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tell stories, read books, fight evil
13 Oct
From, THE DIRECTOR’S NOTEBOOK
10 horror stories, high hilarity and half-truths
1. CLUELESS
At wrap you stumble back to your room praying for 6 hours of sleep. Years later will learn the DP was fucking the boom man, the producer left his wife and the crew had an intervention for the key grip. While you in your room doing the next day’s homework, you geek.
2. EMOTION
The director wanted him to cry. After hearing, ‘cut,’ the actor burst into tears. When asked why, he said his character was trying NOT to cry and the tears were his, not the character’s. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘the audience will cry because I didn’t.’ He was right.
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5 Oct
10 TALES FROM THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
Anecdotes, true and otherwise
1.DIFFERENT STROKES
The legendary actor insisted on having holes cut in his pants pockets so he could hold his genitals while acting. One day the costumer innocently sewed them up. In the middle of a take he started cursing and stomped off the set. She was fired the next day.
2.PANIC
The actor hated the table read and announced he was quitting the movie. The director pleaded, chided and browbeat him for hours. In the end he did the movie, which became a huge hit. The actor and director never worked together again.
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21 Sep
THE MOVIE PRODUCER’S LAMENT
10 things to consider and reconsider
1. FAITH
You call agents; they don’t return your calls. You check your email; the studio cancelled the meeting; the actor didn’t read your script. You read an unsolicited screenplay. This could be the one! Everything is an act of faith. You reinvent your life every day.
2. POLLYANNA
Every year at the Oscars you hear the same speech, “Everyone in town turned it down.” Yours keeps getting turned down, too, but could it use another draft? Doesn’t matter that your mom loved it; are you gimlet-eyed about its flaws? Simply put, good isn’t good enough
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14 Sep
A DIRECTOR’S CAREER
Contradictions, calamities & compromises
1. IT NEVER STOPS
Fred Zinneman, winner of 4 Oscars, director of 50 films, was in a meeting with a young development executive. To break the ice, she politely asked, “So tell me what you’ve been up to...” To which he politely responded, “You first.”
2. IT NEVER STOPS, PT.II
Following his first Oscar, Mike Nichols was cutting the big, problematic “Catch 22” when he heard about a little indy called M*A*S*H and took a peek. He was so depressed by its irreverent genius he went home and couldn’t get out of bed for a week.
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8 Sep
10 THINGS ABOUT DIRECTING ACTORS
Technique, Tips & Trauma
1.RESULT DIRECTION
Don’t ever tell an actor you want him to cry. If an actor is thinking about a result, it blocks the internal process that allows him to reach the emotion in an authentic way. Besides, the goal isn’t to make the actor cry, it’s to make the audience cry.
2.INTERPRETATION
Actors and directors talk about “choices.” Predictable choices are boring, but arbitrary ones can be awful. Any choice is better than being “on the word.” If the dialogue’s good, it will take care of itself, but only if there'ssomething going on underneath it.
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8 Sep
10 THINGS ABOUT DIRECTING ACTORS
Technique, Tips & Trauma
1.RESULT DIRECTION
Don’t ever tell an actor you want him to cry. If an actor is thinking about a result, it blocks the internal process that allows him to reach the emotion in an authentic way. Besides, the goal isn’t to make the actor cry, it’s to make the audience cry.
2.INTERPRETATION
Actors and directors talk about “choices.” Predictable choices are boring, but arbitrary ones can be awful. Any choice is better than being “on the word.” If the dialogue’s good, it will take care of itself, but only if there's something going on underneath it.
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31 Aug
A SCREENWRITER’S OMNIBUS
Tips, tricks, & tirades
1.PRIMING THE PUMP
Always leave something undone at the end of your writing day. You’ll have a running start in the morning. Think about your script in the moments between waking and rising. There’s an image in your head, you don’t know why. The elves were working overtime.
2.HOMEWORK
Study great scripts not to imitate, but to learn the architecture. Internalize the beats and tropes of genre to understand the audience’s expectations and subvert them. Picasso could paint beautiful portraits before he rearranged the faces.
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16 Aug
THE DIRECTOR’S PSYCHE
Where the DSM-5 meets the DGA
1.FOCUS OR FUGUE STATE
No one wants to talk to the director while he’s shooting. Anxiety surrounds him like a toxic cloud. He appears possessed as he acts along with the actors on the monitor. Don’t even try having a human moment. Just pat his shoulder and move on.
2.LONELY AT THE TOP
The crew harkens to your every word. The actors take your direction. But nobody really cares how the authority figure is feeling. If she got a good night’s sleep. If her marriage is okay. Alienation comes with the gig. In dreams begin responsibilities
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9 Aug
THE DIRECTOR IN PREP
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
1. WHY MAKE IT?
Making any movie is ungodly hard. Ask yourself if it’s worth it and what you are making. And don’t say ‘money’ because there are easier ways. Only if your answer can sustain you for two years do you have a chance of holding an audience’s interest for two hours.
2. ASSEMBLING YOUR TEAM
Has the Line Producer worked with different size budgets? Has the DP shot big night exteriors, the AD repeated with the same director? Casting them is as important as the actors. If in doubt, call a director on their resume. There’s honor among thieves.
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3 Aug
A DIRECTOR'S CONFESSIONS
Technique, tricks & trauma
1. HOW DO YOU CAST A MOVIE STAR?
They don’t audition and a polite meeting might be their best performance. Try watching their interviews on YouTube for those moments the presentational mask slips and something authentic is revealed. That’s who’ll show up on set.
2. MEDITATION
Get to the set before everybody else – before the chaos of production begins. Close your eyes. Breathe. In the stillness of an empty sound stage you can do the entire day’s work in a few minutes. Makes the rest of the day feel like post-production.
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27 Jul
A SCREENWRITER'S RUMINATIONS
Practices, precepts & prescriptions
1. SENDING YOUR SCRIPT
Who should you let read it before you hit ‘send?’ Do you want criticism or are you only looking for praise? A reader should be able to turn to any page at random and be able to tell whether it’s worth his time. Too harsh? Not if your career depends on it.
2. THE PITCH
Craft a confident false self, a mask behind which The Real You can scream, “Who are you to judge my work ?!” Use the phrase “strong, independent woman” as often as possible even if your movie is about the Bataan death march. Smile! You’ve become Willy Loman.
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19 Jul
10 MORE THINGS ABOUT DIRECTING ACTORS
communication, confrontation & confession
1. THE HUMAN FACTOR
Stunts are tedious but a car or a helicopter will do pretty much as you expect. Actors, not so much. They hear music you can’t imagine and their volatility is a gift. Forget your expectations. Open your heart. Let them give you the miracle of themselves.
2. THE EXCHANGE
Actors rip their souls apart and show them to you. The least you can do is try a bit of the same. Doesn’t have to be deep personal confession. But you’ll be amazed just how much you get in return for losing some of your inhibitions and sharing the feels.
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6 Jul
THE MOVIE DIRECTOR'S WORKBOOK
Homework, playtime, and prayer
1.THE DIRECTOR’S SCRIPT
Create a new script on the opposite page from the dialogue. Include everything: camera moves, business, blocking. Breaking down of a script is a dress rehearsal in your head, but it’s just an exercise. Nothing is ever as you plan. Always work in pencil.
2. BREAKING DOWN YOUR SCRIPT
Don't accept what the writer gave you even if you’re the writer. Whatever you imagined will be different once it’s on its feet. Your job is to figure it out on the day. No do-overs. Directing begins with preparation and flowers in improvisation
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22 Jun
FROM, A SCREENWRITER'S NOTEBOOK
observations, incantations and exhortations Image
1. MAGIC
There’s a time of despair in every first draft. This is a hormonal condition common to all writers. The only remedy is to put it away and take a walk. By morning you'll find it better than you feared. Or not. Perhaps the elves will come overnight and rewrite it.
2. LARCENY
Good artists borrow, great artists steal. Every artist is a thief; some are just sneakier than others. Just as painters learn by imitation you put someone else's work in your own voice until one day you find you actually have a voice. And then someone steals from you.
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8 Jun
THE SCREENWRITER'S CRAFT
theory, practice & the marketplace
1. SHAME
How many times do we finish a first draft and realize we’ve accomplished everything except what we most intended? The hardest thing to overcome is our inhibition to reveal what’s personal, yet shame is invariably the thing with which others most identify.
2. SECRETS & LIES
The challenge is finding something of ourselves in each character. Especially the shadow side. We are all criminals and saints. To understand a character, you must first understand his dreams and fears. What are yours?
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13 Apr
LIVING THE HOLLYWOOD LIFE
(dis)enchantment
1.SEX AND HOLLYWOOD
Saul Zaentz, the legendary producer from SF, once told me he’d lived through the Summer of Love, read the Kama Sutra cover to cover and believed he knew everything there was to know about getting fucked. Then he came to Hollywood.
2.PITCHING A SERIES IS EASY
All you need is six seasons’ worth of a serialized story complete with cliff-hangers, a pilot outline, character arcs, a sizzle reel, a look book, and “a hook.” And maybe some “rules” for “world building.” In a twenty-minute zoom call. On spec.
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13 Apr
HOLLYWOOD: LIVING THE LIFE
(dis)enchantment
1.SEX AND HOLLYWOOD
Saul Zaentz, the legendary producer from SF, once told me he’d lived through the Summer of Love, read the Kama Sutra cover to cover and believed he knew everything there was to know about getting fucked. Then he came to Hollywood.
2.PITCHING A SERIES IS EASY
All you need is six seasons’ worth of a serialized story complete with cliff-hangers, a pilot outline, character arcs, a sizzle reel, a look book, and “a hook.” And maybe some “rules” for “world building.” In a twenty-minute zoom call. On spec.
Read 9 tweets
6 Apr
A YOUNG DIRECTOR IN HOLLYWOOD
First lessons - nuts and bolts Image
1. FIRST LESSON
One day I arrived on set 12 minutes late. My AD took me aside, “Look around, how many people do you see?” “60?” I guessed. “And they’ve all been waiting,” he said, “now multiply those 12 minutes by 60. That makes you 12 hours late.” I’ve never been late again.
2. THE AD KNOWS
Skip had been a Ranger in Vietnam and had worked on huge movies. For years until he retired, we’d drive to work together at dawn and plan the shooting day. I’d sometimes make fun of his endless lectures but damn if I wasn't prepared by the time we arrived.
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2 Apr
10 MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT DIRECTING ACTORS
Apparently the first ten weren’t quite enough…
1. TREAT MOVIE STARS AS ACTORS
Being #1 on the call sheet brings with it an enormous and often unwanted responsibility. Relieve them of the burden of having to lead. That’s your job. Everybody needs help. Direct them. We’re all advanced beginners.
2. TREAT ACTORS AS MOVIE STARS
Consider the years being dismissed and depreciated, the hours working on material only to spend five minutes in a casting session before being rejected. They’ve earned this part. Give them your time and attention. It’s good karma.
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10 Mar
10 THOUGHTS ABOUT DIRECTING ACTORS
Actor (n.) generic
1. WHEN AN ACTOR DOES SOMETHING WONDERFUL
Try not to point it out or he’ll never be able to repeat it. Tell him he looks incredible in that coat.
2. WHEN AN ACTOR DOES SOMETHING LESS THAN WONDERFUL
Never say, 'I have a better idea.’ Say, 'You’ve just given me a great idea! If his next take is over-the-top, say 'You don't know your power.' If you want another take, blame the camera operator.
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4 Mar
...SO YOU WANT A CAREER IN THE MOVIE BUSINESS?
A cautionary.
1. FILM SCHOOL
is the best preparation for a talented young person hoping to enter the film industry. It is also the worst disservice to an untalented person who should have gone into the family cleaning business.
2. IF AT FIRST...
It is often said if you work hard, you will succeed. Yet many people work hard and don't succeed. When you look at your work, ask yourself 'Am I getting better?' That's all that matters.
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