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Q & A    Archive
Page 78

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

Dear Josh,

This is sort of a follow-up to the discussion on funding. Your buddy who made the film "Mosquito" - how easy or difficult was that to find funding for, to get distributed. etc.? Did it help that it fit into an easily identifiable genre, and had a genre star (of sorts?) Granted, it was low-budget, but the special effects muct have been pretty pricey. Did it ever see theatrical release, or was it straight-to-cable/video?


Thanks,

August

Dear August:

"Mosquito" was made by my friend Gary Jones, who did the effects on TSNKE, "Lunatics," and "Evil Dead 2." I think the whole picture came in at $250,000, that's with a million effects. It took Gary from 1987 to 1994 to get the film financed and made. Then he sold it to Orion who promptly went bankrupt, Gary never got a cent, and the film got caught in Orion's bankruptcy proceedings and he can't even get his hands on the negative and sound elements. It's as ugly of a indie film story as there is. But I just spoke with gary two days ago and he keeps on keeping on. His newest film, "Crocodile 2" has just come out on video/DVD. He shot the film in India. Check it out.

Josh

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

Josh,

I take it "Hammer" has drawn pretty good interest if you've moved to the second dubbing. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

A movie I haven't seen mentioned that I really liked was "The Full Monty". Tom Wilkinson has been good in everything I've seen him do and I really like Robert Carlisle as well. I liked the fact that the movie was not about the end of the world, but about the end of a way of life. It was interesting in the way it worked gender-role reversals yet it did not fall into cliche. Watching it I had the impression that it was not the work of a major studio, though that was an impression. I could check with IMDB, I suppose. Anyway, I was wondering what you thought of that film.

Thanks,
John

Dear John:

It was a British picture, so I don't think any major Hollywood company was necessarily involved in the financing, although one might have been involved in the distribution. I didn't really care for the film, and I never cared about Robert Carlyle. I never gave a damn about seeing out-of-shape, middle-aged guys strip, and I didn't believe the women would care, either. And to have them practice and practice, then be as bad as they were seemed unbelievable. High school productions are better than that. It was too calculatedly cute for my tastes.

Josh

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

Josh,

Just out of curiosity, which one of your films had the easiest time finding distribution? I guess I'm talking about TSNKE and RT since "Lunatics," was sort of made with studio money. How quickly did these other two attract attention from the acquisition people, and how?

BTW, what ever happened to the producers rep that was going to handle "Hammer?"

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

No, "Lunatics" was made independently with money raised in Michigan, then sold to Sony. The easiest was "Running Time" because it was the cheapest, I had the most the money personally at the time, and I had the job on "Xena," too. It took a couple of years to set up the deal on TSNKE, from 1985 to 1987, and we talked to a lot of people in between. Sony made an offer on "Lunatics" when they saw a demo reel at Cannes, and bought the film when it was done, so that was quick. I made the video/DVD deal on "Running Time" about a year after it was done. The sales agent I presently have is representing "Running Time." I'm trying to get them to watch "Hammer."

Josh

Name: Michael Carl
E-mail: michael.carl@telia.com

Dear Josh:

Saw that one can finally buy "Hammer" and I'm interested in that. Since paying with credit card is much easier since I live in Sweden, I got a little confused when it looks like only people in US can buy with credit card. Is there a way to fix this?

--
Michael

Dear Michael:

I don't know. I also don't know how much it would cost to send to Sweden, certainly more than $3.00 US. Shirley and I will do some checking. [And I will contact you via email when we have the answer to your question. --webmaster]

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh!

I just read what you had to say about prisons in one of your posts and found it very interesting. I have had the very unfortunate experience of watching and waiting while many of my family members have "done time." It's a plague that curses the male members of one side of my family. And the really sad thing is that it has become some sort of fucked up right of passage among them. When one of my cousins gets arrested and sentenced it is just accepted. They serve their time and get their tattoos and stay out of jail for a year if they are lucky. I have visited my cousin Erik (yes he spells it with a K) in jail more times then I would like to remember. He actually compares prisons now! i.e. This one had better food or this one had better beds etc.... And to top it all off he has always been very proud of the crimes that he has commited to land himself in jail. He is 25 now and he has been in and out of juvy and prison since he was 12! He feels like he has no other options but I think that he has no interest in the "other options" that may be out there for him. The notion of working for a living is completely foreign to him. It is very, very depressing. He worships ganster rap, yet he is a blonde haired, blue eyed white kid from the sticks in Western Maryland. I would be very interested to read your essay on prisons. Thanks for letting me rant. On a lighter note. I just got my cable guide for the month of September and I noticed that "Lunatics" is showing on the Encore channel about a dozen times during this upcoming month. Just thought you would like to know.

Thanks!
Jean

Dear Jean:

Yeah, if only I got residuals on "Lunatics." You should be getting your copy of "Hammer" very soon, and I hope you enjoy it. Please write in and tell us what you think. The prison issue is a big one, I think, considering we have the audacity to call this country the "land of the free." [Especially considering that the incarceration rate for black adult men in South Africa under Apartheid was 851 per 100,000 population, while last year in the U.S. it was 7,226 per 100,0000!] And the fact that non-violent criminals and violent criminals are put together is particularly insane. Get arrested for having a couple of joints, which wasn't hurting anyone, and you're now going to a place where you may very well be killed or raped, or you may have to kill someone else to stay alive. If, once again, you removed the 30% of the prison population that shouldn't be there in the first place, then you'd have the space and money to seperate violent from non-violent criminals.

Josh

Name: XenaHerc
E-mail: XLWH@aol.com

Hi Josh.

I just ordered "If I Had a Hammer".

Take care,

XenaHerc

Dear XenaHerc:

I know, I got the order. Yours will be the last of the remaining dubs I have, which will go out today. I have a hundred more coming this week. I hope you enjoy it, but definitely tell us what you thought. Thanks.

Josh

Name: tsimanga
E-mail: pacemakerfilms@aol.com

Hey Josh,

I just read your essay on "the need for structure". A very entertaining read with great points throughout.

My question. I am curently writting a screenplay and have run into an act 2 problem as follows.

My lead character has a two year window in which his goal is to be as rich as possible before he meets his wife. Now the first problem I am running into is how does he go about getting rich without any knowledge of how to do so(no education ad such). Now keep in mind that he went back in time a couple years as to "right his wrongs" and get afforded this oportunity. The only things I have came up with is sports gambling and a more tricky solution is stocks.

I also hve a question about time. How could I effectivly show the passage of time (the two years) without resorting to three or four big forward leaps in time. It seems that one would be acceptable but after that I would be pushing the readers involvement to the edge. Since it is a low budget movie and not some biblical epic.


Thanks Josh.

Dear Tsimanga:

How about technology. Having two years of advanced knowledge, he'd know what technology is going to become popular, and he can invest in it. Or perhaps something like those razor skateboards. Obviously, you could just go to a title that says "Two years later," but you could also come up with a visual schtick, like "Citizen Kane," where his banker says to ten-year-old Kane, "Merry Christmas --" it cuts to grown-up Kane, so about fifteen years went by, and the much older banker finishes the statement, "-- and a happy New Year." Or perhaps he got something brand new, like a book say, then he sets it down and it's all torn and dog-eared. Or he plants a tree, cut, it's ten-feet tall. Something visual.

Josh

Name: Michael Bradley
E-mail: cinephiler@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

It's good that I came across this wesbite. I found it out of accident, and now it's one of my favorite websites to visit. I've been reading your essay's a lot. Got a kick out of all of them, especially the structure essay's, which couldn't be more accurate and insightful. Well, the main reason why I decided to write in is because I wanted to tell you how much of an inspiration you are to my writing and direction. I also wanted to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind.

1) Can you tell me your thoughts on Roman Polanski's A KNIFE IN THE WATER? I realize it's on your list of favorite films, but can you elaborate on why it is? You obviously dig it and that's perfectly fine with me, but the film is, in my opinion, one of Polanski's worst. I love mostly all his other films, films like REPULSION, CHINATOWN, and THE DEATH AND THE MAIDEN. This one's just way off. The characters are idiotic, so horribly written to the point where we don't know why they are doing what they are doing. Besides, I didn't care for any of them; the husband was obnoxious and annoying. And the visuals were dull and uninspired. Can you convince me on why I'm wrong?

2) Why do you think of Kurosawa's work? I think they're a few films on the list like DERSU USALI, HIGH AND LOW, and SEVEN SAMURAI. RAN is currently my favorite film from him; perfect in every way, flawless, a masterpiece. I love foreign films, also.

Michael

Dear Michael:

I'm glad you like the site, but I don't feel very compelled to defend Polanski's "Knife in the Water." I will say that it seemed like a particularly mature, well-crafted first film. I didn't care for "Death and the Maiden." And I don't care for "Ran," either, which was like watching paint dry. Kurosawa seemed so old at that time that the only way he'd make a cut was if the camera was about to run out of film. His films were always kind of slow, but there's a snappiness to his films of the 1950s and 60s, which, as he got old, went away. Sadly, film direction is not an old person's game.

Josh

Name: Fewe
E-mail: chudleycannons@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

1)How do you get a (professional) film directing job and 2)What's a line producer? Thankyou

Dear Fewe:

Generally, getting a professional directing job is based on having weasled your way into some production company, usually by kissing a lot of asses. When I asked Rob Tapert, exec. producer of "Herc" and "Xena," why I was directing the lowest-budget of the five Hercules TV movies (I had three weeks, everyone else got five weeks), and that the fellow that had been Sam Raimi's storyboard artist was directing one of the higher-budget films, Rob replied, "He's kissing the right ass, and you're kissing the wrong ass." Anyway, a line producer is a snazzy alternate name for a production manager, which is a DGA position above 1st AD. They basically do what the producer ought to be doing.

Josh

Name: Kimberly Nedopak
E-mail: kimberlynedopak@aol.com

Hi Josh.

I need the honest deal from you again. I have my screenplay, I want to direct it....but if I am playing producer do you think that would be too much.
I mean I am multi-faceted, pretty good at it too. But I realize there are other things that need to be maintained that if you are directing you can't be handling.
I don't want to lose control of my project by selling it to some producer, but I am aware that wearing so many hates may be a serious mistake.
What do you suggest?
Thanks.

Dear Kimberly:

Unless you've got someone you totally trust to not screw you up, I say do it yourself. I've been a producer on three of my four films, and it's not as difficult as also being the camera operator. If this is your first film then you really need to be on top of where all the money is going and why. You sound bright, you'll handle it just fine. Not to sound too much like a Nike ad, but go for it. And good luck.

Josh

Name: David Lemmo
E-mail: davidlemmo@hotmail.com

Josh,

Have been reading the essays in your site. Met Bruce Campbell the other day at a signing of his book, and he told me about your site. I'm a an actor-writer in San Diego, and have been putting the ideas you express in your Land of the Stupid Cowboys essay into my scripts and novels. I'm going through your stories: great information and insight to what's happened to the film industry. Thanks.

Dear David:

I'm glad you're enjoying it. "Stupid Cowboys" is my only political/ sociological essay on the site, but I have more brewing in me. Right now I am deeply offended by how prison-oriented our society has become. Kids all dress like they're in prison, shows about prison come up on TV constantly, stuck between the shows on cops, serial killers, and forensic science. I feel that we are being inculcated from early on to accept that sooner or later we're all going to prison for a while. I'd say there are 30% too many people in prison in America, which is every single person that's there for drug possession. [“The 2001 United States’ rate of incarceration of 690 inmates per 100,000 is the highest reported rate in the world, now ahead of Russia’s rate of 676 per 100,000.” -sentencingproject.org] If you drive up or down I-5, which runs the length of California, next to agriculture, the next biggest business is prisons, and there's one in every county. It scares me.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Thank you for the answer on DVD dubbing. I'm curious, though: how is an original film transferred to DVD in the first place? Does the 35mm print have to be transferred to video first, or can the actual celluloid print be scanned directly into the computer and recorded on the DVD?
Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

It could be, but it's not. At this point everybody transfers from film, negative, IP, or a print, and it goes through a Rank-Cintel transfer machine (which is what remains of the old J. Arthur Rank film company), and onto Digital Beta tape. From the Digi-Beta (as they call them) you then dupe to either tapes or DVDs.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh!

I'm excited to see "Hammer". I may have asked you this before so forgive me if I'm repeating myself. But are there any plans to release "Lunatics" on DVD? It would but cool to hear commentary from you and Ted Raimi or Bruce Campbell. Also, have you ever thought about writing a book about your filmmaking experiences? I think a lot of young filmmakers would be interested in your story. Just a thought.

Thanks!
Jean

Dear Jean:

I have written a book and it's in an agent's hands right now. Will they rep it, or will it get published remains to be seen. Sony doesn't even know they own "Lunatics" and has no plans for it all, at least that I know of.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I am intrested in directing Dark of the Moon. How would I buy the rights to it?

Dear _____:

Are you intentionally trying to remain anonymous, or do you not want to reveal your identity. You can write to me directly at josh@beckerfilms.com.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

lol...Yes sir! I just saw your answer to another post about HAMMER distribution, and had no idea that DVD reproduction cost that much, at least in this country (the Chinese, of course, do it for about $2.00 a copy, but they don't worry about all that pesky, international copyright crap). Have you considered making your own DVD copies? I know that you can buy DVD machines that make dubs, although the technology is still a little new (and expensive). Right now you're experimenting with direct marketing, but this may be a move to consider in the future, particularly if the current plan is successful. In any case, the videophiles would be happy.

Yours truly,
Darryl

P.S. My compliments to the webmaster. I like the new look of the site. D.J.M.
[thanks! --webmaster]

Dear Darryl:

Here's the deal with DVDs, which both my good buddy Bruce Campbell and the webmaster here, Shirley, have the capability of making. They won't look any better than the source from which they coming from. Therefore, if you feed in a VHS it will look similar or worse to the original. Until someone has at least a Beta-SP deck to feed off of, it won't look very good. The VHS tapes I'm having made are coming off of a Digital Beta master, which is the highest quality master around these days. Sadly, it was a one-light transfer off of a release print (that still cost $1,000). And it looks okay. To do a top-notch transfer off of a color-timed IP right now would cost me $12,000 for the IP and another $5,000 to $7,000 for the transfer. Then I could make really good-looking DVDs.

Josh

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

Josh,

For cost effective VHS copies try Film Craft Lab in Farmington Hills, MI.
lipner@filmcraft.com
It supposedly has the cheapest video dubs around. Don't know for sure myself.

BTW, DVD may still be worth checking out. I sure as hell don't think my friend, Mark, payed 40 some odd bucks to put his film on DVD. Have you shopped around for the best DVD prices?

Good luck. Looking forward to getting "Hammer," no matter what medium it comes out on.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

I will continue to check DVD dupe prices. I may have a way to do it myself, with Bruce's Apple G-2, if he buys a Beta-SP machine, which he may. The point is to have them look okay. I've worked with Film Craft, they did all the processing for "Lunatics" way back when, and though they're nice folks, I didn't like their work. I'm using my usual duplication facility, Santa Monica Video, where they do very good work and are all nice folks. I came to them after years of using Lightning Dubs, the biggest place in LA, where they consistently treated me like a jerk. Anyway, I've already ordered a hundred dupes, and we've set up the PayPal thing so people can pay with credit cards if they'd like, so we're ready to go. [You should be able to order it from the website this weekend; I'll put notification on the main page. --webmaster]

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

from what I gather Dark of the Moon's project was dropped. I as a aispiring director wish to direct the script, with your consent of course. I know that this is very unproffessional and I understand the copyright laws. I wish to direct the film because as I want to be a writer and director I find it troublesome to write entire scripts. Would it be o.k if I picked up the Dark of the Moon project?

Dear _____:

Yeah, I'll just give my scripts for free to people with no names that write into my website. Wake up and grow up. The first thing you need is about $28,000 to purchase the rights, which is approximately the Writer's Guild minimum fee for a low-budget film. Sadly, without the money you get nothing.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I'm glad that the problem of overseas sales has been solved. As for the way I sound, what can I say? After seven years, I find little pieces of jargon creeping into my speech involuntarily. Roger? :-)
Anyway, here's my latest question: what do you think of reality-based TV shows? For the most part, they seem deliberately UNrealistic (once you poke a highly visible camera into a situation, untrained people will react to that, and the reality of the scene is lost). There are a few exceptions (I particularly like that new show on the History Channel called BASIC TRAINING, mainly because it's filmed at Fort Jackson, SC, where yours truly went to basic training many long years ago - check it out if you haven't seen it yet), but this seems to be the case, most particularly with those deliberately contrived shows like ROAD RULES, THE REAL WORLD, or BIG BROTHER where the situation is unrealistic and set up from the beginning. What do you think?

Yours truly,
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

The whole thing bores me to tears. I have no more interest in reality TV than I have in game shows, which is zero. Now drop and give me twenty, maggot!

Josh

Name: Calvin Hobbes
E-mail: circus_maximus@msn.com

JB-

I thought I'd chime in with a little rebuttal to these claims that "no one is buying feature films shot on DV." Well, recent releases prove that theory wrong.

A few prime examples:
1) Steven 'Pseudo-Independent' Soderburgh directed his latest star-bloated claptrap "Full Frontal" using what appear to be incredibly El Cheapo commercial miniDV cameras. The trailers and commercials all appear in the most wretched visuals I've seen; grainy, awkward, and replete with horrible color quality. Pity the poor bastards who see this movie on the big screen - I can only imagine that the poor cinematography will induce the most rampant cases of nausia since The Exorcist premiered.

2) A recent independent DV film, "Tadpole." Yet another film with a few known actors, but at least making an effort to capture a more reputable indie-vibe. I assume that the picture quality is somewhere on par with "Full Frontal" though, as news articles describe the film's director as being incredibly displeased with the efforts of his DP: This crew was also working with normal home DV cams, which require a lot of adjusting in order to manually control the focus, color balance, et cetera. It seems the cinematographer, who wasn't used to all that tinkering, simply stopped caring and did his shooting (which was confined to a very short schedule) on auto-pilot.

3) A film that personally annoyed the piss out of me with its shoddy handheld antics, "The Anniversary Party." That kind of phony documentary-style shooting might work fine for TV shows like NYPD Blue, but it's simply agonizing to watch for two straight hours.

4) And a few more that I can think of (The Short List): "Bamboozled," "The Original Kings of Comedy," "Dancer in the Dark," and "Chuck and Buck." Also, I could be wrong, but wasn't "In the Bedroom" shot in DV?

Also of note: The Independent Film Channel hosts a series of films for a block of programming called "DV Theater." Most of these "Feature" films haven't actually been released in distribution, but I'm sure the filmmakers get a little dole from showing their product on a premium cable network.

Just food for thought...

Dear Calvin:

You forgot to mention the last "Star Wars" film. If you've got an all-star cast, like "The Anniversary Party," or you're making a sequel to one of the biggest money-makers of all time, or you just won the Oscar for best director last year, you can shoot on whatever format you want. I'm just telling you that if you give a distributor a reason to not release your film, or to even look at it, they'll take it. Just like Rodriguez getting his post production paid for by someone else, you're looking at minor exceptions to the rule and not the rule. If you intend on making a feature film with some chance of being released somewhere, shooting DV at this point is a bad idea. You've shoved yourself into a less than one percent category. "In the Bedroom," BTW, was shot on film.

Josh

Name: Brian
E-mail: KumiteENT@aol.com

Hey Josh,

About El Mariachi, have you read his book, 'Rebel w/o a crew?' Pretty interesting, even if you don't like his films just to read his struggles to raise $7,000. And from what I remember in there was that he shot the scenes MOS then had the actors record their diologue on a DAT and a regular microphone. Or maybe it wasn't even a DAT, it's been a year or 2 since I've read it. Also I do remember he got some sort of discount from Kodak on filmstock because he told them he was shooting a student film. But I do remember him saying that when Columbia bought it, they did in fact pay for the blow up 35mm print, and just about everything else just so they could show it at Sundance or whereever saying this was a 7,000 film. So technically Rodreguiz himself made 'el mariachi' for $7,000 but yes someone did pay the rest.

Dear Brian:

This subject has obviously piqued people's interest. Once again, post-production counts as part of the cost of a movie. A big part. That Rodriguez didn't have to pay it himself makes him a very lucky guy, and not a good example for the rest of us. "Evil Dead" is a much better example, where principal photography cost about $90,000, then probably another $100,000 was spent on reshoots and pick-ups, then another $200,000 was spent on post production, as well as about another $100,000 in interest on all the loans. That's reality. Just putting a film in the can means shit. Finishing it is the game, and Rodriguez lucked out.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

On this whole film festival thing. You know... it's not that "Running Time" wasn't good enough to show at film festivals - I think that it wasn't *weird* enough to show at film festivals. While very inventive, it was a well-done, good ol' fashioned caper movie, the kind that Cagney and Raft and Alan Ladd cranked out every couple of months. I can really imagine Raoul Walsh or Michael Curtiz doing it with Cagney, Anne Sheridan, and maybe William Bendix or someone in the leads. The kind of film that we need more of, but the kind that no once cares about any more. Not that I know anything about film festivals, but the winners on those circuits usually make it to the indie movie house here. And they're all like "Ghost World" - interesting notion, maybe some good characterizations....but all kind of weird.

Same with "Warpath" - truly a classic, simple, straightforward story. These days, you'd need a graphic sex and violence scene with the young Indian girl, a political statement on Native Americans, a punk rock singer cast as one of the bad guys, and a non-linear time frame for people to pay attention to it. Oh, and Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder in the leads.

My guess then is that "Hammer" is a straightforward story that captures a moment in time. No controversy, no risks in its message, no sex and violence.... probably the closest you've come yet to a William Wyler-style film. And accordingly ...no interest. Whatever the case, it will be good to get a glimpse of it. You've got my $20, dude.

On Rodriguez and the $7,000. I've seen "El Mariachi," thoroughly enjoyed it, and think it would be what we'd get if someone got you stoned out of your brain on speed, gave you a hand-held camera, and said "You've got 6 hours to shoot a film."

I read his book, but really just skimmed through it one evening when a friend lent it to me, and this was maybe 6 years ago. But as I recall, he said the *only* expenses he had were film stock, tranfering film to videotape and back, and blanks (caps?) for guns, explosions, etc. The actors were all his friends, and were not paid; they provided their own costumes and props; the camera and sound and light equipment was borrowed from the U. of TX, and he was a crew of one; and he edited it on 2 vcr's in his living room. As I recall, he said that was his one big expense - tranferring all his film to videotape so he could (amateurishly) edit it on a VCR, then transferring it back. I remember he said that he had these shots of a pit bull that he would cut to, basically to cover a bad edit.

See, a lot of the plot and settings were developed based on what he knew he could get for free. There might be a scene in a bar, but only because he knew the owner would let him film there. I remember he said the main bad guy - a hit man named Azul - was willing to act for free... with one stipulation: he wanted a scene where he was in bed with three girls, which he could provide. Rodriguez shot it, and it's actually rather funny.

I gather his goal was to try to sell it to Mexican cable, for maybe $20,000 - because he felt they were so lame, they'd air *anything* . So maybe this overseas thing might be the way to go.

Either way, I think that "Mariachi" is closer in production values to "Stryker's War" or "Cleveland Smith" than to "TSNKE" - just longer. When I saw it, I REALLY liked it, but truly wondered how he had spent more than maybe $100 on it.

Regards,

August

Dear August:

I already answered that one today, regarding "El Mariachi's" actual costs. $7,000 in the can is not completion. Anyway, envisioning Cagney, Sheridan, and Bendix in "Running Time" is kind of amusing, although I'm not sure Jeremy Roberts would appreciate being likened to William Bendix. Bendix, BTW, is just great in Wyler's film "Detective Story" -- better than I ever suspected he could be. Regarding the lack of acceptance of my films at festivals, I have a feeling you've hit the nail on the head. My films, whether they're good or bad, are far too understandable for today's festivals. My big problem, I think, is that everything that's considered "hip," I consider stupid. Like "Ghost World" or "Memento," both of which were seriously painful for me to sit through. Even "Monster's Ball," which I liked, still had aspects of modern filmmaking I didn't like, such as many interior angles being shot from outside through windows for no good reason, and a droning electronic score covering everything. I'm an old-fashioned guy, I guess, in that I want to see what I'm looking at and hear what's being said. Call me a stick-in-the-mud.

Josh

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

Josh,

I was interested to see the posting by Ravi who thought some of the personal names in "Hyderabad" were inappropriate. I actually felt uncomfortable about them myself (I lived in Delhi for three years) and so consulted my father who was an Attache Officer there over two tours (five years). His thinking was that names of Muslim origin would not be inappropriate given the political history of the area. Hyderabad was included in the Moghul Empire and long had Muslim leadership. I think he said that he had only known of one "Ravi", that being the sitar player, but obviously the Ravi who posted with you clears that name for use. Naturally, if the post-sender, Ravi, has recommendations I'd go with his. Nothing is as true-to-life as reality.

I has a hypothetical question for you regarding SAG rules. You have entertained projects with BC and TR where either or both would serve as producer as well as star. Since they must recieve SAG pay, are they able, as producers, to just feed that back into a feature they themselves are producing? Or is there a prohibition against that sort of thing? Just wondering.

John

Dear John:

SAG is touchy about producers being actors, although if they've been dues-paying actors for a long time, then become producers it's more acceptable. SAG just doesn't like the idea of a producer casting themselves and taking away a real actor's job. An actor can put their pay back into the production, but if they're being paid through SAG, then health and pension will be subtracted, plus taxes. There are some other arcane rules regarding being both a producer and an actor (Bruce Campbell ran into these on "Crimewave"), so you ought to check with SAG first.

Josh

Name: Jessica Goodman
E-mail: jessicagoodman7589@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

I am 13 years old and my cousin Carol "ck" Kravetz lives in Los Angeles. She has been a production coordinator for quite some time.

She has done work on tv and movie sets. She just left on Monday for Memphis, Tennessee where they are shooting a movie for 3 months.

What exactly does a production coordinator do? I know she has contact with the director, cause he called her.

If your interested this is the link to my cousin's credits... http://us.imdb.com/Name?Kravetz,+Carol

thank you, Jessica Goodman

Dear Jessica:

A production coordinator mainly deals with the talent, meaning the actors, and makes sure they are where they're supposed to be, and are happy about it, too. If you have any size cast, wrangling all of the actors is a big job.

Josh

Name: Curt Jr.
E-mail: CurtJr@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I just purchased a Sony HVC 2400 camera that hooks up to an SL-2000 recorder (it uses Beta tapes). I cannot find too much information on it. One fact I found out was that its resolution is 525. Since that is more than many digital camcorders, is its picture quality that much superior? Also, do you know any other information on this camera (was it ever used for broadcasting)? U DA MAN, DAWG.

Dear Curt Jr.:

Sadly, regarding this, I'm not da man. I really don't know.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh!

I hear ya. The drafts of "Cycles" are all over the place. It would just piss you off. Just thought I would offer. I read your essays on your various life adventures and I think that you should write an autobiographical script. From what I read it seems as though you have had a very interesting life. Have you ever thought about writng a book about your life in the film business? Just curious.

Thanks!
Jean

P.S. I'm excited to see "Hammer". When are the copies going to be available?

Dear Jean:

Just working out a few more details, like PayPal, and the fact that DVDs are still too expensive to make -- the duplication place wants $65 for the first one, and $43 each for the next 50 of them -- so I'm skipping DVDs and only selling VHS tapes. We'll see if we can't have this up and running by next week.

Josh

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

Josh,

I've read "Rebel Without a Crew" and here's why "El Mariachi" was so cheap.

-He shot on film then made a print straight from the negative to video. The final print was made by the studio after he sold the movie to them, so he didn't count that.
-He recorded all the audio on a cassette recorder after shooting the scene.
-He had a low shooting ratio because there was little dialogue and if someone screwed up, (dropped their gun, etc) he would just cut right before that to a different angle.
-He didn't pay any actors or crew members, as far as I know.

So I guess he made a finished movie that he sold for only $7000, but the studio plugged in a lot more for it's theatrical release.
Unfortunately, I read the book before I saw the movie. If I'd seen how insanely dumb that movie was beforehand, I never would've bothered to read it.

David

Dear David:

But the big answer is that he simply didn't count the money the studio put in, which was easily a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Like I said, using that logic TSNKE cost $18,000 -- except that it really cost nearly $200,000. And since 99.9% of the time the filmmaker must bring the film to final completion themselves just to get anyone to look at it, $7,000 to make a feature film is a lie.

Josh

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

Hey Josh

Have you seen El Mariachi?

It looks like a $7000 movie.

Can you tell me why you don't think Rodriguez made it the way he made it (a one man crew) on that budget.

Later.

Lee

Dear Lee:

Because I've made too many movies and there are too many processes along the way that cost more than that, if you want to actually look at the film, let alone have sound, too. He's either lying or simply skipping the fact that money was put in by someone else. I can say that I shot TSNKE for about $18,000, except that I owed another $40,000 when I was done, and it still took over another $100,000 to get to a release print. Just doing the 35mm blow-up was minimally $40,000. Just having an optical soundtrack shot so you can make a release print is $4,000. Get it?

Josh

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

Josh,

You may want to try this route of possible distribution for "Hammer."

In Germany there are T.V. stations that have payed between $10,000 and $50,000 to show independent films. I'm actually having some luck with them and they are very friendly. If you want, contact Florence Kluge at Florence.Kluge@DasErste.de
She can provide you with contact info on all 10 of Germany's television outlets that might be interested.

Also, there's an extremely interesting indi theatre in Vancouver, B.C. that shows nothing but films by independent directors, many of which are first timers. Really good folks. You may want to look them up. www.blindinglight.com

BTW, just out of curiosity, what would "Hammer" be rated? Is it a "lighter" film that your previous efforts, or still an R? Seems you said a while back there is no nudity or sex in it. It would be nice to see a PG or PG-13 again in this era of entertainment that is seemingly obsessed with violence, sex, and foul language. How else to you get a "Fuck" in a Robin Hood movie?

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

Thanks, that's interesting info. "Hammer" would be rated PG-13, I suppose. There are a couple of "Goddamns" and one "Shit," but that's it. No sex, no nudity, no violence. I'm very interested in what the folk that frequent this site think of the film. I certainly won't make any money on this venture, but I'm very eager to get some response.

Josh

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

Josh,

I've done some searching around and DV is actually becoming alot more common on the festival circuit. Even the bigger festivals like Sundance have installed digital projectors in their theaters. The smaller festivals have been showing movies with video projectors for awhile and have easily adapted to DV. I don't know if the problem is so much the format, but rather the content and marketability of the film. I know a guy that worked on the Miami film festival last year and there's an incredible amount of pressure to make sure the indie films are commercial. Often times the people choosing the movies are not even film-lovers, but rather people that have business clout to run a large festival. I'm not saying that "Hammer" isn't commercial, but perhaps it just didn't click with the people looking for the next Memento or In the Bedroom.

Having not seen the movie myself, I'll admit that my initial impression is that it sounded vaguely tv-movieish to me, with a cast that I wasn't familiar with. I really enjoyed Running Time and thought TSNKE was fun, but I probably wouldn't run to see Hammer. I'll admit I'm fairly ignorant about the era of music though, and I'm guessing that movie-goers 10+ years older than me would have much more interest in it. Lately I've actually stopped watching movies to some extent and just tried to brush up on my history and literature. I think part of the problem these days with younger filmmakers is that they're completely influenced by television and action movies, which tend to be lacking in the story and character departments.

Anyway, no real questions here, just a few comments. Having seen your last few movies I will probably buy Hammer as well, but any chance you could put a trailer up for it on the website? Take care,

Jim

Dear Jim:

Cutting a trailer is a big deal, and one I haven't done for "Hammer." So no, there won't be a trailer. I know that DV is shown at a lot of festivals, which is good. And the image from DV projectors look quite good, too. Sadly, though, no one is buying feature films shot on DV. Period. Overseas they still won't buy a feature shot in black and white. On a strictly marketing level, shooting DV means you will not make any sales anywhere, unless it's a documentary. That's just how it is. As for "Hammer," whatever it's problems may be, being like a TV movie isn't one of them.

Josh

Name: Ravi
E-mail: kjennu@hotmail.com

Hi,

I read the story 'Huderbad". I just wanna suggest that names are all not quite right. I'm from Hyderbad.

Dear Ravi:

That doesn't surprise me since I've never been to India. Other than the names, what did you think of the story? And the evocation of the place?

Josh

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

Hi Josh!

The only draft that Beacon has with your name on it is a draft by Dario Scardapane dated May 24, 1993. I have a copy of it and I compared it to the one that you have on this site. It is almost a completely diffrent story. There is a bunch of diffrent characters and situations. The drafts by Phillip Kaufman which are from 1998 are much closer to your original story. And if I remember correctly the Fishman brothers drafts which are from 1999 are a mix of everything. Kind of like a cut and paste job. Let me know if you want copies.

Thanks,
Jean

Dear Jean:

Thanks, but no thanks. I glanced at Dario Scardapane's rewrite years ago and got so pissed-off I don't need to see any others. As I said, my original draft was never looked at or considered over at Beacon. That's how Hollywood works, the first thing that's done is to remove any integrity or inspiration. Oh well.

Josh

Name: Brian
E-mail: KumiteENT@aol.com

Hey Josh,


I thought Tim Burton's Ed Wood Biopic was probably one of the ten best films in 90's, IMO. I'm sure some people thought, "who'd wanna watch a 90minute film about a guy making shitty movies?" Just the cinematography and camp feel alone made it a great flick to watch, and it's not like Johnny Depp could do wrong on screen.

Yeah, so just so you know, I'd definatly check out your autobio (if you decide to make it) about the high expectations of moving tinseltown to make your 'Last Picture Show' and the downfall of Hollywood how they'd rather make The Mummy Returns than pick up 'Hammer.'

Dear Brian:

Maybe "If I Had a Hammer" stinks, maybe that's the problem. Those with a spare $20 bucks can now find out. And yes, I agree that "Ed Wood" would certainly be one of the better films of the 90s, but unlike you, I think Mr. Depp is boring, in a severely underwritten part. To be that bad, and to also be good friends of with the dying Bela Lugosi, brilliantly played by Martin Landau, deserved a better script. The photography is great.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

If you want to send an S.A.S.E. from Canada to the U.S. you go to your friendly neighbourhood post office and ask for an IRC (International Reply Coupon) and slap that sucker on your envelope.

I think a while ago you said you were reading Cassavetes on Cassavetes. What do you think about what he has to say on filmmaking?

Dear Dan:

Thanks for the info. I knew there was a name for the item, IRC. And by just using regular mail, the postal rates shouldn't be very much, particularly for a DVD. Hell, Netflix sends them for 37 cents (without the case). I got bored with the Cassavattes book and dropped it. I didn't get very far, either, so perhaps I'll try it again at some later date.

Josh

Name: Daron
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Hey,

That's pretty cool that you might be distributing "Hammer."
Anyway, I was browsing through your site and noticed the you worked as a process server while writing the final drafts for "Lunatics". I know this isn't a film related question or anything, but I was wondering what that was like. Did you have to camp outside of people's houses and wait for them to come home at 3AM? Did you ever have your life threatened?
Quite honestly, with your pot-related commando missions, you're hitchhiking to Alaska and your highly ironic life, I think your life would make a really interesting movie.
You probably wouldn't want to make an autobiographical movie, (disregarding "Biological Clock) but wouldn't it be even more ironic if you made the most money off a movie that showed you making "unsuccessful" movies? (I put in the quotes because sometimes not being in demand by the status quo is a good thing)

Anyway, good luck with Hammer,

Daron

Dear Daron:

Perhaps you're right. Bruce has nudged me several times to write an autobiographical script. It's just been such an aggravating bore living my life, I can't imagine making a film out of it. Process serving was an interesting job. I did have to camp out in front of someone's house to serve them, and I was a threatened a few times, but no fights resulted. I liked the fact that I was usually done by noon.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just read "Worst Case Scenario". For what it's worth, I wasn't aware there was such a show. But the response you got to your comments seemed awfully familiar. I've been involved in debates concerning reparation payments for descendants of slaves, a tremendously complex issue, and met with similar difficulty. I wonder if the average person today can distinguish between a direct and an indirect object. Personally, I've found it best to avoid pronouns of any sort as they seem to be a source of intense confusion. Unfortunately people then think that I'm talking down to them, which of course I am. I don't know the answer. If people would read more that would be a good start.

The other thing that strikes me is how economic principals so clearly demonstrate the purpose of "Hollywood" today. If Hollywood exists to produce product, be it films or television, then it is horribly inefficient and should suffer as a result. That fact that the machine of Hollywood continues to grow almost exponentially demonstrates clearly that, in Hollywood, the product is a mere by-product. The goal of Hollywood is to try to incorporate as many entities, be they corporations or consumers, into its structure by convicing them that the structure itself is the thing.

Foreign objections to the export of American culture through popular media, i.e. film and music, only illustrate this further. Hollywood has become similar to the stock frenzies of recent years. The buying of Hollywood is driven by euphoria rather than tangible returns (quality entertainment), or even the promise of them. From what I understand, major Hollywood releases make their real money in international release. Recent immigrants always tell me that they came here expecting to live episodes from "Miami Vice". They watched the movies and commited to the culture. The quality of the movies are, to them, largely irrelevant. The same principals drive domestic sales. The dream is no longer "I want to be a star" but "I want to be like a star". Give me the lifestyle, essentially.

Hollywood, like those overvalued stocks, produces little of real value. The question is, will the investment bubble burst or will it remain immune to reason?

This turned out longer than I intended and you can edit it (dump it) as you will for posting. I could probably state my case better but I think you can get the gist of it. Thanks for letting me vent.

John

Dear John:

In the overseas market is about the same size -- money-wise -- as the US market. What's amazing to me is that "Spider-Man" can make $300,000,000. in two weeks, and become the fifth highest-grossing film of all time having only been number one for two weeks. That was an eye-opener for me.

Josh

Name: justmarvin
E-mail:

Hi josh,

I read a quote from Orson Welles. He said, "Everything you need to know about filmmaking can be learned in two to three days." Any thoughts on that quote? :D

Also, have you heard of the filmmaking crash course by Dov S-S Simens? If you did, is it worth the $$$?

Take care Josh,

Marvin

Dear Marvin:

Yeah, if you're Orson Welles. I've been studying it my whole life and I sure as heck don't have it figured out. I don't know a thing about Dov S-S Simens, although I have seen the name and thought, "How odd."

Josh

Name: Curt Jr.
E-mail: curtjr@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I want to shoot a movie using a Beta camcorder from the '80s. (The beta version of the ancient camcorders that used vcr tapes.) The reason I want to do this is because it comes out more film-like than digital and 8mm camcorders. Is that true? THANKS, BOSS!

Dear Curt, jr.:

If you like it then use it. It's what you shoot, not what you shoot it with -- unless you intend to make a feature, but that's a different story. Just use it, and do your best.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Thank you for answering my question on first-person perspective. It does seem contrived in the few examples that I've seen; sort of self-consciously cinematic, like a kid showing off a trick ("Watch me, Mommy, watch me!").
I had an idea on the shipping situation outside of the U.S. for your film. One possible solution would be to have customers from outside the U.S. send you an UNstamped, self-addressed envelope, then include the price of postage along with the purchase price in their check or money order. This would probably require that you invest in a mail-metering machine (like the one that Pitney-Bowes makes), otherwise you would be buying alot of stamps or going to the post office every day. The customer would also have to find out the cost of postage prior to sending a check; you could post a link to the U.S. Postal Service's website on this site for that information.

Yours truly,
Darryl

P.S. Just a note to your webmaster: when I scrolled down to the bottom of this page and clicked on the menu option to go back to the main page, I was brought back to an older version of the main page, without any updates on it.

D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

You just sound like you're in the military. I'm going to stick with my scheme of making everybody send their own SASE. It's sort of a challenge. I'm sure as heck not getting a Pintney-Bowes machine.

Josh

 

Dear Darryl,

Thanks for taking the time to give me a heads up. The menu did take you to the right page (There's only one; the addresses http://www.beckerfilms.com and http://www.beckerfilms.com/index.html both point you to the same file.). Your browser must have had the old version of the page cached. Next time just hit "refresh" or "reload" on your browser, and it will load up the current version.

Shirley

 

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh!

Just wondering what you think about music videos. Are there any videos that you have been impressed with? Would you ever consider directing music videos? Just curious.

Thanks!
Jean

Dear Jean:

Do they still make music videos? I haven't seen one in years. It doesn't interest me at all. I'm sorry, but it still kills me that my original draft of "Cycles" was never even considered as one of the drafts. Oy vey!

Josh

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

Dear Josh -

It still mystifies me as to what's going on with these film festivals not wanting to show "Hammer," especially since there seem to be a ton of indies without name brand stars. Maybe not ones that see wide release, but they turn up here and there. They get shown, anyway. But I'm excited to see that you are exploring other options now. I wonder if you couldn't market directly to indie theatres - but maybe that would take more time than it's worth.

BTW - I see "Running Time" is being shown at a drive-in! Bruce is doing some appearance in IL, and they're showing a double feature of RT and "Escape from LA." Any plans on showing up?

And...a day late, but ... as Porky Pig once memorably said to that little Martian dude...."Happy B-b-b-b-b-b-birthday, you thing from another world you!"

Regards,

August

Dear August:

They've got Bruce showing up at the festival, they're happy. And they didn't ask me. Yeah, every time I get turned down by a festival I really do figure, what the hell? My films aren't even good enough to see? You've seen "Running Time." That wasn't good enough to be shown at most festivals? And thanks for the b'day wishes.

Josh

 


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