Category:making movies

Tad Friend attends the hilariously useless Jean Doumanian seminar on "How to Get Your Play or Movie Produced." Here, Doumanian ("You may know me from such films as "Woody Allen sued me and my bankrolling boyfriend.") advises an attendee on getting distribution for her film:
"Try to get a European sales agent," Doumanian suggested. "There's a fellow named John Slossó"
"How do you spell it?"
"I don't know," Doumanian said. "I've never worked with him."

Roger Angell writes with reticence of many people he knows who died in war,

But then there's a shift, and I feel that, as long as I can hold onto these names and glimpsed faces, their bearers will not be relegated to the abstract status of heroes or the honored dead. Maybe some of them were heroes, but what I feel toward them, I find, is an extreme civility, due them because they have stayed young. With seven thousand four hundred and fifty American veterans of the Second World War dying each week now, this particular form of commemorationóan ancient one, if you think about itóis going out of style.
and a few others who survived.
He is suave and unflappable, but when there's a thunderstorm passing over his hilltop house in the Berkshires he turns pale and wears a different look.

Today's Guardian asks twelve actual historians to lend their authoritative-sounding accents on politicians' arguments that Iraq is the next [check all that apply]
1939 Germany
1956 Egypt
1967 Israel
1991 Iraq
1963 Vietnam
1899 South Africa
1936 Ethiopia
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Naboo

As someone who made a movie (S(N01)) about looking at the past (WWI) to make sense of the present (Sept. 11), I'm interested. One big lesson is best expressed by Simon Schama: "I'm allergic to lazy historical analogies. History never repeats itself, ever. That's its murderous charm."

Another: historians are almost as likely as politicians to slip from historical analogy to histrionic advocacy. For example Andrew Roberts' unsubtle derision: "The League of Nations, on the morning after Poland was invaded, had on its urgent agenda the standardisation of European railway gauges. Today's United Nations is fast shaping up to be equally ineffectual." (See if you can read between ' lines.)

And even though it would catapult S(N01) up the relevance scale, I hope Norman Davies is wrong comparing Iraq to 1914 Russia:

So what about 1914? The strongest military power in sight (Germany) is made to feel insecure by a terrorist outrage. Instead of confining its response to the known source of the terrorism (Serbia), it lashed out at one country, which it suspected of abetting the terrorists (Russia), and then at another country (France), which was linked to the first. Then it lost the plot. Worst of all, it calculated that the war would be won by Christmas.

Richard Kobayashi, farmer with cabbages, Manzanar internment camp, photo by Ansel Adams image: loc.gov

Richard Kobayashi, farmer and cabbages, Manzanar Internment Camp
photo by Ansel Adams image: loc.gov


In 1990, just out of school, I was transfixed by a copy of Ansel Adam's self-published book, Born Free And Equal, at a big antiques show. At $200, it was the most expensive book I'd ever wanted, and I choked. Almost five years of searching later, it was the first thing I bought online, from a collector on a photography newsgroup. [Of course, now you can almost always find a copy on Abebooks.] Adams' combined his photographs--signature landscapes, portraits and documentary shots--of the Japanese American internment camp in Manzanar, CA with his scathing text to condemn the US government's (all three branches) stripping of US citizens' and residents' civil rights.

Published in 1944, Adams' book was poorly received, no surprise. Many copies were reportedly burned, and today, it is an exceedingly rare, little known work by a very famous photographer. Since the 1960's, the Manzanar collection has been at the Library of Congress. Tell Jack Valenti when you want to see his neck twitch: Adams put these pictures into the public domain, to assure their survival. View all 244 images here.

Manzanar landscape with barbed wire fence, by Ansel Adams image: loc.gov

Manzanar landscape with barbed wire fence
photo by Ansel Adams, image: loc.gov


Why do I post this now? Well, I have contemplated ideas for a film based in the camps. And a John Ashcroft deputy has suggested such camps for Arab Americans would not be illegal. But now, a Congressman from North Carolina (home state, thanks), the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Security, has defended the camps, proclaiming them "appropriate" and "for their [the Japanese'] own safety." Two branches down, one to go.


  • when someone sneezes during the movie, six people-- from around the theater, as if in THX Surround Sound--say, not "SHHH!" but "bless you."
  • when you ask to see the manager about the sound that, annoyingly, kept shorting out, he thanks you, chuckles, and walks off, thinking you were trying to make a helpful suggestion, not complaining and expecting apologies and/or restitution.

  • January 27, 2003

    Can't Wait To See It

    Lost in La Mancha, image: smart.co.uk

    Anthony Lane on Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's documentary, Lost in La Mancha: "For anyone who suffers from the wish to make movies, or who fears that this terrible condition may strike at any time, here is the cure."

    Cyan's Colin Spoelman interviewed at Topic MagazineNow that S(J03) is locked and getting ready for color correction and film transfer, I thought I'd catch up with the guys at Cyan Pictures, who I'd been in only intermittent email contact with for the last few weeks. They're both walkin' the walk and talkin' the talk, in that order.

  • They're in production with Adam Goldberg's feature I Love Your Work, which emerged from veteran indie Muse Productions on.
  • Their first short, Coming Down the Mountain, has been accepted into the (rapidly approaching) Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival and the San Francisco Int'l Film Festival
  • And EVP/model ("just part-time") Colin Spoelman gives good interview in Topic Magazine. Remember, ladies, gentlemen, writers of all ages: he's a Scorpio, and if you want to get on his good side, his drink is Maker's Mark.

  • Sifting and digitizing footage for S(J03) until the batteries in my camera ran out, when I watched two DVD's back to back, XXX and Don't Look Now. At a stretch, I can say XXX is research for the Animated Musical. Nicolas Roeg's 1973 thriller, though, is a concentrated course in editing in general and intercutting in particular.

    Julie Chrystie in Don't Look Now

    When I cited the seduction scene in Out of Sight as inspiration for intercutting scenes 1 and 2 in Souvenir, a couple of readers suggested seeing the similar Donald Sutherland/Julie Chrystie love scene in Don't Look Now, "one of the subtlest, most affecting erotic sequences in the history of cinema." Similar? Apparently, in the Out of Sight DVD commentary,Soderbergh cops to copying this scene; frankly, I think he improved on it.

    Roeg's a cinematographer-turned-director, and it shows. Venice looks awesome in the dark (blown out sunlight at the end of a long alley) and the light (endless boats crossing shimmering canals). And Roeg never met a mirror or semi-transparent surface he didn't like (or shoot); when the unsettling Scottish sisters confront Christie's grieving mother in the ladies' room, there are so many reflections you wonder where the camera was.

    The love scene is unexpectedly intense (think twice before watching this one with the in-laws), and not just because I went into the movie thinking Julie Chrystie was the one in The Belle of Amherst. The intercutting is quite effective and interestingly different from Out of Sight. The differences between Roeg's and Soderbergh's scenes are both consistent and convenient. Don't Look Now: impassioned married sex between people who know each other well is intercut with the aftermath, stolid scenes of getting dressed for dinner. The sex is guaranteed, just part of the fabric of life. Out of Sight: Self-conscious flirtation between pursuer and pursued is intercut with the payoff, uncertainty banished and anticipation building to a striptease and one hot night in the sack.

    Roeg packs his film with foreboding cuts; pay attention, because everything seems intentional or freighted with meaning. Handheld camerawork (a church accident and late-night chase along a canal, in particular) crops up unexpectedly and with great emotional effect. Some of the love scene cuts are a bit obvious, though; a shot of Julie Chrystie rolling over cuts to a shot of her turning around and putting on lipstick, and there's a silly pelvic thrust as Sutherland puts on his pants. Even if it feels a little heavy-handed or self-indulgent sometimes, Roeg's is an expressive style of filmmaking that's largely dropped from sight these days.

    Except, of course, for the "exciting faux-documentary style of Bloody Sunday; the feverish intercutting in Adaptation, Chicago, The Hours, Solaris, even The Two Towers!" which Slate's David Edelstein points out...

    Louis Begley spoke before a screening of About Schmidt last night. An extremely genteel guy, he explained why he's quite pleased with the film, even though it differs significantly from his novel. For Begley, "write what you know" means Schmidt ("known as Schmittie to one and all") is an Upper East Side lawyer, recently retired to Bridgehampton, something, presumably, a vast majority of the screening audience knows well, too. Consistently for Alexander Payne, "film what you know" means a studied exploration of the middle of Middle America: Schmidt is an Omaha actuary whose retirement plans involve a Winnebago.

    Kathy Bates lettin' it all hang out in About Schmidt, from the official site image: aboutschmidtmovie.com

    The only disappointment Begley voiced was the elimination of his saucy Puerto Rican waitress character who (brace yourself) teaches Schmidt to love again. Or, more precisely, she "teaches Schmittie the transformative power of sex. [audience titters] You laugh. It's true. Maybe you're just too young to understand." But then he gamely allowed that Payne may have been poking fun at this idea with Kathy Bates' hand-painted clothing-shedding hot-tubber. Um, yeah.

    While I've heard it described as a comedy, the laughs were all at things that are quite real outside the culture capitals; if you've been there, or are honest about being from there, your laughter is slightly embarassed and at yourself. (I'm not talking about my own proto-mullet here.) Begley sounded a little resigned when he said he couldn't see the future holding anything good for Payne's Schmidt. As I did in September, I have disagree and side with Payne. If taken at the most superficial level, you could argue that Schmidt's transformative experience at the end is a pretty meager reward for all that preceded it. Why, it's practically a, um, a money shot. What it may be is the difference between sex and love.

    [12/12 update: Alexander Payne will be on Studio 360 this weekend. AND he will be given the Work In Progress award by the MoMA Department of Film and Media next February. Stay tuned.]


    Three clothing-optionalists and one writer on the set of Starship Troopers
    On the set of Starship Troopers: DP Jost Vocano,
    director Paul Verhoeven, star Casper Van Dien, writer Ed Neumeier

    Yesterday's NY Times Magazine is a veritable toolbox (and I use that word deliberately) for film, all you want to know, and more. First, what you want to know: There's the Cinderella-story of indie director Joe Carnahan's tremendous success on the Bel-Air Circuit, where Narc, his ignored-at-Sundance cop flick became the favorite film of (among others) Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford.

    And the more: The "How to..." section provides expert opinion on potentially tricky subjects, all in a neat little package. Here's a quote from Paul Verhoeven's How to Shoot a Nude Scene:

    When I did Starship Troopers, the cast was balking about going through with a group shower scene. So I took off all my clothes. And my director of photography did also. It worked, because everybody started laughing, and then they got naked. And we didn't hear anymore complaints.

    You can read reviews of Verhoeven's piece at CNdb, the Celebrity Nudity Database.

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    Since 2001 here at greg.org, 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 greg.org that time.

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