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...
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...
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
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....
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dear Mr. Becker,
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!
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.
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
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.
Hey there Josh,
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.
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.
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.
for your time, and keep up the good work!
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.
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.
Cynthia E. Jones
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
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.
enjoyed "Bowling for Columbine" as well and
I think Moore has a knack for making entertaining films
from a liberal point of view.
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?
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
want him to read this writer's criticisms and see what
he has to say about them. They are pretty impressive.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
of "The Longest Day", what did you think of
"A Bridge Too Far". Simlar in many ways, I
thought, but less well constructed. Thanks,
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
for being one of the few directors who have the guts
to make such a wild movie!
I'm glad you enjoyed it.
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
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?
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.
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
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!
for thinking of me, but I don't need any writing assignments,
thank you very much. Enjoy the show.
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
that out of the way. I own and love, Running Time.
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.
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.
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?"
frustratingly to find a copy of Lunatics- a
love story, Darren Plews.
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.
Dear Mr. Becker,
have a query for you, forgive me if it falls into the
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.
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.
it make any difference in sales figures and profits
for your company if I were to purchase the less expensive
copy? Normally I dont 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
(dont laugh) to purchase in a way that makes the
maximum benefit for the film maker, and associated persons.
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?
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, Id
appreciate your input.
with credit card in hand,
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.
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.
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
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".
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.
you have any idea if Val Lewton will ever be released
on DVD the way it was on laser disc a decade ago? thanks
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.
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.
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,
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.
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)
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".
way..the interview is only about 10 questions..and we
could do it over e-mail if you want.
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.
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.
for your time!
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.
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
thanks sue alderton
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.
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)?
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
I really like "Jaws." And if I had a copy
of "Saving Private Ryan" I'd give it to you.
Cynthia E. Jones
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.
started and didn't finish several of Burgess's books.
Something about his style obviously put me off.
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?
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
Aaron R. Davis
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
a minute, are you saying it's a damn shame they won't
produce my scripts, or it's a shame if they did?
Dear Mr. Joshua Becker
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
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.
Hiya fellow Josh,
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!
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.
Cynthia E. Jones
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.
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.
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.
Mike San Juan
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.
"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.
Dear: Mr. Becker
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......
this is something that can be fixed by the venerable
webmaster Shirley. I don't even recall what you're referring
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
Jesper Pingo Lindstrom
To Josh Becker,
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
Sweden the three-act structure is tought, but that's
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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! ;-)
Jesper Pingo Lindstrom
Feel free to publish all or any part of this email on
your website. Please do not publish
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.