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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Disruptive, revolutionary, game changing, paradigm shifting, visionary, challenging, rule breaking, irreverent. All are adjectives used to describe the technology and the pioneers that envisioned a true digital evolution of film, the minds behind RED. HD was a step backwards, offering less, not more, resolution than 35mm film. Modest steps along the path of innovation had to be leap-frogged. When the RED ONE was first conceptualized, the technology didn’t exist to build it, recording solutions didn’t exist to capture it and no one thought it was possible. No one except for a small band of people not smart enough to know that it couldn’t be done.

The company was created and financed by Oakley founder Jim Jannard with the publicly expressed intent to reinvent the camera industry. The company’s main product is the Red One, which can record at resolutions up to 4,096 horizontal by 2,304 vertical pixels, directly to flash or hard disk storage. It features a single Super 35-sized CMOS sensor and a cinematography industry standard PL mount.


The first feature film shot and completed on the Red One 4k was Red Canvas, starring Ernie Reyes, Jr. Director Steven Soderbergh shot both parts of the movie  Che entirely with the Red One camera. Soderbergh is very enthusiastic about the camera, stating that “this is the camera I’ve been waiting for my whole career: jaw-dropping imagery recorded onboard a camera light enough to hold with one hand. I don’t know how Jim and the Red team did it—and they won’t tell me—but I know this: Red is going to change everything.” He again used the Red One for his subsequent films The Girlfriend Experience and  The Informant! . The Academy Award-nominated  District 9 was mostly shot using nine Red Ones.

Werner Herzog shot his film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? with the Red One. He was disappointed with the camera’s long reboot times, saying “It drove me insane, because sometimes something is happening and you can’t just push the button and record it”. He described the camera as “an immature camera created by computer people who do not have a sensibility or understanding for the value of high-precision mechanics”.

The TNT cable channel show Leverage also uses Red One cameras for filming of all their episodes.

Degrassi: The Next Generation has used Red One cameras from the Tenth Season on.

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, a new three episode series broadcast in April 2009 (released on DVD with a feature length director’s cut in June 2009), was shot with a Red One camera using 4k resolution.[19]

The 2010 film The Social Network was shot on the Red One camera at 4K resolution.

Kevin Smith has been filming his upcoming film Red State on a Red camera.

For the second half of  ERs final season, the show was filmed using the RED One. Its replacement on NBCSouthland, was also shot using the RED One.


Wildstyle is a complicated and intricate form of graffiti. Due to its complexity, it is often very hard to read by people who are not familiar with it. Usually, this form of graffiti incorporates interwoven and overlapping letters and shapes. It may include arrows, spikes, and other decorative elements depending on the technique used. The numerous layers and shapes make this style extremely difficult to produce homogeneously, which is why developing an original style in this field is seen as one of the greatest artistic challenges to a graffiti writer. Wildstyle pieces are also known as “burners”, meaning “hot” as fire. Wildstyles are seen as one of the most complicated and difficult tags and are often used to get an artist’s work seen (rather than to put a political message or any other kind of message across).


Pioneers of Wildstyle

The original pioneers of wildstyle were Tracy  168 and Stay High 149, and later such notables as Zephyr and Fate 170 advanced the highly personalized style.





Styles of the Wildstyle

Wildstyles commonly include a set of arrows, curves and letters which have been so transformed as to be rendered arcane to the eyes of non-graffiti artists. It has also been common practice to incorporate 3D elements into the pieces, and even transform the whole letter structure into three dimensions, to add to the depth of visual perception of the work. Many artists have different elements to add to their wildstyle that gain that writer a good deal of respect within the graffiti scene, especially if one creates his own style and stays original and creative. Veteran artists tend to go for more complicated forms of wildstyle in which the types are hard to read but broad in creativity. Getting one’s style mastered is key to achieving this success.







Wild Style 1983

Wild Style was the first hip hop motion picture. Released theatrically in 1983 by First Run Features and later re-released for home video by Rhino Home Video, the movie was directed by  Charlie Ahearn (director of the feature films Deadly Art of Survival and Fear of Fiction) and featured  Fab Five FreddyLee Quinonesthe Rock Steady CrewThe Cold Crush BrothersPatti AstorSandra Fabara and Grandmaster Flash. The protagonist “Zoro” is played by the legendary New York graffiti artist “Lee” George Quinones. An early version of the ‘Wild Style’ logo appeared in the Fall of 1981 when Charlie Ahearn hired graffiti legend Dondi to paint the ‘window down’ subway car piece that appears in the film . The Dondi piece was the inspiration for the animated title sequence designed by the artist Zephyr in 1982 . The ‘Wild Style’ logo was designed by Zephyr and painted as a huge ‘burner’ mural by Zephyr, Revolt, and Sharp in the Summer of 1983 (3). The film is unique in that many of the actors’ roles were written to express their real-life personalities.

Sony Corporation announced today that it is developing a new type of E-mount interchangeable lens camcorder for professional use that is equipped with a Super-35mm equivalent large format CMOS sensor. This new addition to Sony’s professional “NXCAM” line will be available in the middle of 2011.

Already a key player in the 35mm digital cinematography market with its highly acclaimed “CineAlta” F35 and SRW-9000PL cameras for high-end digital cinema production, Sony also recently strengthened its line-up in this category with the new PMW-F3, its first professional handheld digital production camera with a Super 35mm imager. With this new “NXCAM” HD camcorder now (still under development), Sony looks to further strengthen its position in the entry-level segment by providing an affordable yet highly capable professional solution for many applications — including independent film, music video and corporate communications — all looking for a cinematic look.

This “NXCAM” HD camcorder under development will be equipped with a Super-35mm equivalent sensor, a widely used film stock size in the film industry that is perfectly designed for capturing motion picture. This new sensor will have extraordinary performance in terms of picture quality and sensitivity, and is able to create rich “Bokeh” effect (beautifully defocused image) that is perfect for artistic story-telling in motion picture.

Thanks to the adoption of the E-mount interchangeable lens system that is identical to Sony’s “α” series NEX-5, 3 and “Handycam” NEX-VG10, the E-mount lenses will be compatible with this new professional camcorder. In addition, a very short flange back distance (the distance between the lens mount surface and sensor surface) allows various “α” A-mount lenses to be mounted via a mount adaptor (LA-EA1). It is also possible to attach many other lenses using third-party mount adaptors*1. With such flexibility, users will be able to experiment with various creative expressions by exploiting the characteristics of different optics.

* 1: Not all types of adaptors and lenses are guaranteed.

The recording format for this new HD camcorder will be AVCHD, a widely supported format by many non-linear editing software vendors and the same format used in the HXR-NX5 “NXCAM” professional camcorder.

There is also a plan to implement 1080p (60p / 30p / 24p*2 or 50p / 25p) recording modes.
(MPEG4-AVC/H.264 compression will be used for these modes.)

*2: 59.94p / 29.97p / 23.98p respectively.

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Stop motion (also known as stop action or frame-by-frame) is an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence.

When Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton arrived on the set of Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, they intended to make a “behind-the-scenes” DVD bonus feature. But when Gilliam’s production collapsed before their eyes, they wound up with the footage to create their own terrifying and engrossing doc, Lost in La Mancha. Travis Crawford reports.

There are some documentary films that achieve distinction through the filmmakers’ intelligence and personal vision, and then there are those films that arrive at greatness through a sheer triumph of timing: the documentarians were lucky enough to be running the camera when their subjects weren’t so lucky, and suddenly an initially innocuous film chronicle (like Gimme Shelter, for example) becomes a compelling document of disaster. Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton’s new documentary, Lost in La Mancha – a darkly comic and grueling account of the (un)making of director Terry Gilliam’s aborted Don Quixote dream project – resides in this latter category, though Pepe and Fulton (like the Maysles brothers at Altamont) were also gifted enough to use their fortuity to craft an engrossing documentary that also illuminates broader filmmaking issues.

If Gilliam’s project had been successfully completed, then Pepe and Fulton’s “making-of” film would have likely gone the route of a DVD bonus feature (which is where The Hamster Factor, the duo’s 1996 feature documentary on the production of Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, can be currently found). But through a series of unforeseen circumstances, Lost in La Mancha evolved into a fascinating portrait of an artist in crisis.

Lost in La Mancha documents the progress of Gilliam’s film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote from chaotic preproduction to its eventual abandonment. An entirely European-financed $32 million fantasy with Johnny Depp as a modern-day advertising executive who travels back to the 17th century and encounters Don Quixote (Jean Rochefort), Quixote had been a long-cherished project for Gilliam, one which he had attempted to finance for years prior to the film’s eventual 2000 production. Another in the Gilliam pantheon of spectacularly whimsical fantasies built around eccentric dreamers (Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, et al), Quixote was also an unusually ambitious and expensive project for its European financiers, and the disparity between Gilliam’s Hollywood studio—sized goals and his Euro collaborators’ small-scale methods of production created a disharmonious preproduction period in Spain, with absent actors, unsuitable set construction and an array of other problems that Gilliam and company assumed would be resolved once shooting commenced.

They couldn’t have been more mistaken, and Pepe and Fulton’s film surveys Quixote’s disastrous inaugural week of production with the unblinking eye of a particularly discomforting horror movie. As the d.p. later remarks, everything that could possibly go wrong on the set of a film manages to happen simultaneously as Gilliam’s film begins shooting. After overhead jet noise renders recorded dialogue worthless and temperamental horses and unrehearsed extras are unable to comply with the director’s staging, a torrential downpour of biblical proportions suddenly turns the crew’s stark desert location into a mud slide, sweeping away the equipment. Events worsen when Rochefort becomes ill and incapable of performing, and soon the entire production is halted, with various forces debating over who has to pick up the tab.

The individual obstacles confronting Gilliam and Quixote are not uncommon in production, but their cumulative impact soon becomes debilitating, and it is to Pepe and Fulton’s credit that they convey the avalanche of catastrophes with a clarity and precision that render the events discernible to casual viewers. (Though those who’ve toiled on actual film shoots will likely find the film doubly distressing.) Supplementing their behind-the-scenes footage with narration by Gilliam’s Fisher King—star Jeff Bridges, animated storyboards, screen tests and the few successfully filmed moments of the actual shoot, Pepe and Fulton have constructed a compelling feature from the ashes of Quixote, a nonfiction film that subtly comments on the differences between American and European methods of filmmaking while also drawing affectionate analogies between Gilliam and his Don Quixoteprotagonist.

FILMMAKER: What made you decide to focus on documentaries about filmmaking?

Keith Fulton: A cruel twist of fate. The only reason we chose getting into media about media was because of the first project with Terry, so it was accidental in that sense. But both of us were interested in documentary filmmaking when we were at Temple [University], and given that movies about movies are such a weak genre, it was not so difficult to imagine something standing out in that genre, because most of that stuff is just advertising.

Louis Pepe: Also, because we’re filmmakers who want to do both documentary and fiction filmmaking, the opportunity to scrutinize the filmmaking process while [making] a documentary is a great opportunity. We get to make our own film while watching a seasoned veteran like Terry Gilliam.

FILMMAKER: Were there any previous documentaries about filmmaking that were inspirational to the two of you?

FULTON: I think the Les Blank documentary on Fitzcarraldo, Burden of Dreams, stands out the most. I’m not a huge Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse fan, because I think that’s one of those films that romanticizes the filmmaking process in the guise of looking under the skin of it – it just reinforces the idea of the filmmaker as crazed genius.

PEPE: There’s also a film called Observations Under the Volcano by Christian Blackwood, which was done on the set of John Huston’s Under the Volcano. It’s an older-school documentary, and you get to really experience what it’s like to be on the set and listen to Huston talk about filmmaking. There’s another documentary called I’m Almost Not Crazy, about Cassavetes making Love Streams. Both are more inspirational in terms of getting to listen to these two filmmakers talk about what they do.

FILMMAKER: On either Hamster Factor or Lost in La Mancha, were there hazards specific to documentaries about filmmaking that you sought to avoid? Perhaps examples of this subgenre that you wanted to make sure your films didn’t imitate?

FULTON: Probably our greatest virtue doing Hamster Factor was that Lou and I were naïve, and we didn’t know that much about the film industry. Our naïveté on that project helped us make something that didn’t smack of a publicity piece. I think that was why there was so much never-before-seen stuff in that film. We routinely had people tell us, “Nobody wants to see what goes on in a marketing meeting.” We had a slightly more violent reaction when we tried to get into test screenings – the producer of 12 Monkeys actually wrested the tapes from our hands after the test screening was over. It took us a long time to get them back.

PEPE: The initial response (on the 12 Monkeys set) was – because this was a big Hollywood film with big Hollywood stars – “Stay away from the celebrities.” If you were making an EPK behind-the-scenes film, you would have no project if you didn’t have access to the celebrities, but we just decided to hang out with the editor, the production designer, the woman who was doing the budget, the prop guys –

FULTON: – Which was ultimately more interesting. But career-wise, Lou and I did work for a couple years afterHamster Factor doing EPK work on many movies, and it was really kind of a deflating experience. Nobody wanted us to look at the things we were interested in. They would hire us because we made Hamster Factor, but they didn’t want anything like that. They wanted peppy sound bites from actors, and we delivered those things, but it became a serious drag.

FILMMAKER: How do the two of you function as co-directors? What is the breakdown of responsibilities during the shooting process?

FULTON: On La Mancha, Lou did all of the shooting. We both did shooting on Hamster Factor, probably about equally. On La Mancha, we were working with a much smaller camera [the Sony PD-150] that I didn’t like to shoot with. I can only hold the big ones that you can steady on your shoulders, but Lou is very good with the tiny cameras. And I do more of the field-producing stuff – going around and arranging interviews, finding out what’s going on – personal interaction things.

PEPE: I’m the timid but patient one, and Keith is the aggressive but impatient one. He would do all the smooth talking to get me into the room, then kick my ass into the room for me to sit and shoot for three hours just to get that 30-second interchange that would be the crucial scene. When we were on the set outside of these confined offices, it was more of a jointly directed shoot. We had a walkie-talkie system, and I would shoot and Keith would basically direct me: “OK, now quickly turn around and get those guys tying the tarps down on the equipment. Now zoom in and get a close-up of this.”

FILMMAKER: How did you go about assembling the footage on La Mancha and telling the story through the editing process?

FULTON: That was sheer hell. We started with 80 hours of footage when we got back from Madrid, and Lou and I sat down for a solid two weeks and watched every stitch of it, taking notes and trying to determine if we had the material to sustain a feature-length piece. We weren’t expecting Terry’s film to fall apart. We expected to ride the coattails of Terry’s film, which would have a much bigger publicity machine behind it, but now our film had to stand on its own. We realized we had enough really powerful footage to make a feature, so we went back to our investors and told them we needed more time to make a feature, and they were cooperative. Then we hired an editor and worked for eight months.

PEPE: Our editor, Jacob Bricca, told us that the first step was to write a list of what we think are the top 10 scenes of the film. Then write a list of the second top 10, so that you end up with your top 20 scenes. Don’t look at your logs; just go from memory – and that’s your strongest footage. The documentary editing process is a lot like writing the script of a fiction film, except you only have material that you gathered in reality. But you have to think about it the way you would think about making a fiction film: Who is my main character, who are my secondary characters, what is the strongest emotional scene that I recorded and how do I build up story strands to get me to that climax?

FULTON: On Hamster Factor, we took the easy route with structure and broke everything down into chapters that had titles. With Lost in La Mancha, we decided to go for a real three-act dramatic structure. We had a huge problem with trying to accept what people would know about this film before they saw it. We used to start the film with montages of the disasters to come and heavy-handed suggestions about seeing a film about a film that doesn’t exist. But nobody liked this rough cut because it didn’t do the job of getting you into the head of Terry Gilliam, getting you into the feeling that maybe this film could happen. We reworked the first half-hour of the film at least 10 times. The six days of [Quixote] production that are counted in the film made up act two, but it was the first act and the last act that we put the most effort into, because they were the hardest to structure.

PEPE: In the editing process, we had started talking about Shakespearean tragedy. Audiences come into Romeo and Juliet knowing that the lovers are going to die at the end, and most people will know that Terry’s film doesn’t exist. So the question then becomes: How do you get your audience to forget that they know Terry’s film has failed? The other film we would discuss as a model was Fellini’s 8 1/2, which is a favorite film of Terry’s and ours. In an interesting way, it’s the same story – a filmmaker who has visions in his head and is trying to get the film made, but it ends with him having to let go of it. So you think about a lot of fictional narrative structures that people are familiar with, and then you try to massage this reality-based material into something that plays out on those types of dramatic lines.

FILMMAKER: Quixote’s preproduction period is shown in your film to be very chaotic, but that’s true for preproduction on most shoots. At the time, did you think it was anything out of the ordinary?

PEPE: No, although part of that was our naïveté and lack of exposure to big-scale film productions. But from our perspective, it was inconceivable to think of a large-scale film production faltering in that way. And it all seemed like the standard preproduction stuff – even on a student film, you learn that preproduction is a process of x number of steps forward, and y number of steps back, and hopefully x is greater than y. Even though things are falling through, you’re still making progress. There were things that were frustrating, but you never think of each of those individual things as contributing to the collapse of the entire project.

FILMMAKER: When did you begin to become aware that things had gone seriously awry with the film?

FULTON: Up to the very last moment in Madrid, we thought that there was some likelihood that Jean Rochefort would come back. Ultimately, his illness was the final element that brought the film down. There were definitely indications that things were going horribly wrong, and when Rochefort didn’t show up on the sixth day of production, that was a surprise. In the film we tell you that he was in pain on the fifth day, but the fact was that we didn’t know that was happening until we found it in the footage.

PEPE: It’s interesting because a lot of the information that you see chronologically in the documentary was not information that was readily apparent to the majority of the crew as it was happening. In hindsight, it all looks obvious, but it took a while for that information to filter down to everybody.

FULTON: After production shut down after the sixth day, Lou and I had to scramble to figure out what pieces we were going to need to get in case the film wasn’t going to happen. We had to shift our focus in terms of talking to the right people, asking the right questions, hanging out in the right rooms.

PEPE: We were hanging around the production office whenever we could, and it started to feel somewhat exploitative to us. We called Terry and told him that this started to feel unethical to us, that we felt like vultures hanging around. Terry said: “Screw ethics. Get the pieces you need to tell this story. Don’t worry about me.”

FILMMAKER: How heavily do you think the differences between American and European methods of production contributed to the downfall of the film?

FULTON: With Hollywood films, there tends to be an incredible hierarchy, and the director is much more protected. When they set up these production offices in Madrid, it was odd to see that he wasn’t being protected. He was very exposed, and more in a producing position than a directing position.

PEPE: Terry likes to have the office door open to encourage all of the creative people to come in and discuss the movie, but what he was also prone to with this production was being immersed in practical and production questions, not just creative questions. Hollywood filmmaking is such an established style of filmmaking with very accepted practices. Hollywood may create its own nightmares and bureaucracy, but if you follow the rule book, things tend to work in an expected way. But when you’re dealing with an international production, people come from all different countries accustomed to certain ways of working, and there’s a period of time where they all have to get used to some method they all understand. That would’ve happened, but they didn’t get to work together enough to reach that point.

FILMMAKER: During filming, did you ever feel as if there were a certain willful naïveté on Terry’s part to just keep going under these conditions?

FULTON: I actually think there’s a degree of blind naïveté that you have to take into any film production, frankly. I think it’s part of the process. Somehow you think that other forces are going to help you get this thing made, no matter how impossible it might seem. In this case, if he had had a stronger producer, things would’ve been different. As a producer, you have to be a charmer who convinces everyone that this can happen, and normally directors don’t have to take that role – they can focus on something else.

PEPE: I actually think that Terry’s attitude about momentum is essential to filmmaking. Just by the way filmmaking is represented to the public, you wouldn’t think of it as being such a fragile enterprise. But in reality, it’s very fragile, and much of it is getting a lot of people to believe that something is possible. That belief is often what gets you through the process, and the “train track” theory of filmmaking is often the way things get done. Once you start to lose that momentum, it’s a really hard thing to regain.


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Starring True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten, Red Hill is a suspenseful modern-day Western that uses Australia’s dramatic and vast landscapes to stage a drama of frontier justice with an antagonist right out of Halloween-style horror film. Kwanten plays a city cop assigned to a small outback town where he intends to raise a baby with his very pregnant wife. But his move coincides with the escape of Jimmy Conway (Tom E. Lewis) from the local jail. The indigenous Jimmy was wronged years ago, and his brand of frontier justice consists of non-stop mayhem.

In my conversation with Hughes, he spoke about his film’s lack of resources — its low budget and short shooting schedule. It’s a mark of his talent that these limitations don’t show. Once the film kicks into gear it doesn’t stop, throwing in chases, plenty of gunplay, and lots of blood spilled under the cold Australian moon.

Filmmaker: Tell me about your background. How did you become a filmmaker?

Hughes: I started making shorts as a kid. Some of them did really well, and then I got into film school. I spent three years there, and some of those shorts did a little bit better. And then I wrote a script, a big fat action thriller, optioned it three times, and put it into turnaround three times. I’d never made a [feature], and no one was going to let you make a film [if you hadn’t made one before]. And so I just kept writing and started working in commercials. I shot all around with the world with the best in the business. I wrote more scripts, and each time I made the budgets smaller and smaller. And then I had an epiphany. I wrote down a list of all my favorite filmmakers. Chris Nolan, the Coen Brothers, George Miller — they all made movies by mortgaging their houses. The only way to get your first break is to make it yourself. My friend Greg McLean who made Wolf Creek, he experienced the same frustration. I sat down to write Red Hill [with the idea of] making a film next to no money. It was 11 months from writing script to premiering it in Berlin. Warts-and-all filmmaking. My mentality was, it’s not going to be perfect, I’ll have to compromise the whole way, but I’ll try just tell the story and hope that will prevail. We made the film without a distributor. I thought, if I don’t get into any festivals, if no distributors see it, if no one buys it, I’ll have wasted a year and a lot of money, but that was a risk I was willing to take. I look back and romanticize it now, but I lost 15 kilos from stress. Knowing you can lose your house when you have a mortgage and two kids, well, that’s a good weight loss.

Filmmaker: How did you raise your production financing?

Hughes: Greg told me he would match my [initial] investment, and then I raised the rest privately.

Filmmaker: Was it hard to adjust to making a low-budget feature after working with larger commercial-size budgets?

Hughes: Working in the world of commercials, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need money. I had to go back to the way I worked in film school. I had to think to think about the resources available to me and be economical and creative. Greg said, what’s your point of vision? Well, western art films weren’t being made. And looking at those landscapes, there is such beauty. It was hard not to bring a sense of scale to the movie with those landscapes. That two-minute opening scene, that was just me and the d.p. with a camera. It’s eerie and creates an ambience that death is about to stalk the town, but we shot it in two hours with two people. I knew by locating the film in country I could do an awful lot for very little money.

Filmmaker: You’ve talked a lot about compromise and shrinking your scale, but you have a lot of difficult and expensive-seeming things in the film. There is a lot of night shooting, a lot of action — did your financier hat ever butt heads with your director hat?

Hughes: I would sit on set saying, who wrote this? Why do we need a rain machine and why are we setting fire to a five-story house? And then me in my director hat would say, this final scene needs to be set at night. Your final act has to have this grand feeling. If you are going to make a first film, you want it to have visual impact, you want it to stand out.

Filmmaker: How do you describe the film’s genre?

Hughes: It’s a mash-up of genres. It’s one part cop drama, one part outlaw revenge story, and then it’s got a sprinkling of romance, a dash of terror, and a good hand of humor. I really wanted to make a film laced with dark humor. You need to release all that tension because it’s horrific what goes down. So, take all those elements and roll them into one big fat Western. Maybe it’s too many things in one.

Filmmaker: It’s also something of a western. Why were you drawn to the western genre?

Hughes: I was drawn early on to the western [genre] because of the moral code. Everyone identifies with it. In Australia we call it “country justice.” At one point do you take justice into your own hands. And if vengeance is justified, that’s powerful for an audience, and the story will have emotional weight. I have kids and wife, so these things are really important to me. You think, what would you do if someone came near your family? Early on, my dad said to me, “you have to watch The Searchers and Red River, but I was too busy watching Star Wars. Then you get older and realize Star Wars is a western. Every western is about righting a wrong. I was drawn to telling a modern-day version. What’s tragic about small country boomtowns is that their glory days are gone. There were 40,000 people in that town in 1890. Now there are 120. They banned logging and shut the sawmill down. In its essence, the film is about the changing of the guard — two men with different moral compasses. Ryan’s character was not set up as a hero. The classic way to tell story would have made him the best city cop, but here it’s the opposite. He’s a city boy with vulnerabilities and innocence and he becomes a man, becomes a cowboy.

Filmmaker: What was the biggest technical challenge when making the film?

Hughes: The biggest technical challenge was time. We shot our movie in four weeks, five-and-half pages a day, and no scene was without a rain machine, or car chase, or people’s heads getting blown off. Jimmy’s face covered in scars — that was three hours of makeup every day. To a certain extent, you have to accept the fact that there will be compromise. Go back to that ‘70s style. I looked at the way George Miller pulled off Mad Max, or the Coen Brothers and Blood Simple. The Coen’s shot their car interiors in their bedroom with the lights off! So when we got stuck in the corner, we just had to find another way to shoot.

Filmmaker: What might an American viewer not know about Australian history that’s important when watchingRed Hill?

Hughes: If you look at colonial history of Australia and America’s past, they are not dissimilar. White men pushing out Indians — the same thing happened in Australia. The indigenous people were pushed off their own land, and there were atrocities. If anyone deserves a story of vengeance, it’s the indigenous people of Australia. The character of Jimmy could have just been some guy getting out of prison, but the character needed subtext. I wanted to give Jimmy a mythological status — an angel of death getting vengeance on Australia’s past errors.

Article by Filmmakersmagazine

Ira Sachs sits down with writer-director Oren Moverman to discuss his debut feature, The Messenger, a powerful look at two soldiers who bring the pain of war to your doorstep.




The two Iraq war soldiers played by Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson in Oren Moverman’s astonishing directorial debut, The Messenger, serve in a different kind of military theater. It’s not in the Middle East but at home, here in America, as they are dispatched by the Casualty Notification Office to tell family members that their sons, daughters, brothers or sisters have been killed in combat. As he undertakes this mission, Foster’s character is just out of a military hospital and still traumatized by battle. He’s paired with Harrelson’s character, a senior officer whose precisely delivered speeches and irreverent personal credo are his own form of armor. As the two men become friends, exposing to each other their vulnerabilities, fears and failings, Moverman depicts an America in which the violence of the war has been refracted through language, belief systems and the ways we interact with not only each other but also ourselves. But as much as this film is about words and speech, it’s also fiercely visual, with compelling compositions underscored by occasional blasts of speed metal and coiled editing rhythms. With The Messenger, Moverman has made an ambitious, compelling debut that announces his arrival as one of our major directors.

Moverman is well known to Filmmaker readers for his screenplay work. He’s carved out a unique career writing or co-writing scripts for some of today’s top auteurs, including Alison Maclean (Jesus’ Son), Todd Haynes (I’m Not There) and Ira Sachs (Married Life). He’s also got scripts in the works for Scott Free, Joel Silver and Jean-Luc Godard. (Moverman is scripting an adaptation of Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million for the legendary Swiss director.) And then there’s Interrupted, a bio-pic about the last years of Nicholas Ray’s life co-written with Susan Ray for director Philip Kaufman. To interview Moverman, we asked Sachs, a collaborator and also a friend, and they discussed the transition from writing to directing, learning from Nicholas Ray, and eyes following eyes.

Oscilloscope Laboratories will release the film October 30.

Okay. Let me ask first: How was directing? [both laugh]

How was directing? It was really a joyous experience. It was a 28-day shoot, and I enjoyed every day and felt very comfortable in that position. We put together a great cast and a great crew, and it became very collaborative. There was a lot of improvisation. It just felt alive.

Did it feel very different than writing a screenplay? Yeah, well, it’s a lot less lonely. There’s a whole other set of pressures that are different from the pressures that you have as a screenwriter. But, you know, I’ve always approached the screenplay as “the movie” — maybe because I never thought I’d get to direct.

Is that what you do when you work as a screenwriter for other directors — help them think about “the movie?” I hope so. I try to think like the director — or like a director — in order to help them with what they’re trying to do, and to tap into their vision so that I cancel myself out. I’m there in service of the project. We kind of made The Messenger that way. We were all in service of this film. We were just getting out of the way of the film, just letting it happen, letting it grow organically from what I felt was a very good script that gave us a lot of good directions.

Knowing your history a bit, and that you started off studying film, and were always interested in making your own films, it almost seems like you became a screenwriter by accident. [Screenwriting] definitely wasn’t the plan. I came to the States in 1988 with the idea of being a film director.

Did you know any other film directors? I’d never met anyone. Not only did I not know any film directors, I’d never met anyone who did anything creative. It was a whole new world to explore. I started writing first in Hebrew and then I moved to English when I got a little bit more confident. I wrote a script [for me to direct] that I was very happy with. It was called A Hiding Place, and I think I even talked about it in this magazine. It didn’t work out and I was sort of left with a writing sample that I started sending around and getting hired as a screenwriter. So in a way, yeah, I sort of fell into screenwriting. I never studied it.

I’ve been thinking about your body of work as a screenwriter and also as a director, and it seems to me, if there can be an auteur theory of screenwriters, one could make one about your work. Really? I don’t see it. [laughs]

Well, I was considering the fact if you look at Jesus’ Son, if you look at I’m Not There, even if you look at our work on Married Life, there is a consistent theme of an outsider, a person — usually a man — trying to figure out how to bridge who he is internally to who he will be in the world. Basically you’re calling me Nicholas Ray. [laughs]

Well, it’s interesting you say that, because Nicholas Ray is someone you are writing a film about. Yeah, and someone I’ve studied really closely and who in a strange way I felt was helping me while I was directing — especially [through] his book of writing, I Was Interrupted [edited by his wife, Susan Ray].

What specifically did you learn from Nicholas Ray for this film? Nicholas Ray, he was definitely an auteur, somebody who could work with other people’s screenplays and still make them his own films. And you could say that those films are about outsiders, men who are trying to figure out how to deal with their emotions, who are always feeling chased by a posse or crowd. And I remembered the careful attention of his writing about actors. I’ve worked on screenplays — some produced, some not — and there was always a concept to them, there was always a visual, conceptual approach on top of what the film was. Coming into The Messenger I actually felt that it was just going to be about the actors. I mean, obviously there’s a whole strategy of how to make the film, what the visual language is, but I kept thinking of the line of Charles Laughton’s that Nick quoted, which is, “The melody is in the eyes. Eyes find eyes.” Just look for the eyes, because there’s so much that’s going to be conveyed in the eyes. I felt that this is that kind of a movie where looking people in the eye is going to tell you a lot of the story. Of course the flip side of that, which we did a lot in the movie, is to shoot from the back, so that the eyes become even more meaningful when you finally find them. You almost search for them, are aware of them, even when you’re looking at someone’s back and just listening to them [speak].

Significantly, that concept doesn’t translate into having lots of close-ups in your film. No.

Or in Nick Ray’s films. When I wrote the Nicholas Ray script, I worked with Philip Kaufman. There was a draft that he looked at and he basically said, “Let’s just do it like Nicholas Ray. You know, we’ll just sit down, every scene, and ask, ‘What’s my action?’ Because that’s what Nick would do, right? So when we’re making a movie about Nick, we should have to do that.” It forced me to analyze [the script], kind of shape it in a way that makes it move, not necessarily in a classic “How does this feed the plot?” way, but to feed the characters’ desires and needs and ambitions. “What is the thing that I need to do in order to get what I want,” which basically was Ray’s entire approach to directing actors. So [this type of thinking] was happening automatically with me [when I was directingThe Messenger].

You get amazing performances from all your actors, but particularly Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster. Were they very different, what they needed from you? Very different. Ben came to New York City nine weeks ahead of the shoot. We hung out a lot. We went through the entire script word by word. We discussed things. We rewrote things. We kind of improvised on-the-spot things and fed them into the script. He did a lot of research. We had special shoes made for him because there’s the idea that one of his legs is shorter than the other. We made these army boots for him that kind of threw him off balance. He was walking for hours at night in Manhattan, getting used to his walk, and watching documentaries and reading. There was a lot of preparation and a lot of exchange. And he would also be very fair, in a shocking way for me in the beginning, before I knew him. He would read something and say, “Oh, that’s really a great line. I think you should give it to Woody.” He really understood the silence of his character, and so he was not precious about any of it. He was just very open. With Woody, Woody was shooting another movie. He was in Romania when we started shooting. So he got a little break from his Romanian shoot, came over here for three weeks. He arrived the day before the shoot started. We had conversations in the past, and I knew he was doing preparations, mostly physical preparations, to get into the head of the soldier, because he’s never played one quite like this. But a lot of the work with him was on set, whereas with Ben a lot of the work was already done by the time we got to set. And they’re also very different roles. One, Woody’s role is so wordy. He just had to hit a lot of lines. We improvised also, but he had to get out a lot [of dialogue], whereas Ben was much limited word-wise. He had to find his way through scenes by reacting a lot.

Which movies were most influential on the very specific shooting style that you used? DefinitelySalesman, by the Maysles brothers. The Maysles were kind of like my first job in New York, so I saw all their movies when I was working there as an office PA. Salesman came to mind because it felt like The Messenger is a movie about people who come to the door. It needs a certain kind of urgency of, “This is happening right now,” which is what Salesman does so beautifully. The subject matter is very different, but, you know, Salesman is a very grim movie in many ways. There’s a certain desperation in the vibe of the movie that I felt was interestingly connected to The Messenger.

You can feel the overlap of those two movies. I was watching the zooms in Salesman and I thought, “Oh, they’re kind of interesting because it’s early usage of zoom.” It felt more like news, less like, you know, a Robert Altman movie. But it also felt alive. It felt improvisational. Albert Maysles just had these instincts of, “I’m going to go there. Now I’m going to pull closer. I’m going to milk the moment when it’s so quiet and create a moment out of nothingness in which people are standing around.” That really appealed to me. So I started looking at Altman and Hal Ashby, people were not shy about their use of zooms. I talked to [d.p.] Bobby [Bukowski] about something that I pretentiously called a “humanistic zoom.” [laughs]

As opposed to…? As opposed to a functional zoom. Just humanistic in the sense that I gave Bobby license to zoom at certain points he felt drawn into. Bobby’s a very loving person, and I thought the movie should be sort of loving. To me it is a movie about love, or the potential for love, and how it gets you through the hard stuff in life. There’d be certain scenes where we would shoot a long take and I would say to him, “Just find Ben.” Or certain scenes where I would say to him, “Feel your way through it. See what attracts you.” And then if we did it again I would point to more specific places. I really wanted that sense of moving forward, getting closer to people, trying to really see what’s in their eyes, what’s in their souls. And then sometimes pulling back when you feel like, “Oh, this is a little uncomfortable. Kind of getting too close here.”

That type of working process requires a lot of trust between you and the cinematographer. Bobby and I clicked from the very beginning. And that’s something that I had to learn about myself — what kind of a director I would be, or how I would play the role of the director. And I found that I was craving collaboration, craving the interaction with the various departments and the creative process of just coming up with stuff. But as with any type of job, once you have that trust and you give people room, they really start coming up with so many great things.

It’s like parenthood. Like parenthood, exactly. And I felt like for the most part, most of the people I was working with really were so good that I didn’t have to control it in kind of an obsessive way. There was almost no one who had to be watched over his shoulder and [asked], “What are you doing?”

I want to go back to the Oren Moverman auteur theory. You brought up that this is a film in some ways about love. I also think this film, as in your other work, is about the nature of belonging, finding a place where one fits in. Right.

And, for me, it seems directly connected to you — to the immigrant story. I think that’s true, but, you know, I’m from Israel and I felt like an immigrant in Israel [laughs] growing up. I felt like I never belonged there. Partly that’s because it is a nation of immigrants. I was born into a country that was 18 years old when I was born. Most of the population was not native — which created a lot of problems — but I always felt like an outsider. I never felt like I belonged. Living in the Middle East was so weird for me, because, you know, look at me, I’m not from the Middle East. My family is from Eastern Europe. I couldn’t stand the heat. [laughs] You know, it was just a weird existence. Not to say that I don’t feel like an Israeli, or that I don’t feel any kind of connection to Israel, because I do. It’s a very strong one. But, yeah, I’ve always felt like an immigrant. And maybe that’s why I’m so comfortable here, because here I can be officially an immigrant.

Was there one character in The Messenger that you felt particular identification with?. Yeah. Woody asked me that question, and when I told him he wanted to hit me. It’s Ben’s character. I served in Israel, but it really wasn’t until I started working with Ben that I started, with his encouragement, to put things in the movie that were from my experience. Ben forced me to tell him stories about my experiences, and more than a couple times he insisted on me putting them in the script, and they’re in the movie. I never wanted to share these experiences with anyone. I think he kind of brought me into this realization of like, “Okay, I can sort of start dealing with some things in my life through this character,” which was very rewarding. It’s interesting when I talk to American soldiers and they say they totally get the Ben character. They totally know who Woody is, too, but they totally get the Ben character because it’s much more of a kind of modern soldier version of the tough guy battling all these emotions. I think that was kind of me. I was in a male world that had particular rules of behavior and certain modes of carrying yourself in the role. You’re a soldier; you’re a tough guy; you’re in a tough military in a tough part of the world. There was room for emotion, but those things started getting very, very confusing. I was a guy who came home from the army for a two-day leave and locked himself in a room and watchedApocalypse Now over and over again — in the dark. I was that guy.

I’m sorry, what kind of guy is that? [both laugh] That’s the soldier who gets confused by seeing and doing things in the combat zone that are not normal in everyday life.

It seems to me, knowing your military background, as well as your artistic collaborations, that you are particularly comfortable in a world of men. That there is an intimacy you create in your male relationships that’s specific and that’s in this movie as well. Yeah, yeah. And that’s why I have said it’s a movie about love, because it’s not just about a love story, a potential love story with the Samantha Morton character, but it really, truly is in my mind a love story between two men. A heterosexual love story, probably not the best thing to put on a poster, but — and that’s how I talked about it. And it really helped that Woody and Ben fell completely in love with each other, and you can see it. You can see in the development of the relationship that these guys really like each other, and they do.

Talking about the movie now, it seems like an autobiography much more than I realized. And not only because of the military element, but also because of the position of Ben’s character as someone who is both active in the world he lives in but also distant from it. Yeah.

Which is in a certain way the role of both the writer and the director. Luckily for me, I wrote the script with Alessandro Camon, who brought a whole other world into it that I couldn’t conjure up if I tried. It really balanced those more personal things that I felt that were mostly [expressed] through the Ben character with a lot of great things that he did through the Woody character. We joked at one point that I’m Ben and he’s Woody. And I think it’s that balance that actually makes the film work.

That dynamic, which I think is overturned towards the end of the movie, when each character, in a way, becomes his own inverse, is also very powerful. Also, when the movie starts, Ben’s character, Will — and you don’t know this until the end of the movie, and you probably won’t even register it unless you read this article — has already made a decision to live. He’s going to grow stronger no matter what he’s going to go through. With his kind of strange determination and strange discipline, he’ll get there. Woody’s character starts the movie as his world has been set. Everything’s figured out. He’s smarter than everyone. He’s thought out a lot of issues. He’s got comeback lines for a lot of things, and he’s funny. But there’s so much that’s unresolved, and there’s so much that’s hurting. I guess at the end of the day, you know, one of my favorite elements, maybe in my life but also in what I think about, is the world of men and the world of feelings, and how they combine. How can you exist as men within a military, male-dominated world and be somebody who is aware of how he’s feeling and how he relates to other people and what’s broken?

Don’t you think that’s the challenge of being Human? [laughs]

— human, yes, but also part of the film community? Yeah.

The part of a filmmaker in an industry. An artist in an industry. That’s always been the challenge with film. It’s a business and it’s an art.
It’s a business about emotions. [pause] Well put. [both laugh]

[pause] What’s the first movie you remember seeing? Wizard of Oz. I was 7 years old, in Israel, in a gym, in a school, which also was a bomb shelter. [laughs] And it terrified me. I came home, I was sick for two weeks. I was in shock, really. So much so that I didn’t watch it again for over 30 years, until my kids forced me finally to sit down and see it. I was literally afraid of the movie, because I remember the sensation of lights going down and this thing that started happening on the screen. It was just really, really frightening. For years I had that feeling in a movie theater when the lights came down.

Are you worried about the end of cinema, like every other independent filmmaker? No, not really. I mean, I’m worried about the end of the world…. Somebody told me that line, you know, “If you worry you die, if you don’t worry you die, so why die?” [laughs] I can’t say that [the end of cinema] is something that is preoccupying my obsessions at the moment. I think it’s going somewhere, I just don’t know what the direction is anymore. But I think that once it settles, we will realize where cinema and the visual arts visual language are going, and there will be something exciting within them to explore. It will be up to the people who are invested in it to kind of find that and create those new things. Sounds very abstract, just because, who knows?

Well, you made a beautiful film. I’m proud of you. Thank you. Thank you, sir.

The kid done good. That’s it? I thought there’d be hard questions.



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