Q & A    Archive
Page 146

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

Josh,

You can add me to the list of people who actually like the film LET IT RIDE. I thought it was very funny and I think I had seen it as many times as you did, although, it was a on cable a lot in the early 90's, so maybe that is why I had seen it so many times.

I like Richard Edson, I think he is a great character actor. Actually, everyone in that film did a great job, and I agree that Joe Pytka did a very good job at directing. It says on IMDB that it was originally a book which is interesting.

Meanwhile, I think all of us here who write in on your site should all chip in and get you a digital camera so you can take some beh ind the scenes photos on your future film projects (or have somebody else take them when you are too busy).

I think you have given people some damn good advice over the years and it would be a good thank you gift!

I leave it up to everyone here. How would you feel about that?

Scott

Dear Scott:
 
Thanks for the kind thought, but I could actually afford a digital camera if I wanted one.  I bought one about 8 years ago, but it's entirely outdated now.  Mainly, though, I'm just too busy to be taking pictures for fun.  It's also a little bit incorrect to take pictures on a movie set and post them before the film comes out, and it could easily piss off Sci Fi, which I don't care to do.  Meanwhile, whatever happened to Richard Edson, whom I liked, too?  For a brief moment he was sort of ubiquitous, in "Stranger Than Paradise," "Platoon," and "Let it Ride."  Regarding "Let it Ride," I also really liked Allen Goorwitz (Garfield) and Jennifer Tilly, who has never looked better than that.
 
Josh

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

Dear Josh:

You don't think Brandon Routh fits the part of Superman? I think he looks the part. Sure, he's no Christopher Reeve, but I think he's not a bad replacement.

Maybe I'm just partial though because he's from Des Moines, Iowa and you know, Iowa represent.

What makes you think Routh won't do a decent job?

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:
 
Oh, fuck you and fuck Superman in the ass with a kryptonite flagpole.  Who gives a shit?  It's all crap!
 
Josh

Name: Charles Rottwell
E-mail: minime@losi.com

Dear Josh:

If you had to choose between directing "Dukes of Hazzard 2" and having sex with a Belgian crack whore with halitosis, which would you pick?

Dear Charles:
 
You people kill me.  I guess you think you're funny, but I don't.  That's because I see no difference between "Dukes of Hazzard 2" "X-Men 3," "Superman Begins," "Batman Ends," or any other piece of shit made today.  The only difference is budget and the level of distribution, otherwise it's all dogshit.  I'd fuck the Belgian whore and hold my breath.
 
Josh

Name: Trey Smith
E-mail: cobra_commander_of_cobra@yahoo.com

Hello again.

I watched "Night of the Hunter" tonight for the second time and I must say that once again Robert Mitchum's performance blew me away. He was such a marvelous actor and Harry Powell is definitely one of my favorite roles of his.

When he is driving along at the beginning of the film "speaking to God", believing every word that he says is truly right, never fails to give me chills.

Or when John Harper wakes up and see's Powell outside under the lamp and he walks slowly away singing a hymn. Very creepy.

His "love and hate" story in the candy shop is great as well.

What do you thin k of the performance?

Dear trey:
 
It's terrific.  I'm a big Robert Mitchum fan, and I think he was seriously underrated as an actor.  Anything he tried, he pulled off: Australian in "The Sundowners," Irish in "Ryan's Daughter," southern in "Cape Fear."  Mitchum was one of the very best actors to work in movies so far.  My dopey dad met Robert Mitchum on the beach in Cancun, Mexico, and asked, "I think I know you.  Did you go to Central High in Detroit?"  Mitchum said, "No," and continued on his way.  My mother then asked my dad, "What were you and Robert Mitchum talking about?" and it finally dawned on him who he was.
 
Josh

Name: Alotta Fagina
E-mail: alottafagina@home.com

Dear Josh,

What do you think of the new film Superman Returns, if you have seen it yet. Gee, what a Super Man!

Alotta Fagina

Dear Alotta:
 
I wouldn't see it if they were giving away $20 bills at the door.  The guy playing Superman seems miscast and not in the same league as Christopher Reeve, who was perfect.  The NY Times gave it a shitty review, and it's 2 hours and 40 minutes, for Christ's sake.  To me it's sounds like a new level of Dante's hell.
 
Josh

Name: Craig
E-mail:

Josh,

That's very kick ass that you're making another movie. Post photos from the shoot whenever you can, I'm sure we'd all appreciate that. Is David Worth the DP again? And how is it being back in an environment where anybody can smoke wherever the hell they want? I'm a fellow smoker, and that must feel pretty damn good.

I have a question regarding salaries for actors and actresses. What is scale payment? What did your actors get for "Hammer" and "Alien Apocalypse?"

Thanks, and all the best.

Dear Craig:
 
I don't have a camera with me, so there won't be any photos.  "Hammer" was non-SAG, so I was able to pay whatever I wanted, which wasn't all that much.  A lot of the crew was making minimum wage.  I think department heads and lead actors were getting $100 a day.  On AA I wasn't the producer, nor do I know what sorts of deals the lead actors made, nor would I tell you if I knew, but I'll just bet thay made more money than me.  I don't know what the base pay is for a speaking actor in Bulgaria.  David Worth is not the DP.  It will be Lorenzo Senatore, who was the Steadi-cam operator on AA (and a damn good one, too).
And you can smoke everywhere in Bulgaria except the UFO office where this is being made, which is run by an American who doesn't smoke.
 
Josh

Name: A No. 1 to Portland On The Number 19
E-mail: coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

In your book, you mention BARFLY as an example of a character learning at least one thing over the course of the story. I noticed a good one on LET IT RIDE, Richard Dreyfuss learns that if he has good luck, everyone has insanely bad luck, therefore any horse someone recommends has got to lose. Of course, this is countered by the owners of Charity giving him a tip off on the next one. I love the simple premise of this film: no matter how many times he wins, you're still expecting him to lose. You're expecting Luck to set this loser's hopes up then knock them down. By the last race, when they set it up th at he could still lose, you feel the extreme disappointment coming on in your gut. I almost didn't want to watch. And its that sort of involvement that's missing from a comedy like say THE DUKES OF HAZZARD where the three leads aren't funny, and the plot is something anyone could write.

Dear A No. 1:
 
I think it's interesting you chose "Let it Ride" as an example.  It's a film almost no one saw, and for the most part, those that did didn't like it.  I, however, have seen it a half a dozen times and have it on tape.  I think it's a wonderfully simple premise that works really well -- a born loser inexplicably has a day when he can't lose.  There's an amazing amount of suspense because you just can't believe he'll win again.  It's also very funny.  When he buys $5,000 worth of win tickets from Robbie Coltrane, and the machine keeps spitting them out and spitting them out, then when it stops they both have a cigarette like they just had sex, I thought was funny.  Also, him in the jockey club, and he wins again and starts screaming, "God likes me, he really likes me!"  Then he tries to get all of his loser buddies to let him bet their money, and they won't do it.  They'd rather lose on their own then let someone else win for them.  The script was clearly written by someone who understands horse racing and hanging around a track.  I also think that Joe Pitka, who's mainly a commercial director, did a very good job.  It's a terrific example of a story with a simple plot that's just enough and no more.
 
Josh

Name: Larisa Gavrilova
E-mail: zest@samtel.ru

Dear Josh,

I write screenplays in English but I don't live in the USA To my big regret you never consider directing other people's screenplays. I know that you are familiar with Renee O’Connor. She is not only the talented actress, also the interesting director and the producer of successful films. I almost year search for opportunities to come into contact with her , to offer the screenplays on her consideration.

If you have an opportunity to help me in these searches, to you shall be very grateful.

In the hope of complete mutual understanding,

Larisa Gavrilova

Dear Larisa:
 
I'm just south of you in Bulgaria.  Meanwhile, there's a certain level of self-regulation in this business.  If you can't figure out how to get your script to Renee, then you probably don't deserve to.  I'm not the route, but nice try.
 
Josh 

Name: star rosencrans
E-mail: star@plotbot.com

Hello, Mr. Becker -

I've been reading your site for some time now - at least the last four years or so. I was actually an extra in If I Had a Hammer - I was standing in line outside the Purple Onion (in Tujunga!) and had to take a drag off a cigarette and watch an awesome (though nonexistent) hot car tear off up the street. As I was doing the extra thing on a lark, I've always feared I was terrible. I'm only sad that I haven't been able to see the film to see! Trying to find out more about the film eventually led me to here, and I've been checking in intermittently ever since.

I don't have a question, to be honest - I wanted to invite you to a webapp/site that I built with a friend. It's called Plotbot (http://www.plotbot.com), and it's something we've put together to help facilitate collaborative screenwriting.

I won't give you the whole pitch - I don't want to sound any more like spam than I probably already do - but you can read more about it on my blog (http://www.splitlevel.org/archives/2006/06/behold_plotbot_1.html), or you can sign up at http://www.plotbot.com/register with the invite code "splitlevel."

We're just running a small beta test aimed at people we thought might be interested.

Thanks, and good luck with your future endeavors!

Star Rosencrans
star@plotbot.com

Dear star:
 
Oh, so you're that terrible extra in front of the Purple Onion!  But I jest.  None of the extras were bad in "Hammer," nor have I any idea which one you were.  Your Plotbot concept sounds sort of interesting.  It's not anything I'd ever do, but it might work for other folks.  I think a big part of being a writer is sitting by yourself and figuring out how to make your story make sense to yourself.  And, as I point out in my book, I think plots are a secondary consideration in writing stories.  They're important, but nearly as much as characterization or motivation.  Still, if it helps people come up with workable plots then it's a good thing.  Good luck with it.
 
Josh

Name: Tim Roessler
E-mail: tlrboulder@gmail.com

Dear Josh:

You’re right – if I’d read your book, I would’ve been much better off. I pulled it off the shelf where it was waiting, read it, and spent a lot of time slapping my forehead. You know, the “damn it I shoulda done that” > kind of gesture.
Unfortunately, until you do something, it’s hard to know what you don’t know. And advice like “make a plan and stick to it” seems obvious – until you try to do it. And find yourself being pulled in eight directions.
Now that advice seems more like the Holy Writ of the Lord to me.
Anyway, I found your book extremely valuable, and I wrote a review for Amazon saying so.
I noticed as an aside in your book that you take photographs in medium format.
Have you found it helpful in your directorial work? What kind of shots do you tend to take – landscapes, people, whatever strikes your fancy? And why medium format?
Thank you for the good advice here and in your book, and best of luck in Bulgaria!

Dear Tim:
 
I'm not sure what you mean by "medium format."  I think you're saying medium shots, as opposed to long shots or close-ups.  But meanwhile, I use everything, when it's applicable.  I would say the shot I, and most directors, use most often is the MCU, or medium close-up, meaning from the chest up.  I like close-ups, meaning just the face, but I think they're a bit too intense and intimate for most scenes, and I save them for when they'll have real impact in a dramatic scene.  I only rarely go in for the XCU, or extreme close-up, meaning from the mouth to the eyes, unless someone's about to die, or they're seeing their best friend get killed.  It's also very difficult to hold an actor in an XCU because if they move an inch in any direction they're either out of frame or out of focus.  And, if you shoot a scene all in CUs or XCUs (like Sergio Leone liked to do), you don't know where anyone is; you lose all of the geography, which is a crucial pa rt of a director's job.  Meanwhile, I'm glad you enjoyed the book.
 
Josh

Name: Max Wein
E-mail: mw@mw.com

Dear Josh:

Curious about the new film. Are the Harpies a group of female Harpo Marx imitators who charm men with their red wigs and silent comic mugging, and then slaughter them when their backs are turned? If so, I await the sequel: Stan Lee's The Grouchies.

Dear Max:
 
The sequel will be "Stan Lee's The Zeppos," where winged male creatures sing dumb songs while Groucho makes snotty comments -- "I'm stuck here, but you can go get more popcorn."
 
Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I'm getting the jist that you got a new movie deal with Sci-Fi. I'll have to read more. That's cool, congrats.

Do you think R.E.M. is good? The group, that is, not the physiological phenomenon.

Dear Bob:
 
I like a couple of their records a lot, like "Automatic for the People" and "Up."  I wasn't very pleased with their last few records.  I think Michael Stipe has a good voice.
 
Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Quit sniveling!

Actually, I still have an uncompressed quicktime version of "Holding It" that can be compressed and posted if you have that desire.

I sent the tapes back to you befroe I was able to ake the other films into quicktimes.

So, How should I proceed Mr. Director!

Scott

Dear Scott:
 
Touchy, touchy.  I didn't blame it on you, it's Bruce that never returned the tape.  But luckily, Bruce also has master tapes from which he can make me another copy.  And someday he will, too, but not right now because he's shooting a movie.  And so am I.  And if all goes right in the universe, he and I will make the next film together.  And you'll make a movie in Brazil.
 
Josh

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

Dear Josh:

... Stan Lee's The Harpies? As in Stan Lee, comic book writer? Creator of such things as Spider-man and X-Men? Or is this some guy with the same name only? Because the idea of you directing something by Stan Lee is kind of amusing to me considering how much you hate comic books.

All the same, I look forward to seeing the film and I hope it turns out great. There's a rule in my house: if it's done by Becker, I must see it. Any word on who's going to be in the film?

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:
 
See the previous post for the cast.  Yes, it's the very same Stan Lee.  Life is loaded with irony.
 
Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Major congrats on your gig for Sci-Fi coming through. If you're in Bulgaria, then I guess it's official now!

Is Stan Lee himself going to be involved? Or is he just sort of lending his name to this as producer? I remember seeing a press release a while back that he had a 3-picture deal going with the network.

And who's in your cast? Any familiar names or faces, either in front of or behind the camera? And on behalf of the men of America, any chance you can work in a part for Rosi? "Eeek - the harpies! We must repel them by means of potato liquor!"

Again, this is supremely cool news!

Regards,

August

Dear August:
 
The stars of this film are: Stephen Baldwin, Kristen Richardson, and good old Peter Jason, who played the president in AA.
 
As far as I know Stan Lee has nothing to do with the film at all, other than his name being on it, and him undoubtedly making more money than anyone else in the cast and crew.  It's a great deal if you can get it.  Apparently, Rosi hasn't been in any of these films since AA.  I saw the photos of the girls coming in to audition for the harpies, and at least one of them is a knockout, and was on the cover of Playboy.  That doesn't mean she can act, but oh my goodness . . .
 
Thanks for the kind wishes, and all the best to you.
 
Josh

Name: Brian Simpson
E-mail: bjsimpson@scatcat.fhsu.edu

Dear Josh:

I didn't have a question, just couldn't find any other way of "contacting" you. just wanted to inform you of a review of your movie, Alien Apocalypse on www.bisforbrains.com. Didn't know if there was anyway you could utilize it, post it for your fans, or what. I'm not looking to put "my" name out there, just thought your movie was a step up from most tv-movies. keep it up!

Dear Brian:
 
I'll check it out.  Thanks.
 
Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Here's a suggestion and take it as you will. If you still wanted to put up your Super 8 short films you could probably post them on http://www.youtube.com which lets you upload movies. The catch is they have to be under 100 MB's. Not sure how high of MB's your super 8s go. But if you still had people that convert them maybe You Tube wouldn't be a bad place to host them.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:
 
Thanks for the suggestion.  There's several places like that now.  Sadly, the fellow that was converting the films, Scott Pelzel, went and moved to Brazil.  On top of that, I lent my last VHS copy of the short films to Bruce and he lost it, the son of a bitch.
 
Josh

Name: Dean
E-mail:

Hello Josh I am writing to you from the U.K after having just finished reading your book ( which is one of the best I have read on the subject of indy film production by the way primarily for its emphasis on shooting film, which I favour and the actual writing process which no other book I have read has gone into, though screen writing books are obviously out there ).


My question is in regards to actually selling the picture, you seem to be torn between sales agents being the best approach or dealing directly with the distributor, is it actually realistically possible outside of a miracle to sell a film as an unknown without a sales agent ? For instance if a movie garnered enough "buzz" at film festivals would a distributor realistically approach you ? I have my script that I believe in and I have nearly all the money I need to "shoot" the thing ( if all goes well ) and I am pondering the almost impossible question of getting distribution.

Also for laughs, Orson Welles "The Lady from Shanghai" what do you think of this movie ? I really enjoyed it myself finding the funhouse in ACT three to be a superb sequence, though Orson's "Oirish" accent left a lot to be desired.

Many thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

Dear Dean:
 
Orson Welles's accent is so awful in that film it's always tortured me.  I really don't much care for the film, and Rita Hayworth just seems past her prime, which was really pretty short.  The finale in the funhouse is amusing, but that wasn't enough for me to like the film.  Meanwhile, if you make a film that legitimately picks up some sort of buzz from film festivals, you can certainly deal directly with distributors, particularly if they should contact you.  But that's a longshot, and most film festivals don't matter at all.  Getting a good response at, say, the Orlando Film Festival doesn't mean dick to someone in L.A.  However, getting some attention at one of the few big festivals could very well turn into a distribution deal.  You simply can't depend on that kind of response.  Therefore, you really need to make other plans beyond people loving your film because there's a very good chance they won't. The only thing to do is to make the film and see what happens.  Good luck.
 
Josh

Name: Thom Kellerman
E-mail: 2cool1001@msn.com

Hi Mr. Beker, I can't wait to see the new Super Man film. I think its going to be better then all of the other super hero films of the last couple of years (and there have been a lot!!). I think Brian Singer will do a great job with this one not only because he is talented (just look at the Usuel Suspects!!) but also because he is both Jewish and gay and so he understands what it means to be an under dog better. I think he probably also had obsticles to overcome just to become the director that he is. The effects look really great.

Dear Thom:
 
Being Jewish and gay gives him an edge in making superhero movies?  Okay, if you say so.  Aside from the fact that I just can't stand superheroes, hasn't Superman been done to death?  Since that whole last series of Superman movies with Christopher Reeve (who seems like better casting than this new guy), there have been not one, but two TV shows about him.  Christ almighty, isn't that enough?  Meanwhile, I didn't care for "The Usual Suspects," nor the 30 minutes of "X-Men" I saw, so I think your hopes are seriously misplaced.
 
Josh

Name: Doug Harp
E-mail: jackamole@purvis.org

Dear Josh:

Is there any chance you can get the new movie renamed "Josh Becker's Stan Lee's The Harpies," (like Ruth's Chris Steak House) or "Stan Lee's The Harpies: A Josh Becker Joint?" Lee is way overrated... The artists on his comics (Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, etc.) were the guys who made them cool. Maybe you'll do the same for this screenplay that Lee probably farmed out to one of his interns after jotting down a one-sentence synopsis about busty monster babes.

Dear Doug:
 
I think that one possessory credit is sufficient, and in this instance Stan Lee gets it.
 
Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I just had a quick question for ya. I know you don't like sequels, but if a sequel is to be made, how do you go about setting up returning characters? I mean, I know the first 20 pages or so is supposed to be character set-up, getting the plot of the film out there, that kinda stuff, but since the character would be (hopefully) pretty well established in the previous film, do you just focus more on the plot of the new film or do you re-establish the character just in case somebody hasn't seen the first film in the series.

Also, I apologize for that huge run on sentence.

Thanks,
Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:
 
I've never made a sequel, nor have I ever written one.  But I would guess that you should probably assume that whoever is seeing the sequel saw the original, so you don't need to knock yourself out with too much character set-up.
 
Josh

Name: Tim Roessler
E-mail: tlrboulder@gmail.com

Dear Josh,

I just finished directing a short film. Although it was a small crew and cast, I have to say I was overwhelmed by all the competing demands on my attention on the first day, despite my having prepared myself as well as I could. So: how do you maintain your focus on the set? And where do you place your attention first?
And: What's the best way to develop an eye for a good performance? Of course, it's taste, but are there other steps to take? (I'd rehearsed the bulk of the story, so I'm happy with nearly every actor, but one guy slipped in a performance that looked acceptable on the set, but far too broad on playback. It's not his fault; I cast him and directed him, but I never want to mess up like that again.)
Thanks!

PS My mother the folkie really loved "Hammer" and thought you did an excellent job of capturing the time and place, and she laughed in all the right places.

Dear Tim:
 
Excellent questions.  The biggest problem a director faces, in my view, is keeping their focus and not being distracted by inconsequentia.  I go over this quite extensively in book, BTW.  What I do is I make my plan, meaning either an explicit shot-list or storyboards, and then I try my damndest to not deviate from it, no matter what anyone suggests to me.  Regarding actors and performance, my single most constant piece of direction is, "Bring it down, I have a camera in your face.  You don't have to play to the last row." I also read the script over and over again so that I'm more familiar with it than anyone else.  Since I've figured out every shot in advance, I don't need to have discussions with the DP between set-ups, I just tell them where the camera goes.  This saves at least an hour or two a day.  The most important issue on the set is the actors, and them feeling comfortable to feel free enough to give you the best they've got.  Actors can't really do that if there's a lot of stress on the set.  I also try my best to stay in a good, jovial mood and this generally filters down to everyone else.
 
Your mother sounds like she has good taste.
 
Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I've actually seen "Equinox" - in the early 70's it was sort of the holy grail of horror movies, because it premiered at drive-ins, so if you were a little kid, you had to first live near one, and then have a parent willing to take you to it, who was also willing to sit through something marketed as being about unspeakable evil and terror. I didn't see it 'til it turned up on AMC decades later, and in a very loose way it has the same premise as "Evil Dead" - clean-cut college kids go out into the woods and get mixed up with evil beings conjured by an old professor studying the Necronomicon... but that's about it. If Sam saw it, he' d have been 11 or 12 max, and in those pre-video/dvd days, there'd have been little opportunity to see it again. Plus he'd have dragged you along, and you'd remember it.

Plus the main creature is a Harryhausen-ish stop-motion Cyclops. I think the whole film was made for about $1.99. So I guess ED steals from it in the way that most John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies steal from the first Roy Rogers movie to have a lone gunfighter get into trouble in a western town. Which would in turn steal probably from "The Virginan" and assorted Tom Mix movies.

Speaking of Wayne, I saw "Angel and the Badman" for the first time in many years not too long ago, and noticed a few similarities with your "Chariots of War" script. I'd forgotten how good that film was, and especially liked Gail Russell's acting as she reacts silently to Wayne talking in his delirium about various women in his past: he tells one he loves her, and she pouts...then he says he's leaving her, and she perks up again.

No real question, but I thought I'd also mention that your buddy Gary Jones' horror movie "Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter's Cove" makes its TV debut this coming Saturday July 1st at 9 PM eastern on Sci-Fi, so I hope it does well.

Regards,

August

Dear August:
 

It sounds like Sam must have seen "Equinox" if it has the necronomicon angle.  Still, originality isn't a cornerstone of low-budget horror films, or any films at this late date.

I liked "Angel and the Badman."  It's interesting from the POV that he can't kill anybody and still get the girl.  It's also one of the few movies to not have a copyright notice on it and has been in the public domain since it's initial release.  The other two famous ones are: "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Night of the Living Dead."

 
Josh

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

Josh, finally caught up with Alien Apocalypse. I haven't seen many Sci Fi channel original movies. Don't really watch many direct to video sci-fi either. But I thought AA was pretty good for what it was.

What stood out on the DVD was the music and cinematography, which were very well done regardless of budget. Bruce and Renee were also very good, and the story moved along briskly and was entertaining. Some of the CG bug effects could have been better, also would have helped if there were a few more large-scale shots to show what the bugs were doing across the planet and how their wood-export operation was working. The dubbing really annoyed me for the firs t half hour or so then I got used to it. Overall, it was not as bad as some of the comments on here led me to believe and on a rainy saturday afternoon it's not a bad way to kill a couple hours.
But I got the feeling that if you had another 3-4 days of shooting and a regular english-speaking cast it would have been a significantly better film. Definitely would put it above TSNKE, haven't seen Lunatics, not as good as RT or Hammer. Many sci-fi tv movies seem to be about explosions and T&A, but AA felt like sort of a throwback to a more classical genre style, and also had some smart ideas in it. Hope you can take what you learned from this production and do an even better movie next time with Sci-Fi. (no dubbing of Bulgarians please!).

Dear Jim:
 
I'm here in Bulgaria starting work on this new film, entitled "Stan Lee's The Harpies."  It too will have many Bulgarian actors who will be dubbed later, but that's just how this deal works.  Thanks for the nice comments on AA, which I don't think is as bad as many people have said it was, either.  Particularly if you've seen any of the other Sci Fi originals.
 
Josh

Name:              Todd
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I went on this website called famousapes.com and they said that evil dead ripped off some old movie called equinox,is that true? Do you know if Sam raimi had seen it and it inspired him? I never saw that film but the website listed the similarities and they sound alike.

Dear Todd:

I've never seen it.  I can't tell you if Sam has or not.  It does sound similar fromn the blurb I read.  But do keep in mind that "Evil Dead," and no doubt "Equinox" as well, are entirely based on cliches and bits from other movies.  In Bill Warren's review of "Evil Dead" (and Bill later wrote "The Evil Dead Companion") in Leonard Maltin's book he says, "Borrowing inspiration from "Night of the Living Dead," "Susperia," "The Exorcist" and "The House on Haunted Hill" (to name a few)."

Josh

Name:              Ron
E-mail:             funarium@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I read through a couple of your reviews and I was flabbergasted, particulary your reviews of Out of Sight, Catch me if you can, and Traffic (you were very right about gladiator, i didn't like it much either). You seem to focus on the very minor and unimportant flaws which are hardly prevalent, however it made for an interesting read. Anyway I was wondering what you thought of the following: The Usual Suspects, Pulp Fiction, and Fight Club?

Dear Ron:

"Minor and unimportant flaws" like bad screenplays, crappy direction and unbelievable performances.  Minor shit like that.  I don't care about any of the films you've mentioned.

Josh

Name:              Dale Wayne
E-mail:             dwayne@dwaynesworld.net

Dear Josh:         

I just watched Alien Apocalypse and I wanted to ask you why the t&a girl was raped in this otherwise lighthearted blood-soaked alien amputation movie.  I was having a good time with my kids watching the movie and then the rape happened and my kids are asking me what happened so I had to stop the movie and try to explain to them what rape is and why it is legal in the Eastern European country where you filmed the movie.  They didn't understand what I meant so I had to point out the parts on their mother and what happens and it was uncomfortable to say the least.  I should have rented Last House on the Left instead.  At least then the rape would have had some context.  I thought Bruce Campbell was a tasteful man but now I know he is Mr. Rape Movie Acting Guy.  Ugh.  Time to return my copies of Spider-Man 1 & 2 because his rape-tinged macho visage disgraces them both.  Boo hiss, Rapey Becker.

Dear Dale:

So, let's see if I get this straight.  It's perfectly okay for kids to see: Humans killing humans, aliens biting off human heads, humans killing aliens, but a rape scene where you don't see anything is pornography, is that right? I think you've got your head up your ass.  The only rational answer is to lock your kids in a closet until they're of legal age.

Josh

Name:              Kevin Kindel
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I finally found a copy of Lunatics for rent. And let me just say it was fucking awesome. very quirky and humorous. I don't give a rat's ass what these other chimps say about your collective works; in my humble opinion they are all entertaining with a sense of their own purpose, interesting characters, and apt themes. My hat's off to you.

Dear Kevin:

Well, thanks.

Josh

Name:              marcel
E-mail:             marcelinus2002@yahoo.co.uk

Dear Josh:         

i wish to thank you for revealing the news about the gospel of judas to the world, but if i might ask, do you really believe in what was in the scroll? cos i for one as i read your account on the scroll immediately saw the scroll as a plot by the early jews to soil the works of Jesus, reason being that if this account were to be true, then why did the author commit suicide? if youask me, i'll say guilty conscience.

Dear marcel:

Who says the author committed suicide?  And Jews doesn't get capitalized, but Jesus does?  Don't forget, as everyone seems to, that Jesus was a Jew, from the day he was born until the day he died.  Should Jesus return tomorrow, which is as probable as my late grandfather showing up to Sunday brunch this weekend, he will still be a Jew and he'll go to the nearst synagogue, not to any churches.

Josh

Name:              Chris
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

The Australian guy here again. At the beginning of this year two friends and I decided to make a film, just something quick in our summer holidays between high school and college but after many headaches and frustrations its 6 months later and this thing is still being made. I have watched as good ideas have turned to cliches and have truly learned how to NOT make a film.

Now one of us without talking to the others has talked to a guy who owns a company that wants to distribute this crappy movie on dvd. My question is will this be detrimental to my future career? Should i put a nom de plume for my writing and directing credits or should i just laugh it off because who cares about a straight to dvd movie from when you were 18?

Dear Chris:

I say that latter, just shrug it off.  Many people's first movie is crap, but you either learn from it and move on, which we call experience, or you get stopped in your tracks, which we call failure.  Just move on.  Now let's see what you can really do.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Did anyone find it odd in the movie BIRD when they had the flashback-within-a-flashback. First, its from the Diane Venora's point of view, but it just shows her walking down the road to another guy, who then has a flashback from his point-of-view, and it goes back to him, and back to her in the mental ward. That makes about as much sense as that movie ADAPTATION when Nicholas Cage writes a movie with three people chasing each other on horses and they turn out to be one schitzophrenic person.

It makes perfect sense in THE SEARCHERS when the girl is reading the letter and it turns into Jeffrey Hunter's voice because he wrote the letter. So shouldn't the flashback in BIRD have stayed in Diane Venora's P.O.V.?

Dear Aaron:

I don't remember that, but it's not the first time it's occurred in movies. The best one is in "The Wild Bunch" where you go into a flashback from William Holden's POV, that includes Robert Ryan, and you come out of the flashback on Ryan, so they're both remembering the same thing.  Meanwhile, I kind of enjoyed "Bird," mainly for its sincerity and Forrest Whitaker and Diane Venora's performances, even though I'm not a fan of Charlie Parker. But the film is too long, is sort of dull, and its dramatic arc goes straight down, like every drug or alcohol abuse story, all of which are ultimately a drag.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

The June 19 issue of The New Yorker has a great piece on Gregg Toland. I thought it was particularly revelatory that Toland said "Forget the camera [...] The nature of the story determines the photographic style. Understand the story and make the most of it. If the audience is conscious of tricks and effects, the cameraman's genius, no matter how great it is, is wasted." He also insisted, once he became a cinematographer of stature, that he be allowed to select some of the scripts he would work on.

Toland's integrity and sense of priority, i.e. the STORY comes first, is devastating to me because it's so anachronistic. Can you imagine a cinematographer saying such a thing today? Or a director, for that matter?

Lately all I've seen of note has been Deadwood. I'm still working on the second season on DVD, since I have no cable or satellite TV. I also got the new John Ford/John Wayne set that has 3 Godfathers, The Searchers, Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, They Were Expendable, The Long Voyage Home, and The Wings of Eagles.

At least there's plenty of good older movies to offset the dearth of new ones.

Dear Will:

Gregg Toland was a true master, and still remains, over 50 years after his death, one of the greatest cinematographers of all time.  Of course he's entirely correct about what's most important in a movie, and story tops the list.  Toland chose to work on "Citizen Kane," and to a great extent it was his participation that allowed Orson Welles to make the movie he wanted. His work on William Wyler's "The Little Foxes" was astounding.  He also shot "These Three, "Dead End," "Wuthering Heights," "The Westerner" and "The Best Years of Our Lives" for Wyler.  For John Ford Gregg Toland shot "The Grapes of Wrath" and "The Long Voyage Home," which you now have on DVD.  Gregg Toland died quite young, at the age of 44, but he had one helluva career between 1929-1949.

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

"Anybody out there know anything about microphones?"

Whenever I have questions about equipment, I usually head over to the "B&H" web site: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home/

The store is based in New York and they have absolutely everything. The people who work there really know their stuff and they'll be able to tell AJ about the various pick-up patterns and whatnot for a large variety of microphones. Also, the employees do not earn any kind of commission, so they couldn't care less if someone purchases a $200 mic. or one for $20. I've been bugging them with questions for years and I always get honest and helpful answers.

Dear Danielle:

Ah, the unintentional double entrendre.  So you've been bugging the microphone experts, have you?  It's like "The Conversation."  But I jest. Thanks for stepping in with clearly useful info.  I really don't know anything about microphones, and I didn't even put a chapter in my supposedly "complete" book on them.

Josh

Name:              Bill
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

If my original message seemed rather incoherent, I apologize, and I meant to imply that I found your response to Jeremy distasteful, rather than the film itself. I agree that it is quite bad, but I find that constructive criticism and encouragement is far more effective than trying to convince them they're idiots who don't understand anything about how screenwriting works. I'm afraid I don't have any "masterpiece" to my name, because I'm not a filmmaker, but I'm not stupid, and I certainly know what constitutes the difference between a good film and made-for-TV garbage like "Alien Apocalypse."

Dear Bill:

Okay.  You're only as good as your last picture, and "Alien Apocalypse" was mine, garbage though it may be.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Audio-Technica makes a number of good, inexpensive mics. Wireless lavs and regular booms are the standard movie mics. But more importantly, you need to know how to use it properly. This means having someone monitoring the levels and quality closely - re-doing takes if necessary because of background noise or whatever else.

I know of a situation where an indie 16mm feature had to loop just about all their dialogue because their sound guy let the levels peak frequently, and in digital peaking means shitty, compressed sound. Looping should be a last resort, and it's a laborious process for the sound editor.

Getting good sound is not particularly complicated, but it requires more commitment than many indie filmamkers are willing to give it. And perhaps even more so than visuals, good or bad sound can be the difference between a professional or an amateur production.

Dear Jim:

Good work, thanks.  Take for instance my first feature, TSNKE, which had pretty lousy location sound recording and needed a lot of looping, and it was in fact laborious and difficult.  By "Running Time" and "Hammer" I was able to use about 90% production sound, and it's WAY better.  There's a reality in the real sound that cannot be duplicated.  It's better to get it right while you're there than to fix it later.  And get wild tracks, too, which are incredibly useful.

Josh

Name:              CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What were your shooting ratios for each film you've made?

Is it unreasonable to shoot a film with a 3:1 shooting ratio if that's all you could afford?

Dear CD:

No, you just have to be prepared.  Clint Eastwood only shoots one take, so did D. W. Griffith.  I generally shoot three or four takes because that's what it took to get it all to work right.  I think just shooting one take is silly, but that's me.  The key is rehearsal.

Josh

Name:              Diana Hawkes
E-mail:             upon request

Hey Josh,

Did I see a suggestion to discuss "Spring Forward"?> I'd love to. I caught it twice on the IFC channel, and was quite moved.

I especially liked the scene where the 2 are having a smoke outside the funeral home. The "It's so OK, dad" performance was touching enough, but what really got to me was when the neighbor comes out to have a smoke too. They're all looking ahead and Shrieber's character then gives him the death glare... the tension and awkwardness is palpable, and Beatty breaks it all with a quip about his son's homosexuality. They're all released by this, and it allows the neighbor to make this quick, embarrassed, breathy apology that Beatty immediately accepts and Bang - the long-held anger/disappointment/sene of injustice over the neighbor's snub of his son long ago is extinguished. The clumsy way such an otherwise wonderful moment in life was shown rang true to me; it's more or less how an encounter like that happens whenever there's a confrontation in my family.

Anyway - also a nice touch that the scene fades out with Liev going up to the kid repairing the snow blower to help.

I was a bit puzzled over the neighborhood shots in between the scenes: they were pretty, but some seemed a few seconds too long and I wondered if they were supposed to be particularly significant.  Just a cue that the seasons are changing? The last one, I believe, of a family stringing Christmas lights on their porch was confusing.  I couldn't tell if it was supposed to be Liev and his new girlfriend?

I also thought the scene where Beatty talks to his son's friend living under the gazebo was a wee bit overacted (I couldn't get at first what was getting Beatty so worked up), and the money-moment at the very end of the film where Liev tells Beatty how much he means to him - "kinda like you gave me a helping hand" - had a hint of a goofy, sheepish 10 yr old or something which I thought was the wrong choice acting-wise for that beat, but on the whole I thought it was a solid film.

I loved the scene where they are getting stoned and Beatty says he never cheated on his wife, and then adds:  Well, there was the war.  That doesn't count. LOL!  Charming, somehow. There's a lot of little moments that are neat - like how they both realize the eyes on the new Nativity scenes (or was it Angel lawn ornament?) are dead-looking.

Dear Diana:

It's not a great movie, but it's a perfectly reasonable film, with two very solid performances in the leads, and I cared about them.  To me that's the world.  I don't care what the story's about, just make me care.  Make it matter.  "Spring Forward" is the story of two city sanitation workers and their relationship, which sure doesn't sound like much, but it's more than enough if the writer is really willing to look inside those people.  I don't know the actual situation of shooting that movie, but I get a sense they shot for a week each season with Liev Shrieber and Ned Beatty, and all of the stuff in between was to give us a sense of the season and the community. I think it's a clever low-budget film because it has top-notch actors.

Josh

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

Hi there Josh,

An odd question but I wondered about it while I was watching the movie. If "If I had a Hammer" was a SAG production were there any actors you had in mind for certain parts? I guess I'm thinking that maybe you wrote parts with people like perhaps Bruce in mind. I could picture him as maybe either Lorraine or Phil's father or even someone at the purple onion (Like one of those upper class guys acting like he did in Crimewave).

Also are there any plans to put up some other super-8 movies on your site. There used to be a site I liked that had  all of your super-8 movies, Cleveland Smith being my favourite. Nothing like watching bruce bust out a puppet and start telling bad jokes.

Dear Chris:

"Cleveland Smith" was shot in 16mm.  Had I been able to cast Bruce I probably would have used him as the MC, although I like the actor who played the MC.  No plans for posting more super-8s at the moment.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

You mentioned the Return of the Secaucus 7, and I just happened to run across it in the library DVD collection.  I probably would have passed on it other than your recommendation.  Well, I thought it was pretty boring, however, it was interesting to see David Strathairn and the actor from LAPD Blue in it.  Strathairn does a pretty decent New Hampshire yankee accent, that guy doesn't age much.  Another reason why I was interested in it was that John Sayles directed it.  He directed a movie from back around the turn of the century called Limbo, also with David Strathairn.  It was set in Alaska, and I liked it.  One thing that I think Secaucus 7 got right versus Big Chill was that it was set in New England. All college movies should be set in New England, not the bayou, it is an unwritten rule.  At least up to 1995 or so anyway.  The movie hasn't ended yet as I write, but isn't Secaucus a city in NJ?  I guess I missed wherethe movie got its name.

Dear Bob:

I guess you were really paying attention.  Yes, Secaucus is in New Jersey. No, I don't think it's a great, or even all that good, but it's better than the phoniness of "The Big Chill," with all its money and stars and hit songs on the soundtrack.

Josh

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

Josh,

I'm about halfway through your book right now.  So far two things have struck me.  First, there is no rebuttal for your point about archiving digital.  Maybe that problem will be solved some day but that will require a slow-down in technology development and I don't see that happening.

The second thing that struck me was blocking the following scene before releasing the cast.  It's easy and practical but not necessarily intuitive.  It's the sort of advice that a person really making a film needs to know.

I also agree that rehearsals are rehearsals.  If you choose to present something to the public, then that something IS the finished product, even if it sucks, even if you could easily have done better.

John

Dear John:

I honestly believe that most directors don't block their scenes at all anymore.  They just let the actors wander blindly and cover it.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I am currently working on a short film that i will enter into a local film festival. I figure you would be the man to come to with this question.

What kind of micophone will give me the best sound for my film? I have this cheap little shotgun mic that i use but its been totally useless latley and I plan on buying a new mic.

Dear AJ:

I'm no expert on microphones.  I used a Sennheiser shotgun mic on TSNKE that worked pretty well.  Anybody out there know anything about microphones?

Josh

Name:              orit
E-mail:             rdt_oran@\

Hey josh,

I write scripts in English but I don't live in the USA nor in an English speaking country... I have a first degree in filmmaking but I never "found" myself among the other young writers or the mainstream of the university. They, in turn, couldn't understand why I write in English... plus, I really love science fiction and fantasy and that didn't really exist there...
Anyway, my question is, can I do it from a far? Is it possible to find an American agent that would read my scripts and try to sell them? I don't really know the "formal" way to enter the business and I can't make independent films with my scripts... maybe you can tell me how you got started or suggest what should I do?
Thank you and good luck with everything you do,
Orit

Dear orit:

If you think you've got a good script, then get in touch with an agent and see if they'll read it.  Agents aren't hard to track down, there are many of them all over Los Angeles.  Will they read it?  Will it get you job?  Who knows?  Try something, try anything.  What have you got to lose?

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Sadly, the only reason I didn't ask you to watch my first film is because it's not 100% finished yet, but I won't ever make you watch it anyway. Also, going with your statement that I'm at a High School Film 101 level, that kinda makes sense because I'm only 20 ... that and nobody around here teaches film so in a backhanded kinda way, you complimented me.

Also, again because people would rather talk to me on here instead of via email, I'll quickly say two things:

Julio- I could have listed myself and my brother in the credits even more than I did. I listed us only where I thought it was needed. The actors and I were the only crew the film had. Thank you for saying good things about the film though :).

Lee- I know how to write. I cranked Stranded out in 2 hours, so of course it isn't written well, I know that, but I've written other things which are much better, I just haven't had the opportunity to film them yet. I plan on shooting everything I write, whether it be good or bad.

Back to you Becker: The short doesn't look good, I know that. I was only asking for specifics. Was it the shaky cam that was used for some shots? Was it the blurry footage? Or was it just because I was shooting DV? I'm not actually expecting you to answer that, because I know the answer is probably "all of the above ... and then some".

I like Stranded, whether or not it's actually any good, it's the first film that I completed, so it's special to me. I didn't expect you to like it ... I never expect anybody to like it. But I'm with ya, the next thing I show you will be something I honestly think is good.

Once again, thanks for watching the short (I appreciate it), and I'm sorry people keep talking to me through your website. I have an email address where anybody can get in touch with me, but I guess people don't want to use it.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

You take it all with good humor, and I respect that.  Your footage looks crappy in every possible way footage can look crappy: blurry, ugly, badly-lit, hand-held.  I've seen enough things shot on DV to know that it doesn't have to look that bad.  Meanwhile, I can't stand hearing about scripts being cranked out in two hours.  That's pure and utter laziness.  To write a decent script takes hundreds of hours, and many rewrites.  If you're not putting in the required time on the script, you will never make a decent film.

Josh

Name:              Bill
E-mail:

Josh:

While I have generally taken your opinions with good humor, this is essentially in response to your opinion of Jeremy Milks' film, which, despite the film's mediocrity, I found incredibly distasteful. I have to wonder why you find it necessary to insult fledgling independent filmmakers (especially for a debut short film), when you yourself are not even remotely capable of writing or directing something coherent, much less competent. Unless, of course, you honestly believe "Alien Apocalypse," "Cleveland Smith: Bounty Hunter," and lines like "Hey, swab-jockey! Scram before you get scuttled!" must be included in some sort of artistic panthenon alongside the works of Homer and Plato.

Dear Bill:

Who the fuck are you?  Send me the link so I can watch and comment on your masterpiece.  Meanwhile, you don't write in English all that well.  Are you from a foreign country and English is you second or third language?  You write, "While I have generally taken your opinions with good humor, this is essentially in response to your opinion of Jeremy Milks' film, which, despite the film's mediocrity, I found incredibly distasteful."  So, you found Jeremy's film "incredibly distasteful"?  So did I.  See, we agree.

Josh

Name:              Chris
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I live in Australia and we have our own Project Greenlight here. I have seen the American one as well and have noticed some big differences in the way the production crews of either country react to situations. It has been said that Australian crews are very good at adapting to any situation as everyone has worked on television, film, stage and video clips and so know how to work on different budgets and time frames. Rather than go into panic mode every five minutes like what seemed to happen on the American Greenlight the Australian crew would just speak up when someone thought something was wrong and get on with doing it.

Would you say that this is just showing a difference in the way we show our reality t.v. with the American show edited to show as much drama as possible or would this be a fair assesment of how our crews react to million dollar budgets?

Dear Chris:

I've worked with a few Australians, but I've never worked with an exclusively Aussie crew, so I can't really say.  I object to Project Greenlight because it seems the point of the show is to watch an inexperienced director fail.  They couldn't do the show with me, for instance, because I don't get into any of that kind of trouble.  I always know what I want to shoot and how, and I always know what the next shot is, so you'd just be watching a film crew working with no apparent problems. The drama and the panic is completely endemic to first-time directors, but those guys shouldn't be directing features anyway.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Just curious, have you ever tried heroin? You mentioned having a really bad trip on LSD, also. What was that like?

Dear David:

Nope, I never tried heroin, or crack, either.  My bad acid trip was 28 years ago, in 1978, the last time I took acid.  It was awful, and very creepy. But I had taken acid many times before that, maybe a couple of hundred times over the previous 6-7 years, and those had all been great.  However, when it goes bad, it's terrible, and frightening.  You think you're never going to come down.  I had a bad trip on mushrooms, too, about 12 years ago, and I haven't touched those things ever since, either.

Josh

Name:              Julio Iglesias
E-mail:             Julio Iglesias@latinochino.com

Dear Josh:

I just watched Jeremy's film and I thought you were a bit too hard on him. I thought it showed some wit. I also thought it showed he has a filmic instinct. It's not very good...but it displays some enormous potential. Nice work, Jeremy! Keep it up. One thing that really annoyed me though was the insistance of putting his and his brother's name 10,000 times in the credits. That's not cool.

Anyway, I've seen the bootleg tape of the Raimi/Spiegel/Becker early films, and they were equally impressive in that "great filmic instinct" kind of way. No better...no worse.

Dear Julio:

With all due respect, sir, you're completely full of shit.

Have a nice day,

Josh

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

Hey Josh

jeremy milks: you ARE funny; just for all the wrong reasons!

Actually, your 'film' would amuse me if it weren't for one fact: it's shit like that that creates a vast fog that swallows the work of film-makers with real talent.

If you DO want to improve I'll reiterate what Josh says: learn to write. Really put yourself and your own experiences into a story and stop trying to be a smart arse.

Boy, you really get my goat!

Lee

Dear Lee:

Ditto.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I just want to make this clear. I wasn't making excuses for why the film was bad, I was just explaining how things unfolded. And I did do a slight rewrite on it (mostly I just changed a little dialogue).

Also, I was well aware that I wasn't making anything that great. Or even that good. I know my good ideas from my bad ideas.

Another thing, feel free to hate the film I made, that's fine. But don't write me off just yet based on that one damn short. Believe it or not, this short is a step up from my first movie, and my next movie will no doubt be a step up from this short. How many people's second films are great?

If I sound bitter or angry, I assure you I'm not. I respect your opinion. And, because I respect your opinion, I only have one more question for you regarding my short film. You said that the film looked bad, could you give me some examples of what in particular looked bad, so that I know what to try to avoid in the future.

Thanks again,
Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Gimme a break, will you?  There's nothing worth commenting on or discussing. If you can't see that it looks bad, you're in trouble.  And I don't care at all that it's a step up from your first film, although thank you for not having me watch it.  You have so many steps up to get to a place where it's just minimally acceptable, I don't know that the human lifespan is long enough for you to achieve it.  Do not ask me to watch something until you honestly believe it's good, and are willing to defend it.  Right now you're at a high school film 101 level.

Josh

Name:              Kevin Kindel
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What is a good 35mm film stock to use for an interior shoot?

Dear Kevin:

I suggest one of three Kodak Vision 35mm stocks: Vision 5205, which is 250 ASA; Vision 5229, which is 500 ASA; and Vision 5218, which is also 500 ASA. Go to kodak's website and check out the details.

Josh

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

Josh Said: "Why did you want me to see that?  It looks awful, it's terribly acted, directed and written, it's about nothing and goes nowhere.  It made six and half minutes seem like a long time.  If that's the best you can do, consider other professions."

Jeremy Says: I wanted you to see it because I'm a whore when it comes to opinions of my work. And trust me, it's definitly not the best I can do. I basically wrote that short in about 2 hours, half asleep, sitting in a Western Civ. class. The ammount of effort I put in shows through, obviously, and that effort wasn't much. The actors did okay though considering most of them hadn't read the script until the day we shot the film.

I guess, now that you've seen it, I just have to ask did it make you laugh at all? Because it's sole purpose was to be funny (and I know a good chunk of it isn't). If you laughed at any part of it, then I consider my job done ... if not, then I'll just keep at it until I force a giggle out of ya.

Thanks for watching it. I do appreciate it.

Fear not, I have better things in the works,
Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

No, I did not laugh, chuckle, giggle, guffaw or even smile.  I was bored and entirely unimpressed.  It certainly doesn't make me want to see anything else you do.  There's nothing like putting your worst foot forward.  And I repeat this for one and all -- excuses don't matter!  Nobody cares how little money you have, how busy you are, how little time you spent on the script, or how little time your actors had to learn their lines.  None of that means anything.  The only thing that matters is the film.  If it's a sloppy, thoughtless, lazy little piece of shit, then you're a sloppy, thoughtless, lazy maker of shit.  If you spent two half-asleep hours during a class writing your script, didn't bother to do any rewrites, then went and shot it, then you haven't got a clue what it takes to make a decent movie.  This should be chiseled in granite -- if you don't put in the time on your script making sure it's good, which takes hundreds of hours, not two, your movie will absolutely be a piece of shit.  Writing the script is the most important part of the filmmaking process.  Blow the writing process off because you're too eager to shoot and you'll never make anything worth watching.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

As I suspected, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" is a solid picture, and is definitely worth seeing. Looking at the title you know that it's not made for the ADD generation, but rather for intelligent adults (what a novel idea!). I hope you watch it and come away with as much from it as I did.

Here is a nice review I saw posted on imdb: "It's not very often one comes across a film which gives you hope for the future of the American film industry, but this gem is a bright star in the usual landscape of formula Hollywood shlock.

The story begins in the American nowhere; a small Texas border town, with its usual hick cops, obnoxious border patrol, oversexed and bored housewives, illegal immigrants, greasy diners, etc. As the story unfolds, Tommy Lee, as a local rancher, sets in motion a journey to avenge the murder of his Mexican friend. This is a story about redemption. And watching the film, it made me realize that redemption is a western way of saying 'paying off of karma so that you're better off than you were before you did the stupid thing.'

The acting here is wonderful. Tommy Lee Jones has hit the character precisely; it's not underplayed, and it's not overplayed. It's not Clint Eastwood and it's not Mel Gibson. It's a balanced interpretation of a man who uses violence in an appropriate manner. In fact, this is the first violent film I've seen where I hardly noticed the violence at all, so smitten was I with the tale.

This is not a flawless film -- for example, we don't get good character development for the border patrolman's wife to mess around with an illegal, and the story does drag a bit in the middle -- but as a slice of life with immense depth and realism, this one is hard to beat."

Dear David:

I'll see it on cable, but my good buddy Paul, whose opinion I mainly trust, who was really looking forward to the film and saw it the day it opened, was unmoved and unimpressed.  I forget his reasons now, but he made it seem like it was okay at best.  Oh, yeah, he said there weren't even three burials. Anyway, there's no point in going on with this until I see it.

I did just see "The Great Raid," which is a terrific story about the rescue of POWs in a Japanese prison camp during WWII, and it was okay, but rather perfunctory, not tremedously well-written, very poorly cast, and there's no actual lead, which is generally the death of a good story.  I also saw "The Machinist," which somebody raved about.  Yes, Christian Bale lost 60 pounds for the part, but it's still not like he's all that good of an actor. Losing that much weight is a stunt, not a performance.  I found no way to care about Bale's character, so sitting through the film was slightly miserable.  It's an example of the "Let's keep the audience in the dark the whole movie so we can have an unimpressive twist ending."  Yawn!

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Well, tonight I watched "The Big Chill" for the first time.  It should be called The Big Bore or maybe just Obnoxious Yuppies. I was hesitant in getting this  this movie but Meg Tilly looked so cute on the DVD package, that that was the deciding factor.

So then is was just enduring two hours of these rich actors pretending to be rich yuppies and talking and shedding tears about one of their number who we don't know or care about.  Enough so to make the viewer feel like a real outsider watching some kind of clique.  I liked Jeff Goldblum's performance the best, but not that much, and I think that the movie might have been partially redeemed if Mary Kay Place had shagged him instead of anyone other than him of the studs of the group, which it was made clear that he was considered the only one not of that caliber.  A very isolating message.  I guess it was more realistic in that regard as well, but in doing so the characters came across as extremely shallow people and I certainly did not share in whatever warmth that the characters having sex at the end of the movie were supposed to be experiencing.

However, Meg Tilly still was very cute and made the film a little more bearable.  Did you like The Big Chill?

Dear Bob:

"The Big Chill" meant nothing to me.  It seemed like two hours of movie stars standing around and sitting around being nostalgic, while old songs played one after another on the soundtrack.  I liked its progenitor better, John Sayles' "The Return of the Seacuacus Seven," mainly because it was so low-budget, more heart-felt, and it was actually about something.  Lawrence Kasdan is one more big disappointment.

Josh

Name:              Eric Rosenthal
E-mail:             eric30202002@yahoo.com

Hi Josh,

    You forgot The Day the Earth Stood still in your recent list of favorite good science fiction movies (right??).  That's scary that there are so few really good sci-fi movies...
    Anyway you said something a while ago like all directors who were inspired by Star Wars made crummy movies.  That bothered me because it's pretty accurate.   Lots of action directors now rip off Sam Raimi (or try to) and  the result sucks...   And I know aspiring filmmakers who are so influenced by stuff like anime, kung-fu movies, bad comic books that they'll probably never make anything decent.
So here's my question: If I want to make a good, somewhat smart (or at least not dumb) low budget sci-fi movie (and it's got to be sci fi because I love sci fi)  what would be some good sources of inspiration - authors, magazines, etc...  that you would recommend.  I've read some Harlaan Ellison and Micheal Crichton; too bad their best stuff never makes it to the screen...

Thanks,

Eric

Dear Eric:

You didn't read that question correctly.  I was asked what sci fi movies I liked that were made "during my lifetime."  "The Day the Earth Stood Still" came out in 1951 and I wasn't born until 1958.  But, since you brought that up, as well as Michael Crichton, I will also add "The Andromeda Strain" to that list.  As the old saying goes, "Shit in, shit out."  If you only watch crap, you can only make crap.  There's no rising above your influences. Meanwhile, I don't read sci-fi anymore, and I haven't in a long time.  Way back when I liked: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Mack Reynolds, Jack Finney.  I can't think of any others.  But the point isn't to just read the one genre you like, it's to read as much as you can to get a solid idea of how stories are told.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I finally saw Sideways on DVD.  I thought the commentary with Giamatti and Hayden Church was funnier than the actual movie.  But, I really could have done without seeing that MC Gainey dude naked.

What do you think of the movie 'Reds' Warren Beatty?

Dear Bob:

"Reds" has lovely photography by Vitorrio Storaro, but I didn't believe a word of it -- both Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton seemed entirely miscast -- the actual interviews seemed totally out of place, and it went on forever.  Jack Nicholson and Maureen Stapleton were both good.

Josh

Name: Sanchi
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

In regards to Hitchcock's decade of duds, I assume you mean the 60s, when he did those little itty bitty numbers like Psycho and The Birds. Not too shabby, and several critics these days (and cinema lovers as well, myself included) count Marnie as one of his great triumphs; a movie that proves (along with Notorious) that Hitch cared very deeply about character...and women. Torn Curtain I think is pretty above average, and you yourself admit it has some exceptional sequences. The studio tightened the reigns and took away some of his control, it's understandable why it didn't turn out to be something better. What do you think about its structure? I think it's phenominal. Act 1 from Julie Andrews perspective, Act 2 from Paul Newman, Act 3 uniting them together. Interesting stuff. Topaz I can't really defend. I think the "wilting rose" shot is one of his all-time most memorable, and the chase scene that starts in the hotel was pretty good as well. Otherwise, dull affair, but could have benefited from Hitch's original ending which, as I'm sure you know by reading Truffaut, involved a duel to the death. Family Plot in '76 was lame as well, but Hitch directed it from a wheel chair, and never went to any of the locations. I had a great talk with studio head Ned Tannen once about those later days and he told me it was heartbreaking, especially having to turn down Hitch's proposed projects after FP.

I'm not a filmmaker, but I have worked in the studio system for quite some time. I see such mediocrity these days, it just pains me to hear younger directors knocking the older ones. Even knocking the few around today who I think really do special work, and do it with integrity. Night Shyamalan is a filmmaker, for example, who is incredibly courageous, choosing a style of storytelling that is archaic, but makes perfect sense to him. A true auteur, and audiences love him (when they're not busy complaining they saw the ending "miles away"). His filmmaking can be likened to Hitchcock and his storytelling can be likened to the socially relevent, morally significant, brilliantly fantastic Twilight Zone, and the writings of its three key contributors, Serling, Matheson, and Beaumont. I don't know what you have to say about him, maybe his films aren't for you, but I hope you don't knock his courage, his integrity, or his sensibilities. His heart is in the right place, and in some minds (again, mine included), he has the talent to back it up.

Just a response from one film fan to another, both of whom happen to know a thing or two about the business.

By the way, I recently re-watched a favorite film of mine that I own on the old RCA Videodisk, those big clunky square things that no one these days have ever heard of. The Incident. Ever see it? What a fine movie. It was about theme, drama, and character, in that order, and it's true, these days we rarely see a movie with any of those...don't blame the studios, don't blame the audiences, blame the writers. Their priorities are elsewhere, and that's not reinforced from my end. Everytime an agent sends me "a great character drama" it's about a woman dying from cancer or a man dying from AIDS...everytime an agent sends me "a great character piece" it's about someone with OCD who makes wise cracks. Sheesh. Won't someone write me a Christ-like character who takes a stand against the authority and dies for our sins like the old days?

P.S. My name, of course, is not really "Sanchi," or "Sanchi-poo." But if you REALLY love movies, you'll be able to figure it out.

Dear Sanchi:

Good response.  I just wish more people knew their Hitchcock movies as well. Boy oh boy, I find "Marnie" rough.  It seems so clunky, and psychologically naive for its time.  All of "Marnie" is like that last ten minutes of "Psycho," with Simon Oakland explaining what we just saw.  "So then you're saying he was a transvestite?"  "Yes, and no."  "Topaz" is a disaster, and I liked the book by Leon Uris.  "Torn Curtain" has its moments, but it's rough to sit through, too.  Thankfully, he made "Frenzy" before he died.  Look, I love Hitchcock, I just don't love everyone of his films.  Did you read my essay, "The Life-Span of Creativity"?  And no, I guess I'm not a big enough movie fan to figure out what Sanchi means, but I guess you must be in the business.

Regarding M. Night Shyamalan, I liked "Sixth Sense," but after the second viewing realized I probably never needed to see it again.  I absolutely hated "Unbreakable" (see the review), and "The Village" was a belabored bore that would have made an okay 30-minute "Twilight Zone" episode.  Yes, he's one of the best filmmakers working, but to me he's a big disappointment. His shooting style worked fine on "Sixth Sense," but hasn't functioned

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I know I gave you the link to the download of my short film, but I don't think I ever found out what you thought of it. Anyway though, I have a YouTube.com account now, and the short is available to watch there. I'd love to know your opinion, even if it's "this short is the worst piece of shit I've ever seen", lol. Here's the link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5vyHFU-wuQ

I apologize in advance for any loading time. If you get a chance to watch it, I'd really like to know your opinion, because, believe it or not, you are one of my many idols, despite our constant disagreements.

Thanks,
Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Why did you want me to see that?  It looks awful, it's terribly acted, directed and written, it's about nothing and goes nowhere.  It made six and half minutes seem like a long time.  If that's the best you can do, consider other professions.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

You've commented several times on what a huge science fiction fan you were in your youth, and how disappointed you were when the technology that we saw in "2001" didn't lead to some huge rebirth of the genre, with big-screen adaptations of Asimov, Heinlein etc. all over the place.  Which mystifies me as well - I remember getting all psyched for "Silent Running" > as the next big thing, loving the sfx, but then realizing that it was basicaly a long Twilight Zone episode.

I was reminded of this today when talking w/ someone about my favorite sci-fi movies, and I realized that in most cases, I was talking about nothing but the visuals, like with say "Star Wars" and "Blade Runner."  I was really hard-pressed to come up with too many in recent decades where the movie itself was decent, other than the original "Planet of the Apes" and maybe "Clockwork Orange."  Although I thoroughly enjoyed "Back to the Future," which I guess is marginally sci-fi.

So what would your favorite sci-fi films be, in your lifetime?  (Thereby leaving out all those early 50's classics.)

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

"Fantastic Voyage," "Planet of the Apes," "2001," "Marooned," "A Clockwork Orange," "Omega Man," "Alien," "Aliens."  I can't think of anything else.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative@wmconnect.com

Josh,

"Tepid" or not you have made sacrifices to make the movies you wanted to make and you have written all those scripts in addition to your book.My personal favorites are Hammer and Lunatics.Then we have the fluid ending to the Evil Dead."Head Shot" is my favorite of your scripts.

I don't think most folks could fathom just how much money $400,000 of your own money really is as it relates to "Hammer". I'm just talking money here Josh. I'm not even going to get into all the human elements that come to mind.What about the countless hours you have spent on writing your stories? I'm not anybody's champion here or anything but until you walk a mile in someone elses shoes it might be better to just not say anything at all.

Watched the 1953 version of the Titanic last night.

I have mixed emotions about it but I enjoyed Barbara Stanwyck's acting in the movie very much.

Most of the drama though seemed to center around the fleeing wife, her son and daughter and the husband who couldn't let go until he found out that the boy wasn't really his. Later on,of course,when the Pearly Gates start to open he has a big change of heart towards little Norman.

Have you seen the movie Josh? If so, your opinions please.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I liked it.  I love the fact that Barbara Stanwyck is returning to her little hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, that Clifton Webb keeps deriding. But it's all building to a really spectacular emotional pay-off, with the father and the son.  It's strong.  It won the Oscar for Best Screenplay that year.  Still, the best film version is the 1958 British one, "A Night to Remember."

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

A friend of mine and I were discussing the Academy Awards (how only shit movies win now), and he had an interesting theory on the subject. I'd argued that literature and film were both declining in artistic value, and that the variety of awards being given to worse and worse works was a good proof-point for this. His response:

"I believe that has more to do with the age of the awards. Each award you give creates a precedence. A sad movie about crying girls won an oscar. Now there is an expectation there - not just by the voters, but by the people who create the movies themselves - that sad movies about crying girls is what they are looking for. After a while, the awards lose all value. I don't think literature and film are declining. The awards are just too old to be valuable."

Any thoughts on this?

Dear Matt:

That's complete nonsense.  Let's use last year as an example: if Best Picture didn't go to a piece of crap like "Crash," what should it have gone to instead?  Were there some really good films that were ignored?  And what precedent was there for "Crash" winning?  Are we now in a cycle of intersection movies about racism?  Meanwhile, as the quality of the art declines, everything receives more and more awards.

Josh

Name:              Sanchi
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Say what you want about the end of William Wyler's career--The Collector is one of the great films OF ALL TIME!!!

And Hitchcock's Frenzy is every bit as creative and filmic as any of his other films, and that says a lot, considering he is probably the greatest director cinema will ever see.

If people get worse as they get older, then you'd better start cracking, Joshy-poo, because you're getting a wee bit gray there yourself, and we've yet to see much from you that exceeds the realm of tepid.

Dear Sanchi-poo:

Send me the link so I can watch your film and tell you what I think.  I'm as big a fan as William Wyler ever had, but I'm not blown away by "The Collector."  I respect it, particularly as a complete departure from the rest of his work, but it's a pretty one-note, one-situation drama, and Terence Stamp is kind of dull.  Samantha Eggar is cute.  And I agree, Hitchcock had one more good film in him with "Frenzy," coming off a decade of duds, and with still one more dud in him after it.  Yes, I am getting old, but then I've never hit a peak or a stride or anything else.  I can't even be compared to Hitchcock or Wyler.  I'm not in their league and I never will be.

Josh

Name:              Barham
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Is it just me or is Eli Wallach incredibly underrated and was terribly under-used in films over the past thirty years? Granted he's done a lot of theater work since, but I think he could have easily become much more legendary than he seems to be already. The Magnificent 7 & the Misfits should really have taken him to another level, but they never really did. Just wondered if you ever had an opinion about him

oh, and Jack Warden is pretty sweet too, even though he should have died 15 years ago to keep him from the Problem Child movies and that Ed movie about the monkey....now Im just ranting...

Dear Barham:

Eli Wallach's a wonderful character actor, but you're right, he didn't get a lot of great parts.  I always think of him playing some sort of weird foreign character, like in "The Magnificent Seven" or "Lord Jim."  Jack Warden, on the other hand, had a much better career as a character actor, and was really a terrific actor.  "From Here to Eternity," "Edge of the City," "Bachelor Party," "12 Angry Men," "Run Silent, Run Deep," "Donovan's Reef," "The Thin Red Line," "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz," "Shampoo," "All the President's Men," "Heaven Can Wait," "Being There," "The Verdict."  That's an incredible career.  Two Oscar nominations. Jack Warden's very best performance, I'd say, was in "Shampoo."

Josh

Name:              Dan Lovetere
E-mail:             dlovetere@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I just bought Running Time.  It's a spectacular example of low budget indies at their best.

During the commentary track, you mentioned handheld detonation devices for squibs.  Do you know where I could purchase one or something like it?

I've built squibs using the method given on this site, but I need a safe and controlled way to detonated.  I have an Estes Electronic Launcher but it isn't powerful enough.  Thanks so much for your help.  Keep up the good work.

Dear Dan:

You can't buy professional pyrotechnic devices unless you're a licensed pyrotechnician.  It seems to me that if you run a squib through a 9-volt radio battery, and almost any kind of switch, like doorbell, you could have the actors set off the squibs.  But it's going to be jerry-rigged and homemade unlesss you hire a professional pyrotechnician.  Good luck, and be careful.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Hello once again! I haven't spoken to you in quite some time. I've made another short film I wanted to share with you. It was for the Washington, DC 48 Hour Film Project (48hourfilm.com), in which you have exactly that long to write, shoot, edit, and turn in a film after they give you the genre, a line of dialogue, and a character. This year it was "Comedy," "This is absolutely the last time," and "Tim or Tina Tate, gay glass sculptor."

I learned so much more in those two days of shooting than I ever had before--I had two cameramen, a lighting designer, a sound designer, body mics, boom mics, three different locations (with permission!), lots of extras, and one day of shooting. It was maddening and tiring and awesome and I am so ridiculously happy now that it's done. I can't wait to get started on the next project. I kept thinking of what you say, to just GO MAKE A FILM instead of talking about it or thinking about it or writing about it--and it's too true. Experience beats the hell out of theory every damn time. You have to figure out how to work around shortcomings and schedules, what to do when one of your locations is taken away from you before you're done filming there, and how to feed all your cast and crew (and when the hell do they eat?)--it was awesome.

So, I have uploaded the film to YouTube, which compresses the image a little bit in a way that annoys me, but I hope you enjoy watching. It's 8 minutes and 9 seconds--the films have to be under 8 minutes, but I added opening credits to the version that's online. Click here if you'd like to watch it:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=xWcGs-2EV7Q

Thanks for being such an inspiration. Next step: a high def camera and a Macintosh instead of PC for editing.

Take care,

Cindy

Dear Cindy:

It was cute.  It was a whole thing and you shot in one day. Congratulations.  Yes, there's nothing like actually making a film, which is whole different can of worms from talking about it or thinking about it or writing about it.  The reality of shooting movies is a very intense, immediate reality, and it's all caught on film or tape, so whatever decisions you made under fire are there to see forever.  I don't think you needed to hand-hold as much as you did.  Clearly you had a tripod, and you used it occasionally, but you could have used it more.  Now you need to make a film where you really put in some time on the writing.  But good work on getting a movie made.

Josh

Name:              Roberto Souza
E-mail:             robsouza@matrix.com.br

Dear Josh:         

I found your site yesterday when I was researching about William Wyler and read your article about him. If you turn your eyes over Wyler's filmography, you can notice that the quality decrease in his last films. I don't think that HOW TO STEAL A MILLION, FUNNY GIRL and THE LIBERATION OF L. B. JONES are good movies. The same happens with the final works of another great masters as Hitchcock, Wilder and Chaplin, among others. Do you think that age can influence over the artistic performance of a film maker?

Dear Roberto:

I wrote a whole essay on this subject, entitled "The Life-Span of Creativity," which you ought to read.  Pretty much no director has ever made a good film after they were 65.  Filmmaking is not an old person's game.  I do like "Funny Girl," though, even if it is a bit lumpy in it's length and pace, but I think "Don't Rain on My Parade," which leads to the film's intermission, is a brilliant motion picture musical number.  "Funny Girl" was a huge success, launched Barbra Streisand's career, and got her an Oscar, so I don't think it can be considered a low point in Wyler's career. But it certainly was his last good film, and he was 66 at the time.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Good Morning Josh,

What is your opinion of the 1934 version of "The Count of Monte Cristo"?

I'm not going to say much at this point except to say that I enjoyed it very much.

I will say I wasn't that happy with the later Richard Chamberlain version.

As always, your thoughts and opinions are greatly appreciated.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I haven't seen it, but it sounds good.  I like Robert Donat.

Josh

Name:              Richard
E-mail:             tuxedomask_477@hotmail.com

Josh,

I would just like to say I think you do outstanding work things that are new and intersting. Also I wanted to ask how you think I shoudl go about getitng into the film buisness I have tried time and time again and somehow always seem to fail.

Richard

P.S. If you could e-mail me your response it would be awesome cause I can never seem to find it on your site.

Dear Richard:

I don't know if it's functioning properly, but you should be able to put your email address into the search engine of the main page and go directly to your question.  Meanwhile, you've only failed if you give up, otherwise it's called experience.  It all comes down to Laurence Olivier's line (that I often quote), "You think you're an artist, prove it."  If you're sitting around waiting for someone to give you a break, you may very well be sitting around for the rest of your life.  Breaks aren't given out very often, and more times than not they're not given, you just have to take them. Therefore, write a great script that no one can ignore, then get it out to everyone in Hollywood; or make the very best film you've got in you, be it a short or a feature.  Let everybody see what you've got.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Doug Gow
E-mail:             dougrob@xtra.co.nz

Josh,

Your comments on "Religion is Evil" are absolutely spot on!! I for the first 20 years of my life endured the crap that goes on in religion because of my families beliefs. Trouble is one does not get to grips with religion until one does realise it is evil - then things start falling into place! It is very hard to accept that something that is so widely acknowleged as good can be so evil - yet once you accept that logic the whole religion subject just becomes so much clearer! Would love to talk to you sometime.

Doug Gow
New Zealand

Dear Doug:

Each day I live the concept of religion becomes more and more absurd.  I just watched the two-part "Frontline" special on AIDS.  For the one and only time ever, I was kind of impressed with George W. Bush for a second for pledging $15 billion in support for AIDS in Africa, and that's a good thing, but he had to stick a religious restriction onto it, that you can't have any of the money if you condone the use of condoms -- the most important aspect of AIDS prevention.  So, Bush tried to do something good, but his religious beliefs made him turn it into something evil, as always.  In the name of religion the USA was one of the slowest countries to get into AIDS education.  The more religious one is, the more evil they are, and fundamentalism of any kind is pure evil.

Josh

Name:              Alotta Fagina
E-mail:             alottafagina@home.com

Dear Josh,

Thanks for letting me know! I recall another film with Nicole Kidman too. I like Julie Andrews too, and what a line by the Baroness, it seemed out of jealousy I thought. By the way have you seen her in the film "Ten" I believe it's called. People were surprised what Mary Poppins did they said! I've been a fan for years. But I know what you mean about the mandatory sex scenes these days. True what you say!Might I ask, what is the most erotic scene, or most erotic aspect, of the work that you have done on film and television?

Alotta Fagina

Dear Alotta:

I suppose it's the sex scene in the truck in "Running Time," which I thought came off pretty well.  Meanwhile, I think you're referring to "S.O.B." where Julie Andrews bared her breasts.  She's good in "10," too.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I have been receiving a lot of coupons from Blockbuster lately.  One was to get a free rental.  Today I got one to rent unlimited movies for $2.49 each until June 30.  Usually they charge over $5.00 to rent a movie.  Do you think that this is a sign both of the weakening of the movie rental business, plus the poor quality of films, that makes people reluctant to pay 5 bucks to rent?

Dear Bob:

The business is changing.  Netflix changed the playing field on movie rentals -- no late fees -- then everyone else has tried to follow their scheme, which has basically killed them.  Soon, I believe, the new business model for film release will be you get everything the same day: theatrical, DVD, pay-per-view, which will make the advertising dollars go further, and decrease piracy.  Next will come the download method.  None of it is probably good for Blockbuster and the like.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I've been meaning to ask this for some time now, but I never really saw a good opportunity to bring it up. I was just wondering if you like any of Spielberg's films? I know you don't like most of his work, and that's cool, I was just wondering what the first film Spielberg made which you would consider the beginning of the end for him as far as good filmmaking goes?

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

I like "Jaws" very much, but that's because it's not really a Spielberg film, it's Zanuck/Brown production so that it has some irony in it.  I also like "Duel," and the first three-quarters of "Close Encounters."  But he became a lost soul immediately thereafter, as "1941" clearly illustrates.  I think he was so panicked that he was going to blow his career he decided to do anything that would make money.  And he's never returned.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I tried the search feature on your q&a but didn't find anything about "Glengary Glen Ross". I'm suprised the film hasn't been discussed, as it is one of the best-written movies of the last 15 years. And its a crime that Jack Lemmon did not win an Academy Award for his perforamnce as Shelley Levene. What do you think?

Dear David:

I couldn't find it, either, although it certainly has come up.  I've seen it four or five times and I like it, even if it's really just a filmed play, but it's certainly David Mamet's best play.  You can't beat the cast, it's very well-directed, and beautifully shot by the great DP Juan Ruiz Anchia. Terrific use of color.

Josh

Name:              Durst
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I think it's funny that you're accusing Spielberg as someone who doesn't know who he is, when most of your own work contradicts your dogmatic view of cinema. Just goes to illustrate that age-old saying: "Those who can't do, preach".

Dear Durst:

Spielberg said he didn't know who he was, I just agreed with him.  The big difference is that he can make anything he wants, and I can't.  If I got to make the movies I wanted to make, and someday I still may, then we'd get to see if my dogmatic approach means anything.  But to judge me on anything I do for TV is just silly.

Josh

Name:              Jonathan
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I can't believe you gave an intelligent response to the Brando post, which was one of the most horseshit ones ever on here, but of course, everything you say is SO right. I actually believe that Brando is the greatest actor of all time, and even I don't see "Guy and Dolls"/"Julius Ceasar" as anything more beyond his fat paycheck (although he's fun in both...he's only fun). David, tell me another performance that could equal Brando's performance in "On The Waterfront!" You'll never find it.

Josh, not only did Brando change the entire face of acting, but he's also one of the sexiest people ever to hit the screen. And his performance in "The Godfather" is just beautiful, wonderful. I also love his extremely emotionally draining, visceral work on "Last Tango in Paris," perhaps his most personal work.

I think he's the best, I just can't see how somebody would criticize him, but then again, we should remember that there are also people who don't like "Citizen Kane."

Best.

Dear Jonathan:

To criticize Brando is one thing -- he did make a lot of crappy movies -- but to say that "Guys and Dolls" and "Julius Caesar" are his best performances is to not understand who Marlon Brando was, nor to really know his films.  When you see him in "The Men" (1950), his first movie, there's never been a performance like it on film (you get a hint from Montgomery Clift the year before in "The Heiress," but it's a much more contained, far less energetic, method performance).  I think his performance in "The Godfather" is a manual on film acting.  Marlon Brando could give more of a performance with one eyebrow than Tom Cruise will ever be able to give in his whole life.

Josh

Name:              ruben
E-mail:             rafayelyan@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

tom cruise killed tim robbins while his daughter was listening isnt that sick cruise and speilberg hit an all time low i like minority report and the terminal but this is carp tom cruis a dad killing someone for no reason is no good spielberg and cruise should be ashamed cruise is talking about not taking prozac he killed someone who had anxiety.

Dear ruben:

"War of the Worlds," Minority Report" and "The Terminal" are all shit.  Of course, as far as I'm concerned, all of Spielberg's films for the last 25 years have been shit.  Meanwhile, I watched a show on TCM about Cecil B. DeMille and Steven Spielberg was interviewed.  He said in his own sincere, dufus-sort of way, that he admired DeMille because who knew exactly who he was was and what he stood for, unlike himself who didn't know who he was or what he stood for.  I think that's a pretty good self-assessment, and a sad comment on contemporary movies in general -- the top director working doesn't who he is or what he stands for, and I don't think almost anyone else does, either.

Josh

Name:              Trey Smith
E-mail:             cobra_commander_of_cobra@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

I know in your book you stated it's best to leave cutting of the negative to professionals. However, when I start shooting silent shorts on my Krasnogorsk-3...would it be better for me to try cutting the negative myself...or should I try to find a professional who would do it without charging too much?

Dear Trey:

I cut the negative for my first two 16mm shorts, and I think it's valuable information.  I wouldn't cut the negative for a feature, however.  The problem is trying to cut in a completely dust-free enviornment, which is difficult to achieve.  Film negative is full of static electricity and it attracts dust, and every bit of dust on the negative can be seen.  You also have to practice and get good at making hot glue splices, and scraping off that little bit of emulsion because you don't want your negative breaking during printing.  I was glad that I did it, but I was very happy to leave it to professionals thereafter.

Josh

Name:              David Ehrenstein
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Brando is without question the most overrated actor in the entire hisory of show business. The Godfather was a Lee J. Cobb impersonation. The director who got the most out of him, however, wasn't Kazan but Joseph L. Mankiewicz in Julius Caesar and Guys and Dolls.

Dear David:

I must say with all sincerity that if you think Marlon Brando's best performances are "Julius Caesar" and "Guys and Dolls," you're nuts.  Brando yells the entire "Friends, Romans, countrymen" speech, as though the best performances of Shakespeare are judged by volume.  Need I mention that Brando couldn't sing at all, and his Sky Masterson is an embarrassment, particularly with Frank Sinatra standing right there.  I don't see any Lee J. Cobb in Brando's performance in "The Godfather," and I guess I've seen most everything both actors ever did on film.  Just look at the two of them acting together in "On the Waterfront."  They're both great, and they couldn't be more different.  Brando's performance in "A Streetcar Named Desire" changed the course of acting in America, perhaps the world, to a subtler form.  I think you just have a bug up your ass for no reason.

Josh

Name:              TJ
E-mail:             questionita131@yahoo.com

Hi Josh -

Did you know there was a movie-related character on Showtime's The L Word (season 3) named Josh Becker? I found that very interesting.

Dear TJ:

Yeah, someone else wrote that in.  And he's in the film business, too, huh? What do you know about that.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Howdy howdy. I was just wondering if you could answer a question for me. I know you can't use songs in your movies or quote song lyrics in your films without paying for them, but are there any restrictions as far as using the titles of the songs in the diologue.

For example could somebody say something like "I think Crocodile Rock is the best song ever...". That's kind of a dorky example, but it's the best example I can think of off the top of my head.

Thanks,
Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Yes.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

One of the coolest things I got a chance to see again was a tour through Trouble Maker Studios (Robert Rodriguez's garage which he expanded to make it a movie stuidio). I know you're not a big fan of his work and you are certainly not a pioneer for HD. But I just think its amazing that Robert would shoot all his movies now in Austin, TX. He even said in the Sin City commentary that when you're a named director and you're living somewhere other than Hollywood people make a big deal when you come to town they give you some urgency. "Roberts here for a week Bruce Willis he has to meet with you" without you even saying it. I think if anything Sin City is fantastic just for the behind the scenes of how to make a 30 million film (and have that pretty much just be a green screen and a bunch of big named actors) Even if you're not a huge comic fan I really think you should check it out.

Your fan,
Jonathan

P.S. Good luck on the hired gun movie.

Dear Jonathan:

Except "Sin City" was miserable, so who gives a shit how or where he shot it?  I personally think shooting everything up against a green screen is an awful idea, completely ruining any sense of believability.  To repeat my friend Rick's adage for the millionth time, "If I can believe it, I can have fun; if I can't believe it, I can't have fun."  I'm 100% more interested in a film like "Spring Forward," about an old and a young park worker who become friends, then all the boring meaningless horseshit Robert Rodriguez has ever done.  I must say that after a point I become really bored and disheartened by all of this DV, green screen, technical talk, when the real issue is the script, and nobody's paying the slightest bit of attention to that.  Doesn't anybody have anything to say?  The entire point of making a movie is to tell a story, and hopefully a good one.  If your reason is anything other than that, it's the wrong reason.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Good Morning Josh,

Just chiming in on a couple of things.

I picked up on your "hired gun" status as well. Personally, I was hoping someone had read "Head Shot" and decided to let you run with it.

Regarding that Krasnogorsk visitor who wrote in...That camera is a pretty good camera but, unlike the Scoopic which came with 2 batteries, you have to wind the thing up. The spring is a lot heavier than the Bolex spring and you get real tired of winding it up every couple of minutes or so.One advantage, like the Bolex, is that you can set up just about anywhere if you want to.If you get a used one, which you normally can for  $125.00, you might as well plan on sending it to Du-All or another camera shop because the optics are going to be dirty and the insides will more than likely need to be greased. The camera's production was stopped back in the early 80's. Chances are good any camera you get will not have been serviced since it came off the production line.

Thank you for answering the Evil Dead question. It was, I'm guessing, spontaneous creativity. I can say this for sure...Without that ending the movie would not have been the same. The pace was fast and it introduced the idea that "the force" wasn't just a night time thing. To me it mean't no matter what there was no escape from it. Then it goes right into the credits and that old time Jazzy music that I also think is really cool.That door you sawed into two pieces was cool too. You sawed it like a lightning strike and it reminded me of the Tasmanian Devil busting through
> a door or rock in the cartoons. That's not a hit either Josh...I found it be extremely cool!

Have a good day.

Tim

Dear Rim:

I've been operating camera for my friend Paul's film on and off for years now, and it's all been shot with Bolexes.  A single wind on the camera is surprisingly long, and though we never shoot more than a couple of hundred feet of film, it's not really that much winding.  The footage keeps looking surprisingly good, if you remember to set everything.  Whether Paul ever finishes this film or not, and he's shot thousands of feet of film, I really like one aspect of it, which is that it's supposed to look good.  He keeps attempting photographically beautiful effects, and that counts for a lot, I think.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

In case any of your fans and site vistors have never seen your hilarious cameo in Gary Jones' "Mosquito," it's being shown as part of a killer insects marathon on Sci-Fi this weekend - it airs at 11 PM EDT on Sunday night.  And your buddy Rosi Chernogorova bares it all in David Worth's "Shark Attack 3" tonight at 1 AM, but like your scene, almost all nudity is cut out for TV.

So I noticed you said you're about to be a hired gun for tv again - is this anything you can tell us about yet?  Is it a movie or a tv series?

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

"Alien Apocalypse" is going to be on again, too, although I forget when.  I'm referring to a Sci Fi movie that I've been hired to direct, from someone else's script, but it's not 100% for sure yet so I don't want to jinx it.  I was wondering if anyone noticed that.  Good eyes, August.  Meanwhile, I wish Rosi was my buddy.

Josh

Name:              Vee
E-mail:             vee7703@gmail.com

Hi

I was hoping you could tell me whether XWP was filmed in the PAL or NTSC format.  I have read that format conversion issues make it more desirable to buy DVDs of television series in the same format they were filmed in, but XWP confuses me.  It was filmed in NZ which makes me think PAL, but nearly everything else about it is American, so I guess it could be NTSC. I hope this doesn't count as an XWP/HtLJ "trivia" question.

Regards
Vee

Dear Vee:

"Xena" was shot on film, which is neither PAL nor NTSC.  It was transferred to video on NTSC (which the NZ cameramen said meant, "Never twice the same color") for American TV, and transferred to PAL for all the other systems of the world.  But all American TVs run on NTSC, unless they're high-def.

Josh

Name:              Trey Smith
E-mail:             cobra_commander_of_cobra@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Just a quick question:

Would a Krasnogorsk-3 be a good camera to use for shooting a few 16mm silent short films so one can gain experience shooting on film?

Dear Trey:

Sure.  I've never used one, but they seem like a Russian version of the Canon Scoopic, and I used that plenty.  I believe it's a perfectly fine camera.

Josh

Name:              David Carper
E-mail:             dccgizzmo@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

I've been looking at some film schools and woundering what I should look for in these schools. Then after that is it hard to getting into film jobs. Like directing, production,or being a writer?
From David

Dear David:

Yes, nearly impossible.  And nobody cares at all whether you went to film school or not, which doesn't mean it's a bad idea, but it won't help you get a job.  There are at least a thousand people waiting for each film job. Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Phil V
E-mail:             philv@metrocast.net

Dear Josh,

May I commend you and the work you're doing on this website. A no bullshit tolerate no fools attitude is the best thing you can do for aspiring filmmakers.As a bullshitting fool myself I have a question for you. I am planning to make a film on an excellent screenplay that has real potential. I own an Arri BL 16mm with a 10mm - 100mm Zeiss T3 zoom lens. I have an original Nagra 3 and I also have a Bolex Rex H16 Reflex with a 12mm - 120 Angeneux lens.Regular 16mm not Super or Ultra. I have lights and even own a Sony DSR PD150 and a Sony VX 2000 for digital stuff. Having little money some really fine actors and myself as the director I beg your opinon. My plan is to shoot on 16mm transfer to HD then digital and edit on my Adobe Premiere Pro. Complete edit finished music etc. Then put it on a DVD and shop it around to people like Paramount Miramax Sony and anone else that may get it distributed. At that point they can film out and blow it up to 35mm after conforming the 16mm neg or reversal if they want it.
That's my plan. Is it a good one? Is there a better one you know of bearing my situation? Also how many times can I bang my head against the wall before I am truly fucked up?
sincerely
phil v

Dear Phil V:

I don't know how many times you've already banged your head against the wall.  If this is your first feature, then this is your first time.  You don't even know what you're up against until you get the movie finished. But as a plan it sounds fine to me.  I hope your excellent screenplay really is just that.  Check out that place Spectra Film that somebody else just brought up.  $3,000 for 1,000 feet of any kind of 16mm film you want, plus processing and transfer.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

If you put a SAG actor in a non-sag film, what exactly happens? Is there a fine? And if so is there a general estimate of the fine would be?

Also, how can you not be a fan of any Sam Raimi film, yet you've worked on several of them? Having read a little bit about you from your posts on here, I would have thought that you wouldn't work on any film that didn't interest you.

Mo Mo Ma-MO

Dear Mo:

I really only worked on Sam's super-8s and "Evil Dead," I was never a part of the cast or crew of any of the others.  I did my little Fake Shemp bits in a few others, but that doesn't count.  Meanwhile, I worked for nine years on TV shows where I was simply a hired gun, and I'm about to do it again. As a writer I try not to write anything I'd be ashamed of, but as a director I've taken many jobs just for the money.  Regarding SAG, yes there's a fine, but it's the actor who gets stuck with it.  Ultimately, it's up to the actor.

Josh

Name:              Charles
E-mail:             cscorder@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I've read your "Devil Dogs" screenplay several times and it inspired me to look up more info on Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly. I found a couple of online articles you might be interested in:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Daly
http://hqinet001.hqmc.usmc.mil/HD/Historical/Whos_Who/Daly_DJ.htm

I find it curious that a war hero like Daly has remained such an obscure figure. Too bad he didn't have Alvin York's press agent.

Dear Charles:

Daly wasn't interested in publicity.  He wouldn't give interviews, nor would he allow any of his letters or papers to be published after his death.  I actually spoke with his grandson, who has all of his letters, and he won't let them be published.  The second article kept referring to him as Sergeant Major, but he was really a Gunnery Sergeant.  I sure think it would make a helluva movie.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

That sounds pretty cool, I wish they would screen reruns of Ellen over here in NZ.

Speaking of Bruce being on TV guess what is coming out July 18th.....

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FJH5MC/qid=1148450418/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-1064530-4877663?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=130

I've been looking foward to this for a while. The complete series of Brisco county Jr also comes out on that same day

Dear Chris:

I'll have to buy a copy since I only have one of the two episodes I directed on tape.  I just wanted to add that I think Bruce was great as Elvis in "Bubba Hotep."

Josh

Name:              CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

In your Evil Dead journal, you mention that Sam Raimi told you how to make it in the directorial world by making a 'ten minute gem'.

Do you believe that to hold true these days and did you believe it back then?

Is a 'ten minute gem' enough to prove you can direct a movie?

Dear CD:

It could be.  That's sort of what Steven Spielberg did with his short film, "Amblin."  My friend, Sheldon Lettich, got into directing by making a short film, too.  But it's not like Sam's "ten minte gem," entitled "Clockwork," got him anything other than the knowledge and self confidence to make a longer, 45-minute, horror film, "Within the Woods."  That was the film he and Bruce and Rob used to raise the money for "Evil Dead."  When everything is said and done, though, the film that got him a career was "Evil Dead," so the "ten minute gem" concept meant very little to him.  It meant nothing to me.  I also made a 45-minute movie, "Stryker's War," to raise the funds for TSNKE.  It's a theory, but I'm not sure it's a tremedously viable one.

Josh

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

Hey josh,

In your opinion, what do you think is Bruce's best performance? From what I've seen (which is quite a lot I'd say either Elvis (bubba) or Carl (RT).

Also wha do you think is Sam's best movie? My favourite is EDII but I think his best techniclly could be "A Simple Plan".

Dear Chris:

I think Bruce's best performance was his last appearance on the TV show "Ellen," where he told her he didn't accept her homosexuality and she could no longer babysit his kids.  It was strong, very real, and completely believable.  I also thought he was very good on "X-Files."  With all due respect to Sam, I'm not a fan of any of his movies.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

<<There's definately no fucks in PATTON>>

Well, one part of the discussion said WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? was the first to use bitch. But I'm just watching DARLING right now, which pre-dates VIRGINIA WOOLF by a year, and Dirk Bogarde just called Julie Christie a filthy bitch. Geez, I wish I spotted this before the discussion became a dead horse.

Dear Aaron:

You came in late on the discussion anyway.  This was about American movies. As I pointed out, you can hear a whole variety of epithets in Marcel Pagnol's French films from the early 1930s.

Josh

Name:              Hal
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Do you have to pay non sag actors sag wages if you're shooting using sag's rules?

Dear Hal:

Yes.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I've noticed that you have a set idea on what a good movie is and what a bad one is.

So then.  What are some key elements that should be included in movies today?  And by "key elements" I mean the heart of it all, the thing that, in your words, would make a movie worthy of an audience?

Thanks for your time, Josh.

Dear Mike:

A story that's worth telling.  A story that's worthy of my time.  If you haven't got a story to tell, you shouldn't be making a movie, and most movies these days have worthless, stupid, simpleminded, pointless stories.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative@wmconnect.com

Dear Josh:         

Thanks for the feedback Josh.I fully intend to go with them.

I hear you on the amounts needed. I find it incredible that 100,000 feet of film gets shot on movies sometimes. That's what I've heard and read anyway.

I'd like to ask you a question about the ending of the first Evil Dead movie Josh.

I either read on here or somewhere else that you are the one that came up with the ending for that movie.

That ending is particularly effective I think.

What made you think to yourself or how did the idea for starting the camera on a single leaf and then progressing through the doors come into your mind?

Had you watched something before that just put an impression in your mind that stuck and it came out then? Were you stoned? I do not mean that sarcastically either.It's just something about that ending that gets me every time I watch it.

I know ED isn't your favorite subject but I thought I would ask anyway.I guess I'm looking for what might have influenced your thinking on that ending.

Thank you for your time.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Honestly, the reason I thought up that last shot was because Sam didn't have an ending, and couldn't seem to come up with one, and it was becoming a bigger and bigger deal the longer were in Tennessee.  So, however I thought of it, and I might have been stoned, I don't remember -- it was 27 years ago -- I pitched it to Tim Philo, the camerman, and he immediately loved it and together we storyboarded it so we could present it to Sam.  When we finally got Sam to look at the storyboards, he rejected it out of hand. Finally, after eleven weeks of shooting (five weeks over the six week schedule), with a rented cherry-picker sitting there beside the cabin, procured specifically for the last shot that had yet to occur to Sam, although he kept saying he needed a cherry-picker to achieve the shot, the producer, Rob Tapert, demanded that something be shot as an ending before we left.  The five remaining people -- Sam, Bruce, Rob, David Goodman and me -- went out to breakfast at the now-defunct restaurant chain, Sambos, and Sam finally capitulated and agreed to shoot my shot.  We went back to the cabin, I put the lens on the camera, I put the leaf where I thought it should go, and then I walked Sam through the shot -- the back door opens normally, the second door (which I controlled) opened from the top, then the front door blew in half.  I then sawed the front door in half and attached ropes to either side so it could be pulled apart.  Sam ran the camera, and incredibly, the shot worked perfectly three times in a row.  I think it's my biggest contribution to the movie and I'm very proud of it.

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:

"Are you suggesting that Marlene Dietrich is supposed to be Mexican?"

No. I assumed the character of Tanya (who I mistakenly referred to as Maria) had gypsy ancestry. Perhaps her tanned skin, dyed hair and wardrobe were not to be taken literally, though. Tanya may simply be a German immigrant who has acquired a very intentional style to go with her new surroundings and identity.

I wasn't ridiculing the character. On the contrary, Dietrich's scenes are some of my favorite moments in the movie. Heston, however, I am perfectly happy to mock.

Dear Danielle:

Although Charlton Heston is worthy of mockery for his performance as a Mexican, I refrain because it was his influence that got Orson Welles the writing-directing gig, which resulted in his last great film.  Meanwhile, Bruce Campbell does a hilarious Charlton Heston imitation from "Touch of Evil," from that first terrific scene, where he says to the border guard,"I've got to get my wife a chocolate sundae," as well as, "The Grandes are a big family."

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I've been going on a spending spree gearing up for a horror comedy short I'll be shooting in late June. I purchased a shotgun Microphone that I'm hoping I can hook in to my camera. somehow. And that should be coming in the mail any day now. And I'll be getting Apple's GarageBand music software (I'll hopefully get all 4 volumes but for now I just got the Electronica one). My questions are as follows: Do you think my sound is gonna be awful even with a shotgun mic since I don't have a DAT? And the second question is: Had you ever heard of GarageBand and if so what do you think of it? I think having the chance to learn how to compose music by just using audio loops is pretty cool. And the fact you can compose your own music and not get it done professionally is pretty cool to aspiring filmmakers.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

It sounds cool.  And cheap.  I know nothing about GarageBand.  Do you have a lot of dialog?  If you don't, you can always replace the dialog that doesn't come out well in post.  If you do have a lot of dialog, then make sure to get that microphone as close to the actors as possible, without being seen, of course.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

Do you know anything about the construction of gimbles? Nowadays, hydraulic pressure is often used, but I've been considering using the cheap, old-fashioned alternative. It seems to me as long as I hire a decent set construction crew to create the gimble and a responsible grip crew to operate it (not to mention a good insurance policy to cover the actors), my dream of "moving the set" for my feature film is possible. Have you ever worked on a shoot that used such a device? Do you think it's too unsafe to be done on a low budget production?

And, on another note -- my vote for best "actor playing a different ethnicity" goes to Marlene Dietrich in TOUCH OF EVIL. "I always loved your chili, Maria." I hope I look a third as good when I get to be 57.

Thanks, Josh.

Dear Danielle:

Are you suggesting that Marlene Dietrich is supposed to be Mexican?

Josh

Name:              Espen Olaisen
E-mail:             filmfandango@gmail.com

We meet again Mr. Becker!

Sorry to be such a pest, but I have to question you some more. Sorry!

Well blocking is one thing, but what about their perfomances? The acting bit.. Getting the actor to say what you want, the way you want it. Maybe this is considered part of blocking. If so you can skip the following..

Some say don't let them act, it has to be real. Talk to the character not the actor. Then i've heard of dirctors just saying "more emotion", "angrier" and stuff like that. What is your take on all of this?

Dear Espen:

It's not the director's job to teach the actors how to act.  In most instances there's barely time to do what you need to do, let alone explore the emotions of the scene.  Depending on your budget and schedule, for the most part you shoot about 20 shots a day.  Each of those shots begins with the director blocking the scene with the actors, in front of the crew.  You then run the scene once or twice, and this is where the director would make any suggestions to the actors.  Whether the director says, "More emotion" or "Angrier" or "I just heard your dog was run over by a truck" is up to them. I often say, "More energy" or "Let's pick up the pace."  Sometimes you have to talk an actor all the way through their part, giving them line readings for every line.  I've often imitated the facial expressions I want, then have the actor imitate me.  You do whatever the scene calls for.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Tonight was the farewell episode to Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes". Here's a man that has been on the show since its inception, almost 40 years ago. It boggles the mind, all the important people he's interviewed, all the stories he's covered. He is one of a kind, and I'm sorry to see him leave.

Dear David:

Can you believe he's 88 years old?  I hope I'm in that kind of shape at that age.  And you see him smoking in all of the black and white shots, just like Edward R. Murrow.  Smoking cigarettes used to mean you were a serious person.

Josh

Name:              Gerry
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Carrie Goldsmith, daughter of the late, great composer Jerry, just finished writing a biography on her father. I read an advance and it's quite wonderful. Just wanted to give you a heads up because I know you loved Mr. Goldsmith's music.

If you get a chance also, check out Steven Smith's marvelous biography on Bernard Herrmann, "A Heart at Fire's Center." Some of the great Hollywood film composers had very fascinating lives and views.

Best.

Dear Gerry:

Cool.  Thanks.  I will definitely read both books.  Right now I'm reading Lillian Gish's autobiography, "The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me," and it's pretty good so far.

Josh

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

Josh,

Okay, perhaps I've let my enthusiasm for Gordon's story cloud my judgement of the movie; I didn't actually realize Heston was affecting an accent. Now I have to wonder if he tried one for his version of "A Man For All Seasons", or "Hound of the Baskervilles".  I always figured he just skipped the accent.

John

Dear John:

So you're saying that Charlton Heston's British accent was so bad that you didn't even know he was doing one?  I haven't seen the film in years, but I can still hear Heston's Gordon saying throughout the film in his absurd accent, "How about another B & S," meaning brandy and soda.  Silly.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative@wmconnect.com

Josh,

I have a question about a company in North Hollywood called Spectra Film and Video that supplies both Super 8 and 16mm film and the processing as well.They have a website too.

I'm trying to not make it appear that I'm wanting to be spoon fed here but they have some pretty attractive pricing on their 16mm film packages.

Have you ever heard of them Josh?

Would you think it was too good to be true to have 4000 feet of 16mm film supplied by them, developed by them and transferred by them for under $4000.00 or does that sound right to you?

If it does sound ok to you can you think of any drawbacks running interference on this?

One thing that sticks out is that I'm wondering is what they do with the original film I shot.I suppose I could just call and ask on that one.

I'm inviting your input because I want to be extremely careful when I'm considering whether or not to spend $4000.00 on a film package. That's a good chunk of moolah there Josh.If it's on the up and up I'll do it though. A good reference goes a long way.

Also, on the levitation issue...I have researched it and it's best to not attempt it all unless you have the right rigging.Cheap ropes and hardware store pulleys are not the way to go. I'll either do what you suggested or come up with another way to create the illusion.

Thanks Josh.

Tim

Dear Tim:

It says "Final cost: $3,079." for the 4,000 ft. package, and that's a good deal.  You can choose either reversal or negative.  If you choose negative stock, then the negative is yours, and you can either leave it at the lab or have them send it to you.  You'll need it at the end for the negative conforming.  It seems like a good deal to me.  However, if you intend to shoot a feature-length film, you'll need more film than that.  It's not really possible to shoot 1 to 1.

Josh

Name:              Relly
E-mail:             EnVyUrGuRl@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

Hey..i have a question can u tell me some movies that the warner brothers made in the 20s...or even a website wit them all there? Thank You

Dear RellY;

Well, offhand I can think of "Don Juan" (1926), "The Jazz Singer" (1927), "Noah's Ark" (1929), and "Disraeli" (1929).  The Warner Brothers first appeared on the scene in 1923 (although they'd been producing films since 1918) with their Rin-Tin-Tin movies, such as: "The Man from Hell's River" and "Find Your Man," both from 1924, and written by the 22-year-old Darryl Zanuck who would soon become the head of production at Warner Bros.  In the 1920s Warner Brothers was best known for bringing sound to films with their Vitaphone system, first with "Don Juan" (with a synchronized musical score and some odd sound effects), then "The Jazz Singer" (which was still only partly a talky).

Josh

Name:              Espen Olaisen
E-mail:             filmfandango@gmail.com

Hello Mr. Becker!

I haven't read your book yet, but I'm going to buy it soon.

I was just wondering how you work with actors, in rehearsals and on the set. I've read some books on direction and they talk about the no-no's of result directing and rather suggests letting the actors get there by themselves (with suggestions from the director). What approach do you use? Or is it more up to the actor what he prefers?

-E

Dear Espen:

I believe that it's ultimately up to the director, not the actors.  If I have rehearsals then I'm very happy to let the actors do whatever they want, just to see what happens.  But when everything's said and done, the director blocks the scene.  When I don't have rehearsals, like everything for TV, then we strictly do it my way.  Under those circumstances, when an actor says, "I feel like going over here," and it's not where I want them to go, I say, "Feel like coming over here and hitting this mark."  I absolutely don't believe that actors have a better sense of blocking than I do.  Besides, I know how I want to shoot it and they don't.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I read that Crash was probably based partly on Magnolia (2000).  I just happend to come across Magnolia in the library after that.  I'm not sure what to think of it.  It was definitely surrealistic.  Do you think it was a good movie?

Dear Bob:

No, I think it's an extremely bad movie, and not one I care to discuss anymore.  I don't think there's even an interesting 15-minute short you could cut out of that film.  That's screenwriting at it's worst.

Josh

Name:              CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What makes for 'dull' direction in a movie?

Dear CD:

To me it's when a director doesn't keep things moving, nor are they finding interesting ways of shooting the scenes regarding blocking and camera coverage.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative@wmconnect.com

Josh,

Thank you for your input on the Dances with Wolves question.

I have this cool Kinoptik 5.7MM that should handle something along these lines with a little fill light as you said.

I dig cheese sometimes Josh. It's the delivery though. If I can deliver it like I see it in my mind then all the cheesiness will be worth it.As long as I get the reaction I'm looking for and it looks professional, and finally had some fun doing it I will go with it.Really no cheesier than elevating Ellen on that board and fulcrum set-up you guys had when she got possessed. Cheese can be good.I sure would like to do something without a lot of add-ins. Just try to do as much as possible in-camera.Silly notion I'm sure.

I know you have seen both La Dolce Vita and The Professionals but I am here to tell ya..Those flicks are killer! You might not like everything about them but you certainly cannot take anything away from them.

There is just something so different about the way it seems these movies were shot and the look of them. They just stand out from the crowd.1955's Marty gives me the same feeling and it is so cool to see that young Sargent Carter in it. MARTY "I'm all knocked out...I think I'll just stay around the house tonight" or "Yeah, she's a dog and I'm a fat ugly man but all I know is that I had a good time last night." "If we have enough good times I'm gonna get down on my knees and I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me!" I eat that stuff up Josh!

Thanks for all your continued input.

Have a good rest of the weekend.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Yeah, it was always amusing seeing Frank Sutton in "Marty," ten years before "Gomer Pyle."  "They're nurses, Marty.  It's in the bag."  Meanwhile, I like "The Professionals" a lot.  It's always seemed like immediate precursor to "The Wild Bunch" to me.  Burt Lancaster is already in his fifties, and man, he just climbs that rope right up the side of the mountain.  I love the look of "La Dolce Vita," it really captures 1959, and it has some great images, but I find it hard to sit through, as I do most of Fellini's films. Regarding "cheese," the problem is that everything is cheesy now, so how can you differentiate good cheese from bad?  Unless there's non-cheesy stuff to compare it to, it doesn't mean anything.

Josh

Name:              Holly
E-mail:             Cheergrlholly@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

You obviously didn't watch the movie you are trashing. I only read the first couple paragraphs of your artical to know you are the jealous type.  Maybe if you were female you would have recognized that the girls, even Penny Lane, knew they were sleeping with the band members. Yes, even characters lie.  Maybe your wife or girlfriend is a virgin too? Hell, so am I.

Dear Holly:

I assume you're referring to that utter piece of drek, "Almost Famous," and yes, unfortunately I did watch it.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What do you think of John Ford? One of the best directors of all time? I saw "Mogambo" for the first time recently and quite liked it. It's not one of his best-remembered pictures, but it's still damn good fun.

I've only seen a handful of his films -- "Mister Roberts", "The Grapes of Wrath", the afore-mentioned "Mogambo", but I've been very impressed thus far. Next up is "The Searchers", "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", and "Young Mr. Lincoln", all of which I have never watched. Any other must-sees?

Dear David:

John Ford was one of the really great filmmakers, who had an incredibly sure hand with what he was doing.  "Mogambo" is a remake of Victor Fleming's "Red Dust," also starring Clark Gable, 20 years earlier.  Other must-see John Ford films are: "The Lost Patrol, "The Informer," "Stagecoach," "How Green Was My Valley," "My Darling Clementine," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "The Quiet Man," "Rio Grande," and "Drums Along the Mohawk."

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative@wmconnect.com

Good Morning Josh.

I don't know if this has been discussed before or not so here goes.

Do you remeber that scene in Dances with Wolves where Costner is inside a tepee telling stories about the days hunt? There is a large fire burning right in front of them. I know that fire wasn't the only light in there was it?

How or what do you think would be the most simple and rational way to add additional lighting to such a scene? How would you have handled lighting that scene?

One more impossible question for you Josh please.

If you wanted to safely and cheaply levitate someone a few feet off the ground and move them about 15 feet in a straight line how might you attempt it, safely, with the absence of professional wire rigs? The person would be standing in an upright position, about 3 feet off the ground. What do you think? Hardware store pulleys, a body harness and some ropes covered in green screen material to edit out in post?

I hope this doesn't come across as being stupid. To me the questions make sense. I just hope they do to you.

Thank you for your time.

Tim

Dear Tim:

You can light a small, compact scene inside a teepee with just a campfire, and I wouldn't be surprised if the terrific DP, Dean Semler, did just that. If you're shooting high-speed film and you use a wide-angle lens that opens quite wide, like to 1.2, it's no problem.  On the other hand, it might have a fill light giving the whole scene an even exposure, like 2.8, then add the firelight.  Stanley Kubrick and the DP John Alcott lit many scenes in "Barry Lyndon" with just candles.

Regarding the levitation issue, if you can't afford to do it right, and safely, with a proper wire-rig, then you should probably do the whole thing as a special effect.  Shoot the foreground elements in front of a blue or green screen, then shoot the background by itself as a background plate, then when you composite the two images you can move the foreground elements around wherever you want them.  It sounds cheesy no matter what you do. Good luck.

Josh

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

Josh,

The quote from "Self-Reliance" is: "A FOOLISH consistency is the hobgobin of small minds,..."  Emerson was railing against Consistency in the sense of inertia or Tradition, rather than in the sense of integrity or continuity of reason.  At any rate, Emerson is probably more lauded than followed and less authoritative than illustrative, and that's probably right.

We left out the most egregious case of a superstar in an out-of-race role; John Wayne in "The Conqueror" (again a Caucasian as an Asian).  I remain a huge fan of Wayne but "Conqueror" is too painful to sit through.

You did mention "Khartoum" and that happens to be a favorite of mine.  We are led to see the kinship of Gordon and the Mahdi without being beaten over the head with it.  In that way the movie is similar to "Kwai" and the relationship between the Colonels.  Gordon was about as dramatic as the Victorians ever got and Heston gave, I thought, an excellent portrayal.

John

Dear John:

You are a very forgiving man.  Charlton Heston has one of the worst British accents ever put on in a movie in "Khartoum."  In fact, even though the film is based on a very interesting bit of history, I think the movie sits there big a hunk of lead.  Both the script and the direction are just plain old dull.  The only thing that's good about that movie, in my opinion, is Olivier.  Another good quote is: "Consistency is a false jewel that only cheap men cherish."

Josh

Name:              Alotta Fagina
E-mail:             alottafagina@home.com

Oh Josh! I know something special about Jewish guys!

Can I ask, what is your favorite erotic scene on film?

Alotta Fagina

Dear Alotta:

I immediately flashed on Nicole Kidman's striptease in "The Human Stain," not that it's my favorite.  I know this is entirely not what you mean, but the scene in "The Sound of Music" where Christopher Plummer goes out on the balcony and dances with Julie Andrews I find incredibly sexy.  The Baron's fiance, Eleanor Parker, sees them dancing and quips, "That girl will NEVER be a nun."  I find most sex scenes in movies entirely extraneous, and put there specifically because  movies must now have a mandatory sex scene. Also, if I never see two naked people in a movie, with a lot of close-ups of skin against skin, I'll live.  Seriously, I can't think of any others that seemed legitimately erotic.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

In reference to an earlier discussion about the first uses of the word 'FUCK' in american cinema, you mentioned M*A*S*H and PATTON. I guess PATTON might win because it was released February 4, 1970 although I don't remember a 'FUCK' in it... but July, 1970 there was WHERE'S POPPA? where George Segal threatens to punch Ruth Gordon's fucking heart out, and Rob Reiner is called a cocksucking draftdodger, and a man in a gorilla suit is forced into raping a male cop disguised as a female prostitute by a man called motherfucker. Such a nice boy...

Also a drunken Burt Lancaster calls Shirley Booth a "Fat Slut" and attacks her with a knife in COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA (not a FUCK, but still surprising)

Dear Aaron:

There's no fucks in "Patton," I know that.  I couldn't possibly have suggested there were.  The character in "Where's Poppa" was actually "Muthafucka," if I'm not mistaken.  The man in the gorilla suit was Ron Leibman.  I saw "Where's Poppa" many times when it came out and I thought it was extremely funny, but I'm sure it hasn't aged well.

Josh

Name:              Scott Wenger
E-mail:             panther@wctc.net

Hi Josh,

I'm interested in seeing a photo of the tribute to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin at the corner of Hollywood and Vine (mentioned on your web site.) Do you have such a photo?

Dear Scott:

No.  Just go to Hollywood and Vine and there it is.

Josh

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

Josh,

I was surprised that you aren't bothered by Anthony Quinn playing a Greek. You've mentioned many times that one of your biggest objections to films about Jesus is that they never get a Jew to play the part (which I think would be wonderful just for the irony; Christian protests about a Jewish Jesus).  You've also mentioned miscastings with Banderas as an Arab and Connery as a Lithuanian (the accent didn't help).  It would seem consistent for you to dislike Quinn as a Greek.

I'm waiting for your book to arrive.  I need to finish a history of Scotland and then yours is next up in the queue.

John

Dear John:

Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.  Anthony Quinn was bigger than nationalities.  Just like Yul Brynner as the King of Siam, or Laurence Olivier as the Arab leader, the Mahdi, in "Khartoum," or Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal in "Lawrence of Arabia."  If you have a big enough star they can occasionally get away with anything.  But certainly not always.  Such as Mickey Rooney as an Asian in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or Marlon Brando as an Asian in "Teahouse of the August Moon."

Josh

Name:              Lon Moore
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

In your scrapbook section you have a picture of the grindhouse theater on 42nd street when TSNKE played. I think its awsome that it got to play at one of those, and something about grindhouse theaters makes it sound like a blast.Unfortunatley I have never had the pleasure of visiting one.  Are all grindhouse theaters pretty much long gone? Do you know of any that still exist today?

Dear Lon:

I think video killed them.  The local grindhouse here in Detroit, the Northgate, has been gone for years.  That's where I saw many, many shitty, low-budget movies, and yelling at the screen was encouraged.  In Hollywood it was the World Theater on Hollywood Blvd., where you got a low-budget triple-bill for 99-cents.  But 42nd St. and Broadway in NYC was the capital of the grindhouses, with about 25 of them all lined up, showing every piece of crap on god's green Earth.

Josh

Name:              Chris
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What was the last really good fiction book you read? Thanks.

And by the way, love your writings, and I'll also add that your posts are certainly not falling on deaf ears. Take care.

Dear Chris:

I don't read much fiction anymore.  The last novel that really got me was Phillip Roth's "American Pastoral."

Josh

Name:              Alycia Hainsworth
E-mail:             cher_the_lurve@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

that, was EXCELLENT. its everything i think of religion all written down for me. im doing an oral at school about this and its just the resource i needed - thanx bud!

Dear Alycia:

I'm glad I could be of service to you and your oral report.  Good luck.  I hope you get an A.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

One movie that I enjoyed recently was "Breakfast at Tiffany's"  I was interested in watching it mainly to hear Audrey Hepburn's Moon River, but found that the movie was charming as well. I checked your favorite films list and noticed that it wasn't included, I guess I can see it not being a favorite film, since it was basically a light romantic comedy, but that wouldn't necessarily mean you didn't like it.

Of course, Audrey Hepburn singing Moon River is a highlight, but in the context of the movie, the song isn't just plopped there.  In that part of the movie, Holly Golightly is singing it on her balcony.  She thinks she is alone but George Peppard is evesdropping. Holly lets down all her defenses.  She loses her affected accent and reverts to her southern accent. (I know the Audrey Hepburn was not southern, but Holly Golightly was supposed to be).  So the song is a transition of sorts in the movie.

One of the things noticeable was the 'adult' content of the movie for 1960.  Peppard works as a Gigolo for Patricia Neal.  I also read that the scene where Holly enters his bedroom through the window, was one of the first where there is implied nudity, among other things.  Were any of these scenes problematic, since I assume the Hayes Code (which you made me aware of, thanks) was still being fairly vigorously enforced in 1960?  If it was, I would assume that the Hayes Code was being relaxed for films in order to compete against TV.

Finally, I know this post is a little long, you leave the movie knowing that 1960 is not really that long ago, within the lifetimes of many people, but that you are seeing a New York, and a world that no longer exists.  Also, partly because of the subject matter that I mentioned, you are seeing a glimpse of the world that is yet to come, within a movie that in many ways is a 50s type production, with the blaring orchestral music and the big swirling "The End" letters at the end and the crude graphics by today's standards for the credits.

I am usually not a big fan of the 1960s romantic comedy, but this one seemed to work, with Audrey Hepburn's charm, and George Peppard's everyman kind of sophisitcation.

Anyway, I recommend "Breakfast at Tiffany's" to your readers.

Dear Bob:

I never liked that film.  Audrey Hepburn is wonderful, but I don't care about George Peppard whom I found to be something of a vacant hole in the screen, and Mickey Rooney's Asian landlord is one of the worst performances ever put on film.  The film is over-scored, and I just don't see the charm. I'll take "Roman Holiday" or "Sabrina."

Josh

Name:              Vic
E-mail:             overseer2@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

I finally had a chance to pick up Alien Apocolypse on DVD...and I won't mince words: I found it abysmal. Worse than most direct-to-video films. There was no energy, as if everyone in the cast and crew were indifferent to what they were making.

I've seen Running Time. I know you're capable of so much more as a filmmaker. So my question is...what happened? Were there production problems with the Sci-Fi Channel? Did the final product turn out like you hoped?

Dear Vic:

I accept that you didn't like it, and that you think it's abysmal, but to say it's worse than most direct-to-video releases is simply hyperbolic horseshit.  That's like me saying that this is the stupidest question ever conceived.  I shot the film on a very low budget in Bulgaria, mainly with Bulgarian actors who had to be dubbed later by Americans, which kicks the life out of any performance.  No, the film didn't turn out as I hoped, but that's TV.  That's life.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative@wmconnect.com

Josh,

When a script is submitted to someone with decision-making authority what do you think is going through their mind while reading the script?

The reason I ask is because a script is all dialogue and not much description as far as how the writer might be intending the film to look in the answer print of the film.This is assuming the writer is allowed any input on the film at all and this is totally on the other end of the spectrum from an independent film.

Do these decision-makers use thier own imaginations to fill in the blanks? What exactly do you think it is that makes one of these people jump up from behind their desk and say "Holy Shit...We gotta winner here!"?> I mean these folks must read thousands of scripts yearly.

I hope this isn't a stupid question?

Tim

Dear Tim:

I certainly don't know what goes on inside studio executive's heads, but I suspect it's nothing.  When a script gets to the point of being read by an executive who could possibly say yes, and I suspect these folks don't actually read scripts, just coverage, it already has all sorts of elements attached to it, like lead actors and a director.  If you believe that executives have much of an imagination you're kidding yourself.  Also, if you believe they read thousands of scripts a year you're kidding yourself. They don't.  They read the coverage from a reader, when the absolutely have to.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@yahoo.com

<<I never cared much for STRAW DOGS. It's too simpleminded>>

Define simpleminded. It definately has problems. Near the end when the killings get started, it had me on the edge of my seat, instead they just redid the rape thing (which didn't work the second time), and resorted to cliches (Hoffman attacked at the last minute only to be saved by his wife), and what's with her lamenting over the rapist, did she prefer him? Didn't that village idiot Hoffman was defending choke a girl to death? Just what the hell are they trying to say with this film? The opening shot of the little kids fighting pretty much sums up the whole movie. They'll grow up and turn into assholes. Hey I'll take this over CRASH anyday, but I'd rather watch SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS and DEAD END.

Dear Aaron:

I agree.  I've actually only seen "Straw Dogs" once, when it came out in 1971, and just hated it.  The experience of having to sit there through those events made me furious.  I found it incredibly unpleasant with no point.  That was the exception back then, and it's the rule now.

Josh

Name:              Beth
E-mail:       

Dear Josh,

What do you think of the director Ed Burns?

Beth

Dear Beth:

Unimpressive.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was just reading up on Anthony Quinn, and that got me thinking about one of my favorite films - "Zorba the Greek". I don't think that movie gets quite the respect it deserves. The writing, acting and directing are all excellent, and I love the score as well. I say its a great film, what do you say?

Dear David:

I'm not sure why I'm hesitant to agree, but I am.  I do like it, and when I saw it as a kid and it really got me, particularly the stoning of Irene Papas.  The score is indeed terrific, good direction, wellwritten, nice black and white photography, Quinn couldn't be better, Alan Bates is very good, and yet somehow I don't think it all adds up to a great film. Interesting.  My good buddy, who is Greek, doesn't like the film because Anthony Quinn isn't Greek, but that couldn't be my reason.  He always brings up "Never on Sunday" as his alternate Greek favorite, which I also like, although not as much as "Zorba the Greek."

Josh

Name:              CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I'd like to add a few more comments about David's digital delusions.

If you want to be taken seriously by the FILM INDUSTRY (and I'm sure you do, David), you still have to shoot film. Not only film, but preferably 35mm film. You could practice on DV and have a good looking 'home movie', but at some point you have to get down and dirty and make a REAL movie, if you ever want to be taken seriously by the industry.

The only ones who shoot digital that are being taken seriously are ESTABLISHED guys like George Lucas and Robert Rodriguez. They could do what they want, but even they shot their first films on film. Not to mention that their current 'digital movies' still cost millions of dollars. Cost of film isn't an issue to them.

The 'new breed' of 'filmmaker' out there believed they were being held back from making films because of the cost of film. Now just because video looks a little more film-like and it's cheap, they believe that's the answer to their prayers. They believe now they'll be taken seriously. They won't.

Sony and Canon are leading the charge with all this digital hype, telling everyone they can be the next Spielberg if they use their camera...and it's working. The hype that is. This sort of stuff put into the average person's hands (or head) suddenly makes DV the equivalent of what Super 8 was back in the day.

Spielberg shot his early films on Super 8 film and wasn't taken seriously. He realized this and decided to shoot something on 35mm in order to be taken seriously by the industry. It worked.

Not much has changed since. It's still as hard as ever to forge a career out of making films.

Dear CD:

The controversy rages.  I already said what I had to say.

Josh

Name:              David
E-mail:

"You don't know what you're talking about.  Read Scott's last post, read Mark Sawicki's last post.  Stop living in a dream world.  Digital does not cut down on production time.  You clearly need to do more research."

How presumptuous. I've worked in both digital and film, and can easily say that film really isn't worth it with the tools we have available to us. And, yes, digital DOES cut down on production time. You don't have to go through the long loading, unloading, and expensive printing processes. When you shoot something on set, you know that you have it, whereas film is a waiting game.

And I've read the posts, along with many other arguements, but again...the naysayers don't usually know how to work with the medium. Digital is a manipulative process that encompasses not only production, but post production.

The arguement that "film is more serious" already doesn't hold water, considering how most of the big summer Hollywood films were shot digitally.

Have YOU ever worked with digital? If so, with what cameras and post-production software?

Dear David:

I'm sorry for being presumtuous, but I'm really, really bored with this topic, which isn't your fault.  I think everybody should use whatever format suits them.  If you have a great story, but no money, shoot DV, or low-end HD.  If you love the look of film, shoot film.  If you've got a movie to make, you'll make it.  But most people will only get one chance at making a feature, if indeed they ever get that, so why not try to make it the very best film you can possibly make it?  That's what I'm saying, if this is your one and only movie, make it as spectacular as you possibly can, from every point of view: script, acting, cinematography, production design, everything.  That's it.  We don't need to keep beating this dead horse.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I don't think digital films will be outdated in five years. Some of them maybe. Especially those shot on the really cheap versions of digital. But I don't think HD films will outdated any time soon. The new Star Wars movies especially won't be outdated by then. You don't like them, sure, but you gotta admit Star Wars seems to have longevity. Sin City may go away, but with the following the comic has, I think it's gonna stay around. "Collateral" might pass after awhile, but people are still digging it at the moment.

I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. I think, so long as the movie is a still a quality picture in the eyes of the masses, it'll stay no matter what format it's shot.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

But the discussion isn't about the few, expensive, top-end movies shot in super-high-quality HD.  It about what independent filmmakers are doing. Most of the affordable cameras being marketed as HD right are not really HD, and have severely compressed images.  Yes, if you rent the top-end equipment it looks good, but it's more expensive than film cameras.  I've been listening to this 'digital will take over everything' discussion for at least ten years now, and it still hasn't come near to taking over everything, or even feature films.  If you feel you need to make a feature in digital, absolutely go ahead, but the chances are 99.99999% that you'll never get a dime for it.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I'd like to jump on the DV VS Film Discussion. I'm a big CKY and Jackass fan so when I heard that Bam Margera had directed a movie I assumed he had shot it on Video. When I got it like a year ago it turned out his film, "Haggard" was shot on film. It looked good. There were moments that were shot on video but mainly the skateboading scenes and even those were shot on top of the line HD cameras. So all in all Bam could have shot his movie on video but chose to shoot it on film and it was a good choice.

Now to say your film won't be distributed today because you didn't shoot it on film is not entirely true. I see tons of movies on Netflix and Amazon.com that have been distributed and they were shot on video. My advice to filmmakers trying to get work out there is to shoot your first movie on HD but try and promote it yourself since all you'd have to do is buy Final Cut Pro Production Suite for 1,300 dollars and you get DVD Studio Pro which even let's you put your film in to Dolby Surround sound. The technology is out there but if you want to make a good movie that will be distributed by a good company and possibly even get accepted to a prestigious film festival shoot your movie on film.

By the way Josh: What is your view on Final Cut Pro? I heard you can shoot on film and edit it on Final Cut, would you ever do that?

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

I have done it and it's great.  I'm not saying to cut on film, for goodness sake.  Everything is edited digitally now.  I've edited everything I've done for the past 14 years digitally.  But then you generate an edit list (EDL), have your negative conformed, then transfer that back to digital for the DVD.  When I say, "sell your film," I mean to people who will actually pay you money.  To get some company to handle your film on DVD, without paying an advance (which none of these little companys do), means that 99.9% of the time you'll never see one cent.  If you want to sell your film to cable TV, who do pay, it's still got to be on film.

Josh

Name:              Chrysta Brand
E-mail:             chrystalynn2003@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Hey thanks for the reply, yeah it looks like him where was the movie shot...he used to live in Canada then moved to California last I knew to try to get some acting jobs...I have been searching for him for 6 years and this is the only lead I have had...Thanks...Chrysta

Dear Chrysta:

The movie was shot in L.A.  Good luck finding him.

Josh

Name:              Chrysta Brand
E-mail:             chrystalynn2003@hotmail.com

Hi, I was just searching for an old friend and came across your site...his name is Robert Reid and I believe it was him in the pictures of the Hammer movie back in 1999 if you could please get back to me asap I would really like to know if this is him, thank you Chrysta

Dear Chrysta:

You mean the kid, Robert Joseph Reid?  I have no idea how to contact him.

Josh

Name:              Deep Throat
E-mail:             toosecret@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

I've been reading your site, it's very interesting. I've noticed a lot of discussions, film and religion.

I've also seen political discussions and know you, or anyone, could have very strong opinions on this. But, what do you think of the idea that 9/11 was actually a remote controlled attack? Does that sound possible to you, what are your ideas. I have a nagging suspicion about that.

Deep Throat

Dear Deep:

It's not that I don't believe in some conspiracy theories, like JFK's assassination, but I don't believe that the attacks of 9/11 were.  We didn't invent al Qaeda, they really exist.  You should see the film "The Hamburg Cell," which nobody paid any attention to, but I think was a very interesting movie, and completely believable.  It tells the entire story of the al Queada cell in Hamburg that perpetrated the attacks.  What's really enlightening about it is that it begins before Bush was president and every single terrorist of that cell was being tailed by the CIA.  As soon as Bush became president, and had zero interest in al Qaeda, all CIA attention to these terrorists was dropped in favor of Iraq.  Had the Bush administration been paying any attention at all to world events, as opposed to having their own ridiculous agenda in Iraq, the 9/11 attacks would not have occurred. Therefore, the ultimate responsibility for those attacks lies squarely on the shoulders of George W. Bush.

Josh

Name:              Edward Nickerson
E-mail:             eddienick@class5films.com

Josh-

Do you ever consider other people's screenplays to direct?  If so, what is your submission policy?  I have a horror/western that was read by Michael Kirk at Ghosthouse.  He liked it a lot, but said it was too much of a hybrid for their company.
-Eddie

Dear Edward:

No, I never consider directing other people's screenplays, and I have no submission policy.  The bottom-line is that I really don't want to read other people's scripts.  Good luck to you.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

As a writer I was just wondering how mood effects your ability to write? Like, are you able to just zone everything out and go into writing mode, or do you have to be in a certain mood? For me, I can not really feel like writing but say, if I see a really good movie, or sometimes a really bad movie, it'll inspire me to write a script. But other times, I can be like really happy and ready to write, and then I'll get cocky and ask a girl out, she'll reject me, and then I won't feel like writing for another three days or so.

I was wondering if you had similar experiences like that, or if you were kinda like a writing machine and could just do it on demand?

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

I write everyday.  I keep a journal, I answer these Q&A's, and I'm almost always working on some writing project.  I do have the time between projects, which used to get me down, but I've rationalized it as part of the process, which it most certainly is.  But no, I don't have to be in a specific mood to write.  I'm always in that mood, and when I get up at 4:00 AM there's very little else to do but write.  When I'm not writing is when I get anxious and nervous.

Josh

Name:              Harry
E-mail:             mhlanger@webmail.co.za

Dear Josh:         

I want to know on the matter regarding Jesus walking on top of water.It is said that he walk on the sand I want to know how did peter fail to walk on top of the sand?

Dear Harry:

Peter's in on the scam.  He intentionally stepped off the sandbar.  All of Jesus's posse is in on the scam.

Josh

Name:              Tobey McManus
E-mail:             generation_penetration@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Becker:

I think you run a remarkable operation here, kudos, you seem to answer many questions every day.

Here is a question of mine:

A friend and I were discussing a film recently, an older film, one you most certainly have seen. I will not disclose the name of this film, for that will interfere with the question. I described the film as "an autumny drama," and my friend looked at me with wild eyes, charging that "autumny" was not a word. I admitted he was right, of course it's not a word, but I still believe one could very easily surmise its meaning without giving it much thought.

What kind of a movie do you think "an autumny drama" describes?

If you should be kind enough to answer, tomorrow I will update you with the name of the film.

Thank you and good day.

Dear Tobey:

Being rather literal-minded, I immediately flashed on "Autumn Sonata," but I'm sure that's not what you're referring to.  I think you could mean two things by "autumny": 1. A story about older folks in the autumn of their lives, or 2. A film with warm, orange, sepia-toned photography.  "On Golden Pond" covers both of those. Is that it?  What do I win?

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Since its 1:00am and you still haven't answered, I'd like to toss in that your recommendation of John Frankenheimer's SECONDS gives me the creeps. STRAW DOGS couldn't do that (that rape scene turned me on more than it disturbed me). That freaks me out that all the naked women in the wine bath were supposed to be years older than they looked, not to mention the final scene with the cranial drill made me cringe (and the hallucination of the hallway leading to the woman on the bed). I like how that instead of a bunch of scare moments, the whole thing revolves around Rock Hudson wondering where his life went wrong, why he could never be happy. He doesn't even try to tell his wife the truth, going back wouldn't fix his problem anyway. How long did this film play in theaters anyways? Being in your forties, does the film disturb you more now? What do you think you'll be doing when you hit old age?

Dear Aaron:

I think I'll be dead.  Meanwhile, I haven't seen "Seconds" in ten years anyway, probably more like twenty, so I don't know how it would effect me now.  It does stick with me pretty well, though.  I never cared for "Straw Dogs," it's too simpleminded.

Josh

Name:              Robert Mackie
E-mail:             rthickmick@hotmail.com

Josh:

Netflix has Bruce Campbell credited with directing Alien Apocalypse.

Dear Robert:

Figures.

Josh

Name:              David
E-mail:

"Nonsense.  The difference is obvious.  The whole issue now seems to be what's easiest for the filmmaker, which ultimately means nothing.  David Lean could easily have shot "Lawrence of Arabia" on 35mm, but instead he shot 70mm, which was undoubtedly at least four times more difficult.  Why? Because it looks and sounds much better.  Until you realize that your ease and convenience are of no importance at all, you'll never make a good movie."

David Lean had a grandiose budget and an army of people at his disposal. Most indie filmmakers lack money and resources and are working against much greater odds throughout production. Digital cuts down on costs and production time (as Rodriguez said, it allows you to be more creative and move at the speed of thought).

Again, if you do some research, you'll undoubtably find digital films you never suspected as being digital. The tools are all here. A lot of filmmakers are just ignorant to the process or refuse to embrace change (which is akin to the silent movie people fighting "talkies").

Dear David:

You don't know what you're talking about.  Read Scott's last post, read Mark Sawicki's last post.  Stop living in a dream world.  Digital does not cut down on production time.  You clearly need to do more research.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

Thank you for the comment you made to someone on this site awhile back. You told him that the script he writes should be about something so worthwhile that he should be able to tell it all the way through to a dying friend without feeling as though he was wasting that person's time. Only after reaching this point should he be worrying about what equipment to use. It's a wonderful piece of advice that I will always carry with me.

I greatly appreciate your consistent effort to get one basic and vital message across to those of us who visit this site: TRY HARDER. Try harder when choosing and watching a film instead of letting the studios and their hype machines decide ... try harder when writing a script by devoting time and energy until it has clarity, depth and originality ... try harder to read a book instead of playing a video game ... try harder to make a movie by shooting on film instead of going the easier digital route ... try harder when considering religion, the actions of our government, etc.

You sometimes get shit in this Q&A forum for being rude or rigid. Those people always piss me off because they don't seem to be paying attention. I just wanted to remind you that there are many of us who hear what you're actually saying and appreciate its value.

I know, I know ... I should have tried harder to ask a good question instead of sending flattery.

Dear Danielle:

Perhaps you should have, but I do appreciate knowing that what I'm saying isn't falling on deaf ears.  Since I don't believe that humans have genetically devolved over the past 50 years, the reason for art being so crappy these days must lie in the fact that people simply aren't trying very hard anymore.  Art is the most extreme form of personal expression we have on our planet.  But it seems that art's only purpose these days has become a way to get rich, which is a completely shitty motivation for creating art. Not to mention that 99.9% of everyone that attempts to get into the arts professionally fails, so it's probably the worst way to try and make money. Ultimately, though, my motivation for doing this is selfish -- I want to see good movies again, and until filmmakers begin trying a lot harder than they presently are, that won't occur.

Josh

Name:              kate
E-mail:             katebills77@yahoo.com

Hi -

I was wondering if "If I had a hammer" was ever released? And if so, do you know where I could find a copy to watch?
thanks,
Kate

Dear Kate:

The only release the film ever got was here on my website, where I sold a few hundred copies, but now I've stopped.

Josh

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

Josh,

I feel the need to rectify what you said to David about shooting film over digital video because what he said is absolutely not true.

As you say time and time again, the majority of films that are being distributed in the dramatic feature film world are still shot on film.

This idea that we may not know we are watching feature films that were shot on Digital video be it standard DV or HD is ridiculous.

I live in Brazil now which is a developing country and anyone who is serious about making an indie film down here still shoots on film and NOT digital video. Even the commercials are shot on film here and most of the time 35mm.

The one thing that drove me crazy when I was living in NYC was how everyone had this attitude that it was better to shoot their film on digital video because it was cheaper when the fact is it is really a small cost issue and I would tell them to try and get their piece distributed shot on DV and then come back and talk to me.

The other fact is that I am working with a lot of talented people here in Brazil and they always have to work with less than people in America which is actually good and it helps build creativity, but they still choose to shoot film because most people realize that it is worth the cost to shoot film for dramatic features.

HD hasn't really hit the market down here like the U.S., but technology is not cheap down here either and it makes people have to think of ways around costs, but shooting DV is usually not the ultimate choice.

I just helped shoot an opera down here which we shot on the new Prosumer Sony HVRZ1U 1080i HDV camera.

The opera was staged and we did multiple takes, but we felt that shooting HD was a good format for something like this, since it is going to go straight to video and the production did not warrant the use of film. The cost was a factor as the budget was low, but if the director chose to shoot film, we would have shot film and figured it out.

The Sony HD camera was a pain in the ass too and we had to tweak it quite a bit to get the contrast (the knee) we wanted to and we shot in PAL which worked better for quality and transfer purposes in case it was ever going to go to film at some point.

In my opinion, these Prosumer HD cameras are not the answer to independent filmmaking. They may be cheaper and easier to use in some respects, but it doesn't allow you to think about the look of your film or the lighting as much as film does. Getting any lack of depth of field in the lens on this camera was a chore and these problems can actually slow the production down a little bit.

The bottom line is still that you really can't be taken seriously in the feature film world shooting on DV whether it is standard or HD.

Film is still the standard David for features and high end HD, but that is too costly for independent filmmakers, and as Josh always says you also need to have a good script and story otherwise you will be wasting your time and money no matter what format you shoot and I think that is really the problem we are facing in the film world no matter where you live.

But I also think if you don't feel what you have to say is worth shooting on film no matter if you do or not, you really have no business trying to make a feature film.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Another country heard from, and all the way from Brazil.  If this doesn't convince David he can also go back a few posts to Mark Sawicki's assessment of the new digital cameras.  As you pointed out in your last paragraph, if what you're shooting isn't worth shooting on film, it's probably not worth shooting at all.  If the look of what you're shooting doesn't matter to you, then you definitely shouldn't be a filmmaker.  I will reiterate, both Sam and I could have shot our first movies on video tape, which would have been a million times easier, but we wanted people to notice and ditribute our films, so we went to the much greater effort of shooting film.  Both of those films are still in release 25 years later.  If you shoot whatever digital format is around now, it will be completely outdated in five years, and within ten years no one will ever look at it again.  What's easiest for the filmmaker is of absolutely no importance; only what's best for the viewer.

Josh

Name:              David
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I'm pretty stunned that you're telling aspiring directors that the only way to be taken seriously is to shoot on film. This is simply not true.

If you're an indie filmmaker with a low-budget and you shoot on film, you're just burning money that could easily be put to use on resources that would better your movie. Digital costs a mere fraction of the price, and if you know the process, viewers won't see the difference.

You said, "one day, the technology will be available..." Well it's already here. You're probably not even aware that many of the titles you're watching are in fact digital films.

Dear David:

Nonsense.  The difference is obvious.  The whole issue now seems to be what's easiest for the filmmaker, which ultimately means nothing.  David Lean could easily have shot "Lawrence of Arabia" on 35mm, but instead he shot 70mm, which was undoubtedly at least four times more difficult.  Why? Because it looks and sounds much better.  Until you realize that your ease and convenience are of no importance at all, you'll never make a good movie.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I had a talk with one of my friends the other day and I told him I was working on a 30 minute horror comedy flick with my friends and the first feature I'm gonna do is a horror flick. He was appalled and asked me why I would do horror. And my answer was not only do I like the horror genre but I really enjoy the horror independent scene and I'd like to be a part of it. Also I think its easier to get a horror film distributed than an independent comedy or drama. What do you think? Would you ever make a straight up horror film?

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

If it could be good, and legitimately scary.  But to just make a horror film for the sake of making one doesn't interest me.  I think the indie horror scene is a complete bore, utterly derivative, and creatively bankrupt, but if that's what you're after, go for it.

Josh

Name:              Charles
E-mail:             cscorder@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I just completed your filmmaking book. I found it to be entertaining and informative. I'll probably never make a movie of my own, but I've always been a movie buff and I enjoy learning about the process. It even inspired me to go back and watch "If I Had a Hammer." For some reason, when I learn about the making of a film that I enjoy, it increases my appreciation for that film.

Meanwhile, in stories about "Mission Impossible 3," I keep reading that many people thought the first film was "confusing." Confusing? With all due respect to Robert Towne, I had the "twist" figured out long before it was revealed. The plots of the average episode of the original TV were more intricate. That said, the first "MI" film was a classic compared to its sequel. I'm certainly in no rush to see the new one. I've only been to the theater to see a movie twice in the last year, so I guess I'm not in a rush to see much of anything.

Dear Charles:

Seriously, who gives a shit about movies based on old TV shows?  Not to mention, the second sequel of a film based on an old TV show.  The chances of a film like that being any good at all are zero.  I would honestly prefer to stare out a window for two hours than see "MI3."

Josh

Name:              Peter Lobieu
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I really like your q&a forum here, and read it daily. So thanks for taking the time to answer all the great (and not so great) questions people write in.

Anyhow, you mentioned having two more books in the process of being published, one of which, "Rushes: Essays on Film and Filmmaking", sounds like its almost complete. What is the other book in the works?

Dear Peter:

"Rushes" is complete and is presently being edited.  The next book, "666 N. Van Ness," a novel, is also written.  I've actually started work on the next book after that.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Josh, in your recent discussions on relgion and god, you mentioned consciousness. You say that trees (and all plants for that matter) are conscious, but how do you know that?

Dear David:

They're alive, aren't they?  That which makes anything alive is consciousness.  How do I know it?  How does anybody know anything about god? You don't.  But my opinion is every bit as valid as that of any priest, rabbi, minister, swami, or mullah.  Possibly more valid because I haven't just paid attention to one religion to the exclusion of all others.  Unlike "holy" people, I have some perspective.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative@wmconnect.com

Josh,

I guess this is more an observation as opposed to a question and it is not related to making films.

I think the religious discussions on here kind of got me going a little bit though this is not a religious observation.

Back in October I became a Father to my first child, kind of late in the game, but still I am a father to my first child.

I have watched her development over the last 6 months and I started waxing philosophical I guess. I'm sure you have had quite a few occasions to hold a baby human being in your lifetime and you may or may not relate to this.

I started thinking about the other 6 billion people on this planet and a common sense rational approach indicates that we all had a start somewhere but it could not have been in baby form.

In watching my daughter grow I can say for sure that, in infancy, we are pretty pitiful. Totally dependent on the adults for thier survival. They have to be fed and cleaned as well as being encouraged on thier own little learning curves. They bump into things and will put absolutely anything in thier mouth in thier quest for knowledge.There is no way survial could have happened without some sort of intervention.

What's my point? I'm not sure I have one. I guess I just find myself asking that age old question...Where in the hell did we come from? This was no spontaneous thing.

My apologies for this line of thought but I think I would like your opinion on this if you want to express it. Do you think we just kind of happened? Was it really a matter of the strongest survived? We didn't just pop up from the slime. We didn't just mutate from the monkeys because apparently the monkeys have stopped mutating.

I was just looking for some intelligent opinions or feedback Josh. I know you weren't there when everything began but I do know you have those strong analytical skills and a very educated mind.

Thank you for your time.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Humans desperately need to feel that they're special; way more special than anything else, except we're not.  We're just more creatures living on the planet with all of the other creatures, most of which have been around a lot longer than humans.  But we've got the edge with bigger brains and opposable thumbs.  But our larger brains are constantly tricking us into thinking that there's something better about us than say worms.  Well, the some stuff that makes the worm alive is the same stuff that makes us alive -- consciousness, and that, in my view, is god.  If you want to honor god, recognize that everything that's conscious is connected -- trees, plants, animals, bugs, humans -- and that we're all one big family.  Catholics are no better than Jews who are no better than Hindus who are no better than Zoroastrians, etc. Whites are no better than blacks who are no better than Asians, etc.  All differences are trivial; the connection between all of us is what's important.  Unlike what most religions teach, that god is outside of us, judging us, god is inside all of us, and judges nothing.  The second you accept that god is outside of you and not part of you, you've failed as a human being.

Josh

Name:              Ray Lanning
E-mail:             ba_penn@yahoo.com

Josh, nice to catch up with your career.  I am reading "The Boys Across the Street," and was looking for Rick Sandford on google. It must have been the greatest privilege of your life to have him for a friend.  By the way, I am out here in Wolverine country, living in GR.

Dear Ray:

You write on very familiar terms.  Do we know each other, or did you just come upon me in Rick's book?  Anyway, my next book being published, "Rushes: Essays on Film and Filmmaking," will be dedicated to Rick, who reappears frequently throughout the book.  Rick was a very good friend, and he certainly was a trip, as his book clearly illustrates.

Josh

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

Josh,

I believe John is referring to the ancient pages which have been preserved and repaired. Among other writings, the Papyrus pages contain what is believed to be "The Gospel of Judas".

Oddly enough, the papers were kept in a safe deposit box for 16 years in Long Island and then an antique dealer purchased them in April 2000 and tried to re-sell them without any luck and the papers were deteriorating rapidly, so he donated them to a museum in Switzerland where they were restored  during the course of 5 years from 2001 until just recently.

Here is the national Geo link to the story which you may already know.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/about_faq.html?fs=www9.nationalgeographic.com

The big what to do is now that the papers have been accuratley translated, will they be included in the bible? It is Judas's side of the story and I guess if you are going to "fair and balanced" they should include them. Does it really matter? What do you think?

Side Note: Roy Harper is the only one I have ever known who has a song written about Judas's point of view. It is called "Don't You Grieve" and you have it on the CD I made for you sometime back. It is a clever song and quite catchy it was written and recorded in 1970.

Roy was raised by his father and his stepmother who was a Jehovah's Witness (His mother died when he was young), so he grew up with a firm dislike for religion with the similar arguements that you make again and again.

I think he wrote this song to give Judas a face so to speak and to piss people off which I think it did.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Yes, but I believe that people keep putting "The Gospel According to Judas" into Google and getting my short story.  I have heard about the actual one they've found.  Meanwhile, they've dropped and added sections to the bible before, like the apocrypha.

Josh

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

Hey. This may be a stupid question, but I was wondering if their is standard pay scale for SAG. I've been talking with a casting director for the movie "The Last Season" about my brother getting a small role in the film, and the film is paying SAG wages, and I couldn't find anywhere online what the standard SAG wages would be for a smaller role, but still a somewhat important role. Assuming there's even a standard.

I hope I made sense,
Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Did you actually try going to the SAG website?  The rates are listed right there -- http://www.sag.org/Content/Public/2005-08TVTheatrRates.pdf.  The SAG day rate is $737, and the weekly rate is $2,557.

Josh

Name:              Alvarez
E-mail:

Josh,

Did you ever watch the TV Show OZ when it was on HBO? It was prison soap opera. Very intense. Very addictive. My favorite character was TOBIAS BEECHER. If you watched, who was yours? And do you like Tom Fontana's other work?

Thanks.

Dear Alvarez:

I watched one episode when the show first came on, then never watched it again.  I personally don't like our country's approach to prisons; that you will be abused, terrorized and sexually assaulted as part of your punishment is barbaric, and I seriously don't like being reminded of it.  Certainly not on a weekly basis.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

On the topic of religion, doesn't it seem that traditional religion thrived more in a static enviroment.  In other words, picture yourself in a Catholic village in Southern Europe about 800 years ago.  The Church is everything.  It was that way for your father your grandfather your great-grandfather, as far as anyone can remember.  Go to Arabia today, or anywhere in the third world.  Life is essentially the same as it was 500 years ago.  Isn't this the environment that religion thrives under?

Dear Bob:

Apparently, all enviornments work for religion and it thrives everywhere. If you have a group of more than ten people they'll dream up a creation myth and a coming messiah, then convince themselves that god loves them more than everyone else and that's why it's okay for them to kill all of the infidels.

Josh

Name:              Scott
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

I am intrigued by your response regarding why you have a slight interest in Judaism. I too am a non-practicing Jew, and have always been amazed at the vast amount of talented and successful people that come from such a small esoteric group. It also amazes me that many Nobel Prize winners happened to be Jewish. Has there ever been a documentary on this subject, or a book that theorizes why this is? I also find it interesting that Judaism is one of the only cultures to be considered both an ethnicity and a religion. I know plenty of cultural Jews who speak fluent Hebrew and partake in secular cultural customs but have nothing to do with the religious aspect of the culture. That alone separates Judaism from most religions. I'm not saying it's better or worse, just different.

Dear Scott:

Judaism also has a long tradition of complete non-believers like myself, and unlike Catholicism, you can't be excommunicated.  There's no way to fuck up bad enough to get thrown out of being a Jew.

Josh

Name:              James Ngugi
E-mail:             jammogoogs@gmail.com

Hi I just want to know is this new bible thing really realistic?I want to know more coz i also believe Judas was not to blame for the death of the son of God.

Dear James:

You came to the right place, I've got all the answers.  No, the bible isn't true, it's a collection of mythology.  No, Jesus wasn't the son of god, he was just a kind-hearted Jewish man.  Anything else I can help you with?

Josh

Name:              John Lipyeat
E-mail:             jlipyeat@ntlworld.com

Dear Josh:         

This is a very interesting document if it is authentic. Although when you study Daniel and revelation together you can get a picture of the end days and how the beast will fool the multitude and the harlot church will try to deceive the world. The harlot church possible being the catholic faith. Which originated from Rome. Could this be an act of sabotage on there behalf? Like the idea that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus Christ.

Dear John:

I feel like I picked up a phone and came in halfway into the conversation. "The Gospel According to Judas"?  "The Da Vinci Code"?  What the hell are you talking about?

Josh

Name:              Tobias Beecher
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Just saw a WOWZER of a movie called 'Miracle Mile,' about a guy who gets a phone call telling him a nuke's gonna hit LA in less than an hour. Seen it? Incredible Tangerine Dream score, they were unstoppable in the 80s, always elevating the films they were featured in to a level of greatness. Anyway, the movie wasn't perfect, but its heart was in the right place, and it worked miracles on its shoestring budget. Does that kind of thing ever inspire you, as an independent filmmaker? When people make so much out of so little? Or do you just decide it's shit, so fuck them? Sometimes you're awfully caustic, which is fine, if that's how you feel that's how you feel...thing is, when you compare yourself to a guy like Simon Cowell, you're comparing yourself to a guy who gets paid millions not to say how he feels, not to be honest, but to be as sensational and cruel as possible. Mind you, he's an accomplished Shakespearian actor, and I think he's playing the role of the stuffy brit brilliantly.

Dear Tobias:

I haven't seen it, but I am often inspired by low-budget movies.  Moreso than high-budget movies, I'd say.  Meanwhile, I didn't compare myself with Simon Cowell, someone else did.

Josh

Name:              Irma McHugh
E-mail:             irmamch@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Thank you for your thorough response, as always. I know I said I wouldn't ask more on religion, but I couldn't resist. You do have a relevant point of course that our religious beliefs are usually influenced by our parents, but I would have to think there was a time when no one's parents knew or spoke about God, meaning the one God, except for the ancient Hebrews. I see it as passed down from ancient times. Interesting, I was raised a Catholic, though I don't believe that all other religions and sects who talk about God are necessarily wrong. For instance, as Catholics we believe in purgatory, but Protestants don't, and to be honest I really don't know if there is. I guess, no can be completely sure what happens to our souls after death.

Lol about thunder! That sounds kind of tribal or primeval. But I only meant the religions who speak of God, not gods. Things make more sense to me though when I think a God exists. I think He knows our conversation, though I do not want to impinge on your interesting beliefs.

If I can ask, what religious beliefs were you raised with? Not all religions have exactly the same beliefs of course as you mentioned. Well, fountains do make farting noises sometimes. I think I'll go stretch out my sexy feet now if you will, these heels (sorry had a little guinness lately).

Irma

Dear Irma:

I was raised as a half-assed Jew.  We went to synagogue on high holidays, had the Passover seder, and I had a Bar Mitzvah.  That was the end of my religious training.  I vowed to never set foot in a synagogue again of my own accord -- except weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, which aren't of my own accord -- and I've stuck to that.  The only thing that really interests me about Judaism is that there are so many talented, intelligent Jewish people who have made a name for themselves, whereas the world Jewish population is so minute, barely 15 million in a world of over 6 billion.  I personally also don't see any improvement in thinking there's one god as opposed to many.  To me that's like thinking there's only one Santa Claus instead of numerous Santa Clauses.  Why anyone would seriously believe that their religion is "real," when the hundreds of other religions are false, is a sign of insanity.  The religion of the Inuit eskimoes has every bit as much validity as Christianity, Judaism or Islam, which to me is zero.

Josh

Name:              Jim Maure
E-mail:             maurejimathome@aol.com

Josh,

I hope the last email I sent was not too close to your FAQ questions. I was looking more for a path indicator. I have another question that seems to be unique. As an "inspiring film maker" with of course no budget money, I am looking to invest more in hard work and imagination rather than film making. I know with a family and a job this is the only way I can do this. (perhaps not the best method.) My question is in Computers. Is it worth time and money to invest in computer software? I can see benefits of digitally editing and doctoring the digital media. And I can see it looks cheaper and more accessible to film in digital format. But I also know looks can be deceiving. How involved is computers in your film making experiences? Do you use them to add content and doctor your movies or do you fully immerse in it and do blue screens with your actors? What are the pros and cons of using Computers in low-budget films?
Thanks again!
Jim

Dear Jim:

I have been editing digitally since I started on "Hercules" in 1993.  I've been editing the sound digitally since "Lunatics" in 1989.  I've been writing my scripts on a computer since about 1985.  That's the extent of my use of computers in filmmaking.  DV is a great way to practice filmmaking, but as yet, if you really want a chance at making a movie that might actually sell, you still need to shoot film.  Yes, it will probably all change, but it hasn't yet.  So, as far as I'm concerned, computers are not answer to filmmaking.

Josh

Name:              Jim Maure
E-mail:             maurejimathome@aol.com

Josh,

I just came across your web page. I love it! I have been a fan of the evil dead series for a long time now. Bruce rules! I met him in Windsor Canada while he was book signing and thought he was a cool guy in person. I love your work and I really respect the "grass roots" you guys all came from. I have always had an overactive imagination and recently in the last couple of years I have taken to writing to exercise the demons. I am by no means a professional, I just write for the fun of it. Perhaps someday I'll do something with it. I have several stories on the go. My question is how do you get the ball rolling? I guess in the end I would like to offer stories for consideration of movies or TV. But for now I would like to grade my abilities to see if I have any good material. How do you propose an idea and where would you submit it? I see all these talent houses and writers clubs and idea patenting places. I figure for the most they are all scams. I'm not out for monetary gains but at the same time I do not want my ideas ripped off. Any suggestions?
Thanks
Jim

Dear Jim:

A. Copyright your stories, B. you need to turn your stories into screenplays before they have any viability.  You can't expect anyone in the film business to be able to interpret your stories into movies, you have to do that yourself.  Next, you probably need to try to get a literary agent.  If you can't get an agent interested, why would a producer be interested?  The knuckleheaded agents will be your litmus test.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Robert Mackie
E-mail:             rthickmick@hotmail.com

Josh:

I just read your review of "My big fat Greek Wedding." My reaction to the film was that almost every gag was lifted from old British TV comedies. Not original at all. What do you think about assembling scenes from old TV shows and calling it an original screenplay?

Cheers.

Infra: "Running Time" is my favorite Indie of the 1990's.

Dear Robert:

I didn't see the British TV comedies you say the gags were stolen from, so it seemed new to me.  Has there been a British TV comedy about a Greek family in America?  Meanwhile, I never said it was a great movie, it just knows what story it's telling, which is almost miraculous these days.  I'm glad you liked "Running Time."

Josh

Name:              Dave
E-mail:             derothstein@hotmail.com

Josh -

I am prepared to see Mission Impossible III this friday. I loved the first one, hated the second one, and, judging by the amount of time between two and three, am hoping to be amazed. your previous answers to other questions lead me to believe that you don't much enjoy these types of films. why don't you like the Usual Suspects? I thought it was a fantastic film, and I loved the twist ending. Mission: Impossible one had a great ending. I don't understand your taste. What are your problems with twists and movies with them?

Dear Dave:

Why on earth would the second sequel be any good when the first sequel sucked?  I couldn't even sit through the first one, which also sucked.  Tom Cruise is a blight on cinema.  In most cases a twist ending causes the writers and filmmakers to hold back information that might possibly make the film interesting.  They're willing to make most of the film a bore so they can have a twist ending, and it's never worth it.  I just thought "The Usual Suspects" was a bore, and the twist was obvious.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

"Whether Michael goes into the family business or not is the plot of the story, and his character arc."

I agree every character should have a different angle on the theme, even every piece of dialogue should connect with the theme. But plot and theme and character are all inexorably connected. One can't live without the other.

My personal feeling is that the Heros final decision in a film answers the story question and this decision IS the theme --  it reveals it.

In Casablanca Bogey goes through the film caught between love and duty. His love for Ilsa vs. his duty to the "cause". In the end we get the great misdirection and Bogey puts aside self interest and chooses the cause. This reveals the theme of the film.

As for V for Vendetta, its well written because Natalie Portman is caught between fear and redemption. Fear of the fascist state vs. the idea of redeeming herself, and gaining individual freedom. Her decision reveals the theme.

Joe

Dear joe:

I don't mean to keep beating this dead horse, but you don't understand what a theme is.  Most movies have a plot and no theme, they are not inexorably connected.  One character, even the lead, can only reveal their response to the theme.  Let's use my favorite example, "The Bridge on the River Kwai." The theme is duty, and it reverberates through every major character.  But no matter what Col. Nicholson, Col. Saito, or Com. Shears do, does not reveal the theme, it only illustrates their reaction to it.  Whether they blow up the bridge or not -- the plot -- doesn't change the theme.  No character's reposnse to the theme establishes the theme.  Whether Col. Nicholoson ever realizes he's aiding and abetting the enemy doesn't change the theme; whether Col. Saito kills himself or not doesn't change the theme. The theme is duty, and whether you're on one side or the other doesn't matter.  If, as an example, you're assigned in school to write a theme paper, and your theme is abortion, you don't spend the whole paper discussing something other than abortion, then reveal at the end that was what it was really about.  Every discussion point is about the theme.  The theme, which I'd say is commitment, is not revealed at the end of "Casablanca," we know it from the beginning -- "I stick my neck out for nobody" -- only Rick's changing attitude toward it is revealed.  Get it?

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

I didn't realize they only showed it on television... but that's because they showed it in the theater over here. You don't see the comparison, Bob Dylan talks about Hootnannies and the folk movement. Somebody sings If I Had A Hammer. Alright, fine. You win. I suppose that's like comparing THE GUNS OF NAVARONE to JUDGMENT AT NUREMBURG, but I do remember seeing it in the papers for the theater, I'm not crazy.

Dear Aaron:

"No Direction Home" is a documentary, "If I Had a Hammer" is a dramatic story.  Whereas both "Guns of Navarone" and "Judgement at Nuremburg" are dramatic stories.  It's like trying to compare "Bowling for Columbine" and "South Park: Bigger & Longer" because they both take place in Colorado.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

"60 Minutes" did a story this past sunday on Stephen Colbert. I had never heard of his new show, "The Colbert Report", but it looks fucking hilarious! Its a parody of all those Fox news channel talk shows, like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannitty, et al. Anyhow, just wondering if you had seen it, and if its as funny as it looked on the "60 Minutes" story? They showed one bit w/ Colbert holding up a USA Today weather map, and him saying, "what's wrong with red, white and blue, USA Today? look at all these fruity colors.... this is just another example of the homo-meteorological agenda in this country!"

Dear David:

"The Colbert Report" is okay.  It's nowhere near as good as "The Daily Show," from whence Mr. Colbert came.  He was much funnier on that show, too. I do like what Colbert did at that dinner with Bush the other night.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

How long do you usually write for a day on scripts?

Do you have a set time or do you usually just do however long you are in the mood for?

Do you perfer to write during the morning or night?

Last thing I was reading "101 habits of successful screenwriters" and one of the screenwriters said that she didn't outline or treatment. She'd usually have a story in her head and then she'd write a whole first draft out and that was to her considered her Outline. Then she rewrote from there. That's more of my style since its hard for me to stick to my outline once I actually start writing. What do you think of that method?

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Whatever works for you, but if you really haven't planned it out and don't actually know where you're going, that's just lazy and bad.  A good story is leading to it's conclusion, and if you don't know that then you don't really know what you're writing.  Meanwhile, I write when I get up at 4:00 - 5:00 AM, go at it for a few hours, take a short nap, start again and go at it for a few more hours.  Then I sporadically come at it a few more times during the afternoon for an hour or two, and I'm done by 4:00 - 5:00 PM.  So that's 6-8 hours of writing spread out over twelve.  Anytime I grind to a halt I stand up from the computer and do something else, like eat or call somebody or take a walk.  That's my method.  And for scripts I do outline and write a treatment first.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

How do you feel about the success of NO DIRECTION HOME: BOB DYLAN and the distribution failure of IF I HAD A HAMMER and the irony in between that they're both about the folk movement (supposedly the reason HAMMER wasn't distributed, though one has Bob Dylan)? IF I HAD A HAMMER looks a lot better being able to see everything it talks about in NO DIRECTION HOME: BOB DYLAN.

I liked the part in that documentary where they said the musicians had three songs and if the people are still in their seats by the third song, they're fired. You mentioned you watched this film several times, should it be on your favorites list (at the very least more than BOYZ IN THE HOOD?)

Dear Aaron:

I don't consider it a movie, it was a TV show.  I don't include the episodes of "The American Experience" on my list as movies.  But I made an indie feature with no stars; and "No Direction Home" was a documentary for television, starring Bob Bylan, and directed by Martin Scorsese.  I don't see the comparison.

Josh

Name:              Dusty
E-mail:             L5g@excite.com

Dear Josh:         

After watching A History of Violence last week and Ran yesterday got me thinking.  What's worse?  Watching a bad movie by a no talent, or watching a bad movie by someone who used to be great.  To me, I think the latter.  You hold someone in high regard and they give you shit. Where as with A History of Violence, I expected shit.  Therefore I wasn't disappointed.  But I keep hope alive.

Dear Dusty:

I'd rather watch a bad movie by a formerly great director, then a bad movie by someone who's never showed any talent.  At least you'll hopefully get a few glimpses of the former greatness, as I think you do in "Ran."  That shot near the end when the old man is sitting in the house and bullets are whizzing past him through the windows was pretty cool, even if it was three hours into an exceptionally dull film.  But all talent, if it was ever there in the first place, will eventually wear out.

Josh

Name:              Irma McHugh
E-mail:             irmamch@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Thank you for your really interesting explanations and views. Well, I hope that Gaspar Noe doesn't continue making films like that if they would really express who he is. Gosh, now that you mention that, porn directors do come to mind. I understand what you mean, poor Monica. I heard it was actually CGI at least when I read more on it.

But, about God well I am interested in your views on Him. I refer to God as Him because the people that originated, or knew if you believe, the concept of God, just one God, always referred to Him as such. Earlier cultures had many gods, but I think the first people to refer to Him were the Israelites. But, if I can ask, and I notice you sometimes get in religious discussions here, if so many people are influenced by God and their ideas of God, including what looks like another world war, doesn't it seem a little strange if what most of the world believed about God was completely untrue? In your view I mean. Just a thought.

Well, I won't continue with the religious discussions, just one more question on it for you.

Irma

Dear Irma:

Most people's views of religion and god are formed when they're very young by their parents, a form of early childhood neurosis that most people never get over.  Not to mention that most people get one single view -- whatever religion that their parents believe -- and that's the complete extent of their knowledge of religions.  If you're born a Catholic, then you probably believe that all Catholics are right and everybody else in the world is wrong, and the same goes for every religion.  I personally believe that all religions are garbage, and are mainly based on the superstitious beliefs of ancient humans, who seriously believed that thunder was god farting or sneezing or something.

Josh

Name:              mark sawicki
E-mail:             biztoon@yahoo.com

Hi Josh

I just finished reading your book and thought it was excellent.  I had to laugh early on in the book when you made the comment "I'm right and they're wrong"!  That is a truly fiercely independent comment with conviction.  I just got back from the NAB convention and it was so ripe with digital voodoo that I have to share your sentiment.  The latest digital cinema cameras for example though they claim to be 4k have to average out for RGB so its really only a third of that resolution.  At our shop we rent an old film camera to do our shots for $300 day and can get a true 4k off the film.  Conversely the latest and greatest digital cinema camera rents for $3000 day and gives you 1080 lines of resolution.  It has a lot more blinky lights I guess.  But anyway getting back to your book its so refreshing to read a straight shooter book without any hidden agendas like praising a company or studio.  Your book is right on the money and the more I read it I became even more proud of having had a part in Hammer.  Your so great with actors!
All the best,
Mark

Dear Mark:

Thanks.  And thanks for giving a wonderful performance, as well as taking the terrific photograph that I used for the front cover.  Look at the boom in the boom man's hands, it's perfectly vertical; or Lisa Records' posture, it's so feminine; or the monitor in the foreground; or the colors.  It's a great photo.  I had four people shooting photos all day everyday of the shoot.  You showed up a couple of times with your camera, and your pictures are the best by a mile.  Which only proves that equipment has nothing to do with it, it's all in the person taking the picture and their eye.  And thank you for chiming in with some solid facts on the digital-film debate.

Josh

Name:              Toby Cashion
E-mail:             oogabooga_is_back@hotmail.com

Hey Josh Becker. My name is <Toby> obviously. I am 17 as of tomorrow[may 2nd, 2006] and I am an aspiring storyteller. I find a lot of advice, inspiration, and comfort in your journal entries and agree totally about your 2003 entry about G.W. misusing his power. When I read that it kind of shook me up because I have been one of those apathetic buttholes who walks about saying "Whatever, we're all dead anyway." And that's stupid of me. It makes me think of a quote from Ghandi "You must be the change you wish to see in the world" which has proven to be the most true words I've ever heard. Also, I find a lot of tips in your movie making logs that I also agree with and appreciate. I also believe a story and character developement are the purest and most important aspect in a story. There's nothing I can really say besides, what i;ve read on your site is awesome and consistent with how I feel. Although I would like to ask you, how do you come up with stories? Do you base them off  of things that have happened to you or do you just start with a specific point and work your way forward, or do you just completely fabricate it from your own mind? I;ve noticed that whenever i start wrtiting a story or script that it comes from all of the above. Anyways...I just stumbled upon this site and thought it was really neat and that you are a great writer and..."HOLY CRAP YOU DIRECTED EVIL DEAD? HOLY CRAP YOU KNEW BRUCE CAMPBELL? AWESOME!"

;]

Toby

Dear Toby:

I didn't direct "Evil Dead," Sam Raimi did, I just worked on it.  I not only "knew" Bruce Campbell, I still know him.  Meanwhile, being 17 and asking where stories come from is a major aspect of the novel I just wrote.  And when I was 17-18 the concept of where stories came from plagued me.  This is a huge part of being a writer--which stories do I tell?  Which stories are worth telling?  Most of my scripts and stories are NOT based on my life. They are stories that I dreamed up entirely.  Some writers always work from their own personal experiences, but it's taken me 30 years to get a handle on how to do that.  Finding stories is sort of like self-analysis: you need to look into your own soul, and without bullshitting yourself, ask, "What do I think is legitimately important?  What really matters to me?"  Think about what really pisses you off.  Or think about what you honestly believe is incredibly cool and spectacular.  Good luck, and happy birthday.

Josh

Name:              Dave
E-mail:             derothstein@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

just for the record, your answers are interesting: I can't see what you're going to say next. Nice job staying on the mysterious side.

What equipment in general would you need to make a low-budget film?

Thanks,
-Dave

Dear Dave:

Read my book.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

"Meanwhile, that's really the plot, not the theme. A theme is a concept, like trust or success or duty."

Right. But the way a character answers the question I posed reveals the theme. Will micheal corleone choose a straight family life over his life of crime? The answer to that question reveals the theme of the Godfather.

Dear joe:

I doesn't matter what Michael chooses, the theme of "The Godfather" is family.  But for it to be a theme it must run through the motivations of the other characters as well.  Don Corleone's issue is that he doesn't want Michael in the family business and hopes he'll be a senator or a governor. Kay won't have anymore of Michael's children to continue "this Sicilian thing," Sonny is going to stop Carlo from beating up his sister, Fredo wants to be part of the family business, but got passed over.  Etc.  Whether Michael goes into the family business or not is the plot of the story, and his character arc.

Josh

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

Josh,

I believe that Jim Glennon is Bert Glennon's son.  He is a cinematographer.  I know he worked on Breaking Away, Ordinary People and United States of Leland.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Although "Breaking Away" was shot by Matthew Leonetti (with whom I've worked), and "Ordinary People" was shot by John Baily.  I recently saw "The United States of Leland," which is yet one more of those "intersection" movies that's ultimately about nothing.

Josh

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