Posts tagged Film School Rejects
Posts tagged Film School Rejects
By Scott Beggs
Think of Your Career as One Long Movie
“It’s all just one film to me. Just different chapters.”
This may be one of the most famous quotes from Altman — aside from his semi-misquoted line about no one having made a “good” movie yet — and while it’s a harrowing suggestion for a first-timer to even try to consider a gargantuan task as the first chapter, it’s also an open invitation to place Altman’s career into the context of a 60-hour feature.
No One’s Ever Made a Good Movie
That’s not exactly what he said, so Altman cleared up the comment with eloquence (in a sweet turtle neck) and a hint at what filmmakers should be striving for.
“I feel the medium of film has not yet really been explored. In other words I think that when we started film, we took it from theater, literature, and we were an extension of another art form. It’s still that way. It’s getting away from it, and I think eventually somebody will make a film that’s purely a film, and the audience can respond to as such… the only limitations are the linear ones. It has length. It has its beginning and an end and it takes a certain amount of time.”
Don’t Restrict Your Actors
From this 1983 interview
The Safe Studio System Will Never Be Safe For Original Voices
“Altman says his troubles with Fox are symptomatic of a general malaise in Hollywood. Many of the major studios are being run by people with little practical knowledge or experience about the movie industry, he says. Lacking sound instincts about what the public will buy at the box office, they try to protect their flanks by making advance sales to pay-cable systems, video disk distributors, and other markets willing to pay up front for movies not yet made. But those secondary markets are only interested in ‘safe’ projects with established stars, so it’s getting more and more difficult to float an original project or a movie starring unknowns.”
Sound familiar? Good, because it’s what Roger Ebert wrote in 1980.
After A Prairie Home Companion, Altman was asked if the movie came out the way he envisioned it. Altman dismissed the premise, saying:
“I wouldn’t know. Making a movie is like chipping away at a stone. You take a piece off here, you take a piece off there and when you’re finished, you have a sculpture. You know that there’s something in there, but you’re not sure exactly what it is until you find it.”
Don’t Take Advice From Anyone
From this interview during the Hamptons International Film Festival
Find Your Film Through its Pieces
“I don’t know if there are any filmmakers here, but this is how you survive in the film industry. Go to a distributor, and say, ‘Mads Mikkelsen, Viking, action, violence.’ And they’ll says, ‘Sure, we’ll pay for that.’ Then you get the money. And then you go to a really remote area where nobody wants to film.
Then you say, ‘Okay: what would I like to do today?’…
Refn credits this process, in part, to his dyslexia, but it goes a long way to explaining his atmospheric, episodic, sometimes fragmentary approach to his films, contributing to an aura in which anything can happen, and the road to whatever happens is visually stunning. - See more at: http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/6-filmmaking-tips-from-nicolas-winding-refn.php#sthash.AqprDkK8.dpuf
Get Excited…Like, Really Excited
“Art is an act of violence. My approach is somewhat pornographic – it’s what excites me that counts. I can’t censor this need.”
…During the Cannes press conference for Only God Forgives in May, Refn gave this explanation for the personal, cathartic appeal to representing violence onscreen: it both excites him and exorcises a base need. Films can be a productive place for exploring and sating our obsessions, our most Freudian proclivities.
Listen to Brian Eno and Cry
Kill Your Masters and Do All the Things
“I grew up in a cinema family. My parents were brought up on the French New Wave. That was God to them, but to me it was the antichrist, and how better to rebel against your parents than by watching something your mother is going to hate, which were American horror movies. When I saw Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I realized: I don’t want to be a director, I don’t want to be a writer, I don’t want to be a producer, I don’t want to be a photographer, I don’t want to be an editor, I don’t want to be a sound man. I want to be all of them at once. And that film proved that you can do it because that movie is not a normal movie.”
Allow Your Films to Unfold Chronologically
After hearing that American indie pioneer John Cassavetes shot some of his films chronologically, Refn decided to take a similar approach. Here’s what he had to say:
“And after I did it on my first movie, I felt, ‘How can you do a movie any other way?’ It’s like a painting—you paint the movie as you go along, and I like the uncertainty of not knowing exactly how it’s going to turn out.”
Let Your Actors Create the Character (and Watch Kenneth Anger’s Movies)
…Refn explained his work with actors further in the aforementioned interview with Foundas: “But I try to draw the actor in—to force them in, in some cases, because a lot of actors don’t want to discuss things or go in deep; they just want to come and do the work, play their part and walk away. But for me, it doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to get absorbed and dirty, and a way to do that is to ask the actor what they would like to do. It also forces them to be more truthful.”
Instead, the film ends up exploring how Clark is even more of an outsider than he was before. Here’s where I think Brandon Routh doesn’t get enough credit. He might not draw such extreme distinctions between his Clark and his Superman that Christopher Reeve did, but by dialing down his Clark’s nerdiness, he makes him a more believable person. In the Reeve films, the conceit usually was that any time we saw Clark, Superman was hamming his performance up.
What Routh does is he largely makes Clark the “real” guy and turns Superman into the mask that can hide those insecurities. Examine moments such as when Clark probes Jimmy about Lois in the bar, or when he later is talking to Lois and trips over trying to explain Superman’s motivations. Little flourishes like that give Clark a reliability that Reeve’s version wasn’t often allowed.It’s become fashionable to dismiss this film with the scoff that “Superman didn’t punch anything!” Do me a favor – the next time you hear someone offer this opinion as if it means anything, please punch them! I’m pretty sure if you go back into the lore that the George Reeves Superman didn’t punch anyone either, and even Reeve’s Superman rarely threw a punch. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I prefer that the movies I watch be about something.
READ THE FULL, PERFECT ARTICLE
(Seriously. So good.)
by Scott Beggs
Don’t Forget Humor
“I want everything I do to have humor in it, because it seems to me that all of life has that. Even the most dire situation – sometimes those are the most close to hysteria …”
Comfort is the Death of Artistic Freedom
“You see, that’s the trap, becoming a slave to your lifestyle. Then you’ve given up the power. You can’t fight the power if you’ve given them the power. If that becomes your priority, which is understandable when people reach middle age, they become used to a very comfortable lifestyle that is enviable because you get to do work you like and then you’re well-remunerated for it. But when that becomes the priority, you’re dead meat as an artist, because you no longer control your destiny. The only way to control your destiny is to not need things…I’ve got as many weaknesses as anybody, but what I can’t buy is people complaining that they have to do this kind of work. Why do they have to? In Hollywood, I think you can make almost any kind of movie if you’re passionate about it.”
Be Prepared to Serve a Larger Vision
It Doesn’t End After Graduation
“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
You’ll Probably Have to Choose Between Personal Statements and Popularity
“Truffaut said that when what you’re interested in matches up with the public, it’s an accident. It’s so true. It’s all timing and gestalt. If you’ve had the luxury of expressing something personal, and no one goes, that’s not a shock. If it’s personal, and people go, that’s the shock.”
by Scott Beggs
Completely shunning the typical mode of movie marketing where every secret and scene is revealed in the trailer, Shane Carruth has managed to make his follow-up to Primer seem even more mysterious the more he shows of it. Granted, the first teasers looked a bit too faux-poetic to take seriously, but the first full trailer is a wonder to behold.
Even though it shares maddeningly little (you can read a synopsis here), the imagery is stunning, and the selected scenes hint that there’s at least a palm worth of plot to this thing. This may seem like hyperbole, and it might simply be the trailer’s brainwashing talking, but if we praise Malick and Anderson for their abilities to craft this kind of emotional visuals, shouldn’t Carruth’s name be haunting the same halls? Sure, he hasn’t made many films, but if his name weren’t on this (and you knew nothing of it), wouldn’t you have guessed it was Malick’s signature?
Keep that in mind and check it out for yourself.
Upstream Color hits Sundance and the Berlinale before getting a limited release April 5th.
by Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs
As if answering our well-established hypothesis about Hollywood shutting down the production of genuine movie stars, the industry offered a positively scientific blitz of testing this year to challenge that assertion and ultimately prove it correct.
A Black Hole For Stars
The first true movie star was Florence Lawrence, the Canadian film actress who made 39 movies before her 22nd birthday and bloomed under D.W. Griffith’s direction at Biograph Studios. She and Mary Pickford became well loved by 1910, but Lawrence was the first to have her silent face connected with her full (stage) name. She became an icon that the studio could use as a sales tool to draw audiences. “You love Florence Lawrence? Well she’s in this one, so come see it!”
Oddly enough, silent film actors were barred from having their names publicized in the early days because producers were afraid their notability would lead to them asking for, you guessed it, more money. Those fears would be proven true throughout the next 9 decades to the delight of studios who realized those larger paychecks would be covered by the huge audience attendance brought on by the powerful gravity of the star. Evolving from a time when producers saw no need to give true credit to the people acting in the work, the reason for building an actor’s public persona was to have a powerful advertising tool in their arsenal. Thus, it’s not that difficult to understand why creating stars has become so difficult: one actor’s name is no longer the most expeditious way to draw an audience. In fact, it might not even be that effective at all anymore…
The Character or the Actor?
…Formerly, the public persona was an extension of the star image. Now, it’s the public persona at the center of our experience of famous media figures, and this type of fame has no direct effect on who sees the actual work they do. In fact, some of today’s biggest celebrities have no cultural output at all. But fame seems to have lost any direct relationship to power over audiences in the world of entertainment. In other words, you can be famous and still be unable to entice people to come see you…
by Scott Beggs
Emerging from a nitrate fire in 1963, Quentin Tarantino was fed only exploitation films, spaghetti Westerns and actual spaghetti until he was old enough to thirst for blood. He found his way into the film industry as a PA on a Dolph Lundgren workout video, as a store clerk at Video Archives and by getting encouragement to write a screenplay by the very man who would make a name for himself producing Tarantino’s films.
Peter Bogdanovich (and probably many others) think of him as the most influential director of his generation, and he’s got the legendary story to back it up — not to mention line-busting movies like Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained under his belt. He’s also the kind of name that makes introductions like this useless…
Lie Until People Think You Worked With Godard
“What happens when you start out acting, you gotta have a resume, and if you ain’t done nothin’, you can’t write ‘Nothing.’ People aren’t gonna pay attention to that so you’ve gotta lie. Alright? I had better luck at it than most because I knew a lot about movies and stuff. I was a fan of Jean-Luc Godard, and he’d just had a movie come out. It was from Cannon back in the 80s or something called King Lear. Woody Allen is in it for a moment, and Molly Ringwald is in it, and I saw it. And, it’s like, there’s no way in hell anyone’s gonna see this movie, so I wrote down under ‘Motion Pictures’ on my resume, ‘King Lear – dir. Jean-Luc Godard w/ Woody Allen, Molly Ringwald.’
I even did that with another movie, too, called Dawn of the Dead, you know, the George Romero zombie movie. Well there was a motorcycle guy in the motorcycle gang who kinda looked like me, so I just said it was.”
Tarantino is quick to point out that he had the lies down, providing anecdotes from the set and details from the movies. The King Lear lie eventually seeped into his biography in press notes after Reservoir Dogs, but since he found it funny (and never corrected the mistakes), the lie spread even further. He was eventually listed in Leonard Maltin’s “Movies On TV” as being in the cast of Godard’s film.
Sadly, IMDB doesn’t list him in it…
Good Artists Borrow, But Great Artists?
“I steal from every movie ever made.”
You Might Make Guitar Picks
Make the Movie On the Page
When asked if Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” was what he originally wanted for the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs:
“It’s actually in the script. Which I can tell you I’ll never do again, because the record companies read the script and they know that you want that song. I actually got it — actually extremely cheap — but it was like every other song wasn’t written in the script, so we actually got it for a lot cheaper. They know you want it — it’s written in the script. See, I wanted to make films, and the only thing I could get going was on the page. So I put it all in the script. The big shots. The chase is broken down shot for shot. It’s cut in the script. ‘POV through windshield. Mr. Pink off screen.’ I was making the movie on the page, because it was the only way I could make movies. And then, when I would show it to someone I could say, ‘Look, this is what I’m going to do. I’m not going to do this. Just this.’”…
Be Impersonally Personal
“My movies are painfully personal, but I’m never trying to let you know how personal they are. It’s my job to make it be personal, and also to disguise that so only I or the people who know me know how personal it is. Kill Bill is a very personal movie.
It’s not anyone’s business. It’s my job to invest in it and hide it inside of genre. Maybe there are metaphors for things that are going on in my life, or maybe it’s just straight up how it is. But it’s buried in genre, so it’s not a ‘how I grew up to write the novel’ kind of piece. Whatever’s going on with me at the time of writing is going to find its way into the piece. If that doesn’t happen, then what the hell am I doing? So if I’m writing Inglourious Basterds and I’m in love with a girl and we break up, that’s going to find its way into the piece.
That pain, the way my aspirations were dashed, that’s going to find its way in there. So I’m not doing a James L. Brooks—I loved how personal Spanglish was, but I thought that where Sofia Coppola got praised for being personal, he got criticized for being personal in the exact same aching way. But that doesn’t interest me, at least not now, to do my little story about my little situation. The more I hide it, the more revealing I can be.”
Think Outside the Casting List
A Quentin Tarantino film has a number of signature touches, one of which involves the casting of oft-forgotten actors. In this excerpt from his feature chat, Quentin talks about how he makes his casting choices and how they influenced his decision to work with Leonardo DiCaprio.
By Scott Beggs
Filming a Journey is Its Own Journey
"It’s the last movie is the reason you do it, isn’t it? Any time you make a movie, it’s because you want people to see it and enjoy it… Every time you start a film there’s always a degree of excitement because you want to see it [in finished form]. That’s what you’re striving to do. The trilogy [is] all about the third film really. What’s the point of doing any of the others? The two films exist because you’re reaching that third chapter. That’s the one that defines the previous two, and puts them in context. Prior to now, they haven’t had a context. Fellowship was the beginning, Two Towers was the difficult middle chapter that everybody described it as and now you have the third film. Suddenly, everything has a context now. It’s the point of the whole exercise. It has closure too. It has a strong sense of closure.
It’s tough for the actors as well because they’re feeling emotional seeing the movie because the movie’s emotional. The movie finishes it off and it sort of represents the ending of all of our journeys. We’ve all become friends on this project. It’s all finishing at the same time, both on screen and off screen. It’s everything I hoped it would be. I hoped it would be sad, that it would capture something of that sadness of the book, but sadness in a way that’s not a downer. It’s just sad but you’re happy that they achieved what they set out to do but there was a price to be paid. ”
Seven years is an extreme example, even if it covers three epic-length movies, but this rule applies from Return of the King all the way down to short films. There’s a process in place, and it’s easy to think of it that way, but it’s also a journey with a beginning, middle and end. Hopefully it’s a happy one.
Viewing the production process as a journey also reinforces that old idea that who you work with becomes your family. You might get a cake on your birthday at the office, but it’s different when a group of people endeavor through sweat and panic to create something together for themselves. Friendships have the great potential to be forged in a more lasting kind of Summer Camp way, but with tensions riding high, it also means you have to be careful how you treat others on set.
And be ready to tear up a bit when it’s all over. There’s a reason wrap parties exist.
A Duty to Self-Censorship
“[The Lovely Bones is] not a murder film and I wanted kids to be able to go and see it. Film is such a powerful medium. It’s like a weapon and I think you have a duty to self-censor.
‘There are some people who might enjoy watching a 14-year-old girl getting killed, a small minority maybe, but how could you live with yourself in providing that titillation? I wouldn’t want the movie defined by that.”
As the Telegraph piece adds, it’s a bit odd to imagine the director of Braindead saying something like that, but either by age or because he viewed those early splat-stick films as “harmless” in their silliness, Jackson recognizes that extreme elements (like the rape and murder of a young girl) can be handled in many different ways depending on the audience you’re looking to reach and the tone you’re looking to shape.
You’ll Always Wants to Change a Movie When You Look Back On It
Know the Physical Limitations of Your Camera
“A good example is the way in which, when we did Lord of the Rings, we built miniatures, so anytime you see a piece of architecture or an unreal landscape on Lord of the Rings – whether it’s Mount Doom or Minas Tirith or Helm’s Deep — you’re looking at a miniature. Some of the miniatures are the size of this room. I mean they’re large, and the thing with miniatures is that you’ve got a couple of constraints. One is that you physically, you have a very large camera that you have to get close; if you want to do a shot where the camera’s flying over the rooftops of Minas Tirith, you literally can get the camera so close to the rooftops and sometimes you have to use a periscope lens to get them to be able to drift over the top of the roofs, but if I wanted to fly down between the roofs and go down to the street, I couldn’t because you physically, with a miniature, you couldn’t fit the bulk of the camera into that space… so you design the most interesting shots you can.”
Jackson goes on to talk about how, with The Hobbit, they used CGI instead of miniatures which meant he could do pretty much anything he wanted (even if that meant flying through someone’s keyhole).
This may seem obvious, but knowing intimately those physical constraints can help save time and money during the planning phase, especially if you can work to stretch those limitations without getting yourself into an impossible shot situation.
If You Can’t Finish Your Movie, Go Ahead and Finish Your Movie
“You’ve got to realize, that when I started doing Bad Taste, it was only a short film. In my mind the enormity of the project was restricted to ten or fifteen minutes, so we started shooting and it just sort of… spread. I never, ever dreamt that it would be a feature and I never thought it would until about a year into it. Until then, I hadn’t edited any of the footage – I was just sticking it in tins under my bed – so I took a week off work for editing and put together a 60 minute rough cut only to find it didn’t have an ending.
I thought, ‘Christ, there’s nothing I can do, other than just patch on and make a feature.’ It was actually scary at first, making a feature. I thought, ‘It’s impossible, you can’t just make a feature film,’ but then I thought, ‘Why not?’ So I wrote out this ending and we just started shooting again. Not to make this sound so quick though, the film took four years to finish.”
Finding the right tone in a screenplay is so important, and if the tone is inconsistent, a reader will likely want to pass on the script. Tone is a big reason why I’m excited to read David O. Russell’s screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook, adapted from Matthew Quick’s novel, as the story finds humor in incomfortable yet very human moments. The screenplay for The Master may illuminate certain elements of P.T. Anderson’s film, or may obfuscate it that much more, but will likely make an interesting read. And Quartet? Learning how to adapt a stage play into a screenplay from Oscar-winner Ronald Harwood (The Pianist) sounds pretty good to me.
Here are the links to the screenplays:
- Silver Linings Playbook, screenplay by David O. Russell, based on the novel by Matthew Quick
- The Master, written by Paul Thomas Anderson
- Quartet, written by Ronald Harwood, based on his play
As always, please use these screenplays for your educational purposes only, and don’t wait to download them as we never know when they will be taken offline. Several more screenplays available for legal download for your consideration can be found at the end of our previous post on award-contending screenplays.
by Nathan Adams
Let’s take a trip back in time to the magical year of 2010…Terry Gilliam was going to make a movie about Don Quixote starring Robert Duvall and Johnny Depp. A lot has changed since then. Ewan McGregor replaced Johnny Depp in Gilliam’s movie, then Gilliam’s movie got cancelled completely…
Even after all these years though, one thing hasn’t changed: Johnny Depp is still really into the character of Don Quixote. That’s why he’s teaming up with Disney to start developing a new feature film about Miguel de Cervantes’ creation. Deadline has the scoop that the untitled pitch has been shipped out for screenwriting duties to Steve Pink (Grosse Pointe Blank, High Fidelity) and Jeff Morris (The True Memoirs of an International Assassin). Little is known about the project at this point, but it’s said that it’s going to be a modern imagining of the Don Quixote story.
Seeing as he’s on as a producer, does that also mean that Depp will eventually be attached as an actor to play the title character? One can probably assume. So far Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is the only thing he’s got a producer’s credit on that wasn’t a starring vehicle for him as well. What do you think? Could Depp pull off playing the traveling romantic, trying to bring chivalry back to the world? Yeah, probably that’s not a stretch for him at all…
One of cinema’s lost potential gems remains Terry Gilliam’s ambitious attempts to bring the Don Quixote story to the big screen. Gilliam’s struggles, which included beginning shooting before the production was shut down, were charted in the terrific, if melancholy documentary Lost In La Mancha. If you’ve not seen it, we can’t recommend it strongly enough.
Gilliam had cast Johnny Depp in his film, and it was to be a period take on the tale. And the director had always given the impression that he’d like to get the film moving again, if circumstances prevailed…
The question, then: will Terry Gilliam get the chance to direct this one? It’s too early on the project for news of a director, it seems, but it’d be pretty crappy after everything he went through last time around for Gilliam to not at least get a phone call.
by T.J. Barnard
Despite their decade-long struggle to get a film made out ofCervantes’ Don Quixote – a book whose scope and length has reduced many a patient reader to sobs and tears - Johnny Depp is apparently moving on without Terry Gilliam for an adaptation with Disney, presumably because he secretly wants Tim Burton to get involved instead. Yes, Depp’s own production company has partnered with the House of Mouse for a “modern-re-imagining” of the classic tale, a classic tale that will absolutely get the treatment it deserves through the hiring of Hot Tub Time Machine‘s Steve Pink as screenwriter.
Depp and Gilliam’s perilous attempt to transform Quixote cinematically can be glimpsed in 1997′s documentary Lost In La Mancha, in which Gilliam’s personal journey is contrasted with that of the novel’s titular character, despite the fact that funding and weather issues and elderly cast members prevent him from ever getting the thing made.
Perhaps fearful that Don Quixote will get made elsewhere if he doesn’t snap up the opportunity to film it at some point soon, the project also gives Johnny Depp another chance to dress up and talk in a funny voice, should he decide to cast himself in the movie. Don’t worry, Johnny… you go ahead and make this. It’s not like this is Terry Gilliam’s dream project or something.