Q & A    Archive
Page 93

Name: Jim Kenney
E-mail: iamjimkenney@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

haven't checked in for a while...just watched "Hammer" for the 2nd time, and am looking over the script...I want to send you an analysis that is thought out, not just an impulse response...

Thought I might recommend (if anyone else hasn't) "Diamond Men", a low-budget film starring Robert Forster and Don Wahlberg about travelling Diamond salesmen (not door-to-door, to stores), one on his way out, one just starting...it's a recent character-driven comedy-drama (shot on 16mm, I think) that isn't stupid -- Roger Ebert presented it at an "overlooked film festival" he hosted, which doesn't mean a lot, although it means at least one other guy besides me liked it...anyway, netflix has it, that's where I rented it from...

Dear Jim:

I just tried to order it from Netflix and their site wasn't functioning. I'll try again later. Thanks for the recommendation. I just saw three good documentaries: "The Trials of Henry Kissinger," "Waco: Rules of Engagement," and "On Hostile Ground." All three were provocative and well-made. Given the slanted reporting we're seeing now on the American news channels, it's particularly disheartening to see something like "Waco" where you get to see clearly that the U.S. government now feels it's their right to always lie to the public about everything. That we're not mature enough to handle the truth.


Name: Stuart Mackenzie
E-mail: macca.blueprint@btopenworld.com

Dear Josh,

I was very intrigued to hear your story about your script sale. I myself almost sold a script when I was 16, to Bender-Spink Management, but nothing came of it, mainly because, looking back, it was a crap script. Anyway, my question is about your sale fee. I don't meen to be nosy, but did you get a profit-percentage clause? I hear they are compulsary. Are they? And, how much did you get (I know u won't tell me, but I figured I'd ask anyway). Hope to hear from you soon, and keep going. You'll get cycles made one day....


Dear Stu:

No I didn't get a profit percentage deal, and no, they're not compulsory. I got Writer's Guild high-budget minimum, plus the various option fees. Should the film ever be produced I get more money, but that depends on what credit I receive. Sole credit is one fee, co-credit is another, a story credit is yet another. Since there's been so many writers on the script since me it would absolutely have to go to Writer's Guild arbitration to figure the credits out.


Name: Daniel Rudolph
E-mail: Ace_of_Sevens@gamebox.net

Dear Josh:

I'm quite fond of Lunatics: A Love Story and am interested in seeing it on DVD. I was wondering if you knew of any plans for this. If not, who currently has the video rights?

Edit: never mind, just found the part of your site with the questions. It appears Columbia still has the rights. I'll try to bug them into releasing it.

Dear Daniel:

Not only do they still have the rights, they have them for all of eternity. This was one of the worst film deals ever made. But if you have a DVD burner you can get it off TV this week.


Name: Ben Essner
E-mail: dalty_smilth@hotmail.com


I read your review of Pleasentville recently, and I too was bothered by it. There didn't seem to be any logic as to why certain things became "colored". But what really bothered me most about the movie was the way the movie seemed to wag its finger at me and say "shame on you", but it never really said what it was angry about. Or it did say what it was angry about but it was about a hundred different things. Perhaps it was just meant to protest the repressive culture of the 1950's. If so, then the films message doesn't really apply to me because I wasn't born until 1983. I guess what I'm saying is that I hate it when movies try to teach me a lesson that I don't really need to learn. Like Moulin Rouge: the message as far as I could tell was "People shouldn't be forced to love people that they don't love." Okay. I've never forced someone to love someone that they don't want to love. And I don't plan to in the future. Any war movie, particularly ones about Vietnam: War is hell. That's fine. I've never said otherwise. Anyway, I just wondered what your thoughts are on the subject preachy movies whose message doesn't apply to you. Thank you for continuing to read and respond to e-mails such as mine.

Dear Ben:

I think you're pretty perceptive. Some folks never realize how pointless most movies are. Simply stated, "Pleasantville" doesn't have a point. Most movies these days don't. Or, like Spielberg films, they'll have obvious, and ultimately meaningless points, like "war is hell" or "slavery is bad." To tell a good story you really do have to make a point that means something, or at least proposes a question that's worth thinking about. Telling me what I and everyone else already knows has no value. As an example, in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" she's saying that you can marry into an ethnic family and everything can work out fine for everyone, including the staunchest of the family members. Well, that's not revelation, but nobody's ever bothered to make the point before in any movie that I can think of. And on a big level that's why it's a good movie -- it's actually saying something that means something.


Name: John Tiech
E-mail: tiech@access995.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

Lunatics: A Love Story = Brilliant! I loved this movie. I have been a fan of yours, Bruce, and the rest of the Renaissance crew for years now. I was wondering if Lunatics: A Love Story will be available on DVD anytime soon? I hope so. And once again, well done to all the cast and crew!


Dear John:

Thanks. The best way to get that film is to tape it off TV. It's playing all week on the Love Stories channel on Starz. The schedule is posted here. I had a friend take it off TV and burn it to DVD for me, so I may have the only DVD of that film in existence.


Name: marianne
E-mail: AzJayhawk@cox.net

Dear Josh:

Where can I find "true" information about Shadrach? asap? My son needs it for a presentation and he cannot find anything on the internet, except things about the movie. thanks.

Dear Marianne:

The film is based on a story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Styron. The film was made by his daughter. Find the Styron story, which shouldn't be that hard.


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

Hey there Josh,

I just wanted to comment on the exchange between you and Brian C. regarding the DV format. While I agree that by and large, it's not for features (unless you are Lucas and can spring for custom cameras built to spec by Panavision that cost 60 hojillion bucks a pop) I think that it is valuable for the micro-budget film-maker.

Some friends and I got together and managed to make a tiny, tiny horror film for about $5,000. The whole thing was shot on a Canon XL1. We got a semi-name actor for a few key scenes to make it more palatable to distributors and managed to get a distribution deal with minimal fuss. Our distributor just made sales to Hollywood Video and Borders/amazon.com and are shopping our little flick around at various film markets. Granted, we probably won't see a huge return on this thing, but given that our budget was so low, it won't take much to at break even and start making an actual profit.

So I'd contend that for people who are just starting out and have little money the DV format can be great to get your legs under you and allow you to learn some of the ins and outs of film-making. Plus, because DV stock is so dirt cheap you can afford to experiment with your camera work, and ultimately become a stronger film-maker when it's time to step up to 16mm or 35mm.

Thanks for your time, and keep up the good work!


Dear Mike:

I agree that for practice purposes it's fine, but if you want to actually get into the film business it still isn't fine. As yet there still isn't a market for films on DV. And since you haven't made your five grand back yet, that's not a great example. Don't get me wrong, I admire anyone who gets out and makes a full-length film, but getting it out is part of the business.

In response to an earlier question about how to get my film "Lunatics," it's on the Love Stories Channel on Starz next week. Tape it.


Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Thank you for your comments about Michael Moore. I agree with you completely. I was jumping up and down on the couch, cheering when he said what he said...I think "Fictitious President" is one of my favorite phrases ever. Have you gone to http://www.michaelmoore.com to see his "rebuttal" to the media skewering him about his comments? He also adds that the people in the bleacher seats were "booing" him, and then there were "counter-boos" sent back toward the "booers" but unfortunately, this just registered on television as a bunch of angry yahoos. Ah, well. I think he's awesome, even if he does leave a few key points out. Have you ever seen "TV Nation," his show? You can rent episodes on Netflix, and they're amazing. He has one episode where people with tracheotomies sing Christmas Carols to tobacco companies...that's my favorite.


Dear Cindy:

I like muckrakers, but he does take easy shots at things frequently, particularly on that show. As a smoker I take particular offense at the idea that tobacco companies are somehow responsible for people smoking for thirty or forty years and getting cancer. Can no one take responsibility for their own actions? I smoke because I want to, not because of anything a tobacco company does. Can we sue liquor companies when people get into accidents driving drunk? And why can't bar-owners make their own decisions as to whether people can smoke or not? What if I start a movement against alcohol because I don't like the smell. Or against perfume. It's offensive and ridiculous. And Moore is on the wrong side of this issue.


Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Hey Josh,

I enjoyed "Bowling for Columbine" as well and I think Moore has a knack for making entertaining films from a liberal point of view.

I do agree with you on the subject of the film with regards to the issue of blacks shooting blacks etc... I believe he should have tackled that issue as well. I am also curious as to why he did not?

Michael Moore's office is a block over from where I work here in NYC and I have been trying to get in touch with him, since there was a very interesting criticism which was written about the film's mistakes with many facts and cutting scenes that did not actually occur at the same time which he claims in the film. The best example of this is the whole section on Charlton Heston and the NRA rallies.

I want him to read this writer's criticisms and see what he has to say about them. They are pretty impressive.

Anyhow, I wasn't bothered by the fact that he did not arrive at a conclusion at the at end of the film because I don't believe there is any one conclusion or any one answer and I felt that leaving it open ended like he did was a way to make people think which I believe to be something that he is also quite good at doing in his films.

I Also feel that his acceptance speech was the best thing about the Oscars and I too Feel that he was the only one that really had the balls to say something.


Dear Scott:

I think stopping short in "Bowling For Columbine" is actually misleading and somewhat irresponsible, not just open-ended. If you flash that 30,000 shootings statistic at me, then don't have the guts to explain it, that's just weak and misleading. He definitely wants us to believe when the film is over that the ridiculous numbers of shootings in the U.S. is white people shooting the black people they're afraid of, which is ridiculous. Ultimately, it makes the film a lie, so I don't respect it. But I do kind of like him.


Name: John Hunt
E-mail: Chowkidar


I think the Michael Moore Oscar episode illustrates the identity crisis facing the Liberal movement. I would guess, and I wonder how you feel about it, that "social justice" is the primary, though not only, thrust of Liberals. Generally, social justice involves wealth redistribution in one form or another, be it in providing equal educational opportunities, access to health care or what have you. I doubt that wealthy Hollywood wants to applaud that idea. Patriotism, and Jingoism even more so, sells tickets. No wonder they booed.

It also occurrs to me that foreign policy lends itself only uneasily to questions of social justice. On the one hand there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Hussein and Company are monstrous and that they trample other's right (and lives) for entertainment. On the other hand, Lots of innocents will die in this war, many more will suffer, and just a small handful will profit financially, at least in the short run. Nor can we overlook our own past support for Hussein when it suited us. Of course Liberals could do what the Conservatives have done and simply bury any questions in the blindness of simplification. Remember, "nuance" is a bad word, Dubya says so.

Speaking of "The Longest Day", what did you think of "A Bridge Too Far". Simlar in many ways, I thought, but less well constructed. Thanks,


Liberals and conservatives both have difficulty with the complexities of the real world. You point this out when you mention that Moore wouldn't touch intra-racial (as opposed to inter-racial) violence with a ten-foot pole. That would necessitate understanding all of the economic, cultural, historical and psychological forces which make up the myriad of subcultures in our country. I would think that documentarians are best served evaluating these subcultures in fairly small numbers. "Gun violence in America" would be entirely too large a subject to handle in a conventional documentary form at anything beyond the survey level. I do appreciate that, in a crowd which at times likes to get in peoples faces about their "issues", only Moore took his convictions onto the stage.

Dear John:

"A Bridge Too Far" was pretty bad, although it certainly has a great cast, though mostly wasted. Dickie Attenborough just isn't much of a director. Also, it's much more difficult watching military maneuvers that are stupid and failed than ones that succeeded. Meanwhile, Hollywood pretends to be liberal, but the main belief is money compounded by fear, which doesn't make for a good outlook on life or anyone else's suffering. I do admire Michael Moore at least standing up for his half-formed beliefs.


Name: kevin


i was wondering what study material you would recommend when entering into the film business? This is my first year studying film at college -- but, obviously, I kind of want to do some indepent studies myself. We're basically going through some technicals of DV and Film (as well as different film cameras i.e. arri, eclair, etc.) -- however, alot of it is lecture, and sometimes it helps if I have a book of some sort where i could go back and reread the explanations. Do you know of any book that would give an overview on the different types of film cameras, etc. Thanks. Your info is appreciated.

Dear Kevin:

The American Cinematographer's Manual is the definitive reference for that sort of thing. Two good books to read about the film business are William Goldman's "Adventures in the Screen Trade" and "Which Lie Did I tell?" A good book on film direction is Steven Katz's "Shot by Shot."


Name: Nick
E-mail: rexniplicus@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

I finally got "Running Time" on dvd the other day, put it in and started watching. It's an amazing film, exciting and suspenseful all at once, and with tons of character development - incredible considering its only 70 minutes long. The commentary was pretty cool too. I liked how you talked about the scene toward the end in Janie's bedroom, how the stuffed animals had to be moved and then put back on the bed so the camera could get a high shot. I especially liked the dialogue and found that repeat watchings (I've watched it twice so far and read the script) make a lot of the underlying messages - what the characters are trying to communicate through their words - really come out.

Thanks for being one of the few directors who have the guts to make such a wild movie!


Dear Nick:

Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Name: Fabio
E-mail: longtom@oeste.com.ar

dear JOSH

I was entertained by Saving Pt. Ryan... I laugh a lot with the so famous first 20 minutes. Maybe because was so irreal, I really prefer The longest day and I love Tora,Tora,Tora...
By the way I see two times "12 angry men". I like a lot. I think that that 12 guys would stop the war. But Bush too much different that Lee J. Cobb would send CIA agents to eliminate all of them.
In the same line of thinking.. did you see Bowling for Columbine? what about?
Best regards

Dear Fabio:

I also much prefer "The Longest Day." I'd like to take some of the special effects from "Saving Private Ryan," make them black and white and cut them into "The Longest Day." Yes, I saw "Bowling for Columbine," and I enjoyed it, but I think Michael Moore stopped short of an actual conclusion. To say that white people are afraid of black people and that's why there are so many guns in this country does not explain why there are so many shootings. Using Columbine as the example is misleading becaue that's not a good representation of who's shooting who. Most of the shootings in this country are not white kids shooting other white kids, nor is it white people shooting black people, it's black people shooting black people, and Moore wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole. I'd really like to know why though. So, I think Mr. Moore's deeply-ingrained liberal political correctness undermined his movie. I did like him on the Oscars. He was the only one with balls there as far as I'm concerned. And I loved those phony liberal hypocrites in the audience booing him when they came in contact with an actual liberal.


Name: TC
E-mail: PigsWILL3@aol.com

Dear Josh:

I'm gonna be cheeky and ask u str8 out...
I run a brilliant RELIC HUNTER webstie... and since ur reviews made me laugh a lot... I propose...
that for a fun experiment, you watch one episode of RELIC HUNTER...
then all us fans get a chance to hear ur opinions as a highly respected director on it... which I print on my site... and in doing so, I promote ur site on my site... which is called Relic Hunter Rules... and you make ppl laugh... and get entertained by the gorgeous TIA CARRERE for one hour...
What do you think? PLEASE!

Dear TC:

Thanks for thinking of me, but I don't need any writing assignments, thank you very much. Enjoy the show.


E-mail: dcplews@yahoo.ca

Dear Josh:

I've been a film fanatic of director Sam Raimi/and actor extrodanare Bruce Campbell ever since Evil Dead scared the shit out of me when I was about eight or nine years old. Now 26, I've seen nearly everything they put there names on. Which led me to seeing "Thou Shall Not Kill...Except" when I worked, as a floater, for video station. Floater meaning i covered peoples shifts at a number of different locations across the city. It was great becouse each location was different in there movie selection. One such location held "Thou shall not kill...except" I quickly put it on, as there really wasn't anything better to do on the night shift.

With that out of the way. I own and love, Running Time.

With the exception of "Sundown" and "Crimewave", which I happened to find copies of at a flee market, just this past weekend. I still can't seem to find a copy of lunatics-a love story, Anywhere! To rent, to buy, to even watch on t.v.

I'm still not going to give up yet. I know there's a copy of lunatics out there somewhere. Although, I've seen it on ebay for $50 dollars American, which would work out to alot more Canadian $. I'm not sure I want to go that route just yet.

My question, I guess, is this. "Do you think, or know, if Lunatics will ever get a bigger distrubution or rerelease or something that might up my chances at seeing this little known movie. Or should I bite the bullet and spend the thousands of Canadian dollars it will cost me to buy it on ebay?"

yours, frustratingly to find a copy of Lunatics- a
love story, Darren Plews.

Dear Darren:

I commiserate with you. I wish it were in release. I wish I could digitally re-transfer it in 1.85:1 and have it come out on DVD. Alas, Sony doesn't give a rat's ass about it. Your best best is to keep your eyes peeled to cable TV where it pops up now and then on the Love Stories channel on Starz. Thanks for the interest, and you should buy a copy of "If I Had a Hammer" for a mere $20 US.


Name: hetros
E-mail: prufrock@knology.net

Dear Mr. Becker,

I have a query for you, forgive me if it falls into the moronic category.

Since a movie like Running Time will never make it into any of the rental or retail chains here in the pit of Hell affectionately known as The Florida Panhandle (being as how it neither stars Bruce Willis or promotes a grassroots movement back towards old fashioned misogyny), imagine my joy in realizing I could indeed purchase it online.

I see that on your site you link to amazon.com for this. I found a copy on a used/surplus site for considerably less money. Then a crisis of conscience struck.

Would it make any difference in sales figures and profits for your company if I were to purchase the less expensive copy? Normally I don’t give a hoot, and cheating a studio out of a few bucks would count as a victory. But this type of film is different. I feel morally obligated (don’t laugh) to purchase in a way that makes the maximum benefit for the film maker, and associated persons.

So, if I purchase from amazon, or any big retailer, does more money go in your pocket? Or does the retailer just get more of the inflated price. And just as importantly, does it reflect as a sale, going towards the total number of sales for the film? Or does Amazon just buy a bunch and then sell them off, so the numbers are already set?

This whole line of questioning probably falls under the Grossly Ignorant of the Ways of the World heading. But it just occurred, right before I clicked that mouse button, that it might make a difference. If you have time, I’d appreciate your input.

Poised with credit card in hand,


Dear H:

It doesn't matter to me, I don't get any more money either way. I'd buy it used, too, if I were you. I made a deal with Anchor Bay Ent. to distribute the film on video/DVD, and I got an advance payment from them. They then distributed the film to the various retail outlets, like Amazon or Best Buy, who each bought a certain amount of copies. Until Anchor Bay decides to make another push on the film, which they don't seem to be doing, I don't stand to make any more money. Not until my deal with them runs out, and they either re-up, or I sell it to someone else. So buy it in any form that suits you, then let us know what you thought.


Name: Mark Lee

Dear Josh,

I'm just curious why you think "Apocolypse Now" turns into such a disaster at act 3? On the Redux I can't even get to act 3 because of all the unnessecary shit Coppola put back in, but in the original cut it still gives resolution.

Dear Mark:

I agree with you about the redux version. And yes, act three gives you some resolution, as an act three is supposed to, but very poorly. The moment you arrive in Kurtz's camp the pace suddenly slows to a crawl. Brando is way the hell too fat for a commando that's been out in the jungle for years, so Coppola must stage the scenes and Vittorio Storaro must light them specifically to hide Brando's enormous girth. And when act III seems like it may be interminable, they chop up a water buffalo. Well zippedee-do-dah! The movie completely falls to pieces.


Name: Trent

Dear Josh:

I was wondering how you feel about the early works of John Waters. I just saw his newest feature "Cecil B. Demented", and it seems like a wonderful homage to his early days. I was just wondering what you may of thought about "Multiple Maniacs", "Female Trouble", and even the great "Pink Flamingos". Thanks.

Dear Trent:

I laughed like hell at both "Female Trouble" and "Pink Flamingoes." I think Waters created his own genre with those films. He took cinema to the most disgusting, but still funny place it's gone. I think the rest of his later, milder, Hollywood stuff, though, is all pretty lame.


Name: Tommy Strangie
E-mail: tomsobe@bellsouth.net

Dear Josh:

do you have any idea if Val Lewton will ever be released on DVD the way it was on laser disc a decade ago? thanks -TS

Dear Tommy:

I'd have to figure sooner or later, all those Val Lewton films are classics. "The Body Snatcher" scared the hell out of me as a kid. I like "Bedlam" a lot, too.


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

Dear Josh:

Chris Sneed makes the statement, "I wasn't looking to be entertained" when he saw Saving Private Ryan. I must say that I was stunned by this. It's like saying after you buy a new car, "I wasn't looking to travel". I DEMAND to be entertained when I pay my money to see a film and if I'm not I'm as mad as hell. Even when I don't pay (like when I forced myself to sit through "Adaptation" on the flight home from Bangkok) I'm as mad as hell. Good movies are entertaining and those that are not are a waste of time and money.

Dear Tony:

I absolutely agree with you. The bottom line of the whole form is interesting the viewer. If I'm bored, the film failed no matter what it's subject. Clearly, Chris Sneed is a moron, and one more frightened little bunny rabbit. If everybody says something's good, it must be good, right?


Name: Mattt Potter
E-mail: mattttpotter@attbi.com

Hey Josh,

My name is Mattt Potter, My wife and I are huge huge fans of yours! Lunatics A Love Story is hands down some of the best cinema I have ever seen. I think the first film we saw of yours was Thou Shalt not kill...Except and have been big fans since.

I am the Editor of Crap Magazine which is a publication that is put out by Jason McHugh (Orgazmo, Cannibal the Musical Producer) and Matt Stone (South Park Co-Creator)

I was writing you because I was curious about your current title "If I had a Hammer"....being the huge fan that I am, I would like to know more about it for my own sake..but also because I think it would be great content to talk about as a cover story for an issue of CRAP MAG. I was curious if I could do an interview with you about this piece and perhaps even feature a clip of it for a month, along with the interview. Or maybe a trailer of it".

Any way..the interview is only about 10 questions..and we could do it over e-mail if you want.

The last interview I did for our recent re-launch was with Pam Brady and Kyle McCulloch on their Mr. Wong DVD.


Kyle and Pam are both writers for South Park. Any way would be really stoked if we could make you our cover story for an upcoming issue.

It's funny I got to this site because I had just interviewd another directer that had recently done a film with Ted Raimi and we talked about Lunatics a Love Story a bit in the interview and I was thinking...why has that not come out on DVD yet? I am currently working on the Clerks 10th Anv DVD for director Kevin Smith and have just finished the Orgazmo DVD for director Trey Parker. If you ever needed any help on a Lunatics DVD. I would be your man. Heck I'd do it for free. Absolutely love that movie!

Anyway let me know what you think about doing the interview.

Thanks for your time!

Mattt Potter

Dear Mattt:

It's just my luck that the publication that wants to feature me on the cover is called Crap Magazine. I knew if I stuck around long enough I'd eventually find my niche. Sure, I'd be happy to do an interview. And the reason "Lunatics" isn't on DVD is because Sony, who owns the film, hasn't bothered to release it on DVD.


Name: sue alderton
E-mail: sue_alderton@hotmail.com

this may be a question that you cannot help me with but i have been searching the net for over 12 months to no avail.i am after the colourised version of pride and prejudice 1940 version with greer garson i have the classic black and white but i have seen a colourised version on tv. i want to purchase one on vhs or dvd anything i love the costumes and the interplay between darcy aand elizabeth this is one of my all time favourites. also i would like to get a copy of the colourised version of captain blood with errol flynn as well if you can help i would greatly appreciate as i am an old film buff.
thanks sue alderton

Dear Sue:

I love "Pride and Predjudice," too, but why bother with it colorized? It looks fine the way it is. Luckily, they seem to have stopped colorizing and they didn't really make the colorized copies available. So just enjoy these films the way they're supposed to be.


Name: Rich
E-mail: rich@pochepictures.com

Dear Josh:

I've been lurking your message boards for awhile now and I've decided to join the mix...I'm wondering if you've heard anything good or bad regarding Pro 8 mm film (http://www.pro8mm.com)? Also do you think even Super 8 film is better aesthetically than DV (assuming an equal amount of effort to light and compose the shots)?



Dear Rich:

I haven't even heard of Pro 8, so thanks for bringing me up to speed. I don't recommend super-8 to anyone anymore because it's just too small and doesn't transfer well to video. It's not a professional format, it's not in wide use, and it's too specialized to really deal with. At this point 16mm is still the best way to go, unless you can afford 35mm. But as far as making feature films that could possibly be sold to the various world markets, Pro 8 won't be any better than any other video or DV format because, very simply, it's just not film. Find a 16mm camera and shoot some film, you'll be amazed how good it looks.


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


I hate to revisit the issue of Spielberg, but I think I should clarify something for Chris. The objection that you, myself and others have voiced about Spielberg is not that he holds simplistic views of the world. He can hold whatever view he wishes, though we are equally free to differ. I do have a problem with the way he misrepresents facts in order to convey his simplistic view to the world. But even this wouldn't be a problem except that, by appealing to the lowest economic denominator, fourteen-year old boys, he has crowded out competing views. It is not Spielberg or his movies per se which are the problem, it is the dominance they hold in the market. Just because a lot of people eat at McDonald's, that doesn't mean the food is any good. Spielberg's movies are fast food. There are those of us who prefer something better.

I'm often amused by the term "alternative". People often use the term with no firm idea of what they, themselves, mean by it. To me "alternative", whether in music or movies, refers to a marketing approach, not substance. Sony Music can take any five kids and in three months sell out stadiums on the sheer strength of a national marketing campaign. I just read that jazz great Wynton Marselis (sp?)is playing in Medicine Lodge, Kansas this month. Try to find that one on the map. Spielberg is the beneficiary of a marketing system comparable to Sony Music. Obviously, Josh, you've covered the immense problems of financing an independent film. Even so-called "cult hits" like "Evil Dead" can take twenty years just to break even. Unlike music where the expenses are relatively low, the cost of making movies becomes prohibitive and all we're left with is Spielberg and his Super-sized fries. I prefer a good cannelloni.

Thanks as always,


Dear John:

Thanks for jumping in because I wasn't even going to dispute the guy. Although I must admit I sort of enjoyed being called a "trendy" and "cutting-edge" filmmaker, as opposed to say, grumpy and middle-aged. Also, I was amused by his contention that I'm against everything "good and right." Of course, us trendy, cutting-edge guys can't be bothered with those kinds of comments, which are clearly coming from squares.


Name: Chris Sneed
E-mail: cssneed@bellsouth.net

Dear Josh:

I just read your review of Steven Spielberg as a director and I find them inflamatory and repulsive. You made some comments about Saving Private Ryan that seem to miss the entire point of the film. You call it "**it" while lamenting Spielberg's black and white view of the world. Ok. So you don't believe in absolute truth. That's your opinion, but it doesn't make Spielberg one-dimensional. His stories resonate with our in-born sense of right and wrong; they resonate with our sense of justice and how things should be. The point of Saving Private Ryan was not to simply entertain and tell a good truthful story! The impactful theme of the movie was to make me look at the freedoms I enjoy because of the sacrifice of others, from the founding of the country to today. The final line of the movie sums it up: "Earn this." In other words, make the best of the opportunities that have been purchased for you by the lives of others who stood in the way of men and regimes who sought to deny people their very freedoms. I wasn't looking to be entertained. Spielberg causes us to remember what is worth living and dying for through movies like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List.

It is interesting that the people casting stones are always the ones looking for their own glory. From a very brief perusal of your site, I can see that you like to curse and are very self-assured. You seem to have a self-righteous edge about you. You went to SIX colleges and graduated from none of them?!? Yet you manage to disparage the whole idea of it. Could it be that you couldn't finish what you started so have to tear it down so you don't look so bad. Ok, I digress.

The point is that it looks like people that are "on the cutting edge" or "trendy" or see everything as grey end up glorifying themselves. What you really want is your own recognition. Do you tell stories to entertain or inculcate people with your own views? I thought the point of literature, art, and film making was to get people to examine things in a new way, to get them to think, to inspire them to a higher ideal. The reason I'm turned off to the independent film maker or alternative art is that the only way this genre gets people to think is to shock them with something repulsive and repugnant to traditional values. I've yet to see an independent film that inspires nobly. A question: If the alternative, anything goes view of life is really that grand, what cultural advances or great societies or scientific discoveries has it produced?

I guess I just take offense at such vehemence shown from viewpoints that seek to tear down others, exalt themselves, and shock sensibilities of the very people and societies that gave them that freedom in the first place. A little respect and thankfullness, which Spielberg shows by the way, goes a long way to inspiring others.

Obviously, I've never heard of you or any of your work and probably never will. It is a fair argument against me that I haven't seen any of your films, but this is mainly in response to your vitriolic hatred for Spielberg, and seemingly, all things good and right.

When the independent film makers seek to inspire instead of just pointing out all that is wrong, then maybe I'll start to listen. I'm open minded, but I believe in what's right and I'm not simply trying to get across my own agenda in this life and prove to others how great and smart I am. There's something better worth living for and that is the path all of us are on. It takes more courage to stand up and believe and fight for it than it does to simply throw stones with an "I'm ok, you're ok, this sucks" attitude.

You asked for comments and these were mine. I'm sorry for you that your worldview seems to miss any kind of "higher good." But, you are wrong about Spielberg. His ability to pull inspiring emotions in his movies are why I watch them. They inspire me to action and wanting to live a better life and remember with thankfullness and affection those around me by taking my eyes off of myself. You'd be well served to think about such things.

Dear Chris:

Hey, I really like "Jaws." And if I had a copy of "Saving Private Ryan" I'd give it to you.


Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Wait a minute...you've never read "A Clockwork Orange" and it's one of your favorite movies? Interesting. Anthony Burgess said it was one of his least favorite books. After reading it, I went on a Burgess marathon, and I discovered that it was my FAVORITE of his books. Odd. But then again, I'm not a perfectionist-writer-type. I recommend giving it a read sometime. It'll give you a whole new vocabulary! And there are two versions: one with an extra chapter at the end (which I don't like), and the "original" version. Kind of like "Apocalypse Now Redux," I don't think it needed that weird "wrap-up" chapter. I agree with you about Kubrick's film, though. It drags toward the end there quite a bit. Although I do love the scene where he's eating spaghetti with the old man, who now has David "Darth Vader's Body" Prowse as his bodyguard.

take care,

Dear Cindy:

I started and didn't finish several of Burgess's books. Something about his style obviously put me off.


Name: Brian C.
E-mail: canadab@ghostshipfilms.com

Hi Josh,

Have you ever shot on DV? Would you ever shoot on DV? The biggest drawback we've found if that distributers take one look at the media and immediately bail out or offer crappy one-shot payments for foreign distr. Film-looking software is crap and up-rezzing and transfer to real film stock usually cost more than the film did to shoot in the first place. Thoughts?


Dear Brian:

DV is great for documentaries, but is still unacceptable for features exclusively because the distributors won't deal with it, nor will the foreign companies buy them, nor TV, either, for that matter. People like to fight me on this, but I didn't cause the discrimination, I'm just observing it. All you have to do is turn on cable TV -- is anything shot on DV other than docs on Sundance and IFC? No. Nobody will buy DV features yet, that's just how it is. So, for the time being, if you want to have any chance at all of selling your film, you've got to still shoot on film. That's the name of that tune.


Name: Aaron R. Davis
E-mail: samuraifrog@yahoo.com

Mr. Becker,

I've been reading some of your screenplays the past couple of days, and I want to thank you for making them available. It pisses me off that I may never get to see these as films, but thankfully I can read them.

I wanted to ask if you were a fan of Samuel Fuller. There is a wonderful hard-edged cynicism that some of your characters have that reminds me of Fuller (especially in "Cycles," a very exciting script). This cynicism was the best thing about Frank Ryan in "Crime After Crime." (And by the way, I know John Sayles SAYS he wrote "Breaking In" a decade earlier than it was filmed, but there are more similarities in the two screenplays than in just the opening scene.)

But the screenplay that especially has stayed with me has been "The Biological Clock." To be honest, I wasn't expecting much out of it (I cringe at the idea of a romantic comedy), but that cynical humor came out once again and made this a great, unconventional love story. Aaron and Kate are very real, vibrant characters. And as much as I'd love to see it as a film, I'm glad I could read it as a screenplay. Your scripts are better than three-quarters of the films being released today.

Thanks again.

Dear Aaron:

Thanks so much for the very nice letter. I am a fan of Sam Fuller and I even attended his memorial service at the Director's Guild, which was very amusing. Robert Stack told a story of going to Fuller during production and complaining about one of his lines. Fuller replied, "You better talk to the writer." Stack said, "But you are the writer." Fuller said, "The I guess you better talk to the producer." Stack said, "But you're the producer, too." Fuller shrugged, grinned, and said, "Then I guess you're fucked." Instead of saying "Action," Fuller always fired a pistol, even inside.


Name: Nick
E-mail: rexniplicus@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

I read that there's a 5 1/2 hour version of "Apocalypse Now" that's floating around the internet somewhere. Can you imagine that? If that's true, then they must've cut like 3 hours of film for the actual release. Ouch, it must have hurt to be the director for that one...or the editor, for that matter.

I was wondering what your thoughts are on "A Clockwork Orange". Have you read the book as well? I'm thinking about checking that movie / book out. I saw the movie was under your favorites list, so I thought I'd drop you a note and ask you what you thought of it.

Thanks as always,


Dear Nick:

"Apocalypse Now" certainly doesn't need to be any longer than it already is. The Redux version only hurt the film adding that crappy footage back in. But there's a five hour rough-cut version of many movies, there's nothing special about that. I have Anthony Burgess's book "A Clockwork Orange," but I've never read it. I've seen the movie many, many times, and the first two acts are brilliant -- some of the best filmmaking you'll ever see anywhere. The third act is twice as long as it ought to be, which wasn't a huge problem at first, but it makes reviewings difficult. I generally only watch the first two acts, then turn it off. Oddly, the same is true for "Apocalypse Now," which has a complete disaster of an act three. Once they pass the Do Long Bridge, I turn it off.


Name: Carson Crothers
E-mail: cosmic299@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

i am just writing to say that you are one of the coolest script writers out there and it is very sad that any of the studieos would make one of your movies...damn shame....

Dear Carson:

Wait a minute, are you saying it's a damn shame they won't produce my scripts, or it's a shame if they did?


Name: Katie Mattison
E-mail: katiemattison@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Joshua Becker

I am a huge fan of you &your work. I would just like to say that I love your name &I have a close friend with the same name. I have a question for you, What is your next step in directing? Please write back. Love always,
Katie Mattison

Dear Katie:

I'm not really sure what I'll be directing next. I'm musing about a couple of different low-budget feature ideas, but it's like Tom Sawyer painting the fence. Until you can get everyone fired-up around you it's difficult to make a movie. Your friends have to like the idea. So we'll see. I did just finish writing the first draft of another book, entitled "Movies, Drugs & Sex: My Early Years" A Memoir of the '60s & '70s, and I've sent it to my agent, so cross your fingers.


Name: Josh Gunderman
E-mail: version_twopoint0@hotmail.com

Hiya fellow Josh,

I've got a question for you, In one of your previous answers on a Q+A post you mentioned that for the original Evil Dead you guys filmed a week in Gladwin, MI (my hometown), but when I read Bruce Campbells autobio he doesn't mention anything about shooting in Gladwin, so I guess my question is: Which (if any) parts of evil dead were shot in Gladwin? Thanks a lot!


Dear Josh:

A variety of bits and pieces. We shot part of the vine-attack sequence, we took our second crack at the opening, which was subsequently reshot, I think we also did the book of the dead being thrown into the fire and it burning, as well as many others things. Sadly, these reshoots have blurred into one another because they went on for a year. But Bruce Campbell's family had a cabin in Gladwin for years. That's what inspired me to set part of my film "Thou Shalt Not Kill . . . Except" in Gladwin, although I spelled it Gladwyn.


Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I just finished watching "Elmer Gantry," starring Burt Lancaster. He's amazing! I know I've been missing out here...I've only seen "The Killers" and "Atlantic City," and that's about it as far as he's concerned. Now I'm on a mission. But the whole theme of the film--the idea of religion being peddled to people like drugs--"You gotta get 'em while they're young..." I doubt anyone would make a mainstream Hollywood film like that today, and that saddens me. There was even a warning before the film "not to show it to impressinable young people," lest they go making arbitrary decisions about religion. Good stuff.

I also thought the remake of "Willard" with Crispin Glover was cool. It's pretty much a one-man show, but he does a great job, and seems to be becoming a better actor with age. Plus he successfully sued Zemeckis for using his likeness in "Back to the Future II," and anyone who can milk that no-talent ass clown Zemeckis for a cool million is okay in my book.


Dear Cindy:

He's a nice guy, too. Bruce and I hung out with Crispin and his girlfriend at the last Anchor Bay party in Las Vegas, and we all ended up in the same limo. He's a little weird, but very pleasant. His girlfriend was (or is) a mortician. Anyway, I love "Elmer Gantry" and it's a terrific adaptation of Sinclair Lewis' book. Burt Lancaster just couldn't be any better. And I just adore Jean Simmons. I believe that the book was somewhat inspiried by an old Frank Capra picture called "Miracle Woman" from 1931 with Barbara Stanwyck, which was very interesting (and well-photographed) for it's time, and based slightly on the life of Aimee Semple McPherson. Other good Burt Lancaster films are: "Brute Force," "Sorry, Wrong Number," "All My Sons," "Mister 880," "Jim Thorpe, All-American," "Come Back Little Sheba," "From Here to Eternity," "Apache," "Vera Cruz," "The Rainmaker," "Gunfight at the OK Corral," "The Sweet Smell of Success," "Seperate Tables," "Run Silent, Run Deep," "Judgement at Nuremberg," "The Birdman of Alcatraz," "Seven Days in May," "The Train," "The Professionals," "The Swimmer," "Airport," "Lawman," "Valdez is Coming, " "Ulzana's Raid." What a great career! And let's not forget he produced "Marty," best picture of 1955.


Name: Mike San Juan
E-mail: captainblacky2003

Dear Josh:

yeah i heard tears of the sun was horrible. i havent seen the movie you were talking about, but if you could tell me how to get my hands on it, it would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Mike:

It's "The Quiet American" and it's still at a few theaters. Michael Caine is deservedly nominated for best actor for it. It's not a great movie, but it's a completely normal, interesting, acceptable movie, which almost makes it great at this point.


Name: Anthony B
E-mail: val_h@hotmail.com

Dear: Mr. Becker

I was doing a search on google for my name and i noticed i came up here several more times than i should have....um...i did get in a fight with you a while ago, but we both agreed that we over reacted. I honestly have no idea who this "Tony" guy is, but it isn't me, i don't know what more i can say ...but i noticed in archieve 50(?) that this Tony guy was being credited as me. Mr. Becker, we got in a little argument a long time ago, this "Tony" guy isn't me, its not even my style of posting. Ugh...is there anyway you can remove those "Tony" posts from the archieve, i seriously don't like those being credited to me, or atleast can you clear up the situation. Tony is not me. Thanks......

Dear Anthony:

Perhaps this is something that can be fixed by the venerable webmaster Shirley. I don't even recall what you're referring to.



Dear Anthony,

I've removed the part of the post on that page, where the poster asserts that you and this other Tony are one and the same. As far as I can tell that was the only one.


Name: Jesper Pingo Lindstrom

To Josh Becker,

My name is Jesper Pingo Lindstrom and I am from Sweden. I've been writing screenplays since 1994, and have since written seven feature plays, a couple of shorts and plenty of comic scripts. My last screenplay gained interest from an American agent signatory to the WGA, which resulted in a contract with that agent to sell that and all my future scripts. Asking around, I've noticed that this is extremely rare. And yes, I've checked the agent out and he's legitimate. Contrary to you, though, I have never sold a script.

What you say about CYCLES have always scared me. What if they turn MY film into an sci-fi musical? But I always try to tell myself that I got payed to let them do that. If that ever happens, that is.

I've read your essays, I've looked through some of the questions on your board and I've read some of your bio. Most of it are things I agree with, and most of it are, quite frankly, basic. But I think that is your point, right?

My first screenplay took two years to finish. It was a total disaster with a good idea (actually very good, so I will probably re-write this some day) turned extremely bad with dull characters, totally unrealistic and unlogical events, no plot and things just happening. And of course it was a science-fiction action movie too.

I've learned a lot since then. When I first started writing screenplays I thought it was about writing cool scenes upon cool scenes, so I never bothered with form and structure. When I later on started to read books about screenwriting, I saw that there was plenty of rules for writing a good play. In Sweden however, these rules are not tought in the extent I would like them to be. I have never attended any film schools or writing classes, but I've seen from other writes work that this is a fact.

In Sweden the three-act structure is tought, but that's it.

When I sit down to write a screenplay I today always write down my ideas. After that I try to create a synopsis which is everything from a couple of sentences to a whole page, depending upon how much I've thought of this.

After that I structure my synopsis! With help from Viki King's book "How you write a screenplay in 21 days" and from the internet-FAQ SCRNWRiT, I first learned how to structure a script. Since then I've read more and wrote more.

I first break my synopsis up in three parts, one for each act. Then I break the synopsis up in a total of nine parts. I add the numbers 1, 3, 10, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90 and 120 to the front of these nine parts. After that I start to write my screenplay.

When doing this I have not one large text to write, but nine smaller ones, which makes me not loose track and helps me to understand my story. The numbers are the page-numbers I try to stick with. Of course, this isn't possible all the time, but it keeps me on track and helps me to form a script that is well structured and within 90 to 120 pages. Most of my plays end up to be something around 110-116 pages.

Of course I sometimes also write down background stories, background texts and other material for myself to see what my characters and themese are about, but I don't always do this.

I am writing to you about this because to show that it is so much easier to write a well-structured screenplay when you have the story structured from the very beginning.

So what's my point, really? For me - as I can clearly see it is for you too - writing is art. Structuring my screenplays don't only help them to be good, they also help myself to get my points through; my artistic point that is. I always have something I want to say with my scripts. I couldn't write them if I hadn't.

I like your points on art, and especially your points on reductionism. I said I never attended a school to learn how to write. I did, however, go to a comic art school, where I learned that comics' language and movies language is very much the same. Comics and films have the same stuff to work with, and with that I mean, pictures, sounds, color, black/white, etc. But to my surprise, most comics are as badly written as films, just because of the simple fact that not many people see the similarity between these two medias, and therefor never learn how to properly write a good story. When writing a comic script I always write them as if I was writing a movie. And that always improves the comic.

Understanding the rules before going against (or beyond) them is of course basic. Contrary to what I think you belive, I do belive that there actually are many good screenwriters out there that could, if they wanted to, create good drama that go beyond the 3-act structure. But they don't. I don't know why. I also know that I myself am not ready to go beyond (or against) the form, but I will certainly try before I die.

You say (when talking about what you should first think of when writing a screenplay): "What you ought to be thinking about is motivation -- why are these characters doing the things they're doing? ". That is of course a good point. However, I have found that this is the SECOND thought I give to my scripts. The first thing I ask myself is: "What do I want to say?".
I belive it is much more important to actually have something important to say, than to try to find out who is saying it. I come up with the characters, the plot and the story after I've summed up my initial idea. I belive you think this too, you just didn't say it clear enough. :-)
On one of the pages of your essays, you say that the structure rules are "weights". It seems to me that the rules for the bad writers you refer to, are negative. It seems to me that they are even negative for you.
To me, the rules are all but negative. For me, the rules are something that holds me up while writing, helping me to keep track, helping me to form my story. The rules are not my story, but they are there to form it. Much like the inner walls of a house. You can't see them when the house is up, but the house would fall apart if they weren't there. I like these rules.
I've written seven feature films. One of these are very good. The rest have plenty of troubles, in logic, in the plot, in the characters... but mostly, they are troubled because I didn't follow the rules correctly.
When I wrote my GOOD script, the rules was followed from the first to the last page. I've rewritten that script five times, which also helped it to be even better. And that script was, as I said, picked up by an agent. I now know how to write a script that holds for a reading.
Does it hold as a movie too? I don't know. I hope so.
Of course, this was one out of seven. So why didn't I write this instead of the other seven scripts (and of course, why did I ever start to write the other forty scripts that never finished)?. Well, if I hadn't written all the other stuff, I couldn't have written the good one. I learned the hard way - writing.
In my good script (that's of course my point of view) I establish my theme and main character on page one. I then keep the rest of the ten pages to develope the main story. On page 30 the first act ends in an extremely dramatic way, leaving my main character seeing her whole world (and almost everything we built up in Act I) collapse. She then has to go through the second act trying to re-establish/locate everything we set up (and removed) in the first act. The second act ends with her seeing that there is more to this than she thought, and this leads her in to the third act where she finds her conclusion. During this she has grown extremely much stronger and found herself to be more than she thought. While she did that, the audience have hopefully had a great time. Many in the audience will probably not agree with my point, but that doesn't matter. Every script could be written this way and it would still be entertainemnt.
So, finally, my questions:
Many dramatical plays for theater are written in a five act structure. Do you belive this structure could be put on screen, and if not, why?
Have you ever used any computer programs to help you build a story/synopsis? I'm asking this because I use the program STORYCRAFT to build the synopsis, since this program helps me form and structure the story before I sit down and write the screenplay. It's basically a program that have some basic questions asked, and small boxes for me to fill in the answers. I could do this myself on a paper with a pen, but having it on the computer makes it even MORE structured. Which is what we want, right?
For me most movies of today seem to have a script that follow the dramatical structure pretty much. I do belive that the writers mostly try to write structured plays, but that producers and directors then many times mess it up. Do you agree?
I watched SIGNS the other day, and noticed that the story is very old fashioned. It is by far not as good as THE BIRDS, but it is still a good movie. I liked it because it was so simple. You could put this story up on a stage with just four people and still make it work! THAT is good storytelling. Of course, the signs themselves don't have much to do with the story, and if I had wrote the story, I would have probably started with the shoot-on-video-thing that you see on TV in the film, and gone from there... My question to you is: If you had got the script to SIGNS in your hands and should present a re-write, how would you have done SIGNS better?
You said when selling your script CYCLES, that you had a lawyer help you sell it. What do you think is best, an agent or a lawyer? Have you ever had an agent, or tried to get one?
By the way: I really enjoy your website and think that you're doing a great job answering questions. You have nice points of view and I enjoy reading your texts. I haven't seen any of the features you directed or read any of your screenplays, so I have nothing to say about that though.
By the way. The Commodore 64 didn't have a 8088-processor. The C64 had the 6510 CPU, which is totally different to the 8088. Just to let you know.
I'm sorry that I broke rule 4. of "Asking the Director": "Try to keep your question as short as possible." But what can I say? I'm a rebel! ;-)

Yours Sincerely,
Jesper Pingo Lindstrom

PS: Feel free to publish all or any part of this email on your website. Please do not publish

Dear Jesper:

I think you've drunk too much coffee. When I use "weights" as a metaphor it's not in a negative sense. I like lifting weights, and it always makes me feel better after I do it. But you can't be a weightlifter if there are no weights on the ends of the bars. Then you're just jerking-off. Anyway, I wish you all the best with your script and your new agent.


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