Q & A    Archive
Page 56

Name: David Barton
E-mail: modusefx@hotmail.com

Josh,

I would've sworn those pics were Scott. I never thought you guys looked similar. I'm amazed they are you. I got a mental picture of you from when we did the make-up-- Although your site photo looks a bit different. Looking through the older photo's you have posted I see ones that look like the mental picture I have of you. The Rob Tapert quote-- That answers a lot of questions I've had. I've wondered about some of his alliances and that really answers that. I really appreciate you and your site-- I think we've gone through a lot of similar frustrations. And I've dealt with Lustig too-- on UNCLE SAM. You seem to have a real practical way about you-- It's no wonder you're not directing DIE-HARD 5.

All the best!

David Barton

Dear David:

It does sound like our experiences are similar. And yes, Rob has an insight into the film and TV business. He's also pretty good at predicting what will make money and what won't. Good luck in Ohio.

Josh

Name: Stephen Kerr
E-mail: Kerrsed@aol.com

Dear Josh:

I'm really facasinated with WWII and I know you like "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and you didn't like "Saving Private Ryan", what other World War II movies can you recommend?

Dear Stephen:

Well, let's see? "Air Force," "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," "A Walk in the Sun," "The Enemy Below," "Battleground," "The Longest Day," "Patton," "To Hell and Back," "The Sands of Iwo Jima," "Wake Island," "Sahara." There's a few off the top of my head.

Josh

Name: Alek Johnson
E-mail: none

Hey Josh,

I just saw Lunatics on late TV a few nights ago, and was looking up info on it and found this site. I really like that movie and am trying to find your other movies. Are any of your other movies played on televisoin a lot?
And when I was looking through the archived posts, I saw the name Bruce Campbell come up about that western your considering. Has he done anything I might've seen? Was he in Lunatics? Well if he's a friend of yours, he must be okay.
Look forward to seeing more of your work,
Alek

Dear Alek:

Bruce is both in and produced "Lunatics." Bruce is in a ton of films, like Jim Carrey's new one, "The Majestic." None of my other films are currently showing on TV, so you'll have to either buy or rent them on video or DVD.

Josh

Name: jake asttrin
E-mail: cutcheeze@aol.com

Dear Josh:

you are what we like to refer to now as an "internet nobody, with an ax to grind"
i am currrently enrolled at NYU film, and one of our teachers recommended your site. he told us this is what we shall strive to " never be" that was our introduction.
you are a film geek hack of the highest order. a re enactment director par excellence. your opinions , laced with bogus cedentials, and bitter musings of the failed outcast. we took especial joy in your drubbing of actors considering, one was the subject of last weeks actor study. JASON PATRIC. we watched several films AFTER DARK MY SWEET, THE BEAST, RUSH, JOURNEY OF AUGUST KING, YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, and a special preview of his new film NARC. he was the subject due to his range and naturalism within the method. after this last week, im not only convinced that he is the next american acting legend, but that it is jokes like you that render real behavior and valiant choices mute in hollywood. go direct some second unit on xena, or re write another long forgotten script for the 12th time. thank you for the amusement after class, and between beers. what a fool

Dear Jake:

I have no doubt that you and all your NYU pals will move far beyond me in the world of film given your great taste and innate talents. I suppose your teacher has much better credentials than me, too. And let's all keep our eyes on Jason Patric's career and watch as he shoots to stardom since he's only been farting around in the movies for about 14 years. And let's not forget his monumental acting achievement in "Geronimo: An American Legend." Thanks for writing in, I love it when pretentious little nobodies take me on without a leg to stand on.

Josh

Name: Craig Rickard
E-mail: craig@rickard10.freeserve.co.uk

hey josh,

sorry to bother you like this but i am doing a paper on 'the evil dead' at college and could do with some insider knowledge, i have already read your journal which really has been a life saver.

If you/can't don't want to help then if it is possible to email me somthing even if it just says...

'No i can't

Josh Becker'

cause i will get points for being able to contact you.

Thank you for your time

Dear Craig:

You're so defensive that you didn't ask a question. What is it that you'd like to know about "Evil Dead"?

Josh

Name: Rusty
E-mail: blueeyes@g2a.net

Dear Josh:

Where can I buy an american VHS copy of Hercules The Legendary Journeys; Hercules and/in the Maze of the Minotaur?

Dear Rusty:

Beats me. I don't know that it was ever released on video in the U.S. The copy I have is PAL and from Australia.

Josh

Name: Conor
E-mail: c.n.hession@hw.ac.uk

Hi

I've just come across your site and am amazed at the number of scripts you've written. I'm halfway through my first, so you've given me added inspiration.

I'll make my questions brief.

Cleveland Smith: Bounty Hunter. Is this short available anywhere either from you or some company which deals in small movies like this one. Since I'm a fan of Bruce I'd be really interested in getting a hold of this.

And, this seems very similar to Briscoe County JR. Did Briscoe develop from this, or was it entirely seperate.

Regards,

Conor

Dear Conor:

CSBH is not available. Sorry. There aren't any short film distributors anymore. Selling films myself over the internet turned out to be a losing proposition, so I discontinued it. "Brisco" had nothing to do with CSBH.

Josh

Name: Lloyd
E-mail: traumaville@aol.com

Dear Josh:

Yo vato! Do you like Troma movies? The majority stink worse than Toxie's underpants, but I enjoyed Class of Nuke'em High 1, Toxic Avenger 1, and Troma's War. I have seen only the trailer for Thou Shall... and it appears to resemble a Troma Team release. Is Llyod Kaufman your uncle?

Dear Lloyd:

No, I don't like any of Troma's films. I particularly don't like films that were meant to be bad. I tried doing business with those guys right after I finished TSNKE and they were a total pain in the ass. They wasted six months of my life for no reason, so I resent them, too. Unlike many people today who have a fondness for bad movies, I do not. I like good movies. Call me a nut.

Josh

Name: samantha
E-mail: samlemartin@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

question burning me: I want to tell my friend Rachel about the horror movie with the creepy old lady character who says "Rachel, Rachel" and is kept locked up in a room or attic or something. The sad part is, that is all I recall about whatever movie it may be. Can you help me with the title? Sorry I'm not more helpful with details. Thanks.

Dear Samantha:

I'm not sure this is what you're looking for, but there's a film called "Rachel, Rachel" starring Joanne Woodward and directed by Paul Newman. I saw it once many years ago and it's not a horror film, although I do recall it being sort of creepy and quite good.

Josh

Name: David Barton
E-mail: MODUSEFX@HOTMAIL.COM

Josh--

How long ago was that picture of Scott taken that you use in your WRITING MACHINES essay. The first one I thought was Scott but I guess I must have only seen him with his hair back or shorter. Almost didn't recognize him. The bottom picture with his hair pulled back looks a lot more like the Scott I know.

All the best!

David Barton.

Dear David:

Those are all pictures of me.

Josh

Name: David Barton
E-mail: modusefx@hotmail.com

Josh--

I made you up as a zombie in my basement for DEAD NEXT DOOR many years ago. I just found your site nearly by accident. I lived out in Los Angeles for 13 years and owned a special FX make-up shop for about 10 years. I live back in Ohio again for my kids. I've worked on tons of stuff but ultimately was not able to get many good jobs at all. All the work went to the same shops-- many of them just crapped the work out. I knew things were really bad when I lost a $350 dollar job to one of the larger make-up shops in LA (you know them). Anyways, I've been writing for about ten years part time-- And I finally got to direct one for Full Moon that J.R. Bookwalter produced. I read a few of your articles and it's amusing and refreshing to read. I hardly got to know you the brief hour we spent doing the make-up (I still have the pictures) but I wish I had. I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

All the best!


David Barton

Dear David:

It's good to hear from you. I certainly haven't forgotten having the head-mold made. It's a damn shame none of that footage came out. As Rob Tapert once put it, in Hollywood they will always go with the devil they know as opposed to the devil they don't know. Everyone in Hollywood will happily do business again with someone that just ripped them off and did a bad job, then use someone new. Good luck in Ohio.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Josh,

Do you think one of the major aspects of the decline of distribution/exhibition is because the mini-majors/independent distributors are competeing with major studios? When I say competeing, I mean churning out the same type of product, instead of carving a different niche that appeals to the large audience currently being alienated by the studios. I recently heard that New Line will soon be absorbed by Warner Bros. New Line Hasn't been independent since 94, however it is a sign that there is no longer room for the little guy. These are very sad times.

Dear Scott:

The mini-majors are just divisions of the major companies, there's nothing independent about them. I mean, if you're owned by Time-Warner where does the independent part come in? The only thing Hollywood can do now is make "Harry Potter" movies. If the target audience is anyone over the age of eight, they haven't got a clue. Someone with some financing behind them needs to step up and start making quality films for about $3-5 million each, so instead of making one shitty $100 million film, they could make 20 or 30 films with the same money and one of them is bound to be a hit. A big part of what has killed Hollywood is the crazy long shooting schedules they now have, which is where most of the money goes. For 60 years (1920 to 1980) Hollywood was able to produce top-quality films on 25 to 40 day schedules, with the lower budget films having schedules of 5 to 20 days. Your average Hollywood film is now taking minimally 60 days, and frequently a lot more -- big films go over 100 days regularly now. That's too damn slow and it causes every scene to be over-rehearsed and severely over-shot, making everything too self-conscious, flat and lifeless. There will never be any spontaneity on films of this size, which is now pretty much everything.

Josh

Name: Evan
E-mail: Evdoggand@aol.com

Dear Josh,

What did you think of AFI's 100 greatest films of all time? What wasn't there that should have been? Do you agree with Citizen Kane as number 1?
thanks, Evan

Dear Evan:

I didn't really look at it. Calling "Citizen Kane" the best movie ever is an easy choice, and not a bad one, but not my choice. I personally like "The Magnificent Ambersons" more than "Kane." Is there something on the list that bugs you?

Josh

Name: Celia Von Trapp
E-mail: vermontsmelody

Dear Josh,

Actually it's not my story. It was written by a young woman who was a guest at my father's lodge. I've never seen the three act dramatic structure you have described unfold so unstoppably, with such a compelling main character, as in this particular story. In fact, it caused me to go back and read your structure essays a second time. I've recommended that she (the author) should read your essays also. Originally I thought her story was fictional, but then found that she had no intention of publishing it (even with the names changed) because it might upset the other party. My thinking is, if it's presented as fiction and doesn't reveal the guy's identity, so what? No one else will know it was him, but him.

Now, I have another question for you as a writer who has obviously studied character development very closely. It seems to me that in film most main characters are what I'd consider sort of "flat" in that they are generally fairly predictable and don't usually make bad/ignoble decisions that they really have to face the consequences of by the end of the story. I'm just starting to think about this, so maybe I'm off track here. Is it the kiss of death (in films at least) to your story if your main character is basically a good person, but does something really stupid and shameful, and then has to comes to terms with it? Can you recommend a film that does a good job of presenting that kind of a story in such a way that you end up admiring the main character's struggle to put the pieces back together rather than just feeling that this person is a moron who shouldn't be wasting everyone's time?

Sorry if I ask simple-minded questions. I've mostly been a reader and only recently really started paying attention to films and trying to understand how they are put together. Thank you for sharing your insights.

Celia

Dear Celia:

I think all good characters are flawed. The only flawless characters you'll ever meet are in Hollywood films (like anything with Tom Cruise). I think you're getting to one of the most interesting levels of drama when a good person does a bad thing for a good reason, or when a bad person does a good thing for a bad reason. My favorite example is Alec Guiness in "Bridge on the River Kwai," who is a good man doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Josh

Name: "Milo" Durango Kervinian
E-mail: none

Dear Josh:

Me and my buddies want to make shorts and other things in our spare time. I'm very interested in the film business. We have plenty of stories and scriots, so that's no prob. We have lots of locations: I live near woods and they are in the city. All I need is equipment and I don't know shit about what to get or where to get it. Any advice?

Thanks, MDK

Dear Milo:

You now have to decide just how deep you want to go, money-wise. The cheapest way now is digital video, which looks pretty good these days and will expose with almost no light. But it won't look great and you won't end up with a film print. I shot several short films in 16mm and I'm still pleased with them. I don't know where you live, but if you look around (colleges, universities, production companies) there may well be 16mm equipment sitting around that can be borrowed for free. So you guys need to figure out how deep you want to go?

Josh

Name: Lucas
E-mail: snoogans@softhome.net

Dear Josh,

Just wondering, since you seem to be a fan of David Webb Peoples' work, what did you think of the script he wrote with his wife for "12 Monkeys"?

You've said in the past that you don't care for Terry Gilliam's movies (except for "Brazil"'s set design, if I remember correctly), so I can't imagine that you liked the final product very much, but did you find any value in the script?

Hope Oregon's treating you well.

Cheers,
Lucas

Dear Lucas:

I can't comment because I bailed out so early on "12 Monkeys." Mr. Peoples also co-wrote "Blade Runner," which, as finally shot, is not a script I admire in the least. "Unforgiven" may have been a fluke.

Josh

Name: Celia Von Trapp
E-mail: vermontsmelody@aol.com

Dear Josh,

If you have a really powerful story to tell, but it is based on personal experience with someone else, do you think it's fair to just change the names and details (to protect the privacy of the other person) and tell the story... or are you in some way obligated to get permission from the other party?

Dear Celia:

Just change the names and go for it. As a little note, however, here are a few observations about writing true stories: 1. Just because it's true doesn't mean it's interesting or believable, 2. Just because it's true doesn't mean it doesn't need dramatic structure. You know it's true, but to the rest of us it's just another story and it still needs to function properly.

Josh

Name: Myst
E-mail: mystinthemirror@aol.com

Dear Josh,

Do you ever research what kinds of stories are most likely to be in demand before you go through the whole process of writing and producing a film? Or do you simply write what you want to see and hope that others will be interested also? I'm interested in writing novels rather than screenplays, but I'll bet the current advice from the "pros" would be the same either way.

All the books I've read and seminars I've gone to about becoming a novelist insist that to be successful you have to research the market and write what it will buy, or forget it. On one level I can see the point they're making - if you only measure success in terms of the amount of money you can make from any given project. Is it too idealistic or naive to want to create stories that are meaningful to you as an individual, rather than to make "sure" you're going to be writing something that is likely to sell before you even start?

Also, it seems to me that creating a film and marketing it are entirely different endeavors, though I might not know enough about the business to understand whether that is true or not. Do you feel equally comfortable with both aspects of the business? Is it ordinarily a "producer" type person who handles the negotiations for actually getting the film sold and distributed?

I realize that independent filmmakers usually have to wear many caps at the same time, often including being writer, producer and director of the whole project. I'm sure there are pros and cons to this. Do you personally prefer to take on all of those facets of the production, or do you just have to at times?

Hope you're enjoying the crisp beauty of Oregon and your herd of cats.

Regards,

Myst

Dear Myst:

You can only know what people are buying right now, not what they'll be buying next year. When Clint Eastwood made "Unforgiven" it wasn't because that's what people were buying, it's because it was a script he really wanted to make into a film. When it came out and was a critical and monetary hit, then every studio made a western believing people now wanted westerns, which wasn't true. What everyone liked about "Unforgiven" was that it was a good movie, not that it was a western. Soon thereafter we got: "Bad Girls," "Tombstone," "The Quick & the Dead," "Wyatt Earp," etc. These were all made because of this incorrect assumption and they all dropped dead. If you want to be a good writer you must write what you honestly believe is good, not what you think others will buy.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

First, an observation on the several-years-long-now debate on the 3 act structure, as well as your ideas on theme and just the old fashioned notion of a movie having a point. Obviously I don't always agree with your reviews - no two people can like exactly the same things - but you really have helped me understand why some movies appeal to me while others leave me feeling empty. Often I will enjoy everything about an obvious B-movie that has no greatness to it, but still tells a good story. Whereas things like "American Beauty" and "Pulp Fiction" blow me away with their style, crack me up with their comedy, fascinate me with some of the performances....but at the end, I'm saying "Wait - where's the punch line?"

Most recently I saw an indie film called "Ghost World," - one of those quirky artsy films that always get great reviews. The set-up was cool - two alternative teenagers drift apart, while one forms an odd friendship with a reclusive collector. Thora Birch was sexy and geeky at the same time, and Steve Buscemi played a sympathetic and under-stated weirdo. But.... then it just ended. There was a clear first act - the girls meet the collector guy in a listless summer after high school. There was a clear second act - the girls discover they are more different than they realize, while Birch's friendship with Buscemi blossoms. But the third act was simply....things get messed up for everyone, and we are left to imagine what happens next. OK - what was the point of all that? Which of course made me think of "American Beauty," and the great set-up (middle-aged suburbanite becomes alienated with his life) the great subsequent developments (funny and touching schtick happens as a result)....and then nothing. He finds happiness as a disembodied voice, as if he's that bag blowing in the wind? WhaEVer. I liked your idea better - if you *don't* have sex with a teenage girl, you'll get shot. Anyway, I like it that I understand a bit more why I don't always enjoy something, even individual parts of it are expertly done.

So now my actual question. I saw the A&E film "The Lost Battalion" last week. Extremely well-done as far as sets and historical authenticity, etc. and they seeemd to have a tiny cast, but made you think you were watching a huge battle with thousands of soliders., when really it was close-ups of a couple of dozen soldiers. I think I actually read about that Battle in a "Ripley's Believe It Or Not True War Stories" comic book when I was a boy. And you'll be happy to know they mentioned Belleau Wood in passing (basically as yet another example of crazy Americans refusing to give in to a superior German force.) Although they did manage to sneak a bi-plane in there.

But - since this was practically a documentary, there was litle chance for a theme or really a plot or a resolution. I gather what the director (Russell Mulcahey, the "Highlander" guy) *intended* to say was that the Army brass should have paid attention to the saintly Captain in command, and not operated under the "acceptable losses" theory. That was a lame theme, but then history doesn't necessarily transpire with a theme in mind. The sub-plot - that the various ethnic groups in the battalion bonded together as Americans and that this made them stronger - was far more interesting, but again, not exactly a theme.

So my question is - when dealing with events where every little bit is already documented by historians - how do you make it into a worthwhile film, with a theme/message/resolution? I guess some events lend themselves better to this than others. "Zulu" is one of my favorites, and the message seems obvious - the British discipline/class structure works, and can save your butt if you're surrounded by Zulus. (I still get a kick out of the tough Sergeant, with tears in his eyes, calling the roster, with one slacker soldier saying "Excused duty, sir!" The Sgt. grimly replies "No comedians, please.")

Any thoughts on this, especially with respect to "Devil Dogs" or your possible western film?

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

That's the big trick of screenwriting--figuring out your lead character's motivations, which then become the theme and point of your story. The lead character IS the story. Therefore, it doesn't matter if it's a true story or not, or well-documented or not; the motivations of the lead character are always in the hands of the dramatist. I don't ACTUALLY know why Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly, the lead character of "Devil Dogs" and the most decorated enlisted marine of all time, did what he did, nor does anyone else at this point (he died in 1937). So, like a detective, which is what a writer is on a certain level, I had to deduce why he did what he did from his recorded actions. What motivation made sense given those events and circumstances. This is what most screenwriters will not bother doing anymore, and it's plainly apparent within the first five minutes of most movies. There's nothing artistic about not doing this work, and those that feel their freedom is being infringed on by having to figure these things out are simply not writers or just bad writers.

Josh

Name: Ned Buhler
E-mail: buhls14@aol.com

Dear josh,

How can I become a member of DGA? Is it really worth it? What are the restrictions and what aren't? I am curious because since you are a member of the DGA, it would be more informative asking you. Also, do they supply you with vital equiptment? What are the positves and the negatives about it?

Dear Ned:

Interesting question. One I thought someone would ask years ago. First of all, being in the Director's Guild allows you to work on union shows. And when you work on union shows you get residuals. Beyond that, the DGA offers group health care and retirement benefits. And, if you live in LA, they have free screenings of most every film in really nice theaters in their building. They do not have any equipment, nor do they find you work. They're a labor union with the ability to bargain with the producers. The DGA collects and polices the residuals. That's it. It cost me $7500 to join at the end of 1993 when I became the 2nd unit director on "Hercules." I don't know what it costs now.

Josh

Name: Noelle
E-mail: terrabelle98@aol.com

Dear Josh,

So good to hear that IIHAH is finally going to be available!!! I guess I don't really have a question just wanted to say that. I rented the DVD of Ben Hur : commentary by Heston, screen tests, etc etc. Should be fun.

Later, Noelle

Dear Noelle:

I've been hearing this for over a year now, so I'll believe it when I see it.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail: jforde40@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

``I think that everyone is of the considered opinion that it was a dismal year overall, especially for films that came from Hollywood.''
--JOHN ANDERSON, chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle, which named ``Mulholland Dr.'' the best film of 2001.

Did anything good come out this year? I spent this year once again doing my homework and watching films that were at the very least 2 decades old, documentaries, and old music concerts.

Same thing w/ music and TV, nothing new appeals to me. I truly want to get excited and inspired by what is going on today, but I just can't.

Radio, TV and movies are for 16 year olds or those who long to be 16 years old. It's a joke and it's scary how much influence these medias have on America today. I'm convinced that the act of turning on a TV or radio today will lower your IQ and shorten your attention span.

Again, I don't want to be this way. I'd love to say 'you gotta see this new film' or 'you've gotta see this new band live.'

I will say my appreciation for what is good has grown tremendously. I know I'm preaching to the choir but did anything good happen this year?

Howdy, John:

I spent my teens, twenties, and into my thirties being this crazed movie geek that was always going to the movies and always dragging people along with me. Now everybody thinks I hate movies. My favorite pasttime evaporated on me. The whole thing is depressing. What kind of crap will they give Best Picture to this year? "Harry Potter?"

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Your site is fantastic. The quotes you have compiled are a wonderful asset to my own collection of thoughts that make me think and reflect. Thank you for the time you spent assembling such a wonderful collection. It is my sincere hope that you will continue to add to this as your familiarity with the thoughts of others continues to grow.

Dear _____:

Thanks. Who are you? Have you some cool quotes you'd like to share with the rest of us? If they're good I'll add them to the site. The one I'm trying to live by lately is: "Action may not bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action."
--Benjamin Disraeli

Josh

Name: Wang Chow
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Hey, how have ya been lately? I wanted to tell you that your films are sheer brilliance and i want you to keep putting great new ones out. Oh yeah, what did you think of the movie Spy Games. I thought it was great. Hope to hear you. Good Bye.

Dear Wang:

The chances of me seeing "Spy Games" in the theater are slim and none. If I don't have to see Robert Redford age into a living mummy anymore it will be fine with me.

Josh

Name: Mike Mendez
E-mail: Star420@hotmail.com

Dear Josh

Thank you for the feedback, I enjoyed reading it. Another question I have about controlling the camera. Ok, what is wrong with using a digital camera throughout the film? I know the reason I do is because I simply do not have enough money to buy a real high tech camera. What do you have against that? I think it is neat, like in "Tigerland" and the indepedent film, "Manic" Thanks, again..

Dear Mike:

I'm not sure what question you're asking? I have nothing against digital video, but, as yet it just doesn't look as good as film, nor does it have the photographic lattitude of film. Look, shooting film is a pain in the ass, no one needs to tell me that. But to end up with a decent-looking finished version you can show in theaters, send to film festivals, and sell around the world, you still need to meet a certain level of visual quality that DV will not give you now unless you're willing to invest an extra few million dollars. I think you can achieve better, cheaper results with many fewer lights and personnel by using film.

Josh

Name: Jason McNeal
E-mail: Jason.McNeal@wpafb.af.mil

Hey Josh,

So here I is working for the Library of Congress Motion Picture Preservation Division in Dayton, OH. Just thought I'd write and see how thing's were going. I just read your "Bailing Out Of LA" story. Congratulations! I've only been to LA once and while it seemed like a cool place, I realized I'd never want to live there. One the flip side, Oregon is where it's at! I wanna move there someday.
Now that I'm making the big government bucks, I'll be able buy a DVD player and purchase "RUNNING TIME" and the like. I am sick of going to the theatre and having to deal with bad projection, bad sound, dumb teenage employees who don't care, and most of all, the idiots who GO to the movies. When I went to see "CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON" I thought I might be shot by a guy who didn't like me telling him, "I didn't pay $6.50 to come here and listen to you suck on hard candies as loudly as you possibly can."
They are showing a digitally projected version of the new OCEAN'S 11 in Cincinnati so I may drive down there to see what it looks like. Not like I really wanna see THAT movie, I'm just curious as to how digital compares to a 35mm print. Supposedly it looks pretty damn good. We'll see.
Anyway, gotta get back to working on "Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride" an early Stan Laurel 2 reeler.
I know this is dumb, but if you need any free crew help on that western yer talking about, I'd gladly take some time offa work to help out. I've got plenty of lackey experience.
Speaking of westerns, a fellow co-worker of mine has a large 16mm collection and I join him most days at lunch to screen something. We just got done watching "STAGECOACH" yesterday. What a great movie! Except for seeing the horses being tripped while they're running, which makes me cringe, I am amazed at how flawless that movie is. There are some really interesting camera angles in that film that I was quite taken with.

Over and Out,
Jason

Dear Jason:

I agree, "Stagecoach" is quite a good film. And very low-budget in its day. You can really see John Wayne become a star before your eyes. I love the way Duke defends Claire Trevor not knowing she's a whore. As to digital video projection of "Ocean's 11" (or the next "Star Wars" film), if you put a couple of extra million dollars into just that I'm sure it looks fine.

Josh

Name: Daniel
E-mail: daniel@cosmicorigins.com

Josh wrote:

"Lurking under your letter is the same charge leveled at me on this website every week -- that the three-act story structure is dated, old-fashioned, and an infringement on freedom and creativity."

Hi Josh - not sure where this was read into my post - because if we were talking about writing - I have no argument with you on this point. Only that while I write - I only needed to work under the constraints of this priciple if it were already not happening in the story. It is a very early elementary foundation - and my statement about Cameron's Titanic was more about the movement it made in people's hearts by association or immersion if you will. That is what I meant to say about it being "an old style movie" and there is no lurking allowed in my writing! I've not encountered such a thread before in any other virtual space?

Everyone brings their own picnic basket - but it's not anything that I need to deal with, and like I said, even though this is a whole differnet direction from my post - if someone reads a story of mine - unless I'm struggling to force it to happen under the neccessity to re-aquaint myself with an old friendly muse "the three act structure " it usually happens on it's own or I abandon that direction/project for lack of life, and start down a new road. I'm one of those old school cats who believes that the story must come to life! I'm not arguing with you! :)

I do appreciate your answers and an opportunity to write to you! Thank you for your reply.

Dear Daniel:

Perhaps I just have an itchy trigger finger at this point. Sorry.

Josh

Name: Nathan Shedroff
E-mail: nathan@nathan.com

Dear Josh:

OK, odd question, but I see on your site that you list "Apartment for Peggy" as one of the films you like. I haven't seen it since high school but it's stuck in my mind ever since and I wondered if you had a line on where to get a copy. I can't find one on the Net anywhere, no video stores, can never find it on a broadcast schedule BEFORE it airs, etc. Any ideas?

--and you don't need to post this to your site but if you have a suggestion about where I might get my hands on a copy, i'ld appreciat a reply. Thanks,

Nathan

Dear Nathan:

They show the film all the time on AMC, as it's a Fox film. It's films like "An Apartment For Peggy" that I'd much rather be discussing on this website than the contemporary horseshit. It's well-written, well-directed -- both by one of my favorite filmmakers, George Seaton -- it has a top-notch cast, and it's actually about something. When I first saw the film as a kid I had no idea there was a housing shortage for college students after WWII. Also, Jeanne Crain's character has always stuck with me because she does the "mental leap-frog" as she puts it, and makes up all her own statistics on every subject, which I think is hysterical, although I'm just a sucker for Jeanne Crain anyway.

Josh

Name: Mike Mendez
E-mail: Star420@hotmail.com

Dear Josh

I saw that you haven't seen the original version of Diabolique so I went to take a visit on the TCM website: www.turnerclassicmovies.com and I found that Diabolique will be showing the first day of February, 2:00 AM. Yeah, I just thought I should let you in on that considering you haven't seen it. And the other day, I had found out that there is a good percentage of directors that do their own camera-work? Do you? Are you against that? Are you against movies made with digital cameras? If so, why?

Dear Mike:

I'd say it's more like a very minor percentage of directors that also operate camera, meaning they'd have to be in both the DGA and IATSE, the union for the cameramen. In fact, the only directors I've ever heard of doing this are Ridley Scott, Peter Hyams, and Steven Soderbergh. I operated camera on my first film, TSNKE, and I don't think it's a good idea when one is also directing. Both jobs need your full concentration and one of them is going to get boned. The camera operator is more concerned with the sound of the film running smoothly through the gate than listening to actors speaking dialog. Also, I've worked with a number of terrific operators who were much better than me. I did my own lighting, too, on that film and I'll always work with a good DP from now on. The director needs to be paying complete attention to their job and no other. I have no problem with people shooting digital video if that's all they can afford. But film still looks infinitely better from a photographic standpoint. Film is richer, with much greater depth and contrast. It's better to shoot digital video than to not shoot, but, if possible, it's still worth shooting on film, not to mention that that is still how things are mainly shown around the world. Thanks for the heads up on "Diabolique."

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: none

Dear Josh:

Hey, big guy, i know i already asked a question, but I got another 1: Where the hell can I find Running Time? I've looked all over the place. They should have a movie rental place or store or something that only carries independent films. I think the only kind of movie worth seeing is an old one or one you fellas make. Fuck anything else. Thanks.

Dear Tim:

Have your tried tiny little places like Amazon.com (or just about any other video/DVD retailer)? I don't know about rentals, but it's not a difficult picture to buy.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: none

Dear Josh:

What was your original reasoning for putting Jurassic Park on your favs list? I think it was just a pretty good movie, but the sequels suck my balls. Thanks for staying true.

Dear Tim:

The first time I saw it the film legitimately scared me. The scene where the Tyrannosaurus Rex attacks for the first time was very impressive. But as a whole film it's not very good. The first sequel was one of the worst films I've ever had the misfortune of sitting through. Not quite as bad as the first "Raiders" sequel, but close.

Josh

Name: Steve
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Why do you get so many questions about 99 cent stores? You wrote a straightforward humorous essay about one and somehow this gives people the impression that you are an imported goods expert? While we're at it let's call Seinfeld and ask him about the restaurant business, after all he did do that episode on the Soup Nazi. Well anyway I did like that essay too. When the heck is that Josh Becker book coming out that you talked about a long time ago?

Dear Steve:

My feelings exactly. All I did was write a silly essay about 99-cent stores; I'm certainly no expert. As for my book, I guess St. Martin's Press didn't like it. They have, of course, never bothered to let me know anything.

Josh

Name: Jon Booth
E-mail: oraknabo@newterminus.com

Dear Josh:

I recently re-viewed Running time, and I want to say that tunnel scene is one hell of a piece of camera work!

Anyway, I know you don't like most of the current independents, but I was wondering about your opinion of Jim Jarmusch. Dead Man is one of those movies I could watch over and over. Have you seen it? Also, have you seen any of Satyajit Ray's films? Jarmusch seems to be making reference to his techniques in Dead Man, even having Neil Young in the same role Ravi Shankar played musically.

Dear Jon:

You must lead a very dull life if you can sit and watch any Jim Jarmusch movie over and over. I think Jarmusch completely, utterly and totally shot his wad with "Stranger Than Paradise," and every film he's made since has been a dull, boring retread of those concepts. To me Jarmusch's films are the quintessential versions of watching paint dry. I've liked a few of Satyajit Ray's films, like "Pather Panchali." I don't see the connection to Jarmusch, though, nor the connection between Ravi Shankar and Neil Young. Meanwhile, if you want to see Ravi Shankar give a terrific performance, check out "Montery Pop." His performance actually outshines Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding, all of whom were at their very best there.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I have to second the motion that you see 'Diabolique,' the original Clouzot version. I think you'll dig it. Haven't seen the remake, don't understand why people remake good movies. Why not remake bad ones and fix what's wrong?

It's funny: because all the old movies at the local video store are a dollar, I've been trying to rent really really bad movies on purpose to see if I can tolerate them. The funny part is, most 'bad' movies end up being low budget films with classic three act story structure! And most of them are more entertaining than anything new I've seen come off the assembly line lately. It's mostly just cheesy packaging, created, no doubt, to inspire more rentals.

Have you seen "Panic" with William H. Macy and Donald Sutherland? At first, it seemed predictable, but I found myself getting drawn in to the story deeper and deeper...and I forgot I was watching a movie. It's been a while.

take care,

cindy

Dear Cindy:

I really do believe that the "bad" B-movies of the 1940s and 50s were in fact superior to the A-movies of today, mainly because the scripts were better. I recently watched Joseph Lewis's film "The Invisible Ghost" with Bela Lugosi, and it really was a crappy little film, except there was some very inventive filmmaking going on mainly because they had no money. There's an entire courtroom scene done without a courtroom set, it's all in close-ups and works perfectly. And no, I haven't seen "Panic," but should it pop up I'll watch it.

Josh

Name: Daniel
E-mail: daniel@cosmicorigins.com

Josh wrote:

"I do agree that it's time for Hollywood to be reinvented, although I don't think digital video has anything to do with it.


Dear Josh,

Hi Josh. Perhaps I need to illustrate this point a bit more - it's not that Digital Video and Hollywood re-invention is happening on the same platter - rather, DV is making it more affordable for independents, and face it, it's coming on strong. When I worked for Illuminations, one would get themselves punished for mentioning that simple traveling mattes could now be done more efficiently on CG. In fact, after working for Geoffrey & Jeffrey - a CG house, and then going back into FX work at a film-only house, I had to punch a whole TV spot worth of cells just for suggesting using CG to solve a particular problem on a Michelin Tire gig. (that was 1989).

I was attempting to offer a positive approach to the dilemma some of the people I knew from Michigan have faced in Hollywood (apparently not all of them - I.e. Tim Allen) and that as DV evolves, and more Production companies emerge all over the planet - I.e. Peter Jackson, Spielberg, Lucas, and etc.. Hollywood is being re-invented, and will eventually stand in line with the rest of the competition for top and emerging talent. In fact, to some degree, it's already happening, and since Game Development scored more USD's than the film biz last year, it's time to take a serious look.
The wisest thing we can do, is to stay progressive, and not let our thinking prevent us from growth - in strict adherence to any style or format. The new economy needs the good old basic foundations, and change insurgents, but even so, no matter what, an old style movie like "Titanic" still confirms the basic film school precepts of the early 30s. In any case, I intended no ill thought, argument or otherwise - was just a fool-hardy attempt to uplift.
Sorry if I offended in anyway.

-Daniel

Dear Daniel:

I'm not for a second saying that the advent of digital has not made a number of aspects of filmmaking easier, like editing, sound cutting, and traveling mattes (although it hasn't made optical effects any cheaper--I think you could have made "Shrek" or "Chicken Run" for a million dollars each with actual clay animation, but with CG they cost $100 million each). What I'm saying is, the process of making a film--most of which has nothing to do with the actual shooting--needs to be done somewhere else other than Hollywood and in some other fashion. Let's face facts, the film, processing, and the camera are not the expensive part of filmmaking--the expensive part is actors that cost $20 million and shooting schedules that go on for 70, 80, 90, and 100 days and more. Meanwhile, calling James Cameron's "Titanic" an "old style movie" is to completely insult old movies, which I feel are far superior to today's fare. The 1953 version of "Titanic" is an old style movie, or the 1958 British version, "A Night to Remember," is an old style movie, meaning (to me) that they were well-written and well-produced. Cameron's "Titanic" is very modern in that the script may as well be used toilet paper. Lurking under your letter is the same charge leveled at me on this website every week--that the three-act story structure is dated, old-fashioned, and an infringement on freedom and creativity. One more time I state--Bullshit. Everybody can fight this to their dying day, but you cannot go past the three-act structure until you've mastered it. Period. It is a slightly difficult form that almost nobody understands anymore. I can absolutely assure you and everyone else that if you don't intimately understand the three-act structure, you will not go beyond it. No way. And the belief that you can surpass the three-act structure without having mastered it is pure contemprary lazy nonsense.

Josh

Name: Daniel
E-mail: daniel@cosmicorigins.com

Josh wrote:
"I remember the pajama party, that's where everybody's wallets got stolen, if I recall correctly. I do agree that it's time for Hollywood to be reinvented, although I don't think digital video has anything to do with it. Anyway, I haven't lost heart. I'm just doing my own thing in my own way. Good luck to you on your project."


Dear Josh,

Thanks for the kind wish - I'm sorry about whoever it was that lost a wallet (or got it stolen) that night so long ago - funny you bring that up - maybe you should write a script about it - don't forget to include all the illegal substances going around, and the two girls in the car. Makes for a good independent - only you'll have to write your own take on the "stolen wallet shtick" - because I didn't take anything from that party except a couple biz cards, a few new contacts, a hangover, and someone's fall guy rap. Wouldn't do that to Bruce, and neither would you - right? Peace.

-Daniel

Dear Daniel:

I wasn't accusing you of stealing the wallets, that's simply my main memory of that pajama party. Everybody standing around in their PJs and the cops making a theft report. Otherwise, if I recall correctly, it was a good party.

Josh

Name: Mark Greene
E-mail: markman56@mail.com

Dear Josh,

I am starting to get into your work and your films. My friend mentioned that you have done some independent feature films and I wanted to check them out. So far, I have seen "TSNKE" and "Running Time". I personally liked them both for different reasons. I wanted to get my hands on "Lunatics" but wherever I look, there are no copies in stock. And I so cannot wait for "If I Had A Hammer", which I know the DVD of it will be amazing, just as "TSNKE" and "Running Time" were.

If you do not mind, I have a question for you.

1) Does Bruce share the same views as you do when it comes to film?
2) Why was it that Sheldon did not like your personal draft of "TSNKE"? In your essay about it, which I read, you didn't tell us a main reason why he did not like it and why you "ruined a good story", or so he thought. Was it that you changed his story around?

Thank you for your time, I appreciate it,

Mark

Dear Mark:

Aren't you the lead doctor on "ER"? I'd say that Bruce shares my opinion that the state of motion pictures is at an all time low, but specifically, he has his own opinions. For instance, he liked "Three Kings" and I didn't. Regarding TSNKE, or "Bloodbath" as it was called when Sheldon and I were working on it, I came up with the story and pitched it to him, so I just wanted to return to my original concept. Sheldon wanted to make a serious film out of the idea, which I still think is absurd. The marines versus the Manson family cannot be presented in completely serious terms. Sheldon sort of pushed me out of the writing process. When he was done with his first draft I simply took the idea back and rewrote it, based on the notes Bruce and I came up with. Once Sheldon vented his rage at me about what I had done to the script, he never brought it up again.

Josh


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