Q & A    Archive
Page 135

Name: Duane Whitaker
E-mail: mac507@msn.com

Josh,

How's everything? Caught RUNNING TIME on IFC -- really liked it a lot. Put a bid in on it on E-bay so I can here you yap on the commentary. The web-site is great; it's taking me forever to get through it. It's like a full time job.
I'm trying to get my next epic off the ground. Very painful... But I'm starting on it this year no matter what. Watch for me in FEAST in December. Also did a small thing in DEVIL'S REJECTS.
Hope you're well -- keep at it.

Best,
Duane Whitaker

Dear Duane:

Thanks. I wish you all the luck in the world on your new project.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<"you are an asshole" Q&As>>

You don't seem to insult anybody unless its in self defense. But I didn't write any questions for a few years cause at first glance, it looked like you were tearing people new assholes. But those people can go watch LEMONY SNICKETS I UNFORTUNATELY SHAT MYSELF (which is like a badly half-assed cross between Mr. Dahl and THE GLASS HOUSE, but I'll give it one star for the little toddler translations, Jim Carrey murdering 5 people in a kids movie, and the little elf jokes).

If they had any decency those people would go check out SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT or THE LONGEST YARD or THE APARTMENT (I'm in the middle of that one right now, I took a nice long nap so I can stay up tonight without anyone bothering me).

I do have a question about VHS though since I ran across my video copy of THE AFRICAN QUEEN today (it still has its box). Now video obviously wasn't around forever, so about when did they start releasing all these old movies on VHS? Before video, did people just go see them once or twice in the theater and then never again?

Also regarding something I heard from GONE WITH THE WIND and ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES documentaries: The studios used to own the actors? They just sign them up and then they couldn't act in any other studio movie unless they had permission to be loaned out? The studios married the actors for publicity? When did this change? Was there anything about the change like say SINGIN IN THE RAIN being about people losing their jobs when silent films changed over to talkies? Did it change at all or just changed forms? (because you still have all this bullshit in the media today about people marrying one another and breaking up)

Also Bruce Campbell said in an interview that Sam remaking the Evil Dead was different from just some studio exec digging up a script for money, but thats a bunch of bull. They couldn't come up with the time to make a kick ass sequel, but they can just remake it. It actually doesn't even need a sequel. I thought ARMY OF DARKNESS was a good ending. Why waste the money when they could just re-release the original. I don't even count remakes anymore, I just call them sequels. HOUSE 2 didn't make any fucking sense towards the first one but they consider that a sequel.

Dear kdn:

Jesus, I feel like the old man from the sea. Yes, my son, there was a time before video tape, where if you wanted to see a film a second time you had to go back to the theater while it was still playing. There were the second-run theaters that showed the films that had already left the first-run theaters in double-bills. There were even some grind houses that showed the low-budget films in double- and triple-bills, like the World Theater on Hollywood Blvd., where you could see three shitty low-budget films for 99-cents. Home video arrived in the early 1980s. Back in the days of the major studios, actors and directors would often sign exclusive 7-year contracts so that they could only work for that studio during that term. The studio could lend them out to another studio, but they didn't make any more money, just what they were contracted for (the lending studio would make a fee, not the actor or director). If an actor turned down a project they would be put on suspension, without pay, and the length of the suspension would then be added to the length of their contract. The king of this was first William Wyler, who turned down almost every script Sam Goldwyn offered him, so his 7-year contract ended up running from about 1934 to 1946 (with a hiatus for WWII). Bette Davis's contract got extended so many times for turning down projects that she finally ended up in court with Warner Bros., and she was the first person to break the studio's iron grip. And many actors didn't make the transition from silent to sound, even though their voices were perfectly okay. The main example was John Gilbert, who was a huge star in silents, but just didn't cut it in talkies, and he had a nice voice.

Josh

Name: Charles Grundy
E-mail: cgrundy@aol.com

Dear Josh:

I don't know exactly how the film reviewing / festival biz works, but here's a thought for you... Could part of the problem you've had getting people to pay attention to IF I HAD A HAMMER be simply due to the fact that you only offer it on an obsolete media format -- VHS? I'm not kidding; if I get a mixed pile of DVDs and VHSs to watch from the library, I tend to pick the DVDs first, just because it's more convenient to watch them (can watch them on my computer anywhere).

I'm not saying that this would be a fair situation, just that human beings can react to things irrationally and choose convenience over quality. You might want to consider this when packaging your products...

Also, one other problem I see, this time with the film itself. The film begins with a lengthy credit sequence of stock black and white historical footage, followed by a very slow couple of sequences. The sequence with the kid in his bedroom for instance seems to go on forever with no dialogue. It seems like this is another presentation choice that could affect your film's ability to be judged fairly. If someone slips the movie in and the first thing they see is black and white stock footage they could very well think "BORING!" and turn the thing off, if they have a huge pile of videos to review or consider for a festival. Putting a more interesting or funny scene before the credits might grab the uninitiated viewer better, who is skimming through videos deciding what to watch. As is, your movie opens like a History channel documentary on the '50s -- and I think that presentation does your interesting and funny material a great disservice.

Finally, the VHS box cover art / poster art for this film, while creative, is highly vague. You have a beatuiful girl starring in this movie, but she is only shown in silhouette on the box cover. I'm not kidding. That may sound incredibly shallow, but why not capitalize on your assets and show her pretty smiling face on the cover? Not to mention that your film is very colorful and humorous yet the box cover is mostly monochrome, dark, and somber. Looks like an advertisement for a horror movie or murder thriller rather than a teen comedy with cheerful folk music and philosophical overtones. Personally, I would choose a box cover that emphasized the time period of the movie by choosing fonts and colors from the era and show the interesting and attractive lead actors, fer chrissakes.

It seems to me that in these subtle ways, you have done a lot of things to turn off people who might enjoy your film if you put the thing directly in front of them and say fast forwarded directly to the scene of Max walking down the street to the Student Action Center where he meets the beautiful Lorraine. The movie seems to pick up speed and interest at this point to me, but many may give up before getting there.

I'm not trying to beat up on you, just sayin' you need some marketing savvy. Maybe hire someone to think about that stuff for you next time.

Dear Charles:

All reasonable comments and suggestions. Interestingly, perhaps, is that it once did begin with Max and Lorraine and I switched it in editing. That could well be a mistake. I must say that I do like my credit sequence, and it does come into play later as background information that everyone watching the film might not have. As to the artwork, that was done for me out of kindness by a friend (hi, Renee), since I was completely monetarily sunk at the time. It was never meant to be anything but temp artwork. As to the VHS, I had 300 VHS copies made when the film was completed in 2001, which, at that time were $5.00 each, whereas DVDs were $20 each. I'm sure that's changed now, but I still have about 30 VHS tapes left which I wouldn't mind getting rid of. And honestly I don't really want to sell anything on my website because it's a pain in the ass, so when these 30 tapes are gone, that's all she wrote with this movie, unless a distributor ever picks it up, which is highly unlikely at this late date. Thank you for the thoughtful suggestions.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<I do think you're doing the films you're watching a disservice, though. Each movie ought to be seen with as much clarity as possible.>>

I thought about this, technically, I've seen all these films individually. However, the fun from the marathon (or Almost Marathon 2005) is that you start to see fun little connections due to time periods, actors, directors, etc. for instance, I watched ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, remember the geeky waitress who gets picked up by her father? I spotted her a couple of films later in ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN. strangely, I just watched a very young Richard Dreyfuss in AMERICAN GRAFFITI only to see a very old Richard Dreyfuss in THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT. plus I think that's John Larroquette as the X-Ray technician in ALTERED STATES, he just doesn't look older or fat, but I could be mistaken. They mentioned Peck's Bad Boy in ALL ABOUT EVE which is later going to come up in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY. Vincent Price from THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES and THE COMEDY OF TERRORS is going to pop up in THE TOMB OF LIGEIA being shown in MEAN STREETS but also the COMEDY OF TERRORS has Basil Rathbone who appeared in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD with CLAUDE RAINS whos going to pop up in CASABLANCA etc etc etc etc etc. I'm just sort of creating my own interconnected universe.

And stop and think a second. In what if all these movies we're watching is actually some alternate reality. Wouldn't that be cool. like Richard Linklater talking in SLACKER about how dorothy going down the wrong road created all these other choices or movies that we'll never see.

by the by. It say that SLACKER cost around $25,000 to make, but the booklet with the budget says it really cost $77,000 to make with $52,000 either deferred or in kind. so you're right, I guess they were lying through their teeth.

Dear kdn:

All of those connections will still be there if you watch the films individually and get some sleep between them. Whether you watch "Robin Hood" and "Casablanca" an hour apart or a week apart, Claude Rains is still in both of them. As a little anecdote, when my friend Sheldon started Beverly Hills High School in 1965, I believe, on the first day of school a senior is assigned to show each freshman around, and Sheldon got Richard Dreyfuss. His first appearance in a movie, BTW, was a bit in "The Graduate" in 1968.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

If I had a hammer is your best movie so far. Everything from the sets, to the dialogue, to the acting is perfect. My big question is who are the Springfield 5 supposed to represent or were they a real group? I'm gonna try and show this to as many people as I possibly can and try to get some of my friends to get it from you. It needs to be watched over and over again. Glad a movie you wanted to see done is out for everyone to check out.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Jeez, everybody is being really nice to me today, and I haven't even ignored any "you are an asshole" Q&As. Well, I am glad you liked it. I too think it's my best movie, although there are those who disagree, some of whom are good friends of mine. Bill Warren, who reviews for Leornard Maltin, shrugged it off without a second thought, and didn't even bother reviewing it. And I couldn't get any distributor to touch it, even with a ten-foot pole. I don't think people really want to see movies that have something to say anymore. The Springfield 5 are just made-up.

Josh

Name: Bryan Moore
E-mail: arkham-cinema@sbcglobal.net

Hi Josh,

Not so much a question here, but rather a note of appreciation.

I happened to catch your film "Running Time" on IFC this morning. I had never heard of it until today, but I wish I had. A beautiful film to be sure, it put me in such a good mood that a genuinely good independent film can be made in America these days. Nothing spectacular, just good, simple storytelling with a solid script and cast. The fact that it's in black and white (wonderfully shot) is a real plus, as it seems to be a neglected artform in film.

Again, I want to truly thank you for giving me the pure pleasure of watching a terrific film. Hope this email makes your day as much as watching your fantastic movie made mine.

Best wishes, and hats off to you for showing others that film can be an artistic expression as well as a commercial one.

Bryan Moore

Dear Bryan:

Thank you very much. Considering I just got up, and this is the first email I've read today, it has made my my day.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Sorry if I never asked you this. And I know I need to watch "If I had a hammer" but I'm trying to watch it with my parents because they are big folk music lovers. Though if at least one of them don't watch it tomorrow with me I'll watch it by myself. My question is about Alien Apocalypse... Were you trying to have a really big political message in your movie? I mean I usually don't try to get in to politics because it usually means one person thinks he's right and the other thinks their right and they argue to no end and end up hating eachother, but what would you say your political message is in AA? Because I laughed hard when I first heard, "Republicans, Sheesh".... but in the end (and yes, this is a spoiler if you haven't seen it stop reading this)... doesn't the republican president help save the earth from the aliens? Meaning in a time of war a president who doesn't have the guts to face battle will still come and save the day? Or am I looking too much in to it. However the line, "You're nothing now. So move go get Dempsky" "I only wish they could pass bills that way" made me crack up! All in all AA was really written especially politically. Its just I wasn't sure which way you wanted to go with it. Were you trying to show that Republicans would be good at war but the president would be scared shitless in battle or that the republican president would be scared in battle but still help out when he got talked in to it by the hero? I dunno if my rant here was understandable or not but let me know what you think.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

First keep in mind that the script was written when Ronald Reagan was president, whom I had no respect for as a politician (although I did like him as an actor). But I don't think it's proper for a writer to have to explain the meaning of their writing. Whatever you got out of it, that's what it is. But clearly there are a number of subtextural topics going on, like the environment, politics, and the meaning of patriotism. Nevertheless, it's still an old script. After the big wait I hope you (and your parents) like "Hammer."

Josh

Name: mike evans
E-mail: mikeinmosheim@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

i want to say that evil dead is my favorite of all times ! my question is i live very close to clinch mountain and morristown and i have searched for the location of where the cabin used to stand i would love to go see the location in person i think im very close to it from watching the movie and watching closely but it has changed so much here since the movie, could you please tell me where the location is actually please. thanks id really appreciate it.

Dear mike:

Sorry, but it was 26 years ago and I don't remember. Bruce Campbell knows, so ask him.

Josh

Name: Robbie B
E-mail:

Josh,

What does an actual tv script look like? Do you have any of the "Xena" scripts you wrote up on your site? All the scripts I come across for TV shows are shooting scripts with numbered scenes. I'm trying to find an actual script so that I can see how spec scripts are written.

Thanks,
Robbie

Dear Robbie B:

A TV script looks a lot like a screenplay, only shorter. A 30-minute TV script is between 25-30 pages, and a one-hour script is usually between 45-50 pages. I can't really post any of those Xena scripts because they don't belong to me. TV scripts have the act breaks indicated, which fall about every 12 pages or so. Sometimes TV shows have a teaser, which is a scene right at the beginning that's usually a minute or two, and sometimes they have a tag, which is a short scene at the very end. The original "Star Trek" frequently had a tag, and as kids we termed this scene "the crack on the bridge," where Bones makes some snotty comment about Spock's green blood or something.

Josh

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

<<I'm convinced that most people marry because A). everybody else is doing it, and B). they're sick of dating.>>

I got married cause I was utterly miserable with nothing to do and no life, and I don't regret it one bit. I just got lucky. On you quitting the Star Wars essay, I don't think film is coming back either. luckily there are over 300,000 and more titles to reflect back on thanks to dvd. ALEXANDER THE GREAT (w/ richard burton) was okay. I didn't think the battles were as interesting as Alexander sentencing the two men who killed his enemy to death to show his men only a king can kill a king... but the battles weren't bad and I'll take this over the remake.

Dear kdn:

The 1956 "Alexander the Great" was a real disappointment to me. Good cast, good director, boring, static script. "The Fall of the Roman Empire," while still not a good movie, is better than that. And 300,000 titles may very well be overestimating the total number of films (maybe not ever produced, but those that still exist), given that there are about 20,000 in Leonard Maltin's book.

Josh

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

<<This is your rant>>

Here's a question, given the subject matter of LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY, have you ever hallucinated? Not particularly from LSD but just from lack of sleep or stress. I sat through 9 2/3 movies back to back yesterday which kept me up all night hyped up on coffee, I made it 2/3 through ALIEN before I felt something slimy lung at me and decided to take a break. I'm thinking of just continuing this with all the freaky movies like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY or ALTERED STATES just to see what happens.

Dear kdn:

As I mentioned, that 54-hour musical marathon I attended caused me to slightly hallucinate, although not in a good way. I do think you're doing the films you're watching a disservice, though. Each movie ought to be seen with as much clarity as possible. The second I start to get tired I turn what I'm watching off and pick it up the next day.

Josh

Name: Dan Noga
E-mail: dansher@sbcglobal.net

Hey Josh,

You made quite a splash with Alien Apoc. Congrats. I'm still here in MI working on the usual stuff and the occasional indie project. I have a new screenplay (you'd probably like it better than the last one). I have a producing partner and the two of us are working at getting it off the ground as a film. I just wanted to drop you a line to say congrats and to tell you I'd still like to shoot a project for you. Union, non-union whatever (so long as it's paid) I think I have something to bring to the party and we'd have a good time. Drop me a line.

Dan

Dear Dan:

Good to hear from you. I'll post this so Scott can get the news. You've been at this shit forever, I have no doubt you have plenty to bring to the party. If you'll recall way back when, you did the lighting on the reshoots for TSNKE in 1985, which is the best-looking sequence in that movie.

Josh

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

Josh,

With all due respect to your personal experience with Judaism, I think you are wrong about the subject of conversion to Judaism. While I will allow that there may exist small sects within Orthodox Judaism which do not allow for conversion (one cannot disprove a negative hypothesis), I have done fairly extensive reading and find that, so long as the convert has met the conversion requirements, there is universal acceptance, at least in principle, of true and valid conversion.

Even among the Hasidic Jews, conversions are recognized so long as the convert has undergone Mikveh, Brit milah or Hatafa dam brit, whichever is appropriate, and satisfies a Beit Din of his or her awareness and acceptance of the Mitzvot. I include a site which supports this acceptance of converts, though it is certainly not the only source wherein I have seen it.

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/lifecycle/Conversion/IdeatoRealization/RabbinicRequirements/Circumcision.htm

I bring this up, not only because I am interested in the subject, but also because I admire Judaism , its practices, philosophies and belief structure. Obviously, I am aware of your disposition towards religion in general, but I wonder (respectfully) if you have considered whether, in the case of Judaism, your own proximity, if you will, might slant your view more than you realize.

On a completely different note, my brother is a singer/songwriter who has been approached about having several songs included in soudtracks of at least two movies. Is there anything he should watch out for or expect? His songs are all copywrited and I believe the movies are all Indies.

We'd appreciate any direction you might give. Thanks,

John

Dear John:

As I said, it's not that conversion to orthodox Judaism can't be done, I just don't believe it is done, nor do I think the closed-minded orthodox would readily accept a convert, no matter what the rules say. Clearly, though, you've read more about it than I have. My views are no more slanted against Judaism than any other religion: they're all ridiculous, they're all based on fear and superstition, and none of them has any extra insight into the unknown. Regarding having a song in a film, your brother should make sure to only sell them the synch rights, meaning that they only own the rights to the song on the film itself and in no other form. That way, should the movie cause the song to become a hit, he owns it and not them.

Josh

Name: Andrew
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Thank you for abandoning your Star Wars essay. It would've just made you look silly. May I offer another suggestion? Maybe instead of complaining about the so-called childishness of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, ect, you should just quit lecturing about this stuff. The "satire" in your little Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie (now there's a low pedestal to be talking from) already proved that you lack a total understanding of genre films.

Dear Andrew:

Why don't you explain genre films for all of us. I'm not exactly sure from what pedestal you'll be speaking since I'm unfamilar with your work, but I'm sure you can fill us in on that, too, okay? Oh, and the abbreviation for etcetera, by the way, is "etc."

Josh

Name: victor
E-mail: victor@victormarks.com

Josh, in a recent email posted on your Q&A page, you commented that it is not possible to convert to Hassidic Judaism. This is untrue, and there's precedent for it in the Torah, with Ruth as the first convert to Judaism. The tradition is to follow Naomi's example and attempt to dissuade the convert at least three times, but if they persist, to engage them in study on their way to conversion, under the tutelage of a Rabbi. Orthodox Jews (Hassidim, Haredim, so forth) can be converts, and once conversion is completed, no one differentiates between convert and born and raised.

As always, I enjoy reading the scripts and essays you post. Thank you.

Dear Victor:

You're saying that a gentile can convert to orthodox Judaism? I don't buy it. To reform Judaism, yeah. Maybe even conservative, but not orthodox. They may pay lip-service to such a thing, but I'm sure they're all utterly against it. Meanwhile, I just attended a Bat Mitzvah at a conservative synagogue. The service was over four grueling hours long. I spent part of the time leafing through their prayer book, and went directly to the incendiary sections of the Torah, two of which are Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which condemn homosexuality and say that homosexuals "have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death: their blood shall be upon them." There was an astrisk next to this, and the footnote said, "We of the B'nai Torah congregation welcome gays and lesbians." The Torah may be the word of god, but I guess you don't have to take it too seriously, huh?

Josh

Name: klaus klein
E-mail: maninwhite@gmail.com

Mr. Becker,

I'll make this as brief as possible, since it is obvious by the posts that you are a busy man. I really liked your work in Evil Dead 2 and I enjoyed Alien Apocalypse as well. I was wondering if you sign autographs. If so, please just tell me what I need to do in order to get one. Best.......

Klaus

Dear klaus:

You liked my work on "Evil Dead 2"? I was an extra. The best you can say about an extra is that they showed up. Meanwhile, follow Shirley's simple instructions. [Send your request with a SASE (of sufficient size and postage) to: Shirley Robbins LeVasseur, P.O. Box 86, East Vassalboro ME 04935. I will forward it to Josh. If you have something you would like him to sign, send that; otherwise you will get a signed 8x10 still from "Running Time" (no photos of Josh left so it'll be a cast photo).]

Josh

Name: Joe Lindsay
E-mail:

Hey Josh
I love RUNNING TIME. I think it would be damn-near perfect except for two small flaws that bug me:
1)When Bruce is shot in the arm, blood from the squib hits the camera lens and remains there for the rest of the shot. In the next shot, the blood is, of course, gone. The disappearance of the blood draws unfortunate attention to the edit; thus making it the most noticable cut in the film.
2)Later in the film, a car (the police cruiser I think) passes by in the foreground and catches the reflection of the camera in its side windows.
My questions: Why didn't you do further re-takes or re-shoots of these shots? Would you ever consider using computer technology to 'paint out' the blood spots and the reflection for a future re-issue of the film?
Just wondering,
Joe
P.S.- I just finished reading your fine script for HEADSHOT. Nice job! I think it would make a terrific film.

Dear Joe:

I'd be happy to digitally remove the camera reflection, if someone else wanted to pay for it. One of these days perhaps I will do it myself. As for the blood on the lens, which was unintentional, you'd be surprised how many people have commented on "how cool" they thought that was. I thought it was cool, too, but it does point out the cut. Nevertheless, given the chance I wouldn't remove it. I'm glad you liked "Head Shot." I think it would make a terrific movie as well.

Josh

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

Hello Josh! Greetings from Toronto! I've been bumbling around your site for a little over a year now and I'm just coming to the end of the massive amounts of reading material you have here. I would just like to express a very deep thank you for all the knowledge you've been sharing with us, especially regarding film making. Go figure. Your guide to independant film making was more than most any aspiring film maker could have hoped to find! It answers nearly every question that pops up in regard to the film making process. All that for free?! My god I'd happily pay $40-$60 for a book like this. I can't belive that you never got a deal with this especially when looking at some of the horrible, vague printings that are being distributed on the subject. Pure gold. Your essays on story stucture were particularily informative and interesting as well. They have definetly opened my eyes to the potential depth that can really be written into a screenplay. I don't know how people can argue the need for structure or irony if you just think about how well using these elements can connect the characters and motivations throughout the story. Yes these people are the anti-christ. Again thanks for preeching the preech. Some of us are listening. I'm still in my short films on video phase as I'm not ready to say I know what I'm doing well enough to tackle a serious attempt at the feature film form. But thanks to your sharing what you know with us it will be much sooner than later. Anyway I think this is a long enough babbling for my first time out. Although I know you don't know me or my movie tastes well enouhg to take a recommendation I'd like to give it a stab anyway. After going back through the first 100 pages of your Q&A I never saw one mention of "The Money Pit." It's not a brilliant film however this is one of the funniest and well written comedies I have ever seen. There is most definetely a three act structure in place. The script has irony and theme running all thoughout. I can think of only one instance that it really breaks any kind of logic rule and being as it's in a comedy context I don't think it's a big deal at all. Besides all that it delivers what a comedy should...the laughs. I nearly pissed my self when I saw it a year ago for the first time (it's an 80's flick). So anyway that's that. Just wanted to say and thanks and get the movie recommend off my chest. I'm a regular visitor so you'll probably be hearing from me again, if that's cool. Keep preechin' the preech.
Ben
ps congrats on AA! I hear quiting the bottle is really tough! Kidding.

Dear Ben:

Welcome, filmmaking comrade. I've never seen "The Money Pit." I think I avoided it at the time because it was a Steven Spielberg production, and most of the films he was producing really sucked. Also, for the most part, I believe it's a remake of "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" with Cary Grant, and I generally avoid remakes. Anyway, should it pop up, I'll check it out.

Meanwhile, it appears that a publisher wants to publish my "Complete Guide," and when that deal is done I will take it down and make everybody pay. So get it while the getting's good. It will be a trade paperback and be priced between $15-20.

Josh

Name: Josh Clinton
E-mail: jclin@rudebaker.com

Hey Josh,

I was sitting in a movie theatre in Hollywood yesterday, seeing the day's first showing of Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Needless to say, the movie was horrible-- no wonder they scrapped it and went with Renny Harlin's pile of garbage...it reeked less than Schraders! Anyway, point of this story is that I'm sitting next to this guy and we start talking horror. We get onto Evil Dead and finally make it to Thou Shalt Not Kill Except...a movie so "cult" there are very few people you end up talking about it with. I couldn't believe this guy knew about the movie and...of your career! We talked about Lunatic, Running Time, and AA for what seemed liek an hour and then got a bite after the flick where we decided we'd like to start the official Josh Becker Fan Club...not exactly a website like this but just one about all your movies and maybe working out some interviews with you...we both agreed that we're tired of you not getting your due...we were thinking about calling it, "Ultimate Fake Shemp: A Tribue To Josh Becker..." Would you be open for something like that? If so, let me know...if not FU! No just kidding.

Dear Josh:

Please, be my guest. A fan club with two members sounds exciting. We'll certainly put the link up here. So I'm the ultimate fake Shemp, eh? Horrifying. I don't even get to be Shemp, let alone Curly? I get to be the guy who was pretending to be Shemp. Wow.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I got "If I had a hammer" a couple days ago. I'm gonna watch it today. But also I'm renting a few William Wyler movies. So far I got "Roman Holiday" on DVD and "The Desperate Hours" on VHS. And today I'll be getting a few more VHS's of "The Big Country" and "Mrs. Minniver" and possibly "Jezebel". So my question is after I've seen those which ones do you recommend me renting? So far from what I saw of Roman Holiday before I had to go it was pretty marvelous. The blocking, to the way it was shot, right down to the acting itself has been top notch. I can't wait to finish it and watch some more. And since my folks love the folk movement I'll be showing them "If I had a hammer". I'll tell you what I think after I've watched it.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

I love the selection, but to have my film stuck in there among Wyler's is pretty tough competition. You couldn't work me into your Ed Wood festival where I might come off a little better, huh? Meanwhile, proceed forward to "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Friendly Persuasion," "Dead End," "Dodsworth," "Carrie," and "Ben-Hur." Have fun.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail:

Hi Josh

You still writing that "living in a post SW era" essay? Sounded interesting. I wanna hear your views on the matter, specially now they're trying 3D to put bums back on seats instead of telling good and interesting stories...

Dear John:

You see how well 3-D brought 'em in in the '50s, meaning it didn't. I actually wrote a few pages of that essay, "Anticipating the post-'Star Wars' Era," where I was trying to be optimistic and suggest that we're leaving the Dark Ages of "Star Wars" films, and we're now moving to a brighter, better place, but I don't believe it, and that's why I stopped. Other than George Lucas promising that there won't be anymore SW films, and let's hope he's a man of his word, I don't see why movies should get any better, and there are no indications of that occurring. If movies ever do get any better it won't have anything to do with Hollywood, I assure you. Those folks don't know what a good movie is, and don't care. It will have to come from the independents, and as long as those folks just want to break into Hollywood and make "Free Willy 5," nothing will improve.

Josh

Name: Atticus Finch
E-mail: jericho_legends@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I just read a review for Star Wars three stating "its good, really good" then goes on to talk about the atrocious bad acting and dialogue... WTF?!?!

Dear Atticus:

You're changing names now, huh? I think what they're trying to say in their own stupid way is that this is the best of the last three "Star Wars" films, but since the two previous films were complete hammered shit, to be better than those two still means the film can be crap. Regarding the numbering of "Star Wars" films, there was the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth, and this one is the sith.

Josh

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

<<You've got a bunch of good films to see. Is it the old "Scarface" or the new one? I much prefer the Hawks version, which I just watched again recently and liked even more. Have fun.>>

Admit the wolf had wicked thoughts / But his name is Fredrik?!!! Yes its the original Scarface with Boris Karloff in there somewhere. I thought SMILES OF THE SUMMER NIGHT had a lot of memorable/quotable dialogue in it. It's like Ingmar Bergman wanted to make a stupid sex comedy but couldn't help making it a smart one instead. The woman that plays Fredrik's virgin wife does a good job of playing jealous, the dragoon is hysterical ("My wife may cheat on me, but touch my mistress and I become a tiger!"), the son that desperately needs to get laid, tries to hang himself,
> accidentally break off the noose knocks into a secret button on the wall that brings Fredrik's wife's bed into the room. WILD STRAWBERRIES just reminded me of A Christmas Carol for some reason, I like how in the opening dream, when the carriage is banging into the lamp post the wood squeaks like a crying baby and later in the film Victor Seastrom's (Sjostroms, whichever) daughter in law is going to have a kid. and the dream sequence where he shows up to take a test and he doesn't know any of the answers so his punishment is to watch his wife cheat on him. They also showed the dream sequence from WILD STRAWBERRIES and the dissectionsequence from THE MAGICIAN on the dvd for THE SEVENTH SEAL.

1. I watched ALIEN again a few nights ago. During the final scene with Ripley fixing to jetison the fucker, she's nervously singing the lyrics of YOU ARE MY LUCKY STAR implying she's seen SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Given how your view is that film is not going to last forever (certainly not THAT long), you think that kind of shows Ridley Scott as one of the romantics that believe film is forever... or did they just fuck up?

2. Did the director of SINGIN IN THE RAIN really say he had Cyd's crotch licked? (in reference to her pubic hair was showing through her costume and they had to fix it)

3. Have you ever sat down and tried to memorize Howard Beale's rants from NETWORK? My brother in law works for a news station, I think its interesting that a movie like this exists, but in the newsroom they have up a poster of Will Ferrill's ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY.

Dear kdn:

This is your rant, I don't think you're really asking any questions. The directors of "Singin' in the Rain" were Gene Kelly and Stanley Donnen, and if Cyd Charisse's pubic hair showed through her costume, I'm sure they just
had it fixed, who knows what they said, and does it matter? No, I haven't memorized the dialog from "Network."

Josh

Name: Kirby Wrightson
E-mail: k_wrightson@hotmail.com

Hi Josh

Can genre films be successful if they do not have a theme or message? Say, if a comedy without a theme is really funny, do you think it can be viewed as successful? Same goes for a theme-less horror film that is actually scary; you get the idea. I'd appreciate your insight on this. Also, what did you think of 'Affliction'?

Dear Kirby:

If a comedy is funny or a horror film is scary, then on a basic level, that's all it needs to do. Let's leave comedy aside for a moment. When you say "actually scary," do you mean it's full of fake scares where someone jumps out of the dark and makes a loud noise, or you turn a corner and monster is standing there, or is is REALLY scary, where it gives you nightmares, which is entirely different. To get to the deeper level you undoubtedly need a theme. Any idiot director can do fake scares. A comedy, if it's funny, needs nothing else. If a comedy is funny, it's successful.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

It occurred to me last night that your "Ask the Director" Q&A is sort of an idealized version of the party line Hank calls into for companionship in "Lunatics." Only in this party line, everyone's calling in to talk about your life and your favorite subjects (making movies, the collapse of popular culture, classic films, etc). A sort of social funnel which still retains some of the cool remove of the anonymous party line, as the subjects discussed are rarely going to surprise -- you are the storyteller/answer man whose job is to reveal rather than to discover revelations. It's not a voyeuristic filter to provide observations about the outside world and people who write in, but rather a filter to provide comforting reassurance that the outside world does care about what you're doing on a daily basis and that the solitary work is not a waste of time.

It, most likely unintentionally,also plays into the wannabe filmmaker/cult film geek desire to identify/live vicariously through the story of the young filmmaking mafia you grew up in. The Shemp Geek gets the chance to write in and attempt to prod you to say something catty about Sam or Rob or Scott, and gets the vicarious thrill of feeling if he is somehow part of that exciting story of having creative friends who actually got things done, rather than the usual case of sitting around dreaming about it and ending up working boring day jobs. Most of us sat around watching the "Evil Dead" rather than making something like it, but the way the story of its making has been told we all probably feel like we could have done it, even though we probably couldn't, because we wouldn't have wanted to suffer for it. There's probably a perverse desire in a lot of the Dead fans, a voyeuristic wish to be personal friends with Bruce Campbell, making goofy student movies in an eternal creative youth without studio pressure -- a fantasy of unlimited creative freedom and potential for us wannabes.

Dear Jeremy:

As Bruce pointed out recently when confronted with our "making goofy student movies in an eternal creative youth without studio pressure," or something like it, was that we all never stopped arguing, and we took our "goofy student movies" VERY seriously. This Q&A is certainly my contact to the outside world, since I don't attend conventions, or any fan-oriented things. I would like to believe that I'm doing something of a community service, but perhaps it's all just for me.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Shit. Sorry for the double post, but I forget to ask something that's been on my mind lately. Writing screenplays can be pretty tricky if you're starting out fresh (like me), but I found a program that seems pretty convenient. It's called "Final Draft 7" and it basically helps you with many of the directions in a script, be it for stage, TV, or film.

It's $300 buckeroos which is out of my price range since I'm a poor SOB, but there's a demo version you can download.

It even has some demo's of TV shows like "Bernie Mac" or "Frasier".> Pretty cool.

Do you use any programs like "Final Draft 7" when writing? Or are you into writing freehand, avoiding all this technotrash that we call Modern Times?

Dear Mike:

I take all of my notes by hand, and make outlines by hand, but when I'm actually typing a script I just do it. There are only five tab stops, and you rarely use the fifth one. It's a very simple form to just write in, much easier than straight prose because there are so few characters per page. I don't see how software can legitimately help at all.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I was writing some shit that I pulled out of my ass for a story (possibly screenplay materail, possibly not) and I realized that when I write, I like to do so with music. In fact, a large chunk of inspiration is derived from music, because I can envision a certain event or dialogue taking place with a specific score or song playing in the background.

Jesus, that got really longwinded. Sorry bout that.

So, my elusive point is this: When you write your scripts(now and in the past) how much of it is written whilst listening to music and what kind of music is it that you'd listen to, if any?

Thanks for your time, Josh. It's appreciated!

Dear Mike:

I always listen to music, generally classical (which is on now) or jazz. Later in the afternoon I switch to rock & roll to shake things up a bit. If I'm not listening to my own CDs, then I listen to the satellite music channels on the TV which have no annoying DJs.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail:

Heya Josh,

I just got my copy of "Hammer" but haven't had time to watch it yet - I'm looking forward to it!

Main reason I'm writing is to wail and moan about Netflix partnering up with Wal-Mart! Jesus Christ! From what I understood the people who run Netflix were pretty left leaning, so I can't figure out why they'd cozy up to the one of the biggest exploitative money makers for the Religious Reich. I guess everyone has their price.

I've been doing some looking for alternate rental places, since I'd rather give my money to child pornographers than Das Waltons. Right now www.cafedvd.com looks very promising. Looks like a really good outfit with very good selection.

I'd really like to encourage anyone currently using Netflix to switch to another company. Supporting Walmart is very literally the same as supporting the homophobic, war mongering, religiously fanatic, and increasingly facist people who are ruining this country.

That's it - just wanted to put the word out and rant a bit.

Carry on!

Mike

Dear Mike:

Buy one of my tapes and you can promote communism here. I jettisoned Netflix months ago when I got TiVo. Now suddenly there's too much to watch all the time, just because I have the platinum movie package and the TiVo to make use of it. I had to turn off "The Simpsons" because they were building up too fast (I'm trying to re-watch all of the early episodes of "The Simpsons," particularly seasons 3-8, and I'm keeping a list -- no one can say I'm wasting my life). I just watched a cool movie last night, "Assault at West Point: The Court-Martial of Johnson Whittaker," a Showtime production from 1996 with Samuel Jackson and Sam Waterston, about the first black cadet at West Point, who makes it through four years without anyone ever speaking to him, then gets the shit seriously beaten out of him right at the end, and is subsequently prosecuted for beating himself up, since no white cadet could even be accused. That's a good story, with top-notch actors. That's what a normal movie should be.

Josh

Name: Phil Mehringer
E-mail: mehringerpa@mfe.usmc

Mr. Becker,

A bonafide U.S. Marine here currently stationed with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe.

I have been to Belleau Wood on several occasions and would love to see your script come alive. Hundreds of Marines stationed in Europe will converge on BW Memorial Day Weekend to remember the battle and provide a proper Memorial Day Ceremony. The battlefield is very much alive.

Any possibilities of bringing your script alive???

If you ever do, there is a local French citizen in the area of BW who has been studying this battle for more than 30 years and could provide you additional details -- he's French -- the battle of BW is his passion.

Good Luck,
S/F,
Phil

Master Sergeant Phil Mehringer
Public Affairs Chief, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe
(49) 170 912 4520

Dear Phil (I mean, Master Sergeant Mehringer):

Did you like the script? Did it convey the right feeling? I'm not a Marine, nor was I ever in the armed forces, but I wanted to get across that what these Marines did was very important, whether they knew it or not. So, I was attempting to tread a very fine line because the story is neither anti-war nor pro-war, it's simply trying to say, "this really happened and it was important." I was also trying to get across the feeling of loss when you lose your buddies. I'm a big fan of good war movies, but I don't feel we've had one in a long time (for me the last one was "Platoon" in 1986). For the rest of you out there, June 6th is not only the date of the Normandy Invasion, but 26 years earlier it was the date of the Battle of Belleau Wood in France (Eisenhower was well aware of this when he finally set the date for Normandy at June 6). Anyway, sadly, there's no immediate plans to make that film.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Any thoughts on how the three-act storytelling structure does or does not apply to documentary filmmaking? Is it useful, necessary, optional, or irrelevant to nonfiction storytelling?

Dear Jeremy:

Generally, I'd say the three-act structure comes into play in all stories, whether it's true or it's fiction. If your documentary is any good it's telling a story, and stories naturally want to fall into three acts. Of course, this isn't always true, just generally. For instance, the two most recent documentaries I've seen, "Whole" and "The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam," the former isn't in three acts, but I'd say the latter is. Here's the difference: in "Whole" a variety of people are being interviewed, and you sort of get each person's story when you meet them, then you cut back to them to comment on the issue (self-amputation); whereas, "Long Tack Sam" is the story of one man's life, which unfolds chronologically over the course of the film, and a whole life will naturally split itself up into three acts: youth, adulthood, old age. If a screenwriter isn't thinking about how acts one and two end almost all the time, they don't know what they're doing.

Josh

Name: Steve
E-mail: mowamba22@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I am a huge fan of yours. I think you are a great director.I loved Alien Apocalypse, Running Time, and Stryker's War. I am also a huge fan of the Evil Dead series and thought you were great as a Fake Shemp in Evil Dead 2,and Army of Darkness. I was wondering if there was any was I could get a signed pic from you?
Thanks for your Time and All the great movies
Thanks
Steve
P.S
Do you plan to release
Alien Apocalypse on Dvd
I loved It!

Dear Steve:

Thanks. Yes, "AA" will be out on DVD pretty soon. I'm going to LA to do the commentary with Bruce Campbell in two weeks. That was a helluva performance I gave as a knight in ED2. All I can say is that was the hottest I've ever been in my life -- full body armor, on top of a black thermal underwear union suit, in a gravel pit in North Carolina in the summer. After the first utterly miserable day, Rob Tapert, the producer, said to me, "Tomorrow will be a lot better." I grimaced and asked, "Why would tomorrow be any better than today?" Rob grinned, "Because you'll know what you're in for," and he was right.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

It's cool. I'm sure I can get an autograph someday. Anyway, just thought I'd ask how things are going on the writing front. I know you say you write everyday in someway but how are scripts coming along? And about being a good director I'd have to chime in and say to be a good director you should know how to pull it off both visually and have a keen ear for dialogue. Because just doing one or the other is usually bad. I mean if you're just making a movie with dialogue and no good visual style you're basically making a play. And if you don't have any good dialogue in your movie (and it's not silent) it might be not be that believeable. Well, can't wait to check out If I had a hammer. It'll probably be here in the next few days. Have a good one!

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Media Mail can take 2 days or 2 weeks, you never know. Meanwhile, how do you develop a good ear for dialog? That's got to come from watching many other films, and reading, and developing a sense of taste. What made William Wyler so good, as per his good buddy John Huston, is that Wyler had better taste than anyone else. Being foreign, and not terribly articulate, he couldn't really state what he was after, but he knew it when he saw it (and heard it), and was willing to stay there until it happened. And he was almost always right. After 45 takes on "Jezebel," Henry Fonda broke down and said, "I've done it loud, I've done it quiet, hard, soft, smoking, standing, sitting, what's the problem?" Wyler said, "It stinks, do it again." Anyway, I'm not in Wyler's league, but I hope you enjoy "Hammer."

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I just watched "Carnal Knowledge" for the first time. Why I waited this long to see it--I'm not sure. Something about the fact that it was pan & scan long ago on VHS. But my god. I was expecting some sort of sex comedy or something, I've purposely avoided any description of the film, knowing that I would want to see it someday. I thought it was like some sort of love triangle story or something. But my God, it was so much more. And so wonderfully and disturbingly acted! And, man. Just great. No extras on the disc, but you don't need 'em. That last scene with Rita Moreno was just about the saddest thing I've ever seen.

I think I'm glad I didn't see it when I was younger. I hadn't gotten as cynical about men and dating and marriage and all that crap. Now, I recognize quite a few people I know in these characters, in these lives. I love how films are always relating to life experience or lack thereof. Fuckin' great. I still don't want to see "Closer," though.

Take care,

Cindy

Dear Cindy:

"Closer" isn't in the same league as "Carnal Knowledge." I love when Jack Nicholson is showing Art Garfunkel and Carol Kane (her first film) his slide show, "Ball-Busters on Parade," and saying things like, "Now this fuckin' cunt was a REAL ball-buster," then mistakenly shows Candice Bergen and has to quickly go past her. The film has terrific-looking photography by the great Guiseppe Rotunno. Another film that's definitely worth checking out, also written by Jules Feiffer at about the same time, is "Little Murders" with Elliot Gould, directed by Alan Arkin (and shot by Gordon Willis). Other than the costumes, it certainly doesn't seem like it was made 35 years ago.

Josh

Name: Craig
E-mail: Craigg@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Why are you so bitter about people from your past who have made it and also just about every movie you talk about on this site, which is "garbage?" But more importantly, why are you so bitter about old friends who have made it?

Dear Craig:

What are you talking about? I'm not bitter about anything.

Josh

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

Josh,

I made a mistake on the Q&A with Walter Murch, it wasn't last week, it was last evening and I attended and asked him the question about the end of "The Conversation". I asked him "Is the bug actually the phone itself, and is the last shot supposed to be emulating a security camera?"

With regards to the phone actually being the bug, He said "I really don't know the answer to that and there really isn't one, but that is certainly a possibility". He said Coppola wanted to let the audience decide for themselves so there is no real answer.

As for the final shot he had this to say; "The final panning shot is indeed supposed to be the point of view of what the audience would perceive to be a surveillance camera, but there is more to it than that.

It is also supposed to let us know that Caul's secret little world has been cracked open and he is just as vulnerable now as anyone of us, and it also represents Caul finally opening himself up to the guilt he has had in him for so long with regards to his work being responsible for the deaths of two people. The final shot is a wide shot and this is supposed to give the impression of the wider world outside of Caul's own world as he has nothing left to do, but play his sax."

The next answer is to Bruce Schermer. First, glad to here you are ok after your run in with a 9mm. I have to say that I have lived in NYC for 6 years now and I have never once had anything like that happen to me.

I personally believe that Los Angeles is the most dangerous big city in the United States. Every time I go there you can always feel this underlying repression amidst all the superficial cool attitudes. It is certainly by far one of the most segregated big cities in the US.

As far as who I am, well as I mentioned before, I had worked with you twice, the first time was on "Murder too Sweet" out at Cranbrook in 1991. It was an NYU thesis film.

Now I remember the second time. We both were hired to shoot this Screenwriting seminar at a hotel in Bloomfield, Michigan. It was a really boring job, and a money job for the both of us.

I can't remember the woman's name who did the seminar, but her biggest claim to fame was that she co-wrote 'Youngblood" the really bad Rob Lowe hockey movie from the 80's. She moved back to Michigan to get away from L.A. for a while and she was doing work for Sue Marks while she lived there.

As for me, I have been an editor now for about ten years and I still shoot once in a while, and it is something that I want to get back into again.

Anyhow, I can remember we talked about you moving to L.A. and I had done some camera assisting work for Dan on a few music videos.

It's too bad about Dan suffering in the Detroit area. Actually, the film market in Detroit really started dying when I graduated from college in 1990.

I had a friend who worked at Victor Duncan and I interned there. When they were purchased by Panavision in 1995 or 1996, he lost his job and moved to L.A. and did some work at special Effects house. He hated L.A. and he was making peanuts, so Panavision offered him a job in Chicago. Now he lives in North Carolina, does 3D animation and is doing well.

As far as labs go in Detroit, there were only two for a long time anyhow. Filmcraft and Producers Color labs. I don't think Detroit needed more than two, L.A. has Deluxe and Technicolor, and NYC has Duart and Technicolor, so Detroit losing one lab was not really earth shattering, since it is a smaller market.

Filmcraft was purchased by Grace and Wild and they still ran the lab for a while, but not anymore.

Anyhow, I hope you are having fun in California. I have enjoyed living in NYC and I am glad I moved here even if there is more work in L.A.. To me, L.A. has no soul. Stay away from the crazies!

Scott

Dear Scott:

You and Bruce will have to just get into contact. There were in fact three labs in Detroit, in its heyday: Producers Color Service, Filmcraft, and Allied. Filmcraft is still there, BTW. I'm glad you asked Walter Murch those questions, and at least the second one seems to have brought forth a good response, so that's nice.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I read "Tumithak of the Corridors" last night, after reading your tip that "Cleopatra 2525" was an inferior knockoff (as the "Cleopatra" theme song was an inferior version of the Zager & Evans "In the Year 2525"). It struck me that you took something from this tale yourself! The main theme of Tumithak is pretty much identical to that of "Alien Apocalypse:" one man's quest to prove that oppressors who seem unconquerable can be killed. That said, adapting an abstract theme is a much nobler enterprise than copying a particular vision of a dystopian underground society. I suppose Romero admitted copying "Night of the Living Dead" from Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" and both are worth pursuing, but then again he didn't turn the protagonist of "I Am Legend" into three bikini-clad supermodels.

Dear Jeremy:

Indeed. And you're right, I guess that's where I got that concept. I think "Night of the Living Dead" owes even more to the 1964 film version of "I Am Legend," "The Last Man on Earth," except Romero's film is better. I personally would take "Omega Man."

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I expect based on everything you've posted on this site you'll disagree with this rather strongly, Josh, but don't you think that in the end judgements of aesthetic quality are fairly subjective, and based on psychological factors that are at least somewhat outside of rational analysis?

For instance, you've stated a few times on this site that you find Harlan Ellison's writing to be excellent. It seems to me that this is probably because you read him at a certain time in your life where he made a nostalgiac impression, where he stood for a certain kind of proud intellectual machoism, a Norman Mailer type of no-BS sci-fi. He had a type of confident swagger and appealed to my inner asshole who thought he was smarter than everyone else. I enjoy listening to Alan Parsons Project albums for similar reasons -- there was a certain period in my youth where they represented a certain kind of comfortable pseudo-intellectualism to me and if I put on one of those old records it's like a comfort blanket. But I don't get upset at other people for not liking them... I recognize the cheeziness.

I don't know what I'm getting at. Just that perhaps a film like "American Beauty" can appeal to people on a level outside of pure craft. Maybe a lot of people related to the idea of wanting to drop out of society and get it on with cheerleaders, to tell society to go screw itself. And so to those people it came across as a good film. Same with "The Matrix," another film that basically appealed to the common man's desire to own machine guns and use them at will on "The Man" who makes them go to work each day.

I left the theater thinking "The Saint" with Val Kilmer was an excellent movie, but in retrospect that was only because I was holding hands with a pretty girl while watching it. Maybe there's more to people's enjoyment of poorly written, crappy Hollywood movies than the objective quality of the script.

Dear Jeremy:

Clearly, people like to watch movies, good, bad or indifferent. And all opinions are completely subjective, that's what makes them opinions. But opinions can be based on knowledge, as opposed to pure emotion. Pauline Kael's opinion was much more intelligent and insightful than any other film critic because she'd seen more movies and was just smarter than the others. I enjoyed "Plan 9 From Outer Space" while knowing it was an incredible piece of shit. But what the "average" person likes is of no interest to me; that's common denominator, and is basically aiming for the bottom. As a professional screenwriter, as well as a major movie fan, I know when I'm watching a film based on a decent screenplay or not, and bad writing annoys the piss out of me. "American Beauty" is not a good script, even if it has some amusing moments (and won an Oscar). To say that people liked it really means nothing. People like McDonald's hamburgers, but that doesn't make them good. So, you can base your opinions on what mood you're in at the time, or if you like your companion; or you can base them on knowledge and previous experience. It's all how you want to go at it. But to say that all opinions are equal is just not true, anymore than saying all people are equal. There are clearly smarter and dumber people, and there are smarter and dumber opinions, too.

Josh

Name: rogerdodger
E-mail: rogerdoger@aol.com

Dearest Josh,

Saw Running Time again last night...great work, BTW! Did you rehearse the scenes before you filmed them? Do you believe in rehearsal? And, how did you keep the handheld shots from making the viewer ill? In Woody Allen's film, Husbands and Wives I believe, the camera seemed obtrusive and actually made me sick because of all the shaking.

Thanks,
Roger

P.S. Oh yeah, what type of software do you use to storyboard your shots?

Dear rogerdodger:

Two-thirds of the film was shot with the Steadi-cam, which takes the bumpiness out of it. Act II, the heist, is all hand-held, but on a slightly wide lens which removes some of the shake. I despise films that are entirely hand-held, and worse still, with a long lens, which increases the shakiness, like say "Traffic." Regarding software for storyboards, I use a pen and lined paper. I created the 2.35:1 frame outlines by tracing a matchbook.

Josh

Name: Bruce
E-mail:

Josh,

What qualities make a good director?

Best,
Bruce

Dear Bruce:

A good director knows what they're after, and knows how to get it. A big part, I think, is communicating with the actors and the department heads, and getting them to see your vision. Also, a good director must have taste to know what actually is good and what's bad. Taste comes from knowing as much as possible, having watched a lot of movies, particularly the excellent ones, and having read a lot.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<Sorry to hear about "The Magnificent Ambersons." Apparently, it's STILL not out on DVD, or am I wrong?>>

Oh dude, they're going to be playing it at the Paramount Theater in my town in a couple of weeks with Citizen Kane. sweet. I just went to see Ingmar Bergman's THE MAGICIAN (and the last hour of THE MAGIC FLUTE, I didn't realize it was a double feature). If I'm lucky, I'll get paid in time to buy a bunch of cheap tickets for their summer classic movie fest, they're going to show 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm and I can see ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, SINGING IN THE RAIN, the original SCARFACE, ALL ABOUT EVE, SUNSET BLVD, DR STRANGELOVE, and so forth on the big screen in a bunch of double features. It's going to start with TOP HAT for 50 cents and end with GONE WITH THE WIND. So my summer's pretty fuckin set. Don't you just love the little shots in movies? I was watching Robin Hood and I like the little shot where Robin is keeping his threat going around shooting all of the guards with just an arrow coming off screen, and one of the guards is going to rape this girl, and he gets and arrow in the back and puts out the candle that makes the room go dark, and then lightning flashes.
I'm not so sure if I liked THE MAGICIAN more or less than THE SEVENTH SEAL, that was certainly a good trick where you think Dr Vogler is getting dissected on the table, and because of the witch grandmother seeing ghosts, you forget about the OTHER dead body, so when Vogler starts appearing in mirrors you really think he's a ghost until his wife pops through the door and stops the murder. If I'm lucky, I'll get paid in time to see SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT and WILD STRAWBERRIES, unfortunately, I didn't find out about the Bergman double features till the near end so I missed CRIES AND WHISPERS and AUTUMN SONATA but I'll get those on dvd eventually.

Dear kdn:

You've got a bunch of good films to see. Is it the old "Scarface" or the new one? I much prefer the Hawks version, which I just watched again recently and liked even more. Have fun.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

"You need to listen to U2's album "The Joshua Tree," it's one the best albums ever. The record before this new one, "All the Things You Can't Leave Behind," is darn good, too. When U2 works with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois good shit happens."

Good on ya, Josh! I definitely applaud (and agree) with your opinion on U2's recent releases. They have always been a band that didn't rest on popularity alone. I think Bono's writing has only improved as he's gotten older. There's a similar resonance to the new album "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" that was there with Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby as well. Lyrics like "Freedom has a scent, like the top of a newborn baby's head" are just profound little tidbits that comes with the band's maturity (and our own political climate of course.)

Dear Richard:

"How To Dismantle the Atomic Bomb," which was not produced by Lanois and Eno (one cut was), is one of their lesser albums, in my humble opinion. I think U2 simply won't put themselves through the pain and misery every album that Eno and Lanois demand, so they work with someone like Steve Lillywhite, who is really an engineer and hasn't got the gravitas to make them go back and rewrite their songs. Still, U2 is one of the best bands around.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Before you send the tape out are you able to sign something with it as well? It'd be cool to have your autograph too. I'm really looking forward to seeing it. Is there a release date for the Alien Apocalypse DVD yet?

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Oh, man! I sent the tape an hour ago, and I would have been happy to sign it, but alas, I did not. Sorry.

Josh

Name: Alicia
E-mail: Alikat2@Juno.com

Dear Josh:

What would you do if $5,000,000 suddenly fell into your lap? Would you make a film, two films, three films, maybe more? Would you travel the world? What? What dear boy?!

Dear Alicia:

I would just hope that it wasn't in gold bars and didn't fall too far 'cause that might hurt. I'd blow it all having Bruce Springsteen play my birthday party.

Josh

Name: keith
E-mail: freakaman24@aol.com

Dear Josh:

actually- shelly winters was the first to win 2 best supporting actress awards dianne weidt also won 2 as well

Dear keith:

I have no idea what you are referring to. Did I say otherwise? And Walter Brennan won 3 Best Supporting Actor Oscars. You mean Dianne Wiest, I'm sure.

Josh

Name: Andrew
E-mail: Andrewindetroit@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I greatly respect Carl Foreman and think his High Noon, Champion and Bridge on the River Kawi are the amoung the greatest screenplays/films of all time. However, I think Robert Rossen's THE HUSTLER is the best screenplay ever written with Wilder's SOME LIKE IT HOT and Houston's TREASURE OF SIRREA MADRE coming in second and third.

THE HUSTLER is plot and character driven. And Oh, what characters! And the screenplay IS better than the book which is great.

Act One. Fast Eddie wants to beat Minnesota Fats in a game of pool... wants Fats to hand over the mantel of world's greatest pool player to him. Eddie could have done so but didn't have the character to beat a man like Fats.

Act Two. Eddie learns "character" dealing with Bert and Sarah (brilliant performed by Piper Laurie but it was a role Marlyn Monroe was born to play.) Bert.Sarah sacrifices herself in an attempt to free Eddie from Bert.

Act Three. Eddie beats Fats so badly Fats "quits" in effect proclaiming Eddie the best. Eddie, out of respect for the memory of Sarah, shakes himself free of Bert.

I do agree 10,000% on what you state about structure in the NEED FOR STRUCTURE PART 1. If it takes 8-10 years to become a doctor or lawyer why do some think they can write a GOOD screenplay over the Easter weekend? It's a profession and it's going to take a similar amount of time to STUDY and LEARN and BE ABLE TO APPLY the craft of screenwriting.

Your example with the joke was PERFECT. There's one about a screenwriter at a party wherein a doctor converses with him and says "I was thinking of writing a script over the weekend." The seasoned screenwriter replies "What a coincidence. I was thinking of performing brain surgey this weekend."

Dear Andrew:

I'm not quite sure why everyone is so desperate to put things in order, with lists of bests and worsts. Certainly, all the screenplays you've mentioned are great ones, but are they the #1, #2, and #3 "best" scripts ever written? I personally think that the screenplay for "The Apartment" is a LOT better than "Some Like It Hot," but that's just me (as well as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, of course). But structure can be a beautiful thing if you can figure out how to use it.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Don't know if this is already common knowledge, but it was suprising to me: the season 1 Hercules 7-DVD boxed set is $14.95 at Amazon. This set includes all of the Hercules movies, including your "Maze of the Minotaur." At my local Borders, this set was priced $60. Don't know what's up with this, but I just got mine in the mail, so it is a legit offer.

Dear Jeremy:

Cool! I just went to Amazon and bought one.This is the first I've heard of it.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Josh,

I just had to chime in again. The government is saying the economy is off, WalMart's stock price is down. So what, are we supposed to feel sorry for WalMart now. They put all the historic chains of America out of business, including Woolworth and we are supposed to care? I mean, the way it is now when you are looking for something, the choices you have now are the WalMart in your town, or the WalMart up the street or the WalMart down the street. They all have the same junk. In the old days, you had Woolworth, Grant's, Zayre's, Almy's, GEM. They all sold cheap stuff, but it was different stuff. Sometimes, you could find something at one and not the other. Every WalMart has the same stuff. Thank God we still have K-Mart, although the government has its sights on that too. One of K-Mart's only profitible lines is Martha Stewart, I think part of the reason, they put her in jail was to destroy that line and destroy K-Mart to pave the way for WalMart. But it didn't work, he he. What the hell kind of a government do we have anyway?

Dear Bob:

As H. L. Mencken said, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." Walmart is the biggest retailer of Chinese goods in the world, and many products in China are made by slave labor, and who can compete with that? I just saw a report on slave labor in China and there are at least 300,000 slave laborers, who are mostly poilitical prisoners. China is our biggest trading partner, but we won't do business with Cuba? Oh, man, it all gives me a headache.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Josh,

You mentioned some CDs that you had recently purchased. Are you a Mark Knopfler fan? If so, you must be a Dire Straits fan. I am a pretty big Dire Straits and MK fan myself, although, I regret I have never seen a live show. I think Dire Straits reached its peak with Brothers in Arms and On Every Street. The first MK solo Golden Heart was good, but he started to fade after that. What I am getting to, is that I didn't even buy the last MK solo, because I heard it playing in the record store and it sounded like the last one, which I thought was, well kinda mediocre.

I was never much of a U2 fan, so I wouldn't buy any recent release of theirs. My recommendations for the best recent releases would be 1.) Counting Crows-Films about Ghosts, which is a best of collection, but lots of good songs, and 2.) The Essential Bangles. By the way are you a Jethro Tull fan?

The guy that wants to buy Running Time and donate it to the video store, I would suggest he see if he could donate it to his Public Library to include in their collection, but they usually like to go through the bureaucratic process for that type of thing, so he may not be successful.

Dear Bob:

Michael, the guy who already bougt a copy of "Hammer" (thanks, Michael, it's coming to a mailbox near you very soon), is donating to a store that has all the rest of my films, or my entire ouvre, if you will. It will complete their collection, until "Alien Apocalypse" comes out, that is. Yes, I'm really a Dire Staits fan, and Knopfler's solo stuff is sort of like half-assed Dire Straits. "Brothers in Arms" was definitely the pinnacle of that band, although I like every one of their records. "Love Over Gold" is a GREAT album (I live right off Telegraph Road now, and I grew up right off Telegraph Road, too). You need to listen to U2's album "The Joshua Tree," it's one the best albums ever. The record before this new one, "All the Things You Can't Leave Behind," is darn good, too. When U2 works with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois good shit happens.

Josh

Name: Stacey
E-mail: staci_3088@hotmail.com

Yo josh,

I'll make it quick, what would be the best route to get a movie idea into production? Producer, director or writer? Bear in mind, i've tried script writing and i couldn't do it sucessfully to save my life, so even though i've heard the best way is to write a great script, it just ain't gonna happen. But this movie idea has been driving me up the wall, and if i don't do something about it i'll...well that's yet to be decided. Problem i have is, making contact with people, i live in Australia with practically no money and no association with the film biz, but in your opinion do you have to 'know' people in the right places to get heard? Or have you never had that problem?

BTW, love your work, my dream is to be a director, my brother and myself dabble in making stupid short films etc as a hobbie, but we are limited in so many areas to make them any good.

Dear Stacey:

I'm from Detroit (and still live here), and it's is nowhere near Hollywood. Your fellow Ozzie, George Miller, made "Mad Max" very cheaply, edited the film on his kitchen table, and impressed the hell out of the whole world, as well as launching Mel Gibson's career. If you want it bad enough, you'll do it. And don't throw in the towel so quickly on screenwriting, particularly if you think you've got an idea that's driving you up the wall. Clearly, you have a grasp of the English language, and you expressed your thoughts and feelings to me. Pretend like you're writing me or your friend an email and spit this idea out in any form it comes out. It doesn't necessarily have to look like a screenplay to function as one. Sam Raimi literally wrote "Evil Dead" on napkins and scraps of paper, and when his good buddy Bruce Campbell typed it all up it came out to about 35-pages, which no one thought would make a feature film. Guess what? We were all wrong, and Sam's a big-shot director now. So, go for it. Seriously, what have you got to lose? And what would you do instead? Move to Kangaroo Island and live with the 'roos? Good luck.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<I thought "Running Time" was kind of a cheap noir picture, although it does take place during the day. But it is in black and white.>>

I like Running Time, although it kind of disturbs me that Bruce Campbell looks like he's near 40 and he's still talking about high school (and he was only in prison for 5 years), it was a really cool experiment. I thought the original EVIL DEAD was inspirational and ARMY OF DARKNESS got me into Sam Raimi for a while. Hope the quest for HORRIBLENESS is going well. I got screwed on the MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, the vcr started recording and hour into the movie.

What's your favorite movie marathon you've sat through?

Dear kdn:

I don't think movie marathons are a good idea; I think each movie should hopefully be a complete, individual experience. However, as a youth I did sit through the 54-hour Musical Marathon at Filmex in LA in 1977, with the aid of diet pills and pot, and by the end I was hallucinating and had a headache for three days. Sorry to hear about "The Magnificent Ambersons." Apparently, it's STILL not out on DVD, or am I wrong?

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I just ordered "If I had a hammer" so I guess I'm only patronizing you in two ways. Haha. Yeah, I can't wait to see it. Is it in widescreen at all? Hope that this can come out on DVD at some point. How come Anchor Bay won't release it? Well I'll let you know what I think of it when I get it. Have a good one and keep up the great work.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

I was out of town for the past four days, but I'll get the tape out in the next day or two. Yes, "If I Had a Hammer" is letterboxed in 1.85:1, which is how it was shot. Meanwhile, I was hoping Anchor Bay would release "Hammer," but they didn't.

Josh

Name: JC
E-mail: joecap74@optonline.net

Hey Josh,

I was surprised to see the top film last week was house of wax, which, judging by reviews is no important piece of work. Worse its a remake, rehash, re-whatever.

Then I thought thats it. Films have gotten dumber not because we dont have good filmmakers but because the audience for films has gotten less mature.

It used to be that films were made for adults, or with adults in mind, by adults. I wonder if a film like chinatown would pull an audience if it opened tomorrow. Now films are made for 13 year olds who are taking a brake at the mall from shopping. Somewhere along the line the studios figured out that parents no longer spend money on films but their mallrat kids do. To that end, we get house of wax as the number one film in america.

Kind of sad.

Dear JC:

Do keep in mind that, for the most part, Hollywood buys that opening weekend. If you put $20-50 million into the advertising, you had better take your opening weekend. But if it costs $30 million to gross $30 million, you're losing money because the theaters do take their cut, so that's not a great deal, and it says very little other than "advertising works," which we all know. I completely believe that if you make something good for adults, they'll come out and see it, but it's much more difficult to do than making a piece of shit for the kids, then simply advertising the hell out of it. The real arbiter, BTW, is not the opening weekend, but the second and third weekends, which tell you if the film has any "legs" and can do anything beyond it's ad campaign.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just finished my first script thanks to the kick in the pants I got from you. You got my attention real good when you said life is not a dress rehearsal. I appreciate the nudge and have just one more question for you. As a director reading a script do you prefer action blocks containing fighting to be brief and let the fight choreographer and director storyboard it or do I need to put in all the detailed action myself. Briefly it gets the point across and isn't vague but I wonder if there should be more. Problem is it makes a script much longer that way. Thanks for your help.

Dear Duffy:

Good question. I'd say don't put in all the details of a fight scene, it's exceptionally dull reading. Get the basic idea across, then let the director and fight choreographer work out the details. Big blocks of action are difficult to read. In my seven-minute bar fight in "Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur" I didn't follow anything written in the script pertaining to the fight. After shooting each section of the fight I'd sit back down next to the script supervisor, who kept whiting-out one line of script after another and she finally just tore the entire whited-out page out of the script, crumpled it up and threw it away, saying, "I guess I can just start with a blank page and write in what's actually happening." I worked every aspect of the fight scene with Peter Bell, the stunt director, and we paid no attention to script at all.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

those 48 hour film games really piss me off. It's some wannabe assholes running around with video cameras trying and failing to make something worth watching. I've seen a bunch of those movies and they're completely awful. Most people can barely make a good movie after years of effort and piles of money and talent. It's like someone creating a "24 Hour Great American Novel" contest. Why bother? I think maybe I actually LIKE movies too much to want to be involved in something that will automatically result in something so poor. Maybe I'm just too sensitive, but I find the whole thing very demeaning for not only the participants but also the artform.

Jim

Dear Jim:

I heartily agree. Nothing good will ever come out of that sort of game, which is what it really is. Making a decent film is a LOT of hard work, and most of it goes into prep and pre-production, so to dismiss that part of the process is to not understand how films are made. Even a Xena ep (or any one-hour TV show) had two to three weeks of prep, and it was totally necessary. Good films cannot be made in 48 hours. End of story.

Josh

Name: MIchael Cory Davis
E-mail: mail@michaelcorydavis.com

Dear Josh:

Hey, first of all, there are but 5 black folks in Minnesota:) and why didn't you ever pass the dutchie on the left hand side in Bulgaria? I am in L.A right now anxious to get back to the sights and smells of Sofia. I just checked out ur sight and stories. Funny stuff. You have a career in stand-up if directing eats the crapper.. but, with the ratings Alien brought in for Sci-fi, I doubt that'll be happening anytime soon. Hope u r well.

Dear Michael:

Sorry if I embarrassed you with that story, but I thought it was funny (being a half-assed stand-up comic and all). You did a great job in the film, and I thank you very much. Sorry your character lost his head so soon into the film. All the very best to you.

Josh

Name: Martyn Perry
E-mail: Evileyeperry@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Hey there Josh, as ever your honest answer to the evil dead question is to be admired but i would like to elaborate on that theme if you don't mind. I seem to remember (apart from the social aspect) that one of the main aspects that annoyed you during the filming of evil dead 1 was Sam's reluctance to film a master take of a scene. When you turned up for evil dead 2 (in your suit of armour) did you pick up on whether Sam had learnt how much easier a master take is to draw from if needs be in editing or was it still the old "one day = one shot" routine that so annoyed you first time around? A lot has been said about your thoughts from the first evil dead shoot and i just wondered what your impressions were when you visited the "set" of the second evil dead, i consider you to be the master of the master take (running time) so i hope Sam has realised your point of view by now! regards as always, martyn

Dear Martyn:

Sam has his own style and it rarely included master shots. I think he may do them now, but I don't know. Nevertheless, even without master shots, by the time he got to ED2 he had his shit wired, and has had it completely together ever since. Keep in mind that "Crimewave" came between ED and ED2, and that was one of the big disasters of a film shoot that ever occurred. I quit that film after four days. Bruce has said it just felt like the ED shoot continuing. So when that film didn't even get released, Sam changed his worldview entirely, although it still didn't seem to include master shots, but that's how he works. He's got a great sense of montage, and has always had it even in the super-8s.

Josh

Name: Bruce Schermer
E-mail: bsure@juno.com

Hi again Josh,

I just got up after a being almost robbed at gunpoint last night. Black guy pulled up to me just as I was going to take the stairway to my apartment. Never got out of his car but pulled a Glock 9mm out and asked for my money. I thought "you know, I'm not going to get any closer to a man with a gun" and said "Fuck you" and ran away. He drove off. I supposed the "fuck you" wasn't necessary but it felt good at the time. An exciting 15 seconds. I called the cops and got involved. I didn't want to end up like Peter Parker, feeling guilty, if the guy killed someone later. Sounds like an opening for a film. Maybe I'll call it "Crash". Anyway I understand any objection to "Fightclub". If you take it as a straight narrative. I saw it as a Kubrikian black comedy. A movie like "Clockwork Orange" or "Doctor Stranglove" where the characters are very involved in their own world and,in this case, think that extreme fighting is going to is going to solve their manhood problems. Like Gen. Ripper thinks that atomic war with the "Russkies" will solve his similiar problems or Alex gets a rush from "Ultra Violence." You're not supposed to take it to seriously on any level. The fighting does throw the pic off a bit. But Kubrik had similar problems with "CO" with his fights. Both pics are supposed to horrify with you their violence but they are so beautifully choreographed (whew had to look up the spelling on that last word) that the message gets muddled. Anyway I liked "Fightclub" for those reasons immediately. But I understand the objections. One reviewer, I read, said that they hated the picture until they watched the film with the commentary by actors and director. Then he changed his mind completely. Anyway so what?

To answer "Scott's" question Dan Noga is still in Detroit suffering under the way things are there. He has a wife and two mostly grown kids right now. Things there in the film business disintigrated in the ninties. All the films labs but one closed down and Victor Duncan closed shop. Not good indicators. So Scott who are you really?

That's it.

Dear Bruce:

Sorry to hear about you encounter with potential violence. It's good you ran away. Meanwhile, I think you WAY overestimate David Fincher and "Fight Club" comparing it in any way to Stanley Kubrick. It makes perfect sense regarding the human psyche that young people might get off from "ultra violence," as some people already do. NOBODY wants to lose a fight. You might even kid yourself you do right up to getting hit the very first time, then that plan will go right out the window and you'll fight back (unless the other guy has a gun or a knife). "A Clockwork Orange" is based on a brilliant vision of the future by an extremely bright writer, Anthony Burgess. "Fight Club" is a truly a second-rate screenplay by a screenwriter who had no clue where his story was going, and by act III is drowning in improbabilities and plain stupidity. As I said, Edward Norton beating himself up and throwing himself over cars, which is impossible, is one of the dumbest things I've ever seen in my entire life.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Long time no talk! I hope you're doing well. I see you're still full of piss and vinegar, and don't like marriage, bad movies, or worthless scripts any more than ever.

I'm living in DC now, and we just had the "48 hour film festival" last week. It's a blast. Have you heard about this? You get from 7 pm Friday to 7 pm Sunday to shoot an 8 minute film. The trick is: you don't know what genre you're going to have, and each film has to have three things that change each year. This year they were a hypochondriac, a person whose initials were "r. moeller," and a wine bottle. Oh, and the line of dialogue: "It was like that when I got here."

Of course, most of the projects were awful. But every now and then, you get a glimmer of hope, a moment of brilliance. And it's a great crash course in filmmaking. The following Tuesday through Thursday there's screenings at a local old restored theater, so you get to see yourself on the big screen, and then Q and A afterwards -- it's really something. I think they have it in Los Angeles as well, maybe even Detroit.

Otherwise-wise, I've just watched "1940s House," one of the PBS reality shows, which they did so well. Great stuff.

Ooh and thanks for the list of fave cinematographers. I keep getting into the dead ones, and I'd like to think there are living artists to admire as well.

Cheers,

Cindy

Dear Cindy:

Good to hear from you. Yes, the art of cinematography still flourishes, even if the craft of screenwriting has nearly vanished. My buddy Paul just participated in the "24-Hour Comic" here in Detroit (we don't have the "48 Hour Movie"), where a bunch of comic artists attempt to write and draw (and ink) a 24-page comic in 24 hours. Anyway, I guess this sort of thing is good for those who can't get inspired on their own and need an assignment with rules and a deadline. Sadly, if one cares to do these things for real, one must figure out how to inspire oneself.

Josh

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

Dear Josh.

I was sure that you coment about Greek truck drivers, was to see what happen with me,thank you Josh. The reason is,i am on the road again with 40,000 kg, truck, and i dont have time to go to the internet cafe.I driven from Germany, to France, and from France to Spain, and after back in Germany, non stop, 4 times on the month, and every 3 months i take 15 days free,hard but i take good money for this 2800(about 3600 US Dolars) euro neto on month,somtimes i think about my first e mail to the Q+A and.....ha!ha!ha! Josh i was realy one idiot.Hey josh, the rock band Masterplan, with Jorn Lande on the vogals, have bring a very good album out call AERONAUTICS, i can say only Josh, super!super! this album remember me, rock and roll, from Led Zepelin,i have think to send you this disk,but i don´t have you adresse,and of course, i must ask you, if i can do this.You friend George.

Dear George:

How many Greek truck drivers working in Germany do I know? Three, actually. But I jest. You can send the disk to Shirley, the webmaster here [mail to: Shirley Robbins LeVasseur, c/o P. O. Box 86, East Vassalboro, Maine, USA 04935 and I will forward it to Josh], if you'd like, but I really suggest saving your money. I'm so damn picky I don't even listen to the new CDs I buy. I recently bought the new CDs of REM, U2 and Mark Knopfler, and I don't listen to them. But thanks for the offer. That's a cool part of the world you travel around. What do you think of Barcelona?

Josh

Name: A. D. Calvo
E-mail: adcalvo@gmail.com

Josh,

I'd like to first thank you so much for writing the indie low-budget filmmaking guide. A fantastic read chock full of insight and experience. It was very generous of you to write that guide and provide it to filmmakers at no charge. Kudos to you.

We've just started a low-budget HD film production company here in CT -- Goodnight Film (see www.GoodnightFilm.com). I've only directed two short films and will be tackling my first funded feature later this summer -- a genre film.

In your opinion, is it possible to hook up with a distributor before a film is made -- given that it's our first film? Any thoughts on selling at AFM?

If we can make a film that looks as good as the Japanese Ringu for around 100k...will we still get screwed on our first film? Any advice would be greately appreciated.

Sincerely,

A. D. Calvo

Dear A.D.

To get a film shown at, or to even get into, the AFM you need to hook up with a sales agency, which ain't easy. I recommend making and finishing your film before approaching anyone, if possible. No distributor will give you the time of day with just a script, or even an incomplete film. I think you're better off showing the film at festivals, get some good press, then try to hook a film sales agent. Meanwhile, it's hard not to get screwed in film distribution, whether it's your first film or not. One scam the sales agents pull is to charge a huge amount of expenses back against your film so that you never get even no matter how many sales you make. If they want to charge about 10 grand, that can be dealt with; but if they want to charge over 25 grand, watch out. It's also not a bad idea to have as good of a lawyer as you can afford. Good luck.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Would I be correct in assuming that, if you saw the near-structureless film "Two Lane Blacktop," that you were infuriated and disgusted by it's disregard for storytelling convention?

I actually enjoyed it somewhat, because the emptiness of the lives of the drifter characters was highlighted by the throwaway nature of the fractured plot. Warren Oates was such a nutjob that I enjoyed watching him do his would-be-hipster thing, even though it didn't add up to a big revelation of any sort at the end.

Dear Jeremy:

It went in one ear and out the other. I've crossed paths with Monty Hellman on a number of occasions. I saw an early screening of "China 5, Liberty 37," with my friend Rick, and we both sort of enjoyed it. Afterward, Rick asked Monty Hellman, "Don't you think you'll have trouble with a title like 'China 5, Liberty 37'?" And Hellman replied, "No, I don't think so." The title is a road sign in in Texas, BTW. Warren Oates, meanwhile, was always good, even if the whole rest of the picture around him was a disaster.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail:
Heya Josh,

Since the subject of DPs has been flying around, I wondered if you had any thoughts on Bill Pope's cinematography? He worked with Sam Raimi on the two Spiderman movies, and with the Wachowski brothers on all of their movies. While I can't say I enjoyed every one of those flms themselves I liked the look of them. Taking it back a bit further, what do you think of Leo Tover (who DPed The Day The Earth Stood Still - one of my favorite films of all times)?

Lastly - there's a video store here in Ann Arbor that has all your movies except "Hammer". I was thinking of buying a copy (since I've yet to see it) and donating it to their store afterwords so they'll have all your stuff (minus AA until that hits the shelves). I know you've been self distributing "Hammer" so I thought I'd ask for your permission before I went ahead and did it.

Keep up the great work,

Mike
Dear Mike:

I like the look of Bill Pope's photography. He also shot "Darkman." Leo Tover was an old pro from way back, and he started in the teens. He was a journeyman studio DP, who worked mainly for Paramount and Fox. He shot one of William Wyler's films, "The Heiress," which looks very good. Tover also did "The Snake Pit," which also looked good. As for purchasing a copy of "Hammer" and giving it to a video store, that's fine with me.

Josh

Name: Daryl
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I noticed you just edited a few posts by removing some names. what happened, did you get blasted for for blurting out info that you shouldn't have. :)

Dear Daryl:

I have absolutely no business discussing anyone's personal life on this website other than my own. I will pay far more attention to this in the future, and I deeply apologize to anyone whom I may have offended with my thoughtless comments.

Josh

Name: Tony Mitchell
E-mail: mitch_2209@hotmail.com

Hello Josh,

Who have been some of your favourite female directors? cheers,
Tony

Dear Tony:

With all due respect to women, there really haven't been any good female directors yet. There was Dorothy Arzner in the 1930s, but she never really made a good film, then there was Ida Lupino in the 1950s, and she too never made a really good film. There's Julie Taymor who directed "Frida," which I wasn't particularly impressed with. Who else is there? Barbra Streisand? I watched her on "Inside the Actor's Studio" the other night, and when it got to her directing career, which James Lipton gushed over, and her preparations for directing "Yentl," they then showed a clip of her unconvincing dressed as a boy sitting on a bed (singing "Papa, can you hear me," which sounds exactly like the Who's "Tommy, can you hear me"), and the camera pushes in from a medium shot to a close-up and there's a boom shadow on the wall. Anyway, I would be more than happy to give women directors their props if there were any to give them to.

There's Mira Nair, and I kind of liked "Salaam Bombay" and "Mississippi Masala." There are quite a few female documentary directors that do very good work, like Barbara Kopple ("American Dream," "Wild Man Blues"), and I just saw two well-made documentaries directed by women, "Whole" and "The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam." "Whole" was about people who want to have one of their limbs amputated because it doesn't feel like it's part of them, even though there's nothing wrong with it. One man shot his leg off with a shotgun, another built a box, filled it with dry ice and froze his leg off. Very intense stuff.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Why the hell dont you want to read peoples scripts? How the hell did you feel when you were a poor unknown person and wanted people to read your scripts and no would would read them? Stop being a cold hearted snob. It's not like your really famous anyways, I never heard of you before today. Shape up mister.

Dear ______:

Reading bad scripts depresses me, okay? Am I allowed to look out for my own mental well-being? Beside, this isn't a script-reading service.

Josh

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

Josh,

I thought I'd seen a documentary on the Fleischers where they created a modeled set on a large rotating wheel. As the characters, which were drawn in, "moved" the wheel was rotated. The objects in the foreground seemed to move by more quickly than did the objects further back. In addition, because the backgroud (mountains, temples, cave walls) were models rather than drawings, you could light them as though they were a real set, which, of course, they were.

I was under the impression that that is what "rotoscope" meant, because you rotate the scene. Obviously, I defer to you. I know animation isn't your big interest, but do you know anything about the rotating set? I wish I could find that documentary about the Fleischers. That was a really interesting show.

I've been meaning to ask; we had a discussion a while back about the use of stop-action versus CGI. Did you give any thought to stop-action with "AA" or is CGI just understood as the default methodology? I did appreciate the life-size model scenes, by the way.

John

Dear John:

That rotating wheel item was the Fleischer's method of making their images 3-D. Disney used giant sheets of glass stacked in front of each other to give depth to their animation. The rotating wheel which caused foreground images to move past the lens faster than the image it's following gives the impression of a tracking camera, and I always thought it was great, and really works. Here is the definition of "Rotoscope" from Ephraim Katz in "The Film Encyclopedia" -- "An animation technique in which film frames are blown up and traced individually onto animation cells." Regarding stop-motion versus CGI, I wasn't given a choice, but I think CGI was the way to go with the aliens. I thought the live-action puppet and the CGI matched quite well.

Josh

Name: Bruce Schermer
E-mail: bsure@juno.com

Hi again Josh,

I agree with you on "Sin City". I haven't liked anything I've seen out of Robert Rodriges since "El Mariachi". And none of the "shot digital on a green screen stage" has been anything but fun to look at. I will, myself, with about 13 million fans see "Star Wars III " or "6" or whatever. By the way John Alonzo is dead also. A friend of mine worked with him on his last film and he was very sick with cancer.

The Sue Marx film was about her father getting remarried at 80 or so. Films about old people or retards seem to be shoeins for Oscars eg. "Rainman" with Hoffman as an ageing retard (sorry, idiot savant (sorry, autistic)).

What do you think of DP's Darius Khondji, Philippe Rousselot, and Jeff Cronenweth (who's dad, Jordan Cronenweth, work I love).

Finally, what did you think of "fight Club". i saaw it at the cinerama dome in Hollywood. I wasn't expecting anything. I didn't like, David Fincher, the director, "Alien III". The subject matter seemed to be idiotic. But I, and the full house, really got into it. I still watch it on DVD once in a while and it was the first movie I really just watched the extra's on in the DVD. Now I'll just stand back and wait for the abuse.

Bruce

Dear Bruce:

I didn't know that John Alonzo had died. He did some great work on films like "Chinatown" and "Scarface." I don't know what Jeff Cronenweth has done, but his dad's work on "Blade Runner" and "Altered States" was brilliant. Phillipe Rousselot is terrific, and "A River Runs Through It" looks beautiful. I think "Fight Club" looks good, but it's a ridiculously stupid script and film. I liked act one, but the minute Brad Pitt enters the film doesn't know what it's doing or why. And the idea that people want to fight and lose is just dumb. The video camera image of Edward Norton beating himself up may be one of the most stupid things ever put in a motion picture.

Josh

Name: DS
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

And indeed there are dozens and dozens of wonderful cinematographers, past and present. Sven Nykvist and Conrad Hall, for me, were probably the greatest of them all.

Speaking of which, what do you think of "Cries and Whispers" and "In Cold Blood?"

Dear DS:

I love the fades to red in "Cries and Whispers," and "In Cold Blood" is absolutely gorgeous black and white. Some of Sven Nykvist's best work has been in some not so great films, like Ingmar Bergman's "The Serpent's Egg" (which I kind of liked), and in Bob Rafelson's needless remake of "The Postman Always Rings Twice." I truly love Conrad Hall's work on "Electra Glide in Blue," which makes use of a lot of very long lenses and looks completely unique. I also love the look of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," for which Conrad Hall won his first Oscar.

Josh

Name: DS
E-mail:

Hello,

Vittorio Storaro is semi-retired, though he still steps out every once in a while for a gig. He teaches classes in Italy near Cinecitta and often brings his students to his shoots. In 2004 he shot two versions of the Exorcist Prequel (the original, by Paul Schrader, and the remake, by that hack Renny Harlin). They both look gorgeous, and are entirely different cinematographic visions (and Schrader's is a pretty good piece too, though Harlin's is crap). Now he's shooting an omnibus film called, I believe, "Take 7." While everything he shoots is beautiful, Storaro's last masterwork, for me, was for Carlos Saura's "Tango," which is just gorgeous. You probably wouldn't like the film though, as it showcases a less-than-linear narrative (though with great acting, lush music, and often gorgeous costumes), but I loved it. His masterpiece is undoubtedly "The Conformist" (which still isn't on DVD).

Dear DS:

There's something magical about how good "The Conformist" looks. I really don't care about the story or the characters, it's strictly Bertolucci's direction, Storaro's photography, the costumes and the art direction, and that's generally nowhere near enough for me in a film, but in this case it is. It's amazing that it's still not out on DVD. Two other great Italian DPs are Giuseppe Rotunno and Pasqalino DeSantis.

Josh

Name: tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

did you send any of your films to the IFFM? if not, then how did you find a distributer?

im about to start shooting my first film. but i just found out the IFFM stops taking films on june 10th. in your opinion, should i try to finish my film in time for the dead line? or should i take my time and forget about the IFFM?

Dear tom:

Make the best film you can make, then see what you can do with it. There are hundreds of festivals. I've never been to the IFFM, but you have to pay them to get your film shown, right? I don't like that. I'll show my films for free at a festival, but I won't pay to have them shown. The optimum, of course, is get people to pay you to see them. Good luck.

Josh

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

Josh,

I am glad you included Ed Lachman in your list of your favorite Cinematographers. He is an NYC original here and incredibly underrated. I could not stand "The Virgin Suicides", but the Cinematography was excellent and "The Limey" looked really cool too! I thought 'Far From Heaven" was beautifully shot as well.

There is one DP you forgot to mention that we both love quite a bit, Robert Surtees and of course his son Bruce did quite a few Clint Eastwood films.

I must say hello to Bruce Shermer. I worked with you Bruce on a couple projects when I lived in Michigan. The first was an NYC thesis film called "Murder Too Sweet". I think you did a couple days on that film for the pick-ups we shot, and back in the early 90's and we also worked on a video shoot together in like 1996 or 97 just before you bailed to L.A. and I to New York.

Is Dan Noga still in Michigan?

There is another guy that was kind of in the loop with all you guys and I remember his last name was Shelley, but I can't remember his first name. He moved to L.A. in 1994 or 95. He was a writer and he knew Scott Spiegel and everyone else in the circle. He used to work at the Sandy Corporation as a copywriter in Michigan before he made the jump to L.A.. I often wondered what happened to him?

Scott

Dear Scott:

I don't know who you're talking about, but perhaps Bruce Shermer does. Other than the recently deceased Conrad Hall, I tried to stick to living DPs. Has Bruce Surtees shot anything lately? I think he may be retired. But there are a lot of terrific DPs out there, like Janusz Kaminski, Darius Khondji, Christopher Doyle, John Seale, Peter Hannan, and I could go on.

Josh

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

Josh -

I was just curious as to what it means when you see a production draft with the letters next to the numbers? Example: 1-A, 1-B, 1-C, and then it'll go to 2. Does this reference a change of location?

Thx.

Dear Luke:

The script is numbered by the 1st AD or the production manager so that they can then do the script breakdown and the budget. If the script gets rewritten after it's been numbered and has new scenes added, it doesn't get new numbers, it just gets letters added to the numbers (and the pages change color).

Josh

Name: Bruce Schermer
E-mail: bsure@juno.com

Hey Josh,

Dan Noga never told me he was ripping off "Planet of the Apes" and "TZ". Why that little...?! Anyway still here in LA. Scott Spiegal is now my closest friend. No kidding he lives right around the block. So ,presto closest. No, I don't speak Bulgarian. However, Fluent Russian is no problem. I got into the camera union as a DP a couple of years ago. Went to the Middle East for the start of the war. Footage ended up on History Channel and a little on CNN. Turned out I was doing dangerous stuff by being there. I also got Canadian dual citizenship last year. I haven't talked to Bruce Campbell for a couple of years, so say hello. I got Gary Jones some work with Richard Rush a few years back. He never thanked me for it(Gary that is). Was a freebie though. Never heard about any DFC short film festival. Was anything in it on film or was it really video? I seem to be getting swamped with interview requests on my experiences working with Michael Moore. Have only considered two. Bart's out here again now and his kids are here too. Brett and Drew almost had a deal making a low budget horror pic for Scottie's company but, I heard, that everything has fallen apart. So I guess I have to ask you something. So what did you think of "Sin City"? Are you going to see "Star Wars III"? What's going on in Bulgaria?

Film forever,

Bruce

Dear Bruce:

They would have to pay me big money to see "Sin City," and it would cost a veritable fortune to get me into a theater to see "Star Wars 6" (there have been five previous "Star Wars" movies, so that makes this one #6). Yes, the DFC did show films shot on film, at least that's I heard, but not our films. They showed Sue Marx's Oscar-winning short, about retards or something. All the best.

Josh

Name: DS
E-mail:

Hello,

What are some of your favorite works of Vittorio Storaro, and what do you love about his cinematographic style? In my opinion, he is the greatest living cinematographer.

Dear DS:

"The Conformist," "The Last Tango in Paris," "Agatha," "The Last Emperor," "Apocalypse Now." I hear he's a tremendous pain in the ass to work with, though. Since the death of Joseph Ruttenberg, Vittorio Storaro is the most Oscar-decorated DP living (they both won four Oscars). But there are a lot of good DPs out there. I just watched the dull, ill-fated "The Alamo," which was shot by the great Australian DP, Dean Semler, and it looks pretty darn good. I love the work of Ed Lachman ("Less Than Zero," "Far From Heaven"), Owen Roizman, Michael Chapman, John Alonzo, Vilmos Zsigmond, Caleb Deschanel, Lazlo Kovacs, the late, great Conrad Hall, Gordon Willis, Haskell Wexler, William Fraker, Bill Butler, etc. Storaro is a great DP, but he hasn't done anything impressive in a while.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Read your Evil Dead journal recently. Have to say I could relate to the "I don't feel like part of this happy family" vibe you expressed, having tried and failed to find a niche in group creative projects dominated by strong personalities in the past (magazines, etc). I think I've felt that dread you mentioned of thinking I was not doing the right thing to fit in, yet not knowing what to change to make that happen, or not wanting to. Also found familiar the dissatisfaction you had with Bruce being "all schticks" instead of emotionally real -- friends becoming someone else in a different social context. Heck, I myself have a tendency to rely on schtick to cover up social discomfort.

Anyway, my question, then, after that ramble of thoughts, is this: looking back on that crucible of a physically and emotionally draining experience from the present, do you now know why you didn't quite fit in then, and was your social distancing due to any behavior or thought patterns of your own you now recognize as unproductive? Or were you simply being given a continuous hard time unjustifiably? I'm referring to the parts where people came up to you and said things like: "You know, you're not as bad as they made you out to be," or your worry that you are about to be fired but not being quite sure why. I couldn't help noticing from your description that it sounded like Rob and Sam were treating you like you were on probation, giving you advice on how to come up to speed as a filmmaker (the "ten minute gem" speech), as if you had earned a reputation for not being up to snuff (Rob tells you you are lazy, etc.).

I wouldn't bring this stuff up if you weren't so candid in placing these honest thoughts and impressons in the diary on your website. I can understand if my dredging this material up strikes you as a path you'd rather not revisit... Anyway, I guess what I was basically wondering was if, as a more experienced filmmaker and human bieng, you now saw those experiences differently than you described them in the journal?

Dear Jeremy:

Good question. No, it doesn't bother me anymore, 25 years later. I was under the impression that we had six weeks to shoot the whole film, like any other production in the world. How was I to know that Sam is a "genius" and couldn't be bothered with earthly restrictions like a schedule or a budget. Our six-week shoot turned into an eleven-week shoot, and when we left Tennessee we still didn't have half of the film shot. It all seemed like a disaster to me, as I think it also would have to anyone else who had their head screwed on halfway straight. My being excluded was entirely based on Sam's paranoia that I would somehow take over his film. As we began to fall farther and farther behind, I suggested that Sam draw storyboards to help the rest of us understand what he wanted, and was told flatly by him, "Storyboards are your style, not mine!" Of course, storyboards aren't a style, they're a tool, and Sam has since become king of the storyboards, and completely storyboards the hell out of everything he does. But that production was as poorly run as any production ever, and I just wasn't into it. That the film actually turned out to be something special was a huge surprise to me. I'm not sure I answered your question or not.

Josh

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

Josh,

No need to apologize. Not all lions are maneaters but it's probably best to treat them that way. Fundamentalism, the religious far-right, has an amazing sway over people here in Kansas. I honestly believe that, for most of them, what they're really subscribing to is a commmunity rather than a set of beliefs. Let's face it, for the most part the far-right is the last bastion of culturally "White" America. You don't have to be a racist, or an exclusionist of any sort, when you belong to a faith set. After all, those "outsiders" COULD join up, they just don't, at least not in large numbers.

I listened to a program on NPR today which tried to answer the question; how is it that all of the indictments against Tycho, Enron, WorldCom, et. al. were against self-professed Christians? The conclusion of the host was that Christianity uniquely breeds contempt for non-believers. Jews value personal character, Muslims value adherence to a set of behavioral standards, and Buddhists value harmonious existence. Christians, on the other hand, value the conversion experience. I wouldn't take that idea too far, but it was an interesting discussion.

Remember, they say you'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the general public. I won't take offence because I won't include myself in their company, on account of I'm a snob.

John
PS. So how much do you know about Rotoscope? It was a rotating backdrop over which the characters wer drawn, wasn't it? The Fleischers, I think, developed it. It allowed for great lighting effects, I think.

Dear John:

I was just discussing rotoscoping yesterday. My friend Carol is involved with a Buddhist film festival, and she's decided to show "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," and she asked me for any details she might discuss. Well, it was certainly the most extensive use of rotoscoping up to that time, although Disney did not discover or develop it (it could well have been the Fleischer brothers). Anyway, Snow White is rotoscoped all the way through the film, meaning they shot all of her scenes with a live-action actress on an empty stage, then traced her outline frame by frame and added it into the fully-animated backgrounds with the fully-animated dwarfs. There's no rotating backdrop.

Back to religion, I don't think that Christians have any more contempt for non-Christians than Muslims have for non-Muslims or Jews have for non-Jews. Let's face it, you can join every other religion, but you can't become a Hassidic Jew unless you were born a Jew. You can become a Reform Jew, but the Conservative and Orthodox Jews won't accept you as one. All religions are about us and them, members and non-members, the saved and the damned, if you will. Ambrose Bierce explains it very succinctly in his book, "The Devil's Dictionary" -- "Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based." No matter what they say, the point of religion is intolerance.

Josh

Name: Liz
E-mail: silverseedling@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I'm trying to learn how to use lenses effectively so I can make better decisions and have more control when I shoot an upcoming 16mm b/w film with my Bolex. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for learning such things --- other than experimenting while on set.

I was considering taking a 35mm camera out into the world and bringing along different lenses to conduct experiments: alternating focal lengths, seeing what a change in depth of field does to the look of a particular location, condensing and expanding subjects and their environments, seeing what different lenses do to the human face, etc. -- basically, getting a feel for what each lens does and how the finished shot will look when using plus-x vs. tri-x.

Do you think this would be the best way for me to learn how to use lenses creatively? Also, would you recommend buying a "director's viewfinder?"

Thanks.

Dear Liz:

I think your idea of shooting 35mm stills is a great idea, and much cheaper and more practical than shooting motion picture film as a test. Do keep in mind that all lenses for 16mm are calibrated as half of 35mm lenses. So a 50mm lens in 35mm is a 25mm lens in 16mm. Sadly, with a Bolex you can't really see what you're doing, and it doesn't have very good lenses, either. For the most part, though, you don't really use most of the lenses most of the time. Almost everything is shot between about 22mm and 75mm, with your main lenses being: 22mm, 28mm, 32mm, 50mm and 75mm. Anything wider than a 22mm or longer than a 75mm is for special use, like you really want to compress the hell out of the image by using an extremely long lens, like a 300mm telephoto. Well, you decide that in advance, and make sure you have a 300mm telephoto when the time comes. As for buying a director's viewfinder, unless you can get one very cheap, I don't recommend it. I never use them myself, but they're kind of fun to play with. Good luck.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I saw "Ikiru" and "Dersu Uzala" (when I was at UCONN I went on a Kurosawa jag, and watched all of his films that they had at the library), and liked them, although the endings of both films were rather depressingly realistic. Still, Kurosawa got away with more in "Ikiru" than an American studio would've allowed at the time [if they allowed the old man to die, they wouldn't have allowed the scene of the beaurocrats going back to their old behavior], and the ending is satisfying.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I saw "Dersu Uzala" in 70mm and it was impressive. "Ikiru" moved me, and Takashi Shimura, who also starred in "Seven Samurai," just has a great, sad face.

Josh

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

Josh,

You seem to have a lot of readers here in Kansas. I live in Wichita and I actually considered going up to Topeka for those Board of Education hearings. I decided against it, though, when I realized I'd have to punch a few "stupid, fucking morons" in the face. You might recall that I have a more forgiving approach to religion than you do. I find it ironic that, in Kansas, I have to send my own kids to religious schools (Catholic) in order to avoid them getting taught religion in science class.

By the way, it is unfortunate but true that those "stupid, fucking morons" are not simply a rare but vocal minority in Kansas, at least in my part of it. It astounds me how many people here think we should "keep an open mind" about Intelligent Design. I get so pissed off about it that my wife won't let me talk about it in the house.

On the subject of marriage and kids, I know a good number of people who got married because they wanted to be married and their spouse fit the necessary criteria. They all seem happy, but it's not a happiness I can relate to in any way. Personally, I got married because my wife and I tried to split up (before we got married) and just couldn't do it. I know couples like that as well, and there's a real difference between them and the first group.

As for kids, they are a crap shoot. But when it works it can be a wonderful thing. Watching your kids as they become aware of their world changes one's perspective. And even if it's only an instinctual, biochemical response to stimuli, it's still an amazing thing when you walk into the room and the kids all yell, "Daddy!" Sure, parenting has its drawbacks but it has its rewards as well.

On a different note, I'm guessing that you saw that Ruth Hussey died. I just watched "Philadelphia Story" (for the fifteith time or so)the other night on TCM. She was really terrific in that film, and against no small cast, she more than held her own (Oscar nomination).

John

Dear John:

No, I hadn't heard Ruth Hussey died. She made 90 years old. Sorry about that "stupid fucking morons in Kansas" line, it was a bit of an over-generalization, which I am prone to. I'm particularly against the Christian right using the word "intelligent," because is diametrically opposed to what they really mean which is "voodoo." If one is going to present alternatives to the "scientific" version of creation, evolution, then isn't it incumbent upon them to present all the alternatives? The Hindu story of creation, the Inuit Eskimo version, the Mayan and Inca versions? The Ainu of northern Japan? They're all equally as valid the minute you throw out facts and having to prove anything.

Josh

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

Hi Josh:

On a completely different topic: I caught 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' during a screening at Belfast's Queen's Film Theatre, replete with actors from the city's drag troupe. It was fairly embarassing (I was a virgin to the movie and the type of proceedings) but amusing. Comments about the movie?

Dear Brett:

I didn't do too much for me. But as I've mentioned before, I saw it on it's original theatrical release in a double-bill with "Phantom of the Paradise," which seemed like the better film of the two. I thought Tim Curry was good, though.

Josh

Name: Jesse
E-mail: jesse@egor.com

Dear Josh:

Wouldn't you say that most of the questions asked in this Q&A are just an attempt to patronize you? Like this one right here?

Dear Jesse:

Here is the Oxford American Dictionary definition of "patronize." 1. to act as a patron toward, to support or encourage. 2. to be a regular customer at (a store etc.). 3. to treat in a condescending way. Definition #1 makes sense. I think many folks who frequent this site do support and encourage me. Definition #3 fits because folks regularly write in and insult me like I'm an idiot. Definition #2 doesn't fit because most folks have not bought the one thing for sale here, tapes of "If I Had a Hammer." Do you mean "sucking up"? What good would that do anyone, including you? I think it's a place for people to vent, about movies or anything else, and to get filmmaking advice.

Josh

Name: Bruce Schermer
E-mail: bsure@juno.com

Hi Josh,

Enjoyed "Alien Apocalypse", partially since I felt like Dan Noga and I made it the first twenty minutes of it twenty five years ago in college and called it "The Price of Water". As I remember you called it "Quest for Water" then took our planet ball to make "Cleveland Smith". So you'll be hearing from our lawyers shortly.

Just kidding. So got a job?
Good job reworking our film. Sincerely,

Bruce Schermer

Dear Bruce:

I got news for you, we're both ripping off the beginning of "Planet of the Apes." And Rod Serling had already used that beginning on an episode of "Twilight Zone," too. They Detroit Filmmaker's Coalition just had a retrospective of "The History of Short Films in Detroit," or something, and they didn't have "The Price of Water" or "Cleveland Smith," which were both mainstays in Detroit for years. Do you speak Bulgarian?

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What do you make of all these questions about marriage?

Not just here but a recurring theme in these types of questions or comments seems to be 'choosing' when to get married, or 'delaying' marriage.

I am only speaking for myself, but I have trouble getting dates, and I never get dates with anyone that I'm really attracted to let alone want to wake up next to every morning. I really don't think marriage is something you can control as to choose when it will happen or whether it will happen or who it will happen with. So I guess that is the question. Is getting married really a matter of choice?

Dear Bob:

Here, I'll be controversial. Yes, marriage is definitely a choice, particularly when you settle for someone who is clearly not the love of your life, like most people do. I'm convinced that most people marry because A). everybody else is doing it, and B). they're sick of dating. This is called "settling down," with the emphasis on "settle," meaning you just settled for someone because they didn't offend you too badly. Had I married when the opportunity first presented itself, when I was 25, I would have undoubtedly not made any of my movies, I would not be in the film business, I'd be selling real estate of something, I would be utterly miserable, and probably be divorced now (as is the woman I'm referring to). Most people marry and have kids for the same reason lemmings follow each other over the edge of the cliff, because that's what everyone else is doing.

Josh

Name: tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

why did you put all of your copys of "if i had a hammer" on to vhs and not dvd?

Dear tom:

Because it was a lot cheaper, at least at the time. It was about $5 a tape for VHS duplication, and it was about $20 each for DVDs.

Josh

Name: Carl
E-mail: Carl@hotmail.com

Josh,

If you died tomorrow would you be pleased with your life and your career?

Dear Carl:

If I die tomorrow I'll stop being pleased by anything. Making movies is pretty insignificant in the scheme of the world, and it's not like I've ever done anything to help my fellow man, like joining the Peace Corps or helping the underprivilaged. But I've done exactly what I wanted, and I regret nothing. I guess I've carved out my own little niche of a career, but I don't think I've done anything of any real significance. At least I haven't pissed away my life doing something I hate.

Josh

Name: Frank Demne
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Which of your films did you feel you utilized your budget most efficently? (let's not include AA in the discussion here since it had a much larger budget than your previous movies) I'm curious if you would have done anything differently in retrospect; for example, maybe you found that filming in a particular location was too costly, and that the money spent in filming there could have been better used in a different aspect of the production.

Dear Frank:

I think I utilized the budget most efficiently on "Running Time," which cost $130,000. I had enough money to actually make the film I had in mind, I ended up with a feature-length film, with a good cast and a star, that shows regularly on TV. The only film I've made where I have a really big gripe against the location was "AA" being shot in Bulgaria, and having to cast Bulgarian actors, then dub them later. Otherwise, I don't even think about my old movies very much.

Josh

Name: David
E-mail: david@dustdevil.com

Dear Josh:

I live in Kansas, I'm assuming you're talking about intelligent design/creationism (possibly) being taught in public schools, and evolution (possibly) being banned. I graduated high school in 2000, there was a chapter in our textbooks on evolution but they wouldn't teach it to us. In fact, we were told to disregard it. It was technically legal to teach evolution then but it's up to each school district to decide for themselves, and the students have no say in it. Sixteen year olds can drive one ton cars down the road mere feet from pedestrians but they're far to stupid to control the direction of their own educations.

If that is what you are referring to when you said we "are trying to change the definition of science so that it includes miracles and acts of the supernatural" we're not the first, Georgia was debating it last year I think. I don't know what they arrived at. And when I say "we" I mean Kansans, not "the dumb fucking morons in Kansas." We have a lot of them here but I haven't been recruited yet as far as I know. I'm actually a little worried about it though, because it seems to run in my family. All my family is horribly religious, one of them seeing a commercial for "Queer Eye" on tv and quickly changing the channel, saying "they shouldn't let those people on television." Something everyone in my family (all in Kansas except one uncle in Texas) except me as far as I know would agree with. I hate to call religious people stupid but really the more you know about the history of religion and the history of the Bible, the less legitimate it all seems. For instance in the original texts the Bible said people went to Sheol, pretty much exactly like Hades of Greek mythology, but recent versions replace that with "grave", making it seem less ridiculous. Besides, is it really less likely that the universe with all it's matter and it's inherent physical properties existed with no godly creator than a god spontaneously existed and then created everything else?

And really, what do you expect when people still believe in angels, Harry Potter books are denounced because they might lead children into "real" witchcraft (which they would ditch anyway once they discovered that spells don't work and magic isn't real) and the Vatican is claiming demonic possessions happen and are having their universities teach courses on exorcism. On exorcism, here's a funny bit found on the British Telegraph: "In 1999, under the guidance of its chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican updated the ritual for exorcism for the first time since 1614. Guidelines tell priests authorised to carry out exorcism to "diligently examine the facts", before sprinkling holy water on someone claiming to be possessed by Satan."

Or else what, people might get wet? Does holy water have any effect at all, er, I mean any effect at all except on those possessed by Satan?

Finally, let me toss out two quotes I've stumbled upon recently and would like to share:

"We'd outgrown the fables, I knew. The sun isn't Apollo's chariot, of course: it's a star that began burning when a god said Let there be Light. Man was not created from clay by Zeus, he was created from clay by Yahweh. Hades didn't restore Euridice to life, please. That would be absurd. Jesus did, of course, restore Lazarus to life.... What morons we were before. How wise we are now." -- Dale McGowan

If you look at your reasons for discounting all other religions, you will find our reasons for not believing in yours. -Unknown

David

Dear David:

Thanks for the thoughtful response, considering I called everyone in your home state a fucking moron. Clearly, it's not everybody, just the religious fucking morons, which of course is the majority. I reiterate my position, which doesn't seem to be all that common, but is the only position that makes sense -- all religions are bullshit. No exceptions. All "holy" people -- priests, rabbis, ministers, mullahs -- are liars and hypocrites, every single one of them. They are all trying to sell you something that they assure you is true, which deep down in their hearts they all know is not true. There is not one single human being on this planet who knows any more about what it's like to be dead than any other person, and that includes newborn babies. All religions have just as much meaning as monkeys looking at the moon, stomping their feet and shrieking. The audacity of these idiotic religions to proclaim that they're right while all other religions are wrong makes my head spin. Every religion is equally as stupid and meaningless, whether it's Catholicism, the religion of the Inuit eskimoes, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Janism, or anything else. This is all the rationale of frightened, simpleminded people who are afraid of dying. The bible and science are not compatible. Science is based on things you can prove; the bible is a book of mythology which has no more validity than the Greek myths about Zeus, Hera and Hercules.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Since other people are playing the "what did you think of these films" game, I'll name drop two of the films I've most emotionally connected with in my life thus far that I didn't spot on your favorites list. I can think of several reasons why you might not like 'em, so fire away with your reasons for not including them, if interested:

* "Miracle Mile" by Steve DeJarnatt (1988). I saw this film on its extremely brief openinging run in the theater. Its financial tanking (aided by the collapse of its distributor, Hemdale) ended the film career of its writer/director -- he's done sporadic TV directing since then. The film stars Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham and starts out appearing to be a run of the mill 80s romantic comedy before taking a demented turn into real-time suspense thriller tinged with black comedy for the last 45 minutes of the film.

* "The Passion of Joan of Arc" by Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928). I'm sure this one isn't new to you. To me, it startled the hell out of me the first time I saw it. Dreyer's use of extreme closeups intercut with strange compositions of old hypocritical men's faces, edited together in jarring and beautiful combinations of still shots and tracking shots struck me as more advanced than most talkies that have come since then. Maria Falconetti's performance as Joan was tremendous.

Oh, well. Tear 'em apart, J.B.!

Dear Jeremy:

I haven't seen "Miracle Mile." "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is a classic, unique and beautifully realized. I've seen it in the theater, I have it on tape, and I've watched it several times over the years, and I respect the hell out of it, and now that you mention it, why isn't on my favorite list? I must have blocked it out of my head because the subject matter is so creepy and horrible, meaning religion. And while I'm on the subject, the dumb fucking morons in Kansas are trying to change the definition of science so that it includes miracles and acts of the supernatural. If they pass this law we should all federally gang up and declare them too stupid to operate motor vehicles and take away all of their driver's licenses. They may also be too stupid to handle electricity.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<Your thoughts are like a box of ping-pong balls being shaken up.>>

Like the lyrics to the Who's BEHIND BLUE EYES "When Life Is Splendid/Crack It Open/Before I Usually Lose My Cool/And If I Smile Can You Give Me Some Bad News/Before I Act Like The Fool/And If I Swallow Anything Evil/Put Your Finger Down My Throat" I'm gonna feel really stupid if I misquote that. What are some of your favorite song quotes? It really pissed me off when that rapper redid Behind Blue Eyes and cut out those lyrics because he wasn't talented enough to sing them as Daltry was.

Dear kdn:

It's "And if I smile tell me some bad news/ Before I laugh and act like a fool," BTW. There are so many lryics that I like it's difficult to choose. Immediately, the final couple of lines of "Dark Side of the Moon" came mind -- "All that is now/ All that is gone/ All that's to come/ And everything under the sun is tune/ But the sun is eclipsed by the moon." Or how about John Lennon's "I Am the Walrus" with -- "Semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower./ Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna man/ You should have seen them kicking Edgar Allen Poe."

Josh

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

<<Regarding losing my creativity, I've barely gotten started yet. Luckily for me, I don't have any early successes to have to get over, like Coppola did by winning five Oscars by the time he was 35.>>

It was obvious from the beginning that you put all your money into an art film, got royally screwed on it, $100,000.00 in credit card debt, and people are saying you sold out just because a job came along? It's the SCI-FI channel, what did they expect? LA DOLCE VITA? LAST TANGO IN PARIS? THE ASPHALT JUNGLE? Hey ever considered making a cheap film noir (or I don't know, maybe something like CHARADE or BEAT THE DEVIL, that look good cause they were shot on location)

Dear kdn:

I thought "Running Time" was kind of a cheap noir picture, although it does take place during the day. But it is in black and white.

Josh

Name: Diana Hawkes
E-mail: upon request

Dear Josh:

Coincidentally, because you discuss the continuous shot, just yesterday I came across someone on another message board mentioning the fim "Russian Ark" (2002), directed by some dude named Alexander Sokurov; something about ghosts in The Hermitage Museum. It apparently is a single continuous shot and is 96 minutes long. (I haven't seen it myself.)

It may not have outdone Hitchcock's execution, but I wondered if you were aware of this film, and/or if there have been any other attempts at the technique since Running Time.

Dear Diana:

Yes, I'm aware of "Russian Ark," although I haven't seen it. They use digital effects to get in and out of the various shots, not hidden cuts like "Rope" or "RT," nor is it telling a narrative story, following the same characters, or using the real time concept for any particular purpose, as far as I know. It is supposed to be pretty cool, though.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

What do you eat? Do you find time to cook yourself healthy meals or eat junk? Do you get outside and walk? Do you sense a relationship between creative productivity and one's food and physical activity habits?

By the way, was it a conscious creative choice to make Hank the sort of shut-in who keeps himself freshly bathed and neatly dressed, as opposed to the type of shut-in who, due to his lack of contact with others who might judge him, doesn't take very good care of his personal appearance?

Dear Jeremy:

Yes, it was a conscious decision. Also, although you may not notice it, he keeps the living room and the bedroom messy, but the bathroom and the kitchen are spotless. Meanwhile, I cook most of my own meals. I eat chicken and various kinds of pasta and salads, and granola for breakfast. I avoid beef, cheese, and sugar, if possible. I like eggs more than I probably should, and I only eat cage-free eggs. I take several walks a day, if it's not snowing or raining.

Josh

Name: David Higdon
E-mail: dbhigdon@msn.com

Hi,

I am a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock, and I am always looking for his influence on modern directors. It was through this search that I found out about "Running Time," and I am enjoying this film and the continuous shot theme on a whole new level. Is there any place where I might be able to find a poster of this movie to buy? Or, would your site happen to have any extra posters somewhere? I am very interested in finding one to frame for my home; I would be willing to pay for the poster as well as shipping and handling. I think that this film is so unique and exciting during an age where original thought and risk-taking have all but vanished. Before I let you go, I must also tell you how much fun my friends and I thought "Alien Apocalypse" was; keep up all of the magnificent work. I hope to hear back from you soon.
Sincerely,
David Higdon

Dear David:

Not only do I not have anymore posters, but I probably threw out 500 of them because my friend didn't want them in her garage anymore. I do have one framed one, however. I'm glad you liked the films. It wouldn't be possible for a specific director to have more influence on a film than Hitchcock did on "Running Time." But only one reviewer ever pointed this out, and you'll excuse me for immodestly bringing it up, but I'm the only one so far that has one-upped Hitchcock. I used a concept of his, the one continuous shot in real time from "Rope," and took it to the next visual level, meaning I got it off the soundstage and onto real locations, which was about 99% harder than what he did in "Rope." I also wove the real time concept back into the story, which "Rope" doesn't do. So, I say in all modesty, with full knowledge that "Rope" was certainly one of the lesser films in Mr. Hitchcock's career, that I used his concept better than he did. And I don't think any other filmmaker can honestly say that about any other technique or concept of Hitchcock's. If Alfred Hitchcock did it, whatever it is, no one else ever did it better. Except "Running Time."

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Apologies, I meant the phenomenon you mentioned wherein some film directors start to lose their timing and creativity as they get older, and lapse into self-indulgent cinematography. You brought it up when we were discussing Francis F. Coppola, and I was wondering if you worry about it happening to you.
On another note, I can't recall if I asked this before, but which would you say are your favorite Kurosawa films? If I had a gun to my head (or perhaps more appropriately, a sword), I would have to say "High and Low" is my favorite, closely followed by "Yojimbo." What do you think?

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I think "High and Low" is too long, like a half an hour too long, and paced too slowly for it's own good, but it's a good movie. "Yojimbo" is also too slow for me, although it's also a good film. I've certainly seen "Seven Samurai" the most times of any Kurosawa film. The films of his that affected me the most were probably "Ikiru" and "Dersu Uzala." Regarding losing my creativity, I've barely gotten started yet. Luckily for me, I don't have any early successes to have to get over, like Coppola did by winning five Oscars by the time he was 35.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<That's where I got the line, "Those guys are fags," for "Alien Apocalypse," which has apparently been cut out of all future airings due to complaints from gay groups. It's in Spicolli's stoned dream, when he wins the surfing competition. I went to high school with a hundred guys like him, and that's what I was like then, too (though a tad more on the ball, but not much).>>

I am a little slow sometimes, but it has more to do with me being a little imbalanced (or flipsy... or bi-polar but I don't have a doctor's note on it). I could memorize everthing you knew and I would still be this way, but I've learned to live with it. Since you mentioned WAR OF THE ROSES marriage, I might mention I saw CARNAL KNOWLEDGE the other night and that scene with Ann Margaret in bed complaining about the house being messy and Nicholson complaining she sleeps all day, then goes crazy screaming/crying,"LEAVE ME! LEAVE ME! I'D MARRY YOU IF YOU'D JUST LEAVE ME!" is pretty much out of my life although not quite as bad. I don't regret getting married in any way just because it remains the one constant in my life (and other side benefits know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more). I thought SHOCK TREATMENT was also a little better than ROCKY HORROR, cause Rocky Horror is drug out and boring unless you're yelling shit out at the screen (hey, that was my first date). SHOCK TREATMENT doesn't make too much sense unless you watch it over and over again but I'd take Cliff DeYoung and Jessica Harper anyday (hey I'd put her in a movie). Plus you've got DAME EDNA Barry Humphries as a Mad Blind German MC (that strangely isn't really blind) and his line,"They should be taken to the danube at dawn" Richard O'Brien:"what?!" Humphries:"Just Memories" Sadly my job situation has forced me too stop buying dvds till the end of the year and actually... gasp... pay rent. The problem was (this is funny) I wound up being like a heroin addict, If I didn't buy a new flick everyday I get really irritable, start looking for shit to pawn, forsake the rent money, hell, I've still got the track mark on my arm from all the plasma donations (hey 35 people got their meds). still, I've got 309 flicks to fall back on (I like the line in CADDYSHACK where Bill Murray is talking about how the Dalai Llama ripped him off "So I says, hey, llama, how about giving me a little something for my effort here... and he tells me, I cannot give you money but on your deathbed you will receive total conciousness... so I got that going for me")I'm hoping to catch THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS on TCM tonight, I was touched by your friend in the coma's recommendation.

Dear kdn:

Your thoughts are like a box of ping-pong balls being shaken up. That's a great scene you brought up in "Carnal Knowledge," where Ann-Margret won't get out of bed and says that she wants a job. Jack Nicholson screams at her, "You want a fuckin' job? I'll give you a hundred bucks, make the fuckin' bed! I'll give you another hundred bucks to open the window, it smells like a fuckin' tomb in here!" I really love that movie. At the end Nicholson has his slide show of all the women he's ever known called "Ball-Busters on Parade" and he narrates it saying, "Now this fuckin' cunt was a real ball-buster." And the way Mike Nichols directed the film, so that frequently we're only seeing a reaction shot and not the people who are talking, like the wonderful scene in the bar that's entirely on Candice Bergen's close-up laughing and it never cuts to Jack Nicholson or Art Garfunkel. As a director I cannot imagine shooting a scene that includes Jack Nicholson and not getting a shot of him. That's ballsy direction, or possibly ballsy editing, but either way.

Josh

Name: Dave Morgan
E-mail: davidmorgan99@hotmail.com

Josh-

I loved your movie Running Time. I will definitely be looking for your future projects.............I checked out your favorite movie list and two films that really made an impression on me were not there so I thought I would recommend them to you: Matewan (1987) and The Incident (1967). I would love to know what you think about them.

Dear Dave:

"The Incident" is an interesting movie, and a pretty good example of severely-low-budget filmmaking (it's entirely in a one subway car), and it has a particularly interesting cast, with young Martin Sheen, Tony Musante, Beau Bridges, and old pros like Thelma Ritter, Jack Gilford, Brock Peters, Ruby Dee, Jan Sterling, Gary Merrill, and Ed McMahon. But it's not like it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch. "Matewan" has gorgeous Haskell Wexler photography, but it really bored me, as most of John Sayles' movies do, but it was even duller than most of them.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

The characterization of Ernest P. Worrell was one that Jim Varney created for local television commercials (in Michigan, I believe), and while it was one of several, that was the one that took off. While he enjoyed the steady work, Varney still chafed at the typecasting. He really did have a phenomenal talent for accents and facial expressions, though.

As to this phenomenon with directors, do you worry that it will start to affect you?

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I'm sorry, what phenomenon are you referring to?

Josh

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

Re: Cronenberg

If you get a chance to see it, Cronenberg made an interesting and well-made film called 'Spider' in 2002 with Ralph Fiennes as a schizophrenic man who revisits his childhood home. It's well acted, looks pretty good and features a solid story. The real problem is it's more interesting in theory than it is in action. Fairly long running time.

Dear Brett:

Okay, but I didn't hear anything good about that film, and it sure doesn't look good. Meanwhile, someone told me the ending of "The Upside of Anger" and that sounds dumber than "Saving Private Ryan."

Josh

Name: martyn perry
E-mail: evileyeperry@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

It's been some year and a half now since i last checked in on this website properly (barring the odd look at AA pictures) but what i find amazing is how you manage to find the time to write and direct a film at all with your fully fledged commitment to answering "all legit questions". I'd just like to say thankyou for providing such a wonderful website and in particular your Q&A section. You make Bruce look very lazy (he had to shut his site down just to keep up!) good luck with all the future work and get sci-fi channel uk to put AA on for me :) kindest regards, martyn perry

Dear martyn:

Thanks, I do my best. Bruce is anything but lazy, even if he doesn't answer all his emails. His second book is about to come out and he's doing a 40-city book tour starting in June, his movie "The Man With the Screaming Brain," which he stars in, wrote, co-produced and directed, will be on later this year, he's starring in and directing a picture for Dark Horse Comics later this year, he's going to star in and co-produce my script, "The Horribleness," early next year. I mean, come on. That's a lot of stuff. If I had that much shit going on I probably wouldn't answer all my emails, either.

Josh

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

Josh,

Fortunately, not all of us married people with kids share your views on the subject.

Marriage and kids, or just kids are simply not for everyone, but I also know a lot of miserable single people as well, and actually, I live in a city full of them and they annoy me more then married people do.

I love kids and I never regret a day in my life for having my son. It has certainly made my life more challenging, but also better and all of my friends with kids feel exactly the same.

One of my friends in Europe said to me once "You are never quite sure whether you want to have kids, and you have a lot of doubts until you have them and then you wonder why you did not have them sooner".

One thing is that I am glad that I waited until I was in my 30's to marry and have a child, since I was able to to a lot of things im my life.

With that said, I will be seeing Walter Murch this evening and I will ask him your questions regarding the conversation, however, I am led to believe that the bug is in the phone, however, Hackman checks the phone quite well, so I am not so sure that there is a bug, and they may be using the same types of parabolic mics that he used for the couple.

I do agree that the last shot is most certainly supposed to be a point of view from a surveillance camera or give the idea that he is being watched.

Scott

Dear Scott:

It's not that the bug is actually in the phone, it's the system he sees at the convention that once you've been called it turns your receiver into an open transmitter. There's nothing actually in the phone. Have fun with Walter Murch.

Josh

Name: Steve Smith
E-mail: mowamba22@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I am a big fan of yours.I think you are a great director.I loved Alien Apocalypse.It was funny!I was wondering if it is going to be a Dvd or a copy to buy?
Also is there any way to get a signed photo from you?

Dear Steve:

Yes, there will be a DVD release of "AA" from Anchor Bay. I'm going to LA next month to do the commentary track with Bruce and Renee (which ought to be fun). Shirley, the webmaster, will interject here about the photo. [Send your request to: Shirley (Robbins) LeVasseur, c/o P.O. Box 86, East Vassalboro, Maine 04935. All requests must include a S.A.S.E. (self-addressed stamped envelope), for mailing it back to you.]

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

WHAT?!! The "fags" line has been cut out of "Alien> Apocalypse?" That line made the movie for me and the group of people I watched it with. I tend to wince in real life when people use the word "fag" or "gay" disparagingly, but *context*, people, context. Not only was it the funniest line in the movie, it wasn't just for laughs... It succinctly expressed the central theme of the film, which ws that the Doc has a certain unique attitude which allows him to change the world. Everybody thinks the bad guys are unbeatable, but with an unexpected burst of humor, Doc deflates the mystique of the oppressors and opens the way to social change. Viva la "fag" gag. I would encourage people to make a stink about it, but on the other hand, maybe it's not worth messing up the good relationship you have with Sci-Fi. You could use some allies with money, and they have it.

On that note, are you going to put any kind of priority on developing more sci-fi scripts since you now have an "in" at Sci-Fi, or is this gonna be a one-off as far as yer concerned?

Dear Jeremy:

No, I have another sci-fi script out there, "The Cascade Effect," which could well get set up at SciFi with Bruce and Renee, but it won't be until sometime next year. But no, I'm not putting any priority on sci-fi. In fact, my priority at the moment is zany comedy. I just co-wrote "The Horribleness" (with my buddy Paul Harris), and now we're about to start on another one, which I'll discuss further when the deal is done. I guess it's a surprise the fag line made it to the original showing.

Josh

Name: chld
E-mail: midnightdragon89@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh:

I am an aspiring actress. I have done some playes at my school too. I have thought of being a director instead. Do you have any advice?

Dear chld:

Start directing. If you whip a project up, then you can be the director.

Josh

Name: Bangit Clollins
E-mail: junkieelf@watermelon.com

Dear Josh:

Important Question: How many movies do you watch a day on TCM?

Dear Bangit:

I watch a couple of films from TCM a week. I don't watch a movie everyday anymore, and frequently what I do watch is from Sundance or IFC or HBO or wherever. I watched "Ring of Fire: the Emile Griffith Story" last night (on USA Network) and it was a darn good documentary. Griffith was world champion six times, fought a guy named Benny "The Kid" Paret three times, and the third time actually killed him in the ring, the only death ever in a world championship fight, and this was after Paret called him a faggot in Spanish. It then turns out that Griffith actually is gay and he didn't even know it then, or hadn't owned up to it. Several years after he retired he came stumbling drunk out of a gay bar in NYC and was severely beaten up by three young men strictly because he was gay, as a hate crime. He was beaten so badly he never fully regained his senses. It's a helluva story, and he seems like this tremendously nice, likable guy. Good film, which somebody on this Q&A recommended, and I thank you.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I can't STAND Alexander Payne. His movies to me are pretentious shit. I hated Election with a passion because it was so boring and all the characters were unlikeable. I haven't seen About Schmidt even though I own it (only because it came as a deal with a couple other DVDs). And I don't care to watch About Schmidt or Sideways anyway.

However lately I've been getting in to this weird directors phase where I'm trying to watch all of Cronenbergs stuff. I hadn't seen any of them. So I started with Scanners and then went on to Shivers. And even did eXistenZ. So far I love all of his flicks in their own way. And each almost seem connected to eachother. Are you a big Cronenberg fan? I think its cool that even Ivan Reitman helpped him get his foot in the door of the business. It was generous of him.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

When Cronenberg and Ivan Reitman worked together Reitman was nobody. That's how he started, producing David Cronenberg's films in Canada. I've found most of Cronenberg's films to be boring. I sort of respect "Dead Ringers" and "The Fly," but I don't really like any of them. BTW, "About Schmidt" is terrible.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

Dear Josh:

DUDE!!! like, Mr Hand, hold on, just eating some pizza here, I remembered my last question... oh wait, its not a question. he he he.

I though William Wyler's CARRIE was dead on. You give up everything for a broad and it still doesn't mean you will be together. I also like that line from BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES ("Think of all the times we told each other we hated each other and had to fall in love all over again".... damn, that's dead on too). ANNIE HALL, they both annoy the shit out of each other but I guess the point was, everyone is annoying, but are they memorable or enchanting in the inbetween... yup that's dead on. I guess love is when you want to strangle the other person but you can't live without them, so seeing a love story like CARRIE putting a knot in my stomach feels pretty real (cause it SUCKS when you find out you can't support the other person).

Oh yeah, why is everyone on this website so interested in whether you have kids or not? Are they like planning some sort of ritual sacrifice to the movie gods or something?

Dear kdn:

There's a great scene in "War of the Roses," in the bedroom, where Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner have just completely had with each other and she says, "I just hate that fake little laugh of yours," and he says, "Oh, yeah? You wanna take a punch at me? Go ahead," and she pops him in the nose. He grabs his face and says, "Next time I hit back." Ah, the human condition. I think single people annoy married people because they don't have to put up with all the bullshit of kids, and have therefore negated themselves from the human race. There's sort of an unstated, "If I got suckered into dedicating my entire life to the support and upkeep of a wife and kids, who the fuck do you think you are not doing it?"

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

Dear Josh:

DUDE!!! Alright Mr Hand, time to make up for lost time, since its cutting into my surfing.

1. I haven't seen CALIGULA, but I'll take your word for it, however, I did watch the uncensored version of LAST TANGO IN PARIS the other night, and I have to ask... how the hell could anybody try to charge the actors with pornography when Brando clearly has his clothes on for most of the sex scenes and it isn't like we were forced to watch a closeup of the girl taking it in the ass in explicit detail.

2. Most of your films open with the lead character being talked about by others, then we meet them. How do you feel that contrasts to say, the opening shot with Marlon Brando screaming FUCKING HELL!!!!

3. Watched STALAG 17 and goddamn it was funny... thank you. It was also kind of a dirty trick to toss in the chessboard and the knot in the light because the audience in the theater can't rewind to see who was at the chessboard to guess (although I doubt they showed it but I dunno). I think I like this one and SUNSET BLVD more than the IAL DIAMOND ones.

4. looking at the pictures of the giant termites for AA, was THEM any inspiration?

5. What do you think of Brian DePalma's PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE compared to the movies we get now. At the very least, its making fun of the music industry and the songs are about the story (Oh/Good For Nothing/Bad In Bed/Nobody Likes You/And You're Better Off Dead/Goodbye/A/Goodbye/We've All Come To Say Goodbye... ...And Though Your Music Lingers On/Most Of Us Are Glad You're Gone.... ....If I Could Live My Life Half As Worthlessly As You/Trust Me Babe/I Would Feel Like Burning Too) Campy, but I like the music.

Dear kdn:

Dude, that's my skull!! Well, let's see . . .

1. "Last Tango" was a racy movie for 1973, but in retrospect it's not all that risque. The whole, "Clip your nails and get a stick of margarine," scene was shocking at the time, and it was with a big movie star who had just won the Oscar the year before for "The Godfather," so it was a real change of pace.

2. Only two of my films begin with people talking about the lead character ("Lunatics" and "Hammer"), but it's a technique I do like. It sets up a mythology about the character, then it gives them an entrance. But TSNKE comes right in on Stryker and co. marching up the jungle path, and RT starts on Bruce's feet and tilts up to him being brought down the hall.

3. I saw "Stalag 17" as young kid, like 12, and it really affected me. That scene with Holden making fried eggs, then giving them to the simpleminded guy. I love Otto Preminger sitting in his stocking feet talking to his CO on the phone, has his valet put his boots on so he can stand and click his heels at the end of the conversation, then has his boots removed. But there's definitely a big difference in Billy Wilder's films based on who he collaborated with on script. All his scripts with Charles Brackett are very different from his scripts with IAL Diamond. He worked with other writers, too, like Raymond Chandler on "Double Indemnity."

4. No, "Them" wasn't an inspiration. It was mainly Ray Harryhausen's moon men in "The First Men in the Moon."

5. "Phantom of the Paradise" is okay. I think it's amusing. I saw it on it's original release in a double-bill with "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," both of which were just dumped into the theaters with very crappy distribution. As I came out of the theater into the bright California sunshine on Hollywood Blvd. and lit my cigarette I thought to myself, "'Phantom of the Paradise' is a MUCH better movie than 'Rocky Horror'," and which one went on to have a life?

Josh

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

Josh,

I missed Alien Apocalypse due to me lack of the pricier cable, but I'll look for it on DVD. It doesn't surprise me that it did well in the ratings, a couple friends of mine were talking about it about a week before it aired, which is probably the first time I've ever heard anyone talk about a sci-fi channel movie. Granted, it was referred to as that "cheesy looking Bruce Campbell movie" but I guess that's what drew sci-fi'ers in. You know, if Bruce had been in Hammer you might have gotten some good bids for it. But as much as I enjoyed the movie, it really didn't have any of those "saleable" elements, no big actors, the musicians weren't well known, and the concept didn't strike me as extremely commercial. All of which were reasons that I enjoyed it. It felt unique to me because it's so rare to see a professionaly made film without those commercial conceits, it really played in it's favor. Can anyone really name a film out there like it? Indie filmmakers these days are a fucking joke, the only difference between an indie and a major is that they are forced by circumstances to spend less money. Hammer is one of an extremely small number of indie films that doesn't feel like a desperate attempt to cash in. For that reason alone you should be proud of it.

Dear Jim:

I am. People kept asking me during production, "Who is this film for?" and I'd reply, "Me," which always got an astonished reaction. I suppose the correct answer, as per Movie Buff, is "Based on my research, 9 out of 10 kids between the ages of 12 and 18 have an undiscovered appreciation of folk music, and I believe I can tap into that and sell millions of copies." It's like if the research proved that more money could be made making pornographic snuff films, then clearly that's what you ought to do. I just watched the first 30 minutes of John Casavettes' "Husbands" last night, which I didn't like when it came out, and I still don't like, but guess what? Casavettes could have given a shit less whether I or anyone else liked the film. He made the movie he wanted, like he usually did, and if you can get into it, great, and if you can't, too bad. I'm not the biggest fan of Casavettes' films (although I really do love "A Woman Under the Influence"), but as a human being with a point of view, he's my biggest inspiration. And that's what's missing from today's artists, the attitude of, "I don't give a fuck whether you like this or not, but I do." That's art, everything else is pandering.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<You're like Spiccoli in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH>>

Alright Mr. Hand, who did I kill this time?

Dear kdn:

That's where I got the line, "Those guys are fags," for "Alien Apocalypse," which has apparently been cut out of all future airings due to complaints from gay groups. It's in Spicolli's stoned dream, when he wins the surfing competition. I went to high school with a hundred guys like him, and that's what I was like then, too (though a tad more on the ball, but not much).

Josh

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

Josh,

Obviously, "AA" is what it is meant to be; a low-budget (relatively), comedic vehicle with science fiction themes. It was also, however, well managed and very successful. That's nothing to scoff at. Perhaps it did not reflect the breadth of your vision, but it certainly demonstrated your command of your craft.

I look at your "Xena", "Herc" and "Jack" experiences in a similar light. For all that you say that movies can be more than simple entertainment, on which I agree, there's nothing wrong with some movies being simple entertainment, so long as they're done well. The problem is that more serious movies are not being made, or, at least, being made well. I think you'll agree that, with "AA", you made about as good a movie as you could have, given the circumstances. A good number of people would agree, judging from the ratings and response. There's nothing wrong with being a good craftsman.

John

Dear John:

Thanks for the reassurance, and I actually can use it at the moment. Yes, I did the best I could under the circumstances, but of the six full-length films I've made, it's definitely the worst. So, naturally, it did the best. But I don't blame someone who has seen "AA," then reads my review of "Saving Private Ryan" and thinks, "What an asshole!" because I'd probably think the same thing. I extoll standards that I don't personally live up to, not that I don't try. Luckily, this just makes me lame, as opposed to being a hypocrite.

Josh


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