Josh has been answering thousands of film and TV fans questions since 1998.

Please review previous Questions submitted and the responses given before submitting you own Question.

to submit questions or comments



Collected Q&A Since 1998

Josh directing Alien Apocalypse.2.jpg



Regarding the Ball Breaker story. When did you know that Scott and Boaz stole it from you ? Did they just replace your name with their names ? Did you ever confront one of them about the issue ? -- Paul

Dear Paul: It was all more complicated than that and worthy of its own essay, which I don't feel like writing right now. What sums that whole situation up for me was when "The Rookie" opened (and dropped dead), and Sam Raimi said to me, "Why would you make such a shitty picture like The Rookie?" Aghast, I said, "What do you mean?" And Sam said, "Well, you wrote Ball Breaker which Scott and Boaz stole and got made into The Rookie, so it's your fault." Josh

Hey Josh,  Glad to hear you're producing multiple films. Is the plan to shoot all of them locally in Michigan? -- Scott

Dear Scott: It depends. All of "Warpath" will be shot here, two-thirds of "Ball Breaker," with one week in L.A. I'm in discussion with my old buddy Sheldon Lettich about making one of his scripts that he wants to shoot in Thailand or the Philippines. But as I told Sheldon yesterday, "You can shoot anywhere you want, but I don't go to places with snakes." And he said, "We have rattlesnakes here in L.A." and I said, "And that's why I live in Michigan." Josh

Dear Josh:  Did you storyboard "Morning, Noon, and Night"? And will storyboarding be part of the pre-production process for "Warpath"? Looking forward to seeing both of them! -- Tim R (another Tim)

Dear Tim R: No, I didn't storyboard MNN, except the one FX sequence. I quit storyboarding early into Xena because they changed the script so often, meaning every day, that my storyboards kept becoming useless. But legitimately you can't get a shot in less than 30 minutes, and you've got eleven shooting hours (it's a 12-hour day with an hour off for lunch), so at the top end that's 22 shots, so let's say 20. Well, I can remember 20 things in the course of 12 hours. Josh

Dear Josh:  Which side of the aisle do you fall on? -- John

Dear John: Excellent question. At this late date there are about five good screenwriters still living: Aaron Sorkin, Xang Yimou, William Goldman who is eighty-seven, and Alvin Sargent who is ninety-one. I daresay I'm the fifth, but that's not for me to say. I have been in the Director's Guild of America for twenty-five years and I can assure that there about 10,000 guys and gals who know how to direct, and that's just in America. I will tell for a fact that it's much harder writing a good script than it is directing anything. If you have a good script and good actors, all you need to do is turn on the camera. That is essentially what I just did with my new film, "Morning, Noon & Night." I get the least amount of coverage, meaning shots, of any director I know of. Why? Because I believe in my script and the actors. Oh, yeah, and I hire a good DP, which certainly helps. If indeed I actually am a good writer it's because I write every single day of my life. Since I directed that piece of shit, (Stan Lee's) "Harpies" in 2006, I have directed for exactly fifteen days, and I'm just lucky I didn't forget how (I am nearly 60). So the answer to your question is yes, writing is way the fuck harder than directing. Josh

Dear Josh, Harlan Ellison died a few weeks back. I know you appreciate his work. I saw the documentary about him, "Dreams With Sharp Teeth." He had some good interviews and rants about writers getting paid, and there was a little about his childhood. But mostly it was a puff piece...I wish there had been more about his writing, his work in Hollywood, and some of the controversies in his life. Still, it's worth seeing just to hear the man speak. Looking forward to "Morning, Noon, and Night." Best of luck.                                                                                                Will

Dear Will: I saw it and liked it. First off, I recommend, "Harlan Ellison's Watching," his book of movie reviews, wherein he occasionally never even gets to the movie he's reviewing because he's bitching about something else. Half the book is autobiography. Josh

Josh,   Can you talk about Darkman and what that was like? What did you think of the end result? Did you and Sam talk about it while making it?   Vincent

Dear Vincent:
What I find interesting in retrospect is that at Renaissance Pictures then located on Hollywood Blvd. there were three films waiting for the green light: "Darkman," John Woo and Jean Claude Van Damme's "Hard Target," and my film, "Lunatics: A Love Story." We all shot about the same time. "Darkamn" was originally supposed to take place in Detroit, but ended up not being set anywhere, and "Lunatics" took place in L.A. so we shot it in Detroit. Personally, I think "Darkman" is an idiotic piece of shit. I had the great pleasure of reading Harlan Ellison's review to Sam, Rob Tapert, the producer, and the whole Renaissance staff. He said, and I paraphrase, "This guy comes up with a secret formula that he writes down on a piece of paper (Ellison adds that nothing important is on paper anymore) that has a coffee ring on it. The bad guy wants the formula, but instead of sending someone in to steal it, he sends a mob of people who make more noise than a Metallica concert, then for no good reason stick Darkman's head into a vat of acid. Then the bad guy, knowing that only one person in the world would recognize the piece of paper with the coffee ring on it, invites her into his office so she can recognize it." Ellison went on to say that Danny Elfman's "Batman" ripoff score was miserable. I agree. Sam never discussed the idea with me. What's possibly inyeresting is that the "Darkman" script had three sets of brothers working on it: Sam and Ivan Raimi, the Goldin brothers, and Joel and Ethan Coen, who didn't get credit. I worked as an extra for a few days and chatted with Liam Neeson, who is a very nice, amiable guy.


Dear Josh, I'm going to catch 1917 this weekend. Like Running Time (and Rope) it is, through tricks and cuts, presented as a single shot. I imagine you will dislike it, as you have disliked previous films from this director and generally dislike most films made nowadays (legitimately so). But since you are a history buff and one of the few directors to use this technique in a feature film, I was wondering if you have seen it, and if so, what you thought about it. Nick Falzone

Dear Nick:

I want to see "1917," and I had plans to go see it, but they crapped out. If I don't go soon it will leave the theaters. I'll certainly watch it on TV. But doing the all-in-one-shot shtick now on digital isn't all that impressive. You can now cut anywhere you want and stick it back together seamlessly. You can now leave lights in frame and remove them later. You can alter the picture any way you want. On film it was a real trick; on digital it's nothing. I have seen a lengthy trailer and, beyond the one shot deal, it doesn't look like a good story. And, as you mentioned, Sam Mendes has never made a movie I really liked, I doubt he's achieved that this time, either.


Josh, a quick "movie making" question for you. During the "Made in Michigan" part of the "Thou shall not kill" dvd, you keep mentioning you made a bunch of small films as "Pilots" to raise money for the feature.Is that literally what they are? I'm probably not making sense again. Also,do you ever go back to any of the filming locations? Mike Sulivan

Dear Mike:

Yes, we made pilot versions of both "Evil Dead" and "Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except," which we used as sales tools to raise the money to make the features. The TSNKE pilot was called "Stryker's War," and is available on the TSNKE DVD. Sadly, the ED pilot, "Within the Woods," no longer exists. At least, that's what I hear. Sam Raimi actually made a pilot for the pilot of ED called "Clockwork," a ten minute horror film that contained a number of scares, just to prove that he could do it. It's a terrific little film, but that doesn't exist anymore either. Regarding returning to old locations, no I never do.


Dear Josh, again regarding "Made in Michigan"....That guy David Goodman mentioned that Bruce Campbell wants to remake TSNKE in 16 and 35 I think it was. Is there anything new on that? Is Campbell really thinking of doing that? Mike Sullivan

Dear Mike: Remaking TSNKE was a vague idea from a long time ago. I think it has been forgotten since then. Since I've already made it twice I have no interest in remaking it again. Josh

Josh, I'd like to know which of Roman Polanski's films you recommend? I've been very impressed with "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" -- are those his two best films? Dave

Dear Dave: I'd say that those are his best films. I like "Repulsion, and I enjoyed "Knife in the Water" as an early effort. Nothing Polanski has made in the ensuing 45 years has particularly impressed me, although he's received very good reviews with his newest film about the Dreyfuss case, although there were many complaints, from what I read. Josh

How are you holding up in "quarantine" Josh? How bad do you think this china virus is going to get? Watching many movies? Any status update on your projects? As a smoker are you scared? John Cones

Dear John: I'm doing great. I feel good, I'm writing, reading, watching movies, and enjoying every cigarette I smoke. As for the "china virus," as you so euphemistically term it (China, of course, ought to be capitalized), I think it now belongs to everybody all around the world. But now it particularly belongs to us here in America, since we have the most of it, in a large part due to our lame fuck, limp dick, pea brained president who treats facts like they're kryptonite that will kill him. Josh

Josh, Given the coronavirus and all, what are some of your favorite doomsday movies? Josie Davis

Dear Josie: I have a place in my heart for "The Omega Man" and "The Last Man on Earth," both based on Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend," although the Will Smith version sucked. "The World, the Flesh and the Devil" wanted to be good, but wasn't. The more recent ones, like "The Road" and "Book of Eli" weren't very good. Both "Dr. Srangelove" and "Fail Safe" lead to doomsday and are both very good. I like the original "War of the Worlds," which comes close to doomsday. I enjoyed Stephen King's book, "The Stand," but mini-series wasn't all that hot. Luc Besson's "Le Dernier Combat" was kind of cool, in very low-budget way. But let's face it, doomsday ain't much of a genre. Josh

Hey, Josh! Hope you are doing well. I know Bruce has several projects that he is looking at doing. Namely one is a political satire called, "House Divided." What are the chances that the two of you might collaborate on a film in the future?    Susan Leighton

Dear Susan: Bruce thinks he's hot shit and doesn't need a director anymore. Besides, I'm sure whatever he's working on doesn't pay my rate. He'll just have to get along without me. Josh

Josh,    How do you know where to put the camera?    Bruce Campbell

Dear Bruce: Although I'm sure you won't understand because it's extremely technical, but we directors make use of compasses, gyroscopes and sextants in making our decision as to where to place the camera. Once you know your position in regard to the sun, moon and stars, by use of geometry, as well as the length of your lens, as in millimeters, we then calculate the speed of the Earth as it circles the sun, divide that by the distance to the moon, then subtract the circumference of Mars, and there you have it. It's really very simple once you know how to do it. My question is: why would someone like you, a mere actor, need this information? Josh

Josh, I can hardly wait to see Warpath when it comes out. Any idea when that might be? Also, I am curious as to what are you working on right now? Any new film projects?  Phyllis

Dear Phyllis; "Warpath" should be out, meaning on streaming services, reasonably soon. We have completed a distribution deal with Gravitas Ventures, a good company, and delivered everything required, and now it's up to them to get it to the various companies like: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, etc. My previous film, "Morning, Noon & Night," is already available on Prime, Hulu, and several others, but not Netflix. Alas. Luckily for me and other filmmakers, even if most everything else in the world is going to hell right now, I just heard last night that viewership on streaming services is up 85%. I lament the loss of theatrical releases--and many movie theaters are going to go under forever now--but movies are still a wonderfully popular entertainment. "Warpath" turned out pretty well, I think. I'm particularly pleased with the ending. Sasha Higgins, in the lead, is terrific. I hope when you get to see it you enjoy it. Josh

china virus china virus china virus china virus. What is wrong with you? Are you a retard? Please tell me how great and noble the democrats are right now in comparison to President Trump!?! Your woman governor is a dumb ho. And your Trump Derangement Syndrome grows tiresome. GET A LIFE!  John C

Dear John: I knew you were a Trump supporter from your first idiotic, baiting question. How anyone can support that dimwitted fool at this late date, when he gets on TV every single night and proves beyond a doubt that he has absolutely zero leadership ability, is beyond my comprehension. What amazes me is that he doesn't seem to understand or care that we have the technical ability to record and playback is moronic lies that he then denies he ever said. Just the other day he said that he understood and was on the coronavirus pandemic "from the beginning." Right. That's when he termed it a "Democratic hoax," said it wasn't as bad as the flu, and that a miracle would occur and it would pass right by. Well, over a million cases later, when the U.S. is the worldwide hot spot with over a quarter of the cases, and is now facing an enormous crisis, he's still bullshiting us saying it will be over by the end of April. Regarding our very good Democratic Governor here in Michigan, Gretchen Wittmer (who is a 100% improvement over the previous Republican nitwit, Rick Snyder, who will go down in history as the criminal who poisoned the water in Flint, as well as canceling our extremely successful film incentive program), I was very proud of her when she took on Trump. General Motors offered Trump and Pence to get on the ventilator shortage and begin producing them in quantity, got absolutely no response, so they went ahead anyway. A week later Trump invoked the War Production Act to order GM to make ventilators when they were already doing it. Trump then had the temerity to chastise the CEO of GM, Mary Barra, saying she was difficult to work with. Having studied the U.S. president my entire life, I can assure you that Donald Trump will be remembered as the worst president ever. The only thing he's good for is elevating George W. Bush to second worst. Josh

Hello Mr. Becker. Thank you for taking questions. If you have some time I would like to know for purposes of curiosity if you and Sam Raimi or Scott Spiegel are planning any new projects together? Maybe from one of your own screenplay collaborations? Also do you plan on doing any new Spine Chillers? If so I have some good ideas. Thank you very much. Danny

Dear Danny: I haven't seen Sam in about two years, since he came to Michigan for his mother's funeral (she was a wonderful woman and a great inspiration to me). I haven't seen or spoken to Scott in over 20 years. The days of working with those two guys are long gone. "Spine Chillers" too is a long dead concept. At this point you'll have to make due with my own films like "Morning, Noon & Night" (easily seen on Prime Movies, and other fine streaming services) and "Warpath" which will soon be streaming. Josh

Hi Josh,  Glad to hear that you are staying safe during this world-wide health crisis. The human race hasn't seen anything like it since the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1920. Myself, I am on the front lines right now. I cannot self-isolate while running a group home - my patients really have nowhere else to go. We have managed not to get seriously ill so far. On a lighter note, I remember in your second "Need for Structure" essay you wrote that filmmaker John "Ford made possibly 20 very good to great films in fifty years". What do you consider these 20 very good to great movies to be?  Best, Keith

Dear Keith: All right. I'll start with one that I'm personally not crazy about, but it was his first big hit, "The Iron Horse" (1924), which is kind of spectacular, "Arrowsmith" (1931, which is OK, but the book was better), "Airmail," "The Whole Town's Talking" (1935), "The Informer" (1935, which won the Oscars for: Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Score, and is important in film history as one of the first truly serious, adult films), "The Prisoner of Shark Island" (1936), "Mary of Scotland" (1936), "Wee Willie Winkie" (1937, my favorite Shirley Temple movie), "Stagecoach" (1939), "Young Mr. Lincoln" (1939), "Drums Along the Mohawk" (1939, Ford's best year), "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940), "My Darling Clementine" (1946, I was thinking about this film this very morning (Victor Mature as Doc Holliday is brilliant casting), "Fort Apache" (1948), "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949), "Mighty Joe Young" (1949, uncredited as executive producer), "The Quiet Man" (1952, where Ford got his second Best Director Oscar, and the film should have won Best Picture), "Mister Roberts" (1955, co-director with Mervyn LeRoy), "The Searchers" (1956), "The Last Hurrah" (1958), "Sergeant Rutledge" (1960), "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962). Josh

Dear Becker Films,   Hi there! I am a giant fan of the Almighty Bruce Campbell. But I live in Canada and it doesn't appear any of these movies you have listed on your page can be purchased to download in Canada... How do I do this? I would like to purchase and download any Bruce Campbell movie you have please I need all Bruce Campbell related movies please! :)   Justine

Dear Justine: Yes, I too am a big Bruce Campbell fan, and have been longer than anyone else. However, as an officially obscure filmmaker, my movies are hard to get. Sooner or later Synapse Films will release the beautifully restored version of "Running Time," but they work on their own schedule. Hell, they don't even have it listed as coming soon. I suggest you write to them and express your desire for the film. Here's their contact info -- . Meanwhile, I recently purchased a brand new copy of the DVD of "Lunatics: a Love Story," which has never been on DVD before, from an Australian company, Umbrella Entertainment for $10.00. Here's their info -- Thanks for your interest. Josh

Hey Josh,   What is the current status of Warpath? Will it be released in the near future? Once its safe to go back to some semblance of normal, what's next for you?   Scott

Dear Scott: We've made the distribution deal for "Warpath" with a good company, Gravitas Ventures, and the plan is to have it out by June 3. Now, what that exactly means depends on what deals Gravitas makes. Hopefully they'll make a Netflix deal, along with all of the other streaming services, and Redbox, too. The ball is in their court. Josh

Hello Josh,   You were right on with the description of Trump in the preceding answer. How anyone can believe what comes out of his mouth is crazy. They are like sheep following and praising him constantly. Movie theaters are dark but we still have streaming services. Good luck to your films there.   Russ

Dear Russ: Thank you. Yes, Trump becomes more ridiculous and stupid every single day. I believe the coronavirus has completely undermined him like nothing else possibly could. He is revealed, like the emperor in his new clothes, to have no leadership ability at all. And come election time, which is pretty soon, he will be just another one-term president, like Taft, Hoover and George H.W. Bush. Josh

Hi, Josh! I work as a PA on a series shot down in Atlanta. Yes. The job can often suck. But, because of the job, I have become more and more interested in film production and want to learn more, especially to be more than a PA. I was going to start working on a film shoot in two weeks, it would be my first, but the shoot was canceled after the virus outbreak. So, I am wondering if I should consider going to film school to learn more, or if you think there's a better way to learn the skills to become a filmmaker? I have read your posts and learned I need to immerse myself more into classic films and have been checking out your film list as a good resource. I'll look for your reply on the website. Thank you!  Patti

Dear Patti: The hell with film school, you're doing exactly the right thing--make a movie. Then make another movie and use what you learned on the first one, which will be a lot. The second one will be better than the first one because making a movie is the best film school. Art is a trial and error process, and it's important to make every mistake so that you don't do it again. I believe, and I'd say most artists would agree with me, the more you practise the better you'll be. Film schools are a fucking joke. All they really offer is the use of equipment and other students to be your cast and crew. I will shed my humbleness for a moment and recommend my book, " The Complete Guide to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking" which I still contend is the best book on the subject. This is not a money grab since I make about 14-cents royalty on each book. Also, the chapter on digital filmmaking is outdated, so ignore it. Otherwise, it will tell you everything you need to know. The most important aspects of making a movie are: writing a good script that you can achieve with your budget, casting it properly, shooting and lighting it well, then, and this is huge, cutting it together and seeing if it came out anywhere close to what you originally had in mind. And then using the knowledge you just acquired and putting it to use on your next film. Also, don't spend a lot of money. Go cheap so that you have money left for the next film. If you care to, check out my episodes of "Spine Chillers" on YouTube — " Estate Sale" and " Are You On Your Way?" — because they were made for the price of the pizza we fed the cast and crew. These two films turned out pretty well and I like them, which I can't say about many of my movies. I truly wish you all the luck in the world. Josh

Josh, Hi again! Question...I think I recently came into possession of the Deer Head (not possessed. the possessed version would be epic!) from Evil Dead 1 & 2..... I got it from a random retro store in Nelson, BC and the chick had it in the back and hadn't put it out for sale yet. Maybe you guys can help me identify this? It's definitely not for sale as I love it, Evil Dead 1 & 2 are my favourite movies of all time (i think they should have been 1 long movie) and it is now hoisted above my bed..... Hahahahahahh! It's an authentic stuffed deer head craning and looking to it's left with plastic googley eyes. Mounted on a piece of plywood turned into an shield shape mount with carved details for the finished edges. Not authentic stamp or anything on the back.

Just looks like a DIY project and the hook to hang it looks like a pull tab from a beer can from roughly that era of the late 70's.... Here is a selfie of me with it. Let me know what you think please. I tried to contact Bruce directly about this but he is a busy BUSY man hahaha! Either way I am pumped to get to see Bucky every day. But also is creepy.... Heh heh Cheers! Justine

Hey Josh,  Are you still planning to make Ballbreaker when things settle? I enjoyed the script immensely.  Scott

Dear Scott: No, I'm not. That script has ownership issues. It was initially written for two producers who paid Scott and I to write it. After me and Scott concocted the story, he decided to not work on the script, but work with a fellow named Boaz Yakin on another script, similar in many ways to "Ball Breaker," that got made into "The Rookie" starring and directed by Clint Eastwood. Anyway, I don't have clear ownership so I really can't make it. I don't have plans to make any movies at the moment. We did make a distribution deal for "Warpath," and if all goes right (as it so rarely does), it will premiere somewhere June 13, or at least that's the plan. Josh

Dear Mr. Becker, I hope you're well! I'd like to start by saying that I'm a big fan of your work. My favourite of your works has to be Running Time. I could spend all day on your website, it's by far the best website any director has. I enjoy reading all of your content. Fear of Death being one of my favourite articles of yours. I'm a Film School graduate in the UK. I currently work as a Production Runner on commercials and TV shows. My ultimate ambition is to become a writer. My recent success as a writer involves having a meeting in London with a well known British TV/film director in regards to a pilot script I have written. He was hoping to get it commissioned with him directing it.

If you find the time, it would be great to hear your thoughts on one of my short films. It's just over seven minutes long and contains some typical British humour. Here is the link: Please keep up the amazing work. If you ever fancy doing some co-writing, please do drop me a line! I'd love to collaborate with you on something. All the very best, George Wroe.

Josh,  Will you be writing an essay about the making of Warpath? I see that you wrote a treatment for it all the way back in 1998. I would be curious to know why out of all the treatments and screenplays you have written over the years why you chose to make Warpath. What about the Western genre appeals to you as a filmmaker? Keith

Dear Keith: Good question. I've written a making of essay for everything I've done, except "Morning, Noon & Night" and "Warpath." I started the MNN essay, but it's nowhere close to done. I guess I'm just forging ahead with the next thing and not looking back. We made a distribution deal on "Warpath" and it's supposed to become available in June. Anyway, what drew me to westerns. I've always liked them and I thought I had a good story, with a good lead part for a woman. I like working with a female lead, like say Lucy in "Xena," for instance. In "Warpath" I had Sasha Higgins and she's great. Thom Mathews is terrific too, but it's Sasha's movie. And I believe I wrote a believable part. Josh

Hi Josh, Re: Morning Noon & Night Why is everything in this movie shot at such a long angle? Thanks, Ren

Dear Ren: I don't know what you mean? Long in photography means telephoto, and I didn't use many long lens, which would be 50mm and up. I did get down below the eye-line a lot, or above it occasionally, just to get off of it. Find new framings, and alternate compositions than the standard view of things. Most everything you see is shot at eye-level. I wanted to come at it differently. Josh

Josh, Here's Bucky my Deer Friend above my bed with a doily decoration! And my Evil Dead poster collection in my living room of course :) You guys rock! Have a good day! Cheeeeeeers! Justine

Dear Justine: The deer is looking at the front door. I think you've done an exceptionally good job mounting it. When I see those three posters I recall, "Oh, yeah, I'm in all three of those movies," all shot in very different places: Tennessee, Michigan, North Carolina and Acton, California. I didn't make all that many appearances. I prefer staying behind the camera. Josh

Josh, Thanks for answering my question. Somehow I typed it wrong but you answered it anyway. I meant to ask why there were so many low angle shots in the film. No need to respond, thanks. Ren

Dear Ren: It was a good question and I knew what you meant. Another director who liked low angles and was a big influence on me was Orson Welles. I give him special thanks at the end of the movie. Also Stanley Kubrick for his use of wide angles. As I mentioned I stuck to using mainly 35mm and wider lenses, and resorted at a point in the bathroom to a 7.9mm lens, which I think looks really cool. Josh

Dear Scott: Wait, let me think, uh . . . how about Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless, for instance? Both of them seem every bit as good as most of the A-list actors to me, what happened? Hollywood is a cruel place, desperate to typecast you if they can. Bruce was doing Tennessee Williams when he was twenty. As much as I like Jeff Daniels as a dramatic actor, Bruce is 1,000% funnier. If he'd been in "Dumb and Dumber" he'd have stolen the show from Jim Carey. Bruce is funnier than most, or all, of the present comic actors. Plus, he's completely comfortable doing drama. When I worked with Lucy I thought she had a wide range of acting abilities, comedy included. As difficult as being a director-writer has been, I have literally thanked my lucky stars on a number of occasions that I'm not an actor. Josh


Dear George: Thank you for all the nice things you said, and I'm pleased to hear someone actually goes to the trouble of looking around my website--I do have a lot of shit accumulated on it after 22 years. OK, regarding your movie (Room Service). It's well lit. In my opinion, and only in my opinion, the script is dreadful. It misses the basic first point of storytelling: something causes something else. Without that element you do not have a story to tell, and without that nothing else matters. Josh


Dear Justine: The deer head from the first movie was a real one that I know we brought back from Tennessee to Michigan, and though I don't know who ended up with it, I'm sure somebody took it (possibly Tom Sullivan). That shot of the deer head in the foreground as Hal enters the cabin for the first time is one of my favorite shots in the movie, but alas, I did not light it, Tim Philo did, and I helped. In the the second movie it's a rubber flexible head that I'm pretty sure KNB FX made, and they would certainly have that. To satisfy my own curiosity, where in the world do you live? Oh, and I disagree with you, that absolutely shouldn't be one movie. There's six years between them and they're very different movies. You'll excuse me, but I much prefer the first Evil Dead movie. 99.9% of all sequels aren't as good as the original because they're made strictly to make money, and so was Evil Dead 2. Sam did not want to make a sequel to Evil Dead and tried to pawn it off on me and Scott Spiegel for a few months. I wrote a long treatment for the story that bears absolutely no resemblance to the film. In any case, the two films have completely different tones to them, and don't look anything alike -- #1 was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm; #2 was shot on 35mm by an extremely good cinematographer, Peter Demming, who has gone on to have a terrific career (I just watched From Hell for the first time, and not only is it quite a good movie, and actually chilling a couple of times, it looks great and Peter shot it). Plus, Sam had made XYZ Murders in between, so he'd already made the big time working with big crews. Evil Dead was as down and dirty as any indie ever. As Bruce has said me several times over the years, "It was good to get the hardest movie to make out of the way first." Josh
P.S. Sure, take more selfies once you've gone to the trouble of mounting the head. But careful, it bites.

PS, The selfie photo has Bucky on the floor.... Hadn't "mounted" him yet.  He did a-mount to something after all tho! Haha  If you think this sounds legit I will take and send better photos!!!

Hey Josh,  Hope all is well. I've always liked Thom Mathews as an actor. I was wondering if you were aware of his previous body of work before you cast him in Warpath. Though knowing your taste in film, I'm sure you weren't a fan of say Return of The Living Dead. That said, I always though Thom elevated the material he was c in and it's nice to see him playing a lead role again. Thom got me thinking about an aspect of Hollywood that I find interesting which every generation there is a crop of working stiff actors who have played leads in a handful or even several films, but never graduated to movie star status.

Often times these actors star in indies, low budget studio pictures, or B movies and their career either fizzles or they become character actors in their later years. Can you think of any actors you admire who played leads, had plenty of movie star potential, but for whatever reason never graduated to movie star status or had a career that lived up to their full potential. Scott

Josh, BTW, I'd like to sit down sometime and just have a video chat with you...and get a better feel on how you think and the things you might enjoy talking about. I do this with all my friends I share a screen with. —Mike Sullivan

Hello Mike: I'm glad you liked "Running Time." Yes, I got scurvy when I was 17 or 18 in Hollywood, due to a truly shitty diet of mainly macaroni and cheese (it was 15-cents a box then). Ever since then I drink orange juice every day and I've never gotten it again. Seriously, any time Bruce comes to my house, the first thing he does is look in the fridge and say, "I see you've got your orange juice." Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh,  What did you think of Martin Scorsese's newest picture The Irishman? I would argue that it would be a much better film if 30-60 minutes were shaved off. Keith

Dear Keith: I vote for 60 minutes deleted. The entire last 45 minutes is: DeNiro's character grows old. In fact, once Al Pacino is out of the picture it may as well have ended. I think "The Irishman" is OK, but next to the bottom of Scorsese's crime films, one notch above "The Departed." Does he really need to make a film at this late date with exactly the same point as one of his first films, "Mean Streets"? Don't fuck with the mafia. I get it. Me personally, I won't fuck with the mafia. He convinced me the first time around 46 years ago. Josh

Josh, are there any movies made within the last 5 to 10 years that you think are worth watching? Brian

Dear Brian: That's a broad question so I'll give a broad answer. I'll go for the last ten years, and the criteria is simply, "worth Watching." These are in the order I saw them. Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010) The Post (17) The Godmother of Rock & Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe (11) Miss Sloane (16) Electric Boogaloo: The Wild , Untold Story of Cannon Films (15) The Music Never Stopped (11) Clive Davis: The Sountrack of Our Lives (17) The Two Popes (19) Victoria & Abdul (17) Dolemite is My Name (19) The Irishman (19) Bombshell (18) Meet the Patels (15) Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (17) The Lion's Share (19) The Black Godfather (19) Beware Mr. Baker (12) Darkest Hour (17) Green Book (18) There's a few. I see now that it's predominately documentaries. Josh

Josh; What do you think about AMC going to war with Universal? Gerry

Dear Gerry: I think AMC is shooting themselves in the foot, particularly now when all of their theaters are closed. The war is over Universal announcing that they intend to release films to both theaters and VOD at the same time, which has been coming for a long time. The theaters have demanded a "window" when films can only be seen at the theater. But if the film companies believe that they can make more money opening at both theaters and on VOD at the same time, they're going to do it. This scheme may not work with extremely expensive superhero movies that need a $100 million opening weekend and a $500 million first month, but that remains to be seen. One way or another, the producers will prevail. Josh

Hi Josh, longtime fan. Obviously a lot of your work tends to be made on very tight budgets. With that in mind, when you're in the development process and hashing out ideas for a script, how much do you take into consideration those kinds of resource limitations? Do you take a "prepare for the worst, hope for the best" approach, or do you just write and set aside budgetary considerations for later down the line? Thanks for your time, and hope all's well. Stay safe.  Troy

Dear Troy: I have a whole section on this very topic in my book, "The Complete Guide to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking." There's no way to rationally make a low-budget movie unless you have your budget in mind from the very beginning, meaning when you write the script. What I think a lot of people don't realize is that a lot--perhaps most--low-budget movies never get finished because the people screwed themselves before they started. I know a number of folks who made giant assumptions that they could get all kinds of things, and people, for free, that when the time came were either not available or not free. Also, as the old saying goes, time is money, and that's why you need to shoot fast. And there's no way to shoot fast if your scenes are too complicated. My recent film, "Morning, Noon & Night" (available on many streaming services, like Prime and Hulu), is a good example of an extremely low-budget film ($100,000) shot in ten days (no overtime) that made it out into the mainstream market. That's about as much as you can hope for, I think. Josh

Josh, with your decades-long relationship with the Raimis, I was surprised not to see your name on their movie Crimewave, back in 1985. Checked on IMDB and you're not on there. Did you work with them on that film and not get credited? Thanks! Chris

Dear Chris: I worked on the film for two weeks. I was an extra wrangler and played an extra part as a uniformed cop in one scene. But it was such a poorly run shoot, combined with extremely cold weather, that I bowed out. I stayed back at our offices in Ferndale--the film had their own offices in a nearby hotel--and answered the phone. I also took that time to write a novel, "Mann's Revenge," that I've never gotten published. "Cimewave," or "XYZ Muders" as it was known then, was a particularly troubled production, ending up going through several reshoots, then never got released. I asked Bruce perhaps a year after it was completed what was going on with it, and he replied, "It's a big hit in Shelfville." Josh

Josh, What did you think of the Joker movie? Brian

Dear Brian: I didn't see it. If they paid me twenty dollars I wouldn't watch it. I won't watch any movie that has anything to do with comic books. I stopped reading comic books when I was nine years old, moved on to actual books and never looked back. Josh

Josh, thanks for answering. I had wondered about that film, with your relationship with the Raimis and all. Sounds like it was a real mess. Any funny stories from when you were working on the film? Thanks again! Chris

Dear Chris: As I said, I only worked on the film for two weeks so everything else I know was second-hand. I heard that there was a lot of cocaine being imbibed by the cast. Brion James and Paul Smith got into a big fight in the hotel bar and apparently many things got destroyed. The second unit, directed by Bruce Campbell, did a big car chase down one of the main freeways here in Detroit. They blew up a car under an overpass and the burn marks were there for years. All in all, there wasn't much fun to be had on that production. Josh

I believe it has been adapted multiple times, including in 1934 (starring Greta Garbo), which you've probably seen. But I liked the 2006 adaption quite a bit. Thanks! Dave

Dear Dave: I've put "Theeb" on my Netflix list. I've seen the thumbnail for "The Aeronauts" and gone by it a hundred times, and haven't had the slightest interest in checking it out, but since you recommend it, I'll give it a whirl. It certainly doesn't look like my kind of thing, but what the hell. And yes, I've seen all three versions of "The Painted Veil" (the 1957 version is called "The Seventh Sin" and it's better than the 1934 version) and the 2006 film is by far the best. I've seen it twice and now I want to see it again. As I recall, it looks great and Naomi Watts is terrific. Josh

Another movie I saw recently on Prime that was good is "The Aeronauts" with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones (who famously starred together in "The Theory of Everything"). For my money, Eddie Redmayne is one of the best actors working today. Not a great film but it was interesting and I felt like I hadn't seen it before.

Lastly, have you seen "The Painted Veil" starring Ed Norton and Naomi Watts? It's about a cholera epidemic in China in the 1920s and a doctor (played by Norton) who goes right into the hot zone to try to save the local populace. He and his wife, played by Watts, hate each other, but learn something about each other when forced into this difficult situation.

Hi Josh, good write-up on What to Watch When You're Stuck Indoors. I agree that Amazon Prime Video has a lot better catalog of old films. Netflix has very little in that regard (the only good B&W film I recall seeing on Netflix streaming in the past was the great film noir, "Laura", starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews).

Now, a movie recommendation for you. I think I mentioned this before but it's worth seeking out if you still haven't seen it. "Theeb" is an absolutely gorgeous film shot in Jordan and set in 1916, the same era as "Lawrence of Arabia". It is old school in every sense. The locations where it was filmed took the cast and crew a 90-minute drive each way to reach using off-road vehicles, thus making for some very long shooting days. But the footage is absolutely stunning, and it has a good story and script as well. Anyway, I very rarely re-watch movies, but this one I've seen 3 or 4 times now.

Josh, From listening to the commentaries on your flicks, your father, I think, owned property in Brighton, MI, that was used in the original "Evil Dead," as Well as "Thou Shall not kill." Now, just out of sheer curiosity, does your dad still own that property? Mike

​Dear Mike: No. My dad died a couple of years ago, but he got rid of that land about twenty ago. It's actually in Hartland, MI, not far from Brighton. I first shot the Super-8 "Stryker's War" there. After we had tried and failed shooting the opening of "Evil Dead" several times, where Sam had us haul all of our equipment way out into a swamp where we had no control of what we were doing, I convinced Sam, Bruce and Rob to shoot it on my dad's land. There was a lake on the property that narrowed down into a smaller, swampier section that had a dirt road right next to it. Therefore we were in complete control of the situation. We hauled the front end of an old car out there and stuck it in the water. Sam was in a rubber raft with the camera that Bruce was pushing and the rest of us had foggers and big hunks of dry ice that we tossed in the water, creating bubbles and steam. The front end of that car sat in the water there rusting for several years until my father gave me such shit that we finally had it removed. Josh

Josh, This is more of a comment this time, sir. I've been reading back and I know how you feel about our current administration. So we won't touch that. I read that you were sort of a presidential historian. I try to be, but am nowhere near your level. So, I guess my comment is that I respect the hell out of you. Mike

Dear Mike: Thank you very much. The best book I've read about a U.S. president recently was "Grant" by Ron Chernow. I found it absorbing and extremely compelling. Josh

Dear Josh, I recently watched a movie that I had a hard time following, so I didn't care much for it. I watched it again (for certain reasons) and it really worked for me on the second viewing, because somehow, since I knew how it ended, the plot was suddenly more clear and the movie was a lot more fun. Have you ever watched a movie you didn't initially like, but saw it again and it suddenly worked for you? And if so, does having to watch a movie twice in order to appreciate it actually make it a bad movie? Justin

Dear Justin: Sometimes we're in the wrong mood or distracted or possibly too young to appreciate a movie. If something compelled you to watch it again and you liked it, then I guess you needed to see it again. This happened to me recently when I rewatched "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold." I thought it was dull and slow the first time, but somewhere in my mind I thought that maybe I wasn't getting it. When I just watched it again I liked it much better. Josh

Josh, Bruce Campbell mentioned on the Evil Dead commentary, so, blame him.  I also saw a little clip of a documentary on you. When will that be available? Mike

Dear Mike: A lot of footage was shot of that documentary, but when it will ever be cut together properly is beyond me. I did see a rough cut that didn't seem to please anyone and there were some interesting interviews with Lucy Lawless, Sheldon Lettich, Joe LoDuca, Rob Tapert, and a number of others I've worked with over the years, but, like so many things, I think interest was lost somewhere along the line. Josh

Josh, I know you love "Unforgiven" and consider it the most recent truly great movie made. Do you like any of Clint's other directorial efforts? He's actually directed quite a few films -- 41 at last count per IMDb. I saw "Mystic River" last night and thought it was decent. Dave

Dear Dave: Clint Eastwood has always been a solid director, with questionable taste in scripts. I liked "The Outlaw Josey Wales," which was started by Phillip Kaufman, then Clint fired him and did it himself. The last film of his that I thought turned out pretty well was "Sully." "American Sniper" was well-directed, but I didn't find the subject of shooting civilians particularly compelling. "The Mule" was utterly run of the mill. What's so interesting to me about the making of "The Unforgiven" as Clint explained it, he read the script, liked it and bought it, then put it through the rewrite mill. Years later when he decided to make it, he read the rewritten script, didn't like it, wondered why on earth he'd bought it, then went back and read the original draft and liked it a lot. So that's what he shot. What this said to me, and I've personally experienced, is that the standard operating procedure in Hollywood of constant rewrites makes sure that what was ever good about the script is ultimately removed. As I've heard it put, the rewrite process is dissection and nothing comes out of dissection alive. Josh

Josh, Never thought I'd see the day that Josh Becker is recommending Steven Spielberg movies. First, you raved about "Lincoln" (I believe you said you saw it two or three times), and you recently recommended "The Post" as well. I hear "Bridge of Spies" is good too, but I haven't seen it yet -- have you? Dave

Dear Dave: Yes, I saw "Bridge of Spies" and it's perfectly OK. Completely watchable, though not particularly memorable. "The Post" is better mainly due to Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks is always pretty good. I did see "Lincoln" three times and then I totally had it and don't need to see it again for about a decade. Josh

Josh, You said a while back that you wouldn't watch "The Joker" if they paid you $20. Well, wasted two hours of my life watching it for you. Joaquin Phoenix was okay, don't know if he really deserved an Oscar for that. The only redeeming part of the flick was when Robert Deniro got hushed blown off. Hope I didn't ruin it for you. Mike

Dear Mike: Why am I not surprised? But the issue is long past comic book movies. I'm not sure that anybody can make a good movie anymore under any circumstances. When the "Best Picture" is "Parasite," which is a half-assed movie no matter how you look at it--it's either a failed social comedy or a failed horror film, but a failure in both regards--then what are the standards? There aren't any. Everything has become politics. I'm on this side and you're on that side. We're not living in a time of art; we're living in a time of name-calling and taking offense at everything. There's no such thing as comedy anymore because somebody will be offended by any form of a joke. Here, this how jokes used to work: What's long and hard on a black man? Third grade. Why do Jews have big noses? Air is free. How do Chinese people name their children? They throw the silverware down the stairs--Ting Tang Pong. Why do they bury Pollacks with their asses out of the ground? So they can use them as bicycle racks. If I've offended some people, I don't give a shit. Art and comedy were, once upon a time, meant to be challenging, provocative, possibly even offensive. Now people are just searching for an insult--or anything that can be presumed as an insult-- so that they can complain about it on social media and get somebody to agree with them. If people don't like me or my movies or what I say or write, I don't care. So, getting back to the original subject, "The Joker" isn't any good? Why would you think for one second that it possibly might be? It's the spin-off of a sequel of a sequel of a sequel of a TV show of a comic book; it has as much to do with art as it does with dirt. Josh

Hi Josh,  I'm fond of the part of GOING HOLLYWOOD where you talked to that kid Bert about poetry. You estimated that you had written around 50 poems by age 18, always using rhyme and meter. Unfortunately, even 42 years ago only free-form style poetry was considered hip. Myself, I still prefer poems to be highly structured. I suspect that the decline in the use of rhyme and meter is due to the laziness of writers more than anything else. Do you still read poetry? What are the names of poets or books of poetry that you like? Keith

Dear Keith: I used to read Edgar Allan Poe's poetry all the time, but now I don't read poetry. I have written quite a bit, but it's really meant to be lyrics. Most lyrics still use rhyme and meter. Poetry now, as a friend of mine summed it up, is, "I have suffered, therefore I am an artist." Josh

Hey Josh, I took your advice and ran right to Amazon and picked up the "Dead Wake" book. I told my dad that you recommended it, and he gave me a quick history lesson the ship. I admittedly knew nothing about it. So thanks. Mike

Dear Mike: I hope he enjoys it. I found it a pretty quick read. It was interesting to get the other point of view from the U-Boat captain and what a misery those early submarines were. Also, as a side note, that Captain Von Trapp, the father in "The Sound of Music," had been a WWI U-Boat captain who had sunk British ships. Josh

Josh, I recently watched “Trumbo” which I found to be a fairly mediocre biopic, but it got me to realize I have not watched a lot of Dalton Trumbo’s movies. I was curious what you think of him as a screenwriter, and if there are any of his movies you recommend? Thanks! Justin

Dear Justin: Dalton Trumbo was certainly an interesting person and a good screenwriter, and might well have had a better career had he not spent thirteen years in hiding writing, apparently, 30 scripts under pseudonyms, 18 of which got made and two won Oscars for their scripts or stories, "Roman Holiday" and "The Brave One." I do like "Spartacus" and "Papillion." And I do recall rather liking "Five Came Back," "Kitty Foyle," "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo" and "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes." Trumbo also wrote Joseph Lewis's classic B-picture, "Gun Crazy," under a pseudonym, that a few folks have likened to my film "Running Time" because of its bank heist that's all done in one shot. What Joseph Lewis did, which was both clever and suspenseful (and I have no idea if it was in script), was to shoot the whole scene from the backseat of the car. The girl drives up in front of the bank, the guy gets out with a pistol, and the shot just stays on the girl's back as we hear the whole robbery--gun shots and an alarm go off--then the guy hastily gets back into the car holding a bag of money and they quickly drive away. Regarding the film, "Trumbo," Bryan Cranston was good, but all in all it was just a standard biopic. Writers really don't make the best subjects for movies. Josh

The scenes of the homesteader's crops burning while Cooper('s stunt doubles) rode through it looked pretty dangerous. Knowing how much you appreciated Wyler, I figured I would ask if you'd seen these and had an opinion.

Dear Will: Yes, I've seen both of them several times. I think "Hell's Heroes" is the best of all the versions of "The Three Godfathers, and certainly the roughest. When they find the wagon with the woman in it they're clearly going to rape her, until they find out she's pregnant and in labor. I've paid particular attention to the films of 1929 just to see how they handled the new problems of sound. Most of the films, like the Best Picture of that year, "Broadway Melody," were simply stage musicals shot just like they were on stage. "Hell's Heroes" is the only film of 1929 where the director, William Wyler, understood that he could shoot entire sequences with no dialog silent and put in sound later, thus freeing up the camera to move around. Wyler and John Ford had a running joke when they saw each other. One would ask the other, "Which one of us is remaking 'The Three Godfathers' next?" Regarding "The Westerner," I think it's lesser Wyler for sure, with Walter Brennan certainly being the best part. But I'm glad it wasn't Wyler's last western and he went on to make "The Big Country" which is a far better movie. Josh

Josh, I had a William Wyler double-feature last night. First, I saw his first sound film, "Hell's Heroes." It's one of five versions of "The Three Godfathers." I'd only seen John Ford's version before now. On a technical level, it really was superb.

A lot of silent scenes which allowed Wyler to have a mobile camera to dramatically express the scale and dryness of the desert. It packed a pre-Code wallop, too, using a VERY young infant in several scenes (I really don't think you can do that now), and showing not one but two on-screen suicides, including an incredible shot of one of the outlaws in the background, framed between his two friends walking away from him to the foreground, blowing his brains out. It was an intense 68-minutes. I followed that with 1940s "The Westerner." Speaking of technical achievement Gregg Tolland was the cinematographer, with Rudolph Mate shooting a lot of the action sequences. It looked terrific, and Walter Brenner as Judge Roy Bean was great; Gary Cooper reportedly didn't want to star, knowing that Brenner would steal the entire movie. Which he did. (And got the Oscar.) It's nowhere near Wyler's best film; Bean's sort of whimsical side mixes uncomfortably with the fact that he's a straight-up murderer in the movie, but it had me going throughout.

Josh, Perhaps you've heard of this new indie sci-fi flick The Vast of Night? I believe it won some awards at Sundance and just premiered on Amazon Prime streaming. It's low budget (~$700,000) but looks terrific with some awesome long takes/tracking shots. The two leads are very good, there's some cracking dialogue, and a nice score to boot. I think this is one of those examples where "less is more". Working on a very small budget forced the director to get creative and you can tell this was a passion project for all involved. For a directorial debut, it's impressive. Recommended! Lou

Dear Lou: I'll take a look. Josh

Josh, Have you ever seen the 1988 Polish television miniseries The Decalogue, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski? It's sometimes referred to as Dekalog. Each of the 10 episodes is a self-contained, hour-long movie. While you can certainly read deeper meanings into the miniseries, each part is essentially a simple, character-driven film that deals with moral issues. I would be curious to know what you think of it. Keith

Dear Keith: I saw Kieslowski's Three Colors films and didn't like them, so I can't say that I'll run out and see his other stuff. I don't mean to turn everything into a sales pitch for me, but when I saw "Blue" it reminded me of my film, "Lunatics" (which had already been released) including a camera move where one character walks past the other's apartment building, then it booms up to the window of the other character and we see them inside. Josh

Josh, can you recommend some films directed by Werner Herzog? Thanks! Dave

Dear Dave: I liked "The Enigma of Kasper Hauser," "Gizzly Man," "Bad Lieutenant: The Port of Call New Orleans" and "My Best Fiend." His "On Death Row" series is tough to watch, as are a number of his other films, like "Aguirre the Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo." But his films are definitely worth checking out. Josh

Hi Josh, any thoughts on the Teddy Roosevelt being taken down because of his "colonial" beliefs that are not considered acceptable nowadays? I think it's a bunch of horseshit. There should be a vote on these things, even the confederate statues. Ignorance and erasure of history is a death-knell for any civilization... "The Committee for the Removal of Public Monuments has bagged its biggest trophy to date. On Sunday New York Mayor Bill de Blasio acceded to a request from Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History, to remove the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, that fronts the museum entrance on Central Park West." Nick

Dear Nick: Theordore Roosevelt was not a racist. The first thing he did when he got into office in 1901 was to have dinner with Booker T. Washington, the first black person to ever be invited to eat at the White House. Teddy conferred with Booker T. Washington many times regarding racial issues, and Washington liked him. They both liked each other. Teddy also invited the first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, to the White House. He was raked over the coals by the southern newspapers for doing these things--God forbid one should actually be friendly with a black person, and, as the southern newspapers pointed out, subject one's wife and children to such humiliation--but these were very clear direct actions that had real meaning at the time. Josh

3. Logline: Just imagine if the Bay of Pigs was a success and known by something else entirely? A motivated Cuban small business owner, after receiving months of intense training by the US military, leads a team of liberators to free Cuba from Castro’s communist grip while a man in love risks his life to free a woman who’s trapped in a Cuban nightmare.  Benjamin

◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎ Dear Benjamin: And suppose in this newly freed Cuba our character, who is a tailor, opens a shop in Havana, and sells beautiful suits at half off. It's all coming to me. Josh

Josh, I have a hunch that Biden is going to pick your current governor from the state of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, as his VP running mate. What do you know about her? Do you think she will be a good choice if she is indeed chosen? Dave

Dear Dave: I like Gretchen Whitmer, and I think she took just the right attitude when the outbreak of this virus began. She locked everything down and we're still not done unlocking. You can't go in anywhere here without a mask. And since our initial outbreak, and quickly becoming a hotspot, we've dropped down and stayed mostly down. I think we all appreciated here in Michigan when Trump labeled the Governor "that woman from Michigan." Regarding possible VPs, I think Elizabeth Warren is the most qualified to take over if necessary. Josh

Hello to my ol' favorite Xena director! I haven't looked in on this page in so long. I hope you and your pride are doing well. Today I came across the term "Save the cat" as, first, a screenwriting concept. The idea is - establish with the audience your protagonist is likeable and someone you'll root for by introducing your character in a scene doing something noble, like saving a cat from a tree. Then I googled, and see that someone wrote a how-to screen write book and parlayed it into a "beats" system/set of rules which he makes money on promoting. LINK:  Anyway- the first thing I thought was- I have to ask cat lover and director Josh what he thinks of this!

Dear Diana: My ol' favorite Xena fan and cat lover. Wonderful to hear from you. My once-popular website has become Molokai, the island of lepers. Nobody is interested in my work or advice anymore. C'est la vie. First of all, my cat line up has changed. I went along for a while with just my one old cat, Bridget, who outlived her two sisters by many years. So I decided I needed a boy cat again, having lived with the three sisters, plus a few other female cats that were dropped off and stayed for a while, then got taken back to their homes. So about three-and-half years ago I got Ike, and he's a terrific, wonderful cat; very playful and loving, but couldn't really do his job of letting me pet him because old Bridget would never get off my lap. Well, she turned 20 and I had to put her down. Ike stepped right up, got on my lap and everything was swell. But then I decided one cat wasn't enough, so I got another boy cat, Tommy, who was 11 weeks old when I got him and is now about five months. Tommy and Ike bonded right away, and they snuggle up, lick each other, chase each other around the house, then both get on my lap in the evening while I watch movies, so I'm in cat bliss. Regarding "Save the Cat," which I have not read (nor its two sequels), but I have had explained to me in detail, I say -- bullshit. This fellow, Snyder, who has since died, but actually wrote the film, hold your breath, "Stop or My Mom Will Shoot," possibly Stallone's worst movie, and that's saying something, attempts to break screenplays down into thirty or forty sub-sections, as opposed to the simple, three-act structure, with his main point being that you have to have the "Save the Cat" sequence, meaning making your character "likable." Well, this God forsaken word has been tossed around in Hollywood forever, and it's the wrong approach and always has been. A lead character need not be likable, but they must be interesting. When I was given the task of shooting the opening title sequence of "Hercules," 27 years ago, Rob Tapert, the executive producer, kept laying that likable shit on me. "Let's have Hercules playing with kids. Everybody loves kids." So I shot a scene with Hercules and little kids, picking them up, playing piggyback, squeezing their noses, and it's such obvious, manipulative crap that it thankfully wasn't used. When all the nonsense is cleared away--other than the basic three-act structure--it comes down to: have you got a story to tell or not? And it's not an issue of being likable, it's an issue of being compelling. I am immediately put in mind of "Planet of the Apes" where Heston's character is not only not livable, he's an asshole. And of the three astronauts, he's the most interesting, with his gloom and doom predictions. Why? Because his predictions aren't even close to how fucked up things really are. Anyway, I'm writing a lot lately -- I just completed a novel, I'm writing a screenplay, a treatment for a documentary I've already shot about Motown, a short story collection, plus I've collected my short stories into one book and my essays into another. We'll see what I end up doing with all of this. Lovely to hear from you, and good question. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

I’m still so impressed with your commitment to writing. No one can accuse you of laziness. With the pandemic shut-in, I’ve taken to scouring the internet for old Hollywood interviews with stars and film makers. I can’t get enough of Bette Davis in her later years “spilling the tea”. Just yesterday I learned from an 80’s Good Morning America talk with her that she and Miriam Hopkins had a genuine rift. The history is interesting, with Hopkins originating the Jezebel role on Broadway and actually owning some of the rights, then selling it to Warner Bros only to not get the role in the film. BTW - Davis smoked more than you I bet! --Diana

Dear Diana: I do my best to not use the detestable word "likable," but I may have. I thought Tallulah Bankhead had originated the role in "Jezebel" on stage. She lost out to Bette Davis three times for the movie roles of parts she played on stage: "Dark Victory," "Jezebel" and "The Little Foxes." Personally, I'm glad Bette got all those parts because I think she's way better than Bankhead and Miriam Hopkins. I know Tallulah Bankhead smoked more than me because she bragged that she smoked 120 cigarettes a day, whereas I smoke ten. Meanwhile, if you haven't seen "The Little Foxes," run, don't walk, and see it. My man, William Wyler, and the great cinematographer, Gregg Toland, shot the film as beautifully as humanly possible, and Bette Davis couldn't be better. It's both Theresa Wright and Dan Duryea's first film, and they're both wonderful. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, Awww 20 is a nice long cat-life. Sweet Bridget must have been the last of the 3 from that photo you posted with the caption: “Pile o’ kitties”, that I saw when I first began visiting this page. I thought: “If a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade without further introduction.” -Mark Twain Fascinating that you make the distinction between ‘likeable’ and ‘interesting’, because I had been misremembering your dismissal of both Paul Giamatti’s character in “Sideways” and the protagonist in “Goliath”, a little film I recommended that coincidentally is about a guy and his cat, which goes missing (a parallel to the divorce he’s grappling with, both serving the ‘loss and acceptance’ theme, I believe).

I thought you stated you found the characters unlikeable and bailed. But I’m sure you are right – it was more of a ‘Why should I keep watching this man’s story?” frustration, not that they weren’t necessarily someone to root for. Meanwhile, I slogged through the entire 1st season of “True Detectives” based on all the buzz, and I am furious at how misled I was; pat serial killer panic porn that went through all the cliched motions; never have I loathed such entirely predictable leads and their challenges more.

Dear Josh, Hope you're well. I wanted to ask you a few things. First off, I understand that a lot of what you've written lately you probably intend to publish in a book, but can we expect any essays posted on your website anytime soon? Second, "If I Had a Hammer" was posted on YouTube with your permission many years ago but it was taken down (I believe) a few months afterwards. I would love to see it again, and I feel it has the potential to reach a wider audience in 2021, for a number of reasons (more people are on YouTube, the way you wrote & directed the film is appealingly old fashioned and sincere compared to most modern films, etc.). Is there any chance you will post it online again, or are you waiting for an official streaming/Blu-ray release?

Third, reading your essay from 2006 about facing the post-"Star Wars" era sure is depressing in a number of ways now because I would say the issues you write about in that essay are minimally 50 times worse in 2021. In addition to the superhero/kids movies truly taking over Hollywood, political correctness is now permeating through nearly every drama that gets released. Cinema, in many ways, feels extinct, but do you have a scintilla of hope? And if so, what is your hope based on? And finally, are any older movies that you've seen for the first time in the last year or two that you really liked or possibly even loved? Thanks in advance. All the best! DS Dear DS: I just watched "Molly's Game" for the fifth time. It's an incredibly smart, well-made movie. Aaron Sorkin is probably the best filmmaker working. I've been writing stories, and I completed a novel, but I haven't written any essays lately. I'm tired of railing against crummy movies because that doesn't seem likely to change. And since Trump left office I'm no longer in a constant state of political outrage. Now I just want to see him indicted for all of his crimes so that come 2024 we won't have to worry about him running for president, he'll be safely ensconced in a federal prison. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Dear Josh, Since you like "Molly's Game" so much you should check out Sorkin's latest on Netflix, "The Trial of the Chicago 7". I thought it was pretty well made. Also on Netflix is "The Devil All the Time", which I thought was the best film of the last few years. Have you seen either? --Dave

​Dear Dave: I've seen "The Trial of the Chicago 7" and I liked it. As with all of Aaron Sorkin's movies it's very smart. And he's not only an extremely good writer, he's a talented director as well. Because "Chicago 7" doesn't really have a lead character, I like "Molly's Game" more since Jessica Chastain is so terrific. I haven't watched "The Devil All the Time," but I'll check it out. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, According to TCM - Jezebel had been a Broadway flop written by Owen Davis, Sr. (a Pulitzer Prize-winner for Icebound) for Tallulah Bankhead. When illness forced her to withdraw from rehearsals, Miriam Hopkins inherited the role and bought a half interest in the production from producer-director Guthrie McClintic. And - Yes! - The Little Foxes sealed the deal for me in relishing Bette Davis, when I first starting getting into old films. And I think I'd watch Herbert Marshall in anything. I find it interesting that he played the murdered man in the 1st version of The Letter and the husband in the 2nd (with Davis!). It was so damn good I gather it inspired Lillian Hellman to create probably one of the 1st "prequels" - Another Part Of The Forest 1948, exploring more backstory of that Hubbard family. I recall you and I a long time ago trying to come up with this film's name, back when I asked you if you remember the delicious *other* nasty daughter role Anne Blythe played (ie. not for Mildred Pierce). All I could recall at the time was the suffering mother finally had the line, something like: "I don't like my family." We couldn't come up with it! I want to see it again to get that line nailed into my head exactly. Hah. -Diana Dear Diana: In "Mildred Pierce" Anne Blythe's great line is "You smell like grease!" In "The Little Foxes," William Wyler used the entire Broadway cast, so it's the debut of Theresa Wright, Dan Duryea and the drunk mother, Patricia Collinge, who has a great moment after she's been yelled at by her overbearing husband, everyone leaves the table and only she remains, stunned, when a black maid says something, "Miss Purdy, you look so young." She sighs, rolls her eyes and says, "Me? Young?" It's great. I think Bette Davis is absolutely perfect in that movie. She's thirty-three years old and at peak form. A wonderful story, by the way, is that when Herbert Marshall, who only had one leg, had to crawl up the stairs for his medicine, he goes out of frame for a second and is replaced by a double who crawls up the stairs, as Bette sits staring in the foreground. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, I often think about decisions I've made and the way I've treated people... good, bad, or the other, and I often question my integrity and sincerity and unfortunately often my hypocrisy, but mostly my ignorance, in those moments thorough my filmmaking carrier. Do you have those quiet moments of questioning yourself at night? -John

Dear John: This can't be real. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Dear Josh, "If I Had a Hammer" was posted on YouTube with your permission many years ago but it was taken down (I believe) a few months afterwards. I would love to see it again, and I feel it has the potential to reach a wider audience in 2021, for a number of reasons (more people are on YouTube, the way you wrote & directed the film is appealingly old fashioned and sincere compared to most modern films, etc.). Is there any chance you will post it online again, or are you waiting for an official streaming/Blu-ray release? Thank you. --DS

Dear DS: I could post "If I Had a Hammer" on YouTube, I just don't know how. My computer won't recognize the disc. It may as well be on YouTube. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hi Josh, I'm glad to see that you are still alive and well during this pandemic. I think that the lack of questions sent to you over the last year had something to do with an email-related problem with your website. I submitted at least one question to you after that Gretchen Whitmer post and it appears to have never reached you. My question for you today is, do you think it is possible to make a good movie that has a mentally ill main character? For example, a person who has truly delusional beliefs about themselves. Can you think of any movies that have such a protagonist? --Keith

Dear Keith: I don't know. How about my movie "Luantics: A Love Story"? Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, I have wanted to see Lunatics for years but have never been able to find a copy. On a recent episode of the Pure Cinema Podcast, Brian Saur talked about the movie and said he was able to get a DVD copy through Josh Becker. I'm dying to see this movie, is there any way you can hook me up? THANKS. --Matthew

Dear Matthew: I got a DVD from Umbrella Ent. in Australia. That's the only place that has it, I think. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Now-Famous Lunatics: A Love Story Extra

Josh, did you know that Keegan-Michael Key was an extra in your film Lunatics: A Love Story? He mentioned it in a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live (mentioned here @ 4:30: and it's also on the film's IMDb trivia page: --Dave ____________________ Dear Dave: I actually didn't know he was an extra in Lunatics. What do you know about that. He is of course correct in that we shot in Pontiac. And he grew up deep in the heart of frightening Detroit, one block over 8 Mile Rd. Anyway, I don't remember him. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hi Josh, did you see Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman" from a couple years ago? I thought it was a powerful film and John David Washington was very good. While I haven't seen it yet, "Judas and the Black Messsiah" also looks good. It'll be interesting to see if black actors sweep the Best Actor/Actress categories at the Oscars this year. That would be historic. --Dave

Dear Dave: I found "BlackkKlansman" unwatchable, as I also did with "Da Five Bloods." I personally think that Spike Lee has no talent and nothing to say. I haven't seen "Judas." Quite frankly, I think they should just call off the Oscars. Every clip I've seen of "Nomadland" looks painful in its dullness. Every new movie, or show, I try to watch seems utterly terrible. The pandemic may have been good for the streaming services, but it didn't inspire any good movies. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, Granted, Covid hurt the movie industry last year, but this years Oscars were unbearable. This is a show that, as a kid, I looked forward to every year. Yes it could be long and stretches of boredom, but still, it was The OSCARS. I made it through the first hour of Steven Soderbergh's 2021 Oscar telecast and had to shut it off. Self-important speeches that have nothing to do with the art of film, and barely any clips from the movies themselves. And of course, I have not heard of nor seen 90% of the stuff that was nominated. It may be time to say that the art of Theatrical Film is completely dead.

Yes, there's some good stuff on streaming, but nothing will ever equate to watching a great new Kubrick or David Lean film on the big screen, and I'm thinking that sadly, this will never happen again. --Nick Dear Nick: It won't. Movies as a thing, as a subject, as perhaps even an art form, is dead. Oscars don't even mean as much as golden Globes and nobody knows who gives those awards. It's all barely worth a comment. "Nomadland"? I'll see it as it goes by, but it doesn't look like a "Must see." The best movie I've seen lately is "Molly's Game." Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, We all know by now that the films of 2020 were weak and the Oscars were a disaster. I was thinking about the last really hyped movies before Covid and thought of The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. You already have said that The Irishman was not bad or something such. I haven't read what you think about Once Upon. For what it's worth, I thought it was typical Tarantino. Revisionist history of how events should have turned out maybe? I've read about some movie critics watching it 5 times. Once was enough of Once for me. --Rob

Dear Rob: I honestly thought "Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood" was Quentin Tarantino's best film, which still doesn't make it a good movie. I feel like he blundered into a relationship that I cared about between Leo and Brad. It's an odd relationship, but one that could certainly happen in Hollywood -- a failing actor is best friends with his stunt double, who now drives him around because he lost his license -- and it's kind of a sad, touching friendship. Everything regarding the Manson family and flame throwers is garbage. His big plot twist is the Manson family killers show up at the wrong address? When he's already gone to the trouble of establishing that Manson knows which house is Roman Polanski's. It doesn't make any sense and having a working flamethrower in your cabana is stupid. And the big payoff is that Leo becomes friends with Sharon Tate, who in reality is now dead. Seeing it once was plenty for me. Also, I tried to sit through "The Irishman" a second time and couldn't do it. As Steve Martin said to Scorsese two Oscars ago, "I liked season one of 'The Irishman.'" Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, Have you read Lonesome Dove or see the mini-series they made based on the book? I thought the book was terrific (it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction). I'm a fan of the western genre and Lonesome Dove blew me away. --David

Hello David: I own the 1st edition hardcover of "Lonesome Dove," as part of my Pulitzer Prize-winning novels collection. I read it and loved it when it came out in 1985, and have seen the mini-series a few times. Tommy Lee Jones is way too young, but it's still a terrific series. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hey josh !!! big fan of all your work !! but I would love to ask you some questions about your time on set for Evil dead ! Im actually one of Mike Estes friends ( bruces mate and agent at conventions ) down here in Australia. My questions are , on set at the cabin do you recall how much actual work and what was done to get it ready for film ? through out all the hours during the night and cold did you ever get a sense of what you guys were doing was actually going to be so atmospheric and chilling on film ?

Was the place actually as creepy as it so effortlessly portrays on the screen ? Im just so interested in any thing else you remember while being down there on set. Ive spoken to bruce a few times over the years but you know Bruce its just jokes and banter ! :) Your time is much appreciated Josh ! -- Mark lobosco , your friend from down under ! hope you are staying stafe. Hello Mark: Come on, man, that was over 40 fucking years ago. It was nothing more than a hard, cold, long movie shoot. Luckily, I was twenty-one and full of piss and vinegar at the time. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, What do you think of the film Cross of Iron (1977)? I've read it was a lot more popular in Europe than in the US. I guess Americans will never be interested in the Eastern Front. American James Coburn sort of stood out like a sore thumb in a mostly European movie, but maybe that was to draw in an American audience?

I liked some of the conversation in the film. The Germans seemed to think they weren't going to win the war but there would be some kind of armistice. Despite what the prior armistice was like. When talking about the Maximillian Schell character, they said that he and his class would just go back to their farms and estates after the war. Of course, we know that didn't exactly happen since the farms and estates of the Junkers were no more. And the Schell character didn't have to worry about that or going home with an Iron Cross to prove himself. I'm wondering if the issues were too complex for Americans, who seem to like their Germans as cardboard villians like in Saving Private Ryan. --Rob ______________ Hello Rob: This certainly is an odd question coming at me first thing this morning. I saw "Cross of Iron" when it came out at the movie theater in 1977 and it seemed like a big disappointment from Sam Peckinpaw. I retain one tiny sequence -- we see a dead soldier in the mud, then a tank runs it over. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hi Josh - could you give a quick update on status of Warpath?

Hello Richard: What's going on with "Warpath"? It's available on many streaming services and can be purchased on DVD. It's as official of a 2020 release as anything else that year. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hello Mr. Becker, Question about tone shift in your feature films. Firstly I wanted to say I am a huge fan of your work. I am an 18 year old aspiring filmmaker and everything you've made has served as a serous inspiration to me. I've shown my friends some of your early super 8 films and they all love it too. Our favorites are Toro Toro Toro and Cleveland Smith, its our go to when we have nothing to watch or need a good laugh

Anyway, after watching a few of your feature length films I've noticed there was a shift in tone to serous dramas. Your early work shows a knack and interest in comedy but your feature films are more serous. What made you want to start creating serious films? --Roman _____________________ ​Hello Roman: Thanks for dropping by. You ask a good question. Sam was the one who decided to get out of comedy and go into horror, then everyone just kind of followed him. I did make "Lunatics." But my movies did get more serious after that. I had some comedy scripts, I just couldn't get financing. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hi Josh. I've been trying to think of a gift for a friend who was recently promoted to a leadership role at his organization. He's anxious about the appointment, because he wants very much to be an effective leader who solves the organization's current problems, but he faces many bureaucratic obstacles. I'd like to give him a dvd for a movie in which an idealistic and well-intentioned protagonist is placed in a position of power and is then faced with seemingly impossible challenges. Since you've watched so many movies during your lifetime, I was hoping you might be able to come up with a suggestion. Thank you. --Bryan

_____________________ ​Hello Bryan: I can't think of anything. What you should see is Preston Sturgis' "Christmas in July," which is wonderfully ridiculous. It's bread in the bean. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hi Josh -

RUNNING TIME review at Schlockmania just writing in to let you know I posted a write-up for RUNNING TIME at Schlockmania today: Donald _____________________ ​Hello Donald: Thank you for your nice review of "Running Time." I'm extremely pleased with this "restoration" of the film, particularly that I'm still alive to see it. Bruce is very good, as are Jeremy and Anita. Shooting in "real time" was good for the actors.. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hi Josh, Congratulations on having one of your movies aired on Turner Classic Movies. On June 26, 2021, they aired Lunatics: A Love Story at 2:15 AM as a part of their TCM Underground program. Did TCM contact you as a part of the process of airing it?

________________ ​Hello Keith: No. I heard about it from a friend. But I don't own that movie, Sony does, so TCM doesn't have to speak to me. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Dear Josh Happy b-b-b-b-birthday, you thing from another world you! Hoping as always that your Tuesday is filled with mooch potato liquor and ganja, served by dancing Bulgarian supermodels. I have a friend who is teaching English to 6th-8th graders, getting them into composition, narrative, characterization, etc. Think your structure essays might be good resource material? Any others?

And of course, would love to see some "Making of..."essays about your last couple of films, as well as a catch-us-up-on-the-last-decade essay in the tradition of the "Hanging with the old guys" essay, the 3 days spent on the Eric Roberts film, things like that about your own personal adventures. All your fans from back in the day are still around, but the new site isn't always the easiest to navigate, and I think sometimes questions get lost in the cloud - or maybe that's s cloud of ganja. At any rate, we all still love you and are rooting for your next big project. Regards, August ______________ ​Hello August: Pardon the delay in responding, and thank you for the birthday wishes. I've got the ganja, but no potato liquor or Bulgarian supermodels. Although I am officially getting old--63--I'm doing pretty well. Just searching around for a good idea, as always.All the best, Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Dear Josh, Glad to see you’re still writing. Is your process for writing novels and stories different from the way you’ve written your screenplays? For example, do you outline, or rough out a brief summary before diving in? --Tim

______________ ​Hello Tim: Since none of my novels have been published, I'm not sure my method is valid. But whether it's a book or a screenplay, I just sit down and write it in prose all the way to the end. For most scripts I can generally get 12-14 pages. I then save it as a screenplay, adapt what I have into screenplay form, identify the act breaks, then just start rewriting and adding scenes and lines. This seems to work for scripts, but I haven't gotten a workable novel written yet, although I've tried a dozen times. Good luck. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Dear Josh, For what it's worth, I read all three of the unpublished novels you posted on the site, and enjoyed them. "Headshot," in particular because I read it and then watched "Executive Action," with Burt Lancaster, written by Dalton Trumbo. It was kind of an exciting one-two punch of Kennedy assassination narratives, though I'm thinking the mob angle might be the right one.

I just saw "Warpath," which I also enjoyed. Though you were working with a tiny budget you really managed to get a geographic scale to the story, which was quite a feat. It was cool to see a couple of little Easter eggs for film nuts, like Victor Sjostrom's General Store. I think my favorite line reading was after Sjostrom curses and says "Pardon my French," Alice (Sasha Higgins) mutters, "That was NOT French." —Will ______________ Hello Will: I'm glad you enjoyed what you read and watched. I also had another Swedish film reference in "Warpath" -- she tells Cole her maiden name is Nykvist, in reference to the great DP, Sven Nykvist.Although I think I'm right in my assumption that the mob and Sam Giancanna were behind JFK's assassination, I do recommend watching Oliver Stone's "JFK" again, which is really a terrific movie and incredibly well-made and cast. Michael Rooker at a point suggests the mob and Garrison blows it off like it's ridiculous, but it does make the most sense to me. Who had the best motive? Pinning the crime on the CIA so they'd have to cover it up was my idea.Have you watched "Morning, Noon & Night"? It's on Prime and Hulu and other streaming services. I'd like to know what you think. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Dear Josh, I actually tried to post about "Morning, Noon & Night" a couple of years ago, but for some reason it didn't come through, and after a few tries I gave up. Must have been a bug. It was a significant view for me: like you, I keep a running list of films I've seen, and since I've been a fan for a long time, I ceremoniously chose "M,N&N" as my 5,000th film. (I'm now at 5,344.) It was a good choice. Knowing your indefatigable defense of story structure, I was particularly taken by the way the narrative wanders which each character, but their respective threads stay coherent (unlike the characters themselves), finally tying together at the beer fest. There's something interesting in there that I can't quite articulate, about the vulnerability of the characters, the way they each lash out when they feel judged, the way they make "Un-PC" jokes and yet clearly aren't actually racist or queer-phobic (though perhaps insensitive to them). None of them were really making "cries for help" with their substance use--well, maybe Aaron--but rather seemed to use drugs and drink as rational methods to cope with fuckin' life. I thought Carly Schneider was really good. She reminded me of my teenage daughters in the way she seemed like she was holding back what she really wanted to say, what emotions she really wanted to express. She played that tension between the hard-ass exterior and the confusion and emotion that she kept tamped down.

s for "JFK," you're right on that I should watch it again. It's been at least 15 years since I've seen it last. I had kind of lost interest in Oliver Stone since then, but "JFK" is still excellent. —Will ______________ Hello Will: Thanks for bringing up "Morning, Noon & Night," which hasn't gotten much discussion. Regarding the act structure, the film is in three obvious parts: morning, noon and night, but it's not following the three-act structure because nobody is learning anything, nor is it a special day in their lives when something important happened. My initial inspiration for the story was to make a film entirely about people taking drugs without taking any moral stance on their behavior, since in real life I don't. My neighbor is a drunk, deals with it in his own way, and it's not my problem. And since this was not a special day and none of them were going to quit their addiction, then I'll just zig-zag their lives in a small community. I'd like to believe that it has a cumulative effect that ultimately brings us to the point. And yes, I thought Carley Schneider was really good. The confrontation between her and her father at the beer fest is, I believe, a good scene.Tell me what you think of JFK when you watch it again. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Dear Josh, Have you ever considered doing more essays about your favorite movies, specifically about what lessons they can impart to aspiring filmmakers? I know that I and many of your fans would be curious what storytelling aspects keep you rewatching some films countless times, such as “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” and “Tender Mercies”. My favorite of your essays is the fifth structure article where you examine what makes the writing of “The Bridge on the River Kwai” so remarkable. An essay about “Play It Again, Sam” would be particularly interesting, given the recent and ongoing attacks on Woody Allen. What makes for a great comedy? —Keith

______________ Hello Keith: Those are all great ideas, but I continue to struggle with the writing of novels, which I may ultimately not be suited for. In any case, I'd be happy to discuss the films you've already brought up. A comment my friend Rick said about "The Best Years of Our Lives" rings around in my head -- it's one of the very few films about a good marriage. Myrna Loy manipulating the sleeping Fredric March on his first night back to get him to not snore is brilliant. But all of the woven stories are believable, compelling, and know where they're going. Theresa Wright proclaiming, "I'm going to break up that marriage" is a giant step into reality for Hollywood movies."Tender Mercies" is a perfectly made redemption story about characters I care about. It's also shot really well, and the songs are great. Robert Vuvall simply couldn't be better. But the greatest thing about the film is Horton Foote's Oscar-winning script that, once again, knows exactly where it's going. It's the kid's story; he needs a father. He gets one. Horton Foote, of course, won another Oscar for his adaption of "To Kill a Mockingbird.""The Magnificent Ambersons" comes flatly right out and tells you where it's going -- Gerogie is going to get his comuppance, and he does, "Three times filled, and running over." But all of that comes from the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Booth Tarkington (I have a 1st Edition), it's that Orson Welle's shoots it so well.When I was in sixth grade I got a tiny reel-to-reel tape recorder -- tiny meaning the size of a brick (this would have been 1969). I taped my favorite movie, "Casablanca," then used to run an earplug up my sleeve and listen to it during class. "Play it Again, Sam" begins with the last scene of "Casablanca" and I knew all of the dialog word for word. I felt that Woody Allen had made this film exclusively for me. I thought, and continue to think, that it's one of the best comedy films ever made and it's dismissed because it was directed by Herbert Ross and not Woody. Personally, I believe that Herbert Ross taught Woody Allen how to direct. But on a writing level, to tell your own story, but ultimately follow "Casablanca's" plot, is brilliant. And Ross shot it just right.What do you think? Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hi Josh, I'm really not sure what makes for a great comedy. What a person finds funny is very subjective. I also very much enjoy Woody Allen's early work and am not a big fan of his later stuff. I like your friend Rick's point about "The Best Years of Our Lives" being one of the few films about a good marriage. I'm assuming this was Rick Sandford. The interactions between Myrna Loy and Fredric March ring very true. What I love most about that film is Harold Russell's storyline, though. So many soldiers have returned home physically disabled after serving overseas and it was important to depict that honestly on screen. The scene in the bedroom with Cathy O'Donnell where he shows how helpless he is without the hooks always brings tears to my eyes.

relate the choice to depict the disability of the character (and actor) with William Wyler's own injury in the war, nearly losing his hearing. The world does not have much use for a deaf director and Wyler's career could very well have ended in 1945. In the original narrative poem by MacKinlay Kantor that the screenplay was based on, the character Homer was suffering from a psychological rather than physical trauma. Do you think that Wyler often incorporated personal ideas into the movies that he made? —Keith ______________ Hello Keith: Wyler was very good at supervising the writing of the script, and when he found good screenwriters, like Sidney Kingsley, Lillian Hellman and Robert Sherwood, he was also good at leaving them alone. Wyler's brother Robert sometimes supervised or helped with the writing, particularly on "Friendly Persuasion" and "The Big Country."Changing Homer from "spastic," as he is in Kantor's book, to armless was a brilliant change and entirely Wyler, who saw the Army training film Harold Russell had already been in.After "Best Years" he became his own producer, so that whole string of brilliant films through the fifties -- "The Heiress," "Detective Story," "Carrie," "Roman Holiday," "The Desperate Hours," Friendly Persuasion" and "The Big Country" -- are his productions, and he certainly had a lot to do with everything, particularly choosing the story. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, Have you ever seen the film Diary of a Country Priest? I am asking because a while back someone asked you if you had seen Paul Schrader's recent film First Reformed. You stated that you hadn't. I did watch First Reformed, but never heard of Diary. After reading reviews of First Reformed the comparisons to Diary kept coming up, so I sought out Diary of a Country Priest. It is in the Criterion collection. First Reformed is about one half a remake of that film plus an add on on something different. It is so similar that Paul Schraeder had to admit it. So I guess this is more of a question about Diary of a Country Priest. Did you see it, and do you think it was a memorable film? --Rob

____________ Hello Rob: Yes, I've seen "Diary of a Country Priest," as well several other Robert Bresson films, and I can say without hesitation that I couldn't stand any of them. They're the dreariest, dullest examples of arty French cinema. Robert Bresson and I care about the exact opposite things in movies. I must have a compelling story and interesting characters, whereas Bresson doesn't care about that and would rather hang on images of sad people doing nothing. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Hi Josh, you've probably answered this elsewhere, but what is your preference in music for a film - ie soundtrack vs score? Benefit of score is that is tailored exactly to the narrative and edit of the film, whereas when you use pre-recorded songs, you are at the mercy of the beats and moments in the song. I feel like songs can be a lazy director's way of adding nostalgia or emotion to a film that otherwise lacks those characteristics.

aul Thomas Anderson and Cameron Crowe are known for basically just throwing their favorite songs in their films in a masturbatory way. On the other hand, some directors like Scorcese have used it brilliantly. Any favorite films/directors that use pre-existing music in a very effective way? For whatever reason, this came to mind after I read a new interview with Paul McCartney in which he said of the Rolling Stones: “I’m not sure I should say it, but they’re a blues cover band, that’s sort of what the Stones are,” “I think our net was cast a bit wider than theirs.” __ __________ Hello Nick: Regarding the masturbatory use of songs for a film's soundtrack, one of the real abusers of this is Wes Anderson. He doesn't even seem to care if the song isn't long enough for the scene and just arbitrarily puts on another song. Perhaps the best use of pre-recorded music for a score is "2001: A Space Odyssey." Kubrick used classical music as a temporary soundtrack while editing, waiting for Alex North to deliver the actual score. When Kubrick got North's score, he decided not to use it and go with the classical music -- a good choice, I believe.Yes, Martin Scorsese is good at using songs in his scores, like the Rolling Stones' "Monkey Man" in "Goodfellas." When he scores his movies with songs he gets Robbie Robertson to help him.The Rolling Stones did start off as a blues cover band, just as The Beatles started off covering rock, Motown and girl groups. However, as much as I love The Beatles, they never made a song as deep or original as "Sympathy for the Devil." "I drove a tank/In the general's rank/When the blitzkrieg raged/And the bodies stank." That's about as good as rock lyrics ever got. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, I just watched the fantastic film Harpies and I was wondering what a budget cost would be for a film like that. With the castle and the effects and all the cast that took part in the movie. If you could answer my question I would greatly appreciate it thanks!! Cameron

__ __________ Hello Cameron: I'm told, though I wasn't a producer on the film so I don't actually know, that the budget was $1.5 million. However, between the exchange of U.S. dollars for Bulgarian currency, who knows what they actually spent. That castle set was already there, as well as a few other castles and forts, from previous films. I don't know about you, but for me they could've spent a bit more on special effects. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, You've worked on many movies with firearms, explosives, etc. including period pieces. Any thoughts on the Alec Baldwin "Rust" shooting and what went wrong? I've been on quite a few indie sets, no armorers, and questionable firearm safety precautions but never had anything like this happen. I can't imagine how real bullets could have made their way into a "prop" gun, but apparently these were not blanks (injuries indicative of a real bullet). Have you ever had safety concerns about weapons on a set? Apparently on this set, it was not the first time the "prop" guns had fired either and they had to clear out the set a few days earlier because of safety concerns. Trying to pinch pennies with an inexperienced crew? - Nick

Hello Nick: I have a letter to the editor about this very subject in the New York Times today.

From the New York Times, 10/26/2021 To the Editor: Having worked on both low- and high-budget movies, I have been on many, many sets with weapons, and nobody has ever gotten injured with a rifle or a pistol, although with swords a couple of times. The armorer is in charge of the weapons and ammunition. When they say “prop” guns, what they usually mean are real guns that are being used as props. First, why were live rounds ever allowed on a movie set in the first place? Second, how did live rounds find their way into a “prop” gun under any circumstance? Alec Baldwin is 100 percent innocent. No unsuspecting actor should ever be put into the awful position that Mr. Baldwin is currently in. My heart goes out to both him and the deceased cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins. Josh BeckerBloomfield Hills, Mich. The writer is a member of the Directors Guild of America.

​​ Sadly, because I was attempting to assign blame, the Times cut that part out. 1. When they say "prop" gun, they mean a real gun being used as a prop. 2. Nobody gets killed by a blank unless they put the barrel right against their own head, like John Eric Hexum did. To kill someone a few feet away, and wound another, it has to have been a live round, so . . . 3. What was a live round doing anywhere on a movie set in the first place? 4. How did a live round get into a prop gun? I believe that both the armorer, who is 24 and this was her second film; and the 1st assistant director, whose job it was to inspect the weapon, show it to everybody, then announce if it's "cold" or "hot," are both liabel for negligent manslaughter. And to do what they did to the cinematographer, who is dead, the director, who was wounded, and any poor, unsuspecting actor, including Alec Baldwin, who was one of the producers on this film and therefore liable, in a second-hand way, for hiring these inept people in the first place. I've had safety concerns with weapons on movie sets since we started using them in our super-8 films when we were eighteen years old. Shooting TSNKE, I put me, the 2nd assistant director, whose name was Ann, and Gary Jones, the special effects man, on weapons, ammunition and safety. I had at least twenty, maybe twenty-five, real rifles and pistols, and many boxes of live shotgun shells, of various gauges, as well as several calibers of real bullets. All of the weapons and ammunition were stored in Ann's trunk. Everything, so I could see it all at once. When I wanted a weapon on the set I would say, "Annie, get the guns," then specify which guns I meant. Gary Jones handled all of the ammo, emptying out shells, pulling the lead out of bullets, then re-sealing them with hot glue. In the scene where the Cult Leader (Sam Raimi) is supposedly in the car and it gets shot to pieces, I fired every one of those shots--possibly a hundred, of all kinds of gauges and calibers. The next day I had a black and blue mark the size of an outstretched hand on my armpit and couldn't use my right arm. On all of the shots of the actor shooting at the car, we used Gary's homemade blanks.Anyway, someone needs to take responsibility for this unnecessary loss of life, and it's the armorer and the AD. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, I read your Letter to the Editor, very concise summation of the issues at play, despite them removing some of your note. As you said, your films have huge numbers of firearms on set and probably thousands of rounds of blanks being fired, all in, and yet no issues with safety. And this is not a budget issue per se, as some of your films have definitely been in the Indie-budget or lower range ("Rust" supposedly cost around $6 million).

Clearly it seems the armorer was far too inexperienced for a film of that size. Apparently her father is a well-known armorer, so perhaps some nepotism/connections at play. I read today that the SAME gun that shot and killed the DP was used earlier for "plinking" with real bullets. Why in the world would you be using confirmed "props" (chosen to be used on camera) for practice range shooting with real bullets. The risk of accidentally leaving the gun loaded is insane. Surely they could have "plinked" with guns that weren't being used in the production? This is not monday-morning quarterbacking, this is just common sense. They say when a plane crashes, it usually is the result of a cascade of problems, not a single one. IE a couple of pilots that are inexperienced on a new plane, followed by a part going bad or a computer making an odd flight choice, followed by a bad decision in response by the pilots, followed by an unrecoverable crash. There are many places along the way where this gun did not go off - starting with the plinking, to the half-ass armorer placing it back on the table without checking it, followed by the AD not checking it and calling it a "cold gun", followed by Baldwin not checking (not his job to be fair) and then him directly aiming it at the DP and firing at center mass/kill shot. If any of those had not happened, we probably wouldn't have heard about it. Regardless, a lot of blame to go around, and I agree that Alec is the least blameworthy of the bunch and now has to live with killing another person on his hands. - Nick Hello Nick: The AD has admitted to being guilty of negligence and not checking the weapon, and it was in fact a real bullet. Now the armorer and the AD both have to be indicted for Negligent Homicide. Alec Baldwin was instructed to aim the gun right at the camera, where the cinematographer was probably operating the camera, and that's why Baldwin was aiming right at her. It's exactly the same shot as the frightening (at the time) last shot of "The Great Train Robbery" from 1903. Were I to use such a hoary old cliched shot like that, I'd certainly put in the muzzle flash digitally, as would most directors these days. It's an easy, cheap effect. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎

Josh, It takes you too long responding on your website,so i'll just tell you here.I'm a huge fan of "Thou shalt nor kill" Love the commentary you did with Campbell.Now i've got "Running Time" Looking forward to that one too!Bloomfield Hills is an 11 hr drive from me. —Mike Sullivan

Hello Mike: We'll try to be snappier here at Beckerfilms. Since you didn't ask a question, I'll just thank you for liking my film. Please report back after seeing "Running Time" and tell us what you think. Josh ◆︎◆︎◆︎◆︎