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Page 73

Name: Nagi
E-mail:

Dear Joshua,

You broke rule #6 "Let's try our best to keep this a PG-13 site. Your support in this area is much appreciated." Rules arnt made to be broken.. get some class.

Dear Nagi:

You think it's classy insulting a stranger? Over cheap Italian horror movies? You're an idiot.

Josh

Name: James
E-mail: soad87@hotmail.com

Mr. Becker,

I recently started to write, film, direct and produce my own films. I use a fairly old camera that my dad used when he filmed weddings and ceremonies for a living, but it's beginning to get a bit past it. I'm 15 and have a low income so I have problems funding films let alone buying better quality equipment! Do you know of any cameras that are of fairly decent quality but run for a cheaper price tag?

Thanks in advance,
James

Dear James:

You failed to mention what sort of camera you're talking about. If it's 16mm, and you're an adventurer, I'd say buy a Bolex. I have one. My buddy Paul is nearly through shooting a feature with a Bolex, which I found at a used camera store for $125, with two extra lenses. The Canon Scoopic is a cool camera, too, but it runs on batteries and I don't think they make them anymore.

Josh

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

Josh,

When you prepare a script for shooting, do you break it down shot by shot yourself? If so, how do you organize it for shooting? To put it another way: If most shooting isn't done in chronological order, then by what organization are the individual shots ordered on the schedule? By scene, location, actors needed? I hope this is a clear enough question, I'm curious about the logistics of it all. There are certainly a lot of details to keep track of.

Thanks,
David

Dear David:

First you do a breakdown, which is scene by scene, not shot by shot. You go through each scene and list all of the items necessary to shoot the scene, including extras, special equipment, props, extra personnel, etc. Then you do the schedule, which is first based on trying to shoot as many exteriors as possible before moving inside in case the weather gets bad you have cover sets to move into. Then it's either based on the length of time you have each location for, or how long you have certain actors for. If you're working with a very high-priced actor, you shoot everything with them to get them out of there. Otherwise, you're trying to get in and out of locations as speedily as possible. Doing a film schedule is sort of a puzzle generally done by the 1st AD, although I do them myself on my movies.

Josh

Name: nagi
E-mail:

Hello Joshua,

From what I have heard you had some thoughts on Dario Argento. Now first of all I don't think you understand the talent the man has. He can express what he wants to using such effects as color moods. If you just think it is "colors" than you can't understand art. I dont think you should be able to comment on such a great film maker, I mean what films have you made that people actually know about. Your purely just an assistant to quality directors such as sam raimi. I personally think that you are just an angry middle aged man who is pissed off that you didnt make it "big". Now i know what you will say to that.." at least ive made a film" but let me tell you when a new generation of filmmakers come up in the world your "films" will be forgotten. And I also heard that you said you got bored by his films. How do you get bored? Its ACTION PACKED. Now that is all that i need to say, so good bye for now.

Dear Nagi:

So, if I don't agree with your assessment of an Italian horror filmmaker then I'm "an angry middle-aged man who is pissed-off that he didn't make it 'big'." Well, since you don't agree with me I'm sure your an ugly, pissed-off little cunt. Fuck you and drop dead.

Josh

Name: William Best
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Two questions, if you do not mind:
1. What's your opinion on Vincent Gallo? Have you seen his "Buffalo 66"? If so, what did you think? I'd like to hear your thoughts.
2. I've read some of your scripts, after knowing what they are about. Very impressive stuff, by the way. I may want to read "The Bioligical Clock." Can you give me a little logline to tell me what it is before I read it? Thank you very much. Hope I wasn't being a pest.

William

Dear William:

Best the pest. I'm kidding. I watched about twenty minutes of "Buffalo 66" and it seemed poorly written, poorly directed, and not very interesting, either, so I bailed out. Meanwhile, the logline for "The Biological Clock" is:
What if a woman in her mid-thirties, desperate to have a child before it's too late, decides to be artificially inseminated, then asks her best platonic male friend, who's always had a crush on her, to be the sperm donor. He agrees, but only by use of "actual" insemination, meaning sex, and lots of it. He believes this will obviously lead to a romance, but will it?

Josh

Name: Lee Price
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hey Josh

The camera I'm buying is the Arri BL. I was going to get the NPR cos I could super 16 it, but that's more money (UKP 650), plus I'd then need to get a new lens as the Ageniuex, once the NPR has been converted, will only go as wide as 18mm. Super 16 is racking up the cost so I'll stick to regular 16mm. The Arri BL is UKP 2000. I figured I'd soak up the cost of the camera on the first shoot and then it's mine, all mine (evil cackle). I'm gonna rent lenses, lights and tripod. The only thing that really worried me is that I'm definitely going to do some plank-cam shots and I do fear for the Arri BL, as it's a little bulky. I'm thinking of getting a clockwork Bolex so I can really do some shots on the move. Do you think a shooting ratio of 3 to 1 is optimistic? With this ratio (at list price, which I'm sure I can negotiate) 18 rolls of 400' black and white stock is £900, the processing on this in the UK is £1620, giving me a total film and processing cost of £2700. Colour, all in, works out at £3420. A good friend in London will edit on Avid.

You want to know the real problem? I need to write a GREAT script that's do-able at weekends and holidays, with the resources I have. That's the challenge and I won't start until I've surmounted it.

I've just read that the writer of the Full Monty has made a 70 min film guerilla style for UKP 6000. It's called 'Everyone's Happy' and was directed by Frances Lea (I went to Bournemouth Film School at the same time as her). They shot in tents and camper vans at the seaside. I think this is a clever way to shoot a very low budget film - with tents and camper vans, you're not reliant on anyone for your locations, and you can shoot for as long as you like.

I saw Pi last night. Maths IS interesting! It was well paced and the character's paranoia racks up as the story progresses, although I must admit it really kind of lost me towards the end. I liked the idea of the two apposing antagonist vying for the protagonist's attention: the religious man and the corporate woman. But I loved the merging of documentary filmmaking with the narrative, a technique I, as a VERY low budget filmmaker, must employ.

Anyhow, I must turn my attention to my low budget feature script. Any advice you have on this would be read with much interest.

Later.

Lee

Dear Lee:

I have a Bolex and it's a cool camera, but I think you'd be better off renting or borrowing an Arri-S, which can take the same lenses as the BL. That's what we used on ED for the evil force shots. A Bolex is a difficult camera to use -- even if it's a reflex model, as mine is, you still can't really see through the lens -- and the lenses aren't very good. If you have to choose, I say skip the zoom and get a good array of prime lenses, preferably Ziess lenses, if you can get them. Good luck on writing the script.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail: Mike@interstate.org

Dear Josh:

Are you a fan of Clive Barker's filmmaking or books or both?
And does Evil Dead follow your rules of structure?

Dear Mike:

No, no, and no. And the rules of structure certainly aren't my rules, they were around long before I was born.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just read an interesting article in the NY Press that gives some perspective on how bad the market is for independent films and, (I would imagine) somewhat mirrors your problems with Hammer. This stuff might seem redundant to you, but I find it interesting that a (somewhat) name director, with a fairly well-known cast, good reviews, and a screening at Sundance, is still hardly a guarantee of getting any kind of theatrical release. In fact, this 4 million film will end up in roughly the same place as your 100-300k films that had mostly no-name casts. I'm beginning to wonder if the independent film market has finally died as a way of getting theatrical distribution. It seems to have gone the way of tv and video, with the exception of a very few films a year. I find that pretty depressing. Hollywood has finally become a business fully based on the blockbuster. We've got the Oscar-hopeful blockbusters and the popcorn blockbusters. Anything else, gotta go with tv or video. Can you imagine what things will be like 5-10 years from now? I can easily imagine a cinema billboard listing: "Spiderman 4", "Harry Potter 5", "Men in Black 5", "Scooby Doo 6", and "Jurassic Park 4". The only difference is that they'll be showing in digital projection and maybe have more sophisticated computer graphics. As long as audiences keep shelling out the dough, this is where things are headed. Anyway, here's the article:

http://www.nypress.com/15/26/news&columns/culture.cfm

Jim

Dear Jim:

It's a fairly dire situation out there for any sort of film that's not a "blockbuster." Plus, there are more screens out there to show films on then ever before, but theater owners would rather have "Scooby-Doo" on it's sixth week than any indie films ever. And everyone in the audience does exactly as they're told. Whichever film has the highest publicity budget always goes to number one, no fail. First this summer is was "Spider-Man" for two weeks, then "Star Wars" for two weeks, then "The Sum of All Fears" for a week, then "Scooby-Doo" for two weeks, now "Minority Report." If the big studios took a roll of 35mm negative and ran between their ass cheeks, then spent $75 million advertising it, it would be number one for at least a week.

Josh

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

Josh,

I happened to catch the '62 version of "Cape Fear" this afternoon. I didn't even look to see what channel it was on. Now there's a movie that grabs you. I've seen it before and even the '91 version which wasn't bad, but, I think, not as good. I wasn't planning on watching a movie but couldn't turn it off. Gregory Peck plays such a strong character that the viewer is convinced that anyone who would scare Peck is scary indeed. As much as structure is important, and the structure of "Cape Fear" is great, tension is built by strong characters in whom one can make an emotional investment, and "Cape Fear" has them in spades. I guess there really isn't a question in this, although perhaps an answer to the earlier post about what makes a great movie. Thirty seconds, twenty minutes into the film, and I was hooked. Thanks,

John

Dear John:

I agree, it's a teriffic film, and Robert Mitchum is brilliant. It's also miles ahead of the remake, which I didn't like. I think Mitchum was one of the really great actors that never got his due. I think he's the best actor in his peer group, which I'd say was: Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, and Kirk Douglas, and I think Mitchum got the least respect. He made doing an accent so effortless everyone took it for granted. His southern accent in "Cape Fear" is impeccable. He also did a perfect Irish accent in "Ryan's Daughter," and a perfect Australian accent in the wonderful film, "The Sundowners." He was also one of the early potheads, so he's high on my hero list (har-har), along with Louis Armstrong and Will Geer.

Josh

Name: Jim Matthews Jr.
E-mail: matthewsphilly@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Who in your opinion would benifit from you industry the most if there were a sound stage within 20 miles of Philadelphia that was similar to Pinnacle out of Pitt area?

Dear Jim:

What the hell kind of question is this? Who cares if there's a sound stage twenty miles outside Philadelphia? I don't.

Josh

Name: Jake Singer
E-mail: valvethree@hotmail.com

Hey Josh.

I'm a long-time visitor to your site, but not one to post any comments--until now. Don't waste your money on "Minority Report." I have never seen critics masturbate so feverishly over a story with such an abundance of plot-holes and the biggest "logic gap" in recent memory. The story "rules" Spielberg lays out are tossed out the window and glossed over by special fx and a left turn into a sappy B-story. Obviously the critics en masse fell for it. Are these people afraid of dissing Spielberg or what? What the hell is going on?

Jake

P.S. Your site's great. Wish more people in LA took the time to read some of your essays about story...

Dear Jake:

I had no plans to see it in the first place. I do like Philip Dick, but I'm sure that Spielberg overrides him everywhere. I still haven't gotten over "A.I." which really was one of the worst films I've ever seen. Thanks for the warning.

Josh

Name: J. Howard Stutsman
E-mail: stutsman2000@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Are you aware of any adaptations to the book "Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA" by Terry Reed and John Cummings? Although the 600 page Expose of CIA Narco Trafficking and Political Intrique is often verbose, this is a unique and interesting portrait of life behind the scenes in America. Could you direct me to anyone? The authors are difficult to engage. Also, how does it feel to be so damned good at what you do? Thank you and keep cranking...

Dear J. Howard:

Try contacting the publisher. Better still, if you have an agent, have them contact the publisher.

Josh

Name: Brandon
E-mail: bautist6@msu.edu

Dude,

I am stuck in Michigan. Do you have any reccomendations for getting a foot in the door of the "biz," within the Great Lakes State?

Dear Brandon:

Make your own movie. Otherwise, there is no getting a foot in the door from Michigan. Hell, I couldn't get a foot in the door in LA.

Josh

Name: Lee Price
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hey Josh

Back again! I've just been reading some of your essays. I totally agree - you can't get sucked into 'skating' through your life. I started off at film school and then went straight into production - making my own stuff on cable and working for other people (Ragdoll - the Teletubbies people - for a year). Making stories happen on screen really gets me off! Then, one day, I got a day job in advertising, to pay the bills, and started to write. I figured I could be a film-maker purely through the writing process. I got an agent and have had a little success in children's TV in the UK. But you know what. I miss film-making. I miss the adrenaline rush you get when you have a great story and you work hard to get the shots and make it happen. I love writing, and it's critically important to get the script right before a foot of film is shot, but I've realised I need to be involved in the whole process. That's why I'm buying my own 16mm film camera. I'm sick and tired, as a writer who knows how to make a film, sending my stuff out there (short and feature scripts), waiting for somebody to make it for me. I've woken up. I'm going to make the films myself. No more hanging about.

Keep up the good work on your site. I find it immensely encouraging, and I'm sure many others do to, that there's an independent out there doing his own thing.

Keep rocki' 'n' 'rollin'.

Lee

Dear Lee:

What kind of camera are considering buying? I personally recommend renting, as it's cheaper than owning, you'll get a higher quality camera, and if it breaks down it's someone else's problem. It's always seemed to me that I'd rather have the extra money for the production itself. Each to their own, however.

Josh

Name: Lee Price
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hey Josh

It's great to see that you champion the three act structure and the need for interesting characters. I'm building a career as a TV writer here in the UK (I've recently written for Big Meg Little Meg, Bob the Builder and Sooty). The TV script editors I've worked with over here are big on the three act structure and well motivated characters. I'm an advocate myself - I love the books by Lew Hunter, McKee and Froug. If you strive for great characters and a solid structure, with well placed turning points, you know you're on the path to a story that will work.

Going back to my last posting: I agree - you need to make sure the audience empathises with the characters so that they care when they're killed off. I was specifically comparing TCM to Evil Dead. I thought the build in TCM was more prolonged than Evil Dead. I was wondering specifically what you thought about this.

Here's another technical question. I'm gonna edit my short and feature film on Avid. Do I shoot 24 or 25FPS? I want to do the El Mariachi thing, where I shoot on film but do all the post on digital tape, to keep the costs down.

Keep rockin' 'n' rollin'.

Later.

Lee

Dear Lee:

You seem to clearly understand the point of the three-act structure and well-motivated characters, so you're well on your way to doing something that at least I'd be interested in. You absolutely want to shoot 24 fps. If you shoot 25 fps. then you can never end up back on film, like "El Mariachi." 25 fps. is strictly a video setting. After you finish cutting on the Avid you'll print out an EDL or edit list, then go back and conform your film negative to make film prints, and that must be at 24 fps. or it will be funky. Also remember, whoever you get to edit your film needs to know that it's going back to film so that they can leave the proper "handles" for the negative cutter, which are extra frames on either side of the cuts. Good luck and keep us informed how it goes.

Josh

Name: Ben McCullough
E-mail: bampictures@newyork.com

Dear Josh:

From this moment one, I choose never to see one of your films (that is if you indeed do have respectable films to your credit).

My reason for this: you said Unbreakable was the worst film you had ever seen.

Now, whilst I am entirely open to everyone having an opinion, not one once of my being agrees with you on your judgement of Unbreakable.

Firstly, you said that Unbreakable has the worst story. I can think of plenty worst stories, that still made it to be Blockbusters. Take the Matrix, Spiderman, or the Terminator for example- Far less plausible stories than Unbreakable, yet still they are box office hits.

You then say that Unbreakable offered nothing over the Sixth Sense. What about the underlying theme of Comic Books? What about a definitive goal that must be accomplished – eg. Defeat Elijah. What about the constant development on the story.

One of the most unique aspects of Unbreakable is how the story continues to develop throughout the film. Have you ever noticed how every scene delivers at least 2 aspects to the story. (For example, the train wreck – it shows that Dunn is experiencing marital problems, and then illustrates the train crash. )

The last flaw you see in Unbreakable is the fact that Elijah Price is weak. But Price is Dunn’s arch nemisis – he is supposed to fight him with his mind, not his hands.

To conclude, Unbreakable is the best film I have ever seen.

Dear Ben:

Well, God bless you. If I had a 35mm print I'd give it to you. I'm not sure I'd get on the internet and proclaim my bad taste to the entire world, but hey, it's still a somewhat free country. By the way, I never said it was the worst film I've ever seen, nor even one of them, I just said it was preposterous crap. If you're going to go to the trouble of quoting someone back to themselves, you might want to pay a little attention to what you're reading.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

How's it going? Haven't stopped by in a while. I have two questions if you don't mind.

1) While one is writing a treatment, usually, how many pages does an act have to be?

2) Is "Hammer" ever going to be released?

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions. Have a good one.

Mike

Dear Mike:

I can't predict the future regarding "Hammer." So far, however, no one will touch it with a ten-foot pole. I seem to have made a $350,000 home movie. As far as treatments go, they generally run between six and twenty pages. Nothing's chiseled in stone, but acts are about the same length, so if it's six pages in total, the acts are two pages each. If it's twelve pages, the acts are four pages each. Give or take, and act two, being the main action of the story, is generally longer than the other two.

Josh

Name: Jeff
E-mail: wonkyj@aol.com

Hey Josh,

I enjoy the site. I'm curious what your opinion on Shakespeare is. Also, what do you think of movie adaptions of his work? The best? The worst? The so-so?

Dear Jeff:

Shakespeare had the greatest ability to string words together of anyone in the English language, so far. His plots leave something to be desired, however. I have no doubt that the stories played better in 1600. I think most of Shakespeare's works don't function at all on film. I'm quite fond of Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" and "Henry V," Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet," and in a perverse way, Joseph Mankiewicz's "Julius Caesar," where poor Marlon Brando gets buried by the cast around him. I can live without just about all the others.

Josh

Name: John D. Wynne
E-mail: Runawayfilms@aol.com

Mr. Becker,

I am a young filmmaker myself and am currently in pre-production on what will be my first feature. Shooting (if financing comes through) begins July 20. I hate to admit, but I haven't seen any of your film work, but I am a huge fan of Campbell and Raimi. "Running Time" sounds fantastic and I'd like to see it if it's possible. While my film won't use the one-take approach, it sounds like you've found a great way to work quickly and cheaply, which I am very interested in. Thank you, your production diary has really raised my spirits.
Sincerely,
John D. Wynne

Dear John:

Having not seen any of my films is what most of humanity has in common, other than breathing oxygen. Good luck on your upcoming film. Do as much pre-production work as humanly possible. If you have any specific questions I'm happy to try and answer them.

Josh

Name: Lee Price
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hey Josh

Thanks for all your help. I pick up my Arri BL kit next week. Cool! Can't wait.

I bought The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on DVD and watched this movie again last night. I was quite surprised at just how slow the build up is in this film. It starts really well with the corpse-art in the cemetery and the hill billy with the camera (the corpse artist!) And then there seems to be quite a lull. There's talk of slaughter houses and the methods of killing cattle and we're introduced to another member of the Gein family at the gas station. I think it lacks the claustrophobic quality and the sense of isolation that really good horror movies have. It's only when the girl and her wheel-chair bound brother are anxiously waiting at the car that I feel the movie kicks into gear. From then on in it's a real ride!

I just wondered what your thoughts were on this movie. I enjoyed it from an inspirational point of view - look what you can do with 16mm kit and loads of dedication.

Later.

Lee

Dear Lee:

I think the build up is incredibly important, and without it the rest of the film wouldn't have been nearly as powerful. If I don't know the people I will not care when they're killed. The scene in the van with crazy kid with the red mark on his face is a terrific scene -- "It's a good picture. You can pay me now. Five dollars." The kids in the van are really freaked-out, as any of us would be, and we care about them. If you do not take the time to set the characters up in act one, as Hooper and Henkel did in TCM, acts two and three won't mean anything. Good luck with your film. Choosing the Arri-BL was a smart choice, I think.

Josh

Name: Tim Driscoll
E-mail: Dripper25@hotmail.com

Josh,

It's your Dean from "Hammer", here. Had some questions and comments I wanted to run by you. Are you still at your old e-mail addy?
Dean

Dear Tim:

Yes, I am.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

You've talked about what an impact "How The West Was Won" on your decision to become a film director and I see it's on your favorites list, too. I had the good fortune to see it in the theater during one of its re-releases and have seen it often since on TV. My question about epic (and episodic) films like "HTWTH" and "The Longest Day" is: Is it possible for those films to have a three-act structure? Or does the writer just try to make each segment follow the three-act structure?

Charles

Dear Charles:

I don't think "How the West Was Won" is a great example of screenwriting, or filmmaking, for that matter, but it's certainly a huge production. I think a screenwriter needs to be following the three-act structure no matter what the heck they're writing. I'd be hard pressed to point out the act breaks of either film right now, but in the case of HTWWW, James R. Webb was a good screenwriter, and had done terrific work on William Wyler's "The Big Country" and Lewis Milestone's "Pork Chop Hill," so he definitely knew his craft. A lot of people had their hands in "The Longest Day" script, credited, if I recall correctly, to the author of the book, Cornelius Ryan, and novelist Romain Gary. I must say it's a pretty compelling film given it's episodic structure. You always have Robert Mitchum and Eddie Albert to cut back to, though. When Albert buys it at the end it's quite powerful. But stories are just naturally told in three acts.

Josh

Name: Jean Thompson
E-mail: jthompson77@adelphia.net

Dear Josh,

Do you think that a bad performance by an actor is the director's fault or the actor's fault? This is an on-going argument that a friend and I have been having. I mean I know that if someone has no talent then they just have no talent. But There are actors that have given great performances in some films and then they suck in others.

Also, can you name the top 3 films that you think all aspiring filmakers should see?

Thanks!
Jean

Dear Jean:

I think it's a combination of the actor and the director. It takes great actor to give a really terrible performance, like John Malkovich in "Rounders," which I just saw, doing the phoniest Russian accent ever. Clearly, the director, John Dahl, either didn't have the taste or the balls to tell him to cool out. It's not easy telling a star what to do, and most directors won't do anything that will create any waves. I mean, do you really want to show up on the set everyday and have to work with an angry, pissed-off John Malkovich? That sounds like a certain level of hell. I'm sure it was a lot easier just leaving him alone then trying to explain that his accent completely sucked. As for the three films every aspiring filmmaker should see, I've got to fall back on my favorite example "The Bridge on the River Kwai" because I think it's the best screenplay ever written, and I learned more about screenwriting from watching that movie than any book I ever read on the subject. It's also beautifully handled in every other department, too. Then I'd probably go with William Wyler's "The Best Years of Our Lives" to show how a strong, non-intrusive, director at his best works, and how much you can care about characters in a movie. Then I'd go with Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" to show how a strong, intrusive director can make his style work with his story.

Josh

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

Josh:

On the subject of "Unbreakable" again I noticed a very bad thing about it and "Sixth Sense".

M. Night Shyamalan seems obssessed with a finite comic series (three runs of fifteen issues each) called "Mage: The Hero _______" (the third word in the title changes between series to denote which is which: 1 Discovered, 2 Defined, 3 Denied)

In the Mage series an average man meets a mysterious stranger who tells him that he's a superhero. This man discovers that he has incredibly strength and invulnerability when the need arises. He also has a very common weakness that many people suffer from. Sound familiar? The only difference between that and "Unwatchable" is the weakness: in Mage it a fear of heights, in "Unwatchable" it's a fear of water (or drowning).

The worst part of my realizing this is that there's a character in the Mage comics who died in the early 60's and never knew it.

This story predates "Sixth Sense" by abou a decade or more.

Just thought you might be interested. For me, knowing this means I can probably predict Night's next couple of films (through characters or themes).

--Kevin Mills

PS: I'm looking forward to "Hammer" coming out at some point. Look on the bright side, it's taken Jim vanBebber over a decade to film and distribute "Charlie's Family" (which I've heard is due out by the end of the year). Eventually "Hammer" will be released.

Dear Kevin:

Ah, the Quentin Tarantino approach, meaning just steal what you need. Well, it worked for Tarantino and it worked for Shyamalan. I think that what "originality" has now come to mean, stealing from little known sources. My neighbor, who graduated college in 1966, just watched "Hammer" and said that I had gotten the feel and texture of 1964 perfectly, and she also said she liked the film. She might just be acting nice about it, though.

Josh

Name: Marvin
E-mail:

Hey josh,

I was wondering if you plan on seeing "Minority
Report"? I know you are not fond of Spielberg...that's probably an understatement? haha.

Anyways, I kinda liked it... *tries to avoid the angry mob of film critics* Ok, well, it entertained me...

On what makes a movie great... I know character is key. But that all seems a bit hazy to me. Would you consider an oldie like "From Here to Eternity" to have good characters? or do you think the old Kevin Costner Robin Hood (which was in your favorites list) had great characters? Because I personally wasn't too impressed, this might be stretching it a bit but the characters in that movie Robin Hood doesn't seem to excel too far ahead of many of today's recent films (and From Here to Eternity as a whole wasn't that 'great' either...). Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed those films, but again the idea of what makes a movie great is a bit vague to me. I'm still learning. Forgive my ignorance. ;)

Dear Marvin:

The Kevin Costner "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" is not on my list, "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938) with Errol Flynn is on my list. The Costner picture is crap, and he's absolutely awful in it. I disagree with you that "From Here to Eternity" is not great, I think it is. Pruett (Montgomery Clift) is a terrifically compelling character, as is Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster), and it has some of the best dialog ever written for a film, mainly taken straight out of James Jones' brilliant novel. It's also one of the great adaptations of a book, by Daniel Taradash, who won an Oscar for it. When Lurene (Donna Reed, who also won an Oscar) hears about Pruett being put through "the treatment" she says, "You must hate the army." He shakes his head, "No, I love the army." She says, "But look what it's doing to you." He nods, "Just because a man loves a thing doesn't mean it's got to love him back." I can't tell you how many times I've thought of that line, particularly regarding my relationship to the movie business. What makes a great movie? How about loving every minute of it, and not having to make any excuses for it.

Josh

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

Josh,

A few questions about "If I Had A Hammer."

As far as your friends and family are concerned (I'm assuming most have seen it) how have the reactions been? That is, has IIHAH gotten the best responce of you films? The worst?

Also, have Bruce, Rob, and Sam seen it? Any critics? In general, what have the poeple, who have been lucky enough to see it, been saying?

Another thing, have you heard from any of the festivals, yet? I had just submitted my picture to two of the same festivals you mentioned a while back and was wondering if you had any news. Also interested in hearing what all you put into one of your submittal packages, and wheather or not you type or hand write the application forms. I always feel (probably because of the god-awful luck I've had in the past with festivals) that I'm not making a very good "package."

Good luck, and have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

I've had two screenings, one in LA and one in Detroit, and both went well, but no one was really going to bad-mouth me at either of those. A couple of people seemed to really like it. Maybe it's a disaster and they were just being kind to me. The film has come pretty close to destroying me, both financially and emotionally, but I feel mostly out from under it now, except the debt. I flew so utterly in the face of what the distributors demand, meaning a genre film with sex and violence and recognizable names, that I suppose the film being treated like radioactive waste was inevitable. Meanwhile, I send to the festivals exactly what they ask for: a VHS copy of the film, five black & white 8x10 stills (including one of the director), a synopsis, cast and crew lists, bios, a check. I shove it all together in a folder with pockets and off it goes. I've never had much luck getting into festivals, either. Maybe I should be slipping a hundred dollar bill in there, too. All the best to you and your film.

Josh

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

Josh:

I finally saw "Unbreakable" after contemplating it for months and wow.

I kinda liked the subject matter. It made me feel like I was ten years old again (and reading superhero comics again.....I always preferred the stories where not alot happened). But I think a better title is "Unwatchable".

I just read your review for "Unbreakable" and I know exactly how you felt. I found myself actually calling cut out loud in many scenes. Not to mention the fact that alot of the scenes were framed so horribly that unless you're seeing it in theatres or on a 60" tv screen you're gonna miss where the characters are. I have a 13" tv (size doesn't matter, contrary to popular belief) and found myself looking for the principal actors before I listened to what was being said.

In the end, I liked the story like I liked the "Matrix" or "Phantom Menace". They make bad movies alone but make decent prologues or first parts of a larger series. But "Unbreakable annoyed me so much on a technical end that I wanted to punch a wall. I don't even feel that way about Bruckheimer productions.

--Kevin Mills

PS: I also enjoyed "Sixth Sense" (even though I saw the ending from a mile away). Unfortunetly M. Night Shyamalan wrote "Unbreakable after "sixth Sense" according to his interview on the DVD.

Dear Kevin:

That's another sad aspect of the contemporary world, should anyone do something decent, they will certainly not be able to follow it up with something better or as good. It's like the second they taste fame and fortune they immediately become venal and corrupt. It's interesting, I think.

Josh

Name: N. William H
E-mail: nwh_service_jeob@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

As a big fan of your works and scripts, I was really pleased to see an actress called Gretchen Egolf mentioning you in a recent interview and was wondering whether you caught it? In case you didn't, Gretchen (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Roswell and Martial Law) said that she felt, although a fan of mainstream movies, movies such as UNDERCOVER and directors (such as- Josh Becker) produce movies with a certain charm which is completely unattainable, through main-stream productions! Cool, hey?

Dear William H.:

Yes, it is, but it sounds like she's talking about someone else. That other Josh Becker, the one that made "Undercover." But if she actually was speaking kindly of me, that's nice, as I've always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Josh

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

Josh,

You have several times indicated something less than enthusiasm for "Chariots of Fire" and I was wondering why. It seems to me that this would be the sort of film you would like; you've mentioned admiration for Merchant/Ivory films for instance. In addition, I know you like historical pieces and "Chariots" qualifies here. Like most sports stories it lends itself to three-act structure (introducing the challenge, training and then actual competition), though "Chariots" does run parallel for a while. The cast is top notch as is the production value, and the score is one of the more celebrated in modern films. It is, at times, a busy film, dealing with religion, nationalism, racism, tradition versus modernity, light romance and, of course, sport. I thought these were used in support of the story, however, detailing the separation of the two principals. I didn't care for the way the prologue and epilogue were handled but that doesn't detract too much from the film. By the way, if you read the London Times report on the 1924 Olympics you will also find a story covering John Gielgud's debut in Hamlet. There's a lousy picture of him as well.

On a slightly related note, "The Emperor's New Clothes" starring Ian Holmes looks promising for this summer. Holmes reprises the role of Napolean (from "Time Bandits", though not, I think, in the sense of a sequel) in a "what if" scenario that has Napolean escaping St. Helena and returning to Paris anonymously. It's funny that Napolean was called the Little General as, at 5'3" he would have been about average. Anyway, I don't know if "Emperor" is meant to be dramatic or comedic but Holmes is good enough either way. Thanks.

John

Dear John:

I found "Chariots of Fire," with it's interesting subject, lovely photography, and terrific score, to be a dreadful bore. The two leads, Ben Cross and Ian Charleson, are like two roaming holes in the screen, and Hugh Hudson is simply a dull director, as the rest of his career attests to. At just about that same time (1981-82) there was a TV movie called "The First Olympics" with David Ogden Stiers, about the 1896 olympics in Athens, that was much, much better.

Josh

Name: Kyle Johnson
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I was just wondering what you thought of my list of movies that I am going to pick up at my local library and my local Blockbuster:

A KNIFE IN THE WATER
THE INCIDENT
JACKNIFE
THE TENANT
NAKED LUNCH
DEAD END
THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL
PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK
THE LOST WEEKEND
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM
DTECTIVE STORY
BARFLY
CUL-DE-SAC
MACEBEATH(71)
LOST IN ALASKA
ABBOT & COSTEELLO MEET CAPTAIN KIDD
COMIN' ROUND THE MOUNTAIN
LOST IN A HAREM
LITTEL GIANT
ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS
LITTLE CEASER

Do I got an okay list so far? If they're any more films that you recommend, be sure to fill me in. Thank you very much. I'm grateful. :-)

Dear Kyle:

It's an okay list. I personally can live without all of the Abbott & Costello movies. I also didn't care for "Naked Lunch" or "The Man With the Golden Arm." As for other recommendations, check out my favorite film list. Have fun.

Josh

Name: Lee Price
E-mail: Lee.price@musicradio.com

Hey Josh

I'm the guy who couldn't decide between the Arri BL and the Eclair NPR. Another question, if I may! How important is it to shoot on Super 16, these days? Are any avenues of distribution closed if one doesn't shoot Super 16? My heart's telling me to opt for the BL (I used it at film school and so am familiar with it), but apparently it can't be upgraded to Super 16, whereas the Eclair NPR can be upgraded. A couple more: how is the BL at hand held work (a bit heavy)? Lastly, sound: what would you recommend as a suitable recording system - I'm thinking of DAT?

Lee

PS

I've just got the UK version of the Evil Dead DVD - looking forward to the commentaries.

Dear Lee:

I hand-held the Arri-BL for over half of TSNKE, and it is kind of heavy, but you get used to it. It's not nearly so bad with a prime lens and no lens blimp (if you're shooting MOS). It's just a plain old good camera, and if you use Zeiss lenses you'll be way better off than using the Eclair. As for shooting Super-16, you've just boned yourself out of many of the cheaper aspects of 16mm post production. With Super-16 you can no longer make a 16mm print, you must blow-up to 35mm (since it exposes the image right across the area where the optical soundtrack goes). Well, the blow-up is a $40,000 process, and if you've got that much extra money, I say shoot 35mm and spare yourself the headache. Also, a 16mm print costs about $1,500 and a 35mm print costs about $4,000, and since you will probably be making several prints to send out to festivals, that's meaningful. What this comes down to is, in my opinion, shoot plain 16mm or shoot 35mm, but getting caught in the middle is probably a mistake. It's perfectly rational to shoot regular 16mm and compose your shots with the 1.85:1 cut-off in mind, keeping the rest of the frame clear of booms and lights, so that when you transfer to video you can choose if you want to letterbox it or not. The bottom line is that if you shoot in 16mm, then you ought to be able to finish in 16mm so you can enjoy the considerable price savings. Otherwise, shoot in 35mm.

Unless you can get your hands on an old Nagra 1/4" tape synch recorder, I think the only choice left is DAT. It seems like there ought to be synch sound recorders that go to DA-88, but I don't know about them.

Josh

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

Josh,

Here's a genre I haven't seen discussed yet: what do you think about musical documentaries? I just watched "The Kids Are Alright" with The Who for the umpteenth time and I still enjoy it. I also liked "The Song Remains the Same", "Athens Georgia, Inside and Out". I know that a lot depends on the music but I enjoy U2's early music but did not care for "Rattle and Hum". "The Last Waltz" and "Woodstock" also come to mind as good examples. Do you have thoughts on the genre and/or favorites(recommendations)? Thanks.

John

Dear John:

I love the original cut of "Woodstock" (edited by Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese), and I really dislike the "director's cut," which now contains utterly worthless footage of Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Canned Heat. It used to be a brilliant example of how to make an over three hour documentary interesting, but they'll never show the original anymore (I luckily have it on tape). Anyway, I also very much like: "Monterey Pop," "Gimme Shelter," "Don't Look Back," Wattstax," and the recent "My Generation," about all three Woodstock festivals (boy, were those last two depressing). As for something like "Rattle and Hum," and I like U2, most bands now are entirely unworthy of watching for 90 minutes or more. I watch a fair amount of the concerts broadcast on HBO, and other than Bruce Springsteen (I watched that one four or five times), most of these performers are pathetic, like Madonna or Britney Spears, with no connection to their audience.

Josh

Name: lee price
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hey Josh

I'm currently reading The Evil Dead Companion and I hugely enjoyed your journal. I'm buying my first 16mm camera. I have two to choose from: the Arri BL and Eclair NPR. I think the Eclair is the wise choice. What would you recommend?

I intend to shoot a short and then a feature, guerilla style.

Thanks again for the journal.

Lee :-)

Dear Lee:

I think you'd be better off with the Arri-BL, which I think is a terrific camera and has a more standard lens mount, so there are a lot more lenses that can used, like the wonderful Zeiss lenses. The Eclair has a C-mount and there aren't that many lenses available with that sort of mount, nor are they as good. Check first. Also, Arriflex is much bigger brand and can probably be serviced easier. We shot "Evil Dead" and TSNKE with an Arri-BL, and they're very dependable, rugged cameras. Sam tried to shoot an early film with an Eclair and it broke down.

Josh

Name: Bill Pruitt
E-mail: elijah775@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

That was halarious! I loved it. It was like an Indiana Jones parody. I cracked up the whole time while reading it. It seemed almost like I was watching a movie in my mind, and it was hystericaly funny. I liked the part where they were on the plane and the bad guy shot at them with a machine gun and cannon and they didn't even notice, but then threw a dagger at them and they both ducked. Also as Cleavland was walking with the Weaver, the Weaver warned him that there were many dangerous sand traps in the area, and a golfer walked by and said, "You're telling me! Have you seen my caddy?" before hopping into a Cadilac and driving off. The whole story reminded me of Naked Gun or Hot Shots. I really enjoyed it. Of course, I probably was disturbing people around me, as I am in a library. I got some dirty looks from laughing to loudly while I was reading it. But anyway, it was good.

Dear Bill:

I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was written long before "Naked Gun" or "Hot Shots." Back when we wrote the script we had hoped to get Jim Backus for the part of the Golfer.

Josh

Name: douwe korff
E-mail: douwe@korff.co.uk

Dear Josh:

hi - just stumbled onto your site. can you help me find a place where i might find videos of old films i cant find anywhere? in particular Hathaway's "Down to the Sea in Ships" (1949 or 1950) or anything written (scripted) by my countryman Jan de Hartog? Thanks - DK

Dear Douwe:

I was able to find the 1922 silent version, but not the 1949 Hathaway version. No info on Jan de Hartog, either. Sorry.

Josh


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