Friday, December 31, 2010

Films Viewed in Past Months

Watched many flicks in the past weeks. Now, with some, I don't even recall how they were. Nevertheless as I make notes, google, memory comes back & so I write.


Exotica - 28th

Egoyan creates an intense tale that plays with mystery in a backdrop of an erotic night club; however eroticism is less of a subject than the subtleties of a fragile mind fighting inner demons photographed slowly & enacted as if in pauses.

Days of Heaven - 26th
Terrence Mallik creates an indelible environment, in which the story shapes as if poetry in motion. It's slow and silent but fueling up inside to tell a passionate love story.

Chloe - 23rd
Julianne Moore is one of the finest. And i got treat-after-treat-after-treat - watched her in three back-to-back films; all different roles, all different takes and tremendous in each. Atom Egoyan is an expert in creating solemn atmosphere and nails it here too. The film grips you though the last act moves too quick and doesn't scale the heights. The surprise is Amanda Seyfried who is bewitching to watch.

A Single Man - 23rd

Colin Firth is stupendous in this character-study of the gay man, whose love has passed-away and lost all hope to live life.

The Kids Are All Right - 22nd

An enthralling flick that has great acting from all of its cast. A lesbian family's children befriend their sperm donor and complications ensue that makes for a captivating story.

Never Let Me Go - 19th
Carrey Mulligan shines in this film slated as a dystopian drama. Based on the background of organ donors / donation it's a love story that spans decades from being kids to young adults.

Burning Plain
Guillermo Arriaga (screenwriter, Amos Perros, 21 Grams, Babel) turns a director with trademark non-linear film with trademark brooding subject. The film isn't in the league of his films directed by Inarritu however it keeps you involved and provides a pleasing experience.

Dark City - 5th
A unique, intriguing sci-fi film about man living with no sun under the rule of extraterrestrials.

Winter's Bone - 3rd
Grey surroundings. Snowy weather. Shady dealings. A teenager trying to hold on to her family amidst the gangland while looking for the body of her missing father. An effective tale seeped into realism.

L.A. Confidential - 1st
Watched it after many years since I couldn't recall the film and boy...what an experience - an ensemble cast in full form in a gripping flick.


The Producers - 29th

Entertaining comedy about a Broadway producer ending up with a super hit when he wants to create a sure-shot flop. The film seemed extended; the screenplay won the Oscar.

Salt - 28th

Quite a masala. Jolie is flying across every where. Not a bad one-time watch.

Good Night Good Luck - 23rd

Watched the super film again after some years.

Sicko - 21st
Moore in his elements as usual. Creates an effective entertaining experience.

Lost Highway - 19th
Typical Lynch. Typical strangeness. Typical brooding Pullman. Interesting & enjoyable film.

Chaplin - 16th
Great piece of acting by Downey Jr, however not too captivating a film.

Bigger Stronger Faster - 12th
Solid documentary on the ill-effects of use of steroids to pump up your muscle.

Julie and Julia - 12th
Amy Adams displays her charisma as Streep nails a quirky character in a very charming film.

Mission Impossible III - 11th
Not in the range of the earlier films but nevertheless an enjoyable action-flick with Cruise on the mark as ever.

The Notebook - 11th
A love story that pans many years tries to be an epic but falls short in its attempt to go cute.

Visions of Light - 10th
A rare insightful documentary. It has top cinematographers talking about their art and its progression over the years. A must-view for a student of cinema.

Five Easy Pieces - 9th
This is an effective slice-of-life kinda film, with Nicholson in top form. Has a sad, somber feel following life of a working man; quite a character study.

The Social Network - 7th

Absolute solid piece of work - screenplay, direction, acting....a fascinating, insightful flick with many themes on display - friendship, betrayal, social acceptance, ambition reflecting our fast-paced, heavily networked though lonely world.

About Schmidt - 6th
Not a bad subject about a man struggling to live his retired lonely life. Seemed contrived; with Nicholson at his antics that is quite likely to happen.

Blade Runner - 6th
A neat sci-fi riding with symbolism by Ridley Scott.

Zodiac - 4th
Ambitious film by David Fincher. It tends to slow down at times, is long but is quite an impressive flick to watch.

Iron Man 2 - 3rd
Not in the league of first, but still pretty entertaining. Robert Downey Jr. was as captivating as ever.


The Thin Blue Line - 31st
A thriller of a documentary by Eroll Morris.

Fearless - 30th
Interesting flick on the subject of death by Peter Weir.

Fog of War - 30th
About former US Secretary of Defense, McNamara. Quite a revealing documentary of the man and the history by Eroll Morris.

I Am Love - 29th
Quite a solemn feel of the flow of the film with super acting by Tilda Swinton.

Solitary Man - 29th
Good subject. Contrived treatment. Not a bad watch though.

Gates of Heaven - 28th
A unique, funny documentary that can be seen as contemplative; Errol Morris's debut documentary on two pet cemeteries.

The Damned United - 28th

A fun, energetic film on the English football league manager, Brian Clough; great chemistry between Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall to highlight the camaraderie between Clough and his assistant, Taylor. Screenplay adaptation by good ol' Peter Morgan.

The End of Violence
Interesting depiction by Wim Wenders in a captivating film in which Bill Pullman does his typical brooding role.

State of Play
Though not great, an enjoyable Hollywood masala with Russel Crowe playing a journalist probing the state of affairs in Washington regarding corporate mess-up and the death of his friend's (Congressman) mistress.

Don't Look Now
Narrative flows back-n-forth in a film that's a psychological drama combined with a thriller in an off-beat treatment, creating eerie effects amidst solemn story-telling that focuses on a couple who have lost one of their children.

The Town
A thriller-romance that flows well, does okay but tries to play too cool.

25th Hour
Strong performances, strong cast with the likes of Edward Norton and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a Spike Lee film about a guy's last hours before he goes to jail early morning.

Money Never Sleeps

Sequel to Wall street that is too over-the-top and not so effective. Gekko is too subdued.


Found it okay in the first viewing. On second, found it better. A deliberate total-masala flick of Salman Khan that had much more potential than it delivered. Got too cute and didn't delve much into the character, when it actually had a good plotline going.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (on TV)
Didn't expect much but was pleasantly surprised ignoring some of the cliched situations and dialogues. SRK rocks in such characters and he shone brightly in this enjoyable flick.

Hitchcock is bang on in this film chiefly set-up in one house. Solid evidence on Hitchcock's amazing craftsmanship and story-telling skills.

An Education
A touching film with solid performance by the young Carry Mulligan on a subject of growing-up when the world is full of opportunities and yet.

Shallow Grave
Danny Boyle's impressive debut film about weird characters and incidents that end up changing lives of the folks involved. You can see Trainspotting coming after watching this film!

Mesrine - Parts I & II French)
Deadly performance by Vincent Cassel portraying the real-life criminal. Fast-paced & violent, it's quite a riveting film.

Being There
Satire about a slow-in-the-head gardener, played by Peter Sellers, who befriends a billionaire and earns admiration of the USA president as they take his simplistic manners as a man of great wisdom.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Look for the Holes | Psychology Today

This is interesting stuff. Critical for consideration when developing characters. To figure out their 'wounds' and 'blind-spots.' The whole film would chiefly be about the 'holes', which would need to be dug open, immersed-in, enabling the arc of the character/s.

Look for the Holes | Psychology Today

So what are the holes in your own life? What don't you want to talk about? What relationships do you ignore? What emotions are you reluctant to feel? In the balancing of body, emotions, reason, and spirit, what is most left out? By approaching what you resist, dormant aspects of yourself come alive; energy that has been used to hold these back is released.

Look for the Holes | Psychology Today

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

BAFTA Podcasts - The BAFTA site

Great link to podcasts of film folks. Includes one by Peter Morgan, screenwriter Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Damned United & Hereafter amidst other stuff.

BAFTA Podcasts - Access All Areas - The BAFTA site

Friday, December 24, 2010

What Went Wrong with Hollywood Romantic Comedies? | indiWIRE

Anthony D'Alessandro lists five reasons why the rom-com has lost its mojo::
1. Studios spent too much.  The majors may have curbed their spending on dramas to a $25 to $40 million cap, but they miscalculated profit ratios on rom-coms. These relationship films aren't suppose to be expensive. They have minimal to zero VFX shots and are set to profit on home turf with foreign takes as upside gravy. Brooks didn't need to shell out $50 million on How Do You Know's dramatis personae. Actors are clamoring to work with him. Like Woody Allen, he can name his own price for talent, just like he can demand final cut. Some studios keep stepping up to higher rom-com bills as leading ladies' paychecks spike with each hit.  As Heigl's payday swelled from $6 million to $13 million between The Ugly Truth ($88.9 million) and The Killers ($47.1 million), so did the film's respective budgets jump from $38 million to $75 million. 

Likewise, Sex and the City 2 ($95.3 million domestic B.O.) was 54% more expensive than its first chapter, which cost $65 million and grossed $415.3 worldwide. The real ugly truth is that just as A-grade actresses get paid more, their films often bomb. Marshall was able to keep a $52-million rein on Valentine's Day by minimizing shooting days for Roberts and Hathaway. Studios looking to launch fresh faces and break formulaic rules gambled less: frugal Screen Gems spent just $8 million on Easy A.
2. Filmmakers mismatched genres. Comedy-dramas can pose marketing challenges and mislead audiences. Edward Zwick's Love & Other Drugs ($30.2 million) was sold as an adult sexy comedy in its posters, but critics were put off by the melodramatic Parkinson Disease plotline centering around Hathaway's character.  Moaning mid-life crisis protags proved unattractive and unfunny in How Do You Know.  And what exactly is The Tourist ($30.6 million domestic B.O., $100+ million cost)?  Sony's trailers pitched it as a suspense thriller, but director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck told the Hollywood Foreign Press that it's a comedy.
3. Marketers sent the wrong message. Rom-com ad campaigns fell short in lucidly selling their plots.  What message was Paramount sending in its Morning Glory outdoor/print ads?  The question asked in their one-sheets was: "What's the story? Morning Glory." What did that mean? Most Witherspoon vehicles carry a catchy title with a clear idea of her film's premise: Legally Blonde easily conveys that it's about a ditzy blonde attorney.  How Do You Know's print ads were as confusing as the stars' facial expressions. The promos for Sex and the City 2 pried the film from its New York roots and core fans by playing up its Abu Dhabi setting. One distrib exec cried, "It's not called 'Sex and the Desert!'" One effective poster was Fox's Date Night campaign, which displayed Carell and Fey muddied up and dressed to the nines – clear proof that the comedy was about a romantic night gone wrong.
4. Bad timing.  Rom-coms largely serve as counter programming on the release schedule.  However, there were potholes on the calendar.  Memorial  Day weekend is primed for family/tentpole fare, not femme-driven films like Sex and the City 2.  Warner Bros. succeeded with the bow of the first Sex and the City by making its non-holiday weekend an event for its fangirls. Love & Other Drugs and Burlesque could have padded their ticket sales by staying out of each other's way during the crowded Thanksgiving weekend. Both attracted women over 25.  On the other hand, Fox's Date Night showed impeccable timing, catering to adults after kids' spring break. Unopposed by frosh studio bows, the pic chalked up a solid $25.2 million start during the April 9-11 weekend.
5. Relying on tarnished star power. Lead actors are supposed to be insurance against bad scripts; assets that lure financing and solidify decent projections. Brooks' How Do You Know has thrown a monkey wrench into those formulas, proving that the team of Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson and Paul Rudd did not trigger a stampede. The film's paltry bow demonstrates that audiences are savvier in the social media age, read more web reviews and aren't easily duped. The star system works only when romantic stars are well-matched.

Fox caught lightning in a bottle by toplining Date Night with two popular NBC sitcom stars, Fey and Carell.  Strong marquee stars are essential, especially when their partner is not an event-driven commodity like Roberts (who ably carried Eat Pray Love).  Thus Josh Duhamel didn't work wonders for Kristen Bell (When in Rome: $32.7 million domestic) nor Katherine Heigl (Life as We Know It: $52.2 million domestic). However, Vince Vaughn saved the day with last year's Couples Retreat: $109.2 million). Several date movie stars need to regain heir footing: Aniston must pick a better crop of directors/projects that translate to the masses and critics. Meanwhile, Heigl, one of the few femmes who can get a romantic comedy off the ground battles a bad diva image and sliding ticket sales, off significantly from her 2007 high, Judd Apatow's Knocked Up ($148.8 million).

Rom-coms are not yet dead: but they're in need of serious repair. 

The full article by Anne Thompson: What Went Wrong with Hollywood Romantic Comedies?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Producer Spotlight: Paula Wagner

Go Into The Story: Producer Spotlight: Paula Wagner

Myer's Observations:

* Wagner concurs with the conventional wisdom about the market catering to big movies and small movies with mid-range budget films being squeezed out due to economic considerations.

* Myths, legends, history, contemporary culture: Nice confirmation of the focus I put in my teaching on Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung.

* Wagner's definition of great moviemaking: "Their content, their story and their characters – they take you to somewhere you've never been." Print-worthy quote, don't you think? * "Making a film takes two things: money and distribution. Everything else will fall in place if you have those two." Believe me, producers have those two issues front and center every time they read a script. Can I get funding for this project? Can I get it distributed?

Go Into The Story: Producer Spotlight: Paula Wagner

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Exclusive Photo: George Lucas' Legendary 50th Birthday Party

"With a little help of my friends..."

Boy...what a group of pals. What a real life story:

Lucas' Legendary 50th Birthday Party - The Hollywood Reporter

Critics pick the best movies of 2010

2010 Film Critic Top Ten Lists  [Updated Dec. 18]

Current Top 10

1     The Social Network
2     Winter's Bone
3     Black Swan
4     Toy Story 3
5     Inception
6     Carlos
7     The Ghost Writer
8     The Kids Are All Right
9     Dogtooth
10   Another Year

2010 Film Critic Top Ten Lists

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scott Myers: Yet more reasons why Pixar are the best storytellers today

A nice LAT article yesterday featuring the director and co-story writer of Toy Story 3 Lee Unkrich.  You should read it all including the front part which describes how Pixar approached doing a sequel to a movie (Toy Story 2) which they felt already had a perfect ending.  What I want to focus on are two scenes in the movie.  First what Unkrich has to say about the riveting conveyor belt scene:

Yet, Unkrich, screenwriter Michael Arndt and the rest of the creative team never backed away from raw truths, either. When the toys find themselves on a conveyor belt heading into a landfill incinerator, it would have been easy, Unkrich says, to have Mr. Potato Head crack a joke or to have inserted a series of silly sight gags as the toys tried to scurry to safety. Instead, they clasp hands, look into each others' eyes and face their demise with a quiet grace and dignity.

"When I talked to my animators about it, I thought, 'If I were on an airplane with my family and something happened and we were in an emergency, what would I do?'" Unkrich remembers. "Would we be screaming our heads off? I don't think so. I think we'd get very quiet and we'd gather as a family and I'd hold my children and face what was about to happen."
Then what in my estimation is one of the best cinematic denouements ever:
And, in those closing moments — a scene that proved so adept at opening the tear ducts of viewers that Unkrich and company had to scramble and craft a closing-credits epilogue to give moviegoers a chance to compose themselves — Pixar fashioned another perfect ending.

Because, despite what Woody said at the end of "Toy Story 2," we see that, all these years later, he's still so attached to Andy that he can't see the writing on the wall. The other toys know Andy isn't going to play with them again, but Woody's almost delusional in his devotion.

"I love that by the end of the film, not only does Woody learn to let go of Andy and see that one of the most loving things you can do sometimes is let somebody go, but also his feelings from the beginning of the movie are completely vindicated," Unkrich says. "Andy plays with them again. We created this safe environment where Andy can do that, even though he's 17 years old. We kind of got our cake and ate it too."
Those two scenes and the rationale Unkrich provides for them say so much about why Pixar are master storytellers:

* They embrace the humanity of their characters.  Even if they're not human, Pixar characters each have qualities with which we, as moviegoers can identify.

* They don't shy away from emotion, recognizing that a viewer's emotional resonance with characters and moments is a big part of a story's meaning.

* They treat emotional issues both honestly and restraint, not going over the top, but simple moments: on the conveyor belt, wordlessly holding hands as they approach their presumed doom; a teenager and a little girl playing with toys in a front yard.

* They think about story themes: life, death, separation, belief, community, family, tradition, each of those is at play in both of the scenes referenced above and the movie itself.

* They embrace beauty, finding it over and over and over again in the lives of their characters and the key moments they share.

Important lessons all for screenwriters.

Why do you think Pixar are such great storytellers?

For more of the article, go here. j

Inception: Nolan’s Hand-Drawn Map

Thompson on Hollywood

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Michael Arndt Digs Into Toy Story 3 and the Genius of the Pixar System - Thompson on Hollywood

Michael Arndt Digs Into Toy Story 3 and the Genius of the Pixar System - Thompson on Hollywood


This is the whole genius of the movie, that you're going to let time elapse in real time, so that Andy will have grown up, and he's going off to college, so ten years in real time is ten years in screen time, and that way you are giving your characters a real problem.

Now, it's not like the toys go to outer space or Japan or something like that. The toys have to deal with what seems to be the end of their natural life, and facing these fears of obsolescence, of being replaced or being disposable.

When I first got there, I was like, 'is it the people or is it the system? Where's the genius?' And to a degree it's the combination. Obviously you have a lot of smart, hard-working people all over the place, and you also have animation companies that use the same animation system, so it's this combination of the two.

It really is to a degree like lightning in a bottle. I mean, every Pixar film…I've been there when films weren't working, and you go 'Oh my god are they going to be able to pull this off?'

And it's so collaborative, and I don't think that you can actually point to any one person. The metaphor I could use is that writing one of these scripts or making one of these films is like building a Cathedral. It really is the expression of a whole creative community.

Until you get there you can't imagine how much work goes in, and not even just making the movie, just putting the story together is such a laborious process. And it's really because you make the film like seven or eight times.

There were some scenes where I wrote sixty drafts, just because you are always honing and honing and polishing so that it just works.

You never want your second act or the whole movie to just be this relentless march towards its goal. You want things to take the audience by surprise.

AT: How long did that take? It took three years to write?

MA: Yeah.

And then—and this is always sort of the hardest scene to write in screenwriting—you have your fun in the beginning, and then your characters actually have to sit down and have a conversation.

As soon as you have something - well, they start boarding almost immediately. Almost immediately they bring in people to start boarding stuff.

You do sketches of an entire film, you do initially scratch recording, then you start layering the characters, you do scratch music, you do sound effects, and you basically create a movie in a rough form.

And then—this is what's so crucial to the process of animation and what makes it so different from live-action, is—I'd actually finished my script, I sent it out to everyone, everyone reads it on their own, and reading is sort of a private experience, you know, and everyone writes up their notes on their own, and it's a hub-and-spokes system.

Everyone sends their stuff back to me, but it's everyone's individual reactions, unmediated by anyone else's experience. And at Pixar, you show it in a big theatre with everybody sitting there, so when everyone laughs you feel the laughter, or when everyone is bored, you feel the rustling, or hopefully, when it's moving at the end, you can hear people sniffling. Just as a writer you get a sense of what's working and what's not working.

AT: So how many times does that happen?

MA: Seven or eight.

AT: And that's the whole movie?

MA: The whole movie. In a very rough stage, but with the thematics. But as problems start getting solved, for example there's that one scene that I did seven drafts of and we're like, 'its done, it does what it needs to do.' And then you can go, 'OK this is approved for production.'

I'm still writing, which means you're still going back to the actors for recording dialogue, and you're still going back to guys sketching and just throwing it up on screen to see if it will work. It is such a luxury as a writer to be able to make mistakes, put it up on screen, go back, have a huddle and try again.

And then the last part of the process is you screen it in public and you get together in a room and you've got John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird, Pete Doctor, you know it's like, my metaphor is that it's as though the Harlem Globe Trotters are in your living room, and you just have ideas like flying all over the place and jokes flying all over the place and you can—I've said this before- - you can feel the story getting better on a minute-to-minute basis, because a lot of times when things are going well you just feel this energy in the room.

The great thing about the animation process is that is goes from, I write the lines, it goes to the actors, the actors bring a whole world to that, they bring the characters to life, then it goes to the animators, then it goes to the editor who cuts it together and then you screen it and it goes back through the system again.

So that all these pieces of the machine are all talking to each other at the same time, it's like a real dialogue. In live action you do all your writing, then you do all your production, then you do all your editing, and if you're a writer, a lot of times you just get thrown out, so that's why it's very gratifying to be a voice in that process, a part of the ongoing process.

AT: At what stage do your pages get turned into animation?

MA: What happens is you break the script into twenty-five sequences, so it's like these are all solid, don't worry about them, here are your problem sequences, work on them.

So lets say I'll attack three or four scenes, and what I'll do is I'll write a draft and hand it in to Lee the director and he'll go, 'eh, X, Y and Z.' So then I go back and I'll go through that very small two-person feedback loop for five or six passes, basically, until Lee finally goes, 'OK, I think that's it.'

And then he'll take it from me and hand if off to the story guys and they'll start sketching it and they can add jokes, they can add visual stuff, they figure out how to frame it, if there is a way you can communicate information visually rather than verbally, so I was embarrassed sometimes to find the scenes come back to me shorter because things can be done visually instead of having to rely on dialogue.

Michael Arndt Digs Into Toy Story 3 and the Genius of the Pixar System - Thompson on Hollywood

Monday, November 1, 2010

Observations on film art : New Zealand is still Middle-earth: A summary of the Hobbit crisis

Example of the influence of big film-making and the new dynamics of cinema.

Imagine a Mahabharata Trilogy or the three Battles of Panipat with top star-cast, solid production value costing 300-500 crores made over a period of 3-4 years and various states of India fighting to 'host' the show. Hmm...maybe far-fetched but that day may not be far.

Read recently that Ghai wants to open (WW) film-school in Haryana and would try to set up an industry; maybe JatWood. Yet....with too much moolah flowing who knows how things could change in the next 10-15 yrs.

Observations on film art : New Zealand is still Middle-earth: A summary of the Hobbit crisis

In a way, it is amazing that a film production, even a huge one like The Hobbit, virtually guaranteed to be a pair of hits, could influence the law of a country–and make the legal process happen so quickly.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Innovation lessons from Pixar: An interview with Oscar-winning director Brad Bird

What does stimulating the creativity of animators have in common with developing new product ideas or technology breakthroughs? A lot.

Innovation lessons from Pixar: An interview with Oscar-winning director Brad Bird


Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull, and John Lasseter said, in effect, "The only thing we're afraid of is complacency—feeling like we have it all figured out. We want you to come shake things up. We will give you a good argument if we think what you're doing doesn't make sense, but if you can convince us, we'll do things a different way." For a company that has had nothing but success to invite a guy who had just come off a failure and say, "Go ahead, mess with our heads, shake it up"—when do you run into that?

We gave the black sheep a chance to prove their theories, and we changed the way a number of things are done here.

Not all shots are created equal. Certain shots need to be perfect, others need to be very good, and there are some that only need to be good enough to not break the spell.

We also made superelaborate storyboards. We even emulated camera movement in them, so everyone knew that "We only need to make things work between here and there." Once I was able to commit to the camera angles, we could be very specific about how we built things. Something would look beautiful from one position, but if you moved five feet to the right, the image would disintegrate. I gave up the flexibility to move within a set, but in exchange I bought size and scope.

In my experience, the thing that has the most significant impact on a movie's budget—but never shows up in a budget—is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale.

The first step in achieving the impossible is believing that the impossible can be achieved. There was a point during the making of The Incredibles where we had a company meeting. We have them about twice a year, and anybody can bring up concerns. Somebody raised their hand and said, "Is The Incredibles too ambitious?" Ed Catmull said, "I don't know" and looked over at me. I just said, "No! If there's one studio that needs to be doing stuff that is 'too ambitious,' it's this one. You guys have had nothing but success. What do you do with it? You don't play it safe—you do something that scares you, that's at the edge of your capabilities, where you might fail. That's what gets you up in the morning."

So my goal is to make a movie I want to see. If I do it sincerely enough and well enough—if I'm hard on myself and not completely off base, not completely different from the rest of humanity—other people will also get engaged and find the film entertaining.

One thing Pixar does—which is a knockoff of old-school, Walt-era 1940s Disney—is to have all kinds of optional classes. They call it "PU," or Pixar University. If you work in lighting but you want to learn how to animate, there's a class to show you animation. There are classes in story structure, in Photoshop, even in Krav Maga, the Israeli self-defense system. Pixar basically encourages people to learn outside of their areas, which makes them more complete. Sometimes, people even move from one area to another.

I think the best leaders are somewhat subversive, because they see something a different way.

The Quarterly:
We've been talking a lot about how you promote innovation. What undermines it?

Brad Bird: Passive-aggressive people—people who don't show their colors in the group but then get behind the scenes and peck away—are poisonous. I can usually spot those people fairly soon and I weed them out.

They were masters of the form, but they had the attitude of a student. This guy taking over the studio had only done a few pieces of pretty good animation, and he was totally satisfied. Could not have been less inspiring.

Walt Disney's mantra was, "I don't make movies to make money—I make money to make movies." That's a good way to sum up the difference between Disney at its height and Disney when it was lost. It's also true of Pixar and a lot of other companies. It seems counterintuitive, but for imagination-based companies to succeed in the long run, making money can't be the focus.

Speaking personally, I want my films to make money, but money is just fuel for the rocket. What I really want to do is to go somewhere. I don't want to just collect more fuel.

Innovation lessons from Pixar: An interview with Oscar-winning director Brad Bird

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Article: Why we need more "adult" movies - By Matt Zoller Seitz

"The American" and "The Romantics" are part of a tragically rare genre in America: Films that kids won't understand

What do we mean when we call a film or TV show "adult"?

The word is often used to refer to language, violence, sexual imagery or other material that adults don't want small children to see. But other films are "adult" in a different, arguably truer sense. They tell stories about people and situations that children (and the childishly minded) either cannot understand or aren't interested in. And they tell them in ways that demand engagement from the viewer, rather than slack-jawed spectatorship. These aren't "shows." They're situations involving somewhat believable adults involved in emotional and sometimes moral conundrums. And you don't always know whom to root for, or if you should root for anyone.

As critic Jim Emerson is fond of saying, a film isn't about what it's about -- it's about how it's about it.

Why we need more "adult" movies

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Question on Scott Myers Blog

It's fascinating how blogs from the Gurus provide you with so much of gyan and sometimes even...interaction.

One of my favorite bloggers put my question online on his forum. Interestingly he even followed the correct protocol by mailing me & asking for my permission to post it online, which I didn't expect. I was just hoping that he would put it online and when he mailed me, i said - wow.

Here is Scott's response to my question.

Reader Question: How much detail should I go into re my story with industry insiders?

Hi Scott,

I am not sure how much to (verbally) describe my story to people of the industry when they ask me what I am working on. I haven't really jumped-in into Bollywood yet (I live in Mumbai) but I do have some contacts and 'lifting'/stealing one's idea isn't so rare out here.

Sometimes I give complete logline - most of the times I get excited and can't resist talking about what my story is, which I believe is unique and later I wonder if I got over-excited and get a bit concerned - what if someone shall rip the idea off :-)

What's your take on this? Even if with respect to Hollywood.
I have little knowledge of the inner workings of Bollywood although I have heard anecdotes through the years about how studios there have no problem lifting story concepts and even whole plots from Hollywood movies, and remaking them. In fact, if you Google, "hollywood movies bollywood rip off," you'll find several threads like this one which provide lists of supposed Bollywood rip-offs.

So, when you say "'lifting'/stealing one's idea isn't so rare out here," I think you are probably correct in taking the safe approach re your own story ideas.

Here in the States, if you are a working writer and represented by a recognized agency or manager, there is little risk of having an original idea you pitch or write being stolen. The fact is Hollywood is a small community, one where deals are made over the phone, and usually committed to paper several weeks, even months later, so trust is a big thing.

For those who are attempting to break in as a screenwriter, the situation is a bit different -- with no rep, they lack that level of protection. That's why it's always a good idea to register a treatment or script with the WGA, which you can do here or copyright the material. Still no guarantee someone won't steal your ideas, but at least you have something tangible for a possible legal option down the road.

I'd think the same would pertain to Bollywood. At the very least, register your story before you discuss it with anyone. The other thing is more of a matter of thinking like a screenwriter: you always want to leave them wanting more. So if your instinct is as you wrote -- "most of the times I get excited and can't resist talking about what my story is" -- you have to learn to restrain yourself. If you happen to cross paths with a producer or director or studio exec and you have the opportunity to pitch them, give them just enough to hook them. If they are interested -- and you can generally tell, especially if they start asking you questions about the plot -- then that's time for you to say, "Why don't we set up a meeting and I can walk you through the whole story?"

That's your initial goal: get the meeting. This is important for several reasons. First if you have a meeting, then things get a lot more official, and less likely you'll get ripped off. There is a date and a time and a place where you met. Second the buyer will be much more likely to give your story a fair shake if they are in their office and in official pitch-hearing mode. And third, even if you don't sell your story, you've opened a door to an actual Bollywood contact, a relationship you can nurture and build on.

Your best bet is to write a complete script and register that. Scripts are harder to rip off than pitches because they are more substantial, more of the story worked out, as well as easier to buy because a buyer can see how the story plays out in full.

So in summary, always register your stories, even if only in treatment form. Better to have a completed spec script in hand before you try to pitch anyone. And don't give them everything, leave them wanting more, and use that as a means to get a meeting with them.

I know we have a lot of GITS readers who live in India. If you have some advice please weigh in with your thoughts in comments.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gyan: Screenwriting 101 -- Billy Wilder

1. Grab 'em by the throat and never let go.

2. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.

3.The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.

4. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.

5. Tip from Ernst Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever.

6. The audience is fickle. Know where you're going.

7. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they are seeing.

8. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.

9. The 3rd act must build, build, build in tempo until the last event, and then...

10. ...that's it. Don't hang around.

-- Billy Wilder

[From: Go Into The Story]

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Visit: Musée Hergé

If ever you go that side of Europe, a visit to Tintin's creator's museum could be worth the while.

Bordwell discusses & analyzes stuff in another excellent blog:



I have taken from the current cinema its devices of découpage: once a character becomes important, you show what he's doing, you vary the shots, you show the same scene from far off and then quite close.

I'm a man of order, you see, even in drawing. I draw orderly things so one can read what I am drawing.

I don't try only to tell a story, but rather I try above all to tell a story. There's a slight difference.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Video Talk: Michael Arndt

Excellent video - Q & A with one of the bright screenwriters - Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine & Toy Story 3)

Won Oscar for LMS and he should be on the shortlist for nomination for TS-3

Writes a draft for LMS in three days (story / characters in head for a long time)

Rewrites for a year

No one is interested in the script...for five years

The intelligence / foresight of Pixar - they pick him up for Toy Story 3 before the film (Little Miss Sunshine) was made. They read LMS and go for the guy right on. It's amazing when you think about it - a studio that has brilliant writers, they pick-up an amateur. When you see / hear Arndt, you know...he isn't a schmuck.

Taught myself screenwriting for 10 yrs

Easier to have your script read than write

Top writers have more unproduced scripts than produced

Never send a rough script; the best / complete it can be

Best case scenario: 90% failure rate - realistic way to look

Love your characters; No. 1 commitment for screenwriter

Do it for the pleasure of it

The Video

[1.04 mins]

You can jump at chapters (below the video)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Viewed: Toy Story 3 (3-D)

Solid flick. Enjoyable and moving too.

As usual...super writing. And then - Pixar process at work. Try seeing it...

I haven't seen many flicks this year...been a coward like before...but this one's the best of the year.

Interesting / 'correct' things it does with respect to important aspects of story-telling (this is in the technical realm):

- Is there a clear 'want'?

- Is there an inner 'need' for the protagonist?

- Do we care for characters?

- Are there themes flowing across?

- Is the ending satisfying / fulfilling. Does it affect you emotionally?

- Is the opposition / conflict built in with clarity and in multiple dimensions - inner and outer?

- Importantly: does it make it easy for the protagonist/team to overcome obstacles?

--- the complications are rising

--- check out: how they never ever make it easy; if you stop to think of a solution, you discover that these buggers push them till the end.

[Personally, that's pretty tough to do; a bane of indian films - resolve things comfortably. But check this one out. Note 'Woody's' escape from the day-care center in the beginning; they can make him walk out any time and it wouldn't be much of an issue, but how they play around with that! wont get it unless you see it.]

As i always feel about such works, it's a pity that people don't go for such flicks. Maybe prejudice, maybe lack of promotion / hype, but...such films take you on a journey and that is very satisfying; you don't know how the time goes by since you are so engrossed by the progression of the story.

This IS tough. Not a joke. Not a kid's place. No cuteness saves a story.

As Pixar believes: takes 10 man years to do a story. Interestingly, they never ever go for a sequel unless they are sold on by a story, which I believe refers to - solid theme at play.

I wasn't too sold over by the 3-D bit; this would have worked as great, perhaps better, as 2-D; at least for me wearing those glasses for two hours can be an effort.

If you can take out time, though it would be out of plexes pretty soon, check it out; you may end up having a nice time. Even come out wondering - boy...where are my toys?

Rating ***1/2

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed at Fun Cinemas, Bangalore with Bhumika, 6.30 pm show. Great to see kids around who enjoy such stuff.]

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How They Write A Script: Alvin Sargent

Scott Myers has recently posted some terrific stuff on his excellent blog, Go Into The Story: thoughts of top screenwriters in his series: How They Write A Script.

Here's one on one of the legends:

How They Write A Script: Alvin Sargent

Alvin Sargent is one of the most well-respected screenwriters in Hollywood. He's the brother of Herb Sargent who up until his death in 2005 was president of the WGA, East and is married to long-time Hwood producer Laura Ziskin. One look at his screenwriting credits -- Paper Moon (1973), Julia (1977), Ordinary People (1980), Nuts (1987), Spiderman 2 (2004), and Spiderman 3 (2007), among many more -- and you know you are dealing with a top-flight professional.

When I first broke into screenwriting as a profession in 1987, I read everything I could on every screenwriter -- and to this day, some of the best advice I found during that time was from Alvin Sargent. Beyond everything else, Sargent challenges writers to leap before they look, take risks, get messy. That, he insists, is how we find the magic in our characters and stories. And so, here are some choice quotes from Alvin Sargent, gathered from books and articles over the years.


"I do a great deal of free-associating. Talk, for pages and pages, I don't know what's going on. Then I find something alive--I hope. I think too many people are too organized; they've got it all worked out, instead of hearing their characters first. Get the goop out first, then organize."


"Over a period of time, I begin to understand them, to think about them not only in terms of where they are in the story. I think about where these people are today, even when I'm not writing. Sometimes they never come back, and so sometimes I fire them."


"Rigidity is the mother of rigidity. It's very exciting to be ridiculous. I wish I could be even more so than I am. Jump! Jumping is a lifeline, not the suicide or the predictable. It brings you to life. Take the character and put him where he least wants to be. If it's honest, it'll be worth exploring."


"My confidence grows or dissolves with each day's work. As I work and start to see 'it' happening and realize that I'm moving somewhere, that there's some kind of real life, then it's a good day.

"But when it doesn't seem to be working for a long time, or you just can't find the truth, then the terror sets in. You must not stop. You cannot give in to anxiety. Maintain energy. Drive. Rage. Whatever it takes to keep writing.

"Even though you can't immediately solve problems, that doesn't mean the work isn't alive. You go back. Back to the beginning. The process is to move into it, come up to it, step by step, find out where you've hit it wrong, what's dishonest. Where you've gone wrong usually involves a matter of honesty. You've been dishonest either to the character or to the structure of the piece."


"You must write everyday. Free yourself. Free association. An hour alone a day. Blind writing. Write in the dark. Don't think about what it is you're writing. Just put a piece of paper in the typewriter, take your clothes off and go! No destination... pay it no attention... it's pure unconscious exercise. Pages of it. Keep it up until embarrassment disappears. Eliminate resistance. Look at it in the morning. Amazing sometimes. Most of it won't make any sense. But there'll always be a small kernel of truth that relates to what you're working on at the time. You won't even know you created it. It will appear, and it is yours. Pure gold, a product of that pure part of you that does not know how to resist."

How They Write A Script: Alvin Sargent

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Must-See: Pixar President's The Economist Interview

Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar talks about how the organization works. On feedback, self-censorship, creativity, audience, team dynamics, crisis...

Lessons for any business enterprise:
Tea with Ed Catmull
(11.27 mins)

Rosenbaum on Trailers & Product Plugs

Jonathan Rosenbaum opined this in 1990:

If my paranoid suspicions are correct, Hollywood has embarked on a 12-year plan regarding the public consumption of trailers. The plan, which has become fully apparent to me over the past year, will come to fruition in the year 2000, and its basic goal, as I see it, is to turn movies themselves into full-fledged commercials that people will pay money to see.

Once we start thinking about subliminal or near-subliminal messages in trailers, it's also worth considering ads for nonmovie products within movies, which are perhaps even more indicative of what's to come.

Perhaps if the multinational marketers eventually have their way, we will have feature-length trailers, packed with product placements for items that can be sold in the lobby on our way out of the theaters.

With such a system firmly in place, all the movies we'll see in theaters and on video will be separate feature-length trailers for a single blockbuster that's perpetually in production — a blockbuster that will never be completed because the economic advisers will soon realize that after years of such hoopla, no movie could possibly live up to so much buildup and hype. By then, however, it won't matter, because people will be perfectly happy with these enticing trailers.

(Unkept promises are always the sweetest.)

Full article:
Movies: The Big Shill [on trailers & product plugs]

Friday, June 4, 2010

Must Read: Pixar Revealed!

Perhaps the greatest film company in history considering it's 100% blockbuster strike-rate and super films, Pixar also works with a different model. Not 'freelancing' based but as a corporate where film-makers and crew are employees. Of course it helps when most of the them are amongst the smartest dudes in the game.

Check out this blog:
Pixar Revealed!



"You have to remember," he continues, "I spent 10 years sitting alone in Brooklyn working on my own scripts and getting dribs and drabs of feedback every couple of weeks. And suddenly, it's like you're crawling through the desert and one day you drill down and hit a geyser. Sitting in on those Brain Trust meetings have been some of the most exhilarating moments of my creative life."


"People say that writing is re-writing," he [Arndt] continues, "but that leaves out a crucial part of the equation: the feedback you get prior to your re-write. Pixar stories work because of the robustness of the story feedback system."


Arndt's observations on his time at Pixar only confirm what many film pundits and fans have long suspected: Pixar's films are such rousing successes because of the attention each individual at the studio dedicates to the screenplays.


"Andrew Stanton's rule of thumb is that it takes 10 man-years of labor to make a good screenplay,"

Well the link is to a blog; the complete article would be in the magazine, Creative Screenwriting. Here's Scott Myers' blog with a lot of dope:

Pixar Revealed!

Monday, May 31, 2010




That means writing your first spec, making a million mistakes, writing another one, making half a million more, writing your third one, then entering it in contests, then sending query letters to managers who never get back to you, and even though you really don't want to because you know it's going to be awkward, calling that friend of a friend of a gaffer because he's the only person you know in LA and begging him to read your script, and doing all that shit for two years until a manager finally calls you back and wants to hip-pocket you.

It includes taking any meeting (in person or on the phone) and selling the shit out of yourself and finally getting a lousy $1500 re-rewrite on an awful independent horror film even after your manager disappears with the money and you're forced to do it for free.

Then taking more meetings and landing a few more small gigs and through the connections you've made, finding an agent. Then getting some even bigger jobs, and maybe becoming a jr. writer on a TV show that ends up becoming a cult hit, and using that buzz to rewrite some direct-to-DVD sequel for a movie you actually watched in the theater, and then, through this vast network of connections you've created during all this time, going to your top 5 contacts when you're finally convinced that your action-adventure masterpiece in the vein of Indiana Jones is ready, and pitching it to them.

And having them all say no to you, and then seriously considering giving up this crazy business because all it is is a bunch of heartache and then getting a call from someone you don't remember and having them explain that you sent them a script seven years ago when they were a gaffer, and now they're a producer at Warner Brothers and they just read your script and thought it was amazing, but it's not quite what they're looking for, but oh by the way, do you happen to have anything in the action adventure genre? Maybe something like Indiana Jones?............And somehow, one week later, you did it. You sold a fucking screenplay.

And if that sounds like the most miserable experience ever to you, then I'm going to be honest here. You probably aren't cut out for screenwriting. Because this is how people usually find success in this business. And for those who stick around, it's wonderful, because you realize at some point that it was never about the spec sale in the first place. It was about your love of writing.

So I'll say it again. The one thing that you have 100% control over in this crazy industry, is writing the best script you're capable of writing. That's it. Don't get caught up in whether some shitty script sells and what that means for your writing. That doesn't have any bearing on you whatsoever. You just need to write the BEST SCRIPT you're capable of writing. That's it. And if you keep doing that, over and over again, at a certain point, you just may write something amazing…that sells…to a gaffer.


Sunday, May 30, 2010


It was an interesting experience - watching a film that goes so much in flash-back and other images that you are lost about its linearity.

The film starts with a girl asking her guy: so how will you kill me again tonight? And the guy...actually kills her!

The guy, the protagonist is a top-cop who is in charge of the administration. For most of the film he ensures that the suspicion for the murder is cast on someone else and yet...he feeds the police clues to get to him.

Interspersed are flash-back of this strange act. Story of his affair with the girl, who is shown as extremely playful and seductive and their interactions border on fantasy at times. She is the vulnerable girl who wants a man, and he is the power that loves to control. She encourages him to test her statement - he could get away with any thing.

As the film doesn't reveal much, and has cuts that seem to place you in situations of which you don't have much idea, it's only when you patiently go ahead you get the idea on what's happening.'s clear that that's what Petri is trying to do - keep you going at a fast pace, not giving you much scope to devour stuff and yet....slowly unfolding the story. All the while making a comment on the government, society and perhaps a message - all power corrupts.

The film seems jittery. The dialogue, the dubbing seems too loud. And maybe it all works for a story that has a plot which doesn't flow straight. But the telling also induces a good deal of humor.

The lead, Gian Maria Volontè is very much on the mark. Though he may feel weird, but then everyone may appear that way and yet...everyone is on the mark too! Petri plays with extreme close-ups for most of the part. Volontè is the one who is almost in every frame and the technique of being right in the face is something you rarely watch.

There is good amount of heavy camerawork - from hand-held to crane shots that change angles in drastic manner. Considering the suspense angle, it plays a lot in the night.

The 3rd Act turns things around since the man in power gets caught up in his own web, as if the ghosts have come to haunt him and he is forced to acknowledge his sin and crime. Yet the irony plays out - the system doesn't believe him, it's too important for them to be in their own league - where they can't make a mistake, as such their subordinate is clean too.

The music is powerful, which ensures that this film of murder carries suspense not in terms of finding the killer, which is revealed in the first scene but in terms of where the story is headed.

I heard someone commenting that you can't make such a film in India. True. People will not get it. And it is perhaps too intellectual, though it doesn't dig too much into the unknown. As a story it would be pretty interesting, but the non-linear, too much of flashback, would unnerve the majority.

However the question should be - would anyone be able to make such a film - have the skills to tell such a story?

Director: Elio Petri
Writer: Elio Petri, Ugo Pirro

[Won Best Foreign Film Oscar, 1970]

Rating ***

[Max Rating ****]

[Watched it on 29th May, 2010; 4.00 pm at Bangalore, Langford Gardens; Naresh's 3rd floor in the training room on top of his office; the Film Club that meets every Saturday]

Blog: Why do some great movies fail at box office while others succeed?

The choice of release dates and exhibition strategy, along with marketing plans are a couple of major reasons why good movies don't succeed at the box office. But really the issue almost always derives from the story itself.

If it is a cross-genre movie, one that doesn't have one clearly targeted demographic group, a story that is nuanced and has multiple layers of meaning, that all spells trouble from a marketing and distribution standpoint.

Why do some great movies fail at box office while others succeed?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Carlos - Looks Like a Masterpiece

A 5-hr-plus film about the terrorist, Carlos that covers a massive terrain. Todd McCarthy reviews. And opines:

The film's scope, range and ambition are incredible; it's set in at least 16 countries over a 21-year period, and at all times features the characters speaking the languages they would have spoken in the relevant situations—Carlos himself shifts effortlessly among Spanish, English, French, German, Russian and Arabic.

"Carlos" is everything "Che" wanted to be and much, much more—a dynamic, convincing and revelatory account of a notorious revolutionary terrorist's career that rivets the attention during every one of its 321 minutes. In what is certainly his best work, French director Olivier Assayas adopts a fleet, ever-propulsive style that creates an extraordinary you-are-there sense of verisimilitude, while Edgar Ramirez inhabits the title role with arrogant charisma of Brando in his prime. It's an astonishing film.

The long review of Todd McCarthy

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So you’re moving to Hollywood

George Sloan is a writers' assistant on "How I Met Your Mother." He graciously agreed to write up a primer for recent college grads considering making the move to Hollywood.

So you're moving to Hollywood

Monday, May 10, 2010

Audio (Films Discussion) + Blogs

What a nice way to discuss films...calm and cool talk. Anne Thompson is a 'big' one on the film circuit.

Anne Thompson does more than just break news; she provides an insider's clear-eyed analysis of a business that defines culture at home and abroad.

Here's another guy who would be interesting to read, if you are not aware about him - Todd McCarthy. A legendary film critic (who also made a famous documentary on cinematographers - Visions of Light; the film was a strong recommendation at CFS.) 

He was the center of news some time back since he was asked to leave Variety, where he had served for years. He was famous for, what Mr. Taran Adarsh and that other genius, Komal Nahata do in Bollywood - predict BO performance, what kind of an audience the film was likely to reach, besides his own evaluation; Todd would typically be the 1st guy to review a film in USA and he is a very respected film journalist. (Ebert was so angry that he commented - I shall never read Variety again.)

His sacking and of some others in the past shows the reality of our times - print is dying, and Web doesn't pay.

Great to know though that Todd is back with a blog:

Ebert is terrific as ever (his journal is some thing:)

Check out his latest one, which can overwhelm:

And just for the record, here's the mother of all blogs when it comes to film study / analysis. As per Ebert, he is the finest film writer in the country:

When you read such blogs you realize how deep is the passion of these buggers for films and how much effort they put to express themselves and share their dope on cinema. 

If ever you want to delve into deeper levels of film, keep checking these out and...more!

All the best...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ebert's Blog: The golden age of movie critics

Thoughts of  Roger Ebert on the dying and thriving field of film criticism:

Ebert's Blog: The golden age of movie critics


Never before have more critics written more or better words for more readers about more films.

Film criticism is still a profession, but it's no longer an occupation. You can't make any money at it. This provides an opportunity for those who care about movies and enjoy expressing themselves.

I love movies, and I love writing about them and reading about them. I feel like part of a truly World Wide Web (and what a magical term that is--worthy of science fiction). I know good movies are valued everywhere, and good writing. Michael Caine loves to say "Not everybody knows that." I know secrets not everybody knows, one of which is that large part of the future of literary English centers on the Indian subcontinent.

Another thing not everybody knows is that some of the best critical writing on the web can found in seemingly specialist sites, devoted to science fiction, film noir, animation, horror, silent films, anime and so on.

I tell young students: Take film courses, certainly. But cover the liberal arts. Take English literature, drama, art, music, and the areas Bordwell lists. Don't train for a career--train for a life. The career will take care of itself, and give you more satisfaction than a surrender to corporate or professional bureaucracy.

Then Homer said words of the greatest significance: "I'm trying to figure out what I can do with that." That's what an education is for. That's what life is for. That's the discovery made by these extraordinary writers I've found on the World Wide Web. Find out all you can, and see what you can do with it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blog: The scourge of screenwriting - free rewrites

(Well, one scourge, anyway...)
by Alexandra Sokoloff 

I'm quoting/linking this Variety article because this is an issue that anyone who is contemplating a career in screenwriting should be aware of. The prevalence of the one-step deal (read below) and the endless free rewrites that come with it is one of the main factors that drove me to write my first novel. 

I realized I could write a whole book - (that I would own the copyright to, which is actually a whole other rant) in the time I was being coerced into doing draft after draft of free work on a screen project I knew very well would never get produced. 

The Variety article:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Video Interview: Anderson and Lewis

A funny & insightful discussion. About the fascinating film, There Will Be Blood. With those amazing guys - Anderson and Daniel-Day Lewis; get quite a 'look' into Lewis' way of working.

Very interesting - the long prep-work they did was mostly done long-distance! But...slogged they did.

Long (55-min) interview but...fascinating, especially the talk on the 'correction' they did. Wonderful to see these blokes!

Anderson words: It begins and ends with writing.

Oh boy...found another one - Scorsese and Lewis (Gangs of New York):

Ooops...bad audio :-(

Must-Watch: Screenwriters Talk

Discovered this documentary (excerpts only.) Looks like great insight from top Hollywood writers along with some legends' and...a sure reality-check for would-be screenwriters!


Official Trailer (2.33)

Advice for Screenwriters (8.54)

The Site (also present as a book:)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kurosawa Gems on Screenwriting

Kurosawa on Screenwriting
Posted on Apr 19, 2010 in Featured, MM on Monday

With a good script a good director can produce a masterpiece; with the same script a mediocre director can make a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can't possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. That is what makes a real movie. The script must be something that has the power to do this.

n order to write scripts, you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world. You must consider why they are great. Where does the emotion come from that you feel as you read them? What degree of passion did the author have to have, what level of meticulousness did he have to command, in order to portray the characters and events as he did? You must read thoroughly, to the point where you can grasp all these things.

You must also see the great films. You must read the great screenplays and study the film theories of the great directors. If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting.

A good structure for a screenplay is that of the symphony, with its three or four movements and differing tempos. Or one can use the Noh play with its three-part structure: jo (introduction), ha (destruction) and kyu (haste). If you devote yourself fully to Noh and gain something good from this, it will emerge naturally in your films.

The Noh is a truly unique art form that exists nowhere else in the world. I think the Kabuki, which imitates it, is a sterile flower. But in a screenplay, I think the symphonic structure is the easiest for the people of today to understand.

Something that you should take particular notice of is the fact that the best scripts have very few explanatory passages. Adding explanation to the descriptive passages of a screenplay is the most dangerous trap you can fall into.

It's easy to explain the psychological state of a character at a particular moment, but it's very difficult to describe it through the delicate nuances of action and dialogue. Yet it is not impossible. A great deal about this can be learned from the study of the great plays, and I believe the "hard-boiled" detective novels can also be very instructive.

I began writing scripts with two other people around 1940. Up until then I wrote alone, and found that I had no difficulties. But in writing alone there is a danger that your interpretation of another human being will suffer from one-sidedness. If you write with two other people about that human being, you get at least three different viewpoints on him, and you can discuss the points on which you disagree. Also, the director has a natural tendency to nudge the hero and the plot along into a pattern that is the easiest one for him to direct. By writing with about two other people, you can avoid this danger also.

I've forgotten who it was that said creation is memory. My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create

I write down my reactions and what particularly moves me. I have stacks and stacks of these college notebooks, and when I go off to write a script, these are what I read. Somewhere they always provide me with a point of breakthourgh. Even for single lines of dialogue I have taken hints from these notebooks. So what I want to say is, don't read books while lying down in bed.

A novel and a screenplay are entirely different things. The freedom for psychological description one has in writing a novel is particularly difficult to adapt to a screenplay without using narration.

Characters in a film have their own existence. The filmmaker has no freedom. If he insists on his authority and is allowed to manipulate his characters like puppets, the film loses its vitality.

At some point in the writing of every script I feel like giving the whole thing up. From my many experiences of writing screenplays, however, I have learned something: If I hold fast in the face of this blankness and despair, adopting the tactic of Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect, who glared at the wall that stood in his way until his legs became useless, a path will open up.

Those who say an assistant director's job doesn't allow him any free time for writing are just cowards. Perhaps you can write only one page a day, but if you do it every day, at the end of the year you'll have 365 pages of script. I began in this spirit, with a target of one page a day.

There was nothing I could do about the nights I had to work till dawn, but when I had time to sleep, even after crawling into bed I would turn out two or three pages. Oddly enough, when I put my mind to writing, it came more easily than I had thought it would, and I wrote quite a few scripts.

Kurosawa on Screenwriting

Monday, April 5, 2010


There are moments in LSD when someone declares love, blushes in shyness, shows anger, reveals frustration and you know you have been witness to exactly such incidents. This is the beauty of such a film that highlights moments you can relate to and know people who are like these characters in real life.

One of India's most promising filmmakers, Dibakar Banerjee delivers another solid tale. The fact that this guy knows how to weave a good story is proven by the fact that he works with a not-so-normal formats and absolutely fresh talent to make some interesting comments on our society and critically doing a very good job of story-telling.

He also takes the challenge of telling three different stories through three different formats - camcorder, store-cam and spy-cam. Though linked with each other on the surface they work on their own as distinct stories.

What stands out the most is the cleverness to deal with such topical subjects and through different ways including reality-tv format. The whole film thanks to the real characters works on the real level. Even though you are not used to seeing such fare on the big screen.

It's an interesting choice. Feeding audience an experience on a screen, which they are not used to. And at the same time, they witness it all the time on television, internet and even on cell. The film is chiefly based on today's youth and since they are exposed to all these formats it's definitely a smart way to shake the cinema presentation.

Eventually it has to be all about the story. That's where Dibakar scores very well. He focuses on each tale with two main characters and forces them in situations that is the bane of our times. There is the powerful story of a couple falling in love and running away to marry but with tragic consequences. Then about a guy who befriends a girl in a shop with the intention of shooting a sex clip. Last is the sting operation of a man with the help of a girl to expose an exploitative singer.

The key thing what Dibakar does and which could impact the film-going experience to a big extent is dealing with topics in the way it is. You have couples getting cozy as in real life. Getting into intimacy and sex. And critically with characterization just like of real folks.

Dibakar for the third straight time focuses on Delhi where he belongs to and again does a good job in depicting the mannerisms of Delhites. However it's all about emotions and that's what he captures very well most of the times.

The first story about a couple falling in love and running away is extremely powerful which takes a dig on Bollywood and how every one reveres 'Adi Sir'. This story with enough time between the protagonists works the best. The end of the story is quite chilling.

The second story about the store manager trying to woo the salesgirl depicts the dark side of many a young Delhiites pretty well. The best part is the casting of the girl. However it's her character that somewhat has a problem as it jumps too suddenly to make the transition from a introverted girl to one making advances with too much of ease.

The third story is more fun than serious and seems a bit stretched. This is one story that tries to do too much and one wishes that it was more gripping. Yet to end it with this flavor of humor has a nice effect which resolves with the scene where all three stories got connected and ending with the title song of LSD, which is good fun.

The critical question and the most challenging thing to do - how does it work to tell stories through such formats? Especially when it tries to deliberately be off-the-mark. Many times, perhaps most times it works great even if you don't see the faces of people since emotionally the scenes have been setup well. However there are a few times when you would have liked to stay a bit more with the characters; lil' more close-ups, slower pace of cutting.

Even Oye Lucky Lucky Oye had this issue of trying to go too fast. Another solid entertaining flick with great tempo but trying to build too fast a momentum at times.

Point is - had there been less shaking and more focus on the characters it could have been better. Though staying close to his central characters help in a big way when the plots unfold with conflict and tension rises, which Dibakar manages pretty well.

When you see today's cinema under the pretext of realism delivering cliche after cliche and then you see a film like LSD that effectively captures the characteristics of our society, that too with people who nobody in Bollywood would dare to touch, you wonder what's wrong with the country, with the industry.

 It seems every one is blindfolded but a few like Dibakar have insight that provides so much meaning to this rusted fraternity. If there's hope, it's only thanks to folks like him.

Rating ***

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed at Fun Chembur on 31st March, 2010, 10.30 am show. Just 11 people but three Sonepat 50+ folks who were busy on the phone but seemed to enjoy the film.]


A riveting film on the father of cinema. You watch it and wonder - why the hell no one thought of doing it before!

One also wonders if this should have been a big scale flick, which everyone in India ought to see, but then...this film with (apparently) its limited budget does a tremendous job of showing the story of Dada Saheb Phalke.

The best thing about the film is the focus on the sole objective of the protagonist - to make a film. There is an introduction on how he gets interested and sucked-in by the magic of the moving pictures and from then on, Phalke moves forward facing obstacles and overcoming them to do what he has willed to do - make the film.

The cast is great and Nandu Madhav as Phalke is terrific. Paresh Mokashi presents Phalke as a forward-thinking, family-oriented, obsessive man, who you cannot but love; the overall presentation is light-hearted with almost every scene constructed on humor and comical situation; the old school / generation music adds to the effect thereby creating a fun-loving feel.

There is a clever use of fast-speed shots in montage reflecting the films of earlier times since the frames/second speed was much less (remember Chaplin flicks.) This also adds to the momentum and makes the journey pretty smooth.

Mokashi makes a few comments on the social culture of the times like showing a husband being an equal partner but by stringently focusing on telling just one story the film works very well. It's interesting to note that since the objective is one and the driver is Phalke, his family becomes an integral part of the process since they are the ones sharing the frame; ably supporting him in his endeavor it creates a great atmosphere.

The journey is so interesting of this captivating character who is also seen as a maniac by others that you want to experience a journey that shows his inner self too, and this is an area where the film weaves on a different track.

It plays somewhat from a back-foot and showcases more on the incidents that enable him making the film. This is alright but not being close to this personality doesn't let you be with him. There are not many close-ups or moments when you need to see him weighing the obstacles.

Yes there are pauses but too short; rightly so...the protagonist takes action and keeps going on; would like to stall with him for moments and take a peek inside his character that's forever forward going.

It's an interesting way to present a film. One can realize the limitations of production and it's great to see what they have done - how they create an authentic period within their resources.

However this is the journey of a man who had tremendous passion and importantly an immensely strong bring-in a change, a new aspect that would alter the social environment of a country hope you can see more of that.

This is also borne by the fact that the film somewhat ends too quickly for comfort; also as they do a commendable job of building it up and up - rising action - you expect to see an ending that would do justice by going further. It doesn't fail though a better reflection of the man would have been great.

Yes this is a personal thing, and I feel showcasing his real film, which they actually do with the British audience, needed to come-in at a much higher energy point.

In fact, this film could have even dealt with a freeze-frame. Not saying that otherwise it wouldn't work as great, is a film, on a great subject, on a great man, undertaking an arduous journey, coming-up triumph, pioneering a new movement in a do want to stay with this person who is willing to sacrifice every thing to make his film.

It's a great family film too. Backing the man of the house so they can see his ambition being achieved. wonders why no one thought of this man before - to do a film on the man who made India's first ever film.

Rating ***1/2

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on Mac at Chembur on 30th March, 2010 courtesy Ankur]


The master filmmaker, Shyam Benegal comes back with a film that revolves around social messages. There is a certain feel that makes you want to like the film and to quite an extent you have a good reason too but since the story doesn't grip pretty well it's an experience that's so-so.

The chief reason for enjoying the films are two - the locale that provides a kind of freshness and acting. The latter is mainly due to one person - Boman Irani. Benegal relies on his usual set of actors to fill-up other characters (Rajat Kapoor, Lalit Tiwari, Ila Arun and others) to do a good job and everyone does well.

However the problem lies in the structure - there are too many angles and too many characters who come across as uni-dimensional. When the focus is to focus on the various themes, it tends to do too much.

Boman is a driver who comes to visit his village to get his daughter (Minishaa Lamba) married and decides to open a well, for which he is supposed to get government funding. As he goes through the various legalities he discovers the enormity of the problems he and others face as nothing happens without a bribe. Together with his daughter and her lover he makes an plan to con the system and uses the politics to get his work done.

Benegal tries to point out the hassles of the systems by revolving the plot around the water problem and also comments on various other themes like women reservation & daughter-seen-as-a-burden. He plays within the comedy genre and as such most of the characters end up being caricatures.

This still would have worked but for the plot to move smoothly. The challenging middle-act meanders here and there - the so-called rising complications are not just cohesive. Despite being the man driving the case, you are not necessarily sold in to this strong motivation; this seems to be the case of doing too much and not finding enough meat to chew.

Once it's established that the system sucks, then....the story tries to go on other aspects. To give the due, all the other threads do revolve around the main plot but eliciting laughter tends to be the focus, which makes the focus on the characters and their excessive antics.

I wonder if working with a talented actor like Irani tends to create its own pressure. Irani is exceptional in creating mannerisms and providing exceptional characterization; this demands that the story should flow exceedingly well else the attention is drawn to him.

The film starts pretty well in establishing the story but loses its control as it attempts to cover too much of a ground.

On minor front (or major, depending on how one's sees it) - there seem to be some continuity issues. Just before Lamba's wedding, a tragic scene unfolds - her friend 'sold' to a Sheikh in Gulf has been abandoned; her mom is understandably broken and in the very next scene she is playing the 'dholak' with gay abandon.

I am also not sure if the opening scene was required. Irani is a driver in Bombay and since he arrives late (by two months,) his boss wants to fire him. But as he is going to Pune Irani tells him to hear his story and then take a call. Except for some sort of a metaphorical meaning (maybe?!) there is no use of this story.

Since this is not the main track and one has no purpose of being on the drive, this could have been cut to the scene in office itself. In fact, if one wanted, the whole office scene coud have been chucked and the story would have worked as it is.

Benegal is perhaps the most learned filmmaker in the country, who has made terrific films. To see such fare, which you want to like very much but isn't there doesn't make you feel pretty good. Maybe this was a quick-shoot, a quickly-done-with-flick but that's not justification for missing the bus.

But one can't give up the hope that he would be back with a much stronger tale. So...fingers crossed for the next one.

Rating **

Max Rating ****

[Viewed at Fun Chembur, 11.15am show with Jaspal on 27th March, 2010]