Friday, 26 April 2013

The End?

No, this is not the end, my friend. You've been a wonderful audience, but I need a break.

What next?

Writing, of course. A novel. Something that will offend somebody.

I've written a few already, but I might publish this one. My wife would like that. Give her something to talk about, instead of having to tell her friends, "He's still sitting on the couch, staring out the window."

I might revisit a book that made the shortlist for Best Unpublished Manuscript at Adelaide Writers' Week 2006. It's about a predatory Pentecostal minister, how he came to be, who he did over, and how he got elected to Parliament.

Yes, that sounds like a plan. I'll be back when it's done.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Interview with Kristy Best

Kristy Best is a seventh-generation Australian of Sri Lankan /Spanish/Welsh/Dutch and British ancestry. She is a writer, teacher, actor, director and filmmaker who has appeared in Neighbours and Home and Away. Kristy also wrote and directed the award-winning short film Something Fishy, is currently working on a web series called Deadheart, but is probably best known as the presenter of ABC2's Feature Documentary show Sunday Best.
    When Kristy popped up on a Comments page, I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
________________________________________________________________________

•  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?


I was born in Sydney and I grew up in North West Sydney. My mother is Sri Lankan/Spanish/Welsh/Dutch. My father is a sixth generation Australian of Scots descent. His great-great-great-grandfather was George Johnston, who was briefly Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales after leading the rebellion later known as the Rum Rebellion. His  great-great-great-grandmother was Esther Abrahams, a Jewish convict and later First Lady of New South Wales.

•  What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I'm an only child, so I'm very close to my parents. I grew up with my dad's side of the family and have a few adopted cousins from different parts of the world.

•  Where did you go to school?

I finished my schooling at Bradfield College, North Sydney.

•  When did you first take an interest in films/stories?

I always loved watching films but it wasn't until I received the First Time Filmmaker's Grant from Metro Screen/Screen NSW that I fell in love with filmmaking. I had never directed, produced or written before, and it was like a whole new world opened up before me that I can't quite get enough of.

•  What was your first paying job (in any field)?

My first paying job was a Pringles Worldwide TV Commercial which I booked when I was seven.

•  Your short film Something Fishy had a great reception. Tell us how you came to write/make that film?

It was an idea I had that kept rolling around the back of my mind for some time. I had no idea how to take it from paper to screen until I heard about the First Time Filmmaker's grant. I submitted the script and upon receiving the grant was told I would have to direct the piece too. I had no faith in my ability to do that and accepted that it would be a great learning curve. I contacted crew members—some I had met socially and some I knew purely from their work. I brought together a team that were all on the same page, that seemed to understand my twisted sense of humour and my vision. It's still one of the best experiences of my life and I'm really proud of what we all achieved. It was my first short, the actress's first short and the production designer's first short.



•  Last year you appeared onstage in Truck Stop, a story about schoolgirl prostitution. How did the experience affect you?

Truck Stop was a well-written play and an amazing production to be a part of. The entire crew and cast were exceptional and I was blessed being able to act in a production that told such an important story. 
   My character didn't take part in the prostitution. She was new to the country and desperate to fit in. She parties with the girls, gets drunk for the first time, kisses her first boy and feels 'cool' and accepted, until she starts to realise that boys and Katy Perry aren't everything. She wants to be part of something stable and real. Everyone around her is so angry all the time. She questions the point of needing to be wanted by boys, noticed, pretty—everything.
   Then she is rejected and forced to be brave and find her own way. The themes of the play addresses teenage life so accurately. I believe it really encouraged our audience to think about their actions or the actions of teens they know. Lachlan Philpott is an immensely gifted writer.
 
•  You’re currently working on a webseries called Deadheart. Why do you want to make a webseries, and how is it progressing?

I showed the series teaser to a few people in L.A. where I received a great deal of positive response. It's something I still hope to develop. Although people have been impressed by the teaser for the series in Australia I've mainly been met with industry types suggesting it would be easier to turn the concept into a feature film. It has even been suggested that I write the book version first. I don't fancy myself as a novelist and in no way imagine it would be easy to write one. The consensus is we're not doing high concept, big budget webseries in Australia yet.
   I chose to do a web series because I'm passionate about the future of web-based media and I felt it was time we got involved in Australia. There are a few people with big ideas here for the web but we're not producing series like H+ and Halo yet. I'm very keen to make Deadheart. I can only hope it may find a way to be made at some point in the future. I'm thinking about making the teaser public and just letting the series hibernate for some time until I can find a viable means in which to bring it to life. I really hoped to make it a brand-integrated concept. I've secured the perfect developers to make the series interactive, but it's no small feat to secure the kind of budget we need. I'm currently in pre-production on a dark comedy web series I've written called, Chelsea's Luck. I'm looking forward to shooting that and getting back to shocking people with my idea of what funny is.


•  For the last couple of years you’ve been a presenter on ABC2. How does presenting differ from, say, acting in Neighbours or Home and Away?

We're about to shoot Season 3 of Sunday Best. There's just a far bigger crew working on a soap than presenting a Doco show. The one constant is crew are always lovely.

 
•  What would be your preference: Working as an actor in Hollywood, doing a big stage show, remaining a career TV presenter, or directing your own feature film?

Directing my own feature film. Acting would come next.

•  Who has had the most influence on you as a filmmaker?

Probably my family. My imagination has been heavily influenced by the experiences I've had and the exposure I've had to the creative and performing arts from a young age. No film was off limits. 
   I remember my mum introducing me to Saturday Night Fever when I was about eight, and renting and re-renting copies of Back to the Future and any dance-based films, or films with Hayley Mills. (I went through a Hayley Mills phase.) 
   I was one of those kids that was glued to a TV and was happy to watch the same film four times over in one day. My parents both had backgrounds in dance, and I trained from a young age, so weekends were spent watching midday movies with Fred Astaire and Shirley Temple. I loved Elvis's movies and started with the Bond films and found my way into heavier, bloodier action and martial arts films. It wasn't until I finished High School that I indulged in world cinema and can easily say my top 10 are mostly foreign films.

•  What are three things you wish someone had told you about filmmaking when you were starting out?

There isn't really anything. I'm no expert and I am the first to tell anyone I work with that. I always hope to learn from every shoot. I like negative feedback, if someone tells me they love something I'll probably never ask for their opinion again. I expected it to be a struggle, both financially and logistically. So to be honest, what I had learnt to be true from being an actor, applied to filmmaking, except with filmmaking I have more choice creatively and I love having that freedom.

•  What one screenwriting advice book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Adelaide?

I'm the worst person to ask about this. I'm yet to read Save The Cat!, which I need to do, and I've never read a book on screenwriting. I sometimes read blog posts on American sites, but I mainly write what I think works, which I know I won't be able to do when I sit down to write my first feature. My tip is, find friends that are writers and get them to read everything you do, from treatment to first draft. Pick people that are honest and critical. Like I said before, I want someone to poke holes in everything.

•  What are your ten favourite movies of all time?
Battle Royale (2000)
After the Wedding (2006)
Adam's Apples (2005)
Festen (1998)
Sin Nombre (2009)
The Orphanage (2007)
End of Watch (2012)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
The Wackness (2008)
________________________________________________________________________
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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

"R'ha"

R'ha is a student film from Kaleb Lechowski of Germany. All computer animation and design was created by Kaleb during the first year of his studies.

This is his first IMDb credit, but you can expect to see lots more. He is currently negotiating with Hollywood executives over the best way forward for his short film and for himself.


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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

"Bottle Cap"

Here's the trailer for Bottle Cap, an independent film. Footage courtesy of the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
The story of a girl who dared...
Some people have nothing good happening for them, but they still embrace life. Be inspired.


Monday, 22 April 2013

"The Black Hole"

The Black Hole is a short film written and directed by Philip Sansom and Olly Williams, and starring Napoleon Ryan.
A sleep deprived office worker photocopies a "Black Hole" late one night. Suddenly the possibilities seem endless. Will greed get the better of him?


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Honest Trailers - Harry Potter

The gentle folk at screenjunkies's channel have come up with another one: an honest trailer for the Harry Potter movies.

Screen Junkies filters through the glut of entertainment choices—trailers, reviews, and original features—to highlight the shows and movies worthy of guys' precious free time. They sat and watched all eight movies (20 hours of Harry Potter!) so you can relive the moment or two you liked.

This trailer was written by Gina Ippolito, Spencer Gilbert, Jason Shapiro, Jason Pickar and Andy Signore, and directed by Andy Signore.



Saturday, 20 April 2013

"The Raftman's Razor"

The Raftman's Razor was directed by Keith Bearden, written by Joel Haskard and Keith Bearden. It was produced and Edited by Brad Buckwalter. Most interesting is the fact that the music credit was allocated to "Mum."
Two young teens obsess about a comic superhero who does next to nothing.
The wonders of the adolescent world-view...


Friday, 19 April 2013

The model of the perfect play...

  Bruno Bettelheim, in The Uses of Enchantment, writes that the fairy tale (and, similarly, the Drama) has the capacity to calm, to incite, to assuage, finally, to affect, because we listen to it nonjudgmentally—we identify subconsciously (noncritically) with the protagonist.
    We are allowed to do this, he tells us, because the protagonist and, indeed, the situations are uncharacterized aside from their most essential elements.
    When we are told, for example, that a Handsome Prince went into a wood, we realize that we are that Handsome Prince. As soon as the Prince is characterized, "A Handsome Blond Prince with a twinkle in his eye, and just the hint of a mustache on his upper lip..." and if we lack that color hair, twinkle, and so on, we say, "What an interesting Prince. Of course, he is unlike anyone     I know..." and we begin to listen to the story as a critic rather than as a participant.

Radio is a great training ground for dramatists. More than any other dramatic medium it teaches the writer to concentrate on the essentials, because it throws into immediate relief that to characterize the people or scene is to take time from the story—to weaken the story. Working for radio, I learned the way all great drama works: by leaving the endowment of characters, places, and especially action up to the audience. Only by eschewing the desire to characterize can one begin to understand the model of the perfect play.
    The model of the perfect play is the dirty joke.
    "Two guys go into a farmhouse. An old woman is stirring a pot of soup."
    What does the woman look like? What state is the farmhouse in? Why is she stirring soup? It is absolutely not important. The dirty joke-teller is tending toward a punch line and we know that he or she is only going to tell us the elements which direct our attention toward that punch line, so we listen attentively and gratefully.

~David Mamet, Writing in Restaurants, 1986

History of film... in a minute

Here's a Mary Doodles short film depicting the history of film... in a minute.

It's quick and painless, and remarkably clever.



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Thursday, 18 April 2013

Movie poster clichés

We've seen some of these before, but here is an expanded analysis of standard movie poster clichés, put together by the French blogger Christophe Courtois.

Here's one example: Running In the Street, At a Tilt And Tinted Blue.




To see the rest of the 15 Popular Movie Poster Cliches, click on the link. It is hosted on Demilked, a design milking magazine with the potential to chew up a lot of your spare time...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

"Norman Bates School of Motel Management"

Here's one from 1976: Episode 16, Season 1, of Saturday Night Live - "Norman Bates School of Motel Management."

It consists of a monologue by Anthony Perkins, in which he sends up his role in Psycho (1960).


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Danny Kaye & Louis Armstrong, scatting together

Apropos of nothing, except the fact that—had he lived—Danny Kaye would have turned 100 this year. Mind you, had he lived, Louis Armstrong would have turned 112.

Here we have those two great artists improvising and scatting around the song, "When the saints go marching in."



Monday, 15 April 2013

Horse before cart...

Sheri Candler is a "marketing strategist who helps independent filmmakers build identities for themselves and their films. Through the use of online tools such as social networking, podcasts, blogs, online media publications and radio, she assists filmmakers in building an engaged and robust online community for their work that can be used to monetize effectively."

Film Courage is a website/blog/radio show/video producer, all focused on assisting independent filmmakers.

Recently Film Courage conducted a video interview with Sheri Candler on the subject of What You Need To Know About Building Your Audience. That means, everything small-time, lo-budget, amateur filmmakers NEED to know about marketing the film they are planning to make, BEFORE they make that film.

The film is the cart, marketing is the horse. Horse before cart. Sound silly? It's not.

Here's that interview, broken up into small chunks.

1. Who is your target audience? If you don't know, you'll never be able to market your film successfully.



2. How much money should we set aside from your budget to reach the target audience? 10% minimum. Yeah, minimum.



3. How much money can we raise through crowdfunding?



4. Will that huge Veronica Mars crowdfunding exercise cause an influx of celebrities into the field?



5. Will Veronica Mars make Kickstarter a household name and help filmmakers in the future?


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Sunday, 14 April 2013

The best advice...

The worst best-intentioned advice I ever got about screenwriting came from Richard Gilman, the distinguished literary critic, at a party in New York almost thirty years ago.
    "Whatever you do," said Dick Gilman to the beginning screenwriter, "don't put your heart into your scripts. You'll get it broken."
    For almost thirty years now (and thirty scripts, and fifteen produced movies), I've put my heart into my scripts... and my heart is unbroken.

My advice to beginning screenwriters is this:
    Put every ounce of heart and soul and guts and passion that you possess into every sentence of every screenplay.
    And laugh.

*   *   *

She was a fiery street-smart woman with a nasty temper who'd come to Hollywood out of the world of marketing. She was sexy and no-bullshit and with a hank of hair you wanted to press your face into. She had a commercial eye and used it (and her sexiness and toughness) to become first a VP and then head of production. She got a golden parachute, got married, and gave birth to a little girl.
    I hadn't seen her for a while and when we had dinner at the Ivy, what struck me was how gloriously happy she was. With her husband, with her little girl. With her life as a wife and mother. We didn't talk business all night. We talked about our kids.
    She wasn't in a hurry any more. She didn't speak at the rate of a thousand miles an hour. She wasn't looking through me to see who else was in the room. She was almost serene.
    I'd always liked her and when I hugged her good night outside the restaurant, I thought—Yes, there are happy endings, even real ones, in Hollywood.
    A few months later, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
    And not much later, Dawn Steel died.

My advice to everyone is this:
    Put every ounce of heart and soul and guts and passion that you possess into every nanosecond of your life.
    And pray!



Taken from: Hollywood Animal, by Joe Eszterhas, 2004

Tommy's Hut

Here's something a little different; a short documentary from the misty Victorian town of Kinglake. Devastating bush fires (now known as Black Saturday) engulfed the town in 2008.


Since then, Brandi Johnson has fallen in love with the regrowth of Mountain Ash and gnarly Red Gum, turning her passion for making and salvaging timber, into a small business, called Tommy’s Hut.

And what does she make? One-off unique-design boxes. Like these.

Now meet Brandi...


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Book review: "The Annotated Godfather"

This is post #600.  
The Annotated Godfather was, for me, one of those books you see referred to every so often, but never got around to reading. I can now say, if you like the movie, it's worth the effort.

The Annotated Godfather was compiled by Jenny Jones, who also wrote The Big Lebowski: An Illustrated, Annotated History of the Greatest Cult Film of All Time, which is compulsory reading if you're seriously into the Dude.


The full title of the book is The Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay with Commentary on Every Scene, Interviews, and Little-Known Facts. That sums it up nicely. The screenplay in view is the official "Third Draft" (completed on March 29, 1971), which incorporates much of Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo's own wording from their final, pre-production draft or shooting script.

While the screenplay is interesting, it's the "Little-Known Facts" that make the book. The Annotated Godfather has has been around since 2007, so those facts have made their way out into the ongoing conversation that surrounds the movie, but it's nice to read them in context.


Francis Ford Coppola arranges a wedding.


Casting and shooting the film were relatively straight-forward, except that the writer didn't want to write it (but Mario Puzo was broke and needed a commercial story), the studio didn't want to produce it, as every gangster picture Paramount had ever made had failed at box office (but the novel was a runaway success and other studios were showing interest), no director would touch the story (twelve directors turned it down, including Coppola, but he was broke and needed a job), the studio didn't want any of the cast, as they were all unknowns, except Brando, and he was considered box office poison (but Coppola outgamed the executives to get what he wanted), and the local Italian-American community banded against the film and amassed a war chest to stop production.

Here are a few quotes from the book, just to give you a taste.
At age forty-five, Mario Puzo owed $20,000 in gambling debts, so he wrote a ten-page book outline entitled Mafia. Eight publishers turned it down.

At a meeting at G.P. Putnam's Sons, Puzo regaled the editors with Mafia stories, impressing them enough to give him a $5,000 book advance. Puzo had never known a mobster or gangster, so he had to do extensive research for the book.

(In 1967) Puzo was so broke, he agreed—against his agent's advice—to accept a deal of a paltry $12,500 option, $80,000 if it was made into a film.

So in April 1969, Puzo was contracted to turn out The Godfather screenplay for an additional $100,000, expenses, and a few percentage points of the profits.


As the 1970s began, Paramount was ranked a dismal ninth among film studios.

Then, over Christmas of 1970, Love Story burst onto the movie scene. With a $106 million return on a $2.2 million investment, Love Story changed the fortunes of Paramount Pictures.

As gangbuster sales of Puzo's book forced Paramount to take another look at their film option, they would try to recreate Love Story's success using the same formula on The Godfather.


Twelve directors turned down the job—many, including Peter Yates (Bullitt) and Richard Brooks (In Cold Blood) because they didn't want to romanticize the Mafia. Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man) was too busy. Costa-Gravas (Z) thought it too American.

Robert Evans, Paramount's head of production, sat down with Peter Bart, his creative second in command, to determine why previous organized crime films hadn't worked, and decided it was because Jews made them, not Italians. So, they sought an Italian-American director, a commodity in short supply.

Francis Ford Coppola was born in Detroit in 1939. His father, Carmine, was the conductor and arranger for the Ford Sunday Evening Hour radio program (hence Francis's middle name).

Peter Bart first approached Coppola to direct The Godfather in the spring of 1970. Coppola tried to read the book but found it sleazy.

His father advised him that commercial work could fund the artistic pictures he wanted to make.

His business partner, George Lucas, begged him to find something in the book he liked.

Coppola reread the novel and came to see a central theme of a family—a father and three sons—that was in its own way a Greek or Shakespearian tragedy. He viewed the growth of the 1940s Corleone Family as a metaphor for capitalism in America. He took the job.

With the inexperienced Coppola, Paramount thought they were hiring an Italian-American director who would also come in on budget and be pliable. Although indeed Italian-American, Francis Ford Coppola would not be the director the studio had envisioned.

The first battle was over the picture being a period piece. Coppola was adamant that the film be set in the 1940s.

Paramount had asked Puzo to set the screenplay in the seventies because contemporary films were cheaper to make; no 1940s cars to find, sets to create, costumes to make.

The second battle was over location. Coppola wanted to shoot in New York, an expensive proposition because of the unions. Producer Albert Ruddy had suggested Cleveland, Kansas City, and Cincinnati as possible sites—or perhaps a studio backlot.

In the end the studio gave in, and the film was shot on location in New York.

The third battle, and it was a long and bloody one, was over casting.



I'll stop there, on page 17 of a 260 page book. If I went on, this post would get right out of hand. Buy the book. It makes for fascinating reading—the true story of how Hollywood made a classic film, and it was not by following the rules they teach in film school.

And just while we're here, I couldn't resist this:



No cannolis are mentioned in the book or shooting script, but Coppola included the detail from his memories of the particular white boxes of cannolis his own father would bring home after work. Richard Castellano, as Clemenza, made movie history by improvising the now famous utterance: "Take the cannoli."

For further interesting reading on this subject, you could try Vanity Fair's article called The Godfather Wars.

Friday, 12 April 2013

"French Roast"

French Roast is an Oscar-nominated animated short film, written and directed by Fabrice Joubert, who worked on The Lorax (2012), Despicable Me (2010), Flushed Away (2006), Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), Shark Tale (2004), Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003), The Road to El Dorado (2000) and The Prince of Egypt (1998).
In a fancy Parisian Café c. 1960, an uptight businessman discovers he forgot to bring his wallet and bides his time by ordering more coffee.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

One year on... Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald is the author of Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate, and The Golden Theme: How to make your writing appeal to the highest common denominator.
   He is an award winning screenwriter who has taught his craft at several major studios, including Pixar, Disney and Industrial Light & Magic. His award-winning short film White Face has been shown all over the USA.
   I had the privilege of interviewing him back in 2012. We recently caught up on Skype and I got to ask what he's been doing since.

________________________________________________________________________

•  What have you been doing over the last year?

I've been teaching, mostly, working at several places, and doing that Red Badge thing with Tom Skerritt.

Tom Skerritt makes it to the wedding in Ted (2012)

•  What's Red Badge all about?

The Red Badge Project was set up by Tom Skerritt and Evan Bailey to assist wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan—Wounded Warriors with post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury—recover through the process of storytelling. They find their way through the psychological healing process by learning how to tell their own stories. Tom, of course, is a well-known actor and Air Force veteran, while Evan is a former Army Captain.

Working with these vets has been fascinating, and I love doing tag-team teaching with Tom. I teach improv to these guys and sometimes Tom will jump in and do improv, which is very interesting. Working with the vets, and with Tom, has been a cool thing; there'll be more of that.



•  What else have you been up to?

I'm still writing the blog. Plus I published Ink Spots, of course. Thanks for the review. The book, which is a compilation of a series of blog posts—to get that in shape, to make it all work, the editing and cleaning it up—was harder than I expected.

•  What about your other writing?

I'm in the beginning stages of trying to get a film going that I'll direct. I've been trying to figure out how I'll do that. I went through a down stage after Django Unchained was announced; that was really hard for me. I thought my script Freeman was unique enough and personal enough that there wouldn't be a duplicate out there. I worked really hard on that for a long time. Then Django came along. That took the wind out of me, because it meant my script Freeman probably won't get made.

•  You don't think Django will open the door for films like Freeman, given it made money?

Some studios liked the script, but they wouldn't make it. I'm not quite famous enough for them to risk it. I have things I want to talk about, that they don't want to talk about.
   People are gun-shy. I expect they will make an exception of this; they'll say, "Well, that's Quentin," and close the door again. 
   I've heard these arguments before. I've been in rooms where the people said, "Oh, there's a movie like your movie; there's a movie coming out like your movie." There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the whole Hollywood thing. You think there would be, you think there's some kind of a logic, but it's like being through the Looking Glass. It doesn't make any sense.
    In a hundred years, Hollywood's made almost no films for theatrical release about slavery, almost none. They made Glory, but Glory doesn't have any slaves in it. There are soldiers fighting for the Union, but they aren't slaves any more.
   Lincoln is about the emancipation of slavery, but there are no slaves in that. Those films are rare because it is still a touchy subject here. Who knows, maybe things are changing, maybe it will turn around.
    I've spent years and years and years writing screenplays and not selling them. Freeman got a lot of attention and I thought something might happen, but nothing did. To see Tarantino's movie come out and do so well and be so highly praised, with people talking about what a great idea it was—I had the idea, or a similar idea. It really did throw me.


•  What have you got coming up in the next year?

I have a script I want to revisit. My agents decided they didn't want to send it out. Which my agents did a lot... I want to revisit that because I wrote it to please them and probably didn't do the best job. If I'd written it the way I wanted to write it, I would have done a better job. I think it's a viable idea.
   Also I have a children's book in the works; I hope to get that published.
   I may be consulting on a movie that I can't talk about. It's a Motown biopic, that's all I can say. I respect the director. He's been around a long time and I could learn a lot from him, so If it goes ahead, I'll drop everything and concentrate on that. Plus I'd get to talk to a lot of those original people, which would be cool.


________________________________________________________________________

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

"Keith Reynolds can't make it tonight"

Keith Reynolds Can't Make it Tonight is a short film which reveals the joy that can result from working at the same large enterprise for many long years. Or not.
This is Keith Reynolds and today is promotion day. Having worked at the company eight years he is the most senior Junior Business Analyst in the building. He's been waiting for this day for a very long time.
It was written, directed and animated by Felix Massie, and narrated by Scott Johnson.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Annette Funicello: 1942-2013

When I was a kid, we didn't own a TV. The family next door did, and—if we were in favor at the time—we might be invited in to watch the after-school TV shows, which included The Lone Ranger (1949-1957), Robin Hood (1955-1960), and The Mickey Mouse Club (1955-1959).

The moment I waited for, the moment when my little prepubescent heart skipped a beat, was at the first appearance of Annette Funicello in blurry B&W. Oh, she was gorgeous...


Funicello began her professional career at the age of twelve. She rose to prominence as a "Mouseketeer" on the original Mickey Mouse Club.

She moved on from Disney to become a teen idol, starring in a series of "Beach Party" movies with Frankie Avalon. These included Beach Party (1963), Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), Pajama Party (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965).

Funicello and Avalon became iconic as "beach picture" stars and were re-united in 1987 for the Paramount film Back to the Beach, parodying their own surf-and-sand films two decades earlier.

In 1992, Funicello announced that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She died of complications of the disease on April 8, 2013.


    The New York Times    

"Thought of You"

Thought of You is a short animated film, made by Ryan Woodward.
Rather than creating a narrative animated piece that communicates a well defined story, this piece allows for each individual who views it to to experience something unique and personal that touches their own sensibilities.
Ryan Woodward began his career as an animator/designer and storyboard artist in 1995. He has worked for Warner Brothers Feature Animation, Sony Pictures, Cartoon Network, Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Entertainment and Dreamworks Pictures on films such as Spider-man 2, Spider-man 3, Where the Wild Things Are, Ironman 2, Cowboys and Aliens, The Avengers, and Snow White and the Huntsman.

Ryan has a BFA from Brigham Young University and an MFA from The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, is an assistant professor of the Animation program at Brigham Young University, where he teaches storyboarding, figure drawing, visual development and animation.


The backing song is The World Moves Madly On by The Weepies.


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Monday, 8 April 2013

Book review: "Making Movies"

I first read Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet, when it came out in 1995, and was dazzled (and intimidated) by the complexity of big-time filmmaking. I reread it in 2013 and had the exact same reaction. This is a serious book about filmmaking.

Sidney Lumet (1924-2011) directed seventy-two movies and TV shows. He is best known for films such as 12 Angry Men (1957), The Pawnbroker (1964), Serpico (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976), Prince of the City (1981), The Verdict (1982), and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007).


Lumet was an actor, appearing on stage in Broadway shows from the age of five. He spent three years with the US Army during World War II, then started directing off-Broadway stage shows after the war, before moving to TV in 1952.

His first movie, 12 Angry Men, was nominated for three Academy Awards. It was also a start of the trend whereby he never won, despite being personally nominated four times. Fourteen of the films he directed were nominated a total of 46 times for Oscars, winning six times. In 2005 the Academy gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award for his "services to screenwriters, performers, and the art of the motion picture."

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Here are some quotes from the book.
I once asked Akira Kurosawa why he had chosen to frame a shot in Ran in a particular way. His answer was that if he'd panned the camera one inch to the left, the Sony factory would be sitting there exposed, and if he'd panned an inch to the right, we would see the airport—neither of which belonged in a period movie.

Often the last to arrive [at rehearsal] is the writer. He is last because he knows that at this point he is the target. At this moment, anything wrong can only be his fault, since nothing else has happened yet. So he moves quietly to the coffee table, stuffs his mouth full of Danish so he won't have to answer any questions, and tries to become as small as possible.

There are many reasons for accepting a movie. I'm not a believer in waiting for "great" material that will produce a "masterpiece." What's important is that the material involve me personally on some level.

I've done two movies because I needed the money. I've done three because I love to work and couldn't wait any longer.

The truth is that no one knows what that magic combination is that produces a first-rate piece of work.

For anyone who wants to direct but hasn't made a first movie yet, there is no decision to make. Whatever the movie, whatever the auspices, whatever the problems, if there's a chance to direct, take it!

The theme (the what of the movie) is going to determine the style (the how of the movie).

What is the movie about? Work can't begin until its limits are defined, and this is the first step in that process. It becomes the riverbed into which all subsequent decisions will be channeled.

The script must keep you off balance, keep you surprised, entertained, involved, and yet, when the denouement is reached, still give you the sense that the story had to turn out that way.

Dialogue is not uncinematic. So many of the movies of the thirties and forties that we adore are constant streams of dialogue.

The point is that here is no war between the visual and the aural. Why not the best of both?

A character should be clear from his present actions. And his behavior as the picture goes on should reveal the psychological motivations.

If the writer has to state the reasons, something's wrong in the way the character has been written.

I like the writer present at rehearsals. Words are critical. And most actors aren't writers, nor are most directors.

I use improvisation as an acting technique, not as a source of dialogue.

Most writers are so used to being slapped around that they're stunned that I want them at rehearsal.

There's a powerful magic about being a writer that I still marvel at.

I want the writer to see the first cut. First cuts of a picture always have to have some time taken out of them. Most writers are able to see repetitions in their own work.

In a sense, a movie is constantly being rewritten. The various contributions of the director and the actors, the music, sound, camera, decor, and editing, are so powerful that the movie is always changing.

Making a movie has always been about telling a story.

In Murder on the Orient Express, I wanted Ingrid Bergman to play the Russian princess. She wanted to play the retarded Swedish maid. I wanted Ingrid Bergman. I let her play the maid. She won an Academy Award.

Just as in life, really talking and listening to one another is very, very difficult. In acting, that's the basis on which everything is built.

Sanford Meisner was one of the best acting teachers of my time. With beginning students, he spent the first month or six weeks getting them to really talk and listen to one another, That's all. It's the great common denominator where different acting styles and techniques meet.
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Steven Spielberg said of this book:

"Film would be a better place if every director were required to share with other romancers of film his process. It is a gift to us all that it is Sidney Lumet, one of America's greatest filmmakers, who is sharing his point-of-view."