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Q & A    Archive
Page 62

Name: dustin
E-mail: dustglas@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

didn't you have running time available on your website to buy while you were waiting for a distributor a few years ago? could you do this with hammer? i'm not sure what the legistics are of making copies but i was just curious, thanks, dustin

Dear Dustin:

The whole process of selling video tapes on the website was a pain in the ass, and that's why I'm not doing it.

Josh

Name: GAZZ
E-mail: gazz@aol.com

Dear Josh:

I have read your Blackhawk down review a couple of times and don't get me wrong, i couldn't tell most of those soldiers apart either only one or two of them. However, i did enjoy the film. I sat through it quite easily probably because of all the action. What i want to know is do you actually think it was a bad film or just bad writing? I suppose you could say bad writing makes a bad film, but i was entertained. Were you actually bored through the film?
I did agree with most of your review, but i wouldn't call it a bad movie, it was just not very thought provoking. Do you think all films should have some deep meaning to make them good?
Thanks

Gareth
P.S Platoon DOES kick ass.

Dear Gareth:

I don't think a film has to have deep meaning, but I do think it should have some meaning. And yes, I do think it's a bad movie, and yes, I do think that a bad script makes a bad movie. If I don't care about any of the characters, as I didn't in BHD, then I don't care about the film and I'm bored. As I said in the review, to not deal with the one obvious irony in the situation, that they keep repeating "Leave no man behind," then they did leave a man behind, and that became the main image of the whole battle, is important, and to skip it makes the filmmakers knuckleheads.

Josh

Name: Ed
E-mail: ednewman5@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

In light of the extensive work you did on " The Evil Dead ", did you receive a share of the profits when the film became a commercial success?

Ed

Dear Ed:

No, I wasn't in a profit-participation position. I did receive a bonus of a couple hundred bucks, which was nice to get.

Josh

Name: Rob Lindsey
E-mail: deadites_cabin@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I saw your movie "Running Time" the other day and really liked it. It was much better than I expected. You did a great job in cutting it all together so that it looked like one take. After going back and watching it again I tried to catch as many cuts as I could. I counted 30. How many are actually in the film?

Thanks for your time,
Rob Lindsey
Dry Fork, VA

Dear Rob:

There are 32 cuts, so you got most of them. Glad you liked it.

Josh

Name: IndianBlue
E-mail: indianblue@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

What did you think about all the hoopla at the Academy Awards this year for the Best Actor and Best Actress categories? It personally made me sick considering so many other minority groups are totally unrepresented or barely represented in filmmaking: such as American-Indians, Chinease-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Greek-Americans, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and so on and so on. I mean, it's one thing for a person to win an award because they totally deserve it (like Hally B. did), but for the media and practically everyone else to totally go on and on about the glass ceiling being shattered just because a couple of African-Americans won is absolutely rediculous. What about the rest of the minority groups? The world isn't just black and white. What do you think, Josh?

All the best,
IndianBlue

Dear IndianBlue:

I didn't even watch the Oscars this year, for the first time in my life. If anyone ever suspected that the Oscars weren't fixed, they ought to know better this year. Was it just a coincidence that Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, and Sidney Poitier all got it, or did you suppose they planned for it?
I find it somewhat ironic that as movies get worse, the awards multiply.

Josh

Name: Sam Dobson
E-mail: sdobson@yahoo.com

Yes, Josh. You are a completely arrogant asshole. Just read your review of American Movie. Oh my gosh how sad it would be to be you! I now will be ordering a copy of Coven. 15 dollars of mine you will never have. Fuck off and Die, Sam Dobson, D.O.

Dear Sam:

Good hearing from you. Enjoy "Coven."

Josh

Name: chuck biggs
E-mail: cbiggs1@triad.rr.com

Dear Josh:

A very interesting and eye opening story. I hope you don't get screwed.
I've concieved an idea for a tv sit-com, written a treatment, and sent for copyright. (For reasons you've experienced, the writer's guild just seemed like a good opportunity to give somebody $20 for doing nothing.)
My question is for advice on my next move... Write the script of the pilot, begin cold-calling agents, or both at the same time?
Thanks, and good luck with your art.
Cbiggs

Dear Chuck:

What was an interesting and eye-opening story? You want to send the script out for copyright, not the treatment, so write the script first, in the proper form: teaser: 1 page, act one: 10-12 pages, act two: 10-12 pages, tag: 1 page, equalling approximately 25 pages. For a pilot you also need a "bible" for the show, which is a detailed description of the show, the characters, and all the possibilities of where this might go in 22 more episodes. Then start calling agents. If you don't have the proper items when you call you'll look foolish. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@berneusdavin.com

Josh,

When does "development" become "pre-production" in the movie making process? And is "filmmaking" now a term that includes video production, or is it inexcusable to call yourself a filmmaker if you've only shot DV?

Thanks.

Benedict

Dear Benedict:

Being a filmmaker is a state of mind, not a technical issue. If you think you're a filmmaker, and you shoot movies in whatever format, then I guess you're a filmmaker. Meanwhile, development becomes pre-production when you get the green light and the financing has come through. Many, many projects are developed, few are actually produced.

Josh

Name: Raymond Rantuccio
E-mail: filmsrpriceless@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

Yesterday, I got a copy of "Running Time" in the mail. It is undeniably one of my favorite films of all time. It is just amazing. I would love to tell you what I thought about it but it would take me all day expressing my love for it.

Anyhow, would it be possible if you autographed it? I would be grateful and it would be an honor.

Dear Raymond:

I'm glad you liked it. Shirley, the webmaster, will give you an address where you can send the cover and I'll be happy to sign it. Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Josh

 

Dear Raymond,

You may send it to:

Shirley Robbins LeVasseur
c/o P.O.Box 86
East Vassalboro, ME 04935

Name: Donovan Moser
E-mail: drksole96@aol.com

Dear Josh:

After reading some of your reviews and articles, it seems you have a problem with movies that are over 2 hours long.
Do you feel that movies must be 90 minutes long, or just that most long movies don't justify their length?

Dear Donovan:

I feel that most movies over two hours don't justify their lengths. It was discovered very early on in filmmaking (by Adolph Zukor, cofounder of Paramount) that the average human being can sit for about 90 minutes to two hours before having to get up and urinate, so you either have to keep your film down to that length, or put in an intermission. Beyond that, two hours is a long time, and if you can't tell your story in that amount of time, you're probably dawdling. Sure, if you've got a big, spectacular story to tell, like "Lawrence of Arabia" (which has an intermission), but to have to sit through three hours of something as insignificant as "Magnolia" or "Titanic" is absurd. I think that contemporary filmmakers use ecessive length to indicate significance -- it's three hours long, it must be important.

Josh

Name: Shkumbim Bytyqi
E-mail: videobimi@yahoo.com
Video Bimi Production
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Greetings from Video Bimi Production

Dear Shkumbim Bytyqi:

The name's Josh Becker, not Jay Bernstein.

Josh

Name: Kevin Mills
E-mail: thespythatshagsu@rogers.com

Dear Josh:

a couple of things...

Have you ever had a dream so vivid that it played out as a film unto itself? I have and plan to go ahead and write it out. It's about an film director who makes films full of heavy handed symbolism. He's muling his film to a festival himself (much like the early days of John Waters) and ends up in a town that seems like one of his movies. And somehow, a sea lion is the jel that holds it all together.....(yes I actually dreamt this and yes I have enough issues to fill a newstand)

Also, do you think that to be a good director (on set, not necessarily on the creative end) one has to be a charismatic despot....much like Hitler in his early days (a right asshole but much beloved by his people)

---Kevin Mills

Dear Kevin:

No, I do not think a director needs to be a "charismatic despot." I think a director has to have a vision of the script, and the ability to convey this vision to the cast and crew. I think a director is a benign dictator, but I don't know that charisma has much to do with it.

Josh

Name: Thom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Hello, I wanted to know your opinion on clockwork orange? I just saw it for the first time and dont know what to really think. I thought it was real strong at some points and then in some areas awful. Was it really just Kubrik on drugs back then or was he trying to make a statement with this picture?

Dear Thom:

I don't think Kubrick was ever much of a drug-taker (maybe he smoked pot in the 50s when he was a NY hipster). You didn't get a sense of a statement from "A Clockwork Orange"? Like maybe the future will be a crummy, tough, violent place to live? Has anyone made a more adult, intelligent sci-fi movie since then? Please tell me. My problem with the film is that act three is predictable, and way too long. I've always felt that the prison section of the film ("This is the weepy part of the story, oh my brothers . . .") should have been about two minutes long instead of thirty minutes, then get him back outside to work its way through its plot-payoffs.

Josh

Name: Jackie
E-mail: trickey28@aol.com

Josh,

I found this great site http://www.formovies.com/
You can put in a movie you want to rent and ur zip code and the site will tell u a store nearby that stocks that movie. I put in Running Time. Unfortunately the nearest video store is in Ohio. Lunatics was in one store in Redford. Hey, I thought this was ur home town?
Anyway, I had to share.

Dear Jackie:

Try Thomas Video in Troy, they've got all my released films. Nice folks, too.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@isidore.biz

Josh,

Glad to hear that "Savior" was good enough to get second-mention on your site. There are two actors that I seem to be a die-hard fan of even though they get handed some stinky scripts: Dennis Quaid and Michael Keaton--the two least prolific, but highly talented actors in the business.

Speaking of not being prolific, I only come up with stories once in a great while, so now that I want to make movies, I am having a hard time coming up with the original concept. I'm pretty comfortable with my adaptation/development writing skills, but that isn't getting me anywhere at this point. My plan is to take some short stories and adapt them into short films. I know that the copyright issue should be a concern, but I'm just looking for springboards to make practice movies with. It would be nice to find some stories in the public domain, but, for instance, there are a lot of O. Henry stories that would make for good experiences behind the camera. I guess I could run into the same trouble that people run into on the Internet when they write their meaningless fan-fiction, because I will be making non-profit movies based on someone else's stories, but is it something to worry about? Any comments on this approach?

Thanks.

Benedict

Dear Benedict:

My suggestion is to change the stories somewhat and change the titles, that way you won't have any rights issues. It's a very common, if slightly unethical, practice. Nobody reads short stories any more anyway, so who'd know? And since you're making short films that aren't made for profit, there's really no issue of copyright infringement -- which is to try and make money off of someone else's story.

Josh

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

Josh,

Two somewhat related questions here:

1.) You have said that you're deeply in debt from Hammer. Is this one of the reasons you left LA? Granted, it may not have been as sellable without a star actor, but it seems to me that the film business is really in the shitter if a (presumably) well made, professional-looking film can't get any kind of distribution. Or even a dime back. I'm not an expert at all on film financing, but are you not in some kind of financial trouble due to the film's failure? How are you getting around that?

2.) And secondly, lets assume that another 2-3 years down the road you manage to get going on another film. This time with some sort of a bankable actor. What kind of decisions will you make differently this time? I'd like to get an independent film made in the next few years, but the risks seem fairly substantial. If I can eliminate some of these maybe I'll be able to get on to movie #2 within a reasonable amount of time. I've been doing alot of research and it seems like High Definition cameras are dropping in price. From what I have read from other filmmakers, these cameras may very well be the future of independent movies:

http://www.cyberfilmschool.com/articles/ivansxtc_p1.htm

This article really encouraged me that an affordable, professional-looking feature is going to be possible within a few years. What do you think about this technology, and have you considered it for your next film?

Thanks for your insight,

Jim

Dear Jim:

Let's begin with #2. Should you have any kind of "bankable" actor in your film, then you must be using SAG actors because you can't have both union and non-union actors. Given that, any actor on the set is more expensive than the camera, no matter whether it's 35mm, 16mm, or DV. The cost of the actors far outweighs the choice of shooting film or video. On "Running Time," which had a very small cast and a two-week schedule, the actors cost nearly $50,000. Whereas the camera, film, processing, the works, probably didn't come to $25,000. To get DV back to 35mm film at this point costs $1.25 a frame, and there are 144,000 frames in a 100-minute movie. Also, if you shoot DV you're not really in a position to service any overseas sales, where you must supply film elements. And another thing, at present there is no video format that has any kind of archivable value since no decent video format has stuck around for ten years, let alone fifty or a hundred, like film. Five years ago D-1 and D-2 were the top-end; now it's Digital-Beta. In five more years it will be something else. Beyond any of that, film still just plain old looks better, and can be gotten to look a lot better than DV with a lot less lighting. I have no doubt that DV will become the main format of indie movies at some point in the future, but it hasn't happened yet.
#1. Yes, I am in some sort of financial trouble due to "Hammer." How am I getting around it? I'm not, I'm just paying and paying. I couldn't get any company in Hollywood to even look at it, let alone distribute it. Anchor Bay may still come through for me, though. My fingers are crossed.

Josh

Name: Steve
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

What would you say is the best movie no one has ever seen? In other words, something good that came out and was just kind of forgotten or ignored?
-steve

Dear Steve:

You mean like all of my movies? Here are a few fairly recent films that I enjoyed, that seemingly no one saw: "Shadrach," "Savior," "Love and Death on Long Island," and "Return to Paradise," although I don't think any of them are great. I also quite liked the documentary "Wild Man Blues," which I just saw again, and I'd say is the best Woody Allen movie in ten years, even though he didn't make it. I saw a documentary several years ago called "Black Harvest," about a coffee plantation in New Guinea, that was just brilliant, and it's not in any of the books.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Here's a good example of irony: a director becomes frustrated with studio films (big budgets, name-brand stars, no structure, no cohesiveness, no theme, and too much studio politics) so he makes a low-budget indie feature with old-fashioned production values, to market to film festivals, indie theatres, etc. Only he discovers too late that the indie market is glutted with films with name-brand stars, no structure, no cohesiveness, no theme, and the festivals are plagued with studio politics. And so no one wants to see his film. :(

Think it would make a great feature? Or too far-fetched?

Sadly seeing the irony,

August

Dear August:

That sounds way too far-fetched to me. Instead of ironic, that guy just sounds stupid.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: (none)

Dear Josh:

What can you say about working with Bruce Campbell, and how did you meet him? Thanks.

Dear Tim:

As Bruce is one of my best friends and he makes me laugh a lot, I enjoy working with him very much. Bruce and I met in 7th grade at West Maple Junior High School in Michigan. Bruce sat behind me in study hall.

Josh

Name: Gregg Dumont
E-mail: gregg_dumont@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

First of all I think your website is just amazing!! My question for you if you would be so kind to answer. Is, do you remember what camera and film stock was used on the evil dead? It was 16mm?

Dear Gregg:

Yes, it was 16mm. We used a Arriflex-BL, as well as an Arriflex-S, and we shot Eastman color negative 7248.

Josh

Name: Lenny
E-mail: KORIBS86@HOTMAIL.COM

Dear Josh:

I am trying to put together a short fillm with my friends and i, my question is where can i get a super 8 mm camera or something like that? Also where could i go edit my shor film?

Dear Lenny:

I suppose you could go to a camera store. For a really cheap movies these days, I'd much more highly recommend shooting digital video. Many schools and universities have digital editing programs now, like Final Cut Pro, so it shouldn't be too hard to find. The problem with super-8 (and I've shot a lot of it in my day) is that you can't get a decent video transfer no matter what you do, and all you've got is the one, original copy. You can do a lot more with DV at this point, and have something you can send out to festivals if you want.

Josh

Name: Michael
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Since irony amuses you, do you think you have written irony in any of your scripts? If so, what was your best writing of irony?

Irony: Even though you probably hate "Reservoir Dogs", there is irony, Mr. Becker. When Mr. White sticks up for Mr. Orange throughout the film and as it turns out, Mr. Orange is the rat. Thus, Mr. White kills his friends sticking up for Mr. Orange, the cop. That is irony, if you ask me.

Dear Michael:

But what were his reasons? To just defend the guy so it will be a twist later isn't particularly ironic. I have to say I really think it's an absurd movie. If you had just been involved in a bank robbery where everything went wrong, cops got killed, and you know you have an informer among you, would you go back to a nearby warehouse and hang around for the next hour just waiting for the cops to show up? The plot made a lot more sense in Kubrick's "The Killing," where everything goes right, no one knows who these guys are, they go back to split up the money, then, being criminals they all kill each other. That's ironic.

Josh

Name: Chopped Nuts
E-mail: danjfox@rogers.com
Dear Josh: Re: Angels With Dirty Faces

If Rocky did turn chicken, then what he learned from the priest, and more importantly, the virtues he tried to teach the kids (eg. the basketball games where he teaches them the concept of fair play by knocking them around - a little irony unto itself?) all come to nothing because he shows he didn't care enough about the kids to do this thing for them.

All that said though I do agree with you, I think it came from his newly-formed character, not from a self-centred motive.

Just thought I'd restate the idea, reading my earlier post it seems muddled.

How about Casablanca? Rick has fled life, more or less, into a neutral country to be a neutral man. He welcomes both freedom fighters and Germans into his bar, doesn't care about the women he sleeps with, and so on. And then the very woman who drove him into this place in his life comes along and he ends up caring enough to risk his life not only for her but also for the man she ran to when she left him.

As a writer it always ticks me off that some of those scenes were being written the night before it was shot. I'd chop off a finger to be able to write something this good. The jerks. :)

Dear (can I call you) Dan:

"Casablanca" was be rewritten the night before, not written for the first time. It began as a play, "Everyone Comes to Rick's," then was adapted into a screenplay by the Epstein brothers, who were called away to Washington D.C. to do war work, then was being rewritten on the set and right before shooting by Howard Koch, which isn't exactly the same thing. Nevertheless, it's a miraculous movie. But it's not like everything in the story isn't leading to Rick rejoining the fight, it's not terribly unexpected. Irony is more about doing something and getting the opposite result. A good example is Helena Bonham Carter's character in "Howard's End," who is going far out of her way to help the youg clerk, and ends up ruining his life. Irony is frequently when someone does the right thing for the wrong reason, or the wrong thing for the right reason. Alec Guinness deciding to build the Japanese a "proper" bridge because he has to reestablish morale among his men is ironic.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Awwww, maaaaan! The ending of "Angels With Dirty Faces" is one of my favorite moments on film. "Whattaya hear, whattaya say?" And not just Rocky pretending to turn "yella," but the very last bit, where the priest takes the boys to mass to say a prayer for the soul "of a boy who couldn't run as fast as I could."

Here's my entry into the irony discussion. In "Marty," Borgnine's mother nags him mercilessly to go meet girls and get married, finally forcing him to go to the Primrose Ballroom, as "it's loaded with tomatos." Then Mrs. Piletti realizes that if Marty gets married, his loyalty will be to his new wife, not to her, and she'll be "an old lady, sleeping on a sofa." But of course, Marty will never get married. Sure enough, he brings home a girl that very night, that he met at the Primrose Ballroom.

So when are YOU gonna get married, Josh? You oughtta be ashamed of yourself.

But here's an unrelated couple of questions. Back when they were developing a "pirate show" for Bruce, any idea where they got the title "Jack of All Trades?" Did the character's name Jack come first, or the title? Also - any idea who sang the vocal for "Cleopatra 2525?" The rumor has always been Gina Torres, but surely she would have been credited. Any clue?

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

That's the Stardust Ballroom. Yes, that's a nice example of simply irony -- everyone keeps telling Marty he's got to get married, then he finds a girl and no one likes her. "Loaded with tomatoes, that's rich." As to where "Jack of All Trades" got its title, I don't know. I also don't know who sang the "Cleo" song. Holy Moses, there's so much I don't know it would fill volumes.

Josh

Name: Raymond Rantuccio
E-mail: filmsrpriceless@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

Today, me and my friends were discussing good movies and why they were percieved good or bad. All of a sudden, "Titantic" comes up. I am there, grabbing onto my seat, shocked, that almost all of my friends at the table liked and respected the film. Of course I objected and told them that the film was utter nonsense. Then they all agreed that it was a classic because of the money it generated. I was amazed. Instead of yelling at them for this, all I did was seat back and say this, "Just because a film generates a lot of money doesn't mean its a great movie." Then they told me that if a lot of people went to go see it, then it is a good movie and they liked it. Basically, to make a long story short, they came to the conclusion that I did not know what I was talking about and that the "majority" wins over me. Sorry, I guess if shit like "Rollerball" and "The Fast and The Furious" brings in audience and money, I guess they deserve to be called wonderful films. What do you think?

Also, adding to this irony discussion, I think I've seen many types of irony in films. "Taxi Driver", the whole ending is ironic. And I think that has been mentioned before.

I am aware that you haven't seen "Memento", but that really is ironic. I won't tell you that much about the film to spoil it for you, but when the main character with short term memory loss gets manipulated in various ways, it is just ironic. The ending is ironic. You have to check it out, and even though you may think it is awful, the irony is surely there.

Some more irony, I don't think you are a fan of "American History X", but the ending is ironic where Danny gets murdered by one of his enemies in the school bathroom. He was reformed from being a neo-nazi skinhead and all of a sudden, his life is taken away.

"The Game" has some more irony where Michael Douglas's brother Conrad tries to change his life but ends up putting him through hell.

Okay, ONE more. I'm sorry for boring you. "The Vanishing", the ending where the main character, who wanted to know so much how his girlfriend was murdered, gets murdered the same exact way, experiencing exactly what she experienced.

What do you think? Am I on the right track?

Dear Raymond:

Yes, you are on the right track. Irony, very simply, is when when things don't turn out as expected. The ending of "The Vanishing" (the original version) surprised me. In "A Night to Remember," the good version of the Titanic story, as the ship is sinking another ship is less than a mile away, watching them send up distress flares and thinking they were having a party and saying, "Oh, those rich people." Regarding James Cameron's heinous "Titanic," if just making money is the only criteria for greatness, then I guess Britney Spears is one of the greatest singers ever, and let's not forget Zamfir on his pan flute, who "sold more recods than Elvis." As George Bernard Shaw said, "If more than 10% of the population likes a painting, it is bad and should be burned."

Josh

Name: Dnel
E-mail: boom__gurl@hotmail.com

Hi,

I was Just wondering if there is a place where directors, or who ever is in charge of scripts, put them on the internet.
I am wishing to do a piece out of the Movie 'Boondock Saints' for a drama at school,do you put the scripts on the net at all? and if so what is the site?

Thank-you Very much
Dnel :)

Dear Dnel:

There are websites with scripts available on them, but I don't have any addresses for you. I'm not sure that new of a script will be posted. My scripts are posted right here on my website.

Josh

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

Josh,

Another instance of irony would be "The Sixth Sense," where Bruce Willis is trying to help this kid deal with intrusions by ghosts, only to find out that he himself is one.
Here's a question. What do you think of Les Paul? I just got a cd that has the two albums he did with Chet Atkins on it, and it's a very strange mix of country, jazz, and swing. I don't like country, but I like his music. And an interesting sidenote, Les Paul invented the electric guitar.

Thanks,
David

Dear David:

I knew that Les Paul invented the electric guitar, as well as overdubbing, but I'm not familiar with his music. The only two country-western CDs I own are Hank Williams' Greatest Hits (which I've owned on eight-track, cassette, and CD), and Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Another bit in Lawrence: asked by the reporter why he likes the desert, Lawrence replies, "Becaues it's clean." Later, after leading his men into battle, we see the desert covered with debris and dead bodies, and Lawrence himself covered in blood.

I guess in choosing titles Shakespere's stuff is too easy, so here's a stab with another title: Angels With Dirty Faces. Actually it's more a question of the potential of irony: Jerry (the priest) begs Rocky (the tough-guy) to go yellow just before he's executed so that the kids they're fighting over will hear about it and lose their criminal hero. Rocky says no way he's going out like that, but you hear him begging just before he's executed, and Jerry gets his request granted.

The question is did Rocky actually become scared?

a) He did become frightened and ended up losing his immortality that he gained with the boys through their hero-worship, but meaning he did care enough about the boys, or

or b) He did as Jerry asked, showing in the end that he's not the tough-guy the kids thought he was anyway.

Dear Chopped Nuts:

Man, I loved that movie when I was a kid. Nevertheless, I don't think the ending is ironic, since Pat O'Brien specifically asked him to do that. The fact that he says no just leaves it all as a question -- did he chicken out or not? Personally, I never thought Rocky was a chicken, he was just doing what his buddy asked. In William Wellman's film "Battleground," which is about the Battle of the Bulge, a very young Ricardo Montalban, a Latino from LA, has never seen snow before and is just amazed. He gets wounded and they have to leave him behind. When the rest of the guys get back they find that he's frozen to death. That's ironic.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Just thought I'd add a title to the irony discussion: Chinatown. The whole film revolves around Jake doing two things: trying not to be used, and trying to avoid making the same mistake he made years ago in Chinatown. And of course he fails at both.

Dear Chopped Nuts:

Good choice. I counter with "Lawrence of Arabia," where Lawrence is the just the right man to help the Arabs, and does, but he's not doing it for them. Lawrence tells Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness), "We can ride in your name." Feisal replies, "You can say it, but in whose name do you ride?"

Josh

Name: Eric
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

You are absolutely correct when you say that "A Beautiful Mind" is not half the film that "Pi" is. While we are discussing films, I would just have to say that recently, I got done watching two of my all time favorites, "Backdraft" and "A Few Good Men". What did you think of those? And I know you probably get pissed at "do you like these films" questions and I am sorry. What do you think of "Backdraft" and "A Few Good Men" writing-wise? To talk about their directing is one thing, but their writing is tight. I think their screenplays are written without a fault. Two great films.

Dear Eric:

I really didn't like "Backdraft," which seemed lame in all departments, and has mostly left my memory banks. "A Few Good Men" is pretty good -- Nicholson's a lot of fun -- but the whole middle section of Cruise and Moore working together seemed dull and hackneyed. The way Nicholson is trapped on the stand seemed sort of lame, too. Just having him admit his own guilt seemed slightly preposterous.

Josh

Name: Nathan Sturgeon
E-mail: a_corpse_4_2@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

i have 15,000 dollars and i want to film a independent movie. is it even at all possible for me to even film it for that little. i've notice that most independent film are in the range of 35,000 and up. will i be wasting my time on so little money. but i guess the question is, will anyone want to buy it or watch it. any help from you will be greatful. thanks.

Dear Nathan:

You could shoot a film for $15,000, but you probably won't have the funds to finish it. If you shoot digital video, without using SAG actors, and paying everyone nothing, you might be able to get all the way through editing. But you can't really make any kind of sales on something like that because you can't fulfill the requirements of any distributor, which are called delivery elements. You could possibly get it shown in film festivals, though. I don't legitimately think you can make a feature-length film, on film, for less than $100,000.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@isidore.biz

Dear Josh,

I bought a digital camera and have been having fun shooting "home video." I use quotes because I have a camera man who could concentrate on shooting while I concentrated on making situations in real life that were worth shooting. There is just something more proffessional-feeling about not having the camera operator talking all the time.

The point is, I am writing a script, and, while most of the story is figured out, I only have one scene finished and polished. It was just the most interesting to me and I always gravitated to working on it. I want to discover exactly how good a camcorder can make a video look, so next weekend I'm going to shoot the scene with friends. The question is, what do I have to do to prepare a scene to shoot it?

It's a simple conversation between a guy and a girl in a bar. Should I break down each shot? Would it be a new shot every time the camera cuts to the other, or to something else in the bar? When I shoot it, would I just roll the camera on the guy and have him say all his lines, then do the same with her, and then cut them together? I did a test scene with me playing two characters in an improvised clip, and that technique seemed to work all right, but is that how it should be done?

Thanks.

Ben

Dear Ben:

That is the basis of shooting movies, called overlapping action. You want as much overlapping action as possible, because that's where you make your cuts. So, you shoot the whole scene in a wide master shot, then you shoot the entire scene again in each person's close-up. I also highly recommend rehearsing the scene as much as you can before arriving at the location. Good luck and have fun.

Josh

Name: Eric
E-mail:

dear Josh,

I have a few questions for you.

What new movies have you seen lately? Ever see "Memento"? What new have you seen at the theaters?

Dear Eric:

The last film I saw in the theater was "A Beautiful Mind," which I thought was okay. It was a tad difficult for me to feel bad for a guy who, though he acts like a retard, has the best-looking, most devoted wife in the state. I don't think it's half the film that "Pi" is. I haven't seen "Memento" yet.

Josh

Name: Alyzée Saigon
E-mail: morgana@ole.com

Monsieur Becker, Holà!

Thank you very much for answering my letter, you were very kind mais oui when you said I had a great name, but my middle name is very stupid. It was supposed to be Sagan, like the writer, Françoise Sagan, but my mother got it wrong and named me Saigon instead. Now everyone calls me Miss Saigon(horrible musical). I guess she smoked too much weed back then. Monsieur, the other day I discovered that you also wrote short stories, which made me very happy because I adore short stories. Americans are very good at writing this sort of literature (Poe, Hawthorne, Irving..., although I really admire Roald Dahl because of his nasty sense of humour). I really enjoyed them, specially "A Spoon in the Sink". I like your feminine characters. It's interesting that being a man you describe women so well. I must finish reading your scripts but it is hard for me because there are many expressions that I do not understand and I need a friend to translate them for me. Again, excuse me for boring you and thank you for your kindness. Adieu!

Bonjour Miss Saigon:

I'm glad you enjoyed "A Spoon in the Sink." Read my other stories and tell me what you think.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail: michaelbrobinson@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Well, I agree somewhat with your assessment of "Election," at least in terms of its initial question regarding the differences between morals and ethics. The film's treatment of the issue, however, is much better than you suggest. Indeed, while you seem quite hell-bent on making the assertion that the final third of the film falls apart, seemingly casting aside the interesting ironies for which that portion is set up, it is my estimation that your assumption that the film is intended to be ironic is false.

Indeed, the film is a study of the differences between morals and ethics, as you pointed out. More importantly, it is a discussion of the consequences that occur when one is immoral (versus when one is unethical). Consider this:

morals: Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character

ethics: The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession: medical ethics.

It is true that a viewer understands that the film is about the differences between these, but why? The film itself is a study in the consequences of acting unethically, and by contrast, the consequences of acting immorally. Ultimately, it works like this:

People who are both ethical and moral remain happy: Paul Metzler

People who are unethical but moral can remain happy:
Tammy Metzler, who lies about the election but commits no immoral act

People who are ethical but immoral become unhappy:
Dave Nebotney cheats on his wife with a 16-year old girl.

People who are immoral and unethical are unhappy:
Mr. McAllister, who commits adultery and cheats the system, is very unhappy.

It's all about consequences, the way I see it. Write back, please:

michaelbrobinson@hotmail.com

Best Regards,
Mike

Dear Mike:

I appreciate that you disagree with me, but I already stated my opinion in my review. I think it's an interesting premise and setting, but poorly worked-out, and it has a bad act three. By the way, lying is immoral. And if I recall correctly, it was Nevotney. How on earth can Dave Nevotney be ethical, but immoral, by having an affair with a sixteen-year-old student? Look at the definitions, ethics are making use of your morals, and Dave did neither. Also, Mr McAllister ends up happy as a remarried docent In Washington D.C., so there goes your argument.

Josh

Name: Sharon Arditi
E-mail: rdt_oran@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I'm a filmmaking student, particularly interested in writing. I wanted to ask you about specific things that you chose to do in your work on Xena. I saw you worked as a director on more humorous episodes and wrote a more serious one. Was that your choice? How come you chose that?

One of the hardest things for me as a screenwriter is to know where my job ends and where the director's job starts. I have two examples from Xena. In "Locked up and tied down," when Xena is tied up in the dungeon, as the camera zooms out, she's coughing. Was that in the script? Was that the director's order? Or maybe the actress' decision? I know a good script is one with fewer words but if I drop too much, I'm losing my vision. If I see something a certain way, even if it's directing decisions, should I still write them down?

Another example is from the fights. I know the actors practice those fights with a choreographer. So, how is it written in the script? Are there details about it?

What is the difference in the effect when you do a cloze-up and an extreme cloze-up? When you zoom in from a medium shot, how do you know when to stop?

In "kindred spirit," there is a shift from the serious to the ridiculous (when the fight between Xena and Joxer starts; body language, text, accent). Is that how it is written in the script or was that your decision as a director? If it was, how come you made it that way? And one last thing, I hope I'm not stepping out of line, here; I'm not an American and I write in English, hoping to sell it in the US. Who should I send my material to, considering I don't have the money to go on a big self-promoting tour myself? Agents, agencies, studios?

Thank you and good luck in whatever you do,

Sharon

Dear Sharon:

I don't know what your first language is, but you write in English quite well, and you've asked some interesting questions. Regarding me directing the sillier (or silliest) Xena episodes, the executive producer, Rob Tapert, liked how I handled comedy and kept hiring me for the comedy episodes. I think this was also based, if I may say so, on the fact that Lucy, Renee, and Ted enjoyed working with me, and were particularly funny in the episodes I directed. As for "Locked Up & Tied Down," that was Rob's idea that he got me to help him write. As for Xena coughing in the pit, since I didn't direct it, so I don't know where that came from, although it was probably Lucy.

Regarding what you write in a script, and how, as long as you don't use film terms, like close-up or long-shot, nor any reference to film equipment, like zoom in or crane down, you can describe anything you'd like, and in as much detail as you think is fitting. Using film terms or referring to film equipment will not help the reader or the director envision what you mean, and it will annoy the director. Never write "Zoom in to a close-up of Xena's face and a tear comes out of her eye," all you need to write is, "If we look closely at Xena's face we can see a tear coming out of her eye" or simply, "A tear streams out of Xena's eye." Just describe what you mean in plain old prose, in as much detail as you consider appropriate. Regarding the fight scenes, the writers wrote out the fights in detail, mainly because everybody needed to get a sense of how long the fight would last -- a quarter of a page, a half a page, a whole page -- but the fight coordinator, Peter Bell, would simply use what was written as inspiration and do what he wanted. The difference between a close-up and an extreme close-up is that a close-up is the whole face, whereas an extreme close-up is even tighter and sees just part of the face, like just the eyes, or possibly the mouth to the eyes, without the forehead or chin--either way, it's not a writer's decision. However, a good writer can lead a director to the shot they want by description. If you write, "Xena stares at the warlord, her eyes squinting with suspicion," you've indicated that a tight shot of her eyes might be a good idea, although it's still up to the director what shots are to be used. As for the wrestling match in "Kindred Spirits," that wasn't in the script at all, it was entirely my idea, the tone, the lines, and most of the fight moves, although Peter Bell and the actors certainly ran with the whole idea. My reason for adding it was that I thought it would be funny. And finally -- this was one of the longer answers in a while -- you should send your scripts to an agent, whom you should contact first and see if they're interested in reading them. Sending scripts to a studio is a waste of time. There are also websites that display scripts now, like the Writers Script Network. Good luck.

Josh

Name: David Gammel
E-mail: davgam@mindspring.com

Dear Josh:

A google search for 'building a cat door' turned up your Stevie page. Not what I was looking for but I just wanted to say I'm glad you got to have the time you did with him.

-David

Dear David:

Yes, I was very lucky to have Stevie as long as I did. He was a wonderful cat. I have three other cats now, that also use a cat door, but if I don't keep it propped open for them, they won't use it. They're kind of dumb, but very sweet.

Josh

Name: scott
E-mail:

Josh,

How drastically has the film market changed, since TSNKE was released? After reading your reply where you mentioned you've realized that $350,000 was too much to spend on an inde with no names; I wonder, do you have any regrets about that? Would the market have been more receptive to Hammer 15 years ago? Was it difficult to find a distributor for TSNKE? My final question is what kind of theatrical release did TSNKE receive? I wish you the best with Hammer, I hope Anchor Bay picks it up. On a final note. It seems as if Anchor Bay is doing pretty well. They should become a theatrical distributer, and acquire great films that nobody else wants. I suppose it would be tough because rising P&A overhead is a major reason theatrical distributers are fadeing away.

Dear Scott:

The world of indie film distribution has changed drastically since TSNKE in the mid-1980s. Back then low-budget horror films were released theatrically all the time. Now, they aren't theatrically released at all, nor are most independent films. TSNKE had a 25-print theatrical release that opened in 20 U.S. cities. I've never had a theatrical release at all since then, other than booking my films into a single theater for a week. I think if it were up to Anchor Bay, they'd go into production before going into theatrical releasing, and they haven't been able to pull that off. I don't regret spending $350,000 on "Hammer," because that's what it needed to cost on a minimal level and I'm glad I made it. But getting that money back will be a bitch.

Josh

Name: Old Pal
E-mail: private

Josh,

How is it in BFE? Don't you ever get lonely? C'mon, there have to be days when you miss the old Hollywood rat race? Did you ever hear back on your book proposal? Good Luck!

Keep it real,
Old Pal

Dear Old Pal:

I don't know what BFE is? I like it here, and no, I don't get lonely. I do miss my pals in LA, but I don't miss the rat race. Let's face it, even if you're winning the rat race, you're still a rat. Now I'm racing with the squirrels and deer. Yes, I did hear back on the book. The publisher said, "I was amused, but I don't think it's a book" and I think he's right. Therefore, I'm writing another book, this time from bottom up. It's called "The Complete Guide to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking" and I've already got about 225 pages written.

Josh

Name: Tim Robinson
E-mail: robinsontim_81@hotmail.com
Dear Josh: Did you write, "Need for Structure, Part II" before or after September 11 ? Its rather prophetic.

Have you read the Bhagavagita? This could the oldest written story in the world and from a purely narraive point i can see it is one of the greatest stories ever told. You should read it. Don't worry, i am not a Hare Krishna! :-)

Dear Tim:

Yes, "Structure Part II" was written long before 9/11. I can see the future, just like Nosferatu. I have not read all of the Bhagavagita, but I own a copy and have looked through it. I personally don't think you can really tell a good story that involves gods, but that's just me.

Josh

Name: Will Armstrong
E-mail: andykaufman@rogers.com

Dear Josh:

I can think of another example of irony in "The Bridge On The River Kwai"; William Holden's character escapes from the camp only to return and be killed. My favourite use of irony is at the end of "Taxi Driver" where Travis is hailed as a hero for saving Iris from the bad guys instead of the bad things that would have happened to him had he shot the senator. Apparently that ending throws people way off.

Anyways, I just learned soemthing amazing. I just found out that western 'star' Slim Pickens was my grandma's first cousin!!! My grandman told me this so I wasn't sure if it was true or not (she's old, ya know) so I asked my father and he confirmed it. Wow, I can't believe I have Pickens blood. I've always loved "Dr. Strangelove..." and "Blazing Saddles". I have no idea why they never mentioned it before. Probably because my grandma had only met him a couple of times and he was kind of a nutjob.

So, which do you think is Mel Brooks' best film? For me it's a tie between "Blazing Saddles" and "The Producers" but I've always been thrown off by the end of "Blazing Saddles"...it takes the viewer out of the story I thought. I'd love to hear your comments. Thanks.

"Piss on you, I'm workin' fer Mel Brooks!"

Dear Will:

"Kwai" is loaded with irony, which is why I love it so much. And I heartily agree that "Taxi Driver" has a wonderfully ironic ending, and his final look in the rear-view mirror has always scared me. Is he going to kill Betsy, too? It's been said that Americans don't understand or appreciate irony, and I second that. A somewhat more recent film (though not new, nor American) that I thought had a good, solid sense of irony was "Howard's End." I really liked Helena Bonham Carter's attempt to help that poor slob, and ends up ruining his life. Anyone else have any suggestions?

Also, regarding Mel Brooks, I agree with that "The Producers" and "Blazing Saddles" are his two best films, with "Young Frankenstein" coming in third. Yeah, the ending of "Blazing Saddles" is stupid, but I can't help it, it still made me laugh -- the idea of cowboys fighting chorus boys on a musical set is pretty darn silly. I like the fact that the film is shown regularly on Black Entertainment Television. I also think that "The Producers" falls apart at the end. The very second the audience thinks the show is funny, it stops being funny. It's kind of odd, really.

Josh

Name: Michael
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What did you think of "JFK"? I know it is on your favorite film list. But I never read any of your thoughts about it. I thought Oliver Stone did a great job.

I just got finished watching the "Apocalypse Now Redux" dvd. Did you see the Redux yet? If so, what did you think? It is a great film, but the dvd lacks the commentary track that I have been hoping to listen to.

Nice talking to you,
Mike

Dear Michael:

I think "JFK" is an incredibly well-made film, with a provocative point of view, and a terrific, top-notch cast. I'd say it's Oliver Stone's second best film next to "Platoon." I think "JFK" is one of the few films ever to figure out a logical scheme for shooting both color and black and white (so did "The Wizard of Oz," but in a completely different way). After seeing "JFK," my friend and I went out for coffee and discussed the film and the subject for hours. Most films I can't wait for them to be over so I never have to think about them again. But I've always been suspicious of the "facts" in the JFK assassination, and I never believed the bullet that killed him came from the book depository. Regarding "Apocalypse Now," I saw the full-length, "redux" version at a sneak-preview six months before the film opened, and it really bored me (Coppola was there, as was Robert Duvall, and Bill Graham was keeping the long line of people in order). I was quite pleased with the re-editing when I saw the released version, and thought they had improved the film by shortening it. I still think the film is two-thirds of a brilliant movie, with a total disaster of an act three. Brando is severely miscast.

Josh


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