Q & A    Archive
Page 144

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

Josh,

Your comment about these being unfunny times reminds me of the old Chinese curse; "May you live in interesting times."

I just got through Jimmy Carter's latest book, "Our Endangered Values." History will not remember his presidency kindly but Carter has been the best former President we've had since the Founding Fathers.  It's interesting that Carter argues (in "Values") for reason and rationalism on the basis of his religious beliefs.  "Values" has things to say and says them well.  I recommend it, if you're of a mind.

Does Starbucks pay residuals, or are those just the coffee grounds? Congratulations, Bruce!

John

Dear John:

Bill Clinton was a 99% better president than Carter.  Jimmy Carter clearly seems like a good man, but he wasn't a very good president.  He was nowhere near as bad as G.W. Bush, who even my Republican father now admits is probably the worst president of all-time.  The runners-up are James Buchanan, who got us into the Civil War (which was an inevitability anyway), and Andrew Johnson, who utterly fucked-up Reconstruction, but these were both national problems.  Bush has caused enormous international problems. His attack of Iraq was probably the most destabilizing thing to occur in the middle-east since Israel became an official country in 1948.  Anyway, I can't pay attention to Jimmy Carter because he's just too Christian for me.

Josh

Name:              Andres Anton
E-mail:             nachontondi@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I've never known what you think of "Titanic"...I know you must hate it because you hate all modern blockbusters, but you have to cut the movie some slack. If it had been a bad movie, it would have done the same thing "Pearl Harbor" did.....recover nearly what it cost at the box office and retire to live in oblivion. But "Titanic" was a film that reached all demographics, a film in which no one complained about being confined to a theater for three hours, a film that people went back to theatres for (instead of waiting for the VHS) and, let's not forget, the only film in history to recover 1.something billion world wide. Would it really have done this if it were a bad movie? Any thoughts? I don't think it is easy for a writer to mantain interest for three hours, involve the audience so much with the characters, to the extent that eighty and eleven year olds all came back to watch it again....I also think Cameron worked with two different storylines with two separate inciting incidents (the boat ride, and tha sinking)....hard task, don't you think? Any comments?

I know, I know, either you hated it or you never watched it....you still have to accept something was good about it....no other modern film has done what it did....and people bash it nowadays, wonder why.

Dear Andres:

Because it's a complete and total piece of shit, that's why.  I will never accept something making money as an indication of its actual value.  The script for "Titanic" isn't worth wiping one's ass with.  Worse still, it does en extremely bad job telling the story of the sinking of the Titanic, which is a fascinating story told very well in the British film, "A Night to Remember."  I particularly resented James Cameron adding dramatic elements like people shooting at other people with guns, and handcuffing someone to a pipe and having to come with an ax to set them free, as though the sinking of the Titanic wasn't sufficiently dramatic in and of itself.  There really isn't a believable story element in that film.  Someone in steerage, like DiCaprio, would never be allowed up to 1st class; and a young lady in 1913 would never put out like that within a day of meeting some low-class stranger.  When the young couple is wandering the decks, and DiCaprio stops to show Kate Winslett how to hork goobers over the side, one of the true low points in the history of cinema, I walked out and had a cigarette.

Josh

Name:              Andres
E-mail:             nachontondi@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Another thing on "Crash"...don't you think, that appart from having no story, and being extremley boring, having poorly written dialog, and no point, that it over emphasizes its message too much?

I believe the message should be implied, but not screamed at the audience on every single line a Character says. By the third scene you are thinking: "Racism is bad.......so what?!"

I am not going to watch anything directed by Clooney after my awful experience with "Confessions....", in which, after an extremley boring hour, he portrayed Mexico City, the largest city in the world today, and in 1963 when he supposedly portrayed it, as a f***ing rural town with dirt roads....GOD!

Quick Question: Does your new book include anything on story structure, (the writing stages of a low budget film) or is it mostly geared towards production?

Dear Andres:

The first third of the book is about writing the screenplay.  Yes, I agree with you, "Crash" totally over emphasizes its message to the point of utter unbelievability.  I don't like L.A., but it's not like that at all. Although there's undoubtedly racism going on, people aren't being so thoughtless and blatant about it that they're insulting people right to their faces.  It's a stupid fucking movie.  And it ends with not one, but two totally worthless songs.

Josh

Name:              Todd
E-mail:             thardiman@wowktv.com

Hey there,

This is my first time @ your site and I'm impressed at your work ethic (the star bucks cup). Anyway my question to you is about a movie script that I'm in the works with, not so much about the script itself, but the paper to film part. In what manner should I approach people to want to take part in my movie? Obviously I'm not rich nor am I an established writer, but I beleive I have a great story and script. I do have a videographer pal who is willing to help. I will also be shooting/ directing the film. But fundage is low, any tips to get some people to throw in some cash to help out the movie would be great. Here's what I've done so far, I've gotta local band that will be doin' renditions of music to help me out with copy write laws there (They have the contacts to make that happens). Two shooters w/ gear, a couple of light kits, and some audio help. Most of the editing will be on an avid that I have access to. can you think of other things that I may be leaving out? Again I'm not doing this for the $$$ but for the passion that I have for film and drama. Money would be nice though LOL.

Dear Todd:

Obviously, you can't approach people with the lure of money, so you must then substitute you enthusiasm and passion for the project instead.  As for money, since this is no kind of investment at all, meaning you'll very probably never make any money back on the film, you must convince people you're an artist, and for the sake of art this film must be made.  It sounds like you've already got a lot of people involved.  Just go for it and make the film.  You might still want to read my book, though.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Anon
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Hey, I agree with all of your fundamental ideas about religion -  not that it's really a case of agreeing or disagreeing as these are the unquestionable facts. Incidentally, you may want to read 'The End of Faith' by Sam Harris, and 'Straw Dogs' and 'Heresies' by John Gray. Just one point, I think you make somewhat of a mistake in referencing Buddhism in your essay though. I'm not a Buddhist, but I do know that they're fully aware that Buddha is only a man (there are sects that have made a complete misunderstanding of Buddha's teaching, but in reality, it's a very reasonable thing). Buddha never claimed to be divine, but rather, through his experiences, believed he had discovered the truths of the mind, and in a philosophical way too, that is via reason, not from religious hogwash and cowardly conjecture. What's more, Buddha said that none should ever accept his teachings as the 'religious facts' and should question them whenever seems necessary - and indeed, modern Science and Psychology seem very favourable to Buddha's original ideas. Other than that though, as I said, you are completely correct, if only more could, it's truly terrifying to know what the majority of the American people think. Look the books up, they're excellent.

Dear Anon:

You wrote all of the best quotes in my Latin book for school.  Buddhism is absolutely the most rational of all the modern religions, but they still believe all that nonsense about reincarnation, so it has it's voodoo/ just-take-it-on-faith side, too.

Josh

Name:              Rob
E-mail:             habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I just watched Alien Apocalypse last night for the first time (the first film of yours I have seen). I thouroughly enjoyed it, especially as a TV movie. The only comments I have are about the random fades (which I assume were for commercial breaks). Could they have let you shoot some additional footage to create better edits in those places? Also, in the very beginning, when the slaves are walking in their chains (before we even see Bruce, there is a shot where the film is sped up as you zoom out and pan right to reveal the entire line of slaves. It just didn't seem natural to me, and cheapened the effect of the first scene. As for everything else, it might as well have been a theatrically released feature film (based on production quality). Also, through all of Bruce's one liners and the corny horror/comedy transgender thing, it's really cool to see the three act screenplay so clearly represented. Once again, good job. Running Time should arrive today (which is better than AA according to IMDb.


-Rob

Dear Rob:

The whole beginning of the film got re-edited.  In my director's cut there was no tree montage, it began with the extreme close-up of the kid's eyes seeing the spaceship come down, then it pulled back slowly to first reveal the muzzle, then the whole chain-gang of slaves.  And the kid is the narrator.  Then the astronauts come over the rise yakking, and that was supposed to be the main title sequence.  I had a number of extreme long shots of the four little figures crossing the desert that were perfect for the titles, and those all got cut out.  And you didn't see any aliens until the beginning of the second act when the astronauts meet them.  Also, every act break got changed for no reason that I can discern.

Josh
 
Josh,

From time to time, Starbucks puts quotes on their cups. I did a signing at their headquarters a couple times and I met a guy who asked if I wanted to spew some false wisdom on one of their cups. What was I gonna say, no? So, here it is, out now in a Starbucks near you, theoretically...

 
Certainly an odd pop-culture moment.
 
BC
Shirley:
 
Could you post this on the Q&A please.
 
Josh

Name:              Corey Meredith
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Hiya, I was just wondering something. Now, this something may sound a bit offensive, but I swear I don't mean any harm.  I was just wondering why, for somebody who knows such powerful people in Hollywood (Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert) how come you aren't more famous? I mean, you probably have access to more projects than you let on, or at least could work on more movies than you do.

I say, you should sell out and convince somebody (Raimi or Tapert or whoever) and do one film that you're not the biggest fan of, and then use the money you can make from that to fund your own movies ... or, use the fame the not-so-great movie gave you to get other production companies to finance your work.

Take one for the team, eat a bullet, and then spit a million better bullets out like they do in the old cartoons.

Corey

Dear Corey:

Bruce Campbell and I have laughed heartily on many occasions at folks who write in on the internet giving career advice.  Nothing works the way you think it works.  Selling out is neither casual nor temporary.  I have some good advice for you -- take the effort you're putting into planning my career, and apply it to your own.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I'll narrow down Greg's question, since I'm curious as well. Simply, who makes you laugh these days?

While I'm at it, I just wanted to say that I've been listening to some Elmer Bernstein...he possessed such a lovely, lovely style of scoring. What are some of your favorite non-epic Bernstein scores, and what do you think of his style?

Dear Craig:

Elmer Bernstein was one of the greats.  I love "The Great Escape," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Walk on the Wild Side," among others.  I watch "The Daily Show" and laugh most every day.  It's not a very funny time we're living in right now.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I think you'd like "Brokeback Mountain" more...but you'd probably dislike that as well.

Just out of curiosity, what are some ensemble films you like? You seem to fervently dislike the concept for the most part, but surely there is an exception to your criticism (which is that they all suck and it's a dramatic cop-out)?

And have you seen any interesting/decent old movies lately?

Dear Craig:

I can't think of any.  It's simply an unsatisfying form, as far as I'm concerned.  I just saw "The United Sates of Leland," another intersection film, and it didn't work, either.  None of Altman's ensemble pieces are any good.  They don't dramatically work, and are ultimately unfulfilling. Probably the best is "Nashville," and I've never liked that film.  Here's a good ensemble film, "The Longest Day."

Josh

Name:              greg Bogosian
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

what do you make of the new generation of comedy? i.e. will ferrel, steve carrell, the wilson brothers, vince vaughn, ben stiller-- they seem to have formed their own tight-nit group, acting in each other's pictures, cameos, writing for one another, etc. etc.

do they compare to belushi, akroyd, chase, etc? and furthermore, do belushi, akroyd, chase, etc. compare to abbet and costello, laurel and hardy, the stooges?

essentially what i'm asking you for is a small dissertation on the state of contemporary and recent comedy actors in comparison to the greats...

Dear greg:

I don't want to write a dissertation on comedy.  You write it.

Josh

Name:              Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Do you believe any of the Oscars given out were justified? Did any of the nominees, in your opinion, deserve the golden statue?

Mo Money, Mo Flavor

Dear Mo:

I didn't see most of the nominees.  Since the Oscars are not a comparison of all movies, but just the movies of any one given year, then something will always get it every year. If you're comparing five shitty movies, one of them will always be somewhat less shitty than the other four.  However, if the other three films aren't any better than "Crash" or "Good Night, and Good Luck., then they're seriously bad movies.  I saw "Syriana" and certainly wouldn't have given George Clooney an Oscar for that performance.

Josh

Name:              Vietnam Gets The Knob Job
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Oh please, feel free to give us your comments on the Academy Awards (which I missed). Did you expect CRASH to win over BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN or was that a coincedence?

Dear VGTKJ:

No, I didn't expect "Crash" to win.  I don't think anybody did.  The Oscars were a disaster.  From the opening bit with all the previous presenters turning it down, which was inappropriate, to the utterly horrible elevator music played under every winner's acceptance speech, to the extreme bug up the producer's asses that any winner get a chance to speak their minds -- which is what the show is supposed to be about -- to cutting off the Best Picture winners and not letting them talk at all, it was as bad an Oscar telecast as there's ever been.  Not to mention a second-rate, extremely poorly-written piece of crap like "Crash" won, which I have no doubt was actually the best of the five nominees.  Hollywood is a disaster, the Oscars are a disaster, the arts in general are a disaster.

Josh

Name:              mike barker
E-mail:             rocstombstone@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

i have a great movie ideal but never wrote or made a movie before and want to but have no money what should i do because i have been writing for about 3 years on this one movie script and i have many more. i am looking for people to go in with me to make the movies.

Dear mike:

That's the trick, getting the movies made.  You have two choices: 1. raise the money and make the movie yourself, or 2. go to Hollywood, get an agent and try to sell your script.  That's it.  Good luck either way.

Josh

Name:              Peter Strauss
E-mail:

Josh, just caught (no pun intended) "Captains Courageous" last night. Excellent picture, if a bit long -- the third act just kept going and going. Still, I quite enjoyed it. One of the best scenes was after young Harvey has been aboard a couple days, still refusing to work and being a brat, and the Captain just comes up and smacks him to the ground. Then Harvey says, stuptified, "You hit me". It was so perfect!

I was also amazed how convincing the direction was. You feel as though the actors are actually at sea throughout. Also, some of the shots of the boat were really technically superior (it was filmed in 1936 or 37), and even now with all our so-called 'advanced technology' I don't see how a director could hope to do much better.

Dear Peter:

I daresay there's no director working who's as good as Victor Fleming.  Two year later, in 1939, Fleming directed both "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz,"  winning the Oscar for the former.  That's as good of a year as any director has ever had, with Francis Coppola coming second in 1974 with "Godfather Part II" and "The Conversation."  But "Captain's Courageous" really affected me as a kid, and the film holds up.  You can't beat the cast.  It's a great movie.

Josh

Name:              Chris
E-mail:             shenaniganz@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

Just wondering if you collected or owned any framed theatrical posters? How about ones of your own movies?

I havn't seen any for your movies available on the net except for a folded up one of TSNKE. I'm gonna start collecting framed posters of all my favourite movies as soon as I get money. I would kill for a Lunatics one but thats impossible to find.  I could always just tinfoil my walls....

Also..you're a shemp in AOD right? what are you in it? A soldier in the army of darkness or a knight? Do you show your face?

Would you like a 7th question?

Thanks in advance for any answers you give me.


PS. I hear that back in high school you used to wear Pinstriped suit jackets and jeans....you had style man....you had style.

Dear Chris:

In AOD I am the villager directly next to Embeth Davidtz at the mouth of the pit Ash gets thrown into.  I'm also a skeleton.  I have kind of a lot of movie posters, although I have none of them up on my walls.  I have my own movie posters framed, as well as a poster of "Barrabas," signed by Anthony Quinn, but they're all in the garage in a box.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

Well, $10 was a good deal to me. I saw "Man with the Screaming Brain" at Best Buy for $10 as well, but I had already bought that from Wal-Mart for $20 (those bastards!).

I definitly want to be TSNKE and "Running Time" on DVD whenever that set comes out, assuming I have the cash to buy it right away. If I don't have any cash, I'll wait and buy it when I do, and if Anchor Bay ever stopped selling it, then I'll just buy the set used. The point being though, I will someday own the entire set of Becker films (let's hope "Hammer" gets a distribution deal at some point).

I think either I've asked before, or maybe somebody else asked and it was just such a good question I wish I had asked it :( , but either way, are the special features on the TSNKE DVD gonna be the same as the special features on the previous DVD release, or will it be different ones? I'm a speical feature whore (I admit it), and I like to buy the biggest, best copies of everything. I'll buy both versions if I have to, but it'd be cool if the new release is gonna have everything the old one has.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

I don't know.  The new set will at least have everything the old versions had, but as for what else, I don't know.  Did I mention that I don't know?

Josh

Name:              CJ
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I've been dying to see "A Child is Waiting" for the longest time. It was Cassavettes' third film after "Shadows" I believe, and his last serious attempt at working inside the studio system. I read that he used real children with special needs. How did you see this film? Is it on video or dvd?

Dear CJ:

They just showed it letterboxed on TCM.  I saw it 25 years ago on TV and kind of enjoyed it.  I just watched it again and liked it even more.  It's incredibly sincere, and both Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster are very good. So is the young and pretty Gena Rowlands.  Stanley Kramer produced it, and apparently he and Casavettes had some big problems, but the film all goes together fine.  You'd never know it was a troubled production.  And John Casavettes shows that he could direct in a completely straight forward fashion, and he knows exactly what he's doing.  It gives some perspective to the films he made later.

Josh

Name:              Kojak
E-mail:

Hello Josh. I would appreciate it greatly if you could tell me all you know about the whole "life rights" idea. Obviously if I was going to make a movie about JFK, I wouldn't need to option his rights. But what if I wanted to do a movie about...Bill O'Reilly? He's clearly a public figure too, though he's certainly not a president. Take it a little further. If I wanted to do a movie about Josh Becker. Again, a public figure in the sense that you've made some movies that some people have seen, but again, even less so a public figure than Bill O'Reilly? Do you see what I'm getting at, what I'm asking here? If I'm interested in writing a biopic, what are the boundaries? Also, either from your own personal experience, or from your own general knowledge, how much might it cost to option someone's "life rights"? One thousand? Ten thousand? As much information as you can give on this subject would be most appreciated.

Dear Kojak:

I'm not a lawyer.  Obviously, if it's about someone who is living, and it's not a parody, then you have to negotiate and make a deal.  Everybody makes their own deal.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I finally got around to seeing 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'.  I have to say I actualy enjoyed it.  It was certainly more entertaining than 'Mystic River'.  This was also the first Edward Wood film I saw, although I did see the movie 'Ed Wood' which was not half bad either.  I think I would enjoy 'Ed Wood' even more now, but Bill Murray doesn't seem too much of a ringer for Bunny Breckinridge.  The DVD version I watched had the documentary with it, so I saw your pal Sam on that.  Did Sam really do stuff like recite Groucho Marx interviewing Tor Johnson. Anyway, the other question is, do you find a movie like Plan 9 more fun than the big movies being made today?

Dear Bob:

Yes.  At least it's short and snappy and has a pace.  Plus, what makes "Plan 9" so special is that it's so incredibly earnest.  Ed Wood is not trying to make a bad movie, he's trying to make the best movie he can, he just happens to have no good ideas, no ability, and no money, either.  The scene in "Ed Wood" that captures it for me is on the cheap room set, first Bela, then Tor have to come through the door, stop, look around, then exit.  In both cases Ed says something like, "You look around.  It's horrible," then each actor gives a big reaction and Ed says, "It's not that horrible," then they calm down and exit out a shaky door flat, and each time Ed says, "Print it."  We then see Bela talking to a crew member and saying, "Back in the old days at Universal we used to get 25 to 30 set-ups a day.  Eddie gets 150."  Anyway, that Tor Johnson bit that Sam was doing is from Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life."  Our mutual buddy, Scott Spiegel, audio-taped the episode with Tor Johnson and played it a million times over the years.  Groucho asks Tor his measurements, and he says, "My chest is 62, my stoma-waistline is 58, my hips 47," or something, and Groucho replies, "You and I have the same measurements.  You and my Buick."  Anyway, in my film "Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter," when Bruce is being beaten up by a giant native, he says, "Oh, my stoma-waitline," as well as, "Put be down Ubangi!"

Josh

Name:              Scott Hite
E-mail:             srhite@chartermi.net

Dear Josh:         

You mean Saving Private Ryan was really as shitty as it appeared?  WTF?  I'm hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't believe it was on of the all time greats.  You're wrong about the story not being there.  All sons dead, one son alive, bombs, guns, expolosions, movie stars, more bombs and guns.

Dear Scott:

It's a supremely dumb screenplay.  Some nice direction and sound work at the beginning, though.

Josh

Name:              Gene Or Billy, You Silly Wilder?
E-mail:             ohornydraculaoftenscorned@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I'm curious, in your screenplay for THE HORRIBLENESS, do you have a cook pinch Peter Lorre on the ass like MAD MONSTER PARTY? Funny, when NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS came out they were advertising it as the first full length stopmotion animation feature but MAD MONSTER PARTY was made in the late sixties and it was released into Theaters. They also put a little Peter Lorre character in CORPSE BRIDE (which had a really shitty screenplay). That reminds me, which of the stopmotion tv specials did you like as a kid?

Dear Gene:

There's no Peter Lorre character in "The Horribleness."  Frankenstein, Dracula, the Bride of Frankenstein, and zombies.  That's all.  I liked "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," but that was cell animation.  I love Bruce Bickford's clay animation, but I wasn't aware of him until I saw "Monster Road" last year.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

Hey again. I just wanted to say that on Monday, I was lookin' around Best Buy and I came across a copy of "Alien Apocalypse" for $10. Sure, I've said a couple of times I'm not a big fan of the film, but I couldn't pass up that deal, especially with the commentary track and all.

So, I was listening to the commentary and oh my god, you do not sound like I expected you to sound like. I don't know what I was expecting, but what I heard wasn't it. You sound much happier on the commentary than you do when you're posting on here. So much more lively and fun. Oddly enough, we have very similar senses of humor.

A couple notes now that I've rewatched the movie and heard the commentary. I too like the shots of Renee O'Connor crawling (She has a lovely ass, and I mean that with nothing but respect. She's a lovely actress, and she looks nice in a space suit.). Also, I didn't notice this the first time around, but the part right before Ivan removes the bullet from the guy (where the booze first comes into play), the first guy that gets shot in the chest kinda bounces off the ground almost like somebody off camera skipped him like a stone. That was cool, and someday I'm totally gonna rip that off from you (I hope you don't mind).

I like "Alien Apocalypse" a bit more now.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

That's good.  The DVD retailed for $9.99, so you didn't get that great of a deal.  I guess it just showed on Sci Fi again last week.  Now you'll have to buy TSNKE and "Running Time" to listen to Bruce's and my commentaries on those.  Although they won't tell me when, the two films are supposed to be coming out as a 2-disk set soon.

Josh

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

Hey Josh, just wandering what you think of Judy Garland as an actess, she's of course mostly known for her singing, i wish they had let her do some drama or comedy without making it a musical - what's your opinon?

Dear stacey:

I'm a Judy Garland fan.  I thought she was a great singer, she knew how to act, and she had terrific screen presence.  She gives an amazing dramatic performance in "Judgement at Nuremburg."  And I don't think any actor living or dead could have done a better job as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz."  I recently watched again another of her purely dramatic performances, John Casavettes' "A Child is Waiting," and she did a very credible job.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What exactly do you think makes a well-directed film?

Dear Craig:

That an interesting, broad question.  Since every movie is different and needs different things, in broad strokes the director has a clear plan for transferring this script to the screen, which is understood by the actors and the crew.  The director is in control of the tone of the set and doesn't let it get too tense to get good work from the actors.  The director is in control of the schedule and has planned their day so that it's not a shit-fight to get it.  The director communicates clearly with those around them.  And then, when it's done, if the director's plan was in fact the correct one, it will be a well-directed film.

Josh

Name:              Scott Hite
E-mail:             srhite@chartermi.net

Dear Josh:         

Today a major cinematographer in Hollywood is reading my first screenplay.  He mentioned the "three acts" and your website might help me to rewrite it.  I'm thrilled just to have it read by someone important.  Thanks for the plain and straightforward information.  I'm just overeducated trailer-trash with a half-ass script.

Scott R. Hite
Kalamazoo, Michigan

Dear Scott:

I wish you all the luck in the world.  May your half-ass script improve.

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Thanks for the list of writers, I'm going to have to check out the movies for the ones I hadn't heard of before.

Have you heard about this book called "The Schrieber Theory" by David Kipen that just came out? Apparently it talks about how the important factor in great movies has been, not the director, but instead the writer. He basically works to debunk the director as auteur idea. It sounded interesting at least in the fact that someone is calling for better writing in film which nowadays is a rarity.

Jeff

Dear Jeff:

It takes both a good director AND a good script to make a good film.  The fact is, it's been so long since we've seen a good script or well-directed film that we no longer know what those things mean.

Josh

Name:              Matthew Garvin
E-mail:             mgarvin1977@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

What was the budget that was giving to you for the production of "Alien Apocalypse"?

Dear Matthew:

Although budgeted at $1.5 million, once all of the overhead was paid, I believe we actually had about a half million to shoot with in Bulgaria.

Josh

Name:              robert
E-mail:             hdhntr1@earthlink.net

Dear Josh:         

grreat film, I wish more people had the courage and talent to produce this type of movie...keep up the fine work
a fan

Dear robert:

I don't know what movie you're talking about, but thanks.

Josh

Name:              Beth
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

So I read your response to Erin. LOL, so that means you're pretty boring too, being a writer and all?

Beth

Dear Beth:

Sad but true.

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Josh,

Just finished having my own little Paddy Chayefsky double feature of "Americanization of Emily" and "Marty" both of which I really enjoyed. James Garner plays a great smart ass. Both Garner and Andrews were characters that had much more depth than at first glance.

On a somewhat related note, who do you feel were the top screenwriters in film history? It's been a while since I read his bio but if Billy Wilder was truly a co-writer on all his movies then he should be in there somewhere.

jeff

Dear Jeff:

Absolutely.  Billy Wilder was a great screenwriter.  Let's see . . . Dudley Nichols, Robert Riskin, Sidney Buchman, Robert Sherwood, Frances Marion, Daniel Taradash, Ben Hecht, Norman Krasna, Jules Furthman, Charles Brackett, Carl Foreman, Michael Wilson, John Huston, Preston Sturges, Howard Koch, Emeric Pressburger, Nunnally Johnson, George Seaton, Grahame Greene, Joseph & Herman Mankiewicz, Ernest Lehman, Dalton Trumbo, Richard Brooks, I.A.L. Diamond, Horton Foote, Robert Bolt, William Goldman, Francis Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Frank Pierson, Robert Towne, Woody Allen, Robert Benton, Alvin Sargent, to name a few.

Josh

Name:              Erin
E-mail:             xepitomeofsassx@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

Yeah, I'll go with your gut instinct since it's probably better than mine...my first thought when she asked me was "so it's definitely not Jane Fonda reading Barbarella." Oh and add me in on the Good Night, and Good Luck sucked bandwagon. I didn't expect to love it but I found it just awful. The character development was awful and about the third time that women came in singing "whooptey doo da, it's 1953", I left and got my money back. I didn't even want to chance Syriana. I did, however, expect to like Capote and was majorly dissapointed. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's impersonation of Truman was amusing for about 15 mintues but after that it just kinda dragged along. I think the big problem was the actor who played Perry Smith. He was just weak. They could of cut out about 25 mintues as well. I could complain all I want, I guess, and it won't change the fact that movies just plain suck now. Anyways, I was watching Running Time recently and I have to ask who is that guy who plays the bum behind the dumpster that scares the hell out of Bruce? I realized that aside from the direction, of course, that guy is my favorite part of the film.

-Erin

Dear Erin:

That's Jules Dejarlais, a Native-American actor who I met through my good buddy and neighbor at that time, Pato Hoffmann, also a Native-American actor.  Jules was very good, and extremely funny.  Meanwhile, I haven't heard anything good about "Capote" and won't be running out to see it soon. I don't read biographies of writers, either, because writers are, for the most part, dull people.  Writers sit around by themselves a lot staring out windows.

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:             shepherdsquake@yahoo.com

Hi Josh. I just came across a quote from a DP who shot a b/w film for Jim Jarmusch and he mentions a problem that I didn't even realized existed: "... [during a screening at the Berlin Film Festival] parts of the film played out of focus because the arc lights in modern projectors are very hot and black and white film absorbs most of the heat because of the silver in it. The film kept popping in the gate and changing focus, even though the same print looked great in smaller theaters where the lamp wasn't as hot. This forced us to go back to the digital master, change the contrast to accommodate color intermediates and make color release prints.

The contrast is not as good as black and white release stock and there will always be a little color in the image. I think it's time for a new black and white technology that combines the magical look of silver-based stocks with the projectability of modern color stocks."

Do you know anything about this focus issue? I hope this hasn't already been discussed on your site. Thanks very much.

Dear Danielle:

I didn't have that problem with my 16mm or 35mm black and white prints of "Running Time," but then again I didn't get a lot of theatrical showings, either.  My films were undoubtedly never shown in houses bigger than 500 seats.  Most theaters aren't very big anymore, so it's probably not much of an issue for most filmmakers.

Josh

Name:              Rob
E-mail:             habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I was just watching the BTS on my Amadeus DVD. Foreman makes a comment concerning the score. He said the score was done before the film (because they used all Mozart), so he had more time and money to spend on the film itself. After hearing this, and of course noting the amazing timing of the score, I began to think of Kubrick's films. I've only seen Clockwork Orange and Space Odyssey, but both contain mostly unoriginal music. All the films mentioned so far are considered among the greatest ever made. Is there a connection? Is a director more likely to make a better film (or at least get a jump start) if they use musical pieces that already exist? Forgive my sentence structure - it's late and I'm tired. Thanks again.

-Rob

Dear Rob:

I don't think so.  In the case of Kubrick and "2001" and "A Clockwork Orange," he's using the old classical music as a counterpoint to the new, sci-fi stories he was telling, yet still perfectly scoring the scenes.  The juxtaposing of the old against the new was brilliant and never seen before -- a spaceship floating gracefully through space while a graceful Strauss waltz plays; or a gang of futuristic violent kids beating and raping a couple to the strains Rossini's "The Thieving Magpie."  In the case of "Amadeus," the film is about Mozart and I'll bet many, if not all, of the selections were written right into the script.  For the most part, however, scoring is done afterward by the composer, and the process is now about how your edited images inspire the musical synapses to fire in the composer's brain.  The only film of Kubrick's that's entirely classical is "2001," otherwise he always had a composer, like Leonard Rosenman or Wendy Carlos.

Josh

Name:              Angel
E-mail:             aesparz2@depaul.edu

Dear Josh,

I never realized you enjoyed, 'Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia'. I think it's a damn good film and was excited to see a film of it's quality and breadth this weekend with, 'The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada'. Knowing it was directed by Tommy Lee Jones, I didn't have any expectations and feared something akin to Redford's 'The Milagro Beanfield War.' It was anything but and as we left the theatre I remarked, "That was 'Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia' meets 'Le Grande Illusion'." Easily the best movie I've seen theatrically in some time.

I know it's now a dead horse, but I hated 'Crash' due to the response. People felt it really addressed race relations, when in actuallity, race was nothing more than a 'McGruffin'. It was as boring an 'intersection' piece, as most intersection' movies have become. All-star ensemble cast burning up the celluloid and the big cliamx is when all these people we've been following, for no reason, the last two hours. . .meet! What's the point? I's as fascinating as running into someone you know at the grocery store.

Dear Angel:

These "intersection pieces" are based on the opposite of good drama, which is called coincidence.  It's one thing to meet a bunch of different people who all end up, let's say, on the same plane flight that gets hijacked or something.  It's not a coincidence they're all on this flight, that's a story, and that's why we're meeting these people -- it's all leading to one thing.  Robert Altman made a career out of telling that "intersection" story: meet 20 people, then they all end up at the same wedding, or the same health club, or they're all involved with the music business in Nashville, and I must admit that I've never cared for it when Altman did it, but he's not working with coincidence, either.  It'd be a coincidence if two of the passengers of the flight were brothers, but didn't know they were on the same flight.  A coincidence is a "gimme," an unbelievable plot turn where you're expecting the audience to suspend their disbelief and just run with you, and you get one gimme per story.  Every time two of the disparate characters encounter each other in "Crash," it's one more gimme, so by the end they've asked for about a dozen of them.

Josh

Name:              Scott
E-mail:

Hey Josh.

I agree with you on Crash. I thought it was highly overrated and a tad pretentious. While i didn't love Good Night, and Good Luck. i didn't think it was a bad film. My major gripes with it were that I didn't feel that we knew enough about Murrow, and I thought that the relationship/secret between Patricia Clarkson, and Robert Downey Jr was completely pointless. Otherwise I thought it was at least interesting, while not great. At least it wasn't Syriana.

Dear Scott:

I agree, it's much better than "Syriana," but I still don't think that makes it good.  I think Clooney made another mistake by not casting an actor as Joe McCarthy, just showing him, extensively, in stock shots.  What happens is that McCarthy just isn't a character, and Murrow's relationship to him never means anything.  I think the most interesting aspect of "Good Night, and Good Luck." is that it has both a comma and period in the title.  And my final point about "Crash," which I forgot to make, is that the point of the story seems to be -- everybody is a rascist asshole, but with a good heart, and that's bullshit.

Josh

Name:              AJ
E-mail:             ajky1111@hotmail.com

Hey Josh. It took me a while, but I read the list of all the movies you have ever seen. I saw on that list you have Sam Pekinpahs' "Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia". This film was a huge insipiration to me and I thought it was dircted very well. Not as good as The Wild Bunch though. What did you think of it?

Dear AJ:

I think Warren Oates is great, and the film's impressively gritty, but it's pretty rough to sit through.  I did feel like I could smell the rotting head in the bag after a while.  Nothing else Sam Peckinpah ever did comes close to "The Wild Bunch," which is his masterpiece.

Josh

Name:              Greene
E-mail:             greene_chs@hotmail.com

<<I saw two of the five Best Picture nominess, "Crash" and "Good Night, And Good Luck.">>

I saw 'Good Night' and kind of liked it. It was short, direct and intense, but I agree a bit too simplistic and very left-leaning. But at least it had very little padding. I think George Clooney has a good director's hand -- though what I saw of his last movie didn't really impress me. At least 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' was interesting though. Did you like that 'Good Night' was shot in b/w?

Dear Brett:

I thought the black and white photography in "Good Night, And Good Luck." was too mushy and not sharp enough for my liking.  I also wasn't impressed with the direction.  There were just way too many tight close-ups where I got to count the pores in David Straithern's face.  But worst of all it's a one-dimensional bio of Edward R. Murrow.  He has a stilted speech pattern, he seems to tell the truth, and he smokes.  That's it.  Neither a good bio pic, nor a particualrly compelling drama.  At least it wasn't three hours long, I'll give it that.  As for "Crash," it's got a theme and no story, so halfway in it just took a big dump and really became boring.  And there are so many stupid, unbelievable scenes, like Terrence Howard screaming at the LAPD with their guns drawn, or him grabbing the gun away from the car-jacker, or the Arab man immediately becoming hostile to the locksmith, then going after him with a gun, blah, blah, blah, and all connected by ridiculous coincidences, as though L.A. were the size of Punxsutawney.   And the whole ensemble thing is just an excuse and a cop-out to not have to really figure out any of the characters.  When Sandra Bullock hugs her Latino maid and says, "You're my best friend," we haven't even met the maid. Amateurish.  I bet it wins Best Original Screenplay, too.

Josh

Name:              stacey naughton
E-mail:             staceynaughton06@yahoo.co.uk

Dear Josh:         

hi, i recently found out a character on my fave tv series is having an affair with an indie producer named josh becker, i used to be obsessed with xena and figured she prolly meant you, its the l word by the way

Dear Stacey:

Yeah, that's what I've heard.  And I also hear the character is a jerk. This might be revenge from some former Xena fans who didn't like me because I didn't think Xena and Gabrielle were gay.  Anyway, I still take it as an honor having a character named after me, jerk or not.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I just viewed 84 Charing Cross Road after not having seen it since the first time many years ago.  It was enjoyable.  I noticed that it was on your favorite films list.  I am not a big fan of the device of talking to the camera or audience that Anne Bancroft frequently used in the film, I think it takes the actor out of character, but I can see why it was relied on since the main characters had so little interaction other than their correspondence.

Watching 84 got me to thinking, what has happened to all of the British films? ...Charing Cross I think was essentially a British film.  It used to be that there would usually be at least one or two British films in general release every year.  Lately it seems to be just the occasional James Bland movie.  Do you think that British film creativity is a moribund as the American, or can we hope for some good things from across the pond in the near future?

Dear Bob:

The British film industry has been in worse shape than Hollywood for a long time.  "84 Charing Cross Road" was an American movie, BTW, and it was produced by Mel Brooks.  The "Bond" films are American movies, too, and are the only thing that's kept UA alive for years, although they've now seemingly revived one of their other franchises, "The Pink Panther."  And they're trying to revive yet another with a new "Rocky" movie.  It's all pretty goddamn boring.  But there's still a small but interesting film industry in Britian that makes films like "Trainspotting" or "The Full Monty" or "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" or "24 Hour Party People."

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

I have a friend who had a bad experience with Troma. He was art director for a movie I worked on called "Risen" and he later got a job (what job I can't remember, but he discovered later it was just like a PA job) working on "Poultrygeist" but when he got there, he discovered that he was supposed to just sweep floors and stuff and do all this grunt work for no pay and he was supposed to sleep in a barn with all the other PAs and there was no shower and it was hotter than hell. Or at least that's what I think he said. It's close to being right, but I may have a few facts wrong.

Troma just sounds like bad business. Continuing on where Mo left off, why was Troma so hard to work with? Were they trying to buy the movie for way less than you spent making it, or were they just being bitches about the whole thing?

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

It really doesn't matter this late in the game, over 20 years later.  Most movie deals die, that's just how it is.  I don't give a shit about Troma or any film they ever made or had anything to do with.  They are off my radar. Meanwhile, I saw two of the five Best Picture nominess, "Crash" and "Good Night, And Good Luck." and was unimpressed with both of them.  I just can't wait to see the other three.

Josh

Name:              Franklin
E-mail:

Yo Josh. I have a quick agent question for ya. I know that certain agents handle actors and then there are literary agents that handle writers, but what type of agents handle producers and directors?

Any info would be hot.

~Franklin~

Dear Franklin:

A director's agent handles directors.  I don't believe that most producers have an agent.

Josh

Name:              Jess Hartley
E-mail:             jhartley@dsl-only.net

Dear Josh:         

I wanted to thank you for the information on your web page. I'm working on my first screenplay and found your insights into the industry and screenplay writing to be very helpful.

I really appreciated your experience being available as a resource.

Thanks again,
Jess Hartley
Easthampton, MA

Dear Jess:

Good luck on your script.

Josh

Name:              Erin
E-mail:             xepitomeofsassx@aol.com

Hey Josh,

Got a tricky question for you. I read the boards frequently and a friend of mine is in an Oscar pool at work and the bonus question is a real toughie. I've researched it on the net...can't find a thing and it's driving me insane...so I thought my next best option would be you.
Anyways, here it is.....
In a scene from a film from the 1970's, a Best Actress winner reads the novel of a film in which she previously starred. Name the actress and both films.

The nominees are:

Glenda Jackson "Women in Love"
Jane Fonda "Klute"
Liza Minnelli "Cabaret"
Glenda Jackson "A Touch of Class"
Ellen Burstyn "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
Louise Fletcher "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
Faye Dunaway "Network"
Diane Keaton "Annie Hall"
Jane Fonda "Coming Home"
Sally Field "Norma Rae"

I think I've narrowed it down to Glenda Jackson reading "Women in Love" in "A Touch of Class" or Diane Keaton reading "The Godfather" in "Annie Hall", but I don't know for sure. I know you're not Alex Trebek or anything and I'm totally cheating but what the hell, thought you might know.

Dear Erin:

Although I certainly won't swear to it, my immediate gut response was Glenda Jackson in "A Touch of Class" reading "Women in Love."

Josh

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

Hi Josh

I've got a couple of friends who work as an editors down in London. Invariably tbey tell me that the 'hot new director' types that book their facilities are public schoolboys, many of whom still live at home.

So my question is: is film-making in today's climate a rich kid's game? Or perhaps I'm looking for scapegoats for my own lack of success!!!!!

Being kind of lower middle class and just getting by month to month, I don't seem to qualify for the public school boy brigade or the good old working class boy the arts councils in the UK seem to love soooo much.

Lata


Lee

Dear lee:

I don't believe Jim Jarmusch or George Romero or John Waters had much to work with when they started, mainly just imagination and ambition.  Your fellow Brit, Charlie Chaplin, grew up in a Dickens-like work house.  John Ford came from a poor family with about 10 kids in Portland, Maine.  Steven Spielberg's family didn't have any money.  The bottom-line is that it's just a bitch getting into the film business -- and staying in it -- no matter where you come from.

Josh

Name:              Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I have no idea why Troma might take "Hammer" but they've done stranger things. Why wouldn't they take TSNKE? Too much of a real story for them? Afraid that if they take it all there films will look bad by comparison?

Mo

Dear Mo:

No, they haven't done anything stranger.  And they wanted TSNKE, and we negotiated with them for a while, but they were impossible to deal with so we just called the whole thing off.

Josh

Name:              Justin
E-mail:             tolleswrg@aol.com

Josh,

I keep hearing that it's important for writers to write as much as possible in order to strengthen their abilities. When I work on a film idea, though, I usually spend a great deal of time making a ton of notes and free associating and going over the "ideas" of the script so that themes start to surface and characters become more interesting, and so on.

My question is, do you think this kind of daily brainstorming falls into the description of "writing every single day?" Whenever I hear people say that it's vital to write, write, write, I worry a bit that I'm not doing enough. My brainstorming sessions almost always produce exciting new discoveries and I can't help but feel that the act of hacking deeper into the material ("picking the scabs," as Bergman says) is very necessary.

Maybe the key is to set some time aside each day (after my note-scribbling jerk offs) to actually work on individual scenes and doing so in the proper script format so that I can learn how to write dialogue and screen action well.

Do you find that some wannabe/amateur writers procrastinate about actually writing by using the excuse: I'm not ready for that yet ... I'm still working out the "big picture" ... I'm still trying to create the general outline before filling in the details? I don't want to delay my development as a writer. Thank you for listening to me whine.

Dear Justin:

That's okay.  I write every day, if nothing else than just my journal and answering the Q&As, but always something.  Writing seems sort of like lifting weights to me: the more you do it the easier it gets, and the second you stop it starts getting harder and harder, and very quickly it becomes daunting.  That's why when I write a script, as soon as I have the whole outline, I immediately write a treatment just to see if I can get all the way through the entire story.  And amazingly, these treatments almost always come out to 12-14 pages.  Then I take the treatment, save it as a new file, and adapt it into screenplay form, and very quickly I have about 20 pages of script.  Now it's an issue of filling in and expanding.  Who are these people?  Why are they doing these things?  This method doesn't always work for me, but it has frequently.

Josh

Name:              Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Don't give up man. Keep pluggin' away at trying to get "Hammer" distributed. Have you tried some of the lesser companies, like maybe, god forbid, Troma?

Why won't Anchor Bay take "Hammer"? They've distributed some awful pieces of shit, and I'm sure "Hammer" is like "The Godfather" compared to most of their library.

Do you have any idea why "Hammer" isn't something a distributor will buy? Is it the story, or the no name actors, or the fact that it's a non-SAG film?

I'd hate to see you give up,
Mo.

Dear Mo:

It's all those things.  Meanwhile, why would Troma handle a folk musical?  I couldn't make a deal with those assholes on TSNKE.  And Anchor Bay was interested while I was making the film, but the executive (a former folkie) who liked it quit before the film was finished.

Josh

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

Hey Josh

Yeah I too was really disappointed with The 400 Blows. I just couldn't see what the big deal was about. I much preferred The Bicycle Thieves, which had a gentlessness and grace that 400 Blows didn't.

One of my tutors at film school told me (when I'd handed in my essay on Kubrick) that no film-maker is infallible (I think my essay was a bit gushing!)

You know I bought an Arri BL after talking with you on this site. Made three shorts with it at the mo'. Love shooting film. Although I have to say I've got a mini DV camera and an editing program (Premiere Elements - a slight cut down of Adobe Premiere Pro). And Premiere Elements lets you do chroma-key/blue screen. I'm shooting a short where a boy is chased by a cartoon character that comes alive. My point is: mini dv and Premiere Elements on my home computer has opened up the world of special effects. Some of the shots have five elements comprising the final image. I'm having a whale of a time. And although it hasn't got the film look by a sight, I wouldn't like to try this on 16mm!

So as a learning exercise mini DV has a real value.

And, I plan to shoot 16mm, transfer to mini dv and edit at home. I know there's a lot of compression but nothing you'd notice on the small screen.

Okay. Catch ya later.

Lee

PS Have you seen The Edge with Anthony Hopkins? It got really low ratings but I watched it again the other night and it's a good film. Good acting, good bear battling!

Dear Lee:

Yeah, I saw it.  Bart the bear was looking a bit long in the tooth by that film.  As I recall it had a completely idiotic ending.  I saw the film in New Zealand when I was working on Xena, and I saw it with Lucy and her daughter Daisy, who was about 9 at the time.  Daisy's disdainful comment after the film was, "Why did everybody get hurt on the leg?"

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Have you heard of the colorized version of "Casablanca" that was on a laserdisc release in Japan? Apparently its quite rare, and someone is willing to pay big bucks for it. I just stumbled across an ebay listing for it, thought you might be interested: http://cgi.ebay.com/Casablanca-3-Disc-Box-Set-Ultra-RARE-Colorized-Version_W0QQitemZ9101927409QQcategoryZ381QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Dear David:

I'm so pleased that the colorization issue just sort of went away.  The only movie that seemed to work better colorized was "Miracle on 34th Street."

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:             shepherdsquake@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Thanks very much for the warning about the dangers of dry ice. That story about Frank Capra's foolish actor is so awful!

Thanks also for your suggestion of shooting in a refrigerated environment. It would be tough to find a place that I can afford, but I like the idea of avoiding the unpredictability of winter weather. It would also mean not subjecting the cast and crew (not to mention myself) to the painful wind that we'd no doubt encounter on an outdoor set.

Yes, BLOOD ON THE MOON is stunning. I would love to see it projected one day.

Dear Danielle:

Check out "Out of the Past" which was also photographed by Nicholas Musuraca.  He also shot almost all of the Val Lewton horror films of the '40s, like "The Cat People" and "Bedlam" and "The Seventh Victim," that are all strikingly well-lit.

Josh

Name:              Will Dodson
E-mail:             wdodson52@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Regarding your response to my Truffaut question....I agree with you that there's a serious problem with Truffaut (and others) tendency to imitate and ape, rather than create.

I think it was the beginning of the end, really. The New Wave started, and its severe self-awareness condemned it to homage; film schools doomed many of their pupils. Suddenly Brian DePalma is a big influence, rather than Hitchcock.

It seems to me the only thing I should want to imitate from my heroes would be the fact of Doing, of making a film. Why make a film that they've already made (better, almost always)?

And yet I tend to rent everything "critically hailed." My french kick is almost over. I actually really liked parts of Godard's "Masculin/Feminin" > even though it fails on nearly every level as a film, save for a few scenes.

I sort of liked "Le Trou," by the coincidentally named Jacques Becker. At least he understood irony, if not when he should cut the damn camera.

Dear Will:

I was just informed that there's a film producer character on Showtime's series "The L-Word" named Josh Becker.  Anyway, for me the entire French New Wave is summed up with "The 400 Blows" and "Breathless," and all the rest is beside the point.  But as critics and theorists, the French New Wave got everybody to wake up and accept that Hitchcock, Hawks, Anthony Mann, Edgar G. Ulmer, etc. were really terrific artists and that was very important.

Josh

Name:              Bobby
E-mail:             bobbygnign

Hey Josh,

Thank you for answering my "Fountainhead" references with one from "Atlas Shrugged".  I read alot, mostly fiction, but I've been started to branch out into memoirs/biographies.  Do you know of any decent Kubrick biographies?  He seemed like a very interesting, if somewhat obsessed man. "Dr. Strangelove" is one of my favorite films, and I would love to read more about the production of the film, how it was lit, especially.  Take care.

Dear Bobby:

I've got three Kubrick bios, Alexander Walker, Michael Herr and Frederic Raphael, and none of them really does him justice.  I just flat-out didn't like the Walker book, Herr's book is a short little reminisce, mainly about "Full Metal Jacket," and Raphael's book, "Eye Wide Open" is very interesting, but entirely about the writing of "Eye Wide Shut."  A little bit of trivia: "Strangelove" was lit by Gilbert Taylor, who would later shoot "Star Wars."  The FX are by Wally Veevers, who would then do "2001." You should read Peter Bogdanovich's books "This is Orson Welles" and "Who the Devil Made it" (that seems like it should have a question mark at the end, but doesn't).

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

I was going through your Cost Report for "Hammer" and I've got a couple of questions for you. I hope they do not come across as stupid because I really do not know.

Under "Catering" you spent about $9700.00 to feed everybody. Is it a requirement that you feed everybody? Is it a professional courtesy? Couldn't anybody that was hungry in the morning just stop by the 7-11 and get a cup of coffee and some doughnuts or whatever? Same for lunch? Admittedly,I did have a 55 cup coffee maker going at all times, had a cooler full of Aquafina,and did provide a little breakfast in the morning on that little black and white tragedy I wrote you about. $10,000 is a whole lot of dough though that could be put to use somewhere else I'm thinking.

The final question relates to Set Security and Police. Were these your typical contract Security people? Armed or unarmed? And why the Police? Did you actually have to pay public servants for their presence on your movie location?

My apologies for the long post.

Your feedback please.

Tim

Dear Tim:

If you're running a real movie shoot, you're feeding everybody.  There were days when I had 30 extras, 20 actors and a crew of 25-30 people, and you don't make those people bring their own lunches.  You must keep extras well watered and fed or they become locusts and eat the equipment.  You can't shoot on the streets of L.A. without a permit and a uniformed, off-duty LAPD cop, those are the rules, and if you don't follow them in L.A. you absolutely will get shut down.

Josh

Name:              Will
E-mail:             wdodson52@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I wondered what you thought of Truffaut. I know that your feelings on the New Wave are somewhat ambivalent, if I correctly remember some old questions. I saw the Antoine Doinel movies and after The 400 Blows I didn't like them at all (though the short Antoine and Collette was really good, I thought).

I saw Jules and Jim last night, and on some levels I really liked it a lot. Jules suppression of his jealousy and desperation to keep Catherine ear him was powerful. I'm not quite so sure about some of the other characterizations. Then again, since the source novel is autobiographical (of Henri-Pierre Roche), I guess some of the more unbelievable situations might be chalked up to me as a 27-year-old American viewing a French movie from 1961.

Have you seen it?

Dear Will:

Yes, I saw it, although it's been at least 20 years.  As hard as I tried I didn't care.  And Truffuat never interested me on any kind of filmmaking level.  None of the Nouvelle Vague impressed me very much, they were all better film critics and theorists than filmmakers.  And so much of that stuff is homage.  Half-assed Hitchcock or half-assed Sam Fuller.  I'm much more interested by the Italian Neo-realist movement, where they actually seemed to have some stories to tell, and they weren't imitating anyone else.

Josh

Name:              Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

That sucks dude. Are you still looking for a distributor for "Hammer" or are you still selling it on this site? Or have you just givin' up on it?

Mo.

Dear Mo:

For the time being, I've given up.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Yale
E-mail:             yaleboy@amazonwomen.com

Josh:

Since you have put a lot of thought and passionate invective into formulating exactly what's is wrong with Hollywood filmmaking, have you ever considered doing either:

a) a documentary on the subject, interviewing other directors/writers/actors on the subject of the decline of film, tearing the shit out of the current sacred cows of the medium?

b) a parody of today's typical "serious" Hollywood film, ridiculing the shitty state of things?  As in a parody of Soderberg, Kauffman, that Sideways guy, etc?

Either would be fun to watch, at least in my opinion.

Dear Jeff:

I'm not a documentarian, but it sounds like a very uncomfortable doc to make.  You' re going to interview Steve Soderberg and ask him, "Why was 'Traffic' so fucking awful?"  "Why would you sell your soul to make shit like 'Ocean's Eleven'?"  It doesn't sound viable, at least to me.  It seems to me that a parody needs to be more specific than just "serious movies," which is a wide definition.  Maybe you should do it.

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:             shepherdsquake@yahoo.com

Hi Josh,

I'd like to shoot a scene (on b/w s-16) that takes place inside the cabin of a marooned sailing vessel in the Arctic. To accentuate the extreme temperature of the environment (and the desperate circumstances of the characters) I would love the actors' breath to be visible. Trouble is, I will be shooting on a small indoor set with warm lights (much of what goes on outside the vessel will be told through sounds:  the creaking and moaning of the wood, the fierce winds and crashing ice floes, etc).

Because I do not wish to simulate the steam with some kind of horrible computer effect during post, I've been thinking about building an additional set (just for the scenes that occur before the characters establish a heating source) outdoors and shooting during the winter at night. I could place a black felt "canopy" above the set to block out the street lights (unless a rural location can be secured), then I'd be able to carefully light the actors' breaths for the desired look.

Does this sound like a decent plan? Do you have any better ideas for shooting this type of scene? I'm hoping to get a beautiful high-contrast look for the cabin interiors with dark backgrounds and tight, spare lighting --- like the evening sequences in BLOOD ON THE MOON.

Thanks very much.

Dear Danielle:

That sounds like a viable plan.  Getting steam out of people's mouths isn't easy, and you'll need to back-light.  Attempting to make a film that looks as good as "Blood on the Moon" is a terrific aspiration, and I wish you all the luck.  That film was shot by one of my favorite cinematographers, Nicolas Museraca, and I think it's gorgeous.  In regard to this same issue, when Frank Capra was shooting "Dirgible" in 1929 and was trying to get steam out of the actor's mouths, the FX dept. rigged up little metal cages filled with dry ice that fit in front of the actor's mouths, and were hidden within their hoods.  But it didn't work very well and there was hardly any steam. One of the actors thought he could improve things and put the dry ice right into his mouth.  He ended up having his entire lower jaw amputated.  So don't do that.  Your plan sounds better.  Another possibility is too shoot inside a big refridgerator, like in a grocery store or a restaurant.

Josh

Name:              Chris
E-mail:             shenaniganz@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I would see them but I think the only way I could is if I bought them from amazon and my mum is the one who pays for stuff from amazon (I then pay her back)and I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be too happy with me getting an X rated film.

Anyway, is "Rushes" definately happening? If so I look foward to it. I ordered "The complete low budget guide to Film making" and it should arrive any day now.

Dear Chris:

Then I guess you'll have to wait until you're older.  There are some laughs in "Pink Flamingos" and "Female Trouble" that are unlike any other films. For my money, John Waters could have retired after "Female Trouble."  The only things in life that are definite are taxes, death and trouble.

Josh

Name:              Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Hey, if it's not too late, you should see about getting "If I Had A Hammer" packaged along with TSNKE and RT as a special feature. Do you think Anchor Bay would go for that?

Mo

Dear Mo:

No, they won't.  They won't even include the super-8 "Stryker's War," which really and truly ought to be on the DVD.

Josh

Name:              Chris
E-mail:             shenaniganz@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I just noticed that "Pink Flamingos" is in you Favourite movie list. Is this the "pink flamingos" directed by John Waters? If so does this mean that you like those sort of "tasteless" movies that really kinda push the envelope?

I havn't seen Pink Flamingos but I have read tonnes about it and I know of all the sort of gross things about it.

BTW I'm not against those kind of movies or anything...I am just curious if you like it or not.

Dear Chris:

Not "those sort of 'tasteless' movies," just "Pink Flamingos" and "Female Trouble," specifically.  I can live without any other John Waters' movies, let alone anything imitating them.  But when those films came out in the early 1970s there was nothing else like them, and they both made me laugh a lot.  See them then check back.

Josh

Name:              David Paulson
E-mail:

"I think George Stevens' Oscar is justified, as well the film not winning Best Picture."

On your article "THE OSCARS: WHAT COULD HAVE WON AND WHAT SHOULD HAVE WON", you did list "A Place in the Sun" over "An American in Paris" among the nominees and all eligible feature films. On some entries I noticed you and Rick split votes, but not that year. Oh well, I guess you changed your mind since that was written. Just pointing it out.

Dear David:

I said I think "An American in Paris" winning makes sense and is justified, although I don't know that it's necessarily the best picture.  When everything is said and done, I enjoy watching "An American in Paris" more than "A Place in the Sun," and I've seen it many more times.

Josh

Name:              David Paulson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

So I just saw "A Place in the Sun" for the first time, and I thought it was very good. Montgomery Clift plays a tortured soul about as well as anyone, wouldn't you say? And Liz Taylor was marvelous, and just stunning throughout. It was a bit suprising, however, that it won 6 Oscars, but did not win for Best Picture. Did you feel that George Stevens' Best Director Oscar was justified? He did some very interesting "layered cuts" that had never been done before (at least so I read), not to mention many terrific close-ups. A scene that stands out to me was when the prosecutor, played by Raymond Burr, reenacts the part on the lake in the courtroom itself, rowboat and all. He gets so worked up, he smashes the oar against the boat for terrific dramatic effect.  Just a damn good picture all around.

Dear David:

And for those of us who remember Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, that's clearly the film that got him the part.  I think George Stevens' Oscar is justified, as well the film not winning Best Picture.  "An American in Paris" is an exceptional Hollywood musical, and unique too with it's 18-minute ballet at the end, but I think Stevens' direction in "A Place in the Sun" is subtler and more difficult to pull off, which he did.  As my friend Rick used to say, and "A Place in the Sun" was one of his favorite films, that they certainly didn't need to dress Shelley Winters down and make her look frumpy, which they do.  Shelley Winters, on her best day, dressed as beautifully as you could dress her, is going to lose to a 21-year-old Liz Taylor every time.

Josh

Name:              Paul Allen
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I have been reading your forum for a while now. Sometime in the last few weeks you said: "movies that are all plot bore me" (or something very close to that effect). Doesn't the film "All the President's Men" fit into that categorization though? Yet you also said its an excellent film. I think that's a bit inconsistent of you, as "All the President's Men" has virtually no character development, and revolves solely on the Watergate case. Just my two cents.

Dear Paul:

I disagree.  A big part of that movie is watching these two young reporters work together and relate to each other, as well as to the other members of the newspaper's staff, like the editor, Ben Bradlee.  It's an interesting example because we all know how the story ends, Nixon resigns, yet that's not why were watching it.  But as far as mystery-type stories go, this is one of the best because it's true.  And it's so ridiculously improbable that these two young reporters would bring down the president.  Also, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Josh

Name:              Bobby
E-mail:             bobbygnign@yahoo.com

Hey Josh,

I think Anita Barone gives a very thoughtful and complex performance in "Running Time".  I think she's pretty, too, but that's another matter. I was wondering, as a director, how much work do you do with your actors to help them along with their characterizations?  I would imagine you and Bruce have a pretty solid shorthand by now.  Are you very protective of the characters you have created on paper, or are you just extra careful when casting your films (or both)?  Also, how do you make sure your actors are comfortable when filming a love scene? As always, thanks for your time.

Dear Bobby:

Rehearsal.  We had several days of rehearsal before we started shooting, and we worked most everything out there.  Bruce and Anita ran that sex scene about 20 times, until they were completely comfortable with it.  It's not an issue of being protective, it's really an issue of trying to bring this scene to life.  That's what a director does.

Josh

Name:              Rob
E-mail:             habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I just read someone's post referencing mini-movies. Does that mean (theoretically) one should write their three acts as if they are each their own three act story, that are part of the bigger feature film? I know it sounds confusing, but I'm sure you understand me. Thanks.

-Rob

Dear Rob:

No, one should write a full, three-act story, then break it up into parts and shoot them seperately.  As I suggested, like 8-10 weekend shoots where you're trying to get about ten edited minutes of footage on each weekend. Then when you cut it all together it becomes one full-length film.

Josh

Name:              Russell
E-mail:             russbo1@hotmail.com

Hello again, Josh,

I haven't posted here in a while as I've still been busy trying to churn out some form of a decent screenplay with a story (we sure need more of those).  I just found out you have a new book - kudos on that... I look forward to procuring it in the near future - and I'm dying to get your take on making low budgets gems.

I used to be a ginormous fan of Sam's for eons and I even once sent him a couple of snail mail letters - he wrote me back twice (the letters are supposedly still in storage in CA but I kept his signed picture)and seemed like a sweet, kind and compassionate person.  Now, it seems all I hear of him is that he's not the nice guy he once was(swallowed up by the system maybe?).

My interests have turned to the independent film arena of the past few years or so and I've totally been floored by the works of Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino (I know, I know... hack director, right?) and low budget guru, Robert Rodriguez.  I've been impressed with what I've seen so far of Rodriguez's 'Sin City' and Smith's "Clerks II' seems like it might be a hoot.  I look forward to 'Grindhouse' from RR and QT.

They all tout HD as being the do all and be all of the world.  I'd love personally one day (if/when I get my first spec sale) to get one of those Panasonic HD camera's and make my first full length feature.   can always dream.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the above as well as have you heard of sequencing - writing scripts using the Mini Movie Method of breaking a movie down into 8 mini movies?

Sorry this was so long.  Had a lot to ask.  Thank you for your time and comments.  :)  You rock!  Keep up the great work!

Dear Russell:

I've been bringing up that "mini movie method" for years, although I've never done it myself.  A good example is Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise," which was originally a 30-minute short, then when he got more money he added Acts II and III, so his original short was just Act I.  Or you could do it in 10-minute hunks, by having 8 to 10 weekend shoots spread out over a year, or whatever.  I'm still a proponent of shooting film though, at least for this moment, that's if you want to actually sell your movie, that is.

Josh

Name:              Kane
E-mail:             wwf-freak22@msn.com

Hi Mr. Becker, me again. Kane. That's not my real name or anything but I just put it because it's my internet handle and anytime I'm on the internet I use it. I know lady in the water isn't her real name either but it's m night shiamalian's next movie title so maybe that's a clue! Do you ever have famous people posting on this cite other then you?

I also think all your movies are grade A. Even A+. Lunatics and If I had a hammer are my two favorites but Alien Apocolypse has second place:)

Thanks for your advice. Kane.

Dear Kane:

I just figure if someone's going to hassle me, the least they can do is use their name.  It seems like a cheap shot to give someone shit under a blatant psuedonym.  Thanks for the nice thought, but certainly my films go no higher than B, if for no other reason than I've always had so little money to work with.  Do I ever have famous people posting here?  No, not that I know of. They could be using psuedonyms, too.

Josh

Name:              Jessica (formerly lady in the water)
E-mail:

RE: Thou Shalt Not Kill

As if giving my name on the internet lends any credibility to what I'm asking or saying. You think half the people on this board are giving you real names? Come on, Josh. So sure, for the sake of taste, my name is Jessica. Even though it's really Joan. Or Melissa. Or Reberta. Or Pippi. Or Joseph.

Moving on...

Let me point you in the direction of your third "ask the director" guideline: Try to direct your question toward either my work or directing in general.

And here is the disclaimer above this very page: All answered questions will be posted and no legit question will go unanswered.

And here was my question from yesterday (which was both legit and directed toward your filmmaking), which, strangely, went unanswered: AS FOR THE MOVIE ITSELF, I'M SURPRISED IT EVEN GOT A LIMITED RELEASE. IT'S HARD TO TELL WHETHER OR NOT YOU GUYS KNEW YOU WERE MAKING SOMETHING SHLOCKY. KIND OF LIKE "AA." WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? DID YOU KNOW IT WAS RIDICULIOUS TO ATTEMPT SHOOTING A PERIOD PIECE ON SUCH A SMALL BUDGET AND TRY AND FILM LEGITIMATE VIETNAM BATTLE SEQUENCES...

From your overly defensive response, I think you inferred that I was somehow discounting the efforts of a young, twenty-something filmmaker. I am not-- congratu-fucking-lations, you made an indie when you were young. So have many others. Not the point of my post. If we determined a film's merit based on how old and how passionate the filmmakers were during the time they made it, then perhaps Copolla's "Dimentia 13" and "Finnigan's Rainbow" would rank higher than his "The Conversation" and "The Godfather." Perhaps "Who's that Knocking on My Door?" and "Boxcar Bertha" would be considered better films than "Goodfellas" and "Raging Bull." That is fantasy, my friend, and not how art is judged. Likewise, "I Had A Hammer" is leaps and bounds ahead of "Thou Shalt Not Kill..."

So here we go again, hopefully this time you'll follow your own rules (and don't give me that "this is my site, I do as I please crap"): Is "Thou Shalt Not Kill..." supposed to be as shlocky and awkward as it is, or was it a case of a young filmmaker biting off more than he could chew?

P.S. As for making my own film in my twenties...well, I still have a little under a decade to do it...and I get closer and closer each day...

Dear Jessica:

I am the final arbiter of what's legit and what isn't here at Beckerfilms. There's always been about 15-20% questions I just ignore because they're too stupid, or don't relate to anything, or are just being snotty to score points.  Regarding TSNKE, I did the best I could under the circumstances. Yes, I was aware that I really wasn't in the jungle, and that I didn't actually have any automatic weapons, and that I only had about $20,000, but that was the script we had chosen to do and as the director I did what I could to bring it to the screen.  If it didn't keep getting rereleased, as it's about to again, I suppose I could just forget about it.  There, are you satisfied?

Josh

Name:              in headlights
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Were you really an extra in OPENING NIGHT, the Cassavettes film? IMDB lists you as such. What are your thoughts on Cassavettes? KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE is a personal favorite of mine, I mean, it's at times the most boring movie imaginable, scenes go on and on endlessly, but there's something very special about it. If you were in fact in the film, do you have a story as to how that all came about?

Dear ih:

This is an excerpt from my essay, "Being an Extra," which will be in my new
book, Rushes."

            My first job as an extra was in 1977, when I was eighteen years
old, on John Cassavetes's film Opening Night.  There had been ads on an L.A.
rock & roll station that said if you wanted to be an extra in Cassavetes's
film, go to the Pasadena Auditorium on a certain day wearing dress clothes,
and you'd also get a free lunch, but no pay.  I had been in Hollywood for
about six months and this was the best offer I had heard yet, so I went.
There were about five hundred other people there and we all sat in the
audience clapping all day long while watching Cassavetes and his wife Gena
Rowlands do a scene from a fake play within the movie.  By lunch my hands
were bright red and aching.  Nevertheless, unlike many others, I went back
in for the second half of the day and clapped until my hands were swollen
and throbbing.  When I got into my car to drive home I could not make a fist
or tightly grab the steering wheel with either hand.

            Several days later I received a call from a 2nd A.D. asking if I'd
like to do more extra work on Opening Night.  I said sure.  Luckily, the
next location was much closer to my apartment.  It was a theater on Wilshire
Blvd. between LaBrea Ave. and Vine St., I believe called the American
Theater, which has long since been torn down.  This was a night shoot and I
was instructed to arrive at about 5:00 P.M.  As the crew set up outside the
theater, the extras, all dressed in warm winter coats since this was
supposed to be in New York, just hung around for hours.  I attempted to
strike up a conversation with a German fellow who seemed to have nothing to
say.  I asked if he liked any German films and he shrugged.  I said,
"Fassbinder?  Wim Wenders?  Fritz Lang?"  Nothing.  Finally, a bright,
bespectacled, collegiate-looking fellow in a long wool coat stepped up and
said, "I've seen all those guy's films."  I said, "All of them?"  He nodded.
And he had, too, plus thousands and thousands of others.  His name was Rick
Sandford and he was my good friend for the next eighteen years until he died
in 1995.  We talked movies non-stop all night long while we were shooting,
then went back to my place, talked movies all day, then we went back to the
set and continued shooting and talking movies all the next night, too.  Not
only was John Cassavettes in these scenes, but so was Joan Blondell and Paul
Stewart, who had been in Citizen Kane.

            I was called back in for a few more days of work, but Rick wasn't.
This was apparently based on zip codes and proximity to the new location,
which was at a restaurant in downtown L.A.  All of the scenes were being
shot inside the restaurant between Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara, who were
sitting in a booth with their backs to a big window.  Since this was
supposed to be New York in the winter, the people passing back and forth
outside the window, including me, had to be dressed appropriately.  An A.D.
was stationed at either side of the window, and would choose which extras to
send through and when.  Being a ham deep in my heart, every time I went
through and knew I would be seen between the actors, I'd pause for a second,
shiver, and shake my arms like I was freezing (it was probably about eighty
degrees out).  The A.D.s loved my little performance and sent me back
through over and over again.  Each time I'd do a little variation on my
frozen routine, and each time the A.D.s would smile in approval, then send
me back through again.

            At lunch that day, which was served inside the restaurant, I saw
Gena Rowlands sitting all by herself.  No one was eating with her.  I
summoned all of my courage, walked over and asked if I might sit down?  She
shrugged and said sure.  I told her that I had written a very positive
review of A Woman Under the Influence for my college newspaper a few years
earlier and had won an award for the best article of the month.  I then
mentioned that Rick Sandford had written her a fan letter a few years
earlier analyzing her entire career.  Ms. Rowlands promptly reached into her
purse and retrieved Rick's letter, saying, "This one?"  I was astounded.

Name:              desmond Duke
E-mail:

Hello Seller,

I am  desmond Duke from united kingdom and i would like to order your item for one of my store in West africa( cote d' ivoire ) and i will like to know how many you have in stock and the cost of each of the item, Also i would want you to get back to me with the shipment cost of the item and i would be making my payment by Bank Transfer from the Citi Bank and i would be needing your bank account details for the payment so i would want you to get back to me with your swift response.and do not forget to reply me in english.
You can contact me on desmond_duke3@yahoo.com

Best regards,

Desmond Duke.

Dear Desmond:

Yes, I mistakenly slip into Farsi occasionally, so I'll try to stick with English.  I'm not selling anything.

Josh

Name:              Rob
E-mail:             habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

What are your thoughts on Milos Foreman? I just saw "Amadeus" for the first time in years. I can't stop thinking about it. It's very dark for being such a multi award winner (especially Tom Hulce's laugh v/o at the very end - right before the fade out - that sounds almost like a witch's cackle). If I recall, Man on the Moon was okay, but not nearly as twisted and gutwrenching as Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Can you recommend any of his older films? Like the ones in italian or Czech?
Thanks.

-Rob

Dear Rob:

Italian, Czech, what's the difference?  Milos Foreman is a pro, and he's made some solid films, like "Cuckoo's Nest," "Amadeus," and "Hair," which is a whole career right there, but I honestly don't give a damn about any of his other movies, particularly the early Czech ones that are oddly well thought of.  "The People vs, Larry Flynt" wasn't bad, if not all that good. And "Ragtime" has James Cagney's last feature film performance (he made one more TV movie after it).  I enjoyed Foreman's autobiography, "Turnaround." But every time I watch "Hair," and I've seen it quite a few times and admire it in many ways, I really wish Mr. Foreman would do something, anything with the camera.  He needed Ken Russell to step in for the acid trip scenes.

Josh

Name:              Scott
E-mail:

Josh,

Seeing as the "modern movies suck" debate is back in full swing, I thought I'd chime in and advise everyone to avoid Brokeback Mountain at all costs. It was pretty damned awful and it amazes me that the public is going gaga over this film. The first act is nothing more than two guys herding cattle for 40 minutes. There is no chemistry between the leads, and when they finally hook up, it makes no sense as they barely say a word to each other through out the entire first act. If one of the gender roles were reversed, and it was about a heterosexual relationship I still wouldn't have bought the romance. It truly is a terrible script. BTW - What are your thoughts on Jake Gyllenaal? Not only is he horrendous in the film, he mugs like a first year student at Strassberg. He also happens to be one of the most unappealing actors working in Hollywood today. I'm starting to think more like you, and tend to avoid going to the movies. Brokeback Mountain reinforces my disdain.

Dear Scott:

I liked him in "October Sky," which I thought was a good film.  I hated "Donnie Darko," so he's batting .500 for me.  I just watched "The Upside of Anger," that several people recommended here, and I didn't get it.  Aside from the fact that it has an incredibly illogical twist ending, why would Kevin Costner possibly be interested in the sour obnoxious cunt Joan Allen is playing?  And the whole Costner character, which he plays well, is such a rip-off of Jack Nicholson's character in "Terms of Endearment."  And all four daughters seemed too old for their parts.  The entire script seemed like stalling until the improbable ending. I did also just see "Hotel Rawanda," which is pretty good, although it's kind of grueling to sit through.  It's a lot like "The Killing Fields," although I think it's actually a bit better.  Don Cheadle gives a terrific performance.  After a point, though, the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rawanda begins to seem just like Dr. Suess's "Sneetches on the Beaches" to me. Okay, now which ones are the star-bellied sneetches?  The fact that the difference between the two groups was created by the Belgians, but the Rawandans not only keep going with it, but take it seriously, is pretty absurd.

Josh

Name:              Beth
E-mail:            

Dear Josh,

What is the best part of the movie "Citizen Kane"? 

Beth

Dear Beth:

Is there anything about the film that impressed you?

Josh

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

Josh,

If you don't mind, I just wanted to answer Rob's question about finding a decent DV camera for under $1,500.

Rob, check Ebay and look for the Canon XL1 which you should be able to find for around $1,500 or a little more depending on what is included. It has the ability to swap lenses, however, it will be the lenses that will cost you some bucks unless you rent.

There is also a PL mount adapter that sells for between $400-$500 which allows you to mount film lenses to the XL1 or if you want to go the expensive route, you can find a place which will rent you a P+S Technik Mini 35 Adpater which will allow you to use 35mm prime film lenses on an XL1 as well as other mini DV Prosumer cameras.

The mini 35 adapter is too expensive to buy ( I think it cost about $5,000 or more), but there are many places you can rent it. Here is a link to the site

http://www.zgc.com/zgc.nsf/product/pstechnik

It works very well and it allows for better images and shallower depth of field which is what you will get with good film lenses, however, you will loose two stops because of the adpater, so keep that in mind.

Also, remember that you are still shooting with an SD mini DV format which still pretty much sucks, however, if it is just for practice, the XL1 is a decent camera.

Scott

Dear Scott:

The digital video expert has spoken.  Thanks for intervening.

Josh

Name:              Bobby
E-mail:             bobbygnign@yahoo.com

Hey Josh,

Reading this Q&A page has become a fairly regular ritual for me now.  It is refreshing to see so many people care about movies, regardless of their taste.  I agree with you about the lack of great movies.  Sadly, it isn't just the cinema that is suffering right now.  It is pretty much all forms of entertainment, except maybe children's books.  Broadway spends millions and millions on razzle dazzle productions that people walk out of (after paying $100) feeling empty but slightly diverted.  Yet this is considered somehow "good enough".  What's worse, I have come to the conclusion that it isn't the fact that Broadway producers or studio heads don't know what a good play or a good movie is...I think they do.  In fact, I believe one might be hard pressed to find one of Hollywood's power elite that didn't grow up watching great films and wanting to be part of making great films. They know the difference.  It's just that they have changed.  Howard Roark wannabes become Peter Keatings, or even worse, Ellsworth Toohey's.  It is much more profitable to do so, and takes far less courage and imagination. I just don't believe that the masses are demanding this shift.  If a person truly loves movies, they will continue to go to see them, even if they are being fed the same things over and over again, and, that is why if something even appears a little different, slightly off-center from the norm, it is over-praised and called genius (think Tarantino).  I do this myself with foreign films, because even if they aren't great, I appreciate the fact that they are coming from a completely different point of view than my own in terms of storytelling.  Maybe if I lived in their country of origin, they would bore me to tears, who knows?  It takes courage to make your own work your own way, and courage is in short supply these days.  That is why I like "Running Time" so much.  You are not auditioning for the mainstream with that film.  You are simply trying to tell a story that you want to tell in the manner you wanted to tell it.  As long as a filmmaker is attempting to do this, it may not make a movie automatically great, but it does, in my opinion, make a movie worthy of respect. Thanks.  Sorry this post is so long.

Dear Bobby:

But the real question is, who is John Galt?  I must honestly admit that I do feel a little bit like Howard Roark, except that I didn't set fire to my last movie.  In fact, it was probably my biggest success.  If Roark hadn't blown up his building it might have been his biggest success.  Anyway, I'm glad you liked my grade-Z production of "Running Time."

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

Wow, Horgash really doesn't like you. For what it's worth though, I don't think any of your films are, what was it he called 'em, Grade-z (or Grade-zz). I'd say they're are all at least Grade-b. Though, I'd give Lunatics a Grade-A. Ted Raimi needs more leading roles.

I also recently read all your reviews and I don't think there is anything wrong with them, though sometimes when you're jumping back and forth between two films your comparing I'll get a little mixed up, but I quickly get back on track.

Anyway, on to my question. I was at a cheapo dollar store here awhile back and I picked up a DVD of two old horror movies, "Shock" starring Vincent Price, and "The Devil's Messenger" starring Lon Chaney Jr. I was just wondering if you'd seen either of 'em and if you had what you thought of 'em. I have yet to watch them, so I figured I'd try to get some idea of what they're like in advance.

Also, what do you think of Vincent Price? I'm a big horror movie buff (though I love all genres ... accept musicals and claymation), and I don't scare easily, but "The Last Man on Earth" freaked me out a little. What are your thoughts on "The Last Man on Earth?"

Dear Jeremy:

I haven't seen "Shock," but it sounds kind of interesting, and it's early Vincent Price, so that should be interesting.  "The Devil's Messenger," which I also haven't seen, is actually three episodes of an unsold TV show stuck together.  I enjoyed "The Last Man on Earth," and it obviously had a lot of influence on many people, particularly George Romero.  I liked "The Omega Man" better, though.

Josh

Name:              Lady in the water
E-mail:

Josh,

You sound so sweet on the commentary for "Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except." Your voice is different than I expected it to be judging by your bitter and aggressive posts.

As for the movie itself, I'm surprised it even got a limited release. It's hard to tell whether or not you guys knew you were making something shlocky. Kind of like "AA." What are your thoughts? Did you know it was ridiculious to attempt shooting a period piece on such a small budget and try and film legitimate Vietnam battle sequences...

Love,

Lady in the water

Dear Lady:

Yeah?  Who the fuck are you?  You don't even have the guts or good taste to give your name.  Tell me the name of the feature film that you made in your 20s and we'll compare them.

Josh

Name:              Kane
E-mail:             wwf-freak22@msn.com

Dear Josh:         

That was me talking about breakfast at tiffanys. I didn't like it. It wasn't my kind of movie.   I like movies like airplane or all quiet on the western front or the asphalt jungle better. Not just comedy movies, those ones I mentioned before in my other post were just old favorites, not my only ones.  I like all kinds of movies. New movies, old movies, but only good movies, I promise! Most aren't new at all. Just some comedies. I think those are pretty good these days still sometimes. But that's just my opinoin, you don't have to take it. Anyway I took your advice about what movie I'm gonna make now that I'm in film school. I think you had the right idea. Can I maybe adopt one of your stories for my next assignment? It would mean a lot.

Thanks. Kane.

Dear Kane:

No.  You have to come up with your own stories.  If you don't have stories to tell, find some other business to be in.  Become a coal miner or sell shoes.  But filmmakers are storytellers, and the first criteria is having stories to tell.  You need to sit down and figure out what you personally think is a good story, then pursue that.  It's the most important part of the whole process.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

I want to address being called a film snob. I get this monicker a lot from friends and family about films. I'm sure you've gotten this before as well.

Cant tell you how many times I've had this argument with someone. In this case it was the film Closer with Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman and that ubiquitous film-whore Jude Law.

me: Closer sucked, it had no point. Just lots of cursing and episodic slice of life garbage.

buddy: Why does every film need to make a point? What about kubricks work man?

me: Because thats how storys are told. A film asks a question and then asnwers it. Take the Godfather. Micheal Corleone shuts the door on Diane Keaton in the final scene. The whole film which is a conflict over who Mike should side with his straight wife or his crooked family is resolved in that one shot. It makes a point. resolution expresses theme.

buddy: whatever. I like to draw my own conclusions from films. Closer raised a lot of questions about truth in modern day relationships.

me: Yeah but it didnt answer any of them. So why bother? I already know that relationships today are hard.

buddy: Youre just a film snob.

How do YOU deal with this scenario? Should I just keep my mouth shut? Continue to fight the good fight or stop going to the theatre altogether?

joe

Dear joe:

You've got to make your own decisions.  I stopped seeing most big Hollywood films around 1995 because A. they all sucked, and B. I was tired of arguing with most everybody over every new, big movie.  Most people have no taste, and have no idea what they watched.  If the word on the street is that a film is good, most people will just agree with that since they have no ability or criteria to make their own judgements.  Yes, I'm a film snob, and proud of it.  It's like being a art connoisseur -- most people may not appreciate Impressionism or Abstract Expressionism, they just like paintings of big-eyed clowns on black velevet, but that doesn't mean those paintings are worth any consideration at all just because they're popular.  In fact, if something's popular, I just assume it's bad because it's appealing to the lowest common denominator, of which I'm pleased to not think I'm part.  As George Bernard Shaw said, "If more than 10 percent of the population like a painting, it ought to be burned, for it is bad."  Meanwhile, I saw "Closer" because it was directed by Mike Nichols, whom I respect.  It's a bad movie because it's a bad script, meaning on some level I simply didn't believe it. Like so many stories, I was with it up through Act I, but when the awful Julia Roberts enters, she and Jude don't get along, so naturally they immediately sleep together, I was lost.  By the time Natalie is working in the strip club, which ought to be something that would interest me, but since I didn't believe it, I was deathly bored.  Let's face it, anyone who would dump Natalie Portman for Julia Roberts deserves whatever misery they get.  So, appreciate the fact that you're a connoisseur, and ignore the fact that most people aren't.

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I just finished viewing the last of what I consider the most dreadful roundup of "Oscar Contenders" (for all fields) since 2000.  After hearing for months about how amazing Crash and Match Point were, I left both movies thinking "that was some of the most blatant and insipid, poorly edited garbage I've ever seen".  My question, assuming most arrogantly that you also disliked or even saw both, is: do these movie's banality and lack of subtlety result from scripts that no longer seek to challenge, or is it more likely the directors' affection for a particular stylistic form, no matter how inappropriate?

Dear Jeff:

I haven't seen either film, but bad filmmaking usually begins with bad screenwriting.  From what I hear about "Match Point" is that it's "Crimes" without the "Misdemeanors," which sounds like an unoriginal drag.  But then I don't think Woody Allen has made a watchable movie in a decade.

Josh

Name:              Maddy
E-mail:             agwily@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Just noticed that I wrote to you four years ago - I'm now 18 and my passion isn't writing anymore, LOL.  I more into acting. Anyways, you're completely right about not having college - they don't give a hoot if you even have a high school diploma, if you got what they want you're in...of course, there are other things like being professional etc.  But bottom line is, your advice makes more sense now that I'm nearly 19.  I just thought it was cool that its been that long.  I am however, picking up that script and finishing it as well as adapting it into a novel(which has sparked interest from a man who has WB and Paramount connections) you rock dude, thanks :)
maddy

Dear Maddy:

I'm glad I could be of service.  This Q&A has been going on so long that if someone was 12 years old and came here when we first started in 1998, they'd be 20 now.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

Hey josh,

I watched "The Maltese Falcon" for the 20th time or so last night, and it was really good.  It's hard to believe it's John Huston's first directorial effort.  It really has a wonderfully distorted sense of morality.

I hear ya. I've watched Casablanca more times than is probably healthy for a grown man to do. But something about that film-I get a different take on the elaborate morality of it every time as you do with Falcon. Casablance is the only love story I can think of where the hero looses the girl.TWICE and still comes out the better for it. The scene where Ingrid Bergman accosts Bogey at his apartment and the climax scene are writing clinics unto themselves.

As far as new films, Josh, try this: rip it apart all you want but force yourself to find ONE good thing in it: a nice shot, a slick edit, a good performance, a nice piece of writing. This way you didn't completely waste your time watching the film. You took something positive away with you. (I charge $250 and hour for any further counseling.) ;-)

joe

Dear joe:

If there are so many negatives things about a film that you have to search for one positive aspect, it ain't worth it.  If filmmakers these days haven't got it in them to make whatever is positive stand out in their films, then it's not worth looking for.

Josh

Name:              Rob
E-mail:             habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I just picked up some DVD's at Walmart for a buck each: White Zombie, Brooklyn Gorilla, Don't Look in the Basement, Attack of the Giant Leeches, and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery. I'm tired now, so I'm going to watch White Zombie, which is only an hour. I am a very busy person, can you recmmend which of these I should watch first or which are the best among them... Thanks. Oh, and if I recall, (and I feel awkward saying this) you didn't answer one of my more recent questions about cameras. Do you think I'll be able to get a DV cam for under 1500 with a removable lens system?

Thanks again for everything,
Rob

Dear Rob:

I don't know what you can get as far as DV cameras go.  Of those movies I've only seen "White Zombie," which is a pretty creaky, early-talkie, but Bela Lugosi is good.  I haven't seen the others.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I don't have that great a memory, and memorization has always been hard for me, so I know that being an actor would be difficult for me, just for that reason alone.  However, it seems to me that there must be a range among actors as to how well they can remember their lines. Some must be better than others.  Some actors must improvise the script to some degree as well.  How do directors handle this?  Do some directors insist that the actors stick entirely to the script verbatim and do others allow some latitude, so long as the meaning of the story is unaffected. What is your philosophy on actors adhering to the exact wording of the script?

Dear Bob:

If an actor needs to reword a line to make it flow better I have no problem with that, but they still have to give the other actors their cues.  The bottom-line, though, is if you want to be an actor you must be pretty good at memorizing your lines, which is an exercize you'll be doing all the time. Even Anthony Quinn had to bring his pages with him to dinner and study his lines for the next day.  And even though they're not in any scenes together, Paul Newman asked Bruce to run lines with him on "Hudsucker Proxy," which I thought was kind of charming.  I must admit that as a director I am intolerant of actors not knowing the lines.  It's the minimum requirement, as far as I'm concerned.

Josh

Name:              Kane
E-mail:             wwf-freak22@msn.com

Dear Josh:

Hi Mr. Becker I have a question for you if you wouldn't mind answering.

I just started film school at this community college kind of place near my hometown. I'm very excited because now I'll get to watch lots of movies, and write my own movies, as well as producing my own movies, directing my own movies, and even being the guy who operates the camera on all of them. I always wanted to be making movies every since I was eleven or twelve years old and I'd watch my favorite movies like Caddyshack and Ghostbusters and Multiplicity over and over almost every day after school. Comedys were always my favorites because I was always the one telling all the jokes and doing all the funny things in my class all the time. My friends would always used to call me the joker and my teachers would all call me the class clown. And I'd always write short stories and stuff, and comics, because I was alright at drawing two. Not as good as writing, but good enough, it's not like I was publishing it in Mad Magazine!

I tried doing regular community college for a while, like one class a semester, but I just didn't like it, it wasn't for me. I believe in being true to yourself. So now at 23 I'm starting over again and doing it right this time. I'm going to film school. Because movies have always been in my heart and in my dreams. Some people don't have the courage to stand up and do what's in their hearts and dreams and I understand that, but it's not me. Movies is me and everything about them. My first class assignment is to make a movie but only using still photographs and a soundtrack. I've got my soundtrack all picked out already with a couple of songs by Danny Elfmann and a couple by Weird Al Yankovic for the funny parts. But I don't know what my movie should be about. I'm a big fan of comics, wrestling, football, and movies. Do you have any ideas for me?

Thanks. Kane.

Dear Kane:

Movies is me, too.  I thought you said you were good at writing.  The first requirement for being a filmmaker is that you have to have stories to tell, or at least have the ability to recognize which stories are worth telling. As Laurence Olivier said, "You think you're an artist?  Prove it."

Josh

Name:              in headlights
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I'm disappointed with your response to my last post about some of the great movies that have come out in the last ten years. Rather than take issue with each one, I just want to say that I think your decision to not try ALL THE REAL GIRLS based on a few inappropriate words from Leonard Maltin was awfully weak. It's not supposed to be anything even remotely like LAST PICTURE SHOW. Small town, young love, that's where the similarities end. Leonard Maltin is a putz and a half. He puts out this bloated book every year which fills up with more and more reviews, but the reviews get shorter and shorter. Two or three sentence reviews in most cases. Furthermore if you read the introduction you'll see that Maltin has got a team of ten or fifteen men and women helping him write the capsuls, and on more than one occasion I've found mistakes in the capsuls themselves. I know you've taken issue with him before for the arbitrary "star" system, in which he equates movies like CATCH ME IF YOU CAN with THE GODFATHER, so why give him credit here?

Dear ih:

I didn't say I wouldn't watch "All the Real Girls," should I get the chance. I actually checked on the TiVo, but it's not coming up in the next week.  I only brought up Maltin's review to show that the most immediate reference I had didn't think the film was great, or even very good.  Of all the movie and video guides, though, I still think Maltin's is best, not that I don't have my issues and disagreements with him.  And of course he has other people working for him, like Bill Warren who reviewed my films for the book, no one person can see that many movies, it's not possible.  But let's get back to our issue, which is your use of the term "great" regarding films like "Gattaca" and "Casino."  That someone could for one second think that either of those films is great, meaning up their with the best, is highly disappointing to me.  "Casino" isn't even a good Scorsese movie, let alone a good movie in the bigger scheme of things, or let alone great in any way. The best film I've seen in recent days would have to be "In America," and I don't think it's a great film, either, just a darn good one.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I just bought the new "Breakfast at Tiffanys" special edition dvd that just hit the shelves. I was very excited because I'm a big fan of Blake Edwards "10" and "The Party," and I've been told for years that this is one of the finest films around. Needless to say I had to shut it off one hour in. I think it's dreadful and tedius. Any thoughts on Edwards or this particular film yourself?

Ooh, I just want to add that though the idea of finishing "Breakfast at Tiffanys" to me seemed worse than blowing my brains out then and there on the spot, I did very much admire Audrey Hepburn's performance. She was such a doll. But what was with that George Peppard guy? How lame was he?

Dear _____  :

I'm with you, whoever you are.  I've never cared for "Breakfast at Tiffany's," although Audrey Hepburn is exquisite, and Henry Mancini came through with a good score.  Mickey Rooney as the Japanese neighbor is one of the worst pieces of casting in film history.  George Peppard was a Hollywood pretty boy for a while, like any of the pretty boys who are around these days.  But regarding Blake Edwards, I like "10" and "The Party" and "Victor/Victoria" and "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," and I respect "Days of Wine and Roses," although if I never see it again that'll fine.  Most of those Pink Panther movies are just dreadful.

Josh

Name:              Horgash
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I do not understand. I read your site and I read your "reviews" and your "essays" and I do not understand why they are called this. You should retitle them "rants" and put them all together in one. Talk about not knowing structure, man! You just talk and talk. Some are interesting and fun to read, I admit. But none are very professional. You are better at saying something "sucks" then saying why something sucks, which to me suggests immaturity and rebellion akin to a teenage boys. This is perhaps why you are so high and mighty about your "taste in film," and yet your films are all grade-z. Except Alien Apocalypse. That's grade-zzTop. Running Time is actually more like grade-b, your greatest accomplishment. You showed signs you were getting better. But it's because of your sloppy attitude, I think, that you never in fact did.

Dear Horgash:

Thanks for the advice.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

Thank you for the feedback on the art of "cutting" and how a sharp change-up could conceivably mess up what you are trying to convey.

To me, and what I have learned so far, is that the cutting process is all about creating the perceptions in the mind of the viewer that you want to create. Clearly, the cutting makes the movie.How you shoot plays an important role in determining how well something is going to cut. I never understood clearly the concept of getting the right amount of space into a shot in order to make it more "palatable" for the viewer. It's got to be just right or it looks like hell. Then the fun part comes. You have to go buy 4 more 100' rolls of film and get your guy back in there because you screwed it up and have to reshoot. Luckily, it's my money and not anybody elses.

The really bad thing is that I never knew anything was really wrong until I ran that film through the editor and sliced and diced a few rolls together. I then put it right on the EIKI 16mm projector and ran it.

Concerto from hell is all I can say.A twitchy,too close,too far away mess.

I'm not throwing in the towel by any means but I share this semi-failure of mine to stress that making a real piece of celluloid art is a painstaking process that you absolutley must employ an incredible amount of precision to pull off effectively. I'll get better but it ain't no VHS/DV/Super 8 walk in the park!

On a more positive note...Watched "Easy Rider" again for the first time in years. The jumps back and forth between past and present I think are a device to get away from fades. I'm guessing somewhere between 6 and 8 frames everytime to pull it off. I realized just how cool that movie really is.

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

It's a very cool technique, and nobody has really done it since.  It's an amazingly well-made little picture, with a lot of credit going to the great DP Laszlo Kovacs.  It's a terrific film, and it really captures its time period.  Meanwhile, the issue you're confronting is one of the most important issues in filmmaking -- next to what story you started with -- which is: how was it's shot, and how does it go together?  The second you blow these things off by just hand-holding the whole movie, you've failed before you've started.  That's why when you see a film directed by someone who really knows what they're doing, like Orson Welles or Stanley Kubrick, movies become a whole new experience -- they become an art form.  But it's the combination of the right story, the right actors, the right composition, the right editing, and the right music, and then it becomes art.  And that's a lot of balls to juggle in the air.  That's why making a good movie is so hard.  And if you start with crummy material at the beginning -- like some knuckleheaded comic book -- then none of the rest of it even matters.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

Josh,

I know youre feelings about comic book films but what about the upcoming V for Vendetta film, written by the wachowski brothers?

No superheros, no ridiculously-clad villians, just a fascist government and a revolutionary disguised as guy fawkes who seeks to bring down said government. This story has one of the most well-written character climaxes at the end of act II that I can think of.

joe

Dear joe:

Have a good time.  Clearly, it's nearing the time when I need to move to the island of Yap, in the middle of the Pacific, and live in a grass hut.  I watched "The Maltese Falcon" for the 20th time or so last night, and it was really good.  It's hard to believe it's John Huston's first directorial effort.  It really has a wonderfully distorted sense of morality.

Josh

Name:              Alan
E-mail:             picquickstudio@aol.com

Hi Josh

Pleased to see that you are an admirer of the work of Franklin Schaffner as am I. I was wondering what you thought of his THE WAR LORD, for my money one of the best movies ever made in that particular genre, despite the miscasting of Rosemary Forsythe.

Dear Alan:

I thought it was a dreadful bore.  In Franklin Schaffner's ouvre, I think it goes at the bottom, just above "Yes, Giorgio" and "Sphinx."  It's always astounded me that a director whom I respect so much could make such terrible movies.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

So now that you dumped Netflix and got a Tivo, does that mean you no longer rent any movies whatsoever?

Dear Jeff:

Correct.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Do you have any interest in the "Da Vinci Code" book or movie?

Dear Jeff:

No.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Do you feel that Ernst Lubitsch made any great movies? "Heavan Can Wait", perhaps? "The Shop Around the Corner" was very good, but certainly not great; the story is simply too lighthearted. He also directed "Ninotchka", "To Be or Not To Be", and "That Uncertain Feeling", some very good films.

Dear David:

He's not one of my favorites, although he still holds a high level of respect for those who pay attention to old movies.  Of those you listed, I think "The Shop Around the Corner" is the best, and though I think it's a good movie, I don't think it's great.  There are good moments in those other films, but I don't think they add up, or hold up.  My favorite of his films is "One Hour With You," which George Cukor took over early into the production.  Better than any of Lubitsch's films, but very similar, is "Love Me Tonight," with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette McDonald, directed by Rouben Mamoulian.  I don't think anything Lubitsch ever did comes close to "Love Me Tonight."

Josh

Name:              Shontay T.
E-mail:             shontayt@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

Can you tell me your opinion on whether roles for African-American actors and actresses have improved in the last couple decades in Hollywood?

Shontay T.

Dear Shontay:

There are many fine African-American actors, who have certainly been getting better parts in the last few decades.  The fact that there are more parts, and bigger parts, have allowed more black actors to show their abilities. It's too bad they're not making very good movies for whites, blacks, yellows or reds these days.

Josh

Name:              Beth
E-mail:

Josh,

What was your problem with "Kudun"?

Beth

Dear Beth:

It's a bore.  And switching actors six times in the first half hour is a huge dramatic error in my opinion.  Even though all of the actors are playing the same part, the Dalai Lama, you still have to start from scratch each time it switches, thinking, "Now, who is this person, and do I like them?"  A film that I thought was totally undone by the switch was Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America," where you spend the first hour with the kids (Jennifer Connelly's first film), then when it finally switches to them as adults, even though it's Robert DeNiro and James Woods, I never got with the program.

Josh

Name:              KDN
E-mail:             ernstyanning@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Yesterday it was my birthday
I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed
My life's a mess
But I'm having a good time.
I'm lovin and lovin and lovin
I'm so sick from lovin so well
I should go to bed
But a voice in my head
says: Oh, what the hell.

How are the book sales going? I still have my copy I printed out. If you had the choice between COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA, SECONDS, and THE WAY WE WERE, which one would you get?

Dear KDN:

Thanks for the poem.  I think all three of those films are worth seeing, although I wouldn't need to own any of them.

Josh

Name:              pete chen
E-mail:

"'Casino' is just a big piece of crap. "

You know, I could have sworn you once wrote an article or response about Scorsese in which you refered to him "somehow and miraculously making one more good movie" with "Casino" in 1993. So, did your opinion of that film change or what?

Dear pete:

You're out of your mind, I never said that in any way, shape or form.  I walked out of that film so utterly disgusted that I went right home and watched "Goodfellas" just to make sure I had once liked Scorsese, and I did. But "Goodfellas" is definitely the last good picture he made.  You're dreaming.

Josh

Name:              spida villa
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

We, the people of the Spider clan, want enlist you in spying on Sam's production of Spidey 3. Spy or die!!

Dear spida:

Are you kidding?  I won't even see the film when it comes out.  I couldn't sit through the other two.

Josh

Name:              rob
E-mail:             habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

Okay, I alsways apolize for asking two questions in one day - and I'll do it again now. I'm sorry... I don't mean to take advantage. This is just such valuable rescource for new filmmakers. Anyway, I found a website for a production company that pumps out two or three low budget horror flicks a month, right to dvd. Interestingly enough, their movies always turn up in the major video stores, like instead of spending money on the films, they spend it on deals with blockbuster and west coast video. Anyway, they have a way to pitch scripts to the owners. The writer gets paid 2% of the budget, which ranges from 30k to 200k. That means I could submit something and only get 600 bucks for it. My question is, do you think it's a good opertunity to get some credentials (even though most of therir films suck) or should I hold out and wait until I can shoot my own stuff (which isn't happening for at least 3 years)?

Thanks again.

-Rob

Dear rob:

They certainly sound like a fly-by-night operation.  Everybody has to take their own chances, but what have you got to lose?  The price of postage.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

Noted on that 1925 movie. I'll check it out if I can find it.

Some time ago I wrote that I had enjoyed many things about your Lunatics movie. One scene in particular was POV behind the stereo dial plate.

You replied that you also loved the scene and you loved the fact that it "cut" as well as it did.

At that point,I did not have a damn clue as to what you were talking about. My thinking then was that you shot the scene to fit in and of course it cut. I didn't have a clue to just how important good editing was and is. I had always tried to shoot in order to minimize snipping.

I have a slightly different set of eyes now and I wanted to ask why you were surprised that it cut as well as it did. Was it lens size? Were the lens sizes you shot with too close together?

I'm asking for a reason and it came up while I was making my Black and White project. Nothing made sense to me, however, until I got to that one section in 'The Film Director" that discusses good cuts.

Thanks for any input Josh.

Tim

Dear Tim:

It's not an issue of similar lens sizes, it's an issue of cutting to a strange POV in the middle of a sequence, and hoping the audience understands what the hell I'm doing.  What I guess most non-filmmakers don't get is that a lot of shots don't cut well, or at all.  As an example, in TSNKE I have a scene where a dog is sniffing around looking for something, and I cut to the dog's POV, which didn't seem like any kind of stretch cutting from the dog's close-up, yet many people didn't get it.  They thought it was another, unseen person's POV.  Also, regarding the stereo POV, all of the set-up to that shot got cut out, which was Hank's adverse relationship to the electricity in his apartment.  I had a scene of him turning on the TV, getting shocked, then turning off the TV and getting shocked again.  I also had a scene of Hank sitting and staring at the electric socket: the camera pushes in on him as it was simultaneously pushing in on the socket, then the scene ended with the electric socket's POV of Hank.  This, and the stereo's POV, were set-ups to when he tries to leave his apartment to go after Nancy, but gets an electric shock from the door knob.  Anyway, once these other scenes were cut, I wasn't sure the stereo POV or the electric shock on the door knob made any sense.

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             goldmind_2020@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

First off, I'd like to thank you for taking time out of your day to answer my questions.  Such generosity is often not found in your industry.

Up to this point in your career, which do you take more pride in - the things you've accomplished screenwriting or the things you've accomplished directing?

Do the unproduced screenplays you've written mean as much to you as the screenplays you've written that have been produced?

Dear Brandon:

I take the most pride in the fact that I haven't given up yet.  Once I've written a script or made a movie, that allows me to download it out of my head, which is like the RAM, and file in the ROM.  Anything I've completed in one from or another has meaning to me, but I try to spend most of my time thinking up the next thing, whatever it may be.

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Josh,

Why do you think more film directors don't come from television? It seems like at the very least they've learned how to work quickly, under a strict budget, tell a story and use film(since most television shows are still shot on film). If film execs are so concerned about the bottom line, you'd think that they'd look to tv as a easy way to see how a director does. Instead they go with some guy that's done some 30 second commericals and a five minute music video! I know that the exec producer is generally the guiding creative force in TV, but still...
Is there a DGA thing or some sort of hollywood taboo that prevents crossover. I can think of a couple of older directors that came from tv but not many.

Dear Jeff:

It's just one more aspect of Hollywood's complete idiocy.

Josh

Name:              nigel
E-mail:             filmsmax@yahoo.co.uk

Dear Josh:         

Hi as im shooting my first feature film on minidv.
What 3 points of advice would you give?
I have a website for filmmakers www.ngmfilms.com which recevies 10k visitors a month, is it ok to put your advice on my site? and a link.
What do you think is the most important thing you have learnt from directing?
I love making stuff and shooting and just wondered whether for your next project you'd be interested in someone to shoot behind the scenes for your dvd extras. Just a thought.
Thanks all the best Nigel

Dear nigel:

1.  Don't hand-hold the whole movie.
2.  Compose, light and create beautiful shots.
3.  Tell a story that's worth telling.

They usually have a video crew shooting behind-the-scenes stuff on everything now, for the EPK or Electronic Press Kit.  And what's the most important thing I've learned from directing?  How to use the allotted time wisely.

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             goldmind_2020@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

I was struck by your comment that there are no great filmmakers working today - not because I find it untrue necessarily, but because it's hard to imagine that of the entire bunch you can't find at least ONE to hang your hat on.

I was simply wondering if you possess any hope that a great filmmaker can come out of the woodwork and wow you with films in the same way you were wowed by films produced three or four decades ago?  Is cinema irretrievably lost when it comes to good taste?

Dear Brandon:

I hope not.  Everything moves in cycles, and artistically we're on a downward slope at the moment, possibly the nadir, but who knows?  Each year since 1978 I've thought the same thing, "Okay, movies can't get any worse, now they have to get better," but I keep being wrong.  At some point it will move up again, as it always has before, it just may not be in our lifetimes. I truly wish there was even one filmmaker whose films I was eagerly anticipating, but alas, there is not.  Anybody who seems to have shown the slightest trace of interest in the past 20 years immediately becomes a big disappointment.

Josh

Name:              Jason
E-mail:             jandagrey@mweb.co.za

Dear Josh:         

The beauty of film is being able to make this type of story come to life. Every dam horror movie has all the characters picked off one by one, which is just as credible as the train crash. I would say M Night makes some pretty awesome movies , and anyway , if i was looking for complete factual events i would be watching discovery channel. Oh , and didnt M Night make signs and the village. Judging by the actors he has worked with turns the quality question back to you.
A big mistake a lot of directors do when watching a movie is try to see it as they would have directed it, remember , the fans are just fans, not directors and thats why these movies sell. Just enjoy the movie and look for character depth in movies like a beautiful mind. Anyway , the oscars always do a good job of benchmarking movies no matter what we say about them.
Enjoy
Jason
Southern Africa

Dear Jason:

Thanks for the advice.

Josh

Name:              Greg Bogosian
E-mail:

Josh,

After selling "Cycles" were you offered more writing jobs in Hollywood? Rewrites? Ghost writes? Anything? If so, why didn't you take any of them on?

Dear Greg:

No, I wasn't offered shit.  In fact, my follow-up to writing and optioning "Cycles" was to move back to Detroit from L.A. (the 4th time) and get a job in furniture store.  When the script finally sold three years later I was down in New Zealand directing a Hercules movie, and then I subsequently didn't work again for nearly two years, until I halfway through the 1st season of Xena.  I haven't turned down very many jobs -- a few, but not many.

Josh

Name:              tavish
E-mail:             tavbick@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

With all your recent agent-bashing, I wonder which one of those eight useless slimeballs helped you sell your spec script for $65,000...'cause no one does that on their own.

Dear tavish:

Except I did.  Had an agent ever sold a script for me I certainly wouldn't be so hard on them.  Read my essay "Writing & Selling a Script" for more details.

Josh

Name:              in headlights
E-mail:             gclassman@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I disagree with your thesis that "no great movie has been made in the last 10 years," or whatever such variation on that statement you've made time and time again on this website. I respect your opinion and agree that FEW great movies have been made, especially when you compare these last ten years to the 1967-77 incredible run of films. I think GATTACA is an example of a great Hollywood movie that will endure. As is The Pianist. Casino was a great movie -- maybe it was no Goodfellas, but it was a remarkable work of craftsmanship. Fargo was a great movie with a great lead character who had arc and growth (not to mention great performance!). What else...All the Real Girls, which was an indie you may not have seen, was an amazing film. These are just off the top of my head, and knowing you you'll say they all sucked. Just know that by doing so you cripple your arguement. You have to give a little if you want to be taken seriously. Otherwise you're just some old nut standing on the street corner screaming that we're all going to be sent down to hell.

Dear ih:

"Gattaca" was okay at best, not a great story or great science fiction, either, but rather forgettable, and somewhat wearisome in it's depiction of the future, and it's detective story structure, with Alan Arkin wandering in and out.  "The Pianist" is a failure due to having no Act I, so I never cared about him or his situation.  By the end of that film I no longer cared about the Holocaust.  "Casino" is just a big piece of crap.  Here's my imitation of Joe Pesce from that film, "Vegas was just waiting for us. There was money, money, money.  But then we had to stick a guy in the eye with a pen.  But then we made more money, money, money.  But then we had to put a guy's head in a vice.  But the money kept rolling in . . ."  "Fargo" is definitely the Coen bros. best movie, but I don't think it's great, either.  Fran McDormand's performance is a caricature, as are most of the other performances.  William Macy and Steve Buscemi were both very good. It's an okay movie, but once you've seen it, you've seen it, and if I never see it again, that'll be fine.  I haven't seen "All the Real Girls," but it sure doesn't get a very good review in Maltin's book (he says, "It's no 'Last Picture Show'"), so I have no doubt it's not great.  It's probably not even very good.  It sounds to me like the real problem here is that you just don't have very good taste.

Josh

Name:              anthony martin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

in light of coretta scott king's death, do you want to take back your comment that there's no such thing as a great black filmmaker? honky?

Dear anthony:

Was Coretta Scott King a filmmaker?  I didn't know.  What films did she make?  If there is a great black filmmaker working, please tell me who it is (and I absolutely don't accept Spike Lee, who isn't even a good filmmaker). Quite frankly, I don't think there are any great filmmakers working of any race, gender or color.  Since you phrased "honky?" as a question, I'll answer, "No, I'm not a honky."  Your question sort of indicates that you're an idiot, though.

Josh

Name:              Apocalypse Three
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@heartofdarkness.com

Dear Josh:         

You mentioned seeing APOCALYPSE NOW at its debut with Coppola in tow. And you mentioned that the film was amazing for the most part till the Marlon Brando ending where it dropped dead. Exactly what kind of ending were you expecting to see during the film? Have you seen the 197 minute redux version? I hear there's a 289 minute workprint bootleg out there somewhere... are you the kind of film fan that would watch that over a couple of nights just to see what other footage Coppola shot? I must confess, I've only seen the original release version without the credits.

Dear AT:

What kind of ending was I expecting?  A better one.  It's completely illogical that Kurtz has been out in the jungle fighting with the natives for years and weighs over 300 pounds.  And it's obviously such a big problem for Coppola and DP Vittorio Storaro that they're doing everything within their means to hide Brando in the shadows.  I thought it would end with a giant, incredible, severely bloody battle so we could actually see "the horror," but instead they chop a water buffalo in half.  It's a disaster of an Act III.  The Redux version is just horrible, and really points out what a rotten structure the film has (which comes from Joseph Conrad -- going up the river and encountering one thing after another after another, ad infinitum -- except "The Heart of Darkness" is a rather short book).  No, I wouldn't sit through an even longer version now.

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             goldmind_2020@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:        

I recently read an article about a British filmmaker named Nick Love who's asking his fans to fund his next movie with donations of $20, $100, or $200.  He's hoping to raise $5 million.

No donor would profit from the movie mind you - the article states they're giving any donors a T-shirt or some other trinket of similar value. Personally, I believe this is a really appealing opportunity for fans who would love to simply be involved in a film made by a filmmaker they admire.

In reading through these archives, I've found that while you do have your fair share of detractors, you also have a passionate base of supporters for whom these dollar amounts are certainly not unreasonable.  I know $5 million is no small feat, but as tough as it is to find financing, is this a route you might consider?  Or do you fear that such an endeavor would still not meet any budgetary requirements you might have?

Dear Brandon:

It sounds like a good way to raise a thousand dollars.  I might be mistaken, but here in America that could be illegal, too.  On the one hand, if you're taking donations you need to be a registered charity that will not use the funds for profit; on the other hand, if they're investments, you need to register with the SEC to issue shares of stock, in which case it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to register.  I don't think it's feasible.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

I think you have talked about it before but I definitely want to make this recommendation to anyone who visits this site and has not seen the movie.

I am talking about "The Battleship Potemkin" which is a silent film from the 20's. To you it's probably old news but to me,having just viewed it for the first time,it is definitely conversation worthy.

You have often talked about montage and this film is a fine, maybe the best, example of montage I have ever seen in a movie.

There are definitely scenes in there which I have seen copied in other sound movies. I will not expand on that should anyone decide to get it and watch it.

This one of the silents that tells it all without sound.

Just an observation that I wanted to pass on.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I do think it's Eisenstein's best film, and his use of montage is impressive, I just don't like the film.  Nor do I really care for any of Eisenstein's films.  His sound films are unbearable.  Regarding films of 1925, I'll take King Vidor's "The Big Parade."

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

If I ever find an agent willing to take my dumb ass I'll come back here and tell you all about it. It'll be boring, but remember, you brought it on yourself, lol.

Also, before I forget, I was just reading over the rules for posting on here again I saw the one about trying to keep the board PG-13 ... I think we've all demolished that rule. Fuck.

So what's the current situation on "The Horribleness" (that name is slowly growing on me), or any other projects you may have in the works. Hope it's good news.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Yeah, there was a reason that PG-13 thing went up, but I forget why now. I've never paid attention to it.  "The Horribleness" dropped dead where it was, and is now going somewhere else.  And Sci Fi and the folks behind "Alien Apocalypse" have reared their heads again, so we'll see what happens with that (no, nobody's talking about sequel, thank goodness).  Meanwhile, all of the time I spent with an agent -- I've had eight -- was time wasted.  But clearly other people have done better with them than I.  At the Oscars everybody thanks their agents, and they act as though they like their agents, but I don't believe it.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

"The only problem is that we're not at war. Until congress makes a Declaration of War, which they have not done, we're not at war.  The "War of Terror" is like the "War on Poverty" or the "War on drugs," meaning it's a philosophical dispute, not a war, and therefore all of that rhetoric is bullshit."

I see your point and its a good one. The "war on terror" IS a philosophical one, and Bush seems to be running rough-shod over the constitution as a way of fighting it. The wiretapping is something you'd see in fascist government, however if terrorists are plotting to do americans harm and we let them chat freely over cellphones planning said attack, thats also a mistake. I dont have the answers.

The muslim cartoon violence got me because the muslim world has really gone over the deep end. Where are the riots in the streets from responsible muslim leaders when innocent people are getting their heads lopped off? But draw a funny picture and they're out for blood. Thats a dangerous mentality.

The point is, I may not agree with the cartoon (in fact I completely understand why muslims find it offense) but I agree the Dutch should be free to print it. Christianity and other religions get poked fun at all the time and nobody runs around burning flags and bombing embassies. This kind of muslim response is simply UNACCEPTABLE behaviour. Whats happened is--to steal Bill Maher's line--we've become tolerant of intolerant behaviour.

joe

Dear joe:

What have we got to tolerate?  They're burning down their own countries.  I hope they burn down all of Syria, and Iran, and Saudi Arabia, too.  It wasn't a Dutch newspaper, BTW, it was Danish.  And I don't see what's offensive at all, it's a drawing of a guy with a bomb in his turban, big fucking deal.  These guys truly can't take a joke.  I'm thinking that if two cartoons caused this much trouble, twenty or thirty more cartoons about Mohammed and they'll all kill themselves, then the problem is solved.  And Iran is now running a a Holocaust cartoon contest in response.  What these humorless motherfuckers don't realize is that Jews were making fun of the concentration camps while they were in them.  Jews do have a sense of humor, and no matter what kind of joke or cartoon you come up with, they won't riot.  They'll either laugh or they won't laugh, and that'll be the end of it.  Anyone who would riot due to a cartoon is a useless, humorless, pea-brained, idiot who ought to do everybody a favor and set fire to themselves.

Josh

Name:              Petey
E-mail:             ppepero@mac.com

Dear Josh:         

i just came back from the movie hostel and saw in the credits that scott spegel was a producer. is this the same scott spegel who was your writing partner on all the scripts on these sites? hostel was a pretty big movie. have you seen it? did youknow spegal was working on it?

Dear Petey:

Yes, it's the same Scott Spiegel.

Josh

Name:              Sandy (I'm a guy dammit)
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was just wondering if Bruce Campbell believes in any form of a god, and if he does, do the two of you argue about religion sometimes?

Dear Sandy (who's a guy, dammit):

If you want to know Bruce's religious beliefs, ask him.  He and I don't argue very much.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

Hey, I was just wondering if you could give me some advice on going about getting an agent? Are there any particular agents you'd recommend or any you'd suggest steering clear of? Maybe some tips as to how many scripts I'd have to show them, etc. etc.

I figure I should be getting an agent at some point (assuming any of them will take me), if I really want to try to get into the world of directing and writing.

Thanks,
Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Sadly, that's true, unless you already happen to know a few producers getting movies made.  If you can get an agent to read one entire script you've achieved something.  I have no recommendations since I've never had an agent that was worth a cup of spit.  Good luck.  Let us know how it goes.

Josh

Name:              Mike
E-mail:             michael.a.kvist@intel.com

Dear Josh:         

Thank-you so much for the article.  I could not have said it better myself.  I'm 30 years old and grew up in a denominational church and within the last several years I finally gave up believing. More people have died in the name of religion than all wars put together in the history of mankind (which, ironically most wars started over). Anyway, just wanted to say i really appreciated reading it!!!
Regards,
Mike

Dear Mike:

My pleasure.  The sooner we can dispense with religion, the sooner we can have a peaceful, tolerant world.

Josh

Name:              Beth
E-mail:

Josh,

Have you ever thought of writing a script based on your trip to alaska?

Beth

Dear Beth:

Yes, I have, but I've never seen a good, dramatic story lurking in it.  Just getting into one car, talking and driving, then getting into another car, talking and driving, sounds wearisome to me.

Josh

Name:              Joe Gillis
E-mail:             sunsetblvd@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

On the film SUNSET BLVD, when Wiliam Holden is talking to Nancy Olsen about her nose job, he mentions they should get back to work, then mentions they'll walk by way of Washington Square. Is he refering to the set of THE HEIRESS?

Dear Joe:

Could be.  They're both Paramount Pictures, although "The Heiress" was released the year before "Sunset Blvd," in October, 1949, and "Sunset Blvd." didn't come out until, I believe, summer 1950, but that doesn't mean the Washinton Square set wasn't still there.  Interesting.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Why do you think the American political system has only two dominant political parties, whereas other countries, like Israel for example, have five or six major parties? Is it because politics in Israel are so polarized? Is it because we've had a two party system for so long that we don't know any other way? Ninety percent or more of the votes cast in American elections are for either Democratic or Republican candidates. Why can't a new party generate some real interest here?

Dear Jeff:

Beats me.  Republicans are paranoid, xenophobic, jingoist, lying crooks; Democrats are weak, cowed, slogan-repeaters, who don't want to upset anybody.  The system has broken.  Are politics any less polarized here in the U.S.?

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             goldmind_2020@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

I aspire to be a professional screenwriter and have written a number of screenplays, but I live nowhere near Los Angeles. Would I be best served packing things up, quitting the day job, and making the move?

Dear Brandon:

I don't think so.  I think if you live and L.A. and get involved with all of the idiots in the film business, before you know it you won't remember who you really are, or what once mattered to you.  You'll become one more second-guesser, pandering to what you believe are the public's tastes, but are really the predilections of stupid agents and producers.  Stay where you are, and write what matters to you.  If you intend to sell your stuff to Hollywood, then you'll need one of those awful agents, but you can do that through mail and phone.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Greg Bogosian
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Sam Rami is probably at the top of the A-list director's list at this point. Is it hard to believe that this was a guy you grew up with and started off with. How is that two people with the same advantages, disadvantages, and connections (or lack therof) can end up on the two most extreme opposite sides of the spectrum?

What does Sam think of your work? Has he seen AA?

Dear Greg:

I don't know what Sam thinks, and I rarely, if ever, see or speak to him anymore.  I'm much closer with his two brothers and his mom and dad.  But fate works in mysterious ways.

Josh

Name:              rob
E-mail:             habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

IMDb has Running Time listed as the only film you have produced. Was that a good experience? Would you consider producing again?

Also, you often mention that you only wish to direct your own films, but it seems you don't mind directing other peoples' writing for TV? Why don't you mind directing other writers' work for TV, but do film? Or, am I wrong completely, and you don't wish to ever direct for TV again?

As a final question, is renaissance still around? If so, it would seem as if it doiesn't belong to its original owners, no?

Thanks again as always. My internet was down for a while, so I had some questions stored up...

-Rob

Dear rob:

I co-produced TSNKE, "Running Time" and "If I Had a Hammer."  I will continue to co-produce my own films, given the chance.  It's just part of the job, as far as I'm concerned.  Since I was never given the choice to write any of the TV eps I directed, that's why I didn't, but I would have. I did co-write the stories for two Xena eps, but I didn't direct those.  But I'm certainly not pursuing TV direction, and I doubt I'll ever get any more episodic TV living here in Detroit.  After 8 years on Hercules and Xena, and a year before that on "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol," I've got it. Now I just want to make my movies.  As for Renaissance Pictures, I guess they are defunct.  It sort of metamorphosed into Ghost House Pictures.

Josh

Name:              Ilan Levine
E-mail:             ilanlevine@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Wow.  I finally found the perfect page when it comes to religion:

http://www.beckerfilms.com/religion.htm

I love it.  Its perfect.
Thank you.

Dear Ilan:

Thanks.  That's how I see it.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

"I know your opinions on religion but I want to comment on "Joe's" letter regarding Islam.  He's way off base in first agreeing with the cartoon of Muhammed wearing a bomb.  Then, he loses all credibility crediting the Muslims with the Crusades."

Listen, the point is if youre rioting in the streets and threatening to kill people over a cartoon that puts your religion in a bad light something is terribly very wrong. Besides, you never say why I'm way off base. Other than the fact that its offensive to muslims from a traditional standpoint which is understandable, depicting a religion--any religion--  and violence together holds truth whether you, they, or anybody wants to believe it or not.

Sure america is responsible for many of its own problems. In many ways they are getting what they deserved. But that wasnt the point of the original post.

Dear joe:

My point remains, all religions are fucked up.  Personally, I'm highly amused that the Muslims are rioting and burning their countries down over cartoons.  If I wasn't such a wimp I'd start a website dedicated to cartoons of Muhammad and I'd solicit them from all over the world, then maybe these nutty Muslims would get so angry they'd run around in circles until they turn into butter.  But to believe for one second that the Christian world is less violent or murderous than the Muslims is to delude yourself.  I spent a great deal of yesterday watching the senate hearings on wiretapping as they questioned Alberto Gonzales.  It seemed like every person there at some point said "we're at war" and "under wartime circumstances," and making reference to FDR during WWII.  The only problem is that we're not at war. Until congress makes a Declaration of War, which they have not done, we're not at war.  The "War of Terror" is like the "War on Poverty" or the "War on drugs," meaning it's a philosophical dispute, not a war, and therefore all of that rhetoric is bullshit.  Terrorists blow up the WTC and kill 3,000 people, so we attack a country that had nothing to do with it and kill over 100,000 of them, and we're the good guys?

Josh

Name:              Mike
E-mail:

Heya Josh,

I finally got a copy of "The Complete Guide to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking" in my paws. Yay! You've said you'll sign any copies sent with a return SASE - where should I send it?

Thanks, and as always keep up the good work!
Mike

Dear Mike:

Yes, you can send it to Shirley (Robbins) LeVasseur; c/o P.O. Box 86; East Vassalboro, ME 04935 (include a SASE), she'll forward it to my address and I'll be happy to sign it.  I hope you like it.

Josh

Name:              Yehudit
E-mail:             yehudithannahcohn@yahoo.com

Um, what?

Whose conversation are you answering?

"Chosen" is a misnomer in the way that the rest of the world, and you, use it; it means something quite different than you have said and isn't really relevant to our correspondence.

The Hassidim no more represent all of Judaism than Fundamentalist Southern Baptists represent all of Christianity.  As well, please note that I was quite careful to explain that Judaism itself doesn't require the world to be Jewish either in and of itself or to go to an afterworld.

Finally, I made no claims about who was right or wrong, did not even compare groups in the way you have, but rather, corrected some misinformation about Judaism itself.

Finally: I am glad to know that someone else out there holds Mr. Ellison in as high regard as I have for the last 30 years!

Thank you,
YHC

Dear Yehudit:

I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about.  I assume, though, the word "chosen" is in regard to "chosen people," pertaining to Jews.  And I would believe it means: Most beloved of god.  And since I think every religion's view of "god" is ridiculous, based on silly myths of the ancients, I don't take any of it seriously. 

Josh

Name:              Greg Bogosian
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

You're kind of the epitome of the independent filmmaker. That said, have you ever submitted any of your films to Sundance? If so, were they rejected? Additionally, have you ever considered developing one of your projects at the coveted Sundance Lab Institute?

Dear Greg:

I've had three films turned down by Sundance: "Lunatics," "Running Time" and "If I Had a Hammer."  I don't need to go to the Sundance Lab and learn how to make movies, I already know how to make them.  Doing a little production on DV wouldn't interest me very much.  Honestly, it's for kids.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I was much amused by the hundred million-dollar movie question.  I think in a way you answered it though, because really what he was getting at was what you'd do with an unlimited budget.  So I think what you said was that you'd shoot "Devil Dogs" for about $25 million.   The key is that you could pay yourself $25 million more to direct it, pay the stars far more than they're worth to be in it, and spend the rest on advertising, and there's your hundred million.

Anyway, enjoyed "Minotaur" on tv the other night. I had to smile when Michael Hurst reflects on the big smack-down fight with the Amazons from the first movie in flashback... and I'm thinking to myself "Wait a sec - Herc got Zeus to turn back time so none of that ever happened!  How does Iolaus remember all this?"   But of course, that part was the clip-show part, so it doesn't really matter.

Anyway, refresh our memories - I recall you said that you unexpectedly had to shoot a lot more of "Hercules in the Underworld" (which wasn't on last week, but we saw some of it in the flashbacks) than one would expect for 2nd unit, since the director left early.  Any scenes or sequences in particular?

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

The big scene that I completely reshot was "The Ghoul Trench," the sequence of Hercules in hell popping up out of the ground fog, meeting the babes from hell with the long tongues, fighting them, zombies attack from everywhere and he escapes  I also shot all of the stuff with Cerberus, the three-headed dog, most of the scene with Erix the Boxer, as well as stuff from all over the film.

Josh

Name:              tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:          

"Running Time" was shot full-frame.  How did I choose?  I said, "I'm shooting full-frame."

OK, how about why did you choose to shoot full frame?

didnt that cause a problem when you showed it in theaters?

thanks

Dear tom:

No.  You mark on the film cans what the aspect ratio is, and that's how the projectionist shows it.  Not that projectionists are rocket scientists, but most of them can handle showing a film at its proper aspect ratio, considering there are only three of them: 1.33:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1.  But full-frame makes much better use of the negative, and it shows perfectly on TV.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I've just started reading "If Chins Could Kill" finally, and just wanted to say: scurvy? Jesus Christ, man.

Recently, I've been on an Altman kick and saw "California Split" for the first time. It was fantastic. I miss that level of realism in filmmaking, letting actors go and improvise and having local people instead of extras. I find myself waiting for the next Altman flick and hoping for the best. Do you think any modern directors have a penchant for natural, organic filmmaking?

Hope you had a good New Year and all is well. And drink your orange juice!

Take care,

Cindy

Dear Cindy:

Although I kind of enjoyed "California Split," I really don't like Robert Altman's films, or his style of filmmaking.  It's so blatantly obvious to me when actors are improvising and I generally find it annoying.  I'm of the opinion that your script should be entirely worked-out by the time you shoot, not be in state where anything can be said or done.  Meanwhile, I drink OJ everyday, as well as taking vitamins everyday, too.

Josh

Name:              Ming
E-mail:         

J.

how long u out in hollywood before u failed and cmae back to detroit??

Dear Ming:

I never be failed.  I just be moved.

Josh

Name:              Greg Bogosian
E-mail:

Josh,

Of course $100,000,000 is an obscene amount of money to spend on a film! That was kind of the point of my question. If given this obscene amount, which by today's standards, isn't so obscene, what would you do differently? And to call anybody who needs that much a jerk-off, is a cop out, because you know as well as me and anyone else on this board, that you would not refuse the opportunity to make any movie of your choosing with seemingly limitless funds...

So again, I asked, what would your $100,000,000 epic be?

Dear Greg:

I don't know.  This is a silly train of thought; like hoping to win the lottery.  I don't think this way.  I would think that my most expensive script to produce would have to be "Devil Dogs," and I don't see why it would ever have cost more than $25 million, and I don't think I'd need that much to do it properly.  The only way to spend $100 million is spend six months shooting with your thumb up your ass.  I trained in low-budget movies and TV and I shoot feature-length films in three weeks.  I once had four weeks.  I don't know shit about shooting for six months.  Okay, so that's all I've got to say about it.

Josh

Name:              CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I never really like talking politics or religion too much, but I agree ALL religion is bullshit and I'm stunned how it's got a grip on most everyone. Even grown adults.

There's something I began to notice around 15 years ago that I find interesting. American news doesn't seem to ever show dead (white) Americans on the news, but they have no problem showing dead bodies of foreigners (usually 'brown' people).

I remember watching the nightly news one night a few years back (which I don't watch anymore) and there was a video of a dead 6 year old girl who was shot in the street. She appeared white and the neighborhood appeared American. I remember thinking 'I'm amazed they're showing that' only to find out it was actually video of a dead young Mexican girl in Mexico. That explained it. You'd NEVER see video of a dead American white girl lying in the middle of an American street on American TV.

Remember the 'uproar' over the showing of the dead American soldiers in Iraq? A bit surprising, but I bet they actually showed that to piss us off.

There's never an uproar over showing dead Iraqi soldiers. They'll show that clear as day like they show dead slaughtered Africans floating down the river or bodies in mass graves in the middle east. If anything happened like that in America, you wouldn't see it. They'd talk about it, but wouldn't show any pictures.

It sort of reminds me of that news skit show (Not Necessarily the News from the early 80's, I think) where the 'newscaster' reports a plane crash in a foreign country and says something like 'a plane crashed in Peru killing 120 people, but don't worry, there were no Americans on board.' Something like that.

(White) Americans generally do think their lives are more valuable than any (brown) foreigners.

Just had to get that off my chest. I'll write in with a movie question later.

Dear CD:

Which isn't to say that Islam isn't the most backward of all the modern religions.  If a few cartoons can set these yo-yos off to rioting and the burning of embassies, they really are meshugenas.  But anyone that seriously believes there's another life waiting for them after this one is a looney-tune, no matter what their religion.  Heaven's a trick on the slaves. Pick cotton your entire life, but remember, heaven's waiting for you.

Josh

Name:              Franklin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Yo! I was just wondering. Do you still live in Hollywood? Or have you moved back to Detroit? Or do you now live somewhere completly different? I dont know why I'm asking, I just suddenly got curious.

Dear Franklin:

I live outside Detroit.  I left L.A. in 2001.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Just killed an afternoon watching the DVD of Papillon, that I got from the library.  I hadn't watched it in many years and I wasn't sure if I would be bored with it again, but like a fine wine, it is a fine film.  Even though I knew what would happen when Papi is trying to pull Degas over the wall, I was clenching the arms of my chair.  Why can't Hollywood make movies like Papillon anymore?, other than the fact the Steve McQueen is gone.

Dear Bob:

It's a wonderful film, and I've watched it many, many times (I have the DVD).  There's no Franklin Schaffner anymore, either, nor is there anyone in Hollywood with his taste or talent.  My simple theory for why movies aren't that good anymore is that the people making them have grown quite a bit dumber and no longer have the ability.  Not to mention that the arcane Hollywood system has grown so labyrinthine that nothing that finally makes it out the other end of the maze is worth shit anymore.  There are no more Franklin Schaffners, nor are there any Steve McQueens, either.

Josh

Name:              pete chen
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I did not see George Stevens' "The Talk of the Town" on the list of movies you like. I just recently watched it, and found it to be charming, witty and well-directed. I'm suprised you don't like it.

Dear pete:

I've never seen it.

Josh

Name:              Greg Bogosian
E-mail:

Josh,

Somebody hands you a check for $100,000,000 and says, "Go make your dream movie." Which movie, either written or still floating around your noodle as an idea, would you make? Don't cop out and say, "I'd divide up the money and make ten movies." The check is for one singular motion picture. With this kind of money, you have the ability to go out and make an epic on par with recent hackfests like "King Kong" "War of the Worlds" "Memoirs of a Geisha" etc. etc. How would you make your epic better than those films?

Dear Greg:

I think spending $100 million on a movie is indecent.  I wouldn't know what to do or where to start.  To spend that much money you have to be working in slow-motion.  Only jerk-offs spend that much on a movie.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I know your opinions on religion but I want to comment on "Joe's" letter regarding Islam.  He's way off base in first agreeing with the cartoon of Muhammed wearing a bomb.  Then, he loses all credibility crediting the Muslims with the Crusades.   That happened thanks to the unemployed Christians who needed someone to slaughter other than each other  (with the goal being to bring relics to European churches). Muhammed and Jesus (if they were real) were reformers at a time when humanity was at a low.  Believe it or not, in their time, these religions gave women and children more rights and protected them as humans.  I think it took about 400 years for Christianity to unify into the almighty Catholic Church and things went downhill.  Islam had different periods of renaissance and dark ages too.
About Albert Brooks' movie, it looks stupid.  For one, it seems to center on Indians and maybe Pakistanis, which don't appear to be "the Muslim World".  And he does a bunch of racial jokes at the expense of those he's supposed to be "learning" from.  There's a review for it in this article; www.thenation.com/doc/20060213/klawans
Thanks,
Kim

Dear KimJ:

I happen to being reading Isaac Asimov's history of Constantinople, and the unification into the Catholic Church--"Catholic" is Greek for "entire" or "universal"--was at the First Ecumenical Coucil at Nicaea, on July 25, 325 AD, when they rejected the views of the Alexandrian Bishop, Arius, who believed that god was supreme and Jesus was his inferior; for those of Athanasius, who said that god, Jesus and the holy spirit were equal, forming a trinity.  Many, many Christians subsequently lost their lives over these beliefs.  This was 200 years before Islam.  The goal of the Crusades was for the Christians to drive the Muslims out of the holy land, and kill as many Muslims and Jews as possible along the way.  Meanwhile, Albert Brooks hasn't made a decent movie since "Lost in America" in 1985, 21 year ago.

Josh

Name:              tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

was "running time" shot in full frame or widescreen?

and how did you choose which format?

thanks

Dear tom:

"Running Time" was shot full-frame.  How did I choose?  I said, "I'm shooting full-frame."

Josh

Name:              Peter Franks
E-mail:             peterfranks@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Thank you for sharing your preferences and opinions. I included the spoof "Mars Attacks!" though I suppose it belongs in another category. I must see the 70s remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" especially since you have approved of it. Of course I should have included "The Day the Earth Stood Still".

However, there are also another class of extraterrestrial-related films that present them benevolently, such as "E.T." and "Flight of the Navigator". These seem to be more greatly designed for children of course. If I may ask your views on why the subject of hostile alien invasion and disaster seem to interest, entertain, and capture the imaginations of audiences as greatly?

I greatly admire Isaac Asimov and his research. Most scientists would agree with him. Of course, it would seem some very high-ranking bureaucrats seemed to believe otherwise with the information more highly classified than nuclear weapons in the 1940s. Although I believe much of the publically known phenomena to be disinformation (which itself must be highly classified), there are still some today who may believe there are "alien" creatures on Mars and even the lunar surface/subterranea. I have thought this may make a very interesting film indeed particularly if they were suddenly as well to burst from underneath the earth's surface.

Sincerely,

Peter Franks

Dear Peter:

Here's Dr. Asimov's rationale for there being no aliens, which he terms "Clement's Paradox" (for sci-fi writer Hal Clement):

    "The universe has existed for perhaps fifteen billion years, and if there are many civilizations that have risen here and there among its stars, these must have appeared at any time in the past twelve billion years (allowing three billion for the first to arise).
    It should follow, therefore, that human explorers, when locating an extraterrestrial civilization, would be quite apt to find them anywhere from one to twelve billion years old in the vast majority of cases (assuming them to be very long-lived).  If they were not very long-lived, but only endured, say, a million years or less before coming to a natural or a violent end, then almost all planets bearing such civilizations would show signs of the ruins of a long-dead one, or possibly a series of two or more sets of ruins.
    To a lesser extent, in relatively young planetary systems, the civilization might not be ready to arise for anywhere from a million to a billion years.
    The chance of encountering a civilization, then, that is at some level near our own would have to be very small.
    And yet (and this is Clement's Paradox), science fiction writers consistently show alien civilizations to be fairly close in technological level to Earth's.  They might be a little more primitive or a little more advanced, but considering the rate at which technology advances on Earth these days, it would seem that aliens are not more than a few thousand years behind us at most, or a few hundred years ahead of us at best.
    How enormous the odds are against that!"


Both Isaac Asimov and Richard Feynman (Nobel Prize-winner for physics) were on the board of the magazine The Skeptical Enquirer, which investigates all claims of alien life or visitation, as well as any claims of the supernatural, and guess what?  They're all bullshit.  None of these claims hold up to any scientific scrutiny at all.  If it amuses you to believe that there are aliens running around, and the facts are hidden by the government, that swell, but it has exactly as much validity as believing in Santa Claus.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

Recently a film called Looking for comedy in the muslim world was released by Albert Brooks. Can say I'm a fan of the dude, but seems like he's asking a fair question here and apparently the answer is no there is no comedy in the muslim world. The other day, a cartoon printed in a Danish newspaper portrayed Mohammed wearing a bomb on his head. Muslims protested by burning Danish flags, removing european goods from store shelves and roaming around the streets with machines just generally pissed off by what they considered an insult to their religion/culture.

Now, I could point out that burning another countries flag while crying how said country is intolerant of your views is frankly moronic and illogical. I could also mention this is yet another reason to separate church and state as far as humanly possible from each other. But what strikes me as the central human element in this whole thing is that isnt there some truth to the cartoon?

Islam began as a violent religion, from the crusades to now much of the terrorism and violence we see in the world stemming from muslim radicals who do indeed blow up navy ships, buildings, and even themselves as a means to political and religious end. So the cartoon doesn't seem like its a complete lie. Sure its a generalization, but what cartoon isn't?

There might be no comedy in the muslim world, but a more important thing that seems to be missing there is sanity.

Dear joe:

Oh, and we're the sane ones?  We're so fucked up on this side we don't even think we're fucked up, we just believe we're right and everyone else is wrong.  All the victims of Muslim terrorism don't equal one-tenth of the victims of American aggression in Iraq, and many, many other places.  We seem to have the complete delusion here in the west that just as long we term our aggression a "military action" that it no longer has moral consequences.  Al Qeada blows up the WTC and kills nearly 3,000 people, so we attack Iraq, who had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorism, fire rockets into their civilian areas and kills tens of thousands of them, very possibly a hundred thousand of them, but the Muslims are the bad guys?  Every time we stick our nose into another country's business, we ALWAYS back the wrong side -- we never back what the majority of a country want, we always back the corrupt dictator who's oppressing the people because that's who we're doing business with.  That's how we're known around the world.  I'm of the opinion that ALL religions are evil.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Will there be any more parts to the iFMagazine.com Exclusive? I was quite enjoying it, but it seems to have stopped prematurely.

Dear David:

If you read two parts, that's all there is.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

Thanks. I'll never quit the film business (I speak as if I'm somehow a part of it, lol ... I kill me). The entertainment industry is all I want to be a part of.

I don't mind the idea of being called 17 too much, but 16 is a bit much for me. I'm a year and a few days away from being old enough to drink (legally) so to be referred to as 17 (still a minor) is kinda weird for me. I have a few friends who are 17 or so, and it's not like it's insulting to be that age, it's just, ya know, I've been there and done that.

I suppose it's a little better to be seen as younger when you're getting older. Though, in my opinion, 47 isn't very old. It's experienced, sure, but old, not so much. To me, like, 60 is old. Although, now days that isn't even that old. Chuck Norris is 65 and I'd be afraid to call him old. He might roundhouse kick me or something.

So what exactly do you mean when you say I remind you of you. Hopefully that's a good thing, right?

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

As my friend Sheldon Lettich (later the maker of many Jean-Claude Van Damme films) said of me at 19 or 20, "I can take you anywhere but out."  I would invariably get into an argument with one of his friends.  I got into a rip-snorting fight with his girlfriend's sister, with whom I had been set up on a date.  But I really thought I knew something at 19 or 20, that now I'm pretty certain I don't know, whatever it is.

Josh

Name:              Peter Franks
E-mail:             peterfranks@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Thank you for your thorough explanation, I must view the original "Invaders from Mars". I recall that even in the remake the alien presence was quite disturbing, including the scene in which the schoolteacher ravenously consumes live frogs to her student's horror.

I admire your position "Alien visitations are nonsense", though many are convinced otherwise (myself included in the past). I have come to believe most reports have been purposely invented. That is, save for the grand deception itself involving the "Greys" since the second world war (unknown to most of the public I believe). Regarding them a wise researcher once described that they were not a natural presence.

If I may further ask, what are your favorite alien invasion films? The original "Invaders from Mars", perhaps "Invasion of the Body Snatchers?" The fifties were a classic era for this genre but I am also interested in your opinions of the more recent versions such as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Independence Day" and "Mars Attacks!".

I am very eager to purchase your new book.

Sincerely,

Peter Franks

Dear Peter:

I can live without "Mars Attacks! which isn't funny, but the others you mentioned I liked.  I like Phillip Kaufman's remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," too.  And "The Day the Earth Stood Still," of course.  But since Isaac Asimov and Richard Feynman both didn't believe in alien vistations or that there were in fact any other life forms in this neck of the universe, I don't either.

Josh

Name:              Greg Bogosian
E-mail:

Josh,

You read plays? If so, who do you read? Who do you like?

Ever considered writing for theatre. And more so, does it help one improve their screenwriting to read plays?

Dear Greg:

I used read plays all the time when I was younger.  I particularly liked Eugene O'Neill for his grand dramatic visions, and his seemingly endless ability to wring drama out of a situation.  I saw "Long Day's Journey into Night" at the Power Center in Ann Arbor, with Jason Robards, Micheal Moriarity, Zoe Caldwell, directed by Jason Robards, that may well have been best play I've ever seen.  The movie with Katherine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards and Dean Stockwell is great, too.  From a reading standpoint, I was very impressed by "Strange Interlude," although I've somehow managed to never see the film.  I also like William Inge a lot -- I think about both "Picnic" and "Dark at the Top of the Stairs" with some regularity.  I thought Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" was very good.  Anyway, how could it not improve your dramatic skills reading great plays? Personally, the limitations of the stage have always kind of bored me, that we're basically stuck in a room for the whole show, which is why I've always preferred the freedom of cinema.  But a dramatic situation is a dramatic situation, and they often happen in rooms, even in movies, so there's plenty to be gleaned from reading good playwrights.

Josh

Name:              Bobby
E-mail:             bobbygnign@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

I read your screenplay, "If I Had a Hammer".  I enjoyed it tremendously, particularly how it evoked a certain time and place with clarity.  I also believed the characters, which is not something I find myself saying about a lot of scripts or finished films these days.
My question:  where does the spark for writing generally come for you?  Is it a story you want to tell, or a character you want to explore?  Do you prefer to research specific points before you begin the actual writing of a script, or do you prefer to bang out a draft, and then deal with the technical details, if any are involved, after the story is down?
Thanks,
Bobby

Dear Bobby:

I'm glad you liked it.  I think the film came out better than the script, if I do say so myself.  "Hammer" began when I read about Allan Dwan making a musical biopic about Stephen Foster, called "I Dream of Jeanie," because all of the songs were in the public domain.  I thought about a folk musical using all PD songs (which I didn't stick to, and several of the songs I used are still under copyright).  Anyway, that's where it began, then I came up with the idea of it being the dead-end of a time period, like "The Magnificent Ambersons," and that really interested me.  Then I came up with the two lead characters, a folkie girl and rock & roll boy, and I was off an running.  I generally come at writing from the story first, then the characters.  And I usually get my story ideas from reading.  If the story needs research, as many do, I do that first trying to get a sense of the time and place before I start writing.  Scripts of mine like "Devil Dogs: The Battle of Belleau Wood" or "Head Shot" took a lot of research.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

First things, Tom-Tom, why would you think I'm 16 or 17? Is it my childish antics? My cherub like cheeks? Or is it that I just come off sounding like that much of an idiot? Anyway, I'm I'll be turning 20 years old later this month.

And secondly, the reason I'd like Josh Becker to someday direct one of my films is because I think he's a good director. Even when I'm not a big fan of his film, I still think the direction is awesome. For example, I'm not a fan of Alien Apocalypse. I saw it because Bruce Campbell was the lead and because Josh Becker directed it. I didn't really like it (though some of the lines made me laugh "Oh, come on with this!" for example), but I can't deny that it was expertly directed. That's why I'd want him to direct one of my films. I do own a camera (not a good one, just a DV one) and I do shoot my own stuff. I'm not against working with others though.

Back to Becker...

I'm really sorry Tom-Tom wrote to me on here. It's not like I put my email up or anything so that people can write me directly.

By the way. I still haven't had a chance to watch Running Time yet, but I read some of your script for it and I gotta say, if the movie is as good as the script, then Running Time won't dissapoint me.

Jeremy Milks

P.S. - I know that trying to pitch a script to somebody online is foolish and not the way of things, but more unconventional tactics have worked for others. You never know if you don't ask.

Dear Jeremy:

Only someone who was 19 could take being thought of as 17 as an insult.  If someone took me for 45 instead of 47, I wouldn't mind at all.  Yes, Jeremy, you do come off as young, but you are, so it's okay.  You also seem enthusiastic, and like the topic of movies matters to you, so you remind me of me a bit.  Keep asking, keep pushing, keep scheming to get your movies made.  We only get this one life, and most people don't get anything they dream about.  So just go for it.  You have nothing to lose.

Josh

Name:              Peter Franks
E-mail:             peterfranks@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

My deepest congratulations on the release of your exceptional book of film production. If I may ask, having viewed the unique and exciting "Alien Apocalypse", what is your own opinion regarding alien visitation? In addition, your view of films such as "Invaders from Mars", an 80s film I believe reminiscent of the fifties genre of alien invasion films.

Sincerely,

Peter Franks

Dear Peter:

"Invaders from Mars" is a cool little film from 1953, that got needlessly, and poorly, remade in 1986.  Alien visitations are nonsense.

Josh

Name:              kevin
E-mail:             kgrealty@execpc.com

Dear Josh:         

i don't have the presence of mind to ask you all the questions i'd like to, but i was struck by your attempt to simply tell it like it is. i have found your candor to be refreshing, and very helpful. it will not discourage me from finishing my screenplay, because as you said, it is something that i, as a lover of movies, would like to see myself, but it strips a little more of the delusional from the effort.

thank you again for just being honest.

Dear kevin:

I can't help it.  I'm certainly not trying to dissuade or discourage you or anyone else from writing your scripts.  I just think it's a good idea to know what the elements of a good script are.  I wish you all the luck in the world.  And if you have a question, go ahead and ask it.

Josh

Name:              Amadeus
E-mail:             84 Charing Cross Road

<< TV was supposed to kill movies and radio and didn't kill either one. >>

Yes, but didn't they create Widescreen for that reason, to get people away from their tv sets? And all the tv shows are mindless garbage, 600 channels and nothings on, unless its PBS or TCM.

Dear Amadeus:

Yeah, widescreen was reintroduced in 1953 as a reponse to TV (it had been created in the late 1920s), and people flocked to them for a while, but it never put a dent in TV viewership, which continued to grow steadily.  There may well be 600 channels and nothing on (except old movies and Nova), but there's also nothing on at the cineplex, either.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

That's cool man. I can completely understand only wanting to shoot your own scripts. I'm kinda that way myself, though I like to think I'm more of a director than a writer, so I don't mind so much.  No harm in asking though right?

I think it would be cool though to have you direct something I've written ... even if it's like, 20 years down the road or something. So long as I have no emotional attachment to a script, I'd be more than happy to let somebody else shoot it.

What do you think about T.V. shows and films going straight to the internet? Everybody's saying that sooner or later, TV will be obsolete and that theaters won't matter all because you can just get it instantly on the internet. I personally don't like this idea. I mean, I'm fine with putting my work on the web, but I don't like the idea of phasing out tv and the theaters. Any thoughts?

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

There's no phasing out anything out since nothing goes away; everything just finds its proper place.  TV was supposed to kill movies and radio and didn't kill either one.  Now there's TV, movies and radio, and the internet.  But one thing doesn't cancel out the other.  When cable TV came in it was supposedly the end of network TV, but it wasn't.  You can just buy a six-pack and drink at home, but oddly people still like going to bars to get together with other people.  The internet is just one more delivery system, like TV or theaters or DVDs; it's not that special.

Josh

Name:              Tom-Tom
E-mail:

Hey Jeremy Milks, question for ya: Why would you want this guy to make your movie anyway?

I'm serious, and I don't mean that to sound like a jerk or anything, Josh, I've got a lot of respect for you, certain key accomplishments of your career, and I think it's terrific you maintain this site with daily effort and care.

All of that said though, I just want to ask Jeremy, who's presumably 16 or 17, why he'd want to ship off his INCREDIBLE idea/script to a guy who spends an awful lot of time bashing every movie/script/and filmmaker of the last ten years that he can, all the while making one movie every five or six years that inevitably don't make it to the theatre? I've worked for some pretty tough bosses in my day, but Jeremy, bubby, I imagine Josh would take that cake and run all the way with it...

Josh, you are what you are and we love you for it, and that's why we read your updates everyday.

Jeremy, go buy a camera and make the movie yourself like Josh did, and so much of us have to do to learn the craft through trial by fire. Even an old pro like Josh continues to crash and burn, but his attitude is in the right place: He's doing it for himself, he's doing it for the love of it. You should take his cue and go for it yourself.

Dear Tom-Tom:

A little reality check, huh?  I can't argue with you, though.  My films inevitably don't make it to the theaters -- although the last one, in all fairness, was made for TV -- and I do sit here day in and day out bashing everything from the past 10 to 30 years.  So, why would you want me to shoot your script?  I'm actually very easy to work with, as long as you're doing your job.  The second I think someone isn't doing their job, I fire them. But I don't get angry or yell at anyone on my films.  The bottom-line, which Tom-Tom is referring to, in his own somewhat harsh way, is that everybody has to make their own films.  Thinking for one second that you can write into some schnook's website and get your film produced is a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Congrats on the book's release!

My question: would you/have you considered being vegetarian?

Dear Jeff:

I tried it for a while in the early nineties, but it made cooking and going out to eat and lot of things a hassle, and quite frankly I missed eating chicken, and I think I just missed the protein.  Beef I can live without, and I never cook it or buy it anymore, although I will have a steak if I'm out at a nice place occasionally.  As Chris Rock said, "People tell you not to eat red meat.  Red meat is good.  Don't eat green meat."

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

- Detective: "Have you seen this person?"  Guy: "No." The detective grabs guy by his collar, "Come on, cough!"  Guy: "Okay, he lives above Frank's bar." -

That sounds precisely like a scene from Anthony Mann's "T-Men" (a good-looking noir with a real overdone narration), though of course, what you described is also the cliche. "Double Indemnity" is probably my favorite detective noir, though "Chinatown" is right behind it.

How about film noir music? I absolutely love the music of Miklos Rozsa, who kept turning out terrific scores all the way until the end ("Eye of the Needle" and "Last Embrace" are second-rate films, but they have gorgeous scores that sound straight out of the 40s, I have them on CD). Jerry Goldsmith's "Chinatown" main title may be his best theme (so beautiful).

Dear Craig:

Jerry Goldsmith's main theme for "Patton," with the distant trumpets, is pretty great.  But "Chinatown" is a brilliant score.  Yes, Miklos Rozsa was one the greatest.  Billy Wilder, who worked Rozsa a lot, said the chant in the editing room for many of his films was, "Rozsa, Rozsa, Rozsa," meaning, it may not look all that good now, but once Rozsa scores it everything will be great.  Meanwhile, I love film noir, I'm just not a big fan of detective stories.  But the best noir films aren't about detectives, they're about regular Joes caught in a web of fear, Like Anthony Mann's "Desperate" or "Railroaded" or "Side Street," or Edgar Ulmer's "Detour," or Joseph Lewis's "Gun Crazy."  I don't think that detective films are part of film noir, they're really their own genre, which includes all of the Agatha Christie stuff, and Charlie Chan and Sherlock Holmes.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

You know, every time I type something to you I notice like, 20 typos and wrong words and things after you reply. It annoys me so. lol.

I kinda saw your answer to this question when the comic book guy wrote you, but say I had this really great idea, and a really great script to back it up, and I just randomly wrote in, pitching you the idea, and you didn't think it was total crap, would you consider shooting it?

Of course, I kinda know your tastes by now, so I wouldn't offer you anything that I thought you wouldn't like. I promise it would be a comedy or a drama or perhaps, a dramady.

I know the answer to this question is probably no, but I figure if I don't ask, I won't know. If the answer would be "possibly" or anything close to that, I wouldn't need up front compensation. I'd be happy to let you have it for a percentage of the profit ... and not even a big percentage. Or hell, under the right circumstances, I'd just let you have it. The only stipulation would be that my brother has to have something to do with the movie (even if he's just an extra).

Probably a stupid question, and I hope I didn't waste too much of your time.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

I only want to shoot my scripts.  Why is that so hard to understand?  The idea of somebody writing a script that I would want to make is utter science fiction as far as I'm concerned.  I've never read a script by anyone I've ever met that was any good at all.  99% of all scripts that I've ever read are so bad within just a few pages that just reading them is a monumental chore.  The point is, I make my movies, and you all can make your own movies.  If I can offer any helpful advice along the way, I'm pleased to do it.  But I don't care what your pitch is, or anyone else's, either.  Pitch it to a producer.

Josh

Name:              Amadeus
E-mail:             84 Charing Cross Road

Dear Josh,

I was slightly curious as to how long a film would run for in the theaters during the 40s and 50s since there was no video at the time?

Also when asked about THE BIG SLEEP, you said you don't like detective movies. So to rephrase: Would you say this was a least decent detective film for those who like the genre?

A Many Thanks

Dear Amadeus:

A film used to run as long as people bought tickets and filled the theater. The second they thought a new film would do better, which was generally in a week or two, the old film was gone and a new one booked in its place.  But something like "The Sound of Music" might run for a year.  Meanwhile, "The Big Sleep" is a good movie, and a good detective movie, but I don't know what the plot means.  I love "The Maltese Falcon," but that's because it's about other things beside its mystery.  I also love "Chinatown," too, which is also about other things as well as it's plot.  But when detective films get into that dull rhythm that they generally do -- Detective: "Have you seen this person?"  Guy: "No."  The detective grabs guy by his collar, "Come on, cough!"  Guy: "Okay, he lives above Frank's bar."  Etc. -- it puts me to sleep.

Josh

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

Josh,

Do you know if your book will be available in hardcover in the future?

Thanks,

Dale

Dear Dale:

Yes, it will be available in hardcover, too.

Josh

Name:              Gene Allen
E-mail:             gallen@tcfbank.com

Dear Josh:         

What is the status of your screenplay "Teddy Roosevelt in the Badlands"? Is there a film?
Regards,
Gene Allen
Minneapolis, MN

Dear Gene:

No, there isn't.  But I hear that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have announced their next project together will be the life of young Teddy Roosevelt.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Will your new book be available at Borders? Alternatively, will you be selling copies directly through your site? (I figure that way it'd be easier to get my copied signed)

Dear David:

I hope it will be in Borders and Barnes & Noble, but I don't believe that will happen right away.  It's available now through the link on the main page and the Q&A page, which connects to Wallside Press, the publisher.  If anyone sends me their book with a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope), I'll be happy to sign it.

Josh

Name:              Kenny Keen
E-mail:             midnighthorizon@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I am the creator of a comic book called "Slayer".(http://midnighthorizon.com)I assume submitting a comic book to movie pitch is different than submitting a screenplay.How does one go about doing this?Thank you.

Dear Kenny:

There's no way to pitch me anything.  I'm not interested in your stuff, and I'm particularly not interested in comic books.

Josh

Name:              Rob
E-mail:             habejr

Hey Josh,

Two quick questions for today:

First, in reference to the other person's question about today's composers: What do you think of Danny Elfman specifically? I know Raimi has used him a lot and so has Tim Burton. His stuff is hardly conventional, and very unique. I love how he can put a dark spin on anything - even the Spider-man score.

Second question: I took out a book from the library about making cheap DV films. One of the main points it makes is that your film cannot have a specific genre if you want it to succeed. That sounds like bull to me, as I assume a genre would make a film more marketable, no? It also says that you should shoot outside whenever possible, to avoid use of your own lights, and that indoor shoots only require one light. It all sounds wrong to me, but your the one who knows, so I'll wait for your response.

Alright, one more question. In your book, are you as humorous as you are on this site, or is it more instructional text book type stuff?

Thanks again for taking the time, as always. If I do succeed in this industry, a big reason is this forum - I'm sure that goes for all of the posters.

-Rob

Dear Rob:

I guess Sam and Danny Elfman aren't working together anymore.  There's a link somewhere on here to an interview of Danny Elfman discussing his relationship with Sam on CHUD.com, and it was scathing.  I've never been all that impressed with Elfman's music, even when he was with Oingo Boingo.  I like his score for "Midnight Run."  But all of his big scores all sound the same to me.  "Spider-Man" and "Darkman" both sound like "Batman" to me.  And they seem very conventional.  What's the name of that book?  "How Not to Make Movies"?  It's pretty difficult to make a film that doesn't fall into any genre, particularly if you consider comedy and drama genres.  "Evil Dead" is very clearly in the horror genre and it didn't hurt Sam any. Making westerns didn't hinder John Ford's success, although, interestingly, none of his four Best Director Oscars were for westerns.  I say to shoot outside any time the script says, "EXT." and to shoot inside any time it says, "INT."  I actually give the exact opposite advice in my book, which admittedly is not aimed at people shooting DV, which is to attempt to confine your story within one of two locations, like Hank's apartment in "Lunatics" -- half the film takes place inside that one location -- or "Evil Dead" again, where two-thirds of it takes place inside that cabin.  And though lighting with one light can be dramatic, it's very rarely practical, unless you're in a close-up.  As for the book, I think it has its humorous moments, but it's intended to be serious guide to low-budget filmmaking.  I did try to be funny in a few of the glossary definitions, though.

Josh

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