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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about. Ask me anything you can't Google.



Posts tagged "filmmaking"

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

Jun 30, 2014
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10 things I didn’t know about Richard Linklater

There’s a really terrific profile of filmmaker Richard Linklater in this week’s New Yorker. (Here’s a podcast of the writer, Nathan Heller (@nathanheller), talking about Linklater’s work—the drawing above is something I doodled at SXSW in 2009.)

10 interesting things I discovered while reading the piece:

1. He started as a playwright, but watching movies helped him discover he could think in terms of images.

He was still writing short stories, and, as an exercise, tried adapting one into a screenplay. “I could see the whole movie in my head—all the shots and angles. I thought, Oh, I’ve got this visual thing.”

2. He went to college on a baseball scholarship

He recalls daydreaming in the outfield about how he wished he had more time to read. He then contracted an infection in his heart, and all the sudden, he was forbidden to play baseball. He spent the rest of his sophomore year staying up late in the college library, writing.

3. He quit college to work on an oil rig

If he wasn’t playing baseball, he’d have to make up the time in work-study employment, and he didn’t want to do that. A friend helped him get a summer job working on an oil rig. It paid well, and gave him many free hours to read and write, so Linklater asked if he could stay on that fall. He never returned to school.

4. In his early twenties, he watched 600 films a year

whenever he came back to the mainland, in Houston, he would watch movies: first two a day, then three, then four… “I felt I’d discovered something, like this whole world had opened up,“ he says. “I was greedy for it.”

5. He moved to Austin in 1983 with $18,000 in savings

He bought some film equipment and would “write, shoot, edit, and watch film eighteen hours a day.”

6. Slacker was filmed for $23,000

It got picked up for national distribution and eventually “made back more than fifty times its tiny budget.”

7. He re-writes his screenplays during rehearsal

He schedules a lot of rehearsal time—two solid weeks or so before production starts—and goes through each scene in an open-ended way, talking about character motivations and getting actors to riff. Most of the rehearsal time is spent rewriting the screenplay, line by line, drawing out and molding his work against performers’ strengths and styles.

8. He offers his stars percentage points instead of Hollywood fees

He calls this “betting on myself,” and if the bet is good, which it almost always is, it makes the director as free and self-sovereign as a novelist.

9. He lost most of his archives in the 2011 Bastrop wildfires

One of the few structures untouched by the fire was the library, a small two-story building clad with multicolored tile, where Linklater likes to write. The preservation of his work space was striking to him. By 2011, he had reached a phase of comfortable accomplishment… “I felt done,” he said… The blaze, in some peculiar way, demotivated him. “The fire came, and it was like, Oh, O.K. You don’t want me to be done.”

10. He’s working on a movie about the American Transcendentalists

Emerson, Thoreau, and the gang. He’s been working on it for 15 years, but “hasn’t found a way to make something that isn’t a ‘bonnet movie’ period piece.”

Jun 13, 2014
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One of 164 collages created by special effects pioneer Norman Dawn


  Dawn was a relatively obscure yet historically significant early special effects cinematographer, inventor, artist, and motion picture director, writer, and producer. He worked with many important film pioneers including Mack Sennett, Carl Laemmle, Irving Thalberg, and Erich von Stroheim. The Dawn collection consists of 164 display cards that illustrate over 230 of the 861 special effects Dawn created in more than 80 movies.
  
  Constructed personally from his own field notebooks and methodical records, the cards contain original oil, watercolor, pencil, and ink sketches used to sell the effects to skeptical film executives and directors; production and personal photographs; detailed camera records; film clips and frame enlargements; movie reviews, advertisements, and other trade press clippings; explanatory texts and recent sketches to illustrate his methods; and pages from an unpublished autobiography.


The entire collection is now available online.

One of 164 collages created by special effects pioneer Norman Dawn

Dawn was a relatively obscure yet historically significant early special effects cinematographer, inventor, artist, and motion picture director, writer, and producer. He worked with many important film pioneers including Mack Sennett, Carl Laemmle, Irving Thalberg, and Erich von Stroheim. The Dawn collection consists of 164 display cards that illustrate over 230 of the 861 special effects Dawn created in more than 80 movies.

Constructed personally from his own field notebooks and methodical records, the cards contain original oil, watercolor, pencil, and ink sketches used to sell the effects to skeptical film executives and directors; production and personal photographs; detailed camera records; film clips and frame enlargements; movie reviews, advertisements, and other trade press clippings; explanatory texts and recent sketches to illustrate his methods; and pages from an unpublished autobiography.

The entire collection is now available online.

May 27, 2014
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I steal from every movie. I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it. If my work has anything it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together and if people don’t like them then tough titty, don’t go and see it, alright? I steal from everything. Great artists steal, they don’t do hommages.

Feb 24, 2014
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Bill Murray narrating his “Cinderella Story” in Caddyshack

Here’s Harold Ramis on the scene from And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft:

Pretty much everything [Bill] did in the movie was improvised, except for the big speech he gave on the Dalai Lama. But almost everything else—I would say 95 percent of his work—was improvised. The speech he performs as he cuts off the heads of the flowers with a garden tool was completely improvised. Only the action is indicated in the script: “The greenskeeper, Carl, lops the heads off tulips as he practices his golf swing…”

With that particular speech, the “Cinderella story” speech, I had been out jogging one day, and one way I kept up my spirits was to be the announcer at the Olympics: “It’s the end of the last lap of the marathon; let’s see who’s entering the stadium…oh, it’s Harold Ramis!” So I said to Bill on the set, “You know when you’re pretending that you’re a sports announcer and calling the play-by-play…” He said, “Don’t say anymore.” I got it.” He started talking and improvising, and that speech was the result.

Nov 08, 2013
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Strange, Beautiful Images from Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’

In the new book Cabinet of Curiosities (out now via Harper), visionary Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro presents — according to the volume’s subtitle — “My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions.” In other words, the books offers the rare opportunity for an all-access peek into the working methods of the acclaimed moviemaker. The lavishly illustrated coffee-table book pulls from Del Toro’s notebooks, drawings, journals, behind-the-scenes photos, and more. Preview a few of its remarkable pages below.

Chapter four of Show Your Work!: “Open up your cabinet of curiosities.”

(via)

Oct 21, 2013
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How Wes Anderson transforms stolen shots

An excellent point from Matt Zoller Seitz’s videos on Wes Anderson: often, when he’s stealing a shot from one of his favorite directors, he’ll flip or reverse the shot, so it’s a little harder to recognize. Reminds me of this quote:

Steal! to be sure they may; and, egad, serve your best thoughts as gypsies do stolen children,—disfigure them to make ’em pass for their own.

Bill Murray has talked about this, too.

Filed under: steal like an artist

Oct 20, 2013
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THE WES ANDERSON COLLECTION CHAPTER 2: RUSHMORE from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

merlin:

steampoweredmedia:

Delightful.

"She’s my Rushmore, Max."

These Wes Anderson Collection videos by Matt Zoller Seitz are really great. (You might remember his “The Substance of Style” videos analyzing Anderson’s influences.) Zoller Seitz has a new book out on Anderson’s books that looks terrific.

Sep 28, 2013
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Aug 04, 2013
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Every story now has to involve a threat to the entire globe. This is meant to raise the stakes, but it actually lowers them.
— Heather Havrilesky, “Stop Blaming ‘Jaws’!”
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