Q & A    Archive
Page 88

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

Josh,

The assertion is not that without a God there can be no great thinkers, only that without an absolute Universal there can be nothing profound. If a prfound thought is one which illuminates some aspect of a universal truth then modern relativism works against profound thinking. This idea isn't mine, and I'm not sure I agree with it completely; there can be commonality in universal independence. But it is an interesting idea and one which attempts to answer the question of why philosophy has suffered in recent years.

I've seen Keaton's "The General" of course. The one I've rented is based on the true story of an Irish mobster in Dublin who, I believe, developed something of a Robin Hood identity until he was gunned down by rivals in the early nineties. I'll let you know if I think you should check it out. Thanks,

John

Dear John:

It doesn't sound like a rational theory to me. The universal truths remain the same, whether it's 1903 or 2003. The names that humans stick on the concept of God may change, but the intention is always the same. Nor is there anything particularly unique about the present time period, other than we're presently stuck in it. It's a concept that Colleen McCullough explores in an interesting fashion in her Rome books, which take place in about 200 to 100 BC. To those people, that was the modern world, as modern as it had ever been, and all of the same issues we have now, they had then. Other than a few technical gadgets it's the same world, and humans have all the same problems. Can I make a decent life for myself, should I have kids, can I give them a decent life, will I see any of my dreams come true, is there any point to existence? Etc. There's nothing new under the sun.

Josh

Name: Bernie Bresnahan
E-mail: BernieTime@attbi.com

Josh,

I was kinda thinking you might not really care for Donnie Darko, but it's the kind of movie where people either love it or hate it. No skin off my back that you didn't like it. Like you said, it's a mostly free country although with Ashcroft in office I feel a little less "free" each day.
Much like tastes in John Wayne films, as I recall your favorite is True Grit, whereas mine is The Quiet Man.

I imagine the hard part of enjoying any new film is having such a broad background of knowledge of what movies have come before. The more expanded your worldview, it becomes harder to find product that meets your criteria of what consitutes "good".
Once you've had an excellent Deepdish Pizza, do you really want to continue frequenting Little Ceasars or Dominoes?

Can't recall the source; I'd read an article awhile back where this fellow surmised that the reason most of what you see on TV and in the movies feels regurgitated or unoriginal is simply because todays writers are processing the information that they grew up with.
Meaning old TV shows and Movies; plots of which are in many cases derived from older print media/stories (greek tragedy, etc..).
So many of today's writers are in essence producing copies of a copy of a copy. And probably never even read or heard of the original source.
In part why I stopped watching television 4+ years ago.

Though I'm probably preaching to the choir at this point (haha!)

Also wanted to say that I purchased Running Time awhile back and really enjoyed the film and commentary! Only thing that bugged me about RT is that it takes forever for the film to actually start as the opening sequence seems to drag on and on.

Have a great New Years, and kudos for taking the time to respond to these e-mails. If nothing else appreciate the honesty of your responses, a rare thing in todays PC world.

Regards,

Bernie Bresnahan
Grand Ledge, Mi.

Dear Bernie:

"It takes forever for the film to start"? Yikes! This is called Act One, and it's absolutely necessary in telling a rational story. If I don't get the set-up of an act one in a film, I know I'm going to be bored in a relatively short time and will stay that way until the end. Perhaps RT has a bad first act, but I never thought so, and it's only about 25 minutes long, which is perfectly standard. Regarding growing up on movies and TV shows, that's what I grew up on, too. The point is, what are you getting out of them? There aren't all that many different kinds of stories to tell, but if you're telling your version, as opposed to reguritating someone else's version, there are and endless amount of stories to tell. There had already been a million westerns by the time David Webb Peoples wrote "Unforgiven," nor did he live in the old west, but he thought up a new western story to tell. It's all based on how much thought you're willing to give a story, as opposed to being lazy and just stealing them. To repeat an old writing adage, "If you're not directly inspired by something, then you're just stealing." The point is to be inspired -- which nobody seems to be -- and not become a thief.

Josh

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

Josh,

I hate to tell you, but you probably were exceptional. I think I'm roughly a decade behind you in age and I think we have read many of the same books. I know that my peer group in high school and before were not reading those books. I think "The Joe Montana Story" was big in my class. Still, a great many of those people have turned out to be decent human beings and I think the same will hold true for the current generation. Certainly I intend my boys to be big readers and, more to the point, critical thinkers.

As I understand, you've never read "The Lord of the Rings." I mention it because I think many of your criticisms about modern society are touched on in LOTR. Tolkien, I think, saw modern culture's declining ability, or inclination for subtlety and critical thought, particularly in philosophy. Of course, like any fairy tale does, Tolkien masks his observations in metaphors. It's one of the things which endear the books to me.

On the broader question, one author I've recently read, Steve Bruce, sees the decline in philosophy as a function of the relativism which has accompanied the decline of formal religion. The abandonment of an absolute arbiter (God in a highly-structured interpretation) has denied the existence of an absolute truth, without which there can be no profundity. Without the Universal, we are mired in the Mundane. It's an interesting notion, one I haven't worked through entirely. Certainly, a great deal of philosophy has assumed the absolutes which relativism denies. Anyway...

Have you seen "The General", about the Irish mobster? I'm planning on watching it and wondered if you have thoughts on it. Thanks as always,

John

Dear John:

I have not seen this film called "The General." I've seen Buster Keaton's film "The General" many times. So, are you saying that if you don't believe in God you can't be a great thinker? Some of our greatest thinkers were Athiests. This country was founded by Athiests. I don't even think there is a reduction of religion in the world. Actually, I think it's growing.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I've been away for awhile, and was looking over the site. How have things been in your part of the world?
Someone here said that patriotism sells in movies, and I agree with that fact, repugnant though it may be. It seems lately that every film has a flag waving in slow motion in it, which gives me mixed emotions, for I know it to be hypocrisy. From the end of the Viet Nam war to the present, it had been the trend to denigrate what this country stands for; patriotism had become passe, something worthy of a dirty look. After September 11, it suddenly became cool to be a patriot, and flag decals appeared in car windows everywhere. I remember something that happened a few weeks after 9/11 which sums this issue up for me. My National Guard unit provided a static display for a diabetes walkathon held at a nearby university (SCSU, to be exact). It wasn't much, just a few soldiers and one of our tactical ambulances beside the track where the event was held. In the short time that we where there, three women came up and gave me hugs, I received about twenty handshakes, and heard "Thank you for what you're doing" and "God bless you" about thrity times from complete strangers. As one of these sunshine patriots walked away, my company commander muttered to himself "Where were you for the last sixteen years?"
The man had a point. Where were these people when there wasn't a war? Where were they on the one day that I had to go to the armory in uniform and took a bus there, and was taunted and catcalled the whole way? Where were they when you didn't see the flag on every house?
It's bad enough to hear tenable, phony patriotism from ordinary people, but when Hollywood, that great Mecca of half-baked politics and phony ideals, jumps on the band wagon, it's too much. I wish they would spare me the insult.
Sorry to harangue your website with a topic that isn't really cinema related, but I've been away for awhile and had a fresh rant all stored up. In the meantime, thank you as always for bothering to listen.

Yours truly,
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Blind patriotism is as bad as religious fundamentalism, in my opinion. I love my country and I'm proud to be an American, but I also think this country has some very serious problems, and some really poor leaders. The last election made me ashamed of my nationality. That our supreme court is so partisan and so easily bought and sold is particularly shameful. That we know the Saudis are the main backers of the terrorists and we won't get out of bed with them is shameful. That we won't make any attempt to curb our use of oil so that we don't have to stay in grip of the Arab oil countries is reprehensible. That we have more people in prison than any other country in the world is disgraceful. That I have the right to complain about all of this without fear of reprisal is beautiful, and to be cherished.

Josh

Name: Alan
E-mail: picquickstudio@aol.com

Hi Josh

It's been about two years since XENA ended but since then Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor have done practically nothing of note on screen nor do I see their names linked to future projects. This seems incredible to me as supporting actors in the series have achieved some success: Marton Czokas was in XXX and the forthcoming TIMELINE directed by Richard Donner, Kathryn Morris was in MINORITY REPORT and the late Kevin Smith would have been in a Bruce Willis movie had he lived.
Why do you think this is Josh as I would have thought that there would have been a deluge of offers for these two fine actresses based on the range of emotions they portrayed in XENA but this has not been the case?

Dear Alan:

Well, you'd have thought wrong. I know they're both good actors, but I think Hollywood sees them both as sort of washed-up goofy characters from a ancient canceled syndicated TV show. Of course, Hollywood has it's head up it's ass in most cases, and this is just one more example.

Josh

Name: Tiki
E-mail: tiki@hotmail.com

Josh,

I don't have agent representation. Could I use my lawyer and a release form, if after querrying production companies, they request my material?

Thanks so much,
Tiki

Dear Tiki:

Sure. If you've gotten to someone in a production company then you've already done the agent's job. The point of having an agent, however, is that hopefully they can get to someone higher up in the company, someone who may actually be able to say yes. All the development people at the bottom can say is no. Production companies, for the most part, turn down most of the stuff that comes through agents; they turn down everything that comes in unsolicited. The ugly facts.

Josh

Name: Boogala
E-mail: francesboogala@aol.com

Hi Josh,

Have you been across the border to Windsor, Ontario? What's it like? A friend of mine got an MA in English from Windsor University while Joyce Carol Oates was teaching there. Just wanted to know if you had been there. Take care and good luck on your Warpath treatment. Is it in screenplay form now?

Dear Boogla:

There's just a few pages of "Warpath" adapted to screenplay. I really don't want to start until I get paid. I don't want to put in the effort of writing the script until I'm a lot more certain that the film will be financed. I've been to Windsor any number of times in my life, but not recently. It's a cute town and it feels quite a bit different than Detroit, which is only a mile away. Windsor feels more like New Zealand to me than America, perhaps becaused they're both British Commonwealth countries. I just like Canada, though, and I've seen quite a lot of it.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

"Gangs" was such a mess that I can't even gather my thoughts on it. I was so bored watching that movie that my head hurt. There was no focus what so ever. And I agree that the whole revenge plot line was just weak and stupid. Why didn't LD's character just form a rival gang in the first place? The stuff with him becoming Bill the Butcher's right hand man was such useless bullshit! And the romance between Leo and Cameron Diaz was so tacked on it was pathetic. And the score was just plain annoying! I saw it with my Dad who is a big time epic movie guy. I have never seen the man fidget and sigh so much in my life. He told me that he must have checked his watch a dozen times. I thought Day-Lewis was doing some kind of weird DeNiro thing myself. That swaggering sort of walk that he had was hilarious! And him actually butchering meat and handing it out to people was pretty comical too. What a boring and frustrating movie going experience. My Mom said that we both looked like we lost our best friends when we got home.

I will have to try the "roll your own" Am Spirits. My grandfather rolled his own until the day he died. He would sit at the kitchen table for what seemed like hours and roll the most perfect cigarettes. He would let my brother and I help him sometimes. I feel terrible saying this but rolling cigarettes with my grandpa was basically how I learned how to roll a joint.

Jean

Dear Jean:

But rolling cigarettes is easier than rolling joints. One of the things I like about rolling my own is that it takes two hands and some minor level of concentration, so it makes reaching for a cigarette much more difficult and intentional. I smoke less than half as much since I began to roll my own. Meanwhile, "Gangs" just gets worse and worse in retrospect. It begs the question that's been troubling me for years -- how can someone who absolutely knew what he was doing for years, like Martin Scorsese, now seem to know nothing about it? How could he have read that script and said, "Yes, let's shoot it"? It deeply shocks me.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

Just got back from the east coast for the holidays. My first night back a group of friends and I went to a bar/pool hall in Washington D.C. that we frequent. I was standing there watching two of my friends play pool while drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette and I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I actually felt like an adult for a change. It was great! I am so sick of this California bullshit. I got excited on the flight to D.C. because I knew that I was going out that night and that I was going to be able to smoke in the bar. How pathetic is that? By the way, have you tried American Spirit Cigarettes? They are really good. You can smoke one of them forever.

Oh, and I saw "Gangs of New York". What a monumental waste of time! That's all I have to say about the film.

Jean

Dear Jean:

I've been smoking American Spirit now for years, although I buy the tobacco by the can and roll it myself. It's much cheaper and better that way, BTW. I too saw "Gangs of New York," and if I had to sum it up in two words they would be: complete disaster. It's actually far worse than I even suspected it might be, and I sure wasn't hoping for much. Scorsese is the perfect example of the old Hollywood adage, "Great directors don't die, they become cinematographers." And everyone's going on and on about the set (as though civilians ought to be talking about such things), and it's not that great of a set. Every street goes two blocks, then dead ends, which is how they built all of the Xena and Hercules sets. What made the old New York street sets for "The Godfather Part II" so impressive (shot in exactly the same place) is that they don't stop at a dead end, but just keep going off into obscurity. It took me half the film to figure out who Daniel Day-Lewis was imitating, but I'm convinced he's doing a Peter Falk impression -- "The cops in this town are morons!" I'm not sure what accent Leonardo thinks he's doing, but he's certainly not pulling it off. But worst of all, it's just a flat-out terrible screenplay. The only characterization and motivation Leonardo's character has is revenge, which is a dull, dramatically weak motivation, and when he doesn't kill Day-Lewis the first chance he gets, possibly about twenty minutes into the film, everything that comes after that is just a severe waste of time that gets progressively worse by the second. It's more than time for Scorsese to retire. He can stay busy by restoring old Italian pictures.

Josh

Name: Bernie Bresnahan
E-mail: BernieTime@attbi.com

Hi Josh,

Just wanted to drop by (it's been awhile) and recommend a film you may not have seen yet.
Check out "Donnie Darko"

While not a perfect film, it's one that I've enjoyed watching multiple times. How often can you say that anymore? It's quite funny that this film was mis-labelled as a Horror film.

Also of note is "Amelie" which seemed to play forever at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor.

Cheers!

Bernie Bresnahan
Grand Ledge, Michigan

Dear Bernie:

Luckily it's still a somewhat free country and we can all have our own opinions. I thought "Donnie Darko" was complete and utter crap. And the monster is a guy in a bad rabbit suit. It's like they decided to make "Harvey" into a horror film -- "Oh my God, it's a giant rabbit!" And that kid was awful. And every two minutes it cuts to a title like, "Tuesday, 11:03 AM," like it mattered at all. Sorry, buddy, but that film's down at the bottom end for me. "Amelie" was okay, in that modern, quirky, this-film-is-about-nothing kind of way that so many movies are now. Audrey Toutou is a good example of the cute, pouty, French, gamin, but I never cared at all whether she fell in love or not, and it didn't even seem like she wanted to. And I'm supposed to care about this schmuck that works in a porno shop? I will admit it was kind of clever, as opposed to actually getting me to care about anything.

Josh

Name: Helene Biggie
E-mail: hbiggie@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I want to know which best actress academy award winner won 2 oscars by age 30?

Dear Helene:

The obvious answer is easy, Bette Davis, except that there were two. The other is the nearly forgotten Luise Rainer. Meryl Streep had two Oscars by the age of 31, but one of them was for Best Supporting Actress. Katherine Hepburn was a mere 26 when she got her first Oscar, then was 60 when she got her second, then got two more after that. As my friend Rick pointed out in an article he wrote, the average age of an actress winning an Oscar is about 28, whereas the average age of an actor winning an Oscar is nearer to 50.

Josh

Name: lucy ryder
E-mail: juicylucyryder@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I am a student at Manchesteer Metropolitan University, England, currently studying a BA (hons) in Design and Art Direction. I have decided i would like to have a bash at making a short film for my next assignment, something which i have never embarked on before, and am quite scared of starting. What advice could you give me in regards to preparing myself for pressing the record button for the first time, and is there anything i should avoid. I understand you must be extremely busy but would be very grateful of ANY help!!!!

Dear Lucy:

Make certain you have a decent script, then rehearse as much as possible. That way, when you get to the location to shoot you won't be going at it completely cold, and you can also have a fair amount of the blocking already worked out. This will allow you to pay more attention to your production. Also, plan your shots and either make a detailed shot list or draw storyboards. One more thing, be very circumspect about taking suggestions from the crew. If you've made a plan, stick to it. As your countryman, Alfred Hitchcock, said, "You never put the camera somewhere because the camerman thinks it's a good idea." Good luck.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Hope the holidays are being good to you, and that Jehosus left you something other than a lump of coal. In particular, hope that you've had a chance to reconnect with lots of your old Detroit cronies over eggnog and a fat doob.

Was watching a ton of John Wayne films last week - one of the cable channels ran most of his later works. I was struck by how good many of them were - not timeless works of art by any means, but tight decent stories. I'd forgotten how Wayne allowed himself to age in the 60's - he plays fathers and grandfathers in almost all of them, and often comments on how he's "too old" for one thing or another.

It also occurred to me that it's more Wayne than Eastwood that you're chanelling in "Warpath" (which, again, I *really* liked.) I'd forgotten, for example, how utterly tough and ruthless Wayne could be. Cole's romance with the tough farm wife reminds me a bit of Wayne and Geraldine Page in "Hondo," especially with him meeting her no-good husband. Except you've made a real character out of the husband, and the wife is a lot more courageous. Same with Cole's observations on the bounty for a dead man vs. a living one. Reminded me a bit of a similar encounter Wayne had with Richard Boone in "Big Jake." Good, archetypal stuff.

I know you like Wayne in his John Ford years. Any thoughts on any of his later work? And do keep us posted on "Warpath!"

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

I was just talking about the Duke yesterday. John Wayne simply had good taste in scripts and stories, much better than Eastwood. "Hondo" is a really good script, and Hondo is a well-written character. Since Wayne produced that film, purchased the rights to a good Louis L'Amour book, then hired a top-notch screenwriter, James Lee Grant, to adapt it, as well as a very solid director in John Farrow (Mia's dad), as well as two terrific cinematographers, Robert Burks and Archie Stout, the Duke knew how to put a good movie together. Since I grew up going to the movie theater and seeing all of those late John Wayne pictures, like "True Grit," "Big Jake" and "McQ," I have a particularly warm spot in my heart for them. I really like "The Shootist," too, which is one of the really great and appropriate last films ever. I'll even admit that in 1969, which was a darn good year for movies, and the last great year for westerns, with "The Wild Bunch" and "Butch Cassidy," I liked "True Grit" the best. Once again, it has a very good script, and cadence of the dialog seems more like the 1800s than most any other western.

Josh

Name: Andrew
E-mail: Klonoa10@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Hiya. I'm really interested in actually making a short film, what sort of equipment would you suggest to start out with?

Dear Andrew:

What sort of equipment can you get your hands on? Digital video is probably the cheapest and easiest route to take, but you have to have access to editing software, like Final Cut Pro, and learn how to use it. Otherwise, you could shoot film, but it's more complicated, more difficult, and more expensive. But it will look better and you'll learn more. Can you get a hold of a 16mm Bolex camera? It's not easy to use, but the results can be amazing.

Josh

Name: The Goose
E-mail: glenysbrown@freeuk.com

Dear Josh:

I am a young scriptwriter (not even a teenager) I have written about two full-length screenplays, but I feel that they are both a bit too rushed-could you give me some advice?

Dear The Goose:

Does that mean you're twelve? And you've written "about two full-length screenplays"? Does that mean you didn't finish them, or maybe you wrote a third screenplay and don't remember doing it? The first thing you can do is read my five essays on script structure and commit all of the information to memory. Then you need to watch as many movies as humanly possible, the older the better, and read as much as humanly possible. Between all of these movies and books you might want to try living life as best as you can, too. The key to being a good writer, in my humble opinion, is having something to say. Just rehashing other people's stories is of no value to anyone. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Kim
E-mail: mrsdagle@yahoo.com

Josh,

Believe me when I say that you were the exception and not the rule when it comes to childhood interests. My husband and I were just discussing reading the other night and decided that it is an antisocial behavior. It has been for a while, at least in this century. I don't mean reading news or magazines, but full-length novels, history books and historical documents. Kids are not encouraged to read real books because their parents didn't/couldn't read real books. My parents treated me like I was studying Satanism when I retreated with historical novels. In college, I took elective courses for supplemental reading suggestions. No one seemed to understand that concept. Why would a person want to read more than they HAVE to? That's why Cliff Notes have been around for so long.
I do believe the "great thinkers" are out there, but are unpublished, getting fired from their teaching jobs and possibly just killing themselves.
On that note, I believe I will watch the dvd of your Thou Shalt Not Kill . . . Except!

Dear Kim:

Yeah, watch TSNKE, it'll prove I'm a deep thinker. Who else but a deep thinker could come up with the premise of the marines versus the Manson family? That is an interesting explanation about not reading, that it's now considered anti-social behavior. That playing video games isn't treated as anti-social behavior is what's weird. As Mario Vargas Llosa points out in his recent essay "Why Literature," reading connects humans together as very few other things do; it gives them a common experience, and is much more important than playing games or watching movies or TV.

Josh

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

Josh,

Regarding thinkers and quotations, I have felt that, for some time now, the sheer volume of material, be it in print or a direct quotation, has diluted the impact of any of it. When Churchill was making his famous, (and well-rehearsed) ad-libs he had very little competition. Even on radio, only a handful of the top personalities had the opportunity to be quotable, as it were. E! television has entire hour-long programs devoted to nothing but the best quotations from the previous days' talk shows. The explosion in print has even been more impressive than that of broadcast. All of that volume will inevitably dilute the value of any single sampling.

An analogy might be a violinist. I saw a "Sixty-Minutes" (as I recall) program about a young Asian girl who was an accomplished violinist. And she was impressive in her practive room. However, she performed with something like five-hundred other violinists of roughly the same age and ability. She didn't perform any worse than she had before, but she was far less impressive.

This is the great hope I still hold for movies. Movies are one of the very few media not currently being swamped by volume; I cannot actually think of another. This means that it is still possible to produce a "classic" movie; one which produces a lasting cultural resonance. That doesn't mean that there aren't excellent books or music being produced, but they will never reach enough of an audience to produce the type of resonance that Huxley, Keynes or Shaw were able to generate.

I'm sure there's a sociological term or theorem for this trend. At any rate, it is the filter through which my perspective is filtered. Thanks,

John

Dear John:

Maybe you're right, maybe there are a lot of intelligent, talented, quotable people out there that simply aren't being seen or heard. On some level, though, I just don't believe it. It's like this nonsense I'm always hearing about how smart kids are these days because they can turn a computer on and play video games. I'd be much more impressed if they read a book. I've yet to be impressed by just about any kid I've ever met. Fourteen year old kids, if they read anything, are still reading Harry fucking Potter books. When I was fourteen I was reading "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and Ernest Hemingway. My neighbor and friend Jim and I would get off the bus from junior high, sneak into the woods, smoke a joint, and discuss the Marshall Plan and the Julio-Claudians. Perhaps we were exceptional, but we didn't feel all that exceptional, nor has either of us moved on anywhere toward greatness. If I could find a kid under eighteen who actually knew when WWII was, I'd be impressed.

Josh

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

Josh:

I finally got to watch "If I Had a Hammer" (my previous VCR died), and it was worth the wait. I won't go into a lengthy review (yet), but will just say that it was nice to see a movie for adults. Your two leads (Lisa and Brett) were excellent. Any future projects you can talk about?
Charles

Dear Charles:

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm diddling around with my story "Warpath" once again. There's a fellow who says he's interested in putting together the financing, but I've heard that story a thousand times before. And since 99.99% of the folks who say they can put together film financing flake out, I expect it sooner or later in this case, too. That's all for the moment.

Josh

Name: A.J. Parker
E-mail: No thanks (sick of spam:)

Dear Josh,

I have a couple questions about setting up a limited partnership for a film. Every film book I read recommends that you set up an L.P., and they go on to say that, in most states, you can only have 25 investors (any more and it would be considered a public offering) and that you have to raise the entire budget before you can spend a dime of it.

Now, I've read that Sam and you guys started shooting EVIL DEAD (with a limited partnership business structure) on $90,000 and over the course of the next couple years found the rest of the investors and eventually the budget got to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000.

So, if you're still awake :)...that leads to my first question: Are the laws in Michigan different or something, or have I been misunderstanding these film books?

Also...a couple acquaintances of mine made a feature for about $80,000 and for every $800 investment, their investors would receive 1/2% of the profits. So basically, they could have had up to 100 investors. They didn't even have a lawyer register this. Can this possibly be legal?!?!?

I hope you don't mind answering these questions, Josh. I'm going to visit a lawyer soon to set up an L.P., and I want to have some idea as to what the hell I'm talking about before I spend $100 an hour to talk to him. So I thought I'd ask someone who's been in the trenches. :)

Thanks in advance,
AJ

Dear AJ:

It's either 25 or 35 investors, generally. So having a hundred investors is in fact illegal. But if you don't get caught, what the hell. Unfortunately, you now have a hundred people you have to trust to not sue you and be part of your scheme. Regarding "Evil Dead," the original offering, which was a limited partnership, was for $150,000. When $90,000 was raised, Ren Pix decided to start shooting, so they had an addendum to the offering written, got all of the investors to sign it, and thus the money was released to them out of escrow. You can put that into the offering in the first place, that you feel you only need two-thirds or half of the money to go start shooting. You don't necessarily have to raise the full subscription to get the money released. If you exceed the total amount of money you were asking for, you also have to have an addendum to your offering asking the investors to allow you to dilute their shares. They'll generally go along with this sort of thing because they know that without more money you won't finish the movie, and if the movie's not done it's not worth anything. I hope I've answered your questions, and feel free to ask as many others as you'd like. Good luck.

Josh

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

Josh,

I have to disagree with Scott about there being no great thinkers today. I think that the intellectual pursuits at the highest end of the spectrum tend to be rather subtle and arcane for the non-specialist. That doesn't diminish their accomplishments, only their accesibility. Even still, popularizers of many of the sciences abound. Your point about intellectuals avoiding or being avoided by Hollywood is well taken. One is known by the company one keeps or forsakes, I suppose.

The Economist has an article accusing Steven Spielberg of being a latter-day Luddite due to his professed aversion to digital-format movies. Like so many, the editors at the Economist are impressed with his commercial success (and legitimately so, I suppose, if you're an economist). Anyway, it's not a bad article on the future of the craft from an outside but considered perspective and I didn't know if you'd seen it. Thanks,

John

Dear John:

I suppose Spielberg is a Luddite, if you consider that digital editing has caused many post-production people to lose their jobs. If one's point is to do things in an earlier fashion so as to keep more people employed, cutting on film will most certainly achieve that. To cut digitally all you need is one or two people at the most. To cut on film you need a roomful of them, with many assistants logging and keeping track of all that film. I think Spielberg still cuts on film because that's what he's used to. Anyway, regarding great thinkers, though there may well be great scientists, physicists, and mathematicians, there aren't any great philosophers or practical thinkers. Look through any book of quotations, no matter how new it is, and all you'll find are old quotes. Nobody is saying anything that's worth quoting anymore. Certainly not like Shaw, Bierce, Mencken, or La Rochefocauld.

Josh

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

Howdy all! I've been gone some time, so lots of different topics for my two cents' worth.

I've got a thoery about why our leading men are a bunch of wusses these days. The thing is, we've painted ourselves into a corner with science. Biologically speaking, women no longer need us. They don't even need sperm banks anymore since dna-splicing is now all the rage. So our movie heroes have become less sexist, more sensitive in an effort, on behalf of us men everywhere, to please keep us around a while longer. We're really not so bad. Ah well, at least there's still Sean Connery. And maybe Kurt Russell? So unless science somehow vanishes we're basically going to degrade from walking flesh-dildoes who can put up curtains to the human equivalent of that fifth toe scientists tell us we're all going to lose eventually.

I have officially been told I'm old when I told one of the kids I work with ("kids" meaning a seventeen year-old) that "Minority Report" sucked. "Well, you liked A.I. right?" "Nope, sucked." And so on. I was told that I can't always use my "you know, movie stuff" while looking at movies. I think that meant I wasn't supposed to have any tastes or standards. We need to form a Grouchy Old Filmwatchers' Club or something.

As for your teaching a course, I'm definitely for it. A dissenting voice is exactly what is needed out there. Now we just have to convince the institute heads.

People taking time to insult Josh here: That's an easy one. It takes nothing from a person to destroy. It's the favourite hobby of cowards. But building something takes some guts, no matter what it is. I read somewhere a quote by Stephen Hawkins saying that the arts are where people who can't hack science (or the real world, or something like that - I'm afraid I can't remember the exact quote) end up. Maybe, I know I sucked at math. But there's no equivalent in science to putting yourself out on a stage, hoping you've done something people will get something worthwhile out of, but knowing full well that there's also a chance you're about to have your sensitive artsy ass ripped a new one. Art is about working in a void. If you're not sweating every bit of your work all the way through its production, then you're probably doing it wrong. Maybe if Hawkins had to get up there and say Galileo was wrong, working from his own guts and instincts, then he'd know what it was like - same goes for these goofs who send it the hatemail.

Finally, about "president dumb-ass", anyone interested in this stuff might want to take a look at Michael Moore's book "Stupid White Men". The first chapter describing how Bush Jr. gained the office is actually frightening, especially in this climate of reduced liberties and increased "securities".

Bye!

Dear Dan:

Stephen Hawkings would probably encounter grave difficulties in any of the performing arts, therefore I understand his lack of respect. There's a quote in the quote section here that goes something like, art is the greatest mode of individual human expression that we know of. I think that's true, too, and that's why people using the arts in lieu of buying lottery tickets annoy me. Or using film to aim at the lowest common denominator, which completely negates it from the mode of personal expression. And I've been getting that same horseshit my whole life about -- "You know too much about movies, you don't see things like the rest of us." That's right, and I don't want to. Movies are the only place where people hold knowledge and experience against you. I also like to fall back on the G. B. Shaw quote, "If more than ten percent of the population likes a painting, it should be burned for it is bad."

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: bendab02@yahoo.com

Josh,

I gues if you consider directors, producers, lesser-known actors, crew, technicians, etc., then there is no trend. To judge the industry on the 50 most bankable actors isn't fair, but they are the ones in the forefront of the movie, usually. And aside from a very few monogamous relationships, the most public figures of the industry do have a higher relationship failure rate than the rest of the world. Of course, the rest if the world is in the shitcan, too. I just think it's funny that they don't make movies where a man has to choose between fame, fortune, and material happiness, and down-home family lifestyle, and actually chooses the former.

Ben

Dear Ben:

But fame and fortune is what everyone desperately yearns for, isn't it? That I'm not really desperate for fame and fortune has a tendency to freak people out and make them think I'm a disingenuous liar. If you're judging everyone in the film business by what the top fifty stars are doing, you're simply watching too much E Entertainment TV. If I was considered universally gorgeous and was paid $3 million a picture, I don't know that I'd be all that interested in settling down and leading a normal, monogamous life. If every woman that met me wanted to sleep with me, why wouldn't I want to fulfill their fantasies for them?

Josh

Name: Cathe
E-mail: b9relate@aol.com

Dear Josh:

Can you still blow smoke out of your mouth with out smoking a thing? .. Ran across this page in a internet search.. Thought I would wish you well.
Cathe Gurski

Dear Cathe:

Good God, the things one gets known for. Yes, I still can, just like in junior high school. If I ever stopped smoking I suppose I'd lose this amazing ability. Greetings to you, Ms. Gurski.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Josh,

It has been discussed many times that society has been in a downward slump artistically for the past 20 years. I think what is interesting is that it seems as if there haven't been many great thinkers either. Where are all the famous philosphers? Every single era in history had at least one great thinker that was world renound. At this juncture I can't think of anyone who is recocnized for being a great thinker. I think Joseph Campbell was the most recent. I know there are great thinkers out there, but where are they? If you know of anyone let me know. correct me if I'm wrong but I think this is one of the first eras in history where great philosiphers haven't emerged. I think it's quite funny that the people whom are considered great free thinkers are these phoney celebrities that have a "cause". An example is the free Tibet movement. I believe over half of the celebrities involved don't know 2 shits about Tibet's turmoil. It is just trendy to be a social climbing whore. If they really want a cause, stop president dumb ass, and the republican party from starting world war III.

Dear Scott:

Joseph Campbell's been dead for twenty years, so I don't think you can count him now. It's just like when I was writing my book and giving examples of great playwrights over the years. I went from Euripides to Shakespeare to Eugene O'Neil to Tennessee Williams to Arthur Miller, then I got stuck. Who is the great playwright of today? I finally settled for David Mamet, but I don't believe it, nor has he written anything of any real value in over twenty years -- I don't think writing the scripts for "The Untouchables" or "The Edge" keeps him in the "great playwright" category. So, I agree with you, we don't have any great thinkers anymore, nor do we have any great writers, and subsequently, no great films, either. And I don't know that I agree with you that celebrities of any sort are considered great thinkers. Part of the problem, I think, is that intelligence is not a valued attribute anymore. It certainly doesn't mean crap in Hollywood. Now I think intelligence is looked down upon. It's cooler to be dumb. There was a time, however, when sharp minds were all over Hollywood, like Aldous Huxley, Chistopher Isherwood, Ayn Rand, the Mankiewicz brothers, Orson Welles, Elia Kazan, William Inge, Gore Vidal, Horton Foote, William Faulkner, Vincent Minnelli, John Huston, Reginald Rose, Dudley Nichols, Robert Riskin, Francis Marion, etc. There were even sharp studio executives, like Darryl Zanuck, David Selznick, and Sam Goldwyn.

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: bendab02@yahoo.com

Josh,

I was going to ask if you have ever enjoyed a movie that was made for kids, but watchable for adults, but then I remembered that you liked "Beauty and the Beast." I'm guessing you're just frustrated at how extreme the situation is today, and are worn out from the kids movies.

I was curious about what it is about "Adaptation" that makes you kind of want to see it? Also, about originality, do you think that every story told could be retro-fitted into some other story that was told before, even though there really is a new perspective or message? To me, it just becomes more of a target when they boast as being "the most original" story ever told. Like, if they bring too much attention to it, then we'll prove them wrong just to keep them humble. And if we really wanted to be picky, there are, what, three types of story? Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Himself? I know, that's an exaggeration. But people do get too critical. Recently, "feardotcom" came out, and I didn't see it, but I bet it sucked. The point is, I had an idea for a story about websites and dead people that was more of a thriller and more pertinent to today's times. Whether or not it would end up being a good story, I can't say, but I'd be afraid to even think about it because people compare it to what has come before.

I guess there are three possible outcomes: A good movie has similar aspects of a bad movie results in praise. A bad movie after a good movie results in criticism. And a bad movie that comes after another bad one, well, lots of criticism.

What's your opinion?

Oh yeah, do you think it's funny that Hollywood makes movies like "Family Man" even though only a tiny percentage of actors have families? It seems those behind the cameras are less hypocritical, but it's strange that they have so many movies about everlasting love, but a Hollywood couple can't stay together past the premiere.

Merry Kwanz-annuka-mas.

Ben

Dear Ben:

I remember enjoying going to the movies, although it's a somewhat distant memory now. When the big rush of Christmas films arrive -- as it has now -- it reminds me of when I would go see ten movies in row, and half of them would be really good. I guess I ahve some interest in "Adaptation" because that's what I do, write screenplays. I basically don't think it's appropriate material for a movie, but it sounds more interesting than the other films. Regardings kid's films, there are plenty I've liked over the years -- "Bambi," "Jungle Book," "Swiss Family Robinson," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "The Wizard of Oz" -- but that was mixed in with a lot of good adult films. And my tolerance of facile, simple-minded fare has dropped precipitously. Regarding originality, yes there are three types of story, but there are many stories within those three categories. Just like there's only two types of humans -- male and female -- but there are six billion variations on those two themes. Now, however, originality has come to mean quirky, where the story just takes odd turns for no apparent reason. When "Fellini's 8 1/2" came out in 1963, there had never been anything like it. Telling a variation of that story does not make your story "wildly original." To tell an original story doesn't mean necessarily coming up with a story structure that's never been used, it means coming up with an observation of human behavior or the human condition that hasn't been explored, and that can most certainly still be done if one is perceptive and intelligent. I recently read Phillip Roth's "American Pastoral," and I don't feel that I've ever heard that story before. On a basic level, the story of a long-term marriage falling apart isn't new, it's why it's happening in this instance. And your final observation about family-themed movies and happy endings is just Hollywood stock and trade. It seems to me that most people in Hollywood are married and have kids just like everybody else. I don't know that the divorce rate is any higher there than anywhere else in America.

Josh

Name: Gerald M. Ben-Ami
E-mail: gjbenami@attbi.com

Dear Josh:

What about after the screenplay is sold? How do you manage the money, make sure the terms are solid and good for you? How do you secure yourself so that the "biz" and everyone else doesn't screw you? I see a zillion books on writing screenplays, but I don't see many on "Now you have sold it, what next?"

Any assistance, comments, etc you can offer are greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time.

Dear Gerald:

After the script had been under option for four years, my lawyer negotiated with their lawyers for several months until we agreed on the terms, then I signed the Writer's Guild contract and they sent a check. At that point I had sold the rights and had no say-so in anything they did with it thereafter. If you're dealing with a company that's signatory to the Writer's Guild, and you follow the guild's rules and use their contracts, they really can't screw you because they will most certainly have to deal with the Writer's Guild at some point in the future. But whether they're signatory or not, no film company in Hollywood is going into production on a script they don't clearly and legally own the rights to. They must have a clear "chain of title" or they can't get insurance to release the film.

Josh

Name: Tony Mitchell
E-mail: mitch_2209@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

Thought you might be interested in this. It's part of an article about the 20 most successful films of the year here in Australia and it totally backs up your comments about the target audiences of films these days.
"The major cinemagoers in Australia are 13-year-old boys, occasionally joined by their 15-year-old sisters and their nine-year-old cousins. That is the conclusion to be drawn from the 20 films that made most money at the box office during 2002. The list contains 10 films aimed directly at pubescent males, four designed for kids under 10, and two whose primary audience is adolescent females. Only four could squeeze into the "adult" category - Ocean's 11, A Beautiful Mind, Black Hawk Down and The Panic Room, although many mature sentimentalists joined the queues for My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Bend It Like Beckham, and some teens enjoyed the action in Ocean's 11 and Black Hawk Down."
I won't bother listing the other films because they're all shit. I recently upset a work colleague who asked me if I had seen the new "Lord of the Rings" film. I told him I don't watch children's films and he siad, "no it isn't". Then I told him I don't watch films about goblins and warlocks and he said, "but it has great special effects". I told him that "Eight Legged Freaks" also fell into that category and walked off.
I saw a James Stewart double on Sunday night for $9 (which is about 5 of yours) - "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Shop Around the Corner". Now THAT'S entertainment! I had seen the former but not the latter - what a joy the "Shop" was, such a great story and almost all of it set in the one place. Can't wait to see it again.
Anyway, Merry Christmas from Melbourne and I wish you much success in 2003!
Tony

Dear Tony:

Happy holidays to you down-under. We adults need to band together and raise our voices to let it be known that we're worthy of having films made for us, too. I just watched "A Constant Forge," an excessively long documentary (3 1/2 hours) about John Casavettes, which was very interesting, but even still I bailed out. Anyway, Casavettes makes several references to the "corrupting influence of money." He also said to other filmmakers, which I really liked (and I paraphrase), whose dreams do you want to realize? Your's, or the money-man's? Meanwhile, I enjoyed Ernst Lubitsch's "Shop Around the Corner" very much, and I also found it to be completely charming. Frank Morgan, who plays the shop-owner, as well as the Wizard in the "The Wizard of Oz," slaughters me. I saw the film at a sold-out screening in Paris where the audience had a great time and really showed it. I love the French attitude toward movies, which is highly respectful. Far moreso than in America, where it's a bsuiness and only a business. Check out some of Lubitsch's other films, like "One Hour With You," because they're almost all good. And as a parting note to those here in the U.S. with cable TV, one of my favorite films is on TCM today [at 8:00 PM --webmaster], Preston Sturges's "Christmas in July," and I can't recall it ever being on TV before. It's really terrific, and only 69 minutes long.

Josh

Name: MaryEllen Carson
E-mail: mecarson@jps.net

Dear Josh:

I was discussing the 99 Cent Stores with a friend of mine who works on another part of a large Southern California studio lot, & as we were chatting via phone, I went to google.com & sought to bring up all info. on this chain of our favorite stores. Your article seemed interesting, so I pulled it up, started to read it, & found my self laughing my head off out loud! I can really relate to your shopping excursion experiences at the 99 Cent Stores. This was VERY well written. Since this site is entitled "Ask The Director", my question is: what else have you written & posted on-line so I can again LOL?

All kidding aside, this article was priceless (pun intended).

-MaryEllen Carson

Dear MaryEllen:

If not priceless, then possibly worth 99 cents. There are plenty of other essays posted here, check them out. I'm glad you enjoyed it. What film company do you work for, if you don't mind me asking?

Josh

Name: fabio blanco
E-mail: longtom@oeste.com.ar

Der Josh...

Last night I was reading "the happy man in the town", and around page 104 I was crying like a baby. Man, I loved, I think you say that have something of Capra; The Egg and me come to my mind. I think too in the legend of King Fisher (not the movie), when a king is hurted and the land becomes waste and dry. Here, the town lost the office, the Pistons are losing... all becam worst. Again, today I found a different image in tv. Beverly Hills 90210 was on and I said "Bullshit!. There is where the air is brown". Thank for make me cry, Josh.
best regards
FABIO

Dear Fabio:

You're sensitive guy. It pleases me greatly that my writing could cause that strong of an emotion. As a little anecdote, I made eighteen extra appearances on the second season of "Beverly Hills 90210." I was there so often that season that Luke Perry and Jason Priestly both would smile and say hi to me when they saw me walk past. Anyway, I'm glad you liked the script. And the air in LA is brown.

Josh

Name: Rick Moldover
E-mail: molderic@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Liked your book list. I am reading Massie, Peter the Great. I like: John McPhee, Barbara Tuchman. I liked Adams and A Path Between the Seas by McCollough very much. In fiction: Smiley, Le Carre, Leonard, Follett.

Thanks for keeping a books website. Hats off.

I live in Salt Lake (non-M). I play handball, make pottery, and work in electrical construction.

Saw Frida this month, liked it a lot. Want to see Far from Heaven, Adaptation.

What are you reading now? What movies should I see?
Rick

Dear Rick:

"Peter the Great" was terrific. What a great man, and tall, too. I'm reading "Best American Essays 2002" and the three essays I've read so far have all been very good. I recently finished "The First American" by H. W. Brands, about Ben Franklin, and it was a great book. Franklin was probably the greatest American that's ever lived, and the most important of the founding fathers. As for movies, I don't know. I'm sorta kinda interested in seeing "Adaptation," although when filmmakers have to revert to making films about themselves and their travails making movies, I think they have nothing to say, and no experience to base anything on. It does amuse me that the reviews keep calling it "wildly original" when it sounds like a cross between "Fellini's 8 1/2" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." "Wildly original" now means you're stealing from movies that are over ten years old.

Josh

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

Josh,

It's a tough line to walk, security versus liberty. I agree that we're currently walking the wrong side of that line and will be until the oil consortium leaves office. One would think the Supreme Court might step in but the current line-up of Justices seems more concerned about what cases they don't want to hear then those they do. Then again, I don't know if a constitutional challenge has yet been made and the Court is designed to be a reactionary balance.

The movie question of the moment might be, "Where are the civil-liberties movies?" For all that Hollywood likes to portray itself as unfailingly liberal, it seems equally aware that patriotism sells. As far as the American culture factory seems concerned, the "War on Terror", a term I hate by the way, is such a convenient little war.

Finally, what movies might you recommend about the Big Brother mentality. "1984" might have been a great book but the movie did little for me. It seems like parallelisms with Fascism, Communism and the like should be out there, but I'm drawing a blank Thanks,

John

Dear John:

After the most recent presidential election I think this supreme court has proven they have no integrity, honesty, or sense of equity. They're bought and sold, just like modern film critics. Let's not forget that the supreme court approved the idea of Japanese internment camps during WWII whole-heartedly. They can keep calling this a "War on Terror," but it's not a war, it's simply a struggle between two different ways of life. Every time we give up our civil rights for security, the terrorists win. They don't like our way of life and tried to get us to change it, and have succeeded beautifully. If we'd left it up to them to choose the most thoughtless, reactionary puppet of big oil to put in the white house, they'd have chosen Bush, jr. As for Big Brother-type movies, I can't think of any right now (other than "1984"). I can't even think of any politically-aware filmmakers, either. Oliver Stone was, but he hasn't done anything of any consequence in over ten years. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

Josh

Name: Justin
E-mail: Moosebase1@aol.com

Dear Josh,

I rented and watched Thou Shalt not Kill Except... for the first time last night. Given it's budget I thougt it was a decent flick. I will say that your commentary though is one of the best I have heard. I like it when the directors actually have something to say about their movies. Anyway it sparked my intrest to check out your other films. I will try to check out running time next week.

Justin

Dear Justin:

Thanks. It was very easy doing the commentary tracks with Bruce. We did "Running Time" and TSNKE right in a row. When we got to the sound studio Werner Herzog was just finishing his commentary for "Fitzcarraldo," which was kind of cool. Hope you like RT.

Josh


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