Q & A    Archive
Page 79

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

Dear Josh,

I'll look for that Rod Serling biography. I saw a documentary about the PLANET OF THE APES films (the one that Roddy McDowell hosted for TCM before he died)a while back. It mentioned that Serling was replaced as the original screenwriter on the original APES film because his script was too expensive to produce on their budget. Serling's screenplay stayed true to the spirit of Boulle's original novel, and portrayed a technologically advanced ape society (helicopters, electricity, modern weapons). Given the limitations of the budget, the second writing team pushed the apes back slightly, as horses and simple rifles were cheaper to film.
Incidentally, I just saw LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY on the ENCORE network yesterday (all but the first twenty minutes; I was channel surfing), and I have to say that I really liked it. It seems to be the most commercial of all your films, in that the production value indicates studio backing, however small. Ted Raimi was funny yet sympathetic in the lead role, and Bruce Campbell can play a total sleaze better than any actor that I can think of. Too bad their's no DVD edition of it (hint, hint). Anyway, it was very good. Now I've seen every one of your films, except for HAMMER (still checking the mailbox on that one).

Yours truly,
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

It was sent out, so you'll be receiving at any moment. There was no studio backing on "Lunatics," it was independently financed out of Detroit. It was shot in four weeks in an old elementry school outside Detroit, and the LA exteriors were all shot in the little town of Pontiac, MI. Anyway, regarding "Planet of the Apes," just keep in mind that for Michael Wilson to have gotten top-billing over Rod Serling, he undoubtedly wrote more of the script that was finally shot than Serling did. Michael Wilson was really ten times the screenwriter Serling ever was. Rod Serling was great at writing teleplays, but he was never known for his screenplays, of which he only wrote a few, and none others nearly as good as "Planet of the Apes." I always liked "The Man," with James Earl Jones as the first black president, but it's not a great script. "Patterns" and "Requiem for a Heavyweight" are both expanded versions of his teleplays, and his original western, "Saddle the Wind," with John Cassavettes just isn't very good. "Seven Days in May" is probably his best sole screenwriting credit, and it sticks very close to the book it's based on.

Josh

*** SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***

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

Josh,

I must say I'm a little diappointed at the lack of postings about "Hammer". I've been giving the movie a great deal of thought and thought I'd pass a few along.
Naturally, I'll try to frame my comments so as not to give anything away. That having been said, if others don't want to know what happens they might skip this posting.

There have been postings about irony again, and there is certainly a great deal of it in "Hammer". The Folkies reaction to Phil's performance is classic irony, especially given the allegorical nature of Phil's character. His statement about his parents accepting everything they're told and Lorraine's final solution are also highly ironic. The whole hootenanny is itself ironic; even the sincere Lorraine is essentially there to applaud her own social awareness. Phil later comments, "It was a good crowd." That crowd was there for the express purpose of applauding.

I wonder how many people will mistake the patrons of the Purple Onion for stereotypes, rather than seeing them as archetypes? The distinction is fine, but important. To understand the implications of Phil's decision Sunday night, one must understand the ediface represented at the hootenanny, see its supports and therefore it's weaknesses.

I'll use that last line as a segway. I mentioned before that I was concerned about pacing, and in the other posting I read it was mentioned as well. I've watched the film several times now with an eye towards identifying pacing issues and have a few thoughts. For what its worth, I approached this from an editorial point of view, understanding that adding footage wasn't going to happen. Instead I considered what might be cut to improve pace. I also know how exposed one becomes when presenting their art to the public. You seem like you prefer straight, constructive critique, and my comments are offered in that spirit.

I wonder about the extensive shots of the television in the Buckley's home. I think it enough to know that the Buckley's watch TV without showing us what they watch. I realize that the coercive nature of television is on display, and that people have forgotten the type of advertisements which were once shown, but shock alone seems insufficient for the price you pay on pacing. The numbing and coercive nature of television is pointed out repeatedly and sufficiently by Lorraine. The Lucy sound-track, however, reinforces the point while not interrupting the flow as it is an audio track only.

The introduction to the parents seems similarly unnecessary. You could cut from the brother going off to baseball directly to Phil's father yelling to Phil to get up. The initial shot of Phil smoking could also be shortened. Phil in front of the mirror is what you really want to show. His mother's reaction in the kitchen, combined with his father's earlier yelling, certainly sets his homelife context, a context reinforced later in the film.

The shot where Max approaches the students' office is also unnecessary, and indeed misleading. Max has a role to play, but the long shot of him walking sets him up as more involved in the story than he actually is. I think the last steps, where he is getting the keys out, would be enough. A shortened walk would not diminish his value to the story but would speed the film. There is the need, of course, to establish the new setting.

I think you could begin Lorraine's car trip with her parents with the line, "And where are we going for lunch, by the way?" The exchanges which follow describe her realtionship with her parents and establish the choices she faces. The scene in front of the SPA office and the early part of the ride didn't sit well with me and didn't seem to move the story beyond what the "And where..." segment accomplished.

The scene where Phil passes his family, enduring their questions, on his way to meet Lorraine is labored. I would cut from Phil's brother asking:

"Are you suddenly becoming a folkie like Bob Dylan?"

"Maybe I am and maybe I'm not."

directly to: "...blowing in the wind." The rest just seems forced.

Saturday night at the Purple Onion is really in stride. This is the movie I remember. It's also why I suggest so many edits early. We want to get to this part of the movie. I don't see the purpose of the cigarette projectile or the reation to it. To me it was facetious. Otherwise, I wouldn't touch the evening.

I've been giving more though to the title concerning the Beatles. Did you consider a passing car radio with the deejay saying something like "...They're saying that Beatles Show on Sullivan was the most watched television show ever, maybe forever..." Deejays might make such a comment ahead of actual news reports. Just a thought.

My last comment concerns LoDuca's use of jazz in the soundtrack. Given that the conflict in the movie is represented by Rock and Folk I would have thought those two forms would have provided filler. The jazz seemed kitschy everywhere except in the alley. I may be wrong but I am under the impression that jazz was in a down period during the early sixties. For me, the jazz just didn't feel right.

Anyway, I don't know if you've considered a different edit but those are my thoughts. I look forward to reading your reaction and that of others who have seen the movie (Hint!!) Thanks as always,

John

Dear John:

I'm very pleased you've watched the film several times and given it this much thought. Of course, I'm not re-editing at this point (it would add tens of thousands of dollars to the budget), but your comments are well-taken. I personally can't get enough of those cigarette commercials. They are such concrete proof that it was a completely different world then. The Flintstones selling Winstons. No wonder I smoke. And Phillip Morris having the audacity to say their cigarettes are good for you and make you feel better. Meanwhile, regarding your jazz/score comment, jazz was very big at that time, and a major influence on everybody. Although I was quite young at the time, the early sixties to me sound like Stan Getz in his Bossa Nova phase. "The Girl From Ipanema" was the big hit of 1963, and it had nothing to do with kids. This was the very last time adults controlled the music market. Joe's idea to do a jazz score to me is brilliant in that it beautifully and correctly sets the time period, but, as Joe said "It doesn't take sides," meaning rock for Phil or folk for Lorraine. I hope more people will start discussing the film in greater depth, as you're doing. I still think there's more going on there than you or anyone else has gotten at yet.

Josh

*** SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***

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

Josh,

Saw If I Had a Hammer tonight and thought I'd send in some thoughts. First of all, I think I'll probably have to watch it again to catch everything, but I really enjoyed it the first time around.

Bret Beardslee reminds me of a young Jim Carrey in a way, i'm sure he gets that alot. The guy just cracked me up, from his line delivery to the facial expressions. I think he's really talented, how ironic huh? I found it interesting how the main character starts out as sort of a fun idiot that you expect to have that "upward" character arc, and then as the film progresses you slowly figure out that he's always gonna be a moron, just perhaps a more famous moron. Kind of cynical, but I suppose that was the point.

In general I thought the actors did a great job. Perhaps the weakest link for me was Lorraine, who I thought did a great job singing but was less engaging to me in the dramatic stuff, at least in the first half or so. Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention, but for some reason I thought the guy playing Terry was the guy at the beginning of the film with his beard shaved to get Lorraine's attention. I suppose the shortish intellectual in black thing just confused me. Hey, honest reactions here.

I also felt that the section in the middle of the film at the Purple Onion dragged a little, maybe one or two performance groups less would have helped, or maybe if more stuff was happening off the stage. One thing I noticed in terms of the editing is how straightforward it was. The entire film felt very traditional to me, as if it was made 20 years ago. Most movies these days make me feel like I'm being jerked around by the editor, so this was refreshing. With the exception of some stuff around the 55 minute mark, I felt that everything played out very naturally. On top of that, alot seemed to be going on in each scene outside of the "text", which makes me want to see it again just to get everything. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Some reservations in terms of the length at the Purple Onion, but thats a relatively small quibble. I honestly think that if you could somehow have reworked that middle section you would have an exceptional film. It felt particularly relevant watching it tonight, after the tv show American Idol put out the next big popstar to, I'm sure to major tv ratings. (I don't watch the show, but I've been told by friends ;-). Anyway, it seems odd to me that the film still doesn't have distribution yet. Its certainly well-shot, well-written, and well-acted. Perhaps the pacing in the middle of the film and the lack of name actors is the turnoff, which is a shame. I do think its your most "adult" film yet. Which I suppose is part of the problem. But hey, looking forward to the next one, whenever that is.

Jim

Dear Jim:

The film seems to be inspiring some interesting reviews, and to me that's good. I could easily cut out two numbers at the club, Bobby Lee Baker singing "In My Time of Dying" and The Four Feathers singing "Darling Corey," but I like both songs too much to cut them, and they're both really well-performed. I think David Zink is rather exceptional as Bobby Lee Baker and I'd never cut him out. I also think Brett Beardslee is very talented. I pushed him to be a bit bigger than he thought he ought to be, but I think it was necessary to believe the ending.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

This isn't strictly movie-related, but I'll ask it anyway. I've got a couple of ideas for comedy sketches, but I'm not sure how to write 'em down.

Do I just use the standard screenplay format of INT. MONASTERY / EXT. CORNFIELD, or is there a different format specific to sketches?

Also, I wanted to add my two cents about the McKenzie Brothers, which someone posted about recently.

I agree with you that they were a pretty low point in SCTV's history, but I'm not sure that they were meant to be all that great in the first place.

In Dave Thomas' book about SCTV, he explains that the characters came about when the CRTC (a Canadian federal government organization similar to the States' FCC) required the show to have more recognizably Canadian content. That, by the way, is a relatively big issue up here: the rapidly growing lack of noticable Canadian content in the media due to America's cultural smothering, but it's a whole other thing that I won't get into here.

Anyway, they told Thomas that SCTV needed more Canadian content, to which he replied angrily (I'm paraphrasing here), "What do you want us to do? Sit there wearing parkas and toques drinking Molson?" The other guy said "Yeah, that would be fine," and the rest is history. So it seems to me that the whole thing was just them doing something quick and cheap to get the CRTC off their backs, which explains its quality.


Anyway, I've rambled enough. Have a good one.

Lucas

Dear Lucas:

It was a good response to the government. Now I like it better. But I loved that show, and all of those folks were at their very best at that time. I think of many of their skits regularly, like Count Floyd and the Terror, Horror, Monster Theater, and him always getting boned and not getting horror films, like "Four for Texas" ("It has a pack of rats. Very scary!") or anything on their 3-D Theater, like John Candy and Eugene Levy in "Midnight Cowboy" in 3-D. It was very funny stuff. As for writing comedy sketches, I guess you'd use screenplay form. I don't know that there necessarily is a proper form for them.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

lol..I just mentioned Steve Martin because the fact popped into my head. As for what you said about needless plot turns and padding, it all ties in with what you wrote in your essay, "Monsterization." Part of it is inept screenwriting, and part is studio interference.
As for American films that use irony, how about the original PLANET OF THE APES? Some would argue that it is really a French work, as Pierre Boulle (BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI) wrote the original novel. I would disagree, as the finished film differs sharply from the novel's original plot. The original screenplay was written by Rod Serling, a man who definitely understood irony [I was watching an episode of Biography on him, and learned of one of his formative experiences that developed his sense of irony. As a paratrooper in the Phillipines during WW II, he and his buddy survived the Battle of Leyte, only for his friend to be killed when an airdropped crate of rations struck him in the head, breaking his neck. Now THAT's irony]. Indeed, the final film uses a different plot line, but retains Boulle's original irony. What do you think?

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

There's a very good biography of Rod Serling called "Rod Serling: the Dreams and Nightmares of Life in the Twilight Zone" by Joel Engel, that goes pretty deeply into his war experiences, which Engel believes (and I do too) had a lot to do with everything else he did for the rest of his life. That he was a paratrooper during WWII, being both short and Jewish, says a lot about him right away. That entire incident where the guy got his in the head with parachuted rations is incredible. Serling and his men were on a march through the jungle, with no supplies, and were supposed to be resupplied by air, except that all the planes got bombed the day after they left. They ended up starving in the jungle for about a month, eating nothing but insects. That's why the guy went nuts when the supplies were dropped, ran out to catch the crate, and got killed. Interestingly, I think for a writer, Serling would never discuss his war experiences. As a little note, Serling is second-billed as screenwriter on "Planet of the Apes," the top-billed writer is Michael Wilson, who was a far bigger screenwriter, and won Oscars for "A Place in the Sun" and posthumously for "Bridge on the River Kwai" (with Carl Foreman). he was also the first writer on "Lawrence of Arabia," but was replaced. And yes, I agree that "Planet of the Apes" is ironic. Of course, that was during Hollywood's last Golden Age, between 1967 and 1976, before "Star Wars" killed Hollywood.

Josh

Name: Steve Starr
E-mail: ssschicago@ameritech.net

Dear Josh:

Hello! I like your website very much. I must tell youthat I writea column on movie stars. ISome months ago I wrote of Olive Borden, and through research read that her real name was NOT Sybil Tinkle, that it was a case of misidentity, and no one is sure how it began. Sybil was a different person who did not enter the movies. I don't have the information in front of me at the moment. If I run across it again I will send it to you! Thank you and continued success for you,
Sincerly,
Steve Starr

Dear Steve:

And Sybil Tinkle is such a wonderful name. Did you know, BTW, that the great Luise Rainer is still alive? Winner of Best Actress in both 1936 and '37. I wonder if she's the oldest living Oscar-winner?

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Yep, you should definitely take it as a compliment that I didn't see the ending coming in either "Hyderabad" or "Warpath." Both were of course very logical outcomes, but I think if one is caught up in the story, one doesn't have time to be thinking far enough ahead to guess the ending.

I know a lot of people would love to see those remaining Hercules outlines. This has been a great learning experience for me (and I suspect for many) to see what comes before a script. It's fascinating, because in some places you have extensive stretches of dialogue, acting directions, camera descriptions...and then in other places, you sum up 10 minutes in one sentence. Really, really enlightening. I assume "The Journey Begins" ended up as "The Wrong Path?" And keep looking for an "Atlas" hard copy, dude. :)

So I saw that J. Lee Thompson had passed away recently. While I was into movies and actors from an early age, I didn't start reading the credits till I was 13 or so, and for whatever reason, Thompson was the first name I ever recognized, other than obvious people like Disney or Hitchcock. I distinctly remember seeing "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" and thinking "Hey - that's the same guy who directed the previous one!"

He struck me as no genius, but a competent journeyman who occasionally struck gold. Any opinions on his work?

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

I hadn't heard that he died. He made three films in a row that I like quite a lot: "The Guns of Navarone," "Cape Fear," and "Taras Bulba." He also made a film a few years later called "Return from the Ashes," that I thought was great as a kid, but I haven't seen since then. He didn't have a lot of style, but he was very competent.

Josh

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

Hi Josh!

How does one raise money to make a film? Is there any reading material that you could suggest? I have no experience in the relm of independant film. I've only worked for studios.

Any suggestions would be great!
Jean

Dear Jean:

I have section on it in my book, "The Complete Guide to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking," but alas, it hasn't yet been published. The first question is, do you intend to raise the money independently, or from Hollywood companies? If it's the latter, then you simply have to take as many meetings as humanly possible and hope for the best. If it's the former, then you have to put together a legal offering, either a limited partnership or a limited liability corporation, and go out and hustle every person you've ever met in your entire life, and anybody those people know. It's gruelling, but it does work.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I agree that the original cast of SNL was good (an interesting note: Steve Martin was NEVER an official member of the cast. He was only brought in for guest appearances, and was so good that the producers just kept bringing him back. The audience saw him so much that they assumed he was part of the troupe). As for SCTV, my favorite sketches are the Bob and Doug MacKenzie ones (I have their movie, STRANGE BREW, but am still looking for their album, GREAT WHITE NORTH).
Anyway, on to my question. Can you think of any American films that made good use of irony? It is strange that Americans don't deal with it well. Pragmaticism was born here; the "we are here and it is now" school of thought. Reality is often ironic, so you would think that the nation that proposed the hard-headed realist philosophy would embrace the use of irony in it's art. This however, is not so.
Indeed, the opposite is the case. We flee from harsh reality in our cinema; our movies inspired the phrase "the Hollywood ending." Is this because we embrace reality everyday and thus want to escape from it in our films, or is it symptomatic of a general refusal to embrace reality on any and all fronts?

Yours truly,
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I didn't say that Steve Martin was part of the SNL cast, did I? I don't feel like going back and checking. I don't think I did. I knew he wasn't. It's funny, but I thought the MacKenzie bros. were one of the lower points of SCTV, although still funny. I don't know why irony is so under-used in American films, but possibly because American filmmakers seem to put in so little effort on their screenplays. Irony is a very intelligent, literate idea that you really can't stumble on, you have to do it intentionally. Almost everything I see now, like I just saw "Mulholland Dr.", looks to me like it was written on the fly. If you just keep adding pages and pointless plot turns, eventually you'll have a full-length script -- not a good one, but full-length one. But good scripts aren't written that way.

Josh

Name: bronwyn
E-mail: bertranicha@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

How do you direct a short film, what steps do you take in paticular?

Dear Bronwyn:

I'm afraid that's a bit too vague of a question. Is there anything specifically you'd like to know?

Josh

Name: Lamar Dunn
E-mail: dumpster17@ev1.net

Dear Josh:

I would very much like to know where I can find the 1928 movie, Beggars of Life. I have the record and would very much like to see the movie. Any help would be appreciated.

Dear Lamar:

I checked Movies Unlimited, but they didn't have it. I don't know where you'd get it. I saw "Beggers of Life" at the silent movie theater in LA in a Louise Brooks festival. She was good, but Wally Berry was just a big old ham. So, you have the record for a silent movie? What's on it?

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

That's interesting to know about your involvement in EVIL DEAD II. It rather reminds me of Bruce Campbell's quip that he "milked the foot pedal shot" in the final scene of TSNKE.
I noticed that you liked Monty Python's THE MEANING OF LIFE, and have to say that I also enjoy Python's work. My favorite aspect of the their work is the way that they fearlessly approach the use of irony in their skits. The largest laugh in THE LIFE OF BRIAN to me is when Eric Idle tells Brian, crucified, to look on the bright side of life, and launches into that ridiculously upbeat song. Or there is the witchcraft test in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (by far the most commercial of the Python films), where after this ridiculous kangaroo court trial of the supposed witch, it turns out that she really IS a witch, and simply says "It's a fair cop." in total deadpan. That kills me.
Call me unpatriotic, but I still think that Monty Python is a much better troupe than its American counterpart, the Saturday Night Live cast. This became apparent on the episode where the Monty Python players were guests on SNL, and were in the middle of one of those stupid skits written for guests of the show. In the middle of a restaurant scene, John Cleese and Michael Palin both break character, agree that this is the worst sketch that either one had been in, and both walk off stage.
I know it's a controversial opinion, and I was wondering how you felt on the subject. Which is the better troupe: the Monty Python players, or the Saturday Night Live cast?

Yours truly,
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I don't see SNL like that. For me there was the original group of those guys, with Belushi, Ackroyd, Radner, Chase, etc., and I went with through the first few seasons with them, and the inclusion of Bill Murray, but that was it. By the time Eddie Murphy joined up I didn't care anymore. I much preferred Second City TV, with John Candy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty, and those folks. But none of these Americans would go where Python went. The next line in Palin's prayer is, "Oh, God, forgive us our miserable toadying," which just slaughters me.

Josh

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

Hi Josh!

How much do you think "The Biological Clock" would cost from start to finish? It seems as though it could be made on a modest budget. Do you have any actors in mind for the two leads?

Thanks!
Jean

Dear Jean:

At this point I don't think I want to make any films for less than half a million, since I'd want it to be both SAG and DGA. I've discussed the lead part with Ted Raimi, who would love to play it. Or you could go with someone like Kevin Pollack. I've always had Penelope Ann Miller in mind for Kate.

Josh

Name: Saul Trabal
E-mail: ghost_kingdom@yahoo.com

Hi Josh,

I enjoy your site; I log onto it regularly, along with Wordplay (which was recommended to me by Steve Sears). Although I'm not a film-maker, I am a writer. I'm trying to get myself published. Still, I happen to enjoy anything creative, and I enjoy films a lot. It's always refershing to see a different perspective, and you certainly offer food for thought.

It's great to see folks like you and Bruce Campbell offering a realistic perspective on film making, as opposed to the glamour and glitz bullshit.

From what I've read, this business has not exactly been kind to you (to put it mildly!). Forgive me if this question has been asked before-but if you knew starting out what you know now about the business, would you have even gotten involved with it? If you still decided to get involved in film, what would you have done differently?

Last thing-I read the script for RUNNING TIME, and I like it a lot. I'm going to try and see if I can order a VHS copy in a couple of weeks. And who knows? I may even order HAMMER after that.

Take care-and good luck with whatever projects you take on. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

Saul Trabal

Dear Saul:

Thanks for the nice letter. Good question, actually. Would I still go into the film business knowing how things have turned out? I don't think I had a choice. Nothing interests me as much as film. What would I do differently? Maybe be nicer to Sam Raimi. Just kidding. I don't know. This seems like my destiny, I don't really question it.

Josh

*** SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***

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

Hi Josh.

I watched “If I Had a Hammer” last night.

I liked it.

Although I am a female, I identified with Phil.

When I was a teenager, I was a huge fan of Sonny and Cher and wouldn’t miss their TV show for anything. I wanted to be Cher although I can’t sing a note. In my bedroom, I used to sing Cher songs into an unplugged old microphone that I found in my grandfather’s belongings after he had died.

My family went on vacation to Wisconsin Dells. The family was going to an amusement park one night. I refused to leave the motel room that night because the Sonny and Cher show was on and my mom had a fit. She said, “You can see that show any other week.” and I informed her that I never missed an episode and would rather watch Sonny and Cher than go to the amusement park. She then cancelled the plans to go to the amusement park because she didn’t want me staying alone at the motel. The rest of my family was mad at me.

So when Phil stood in his living room thinking about his choices, I thought “That’s me 30 years ago.”

“On Sunday, February 9, 1964, the world changed forever…” I thought something happens at that meeting that will change the world forever. It surprised me what the event actually was that changed the world forever. I thought that was “cool”, I mean “tuff”.

In the credits you thank, Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Is that because you maxed out your cards making the film?


Take care,

XenaHerc

Dear XH:

Yes, I too spent a fair amount of time in front of my bedroom mirror pretending I was on TV, singing songs, doing commercials, and imitations. And yes, I thanked the credit card companies for allowing me to max out ten cards, an American Express card, two MasterCards, and seven Visas, all with $10,000 limits.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Sorry Josh,

One more thing before I forget. Was Phil's last name a homage to Tim Buckley? Just wondering, I'm a fan of both Tim and Jeff Buckley.

Thanks,
Jean

Dear Jean:

I suppose it was there in my mind, but it wasn't really an homage.

Josh

*** SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***

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

Hi Josh!

I just finished watching "Hammer" and I enjoyed it as a whole. How's that for an opening line! Forgive me, but I do think it has it's problems, but what movie doesn't. I have seen TSNKE, "Running Time" and "Lunatics" and I think that "Hammer" is the weakest one of the lot. In the sense that it is not as tight as your other films. The pacing really threw me off. I think it may have been a combination of the editing and the dialogue. It's not that the pacing was slow, it just felt awkward. I will have to watch it again but upon first viewing I felt that the transitions from scene to scene were just a little off. The lead actor (Phil) seemed as though he was trying a little too hard. I had a very difficult time believing his performance so in turn I had a hard time caring about his character. In my opinion he spent a lot of time mugging for the camera. I think his performance needed to be a bit more subtle. I could have seen Ted Raimi doing a great job as Phil but I know that he is not the right age.

The actress that played Lorraine turned in a fine performance. I could buy her as the rich white girl activist. I felt sorry for her. She really wanted to make a difference but in the end no one really cared. The strongest performances came from the bit players. Terry was great! He had a great look and a great speaking voice. Mustafa was very effective as was Bobby Lee Baker. These two characters represented some of the intensity that seemed to surround the 60's. I felt that Bobby Lee Baker's entrance, performance and exit was one of the strongest aspects of the film. It was very nicely executed. The scene with Phil and Terry getting high behind the club was great. Very funny and very true to that first smoking experience.

The photography and the production value were impressive. The cars the clothes and the sets seemed (from what I know about the 60's, I'm only 25) very realistic. I've seen other films that take place in the 60's which cost more money and they did not look nearly as good as "Hammer". The detail in this film was a great accomplishment. The shots were composed beautifully. I've noticed this about all of your films. It's a wonder why you did not become a cinematographer! The look of the film and the composition are hands down the strongest aspects of "Hammer", in my opinion. You have a gift for setting up a shot.

I felt as though some of the dialogue was too much telling and not enough showing. In the beginning right before Phil's parents are trying to get him out of bed Phil's Mom tells the audience that he has done nothing since he got out of High School and that he doesn't care about anything etc. She told me everything that I needed to know about Phil in the span of 10 seconds. It felt forced. I could have figured all of that stuff out about Phil in the scenes that followed. So much information at once took me out of the picture

The musical performances were very good. I liked the choice of songs, the performers and the way that the performances were filmed. The musical numbers are what made the film unique. You showed the entire performance of each artist (for the most part) and I really appreciated that as a viewer. I loved how Phil got more and more nervous as each act finished. It was a nice juxtaposition to what was going on on stage. Very well done. I cared about what was going on in The Purple Onion. Although I think that the film should have finished before it did. I think it may have gone on a bit too long after they all left the club. But I know that you had to show The Beatles on Ed Sullivan which was awesome! Great stuff! Who in their right mind would have missed The Beatles on Ed Sullivan for some stupid meeting? That is a fantastic idea to build a story around. "Hammer" was a great commentary on how we all claim to care about "important" things but in the end we only really care about ourselves and our own interests. It's human nature I suppose.

In the end the thing that I liked the best about "Hammer" was the fact that it was a true independent film. You tackled a risky subject with unknown actors and a small amount of money. I'm not sure if there are many people out there who would want to see this film but that's not your fault. You made the film that you wanted to make and it has integrity. For lack of a better term this film has balls and that's a rare thing these days. I'm glad I kicked in the $20 for the copy. Keep up the good work!

sincerely,
Jean

P.S. I still think you need to make "The Biological Clock"

Dear Jean:

Thank you for the interesting, thoughtful review, and also for buying the tape. I'd love to make "Bio," go put the money together and we'll do it.

Josh

Name: Keith Robinson
E-mail: Keithrobinson@krobin.freeisp.co.uk

Hi Mr Becker,

I hope you are still fighting away at making your movies your way, I am a big fan of your films Thou Shalt not kill and Cleveland Smith . Its heartening to hear that youve not given up for 25 years, Ive only been trying to get into this game for 15 and theres been many hard knocks on the way, but reading your journals has really given me new strength to pursue my endeavers. i just quit my job, much to everyones disgust, but i dont care, i want to make my movie and my dream come come just a little closer to fruitation. Thankyou for your wise words and support. Keep it up. Never say Die!!!

Keith

Dear Keith:

Die. Just kidding. If I offer a tiny bit of inspiration, then I'm pleased. Order my film "Hammer" and see what a real indie film looks like.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I'm looking forward to seeing HAMMER when it shows up.
I just finished watching the EVIL DEAD II special edition DVD, and I saw that you were listed as one of the Fake Shemps in the end credits. Just curious, but what was your role?

Yours truly,
Darryl

P.S. I just saw another example of the way that we who carry the name of Darryl are slandered in the movies. In ERASER, Vanessa Williams' idiot boyfriend (the one who doesn't get the hint, and is subsequently blown away with that weird rail gun) is named Darryl. Will this persecution never cease?
D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

When Ash falls into 1300 AD, it cuts to his POV shot looking up, and four knight's face's look down, as well as a wizard. I'm one of those knights, as is Sam, Rob, Scott Spiegel, and the wizard is Sam's uncle Sid. I'm then one of the armored knights all over the 1300 sequence, culminating in the very last shot of the film, when everyone hails Ash "he who fell from the sky," Ash falls to his knees screaming, "NO!", the camera pulls back as swords are raised, and my hand is the very final hand and sword that fills the frame before it cuts to black.

Josh

Name: Aaron
E-mail: agraham83@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

I'm very interested in obtaining a copy of "If I Had A Hammer", but i'm in Canada, anything we can work out?

Thanks!

Dear Aaron:

Click on the main page where it says "International Customers" and you'll get a United States Postal Service calculator, put in your locale, and a 12 ounce package, you'll get the postal rate, then include it with your $19.95, and either pay with a credit card with PayPal, or send it to me. It's probably about $4.00-5.00 US to Canada.

Josh

*** SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***

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

Josh,

I just finished watching "Hammer". What the hell are festivals showing that they won't show this? Out of curiosity I turned to the Independent Movie Channel when "Hammer" finished. It was showing "Boxing Helena", a movie which bores the living crap out of me.

I'll have to watch "Hammer" again to critique with any precision, but I'd like to give my initial impressions. I know you're going to be inundated with postings for a while and I won't be offended if your replies are to comments in general rather than to individuals. So, on with the show.

I enjoyed the movie. There's an awful lot in it. The scenes with the Buckley family reminded me of the skits on the old SCTV show with John Candy and company. As I ponder themes I think of the paradox of childhood's end. Disillusion is an inevitable part of growing up; painful but necessary. I like the lack of final resolution. The film said, "Well, that didn't work" without a pat answer as to what would.

I loved the can opener. I had actually forgotten that little detail. The opening archival film makes a lot more sense after having seen the movie (I'm watching it again). Both Phil and Lorraine are established well. I appreciate how they have dual motivations; one to which they cling and one they refuse to acknowledge. That is true of a great number of the characters. I suppose Max and Terry are the closest thing to self-aware. I considered Moustafa, but for all his complaints about tokens, he's still there. Anyway, the characters grow but not to an improbable degree.

The performances are good, both from the actors and the musicians. I think the pacing is best in the Purple Onion. The family scenes were slower, somehow. I did wonder about the title explaining the significance of the Beatles' performance on Sullivan. It seemed like a step outside of the story; maybe a superimposed newspaper or something like that. Obviously, the result of Beatles performance on the story is pivotal and must be understood before the following scene with Lorraine.

I'm going to have to think some more to give anything coherent. I can't believe nobody wants to show this. This obviously is not "blockbuster" material but it is interesting (characters to care about), well made and speaks to the human condition. Weren't we just discussing this? Let me give some thought to the pacing. It seemed, in places, uneven in a way that might put off some viewers. I don't like being vague so I'll leave it there until I can better express what I mean.

I saw Anita Barone listed in the "Special Thanks". I'm glad that association remains. You've mentioned doubts about "Hammer" several times which I suppose is natural given the lack of a distributor. But if blind men don't care for your paintings, who the hell cares?

John

Dear John:

Thanks for the very first review of the film. And thanks for not slamming me into the dirt. Regarding the superimposed title about the Ed Sullivan Show, I realize it's a step back out of the story, but there wouldn't be a newspaper headline that fast. It was a weird decision, but I went with it. I'm glad you mentioned the main title sequence, and how it comes to have meaning over the course of the film, which was the point. I think possibly one of the film's problems at this point in time is that it's working in forms that aren't really in use in America anymore (although they still are in foreign films), which is allegory and metaphor. I think maybe no one wants to have to dig a little bit for the meaning of things, they want it right there in front of them, which bores me. Anyway, I'm interested to hear more of your comments. Thanks for buying it.

Josh

Name: bianca
E-mail: biancavolkov@hotmail.com

HI!!

i REALLY enjoyed reading your screen plays and i was
curious to know if you have any 10-20 min.comedy scripts for 1 male and 1 female? as i am currently doin my year 12 drama production and my partner and i are finding it difficult to find the right one..many thanks and keep up the fantastic work =)

Dear Bianca:

Thanks. Try pulling a few scenes out of "The Biological Clock," there are a number of one male and one female scenes that I think might be fun to perform.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Or should I say "Mr. Pecker?" Huh huh huh heh heh heh......

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. ;)

OK - I read "Hyderabad." *Exactly* the same reaction as I had to "Warpath," although I liked "Warpath" better. Good, old-fashioned yarn. Again, I didn't completely buy the attraction between the nun and the kidnapper, but some good close-ups of lingering glances, some more backstory on her conflicted view of the church, some good dialogue where they discover they have so much in common, and all would be resolved. I do still like the characters in "Warpath" better though, simply because the bounty hunter and the wife tracking down the errant husband are technically "good guys" regardless of their flaws, while the bandit and the nun who's falling from grace are much less sympathetic, although as you've mentioned before, one does care about them. Interestingly, "Warpath" still conjures up Kerr and Mitchum more, simply because Kerr's nun was a tough girl as I recall, like the heroine of "Warpath."

One thing that struck me was that "Hyderabad" is really a timeless, placeless story. Perhaps the idolizing of the fading star, and certainly the little touches like the cow in the window, are uniquely Indian, but I kept on thinking that the story could just as easily be set in the early 1930's in the American Depression. Same nun helping the poor, same gangsters, same everything except the Indian location. I'm thinking this is a really good thing.

And.... believe it or not - the ending once again surprised me. The ruse was spelled out, with the gang leader realizing he could use the church/ransom thing to his advantage, but I swear I was caught up in the characters, thinking "will they be able to sustain their relationship?" when the obvious happened. Not so obvious, I guess. Both that and "Warpath" made me smack my head and say "Oh my god! Why didn't I see that? It was so obvious!" Again, I'm thinking this is a good thing.

(Although what's up with the outhouse? Ewww!)

Now. THANK YOU for posting those old Xena/Herc treatments. Both would have fit nicely into the first seasons of each show, especially the Herc one. *Such* a cool, but simple, but cool notion. I was picturing someone like Kim Michaelis or Angie Dotchin as Iolaus's girlfriend of the day. And your initial version of "Shark Island" was infinitely better than the final version, although I did like the whole sequence of Xena in the rain burying the dead girl. (I swear, that scene was a 60-second version of the whole Xena finale. I kept on thinking "durn - this ep is like the old rain scene from Locked Up!")

So - any chance of seeing "Hercules vs. Atlas?"


Regards,

August

Dear August:

I'll take it as a compliment that you didn't see the ending coming on either "Warpath" or "Hyderabad," yet I believe they're both perfect logical endings that fit the stories. And don't call me Pecker. I only have "Hercules vs. Atlas" as a notepad file, and it will only open filled with garbage. I can't seem to find a hard copy. I have a few more Hercules outlines here, the original, very first Hercules outline, that ended up somewhat as "The Journey Begins," and I have "Hercules and the Slave Girl," which ended up as "Path to Freedom" with Lucy Lu. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the ones posted. Shirley said you would.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Just outta curiosity, what is your favorite line from a comedy film. Mine's got to be Leslie Nelson in Airplane; "Shirly you can't be serious!"
"I am serious. And don't call me shirly."
Just the way he says it with such ease is still hilarious every viewing. Nelson was by far one of the funniest physical comical actors of the time. It's too bad he's stuck with direct-to-video Disney schlock-it's just a waste of talent.
By the way, do all copies of IIHAH come signed by the great Josh Becker himself??

Dear Brian:

Yes, they do. However, since I was unable to get the great Josh Becker to do it, I'm doing it myself. The comedy lines that jump to my mind immediately is the prayer Michael Palin gives in the boy's school in "Meaning of Life"--"Oh God, you are so big, so absolutely huge, you're super. All we can say, God, is we're really impressed down here."

Josh

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

Hi Josh.

Got my copy of "If I Had a Hammer" today; and you signed it. Cool!

I will watch it this weekend.


Take care,

XenaHerc

Dear XH:

We at Beckerfilms deliver for you.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I've been out of the loop for a few days, having gone to Kentucky on a road trip (and I now owe $179 to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; they disagreed with my view that 87 mph in a 55 zone is not excessive). We went to Fort Knox to see the General Patton Armor museum (my buddy Derek is a wee bit obsessed with tanks). Kind of like your story "Fear and Loathing on I-10" without the cocaine (I did develop a strange addiction to White Castle cheeseburgers while I was there, though).
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I ordered "If I had a Hammer," and that the check and SASE should be reaching you shortly (I sent them priority mail). One more for the cause.

Yours truly,
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Excellent, although I've moved beyond the SASE concept and for a mere $3.00 P&H I'll send them out. I hope you like it.

Josh

Name: Daniel Neumann
E-mail: neumann@hellseals.de

Dear Josh,

I´m very interested in ordering "If I had a hammer". As the other guy from Sweden I live overseas (Germany). Could you please tell me how much the shipping will be (airmail preferred)? I cannot wait watching "Hammer" since I enjoyed all the other movies you made!

Thanks!
Daniel

Dear Daniel:

Shirley, the webmaster, has a method for calculating overseas postage, and she will assist you in this endeavor. It's NTSC, so I hope that's not a problem in your neck of the woods. [follow this link --webmaster]

Josh

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

Josh,

Parent's credit card, huh? And I used my own. At least I laughed once today.

John

Dear John:

We strive to amuse.

Josh

Name: Nagi
E-mail:

Hello Mr. Pecker,

I have some questions for you. I dont understand how you make such dull films. I mean I hear TSNKE is not to bad but making movies like "I had a hammer" I mean no offense but dont you think you could come up with something a little more creative than that. I mean you have worked with Sam Raimi and he made The Evil Dead so I would think some of his creativity would wear off on you. I sure hope that in the future as you slowly become more expierienced that you will eventually have a succesfull movie. Good luck Joshua.

Dear Nagi:

How can you comment on a film you clearly haven't seen? That's pretty foolish.

Josh

Name: Sian
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

I am considering a career in film making or directing when I'm slightly older, I'm only 17 at the moment, and I was curious to know if you have any advice to how I could pursuit my chosen career.
Love Sian
xxx

Dear Sian:

Yes I do. Borrow your parents' credit card and buy a copy of "If I Had a Hammer," then study it very carefully. Report back.

Josh

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

Josh,

Okay, this has me completely appaled. Guy Ritchie is making a remake of "Swept Away". I've never seen this movie, so that's not why I'm appalled. What gets me is why he's remaking the movie. Here's what he said:

"By the time the film had finished, I said, 'Someone's got to remake this movie.' I liked the edge of it. The passion. And Madonna said, 'Why don't you remake it?' I said, 'Well, why don't you be in it?' She went, 'All right,' and that was that."

I don't like remakes in the first place, but when people are remaking movies they already consider good, what's the point? Well, okay. The point is most probably a bigger bank account.

But seriously, what is this world coming to when a writer/director sees something he likes and decides the next step is to blatantly rip it off? It just boggles my mind wondering how that's even a legitimate option.

That's not really a question for you, I just had to vent, and none of my friends seem to want to discuss movies anymore. So here's a question:

Do you think there's ever a good reason to remake a movie? My thought is that once it's in a visual medium already, it's off limits. That leaves open books, and short stories, but other movies and televsion shows are off limits.

David

Dear David:

I'm with you. I hate remakes. If someone decides to do a remake they've automatically thrown in the towel on originality, and once you begin with such a bogus intention, it can only get worse from there on out. As William Goldman said, and I enjoy the coarseness of the observation, remakes and sequels are "whore's films," madely strictly for money and no other reason.

Josh

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

Josh,

I'm just a little puzzled. In reading your responses to various movie titles ("What did you think about ...") you often list the objection that you didn't care about the main character(s). Yet in your own work you make extensive use of characters who are apathetic or anti-social or self-destructive. I just read "Oh, Really" and the young man, whose name has escaped me, was a character with whom it is very difficult to sympathize. Ravi and the nun (I can't think of her name just now either) acted upon fairly base, ill-considered motives; again not individuals to care much about. Their circumstances, however, were interesting. I can't really think of any of your characters who would make good neighbors.

Of course, good neighbors generally make lousy characters, and where character flaws impel the story they are certainly appropriate. We are, after all, most human in our flaws and all good stories speak to our humanity. But your writings seem to confirm that one need not sympathize with a character in order to empathize with him. Again, I wouldn't mention it except for your own recurring objections to characters about whom you do not care. I was just wanting your thoughts on this, seeming, contradiction between your reviews and your own work.

Thanks as always,

John

Dear John:

I think it's a good question. Let's use "Monster's Ball" as an example. I didn't really like Halle Berry or Billy Bob Thornton's characters -- both of them have somewhat crappy relationships with their sons and don't treat them well -- but I cared about both of them. I think there's a world of difference between liking characters and caring about them. Hollywood is very concerned that characters be "likable," and it comes up all the time. I shot a variety of scenes for the Hercules front titles, that were thankfully not used, of him picking up cute children and hugging them because the producers were desperate that he be likable. I don't think it matters at all. The key concerns to me are believability and do I care. If I can believe the situation, and care about the characters, I can have fun. As another example, I just watched "Mulholland Dr." and I didn't care about any of the characters, and therefore I didn't care about the movie. I think the lead girl was supposed to be likable, but I neither cared nor believed her. This is probably the most difficult aspect of screenwriting.

Josh


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