Very cool series of vids on YouTube from UCLA’s film school. Interviews with producers, directors, agents on how to pitch, what you get out of film school, and more… all good stuff, and always great to get it form the horse’s mouth.
Finally just watched this film, as I’m working on a script that (I was told) might bear some resemblance to it (not this one).
I’m happy to say that it doesn’t.
What a terrible film, in so many ways. I don’t like to go on and on, but just truly dreadful writing, the performances are ham-fisted (but perhaps only because the players had so little to work with), the editing is clumsy.
A representative example: The guy is obsessed with the girl. He is excruciatingly boring to her. The girl has left her address book at the guy’s house. The guy is driving her to his house so she can retrieve the book. The two pull into the driveway. We must show that the drive has been miserable for the girl, and heaven for the guy. So the guy says:
Here we are at the house, Helena. I’m so glad I got to tell you that story… in such depth and detail. I’m really sorry, Helena. We’ll find your book.
Really. He really says that. Oh my God.*
There is simply no trust that the audience will give enough of a shit to even remember from moment to moment what is going on in the story, or who these people even are. So her name (Helena) is repeated every few seconds; we are told that we are arriving at the house (even though we are seeing a shot of them pulling up to the house); rather than hear the tail end of the story and trust her expression, he exposes to us that he told a long story (and in excruciating detail); and then they remind us why we’re at the house at all (to find the book). It’s a fucking radio play for alzheimer’s patients.
It is a good example, I suppose, of what was probably a terrific idea on paper (and a terrific logline – “An obsessed surgeon kidnaps the woman of his dreams, removes her arms and legs, and makes her his prize possession”), and could have been a terrifically twisted film, but clearly needed a rewrite. Someone needed to say “Hey, this has promise. The story’s all there. Let’s get someone in to polish the dialogue so the characters don’t play like shallow schoolchildren and then let’s make us a movie!”
Oh well. Now I’ve checked it off my to-do list.**
*Yes. Verbatim. Can you believe it?
**Late I know. The film’s been out a long time, and already been universally panned. This isn’t news. It’s just news to me.
Yeah, I said that with a question mark when I first heard it. Quentin Tarantino was the guest mentor on this week’s American Idol, as the category was “songs from movies”. Of course, since AI mentors are generally professionals in the music industry, I thought to myself “what’s QT going to offer these kids? He’s no singer, not a songwriter or musician (of any note). WTF?”
Q himself explained it thus: That he would be “directing” the singers as he would an actor. He listened to their performance, gave them notes, and then asked them to make adjustments.
Again, though, I thought “what kind of notes can you offer that will be relevant?” And again, I was surprised.
Just as an example, his advice to Danny Gokey, who was so emotionally invested in his song that he was gesturing intently with his hands: [paraphrasing] “When you’re so emotionally invested, performers find lots of ways to dissipate the energy they’re feeling… through their hands, for instance. Put your hands in your pockets, and try again… channel that energy you were losing through gesture into your voice and your eyes.”
I walked away feeling a little humbled. His direction was about dramatic performance, about channeling the emotional content of your song/story/script in ways that will optimize its communication. It was insightful, intuitive and on point, and it was cool to see him play to his own strengths to find a way to offer valuable notes to the kids.
I may not love all his work — his first two or three films are by far his best stuff (Reservoir Dogs is still brilliant), I nearly walked out of Kill Bill and had to fast forward most of Death Proof — but there’s no denying that he’s an immensely talented guy. Just an immensely talented guy whose tastes have unfortunately parted far from mine in recent years.
It was neat to watch, and I bet I’m a little bit better a director for having seen it.
Finally saw this movie… it’s one of those that’s such a “classic” and “groundbreaking” film that filmies love to talk about (and some growed up mens still say scares them), figured I’d better see it.
I won’t spend a lot of time talking about it.
Sorry. Poorly written, acted and directed. Yes, I get it, it created the genre. Yes, I get it, it had a black lead who didn’t traffic in his blackness. Yes, I get it, the flesh eating zombies were super graphic for their time.
It also had about four lines of dialogue simply repeated throughout the second act: “We should stay downstairs, we’ll be safer.” “We should stay upstairs, we’ll be safer.” “Why do you get to hold the gun?” “Shut up and help.”
And the lead (the black guy) pretty much just kills the whiny pudgy guy for no reason (other than he was just crazy irritating).
But mostly, and it bears repeating here, badly written, acted and directed. And really, since we’re talking about movies, not about good intentions or accidental historical being-in-the-right-place-ness, those are the things a “movie” needs to do right to be simply “competent,” and needs to do expertly and artistically to be “great”.
So yeah. Whatever. I laughed, and barely made it through. I’m glad it opened doors in a variety of ways, but let’s be honest. It’s not a good movie.
Geek alert! The transcripts from the early “Raiders of the Lost Ark” story meetings between Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Lawrence Kasdan have been released. For fans of the film, it offers great insight into how the story and the characters evolved in their minds, why they made the decisions they made, and how their collaboration resulted in a project greater than the sum of its parts.
And for writers and filmmakers, it’s a prime example of the process you might want to go through in developing your next property.