Q & A    Archive
Page 58

Name: paul
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Ive just been dumped by my girlfriend of 2 and a half years and feeling shit. What movies do you advide that could help me out or send me insane and drive me to suicide?

Cheers Paul

Dear Paul:

I suggest seeing "Summer Lovers," about a guy on a Greek island boffing two beautiful girls, one of whom is a young Darryl Hannah. That should make you feel better. You also get to see part of a Three Stooges short in Greek.

Josh

Name: Ray
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I have to share this with you! I thought I should check out ProjectGreenlight's message boards where screenwriters discuss films and such. I did that a few days ago and I found the best way to tolerate it was to laugh my ass of. These people do not know the first thing about writing. I am not to say that I am. I know I do not know a lot, but hey, at least I admit it. Alright, some of these people rely on The Coen Brothers, so I basically decided to keep my mouth shut because If I didn't go on about how much their films suck and deserve to be burned, I would be a nerd who does nothing but spend his time on message boards. But, I am not going to ever give my input on anything on those boards. All I said was that the Coen Brothers cannot write a character for their life and then I got a dozen people shoot back they were the greatest and if I "diss" the people that wrote "Raising Arizona" and "Fargo" does not know how to writet. I was offended by that, considering it is the truth that the Coen Brothers do not know how to write a damn character, let alone a script. I said that, too. And by saying that, I got another person shoot back how (sarcastic) yeah, they must suck because of their Best Original Screenplay award and because the critics liked "Fargo". Give me a break. Award, award, yada, yada...I DON'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT AWARDS. Ah well, I guess other people do. So all in all, I was dissapointed with the Project Greenlight, but hell, I got a kick out of it and that's all that matters to me.

I just thought I should share that with you.

Since you have seen about five thousand feature films, can you fill me in if a film is worth viewing? Do you think me viewing "Wall Street" is a good idea? What did you think about it?

P.S. Taking your advice about writing, I am going to start out, writing a few short film scripts, then shooting them, so I get a feel for it. When that gets kicked out of the way, I am going to expand my scripts into feature length, just to see how this system works.

Dear Ray:

I liked "Wall Street." It's not great, but it's certainly watchable and Michael Douglas is as good as he's ever been.

Josh

Name: Brian Forster
E-mail: briandforster@hotmail.com

Hello Josh,

I've written a Screenplay that so far is looking promising just because I have had no real negative feedabck from it. Because you have sold scripts is there a solid and best way to do it, the thing is I've also composed four musical scores for my F.L. script on guitar and although I know this may not help the sale of my script I do consider them to be essential to the film and It's hard to get Agents or Consultants excited, I mean I'm only 22 and I want to do things the least boring way, Do you know the key to this and without going through months and months of Literary Services offered by people before a studio executive even reads it. See I've had it reviewed and stuff by my local Film and Media Company and they even payed for it for me. Oh and I'm not sure I get a reply from you directly to my E-mail address though If you have the time I would appreciate it greatly. Thanks.Brian..

Dear Brian:

The way this is done (there is no quick and easy way) is that you get an agent and the agent gets it to the producer or studio exec. And don't kid yourself, these people don't read scripts. Should your script actually get to them, being highly touted by an agent they know, they'll have a reader read it who will do coverage and boil it all down into a paragraph. So, you must first find yourself an agent. I won't say "good agent" because that's an oxymoron.

Josh

Name: Ed Chudnow
E-mail: fred240@aol.com

Dear Josh:

hey old chum, do you ever make it back to the detroit area anymore? long time no see!
----Ed

Dear Ed:

Long time no hear. Ed had the store next to the office that Sam, Bruce, Rob, Scott Spiegel, and I had in Ferndale, Michigan, where we made "Evil Dead" and TSNKE. How's it going back in MI, Ed? All's well in OR.

Josh

Name: Rhino
E-mail: RhinosHaveMoreFun@bebop.org

Dear Josh:

I am working on a short film that I intend to shoot with a digital camera and edit it on my high school's Casablanca machine (ever hear of it? Piece of shit?). How do you create blue (or red or green) coloring in a scene? I have seen films that use these colors a lot (Less Than Zero, Vamp, Creepshow), and I like the look. Is these done with lighting gels? If so, can these be purchased cheaply? Thanks.
PS Where can I purchase Lunatics and TSNKE on laserdisc?

Dear Rhino:

Adding a color to your scene can be achieved several ways: put gels on the lights, put a filter on the lens, or have the lab color-time it to the desired color. Good DPs will always prefer to gel the lights rather than filter the lens -- the great James Wong Howe once said (and I paraphrase), I'd never put a dollar ninety-five piece of glass in front of a ten thousand dollar lens. Color timing in the lab works very well, too. On video (or digital video) you can do this when you're online.

Josh

Name: Simcha
E-mail: simchascode@aol.com

Dear Josh,

Just a few comments in response to: "How many people have gone to the trouble of calling me an asshole because I insist that scripts that are structureless are crap? The virulent defense of bullshit continues to shock me. Why are people so defensively lazy?"

I propose three particular factors to consider in answer to the above questions, Mr. Becker. Number one is that over the past 30 years or so, it has become politically incorrect to hold ANYONE to standards of any sort. Number two is that in our comfort-oriented society, struggle and discipline are generally regarded as "bad" and to be avoided at all costs. And number three is that feelings/delusions have become sacred ground: it is considered far more unreasonable and perhaps even evil to challenge feelings and delusions with reality than to expect that reality will change to suit them.

In my opinion, this started with the pop-psych "feel good" movement in which instant gratification was deemed more important than discipline, work, achievement, reponsibility, etc. This may all have been a natural development in the post WWII era, when the U.S. social structures, particularly in the schools, grew more rapidly than society's ability to support them. It was surely with the best of intentions, but it seems they relied so heavily on the "expert" opinions of psychologists (often academics with limited experience in the world at large) to correct the mistakes of the past... that common sense became downright uncommon. Parents and teachers were told to protect the child's tender ego above all else, don't cause them any kind of stress - it could mar them for life! This was a new kind of mistake.

It's been promulgated in the schools, where over the last few decades it even became unacceptable to have different "tracks" for students with different ability levels. Many communities no longer offer advanced tracks for children who can do more than average - because they don't want the other kids to possibly feel inferior! In their zeal to make everyone "equal" they've eliminated any sense of pride in being "excellent." It's now "cool" to be mediocre or even downright assinine. It's "uncool" to be intelligent.

People are rarely expected to THINK anymore. In those formative years, in school, students are merely taught to regurgitate pre-digested mental pap on cue. There is very little (if any) analytical thinking required. This is further affected by the fact that most people spend far more time staring at a television than engaging in actual conversation with intelligent, challenging individuals. Thus many people now speak (and think) in sitcom-style one-liners and the sort of inarticulate grunts and funny faces that invite us to laugh rather than think. I consider it a tragedy that so many children are raised by TV while their parents work and otherwise generally ignore them. How many people can hold a decent conversation in this day and age, let alone write something that makes any sort of sense? I blame this on lack of reading and discussing ideas of any depth, and on brain tissue soddened with the constant nonsense of fast-food style television.

In a society where comfort and convenience drive the marketplace, most people no longer have a concept of what work really is. Money is expected to fix everything! You can always buy a new gadget or program or hire a specialist to fix or advise you about everything and anything. You want to be a writer? Well, first get a computer, then take all the classes and buy all the books and go to all the workshops where you'll get patted on the head and told you have great potential and talked into signing up for the next session. If you don't have the money, you should sit there and bitch about how the rest of the world will never appreciate your talent, because you don't have the money to bring it to fruition.

I've seen people waste decades on this nonsense. Not that there aren't valuable things to be learned from the books and the workshops - the point is, so many people never move beyond them. To move on requires WORK. You have to step out of "student mode" and get into "work mode" - and that's what never seems to be taught. Maybe it can't be taught. I tend to think we have to get out and experience real work in order to be able to recognize it when it beckons. But not many people are willing to do that. It's uncomfortable to struggle, to experience criticism and rejection, and to risk one's dreams being struck by the potentially lethal bite of reality.

Ah yes, those sacred feelings, those sacred dreams. Rather than learn from criticism, most people now merely take offense and consider themselves cruelly assaulted if you offer anything other than gushing compliments and absolute support for whatever it is that they want to believe. Most people have been told all their lives that if they just hold onto their dreams, they'll always come true in the end. So don't mess with their dreams, man! How dare you expect a writer-to-be to actually care about mundane details like structure, spelling, content, and style? How dare you expect a filmmaker to study the craft that propelled predecessors to greatness! How dare you expect anyone to tell a story that has some depth to it, or that at least makes sense? How dare you say anything other than, "If you believe in yourself, some day the whole world will woo your genius." They are, therefore they are great! (Hey, they've heard this since daycare. It must be true...)

The drawbacks of this well-intentioned over-indulgent non-confrontational psychologically "supportive" approach are now becoming painfully apparent as we see more and more people out there who can't function when faced with this one basic fact: dreams don't become realities without a lot of old-fashioned hard work!

For so many people in this day and age, encountering someone who is focused on fact and experience rather than telling them what they want to hear and on making them feel good, is a whole new (and disturbing) experience. They've never been challenged to think, to work, to do anything other than dream and bitch about how unfair it is that success is not handed to them on demand. You're upsetting them, shaking them to the core because you're talking about realities that scare them to death. So, in the tradition of foolish spoiled tyrants throughout the ages, they aim to kill (or at least flog) the messenger. That's you, pal!

The ones who need it most undoubtedly resent it the most. Denial may indeed be the most powerful force in the human psyche. But not even denial can alter reality, and in the end, those who turn their backs on reality tend to be bitten by it sooner or later. Oh well, they can always blame someone else. That, after all, is the new American Way!

In the end, I must pull my tongue out of my cheek long enough to explain that I don't think the current malaise of society in general is permanent by any means. Just as individuals go thru stages of development, I think societies at large demonstrate specific, understandable patterns of development. I think we're living in an adolescence of American society as a general structure. A lot of growth is possible, and hopefully will be seen in the decades to come. To make it happen we need people like you, Josh, people who are willing to do and say what's RIGHT rather than what simply feels good.

Thank you,

Simcha

Dear Simcha:

Ask a question and you get an answer, and some answer it was. Well, I whole-heartedly agree with you. I hadn't exactly looked at it that way, but I think you're right. I'm stepping on people's false dreams with reality. As my friend and I like to amuse ourselves, we think that most young filmmaker wannabes believe that when they arrive at the agricultural check point at California's border they will automatically receive a Hollywood contract to direct a big feature and make a million dollars. I guess I am stepping on standard modern cliches like "If you believe in yourself you will succeed" or "If you persevere you'll succeed." Neither is true. Certainly, if you don't believe in yourself and don't persevere you probably won't succeed, but just believing and just persevering don't guarantee you anything. Thanks for the thoughtful answer. My theory, which I've put forth in my structure essays, is that the post WWII generations don't know what real drama is. As a comedian said, and I'm sorry but I can't recall who -- My dad grew up during the Depression, fought in WWII, came home, got married, started a family, then started his own business. I have all of "I Dream of Jeanie" on video tape. Anyone else have a theory?

Josh

Name: Court
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

I read your responce to my other question; i completly understand. I guess the challange of getting a film shown, my be the whole reason film making can be difficult. But i will def. get back to you if it ends up working for me. But hey, i got another question, if its no trouble. I watch films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Phantasm and always imagine if You, and all those guys teamed up on a film. Like if You and Tobe Hooper were to create a film. My question is, is there someone in the film bussiness who you would love to work with, or team up with? And if so, who? Thanks alot Josh.

Dear Court:

I'm a director, why would I want to hook up with another director? There are plenty of DPs and actors I'd like to work with. What I could use is a tasetful producer, like Ismail Merchant. Tobe Hooper doesn't interest me in the slightest.

Josh

Name: Stephanie Mercurio
E-mail: Merc@thegrid.net

Dear Josh:

What was the Lana Turner movie she did with Kirk Douglas in the 1960's were he plays an architect and she is a married housewife that he falls in love with ? I'd love to rent it but can't figure out how to find it. Thanks, Stephanie 1-13-02

Dear Stephanie:

I think you're referring to "Strangers When We Meet" (1960) with Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak, not Lana Turner. Kirk's big picture with Turner is the brilliant "The Bad and the Beautiful."

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your review of "Unbreakable" finally made me realize that I am not, in fact, insane. I have yet to meet someone in person who agrees with you and I on this one. It was one of the most boring films I'd ever seen. And the ending was absolutely unbearable. Yes. Thank you.

And, if you're ever not depressed enough about how low cinema can go, check out "Freddie Got Fingered." It gives "Carte Blanche" the worst name ever.

--cindy

Dear Cindy:

I just done my duty as I saw it. I also just watched "Thirteen Days," which was okay, if overlong and flat, but Kevin Costner's Boston accent is an embarrassment. I also watched "Walking and Talking" which was also okay, but shallow and pointless. I'm still waiting for a good modern movie.

Josh

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

Dear Josh

From your experience of working in New Zealand do you recall any particular swear words or slang expressions/phrases that you find unique to that country? I ask because I am in the process of scripting a comedy with a London setting that includes a particularly foul-mouthed character from New Zealand and I want to ensure that the words I put in his mouth have at least the ring of authenticity about them.
Thanks

Dear Alan:

I'm sure there are better sources for this than me. Like the English, Bloody can be attached to most anything, like "bloody hell," or, you'll excuse me (but you asked), "you bloody cunt," which, interestingly, is most often used when referring to a male. As far as general expressions, though, the Kiwis constantly say, "Good on ya," "She'll be right," and "No worries."

Josh

Name: Daniel Goulart Araujo (DGA)
E-mail: danielg2@mac.com

Hello Josh!

I have one simple question for you: do you know the name of that music that plays on the cellar and at the end credits from the first "Evil Dead" movie? Seems a music from 30's or 40's. That is maybe, a reference of "A Plumbing We Will Go" from "The Three Stooges?"

Dear Daniel:

I think it's just Joe LoDuca doing his rendition of a 1920s jazz piece that would be on a 78 rpm record. Joe loves doing things like that.

Josh

Name: Chopped Nuts
E-mail: danjfox@rogers.com

Howdy!

Just a quick comment on the topic of why classics aren't being made anymore in music or films. From the people in the gilm business I've met, be they writers or directors or actors, very few seemed interested in doing exceptional work. All they do seems geared towards being able to name-drop. They don't want to be an actor, they want to be a celebrity.

So I just saw TSNKE and I have a couple of questions. When the Cult Leader is running through the woods, the camera is backpedaling away from him at seemingly the same speed he is running. Is that from a vehicle? It's just that the ground seemed really uneven and bumpy for the shot to be as smooth as it is.

Also, where did Raimi learn to kick like that? If that directing gig doesn't work out he can always get a job in Jet Li movies. Or maybe in the Rockettes.

Bye!

Dear Chopped:

With the widest lens we had (which I believe was 6.5 mm), I put the camera on my shoulder aiming backward, then Sam and I both ran as fast as we could. All of the running shots are hand-held. We did make a motorcycle rig for shots on the motorcycle and to follow behind the motorcycle. Sam was simply young and limber at that time and had all too recently been doing his own stunts in the super-8 films -- he and Bruce were the kings of falling down the steps.

Josh

Name: Court
E-mail: footstepps@cs.com

Dear Josh,

I think your work is brilliant. The movie bussiness def. needs more people like you, and I sincerely mean that. Your ideas are original, and always new and innovative. I, myself, am trying my hardest to get into the film bussiness, and was wondering, what the main key is to get work noticed and shown? I hope you can help me, because i have been struggling with this one for a while. I have many flms accomplished, but it seems they are just sitting on the shelf in my closet. How do i change that? Thanks dude. Keep up the good work.

Dear Court:

I honestly don't know. I've considered setting myself on fire in the middle of Sunset Blvd., but I'm sure it would accomplish nothing more than causing one more traffic jam in a town that's nothing but traffic jams. There's always the festival route, but that did nothing for me. If you figure out something, let me know.

Josh

Name: Blake Eckard
E-mail: bseckard@hotmail.com

Josh,

How's southern OR doin'? Not bad up north at Mt. Hood.

Just wanted to run one by ya. I just saw Cassavettes' "Faces" for the first time and hated it. I loved "A Woman Under the Influence" and "Opening Night". Wondering where you stand with this particularly highly regarded film by Cassavettes.

Also, is there any new news on "Warpath". I noticed a while back that you seemed to be thiniking that it might not be happening now. All the best to it anyway. And let us fans know if you decide to start up on it. Still would love to do some grip work.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

Oh, I'll make a movie up here sooner or later, it's too damn beautiful not to. The story Bruce and I concocted for "Warpath" several years ago is okay, and would make a perfectly okay movie. That, however, doesn't seem sufficient to me. If I'm going to put myself through the hell of making yet another indie feature I've got to at least believe that it will be better than okay. Also, I really need to complete the "Hammer" deal to get some money back. Otherwise, Oregon is fine so far. Thanks for the offer to help.

Josh

Name: Tim Baylor
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I have been reading most of your scripts, the ones that struck me as being the most interesting. And I am wondering if you have any more that you would like to post on this site? I would love to see a new script posted, because it has been a while since you have put a script of yours on this site. But nevertheless, everything kicks ass and is fine the way it is. I am just giving a suggestion.

Dear Tim:

I'm glad you've enjoyed them. I'll post the script for "If I Had a Hammer" when I complete the video/DVD deal. My other ten scripts I don't like enough to post. Most of them have severe problems of one sort or another that I was never able to fix. Try reading the ones you haven't read yet.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Kind of an obscure question, but do you know where/how Joe LoDuca recorded the score for TSNKE?

Doesn't have a hell of a lot to do with you, I know, but the guy doesn't seem to communicate with his fans (if he even knows he has any) and you seem to be willing to answer this stuff.

Cheers,
Lucas

Dear Lucas:

Joe is a private, busy guy. He recorded the TSNKE score in LA with (if I recall correctly) a 40-piece orchestra with a 5-piece ethnic accompaniment of Asian flutes and drums.

Josh

Name: Danny Cork
E-mail: dannycork@hotmail.com

Josh,

hey man, I'm a tad drunk at the moment, but I'll be honest. Fuck all those assholes who rip on you. The most groundbreaking, culture-changing people were ripped on in their prime. Before I came to this sight, I naively believed that I knew all there was to know about film. In your site I've found the most radical and honest opinions on art. Your films are a breath of fresh air, even if they are not 100% perfect. Carry on the good work, you are true to yourself, and therefore true to your audience. I appreciate not being catered to like a dumbass.
And the last bloke who ripped on you : I'm gonna shag his sister and make her call me 'Josh'.
Adios,
Danny

Dear Danny:

What a coincidence, I shagged his sister and made her call me Danny. It was shagtastic! Keep up the good drinking.

Josh

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

Josh

Just out of curiousity, how would you say the act structure is set up in Citizen Kane? How many acts, how long, etc.?

Thanks,
David

Dear David:

You tell me. Does it seem like three-act story, or does it seem unique? And does it seem structureless, or has it got its own structure?

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Whenever I talk about how older movies are better than the current crap, someone says that they're just thought of as classics because they're old. In other words, what was popular then was twenty years later called a classic just because it had aged a bit. When I think about the movies that are popular and win awards these days, I can't possibly see them being eventually classified as classics. The same could be said for music, as well. Will people in twenty years be saying with a straight face that Gladiator and Britney Spears are classics? You've said that The Godfather was the most popular movie of its time and it's still good, so what was popular then was truly good and deserved its status. I guess my question is, do you think the movies that are popular now are going to be considered better than they are once they get older, or is everyone eventually going to come to their senses? It truly does seem absurd comparing Any of the best picture winners of the last five years to anything from twenty-five years ago.

On a side note, I read The Winds Of Fate and Dark Of The Moon and they both kick ass. You said that you were inspired to write Dark Of The Moon by Rosemary's Baby, what inspired Winds Of Fate?
thanks, Evan

Dear Evan:

Bruce and I came up with the story by trying to think of a way for a regular guy to end up in a situation like "The Wild Geese" or "Dogs of War." While I wrote the script, though, I was inspired by the writing of James Clavell, like "Noble House," "Whirlwind," and "King Rat." Regarding will people think the films of today are classics in 20 years? No, I don't think they will. Even the films that are taken seriously upon their initial releases are not taken seriously a year later when they come out on video and appear on TV. For example, "O Brother Where Art Thou," which got unanimously enthusiastic reviews gets two stars in the TV guide, and I don't think they're very tough critics. Who even remembers "The English Patient" anymore? Whereas, I just rewatched William Wyler's "The Little Foxes," which I hadn't watched in about ten years, and it got WAY better.

Josh

Name: Ray
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I have started to write the treatment to my script, which I have no intention of running around for a producer to see. It is just there for me to delve deeper and deeper into the script, until I have the way I want to write it down properly in my head before I start writing it. Act one will basically be a character study for my main character. I am going to try to get inside of his head, and get to the point where the audience can basically tell what he is going to do before he does it. This comes straight from "Taxi Driver". A film where character study and development runs amok. I cannot think of a better example. Well, there are a few more, notably "Barfly", but "Taxi Driver" is my main example for character study. Act two, I am going to try to get to the point of no recourse, in which it ends for my main character, but he runs into his problems (IS THIS OKAY?), and then act three, I will resolve everything.

I am going to try to make this work the best of my ability. I thank you again. This is my first screenplay and I can gaurentee it will suck, but atleast I gave it a shot. That is what I think: What good is it if you can't try?

And regarding "Lunatics", it does have a long act one, but it isn't overlong to the point where one can't tolerate it. I didn't think it was that boring. What you were doing was making the audience get a feel for the main character. I admired that. When I get to see "Running Time", I will comment on it. From what I see, the script has its act structures down properly.

Dear Ray:

"Taxi Driver" is a great script to be inspired by and to look to as an example. But both acts one and two need a point of no recourse for the lead. In "Taxi Driver" I'd say act one ends when Betsy rejects him at the movie theater. I'd say the end of act two is killing the thief in the store. Both events are things you can't do anything about and thus excellent act ends. "Barfly" is a terrific film, but not a good example to look to since Bukowski intentionally didn't want his lead learning anything -- he's a drunk at the beginning and a drunk at the end. He did learn to eat before picking a fight with the bartender, but that's not much of a character arc, although it is something. He uses the fights as his structure, which I thought worked fine. But keep in mind that Bukowski was one hell of an experienced writer by the time he wrote "Barfly," an already had a theme and a character going in. And there's no reason to think your script will suck in advance. Do your best and may very well be good.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail: Starion106@aol.com

Josh,

Have you ever second-guessed your choice to become a filmmaker? I ask this because you seem like a talented storyteller, and yet this medium has only allowed you to create a few signifant works. Certainly you could be telling stories in other forms, and its not like you're getting rich off the filmmaking. Obviously, you love the art of movies, but it seems like such an impossible business nowadays to get much accomplished.

This is a business populated by generally dull individuals that are driven by huge egos and dollar signs. I have yet to meet a filmmaker my age that has impressed me. The sheer lack of talent in film schools these days is astounding, and I don't know what to blame it on either. Maybe its that they have been raised on second-rate films, but that can't be all of it. When thousands of movies are available for rent at the local video store and these guys are still renting Star Wars every weekend, I blame it on them and not on hollywood. Anyway, thats a whole other discussion I guess. I just find this business to be filled with so much idiocy and greed that it is becoming less attractive by the minute.

I'd love to make indie movies the rest of my life, but who can make a living on that? Can you give me a reason why I should try to make a living in this business when all it offers me is alot of dull friends and endless heartache?

Jim

Dear Jim:

How about this: you've got the right attitude and there aren't nearly enough filmmakers with it. If you and I stop trying to make better films, indie or not, who will do it for us? But the topic you've brought up is a very good one, I think. Why are young filmmakers such dullards? Young musicians, too. Both film and music are in a serious lull. The newest thing in Hollywood is doing clay animation digitally so that it doesn't look as good and costs one hundred times more (a talented animator with a glob of clay and a camera could have made "Shrek" for a million bucks instead of one hundred million), and the newest thing in music is rap, which is 20 years old. Or is it jungle and techno, which are also 20 years old, or older. I don't have an answer, but I do believe it's definitely caught up in this non-stop argument going on here about structure. How many people have gone to the trouble of calling me an asshole because I insist that scripts that are structureless are crap? The virulent defense of bullshit continues to shock me. Why are people so defensively lazy? Why is coming up with a melody an impossibility now? I'm curious what others think so please give me some ideas.

Josh

Name: Michael Rogers
E-mail: michael_a_rogers@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Interesting story of your on how you got into the business. I too am trying to get started and doing so by creating an easy to shoot short film. My question that I pose to you is in your early short films, and this has plagued me a little since trying to figure out how to shoot mine, how did you manage to act and direct? Was there another person holding the camera?

I asked this only because I would like to act in it myself not as the lead role but more in the background and trying to cut on the production cost I don't really want to have an extra person on set to hold move or position the camera since I may require a tracking shot or possibly a dolly (These will come out when I storyboard).

The final question I have is, if you disregard the length and cost what would be the differences between techniques you used to shoot a feature over a short?

Thanks in advance
Mike

Dear Mike:

I gave up acting in my films pretty early in the game since I couldn't bear to watch my own performance. I was much happier operating the camera and being sure I got the compositions I wanted. I say, choose one or the other. The only real difference between my short films and my independent features is that since I paid everybody on the features, we all worked longer days. I didn't have the guts to push people very hard if I wasn't paying them. Also, I never had any rehearsals on the shorts and I always have them on the features. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Thom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Hey I enjoy your passion for film, its classic. I've been threw this site for a long time. Keep up the nice work on the page. What do you think of Project Greenlight?

Dear Thom:

Thanks. "Project Greenlight," from what little I've seen, seems like self-indulgent horseshit. If this idiot can't get a film made for a million bucks, he's a fool. And for me watching an idiot bumble his way through the film business is not interesting.

Josh

Name: Ray
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Thank you for answering me and repeating yourself for the umpteenth time, which I am sorry for asking. You are helpful. I just don't want to run into problems, like this: running into making act one too long because of introducing the characters too much, and I know for a fact I will run into this (because I am basically a first timer) and that is I will make it rambling and I do not want to do that. Any further advice? Have you ever ran into this problem? If so, how would you avoid it?

Dear Ray:

If act one is too long, make it shorter. In my film "Lunatics," act one is quite a bit too long and it's annoying. Too much set-up starts to seem like a shaggy dog story. I have found, however, that act threes can be short. In one of my favorite films, "Marty," act three is about two minutes long. I honestly wish it was longer, but that's obviously not what Paddy Chayefsky thought. You're not bugging me Ray. If you have more questions, go ahead and ask.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@oct.net

Josh,

You might precede every one of your comments with "I think." Someday when you're all done learning about film, you'll learn a little about human relations. You can't persuade or educate people by being confrontational. You'd be surprised how many more people you would affect if you were less abusive. "It's a dumb story" and comments of that ilk only inspire retaliation. Instead, say "I felt the story was too unbelievable. I prefer movies based in fact, like "Groundhog Day." Only after you start acting like a normal person will people want to undertand you and start making good movies. I'm not as stubborn as most, so I've learned about the three-act structure despite you and this site, not because of it. Without some diplomacy, the only purpose your serving is to make people associate the structured script to bitter old men who can't break into Hollywood. Stop shooting yourself in the foot.

Ben

Dear Benedict:

Thanks for the advice. Since all of these opinions happen to be on my website, clearly they're all my opinion. I am, however, allowed to believe in things without equivocating.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@oct.net

Dear Josh,

Now I know why it's important to include the email address.

Boy, I really ranted on for a while, so I'll try to accurately reproduce the questions I sent. Basically, my points were these:

1) THE PLOT OF UNBREAKABLE Unbreakable had a ridiculous story--that superheroes exist. But they aren't saying that they exist as the comics portray them. M. Night admits (through the script) that entertainment is exaggerated. The problem is that Batman and Superman simply concocted superheroes out of nowhere. Night simply exaggerated some truths about people who have survived incredible accidents without injury. It is true that some people are more prone to illness and injury, and others are less prone. It is the latter who are more likely candidates for physical heroism. Night didn't exaggerate to the point where Bruce Willis decides to sew a costume or build a funky car. He simply allowed it to stop at a very real concept--intuition. I was actually impressed by the subdued depiction of a superhero. I thought it was unique. Certainly better than Batman and Robin.

2) THE PACING/STRUCTURE OF UNBREAKABLE It did seem slow. But it wasn't like watching "X-men" where they rushed through the denial and realization of becoming a hero, and zipped onto saving the world. "Unbreakable" took two well-spent hours developing what is basically the first act in a trilogy (tentative plans). I admit that it had some drag, but it was by far a better way to go. Fortunately, it didn't sacrifice the structure. Act I ended after his first meeting with Elijah, and Act II ended when he asked Elijah what to do, the train station being the first scene in Act III. Is this right?

3) WHY YOU DIDN'T LIKE UNBREAKABLE It had structure and a plot that not only isn't that ridiculous, but one that is far less ridiculous than the one for "Groundhog Day," which was one of the ten funniest movies I've ever seen. So if your primary beef is that it was too slow, then so be it.

4) FORTY ACTS You mentioned that "Groundhog Day" had about forty acts. I'm not sure what the explanation is, but I thought that Act I ended when he broke the pencil and went to sleep. Act II ended when he realized that you can't change fate/God's will, and that if an old man will die on Groundhog Day, then there's nothing that can stop it.

5) MOVIES, WEBSITES, AND POETRY You seem to be saying that if a movie doesn't have structure, then it sucks. If a song doesn't have rhythm or melody, then it sucks. If poetry doesn't have rhyme or meter, then it sucks. Basically, if you don't follow the basic principles of an art form, then you suck. Are websites the same? I was clicking through here and noticed that there are several cardinal rules that are not implemented on this site, but it doesn't make it non-functional or impossible. Sure, if the rules were implemented, then it would be easier to visit for longer periods of time, but that's okay. I feel the same way about movies. Sometimes the lack of structure can make a potentially good movie bad, but a movie can entertain me and satisfy me without perfect structure. Sometimes I like an actor's performance, sometimes it's funny as hell. You can choose whatever words you want, but "bad" and "good" are subjective when it comes to the arts. The deciding factors are infinite and indescribable since they exist deep in the spirit of the person consuming it, and not in whether or not it has structure. I could never bring myself to write poetry that didn't follow the rules because I don't think its right. But I can't say that I've ever refused to be moved by a poem because it didn't rhyme.

6) SCATHING LETTERS I hope you take some joy in letters that berate you. If someone asked my opinion of a movie and I replied, "I liked it, but there's a guy in Oregon who didn't," you can imagine the looks I'd get. But anyone who takes time to rip on you doesn't think that you're just some guy in Oregon. He respects your opinion, even if he's too dumb to realize it.

7) CROP CIRCLES M. Night's next movie will be about crop circles and it will star Mel Gibson (did you ever say if you consider Mel talented?) It would be good publicity for Night to boast that 50 percent of his films got a good review from the toughest critic in town, but I don't think he'll end up bragging about your eventual review of "Signs." Ten to one says you'll use the word "excrement" at least twice.

8) EPILOGUE I nearly instinctively deleted Shirley's email. Whenever I get an email from a girl I don't know, there's usually just a chock-full of porn in it.

Take care, keep the lights on.

Benedict

Dear Benedict:

Thanks for sending your email a second time. It's a bright response and I didn't want you to think I was blowing you off. The first time the power went out as I was answering it. So, regarding "Unbreakable," I don't accept Shyamalan's premise that someone who is less prone to injury is more apt to be a superhero. I don't think one's relationship to injury has anything to do with being heroic -- it's a big stretch I don't buy. Having seriously thought about the motivations of an honest-to-God hero, Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly, in my script "Devil Dogs: The Battle of Belleau Wood," whether he got injured or not had zip to do with his heroic nature. A real hero, I think, doesn't care whether they'll be hurt when they do something heroic, or even if they'll be killed. They've gone to a place of pure altruism -- saving other no matter what happens to them. Also, Willis does have an outfit when he becomes Sentryman and it looked a whole lot like Darkman's outfit. And saying "Ubreakable" is kind of slow is really understating the issue. It's deadly slow. Also, act breaks don't just come anywhere, they come at points of no recourse for the lead character, and nothing Sam Jackson says to Willis can cause that. Living through the train wreck is more like an act end, but it's the teaser in this film. Also also, I'm not saying that anything that doesn't follow the three-act structure sucks. I'm the one that gave "Groundhog Day" and "Citizen Kane." I'm saying that no structure sucks. That which is structureless is crap. Coming up with a new structure is great. I will also go so far as to say that any song without a melody is crap, too. I do believe that there are minimum requirements in these various forms. I also disagree with you about the act breaks of "Groundhog Day." I really do think that each time he wakes up and has to deal with the whole situation again, it's a new act. But that's just me. Although I don't agree with much of your letter, I enjoyed reading and responding to it. Thanks.

Josh

Name: 6th grade science class/ J.S. Jenks School
E-mail: KBerdel@philak12.PA.US

Dear Josh:

We as a class would like to know what three things make a perfect storm. The answer was in your movie.

Dear J.S. Jenks School:

George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Wolfgang Petersen. I had nothing to do with it.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@oct.net

Dear Josh,

Another analogy popped up after that long-wided email I just sent you. Your website is acceptable. It does what you want it to do. Many people visit it to read and ask questions and it gets everything done. But it breaks several cardinal rules of good websites. I'm not going to go into them unless requested, but I can say that the flaws make it less enjoyable, while a less informative but better planned site might be less tiring for me to click through. No empowered agency is mandating the 3-act structure in film, but no intelligent person can deny the benefits (not necessity) of it. Likewise, no agency is mandating rules for designing sites, but no intelligent being would be able to deny the benefits of the rules, even though they might stubbornly (or not stubbornly) refute the necessity. So how about that? Is the Internet different, because of its nature of being informational, than poetry and movies, which are entertainment, that have to adhere to structure?

It's late and I had a long day, so I hope I'm making sense.

Take care.
Benedict

Dear Benedict:

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: benedict@oct.net

Dear Josh,

I am in vehement disagreement with you about "Unbreakable." That movie got me wired. I saw it four times in two weeks. After I read your review I decided that, even though I understand you a lot better than I did a year ago, I can release myself of the torture I subject myself to by being defensive of the movies you hate. I enjoy them. Sure, a 3-acter that suffers some dialog flaws or some other misfire might be more tolerable by the fact that it has three acts, but just because it doesn't have it doesn't mean that it's stupid or not a good movie. If you remove rythm and melody from music, you don't have music anymore. But if you remove or alter the structure of a movie, it doesn't cease to be a movie, nor do the structural modifications rob the work of the ability to affect people. I suppose your beefs with "Unbreakable" were more about his pacing, since, not only does it slide perfectly into the prescribed structure itself, but the trilogy that is tentatively planned will follow suit. For argument's sake, I'll briefly mention what I perceived to be the structural breaks: Act I ended when he left Elijah for the first time, believing that he'd never find an answer to his mysterious survival. Act II ended when he called Elijah to ask him what to do, and he was told to go to be with people, after which he visited the train station. Regardless of its glacial pace and preposterous storyline, am I right about the structure? But then about the storyline, there are numerous cases where people have survived accidents miraculously, despite scientific principles such as gravity and inertia. Shammy was just extrapolating--using film to speculate on an unexplainable phenomena. Isn't that what movies should be about? Entertainment? Just a fun, harmless, "what if. . .". The X-Files has absolutely ludicrous concepts, but they are all based in fact. They all have some scientific basis or recorded precedence. They just take these quirks of nature and history and exaggerate them. Ever see actors on stage? They exaggerate so people can see and hear them and know them. When you tell a story, you don't recount the experiences of the guy who was walking down the street and rescues a kid from getting hit by a car. You tell backstory and follow-up, you add complications, and you exaggerate some aspects so that it becomes a tale of heroism. Ben Affleck, on the commentary of "Armageddon," mused that Willis played "the world's best deep-core driller," and that in real life, that type of status wouldn't even be identifiable. But it's a movie. If Bill Bob Thorton had refered to him as the "best deep-core driller in West Armpit North Dakota," it wouldn't have been as dramatic. Rebuttal?

I know that you don't consider TV to be a perfect storytelling medium, but wouldn't you consider series television seriously flawed in the sense that when a show premieres, the producers, writers, directors, etc. have no idea where it will end? For instance, The X-Files has been a favorite of mine for a while, but in the last two seasons, it's obvious that they just fabricate new crap every spring so that, in the fall, they'd be equally prepared for having another season or not having it. That seems inherently wrong to me.

Finally, Shaymalan's next film will break out to new actors, namely Mel Gibson. (Did you ever say what you think of Mel?) I'm not sure if it will be more to your liking, but I'm guessing 10 to 1 that you'll use the word "poop" somewhere in your review of "Signs."

Benedict

Dear Benedict:

Did I use "poop" in my review of "Unbreakable"? Did I complain about the film's structure? No, I didn't even go there. The film isn't worthy. It's a stupid story and that's the end of it. And this mantra I'm forever hearing that "film is just entertainment" makes me want to puke. All the people that really think that crap should just stay away from this website. And as far as "The X-Files" goes, I watched it two or three times in its first season and I got everything it had to offer, which is damn near nothing. Oh my God, there's aliens everywhere. and conspiracies, too. What knuckleheaded nonsense. Film has risen to the level of art on a number of occasions, although none recently. In fact, I think the whole medium has devolved so that it is no longer an art form. But it could be again if people stop intoning crap like "Movies are just entertainment" and "I just want to escape." I don't want to escape, I want to be involved. I want to care, and maybe even pick up something I didn't know. "Unbreakable" and "Armageddon" (and "X-files") are unworthy of any discussion.

Josh

Name: Ray
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I am about to write my very first screenplay, which I am very serious about. Since it is my very first, I think it would only be appropriate if I came to you for advice. I want to tackle the three act structure properly and I have a few questions about it that I know you can answer because of your knowledge of the subject.

How long does Act I, II, and III have to be? In your first essay about the matter, you say that in Act I, you introduce everything, the characters and so on. In act I, do I have to introduce the problem at hand? Because when I am thinking about it now, I could do that, but then I would create an Act I that would go on for a while. Some of it wouldn't be appropriate. Then in Act II, I have to confront the problem. This came to news to me. Well, it is because I am not as great and experienced as you, I am just a mere beginner. I thought that I was to create the problem in Act II, then in Act III, I resolve it.

So, let me get this straight: In Act II, that is where I let all of the tension and conflict run amok, where I explain the problems that the two main characters run into in the act. Or do I have to do this in Act III? I am a bit confused, can you clarify this for me? I am sorry for me sounding dumb, I am just trying to do good work. I need all the help I can get. Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

Dear Ray:

Act one is generally 35-40 pages, act two is 40-60 pages, and act three is 30-40 pages, thus giving you somewhere between 90-120 pages. In act one you introduce everything, your characters, what they need, and your dramatic situation, and if it's done properly it will end on a point of no recourse for your main character. In act two you confront the dramatic situation set up in act one and act two should also end in a place of no recourse for your main character. Act three is the resolution. I'm not sure how to explain it any more clearly. Let's get something straight as well, I am neither great nor am I all that experienced. I have written a lot of scripts, but that doesn't necessarily make me or my scripts good. Watch my film "Running Time" if you'd like to see a fairly reasonable example of the three-act structure. And by the way, I just saw "In the Bedroom," which does have three clear acts, but still sucks. Sadly, though, it doesn't have a main character or a point, and is as exciting as watching paint dry. There is a lot more to writing a good script than having three acts, but it's sort of a minimum requirement. If I haven't explained this well enough write back and I'll try again. Good luck.

Josh

Name: CooperScooper
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Thank you for the feedback from the question I asked you previously. Well, I have something to say about your answer. Now I am aware that you have never ever seen "Memento", but I have something to say about that film's act structure, whether it is correct or false.

If I may quote you, Josh, you said, "Groundhog's Day is in about forty acts, but that's how it needs to be; that's its structure."

Well, for "Memento", that structure does not have a three act structure, hell it surely has its own structure, just like "Groundhog's Day" and "Citizen's Day". It is somewhat similar, if you ask me.

In addition to all of this structure talk, I have to ask you a question that you will probably get all steamed at me for asking it. Why do writers ALWAYS need the three act structure? Why can't the writers, whomever they are, just write the way they would like to write, in order for their screenplay to shape up the way the story has to be shaped up? The reason why I am asking this is because, I bet Herman Mankeiwicz and Orson Welles did not master the three act structure before they wrote their screenplays for "Groundhog's Day" and "Citizen Kane". They just wrote their scripts the way they had to for it to fit the way it did. I mean, wouldn't "Citizen Kane" be dull and not even original if it didn't follow its unique non linear structure? Wouldb't "Groundhog's Day" be dull if it did not pull off the same scene over and over again and it did not have its forty acts instead of just three? That is why I don't understand the three act structure. If you ask me, I personally believe a script writer should write the way they want to write their scripts if it is appropriate for their story.

Dear CooperScooper:

First of all, Herman Mankeiwicz was a very accomplished screenwriter long before he wrote "Citizen Kane" and certainly knew the three-act structure well, that's why Orson Welles needed him. On his own, I don't believe Welles could have written "Kane." I am absolutely convinced that the reason most movies these days are so shitty is that the writers don't have the basics of screenwriting down and are just doing anything they want. As I said before, you can come up with a new structure if that works for your story, but if you don't concoct a structure, then your script will be structureless, and that equals shit. Complete freedom in art equals garbage. As I've also said before, the three-act structure to s screenplay is just like telling a joke properly -- no one says you have to tell a joke properly, meaning set-up, then the punchline, but if you don't it simply won't be funny. The three-act structure, though not terribly difficult, is hard enough to spend the rest of your life trying to get right. The reason I constantly push this concept is that, after watching nearly 4000 movies, the connection between the good films is that they have solidly written scripts with the three-act structure, and the connection between the multitude of crappy films is that they don't. So, in my humble opinion, if your intention is to ever write a good script you simply must study and master the three-act structure. If your intention is make garbage, then ignore it.

Josh


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