that investing in film is a risky endeavor, I have a
question about dealing with investors. When putting
together a budget and business plan to approach investors
what is the norm % to offer them as a return on investment
(if any) on the net profit after they?ve recouped their
can make it anything you want, but I always make it
a 50-50 split, which seems very fair to me. Some folks
think it's more enticing to investors to give them 60%,
but I disagree, I don't think that matters to them.
To me a 50-50 split means we're all equally in the same
boat together. Good luck.
isn't a question, I just wanted to tell you that I really
admire your principles and the way you stick by them.
I know you probably could have 'jumped the fence' and
made several shitty films for big bucks but you have
stayed true to yourself and your values. That's a bloody
rare thing to find these days and if I wore a hat I'd
take it off to you, mate.
I also value your opinions on films and film-making,
all of which are spot-on, but sadly I feel that they
are falling on deaf ears. I truly hope to one day see
a resurgence in quality film-making but with every crap-blockbuster-action-adolescent
piece of rubbish that gets churned out (containing the
obligatory explosion) I feel the chances of that are
more and more unlikely. I have given up trying to 'educate'
my friends and colleagues who wouldn't know a decent
film if it bit them on the bum so I will just be content
with being able to see some classics from time to time.
This weekend I plan to see "Metropolis" on
the big screen.
Thanks again for all your hard work and opinions, I
value them greatly and I hope you never give up on your
Yes, I probably could have made a couple of shitty pictures
at this point if I'd cared to, but I did Xena instead,
which I have no doubt was a much better experience than
making something like "C.H.U.D. II." They
just showed this newly restored version of "Metroplis"
on Turner Classic Movies and I missed it. Apparently,
it has the original score composed for the film when
it was released, as opposed to that bogus disco score
Giorgio Moroder put on it a few years back. Just remember,
everything moves in cycles, and this artistic slump
will end. I saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld last
night and he said that there are no decent young comedians
coming up, just like there seems to be no new decent
young filmmakers or musicians. He said we're in the
"American Idol" age, where kids say, "I'm
seventeen, Goddamnit, I've waited long enough to be
How are you Josh?
a Sennheiser 416 good enough to capture all production
audio? I?ve read that this should only be used for indoor
shooting. I?m shooting a dialogue heavy script, what
would be the best mic to capture dialogue indoors and
you have a blimp or wind-cover for the mic it's fine
outside (as long as it's not too windy, but then no
mic will work very well). That's a good microphone and
should be adequate for all your needs, but make sure
you have a blimp for it, and make sure your boom man
isn't an idiot. Don't let the mic come down into your
frame at all, no matter what the sound man or the boom
man says. They are forever trying to get the mic as
close to the actors as possible and will say things
like, "Oh, that won't be in frame, it's out of
the 1.85 cut-off or it's out of the TV frame,"
even though they know not of what they speak. Don't
let it be in any part of your frame, no matter what
the cut-off. I generally say to the boom operator at
the beginning of the shoot very nicely, "Get the
mic as close to the actors as humanly possible without
coming into frame. If I see the mic in frame, I'll get
a baseball bat and hit you in the knees." It's
surprising how well this threat works, I've never had
the mic come into one of my shots.
are the absolute necessary lense(s) to shoot an independent
16mm feature? I?m not doing anything fancy, it's a very
straight forward comedy, what can I not go wrong with
and what can I not live without?
you want to make a good-looking film you should have
an entire set of lenses because they all have a different
look and a different feel. If you were only going to
have one lens it probably ought to be the zoom because
you can get a whole variety of focal lengths with it.
However, zooms don't look as good as prime lenses simply
because they have so much extra glass in them, and each
time light goes through another piece of glass it softens
and distorts slightly. I personally would rather shoot
with prime lenses than a zoom, and on both "Running
Time" and "Hammer" I didn't have a zoom.
Lenses in 16mm are calibrated at half the focal length
of 35mm, so a 50mm lens in 35mm is a 25mm lens in 16mm.
A set of 16mm lenses will have a selection like: a 9mm,
an 18mm, a 25mm, a 50mm, and a 75mm, which would pretty
much cover the gamut. Also, keep in mind that if you're
using a sound camera with a blimped lens (like the Arri-BL),
then a zoom will stick out beyond the blimped area and
the camera will be very noisy. Only the prime lenses
are blimped. Good luck and if you have any more questions
feel free to ask.
for your responce to my questions on the possibility
of Digital feature films. You stated that companies
wont touch them, which ive noticed, except maybe DVD
and genre companies, but what about the Dogma 95 group
and films like THE IDIOTS, BEUNA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB,
FULL FRONTAL, BLAIR WITCH and the recent 28 DAYS LATER?
I worked as a projectionist in a cinema and we played
IDIOTS, BEUNA, BLAIR(of course) and 28 DAYS LATER (Prolly
cos Im working near London) as one day specials (incredible
considering the commercial crap we usually play) and
28 DAYS LATER as main release. Yeah, they looked bad
up there on the big screen, but at least they got onto
Can I ask, what has been your best strategy for selling
your films? I know you had Irwin Shapiro handle THOUGH...
but what about the others? Do you have a festival strategy
or do you set up screenings with distributers....are
foreign sales agents worth their price? Also, have you
a lot of experience with festivals in general, it seems
to me that theres a lot of back handers and double dealing
going on, mainly in the biggest ones or is this the
industry as a whole? (somehow how i think i know the
answer to that last question) Thanks for your advice..
of all, "Buena Vista Social Club" is a documentary,
which is a totally different animal from a feature film.
"Blair Witch" was partially shot on film,
then entirely brought to film. I haven't seen the others.
I know there are a lot of people that wish features
shot on video were distributed, but, for the most part,
they're still not. I don't have a strategy for selling
films, good or bad. A sales agent can get your film
out there, but they don't return any money to filmmaker,
at least not to me. I've tried four-walling, which gets
the film reviewed, but it hasn't gotten me any distribution.
I made two video deals with Anchor Bay, for TSNKE and
RT, but they came to me. When I tried to make a deal
on "Hammer" they wouldn't do it. I've been
to a number of film festivals, but I've never gotten
into the big ones, and no deals are made at the smaller
ones, which is almost all of them. If I had any answers
I wouldn't be sitting on a $350,000 film that I can't
get distributed in any way.
am about to discuss pay for a DP and Audio Mixer. I
don't really know what the normal rate is and I would
like to have some idea of what to ask for and expect
when negotiating. Assuming that I can't get someone
to donate their time and equipment for free, what is
a rate that you would say is acceptable for a $20-25,000
budget 16mm feature? This is including the person coming
with their own equipment.
a movie that cheap there is no "normal" rate.
You can't afford to pay anybody what they really get.
A cheap, actual DP is going to minimally get $1,000
a week, and bigger DPs get at least $5,000-10,000 a
week. But those rates all mean nothing if your entire
budget is $25,000. What you need to do is to decide
how much you can afford, and that's what you're offering.
If they'll take it, great; if not, find someone else.
The first DP I hired on "Running Time," who
had never shot a feature, became an obnoxious prick
during pre-production. I asked what was his problem?
He said, "You're not even paying my rate."
I said, "You don't have a feature rate, asshole,
and now you're not even going to work on one,"
and I fired him. I then got a friend of mine who had
been a key grip and a gaffer for years and wanted to
be a DP. He worked for whatever the hell I was paying,
probably about $1,000 a week, and he was a joy to work
with because he wanted to be there. If you're giving
someone a break, they'll usually give you a break. But
you don't need anyone on your shoot that feels like
they're doing you a favor. And a logical base pay for
most everyone else is minimum wage, and if you use that
as your base then you can get cheap worker's compensation
insurance through the state. So, you do your budget,
you decide what you can afford, and that's what you
often do you start watching a movie and feel like you
know exactly what is going to happen right through to
the end? I know that the uniqueness of a storyline is
not necessarily the most important thing in the world,
but the more movies I see the more I feel like I know
exactly where things are going. Occasionally there's
the film that throws in some sort of a twist ending,
but for the most part its not really that difficult
to figure out where a film is going within the first
15-20 minutes. After the first act is laid out there
are only a few directions that movies seem to go, and
most movies these days tend to choose the absolute most
obvious path. I suppose this happens in every storytelling
medium, but moreso in film because of how limited it
has become in recent years. How important is it to you
that a film's story continues to surprise you? Is it
the originality that keeps you watching or are there
most interested in compelling stories, ones that pull
me toward the conclusion. I don't have to be surprised,
I have to care. I need stories that are told well, but
they don't necessarily have to be sparkling with originality,
because I don't even know what that means, generally.
If the characters are well-developed and believable,
then I'll care about their situations and problems even
if it's just moving in a straight line to the ending.
If the characters aren't well-developed, then I don't
care how many surprising plot twists they're put through.
If a story is actually good, you should be able to hear
it entirely summarized right at the beginning, know
all of the plot turns ahead of time, and it doesn't
matter. A good story isn't necessarily (or even frequently)
based on clever plot twists, it's based on fulfillment.
a child growing up in the 60's, my neighbor, known as
"Granny" (Sara Walcott), was a reputed madam
and speakeasy owner in the Bellmore,Long Island area.
Local legend has it that the patrolman who was killed
by Two Gun Crowley was dating Sara and visited her just
prior to his encounter with Crowley. As the story goes,
the officer, whose name I do not recall, was showing
off to Sara and emptied his hand gun into the side of
her barn. Later, in encountering Crowley, he had only
an empty handgun to defend himself. My father grew up
in Syosset and Bellmore and remembers lots of stories
like this. One of my friends also has an elderly father
with a good memory in Huntington from the 20's. Many
speakeasies still exist in Huntington because they were
underground in the mansions and barns near the water.
for confirming that I didn't make up the story about
Two-Gun Crowley. I think he was an interesting character,
and nobody's made a film about him.
what is in the future for you, Josh? What ventures are
you looking forward to, and with whom?
what other types of work would interest you besides
writing and directing?
the time being, I'm just going to keep writing. Other
than the two books I've written in the last year, I
really have nothing going on at the moment. Other than
writing and directing, nothing much interests me. Things
do have to bottom out occasionally, that's life.
just watched your short film 'the blind waiter' it was
the funnist thing i have seen in a while
did people get these short films, i mean how did they
get on the internet if only you and your friends have
copys, do you own copys of all your short films
you do, why dont you sell them on this website like
everyone else on the net
those short films are real funny
course I have copies of all my films -- the originals,
actually. Why don't I sell them? Each film is tied up
with those other guys, and everybody's got their own
reasons for not wanting them out. Sam seems to be embarrassed
by the old films, although he's perfectly happy to lift
gags from them constantly (did you notice similarities
between "The Blind Waiter" and "Army
of Darkness," like the face in the frying pan?),
and Scott doesn't want to get into any more deals with
me. Not to mention we never licensed any of the music,
nor has there ever been a decent video transfer of any
of them. How did people get them? I don't know, but
I suspect it was through Scott.
But I'm glad you enjoyed the film.
much money can i expect to make from a good script?
How can i go about finding someone to sell my script
to? How can i make sure they dont take my ideas without
can probably expect nothing since very few companies
are buying spec scripts anymore. You'll excuse me severe
cynicism, but since movies are such utter crap now,
no one knows or cares what the difference is between
a good script and a bad one. You will need an agent
to sell it for you, and that's a horrible situation
because most agents are complete and utter morons. Most
agents are a terrible combination of ineptitude, laziness,
as well as usually being highly touchy, too. I'm on
my twelfth agent right now and still haven't found a
good one. Look, if someone wants to steal your idea,
they just will and there's nothing you can do about
it. All you can really do is copyright your script and
possibly register it with the Writer's Guild, then hope
for the best. Good luck.
been visiting your site for a while and I am very impressed
with your up front and honest views on hollywood, feature
films and indipendant filmmaking. I like everyone else
am a no budget filmmaker who has strived for the past
15 years to try and get a feature made and keep my artistic
integrity and make a living. Not a fortune, just a living,
which is getting painfully obvious isnt an easy thing,
no siree. What i would like to ask you is what are your
views on digital feature films and their place in any
commercial market place or as stepping stones to be
able to make more films... am i wasting my time making
a dirt cheap film on video when i could spend ages and
a small fortune just to get my images on celluoid? I
do not like video and have never had, but i can make
a better film on digital (due to cost) but will it not
get a serious look in the market place? What are your
views on digital feature film making and is there any
chances of securing any kind of distribution.? Also,
any pointers on distributing and marketing of a feature
film...ive noticed you havent written too much on the
Thanks for your time...
looking into the possibility of shooting a feature on
DV myself. The idea was brought up to the folks at Anchor
Bay, who have distributed several of my films, and they
said that neither they nor anyone else would touch a
video feature at this time, which I knew, but wanted
confirmed. I may still do it anyway, just to keep my
hand in the process. But there really is not market
for video features at this time. You'd be better off
shooting an MOS 16mm feature with a Bolex. Sadly, the
element that distributors are most caught up on is name
actors, and if you don't have enough money to shoot
on film you certainly don't have enough for name actors.
Nevertheless, if it's shot on film and is impressive
enough in certain ways -- story-wise or visually --
you could get the film released without name actors.
It's a tough business, and getting tougher, not easier.
I wish you all the luck in the world and would be happy
to answer any other questions you might have.
is a more technical question. I'm trying to prepare
for my first independent feature and I'm not sure if
I'm getting the run around from labs. If I plan on strictly
getting the film developed and dumped to video to edit
do I need a Work Print, Answer Print or any other kind
of print? Is there anything else that needs to be done
other than the processing itself and the telecine to
get the film to tape? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
you don't need a workprint. The question is, do you
ever intend to conform your negative and make a film
print? If so, you need to inform the telecine house
what system you're editing on and they will include
a floppy disk so you can make an edit list (EDL) when
you're done. If you're not going to go back to the negative
then you've got to make sure the telecine is to the
best quality tape, either Digital-Beta or Beta-SP. This
of course depends on what kind of equipment you have
to upload the image. Are you actually cutting on video
or are you cutting digitally? In any case, you don't
need a workprint.
Hey Josh, you run a great site here, and have done a
lot of cool things here besides filmmaking subjects.
As an aspiring young filmmaker, I want to say thanks
for your great advice. There is one thing I'm wondering,
What exactly is 'DGA'?
stands for Director's Guild of America, which is the
union for film and TV directors.
was recently entertained by several of your films including
Running Time and Lunatics... I enjoyed them so much
that I became an instant fan of your work with and without
the Raimi/Tapert clan. I have also enjoyed your turns
at directing Xena episodes and only wish you could have
directed more. No other Xena director seemed to showcase
Ted Raimi's comedic efforts better than you did.
And I must agree with the statement made about some
of the Xena related groups and lists. In the past I
have run into several such groups that are run by overbearing
pompous individuals who try to pass themselves off as
fans. Even Ted Raimi's Official Fan Club sadly fits
into this category. Which brings me to my question.
Do you know who Sami Silverwind is and if she is indeed
a close friend of either you, The Raimis, Bruce Campbell,
Rob Tapert, or Scott Siegel? Because if she's not, she's
trying to pass herself off as such. I hate to ask you
such a crazy question, but I haven't been able to find
the answer anywhere else. Anyway, thanks for listening
and good luck with If I Had a Hammer and all future
Dana L. Estes
never heard of her. I've never heard Bruce nor Rob mention
her. I don't know who's friends with Sam or Scott these
days, although I can just bet you that she's not friends
with Sam, given he's the Great Oz that nobody ever sees
("Nobody sees the Great Oz, no way, no how!").
Ms. Silverwind sounds like one more lying, screwball
fan. I'm glad you liked my films and Xena eps.
hope everything's going well for you.
question is about showrunners. My understanding is that
they are the heads of a television show's creative department.
What does it take to become one? What are some of the
most important requirements?
showrunners on Herc and Xena were both the head writers,
and in the case of both of those shows they were only
the head writers, since they never came to New Zealand
for the shooting. You'd have to be a produced TV writer
that has written produced pilots, as well as the head
writer of a show that ran at least a few seasons, I
would think. I guess you'd possibly have to have been
a producer already as well. A showrunner is someone
who comes onto a TV production to assure the executives
that the show will actually be made properly and meet
its deadlines. Therefore, being a shwrunner is entirely
based on previous experience.
DUGI FROM KOSOVO,MY PROFESION IS CHINESE MARTIAL ARTS.CAN
YOU SEND ME EMAIL.I CAN SEND TO YOU MY BEST PICTURES!.I
HAVE TALENT FOR MARTIAL ARTS AND MOVIES AS WELL! THANKS
there much call for Chinese martial artists in Yugoslavia?
I guess not if you're writing to me. Sorry, but I don't
make martial arts films. Maybe you can be the spearhead
of the Eastern European martial arts film. Good luck.
just finished watching the DVD of "Running Time"(the
first DVD to have seen on my labtop's DVD player),and
wanted to tell you about how wonderfully raw and gritty
of a movie experience it was,with Bruce Campbell giving
a splendid performance that joyfully tests his acting
skills(in a non-genre role for a change),an enthralling
plot that keeps you guessing(which direction the story
is going to next go)and your directing was very surrealistic
and innovative for such an ambitious low budget project,which
definitely has a lot more entertaining value to offer
than Rob Zombie's visually drenched,originality lacking
celluloid slop "House Of 1000 Corpses"(I feel
very sorry for the horror youth that's been brainwashed
into thinking that it's a new "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"-esque
classic,which it strongly isn't).
very happy to see that your site is still one of the
best places for net surfers to visit,since you devote
one half of it to your intelligently written,thought
provoking essays on the current state of the world (movies,
music, politics, marriage, religion, and society), which
is something that many of the other movie genre sites(that
unfortunately thrive on message board flame wars,board
posters trading insult after insult with one another,
board/site moderators boasting their monstrously pathetic
egos,and other forms of on-line negativity)sadly refuse
to undertake upon,and the other half to giving helpful,caring
advice to aspiring filmmakers that will enable them
to stay talented without bowing down to the almighty
corporate dollar ("House of 2000 Corpses",
for the nice letter. I had more than enough of that
online, message-board, insult-flinging nonsense with
the Xena fans. That's the modern way of showing you're
a true fan, by insulting the producer/creator of the
show, who's the husband of your favorite star. Meanwhile,
someone suggested that I watch a piece of crap called
"Insaniac," of which I made it through possibly
five minutes. On the other hand, I kind of enjoyed the
American remake of "Insomnia," and Al Pacino
is, as usual, very good.
E-mail: upon request
Hi ya Josh!
havent written in for quite a while. Computer
ailments. I begged, borrowed and stole to get a new
Gateway. Your cutie-pie picture up there now loads much
faster. Plus it has a DVD tray, so Ill be able
to buy the season set with your director commentary
for Xena. Im excited.
I see the Movie Geek Salon has tackled the gamut in
subjects while I was offline! Mercifully, you put the
kibosh on the Rap discussion, such as it was. Bless
the Xena scene I frequent is embroiled in yet another
go-around on Robs finale, and like clockwork the
subject of plagiarism in film is at the forefront. The
conversation drifted, and it was mentioned that Sergio
Leone was sued by Kurosawa over A Fistful of Dollars!
I had no idea! This stunned me, as I am a huge fan of
Leone and Eastwood. Apparently Kurosawa won part of
the films profits, but Universal Artists retained
the copyright to Fistful.
I was told:
THE case of plagiarism was 'Fistful of Dollars',
which duplicated not only the plot of 'Yojimbo' but
shots and camera angles. Kurosawa wrote to Sergio Leone:
"It is a fine film, but it is my film."
figured you would know if theres any more scoop
on this story (I wondered if the decision affected A
Few Dollars More), and if Leone ever publicly
commented on his spaghetti westerns and their link to
the samurai genre. What did you think of the case?
and say--My t.v. satellite provider has recently added
the Independent Film Channel (IFC), so Im excited
to be able to catch Running Time. Please
be sure to post the schedule for it once you know.
Speaking of that channel, I wanted to know your take
on that Dinner for Five half-hour chat show
on IFC. It is a round table discussion of the film bizz
with various directors and actors who eat dinner with
host John Favreau. Have you caught anybody saying anything
interesting or absurd on the program? I figured that
show would catch your eye and youd have an opinion
on it, it strikes me as kind of like Inside the
Actors Studio. The guests still try to be
impressive, but seem less aware of the camera, less
aware of the larger audience whos going to be
to hear from you. Welcome back. I had no idea there
was any sort of lawsuit regarding "A Fistful of
Dollars" and "Yojimbo," nor do I understand
why there would be since Leone's film credit's Kurosawa's
film in the titles. It's a remake and everyone knew
it, so what's the problem? And it had already been done
twice before that, with "Seven Samurai" becoming
"The Magnificent Seven," and "Rashomon"
becoming "The Outrage." By the third western
remake you'd think Kurosawa would have gotten used to
it. Anyway, I've tried watching "Dinner for Five"
three times and I haven't yet made it all the way through
because it's so lame. Let's face it, Jon Favreau doesn't
know very much about independent filmmaking, hasn't
been at it that long, and has only made two reasonably
uninteresting movies. Trying to listen to people like
Colin Farrell or Jennifer Garner or Vince Vaughn discuss
filmmaking is ludicrous. At least when Peter Falk was
on he had something to say because he's been around
for so damn long and was involved with Cassavetes. Otherwise,
the show seems like a self-indulgent bore, and I'm not
particularly interested in watching people eat.
it going? I think you missed answering my last question.
It was about the Rambo and James Bond movies and also
if you knew if it was true that in Rambo III Rambo rides
the same horse that Indiana Jones does in Indiana Jones
and the Last Crusade (that's what I heard).
I was wondering about your workout program (since I
think you said that you lift weights). What is your
program like? Also if you can relate this to acting.
I hope I didn't offend you with one of my last questions
in my last message
don't even remember your last question. I answered your
letter about Rambo and James Bond, but I don't know
what happened to it (I've been having a lot of trouble
with AOL lately). As I said, I liked the first half
of "First Blood," and that's it. The next
two Rambo pictures were painful to sit through for me.
As a little kid I liked the first several Bond pictures,
up through "On Her Majesty's Secret Service,"
or possibly "Diamonds Are Forever," but once
Connery was gone it all became a wash-out. I'll still
take Ian Fleming's early Bond books over any of the
films. I like the idea that he has a big scar across
his face, the dead eyes of a killer, and is somewhat
frightening to look at. He used no gadgets, drove a
1933 Bentley, and had a .25 caliber pistol with the
handle pried off and wrapped with tape so it would lie
flat in his pocket. In the second book Q asks what sort
of weapon Bond has? Bond shows Q his tape-wrapped .25
pistol. Q takes it with his thumb and index finger and
says, "I think we can do better." That's when
Bond gets a Walther PPK, not a rocket-pack or helicopter
in a briefcase. As for weight-lifting, I do it when
the muscles in my neck are tense, which is generally
everyday at some point.
we are on the subject of Artistic regresssion. An episode
of the Simpsons made a great comentary about the current
state of the film industry. It was the Springfield Film
festival episode, where Homer thinks that a film about
a guy getting hit in the crotch with a football is the
greatest film ever. Barney, of all people, makes a pretentious
film, everybody loves it, and it wins the festival.
The epilogue has Gorge C. Scott winning an Academy award
for starring in a big budget version of a guy getting
hit in the crotch with a football. The bottom line is
that is really what development execs and producers
believe the American public thinks is funny. Today's
footballs in crotch movies are these bad comedies where
white guys in their late 40's and beyond, team up with
hip young black stars. The white guys always speak ebonics,
and pander to what ever trend is currently hip. Horrible
films that are guilty of this are: Bringing Down the
House, The American President, Malibu's Most Wanted,
Hollywood Homicide, and many more to come. You know
Harrison Ford is at the end of his career when he stars
in a buddy cop picture, and says things like "For
Shizzle My Nizzle Homey!" That is exactly what
happens in the soon to be released Hollywood Homicide.
Anyway, I digress, the point is that Simpsons episode
stated in more ways than one that we either get movies
that attempt to pander to the lowest common denominator,
or we get films that exploit a filmmaker's bloated self
indulgence. That was the first time that I have ever
seen a television show, or any facet of the media, make
fun of the current state of affairs, and the episode
is 9 years old. That says something.
"The Simpsons" is the sharpest show on the
air, and has been for a long time. Sadly, I think a
lot of people take Homer's bad advice seriously, like
if it's hard to do, then don't do it, or "you tried,
you failed, give up." I agree, the football in
the crotch is the perfect analogy for what Hollywood
produces now. I also agree that many indie films are
pretentious like Barney's film. But there used to be
a world of film between those poles, that was intelligent
and well-made and had a point. On the front page of
AOL today they're asking "What's the summer's hottest
movie?" and the three choices are: "Matrix
2," "X-Men 2," or "The Hulk."
They've got to be kidding. What could possibly be "hot"
about sequels, or film versions of comic books, for
that matter? But no one wants to even try to create
great art anymore, they just want to get rich, which
is an ignoble pursuit. Good example with that "Simpsons"
I am on a rant, since music is something which is very
close to my heart just as much as film.
I was not equating that technology = easy when it comes
to recording music or filmmaking.
personally have recorded my own music and engineered
the music of others with the use of the old way and
the new way. I can tell you that working with a program
like "Pro Tools" wins all the time for most
musicians old and new, and it does not come down to
a matter of "easy" because recording music
in the studio is never an "easy" task even
with computer recording software.
that does not mean the musicans favor computer generated
music over "real" instruments, it is just
that the recording process is long, repetitive and tedious
which makes the use of computer recording software and
hardware a relief for many musicans me included. There
is no substitiute for real talent and that can't be
hidden with any kind of technology.
agree that The era of YES you are refer to is the best
period of the band including "Tales from Topographic
Oceans" even if it is overblown, and I believe
that is why they made these statements about recording
me, when you have to sit down and splice together different
takes of long pieces of music on various multitrack
tapes as oppossed to being able to move the individual
tracks non-linear inside a computer after it is recorded,
then mater it to tape most musicans would take the non-linear
path hands down.
does not alter the recording only the process and the
musicans can still choose to use analog over digital
equipment to make their music if they so choose.
cutting your mutlitple takes of scenes in your feature
film on a flatbed and multiply that by 10. That is how
much more work is involved in recording and mixing an
intricate band such as YES in the studio.
more effecient way to perform this task is always welcomed
by studio engineers and musicians when it comes to mixing
and editing, and that is why computer recording software
is a great advancement.
are well versed in making features, but I too can tell
you from experiencing working on films and recording
music in the studio, computer technology has improved
music recording studios for the better, and I feel similarly
to film editng too.
you know, I am also an Avid editor, and I can say that
this software allows me to be more creative than editing
on a flatbed would in the past. I have edited on a flatbed
quite af few times and even though I miss actually phyically
working with the film, however, I enjoy the expansive
creative freedom I have working on an Avid system. I
think it is an excellent tool to utilize my creativity.
of my friends went into video editing when it was tape
to tape or A/B roll editing and many still do it now.
I did not start editing for a living until AVID and
I am happy for that. Tape to tape editing is the worst
and most unproductive way of working and alowing creativity
to flow. Non-linear computer editng changed all of that.
I am done ranting.
I like non-linear editing much better than cutting on
film, and the same goes for the sound. But it doesn't
make anything better, it just makes it easier. Movies
and music are not about technology, they're about creativity.
If you're creative you can make a symphony with a kazoo
on an cassette recorder, if you're not creative you
can have a full symphony orchestra and state-of-the-art
digital recording and it doesn't matter. Ultimately,
I don't care about technology or equipment.
though I agree with you about the state of Music and
film within the past 10-15 years has been lame, I don't
agree with pinning it down to my generation (I am 36).
I have the smnae feelings you do, and I have many friends
who also share these feelings as well, however, we are
not as you say: "in power".
baby boomer generation has set the unrealistic economic
and cultural tone for quite sometime now. Let me ask
you a question. Who has the majority of the power and
the wealth in this country?
can tell you it is not people in their 20's and 30's.
These are the people that are actually struggling more
than anything. The cost of going to college is out of
control and having a degree doesn't mean anything these
idealism of the 60's faded into the 70's. Growing up
in the late 70's and 80's in the Detroit area was no
joy ride for me coming from a blue collar family. I
think the biggest mis-connception when it comes to how
humans think is that the past always better.
many times do you here from someone in a previous generation:
"Things were much better then, they were more simple
times." etc, etc..
fact is, there were never more simple times. Life has
always had its difficult times no matter what generation
you come from and this one is no exception.
live in nostalgia which simpy comforts us. The past
isn't always better it is just different thatn the present
and that is change.
generation faces many challenges including aging baby
boomers, environment, nasty things like AIDS, skyrocketing
health care costs, etc...
know of many artists in their 20's and 30's who have
similar views as you, however, art doesn't simply happen
by any prescribed method, it just happens.
do agree when it comes to the late 60's and early 70's
rock musicans and filmmakers were lucky to have been
able to do what they did, but that was a time and that
time will never happen again.
if you think about it many filmmakers/Rock and Roll
artists of that era are now the Aristocracy of today.
Many are rich beyond their wildest dreams and nobody
has come close to relpicating that musical movement
in Rock and Roll.
think people are going to use technology like they use
any other medium in a sense: people who have always
made shit will continue to make shit with the use of
technology and people who use technology as a tool like
any other medium can also make wonderful art including
Hollywood does not operate that way and the only time
it had a reprieve from this type of thinking was in
the 70's, but you can see how short lived that was.
and music rely heavily on technology and that is a reality,
however, I do agree that it should not detract from
the message or the mood of a song or a film just for
the sake of using it.
enjoy many of the new recording technologies when it
comes to music. When I record songs it takes my mind
off of the time consuming chore of editing multiple
tracks to tape etc..
remember reading an interview with the band "YES"
after they released their 1999 album 'The Ladder"
which was actually a very good album for them considering
they are what the lead singer Jon Anderson calls "old
all agreed that they wished they had the computer recording
programs like "Pro Tools" back in the 70's
to record their albums like "Fragile" and
"Close to the Edge", since the process would
have been much easier to edit and master as oppossed
to hours of assembling multi-track tapes and splicing
definitely agree with their views on this subject and
I think this is where technology has enhanced the medium
and not degraded it.
but aren't we on a rant today. Of course, I am most
everyday, so what the hell. Let me take on your last
statement first, about YES having Pro-tools back in
the 60s and 70s, well, I'm glad as hell they didn't
because "The Yes Album," "Fragile,"
and "Close to the Edge" are by far their very
best albums, and their entire career is based on those
three records, with everything coming afterward being
mediocre at best, and pathetic at the worst. I'm glad
it wasn't very easy for them to make those records,
they felt they had to work their very hardest and it
paid off. Easy is not better. Technology hasn't improved
art (although I think it's been a boon to documentary
filmmakers). And I agree with you that the major culprits
of this awful malaise are my generation, the baby-boomers,
starting with the group ten years senior to me, like
Spielberg and Lucas. These are the folks that began
the miserable pandering to children's tastes which hasn't
let up in over twenty-five years. Interestingly, though,
most of the executives in Hollywood I was running across
before I fled were in their thirties and twenties, many
of them female. Certainly they're just following up
on the patterns already set, but they're certainly making
no effort to change anything. The time for a revolution
is now!! Come on, everyone stand up and be counted.
And the revolution will not be televised.
To dear Josh
name is Christopher Hogben, I am 15 years old and I
am very interested in an audition for a movie to make
my dream a reality. I would like yo know how I would
go about an audition and where? I live in Australia
and I love to play soccer and squash. I would describe
myself as funny, outgoing, active and caring. I like
drawing and acting, I do drama at my school and enjoy
it immensely, right now we are studding Shakespeare.
I would conceder myself average size and under weight.
I would not mined even encourage having to get stronger
to suite a movie roll. My dream is to one day act in
an action movie like the Matrix (the Matrix is my favourite
movie off all time). Are there any tips you have for
getting a part in a movie? Are there any curses I should
do? I am quite good at putting on voices for example,
Scooby doo, gangster commentator, Golem from lord of
the rings a 1930s detective and many more. If
you want anything else from me please ask and I will
for taking the time to read this letter.
good to have a dream, although you might want to try
dealing with reality a little bit. You're fifteen and
you live in Australia, and you're asking people like
me, who aren't even in production, for auditions? The
first thing you need to do is get a clue. As a little
note, I only like working with trained actors, which
means more than doing imitations of Scooby-Doo. Start
taking acting classes, reading, and watching better
movies than "The Matrix."
my name is Rajnish Madaan, and I'm asking these questions
as a part of my unit at University. I'm required to
research into the area of my chosen profession, Directing
I decided to take advantage of this to ask questions
that will be helpful to me as I begin my career worryingly
If you could help me in answering these questions truthfully,
you will be allowing me a personal insight into the
experience of being a director.
if you wouldn't like me to mention your name please
let me know.
P.S. My deadline is mid-May.
What was it that initially encouraged you to become
a director, and has this view changed?
JB: It was based on my love of
movies, and my desire to try and make great films.
My view hasn't changed, but the world of film certainly
has. They no longer make what I consider to be great,
or even good, movies, so my view of things is in a vacuum.
How long have you been working as a director in fictional
JB: I directed my first feature film in 1984, and
I began in TV in 1992.
What was your role at the beginning of your career in
JB: I worked for many years as
a production assistant, I did lighting, loaded cameras,
drove trucks, etc.
In terms of networking, did you make an extra effort
to get to know people, or did you leave it to fate?
-What would you recommend?
JB: Sure, I tried to get to know
people, but I'm not very good at schmoozing, which
very often means pandering, lying, and kissing ass.
If you're good at that kind of
thing you'll fit right in in Hollywood.
How much work do you put into the subject of your work,
how involved do you become?
JB: That question doesn't mean anything, it's too general.
I put in as much effort
as humanly possible on everything I do.
Q.6. -THE Big One!
From your experience (possibly something you may know
of) what problems face today's director's?
JB: Never working and dying of
starvation. Or losing your vision as soon as you
start working, the becoming one more ass-kissing pandering
Could you possibly list your credits to date, and any
JB: Do some research, look them
up. They're listed right here on my website.
there is anything else you would like to say please
do not hesitate to say.
for your help, I hope to hear from you soon.
for the record, the 10K film of Jon Jost's I was speaking
of is "Last Chants for A Slow Dance." Although
I've never seen the film, it was shot with only 8 400'
rolls of 16mm and only runs about 80 minutes (plus it
was made back in the '70's). I'm not particularly a
fan of Jost (although I did think "The Bed You
Sleep In," was a bit upsetting) but he certainly
has carved a spot for himself in the film world...However
small his spot may be.
how about an 80% MOS film? You've worked on your buddy
Paul's picture. Can it be done and not seem shitty?
a good one.
Re your remark on processing alone being over 20 thousand...You
really should check out www.pro8mm.com
They sell 16mm packages that cover the costs of the
stocks (100' rolls only), processing, and a transfer
to video (Beta SP and VHS.) You can order eight hours
of film and have all of the above mentioned procedures
done for less than 15 grand (called their feature film
package). I've hade 500' of 16mm processed with them.
They are extremely firendly and good in their work.
answer is that he made the film in the 1970s. You cannot
make a full-length feature film and finish it on film
for $20,000. Sorry. Just have an optical soundtrack
shot will cost you at least $5,000. One single 16mm
print will cost you at least $2,000. Jost shot on eight
400 foot rolls? That's a one-to-one ratio. So, if you
don't care at all how bad your film turns out, yeah
you can do it that way, but it's just plain old stupid.
Reality is that you will minimally shoot at a ratio
of three-to-one (which still doesn't give you three
full takes, due to heads, tails, and run-out), and that's
at least 10,000 feet of 16mm. Regarding an 80% MOS film,
yes it can be done well and not turn out like shit,
but not at a one-to-one ratio, I can absolutely assure
you of that. Paul is constantly having to reshoot due
to one technical snafu or another. He's probably already
shot 20,000 feet of film, and he's not done yet. The
bottom line is, if you're going to go to the trouble
of doing it you may as well try to do a good job. Meanwhile,
I've seen one Jim Jost film and it SUCKED!!!!
Dear Mr. Becker,
I begin, I would like to note that my schedual only
gave me the time to write this after midnight, so any
spelling errors or lack awkward sentance structure is
apologized for in advance.
would like to start off this e-mail by thanking you
for your wonderful essays on screenwriting. These have
been very helpful, and are much appriciated.
on to the issue that I have mainly come to discuss,
your essay titled "Kids These Days". Being
one of "kids" discussed in your piece (with
one major difference: I happen to be a film junkie that
devours books, articles, and just about anything else
on the history of film), I wish to offer you a little
bit of insight you may have lacked while writing the
said essay. Your article seems to have been entirely
based on mere observation without looking more deeply
at the issue (This should not be taken as a knock against
you. It happens to the best of us). The fact is, filmmaking
is not worse because of a of lack discipline amongst
young people. Filmmaking is worse because it is one
of the last places that undisciplined people can go.
I were to try and apply a percentage of young people
that I have met that fit your discription of young adults,
it would only be around five percent. Maybe the area
I live in is a fluke, but I doubt it. Why? Because quite
simply, this generation can't aford to be undisciplined.
say a person is lousy in school, disruptive, and having
a disliked athority. Now, lets take these traits and
give them to a fictional man who we'll call, I don't
know, "Frank". Now let's take Frank and place
him in the 1970s. Now Frank does lousy his entire high
school career, but at least manages to get his diploma.
He decides (or his lousy academic record dictates more
accurately)that he won't attend university. What is
he to do? Well, he can get a job as a groundskeeper,
or work at the local factory, or even sign up to join
the police academy. Thus, whether or not he did to bad
in school will make no difference, he is still set to
make a living.
let us place Frank in the present. Here, Frank is completley
screwed. Can he be a groundskeeper or garbage man? Not
a chance. He'll need a post secondary education degree
in some form to get into this line of work (and if you
doubt this, try calling around. I've already seen this
happen to people). How about working in a factory? Well,
if he is lucky enough to find a factory that hasn't
closed up and moved to another country with cheaper
labour, than yeah, sure.
days when a person could afford to either be uneducated
or just work in a job that requires no real thought
are gone. They have left the developed nations and have
feld to the developing or underdeveloped, and they are
not coming back. So what jobs are left, you ask? Ones
that require critical and creative thinking. I have
a number of friends and family that are just entering
the job market, and they all report back the same thing:
Nobody wants a person of average inteligence or skill.
If you can't deliver, than get lost.
fact is not lost on many students, and very few are
willing to screw themselves because they couldn't pay
attention in class.
what does this have to do with the poor quality of modern
filmmakers that see entering the business? To put it
simply, filmmaking is the last perceived industry that
a person can enter without having to prove that they
have any skill or education. The media presents endless
images of people who struck it big: Kevin Smith, Robert
Rodriguez, etc, without showing the hard work that it
took for them to make it big (and whether or not you
like the end result is immaterial. They did put in hard
work, end of story). Naturally, the idiots who can't
get a job working in a sector that requires discipline
are looking for a quick way to make a buck think this
is great, and migrate towards this, and the end result
is the crap that gets put out.
sum it up the problem with screenwriting is not that
the youth of today are undisciplined, but that the film
industry doesn't have any standards to weave out the
people who are not.
hope you found this interesting at the very least, and
wish you a good day.
got news for you, getting a college degree doesn't mean
you're smart, nor does it indicate you have great tenacity,
or any real intelligence. There are still also a vast
amount of crappy jobs for which you don't need a college
degree. Yes, I think you can blame the Hollywood executives
more than the writers -- and they're kids, too -- because
they have no standards, no concept of quality, and don't
believe that film is an art form. Look at this summer's
line-up of films and tell me these were conceived by
creative, intelligent people. To say that movies are
the last refuge of the untalented is silly -- there
are really no talented people around in any of the arts.
Is music thriving? Has there been a new form of contemporary
music in twenty years? Is anyone painting incredible
pictures? It's a sad, untalented time that's far more
interested in technology than the arts. And folks in
their twenties and thirties must take some responsibility;
they're the ones that have come into power and if they
had any taste or intelligence they would demand more
than "Charlie's Angels 2."
read your treatment for "Terrified," again.
I think it's really got some potential. The first and
third acts I particularly think are good. Still surprised
Bruce and Ted didn't think of it as being a film that
had a real shot for distribution. Bruce isn't acting
as often as he was say five years ago, so why not?
anther note, you once said that you can't make a real
film for less than $120,000. Why is that? Guys like
Jon Jost have made movies for as little as $10,000!
Couldn't you serve as DP (sounds like you've done your
share of filming), gather up some actors and a DAT recorder
and then start shooting a script tailor made for a 20-60K
investment? That's still a lot of money, but you managed
to raise nearly half a million dollars for Hammer...Where
there's a will there's usually a way.
sure I don't need to inform a film buff such as yourself
that Orson Welles made only self financed, independent
films starting in 1951 with "Othello," until
his death (the sole exception being "Touch of Evil").
Shooting sporadically, when equipment is available for
free, can really do great things for an independent.
you own anything in the way of movie equipment, like
cameras, lights, an old editng bench, etc.?
a good one.
for your interest, I do appreciate it. Anyone that says
they made a motion picture (not a video) for $20,000
is simply lying. I didn't make these numbers up out
of nowhere. Don't forget, the second you use actual
SAG actors like Bruce or Ted, your budget will minimally
take another $50,000 jump. I wish movies did cost 20
grand to make, I'd produce a lot more of them. My cheapest
film so far was "Running Time" at $130,000,
which was shot in two weeks in 16mm with a very small
crew. Admittedly, $50,000 was in actor's fees, but that
still leaves $80,000 in hard costs, and I didn't shoot
very much film. Just the lab costs will be more than
20 grand. I do not speak with a forked tongue. Meanwhile,
I own a Bolex camera and a few lenses. My friend has
it right now because he's been shooting an MOS feature
in 16mm for about five years, with two people in the
cast, no actor's fees, no location fees, and he's already
spent over 10 grand. Movies are expensive no matter
what you do.
Cynthia E. Jones
to let you know, this is being offered by someone I
met on the internet:
Raimi &Co. shorts
Directed by Sam Raimi,etc.
Various short films by Sam Raimi and friends (Bruce
Campbell, Scott Spiegel, Josh Becker, Ted Raimi, etc.)
inlcudes: Cleveland Smith Episode #36 (an Indiana Jones
parody) 10min, Torro, Torro, Torro! (hijinx ensue when
a lawnmower runs away on its own) 7min, The Blind Waiter
(Bruce Campbell in the title role) 18min, Attack of
the Helping Hand (the Hamburger Helper Hand is scary
and dangerous) 6min, The Sappy Sap (crossing the street
slapstick) 5min, Six Months to Live (quality on this
one is awful) 14min. Interspersed in between the shorts
are: a local radio commercial, previews for The XYZ
Murders (aka Crimewave, directed by Raimi, written by
the Coen Bros.), Thou Shall Not Kill Except..., Evil
Dead 2, Book of the Dead, and a visit to the makeup
and props lab for an unidentified film. Just under 90
in case anyone (including you) is looking for "Cleveland
Smith: Bounty Hunter." Also, just wanted to give
you a 'heads up' if this is a copyright violation!?
a great weekend,
for the heads up. It is, of course, copyright infringement,
but since we're not bothering to sell them ourselves,
it's nice to know they're still available. The irony
of my life is that my short films are packaged under
the title of "Sam Raimi's Short Films," but
them's the breaks.
Bravo, Mr. Review Writer!(re.:
My Big Fat Greek Wedding) A review that made me
smile, laugh, think for myself, and wasn't crammed down
my throat like you're the 'shit' and nobody else gets
it. How fun. Keep up the great work. I'll not only be
watching the movies closer but also your reviews of
so much, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
agree with you about marriage and males and I also disagree
with jean that marriage is irresponsible when you are
in your 20's, however, I do agree that it does not work
for most people these days.
best friend and roomate from college married his girlfriend
right after they both finished college. They have been
married now for almost 13 years and they are both pretty
happy with their life!
have 3 great kids and I would have to say that their
marriage and relationship is the best of any of my friends
who were married that young.They are the exception,
and of course they have had many ups and downs, but
they have weathered through them and that is what a
good relationship with anyone is all about.
point where I do agree with Jean is that people think
marriage is a a throw away institution like a paper
product. I also agree that the wedding ceremony is far
more important for women than it is for most men. I
find it appalling how much money is spent on weddings
and this is where all the pressure comes from in the
have three sisters and no brothers, so I have seen the
gamut of different wedding ceremonies between my sisters
from very simple (my oldest sister's wedding) to very
extravagant (My middle sister's wedding), and it also
puts a burden on parents, since it is traditional for
the Bride's parent's and now the groom's parents to
fit part of the bill too.
am 36 and I have never been married, and I agree with
that fact that I am happy i was never married in my
20's becuase I was not ready at all.
a different note. Josh what do you think of Spencer
Tracy as an actor? I was just thinking about him this
morning when I saw a woman on the subway reading a book
with him on the cover.
have always thought of him as a fine actor and the film
"Adam's Rib" comes to mind with him and Katherine
Hepburn. With all this talk about marriage and stuff,
I always thought that was a fun film. as well as "Woman
of the Year" which is similar.
think Spencer Tracy was great. he made acting look completely
effortless, which it never is. I absolutely love "Captain's
Courageous," for which Tracy won his second Oscar
(he won two in a row), and he plays a Portuguese fisherman
and completely pulls it off. His death scene moved me
to tears as a kid. He could also play sincere just about
better than anyone. I'll still take "Judgement
at Nuremburg" over any of the other, later holocaust
movies, and Tracy is incredibly solid at the film's
center. Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart made one of
their very first films together, "Up the River,"
directed by John Ford in 1931, and Tracy immediately
became a star and Bogart didn't for another ten years.
My favorite Tracy/Hepburn film is "Pat and Mike,"
with the astoundingly young Charles Buchinski, later
known as Charles Bronson.
treatment! Two Gun Crowley
has some real bite to it, Josh. Is this the film you
and Bruce are working on? I sure hope so. On a side
note, what was the name of the gangster film starring
James Cagney in which he hears voices and is obsessed
with his mother?
glad you liked it. No, Bruce and I aren't working on
this story. It's been sitting around for fifteen years.
The name of the Cagney film you're thinking of is "White
Heat," which is a terrific picture.
has been stripped of all meaning. The only place it
means anything anymore is. . . oh wait. Nevermind.
do the humor and jokes you write into scripts get old
the more you deal with them? After you've re-written
a joke a dozen times, rehearsed it, several takes, and
editing, do you look at it and say, "God, I hope
that's still funny." Also, when you use friend's
cars in a movie, or their apartment, or heck, even seeing
your friends like Bruce Campbell in your movie, does
it make it less real for you? Is that a phenomenon that
occurs among filmmakers? Or is it just a matter of making
a believable movie? Did movies have more "magic"
to them before you started making them? And how does
that effect change over time? When you see Lunatics
now, do you look at it more objectively?
I can never look at my own work objectively. Time does
help a bit, but not much. As James Stewart said, each
shot is "a piece of time," and I'll always
remember what went into every single shot individually.
I conceived it, planned it, set it up, then shot it
a number of times in some weird place -- all of that
remains for me always. I know all of the actors in all
of the scenes, so Bruce doesn't change anything. As
far as jokes go, you just have to remind yourself that
you once thought it was funny, and that's probably still
true. That doesn't mean anyone else will think it's
funny, but you may still. It's an odd process and you
just have to believe in it.
it happens, I got married at 26. I remember thinking
at the time that I had held out a long time. In retrospect,
of course, I wasn't much more than a kid. That having
been said, I have one of those marriages which would
make an incredibly boring movie. Nice(ish) house, two
and a half kids, and a great dog. My wife and I genuinely
have trouble finding enough time to spend together.
I only mention all of this to atest that it isn't impossible
to have a satisfying marriage with an exciting relationship,
though I suppose it is rare and it certainly does take
think the secret to a good marriage is to not want marriage
per se. I've known all sorts of people who get married
largely because they think they're supposed to. It appears
you and Jean know a number of folks like that as well.
Personally, I expected to die a bachelor. I found a
person I really didn't want to live without, found her
though I wasn't looking. She cheated; she never asked
me to compromise on anything. If two people don't feel
that way about one another then they have no business
getting married. It's just a disaster waiting to happen.
a few comments, I suppose. I'll tell Donna Reed that
everyone says "Hi!"
know Donna Reed? Tell her I thought she was great in
her Oscar-winning role in "From Here to Eternity."
And it's nice to hear that someone is actually happily
married. It does seem rare.
Okay, I am a pretty big fan of your work. Using Bruce
Campell as Ted Raimi's figment in Lunatics was pure
genious, especially with Bruce as Edgar Allen Poe.
is a question for you; what is keeping you from making
Cleveland Smith? Indiana Jones 4 is slated for Summer
2005, you need to get Smith into the limelight before
Q; where can i get a copy of the Original Cleveland
I have a job?
for the nice comments, but here are a few corrections:
1. Bruce did not play Edgar Allen Poe, John Cameron,
the 1st AD, did (John has gone on to be Joel and Ethan
Coen's producer); 2. "Cleveland Smith" was
shot in 16mm. What's keeping me from making the Cleveland
Smith feature? Money. You might be surprised to learn
that I haven't got a spare million dollars, and nobody
else is stepping up to give it to me. When I wrote that
script there had only been one "Raiders" film.
Since then there's been two sequels, and now a third
sequel is coming out. What can I do? And since I'm not
working myself, I guess I don't need anyone working