen them already.

"Dark Days" which is about about a group of homeless people living underground in an abandoned subway station here in NYC. It was shot in B&W and I thought it was a decent documentary with some pretty interesting characters.

The other film is "The Weather Underground" which came out in 2002. I am sure you are familiar with this leftist group which formed in the 60's in America. The film is quite good.

Finally, I have to make a comment to the "Movie Buff" guy because he is absolutely in outer-space with his views on filmmaking. I just watched " A Dog Day Afternoon" the other day, and I had the opportunity to watch it on a real wide Screen HD Television and it looked great!

This whole idea that Filmmaking is just entertainment bantering that has been spewed out by "Movie Buff" made me think when I was watching "A Dog Day Afternoon".

This film wasn't the best of Sidney Lumet's career, but the story was such that it showed a side of real human drama and something that in fact did happen and could happen.

The characters were real and believable and the situation was as well. The film had something to say about human interaction, the human condition and society, yet it was still entertaining and humorous in many points.

The fact is, There are very few films that I could point to today which have the same quality as films like "A Dog Day Afternoon", and to simply put forth the idea of films as purely entertainment over films that actually do something and mean something is precisely why Hollywood is in the situation it is in right now.

I attended an HD Cinematography workshop with Roy Wagner, ASC a couple weeks ago and we have kept in touch ever since. He is a great guy and the workshop was great as well

Currently, he has been shooting the TV show "House" for work. He is a working and established cinematographer, yet he proceeded to criticize the very industry that had become his livelyhood, but he humorously coins himself a "Hollywood Whore". He has been shooting for over 30 years.

He basically said that "Hollywood is very frightened right now and that is why it keeps pumping out 'franchise' movies including sequels, re-makes of older films, and and older TV shows. It doesn't know what to do and the fact is filmmaking has the potential to become democratized with all the new tools and access to various factions of filmmaking that were not available to people in the past.

This makes for the potential environment of original ideas and that is something that Hollywood has nothing to do with anymore. The access to this new technology and these tools should still not overshadow the fact that filmmaking is about telling a story and it has always been about telling a story, and you can never ignore that single idea. It is in your hands, so don't listen to the fear flags as they go up, ignore them and go tell your story".

Scott

Dear Scott:

Mr. Wagner sounds like a very wise man. Just as a note, it's "Dog Day Afternoon," no A. Yeah, it's not Sidney Lumet's best film, but it's a totally solid movie with some great performances, and an Oscar-winning script. Nobody's made a move that good in years, including Mr. Lumet. It's a great example of what I'm constantly making reference to, the kind of film I miss the most, which is the intelligent action film. And "Dog Day Afternoon" was a BIG hit. What they won't realize is, if you make the action movies smart you won't lose one paying customer, you'll just attract more. And you can do it in any genre, too. I immediately flash on"RoboCop," which is a terrific action/sci-fi movie with an intelligent script, that clearly has subtext. Do you think anyone avoided seeing the film because they heard it wasn't stupid? The bottom line is, the more intelligent your script is, no matter what genre or what it's about, will only make it more entertaining. What I think Move Buff doesn't realize is that he is nothing more than a proponent for mediocrity, and that's nothing to shoot for.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Pinkham
E-mail: forms@serapion.com

Dear Josh:

While I await the arrival of Le Hammer, here's a question that Alien Apocalypse left hanging for me when the Doc is moving from logging camp to logging camp kicking alien butt at the end of the film: did the aliens run out of those fancy neutron bombs they originally used to take out all the armies in the world? Why don't they drop one of those babies in the area controlled by the Doc and wipe him out, in order to end his pesky spread of rebelliousness?

Or is this all explained the sequel? "Alien Apocalypse II: Doc Tour Detroit?"

Dear Jeremy:

The alien fleet, with the bombs, is long gone. This is a small logging outpost in deep space for these aliens. Meanwhile, I was out of town, but now I'll get on sending you the "Hammer" tape.

Josh

Name: melissa
E-mail: lamb.melissa@gmail.com

Dear Josh:

Hello, I was raised in Hamblen County, Tennessee ( Morristown and Talbott ) On Panther Creek Road, 1 minute from Panther Creek State Park. As a child i hiked those mountain trails. (thats a lot of trails, lol) I would really like to know the exact location of filming. It has been a mystery to me since i was a child. We would hear stories, but no real facts about it. thank you, melissa lamb.melissa@gmail.com

Dear melissa:

I suspect you're referring to "Evil Dead," which was shot in and around Morristown, TN. I haven't been back there in 25 years. But Bruce Campbell has. He actually knows exactly where everything was shot. Ask him.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Thanks very much for posting the letter from Sci-Fi. They continue to brag on your film - in their press release about upcoming movies for 2006, they made a point to talk about how well their originals are doing, and AA was the only one they mentioned by name.

I've been amused by the spring crop of idiots at your site, including the latest guy to suggest "if you're so smart, make a big-grossing movie." Ummm, yeah. By that definition, Arnold Schwarzenegger is California's most distinguished political scientist. Funniest was the kid who was obsessing over how many people it took to carry a 2x4, and worried about the whether or not you would be able to see the ruins of Portland from a particular level of terrain. Somehow reminds me of Jerry O'Connell in "Stand By Me," unable to fully appreciate Gordie's "Lardass Hogan" story until he determines whether or not Lardass had to pay to enter the contest. "Ummm...no, Vern, they, uh....just let him enter it." With some new, arcane greater understanding, Vern smiles and says "Oh, ok. Great story! Great story!"

Wondering if you are watching Project Greenlight this year on Bravo? Apparently the first two films made no $$ at all, so this time they went for a low-budget creature feature w/ Dimension films as the production company. It's actually very sad, because the first-time director is the son of 70's tv actor Clu Gulager, and while his control on the set makes Terry Gilliam look like Patton, I'm sure you'd empathize with his run-ins with studio execs who want to get everything done really quickly, really cheaply.

And BTW, I wrote a little review of AA for a website - feel free to check it out at http://www.xenite.org/essays/rational-man/dir01/1.html .

Regards,

August

Dear August:

Wow! A real movie review. It's nice to know somebody saw absolutely everything that was there, and appreciated it for what it's worth. Regarding "Project Greenlight," I watched a few eps of the 1st season, and it's just too painful for me. It's like watching a watching a child be thrown to the lions. Sure, it's amusing for a minute or two, but it gets too ugly too fast. As far as drama goes, I believe that it's much more interesting to watch someone who's good at their job, then someone who doesn't know what they're doing.

Josh

Name: tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

how important is script length?

i want to make a full lenght feature. but my script is 70 pages long. and adding any more sceens would just be adding fluff.

is the one page = one minute rule really true?

any advice on making a 70 page script into at least a 80 minute movie.

Dear tom:

Have everybody speak very slowly, and when they leave frame just hang on the emptiness, like Werner Herzog does. My script for TSNKE is about 70 pages, and the film came out at 85 minutes (with four loooonnng minutes of credits at the end and two minutes of credits at the head). If it's dialog then a page a minute is pretty much true, but if it's action that's a whole different story. Frequently in the Xena scripts it would say something like, "Then Xena and the warlord have an amazing martial arts battle." Well, that's one sentence, but it could be five minutes of screen-time and 500 set-ups.

Josh

Name: Duffy
E-mail: g_duffy@bellsouth.net

Dear Josh:

Not be a pest but in the interest of keeping my questions short I forgot one and as you took the time to answer the other I dare to ask another. First of all forget this C-list nonsense you are at least a B plus, secondly don't let my name fool you I am a girl okay a woman and I am the one that wants to be heard, it's a collective "you" that I meant not point a finger at you. But thanks for the perspective. Now for crying out loud before I forget again...I have seen credits that say based on a story by... but have you ever heard of someone saying "Hey I got this great idea" aside from personal experience of course as I know Bruce, Sam and all did with ED. No fear not a "deadite" just enjoyed the story of the filming and the craziness and hardwork involved. Being a mom in my early 30's it's frightening to think of throwing away security for a chance but you're right this is it and I think it's more frightening to face the reality of the tedious unfulfilling life ahead if I smother the ambition and desire. If given a gift use it or lose it. You hit it on the head and I think that unless I want to be 90 and wondering what happened to my life and dreams I had better get off my tush. Bless you for your candor and keep it coming.

Dear Duffy:

Thanks, but there really is a list that circulates around Hollywood, through the talent agencies, that lists the directors and classifies them by A, B and C, and it gets updated every year. An A-list director is one who has made a hit film, or has won an Oscar; a B-list director is one who has made one or more high-budget films, even if they weren't hits; and the C-list would be, And the rest . . . and that's where I'd go.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

I first heard about Guillermo del Toro on a TV special about the history of horror movies. I think it was on TNT, and Bruce was hosting it. He's a Mexican director whose films, both Spanish and English, seem to be having some success lately. I only saw a clip from "The Devil's Backbone" (which is a ghost story set in Spain during their civil war), but it looked very eerie, and seemed to make excellent use of lighting and sound to set the mood. I was interested in your opinion, so I'll rent it and let you know whether it was worth the effort or not.

If I may, I'd like to say something in rebuttal to Movie Buff's opinion. The reason myself and the other regulars post on Josh's site so much is that we agree with him on his main point: we are no longer satisfied with the movies of today, and feel that they are missing something. So you see, Josh is not alone in his opinion. Cinema is not meant to be mindless entertainment; like all media, it should spark the imagination, not glut it. The stress of modern life is no excuse to turn off your brain and watch trash "just to escape." In my experience, most people don't think enough in their daily lives to merit a break from thinking, so it is all the more important that the things we pursue for entertainment stimulate our intellect. Most mainstream theatrical release movies (and a great many of the more snooty independent features) do the very opposite to the imagination by spoon feeding audiences brightly colored pablum and not allowing them to use any intelligence. To sum up: thinking won't hurt your brain, so the movies you watch need not sedate your mind, which is the unfortunate trend of the breed of movies being shown today.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I'm not against the choice of sedating ones mind with nonsense, I just don't want to be stuck with that as the *only* choice. Let's take the year 1962 as an example, shall we? I was four, so it's not like I really remember it. The nominees for Best Picture that year were: "The Longest Day," "The Music Man," "Mutiny on the Bounty," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "Lawrence of Arabia." Other Oscar-nominated films that years were: "The Birdman of Alcatraz," "Days of Wine and Roses," "Divorce -- Italian Style," "The Miracle Worker," "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "Sweet Bird of Youth," Peter Ustinov's "Billy Budd," "The Manchurian Candidate," "David and Lisa," Stanley Kubrick's "Lolita," John Huston's"Freud," "Last Year at Marienbad," "That Touch of Mink," Ingmar Bergman's"Through a Glass Darkly," Robert Wise's "Two for the Seesaw," "Gypsy," "Hatari" with John Wayne, "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, and one of my favorites, "Taras Bulba" with Yul Bryner and Tony Curtis That's all in one year, and that's the kind of variety I want. Is that asking too much?

Josh

Name: Movie Buff
E-mail: movie_buff2005@mail.com

Dear Josh:

I "never" said telling a good story isn't important...I said it's a different generation of stories, and storytelling. For some reason you just can't handle that. It seems if you were directing all of these movies, your movies would be out-of-this-world, superb. And, Josh, that's insane.

Trust me, "Alien Apocalypse" definitely wouldn't cut it. Your problem is you've lost touch with the elements of entertainment. That being, entertainment is for you and I, as the film makers, to judge. It's for our fans.

You may have loved "Magnolia"...but I think, personally, it was the worst film ever created...PERIOD! But, you see, that doesn't matter...it's who we are trying to entertain that counts. If you want to be "Van Gogh" and cut your ear off, then submerge yourself into a mindless seclusion, exploring your "inner-self" as an artist, go right ahead. But don't brow beat the rest of the successful artists because they choose to create entertaining features for "todays" mass audience.

I see you have a few fans on your website sucking up to you, even though you called their generation as a whole "STUPID", and that's fine...they obviously have no intention of exploring film making...but please don't write about Steven Speilberg, being a film maker of "shit". The level you talk about so called being on, Steven surpassed when he was 25. Your jealous, Josh..and you use the mask of "fuck this STUPID world" to hide it.

We'll see whose more successful in the industry!

Warmest Regards,
Movie Buff

Dear Movie Buff:

If that's how you see it, then that's how it is. Yes, given the choice, I would rather be Van Gogh than Spielberg. What Van Gogh created is really lasting art; what Spielberg has so far done is insignificant. Compared to Vincent Van Gogh, Steven Spielberg is a Xerox machine without enough toner. Every portait painter (and even house painter, for that matter) in the entire world made more money than did Van Gogh, but what he did was legitimately important. So, you see, you and I just have different world views.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

To say that people are generally stupider is a pretty bold charge that seems to simplify the issue. In regards to the downfall of meaningful art, I think there are a multitude of reasons why this is occurring, not just one. Since the Reagan era, people have been more interested in selling out then making something meaningful. Ever since the 80's, when big spec sales and high paying writing assignments were highly publicized, young people got the impression that they could make millions of dollars by churning out some piece of shit script that had a marketable hook. I think in many respects the downfall of filmic storytelling has to do with money being the writer/filmmaker's primary motive. The same goes for the independent filmmaker who is under the impression that if they make a film, they can enter it into Sundance and sell it for $3 million dollars. I think the problem is ignorance coupled with greed. Stupidity is a component I wouldn't discount, but I don't believe it is the sole component due to a polluted environment. I also believe that the film industry has become more of a business within the last 30 years. In the golden age there was a fine balance between art and commerce, now it's all about the almighty dollar. Another problem is that movies have always been a high-risk investment, even more so now that people are spending upwards of $100 million. Because of this, the powers that be make decisions by committee, and base their decisions on fear. These are just some of the issues that I believe pertain to the downfall of our culture's art. What I find frightening is that it looks like the US is heading in the same direction as Ancient Rome, only 200 years sooner. But I'm an optimist, and wish for the best.

Dear Scott:

But greed, ignorance and fear can all be lumped into stupidity, I think. They are the reasons why one is stupid. To be greedy is to be stupid, and to make decisions based on fear is stupid. You have not disproven my theory, only reinforced it. As I say, with twice as many people there ought to be twice as many great artists, but instead there aren't any. It's the high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and trans-fats, I'm telling you. Read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" and "Collapse." When the food chain becomes contaminated, the civilization collapses. It's happened a hundred times before.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

"I don't buy it. I'll give you realistic comic art, but that's it. The remainder of your examples have no hope of ever being art. The internet is a means of gathering information, like going to a library, which is certainly useful, but it ain't art, or even creative."

I don't know about that necessarily. There are some interesting websites out there, designed as art (much in the same way as a sculpture) but the medium is pages of images, interconnected and attempting to paint an overall "web" of pictures. I.E. a kind of collage without story. I'd be willing to say that it's not art yet, but the potential is there. Either way, you're right in saying it's not a storytelling art by any means. It's a medium of distributing text or mini-films, which we have been able to do with film and paper a lot longer than we've had the net.

"Video games are games, not art. Should you shoot this virtual cop or that virtual car thief is not an artistic decision. If the computer generated the art, then you didn't."

Well, I have to disagree with this one on a personal level - as I'm involved in the creation of video games.

There's a great deal of craftsmanship and storytelling involved with making a video game. Many modern games have thousands of different paths, each one involving variations or alterations to the story, which cause a different narrative to appear. Not only do many games now have to tell a story, but they have to tell a compelling story while simultaneously involving the player enough that they feel empathetic to their character (avatar.)

Besides that, the ability to make a video game fun for your target audience in and of itself requires a lot more effort than making a movie entertaining for its target audience. I'd say at this point, the video game industry is much more discerning than film.

None the less, I'm getting off on a tangent, and this is a website about film, so to sum up: I feel video games are an effective artistic storytelling medium, that's greatest unique benefit is their interactivity, given form by the player's ability to shape aspects of the narrative, as well as the level of personal involvement with the character gained when literally taking on his role. I'm not talking Pac-Man here.

"Blogs aren't anymore artistic than the newspaper."

Yeah, that was a red herring on my part. Mea culpa.

"And considering, as I'm constantly told here, that with DV cameras and cheap editing software anyone can make a movie, yet no one is making anything of any value. To say that all of the artistic people just aren't going into movies is absurd. So, that's not the answer."

Yeah, that makes sense too. I wish there were still capable writers in film.

"As you say in your last line, "It's hard to fall in love at a young age with *real* film these days when you grow up in the Star Wars era." To me that's like saying because you grew up during the Dark Ages you can't appreciate anything created during the Reniassance, which may be true. Barbarians probably don't appreciate good art."

At least a couple of these barbarians do, mostly because they found big black monoliths (like GWTW, or Bridge, or Lawrence of Arabia) and received tools to do so for their trouble.

I'm no "Movie Buff", but I definitely know the difference between a good movie and a bad one, and I do love film.

But I jumped the writing screenplay ship at 17 to go make video games, and I know I brought a couple of burgeoning screenwriters with me.

Dear Matt:

I certainly don't mean to take you on personally, and since you design video games and know 100% more about them than I do, I will acquiesce to your opinion. To me the beauty of a narrative tale is that the author, who is standing in for god, already knows the fates of these characters from the outset so there is a sense of predestination, which I believe gives the viewer a belief in a god-like authority throughout the course of the story. A narrative story reinforces the feeling that our actions effect our destinies, and that there is a god. I don't think you can get that from a video game, but I could be wrong.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

Dear Josh:

A note to the guy who's worried about his kids so he writes Y-rated scripts: Your kids will be grown up one day and what do you think they will be interested in, kids films or adult stories? I have a kid, I'm more interested in writing something that would rate an NC-17 as long as its well crafted and means something. That doesn't mean you have to write something truly crude, your kids don't have to see what you've made till you want them to. Bruce Campbell kept his kids from seeing Evil Dead for a while and when they finally saw it, they didn't care. Don't ruin a good story because you're worried about your kids, they don't have to read it or watch it.

Dear kdn:

Does the Y stand for "yuck"? There's a scene in John Steinbeck's "The Red Pony" I really like where the ranch hand (played by Robert Mitchum in the movie) asks the the mother (Mary Astor) if her 7-year-old son can stay up and watch their horse give birth, and the mother says something like, Yes, because sooner or later you will hear everything and see everything, so you may as well just get on with it.

Josh

Name: Luke
E-mail: lukea1@hotmail.com

Dear Josh -

Just to throw my own two cents into the discussion regarding the craftsman/innovator debate: I think one of the main reasons that there aren't many great films being made today can be attributed to the French New Wave and the worshipping of filmmakers that came about as a result. That's not to malign the 60s/70s decade, because it certainly was the last gasp of great filmmaking that we've seen so far, but it seems to me that the majority of people getting into the business now only do so in order to be praised, worshipped, or to get laid - all elements that stem somewhat from filmmakers being told how great they were. It's not a matter of having any talent and spending years developing your craft, but a case of "instant geniuses" who think they're the next Godard because they've went hand-held, or the next Robert Rodriguez because they've done everything themselves (how in the world he thinks he can score his own films without having studied music composition is beyond me).

There's been a real shift in the way filmmakers went from not wanting to delve into their secrets (like Ford and Hawks feigning ignorance when it came to discussing their films) to the gabfests of today, where every DV filmmaker thinks that someone will actually be interested in hearing their director commentaries on homemade dvds.

It's insulting to someone my age (20) to hear somebody like 'movie buff' blatantly express that "no one is interested in stories today, the focus has shifted and it'll never return". For the most part, yes, it certainly has. But i'm certainly counting on other people like me, lurking out in the darkness, who want to support the serious craftsmen like yourself who want to tell involving stories and not just do a haphazard guessing game trying to figure out what "the audience wants".

PS: That's very interesting about Ulu Grosbard being Sam Raimi's uncle. I must ask, did this have any effect on him getting recognized in Hollywood?

Best wishes,

Dear Luke:

I'm not sure that Sam and Ulu Grosbard have ever actually met, and their relationship certainly has nothing to do with Sam's career or success. Honestly, you could wear a sandwich board and walk up and down Hollywood Blvd. from now until eternity announcing that you're Ulu Grosbard's nephew and it wouldn't do you the slightest bit of good, even if he did make "Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?" Meanwhile, I think you too are confused with this "stories don't matter" nonsense. Stories completely do matter, and that's what most people do all the time, watch TV and movies that present narrative stories. Or we get together over coffee or alcohol and tell each other stories. Or we tell jokes, which are short versions of narrative stories. Or you play video games that all now have a basic narrative built into them. That's what humans do, and there isn't the slightest tiniest thing that's special about people now. That's why you can tell a story about a slave in ancient Rome, and if you tell it well it still matters. But telling the story well is the filmmaker's job, and if you're not telling the story well, or the story you've chosen isn't worth telling in the first place, you've failed. That's the game.

Josh

Name: Duffy
E-mail: g_duffy@bellsouth.net

Josh, okay the rules...although I would love a job, I'll have to pass it's too cold in Michigan, I am a writer but don't have any scripts so that's out and since I have kids it's more like Y instead of PG 13. That said, just wanted to ask if you feel it's worth the risk and hard work to see your dream come to fruition and starting out relatively older are you satisfied with the wait and time it took for your films to finally reach people? Even though they aren't "big budget" are you happy? I know it's not supposed to be about the money but the joy but with a family it is something I have to think about. I could be a starving artist but they can't. If you have a voice you should use it right? But why can't the big guys hear you?

Dear Duffy:

I commiserate with your situation, but most filmmakers have a wife and kids and that doesn't hold them back. My buddy Gary Jones has pursued the same dream as myself, and has been married with kids as long as I've known him (we met in 1983). The bottom-line of everything is, this isn't a dress rehearsal, this is the only life you get, so you better reach for the gusto because it's your only chance. Meanwhile, I didn't start out older, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was 12, and I moved to Hollywood the first time when I was 17. I've been at this non-stop for 30 years. As far as"the big guys" hearing me, who cares? I don't like their system and I don't want to participate in it. I certainly could if I wanted to, and I just recently turned down a $12 million film with a 3,000 print, $20 million release, simply because I wouldn't allow my script to be put through the Hollywood rewrite system. I demand to make my movies my way, and I don't give a crap what Hollywood does.

Josh

Name: tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

i just finished writing my first script. i now want to copy write it, i have been reading how to do it on their website. but its very confusing.

so i have a question. if i send in my script and the money. do i have to wait 4-6 months for them to send me some sort of conformation that its regestered? or can i just start making my movie as soon as i put it in the mail.

thanks

Dear tom:

You don't have to wait for them, and it doesn't really take that long. Maybe 3-4 months. But in any case, once you've sent in your script, the form PA, and a $30 check, consider your script copyright, and go, go, go. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Travis
E-mail: Films4me@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

How do you rank yourself among today's contemporary directors? If there is someone working inside the Hollywood system right now that you could compare yourself to, style-wise or whatever, who might that be?

Dear Travis:

By Hollywood standards I'm sure I don't even make the B-list, and I'm probably lucky if I'm on their C-list. But I don't rank myself in that group at all. If there are comparisons to make, you make them.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

Money, in the context of my argument, is a means of keeping score; I only drop the $11 billion figure to point out that alot of people are watching porn, and that such a widely viewed genre must have some impact. True, nothing truly groundbreaking has been done with porn yet, but the potential is indeed there.

Going on to another subject, what is your opinion of Guillermo del Toro and his work? I've heard some great things about his movies, particularly "The Devil's Backbone," and was wondering if he was worth checking out.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I don't know his work.

Josh

Name: Movie Buff
E-mail: movie_buff2005@mail.com

Dear Josh:

Say what you must, to please yourself. Here's my question to you...why are still making "B" movies? You've been in the business this long, but aren't making flicks on the big screen. Why? Your attitude, maybe? Your "I'm gonna have it my way, attitude? Josh, you've already said you want to make "the big movies", so why aren't you?

It seems to me, the industry has some idea about how to do business, today. Perhaps, you don't. Some of the movies you have listed as "favorites" are considered extremely boring to me...does that make your ratings of them right and mine wrong? No! It seems your bitter at world for acknowledging and entertaining ourselves with this so called "shit" in H-Wood, these days.

But all I see is a complaining Director...a cry-babby of the business. Someone who's been defeated by the new ways of the Movie Industry. If I'm wrong, show me! Knock me off my fucking feet with a successful, authentic and marketable, feature. Show me this idea, you have.

Despite our differences, I admire you. But I do not agree with your selfish synopsis of the so called "Shit Industry". Because what your really saying is 'your way is best, and the rest of us in the world are "ignorant monkeys" who have no personaility and imagination.

And if that's what your saying...I say to you "Fuck you, Josh...you don't know shit"!

Warmest Regards,
Movie Buff

Dear Movie Buff:

Not only am I not "defeated by the new ways of the Movie Industry," I am flourishing. I've got more deals than at any other time in my life, some for TV, some theatrical. You're the one who hasn't made it anywhere yet, and maybe that's because you think you know something important, but it's really nonsense. What you are in essence doing is making a plea for mediocrity. "Why can't we be thoughtless and half-assed, it's a free country?" Yes, to some extent, it is. If your aspirations only extend as far as mediocrity, then you'll certainly rise no higher than that, if indeed you even get there. If you don't aim higher you have no hope of ever going any higher. I don't need to impress you or anyone else, only myself. And I'll make bigger movies when and if I can make them on my terms, and that will undoubtedly be sooner than you will.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

"Yeah! So, given that there are twice as many humans as when I was a kid when decent movies came out all the time, so now there are way more people making way less good movies. If the answer isn't that people are stupider, and more apathetic, then what is the answer?"

In response to this I guess I'll just say on behalf of the smart, creative people out there:

We jumped ship, and now are pursuing other artistic media that have their own interesting merits.

I think there were better movies back then partially because the system to make them was better (not easier, just better and less soul-crushing), and partially because all of the creative types now have really bizarre and interesting new media with which to express themselves that weren't available, so they've dived off of film and into new frontiers.

The Internet. Video Games. Flash Videos. Computer generated art. Blogs. Web design. Realistic comic art (a new-ish genre).

Granted, none of these have the peculiar strengths of film as a medium of expression (namely visual collage, and what you regard as "structure" in screenplays.) But they have other strengths for exploring the human condition, and telling useful stories as well.

There are young people who want to express themselves, are intelligent and dedicated, believe that craftsmanship must come ahead of art, and have a great idea about how to tell interesting stories that truly capture the human condition. They just don't make movies anymore, because as they grew up - that wasn't their inspiration.

It's a little bit self-perpetuating, since as no good movies are made, more kids are growing up with great feats in other media (sculpture, is a good example,) and nothing happening in film worthwhile. So they become sculptors.

That's my two cents, at least. It's hard to fall in love at a young age with *real* film these days when you grow up in the Star Wars era.

Dear Matt:

I don't buy it. I'll give you realistic comic art, but that's it. The remainder of your examples have no hope of ever being art. The internet is a means of gathering information, like going to a library, which is certainly useful, but it ain't art, or even creative. Video games are games, not art. Should you shoot this virtual cop or that virtual car thief is not an artistic decision. If the computer generated the art, then you didn't. Blogs aren't anymore artistic than the newspaper. And considering, as I'm constantly told here, that with DV cameras and cheap editing software anyone can make a movie, yet no one is making anything of any value. To say that all of the artistic people just aren't going into movies is absurd. So, that's not the answer. As you say in your last line, "It's hard to fall in love at a young age with *real* film these days when you grow up in the Star Wars era." To me that's like saying because you grew up during the Dark Ages you can't appreciate anything created during the Reniassance, which may be true. Barbarians probably don't appreciate good art.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<Given the material, the period, the great cast, and Twyla Tharp's wonderful choreography, Foreman's direction is just dull.>>

Joel Shumacher did the same thing with PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, he mostly kept the camera peeled back to show off a set and gave us the replacement cast instead of the good cast... that's why I walked out... plus I loved the musical onstage but I really don't think it would've translated well to a movie even if William Wyler or Billy Wilder directed it... but it would've been interesting to see that.

Dear kdn:

Joel Schumacher is, for the most part, a hack, although I did like"Tigerland."

Josh

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

Josh,

Here's one for you:

Go see the Danny Boyle film MILLIONS that is in theaters now, and come back and tell me interesting (and wonderfully written) films aren't being made anymore.

Richard

Dear Richard:

I'll happily watch it when it gets to cable.

Josh

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

Josh

Isn't it possible that rather than the idea there are no creatively good projects being produced, there aren't any studios willing to bankroll them? I've seen a few well-made films in the past few years that had to be released either sub-independent ('independent' being too sickly a term) or they found a release after the film was in the can. Meanwhile, some good films just don't fit the mold of an older era, while some are just cut very, very badly because one sample group gave it a poor review. I agree with you that craftsmanship is more important than innovation, but there's no excuse to be duldrum and safe when you can open up new ways of thinking to the movie-going public. It's just a shame people mistake this idea for one where being crude, raw, and obscene passes as 'ahead of it's time.'

Dear Brett:

Tell me what's ahead of it's time? "Sin City"? It's nothing more than homage to old noir films, with more violence added. That it's all plyed in front of a process screen? A great deal of the 1933 "King Kong" was shot in front of a process screen, and all of the 1982 disaster "Tron" was shot in front of a process screen. So what? There's nothing new under the sun, and telling stories dramatically is many thousand year old process. There was something kind of new in the late 1960s and early '70s when they began to really show sex and violence, which they couldn't do previously due to censorship. But is there anything in the world of sex or violence we haven't already seen, or need to see? The only thing that is truly interesting in drama is the human condition, and our feeble and heroic attempts to deal with it. As far as that goes, the only direction left to go is deeper, and that's not happening. Independent films are every bit as lame as the Hollywood crap now, and to blame that on the studios is a cop-out. To contend that motion pictures are any different now than they were 50 years ago (other than the quality is much lower) is ridiculous. Look at the Oscar winning Best Picture of 2004, "Million Dollar Baby," which is as old-fashioned, and as hoary of an old plot and subject, as any film made in the last 50 years. The boxer who wants to be champ? I just watched"The Prizefighter and the Lady" from 1933, with Myrna Loy, and actual world-champions Max Baer and Primo Carnera, which was a more interesting movie. There is nothing new, it's only about how well you do it.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Pinkham
E-mail: forms@serapion.com

Dear Josh:

What is it that you want to express about life or share with other people that drives you to want to make films? I realize that if you could just sum what you want to say up in a few sentences, that you would have no reason to make the films themselves. But are there certain things that you feel you have observed about life that need to be said? Are there emotional situations, truths, certain people you are trying to reproduce? Or is filmmaking the end in itself, which is to say it simply feels right to be making movies, and the subject matter itself (be it Amazon princesses or alien mantises) is irrelevant? I guess why I'm asking is because it seems that your website expresses a very passionate belief in the importance of thought, care, and emotional honesty being placed into the act of filmmaking, yet having only seen "Alien Apocalypse" and none of the other works, I find myself wondering what it is you are reaching for in making films? Apocapypse itself seemed to express a worldview that most people are slumbering sheep who need a hero to goose them in the ass reawaken them to their own power to change the world and defeat the slavemasters who run it. Did you sincerely believe a version of that message when you wrote the film, or was any message conveyed by the film only intended to be read ironically, with a campy wink and nod? What sort of films would you ideally like to make that "Alien Apocalpse" is a stepping stone towards?

Dear Jeremy:

It's not. "AA" is a fifteen-year-old script, based on a seventeen-year-old idea. But it was apparently the right script at the right time, I got to make it, and people watched. However, unlike any other films I've seen on SciFi (or anywhere else lately, for that matter), my screenplay is reasonably well-constructed, with a theme, a character arc, some subtext, and a sense of irony. As I've already said, I may very well have blundered my way through all of those things, but they're still there. I addressed the issues. If a writer doesn't address these issues, then they are a bad writer. Even if you do address them you may still be a bad writer, but at least you're a more professional and aware bad writer. I honestly do believe that I have improved as a writer since I wrote "AA" in 1990. Please check out some of my more recent vintage films, like "Running Time" or "If I Had a Hammer," or read any of my newer scripts, then ask your question again.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<"Guys and Dolls" is a shame of a movie. Joe Mankeiwicz was the wrong director and Marlon Brando (who can't sing to save his life) was a severely wrong Sky Masterson. Frank Sinatra should have had the lead and he knew it. It also should have been shot on location in NYC, not on sets on a soundstage.>>

Really?... well, fuck, I enjoyed it. Before I spend the money on them, are THE LETTER, NOW VOYAGER, and DARK PASSAGE (something like that, a Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall) worth watching, they come in a set with THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE(original), THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, and JEZEBEL. Are they worth the buy or are the other movies truly awful? I saw HAIR last night, and the ending was pretty funny, Where Treat Williams switched places with the other guy, accidentally got shipped to Vietnam with no training, and died. Why did they put his name on the tombstone instead of the other guy's name, if they knew he wasn't the other guy shouldn't they have sent him back? I also saw A FEW GOOD MEN (living proof that a name actor (namely Nicholson) can steal the movie with just three scenes), DIGGSTOWN, COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT

Dear kdn:

No, none of the movies in that set are awful, although I don't quite understand the grouping, other than they're all in black & white. You've got two William Wyler movies there, "The Letter" and "Jezebel," neither of which is his best, but both are good and definitely worth seeing (notice how well Wyler gets you to believe that you're in Malaya, when in fact you're on a soundstage in Hollywood). "The Bad and the Beautiful" is still possibly the best film ever made about filmmaking, with a terrific, snappy, Oscar-winning screenplay by Charles Schnee, gorgeous, Oscar-winning photography by the great Robert Surtees, and a perfect cast (Gloria Grahame, whom I really like anyway, also won an Oscar for this film). The 1946 version of "The Postman . . ." is by far the best, and Lana Turner and John Garfield make a great team. The killing of the old man on Echo Point, where they slug him on the head, he screams, dies, then his echo returns is brilliant (and not in any other version). "Now, Voyager" is Warner Bros./Bette Davis schmaltz at it's best. And "Dark Passage" makes one of the better uses of the POV shot than most other films that have played with it.

Meanwhile, the reason the headstone in "Hair" has to have Berger's name on it to convey the information correctly because there's no dialog in that whole sequence. It's an interesting question, and one that my friend and I thought about at the time. I really do like that movie, but each time I see it Milos Foreman's lack of inventiveness with the camera gets me down more and more. The photography itself, by the great Miroslav Ondricek, is gorgeous, but the camera is almost always in medium long-shot with no movement. Given the material, the period, the great cast, and Twyla Tharp's wonderful choreography, Foreman's direction is just dull.

Josh

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

Josh,

I think your hypothesis about our polluted resources causing stupidity is very amusing.. but I think there's a great reason: our culture of "fun". I was reading an interview with Robert Crumb the other day and he said this:

RC: "Somebody in Germany, I think, after Robert Hughes called me the Brueghel of the last half of the last week or whatever; these people wanted to have this show and said, "Hey, we'll get these Brueghel prints and drawings, and we'll put them up next to yours." No way! Forget it! Suddenly it won't look so good. Those guys - we can't hold a candle to them any more. They just accepted the fact that their lives were about sitting at their boards and working all the time. They had much lower expectations than we do about having fun in life. Brueghel, he died when he was 49 or something? Can you imagine that, he did all that work before he was 49? Phew! We live in a different world now - we got too much fun, too many distractions. I don't believe in fun. I'm too obsessive-compulsive to have fun. Fun's for normal people. Sometimes I look around at a party and I go, "Look at those jerks over there, actually having fun." That's incredible. They're so fucking well adjusted that they're enjoying this situation with the loud music and too many people. To me, there are so many existential factors that are so deeply disturbing about that scene that I couldn't possibly imagine how people have fun at something like that."

I think that pretty much hits the nail on the head.

The rest of it is at:
http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,6737,1442859,00.html

Dear Jim:

Robert Crumb is the greatest! He's one of my few living heroes. I partied like hell until I was about 25, then I buckled down and got serious. I was pretty serious in my own way before that, too (as was Crumb), but I still preferred going to parties and getting smashed. To me now a big party with a lot of people and loud music sounds like some form of hell. I would much rather sit home, smoke a joint and work on a script, or watch the 1925 version of "Ben-Hur." But the difference between a professional and an amateur, is that an amateur is enthusiastic, but has poor work habits and no discipline. If I never hear another "screenwriter" tell me that they "hate sitting down to write, that it's just pure torture," it will be too fucking soon. If you don't love the process, then get the fuck out! If you think "movies are just entertainment," you're not needed, find another way to make a living. Crumb does terrific work because he sits there and does it. As he said, "All this cross-hatching doesn't pay," yet he does it anyway. Why? Because it looks better. It doesn't pay, but it IS worth it.

Josh

Name: D. Huffman
E-mail: L5g@excite.com

Dear Josh:

When I was a kid Star Wars, on top of comic books, was my life. Though I'm not radically intelligent for my generation or any other I do recognize the whole fall of the Art culture, but I first noticed it with music a little over a decade ago, and I was 18 then.

It took me until my last year or so in college, where I was a film major...(a waste of a degree but one that I would happily get again) that I begun to see how films have changed. That came from just watching every kind of movie, which was under my own power and not decreed from a class. In fact, I blame some of my teachers for hampering me and other students being forced to analyze Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, and Thelma and Louise. Back when Pulp Fiction came out I thought it was the best piece of shit like everyone else but now that I've seen more movies, I know better. Not to say I watched only movies made during my lifetime, when I was a kid my mom let my sister and I watch a number of movies that I thought even back then were better than QT and the other schmoes, like Psycho, and a couple of the Marilyn Monroe Billy Wilder pics. So maybe that has helped me realize what's what now that I'm older.

I hate being catered to and selling out to me (which came from playing in bands) is still the biggest fucking no-no, if I can't honor my own morals what can I honor. My friends all think I hate movies because I criticize what they tell me is good, and the hardest thing about that is having to watch some thing so painful, the LOTR thrillogy anyone, just so I have a defense when some one declares "Have you even watched it?" And I do feel that I have to stay current.

I love movies, I thing about storys all day, and I would love to make movies for a living, that's what I went to school for. But I don't feel that I have even experienced enough to make one I think I'd would think was good. This is hard, but I keep trying though...some times I feel like I'm skating through life like the rest.

Dear D.:

Perhaps you are. The only answer that I've found is to keep trying so damn hard that you can convince yourself you're doing absolutely everything within your means to achieve your goal. I'm working on my thirty-third screenplay right now. Even if I'm not good at what I do, I can honestly say I've tried pretty hard. Making a good movie is extremely difficult since you're trying to balance many spinning plates on the ends of sticks at the same time, some you can control, and some you can't. But I do think it's worth the attempt, and I've given my whole life to it. However, if you've already decided that film is merely entertainment and nothing more, you've got one plate spinning, and who cares? Get to the back of the long line. The REAL entertainment comes from seeing how many plates one attempts to balance in the first place (to beat that metaphor into the dirt).

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

I'll agree with you that the main point of porno is sexual stimulation (not just for guys, although they are the majority audience; the demographic has widened, as shown by the spread of VIP, PENTHOUSE Boutique, and other "couples" oriented adult stores). However, I don't think that the attempt to combine serious drama with sex was meant to create a new genre or "legitimize" the sex film; rather it was to provide a slightly more intellectual alternative to the peek shows and super-8 quickies to which porn had been previously confined. Everyone's tastes are different, but I for one can't get excited by the disembodied, random sex scenes in a compilation video. Even in porn, the filmaker must allow the suspension of disbelief to take place. There has to be some setup to allow the viewer to get into the action on screen; every fantasy has to have some potential means of fruition, however remote. Therefore, I think that plot and structure are necessary in adult films. The trick is simply not to overwhelm the piece with TOO much exposition, otherwise your audience will be hitting the fast forward button alot. Pornography may not have a much higher aim than to allow guys (and some girls) to rub one out, but it is a mistake not to take the genre seriously. Any film genre that generates $11,000,000,000 in U.S. domestic sales annually must have an impact on our society.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Money is not my arbiter of what's important, and it never will be. I don't care how much money porno films make, or summer blockbusters, or video games, or pork bellies, or beans. Money just doesn't interest me. But movies interest me a lot, what they've done, and what they might still do. To put everything on a money level is to put it on tawdry, low-class, uninteresting level. To me, pornography is beneath discussion because nothing interesting has ever been done with it. Not that it's impossible, it just hasn't been done yet, and I personally don't care if it ever is. To my mind, everything that goes between the sex scenes is extraneous.

Josh

Name: Movie Buff
E-mail: movie_buff2005@mail.com

Dear Josh:

If only you could "really" hear yourself...what you say sometimes is just plain ignorant. You have this "God-Like" attitude of "fuck the world", because it isn't the way you think it should be. Problem is, your missing the point, all together. Entertainment and Film has two totally different meanings. The few Directors/Producers who can a'join the two are the most successful...in the eyes of the audience (Hence the reason for a Box Office) and the eyes of the movie makers, themselves. (Studio Execs, etc...)

Entertainment is "not" measured by one person. It's measured by the gauge of the audience. Film, and the art of film, is gauged by it's own constiuants. (Being the reason for the Academy Awards and such.) There is no one man greater than the Movie Industry, because -- and here's the good part -- the movie industry and/or it's movies, aren't judged by the few, which usually end up being "old balding critics and/or those who appear as if they know it all"...it's judged by the audience.

You live in your own selfish world, and there's nothing wrong with that...but don't expect to just keep creating movies that would only entertain you, and when the "mass" audience doesn't agree, you get upset and call them "stupid or idiotic". You have your opinion and the "mass audience" has theirs.

The industry does what it has always done...it entertains. The most successful trilogy of all time is The Matrix...believe or not. Why? Because it captured the "mass audience of the world" and lured them in.

What is "your" films, but if not a form of entertainment? Do you only wish to entertain yourself? Unfortunately, as a movie maker you should get with the times or just put on a cape, some funny little boots and dance around in the bathroom mirror...because no-one, in todays generation, wants to see the "old ways anymore."

Those days are gone, my friend...but it doesn't mean we're any less productive today, than yesterday. It doesn't mean we are "whores" or we are "stupid"...it just means we have a new taste...cus' the old one is sour.

Warmest Regards,
Movie Buff

Dear Movie Buff:

Bullshit! You are utterly deluded, my young friend. You think we're discussing an issue of this moment, relating to this generation, but you're wrong. This is the discussion of every generation. As Harlan Ellison said,"We are all the same person under different skins," meaning if you can honestly and seriously define for yourself what is good (which is supremely difficult), then achieve it, others will get it, too. On the other hand, as Bill Cosby so aptly put it, "I don't know the secret of success, but I do know the secret of failure, try and please everyone." You think there's something special about this generation, but there isn't, other than they seem to have very short attention spans (yet movies keep getting longer, figure that one out). But movies are bigger than what this generation does with them. You have somehow concluded (in your own poor grammer), that "Entertainment and Film has two totally different meanings." How you arrived at that is your own affair, but it's complete nonsense. Are you trying to say that "Sideways" is one thing, but "Million Dollar Baby" is entirely different thing? Or is that something like"Trainspotting" is film, but "The Matrix" is entertainment? Do you really think that Hollywood just started making big stupid movies that make a lot of money? The point is to merge these two seemingly disparate concepts, then you have something like "Lawrence of Arabia" or "The Bridge on the River Kwai" which are both not only legitimately the best films of their respective years, but also the biggest-grossers, AND they both won the Oscar for Best Picture. But to look at these concepts separately is to not see the big picture, and as I was taught in driver's ed, "always see the big picture."

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

In response to "Movie Buff," it is not that we don't choose to be entertained by movies in the vein of Hitchcock, but that we don't have a choice in the matter. No one is making those movies. I am sure that if someone was, there would be a much better reaction to it than these crappy visually oriented, script lacking pieces of crap that are being released currently. I am not nearly the extreme that Mr. Becker is, but I find that 85-90% are terrible. It is very possible to be entertaining AND to be artistic. The only thing that is stopping people from doing so is that they are lazy and it is easier to meet the bottom line. To assume that to be successful means you have to pander to a demographic is ridiculous. People will always go to the movies, and perhaps more adults will go if there are more movies that are well-crafted and relevant. I am 22 and currently a senior in college, and I have got to report, Mr. Becker's assessment is pretty damn accurate.
Nate

Dear Nate:

Yeah! So, given that there are twice as many humans as when I was a kid when decent movies came out all the time, so now there are way more people making way less good movies. If the answer isn't that people are stupider, and more apathetic, then what is the answer?

Josh

Name: Movie Buff
E-mail: movie_buff2005@mail.com

Dear Josh:

Commenting on your reply to CD. "People are just stupider, now, than before"...c'mon Josh, even you know better than that. CD has a valid point, however it's not the material and/or it's "creative expressions"...it's the generation.

We have moved on, Josh. What used be to be a "theatrical trend" or "directorial fad" back then is just "plain or ordinary" to us. (A younger generation...under 35.) It's all old news. Granted they were masterful pieces back then, but they were only considered extraordinary for that era. The industry you and I are in is like clothes...styles, we innovate from era to era.

71% of the movie goers today are between the age of 15 and 33. Meaning, to be successful (and not lose money) we have to appeal to a younger audience. There is a business aspect to this game...you hate it and that's obvious, but it's there non-the-less. My point is, more of the projects today are created to fit the new style of today. But just because we choose not to be entertained in the vein of the Hitchcock films, doesn't mean we're "dumb or stupid". (And by the way, it's always an "oldy" throwing out insults like that.)

You seem like an "art expressionist or better yet, art impressionist" so I can understand your need to push the concerns of the "writing" and all it's technical considerations. The depth of the story will set you free, seems to be "your" modo, as well as Hitchcock's, etc... But todays generation of movie goers doesn't put as much weight in the words, as they do the "visuals". We grew up on Star Wars, Playstation and the Internet...why should we be told how we should be entertained.

The truth is, neither you or CD are right. Back then is "back then"...and the here and now is, the "here and now".

I'm in film making and I live by a self appointed quote..."If you have no audience, you have no entertainment". I'm an entertainer, by choice...your obviously an artist of film. We have the unique ability to create, in the film industry, how we feel we want to go about creating, therefore my way isn't dumb, neither is yours. Putting as much emphasis on the actual creation of the pieces as Hitchcock did, may not be needed for todays generation. Or, the emphasis may have shifted from story depth to technical superbness.

I just believe, in the movie industry, the audience comes first, then me. I'm pretty sure I know your answer, but do you feel the same way?

I'm an Entertainer, not a politician. My work isn't going to save the world...just entertain it.

Warmest Regards,
Movie Buff

Dear Movie Buff:

That's called being a whore, and there are mainly whores in the film business now, and that's why it sucks. If you're not making your films for yourself, but for "them," whoever they are, you're just pandering, and that will always produce garbage. Young people may just prefer a bright light flashing in their eyes than any kind of story or visuals, but I don't care. Fuck them. Just because you grew up eating dirt doesn't make dirt good. And as far as people being stupider now than they used to be, I think they are. Part of that manifests itself in the moronic view of movies that they're nothing more than dumb entertainment. Well, that's what they are now, but that's not all they can be or have been. I may be the last person on Earth who will not judge movies on a curve; that as far as the bullshit released last year, "Million Dollar Baby" is a good movie. Well, I'm sorry,
but judged against the last 100 years of movies, it's just not very good. Just because you grew up on bad movies doesn't make them any more acceptable.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

Kudos to John Hunt! It's good to have someone in my corner. Anyway, I was thinking a little more about this point of passed on culture and traditions, and hit a snag in my own logic. I still feel that forty years is not enough time to so completely erase human culture, but the timeframe cannot really be any greater. Otherwise, you lose the subplot of President Demsky's redemption; any period much longer than forty years, and you could not realistically portray the President as being still alive, much less in any shape to save Ivan. On a totally unrelated subject, what is your opinion of cinematic pornography? This is a serious question, and one that bears discussion. While most would not call the genre "art" or "cinema," pornography went through a period in the seventies and eighties when there were serious attempts made to combine legitimate drama with graphic sex. The most obvious example would be "Caligula," but there were various other titles produced that had legitimate plots and some attempt made at serious acting. Due to the large demise of the x-rated movie house and the advent of home video, the genre largely moved away from plot oriented features into the "wall to wall sex" format seen today, but it was an interesting experiment nonetheless. Occasionally, studios like Vivid or Wicked will still produce a feature, although usually the finished product is restricted by limited budgets and resources. What do you think?

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I don't think anyone will ever find legitimate actors that will actually have sex on camera, nor do I think it matters. I have nothing against pornography, but it sure ain't art. Meanwhile, "Caligula" could have been a good movie. The script by Gore Vidal was quite good (I read it). But Bob Guccione is a pornographer and approached the film as a porno, as opposed to a historical epic that happened to have a number of sex scenes in it, and ended up making a completely awful film that's neither good cinema, interesting history, or stimulating sex. Pornography has a purpose, which is give guys woodies so they can jerk off. Beyond that, though, it's worthless.

Josh

Name: George Pilalidis
E-mail: agamemmnon@msn.com

Dear Josh.

You coment about the Greek truck drivers.i can tellyou for sure,that you can´t finde in holle Hellas a truck driver who have se 10.000 movies 5.000 series and who listen Heavy Metal musik,who don´t smoke(I GIVE YOU ONE ADVISE STOP WITH SMOKE)and dring alcool,and when i see Allien apokalipsis and don´t like it then i tell it to you,and i´m sure you are NOT ONE ASHOLE.you friend George

Dear George:

I hadn't heard from you in a while, George, I was just checking to see if you were still there.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Have you ever met J.R. Bookwalter? And what do you think of his distribution/production company Tempe Entertainment? He seems to me to be like the next Roger Corman. He's always finding new and sometimes creative horror movies to put out there. And from what I heard from people who actually know the man himself he seems to be a really nice guy. I think I've read that Sam even helpped him produce his first movie "The Dead Next Door" because he liked some of his short films and wanted to help him out. So I'm guessing he at least use to live in Michigan. Just wanted to know if you had met him or not.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Yes, I met JR a number of times. I was in "The Dead Next Door," had a full head-mold made, and shot for several days as a featured zombie. The zombie squad finally caught me in a house, jammed a grenade in my mouth and threw me out the window, then there's an explosion and blood and guts splattered the window. Anyway, none of the footage turned out for some reason, and I never returned to Akron, Ohio, where JR lived, to reshoot.

Josh

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

Josh,

Just to play Devil's advocate in your discussion with Darryl, one might point out that although the Soviets and the Chinese, among others, made active and extensive attempts to eradicate any sense of clan or religion, over a period of many decades, those identities are still strongly held. The Jews are another obvious example of a group which was dispersed and whose identity was subsequently repressed in various ways and yet maintained traditions,culture and even language. The Roma and the Druse are two more examples of people who might have been expected to lose touch with their pasts, cultures and languages and yet have not. There's an old saying among scholars of China that "In China, nothing ever really dies," meaning that if a culture expressed itself at any time in Chinese history then it's still there somewhere if you look hard enough for it.

On the other hand, in the book "Logan's Run" everyone in the Domed City died at nineteen, rather than twenty-nine, as in the movie, and the idea was exactly to prevent transmission of a culture independent of the computers. In "AA" I did think there should be a larger number of very young children, even infants. Of course, Ivan need not have come in direct contact with infants as he was made a labor slave, rather than a "labor and delivery" slave.

I wonder if we could Take George Lucas' statement that this would be the final "Star Wars" as a sort of oral contract? We could sue him if he reneges. It's just a happy thought.

John

Dear John:

I'm saying the way to crush a people is to enslave them, make talking and writing illegal, treat them like vermin and work them to death, and if you can keep that up for a few generations they'll begin reverting back to a form of barbarism. I don't think it's crazy. Meanwhile, we don't need to sue Lucas, we all need to believe there's a bright future and take advantage of it.

Josh

Name: Frank Demne
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Do you ever post to the bulletin board w/ out first being asked a question? Otherwise, how am I going to know what you thought of "Sideways" once you've seen it?

Dear Frank:

I work many of my critiques into other people's questions. I must tell that I'm not looking forward to that film. The main reason I didn't see it before the Oscars is that I didn't want to be the nay-sayer while everybody else was floating around on a happy cloud about the movie. However, it might be good, I just doubt it.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<I agree that "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" is absolutely worth it. And all movies don't have to give you sno-cone and a party hat.>>

CHINATOWN would rank a third.... but it doesn't have Jane Fonda suffering now does it. In response to a later message on the movie buff kid, .... that's life. I'll start bragging when I've seen another 1000 movies and their documentaries twice. I was talking with my brother-in-law the other day I said he might like CHINATOWN just cause he liked AS GOOD AS IT GETS... his response was he doesn't watch old movies and looking into the past is a waste of time... yeah that's kind of stupid he can keep his ALIEN VS. PREDATOR. Then I'm watching GUYS AND DOLLS (which is a pretty good plot musical, but once you've seen it, you've seen it... other plot movies I liked are THE ITALIAN JOB and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE) and my other brother into the room and says I watch the gayest movies... yeah, beats the crap he watches. finally came to a compromise on MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING... that we like (I like it cause it feels old school... that's also why I liked IF I HAD A HAMMER). just watched the TENANT recently, it felt kind of like a retread of ROSEMARY'S BABY in style but I kind of liked it better than RB.

Dear kdn:

"Guys and Dolls" is a shame of a movie. Joe Mankeiwicz was the wrong director and Marlon Brando (who can't sing to save his life) was a severely wrong Sky Masterson. Frank Sinatra should have had the lead and he knew it. It also should have been shot on location in NYC, not on sets on a soundstage.

Josh

Name: CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Do you think there aren't any Hitchcock's, Wyler's, etc simply because of time? In other words, they tackled things first and did it the best back when. Once it's done, it's done and every subject and film technique's been done and done very well at least once. Someone had to do it first and the best and everything will always be compared to the first.

As time goes on and more films are made, the less anything seems 'original' and the harder it is for current 'artists' to be original and innovative. Let's face it, 'artists' today have their work cut out for them. In some ways, they're at a disadvantage and it's unfortunate. We never lived in these times. If Orson Welles himself was living in our age trying to make films, he would've missed the opportunity to try things first (and best). He probably would be very good, but he wouldn't be as 'innovative' as he was no matter how great he got.

Even if someone does pull off a film as good as Hitchcock, Wyler's, etc. best today, this person still wouldn't be looked at as highly as them, mostly because he didn't do it best first.

Even current working filmmakers that have made great films in the past (Coppola, Scorsese) aren't making great films anymore. If they can't pull another great film off, probably no one can. Even if they do make another great film, they won't be held in high regard as their 'classics'.

I don't think there'll ever be another 'golden age' of film. I think some of the questions are, can films be 'innovative' anymore? Where do we go from here? You can only do so much in film, right?

I still think great films can be made, but they'll never be looked at as great as the great ones of the past simply because of time.

I hope you know what I'm saying. Just a theory anyway.

Dear CD:

It's an interesting theory, I just don't buy it. First of all, and I think you hit on something important, being "innovative" isn't particularly important. Being a good craftsman is far more important, and that's what those guys -- Wyler, Hitchcock, etc. -- were, good craftsman. It's the"innovative, art" part that's got everybody screwed up. It's far more important, in my opinion, that your film is well-crafted and knows what it's saying, then it's new and unlike anything else. Hitchcock remade the same movie 50 times. He wasn't being innovative most of the time, he was perfecting what he'd already done. Guys like Wyler, Huston or Hawks weren't innovators at all, they were just really good at what they did. As an example, I just watched "Straight Time" with Dustin Hoffman again. I saw it twice at the theater when it came out and I thought it was a good, solid film, though not great. Well, I still think exactly the same thing, except that now, 27 years later, in comparison to what we've been given of late, just being a good, solid film makes it great. Nobody has made a film that good in at least ten years, and it's not a great film. The director, Ulu Grosbard (Sam Raimi's uncle), is not an innovator and never was, but he knows how to direct actors. The script, by Alvin Sargent (who wrote "Spiderman 2" and is writing "3" right now), Edward Bunker (who wrote the book), and Jeffrey Boam (who created "Brisco County, Jr."), is a believable, solid piece of screenwriting, which is something we NEVER get to see anymore. Quite frankly, due to our poisoned food supply and polluted air and water, I think people are just basically stupider now than they used to be.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Pinkham
E-mail: forms@serapion.com

Dear Josh:

This is most likely a completely inappropriate line of inquiry, but I have seen you mention in a couple places on your website that because of your film career you don't have a wife. I also gather from certain indications on your site that you live in rural Oregon. Is rural Oregon a likely place to meet the kind of chicks who appreciate good cinema and would fall all over an honest-to-goodness film director who's been in the same room as Lucy Lawless? Maybe you should consider moving to Portland. There's all kinds of chicks in Klingon gear here just waiting for a sci-fi luminary to jump bones with. I got laid twice last week just claiming to be the Best Boy on Re-Animator 3.

Dear Jeremy:

Oh, now you tell me. Actually, I live in Detroit. And I don't know that my not being married is entirely due to my career. Some folks are just single. I've got more chicks to hang out with here in Michigan than I did in Medford, that's for sure. Thanks for the concern.

Josh


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