Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bergman & Antonioni

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It was shocking to hear about Bergman's death, but then to hear about Antonioni's death soon after kind of was a slap in the face. Both men were GREAT filmmakers, and though I have not seen all their films I had a profound respect for these gentlemen.

They were thinking filmmakers. Their films were and still are thoughtful works of art. I like so many were exposed to these filmmakers in film school. I don't think I could have appreciated them sooner. Both Bergman & Antonioni were masters at the cinema, and both men made me realize movies could be works of art.

With Laszlo Kovacs death earlier last week that makes three cinema giants that we've lost. I can only be consoled by watching the work they left behind.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Stories & Celluloid

I never seem to have a problem about stories. I read a newspaper and the stories all jump out at me, and since I've been trying to write a script that I like you may ask then "what's the problem bud?"

The problem is how do I do films with meaning, and do justice by them knowing full well my resources are spare and limited. That's the frustrating part, and yet it isn't an excuse. I mean if I was this brilliant filmmaker which I imagine myself to be wouldn't I be able to overcome these hurtles. True artists overcome their hurtles, and roadblocks. What's my excuse? How can I do a story that not only I want to see and hear, but that will strike a familiar cord in others, and hopefully get them to see it?

Isn't that the trick? So hear it is early Sunday mourning, and I'm paralyzed. Which road to go down, and which story is closest to my heart to expend a lot of my limited resources on? A writer writes. Pen to paper. It's that simple. A painter paints. Paint brush to canvas. A filmmaker makes films, and sometimes getting the energy up to do yet another story can be a challenge. So much to do, and so many people to involve.

I need to get passionate about something I believe in, so I can convince others to follow me off into the abyss. Finding that passion is usually the hardest thing. Not the stories. Their easy & everywhere.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Laszlo Kovacs 1933-2007

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Internationally acclaimed cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, who lensed the landmark cinematic achievement "Easy Rider" and compiled more than 70 credits .Kovacs, who died Sunday, was 74.

Mr. Kovacs was one of Hollywood's most influential and respected directors of photography, Kovacs lensed "Five Easy Pieces," "Shampoo," "Paper Moon," "New York, New York," "What's Up, Doc?" "Ghost Busters," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Miss Congeniality."

"Kovacs was one of the great cinematographers in the 1970s who basically changed the way movies had looked up until that time," said Richard Crudo, past president of the American Society of Cinematographers. "His roots were in the low-budget independent world, and he took a lot of that ethic to another level. Years later, he became a master of the high-gloss studio look. But no matter what he did, there was always a tremendous amount of heart in his work."

The Hungary-born cinematographer never won an Oscar but carried during his career a remarkable story of courage that occurred 50 years ago during his country's revolution.Kovacs was born to Imre and Julianna Kovacs and raised on a farm in Hungary when that country was isolated from the Western world, first by the Nazi occupation and later during the Cold War. Kovacs was in his final year of school in Budapest when a revolt against the communist regime started on the city streets.He and his lifelong friend Vilmos Zsigmond -- who also went on to become one of Hollywood's leading directors of photography -- made the daring decision to document the event for its historic significance. To do this, they borrowed film and a camera from their school, hid the camera in a paper bag with a hole for the lens and recorded the conflict.The pair then embarked on a dangerous journey during which they carried 30,000 feet of documentary film across the border into Austria. They entered the U.S. as political refugees in 1957."As a man I loved him," said Zsigmond, reached in North Carolina where he is shooting the film "Bolden! "We always had a great time together." Their historic film was featured in a CBS documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite.After working on several smaller films during the 1960s, Kovacs was approached by Dennis Hopper in 1969 to film Easy Rider. Kovacs turned it down, but Hopper was persistent and met with him to act out all the scenes."At the end of that meeting, I asked when we could start shooting," Kovacs recalled in a 1998 interview with the International Cinematographers Guild. "That's how I happened to shoot Easy Rider. We knew it was something special, but none of us realized that it would win awards and become so influential."The counterculture classic, also starring Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, was shot during a 12-week journey from Los Angeles to New Orleans, entirely on location."That was the style of Poetic Reality, basically making movies that look real," Zsigmond said. "The lighting is real, and the people in the theater think they are seeing the real thing.*

Personally I liked the way Kovacs lite a scene. He would always try and justify the light whether it was coming from a window or a light fixture. Realistically is the way Kovacs shot movies, and the above statement by Vilmos Zsigmond rings very true. It's a sad day when you learn of such a talent has passed, but at least he left a lifetime of images to amaze and entertain us for some time. Thanks Laszlo.

*Excerpts taken from Pat Saperstein & Todd McCarthy's obit in Variety.com

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It was a Dark & stormy night.....

I always laugh when I read those lines. I think anyone who writes knows the in-joke on the above phrase. Writing is hard enough and it can be especially difficult when you set limits on what your writing about. Those limits can be location, characters, or both, and it's not fun living with these limits. It almost feels pointless to do this, and handicap yourself at the beginning, but how about looking at it in another light?

I've always thought great art comes from artists pushed to the limits. Mozart was after all almost deaf, and it never crippled is ability to make some fantastic music. I don't want to put myself in the pantheon of such artists as Mozart, but ALL artists go through it. How does one create with the limitations one is given. Whether it's financial, time related or geographic the successful artist usually over comes these limitations, and sometimes he or she flourishes.

I have to be creative. It's what I do. Whether I do it at home, or where I work, and yes even in my endeavors s into filmmaking it's just something I'll always wrestle with. It's would be easy to just give up, and just say "fuck it all", but somewhere deep inside me there is the artist who says "no", and hence my eternal dilemma

I won't bore you with what or how I'm doing, but I will say this and that is that I know there is a way of pulling my thoughts and feelings together into a film that I can be proud of. I need to work harder and smarter.

They say after climbing one mountain you'll see all the other mountains that will be in your way. Guess lifes like that.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The West Side

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So I just came across this site and thought I mention it here because it's very well done. It's things like this that get me excited and kind of make me want to do something new.

The idea of putting something out there in serialized form is a good way of getting noticed. I came across this through Josh Oakhurst's website. Josh is a very talented & innovative young artist, and I like what he says.

The web site is called the Westside, and it's interesting. Simple, and yet very effective. You see they didn't get just anybody even though they were a no-budget film. The actors are really good, and the camera work is top notch. All shot digitally, with a small crew.

Now I know they say on their website that the creators will take there time on the episodes, and that's a good thing, but maybe to get the film in the can they should have the whole thing planned out, and shoot ALL of it.

The hardest thing I've come to believe is shooting and then stopping. Momentum sometimes is lost, and it's hard to ask talent to keep on coming back. Especially if their not compensated.

That's just me, and maybe their all good buddies and have a plan, but I really want to see an end to this, and see this series through. It's really that good, and I like what Josh says on his web site about the film "The West Side is just about, art, and story, and having a badass time being creative". Josh is so right, and that's it's power.

Thanks for the link Josh, and I kind of feel invigorated. Thanks a lot!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Unkindest Cut

I've been doing a lot of reflection, and a lot of thinking about movie endeavors in general. The phrase "watch what you wish for, you might just get it" comes to mind. I could go on and on about movie making, but in our pop culture mentality WE think WE have the answer, and that OUR idea is the one that gets heard.

I'm here to tell you it doesn't, and so hence this post. It's been awhile since posting in this blog. My bad, but I said to myself long ago that if I didn't have anything to say why say anything at all. Sometimes silence is a lot louder then yelling.

A book I've read several times called "The Unkindest Cut" is a book worth reading for anyone interested in filmmaking. It's written by Joe Queenan who is a contemporary humorist, critic and author. Here's a rough summary of what the book is about:

When Queenan saw Robert Rodriguez's award-winning film El Mariachi, which was reputedly made for only $7000, he thought he'd like to duplicate the feat. Because of his extreme dislike of 12-step recovery programs, he decided to make a movie-12 Steps to Death-about an ex-LAPD cop whose life was ruined when a "schizoid anorexic recovering alcoholic with Attention Deficit Disorder slammed into the car, killing his wife and kids." Queenan plugged the film on the nationally syndicated Imus-in-the-Morning radio program and dreamed of the glories that lay ahead. But fantasy quickly turned to dreaded reality as he strived to write a screenplay, recruit neighbors as actors and lay out the filming over a 10-day period in Tarrytown, N.Y., where he lived. We see Queenan as he takes the $279 Hollywood Film Institute course; learns the astronomical cost of everything from camera rental to buying film stock. In the end Queenan is left with a bill for more than $67,000. Fans of Queenan (If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble) will find this memoir funny in parts but often tedious and repetitious, and student filmmakers may find it interesting for its nuts-and-bolts information. Major ad/promo; author tour. Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The book lays it out in black & white the mis-adventures of making a film. Now I know filmmaking has changed a bit, but it's still all about the message. Whether you shoot on film, video, digital video, or even pixel vision you better know your audience, and know how to break through the clutter.

Time for a reality check. I strongly suggest you read Queenan's book. It gets to the heart of it, and it does provide some interesting info for the filmmaker who wants to succeed. As for me I still have some more thinking and writing to do, but as with all things there is never an end to anything. Just maybe a new beginning of sorts. Save me a seat I'll bring the popcorn.