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Page 68

Name: Bruce Pantaleo
E-mail: bpantaleo@hotmail.com

Josh,

I attended MSU during 1976-80. I lived in Wonders Hall and happened to have a bit part in Happy Valley Kid. I remember helping hold the lights for a scene shot in Wells Hall. I remember Sam didn't like the sound of my voice and told me he would dub over it So much for my acting career! I never did get to see the movie when it played on campus (remember the RHA?). I was wondering if you had any idea where I get a hold of a copy.

Thanks,
Bruce

Dear Bruce:

There are no copies to get a hold of. The film was run so many times it fell apart and no longer exists. I hear that gags from HVK made it into "Spider-Man."

Josh

Name: cat
E-mail: n/a

Josh.

From reading your website and Q/A section, it seems to me that you should label yourself as a film critic rather than a film maker. You seem to be much better and have much more experience in critiquing films rather than making them.

But I do disagree with much of your critiquing. Film making is a business; a business about making money. I've seen a few of your films and quite frankly I found them boring; and I could see why the majority of the folks in this country and elsewhere have never heard of them. However, you go on to put down some of the most successful and biggest money makers in the industry.

You speak as if you know what's right and what's wrong in the film making business; but if that was truly the case you wouldn't be an unknown who have made a few sloppy/boring films while most of the people you critisize are living large having made millions in the industry.

As for the idea of you being offered a teaching job on the idea of film making or script writing...whatever it was; personally I feel you would be the wrong man for the job. I see film making as an art; and if you put limitations on art you are simply holding creative minds back.

I lost count after the first dozen times you mention your structure rules that need to be in place for a successful script. Bull crap. There are no rules to film making just as there are no rules in how an artist decides to present his work on canvas. Now you may personally believe your way is the right way....but you body of work that you have done personally doesn't back you up; and the idea of teaching young creative minds that your way is the right way and putting limitations on their creativity is nothing but detrimental.

I've read your comments for a very long time and this is just my opinion, but I sense you are a very bitter fellow. I believe you are very fond of your friends(Sam, Rob, Bruce, etc.); but we also know that they have become way more successful in the industry that you ever have. They have made it big, yet you are still an unknown who know one(other than Rob or Sam or Bruce) will give the time of day; and I think your comments are your way of lashing out at the industry that turned you away. As is said, just my opinion.

My suggestion would be to try and enjoy films rather than looking for everything you can find wrong with them. Get over your bittereness. And quit trying to put limitations on creative minds by telling them the right and wrong way to go about making a film or writing a script when you obviously have had no success when doing it your way.

I guarantee you if Picasso went to an art school run by a teacher that put limitations on the right way and wrong way to creating art(as you do), the teacher would call his work crap and tried to change him, or tell him to give up art......but as everyone knows; his creativity(which I personally think is crap) is some of the most popular in the world. I may not personally like it; but I know never to put limitations and rules on any artisitic form. You obviously feel different; but again; your body of work speaks for itself from what I have seen.

cat

Dear Cat:

If Picasso is crap in your opinion, then I'm more than happy to be included into the group you consider crap. Let's use Picasso as an example. He was exceptionally well-trained in the basic elements of his craft, and was in fact a brilliant craftsman that could and did paint in a photo-realistic style for a while early in his career. Having mastered the basic elements of the form, he then moved past them. I'm certainly not trying to limit artistic minds, I'm trying to guide them toward bigger and better things, which no one will ever get to unless they know and have mastered their form. You are obviously not a writer and have no clue what you're talking about, except for not liking my films, which is your preference. Anyone that seriously believes that learning the basic elements of what they intend to do is limitation is, I'm sorry to say, a fool.

Josh

Name: Ed
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

On the subject of lovable movies that aren't that great, how about " Something Wild ", the 1986 thriller directed by by Jonathan Demme. It's got a great soundtrack by David Byrne, good actors in fun roles (Jeff Daniels, Ray Liotta, Melanie Griffiths), and lots of cool plot twists.

Ed

Dear Ed:

I agree, that's good choice. The tone changes so drastically when Ray Liotta enters it's completely disconcerting. Meanwhile, someone somewhere down the road recommended "The Arrival," which was ridiculously, painfully stupid. It's just bad sci-fi at its worst.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I'm not sure if I have a specific question, just some comments that might elicit a response.

I just saw Sam's new flick, and, considering I was expecting the Raimi style to be rent from the film due to the commercial status (and contrary to what a recent poster claimed), I was surprised to really see Sam's signature in the movie. From the first moment, I was waiting for the out-of-context montage where things fly around in their own space. And it happened.

I like your comment, even though I don't necessarily agree, that you might as well shoot a super hero film with the lens cap on. Which brings me to a question I didn't expect. Do Sam or Bruce ever get offended by your comments or opinions? So far, a big super-star like Sam hasn't been able to help you too much getting your movies made, but I never hear any foul words regarding your material. Is he just not interested, or is he maybe chaffed by your attitude?

In any case, I know you won't enjoy Spider-Man as a filmmaker, but it had several hilarious parts. For a master of gore, Sam sure can be funny. I'm sure the dozen others involved in each moment (actor, costume designer, set designer, etc.) helped, but the director deserves so much for the final product, I have to give humor credit to Sam.

Finally, it's kind of funny that I've been a Sam fan for several years, and now I see him helm the record-breaker; it feels like a friend has arrived. It must be incredible for you, being a friend of his in the true context.

Thanks.

Benedict

Dear Benedict:

Sam's a ridiculously funny guy. He was certainly the funniest guy in our group, and Bruce is pretty damn funny, too. Both Sam and Bruce always had the ability to get me into such a state of hysteria that I couldn't breathe. As to my attitude, Sam has known me since he was eight and I was nine, I think he's used to it by now. This reminds me of about ten years ago when I was talking to Mrs. Raimi, who is every bit as opinionated and caustic as I am, and she's very funny, too, and she was telling me about what a great schmoozer Sam was when he was a kid. I said, "That's my problem, I'm not much of a schmoozer." Mrs. Raimi looked at me very seriously and said, "Josh, it's worse than that, you're insulting." So, there you go.

Josh

Name: Court
E-mail:

Hey Josh,
I sent the TSNKE box to be autographed. i was wondering if you have recieved it yet.

Dear Court:

It was received and sent back. You should have it in a day or two.

Josh

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

Josh,

Just a comment about the three Woodstock festivals. While I agree that the world should have stopped with one, I do think the following two were equally representative of the voices of their generations. The first Woodstock was like a three year old's reaction to a new toy. There was an innocence which was reflected in its spontaneity. The following festivals were more like the response of a seventeen year old who's upset because his new SUV doesn't have chrome wheels. In that respect the second and third festivals had as much integrity as did the first.

John

Dear John:

I never said there was no integrity to the second and third Woodstock festivals, I just said that they were horrible indications of where our society has gone. The first Woodstock was a beautiful event, truly based on love, peace and music. The second and third are all about commercialism and anger. If you're at a concert where every band is screaming "Fuck you, motherfucker," why not burn the place down? Their mistake was not setting the bands on fire, as well as the promoters.

Josh

Name: Drake Gordon
E-mail: wannabedrecker3@yahoo.com

Dear Josh Becker,

I was reading your making of articles and the first one I read was the making of "Lunatics: A Love Story". Why would you and Scott ever get in a fight? You two wrote some fucking outstanding scripts together, excuse my language.

Drake Gordon

Dear Drake:

Thank you very much. I enjoyed working with Scott, and I thought we did some good work together. When Scott finally moved out to LA, though, he just sort of went his own way. I hear he's shooting "Modesty Blaise" in Romania right now for Miramax.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I was wondering if you've ever seen the movie "Zero Effect," with Bill Pullman, and if you have, what you thought of it.
Also, do you like Gary Shandling and his work, like "What Planet are You From" and "The Larry Sanders Show"?

Thanks,
David

Dear David:

I thought "Zero Effect" was a complete nothing, although Bill Pullman was good. I really can't stand Ben Stiller. I am reminded of "The Simpsons" episode where Homer has a crayon removed from his brain and gets smart. he sees a movie called "Love is Nice" with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. A few minutes into the film he says. "But of course Julia Roberts will end up with Richard Gere," and the whole audience turns and looks at him in utter surprise and shock, saying "She does?" Dr. Hibbert says, "I thought she'd end up with that scrawny little rich guy," and the Sea Captain adds, "Aye, ably played by Bill Paxton." Homer says, "That was Bill Pullman" and someone hits him in the head with a 2x4. Sorry, folks, I strayed. I don't give a damn about Gary Shandling, whom I never liked as a comedian nor as an actor. He's creepy-looking and I never thought he was funny.

Josh

Name: Deana
E-mail: DeanaLackey@msn.com

Dear Josh:

Its me again. It looks like its just us two for a while (kinda romantic -- just kidding, you know).

That bit you just wrote about no more Woodstock was hilarious! Yeah, right on! The original was it, and only the original was it -- the latter sucked! Good comparison. Angry music is stupid. Rap is stupid. Our society is going to pot! And you're right about finding one little tidbit of good in an overall rotten movie is so accurate. What a waste of time and energy. Well, I'm ranting about the same 'ol same 'ol. I'm going to rent two of the movies that you thought were good flicks: The Magnificant Ambersons, and The Member of the Wedding. I haven't seen either. We both agreed that Bonnie & Clyde was a good flick. One of my favorites still. It was the beginning I think of the "new" filmmaking -- away from the old way of making films -- whatever that means -- at least I heard that from Roger Ebert, who was interviewed on the Greg Kilburn show one night, and he thought Bonnie & Clyde was the best flick ever made -- hah! I thought, damn, maybe I should be a film critic -- because I've always said it's the best film I've ever seen. The original lawmen who rounded Bonnie & Clyde up watched the scene in the film where they're circling them in the grass with their cars, and said that was a real accurate portrayal of what actually happened. Who better to know, right? I'm rambling.

Dear Deana:

Yes, you are rambling, but let us know what you think of those films.

Josh

Name: ScRiPtReAdErR'US
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

i am determined to read all of your screenplays on your website. i've just read "buds" and i thought it was pretty good. the only thing was that i didn't find a three act structure at all. i still enjoyed it and it shows that you are being a hipocrite because you always preach about how you don't like scripts that have no structure, then you go about writing a script that has no three act structure at all.. I'm sorry, I don't mean to offend you, but I couldn't find the three act structure and I was looking really hard for it.

Dear Fuckface:

I guess you weren't looking hard enough.

Josh

Name: Jason McNeal
E-mail: JsonArmadillo@netscape.net

Hiya Josh,

Just saw Spider-Man and it did not seem like a Sam Raimi film to me at all. It was visually non-descript. It was a let-down for me because I go to his movies expecting a certain visual quality and this one didn't have it. Neither did The Gift now that I think about it. I can't help but wonder if he's trying to tone down his "style" for these big blockbuster films he's doing. Or maybe he's "maturing" as a director. One could argue that crazy camera work has no place in "serious" films such as A Simple Plan and The Gift (didn't see For The Love Of The Game and prolly never will) but with something like Spider-Man, I think it would be an opportunity ripe for alla that crazy camera work that has been his trademark from Evil Dead thru Quick and the Dead (I guess I'm kind of a sucker for that stuff).

Any thoughts?

Jason

Dear Jason:

I haven't seen it. But since the primary purpose of a film like "Spider-Man" is to make money, it's doing just fine. And since the main audience for a film like that is twelve years old, I don't think they care very much about wacky camera work. For me, if you're making a film about a super-hero, you may as well leave on the lens cap.

Josh

Name: kentrel
E-mail: kentrel@mailandnews.com

Hey Josh

Glad you watched Training Day. Denzel Washington's performance was Oscar worthy but I think he's done better in past films for which he should have won. Just makes me convinced that the Oscars are given out on the basis that it was the winner's turn this year, regardless of quality, hence Ron Howards win. Apollo 13 was great - A Beautiful Mind was awful.

I also agree with you that Training Day fell apart in the third act. Its biggest downfall was lack of believability. My first thought at the bath scene was that Denzel had set the whole day up from the very start, girl rape, drug money, etc especially since earlier in the movie you could hear Denzel on the phone in the background telling someone to make sure the bath was ready. That might have made a better solution, if a little more predictable, and less shocking.

Lastly, just wondering what you think of digital cameras. I'm thinking of buying something this summer in the region of $3000-$4000. How do those kind of cameras compare to a decent 16mm camera, picture quality etc? Have you used them much before? I'm not trying to make the next Titanic (one was bad enough) but I do want to be able to make some shorts that are of sufficient quality to show in my local film house, and enter in contests.

Good luck with getting that book published. I'll be on the look out for it.

Best Regards

- kentrel

Dear Kentrel:

I'm sure the image will look fine with a camera of that quality. You do want to make sure that it will accept a good microphone, which some won't. I just watched a documentary on the Sundance channel, "The Gleaners and I," that was shot with a little home DV camera and it looked good. That technology is perfect for documentaries right now, but still impractical for features because the paying markets don't want them and won't pay for them. 16mm is harder to work with, but you have a negative when you're done.

Josh

Name: Ed
E-mail:

Dear Josh

With all the hype about " Attack of The Clones "
lately, I was curious as to what you think of Star Wars. Are you a fan? Will you be qeuing up to see Episode 2?

Ed

Dear Ed:

No. I enjoyed the first one (which doesn't hold up), and haven't liked any since. I watched about fifteen minutes of whatever the one with Liam Neeson is called on TV the other night and it was really miserable.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I just saw your answer to my last post. I agree, that bit with Victor Mclaghlen and the whiskey in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON is great. I read in a John Wayne biography that Ford liked this film and the cavalry so much that he put himself in a cameo appearance. Was he the wounded Corporal Quinn (the one who was wounded in the shoulder, and was operated on in the supply wagon)? I recall a scene where the recovering Quinn volunteers to stay behind with the squads protecting the rear, and John Wayne orders him (gleefully, which is why I noticed) to get back in the wagon. It seemed to me that John was having way too much fun ordering around a mere corporal....
Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. Do you have any films that you watch just for the fun of it, regardless of how they stand as artistic achievements? One film that I always enjoyed watching for that purpose was MCLINTOCK; I grant you, it's a just a typical John Wayne vehicle, but it's just so much damned FUN to watch. It's one of those films where you can tell that the cast and crew were having fun, and that good vibe shows in the final product.
D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

"McLintock!" was one of my favorites as a kid, particularly the scene in the mud pit. The lead in to that, with "I oughta belt you right in the mouth, but I won't. Naw, I won't. . . . The hell I won't!" and pow! I case you didn't already know, the film was directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, who is Victor McLaglen's son. I just read that John Ford was one of the klansmen in "Birth of a Nation." He said he was the one with glasses. Of the films-we-love-that-aren't-necessarily-great, I've always loved "Father Goose" with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron. Anyone else?

Josh

Name: Deana
E-mail: DeanaLackey@msn.com

Dear Josh:

One more comment I'd like to make (if you're curious): I don't know if I'll go see Spiderman. One movie I might like to go see, however, is that new Jennifer Lopez movie (I can't remember the title), but, it looks great for the simple fact of the storyline. It looks to be about a woman who gets stalked by her ex and tormented by him, and then, turns around, gets fit and begins to kick his ass. I like that. Most all of the movies I've ever seen where the woman is victimized (which happens alot, because in all movies with a "victim" it is the "female" who is victimized), she ends up mostly just dying or escaping, but never getting even. Maybe you can think of a flick where the chick's turned around and actually gone AFTER the man who's victimizing her? Thanks for reading.

Dear Deana:

"Ms. .45." I also saw a film at a festival called "A Gun for Jennifer" (Lopez?) that was exactly that, a girl gets raped, then goes out and begins killing and emasculating men. It's ultimately a dull story, me thinks. Revenge is a boring motivation.

Josh

Name: Deana
E-mail: DeanaLackey@msn.com

Dear Josh:

I'm enjoying your Q&A tremendously. (I've written you before and you've been kind to respond.) Anyway, I wanted to say ditto on a lot of your comments, Josh, because I feel strangely in agreement with most of them. Wanted to say ditto on Johnny Depp -- but to discuss further would be boring. Wanted to say ditto on new films -- they have NOT lead all of us into a new generation of filmmaking. They are, essentially, lame and boring. I would personally like to see something different in subject matter (you know, a NEW idea). Trying weird stuff (Eyes Wide Shut made my eyes wide closed) just doesn't work. If a person wants to make avant-garde -- make avant-garde and SAY it's avant garde. You couldn't be MORE RIGHT in your opinion that new movies suck. I just hope one day I can contribute to putting quality out there for all to see and not this stuff that needs to be used for wiping and flushed down the toilet (that's French).

Dear Deana:

Well, I hope you do, too. I figure there ought to be one tiny little island of truth in this large world of hype and nonsense, where anything new is considered brilliant and a work of genius. Being new does not automatically make anything good in my mind. I watched Barbra Kopple's documentary "My Generation" last night, which compares the three Woodstock festivals. Both 1994 and 1999 both seemed severely pathetic, filled with apathetic, pointless people listening to angry, pointless music, pretending they're not a giant corporate-sponsored Disneyland. At least in the 1999 version, the music seemed to have improved slightly, with Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews, as opposed to pure rap bullshit like Cypress Hill, DMX and Limp Bizkit. Also, at the '99 version, they ultimately start fires and burn the place down, which seemed necessary. If we're all lucky, maybe there won't be anymore Woodstocks.

Josh

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

Josh:

Just wanted to say there are others out here (myself included) who also agree with your assessment that you have to master the rules before you can expand on them. I think your mentioned somewhere in the structure essays (it's been a few months since I read them) where you compare making a film with making a piece of furniture. You could say that a piece of furniture can be a beautiful art piece but if it doesn't serve it's function, it's useless.

I've been writing a script in my spare time while working out ideas for a better script. In the first script the main character has gone through no real change and two thirds of the way through I've lost all interest in it and have focused everything on the treatment for the second script.

--Kevin Mills

PS: Have you ever seen anything by Canadian film maker Bruce McDonald (or MacDonald)? If you haven't, check out "Hard Core Logo". It's a faux documentary about a punk band reuniting for one last tour but unlike Spinal Tap it's not a comedy and thanks to McDonald's (or MacDonald's) documentary background it seems like real events. Very well done.....add it to your netflix list (if it's on dvd....I know Tarantino released it in the US on his video label but I'm unsure of a dvd distribution in the US)

Dear Kevin:

It's on the list. I watched "Training Day" at someone's recommendation, and it was okay but fell apart entirely in it's third act. Denzel Washington does give a big, Academy Award, performance, which is fun, but Ethan Hawke is a bore and I never gave a damn about him. When it hits the point of Hawke being put in a bathtub by Cliff Curtis (whom I worked with on "Hercules" and he seems to be getting the lead bad guy part in all the big films now) and co. and he happens to have the wallet of the girl he saved from rapists and she happens to be Cliff's niece, coincidence has overtaken drama and it's all gone to hell.

Josh

Name: alison
E-mail: ilovemilkybars@hotmail.com

Hey josh

I have seen the work you have done and i think its great and i was wondering how much as a director do u take part in the special effect side to the film/tv that u direct?

Dear Alison:

I would tell the producers where I had special effects in mind, and if they okayed them all, the effects people would start in on them right from the very beginning. I would usually have another meeting about the effects during the editing with the post supervisor, the editor, and the effects people. The next time I'd see the effects was in the finished show. I have a lot more to do with it on my movies.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I don't know why, but I get infuriated at the flack you take for your advocacy of structure.

It's not like you're saying films can only be written this way, you're saying (over and over and over) that you must master it before you can move beyond it.

And this is a universal truth. The reason Michael Jordan was such a great basketball player is because he mastered the fundamentals and then, with his talent, was able to move beyond them. Larry Bird, on the other hand, didn't have the physical talent of Jordan but was a great player because of his total mastery of the fundamentals.

Same applies to writing novels. Although I dislike Beats, I find Naked Lunch to be a fantastic novel that takes language and the structure of a story to new and interesting places. But Burroughs knew the fundamentals of writing. His command of story structure and syntax was masterful, so he could successfully move beyond the fundmentals. So could Pound. Hemingway was a great writer who never moved beyond the fundamentals.

Same goes for music. Elvis, the Beatles, even Pink Floyd mastered the structure of the pop song before they moved beyond it. If they hadn't, their music couldn't possibly have been as good or important.

Fellini, Bunuel, Welles, all those guys mastered the three act structure before they moved beyond it. Race car drivers have to learn to drive before they learn to stunt drive. Pro wrestlers have to learn to fall before they jump off the top rope. Actors have to learn to be bacon before they become Travis Bickle.

No question here, I just don't understand why you keep coming under fire. Perhaps people haven't learned to carefully read a person's point before jumping to a conclusion. So there's another lesson. Make sure you grasp what a person's argument is before you critique it.

Keep up the good work.

Dear Will:

I do seem to fight this fight endlessly, but it's nice to know there a few people out there who understand what I'm saying. I think it's the downfall of this whole time period--everyone wants to go straight to being an artist without passing through the phase of craftsman (sorry, but craftsperson sounds silly). That's why the craftsmanship of scripts these days is so pathetic; nobody bothers with the fundamentals. And I'm constantly being fed by these people that drama and motion pictures have moved to a newer, freer, higher plane than before, which is ridiculous. Not only have movies not moved to a higher plane, they are mired in the worst slump of their one-hundred year history. "A Beautiful Mind," "Gladiator," "The English Patient," "Titanic," "Forrest Gump," "Shakespeare in Love"? There is no decade from the inception of the Academy Awards in 1929 to now that's nearly as poor. Even the first decade, which was very rocky due to the change-over to sound, was still superior, with: "All Quiet on the Western Front," "It Happened One Night," "Mutiny on the Bounty," and "Gone With the Wind." I'm not crazy.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I have another "what's your opinion" question for you. In the film SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, the film ends when John Wayne finds out (at the last minute) that he can not only stay in the Army, but that he's been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Personally, I thought that ending was hokey and very Hollywood (I recall that John Ford put that ending on the film under studio pressure). John Wayne himself said that he felt the film should've ended when he looks at his watch after the Indian fight, comments on how he's already retired, and rides off into the west. When I taped the film off of TCM last year, I cut it so that the film ended at that point, and I think that John Wayne was right; it's a more powerful ending. What do you think?

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

Sounds better to me. I watched "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" again the other day and it got better for me. It's pace is a tad stately, but Ford was already pretty old (he was 67 at the time). Nevertheless, it is wonderfully ironic, particularly from Jimmy Stewart's original stance of anti-violence. He's forced into violence, then becomes a hero and gains a political career based on that violence, and he didn't even commit the violence. Good stuff. And the couple of times John Wayne and Lee Marvin get in each other's faces is really terrific. Getting back to "Yellow Ribbon," I absolutely love the gag when Victor McGlaglen is about to take a drink of whiskey, turns and sees that he's being watched by a little girl. He says, "Me medicine," takes a big slug, winces and sticks out his tongue, saying, "It's terrible!"

Josh

Name: dave b
E-mail: ndepndant@aol.com

Dear Josh:

hey there just happened across your web site and story very funny, dave barry ish .

thought you'd like to hear some praise after all who doesnt like praise :)

just got back from my first trip to my new local 99 cent store and was trying to find their web site to comment (I liked the store but the isles are too damned small for me to bother going back I think)

Dear Dave:

I'm glad you enjoyed it. You're not Dave Barry himself, are you?

Josh

Name: Roger Deforest
E-mail: rogerdeforest@attbi.com

Hello Mr. Becker,

I feel I must chime in on your ludicrous, narrow-minded advice to writing a "good" script. Your site is peppered with phrases like "if you have no lead character, you have no point of view and therefore no interesting story", and "you must have three acts in your script and they must all have a different message." You seem to pray at the alter of Syd Field, that no talent, stagnant hack! If you had any interest in nurturing the EVOLUTION of cinema, you'd stop giving out this thick-skulled, old school approach to making movies to all the young wanna-be filmmakers who visit your site for proper guidance.

I am ashamed to say I really enjoyed your piece on the 99 cent store, after reading this destructive advice you give to future filmmakers and screenwriters. No wonder you can't stand films like The Thin Red Line, Eyes Wide Shut, and Traffic...they actually try to show us something new in a language that is unique to the filmmaker! God forbid we should have more than one lead character, or even no leads at all, or even no accessible plot (The horror!). That is not how great movies are made...right? WRONG! Think 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film far more important to the history of cinema than all the titles in your resume put together.

You must know that to put rules on art is to suffocate it. Why kill off the future Kubricks, Scorseses and Cassaveteses with your oppressive view on the art of cinema? As someone involved in the making of films, I feel your heart lies in showing off those who you associate with in the industry rather than what you've done to progress it. Do you live in Hollywood by chance? Just a guess.

Roger Deforest
www.rogerdeforest.com

Dear Roger:

Do you honestly want me to believe that "Eyes Wide Shut," "The Thin Red Line" and "Traffic" have taken drama and motion pictures to a new place they've never been before? The rules of drama haven't changed in thousands of years, and are the same rules followed by Eurpides, Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and William Inge, to name but a very few. Drama isn't changing because human behavior isn't changing. I will repeat this for the one-thousandth time, you can't hope to go past the rules until you have mastered them. Art begins with superb craftsmanship, and you can't hope to achieve that unless you know all the rules, and how all of the past masters worked. When I say you must have a lead character, I mean to have a dramatically strong story. You can have multiple leads, your story will just be dramatcially weak (like "The Thin Red Line" and "Traffic"). Let me try to put it on a level you might comprehend -- you can't just decide one morning to be a gaffer, then go stick your hand into the nearest circuit box and expect to know what you're going. You have to have some information first. Nor can you walk right onto a set and know how to light it -- you've got to know the rules of lighting first, then you can break them (which may very well not work as well as if you'd followed them). The elements of drama have not changed in a long time, and the movies you named are not forays into the realm of the brand new -- they're just poorly written films. Movies are not new and exciting and better than they've ever been, they're lame and weak and in the worst slump they've ever been in. "Paths of Glory" is infinitely superior to "Eyes Wide Shut," and that's mainly because it has a well-written script.

Josh

Name: Elton Sebastian
E-mail: eltonsebastian@yahoo.com

Hi Josh,

I've been following your career for quite some time now. You have inspired me, to write, direct and shoot my own movies.

I've read your scripts and your essays. And in them has been valuable information that no Film School professor has ever shown me.

My last short 16mm Film, Nerd Wars, won several awards Sunday before last in Miami. A few cable stations have offered to show it and I'll soon have it up on the net, and showing at other festivals around the US.

I know you must be extremely busy, but It would be a great honor to have you as a mentor.

I'll be shooting my first feature soon on 35mm (Luckily a sponsor beleives in me too) and I would like to be able to ask you for advice on technical and legal questions now and again.

Only if you have the time of course. I understand how it gets. I just wish I had you as a freind. At 24 I still have so much to learn.

Dear Elton:

You're going to be making a 35mm feature? That's excellent. Congrats. Good work. Go ahead and ask anything you'd like, I'm happy to be of some assistance. Here, I'll give you Darryl Zanuck's advice to Elia Kazan when he was about to direct his first film, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" -- "Make every scene in the movie the best scene in the movie."

Josh

Name: kentrel
E-mail: kentrel@mailandnews.com

Hi Josh,

I noticed you don't seem to have much faith in modern movies, and you seem to be convinced before you see them that they are going to bad. Even your friend Sam's Spiderman movie doesn't seem to excite you. It's a shame. Its a fine movie; best comic adaption yet. Though that's not hard since the others were so bad.

If Sam was such a Spiderman fanatic when he was younger did he ever try to convince you into becoming a fan? Or was it because he was so obsessed with Spidey that put you off in the first place?

Also, has there been a movie made recently that you were convinced was going to be utter shit and you ended up loving?

What did you think of Amelie? Or Training Day? Both thoroughly entertaining films in my opinion though Training Day's ending could have been better. I've heard the script had it nailed but the director\producer\somebodychanged it for some reason.

I hear you've just finished writing a book. What's it about and when will it be published?

Best Regards

- ken

Dear Ken:

The book is called "The Complete Guide to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking," and the first draft is done. I'll take at least one more pass at it before sending it out. When and if it will be published remains a mystery.
I have not seen "Amelie" or "Training Day" yet. I did see "Startup.com" last night and that was pretty good. Most of the documentaries I see these days are pretty good. I also watched "Dr. T & the Women," which was completely dreadful, as most Altman movies are. Did Sam ever try to get me to like Spiderman? No. He could care less whether I liked Spiderman. I was the movie fanatic of the neighborhood. While all the other kids were talking about comic books and sports, I was talking about movies. And no, there hasn't been a movie recently that I thought would be utter shit that I ended up loving. I liked "The Believer" and "The Straight Story."

Josh

Name: jackie grimaldi
E-mail: sexy_chic@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

how many different stooges played the 3rd stooge?

Dear Jackie:

Four. Curly, Shemp, Joe Besser, and Joe DeRita.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail: scarymike@prontomail.com

Hey there,

First off I just have to thank you for putting your Evil Dead journals out there.As a budding indie film-maker I've wound up locking creative and technical horns with the director of a past film - reading about your experiences has given me hope and helped me to realize that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel for those of us who feel like the lone voice of reason (or even just semi-reason) on shoots gone mad.

My question is this: I'm trying to set up an LLC to do the next project. I'm looking
for a draft of a legally binging agreement for investors that basically says "After
a contract is drawn up with a distributor (assuming one turns up to take the movie!)
and monies are handed down, after all outstanding debts of the company are setled, investors will get X amount of the profit and the LLC will get Y. Investors have no control over the project in any phase of production." I know something like this exists because I once worked on a film that had that sort of agreement with its investors. When I tried to explain this to a lawyer that was helping us with these sorts of legal issues they said that sort of thing was impossible unless we wanted to file papers with the SEC `cause without voting power for investors it's like you're running a blah, blah, etc. (Needless to say, this guy had never done LLC stuff for a film project before).

Cutting to the chase - is there a source, a website, a publication, a book, whatever,
that details how to set up this sort of thing that will not involve us flying out to
L.A. or New York and paying 5 grand for an entertainment lawyer?

Any and all input you might have would be hugely appreciated!

Thanks!

Dear Mike:

That sounds like a limited partnership, which is what I have used for all of my films. If the lawyer you're working with doesn't know about LPs and doesn't have one to work off of, you need a new lawyer. In an LP, the limited partners (the investors) have no say in what you do, and also have no liability beyond their original investment. The general partners (the folks that put the deal together) have all the say so, but are liable for any over-runs, which is why you include a reimbursement schedule that states where the recouped money goes, which generally begins with paying back outstanding debts, then returning borrowed money, then paying off the limited partners until they are even, then the split between limited and general partners. This is a very common set-up used in many other kinds of deals beside movies, particularly real estate. And if you find a reasonable lawyer that's done some LPs before, it shouldn't cost more than $500-$750 to have your name and numbers inserted into it. Any lawyer that wants to turn it into something more than that is a rip-off. Good luck.

Josh

Name: ralph isaur
E-mail: lumplessku@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Why is it, in your photo gallery, you have a still photo of yourself in front of a giant lightbulb and the still is labeled as part of the "Running Time" press kit, when in fact, we both know that was shot months later on the set of the movie "In The Year 8998 A.D.," Huh? Riddle me that,Answer Man!

Dear Ralph:

Who finally let you on the internet? Are they putting computers in homeless shelters now?

Josh

Name: Stryker
E-mail: :)

Dear Josh,

Have you ever seen John Woo's film Bullet In The Head? It's my all time favorite film.

P.S.

What film was it that made you want to get into directing?

Dear Stryker:

I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen it, but I just put it on the Netflix list. As to which film got me into directing, let's see, the first movie to blow me away was "How the West Was Won" in Three-Screen Cinerama in 1963, when I was six. I think it was a combination in 1968 of "Rosemary's Baby," "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "Oliver!" and the range between them that really impressed me.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I just saw your answer to my post about your old Super-8 movies (I know, it's been archived already, but I was busy this weekend; note: vodka and cranberry juice is a more potent drink than it appears). I didn't know about the musical score. However, this brings up another question: why not replace the copyrighted music with other, more generic stuff? I don't know about the technical aspects of looping sound on Super-8 footage, but if it's possible, why not? You could even re-record the same songs with local musicians, provided that at least a few of the words or chords are different from the copyrighted material (that's how cover bands and public access shows in my neck of the woods get away with using recognizable songs; they change them just enough to avoid copyright infringement). At best, marketing the films would go a ways towards financing another film; at worst, it would still pay a few bills at least. Just a thought.

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. I didn't know (but should've guessed) that you had answered the question before. You might want to include an answer about your old Super-8 films in your FAQ section.
D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

Thanks, I think it should be on the FAQ page. It would be a very big ordeal rescoring all the super-8 films, and nobody cares enough anymore. I know I don't, and I probably care a lot more than Sam or Bruce. Somehow at this moment, with Sam's most recent film having the largest-grossing opening of any movie ever, I doubt his super-8 films are looming very large in his perception.

Josh

Name: mike san juan
E-mail: mike san juan187@aol.com

Dear Josh:

dude, yesterday i was running, but i didn't stretch first, and i pulled my groin area. do you have any advice?

Dear Mike:

I recommend that you have your dick amputated, then shove it up your ass.

Love,
Josh

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

Josh,

"High Fidelity", have you seen it? I thought it was a great picture, with a terrific cast, nice production value, and a helluva screenplay! I highly recomend it.

Have you seen any good (or really bad) films lately, new or old?

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

I enjoyed the first 45 minutes or so, but then I felt the story completely fell apart. Once he got through the list of girls who broke his heart the worst, then went and visited each of them, that was it. When he starts messing around with the skateboard kids, and Jack Black in a band, I felt they didn't know where they were going. I just watched a Chinese film, "In the Mood For Love," that bored the bejesus out of me.

Josh

Name: Vadim
E-mail: vadox@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

First off, I just saw Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" and was completely blown away by it. Of course, it's just a summer popcorn movie. But, to be honest - I haven't enjoyed a summer popcorn movie as much as I have enjoyed Spider-Man in many, many years. Sam nailed it... I was just curious if you are planning on seeing it (if nothing else, at least because you, Sam, and Bruce are buddies). If you are, I would be curious to see what you think of it.

Now, my actual question to you is about getting financing for low-budget independent films. Let's say you have a finished script that you want to shoot and a complete budget breakdown. You said previously that getting an independent film financed is one of the harderst things one will face as a filmmaker. So, where do you start, especially if you have no wealthy relatives and/or friends? In other words, if you have to start getting financing from scratch, what is the best way of doing it?

Thanks,

Vadim

Dear Vadim:

I'll see "Spiderman" eventually, but it's not a film made for me. I've never cared for super-heroes, even when I was a kid. Guys running around in leotards just doesn't do it for me. I certainly do wish Sam all the success in the world, though. As for financing, you still need to hit up every relative you have, whether they're wealthy or not, as well as any person you've ever met in your entire life that seems like they might be able to cough some cash. And don't leave any meeting with anyone without getting the name of another possible investor. Sadly, the key to raising money is crawling through the mud and humiliating yourself. You also must make every person you hit for money that you're the next Stanley Kubrick and investing in you is investing in the future of art. And, you must convince every potential investor that you're going to make this movie with their assistance or without it. Good luck.

Josh

Name: follézou sébastien
E-mail: kaihoro@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,my name's Sébastien and i'm french(so i make excuses for my "frenglish language")
When i was a boy -about 10 years old- i was fond of mythology(particularly greek,egyptian and scandinavian myths) and horror/fantastic movies(my first and favorites were EXCALIBUR,FISCHER KING(and since then most of Gilliam stuff )BRAINDEAD,THE NEVER ENDING STORY 1,CRITTERS,THE HAVOC OF TITANS(i'm not sure of this title,in french it is "Le choc des titans"),JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS,LABYRINTH...)
In a way it was part of my education and it stimulated my imagination(we created with friends epic adventures full of dark marvelous countries and creatures inspired by HOMERE,HESIODE and films).
Now i'm older (21 years old) and my interest in films has been growing.
Thus , here my questions:

1-After seeing evil dead,some trailers of horror films that haunted me in my youth have come back in my mind but i don't know their titles:can you light my lantern(literal translation of a french expression which means can you tell me what i ignore(in this case those horror movies titles))?
*The first is about a marrried couple.They seem happy and all is apparently fine,except one thing:
the beautiful wife turns sometimes into a dangerous monster and doesn't seem to realize that.
I remember of one scene(maybe transformed by the time):
the man and his wife have lunch together, the man's fork falls on the ground and when he bends down to take it he notices his wife's feet have changed.Amazed, he stands up and he sees a scary monster instead of his sweetheart
This movie is in black and white,i thinks it's an old film.

*the 2nd is about people who go in a house or a manor or a castle(my memory plays with me, sorry)and can't get out of here because the configuraion of the house changes.I don't no why but i think there is a character with a chinese hat like this /\
/ \
/ \
2-What are your favorite Carpenter's movies,your favorite Wes Craven's movies and your favorite horror movies in general?

Dear Sébastien:

Well, you've stumped me with both films. Maybe one of the other geeks that visit here know of what films you speak. I remember a short story by Robert Heinlein about a house that you couldn't get out of due to it's configuration, which I believe was called "He Built a Crooked House." The other films I thought at first might be "I Married a Monster from Outer Space," but I don't think so. It seems to me I just listed my favorite horror films a few weeks ago, so look back at the Q&A archives. And I'm not crazy about John Carpenter's films. Sorry.

Josh

Name: Nick
E-mail: HandfulofGuitar@aol.com

Hey Josh!

As long as the topic of the structure is going on, I'd just like to say that I'd heard of the three act structure but it didn't click for me until I read the articles on this site. Thanks!

On another note, I just recently saw the horror movie, "Phantasm", from 1979, I believe, and really enjoyed it...but then the ending came. Though it's slightly different from the "It was all a dream" thing, it was still an "It was all a dream" ending, and that disappointed me. That wasn't too bad, I suppose, since it was at the end, but don't you think cliched stuff like that really poisons an otherwise good movie? I was curious about what movie you've seen that was similar...good movie marred with cliches.

I especially hate it when those dumb cliched phrases pop up, like, "Mom...Dad...I can explain everything" and "You and what army", etc. etc. Phantasm (thankfully) avoided these types of cliches, but I think modern films must have a book of cliches or something and flip through the pages and select one to use whenever a character is supposed to have dialogue.

- Nick

Dear Nick:

"Phantasm" seemed like a meaningless little picture to me. That it contains cliches, well, what doesn't? BTW, Bruce Campbell just starred in a film for Don Coscarelli called "Bubba Hotep."

Josh

Name: Michael San Juan
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

In Xena episode F-67, how does the scorpion renew his powers of invinsibility? He didnt even have his sheild. This is incomperhensable, i dont even understand. Were they just expecting us to figure this out or what? Help me out here...im freaking out for God's sake! Thanks Josh.

Dear Michael:

That certainly wasn't an episode that I directed, and if it's not, then I didn't even see it.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just finished watching TSNKE and was wondering how you feel about it in retrospect. Specifically, I was wondering how you feel about its three-act structure (a structure I believe in, by the way) and how you think the movie might have differed had you filmed it more recently, say the last year or so. I thought that act one was longer than and not as 'tight' as you might film it today based on your essays and other comments. I guess this is a question about your evolution as director/writer/producer. Thanks as always.

John

Dear John:

My feelings, which haven't changed much since the film was finished in 1985, is that it's too cheap and sloppy for its own good. Probably the best thing about the film is the script and the structure. I personally don't find act one too long. It contains all the elements necessary to set up the rest of the story. I think the theme is a bit weak, too. Then again, how many super-low-budget action films have any theme at all?

Josh

Name: Bill Demming
E-mail: bdemming72@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I find it extremely telling that someone who is filled with so much bile and rancor is relegated to Xena: The Warrior Princess, and a few never heard of before independent films.
Has it ever occured to you that the reason you have so much criticism of other filmmakers is because you know that you will never reach a level where y0ou can compete?
I read a couple of your scripts, and to be honest, they are utter pieces of trash. So, good luck watching from the outside in, but know that even though you embrace your sensibilities, you only have them because you have no talent.

Dear Bill:

Thanks for letting me in on my downfalls, it's very big of you. I'm sorry I haven't heard of you, is there something you've done I ought to know about?

Josh

Name: Peter Grafton
E-mail: I have a question on the three act structure...

Dear josh,

If you don't mind, I am having a problem with your beloved three act structure. With "American Beauty", you say it does not have a three act structure. WTF?! This is where the acts end properly:

ACT 1 in which Lester realizes his life stinks.
ACT 2 in which Lester tries to change his life.
ACT 3 Lester achieves and falls victim to his new freedom.

How is that not a three act structure?

Dear Peter:

My beloved three-act structure? How about Aristotle, Euripides, Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and William Inge's beloved three-act structure? How about all the great screenwriters, like Carl Foreman, Michael Wilson, Daniel Taradash, Robert Riskin, Paddy Chayefsky, Budd Schulberg, Dudley Nichols, on and on. Lester realizes his life stinks in the first sixty seconds, what happens at the end of act one that's a dramatic point of no return? How about the end of act two? Just because you can find three commercial breaks in the story doesn't make it properly structured.

Josh

Name: Broderick McCall
E-mail: beerrrlot148@aol.com

Dear Josh,

Can you tell us what you thought about the following films: "Sleepers" and the late Ted Demme's "Blow"?

Sincerely,
Broderick

Dear Broderick:

I didn't see "Sleepers," but I thought "Blow" was a big nothing. I never gave a damn about Johnny Depp or anything he was going through, and it was all sort of a bore. To me Johnny Depp is always adequate, but never any more than that, and ultimately kind of dull.

Josh


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