Thursday 30 June 2016

The Evolution of Pixar

This is a fourteen minute celebration of over thirty years of Pixar animation.

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Kevin Smith - Advice on filmmaking

Kevin Smith was born and raised in New Jersey. His first movie, Clerks. (1994), was filmed in the convenience store in which Smith worked. He was only allowed to shoot at night after the store closed. This movie won the highest award at the Sundance film festival and was brought to theaters by Miramax. The movie went over so well that Smith was able to make another movie, Mallrats in 1995.

In this interview, Kevin Smith gives new filmmakers some ideas on how to act on set... and has some great advice for making sure the edit of your film is going to be exactly what your audience can tolerate.

First posted: 9 September 2012

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Happy Now

Happy Now is a comedy web series about love, relationships and all the modern issues facing modern couples. Each episode tells a different story about a different couple, written by a different writer. 

In this episode, Rick finally persuades his older girlfriend to meet his Mum but it's a move he soon regrets.

Monday 27 June 2016

The Lion City II

Australian director Keith Loutit and Michael Adler Miltersen spent several years making this video. Michael visited every year from Copenhagen so they could develop the music and footage side by side, each influencing the other. The soundtrack is available at:

Sunday 26 June 2016

Saturday 25 June 2016

The Coen Brothers, pt. 2

Filmmaker Cameron Beyl deconstructs the work of Joel and Ethan Coen. This episode covers covers their trio of "retro-surreal" period pictures produced in the 1990s, Miller's Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991) and The Hudsucker Proxy (1994).

Friday 24 June 2016

What Long Takes Can't Do

Evan Puschak discusses the origins and limitations of long takes in movies.

Thursday 23 June 2016

A Prairie Home Companion

Garrison Keillor hosted the A Prairie Home Companion radio show for well over forty years, but has reached the end of the line. He has broadcast another of his final shows, this time from the Hollywood Bowl.

A Prairie Home Companion became a movie by Robert Altman in 2006. The film is a personal favourite of mine, a so-called 'guilty pleasure.'

Here's an extract from the final show. With a little help from Bob Dylan, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, and friends.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Book Review: The Starter Screenplay

In a recent interview, Anne Lower recommended several books, including one I’d never heard of before: The Starter Screenplay, by Adam Levenberg. I know Anne gives good advice, so I bought a copy.

Adam Levenberg is a former Hollywood executive (Intuition Productions, One Race Films), and that is the entire point of his book. There’s no advice on formatting or screenplay structure or character development. The executive mindset—something most of us instinctively mistrust—is obvious throughout. Adam spent years as a Hollywood executive, and he’s still in his early thirties. That shows in his book. It is impatient, direct, and blunt. The tone is that of a youthful executive unwinding over a couple of cold ones with a group of peers.

There are three things you need to understand from the outset. The first is that Hollywood executives divide writers into two classes: those who have agents, managers and/or lawyers, and those who are unrepresented.

Get used to seeing references to the “unrepresented writer” because that's the person for whom this book was written.

The second thing is the concept of the “Starter Screenplay.”
  • A Starter Screenplay is a script that gives you a shot at breaking into Hollywood.
And what does a starter screenplay look like?
  • There is one hero.
  • Events take place in present-day reality, preferably in the United States, usually in a neighborhood or contained location.
  • The hero is provided a love interest, a ticking clock, a clear-cut goal, and depending on the genre, either life or death or family and career are on the line.
  • (It tells a story) that executives want to make and audiences want to see, featuring characters we'd like to be.

The third thing is this: a "movie" is that type of film which consistently makes money for the studio. Sure, there are other types of films—art house, foreign, doco, experimental, and so on—but to be a "movie," a film has to be of a style that has a track record of positive return on investment.

Executives have been studying the patterns of success and failure for a century. This book is a distillation of all that due diligence. It doesn’t tell The Truth, but it presents a version of the executive mindset that will probably decide the future of your next screenplay, should it get that high up in the food chain.

You probably won’t like what you’re about to read, but you’d be a fool to not want to know how they think.
  • Over 99% of unrepresented writers do not know how to write a movie.
  • Unrepresented writers ... often think any narrative they imagine or construct is a movie because they are writing it in screenplay format.
And that's why they remain unrepresented. The stuff they've been writing doesn't qualify as a "movie" in the eyes of Hollywood executives.

You need to read the whole book to get the full picture, but here are a few quotes from The Starter Screenplay to give you a taste of the POV of a Hollywood executive.

  • Movies are about heroes trapped in extreme situations. They are forced to do outrageous things and overcome impossible odds to achieve a particular goal.
  • Successful movies exploit an audience's desires.
  • The cliché "write what you know" inspires countless writers to depict the frustrations of breaking into Hollywood. This is awful advice for screenwriters.
  • Stallone ... took a visually dull job (writing behind a desk) and set it inside a boxing ring with people beating the shit out of each other.
  • Kiddie movies by unrepresented writers are usually awful. It takes a highly sophisticated expert to entertain kids and adults at the same time.
  • If you need more than 115 finalized pages to tell a story, you have not written a movie. Chances are you still have a lot to learn about what a movie actually is. Period.
  • Nearly every spec that sells takes place in current day reality.
  • Your hero should also be in trouble, behind schedule, and under the gun due to a ticking clock.
  • Until you sell a spec, do not juggle the beginning, middle, or end. Keep your movie out of the editing blender and write a linear narrative.
  • Heroes are dragged kicking and screaming into their missions.
  • Your hero must act. It's never a choice.
  • If you've written a thriller where life and death aren't on the line, you have not written a thriller.
  • In capers, which are usually heist narratives, freedom is at stake and incarceration is the price of failure.
  • Audiences tend to avoid exotic settings. Remember, 50% of Americans have never left the continental United States.
  • There is no such thing as a totally new concept.
  • Any high school movie needs to feature heroes who are intelligent, speak like adults, and are in the 11th or 12th grade.
  • If you can't find two interesting premises inspired by the content of a single random newspaper, you're not thinking hard enough.
  • Give your hero a romance, even if they’re already hitched!
  • A romance is the best way to prove the hero’s value to the audience. It also makes even the toughest heroes vulnerable and accessible.
  • And never forget, your hero must be awesome and memorable. Awesome and memorable. Awesome and memorable. Awesome and memorable...
  • Your hero should be 25-40 years old.
  • Action movies often show the hero failing at something during the opening sequence. What situation do you think he's placed in during the climax?
  • A final sacrifice followed by reward is what makes audiences cry.
  • The best villains represent a true threat to our hero.
  • We know the hero is going to win, so the only way you’ll convince the audience to suspend disbelief is to make it impossible for us to imagine how the hero can prevail.
  • Your hero must achieve their victory by using a specific piece of wisdom, lesson, or action they’ve learned during the events of the movie.
  • Screenplays sell if they have a strong concept, a memorable hero, competent execution, and multiple Ideas of Value.
  • Ideas of Value are original touches that bring life to your characters, excitement to your action, and creativity to dialogue and situations.
  • I'm always amazed when I ask aspiring screenwriters to identify the most memorable moments of their screenplay and they go silent. No wonder they don't get requests—what else are you supposed to list in a one page query letter?
  • Before writing a new script, you should read at least ten screenplays of the same genre that have sold in the past year or two.
  • Screenwriting is about finding the simplest way to get the point across and a professional can accomplish in one sentence what an amateur may spend pages establishing.
  • The best short films hit every beat of a feature.

Some Don’ts for Starter Screenplays:
  • Don’t adapt a book 
  • Avoid Biopics 
  • Don’t mock Hollywood 
  • Avoid parodies (write a broad comedy with a solid storyline, instead) 
  • Don’t mention 9/11 
  • No Native American stories 
  • Don’t invent a superhero (normal guys with impressive strength/stamina/survival skills are okay) 
  • No musicals (write a Broadway show instead) 
  • Skip the family Holocaust story 
  • No charity/good cause stories 
  • No epics 
  • No drug addiction/child abuse/domestic violence 
  • No sequels 

Ten Tips for Short Filmmakers:
  • The best genres to work in are horror, comedy, and musicals.
  • Keep it short. Two to five minutes is best, ten minutes maximum.
  • Show off! Limit the amount of shots and effects, so every single one can be perfect.
  • Stay away from character dramas!
  • Create impact! Make the audience jump out of their seats or laugh out loud. Do something shocking.
  • Don’t act in your own short if your primary goal is to be a writer/director.
  • Break out of the studio rules! Serve whatever audience you want to.
  • Keep it simple and film a contained sequence with an immediate problem that evokes intense emotion, such as humiliation, terror, or excitement.
  • You are filming an amazing short, not an advertisement for a feature.
  • What makes YOU special as a filmmaker? Make sure this is on display. Play it up. This could be your last shot.

This review of The Starter Screenplay barely touches the surface of the book, but it should give you a fair idea of what to expect. Highly recommended for any screenwriter who is pursuing the Sale-to-Hollywood route. 

First posted:  3 September 2012

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Julia Child makes an omelet

For fans of Julie and Julia, here's Julia Childs cooking omelets. Or omelettes, depending on where you grew up.

Monday 20 June 2016

'All Along The Watchtower'

Evan Puschak shares some thoughts on the significance/meaning of Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower.'

And, why not? Here's George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Mike Love, Elton John and others performing the Bob Dylan song All Along The Watchtower at the end of the 1988 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame show.

Sunday 19 June 2016

Interview with Rick Ramage

Rick Ramage is a writer, director and producer. During his twenty-five year career as a screenwriter, he has set up or sold over forty scripts in Hollywood. He is best known for the movie Stigmata, but also wrote The Proposition, co-created and co-executive produced the supernatural drama Haunted, co-created and executive produced the western series Peacemakers, and wrote, produced, and directed the film Ichabod! The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Rick is currently preparing a 10-part series on screenwriting and storytelling called The Screenplay Show, which will be made available for purchase
 as a web series.

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

I was born in Fargo, North Dakota, but I’ve lived in Denver most of my life.

What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I had a fairly “normal” middle class upbringing. My dad owned a tractor dealership, and I worked for him.

Where did you go to school?

Right after high school, I went to Metropolitan State University in Denver for about a year. The truth is, at my age, I was already making too much money in sales to take marketing classes that didn’t interest me. I also thought I would one day take over the family business. But the best-laid plans can go awry. Within ten years I regretted leaving school big time. I did end up going to the American Film Institute in L.A.

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

Since I was involved in a family business, I pretty much did every job. But if it’s the very first job that paid, I spent summers cutting weeds and cleaning the shop at my dad’s business.

You started out as a college dropout, then tractor salesman, then screenwriter. What was the spark that took you from the plow to the pen?

Great question, because the answer is: regret.
   My parents divorced, and the business broke up. Suddenly, I was left with no job and no education. Luckily, I was always a voracious reader, and when I left college, I promised myself that I would be well-read and well-spoken, so I committed to reading one hundred of the classics … I considered it to be an informal education in literature. (BTW, I know lit majors who haven’t read one hundred classics.) I consider that “self-taught” phase of my life the turning point; in that I began to admire the way the storytellers would work the elements in their stories. I was drawn to the writers as much as their actual tales.
   While I was reading, I began to daydream about being a writer. My friends (especially the ones with degrees) told me I was chasing rainbows if I expected to be a writer, because I didn’t have a degree, but I decided to try and write a novel anyway.
   When it was finished, I sent it to someone whose opinion I trusted, and he asked me if I wanted to be a professional writer, or if this was just going to be a hobby? I asked him why he needed to know? 

   “Because,” he said, “your answer will determine my review of your book.
   So I said I wanted to be a professional. And that’s when he said, “Good. Then I’m going to treat you like one … and to be honest, your novel isn’t very good.”
   It felt like someone punched me in the gut. But then he said something that changed my life. He said, “But are you ever a good writer. You’re very visual. You should try writing a screenplay.”
   I turned my bad novel into a bad screenplay … but the fuse was lit.

What was the first screenplay you sold?

While I was still in film school, I optioned a script for very little money called Triad. It’s a psychological thriller. But at the time, five thousand bucks felt like a million. It wasn’t the money, but the affirmation of selling something.

What was the first screenplay you sold that got made?

My first major sale came shortly after film school. It was titled Shakespeare’s Sister, which was later retitled, The Proposition. It stars Kenneth Branagh, Madeline Stowe, and William Hurt.

You are currently writer/director/producer of the upcoming “The Screenplay Show”. Lots of screenwriters have written books on the subject, what prompted you to explore it in a web series?

That’s a really good question – because lately I’ve asked myself that same question more than I care to admit right now! (smile)
   Doing an actual show is a mountain of work and a huge commitment. (And we have just started getting the ball rolling with The Screenplay Show as it is currently in pre-production.)
   As for what prompted me to do it: a friend. He’s a writer and an actor and he started the ball rolling a few years ago when he asked me to do a seminar for his writer meet-up group. At first, I said no way. Like most writers, I’m a guy who sits alone in a room most of the time, and the thought of speaking in public filled me with fear and dread … but he was very persistent and finally wore me down. I finally said I would do it.
   That’s when it hit me: how could I possibly put on a seminar and keep other writers interested for 6 hours? I would bore them to death. I started to imagine them walking out! So in an effort to get around a typical “talking head seminar” I asked my editor to help me put together a long list of writing samples and clips covering every element of screenwriting so they could SEE what I was talking about.
   For example, using stills from The Shining I put every moment of Jack’s character arc into a still photo sequence where you can track his descent (or arc) into madness. I then put the page number from the script beside each still. His expressions really tell the story. The audience literally gasped, because it was the first time they had seen a character arc develop beat by beat. I did the same thing for all the other elements of storytelling.
   But one thing really surprised me: the audience had as many questions about the writing experience, as they did about the nuts and bolts. That got me thinking about doing a “seminar” like a narrative, where I could combine my experiences in Hollywood, with the nuts and bolts of screenwriting. After all, working with some of Hollywood’s best directors, producers and story executives has definitely informed and changed my approach to storytelling over the years.
   After twenty-five years, I thought it was time to reach out to new writers and share what I’ve learned from people who were generous to share what they know with me for one purpose – to get the story right.

Who was the writer who had the biggest influence on you?

Actually, there are several. But if I had to pick just one, I’d say it’s William Styron. When the family business was breaking up and I was lost, I read a short story he wrote called A Tidewater Morning. That’s the story that made me want to be a writer. In fact, it affected me so much, when I was in film school (at The American Film Institute in L.A.) I adapted it into a short film with Mrs. Styron’s permission.

    Here’s a bit of trivia for you: When we were casting, we couldn’t find anyone with the chops to play the main character: a boy of twelve whose mother is dying of cancer. It was a heavy role and we must’ve auditioned about thirty kids. But just as we were about to call it a day, a kid walked into the audition and read for us. He was drop-dead amazing. We were speechless when he finished. … He was also good-looking, obviously smart, and confident – in fact he was downright cocky.
    When we finally caught our breath, the director asked him his name, and he answered in a deadpan way. “My name’s Tobey Maguire … Do I get the part or not?”

You choose to live in Denver, rather than L.A. What prompted you to move there, and what challenges has your location thrown up in your dealings with studios?

Even when I was starting out, I always adhered to the philosophy that we work to live, not live to work. Simply put, Denver was a better choice for me when it came to raising my son. The moment I got my first gig as a writer, I got out of Los Angeles.

    My agents were a bit worried about the distance, but it ended up working to my advantage. Since studios had to fly me out, we always knew that meant they were serious. If anything, I’d have to say it did negatively affect the social aspects of networking; I was never really part of ‘the scene’.

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

1) Don’t take notes personally. Ever. People will give you notes – copious notes – and there isn’t a lot you can do about it – especially if they’ve paid for the privilege.

2) Don’t order spaghetti at McDonalds. Or in other words, don’t send a horror script to Hallmark, because you think they may like a change in their menu. Producers and production companies have definite creative tastes and agendas. Doing your research can make a world of difference when it comes to finding the right home – and friendly eyes – for your script.

3) Read the third act as many times as the first act BEFORE you send it off. All too often, writers will tap FADE OUT and assume it’s finished. Let it cool off and concentrate very hard on reading that third act over and over. You’ll be surprised at the things you’ll catch.

If you had to suggest just one screenwriting book to a newbie filmmaker back in Adelaide, which one would it be?

How about, Save The Cat

What are your ten favourite (favourite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?

I think I’ll preface my answer by saying – not mine. I’m much too critical to watch my own films. But some of my favs are (not listed in any certain order):
The Matrix (1999)
Any David Lean film
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Unforgiven (2011)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Kubrick’s films … especially 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and The Shining (1980)
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
The Godfather I & II (1972, 1974)
Any Alfonso Cuarón film.

Now, just to round things off, here's an intro to The Screenplay Show.

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Saturday 18 June 2016

The Coen Brothers, pt. 1

Filmmaker Cameron Beyl deconstructs the work of Joel and Ethan Coen. This episode covers their pair of independent debut features set in the American southwest, Blood Simple (1984) and Raising Arizona (1987).

Friday 17 June 2016

How Should Characters Talk?

Jack Nugent shares some thoughts on dialogue in movies.

Thursday 16 June 2016

How Much Everyone Working On a $200 Million Movie Earns

Thanks to Vanity Fair for this insight into current Hollywood reality.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Interview with Annette Uwizeye

Annette Uwizeye is a Rwandan filmmaker, who lives in the capital city, Kigali. She has made several short films and commercials, and is currently producing a feature film called Uwera.
    For the benefit of many of our readers, Rwanda, once known as German East Africa, is a land-locked nation, surrounded by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). The country gained independence from Belgium in 1962.
    With a population of almost 12 million, Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. 43% are under 15 years of age. 56% are Roman Catholics. 
    Rwanda experienced a genocide in 1994, which left somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people dead in a mere three months.

Map of Rwanda
*  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born to exiled Rwandan parents living in Kenya, and returned to Rwanda as a teenager. Later, I moved to South Africa and spent most of my formative years there.

*  Tell us something about your family? Are you a member of Tutsi or Hutu communities?

My grandparents were part of the 1959 Refugee exodus to countries neighboring Rwanda. In the late '70s my parents, just like many young exiled Rwandans, left Uganda and moved to Kenya in search of greener pastures. My parents met and married in Kenya.

Women drummers perform at the annual KigaliUP music festival.
I would be identified as a Tutsi, but in Rwanda today, I am simply a ‘Munyarwanda’ or a Rwandan. I am part of the larger community, where identity, race or gender is by no means a reason for segregation. Historically Rwandans were divided along ethnic lines, and other types of divisions were promoted to take away some people's liberties and to exploit the majority of the citizens. This culminated to the gruesome executions that the world recognizes as the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

Currently though I must say how proud I am of being a Rwandan. It is a country of resilient people where the once-exploited are reclaiming their dignity.

*  I’ve seen a couple of versions of your name. [Annette Uwera / Uwizeye ] Can you explain them for me.

Annette Uwizeye is my professional name. Uwera is my middle name, and that reminds me to fix my email name to match.

*  What schooling have you received?

I majored in Screen Writing at Film School at Tshwane University of Technlogy
the former Pretoria Film School in South Africa, which was founded by Jamie Uys, best known for The Gods Must Be Crazy. He died in 1986, way before I started to appreciate the craft of filmmaking.

*  How many people in Rwanda speak English?

I have no idea, but you will find a fairly good number of Rwandans speaking English. The majority will be more comfortable in French, and even more in the local language

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

Long story, but on the day of Pope John Paul II’s funeral (in 2005), I was watching Hotel Rwanda (2004), and somewhere between those two events I knew I wanted to become a filmmaker. Two years later I got into Film School.

    Storytelling has always been with and within me. My mom and dad are great story tellers, very humorous and this sets the tone for a very animated dinner table at my house. So I guess I got the bug from them and decided to turn that into a full time career.

*  In 1994, somewhere between 500,000 and one million people were killed in Rwanda. How did that event affect you and your family?

In 1959 there was an exodus of Tutsis
fleeing persecution to neighboring countries. Some, however, remained in Rwanda, and for almost forty years our families were divided. Many of those who had chosen to remain in Rwanda were murdered in 1994.
    My family returned to Rwanda in 1999, but I had to leave for university just as soon as we had settled in Kigali in 2000.
    Like many returnees, all I have are the stories of cousins, aunts and uncles that I never met. It is sad to have family and friends that have their whole history wiped away with hardly any photos or reminders of their families to share. I am humbled by the strength of the survivors.

*  Is Rwanda today a safe place to be? (Most Australians only know the scary headlines from years ago.) Do you ever feel threatened as you go about your daily life?

I feel safer in Rwanda than I did elsewhere in the world. I have lived in Kenya, in South Africa, and have traveled in the USA. I am not just saying that. People feel safe here: it is not odd to have people casually strolling in the city past midnight.

*  What impact did the massacre have on filmmaking in Rwanda?

Just like the post-holocaust era, there has been a string of genocide-related films such as Sometimes in April, Shooting Dogs, Hotel Rwanda, Shake Hands with the Devil, Kinyarwanda, to name a few. These are important films in that they pass on the message of what poisonous ideology can do to a society. 

*  Who is the person who has had the biggest influence on you?

My Father, Patrick Uwizeye, a manager at MTN
a telecom company in Rwanda. He is extremely focused and I often wonder if I could possibly be his daughter. He has come from a very far place where, like so many former Refugees, he had to struggle to get an education. When he succeeded, he made sure my siblings and I had the best education he could afford. I forever aspire to be just like him and at least accomplish half of what he has achieved.

*  What was your first job in filmmaking?

My first job was directing and producing a short documentary/testimony by Hannah Pick-Goslar about her childhood friend Anne Frank. This was for the Johannesburg Holocaust Center. My team was made up of film school students and pulled off a very professional job that did this great story justice.

Children reading at the new Kigali National Library.
*  Can you earn a living making TV Commercials, or do you have a day job?

It is difficult to get a steady stream of income from Producing TV Commercials, but that should change as soon as next year, when a number of TV stations will be starting. I recently founded a Production House called A WIZE Films that will allow me and our partners to produce independent African films, as well as content for TV and New Media. We are working on including a distribution system into the business model. We are yet to begin full-on marketing. My dream is to get each one of the 12 million Rwandans to see our films.

*  What African films can you recommend?

Na Wewe (Burundi), District 9 (South Africa) and Pumzi (Kenya). I am inspired to make films like these. 
    Na Wewe (2010) is a short film. It tells the story of Burundi, whose history is dotted by the same tragic divisionism ideology that was applied in Rwanda. It is told light-heartedly, and cleverly speaks volumes about half a century’s worth of history in nineteen minutes.
District 9 (2009) has so many layers of social commentary about the South African social fabric, but ingeniously woven in the form of science fiction. Who would have ever thought of an Alien ship landing in Africa? Those things just seem to be drawn to the USA (thank God!).
Pumzi (2009) is another short film, extremely innovative in terms of its stylistic delivery, another science fiction film that speaks tons about an impending global water crisis that we must all be aware of.
Ankole cattle graze outside a traditional village.
Kindly allow me to self-promote. Uwera is a film that A_WIZE Films is working on and hope to have it released mid-2013.
    Uwera is a character-titled film about a girl that has the opportunity to go to University. Having been raised in rural cattle-keeping province of Rwanda, she now has to fit in a more cosmopolitan environment and her old values are challenged. She is a woman of surprising talents that the world is yet to discover.
Rwandan 1,000 franc note.
Previously, cattle were used as money.
    Audiences should expect to experience a side of Rwanda that is little-known, filled with color and music.

*  Have you seen any Australian movies?

Yes! If I say Australia (2008), the film, will I get gunned down? 

    It is a Hollywood studio film many would argue, but it is a beautiful Aussie story that made its way to African cinemas, so that counts, right? 

[ Not gunned down, no. It's a beautifully-made film, but one that divides Australians, due to the numerous factual errors it contains.

The only Australian productions anyone I know will talk about are the day-time soapies: Home and Away, and Neighbours. (I know they don’t count as films.) A friend just recommended that I watch Chopper (2000). Any recommendations?

[ A few you might like include: Babe (1995), Breaker Morant (1980), Cosi (1985), Crackerjack (2002), Crocodile Dundee (1986), Gettin’ Square (2003), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Paperback Hero (1998), Shine (1996), Strictly Ballroom (1992), and The Man From Snowy River (1982). ]

*  What one book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Rwanda?

Can I name three?
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, is a must-have.
  • Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a classic. The Alchemist inspired me to find my own true North, and in fact got me thinking about switching careers from Finance to Filmmaking!
  • Ohhhh, and not to forget, The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. This book is needed to open up the mind and heart.

*  Name ten of your all-time favorite movies.

In no particular order... 

Agaciro is a short film made by Annette Uwizeye.
This short film highlights what the Rwanda-African traditional value of Agaciro is, and it encourages individuals to dig a little deeper into who they are, how they describe Agaciro in their community and country.

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First posted: 31 August 2012

Monday 13 June 2016


Evan Puschak examines Intertextuality: Hollywood's New Currency.

Sunday 12 June 2016

14 hidden jokes and cryptic metaphors in The Big Lebowski

An examination of the metaphors embedded within The Big Lebowski.

Saturday 11 June 2016

What Makes a Movie Great?

Jack Nugent examines the classic questions: What's the greatest movie of all time? What makes a movie great? These are some big questions. Let's break down the elements of a "great" movie.

Friday 10 June 2016

Alfalfa and the Little Rascals - Mysteries & Scandals

An episode of Mysteries & Scandals, the story of Alfalfa and the Little Rascals.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Lewis Bond takes us on a study of the works of the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

Thursday 9 June 2016

The Art of Teen Films

Andrew Saladino looks at 'American Graffiti' to see how to capture teenage characters.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

The Art of Making, Red Dress

Samantha Sotos was born in Australia from Greek parents. She decided to fulfil her dream of opening her own design firm in her homeland (Greece). Despite all the difficulties she faced during the transition, she kept her smile and her spirit up. She is now a well-accomplished designer, with collaborations both in Greece and abroad.

When an idea materializes into paper and continues to magically transform into a deep red fabric, the only thing you can do is let go and follow your heart.

Love what you do and believe in what you do. ~Samantha Sotos

Tuesday 7 June 2016

How Steely Dan Composes A Song

Evan Puschak explains a bit about music and how Steely Dan approaches their recording.

Monday 6 June 2016

Through The Eyes Of John Hughes

LA Filmcutter put this tribute together after the death of John Hughes.

Saturday 4 June 2016

Sam Mendes Reveals His Film Influences

Director Sam Mendes discusses which films have influenced him and the differences between directing film and theatre.

Friday 3 June 2016

The Man of a Thousand Voices

A longish documentary about Mel Blanc, and all his friends.

Thursday 2 June 2016

Moments of Humanity

Andrew Saladino shares some insights into one of the story-telling techniques of Steven Spielberg.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Book Review: "Bambi vs. Godzilla"

I first encountered David Mamet years ago in his book Make-Believe Town. That contains a collection of reminiscences and essays which ramble across a range of subjects, some of them to do with the movie business. His application of Biblical principles to success at poker being, perhaps, the most surprising element. 
   Since then I have been catching up on Mamet's books, by way of a kind of drip-fed literary diet. The latest has been Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business
    In it Mamet references almost two hundred movies, of which I have seen less than half. If you want to know what the term "a broad education" refers to, read a Mamet book.
    In Bambi vs.Godzilla, Mamet addresses many aspects of the film business, with almost half of it given over to a series of observations about the practice of screenwriting. What follows is a short selection of quotes from that book, in no particular order.
  • Storytelling is like sex. We all do it naturally. Some of us are better at it than others. 
  • Screenwriting ... a plot reducible to five lines on one side of one sheet of paper. 
  • How does it go? Once upon a time, and then one day, and just when everything was going so well, when just at the last minute, and they all lived happily ever after.
  • The filmed drama is a succession of scenes. Each scene must end so that the hero is thwarted in pursuit of his goalso that he is forced to go on to the next scene to get what he wants. 
  • To write a successful scene, one must stringently apply and stringently answer the following three questions:
    1. Who wants what from whom?
    2. What happens if they don't get it?
    3. Why now?
  • These magic questions and their worth are not known to any script reader, executive, or producer. They are known and used by few writers. They are, however, part of the unconscious and perpetual understanding of that group who will be judging you and by whose say-so your work will stand or fall: the audience.
As an American occupation, screenwriting has replaced knitting which it, in some ways, resembles; the rules for both are simple, and both involve sheep. Richard Weisz
  • A perfect movie: The Lady Eve, written and directed by Preston Sturges. ... We may reflect that its description contains none of what the ignorant refer to as "characterization," nor does it contain any of their beloved "backstory." 
  • It begins with a premise: the hero wants something.
  • He cannot just desire something. For the screenplay to be coherent and compelling, his desire must be awakened by a new circumstance. That circumstance is the film. 
  • (In The Lady Eve) Barbara Stanwyck meets the love of her life, Henry Fonda. The film starts because she meets him. The progress of the film is her progress toward the attainment of her goal. When she attains it (in the last ten seconds), the film, the story, is over.
  • The audience wanted to know what happened next. That is more or less the total art of the film dramatist: to make the audience want to know what is going to happen next. 
  • The garbage of exposition, backstory, narrative, and characterization spot-welds the reader into interest in what is happening now. It literally stops the show. 
Cinema, at its most effective, is one scene effectively  superseded by the next. Isn't that itGeorge Stevens
  • The entire practicable sentence was, of course, not "Cut to the chase" but "When in doubt, cut to the chase." Good thinking.
  • "Stay with the money." The audience came to see the star. The star is the hero; the drama consists solely in the quest of the hero.
  • "You start with a scalpel and you end with a chainsaw." Don't be too nice about cutting the film; throw away everything that's not the story.
  • "In the morning you're making Citizen Kane; after lunch you're making The Dukes of Hazzard." At some point you're going to start running out of time. Plan your time by sticking to the essential story. You're going to cut everything else anyway.
  • The various limitless seminars in filmmaking dotting our coasts and making increasingly making inroads upon the hinterland ... have little to do with the actual making of movies.
  • When you get a great script done with great actors, then you have a classic.
  • The Godfather, A Place in the Sun, Dodsworth, Galaxy Questthese are perfect films. They start with a simple premise and proceed, logically, and inevitably, toward a conclusion both surprising and inevitable.
A guy comes home from college to find his mother sleeping with his uncle, and there's a ghost running around. Write it good, it's Hamlet; write it bad, it's Gilligan's Island. Lorne Michaels
  • The rule, then, in filmmaking, as in storytelling, is "leave out the adjectives."
  • One really doesn't start to learn how to write a script until one has been on a set—on the set one learns the difference between what is filmable and what is merely pretty words. ("Outside the window, New York—in all its vicious splendor" is charming verbiage and all that, but, script-in-hand, on location, its director is going to be hard-pressed to learn from the script where to put the camera.)
  • Dramatic structure consists of the creation and deferment of hope. That's basically all it is. 
  • What keeps them apart? (Billy Wilder) The engine of a love story is not what attracts them—we know that: they're young and pretty. The work should go into the construction of the plausible opposition to their union. 
  • The language of the modern screenplay is like that of the personals column. The descriptions of the protagonist and the lovelorn aspirant are one: beautiful, smart, funny, likes long walks and dogs, affectionate, kind, honest, sexy. These descriptions, increasingly, are the content of the screenplay—replacing dialogue and camera angles, the only two aspects of a screenplay actually of use.
  • "Smash, bash, crash: the world becomes a steel cauldron of pain." "Yes," says the young script reader. "Yes. Hot stuff indeed. Boss? This is hot stuff. This person knows how to write action."
       "Loves hazy afternoons. This well-educated beauty finds loveliness all around her. Perhaps you do, too...?"

First posted: 20 August 2012