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Posts tagged "collaboration"

Jul 29, 2014
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The woman who helped make Star Wars and Indiana Jones

Ever heard of editor Marcia Lucas? There’s a long, fascinating history of her life over at The Secret History of Star Wars:

Biographer Dale Pollock once wrote that Marcia was George Lucas’ “secret weapon.” Most people are aware that George Lucas was once married, and probably some are aware that his wife worked in the film industry herself and edited all of George’s early films before their 1983 divorce. But few are aware of the implications that her presence brought, and the transformations her departure allowed. She was, in many ways, more than just the supportive wife—she was a partner as well. “Not a fifty percent partner,” as she herself admits, but nonetheless an important one, and the only person that Lucas could totally confide in back then. Today, she has been practically erased from the history books at Lucasfilm.

Mark Hamill (a.k.a. Luke Skywalker) says Marcia was the “warmth and heart” of STAR WARS, and points to a radical shift in George Lucas’s filmmaking after their divorce:

[George is] in his own world. He’s like William Randolph Hearst or Howard Hughes, he’s created his own world and he can live in it all the time. You really see that in his films, he’s completely cut off from the rest of world. You can see a huge difference in the films that he does now and the films that he did when he was married. I know for a fact that Marcia Lucas was responsible for convincing him to keep that little “kiss for luck” before Carrie [Fisher] and I swing across the chasm in the first film: “Oh, I don’t like it, people laugh in the previews,” and she said, “George, they’re laughing because it’s so sweet and unexpected”—and her influence was such that if she wanted to keep it, it was in. When the little mouse robot comes up when Harrison and I are delivering Chewbacca to the prison and he roars at it and it screams, sort of, and runs away, George wanted to cut that and Marcia insisted that he keep it. She was really the warmth and the heart of those films, a good person he could talk to, bounce ideas off of, who would tell him when he was wrong. Now he’s so exalted that no one tells him anything.

Marcia, who was always pushing George to focus on story and character, also provided a crucial woman’s perspective to Raiders of The Lost Ark:

[Marcia] was instrumental in changing the ending of Raiders, in which Indiana delivers the ark to Washington. Marion is nowhere to be seen, presumably stranded on an island with a submarine and a lot of melted Nazis. Marcia watched the rough cut in silence and then levelled the boom. She said there was no emotional resolution to the ending, because the girl disappears. ‘Everyone was feeling really good until she said that,’ Dunham recalls. ‘It was one of those, “Oh no we lost sight of that.” ’ Spielberg reshot the scene in downtown San Francisco, having Marion wait for Indiana on the steps on the government building. Marcia, once again, had come to the rescue.”

In his recent piece, “Temple of Gloom,” Wesley Morris points to the Lucas’s divorce as a source of the darkness in the Indiana Jones sequel:

Spielberg, who’s two years younger than Lucas, was poleaxed by his friends’ divorce. “George and Marcia, for me, were the reason you got married … ” he told 60 Minutes in 1999. “And when it didn’t work, and when that marriage didn’t work, I lost my faith in marriage for a long time.” Spielberg had his own problems. He’d just split with Kathleen Carey, a girlfriend of three years. A few months earlier, Spielberg had told People, “I think Kathleen and I will have kids.” Suddenly, the two most successful moviemakers on the planet were under-40 bachelors.

And:

“I was going through a divorce,” Lucas said, “and I was in a really bad mood. So I really wanted to do dark. And Steve then broke up with his girlfriend, and so he was sort of into it, too. That’s where we were at that point in time.” That’s the reason Temple of Doom… is difficult for its creators — and lots of Indy fans — to love. It’s a breakup movie. It’s a record of gloomy images that were scrolling through its creators’ heads. “Sometimes,” Lucas told me, “you go to the dark side.” For two bummed-out guys, Temple of Doom was a catalog of what it’s like to get your heart ripped out.

Filed under: George Lucas

Jul 23, 2014
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Paul McCartney and John Lennon writing “I Saw Her Standing There,” 1962

I looked this photo up after reading about it in Joshua Shenk’s Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs:


  One late November afternoon in 1962, John Lennon and Paul McCartney got together to write at Paul’s house at 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool. Their ritual was to come around in the afternoon, just the two of them, when Paul’s dad was at work. They would go to the small front room overlooking Jim McCartney’s patch of garden and sit opposite each other. “Like mirrors,” Paul said.
  
  John sat on a chair pulled in from the dining room. He had his Jumbo Gibson acoustic-electric with a sunburst finish. Paul sat on a little table in front of the telly with his foot on the hearth of the coal fireplace. He played a Spanish-style guitar with nylon strings, strung in reverse for a lefty. In a photography shot by Paul’s brother, Michael, they’re both looking down at a notebook on the floor, filled with lyrics…
  
  …Years later, Paul told his brother that he loved his photo of the “I Saw Her Standing There” writing session because it captured how it really was—”the Rodgers and Hammerstein of pop at work.” Writing “eyeball to eyeball,” as John said, they weren’t just frontmen for a rock group; they were composers working in concert.


There’s a Lennon/McCartney excerpt of the book over at the Atlantic.

Photo credit: Mike McCartney, image via britishbeatlemania

Filed under: The Beatles

Paul McCartney and John Lennon writing “I Saw Her Standing There,” 1962

I looked this photo up after reading about it in Joshua Shenk’s Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs:

One late November afternoon in 1962, John Lennon and Paul McCartney got together to write at Paul’s house at 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool. Their ritual was to come around in the afternoon, just the two of them, when Paul’s dad was at work. They would go to the small front room overlooking Jim McCartney’s patch of garden and sit opposite each other. “Like mirrors,” Paul said.

John sat on a chair pulled in from the dining room. He had his Jumbo Gibson acoustic-electric with a sunburst finish. Paul sat on a little table in front of the telly with his foot on the hearth of the coal fireplace. He played a Spanish-style guitar with nylon strings, strung in reverse for a lefty. In a photography shot by Paul’s brother, Michael, they’re both looking down at a notebook on the floor, filled with lyrics…

…Years later, Paul told his brother that he loved his photo of the “I Saw Her Standing There” writing session because it captured how it really was—”the Rodgers and Hammerstein of pop at work.” Writing “eyeball to eyeball,” as John said, they weren’t just frontmen for a rock group; they were composers working in concert.

There’s a Lennon/McCartney excerpt of the book over at the Atlantic.

Photo credit: Mike McCartney, image via britishbeatlemania

Filed under: The Beatles

Sep 09, 2013
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Mica Angela Hendricks’ collaborative drawings with her 4-year-old daughter

explore-blog:

Artist Mica Angela Hendricks collaborates with her 4-year-old daughter after the little girl peeked inside her mommy’s sketchbook and asked to contribute.

Some of the collaborative artworks are now available as prints.

Love this. When Saul Steinberg was asked about whether Klee influenced his work, he waved his hand and said, “We are both children who never stopped drawing.”

Filed under: parenting

(via braiker)

Mar 27, 2013
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Spitballing Indy: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and the creation of Indiana Jones

[O]ver several days in 1978, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and the screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan worked through an idea Lucas had for a film called “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and they recorded the sessions. And there’s a transcript. And it’s online.

As the men hash out the Jones iconography, they refer, incessantly, to other films, invoking Eastwood, Bond, and Mifune. He will dress like Bogart in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” Lucas says: “the khaki pants…the leather jacket. That sort of felt hat.” Oh, and also? “A bullwhip.” He’ll carry it “rolled up,” Lucas continues. “Like a snake that’s coiled up behind him.”

“I like that,” Spielberg says. “The doctor with the bullwhip.”

Mar 14, 2013
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Exquisite Corpse by Andre Breton, Man Ray, Max Morise, and Yves Tanguy, ca 1927

One of the oldest Surrealist games is Exquisite Corpse. Fold the piece of paper into thirds (or as many sections as there are palyers). The first player draws a head and neck in the top section, extending the lines of the neck just below the fold, then folds it over and passes it to the next player, who continues the drawing without looking at what the previous player has drawn. The second player draws the torso, also extending the lines just below the fold, then passes it to the third player who draws the legs and feet. The final product is called the exquisite corpse. This game can also be played using collage instead of drawing, and online at Draw and Fold Over. Note: you don’t have to draw people! Your section of the picture can be anything you like, as long as it connects to the lines left for you by the previous player. For more information and ideas, visit ExquisiteCorpse.com

Exquisite Corpse by Andre Breton, Man Ray, Max Morise, and Yves Tanguy, ca 1927

One of the oldest Surrealist games is Exquisite Corpse. Fold the piece of paper into thirds (or as many sections as there are palyers). The first player draws a head and neck in the top section, extending the lines of the neck just below the fold, then folds it over and passes it to the next player, who continues the drawing without looking at what the previous player has drawn. The second player draws the torso, also extending the lines just below the fold, then passes it to the third player who draws the legs and feet. The final product is called the exquisite corpse. This game can also be played using collage instead of drawing, and online at Draw and Fold Over. Note: you don’t have to draw people! Your section of the picture can be anything you like, as long as it connects to the lines left for you by the previous player. For more information and ideas, visit ExquisiteCorpse.com

Jan 31, 2013
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Devised Theater: A Venn Diagram


  The co-producing artistic directors of Rude Mechs, an Austin, Texas, theater group, made a diagram to depict the complexity of creating and crediting collaboratively devised work. I wrote a story about them.

Devised Theater: A Venn Diagram

The co-producing artistic directors of Rude Mechs, an Austin, Texas, theater group, made a diagram to depict the complexity of creating and crediting collaboratively devised work. I wrote a story about them.

Nov 19, 2012
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Sidney Lumet, Making Movies

This is a book about the work involved in making movies… I’ll try to tell you best I can how movies are made. It’s a complex technical and emotional process. It’s art. It’s commerce. It’s heartbreaking and it’s fun. It’s a great way to live.

The first sentence in Lumet’s bio actually made me gasp: “Sidney Lumet’s films have received more than fifty Academy Award nominations.” Fifty. And he made fifty years worth of movies: 12 Angry Men came out in 1957, and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead came out in 2007. What was his secret?

I don’t think art changes anything… I do it because I like it and it’s a wonderful way to spend your life.

Lumet was opposed to the concept of “the auteur”—he was very much more what Terry Gilliam calls “a filteur.” He chose material and movies to make that he could make personally interesting to him, but he always emphasized filmmaking as a collaboration. “If all this sounds like hard work,” he said, “Let me assure you that it is.”

There are so many good bits in this book:

  • “All good work requires self-revelation”
  • “I don’t want life reproduced up there on the screen. I want life created.”
  • “What we’re doing matters. It needs concentration.”
  • “We’re not out for consensus here. We’re out for communication.”

My favorites, which translate well to other art forms:

“What the movie is about [should] determine how it is to be made.

“Discussions of style as something totally detached from the content of the movie drive me mad.” I’m a big fan of the “don’t worry about style” school, believing that style emerges out of the things you’re obsessed by. Lumet put it perfectly:

The question “What is this movie about?” will be asked over and over again throughout the book. For now, suffice it to say that the theme (the what of the movie) is going to determine the style (the how of the movie.) […] I work from the inside out. What the movie is about will determine how it will be cast, how it will look, how it will be edited, how it will be musically scored, how it will be mixed, how the titles will look, and, with a good studio, how it will be released.

But what of what Lumet calls, “The ‘auteur’ nonsense?”

So-and-so’s “style” is present in all his pictures. Of course it is. He directed them. One of the reasons Hitchcock was so deservedly adored was that his personal style was strongly felt in every picture. But it’s important to realize why: He always essentially made the same picture. The stories weren’t the same, but the genre was…

“Creative work is very hard, and some sort of self-deception is necessary simply in order to start.”

The truth is that nobody knows that that magic combination is that produces a first-rate piece of work… all we can do is prepare the groundwork that allows for the “lucky accidents” that make a first-rate movie happen.

But the self-deception has to be a balanced kind:

I think most of us feel like fakes. At some point “they” will get onto us and expose us for what we are: know-nothings, hustlers, and charlatans. It’s not a totally destructive feeling. It tends to keep us honest. The other side of that coin, though, the feeling that we own the work, that is exists only because of us, that we are the vessel through which some divine message is being passed, is lunacy.

Don’t let today’s work hurt the way you evaluate yesterday’s work.

[You] have to watch your inner state very carefully as you come into rushes. Perhaps today’s shooting hasn’t gone very well. You’re tired and frustrated. So you take it out on yesterday’s work, which you’re watching now. Or perhaps you’ve overcome a major problem today, so in an exultant mood, you’re giving yesterday’s work too much credit.

If you have even a sliver of interest in how movies are (or were) made, this is a must-read.

Nov 01, 2012
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David Byrne, How Music Works

Loved this. Cory Doctorow probably said it best in his review: “I could made good case for calling this How Art Works or even How Everything Works.” Much of the book reminded me of Byrne’s frequent collaborator, Brian Eno, as you can see in my bits of marginalia above.

Some thoughts:

All art is a result of context.

Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and “Genius—the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work—seems to appear when a thing is perfectly suited to its context.”

How music works, or doesn’t work, is determined not just by what it is in isolation (if such a condition can ever be said to exist) but in large part by what surrounds it, where you hear it and when you hear it. How it’s performed, how it’s sold and distributed, how it’s recorded, who performs it, whom you hear it with, and, of course, finally, what it sounds like: these are the things that determine not only if a piece of music works—if it successfully achieves what it sets out to accomplish—but what it is…

Context largely determines what it written, painted, sculpted, sung, or performed. That doesn’t sound like much of an insight, but it’s actually the opposite of conventional wisdom, which maintains that creation emerges out of some interior emotion, from an upwelling of passion or feeling, and that the creative urge will brook no accommodation, that it simply must find an outlet to be heard, read, or seen… This is the romantic notion of how creative work comes to be, but I think the path of creation is almost 180 [degrees] from this model. I believe that we unconsciously and instinctively make work to fit preexisting formats.

And:

The implication is that great work should, if it is truly great, not be of its time or place. We should not be aware of how, why or when it was conceived, received, marketed, or sold. It floats free of this mundane world, transcendent and ethereal.

This is absolute nonsense. Few of the works we now think of as “timeless” were originally thought of that way…

All art is a collaboration.

Even in solitude, we collaborate with our influences and with our selves:

When we write, we access different aspects of ourselves, different characters, different parts of our brains and hearts. And then, when they’ve each had their say, we mentally switch hats, step back from accessing our myriad selves, and take a more distanced and critical view of what we’ve done. Don’t we always work by editing and structuring the outpouring of our many selves? Isn’t the end product the result of two or more sides of ourselves working with one another?

And ultimately, music is a collaboration between player and listener:

I’m beginning to think of the artist as someone who is adept at making devices that tap into our shared psychological make-up and that trigger the deeply moving parts we have in common.

Technology shapes art.

The microphones that recorded singers changed the way they sang and the way their instruments were played. Singers no longer had to have great lungs to be successful. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby were pioneers when it came to singing “to the microphone.” They adjusted their vocal dynamics in ways that would have been unheard of earlier. It might not seem that radical now, but crooning was a new kind of singing back then. It wouldn’t have worked without a microphone.

Revealing how art works doesn’t diminish its value or magic.

Byrne speaks of one of his stage shows that he wanted to “show how everything was done and how it had been put together.” He wanted to acknowledge his influences: “I wanted to show my sources, not claim I invented everything.”

The magician would show how the trick was done and then do the trick, and my belief was that this transparency wouldn’t lessen the magic.

Amateurism is a good thing.

Genius is a kind of marketing device — modern Capitalism “tends toward the creation of passive consumers,” and that the idea that only professionals can make real music keeps amateurs from enjoying the act of making. “The act of making music, clothes, art, or even food has a very different and possibly more beneficial effect on us than simply consuming those things.”

There is really no hierarchy in music—good musicians of any given style are no better or worse than good musicians of another. Players should be viewed as existing across a spectrum of styles and approaches, rather than being ranked. If you follow this reasoning to the end, then every musician is great, a virtuoso, a maestro, if only they could find the music that’s right for them, their personal slot on the spectrum.

Arts funding should be routed towards teaching students to make art, not just appreciate it.

Funding future creativity is a worthy investment. The dead guys won’t write more symphonies… Creativity is a renewable resource…

It’s more important that someone learn to make music, draw, photograph, write, or create in any form, regardless of the quality, than it is for them to understand and appreciate Picasso, Warhol, or Bill Shakespeare.

Definitely will go in my top ten of 2012.

(Cover photo via Brain Pickings)

Oct 06, 2012
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The default posture of the Internet is that you put work out and hope that someone connects with it, learns from it, and builds upon it.

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