Thursday 31 January 2013

Interview with Linda Aronson

Linda Aronson is an English-born, Australian playwright, scriptwriter, comic novelist and screenwriting theorist. She worked for some years on a D.Phil in late nineteenth century fiction at Oxford university but later abandoned it to become a full time writer. Her book, The 21st Century Screenplay, is the leading text on how to write non-linear films. She teaches screenwriting to professionals everywhere, and has just returned from a six-month speaking tour of Europe, which culminated in an appearance at the London Screenwriting Festival.
    She's a tough lady to pin down. I've been chatting with her about doing an interview for the last twelve months. When we finally synchronised our schedules, Linda proved to be warm, generous and articulate. Here is the substance of our discussion.

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

I'm a seventh generation Londoner, born within the sound of Bow Bells, so I'm officially a Cockney, though my father was Scottish. When I was very young, there was a whooping cough epidemic. My older brother and sister became ill and our parents decided they needed to get us out of London. So I grew up in an outer suburb, in Essex.
    I went to Grammar School in Essex. Then, in 1968, when I was 18, I went off to Northern Ireland to study at the University of Ulster

•  Why Ulster?

I wanted to get out of London. I found growing up in the suburbs of London very claustrophobic and I wanted to taste the world.
   The establishment of the University of Ulster in 1968 was one of the triggers for the start of The Troubles in Ireland. I was there two weeks when the Civil Rights marches started, and I got involved in all of that. It was quite dramatic, living in a war zone for some years.

   My goal at the time was to develop an academic career that would fund me to write novels and poetry. I first published my poems at age 20. I have published four novels, but I'm a natural dramatist. 

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

I had a brother and sister, quite a bit older than me. Within the sweep of the British class system of the day, we were lower middle class, though that's a distinction which was already losing its meaning, as it became more possible for people from my kind of background to go to university. It was very very difficult to get into university, not automatic if you’d passed your matriculation, as it was for my Oz husband growing up at the same time in Australia. I was the first person in my family to do so, though my father was a brilliant man. He left school at fourteen, as they all did in those days. He became an electronics expert in the Navy and ended up running his own electronics business. It's a shame he died before the advent of the digital age, because he would have been in his element today. 

•  What was your first paying job?

It was sorting out files in the basement of my Dad's office, at fourteen. I did a lot of waitressing jobs, from the age of sixteen onwards, during my summer holidays. With my first waitressing job I was also a chamber maid, because I was working in a hotel on the Isle of Wight. And I learned how to do silver service,  which was fun.

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

I was always passionate about literature and writing. I won my first writing competition when I was five. The prize was six month's free supply of Cadbury's chocolate. It was a famous competition, held annually. They would get a bunch of children around the UK to give them feedback on their new products. You had to write a little essay on Why I Love Cadbury Chocolate Fingers. My mother was very strict about what we ate and it was rare we had anything like that, so I lied through my teeth about my imaginary addiction to Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers, and it obviously did the trick.

•  You moved out here when you were 23. What was your biggest surprise on arriving in Australia?

It was not as English as I thought it would be. I lived in Ireland for three years before I went to Oxford. When I got to Australia, I found it to be very Irish. There were words I already knew from Ireland that people thought were Australian, like "stonkered" and that sort of thing; and there was an approach to life which I thought was Irish. I was also struck by the size of everything, traveling around; the country is huge.

•  What was your first writing job?

I guess this should really be how did I get started as a writer, since I wrote and got produced on spec a lot at first. I soon gave up poetry and got into playwriting as an undergraduate. Apparently my first play was toured in Berlin and other places in Europe by the Drama Society of my university with great success in 1971, when I was twenty-one, but I didn’t know anything about this until last year when one of my friends who’d performed in that tour told me! She thought I knew! 

   I really started focussing on plays when I got to Australia. There used to be a wonderful institution called the Australian National Playwrights Conference (1972-2006), which is where I first met Ken Ross, Debra Oswald, and many other writers who are now active in TV, film and stage. 
   The ANPC had a competition every year in Canberra. Top directors, actors, critics and dramaturgs came from all over Australia to work on the plays. In 1973, my first proper stage play, Closing Down, was one of those read. My first paying job as a writer was to adapt Closing Down into a radio play for the ABC, but I wrote that on spec rather than being commissioned.
   In 1975 I had an amateur production of a play called Cafe in a Side Street, which I also adapted for ABC radio. In 1976, my third play, The Fall Guy, was read at the ANPC Conference. As a result, it was picked up by Melbourne Theatre Company, and also performed in Adelaide by The Stage Company and later in Milwaukee, USA. It was nominated for an AWGIE award. As a result of the success of The Fall Guy I was asked to write a film, Kostas, which was nominated for AWGIE Best Stage Play and AFI Best Film, and then I got into television.

•  How did you come to write your screenwriting books?

I ran a course at AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School) in Sydney, for which I invented what became the twenty-five Development Strategies found in Part 2 of The 21st Century Screenplay. They were deemed to be very useful and have been embraced all around the world.
   AFTRS encouraged me to write a book.
   I wrote what I knew about linear three act structure, from my point of view as a working writer. I summarised the views of other writers I admired (always, of course, acknowledging them). That done, I thought I’d like to say something about flashbacks and reunion films and group films, but I couldn’t find anything in writing on the subject, or really, get any information at all. I asked a visiting expert about the structure of an ensemble film like The Big Chill, but got no answers. 

   In the absence of any answers, I decided to have a crack at the job myself. I watched ensemble, time jump, and flashback films again and again and again to see how they worked. To my surprise I  observed patterns and those patterns occurred consistently in films from around the world.
   That was exciting enough, but one day, when I was banging on about my discoveries over the dinner table, my daughter, who’s a classicist, said, “Mum, you do realise that The Odyssey has a flashback in the middle.” I had no idea. When I read it, I realised Homer three thousand years ago was using flashback in the way writers like Guillermo Arriga, writer of 21 Grams and Babel, use it— stealing jeopardy from the end of the story to speed up a slow, episodic start.
  I completed Screenwriting Updated and presented it to Meredith Quinn, the publisher at AFTRS. She sent it to an American publisher, Silman James in Los Angeles, publisher of quality screen craft books, who immediately picked it up for publication before it had even been published in Australia. Since then, sales have gone through the roof. Ten years later, I extensively revised and extended the book, adding a massive amount of new material—so much that the publisher felt it was a new book. This was published as The 21st Century Screenplay.

•  Why are you so focused on teaching, rather than getting on with your own writing?

Bizarrely, despite the proliferation of mainstream films and TV that use ensemble casts and flashbacks, I am the only screenwriting theorist offering practical guidelines for writing in those forms. I feel it’s important there is a voice out there saying, “No, you do not have to conform to the linear three act model. You have at least six other structures. Start to think in terms of allowing your content to dictate the structure.”
   The problem is that screenwriting theory has now become big business. In a high-cost high-risk industry like film, the pressure to offer easy quick-fix, one-size-fits-all answers is enormous. The result is that those wonderfully useful structural tools for handling one-hero linear stories have become simplified in transmission and are now assumed and asserted by many people (thankfully not all) as the one way to write a film, with the one-hero story the only type of story that is suitable for a film.
   This is very dangerous, indeed actively destructive. While mainstream film and TV routinely use flashbacks and ensemble structures, young writers who try to use these forms often get knocked back. On the other hand, scripts are being irreparably damaged because writers are forcing their flashback or group-story material into a one-hero-on-a-single-linear-chronological-journey model when it just doesn’t fit. It’s common to hear experts saying that anyone who uses flashback is a bad writer. It’s heartbreaking.
  And the strangest things about all of this is that the facts fly in the face of the theory. Theory is getting increasingly detached from the reality of the industry. As I’ve suggested, it’s now impossible to watch an evening’s TV without seeing flashbacks or multiple protagonist structures, often both, and such structures are out there all the time in mainstream film. Yet many screenwriting theorists are still insisting that these models constitute bad writing (that is, if they consider these forms at all).
   My work routinely puts me in contact with very senior writers and executives from US and UK TV who cannot believe that new writers are being told not to use flashback or group stories. They look at me and keep questioning me as if I’m making it up.
   Frankly, I don’t think people will have a career as writers in five years time if they don’t have a working knowledge of these parallel narrative structures. Producers are wonderful people, but often they don’t understand just how writers think, how difficult it is to write and to keep objective about your own work. I predict that within a few years, producers will be asking writers to apply, say, a Memento-like structure to a story. That is incredibly difficult to do, if you’re trying to find a theory to support your work as you go along. You certainly can’t do it at speed
   An experienced writer can indeed do a lot of this stuff intuitively and at speed; but if you’re a new writer, you really need guidelines. Most of the people who could provide guidelines are too busy writing, so I’m afraid it’s down to me.
   And I don’t resent it because the reception I get from writers, script theorists and script executives is so positive. There is huge frustration out there about the pressure to conformity. I get standing ovations.
  I think my theories are useful but I’m not precious about them. I’m looking forward to seeing people pushing the envelope. I would love to have someone prove me wrong.

•  Any chance you’ll be teaching in Adelaide in the foreseeable future

I’ve been invited in the past, but the timing hasn’t worked out. I’m supposed to do a lecture tour in Australia later this year, but it hasn’t been finalised as yet. If someone invites me, I’ll come.

What projects do you have underway at present

I’ve been getting back into writing, combining these theories with my own story-telling. I’ve written a cutting-edge experiment in immersive virtual reality. It is an installation project.
   The first production of the first of these pieces is in development in the United States at present, which is very exciting. Technicians are struggling to work out whether it is technically and financially possible. The plan is for it to be staged in the US or Europe later this year. You will walk into a room and the drama will occur all around you, and involve your touch, hearing and vision. Four non-linear story-lines unfold, stories that you’ll only be able to put together at the end. It’s like a living story; the drama happens 360 degrees around you.

•  What was the best advice you were given at the start of your career?

A very kind British writer—I can't remember his name—heard a reading, at the Australian National Playwrights Conference, of my first play Closing Down, written when I was a very young, insecure writer, aged 23. He said to me: "Linda, you must keep writing. You're talented." 
   That sustained me for a long while.
   The best piece of writing advice came to me from Carl Sautter, who sadly passed away last year, in the early 1980s. He said that everything one writes must be real, but unusual.

•  What one screenwriting advice book (not your own) would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Adelaide?
Making a Good Script Great, by Linda Seger.
The Writers Journey, by Christopher Vogler.
•  What are your ten favourite movies of all time?
21 Grams (2003) - Fractured Tandem
Aladdin (1992) - Animation
Atonement (2007) - Consecutive Stories
Citizen Kane (1941) - Double Narrative Flashback Case History
City of God (2002) - Gangster
Lives of Others (2006) - Double Journey
Mephisto (1981) - Faustian Bargain
Some Like it Hot (1959) - Classic Comedy
The Crucible (1996) - Adaptation
Thelma and Louise (1991) - Buddy Movie

Here's a short video of Linda Aronson at a workshop for film workers in Sweden in November 2011, where she talks about the rise of parallel narratives.

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Wednesday 30 January 2013

"Ventriloquist Cat"

Okay, it's Tex Avery time again. 

This is one of the funniest cartoons he ever directed. Enjoy.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

"Inside Llewyn Davis" - new Coen brothers film

A lot of people will be happy to know that the Coen brothers have a new film on the way, called Inside Llewyn Davis.
A singer-songwriter navigates New York's folk music scene during the 1960s.
The film stars Oscar Isaac as folk singer, Llewyn Davis, who travels around New York City during the 1960s, as well as Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Garret Hedlund, Adam Driver and F. Murray Abraham.

The film is reported to be loosely based on the life of folk icon Dave Van Ronk, though it could be a Bob Dylan-inspired picture. The Dylan song, Farewell, provides the backing track for the entire trailer. The film follows Llewyn Davis, a struggling, aspiring musician living in Greenwich Village.

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Monday 28 January 2013

Book review: Scriptwriting 2.0, Writing for the Digital Age

Marie Drennan
Scriptwriting 2.0: Writing for the Digital Age is a textbook "for those looking to explore online series." The cover says it was written by Marie Drennan, Yuri Baranovsky & Vlad Baranovsky. I've been looking forward to reading it for months, but before we get into the text, I need to clarify a couple of points.

If you're looking for free-flowing whimsy, Yuri Baranovsky-style, or the story about the duck and the rabbi, you've come to the wrong place. It’s also not a pop-up book about dinosaurs, despite an earlier report to that effect. This is a textbook. The cover is determinedly youthful-looking, but there is a School Ma'am element of sit-up-straight about it. The good news is that it jumps right into the business at hand; no waste, no fuss.

Second, the title. I assumed it meant there was a pre-existing book called Scriptwriting 1.0, but no, the "two" is intended to invoke the history of web development. When I asked the editor, Gay Pauley, about it, she said:
"Believe me, we went back and forth with the title (and this title is better than others that were proffered!)! The reference is not that specific—it simply refers indirectly to “web 2.0” and other “new” online technologies."
So, if you're technically-minded, the "2.0" came from the same place as the "II" in dBase II. And if that went over your head, accept it as a flattering reference to your youthful innocence.

Possibly the best (most practically helpful) part of the book is that it concludes with the full screenplay for Leap Year, Season 2, Episode 1.
For those who don't know, Leap Year is a successful web series, written by Yuri Baranovsky and Vlad Baranovsky, directed by Yuri Baranovsky, produced by Wilson Cleveland, and stitched together by the prolific team at Happy Little Guillotine Films.

Leap Year is a Silicon Valley dramedy series about the founders of the "Skype with holograms" startup, C3D.
Just to round things out, I have included the video of Season 2, Episode 1 of Leap Year at the end of this post. Now, to the book. ________________________________________________________________________

Scriptwriting 2.0: Writing for the Digital Age is a textbook. There's no way round that fact. It's a textbook about screenwriting and filmmaking, one which assumes no previous knowledge and which is clearly intended to be consumed over one semester. It consists of 150 pages (plus the screenplay at the end), and is divided into ten chapters.

Chapter One sets the scene, and introduces the three writers. Most of us are familiar with the work of Yuri and Vlad Baranovsky. If not, you should read this interview with Yuri, from last year. 

The paragraph dealing with Marie Drennan is actually a review of how the teaching of screenwriting-for-the-internet has changed over the years. There's nothing about the person at all. Some internet sleuthing tells us that she gained an M.A. in Radio & Television from San Francisco State University in 2001, that she is currently employed as an Assistant professor at that university, that she is an irregular Twitterer, an inconsistent blogger, and that her taste in films ranges from Metropolis (1927) and Network (1976), to The Princess Bride (1987) and Shaun of the Dead (2004). Oh, and in her spare time, she plays drums and electric guitar.

Chapter Two talks about ideas, how to get them, how to turn an idea into a premise, the Central Question, characters, antagonists, and the story world.

Chapter Three addresses basic three act structure, under the labels The Setup, Rising Action and Resolution. Chapter Four touches on the basics of Dialogue. Chapter Five gives some tips on Revising and Polishing your screenplay.

Chapter Six is labelled 'Episode 2 and Beyond.' It includes notes on extending a single episode into a web series. Chapter Seven discusses screenplay format. Chapter Eight is about Copyright. Chapter Nine is about gathering a crew and editing your film. Chapter Ten is about the audience: Creating a Brand, Growing Your Audience and Maintaining Your Community.

You could think of Scriptwriting 2.0 as a technical counterpart to the Viki King book, How to Write a Movie in 21 Days, but with a webseries in view, rather than a feature film.

If you are just starting to learn about screenwriting and filmmaking, absolutely from scratch, this is as good a book as any.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Screenwriting lesson from Ted Griffin

Ted Griffin is an L.A.-based screenwriter who wrote Ocean's Eleven, Matchstick Men, Rumour Has It..., Killers, and Tower Heist.

He broke into Hollywood in the late 1990s, selling a series of spec scripts that have so far gone unproduced, including Mobile in 1997, and Solace and Beached in 1998. These landed him an early rewrite assignment for a comedy called Domestic Partners, which has also gone unproduced.

Here he is, talking about his career.

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Saturday 26 January 2013

Australia Day

It's Australia Day. To celebrate, here are a couple of tunes that strike a sentimental note in the heart of any fair dinkum Aussie.

The first is the Director's cut of the 2004 Qantas commercial, featuring the Peter Allen song, I Still Call Australia Home. The original song talks about going to "Rio," which Qantas don't do, so they changed the word to "Rome."

This next video has Peter Allen singing Tenterfield Saddler. Tenterfield is a town in New South Wales, where Peter Allen's family lived. The saddler was Peter Allen's grandfather, the son who has "need of a gun" was his alcoholic father who committed suicide, and Peter is the grandson who "married a girl with an interesting face' (Liza Minelli).

That song always gets to me. Now I'm off to watch the cricket and sink a cold one. Cheers!

Friday 25 January 2013

"All I Do Is Think Of You"

Chico was the eldest of the Marx Brothers, but the youngest of them when he died (age 74) in 1961. 

Chico was a talented pianist. He originally started playing with only his right hand and fake playing with his left. As a young boy, he gained jobs playing piano to earn money for the Marx family. Sometimes he worked playing in two places at the same time. He would acquire the first job with his piano-playing skills, work for a few nights, and then substitute Harpo on one of the jobs. (During their boyhood, Chico and Harpo looked so much alike that they were often mistaken for each other.)

Groucho Marx stated that his brother got the name Chico because he was a "Chicken-chaser" (early slang for chasing women). He also said that Chico never practiced the pieces he played. Instead, before performances he soaked his fingers in hot water. He was known for 'shooting' the keys of the piano. He played passages with his thumb up and index finger straight, like a gun, as part of the act. 

For a while in the 1930s and 1940s, Chico led a big band. Singer Mel Tormé began his professional career singing with the Chico Marx Orchestra.

Here he plays "All I Do Is Think Of You" in A Night at the Opera (1935), for a group of delighted children. 

[Watch how the Hollywood power game was being played, even by children, back in 1935. At the start of this piece, a small boy takes his place next to the piano. A much larger kid makes his way over, then muscles in, displacing the little kid.]

Thursday 24 January 2013

"Teenager From the Future"

Michael J. Fox stars as Marty McFly in Teenager From The Future, a 1950's science fiction film lost in time!

What Back To The Future might have looked like had it been made thirty years earlier in 1955.
Featuring the new craze that's sweeping the nation, Board Skating! And mother-son incest! And much, much more!


Wednesday 23 January 2013

Robert Chew: 1960-2013

Robert F. Chew passed away Thursday at the age of 52. The actor and teacher died of heart failure while asleep in his Baltimore home.

He was best known for portraying Proposition Joe on The Wire, and was one of the few characters from the drug world who appeared in all five seasons. Like many in the Wire company, Chew was a born-and-bred Baltimore resident.

Chew also appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street and The Corner, both written by The Wire creator David Simon. In addition to acting, Chew was a teacher of young-adult actors at Baltimore's Arena Players, through which he helped twenty-two of his students land parts on the HBO hit, most notably the four young leads who were called upon to carry its fourth season, which focused on the Baltimore City School System.

Chew is survived by his mother and three sisters. Funeral services will be held Thursday, Jan. 24.

The many voices of Robert F. Chew:

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Assume the position...

Ever since 9/11, international travel has become more stressful. It seems there are fresh indignities being invented all the time. Here is an account of another, courtesy of the BBC.
How would you go about proposing to your girlfriend? Perhaps you would slip the ring in her glass of wine at dinner. Or you could try something a little more creative...

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Hitchcock cameos

I've been reading Hitchcock: The definitive study of Alfred Hitchcock by François Truffaut, first published in 1967, a fascinating book, about which I will have more to say down the road.

While talking about The Lodger (1927), Truffaut raises the question of "personal appearances" and asks Hitchcock why he made them. Hitchcock answers:

"It was strictly utilitarian; we had to fill the screen. Later on it became a superstition and eventually a gag. But by now it's a rather troublesome gag, and I'm very careful to show up in the first five minutes so as to let the people look at the rest of the movie with no further distraction."
My favourite cameo, from North by Northwest. Alfred Hitchcock tries to catch a bus on Madison Avenue between 44th Street and 45th Street. Long before he ever went to the USA, Hitchcock's hobby was the study of Manhattan. He'd memorised every train timetable, as well as the location of all the major stores.
There are numerous lists of those personal appearances around. Some have him appearing in 36 films, most have 37, some (Wikipedia) have 40. The disputed films include Number 17, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage and Rebecca. (Why people argue over the Rebecca entry mystifies me, as the Hitchcock|Truffaut book contains a large photo of the moment. The earlier films have the problem of blurry B&W.) Here's my list:
  • The Lodger (1927) - At a desk in a newsroom and later in the crowd watching an arrest.
  • Easy Virtue (1928) - Walking past a tennis court, carrying a walking stick.
  • Blackmail (1929) - Being hassled by a small boy on a train.
  • Murder! (1930) - Walking past the house where the murder was committed.
  • The 39 Steps (1935) - Walking past and tossing litter, while the stars catch a bus.
  • Young and Innocent (1937) - Outside the courthouse, holding a camera.
  • The Lady Vanishes (1938) - In Victoria Station, smoking a cigarette.
  • Rebecca (1940) - Walking near the phone booth, just after George Sanders makes a call.
  • Foreign Correspondent (1940) - After Joel McCrea leaves his hotel, he's wearing a coat and hat, and reading a newspaper.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) - Passing Robert Montgomery in front of his building.
  • Suspicion (1941) - Mailing a letter at the village postbox. And walking a horse across the screen at a hunt-meet.
  • Saboteur (1942) - Standing in front of Cut Rate Drugs in New York as the saboteur’s car stops.
  • Shadow of A Doubt (1943) - On the train to Santa Rosa, playing cards.
  • Lifeboat (1944) - In the “before” and “after” pictures in the newspaper ad for weight reduction.
  • Spellbound (1945) - Coming out of an elevator, carrying a violin case and smoking a cigarette.
  • Notorious (1946) - Drinking champagne.
  • The Paradine Case (1947) - Leaving the train, carrying a cello.
  • Rope (1948) - On a neon sign.
  • Under Capricorn (1949) - In the town square during a parade, wearing a blue coat and brown hat, in the first five minutes. Ten minutes later, he is one of three men on the steps of Government House.
  • Stage Fright (1950) - Turning to look at Jane Wyman in her disguise as Marlene Dietrich’s maid.
  • Strangers on A Train (1951) - Boarding a train with a double bass, early in the film.
  • I Confess (1953) - Crossing the top of a staircase after the opening credits.
  • Dial M for Murder (1954) - On the left side of the class-reunion photo.
  • Rear Window (1954) - Winding the clock in the songwriter’s apartment.
  • To Catch A Thief (1955) - Sitting to the left of Cary Grant on a bus.
  • The Trouble With Harry (1955) - Walking past the parked limousine of an old man who is looking at paintings.
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) - Watching acrobats (his back to the camera) just before the murder.
  • The Wrong Man (1956) - Narrating the film’s prologue.
  • Vertigo (1958) - In a gray suit walking in the street.
  • North By Northwest (1959) - Missing a bus during the opening credits.
  • Psycho (1960) - Through Janet Leigh’s window as she returns to her office. He is wearing a cowboy hat.
  • The Birds (1963) - Leaving the pet shop with two white terriers.
  • Marnie (1964) - Entering from the left of the hotel corridor after Tippi Hedren passes by.
  • Torn Curtain (1966) - Sitting in the Hotel d’Angleterre lobby with a baby.
  • Topaz (1969) - Being pushed in a wheelchair.
  • Frenzy (1972) - In the centre of a crowd, wearing a bowler hat, three minutes into the film.
  • Family Plot (1976) - In silhouette through the door of the Registrar of Births and Deaths.
The following video assembles every cameo appearance listed above into a single clip.

Monday 21 January 2013

Chinese restaurants in NYC

One of my favourite blogs is Scouting New York. It combines great information about movies, with tidbits about the most interesting city in the world. 

The post about Why Everyone Films At The Same Damn New York Chinese Restaurant is a great example of the kind of story that takes me back there, over and over.

The question being answered is: Why is Wu's the movie director's Chinese restaurant of choice in New York? Enjoy!


The first time I saw the Russell Crowe movie, A Good Year (2006), I didn't particularly like it, but it is a film which improves on repeated viewings. The soundtrack is especially effective, this track in particular.

Marc Streitenfeld is a German film score composer, known for his collaborations with director Ridley Scott. Born in Munich, Germany, Streitenfeld relocated to Los Angeles at the age of 19, first working briefly as a musical assistant for composer Hans Zimmer, then independently as a music editor and supervisor on several blockbusters.

The track is called Wisdom. It was written by Marc Streitenfeld. Turn the sound up, close your eyes, and enjoy.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Tina Fey on Twitter

You know her as Tina Fey, or Ms. Norbury, or Liz Lemon, but she grew up as Elizabeth Stamatina Fey in Pennsylvania, though she went by the name of Tina. Ms. Fey considered herself a "supernerd" during her high school and college years. She studied drama at the University of Virginia, and after graduating in 1992, she headed to Chicago, the ancestral home of American comedy. While working at a YMCA to support herself, she started Second City's first set of courses. After about nine months, a teacher told her to just skip ahead and audition for the more selective Second City Training Center. She failed but about eight weeks later, she re-auditioned and got into the year-long program. She spent many years at The Second City in Chicago, then in 1995, Saturday Night Live came calling, and a whole new career opened up.

Now here she is, giving us all her opinion of Twitter. Yeah, Twitter, the
chat-in-140-characters thing; you know, you've heard of it.

Tina Fey gives her brutally honest take on Twitter. Make sure to follow @RevGimp and @MSturkeytips!

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Saturday 19 January 2013

Australian talent quest

In 1996, a stray bunch of Australians (plus a Scotsman and a Canadian) came together to make a movie. The movie is called Cosi, and it is the most underrated film Australia ever produced (after Hercules Returns). 
A young amateur theater director is offered a job with a Government program for the rehabilitation of the mentally ill. His project is hijacked by a patient who wants to stage Cosi Fan Tutte by Mozart.
One of the best things about Cosi is that it includes Australia's greatest ever talent quest. Try this group for size: Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Jacki Weaver, David Wenham, Greta Scacchi, Colin Hay, Ben Mendelsohn, Barry Otto, Aden Young, Pamela Rabe, Colin Friels, and Paul Mercurio.

Here's the talent competition, so you can judge for yourself.

Friday 18 January 2013

Air fresheners in movies

I was waiting at a bus stop recently when I noticed a car with a Christmas Tree air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror, which put me in mind of Repo Man (1984) and the whole business of the Little Trees homage shots that subsequently made their way into movies and TV.

Repo Man features pine tree-shaped air fresheners in almost every vehicle in the movie, including the police motorcycle. People will tell you that the manufacturer, Little Trees, funded the movie, but that's not true. No money changed hands, but a number of air fresheners did. It is part of the legend that every Little Tree used in the movie was scent-free, because no one could handle the smell of them.

Repo Man is a cult movie, little known in the mainstream, but beloved by aficionados, who include many young Hollywood directors. I don't know exactly when the trend started, but it became a thing to include a Christmas Tree air freshener somewhere in your movie. Here are some examples.

Repo Man (1984). The first car recovered by Emilio Estevez has a blue one.

In Repo Man (1984), even the police motorcycle has one.

Cadillac Man (1990). Robin William's wife has a red one.

Robin Williams wears a green one in The Fisher King (1991).

Charles Durning has two in his car in Home for the Holidays (1995).

Full screen in Ocean's Eleven (2001). Is this big enough?
In The Wire (2002), Season 1, Episode 2, Rawls tosses the wrong office. Landsman points out that this is McNulty's office. Notice the green leaf, bottom right.
As befits a Shopgirl (2005), Claire Danes has a pink one.
In 10 Items or Less (2006), Morgan Freeman checks all the options...
... before choosing a green Christmas Tree for Paz Vega's car.
In The Unit (2007), the CIA use a green one as a signalling device.

Ellen Page has the red Autumn Leaf version in Juno (2007).
Amy Poehler has a red Christmas Tree in Baby Mama (2008).
And in Despicable Me (2010), Gru opts for a generic green one.