From the Great Opening Paragraphs Department, Matthew Placek interviewed NZ documentary filmmaker Pietra Brettkelly for V Magazine:

In March of 2006 I traveled with Vanessa Beecroft to Rumbek in South Sudan on two separate occasions to produce an image for her latest project, VBSS. Vanessa asked me to produce a painterly, Madonna-esque image of her wearing a custom-made dress by Maison Martin Margiela burned at the hem. There were two slit openings for her breasts in order to nurse two orphaned Sudanese twins. Vanessa was and is trying to adopt the children legally.
The vapid, superficial, self-absorbed aesthetic fetishist in Brettkelly's new film, The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, will be instantly familiar to anyone familiar with Beecroft's perennially hackneyed work, which has been a lowpoint of at least two Venice Biennales [the most recent one is in the film].

NY Magazine has a nice takedown recap. It puts the interview in fashion-friendly V into interesting perspective; Beecroft's collaborator and the outsider director make what are rather contorted attempts to be nice and non-judgmental about what is a transparently repulsive, self-damning project. Good stuff.

Filmmaker Pietra Brettkelly on artist Vanessa Beecroft's new quest in the Sudan []

‘Art Star’ Vanessa Beecroft: Slammed at Sundance [nymag]

In an attempt to figure out why his well-reviewed film, Delirious, grossed only $200,000 at the box office--or rather, to figure out why a small, independent film is subjected to the same make-or-break Opening Weekend metrics as a studio blockbuster--Tom diCillo emailed Roger Ebert some questions:

5. Does independent film exist anymore?

Yes, barely. The irony is that indies are embraced at film festivals, which have almost become an alternative distribution channel. "Delirious," for example, was invited by San Sebastian, Sundance, San Francisco, Seattle, Avignon, Munich and Karlovy Vary. All major festivals. But you didn't make "Delirious" to sell tickets for festivals. I frankly think it's time for festivals to give their entries a cut of the box office.

With the acknowledgement that festivals are a business--or at least have an economic, not just a cultural, value proposition--and that they function alongside commercial screens as a part of the theatrical distribution channel, Ebert is righter than it sounds like he knows.

Shifts in the way theaters make money--specifically, the split between the studio/distributor and the theater on opening weekend vs later weeks--have combined with the overbuilt glut of screens--and screens per multiplex--to constrain theater owners. They need tons of traffic to generate concession sales, since the studio gets the lion's share of opening weekend receipts. So they fill their screens with the latest releases, pushing smaller and independent films out.

The maturation and consolidation of non-mainstream theaters, too, means that actual independents constistently lose screens to the products of the mini-majors.

For the moment, theatrical runs are still apparently important to securing a film's success in the DVD sellthrough and rental markets, but maybe there's a way to change this. The potential returns from DVD's could become key to profitability, especially if there were ways to better leverage a limited theatrical run or decouple DVD's and box office entirely, or if there were a way to capitalize on festival exposure. I think of the way bands burn and sell live concert CD's on the spot or online. If festivals are dispersed enough, there would be next to no downside for selling DVD's of a film, maybe coupled with festival extras like the director Q&A as part of a ticket package.

diCillo may be a bit of a stretch, but I could picture directors with healthy online followings--from Mike Mills on the quiet end to Kevin Smith in the food court--reaching a decent sell-through audience. Then let MySpace fill in the rest. Or maybe get a blog.

An indie director asks: Is the whole thing a Kafkaesque nightmare? [suntimes via kottke]

Ted at Big Screen Little Screen has a nice phoner with Mike Mills on the occasion of his new documentary, Does Your Soul Have A Cold?, which premiers on IFC Oct. 22. In the movie, Mills follows around a group of Japanese early adopters, some of the first people to take anti-depressants for what is essentially a Western-paradigm condition:

What surprised you? For me, there’s a scene early on where we see their daily routines. You list off the different prescriptions that each of them were taking. Daisuke rifles through a large box of pills and then downs them with Dr. Pepper and alcohol…

With a homemade White Russian; that was one. And I interviewed some other people for the film who took even more pills. And for whatever reason I just couldn’t film enough of their lives, and they didn’t end up working out in the film, but they’re very interesting. I met people that were taking eight pills at a time. Part of that is just the Japanese medical world where if you have the flu, you would go to the doctor and he would give you three or four different medications. With anything, they are prone to taking medicine or believing in chemical solutions to a problem. That’s part of the deal...

I assume it's in the film, but doctors in Japan make most of their money from prescriptions, so they overwrite and oversell like crazy. In any case, Mills' interest in the "everydayness" of his subjects is always a quiet treat.

Interview: director Mike Mills [via goldenfiddle]

August 2, 2007

Profit And/From Pain

Charles Thomas Samuels ["S"] interviewed Michelangelo Antonioni ["A"] in Rome in 1969. I finally figured out the occasional non-sequiturish statements in the transcript were originally photo captions.

S: In an interview I had with him, John Updike said something that fascinated me: "Being an artist is dangerous because it allows one to turn one's pain too quickly to profit."

A: I couldn't use that phrase today-"being an artist"-as if that were something exceptional. And if somebody transmutes his pain into profit, very good. I find that the most wonderful way to kill pain.

S: Why do you say "today"? Could you have used the phrase "being an artist" in some other period?

A: Yes, of course. I think that during the Renaissance everything was influenced by art. Now the world is so much more important than art that I can no longer imagine a future artistic function.

S: But today what is the function?

A: I don't know.

S: You don't know?

A: Do you?

S: Yes.

A: Then tell me.

S: You want me to tell you what the function of art is! No, you tell me what you think of Francois Truffaut.

A: I think his films are like a river, lovely to see, to bathe in, extraordinarily refreshing and pleasant. Then the water flows and is gone. Very little of the pleasant feeling remains because I soon feel dirty again and need another bath.

Interview with Michelangelo Antonioni in Rome, July 29, 1969
by Charles Thomas Samuels
[ via greencine]

June 2, 2007


Open news conference at the Cannes Film Festival are such absurdist theatrical frenzy, I half wonder if movie publicists didn't cook them up as a job security measure. The event serves up celebrities for an intense, dadaist interrogation by the world's most randomest journalists, whose competitive, provocative questions are designed to elicit a controversial or "newsworthy" [sic] non-scripted quote, something they can use.

In a more rational world they wouldn't be chopped up into meaningless squibs of quotes in the Hindustani Times; they would be televised in their entirety on a C-SPAN of the entertainment business, celebrity reality--no, celebrity verite--television.

The one or two quotes I've seen from the Oceans Thirteen conference, for example, are easily as entertaining as the post-scrum junket sitdown Time's Josh Tyrangiel got with Clooney, Pitt, Damon, and Barkin. Freed from artistic pretense, seriousness, or faux populism, these people sound like what they are: giddy, privileged multi-millionaires who decide to have a good time while doing the more tedious or repetitive parts of their jobs.

That said, what jumps out at me in the Time interview is what's apparently unsaid. Read the whole thing, but check out these parentheticals and tell me why they had to be there:

Are you worried Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and George Clooney are going to start a pogrom?
BARKIN: I worry that every time I go to my hotel room, there are going to be areas that are cordoned off from me.
PITT: What's a pogrom?

It's an anti-Jewish riot. Pretty common in 19th century Eastern Europe.
CLOONEY: [Jokingly] You guys got a long memory. Jeez.

And what went under this one? "Whatsername"? "The Old Ball & Chain"? "Her"?
As we're talking, there are paparazzi in boats out in the harbor taking pictures. Having just been through the celebrity muck of Cannes, who gets it the worst?
CLOONEY: There's no question, it's Brad.
PITT: Well, exponentially, with us together ...
CLOONEY: But even before he was with [Angelina Jolie], we used to chum the water with him.
PITT: This is not a joke. They used to send me out to take the hits.
Lucky Stars [time via kottke]
[not disclosed anywhere because the company's called Time Warner, I guess?: Time and its partner CNN and People and Oceans Thirteen's producer/distributor, Warner Brothers, are all the same company.]

Holy smokes, I'm in like. Geoff sat down with editor/polymath Walter Murch for BLDGBLOG to discuss, of all things, the music of spheres. At least obliquely. I'd say they were Renaissance men, but as their discussion shows, the Renaissance was only just a rediscovery. They're more like Ptolemaic Men. Here's a very interesting aside on the possibilities of innate cinematic structure that isn't even in the top quartile on the interview's interestingness scale:

BLDGBLOG: When you’re actually editing a film, do you ever become aware of this kind of underlying structure, or architecture, amongst the scenes?

Murch: There are little hints of underlying cinematic structures now and then. For instance: to make a convincing action sequence requires, on average, fourteen different camera angles a minute. I don’t mean fourteen cuts – you can have many more than fourteen cuts per minute – but fourteen new views. Let’s say there is a one-minute action scene with thirty cuts, so that the average length of each is two seconds – but, of those thirty cuts, sixteen of them will be repeats of a previous camera angle.

Now what you have to keep in mind is that the perceiving brain reacts differently to completely new visual information than it does to something it has seen before. In the second case, there is already a familiar template into which the information can be placed, so it can be taken in faster and more readily.

So with fourteen “untemplated” angles a minute, a well-shot action sequence will feel thrilling and yet still comprehensible: just on the edge of chaos, which is how action feels if you are in the middle of it. If it’s less than fourteen, the audience will feel like something is lacking, and they’ll disengage; if it’s more than fourteen, so much new information is being thrown at the audience that they’ll also disengage, though for different reasons.

At the other end of the spectrum, dialogue scenes seem to need an average of four new camera angles a minute. Less than that, and the scene will seem flat and perfunctory; more than that, and it will be hard for the audience to concentrate on the performances and the meaning of the dialogue: the visual style will get in the way of the verbal content and the subtleties of the actors’ performances.

This rule of “four to fourteen” seems to hold across all kinds of films and different styles and periods of filmmaking.

The Heliocentric Pantheon: BLDGBLOG Interview with Walter Murch [bldgblog]


Now the story can be told. It's interesting how long it takes stuff to bubble across the Internet. A recent spate of blog discussion of Claude Lelouch's 1976 cult short film, C'etait un Rendezvous was prompted by the film's mention in GQ this month. Similar waves of discovery and amazement accompanied, in reverse chronological order, the pairing up of Rendezvous with a follow-along Google Map, and a couple of years back, the film's triumphal re-emergence on DVD after lingering for decades in bootleg-VHS obscurity.

But in the spring [Mercredi 24 Mai 2006, precisement], Lelouch took some French TV dude along to re-travel the route and talk about the making of the film. The result: answers for a lot of the rumors, questions, and legends that accumulated around the film. Too bad no one bothered to ask Lelouch before now. [But then again, my point is, I'm kind of bummed that I'm only finding this out now, four months after it was shot.]

1) Lelouch was driving
2) his Mercedes 6.9 [which he still has, which is one of my alltime favorite cars]
3) because the pneumatic suspension would produce a much smoother image.
4) The Ferrari audiotrack was dubbed in afterward.
5) The woman at the end is his wife.
6) The whole thing was done on a whim, after shooting something else with a car-mounted camera, and using a leftover magazine of film.

My favorite line of the whole interview: "Yes, I was scared. I was scared of running out of film."

C'etait un Rendezvous The Making Of
{youtube via jalopnik]
French discussion and transcript from April []

You could make a really good-looking movie right now for ten grand, if you have an idea. That’s the trick. I was watching Alphaville this weekend, and I’d love to do like a ten-minute version of Alphaville here in Manhattan. It’s so easy now. I don’t know what the ultimate result of that will be—whether you’ll see a sort of a film version of iTunes, where you can access things that have been made independently by people...

But then the question is—whose vetting process is this, and who are these people? ...

I don’t know where the middle point is—“I can’t find anyone to vouch for the legitimacy of this thing that somebody’s asking me to download”—and access that’s being controlled by a bunch of people who, it’s possible, if you met, you’d actually hate.

- Steven Soderbergh shooting the breeze with Scott Indrisek in the August issue of The Believer and on the Wholpin DVD, vol. 2 [via greencine]

Related: Carson Daly-backed Online Video Site* Launches [fishbowlny]

* funded by Half Nelson producer Jamie Patricof, btw

Much like the 24-hour interview-a-thon itself, Claire Bishop's report from the Serpentine Pavilion starts out hilariously--my original title for this post was to be "LOLOLOL"--and ends with unexpected substance and insight. Whether her declaration is the first, I don't care, but Bishop nails it when she tags "the incessant production of talks and symposia" as "the new performance art. Authenticity, presence, consciousness raising—all of the attributes of '70s performance—now attach themselves to discussion. In this environment, it would seem that Obrist and Koolhaas are the new Ulay and Abramovic."

This had me laughing out loud:

Like trying to watch all five Cremaster films in one go, there eventually came a breakthrough when the experience was no longer painful. Mine arrived when I realized that our interviewers were suffering, too. Koolhaas's opening gambit to laidback design legend Ron Arad couldn't conceal his resignation: "I have always felt sympathy and respect for you, but never the inclination to talk to you. Now I have to ask you questions."
Speech Bubble []
Previously: On watching Cremaster 1-5. In order.
Serpentine Eats Its Tail
Unrealized Projects, an agency, a book, a NYT article

I interviewed Ed Burns the other day about his new movie, The Groomsmen, which follows a group of childhood friends through the emotionally fraught run-up to one posse member's wedding.

And while you're poking around on The Groomsmen, check out Apple's own making of promo. Apple definitely recommends setting up a Final Cut Pro post studio in your guesthouse in the Hamptons.

Ed Burns Gives Some Good Phone About The Groomsmen []
Ed Burns: Risky Business []
The Groomsmen website has release dates; the movie's playing in NYC, NYC Metro, and LA right now and going national Aug. 5th []

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Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Category: interviews

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots

HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.

Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99