Monday 30 January 2017

The Orson Welles Memo

Joey Scoma compares and contrasts versions of the 1958 film Touch of Evil and shows us how the arduous process of editing pushes and pulls the overarching narrative of a film. Take a page out of this incredible piece of film history and see how even the most minor of edits can act as a powerful storytelling tool.

The editing process is one of the most elusive parts of filmmaking to learn. It's rare to get a glimpse into decisions filmmakers make in the edit bay. With the film Touch of Evil, we are afforded a glimpse into the thought process of Orson Welles.

After writing, acting in, and directing the film, Welles was abruptly fired from the production after Universal studio execs saw the rough cut and worried its unconventional narrative would tank. What followed was a back and forth struggle over the final cut between Welles and the studio, and resulted in the incredible 58-page memo detailing Welles' editorial notes. Some of his requests were addressed, but Universal released its version of the film in 1958. When a previously unreleased cut of the film was discovered in 1976 and in 1998, film editor Walter Murch reconstructed Welles' original vision using his memo as a guide.

Sunday 29 January 2017

Uses of Color in Film

Color is one of the most effective tools in a storyteller's arsenal. From fiery red, to the coldest blue, a great filmmaker knows just what colors to paint on the screen. Move over light and shadow, lets take the color wheel for a spin! Here are the very best uses of color in a movie, ever!

Saturday 28 January 2017

Tubular Bells

Okay, I've finished the radiotherapy. Time to chill and wait on the next stage. So, here's a live studio performance of Tubular Bells, Part 1, as recorded by BBC TV.

And, just to balance things, here's a documentary of the making of Tubular Bells. Fascinating.

Friday 27 January 2017

Thursday 26 January 2017

5 Best End Credits of All Time

It's always hard to say goodbye to people and things we love. Sometimes, even more so with films that touch our hearts. Storytellers understand this struggle more than the rest of us and find meaningful ways to help us cope with departure to the worlds we encounter in cinema. These are the best closing title sequences in movie history.

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Harold Lloyd: "Safety Last!"

Harold Lloyd ranks alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as the one of the most popular and influential film comedians of the silent film era. He made nearly 200 films between 1914 and 1947. His films frequently contain extended chase scenes and daredevil physical feats. Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock high above the street in Safety Last! (1923) is one of the most enduring images in all of cinema.

Lloyd was born in Burchard, Nebraska. He moved to California, where he started acting in one-reel film comedies with Thomas Edison's motion picture company, before eventually forming a partnership with Hal Roach.

Beginning in 1921, Roach and Lloyd moved from shorts to feature length comedies. These included the acclaimed Grandma's Boy, which, (along with Chaplin's The Kid), pioneered the combination of complex character development and film comedy. Safety Last! (1923) cemented Lloyd's stardom. It is the oldest film on the American Film Institute's List of 100 Most Thrilling Movies.

Lloyd became an independent producer in 1924. His films from then included Girl Shy, The Freshman (his highest-grossing silent feature), The Kid Brother, and Speedy, his final silent film. Welcome Danger was originally a silent film but Lloyd decided late in the production to remake it with dialogue.

All of these films were enormously successful and profitable, and Lloyd would eventually become the highest paid film performer of the 1920s. From this success he became one of the wealthiest and most influential figures in early Hollywood. Lloyd was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. However, his go-getting screen character lost touch with Great Depression movie audiences. His popularity declined, as did the fortunes of his production company.

Lloyd produced a few comedies for RKO Radio Pictures in the early 1940s, but otherwise retired from the screen until 1947. He returned for an additional starring appearance in The Sin of Harold Diddlebock, an ill-fated homage to Lloyd's career, directed by Preston Sturges and financed by Howard Hughes. The finished film was released briefly in 1947, then shelved by Hughes.

Lloyd received an honorary Oscar in 1953 for being a master comedian and good citizen. In 1962/63 he compiled some of his silent comedies into two documentaries, World of Comedy and Funny Side of Life. He died in 1971 at the age of 78. 


Here is a seven minute excerpt from the film, including the famous clock scene.

Or, if you have the time, here is the complete movie. (Take special notice of the brilliant visual setup of the opening scene.)

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First posted:  12 January 2013

Tuesday 24 January 2017

All Along the Watchtower

Evan Puschak takes us inside Dylan's song, All Along the Watchtower.

Monday 23 January 2017

How Louis CK Tells A Joke

The Nerdwriter analyses the way in which Louis CK tells a joke. Yes, this is all about writing.

Sunday 22 January 2017

B.B. King on The Blues

"I don't like to feel that I owe anything. I like to feel that I pay my own way, no free lunch." - B.B. King on September 5, 1986.

Saturday 21 January 2017

How Stairway to Heaven was written

Stairway to Heaven was one of the biggest rock songs of the 1970s. Forty-five years after its release, the song continues to hold a place in many music fans' hearts. Guitarist Jimmy Page gives a personal account of how a rock anthem came together.

Friday 20 January 2017

Thursday 19 January 2017

How To Film Thought

Nerdwriter looks at how Sherlock depicts thought.

Wednesday 18 January 2017

21 Times Mel Brooks' Films Were Pure Genius

At Age 90, Mel Brooks is still one of the most talented and hilarious actors working in the industry. Here are twenty-one times Mel Brooks' films were pure genius.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Best of Dr. Leo Spaceman

Finally, a best of video for this wonderful man!

Monday 16 January 2017

Let's make a road

I love work, I could watch it all day long. 

This video was made by the Shire of Moora in Western Australia; it shows how they lay a road in the outback.

Sunday 15 January 2017

Garrison Keillor on Humor

“My family was shocked when I came home with a volume of Hemingway. There was a price to be paid for being interested in fiction.” - Garrison Keillor in 1994.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Cinematography - The Social Network

This short film by Thomas Cross analyzes sophisticated techniques which make a story worth telling.

Friday 13 January 2017

Thursday 12 January 2017

Nora Ephron on Golda Meir

"It’s okay being a woman now. I like it. Try it some time.” - Nora Ephron, in a 1975 interview with Studs Terkel

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Clock tower stunts

I was watching Hugo on Christmas Day and started to think about the pioneers of movie-making, probably much as Martin Scorsese had intended we do.

At the time I was reading Brian McDonald's latest book, Ink Spots. In it, he makes the point that part of our apprenticeship as filmmakers is to study the work of those who have gone before us, just as Science majors still study the work of Newton and Einstein.

You can see, in the stills which follow, that some very good filmmakers have studied this stunt by Harold Lloyd.

The original: Harold Lloyd in Safety Last! (1923)

Jackie Chan in Project A (1983)
Cybill Shepherd in the Pilot of Moonlighting (1985).
[Notice Bruce Willis, in relative safety to the left, providing helpful advice

Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future (1985)
This clock is part of the collection on display at the start of Back to the Future (1985)
Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in Shanghai Knights (2003)
Asa Butterfield in Hugo (2011)

in Bored to Death (2011)

First posted: 11 January 2013

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Monday 9 January 2017

'In Bruges': Morality In Dialogue

Here's an interesting analysis of a favourite film.

Sunday 8 January 2017

10 Best Opening Title Sequences of All Time

The opening titles were never meant to be just boring text! They can have a life of their own.

Saturday 7 January 2017

2016 Movie Mashups

Yep, I've been a bit slow with this, but radiotherapy can slow one down. Anyway, here are four of the better mashups for 2016.

For the sentimental among us, here is the 2010 Filmography, the best of them all, and the one that started this off.

Friday 6 January 2017

Thursday 5 January 2017

American Screenwriter's Day

January 5 is National Screenwriter's Day. In the United States of America. 

The stated purpose of this Day is to increase the visibility of screenwriters and to elevate their status in the public's eye, as well as inside the industry.

There is, of course, no International Screenwriter's Day as yet. Perhaps you'd like to take that up as a project...

Fred Astaire's Best Scene

Amazing Scene - "Nice Work If You Can Get It" - from A Damsel in Distress, 1937.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Interview with Allison Burnett

Allison Burnett is an L.A.-based novelist and screenwriter. He is a prolific writer of novels and screenplays, most of which have become Hollywood movies involving people such as Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Joan Chen, Heather Graham, Josh Hartnett, Diane Lane, Samuel L. Jackson, Lara Flynn Boyle, Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell, Kelsey Grammer, Kate Beckinsale, and Anthony LaPaglia, among many others.

He is currently in the midst of directing the film Undiscovered Gyrl. I took the opportunity of an enforced break to ask him some questions.

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

I was born in Ithaca, New York, when my father was getting his PhD in Marine Biology at Cornell University. We moved around a lot as he advanced in his career. I spent most of my childhood in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and Evanston, Illinois.

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

My father was a brilliant, disturbed alcoholic scientist and creative writer. My mother is a psychotherapist, with all the good and bad that that implies. I have one brother and one sister. I would describe our home life as loud, brainy, and intensely dysfunctional.

•  Where did you go to school?

A large public high school in Evanston, Illinois, and then I stayed at home and attended Northwestern University, where my father taught. I majored in the Oral Interpretation of Literature. I acted in plays and wrote them as well. Later, I did a one-year fellowship in playwriting at the Juilliard School.

•  When did you first decide you wanted to write?

I was always writing throughout high school and college, but I did not commit it to as a profession until a few months out of college. I was twenty, living in New York, and performing in a small production of a George Bernard Shaw one-act play. Often there were just a few people in the audience. I thought, "This is a dog's life. I'm going to commit to playwriting." Writing had always come easier to me than acting. 

•  Who has had the most influence on you as a writer

Nathanael West, Anton Chekhov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Charles Dickens.

•  Starting with the first film you wrote and directed, Red Meat (1997), you have developed a reputation as a creator of positive roles for women. How do you view a film such as Thelma and Louise?

Thelma and Louise (1991) opened right around the time that Silence of the Lambs (1991) came out. Everyone was hailing the former as a seminal feminist statement and condemning the latter as a movie that showed a woman being victimized. I thought it was just the opposite. In my eyes, Thelma and Louise are cowards running from the law and accountability. In fact, they would rather die than defend their actions in court. People kept comparing them to Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, which I thought was silly. Those guys went out fighting, guns blazing, against insurmountable odds. They knew if they were captured, they were dead anyway. They didn't jump off a cliff to certain death just to avoid a self-defense plea. 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid jump off a cliff to escape the Superposse
Silence of the Lambs, on the other hand, was about a courageous female federal agent who bravely risks her life to save a woman in peril. If I had a daughter, I would rather she emulate Clarice Starling than either Thelma or Louise, both of whom strike me as terribly immature, almost stunted, both emotionally and intellectually.

•  We’ve talked about your experiences with Autumn in New York. What did you find most frustrating about seeing your screenplay mangled like that?

Somehow my script managed to stay pretty much intact until less than a week before shooting, when Richard Gere ordered a rewrite. I think everyone involved with the film, including Richard himself, now acknowledges that this was a mistake. The experience, although painful, was a gift, because it reminded me that I would never be able to experience the pride of authorship if all I did was write movies. It led me back to fiction. I have published four novels, with a fifth coming out next year. 

•  You’ve just finished the directing one of your novels, Undiscovered Gyrl, into a film. How did that go? Did you bring any lessons back from the shoot?

My movie shares its lead actress, the brilliant and beautiful Britt Robertson, with a Vince Vaughn movie that was hit by Hurricane Sandy. The disruption of their schedule disrupted ours. When Undiscovered Gyrl finishes shooting in mid- January, we will have shot in four different months! 

   What did I learn? Never give up!

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

If you want to stay sane as a screenwriter, make sure you have some other creative outlet. 

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

1. The worlds of indie script writing and studio screenwriting are entirely different. 
2. Don't use your writing as therapy. Write about your personal dramas only after they are over. 
3. Write every single day. Soon you will be addicted. It won't take discipline. It will be a compulsion. 

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

Even though it is thirty years old, Adventures in the Screen Trade, by William Goldman
   And here is the advice I would give that young writer: 
   Read great literature, watch great movies, lead a brave, rich life, and eventually move to Los Angeles. 

What are your ten favorite movies of all time

The list of 10 films I think are the greatest bear no resemblance to my favorites, i.e., these are the ones I enjoy the most:
Harold and Maude (1971)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Annie Hall (1977)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Chinatown (1974)
Shane (1953)
Election (1999)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Holiday Affair (1949)

Here's the preview for Gone, the most recent of Allison Burnett's screenplays to be released as a movie.

First posted: 3 January 2013

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Stephen King on Childhood

"The things that really scare us are the things that are going on just outside the spotlight that you can’t quite see." ~Stephen King, October 22, 1989.

The author takes us on a journey back to his childhood and the roots for his decades crafting memorable horror fiction.

Monday 2 January 2017


I'm so glad we gave up this type of pastime long ago. But, for those still picking their way through that particular wilderness, here it it: Watch as a group of friends collapses under the pressure of New Year's Eve.

Sunday 1 January 2017

10 Things You Didn't Know About Jason Statham

Here we have ten things you didn't know about Jason Statham; or maybe you did, but it's a snappy title so I used it too.