Category:making movies

November 4, 2002

Some Quotes and Links

"Asbury's book is a tribute to the magical power of naming: long stretches of 'Gangs [of New York]' are taken up by lists of gangs and villains and even fire engines, and, like the lists of ships in the Iliad, they are essential to the effect...We read of Daybreak Boys, Buckoos, Hookers, Swamp Angels, Slaughter Housers, Short Tails, Patsy Conroys, and the Border Gang, of Chichesters, Roach Guards, Plug Uglies, and Shirt Tails, and we melt."
-- Adam Gopnik discussing Herbert Asbury's cult-fave 1928 book in the New Yorker

"What you really are afraid of is that you're competing against somebody who is rich and irrational. I mean, it used to be a given, a saying in the industry: Don't ever bid against Rupert Murdoch for anything Rupert wants, because if you win you lose. You will have paid way too much."
-- media mogul John Malone, in an interview with Ken Auletta at NewYorker.com

"Just as Italians don't translate Johnny Cash as 'Giovanni Soldi,' and we don't take Federico Fellini and rename him 'Freddy Cats,' so the term Arte Povera has to stand unchanged and unexplained."
-- Blake Gopnik, brother, writing (entertainingly but incorrectly) about the Hirshhorn Gallery's latest show in the Washington Post

"Then sometimes you're given the chance to make a memory for someone, give them a pleasant moment to remember, which is the greatest thing you can ever do. Keep the Oscar and all that."
-- Rod Steiger, Oscar winner, on Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five on IFC

"We're a little tired of the thin-skinned whining, which is much of what we get from north of the border...
-- Pat Buchanan, defending his comment about "Soviet Canuckistan" on the CBC's As It Happens [Pat's about 12:00 into the stream.]


Whatever else it may be,
Jackass is possibly the purest cinema experience ever. It is undiluted, unadulterated and unambiguous. It will make you run. You certainly don't need me to tell you, though, if you should run toward or away from the theater; whatever your pre-existing inclination, you will do well to follow it. Jackass will not mislead you.

Hustled out to Queens to get press screening tapes of Souvenir (November 2001) to MoMA's Film Department. Falling a little behind on delivering the printed press kits; it's going to be a working weekend.


So I'm watching the PBR Bud Light Cup World Finals, and there's a camera guy in the ring, all decked out like he's, well, like he's going to the biggest bullriding rodeo event of the year, thank you very much, and he's got a Glidecam, just like we used in France.

isabella_blow_garbage_cunningham.jpg
image of Isabella Blow in Yoshiki Hishinuma, by bill cunningham, via nyt 2002

"To be contemporaine de tout le monde--that is the keenest and most secret satisfaction that fashion can offer a woman."
- The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin

Apparent egalitarianism is the great appeal of the Street Fashion concept, especially in New York, and especially in the street photos of Bill Cunningham in the NYTimes. If you just be yourself --and that self is someone who's got a bit of the trend radar that puts you in cargo pants about six weeks before it shows up in Cunningham's Sunday street collages-- your embroidered jeans-wearing booty may just surprise you by turning up in the paper. Bill never put your name under your photo, not even if yours is recognizable; credit goes to the man with the camera, and your just appearing is reward enough.

But when someone like Isabella Blow --who's got "Muse" printed on her carte de visite --walks down the street, it's the street fashion equivalent of George Bush making a speech in a national park: the setting says "See, I < heart > nature," but be surprised if the clearcutters wait till FoxNews cuts back to the studio before revving up their chainsaws. Blow's not on just anyone on any street any time. She's a Muse. In Paris. During The Shows. Walking (or wafting, in this case) amidst photographers, designers, editors, stylists, and groupies. Fashion industry types. Just like her.

One of the designers Blow muses for is Jean-Paul Gaultier, who I once sat next to on the Concorde [that was totally uncalled for, I know]. Nice guy. And a brilliant miner of both the street-as-walkway and the street-as-runway. The Mixture, a new culture site with an old-school appreciation of editing, is streaming Gaultier's latest show in its entirety. It's worth watching.

Benjamin called the flaneur "a spy for the capitalists, on assignment in the realm of consumers." If so, in the lead of France's fashion industry (an "occult science of industrial fluctuations" if ever there was one. The Arcades Project is like a can of Pringles: once it's open, you can't stop at just one.) is just where Gaultier belongs.

France's fashion week definitely has an industrial air, with trade associations, official this and that, and weighty government sanction. It's like the Expositions Universelles that made Paris the center of the 19th century world, where innovations were unveiled: things like "electricity" ("The City of Lights") and "Photography," which debuted there in 1855. Benjamin again, on the group that re-defined the term, avant-garde:

The Saint Simonians, who envision the industrialization of the earth, take up the idea of world exhibitions...[They] anticipated the development of the global economy, but not the class struggle...World exhibitions glorify the exchange value of the commodity.

Nice work, if you can get it. Nobody knows better than Benjamin that the image and (the street) reality have a very complicated (business) relationship. When Bill Cunningham takes Isabella Blow's picture on the street in Paris, we have to know that the image is manufactured, constructed in a myriad of ways, some obvious and some not, by all parties involved. (Isabella, even the panhandling woman in my neighborhood changes into her garbage bag before starting work.)

And I found the same issues face the filmmaker, even/especially the documentary filmmaker. To what extent do you just "let something happen" and you "happen" to film it? To what extent to you "make something happen," or stage it? Can't stage it? Wouldn't be prudent? Wouldn't have street cred? Well, how about if you just go to the spots where you know what you want to shoot is gonna happen? Then, you can just "happen" to film it. It all involves choices; editing before, during, and after the fact; having an eye (and a camera), and deciding what to do with it. All things being equal, then, some things just look better. And that can make all the difference.

The Age of Street Fashion [nyt]

In this article in Moviemaker Magazine, David Geffner lays out the latest crisis in independent film: distribution. Sure, DV and laptop editing may have spurred a renaissance in indie production (Hi, nice to meet you), but in the same period, a whole swath of veteran indie distributors flamed out or were bought out by studios.

Non-studio box office dropped as a pct of total [use whichever data source will get someone else to pay for your drink]: the-numbers.com says it's 7% in 1999 down to <5% in 2002. The Hollywood Reporter says it's down from 8.4% in 2000 to 3.4% in 2002. According to Moviemaker, while everyone else is dancing around My Big Fat Greek Wedding breaking plates, Indie Distribution is moping in the corner, wondering how little he can tip the valet parking guy.

Turns out it matters which numbers you use, especially if you look at B.O. receipts, which grew from $7.4b in 1999 to $9.7b (proj.) in 2002 (THR, Goldman Sachs). Using the-numbers' numbers, indie B.O. dropped from $521 to $468 million, the difference of a few films. THR shows a nearly 50% drop, from $645 (in 2000) to $331 million, the difference of a few companies.

But every year's take follows the 80/20 rule, with one or a couple of breakout hits (Crouching Tiger, Greek Wedding); so if one more independent film a year broke $100 million, the "crisis" could disappear. And on the company front, well, if Universal gobbles up couple of specialty distribs (and their releases get reclassified as studio product), it's the End of The World As We Know It.

So why do I feel fine? I read something about this in May. And I heard it was The End of The World when Miramax, New Line, and October got gobbled up. Hmm. Guess not. Peter Broderick (Next Wave Films, got slammed by IFC) issues the call for new distribution models, like the Internet. Seems like the Star Wars/Missile Defense approach to me. Turns out Indie distribution is like the campaign against Iraq: a lot of hysterics about a phantom menace, while the real problem, sitting in plain view, gets ignored.

Broderick laments, "Without a built-in core audience or a proven star, its tough to cover your P&A costs, let alone make money when you open one of these films." And producer Scott Macaulay says stars won't return your heartfelt calls, either: "The days of getting some movie star to work for scale plus 10 because they love the project are over. Actors and agents are savvier and have come to make more demands." [note to self: stop needling yoga instructor about passing script to Fammke Jannsen's brother.] That leaves "built-in core audience."

My Big Fat Demographically Targeted Wedding--with it's It's Not Just For Greek-Americans Anymore! trailer--did for roots-proud, middle-aged mothers what God's Army did for Mormons and what Gregg Araki's The Living End did for gay Gen-X'ers: it found a new way to identify a "built-in" audience. Once these new audiences pan out, they're movied to death, of course. (Kiss Me, Guido could've hit the trifecta if only a pair of missionaries had knocked on the door.) Even if the Net's power as a distribution channel is still imaginary, it's a very promising way to build an audience, especially for an independent film.

Online, audiences or communities don't necessarily build so much as grow or accrete. Whether it's through weblogs, smart mobs or Quake III, innovation will appear in unexpected ways. Check out the fascinating emergence of computer game-based filmmaking (also known as machinima). Ithis is a conference speech now, not a weblog entry. I don't remember hitting anyone up for a registration fee...

punch-drunk love poster
I'm watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture right now, and it's blowing me away. It's the first movie, the one with the original crew, the bald chick, and V'Ger, a cloud-like alien vessel with the Voyager space probe at its core. Anyway, wide swaths of the movie are a nearly psychedelic trance, which I never remembered. There's an incredible 10+ minute abstract FX sequence of the Enterprise entering the vessel. It's similar to Jeremy Blake's digital work and the passages he did for Punch-Drunk Love. Or, it's as abstract, at least. A very unexpected place for such a confluence.
Syd Mead's rendition of V'Ger

[The visual effects on STTMP were originally led by Richard Taylor, then Douglas Trumbull took over after overruns in the chaotic production's budget. So far, I think the V'Ger sequence was John Dykstra's and Trumbull's realization of Syd Mead's concepts. An interview with Taylor survives for now in Google's cache: page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. Charles Barbee wrote about lighting and shooting the V'Ger Flyover, including accounts of 10-pass in-camera composited shots and finding just the right "glare angle." Syd Mead discusses creating V'Ger.]

While I mentioned before that elements of the Star Trek IV story inspired the latest script for the AYUAM, it turns out that several ideas from this Star Trek worked in as well. I'm not unaware that these are considered two of the lamest Star Trek films made ("The V'Ger flyby was interminable."). Combine this with the fact that I don't like musicals, and I find myself deeply engaged in something I should be hating, but instead, I'm loving it. Can someone explain this to me?

Jason Kottke made a weblog on Susan Orlean's site about Adaptation, a movie Spike Jonze directed based on Charlie Kaufman's script about adapting a Susan Orlean book about orchid thieves. It's OK to go back and read that sentence again.

From a Nerve.com interview with Bret Easton Ellis about The Rules of Attraction, his favorite adaptation of his (favorite) book:

The most terrible thing about American movies right now is that people who love movies aren't making them lawyers and agents are. The deals are more important than the material. That's a huge change from the '70s, even the early '80s. I think it's affecting the independent film world too: the people who are making the decisions don't know anything about movies, or don't like movies and don't have any sense of movie history. And that's a problem.

James "Sweet Jimmy the Benevolent Pimp" Ponsoldt was a co-founder of Porn 'n Chicken, a Yale timekiller-cum-media spoof-cum-Comedy Central movie. (If that sentence doesn't get this weblog banned by your corporate firewall, it'll at least get you a reprimand at your performance review.) Tad Friend's New Yorker piece contains Jimmy's description of his latest project:

"It's 'Long Day's Journey Into Night' set in rural Appalachia," he said, "with themes of rifts between generations, loneliness, becoming a man, and OxyContin addiction."

Sound familiar? It took me a second, but it's Cyan Pictures' Coming Down the Mountain. Despite what the title may lead you to believe, it has nothing to do with Porn or Chicken. [For fun, try and match the other porny aliases in the article with the crew at Cyan!}

October 2, 2002

Great Minds, etc etc

santa_croce_basilica.jpg
Arnolfo di Cambio et al, Basilica di Santa Croce, 1294-1442 [img via]

As the Artforum.com discussion of Nico Israel's Spiral Jetty travelogue turned from my smug fact-checking to the romanticisation of contemporary art, E.M. Forster's A Room With a View popped into my head. Just as Forster's English followed Baedekers around Italy--from this altarpiece to that fresco, from Firenze to Rome to Venice to Ravenna--a Contemporary Art Grand Tour has taken shape where Artforum pilgrims can demonstrate their faith.

judd_marfa_milled.jpg Donald Judd, Untitled, 1982-6 [image via]

In addition to Spiral Jetty, the CAGT includes: The Rothko Chapel; Walter deMaria's Lightning Field; Michael Heizer's Double Negative; Donald Judd's Chinati Foundation; James Turrell's work-in-progress Roden Crater; the Guggenheim Bilbao; and my own heretical favorite, Richard Serra's Afangar.

With Merchant/Ivory's version of ARWAV firmly entrenched in my own movie worldview, I saw a vision of a hipster artist roadtrip remake. Sort of Basquiat meets Thelma & Louise, with Reese Witherspoon as Helena Bonham-Carter, Josh Hartnett as Julian Sands and Daniel Day-Lewis as, well, himself.

ANYWAY, it turns out the fashion world's own Forster, English Vogue-er (and faux twin) Plum Sykes, may beat me to the intersection of Art & Film. Hintmag.com leaked the outline of Sykes' book, Bergdorf Blondes (which just got picked up by Talk/Miramax Books for $625,000, not including movie rights).

The hot narratrix (calls herself "Moi") dates, gets engaged to, and breaks up with the hot it-boy painter "Dan" ("Our heroine consoles herself that there is one thing worse than being disengaged to a person in a GAP ad, and that's being married to someone in a GAP ad.") [NB: Sykes dated, etc. painter/Gap ad star Dam(ian) Loeb.]; receives confidence-boosting advice as she pines for the hot LA filmmaker ("You are not superficial, you just look like you are because you wear a lot of Gucci.") ; and hightails it home to En-ge-land, perchance to marry the Earl-next-door ("after bonking at the SoHo Grand"). Sounds pretty much like my movie idea.

Should I go ahead and develop it? Or would it be like when there were those two Dalai Lama movies out at the same time?

Congratulations to the guys at Cyan Pictures for getting their rough cut fedexed to Sundance just in time. [Technically, they could've eked out a whole other day by flying the tape to the festival office in person, so they had a huge time cushion, but hey, that's enough dramatic tension.]

Their short film, Coming Down the Mountain, is set and was shot in/around Hazard, Kentucky, which is near Troublesome Creek. Last night, on plasticbag.org, I read about the Fugate family, aka The Blue People of Troublesome Creek. John Stacy married into the clan and said of his father-in-law:

[Levy Fugate was] part of the family that showed blue. All them old fellers way back then was blue. One of em - I remember seeing him when I was just a boy - Blue Anze, they called him. Most of them old people we [called] by that name - the blue Fugates. It run in that generation who lived up and down Ball Creek.

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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.

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

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Category: making movies

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Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
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Madoff Provenance Project in
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Chop Shop
at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
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Armory – ABMB 2015
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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
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HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


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

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
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