Movie City Indie Archive for September, 2005

Errol Morris on the role of the director

The loquacious Mr. Morris is quick with the quip and a definition of the directing gig at The A.V. Club: “There’s a perverted hopefulness that runs through Gates Of Heaven and you have to wonder… hope for what? Life after death? …Hope for some kind of love, mortal or otherwise? For business success? For meaning? Hope for anything! In a sea of utter hopelessness! … I saw Gates Of Heaven again about a year ago, at Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival. I sat next to Roger. I hadn’t seen it in probably a decade. And I thought, “This is fucked-up!” That’s the nicest thing you can say about a work of art. Usually, the interesting ones are nuts. In literature classes, no one points out that “Moby Dick” is written by a madman… You’re meant to think somehow that literature, in espousing eternal values, is kind of normal and balanced and reasonable. When it fact it’s anything but. I kind of liked watching Gates Of Heaven. I thought, “This is nuts!” One of my favorite guys, the guy I did the Miller High Life campaign with, Jeff Williams, paid me the greatest compliment that I’ve ever heard. The first day that we worked together, he looked at me in a kind of funny way and said, “You know, when the director has everything set up perfectly, my job is to come in and fuck it up. But with you, Errol, I don’t have to come in and fuck it up, because it’s fucked up already!”

Where the R flies: Egoyan on pixillating prolonged thrusting

More on what ThinkFILM can or can’t do with the NC-17 for Where the Truth Lies from the National Post: “As for suggestions that the publicity is golden, producer Robert Lantos [and Serendipity Point majordomo] disagreed, calling it a “stigma” while Egoyan added it was just not how he wanted to position his film. “It’s such a complex aspect of our lives,” the director said about sexuality.” Last week Lantos, however, had remarked that the publicity over the ratings controversy “could be a kind of serendipitous side-effect. Certainly I don’t think it will hurt us.” Egoyan thought one of the problems is his film looks gorgeous, like a big studio production, with major stars. But if it had been shot as an underground film in grainy 16mm with unknowns in the cast, he said, nobody would have paid attention. Egoyan revealed how one of the MPAA people told him he was so close to winning his appeal, that if only he could have pixillated or blurred the “prolonged thrusting.”

Locations, locations: kidnappings on the set of Paradise Now

Paradise Now director Hany Abu-Assad talks to Emanuel Levy in the FT about unusual production circumstances: “When rumours spread that the film was a polemic against suicide bombing, militant group kidnapped Abu-Assad’s location manager, Hassan Titi. “That day, there was an Israeli missile attack and gunmen ordered ust o leave. This was the last straw for 6 of our European crew members, who left.” Abu-Assad does not blame them… “From their perspective, they did the right thing,” he says. “Life is more important than a film. We were too close to the destruction. I understood why the Palestinian crew might do this, but I wondered why foreign crews would risk their lives.”Abu-Assad had to contend with the problem of how get his location manager back, and how to stay friendly with the factions without the Israelis knowing about it. He decided to contact Yassir Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, although he had never met him. Says Abu-Assad: “I knew for a fact that Arafat had never visited a cinema, but he did help us to obtain the release of Hassan within two hours.”

Thank you for bidding: neophyte producer David O. Sacks pr's

After the multi-dependent fracas over the rights to Thank You For Smoking’ producer David O. Sacks fills in: “The fact that multiple studios bid intensely for this movie is a testament to what [director] Jason [Reitman] has achieved. However, I want to be clear that only one studio, Fox Searchlight, bought the movie. Although we had negotiations with Paramount Classics, no deal was ever concluded. Although this is my first movie, I was represented by highly experienced industry professionals. I am also a lawyer and have run a large public company. We know when we have closed a deal, and when we haven’t. I am now enthusiastically looking forward to the release of this film with Fox Searchlight, the best possible distributor to handle this movie. Over the past year Searchlight has distributed a number of high-profile independent pictures which have achieved critical and commercial success, and I’m confident that they can replicate that with our movie. “I want to thank my representatives and everyone who worked on this film. I couldn’t have asked to work with a better group of people.”

A rubber glove in axle grease: Hurt hearts Cronenberg

William “Hurt can’t say enough good things about his experience with Cronenberg… )I ask why. “He puts his hand in the axle grease,” says Hurt, “then slides it into a silk glove.”… Now there’s a metaphor. I ask if I can quote him. “Don’t you dare quote me,” says Hurt, looking like he might kill me. “Why not? “I want to work with David Cronenberg again.” “But it’s a flattering line. And it’s Cronenbergian. He’ll love it.” “I’m not sure.” … “How about if I get his permission?” … I go over to Cronenberg and repeat the line. “That’s exactly what I do,” he says, warming to the idea of axle grease. “Except I don’t have a silk glove. I use a rubber glove. Tonight I’ll be using a rubber glove.” … I go back to Hurt and tell him the director is fine with the axle grease and the silk glove. Hurt seems unconvinced. “If this means I don’t get to work with David Cronenberg again,” he says, “I’ll never forgive you.” [From Brian D. Johnson in Maclean’s.]

Harsh Times but well-fed

Along with extolling good food for cast and crew as a secret to directing, Training Day‘s David Ayer has a few words with LA Times’ Patrick Goldstein about why grown-up pictures are few and far between: “It’s the development process that makes movies so tame… They don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. They want to take out all the bad language because then they get an R rating and they can’t advertise till after 9 p.m. They’re always obsessed about behavior and consequences. If you kick a dog, you have to be hit by lightning in the next scene…That’s just not reality, at least not in the world I’ve seen. In Hollywood, you’re dealing with people who have a high-powered analytical education. But what’s good about movies isn’t logical. It’s emotional. We shouldn’t be afraid to have complex characters in our films, people who lie, people who contradict themselves and don’t always act in their best interests. Maybe that’s why people aren’t going out to the movies these days… Writing saved my life. For another guy, it could be something else. But if you’re going to have a good life, you’ve got to conquer the dark side of yourself. That’s what this movie is about. I wanted to show the tough choices people have to make that you don’t see in Hollywood films these days. It’s not a candy-coated story. But, you know, sometimes the medicine isn’t so sweet.”

What? And give up show business?: Anthony Bregman on producing

At Gothamist, Rafie Frank gets Anthony Bregman to define what a producer does, as well as his history with Good Machine and This Is That [while racking up an impeccable number of misspelled proper names]: “Well, here’s a story. The first movie I produced was Love God in 1997, which was one of my favorite production experiences. It definitely was a pioneering film. It was the first digital film ever made… It was about this guy with mental issues, released from an overcrowded insane asylum and he comes to a hotel in the Meatpacking district… and he starts to have hallucinations of, among other things, dinosaur parasites that have been released into the sewers of New York and come up through the toilets…. it was a really difficult production. Really ambitious. We worked for 6 months creating monsters… We shot in… crack hotels with 2 cameras most of the time… The day we started shooting, Ross Katz, who is a producer, a very big producer now… had been working out in Los Angeles, working for Sydney [Pollack’s] company, living pretty well, but he wanted to move to New York… So he came in and it was his first day working with Good Machine and my first day of shooting Love God… So, at the end of the day I get back to the production office and the toilet, which is an illegal toilet, had overflowed and, basically, everyone is so tired and the toilet is overflowing and turds start pouring out and everybody says “Well, that’s it. I’m going home ” and I’m left there at midnight on a day we’d started shooting at 5 in the morning and I’m brooming shit out the front door into the street. And it’s right as I’m doing this that Ross comes by.. [I tell him] I’d love to talk to you… but at this point if I stop brooming we’re going to get overcome with shit. So, if you want to hang out, great… grab a broom.”

Rum baba Depardieu, cooking or making love

The Observer serves up Gerard Depardieu’s Rum baba with crystallised pineapple from his new cookbook; whoever translated knows a bit about making a Frenchman sound like a cliche: Cooking is a totally sensual pleasure, for you must be able to smell, to touch, to taste, to watch and to listen. I remember preparing a rabbit en gel�e, which I make frequently at my home at the Chateau de Tign� in Anjou, in the company of friend and fellow actor Jean Carmet. Normally, we eat it for breakfast, slathered over a slice of grilled country bread, and washed down with a glass of cold white wine. It is a wonderful memory and one of many that I hold on to. We have five senses. If we use them properly, they will help us appreciate the simplicity behind some of life’s pleasures, such as cooking or making love. Bonus recipe: chocolate tart.

IFC springs Werner: Wellspring exec ankles

The Reeler reviews the scoop that Wellspring theatrical dist head Ryan Werner is moving to IFC Films, where he’ll be “overseeing the development and implementation of media strategies for all the company’s slate of film properties in addition to developing poster/trailer campaigns and strategic promotional efforts…” Reviewing Werner’s campaigns for greats like Tarnation and The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Mr. Van Airsdale slips in some snark: “It seems to me the last thing IFC needs is a better marketer when its recent films have been consistently… well, disappointing… but maybe a sharp cookie like Werner will make all the difference for Euro-marginalia like The Edukators.”

Finally emerging: Dylan with some direction home

Scorsese’s Dylan doc gets the digi-theatrical experience, Variety reports in advance of its Par DVD and PBS release after its Telluride + Toronto preems. “Martin Scorsese’s fest entry “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,” which clocks in at almost 4 hours, will get a theatrical run courtesy of Gotham-based indie Emerging Pictures. Plan is to roll out the pic digitally in 30 cities nationwide before its skedded TV and homevid debut later this month. The film however will not screen for the full week making it ineligible for Oscar consideration. Screenings, which run the week of Sept. 20, will be free of charge to the public on a first-come basis. Pic is being released on DVD via Paramount Home Video on the same date. Emerging, which operates a consortium of digital projection theatres, was co-founded by Ira Deutchman, Barry Rebo and Giovanni Cozzi.”

George Miller on narrative: You want nourishing, filling, fulfilling food

While he’s near-silent on the cinema scene, George Miller wants to preserve Aussie television drama, speaking as “The Kennedy Miller Collection” is released on DVD: “George Miller, whose company Kennedy Miller has produced some of Australia’s most successful TV dramas [says]”If the quality is there, and it’s compelling, audiences will commit. Not only will they commit, they will also buy the DVD and watch it over and over again. And that’s the trick, how to make it compelling. If it speaks to the audience, we will listen.” …His relatively brief affair with TV, in partnership with the late Byron Kennedy, was extraordinarily successful. Between 1983 and 1989 Kennedy Miller produced The Dismissal, Bodyline, The Cowra Breakout, Vietnam, The Dirtwater Dynasty and Bangkok Hilton. Those landmark titles have just been released on DVD, a timely and perhaps uncomfortable reminder of the local TV industry’s capability. All were “pivotal stories in the Australian narrative”, Miller says. “And obviously there is something elemental about the stories, and if that is the case, they speak across time to us today.” … Australian drama accounted for just 575 hours of TV air time during the past financial year, figures published by the Australian Film Commission last month show, down from 722 hours in the late ’90s… Narrative, he says, is like good food. “You want nourishing, filling, fulfilling food. We seem to want it, and we’re able to invest the time, providing the story is good enough, so the question becomes how do you get something interesting out of all the noise out there?” … The real problem, Miller says, is much deeper and worrying, it’s the erosion of our Australian identity. “Our culture has been so watered down, that we are basically ersatz Americans as much as anything else, and the horse has bolted on that one… In the current ecology, it is almost impossible for Australian writers, actors, directors, producers to do good-quality material. It’s much more than just the fees they work with. It’s to do with even the understanding, at every level, that our culture shrivels up and dies unless you actively try to tell its stories.” [Photo: Steve Baccon for the Age]

Processing: Mark Romanek

On the occasion of a DVD of his work being released on Palm, music video director tells Suicidegirls’ Daniel Robert Epstein how his mind works: “I have a backlog of ideas on a file in my computer so if I don’t get an idea I can go into a backlog and see if any of them can be retrofitted. Sometimes I’ll have an idea that I think is really good and the other people involved don’t like it or can’t afford to do it properly so I’ll just put it in the file. Sometimes I’ll just be driving around and get an idea for a video that’s not connected to anything and I’ll put it in the file. I try to have the idea for the video emerge from listening to the song but sometimes nothing comes. Sometimes I’ll get a bunch of ideas that are kind of obvious but you don’t get beyond that.”

John Waters: I haven't been to the state fair since they cleaned it up

A Dirty Shame goes Down Under, so John Waters parlays with The Age’s Craig Mathieson: “I haven’t been to the state fair since they cleaned it up… It was so influential on me when I was young because they had a freak show – it was the same one Diane Arbus photographed. I used to go to look at the Fat Lady. Everyone else would avert their eyes and hurry through because there would be a 700-pound black woman sitting there in a polka-dot dress, eating a peach, but I stayed for 20 minutes. They also had the Octopus Man. That fair was very important in my upbringing.” And of the DVD version, Waters allows, “I totally neutered it for Wal-Mart and Blockbuster, I made a baby version of my film… I used the footage the completion bond company made me shoot to cover every possibility in case it had to be recut for use on airplanes… In the neuter version, when Johnny Knoxville goes down on Tracey Ullman, he comes up holding a shoe and she says, ‘Watch my corns!’ I tried to be creative, but I never imagined I would have to use this footage. It’s now out there widely, but all that happens is that people get mad when they accidentally buy the neuter version. Apparently it’s for non-discriminating audiences – what’s that mean? That they’re dumb?”

Thumbsucker… You might as well call it…: Mills on Schamus

Michael Muston in the Voice pulls out a plum from Thumbsucker‘s Mike Mills: “Everybody said no to this picture, including Sony Classics,” Mills told me before din-din. “No one wanted to do a movie about thumbsucking, vulnerability, or flaws. James Schamus from Focus said, ‘ Thumbsucker? You might as well call it Buttf–ker.’ OK, so you’re homophobic and you don’t like my movie. Even at Sundance, only one person wanted to buy it.” Well, that’s all you need, baby—plus a few thumbs up, which some critics have already generously provided.” [The Voice offers no comment or, erm… rebuttal… from Schamus.]

The parcels of Pauline: opening Kael's books

The Boston Globe’s Mark Feeney reports on the 3,000 books that belonged to Pauline Kael, now in the stacks at Hampshire College: “Kael’s marginalia are very much in the classic Pauline mode. Penciled in a quick, tight cursive, her comments favor the expressively expostulatory: ”gawd,” ”oh my,” ”huh?,” ”poo,” ”bull,” ”good,” ”Jesus!,” ”he’s right,” ”ugh,” ”yup,” ”oh come on,” ”??,” and ”!” …One can almost hear ”her sharp pencil rasping away,” as David Thomson once described the auditory experience of sitting next to Kael at a screening…. After Kael’s death, her papers went to Indiana University’s Lilly Library: 126 cartons’ worth of letters, manuscripts, and files… Kael’s personal library, 70 boxes’ worth, was sold off by [a] dealer in rare and used books. Kael, who lived in Great Barrington, had contacted him before her death. [He] also was charged with the task of finding a home for the film-book library…. The sale was made with the understanding that Kael’s books would form ”a working special collection… rather than one just salted away.” … What students get are titles one might see on any film devotee’s shelves, only more so: two editions of Lillian Ross’s ”Picture,” … John Gregory Dunne’s ”The Studio,” Kevin Brownlow’s ”The Parade’s Gone By,” four Stanley Kauffmann collections, Manny Farber’s ”Negative Space” (inscribed ‘for one favor after another)… both volumes of the paperback edition of ”Agee on Film,” three Andrew Sarris collections… Her first edition of [Sarris’] ”The American Cinema” has just two markings in it, ”nonsense” (next to Sarris’s assertion that the western resists parody and satire) and an extremely large exclamation mark next to Sarris’s stating that his directorial chronology ”represents a weighted critical valuation.”… William Goldman’s ”Adventures in the Screen Trade” abounds in marginalia. Where Goldman notes that ”The Godfather: Part II” got more Oscar nominations than its predecessor, a clearly exasperated Kael scrawled, ”Did you notice its quality? Goldman sees everything in terms of formula.”

Movie City Indie

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon