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Should Hollywood have term limits similar to the ones that limit how many times a politician, including the US President, can run for office? That is, should a director or screenwriter be limited, for example, to two films made in Hollywood? (Let’s say the films could be made at any time.) The same rule would apply to both below and above the line talent, equally to gaffers and superstar actors.
When there’s a popular ride at an amusement park, and the line stretches beyond the horizon, do they let the first people in line stay on the ride until they collapse from exhaustion? Of course, not. But why not? Because the ride operators make more money that way. The problem with Hollywood is that they make more money sticking with the same people for years and years.
Films made each year in USA
According to Theatrical Market Statistics 2010, page 14, the average number of feature films produced in the United States 2008-2010 was less than 1000 (749).
(ignore the fact that film talent also comes from other countries)
Let’s say a mere 1/3 of this population is physically capable of directing. We’ll round it down to 100,000,000.
Does anyone seriously believe that there are only 1000 (the rounded up number of films produced in the US each year) people in the United States out of a population of more than 100,000,000 who are capable of making a film worthy of joining the 1000 that are made? That’s a ratio of more than 100,000 – 1. People who believe this surely have a low estimate of the abilities of human beings. Perhaps they think that this really is a planet of monkeys. They would not agree when Hamlet says:
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
Reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals!
They would be more included to agree with Hamlet when he says:
… and yet to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no,
nor Woman neither…
Suppose the entire film industry disappeared overnight? Like the Roger Corman film, Gas-s-s-s, but instead of everyone in the world over the age of 25 vanishing, everyone in the film industry would go missing. Would the industry collapse (similar to what Ayn Rand fantasized in Atlas Shrugged, with the world collapsing when the business elite go on “strike”), or would new people fill the vacancies so fast that there would still be many people left out in the cold? Thanks to film schools there are thousands upon thousands of people who have been trained to make films, yet unable to exercise their talents in the industry because there is no place for them. Many of them do find a place in the industry, but they never find themselves in a position where they are able to realize their full potential as a creative person.
This situation, of course, is not unique to Hollywood. It applies to every kind of dream job. Once a person gets that job, they do everything they can to hold onto it until they die. That’s good luck for them, but tough luck for everyone else. And hardly fair.
Term limits for Hollywood would bring a mite more fairness into the world.
Daffy went the whole nine yards trying to convince film studio boss J.L. to buy his script, The Scarlet Pumpernickel. But then he read a website post which said that the odds of selling a spec screenplay are at least 5000-1. (Update 9/23/11: an article in The Atlantic, “How Hollywood Chooses Scripts: The Insider List That Led to ‘Abduction,’” found here, puts the odds at a much better 333-1 by considering the competition to be limited to scripts registered with WGA.)
However, Daffy does have one advantage over at least one of his rivals: his story is not about a giant pet rock. (Absolutely true: this was the subject of a script I once read.)
A long time ago, I wrote this story just for the hell of it. I showed it to one of my teachers and he suggested that I submit it to The Advocate, an upstate New York literary newspaper with a circulation of 12,000. I don’t remember if I was surprised when they published it.
While the story is based on real people and real incidents, it has to be said that the whole of it is fiction. For example, while I did have a teacher called Miss Hook, she was my fourth grade, not fifth grade, teacher. I used her name for obvious reasons. (Did Jean Shepherd work this way?) Many years later, one of the characters in this story evolved into Sisyphus in Star Man.
When I was fourteen, I put together a mini-comic of single panel cartoons featuring a skeleton character called Skull Duggery. I showed the comic to my friend, John, who laughed his ass off. He showed it to the editor of the school newspaper. The editor did not like it. He said it was the stupidest thing he’d ever seen. (This was before Cartoon Network.) Then John decided that he did not like it anymore.
My career as a comic strip artist ended before it even began.
I wish I had saved the comic so that I could see if it was really as bad as they said it was. (It probably was.) Those two may have been the only ones who I showed it to before destroying it. I don’t remember much about the strip other than one drawing. It showed Skull looking at himself in a hand-held mirror and there was one dialogue balloon. What could he have been saying?
A narcissistic skeleton? The more I think about it, the more I think the character has potential.
A couple of weeks ago Ebert’s At the Movies (Episode 107 – March 4, 2011) reviewed Uncle Boonmee who Can Recall His Past Lives. David Lynch came up during the discussion between the critics, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and Christy Lemire:
Well, at the same time, this isn’t about real people, it’s about these kind of spirits and other creatures. I mean how do you feel perhaps about the films of David Lynch?
For more than two decades in the USA, David Lynch has been the go to guy when a non-Hollywood-type film comes up in discussions. It’s common for people to say something like, “It’s weird. It reminded me of David Lynch.” I had this experience at film school when fellow students said one of my films made them think of Lynch.
Why is the frame of reference for “weird cinema” limited to Lynch when there are plenty of films that are just as, if not more, weird than his?
Here are some of them.
Note: some of these are definitely not for children or the squeamish.
Click on the image to see the full movie or excerpts.
1. Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali
2. L’Age d’Or by Luis Buñuel
3. Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren
4. The Blood of a Poet by Jean Cocteau
5. Film #12: Heaven and Earth: The Magic Feature by Harry Smith
6. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome by Kenneth Anger (Clip)
7. Tribulation 99 by Craig Baldwin (Clip)
8. Wavelength by Michael Snow
9. Zorns Lemma by Hollis Frampton
10. WR: Mysteries of the Organism by Dusan Makvejev (clips)
11. The Color of Pomegranates by Sergei Paradjanov (clips)
12. Forbidden Zone by Richard Elfman (trailer)
Am I the only one who went crazy for Pioneer’s Animation Animation laserdisc series? How did it begin? I had already spent years looking for a video copy of Yuri Norstein’s “The Tale of Tales” and had learned (I think from a Sight & Sound magazine article about Norstein) that it was available on laserdisc in Japan. This led me to order a copy of the new edition of Sight & Sound’s Import Laserdisc catalog for $39.95. (I still can’t believe that I paid that much for a catalog.)
Sure enough the catalog listed a Yuri Norstein laserdisc and it included “The Tale of Tales.” But not only did the catalog confirm the existence of the Norstein LD, it listed several other titles that set my mouth watering. They were all part of a series called Animation Animation produced by Pioneer. Several titles in that series were released in the United States, but most of them were never made available outside of Japan.
I immediately called up Sight & Sound and ordered several of the Animation Animation titles from the catalog. Little did I realize that most of these titles had been out of print for years. Most of the LD’s had been published in 1987 and had gone out of print the same year. The catalog, which had just been published, was already several years out of date. Despite this I managed to obtain a copy of the Norstein disc. (It wasn’t easy.) In fact, I ended up with two copies.
Over the years, I accumulated several more laserdics in the series, but the four that I had wanted the most eluded me. Once, in 1996, I had the opportunity to purchase two of them, but I was broke. (The laserdics in this series were not cheap with prices often reaching $125 or more, partly thanks to the US dollar being weak against the yen at the time.)
But today the four elusive laserdics titles in Pioneer’s Animation Animation series have finally arrived in the mail. Here they are:
For the record, no, I don’t have every title in the Animation Animation series. Missing are a Hubley, the Baskhi Lord of the Rings, a Brothers Quay, and probably others that I don’t know about. Of course, the laserdisc medium is long dead, but Pioneer, as Geneon, has continued the Animation Animation series on DVD. In fact, there have been two Chinese animation titles that include most of the LD’s contents and I have had VHS copies of the contents of all titles for many years. However, since there are many extras that were not carried over to DVD from laserdisc, and the LD’s visual quality is superior to my VHS tapes, I am still happy to finally have the LD’s after all these years. Very happy.
Note: you can find out more about the contents of these discs from this book.
Here are some cards I’ve made for my family over the years.
I like to incorporate recent events that have meaning only to us, which is the case for the card below. During a walk we had seen what looked like a little turtle slapping a bigger turtle. (It’s a mating ritual).
It rained on Christmas Day, 2008:
Christmas 2006 we had car problems:
This anniversary card covers more than a whole week of excitement:
A two part wedding anniversary card, depicting the many shapes of a snow man:
In Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, when Ed visits the producer of a film project he read about in a trade newspaper, he asks the guy if the film has a script. The producer tells him that there is no script, but there is a poster. Following in that tradition, I’ve made up T-shirts and other stuff for The Tears of a Clown, a project I wrote about here.
Help put a smile on Stoneface (the girl above) and become the proud owner of some of the most obscure movie memorabilia ever made! Click here and buy a T-shirt today!
Of course, there are always more books to add to my library. My want list is here.
I’ve been a fan of Ray Harryhausen, who turned ninety on June 29, 2010, ever since my Dad bought the 8mm Columbia Pictures Home Movie version of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. One day, returning home from second grade, I was met at the bus stop by my Dad who said he had a surprise for me. It was the first reel of Sinbad, the one with the Cyclops. Dad couldn’t afford to buy all five reels of the film at once, so we saw the film one reel a month.
It was an odd way to watch a film. Even the classic cliffhanger serials were shown one chapter a week. Furthermore, this was a digest version which included only about two thirds of the film; B&W instead of the original’s color; silent with titles instead of sound; and, since our projector only ran at 18 fps rather than 24 fps, everything appeared to move in slow motion.
None of this mattered! I was spellbound.
Years later I met Harryhausen at a signing at Laser Blazer in Los Angeles. When he saw the box for Sinbad he spoke of the problems with that version. I told him that none of that mattered to a seven year old. Despite the lack of sound, the lack of color, and the lack of proper projection speed, his magic came through.
Long live Harryhausen!
Sometime in the near future I hope to post the 8mm version of the scene above.
Note: if you are viewing this page in a newsreader, the videos may not appear properly or at all.
The Masque of the Red Death was the third film of five that I made my first semester in film school in 1990. Of all the films I’ve made, it received the strongest and most negative reaction. I took this criticism to heart so when I transferred some of my Super 8 films to video in the nineties, Masque was not one of them. I almost immediately regretted this and have come to view Masque as being, in some ways, my best film.
Where did the idea come from? I’m not really sure. I do know that, unlike my previous film which had been completely improvised on the spot when an actor did not show up, and my next film, Rocketman, for which I shot a lot of footage without knowing what I would do with it, when I went off to the comic book convention to do the primary filming for Masque I knew exactly what I was going to do. Each time I was asked (and I was asked many times) what I was filming I answered, “A film that compares a comic book convention to Edgar Allan Poe’s story, ‘The Masque of the Red Death.’” The reaction? Always a blank stare. (Remarkably, I was never asked that question by a security person. In fact, I don’t remember seeing a single security person at that convention. I had more trouble getting a shot of a construction site before being chased away by an angry foreman.)
I think the idea for the film began when I knew I was going to the comic book convention to see Stan Lee. (I had the choice of going Saturday, when Lee was there, or Sunday, when Jack Kirby attended. I never got to see Kirby and have regretted this decision ever since.) But I do not recall how Poe’s story entered the mix.
From my notebook, written before going to the Con:
Comics: two worlds: relationships between inside and outside
- ironic parallels
- the idea should have something to do with the way comic fans are generally ignorant of world news – it is really a total escape – but the question is: so what? Does it matter? – are they all suffering from The Peter Pan Complex?
- B/W = wasteland
- Cocteau: “Film shows Death at work.”
- Interviews: “What do you think of death?” Blunt, to the point – see if anything happens – if not, try another approach.
I didn’t do any interviews for the film, although I did record Stan Lee talk. (One of the things he said was that James Cameron had agreed to direct Spider-Man.)
- Death finally reaches the Con – enters unseen – people start fading away – again, unnoticed
- The comics remain, and in color – but the con is empty
- Escape from death – comic book con = womb
The notes suggest that I intended to make a film that’s a critique of comic fans. This was not my intent and I don’t think that’s the point of the finished film. This is why it does not end at the convention, but outside it with everything colored red. (If I were to make a film about comic book culture today I would emphasize the positive utopianism of its alternative reality imaginings.)
Here’s the “script:”
Before the class screening I showed a rough cut to two friends who were also in the class. One of them, Elliott, said, more or less, “You do realize that you are going to be raked over the coals for this?” He was more right than he knew.
You can read the comments by the class and teachers on the finished film here. The comments from the main teacher, Russ, come near the end of the file and the other teacher’s comments, unsigned, come just before that one. (The best way to read the file at the link is to click on the full screen icon at the bottom right of the screen.)
Technical note: I transferred the film to digital format by taping a Super 8 projected image with a digital movie camera, except for the cartoon section which comes from a tape produced by a professional transfer house. (I had separated the cartoon section from the rest of the film.)
Click on the above image for a larger view.
This is a sculpture I did around 1979. It’s made from wood, wire, mirror, styrofoam, tape, etc. It was originally called “Man Helping Man,” but “The Narcissist” is probably a better title.
Part Marcel Duchamp, especially “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors.”
Part myth of Narcissus.
Part perpetual motion machine.
Part Michelangelo parody.
Here’s a guide to the parts:
Click on the image above for a larger view.
Bonus: Here’s the sketch that was the basis for the image-on-wood in the background of the first photo in this post. The wood engraving was never finished and was lost long ago.
Click on the image above for a larger view.
This is a ceramic sculpture that I made a long time ago.
Part myth of Sisyphus
Part Sisyphus cartoon
Part Marcel Duchamp (especially Nude Descending a Staircase)
Big part Zeno Paradox, especially Achilles and the tortoise
Part mystery, as in the mystery of life, the universe and everything
The following concept sketches and pictures are all that remain of this piece.
Click on the image above for a larger version.