Elliot Brood

Woody Allen

I've been enjoying Eric Lax's book 'Conversations with Woody Allen' and I thought this bit of 'wisdom' was perfect.

"…I was saying that I want to obey the story and if you obey the needs of the creation of the piece of fiction, the meaning reveals itself.  And for me naturally, it's going to reveal itself in a particular way.  Years ago Paddy Chavefsky said to me. "When a movie is failing or a play is failing"—he put it so brilliantly—"cut out the wisdom".  Marshall Brickman said it a different way.   I told you this before—but just as cogently, just as insightful: "The message of the film can't be in the dialogue." And this is a truth that's hard to live by because the temptation is to occasionally take a moment and philosophize and put in your wisdom, put in your meaning.  I did that in Match Point to a certain degree—they're sitting around the table and they’re talking about faith being the path of least resistance. But the truth of the matter is, if the meaning doesn't come across in the action, you have nothing going for you. It doesn't work. You can't just have guys sitting around making hopefully wise insights or clever remarks because while they're saving these things the audience is not digesting them the way the author intends—"Hey did you just hear that Shavian epigram?" They’re looking at it as the dialogue of characters in a certain situation: "He's saying this because she's thinking this and he wants to get on her good side. ..." They're watching the action of the story. When you lose sight of that, and we all do - I certainly do - you think you’re making your point you think you're infusing your piece with wisdom, but you're committing suicide.  You're just militating against the audience’s enjoyment."


Art of Time Ensemble - Martin Tielli

I am a huge fan of the Rheostatics as well as the solo work of Martin Tielli, the band's lead guitarist and co-songwriter.  I am also a fan of the 'Art of Time Ensemble' who have been doing classical arrangements of popular music.  You might balk that Martin's work isn't really 'popular music' and I would agree.  It's too sophisticated and strange but I would argue that it is accessible to a popular audience that doesn't mind a change of signature or time.

Here is the original video produced by Justin Stephenson.

Justin and I once talked about how cool the Rheostatics' video 'Shaved Head' was as it was done live 'off the floor.  It's a great homage.

If you ever get a chance to see Martin play, jump at it.  He's a great artist and an intense performer (the other Rheos are awesome as well!).

If you're ever in Toronto check out the 'Art of Time Ensemble'.  The shows are a spectacular mix of popular and classical music.  It's an education and a profound sonic experience.

Here is ex-Barenaked Lady Steven Page doing a cover of Radiohead's 'Paranoid Android' with the 'Art of Time Ensemble'.



I worked for an animation company for over four years as a writer, director, editor and compositor and one of the things that people would ask you is 'how can you stand it?'  How can you work in such minutia and not go stark raving mad?  Once you've worked in a place where a shot takes you a day (or two) for five or ten seconds of footage you realize that it's a lot like meditation.  Instead of thinking about finishing something you get caught up in the process of doing it.  Bit by bit you chisel away at the thing until it satisfies you.  If you don't enjoy the process you might go crazy.

A writer has the same problem as the stop motion animator.  You need to go slowly, moment by moment, beat by beat, until you finish the script.  You can't just paint broad strokes and call it a day.  You are in the trenches gaining a foot a day.  I wrote a new feature this summer and I felt good getting in two pages a day.  If I could hit five pages it was an inspired day.  If I could hit ten then my muse was certainly sitting on my shoulder although I don't remember ever hitting such dizzying heights.

The 'Making of"


David O. Selznick

"I stopped making films in 1948 because I was tired.  I had been producing, at the time, for twenty years . . . . Additionally it was crystal clear that the motion-picture business was in for a terrible beating from television and other new forms of entertainment, and I thought it a good time to take stock and to study objectively the obviously changing public tastes . . . ."
-- David O Selznick

I read this quote today and thought it was relevant to the current discussion of the future of the film business.  It's great to see that Selznick didn't run around like a headless chicken, grasping at any new thing that might become the 'future' of cinema.  There is a lot of that going on today.  

Selznick was right about the motion-picture business as television did take a hearty bite of the profits of the movies.  Yet, for most practitioners of the craft of making films, television didn't mean the end of creativity and work.  Some people stayed in the motion pictures and some went off and made television. In fact, television created more jobs for people who wanted to tell stories with a camera and a microphone.  On top of that, many great motion picture artists were trained and found great success starting out in the television business.  The great Sidney Lumet, Paddy Chayefsky, and John Frankenheimer (just to name a few) came out of making television.

We are in a period of flux once again.  People love television and they love movies.  I don't see the business of telling stories in pictures going the way of vaudeville.  The audience will get what they pay for, that is for sure, and that is the centre of the issue.  It was great that Selznick had the fortune to wait and see.  For now, we'll just have to keep our heads above water and hope to see land in the near future.  It's good to see that we aren't alone.  

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."
--Karl Marx


Rod Serling

Rob Mills sent me this interview with Rod Serling.  He has always been an impressive writer, not only for his creativity but his prodigious output.  On IMDB he is credited with 148 episodes of 'The Twilight Zone' over 5 years.  Twenty Six episodes of 'Night Gallery'.  It is astounding to think of this kind of creative output.  He says 'it lacked consistency'... no shit.

Having written on a few Television series I'll tell you it's hard work to come up with creative ideas over and over again.  Many days are spent staring at walls (or the back of your eyelids).  I've always been drawn to feature films as they are one-offs and usually have a bigger scope (although this is changing).  You develop an idea, you write it and then rewrite it until you're happy.  With television you are always trying to expand the idea sometimes to the point of 'jumping the shark'.

On the last television series I story edited I said to the writers that episode 20 to 26 were going to be the toughest.  This turned out to be true as predicted.  It's hard to be original over and over again, especially when you are trying to out-do yourself every time.  I think the only advantage that the 'Twilight Zone' had was that it wasn't locked into a single concept or a character.  You could really reinvent the show every time.  Still...  148 episodes.  Wow.


Monster Factory Webisodes

I will be making my internet acting debut on September 6th.  I play the drama teacher in 'Breaking the Fourth Wall'.

Stay tuned.


The Useless Character

My ankles were ravaged by Mosquitoes last weekend and it has been taking it's toll on my sleep (the damn itch!).  I got up at five this morning scratching myself into madness.  I decided to get up and go downstairs and try to distract myself.  I ended up throwing on a thriller that was playing on the movie channel  - 'Whiteout'.  I didn't bother to check it's ratings on rottentomatoes but I did remember seeing the movie poster and thought an Antarctica thriller might ease the itch.

I don't intend to do movie reviews here but I did find that this film had a recurring problem that I've seen over and over in the thriller genre - the useless character.  This is a character in the film that keeps on popping up only to console or help the protagonist.  It's usually very easy to spot the useless character because they are often an actor of some stature and they have very little to do with the plot.

Spoilers Ahead.

'Whiteout' is a little murder mystery/thriller involving a female Marshall who is serving her last duty in the Antarctic and is about to hang up her badge for good.  A few days before she is set to leave she discovers a man murdered out on the tundra and is determined to find out what happened.  Her confidant and best friend on the continent is a doctor.  He is soothing to her.  He is trying to help her and to protect her.  He is also played by Tom Skerritt.  You may need to IMDB that name if you are young but you'll definitely know who he is when you see him.  A half hour into the movie I said to myself, 'why the hell is Tom Skerritt needed for this crappy role'?  He's barely a character.  The answer is that he is the culprit.

Next up is 'Angels and Demons'.  Ewan McGregor is cast as the helpful and passionate priest who is aiding our protagonist along the way.  He is absolutely useless to the plot so a half hour in you know that he's the bad guy.  Why else cast Ewan McGregor in this boring role?

A few lesser watched films - Robert Downey Jr. in 'US Marshalls' or Micheal Caine in Depalma's 'Dressed to Kill'.

It takes a lot of craft to write a thriller and it is essential that all characters have their own needs.  The problem with the films that I've just mentioned is that these characters have no need of their own except to 'help' the protagonist.  A good rule of thumb could be to turn the point of view of the film around.  Can the film work if you change the protagonist to Tom Skerritt's character?  What happens if you write it from his point of view?  What is his selfish desire?  Does he want to help her because he's desperately in love with her?    What is his own motivation in the story?

I'm sure some members of the audience were surprised by the ending but with a 7% rating on the tomato meter most people found it predictable and boring.  It sure didn't help my itching (as I continue as I'm writing this).


The trailer is nothing like the movie.  As relating to my last post - the trailer does a decent job of making the film look far more interesting than it is.


The Teaser...

There are many times that I wish that the Studio marketing machines would only put out an awesome teaser for any given film.  When a teaser is done well it can peak your interest in a film and make you giddy with excitement.  This Teaser for 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' was all I needed to go and buy a ticket on the first night of release.

I also remember being equally excited by Barry Levinson's 'Toys'.  They let Robin Williams loose and it was enough for me to want to see it without knowing a thing about it.  I haven't seen the film in a long time but do remember that it seems a little prophetic with the predator drones dropping bombs on people with their pilots in an arm chair somewhere.

This teaser for Jerry Seinfeld's 'Comedian' was pitch perfect.  It inspired a lot of copy cats.

Most recently Christopher Nolan's 'Inception' came out with a great teaser.  No need for a big explanation (although it seems that it wouldn't help anyway).  Nolan seems to be the smartest guy in the room these days and it's worked out well for him.  For me, the teaser is enough.

I'm not naive enough to think the studio would gamble their entire fortunes on a vague trailer.  There is a lot of money invested and you want to get the most exposure.  Fair enough.  However, compare these teasers to those trailers that run for three minutes and give you the entire film beat by beat only holding back the surprise ending that you can figure out will go one way or the other.  There is an old saying that 'Less is More'.  You know, 'keep it simple'.  Consider the 1999 thriller 'Arlington Road'.  It was a decent thriller with two top notch actors (Tim Robbins and Jeff Bridges) and the marketing department ruined the film for many people by giving away all of the surprises.  What do we love about a well-crafted thriller?  Surprises!!  I remember the filmmakers being perturbed about how much of the movie was given away in just a two and a half minutes.  You can hear the viewers conversation now, "I don't need to see this film, they just showed me everything".  And you know the filmmakers edited this for months, crafting every story beat and every thrill.  I imagine there were many sleepless nights, kept awake second guessing whether or not it was working.  Well, it didn't matter that much if you saw the trailer first.

I waited until it came out on video before giving it a shot.  The film pretty much broke even at the box office and I suspect that, given a better trailer, would have exceeded that easily.  Just look at the juggernaut that 'The Sixth Sense' became with that pull the rug out beneath the audience surprise ending.  'Arlington Road' was dead in the water before it even hit the theatres.

The only way I know how to combat such moronic and uninspired marketing is to cover your ears, close your eyes and mumble to yourself until it's over (la la la, I'm not listening).  


Story Logic

I sat down to watch "Law Abiding Citizen" a few weeks ago and I have to admit that I turned the movie off part way through.  The film started off somewhat promising as a man's wife and daughter are brutally murdered and the prosecutors in the case make a deal with the most criminally responsible character in order to gain a conviction.  The fellow gets a plea deal that puts him back on the street in just a few short years.  It seemed like the film had a very strong theme that was going to expose the failings of the criminal justice system.

Why did I turn it off?  Groaners.  I think it was William Goldman who said that the audience will allow you one groaner - after that you are on your own.  The groaner is usually a leap in logic in the story that gets the writer out of a jam and allows him to put the story back on the rails and in the right direction.  'Law Abiding Citizen' went further than this for me as it was becoming abundantly clear that the premise was too unbelievable for me to go on.  I see this flaw often when I am teaching.  Often the student's script reads fine with good dialogue and characters but they build the story on a weak foundation that doesn't feel plausible.  This is often based in poor character motivation where the characters are acting on behalf of the writer and what the writer wants to happen rather than what makes sense for the characters.

(small spoilers ahead)

The first revenge killing in 'Law Abiding Citizen' takes place at the execution of the other man responsible for the murder of the man's wife and child.  Our protagonist has rigged the execution chamber to ensure a very brutal death.  Plausible?  Not to me but ok, go on.  Our man then hunts down the other killer and pulls a Dexter on him.  The protagonist is arrested and is incarcerated for this revenge murder.  While in jail he ends up murdering a fellow inmate - happens... ok.  Then the big groan comes and I punch the stop button.  The district attorney is meeting with the Judge from the earlier trial when she is shot in the head, with her own cellphone.  Our protagonist, while still in jail, has managed to kill the Judge by pre-rigging her cellphone.  I have a big laugh and am out.  Am I really expected to believe this?

The Suspension of Disbelief.

The suspension of disbelief is a very subjective thing.  I'm sure others watched and enjoyed this film but I was taken out of the story by a logic that just wasn't working for me.  I can sit through 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Star Wars' and buy into it hook line and sinker but 'Law Abiding Citizen' didn't work.  Part of the reason why this didn't work was that the film sets itself up in a very serious tone (as seen in the opening of the trailer).  The first ten or twenty minutes made me think that this film was going to work more like a drama than a quasi-horror film.  Alas, the film turns into a light version of the Saw films and I just can't buy into it.  The tone of the film places the audience in our world and then asks us to buy into this genius plan of murdering all responsible for the violence against this man's family.  It's a fine line for the filmmaker to walk in balancing the tone of the film so the audience will give themselves over to the story.  This isn't always easy to do.  I've just finished writing a script where it weighed heavily on my thinking - will the audience buy into the premise?  If they don't, I'm dead in the water before the end of the first reel.  How can I be sure if it will work?  I can't.  The only thing I can do is create a logic for the world I am writing about and follow that logic.  The other task is to make sure that the characters are acting on behalf of themselves and not in service of my own agenda for the story.  The rest is up to the audience.


Films to Visit or Revisit.

I have been busy writing a new project over the last couple of months and in this time I have sat down to revisit some classic films for inspiration. I thought I'd share some of the ones that left an impression just in case you are looking for something fresh to watch, particularly in this dry season of the Summer Blockbusters.

1. "Gumshoe" starring Albert Finney.
My friend Larry put me on to this fun film.  Great dialogue and a terrific mixture of humour and suspense. Like 'The Long Goodbye' this film doesn't fall into a parody of the Noir genre. It has fun with the conventions but still has a line of seriousness going through the story.

2. "The Long Goodbye" starring Eliott Gould.
Every time I see this Robert Altman film it goes up on my list of favourite movies. Again, the film has a sense of humour about the detective genre but doesn't fall into parody. Gould is perfect as Marlowe.  Best ending ever.

3. "Out of the Past" starring Robert Mitchum.
Mitchum is awesome in this 1947 film noir where a man's shaded past comes back to haunt him. Instead of trying to hide, Mitchum's character faces it head on and with tragic results. While I'm on a Robert Mitchum love-in I would also recommend "The Friends of Eddie Coyle". Mitchum plays a small time crook who gets in over his head (not to mention the great Boston Bruins cameo including Bobby Orr). Criterion released an excellent DVD last year. You also can't go wrong with Charles Laughton's nightmare film "Night of the Hunter". Mitchum plays a corrupt preacher on the hunt for some stolen money.

4. "The Insider" starring Al Pacino.
This is my hands-down favourite film of Michael Mann. Although nominated for many Academy Awards it lost out on all. Al Pacino was overlooked by the academy for The Godfather (I & II), Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and he wasn't even nominated for this picture. Russell Crowe was nominated for his portrayal of Jeffrey Wigand but I think this is Al Pacino's film. "American Beauty" was the big winner that year. Minghella's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" was given few nominations as well.

I always say that you need a good ten year moratorium before you start to put a film into the lists of 'great movies'.   'The Insider' is a great picture and would make a great double bill with 'All the Presidents Men'.

5. "Angel Heart" starring Mickey Rourke.
I quite like the work of Alan Parker and this odd film stands out. I picked up the Blu-Ray for ten bucks and was thoroughly entertained. It is a bit hokey but overall the film holds up very well. Rourke is great and the cinematography reminded me of how over-colour-corrected the modern films are. Very naturalistic. I was also reminded of how similar a plot it has to "Shutter Island" (I much prefer "Angel Heart"). I also thought about Polanski's "The Ninth Gate" as a film that has a similar vibe to it - a supernatural noir if you will.

6. "Heist" starring Gene Hackman.
When I first saw 'Heist' I was a little disappointed in the ending as I had already been conned by David Mamet in 'House of Games' and 'The Spanish Prisoner'. On this second viewing I didn't even think about the con game and enjoyed it even more. It's great seeing Gene Hackman doing anything and this film is no different. Criterion did a great job last year by releasing both 'House of Games' and 'Homicide' in special editions. I like Mamet's stripped down and realistic settings especially in films like 'Homicide' and his secret service film 'Spartan'. One might say it is the function of a low budget and if that's true I hope it stays that way.

Did I mention how much I love "The Long Goodbye"?

More to come.


A Clean Line of Action

In Cameron Crowe's book 'Conversations with Wilder' Billy Wilder spells out his 10 Tips for writers:

1. The audience is fickle.
2. Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go.
3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
4. Know where you’re going.
5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
7. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.
9. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then - that’s it. Don’t hang around.

When working with new writers I find that the third rule is difficult to grasp. The second and the fourth rule are tied inextricably to the third and by default, they often give trouble to the novice writer.

Grab 'em by the throat is commonly called 'the inciting incident.' This is where the goal of the hero is established. A simple example is Orson Welles' 'Touch of Evil'. A bomb is planted in the trunk of a car and explodes a short time later. All of the characters are brought together in search of the culprit and the story is established. In 'The Godfather' Don Corleone is shot and Michael, who has refused to be a part of the family, must protect his father. His journey has started. It's Wilder's rule of 'never let 'em go' that is the hard part.

'Develop a clean line of action for your character'. The inciting incident has occurred and now the hero should have a goal. In Wilder's 'Double Indemnity' Walter Neff conspires to murder his lover's husband. The goal is simple, get away with it, but life isn't that easy (thus the story). In 'The Lord of the Rings' Frodo is the only one who can carry the burden of the Ring and thus his goal is simple, throw the Ring into the fire. That is the movie. Once the Ring is destroyed the story is over. With that clean line of action we are given over twelve hours of story. I quite like Frodo as the unlikely hero. His success is mostly based on courage and dedication and a degree of luck. He is not the superhero his companions seem to be.

In the Bourne films Jason Bourne has a simple goal, "I want to find out who I am". Three movies and six hours later we find out. It is the specific story beats of the films that make the plot complicated while keeping the goal of the hero simple and easily defined. In 'The Fugitive' Harrison Ford's character wants to prove his innocence and, better yet, find the man who killed his wife. 'Silence of the Lambs'? Find Buffalo Bill before he kills again (the ante is raised by the capture of the Senators daughter). 'Apocalypse Now'? Find Kurtz and kill him "with extreme prejudice". 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' - find the Ark before the Nazis. 'Blade Runner' - terminate the replicants. 'Terminator' - keep Sarah Connor alive. 'Star Wars' - save the princess. 'Some Like it Hot' - escape the mob. 'Citizen Kane' - try to uncover the real Charles Foster Kane.

This clean line of action gives the audience a sense of where the story is going (tied into rule four) and the audience will emotionally invest in that character's journey. They want them to succeed, even Walter Neff. The goal of the writer is to surprise the audience on that journey. Eventually you get to rule ten where you build build build to what Mamet refers to as the surprising and inevitable conclusion. Many of my students shoot themselves in the foot right off the top by not setting up their story well. If the audience loses interest then it doesn't matter if you have crafted a surprise twenty minutes into the film - the audience doesn't care (they are gasping for air in a great big yawn).

Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course there are. The French New Wave played around with these rules at will. Does Kubrick's '2001' or 'Full Metal Jacket' plug into this formula? Not very well. It is usually personal filmmakers that veer off the path because they have a different agenda. This goes back to my post on theme. Often these films are interested more in the theme or character and less in the plot and they will break these rules. Charles Laughton's 'Night of the Hunter' is a great example of a film that starts off as a thriller/horror picture and then takes a turn into a morbid fairy tale. His interest in the film is his theme. Having said that, his clean line of action is still there, stop the preacher from getting the money.

'The Conversation' is an interesting film because it follows the clean line of action in the arc of the story but sometimes neglects plot in getting to the ending (the scene with Teri Garr for example). Harry Caul wants a clean recording for his client and he wants to hand it over and get paid. Clean and simple. What stops Harry is Harry. It's his own guilt that stops him from playing a part in another murder. Bertolluci's great film 'The Conformist' falls into this category as well. The clean line of action is for the protagonist (not much of a hero) to find his old University Professor in exile and murder him. Like 'The Conversation' the 'plot' of the film meanders forward to the inevitable end with many diversions that explore character more than they fulfill story and plot.

These filmmakers made conscious decisions and have a very clear understanding of how they want their films to unfold. I like these films and would not criticize any of them for not following Wilder's rules. Wilder does provide some interesting thoughts on Kubrick:

Wilder: "I love all of his movies...but sometimes...Barry Lyndon"

Crowe: "What about it?"

Wilder: "He worked six months trying to find a way to photograph somebody by candlelight...And nobody really gives a shit whether it is by candlelight or not. What are the jokes? What is the story? I did not like it. That's the only picture I did not like...The first half of Full Metal Jacket was the best picture I ever saw. Where the guy sits on the toilet and blows his head off? Terrific. Then he lost himself with the girl guerrilla. The second half, down a little. It's still a wonderful picture...Every picture he trumps the forget that this is your profession. You just get lost in the picture."

That is the goal of any filmmaker... make the audience get lost in the picture. Never let 'em go.


Film Books and Movies

I have added an Amazon Associates page to link to various books and movies that I find valuable and interesting.

Please visit and make some recommendations if you think I've missed some great stuff!

There is a link in the sidebar as well.


Thematically Speaking

Three of my favourite filmmakers of all time are Francis Coppola, Anthony Minghella and Krzysztof Kieslowski. What unifies all three of these writer-directors is their understanding of theme as a major part of telling stories. Coppola transformed 'The Godfather' and 'Apocalypse Now' into masterpieces by focusing on thematic elements. Minghella's 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' and 'The English Patient' are superior not because of plot but of ideas. I love the quote from Ripley 'It's better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody'. That is the film, everything revolves around the idea.

Kieslowski created great films that revolved solely around theme. 'The Decalog' is ten films based on the ten commandments. 'Three Colours' was created out of the colours of the French flag; fraternity, equality and liberty. His films were designed from the theme and then made their way to plot and character.

I was reading Francis Coppola's forward to Mircea Eliade's novella 'Youth Without Youth' and thought it sums it up in another way.

"The subject matter of any film you choose to make is dou­bly important because the process of filmmaking is such a relentless, tedious, and difficult experience that you have to be sure the theme is something that will sustain your interest. No matter how tough things get, or how discour­aged you may feel, you have to be sure that morning after morning you'll wake up to a subject that still fascinates you. It should preferably be a subject you don't quite un­derstand, even better if it's based on a question you don't know the answer to. Then the making of the film, which ultimately winds through several years, can provide an answer, which will be the film itself."

Some of my students proposed Documentaries this year where they wanted to 'educate' the audience about this or that. I subscribe to Coppola's idea that we should want to educate ourselves. We should ask questions that we don't have answers to. I've often said that Michael Moore's documentary 'Bowling for Columbine' was extraordinary because he sought to answer the question of gun violence in America and when he was done he said he still didn't know the answer. They say art is about the process and the journey. I believe in this. Emerson said that 'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds'. Theme pushes us to try to find answers to the unanswered questions.

In 'Hearts of Darkness: A filmmakers Apocalypse' Coppola says that he set out to make an Irwin Allen film. A great big action adventure film in the likes of 'The Towering Inferno' and 'The Poseidon Adventure'. He says that the thematic questions that came out about these four guys going up the river to kill the Colonel were ones he couldn't answer.

"It's a way we had over here for living with ourselves. We cut 'em in half with a machine gun and give 'em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies."

"We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't allow them to write "fuck" on their airplanes because it's obscene."

"Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do?"

'Apocalypse Now' is about the contradictions of war. Kurtz thinks he's found the answer, if you are going to war then go to war. Kill without feeling and kill without morality. That is pure and everything else is a lie - there is no morality in an immoral act.

In the modern day it is about dropping 'daisy cutters' on the Taliban to shred them to pieces. If one combatant survives the attack we need to worry about their well-being and human rights... it's only human (despite the fact that we just tried to grind them up). 'Apocalypse Now' exposes the ridiculousness of it all. War is evil pure and simple. If you choose to wage in it then why create rules? It's a tough question. Willard puts down his weapon and walks away. The theme is dealt with by the individual and by the filmmaker. The theme is what makes the film a classic.

Robert Rodriguez Music Video

Rodriguez shot this little music video with two Canon 7d DSLR's.

Even the television program 'House' decided to do a little experimenting with the Canon 5d to shoot their season finale.

What does all of this mean? It does mean that production tools are coming down to the price where independents and amateurs alike can make images that are comparable to high end professionals. It means that talent can trump money.

What it doesn't mean is that films will become that much less expensive to make. Actors, production design, art direction, lighting, sound, props, editing and mixing cost a lot of money and when you want to tell a story on film you still need a decent budget to pull it off. The 'road movie' or the 'dogma' film will be much less expensive but other more ambitious projects will still require funding. Consider Francis Coppola who purchased high end Sony Hi Def cameras. 'Tetro' and 'Youth Without Youth' still cost fifteen million dollars a piece. It's not chump change. People still need to get paid and sets need to be built or decorated. Locations need to be rented. People need to be fed (don't ever cheap out on this one).

Where does this lead? I guess right back to the writer. If you can write an inexpensive film you might still get a feature off the ground for the cost of a down payment on a house. Just make sure you tell a great story or your cheap DSLR won't do you a damn good.

I always think of technology as a tool. It doesn't tell stories, it captures images and sound. The 35mm still camera has been affordable for a long time and it didn't automatically make everyone a professional photographer. The pen and paper is the cheapest of the technologies but how often is someone penning the great novel or play? It's the talent of the individual that matters.

The tool is just a tool.

I suck at carpentry. You can give me access to the greatest carpentry equipment that money can buy and I'll still make you a crooked table...

More Konk.

I don't know if it's the Jameson but this guy seems to make a lot of sense.

Promised Land

A little video I shot for my friend Dan Roth. I used the Canon 5d Mark II and shot with available light.

I was experimenting a little bit with long shots. I also avoided cutting the video to the beats of the song and focussed more on the rhythms of the visuals, how long each shot could hold my attention.

The 'performance' shot was shot from a boat out on the lake.

Finally a voice of reason on these here webs.


Bernard Herrmann!

This is one of my favourite docs on filmmaking. If you are interesting in music for films then you won't find a better documentary...

It is well worth the purchase for your collection:


The Oscars...

I'm not one to get caught up in the Oscars and this year proved to be another reason why. This had to be one of the worst shows I've seen and it even made me a little angry at times. Did they need to spend a half of an hour heaping praise on actors and actresses at the expense of time for the 'lesser' artists? They cued the music with such uncaring precision until someone 'important' came out. Were the actors and actresses not embarrassed at all the praise bestowed upon them while diminishing everyone else? Even the best picture was rushed out due to this shameful waste of time.

I've also taken offence at people referring to Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Makeup, Costume, Visual Effects and Art Direction as 'craft' or 'technical' awards. Sorry to break it to you all but acting is a 'craft'. If by 'craft' I mean 'art' then ok. These 'craftsmen' (and women) are all great artists coming together for a common purpose - the story. Give me an actor without a script then I will give you dead air. The actor applies their craft to enhance the words on the page. They give nuance. They provide emphasis. They imbue emotion. That is their craft.

Not to diminish them... The actor is courageous for putting themselves out there and 'Precious' is a perfect example of this. Sandra Bullock may have won the Oscar but it was a pretty safe role for her. Gabourey Sidibe had the courage to perform in an unflattering role and that is worthy of great praise. Mo'Nique too, wow.

At the end of the day it isn't about the actors, directors, cinematographers or anyone else. It is about the film. It's about the story. We are all slaves to it. We should be slaves to it. It isn't about the filmmakers or the actors, it's about a story that transcends the people who made it and it's about the audience who empathizes with it and are transported by it. The awards celebrate a job well done and they recognize the stars aligning (real stars). The good fortune of everyone involved is due to the collaboration of many great artists.