Thursday, August 29, 2013

Christopher Mihm on "The Giant Spider"

How did you get started in filmmaking?

CHRISTOPHER: After a lifetime of wanting to but never having enough motivation, I officially began making movies in 2005. In 2004, my 13-year-old stepdaughter was diagnosed with bone cancer (of which, she is now 100% cured some eight years later). I decided it was time to finally get moving on realizing my own dreams because, after all, if a healthy, athletic 13-year-old kid could be diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease, I, as an overweight 30-year-old, could easily be next!

So, shaken out of my complacency, I sat down and wrote the screenplay for my first film, The Monster of Phantom Lake. Driven to finally make a "real movie," I plowed through and completed it within about six months.

The following spring, I held a premiere at The Heights Theatre on the outskirts of Minneapolis, MN to a raucous and excited audience. The film quickly garnered many positive reviews and screened in many events and film festivals across the world.

Completely addicted to the experience, I decided I had to keep making movies, no matter what the cost! Thus, here I am eight years later with eight features under my belt and another (a double-feature!) in the works.

Why are you drawn to Fifties-style monster movies?

CHRISTOPHER: I made my first film as a tribute to my late father. When I was growing up, he and I would bond by watching those cheesy old movies together. He passed away in 2000 from a rare form of stomach cancer and had been on my mind quite a bit when my step-daughter was diagnosed just four years later. I felt like I wanted to make a movie that my dad would have loved and one he and I would have enjoyed watching together. This is where The Monster of Phantom Lake came from.

After releasing it, I had the opportunity to screen it at a drive-in in Wisconsin. Seeing it up on that giant drive-in screen was transcendent! Experiencing my cheesy 1950s-style B-movie at a drive-in is one of the greatest moments of my life because it was THE perfect place to see it. I literally rank that experience up there with the births of my children!

During that screening I had an epiphany and decided I didn't want to do anything other than these retro-style features.

What is your writing process like?

CHRISTOPHER: A lot of times it starts with an idea or even just a title. If something really strikes me, I’ll make a point to just sit down and WRITE as much as possible and as fast as possible, never wanting to lose momentum. If I get stuck, I’ll step back and sleep on it.

Once finished, rarely do I go back and judiciously edit things after I finish the first draft. Since I’m making cheesy B-movies, I actually don’t want them to be “too perfect.” I like flaws. I feel they add to the authenticity of what I’m trying to accomplish!

You wear a lot of hats on your productions -- what's the upside and downside of doing that?

CHRISTOPHER: The upside, obviously, is control. I can do what I want and make things look or sound or feel EXACTLY the way I want them to. This allows my movies to be more “me.”

In the beginning, I really didn’t collaborate much. Lately (and partially because the scope of my films has increased quite a bit), I’m finding myself much more open to collaboration.

The downside to doing so much myself is burn-out (and/or taking on too much) AND not being able to blame anyone else when they fail! (Not that I would blame anyone else because, ultimately, I’m the “Captain of the ship,” and I will ALWAYS go down with the ship!)

What inspired your latest movie, The Giant Spider?

CHRISTOPHER: A couple years ago, my son had a pet gecko that, sadly, passed away. On a trip to the pet store to find a “replacement,” he chose a tarantula. I was fine with his choice. My wife… not so much! Ultimately, we bought it and, upon getting it home, I actually said out loud, “That’s the star of my next movie.”

Since “big bug” movies were all the rage in the 1950s, it seemed appropriate that I would have to do one eventually. This just seemed like the perfect time!

What's your secret for creating special effects on a very low budget?

CHRISTOPHER: Make cheesy 1950s B-movies where the special effects don’t need to be particularly “special!” But seriously, find creative people with appropriate talents they’re willing to share.

I’ve been lucky over my years of making movies to find several extremely talented individuals who enjoy making these kinds of films and are willing to do it for little to no pay. I’d feel bad that these wonderful people are essentially working for free but I’m not really making any money, either, so… we’re even, I guess! Also, there are online tutorials on how to do anything you would ever need (special effects wise) and I encourage everyone to take advantage of them!

What camera package do you use and what did you love and hate about it?

CHRISTOPHER: The first six films I made I used a Panasonic DVX-100A. Since my seventh film (House of Ghosts), I upgraded to the AVC-HD equivalent, the Panasonic HMC-150.

To be honest, I have no complaints about it so far. I’ve made two films with it and haven’t had any negative issues SO FAR. It’s light, easy-to-use, records onto high capacity SD cards, the full-HD video quality and in-camera sound capabilities are outstanding and it offers many, MANY options that make it possible to do almost anything you would need to make a low-budget film that looks like it cost A LOT more!

What was the smartest thing you did during this last production? The dumbest?

CHRISTOPHER: The smartest thing I did was lean on my production team as much as I did. The scope of The Giant Spider is far larger than anything I’ve ever attempted and I honestly don’t think I could have pulled it off without them!

The dumbest was putting myself into a role that required several scenes. I put myself in every one of my films in some SMALL capacity (because Hitchcock did it!), usually just a voice on a radio or something similar. For some reason, I thought it’d be fun to actually give myself a character with three scenes. I’m not really much of an actor (AT ALL) and it just added an extra level of stress that I REALLY didn’t need!

And, finally, what's next for you?

CHRISTOPHER: I’m currently working on a faux double-feature. Since double features were common in the 1950s and ‘60s, I’ve always thought it’d be fun to do a movie that’s made up of two shorter films that, when put together as a “double feature,” equal the length of a single feature. This, I figured, would allow me to develop a couple ideas I have that wouldn’t necessarily work on their own as full length features.

So, my next film is called The Late Night Double Feature and will contain two stories: Reform School Girls vs. The Space Monster and The Wall People. If everything works out, it should be out in 2014!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jenny Abel on "Abel Raises Cain"

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Abel Raises Cain?

JENNY: This was my first feature film project, so I literally learned filmmaking on the job. Thankfully, I was able to gain some digital experience while I was at Emerson College as a video major, since the digital age was just taking off then.

After I graduated, I decided to move to Los Angeles and look for work in the film and commercial industry. Moving up the ladder from P.A. to Production Coordinator on various shows, the cumulative experience of working in the field became so valuable to the process of making my own film. Production is all about problem solving, organization and efficiency.

DIY filmmaking comes naturally to those non-delegator types who enjoy micro-managing to an insane degree. That pretty much describes me! It takes an embarrassingly long time to get a film made working this way, on your own, especially when you don't have much previous experience. But it is possible to do it.

I can't take all of the credit, however. My boyfriend came onto the project toward the end and we finished the film together. With his extensive TV news and editing background, he brought with him a way higher production value and without his creative sense, the quality of our movie would have undoubtedly suffered.

What's the upside and downside about making a movie about a family member?

JENNY: Where do I begin? My proximity to the subjects allowed for an intimacy that no one outside of our family could have captured. The funny thing was that even though I was my parents' only audience behind the lens, they still hammed it up. It took a long time for them to finally relax that tendency to 'perform' for the camera.

I can't imagine a crew of strangers attempting to capture the daily lives of Alan and Jeanne Abel. I was really the only one qualified for the job, although my father compared my following him around incessantly with a camera to getting a colonoscopy. And as a retaliatory measure, he mooned me one unsuspecting afternoon on the road somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania. It was an eyeful that I would rather not remember. I don't think he would have done that to a director whom he wasn't related to. But then again, this is Alan Abel we're talking about here. So maybe he would have.

The documentary brought my family closer together in the end, but it was challenging at times. I have a very proactive father who wanted to be involved in every aspect of the film, from resurrecting cutting room floor material to soliciting distributors. Sometimes there were too many cooks in the kitchen, as they say!

Some of the decisions I made, my parents did not agree with. But they were excited for us - and so were we - when things started to take off with the movie. The roller coaster ride began with our winning the grand jury prize at Slamdance. It was pretty thrilling for us to go up on stage and receive the award alongside of my father.

The documentary was the ultimate way to preserve his legacy. My parents experienced a rebirth as a whole new generation of fans were now discovering their work. This culmination point, which was a catharsis for me, also marked the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. That sense of fulfillment for all of us is indescribable.

Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for distribution and recouping your costs?

JENNY: I initially applied for grants and I solicited funding from friends and fans of my father. I cut together a promo reel and sent out copies of it along with a publicity packet via snail mail. The targeted mail campaign was more successful than the blind application grant-seeking process.

Grant-writing is a specialty unto itself and not exactly my forte. I kind of gave up on it, realizing that fundraising was taking time away from actual production. I only wish that Kickstarter or Indiegogo were around when I started this project! Sadly, I went broke making the movie because I poured my own savings into it.

The long and the short of it... there was no plan! I winged it the whole way though, financially speaking. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Between equipment purchases, deliverables, legal costs, festival submission fees, etc. we are talking tens of thousands of dollars right out the window. Even with sales to overseas TV channels and multi-platform digital distribution in the U.S. earning decent returns, we still have not recouped our total costs.

Making a documentary guarantees you're pretty much already operating at a loss even before you've shot one frame.

What camera(s) did you use and what did you love and hate about it?

JENNY: We shot the documentary on the now-defunct former 'high-end' prosumer camera, the Canon XL1. What I liked about it was that it had the option of creating a more film-like look when shooting in 'frame' mode - only one field per frame as opposed to two. The effect was a softer warmer quality as opposed to the cold crispness of standard definition video.

 In terms of audio recording, there were not a lot of options. I was too cheap to invest in or rent real XLR microphones. We ended up plugging in a mini jack external mic and using a crappy mic stand that always seemed to sneak into our shots. This was guerilla filmmaking at its best - no resources and no budget! But, all in all, the XL1 got us through the project and for that, I'm grateful. It's sitting in my closet now, in fact, and I don't know what to do with it.

How long did shooting take and did your vision for the movie change much during the shooting and editing process?

JENNY: It seemed like an epic adventure. The downfall of shooting video is never knowing when to quit. It was five years of actual production, with two of those years in post. Editing in our own living room was a dream come true. FCP really opened up a whole new world of possibilities. A decade previously, we would have had to have rented an Avid suite and it would have been incredibly cost-prohibitive.

The vision definitely morphed as Jeff and I worked on the film together. Major pieces of the puzzle had to be taken apart and put back together again multiple times before it seemed right. We wanted to avoid too many talking heads as well as staying chronological with content.

The 'a-ha' moment came when we realized the story should be told through my POV, giving the documentary a personal touch and providing a true insider view into the madness of my father.

On the flip side, we knew that this could not just be a film about Alan Abel's pranks. There needed to be more depth. So we interjected elements of the love story between my parents and their financial struggles along the way. We debated whether or not to include the latter depressing stuff, but realized that the pathos was necessary to counter-balance the frivolity of the pranks.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?
JENNY: Taking classes at Moviola in Hollywood to learn Final Cut Pro was the smartest thing I could have ever done. It permitted us to edit the movie without too many technical glitches because I learned the idiosyncrasies of the program and how to avoid disasters with media management.

There really are no dumb mistakes when you make your first movie, because the mistakes are necessary to learn from. That's why it's a process that cannot be rushed. We compromised the quality to meet several deadlines along the way, which is easy to do with festival submissions. You want so badly for your movie to get into a top level fest, but then you hand over the latest version with sloppy mistakes.

In retrospect, I may have wasted money on some festival fees that were a long shot but, like they say about the lottery, "you have to play to win." And sometimes my scattershot approach paid off.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?

JENNY: I have become hyper-aware of the fact that filmmaking is a process comparable to raising a child. It requires a tremendous amount of patience and nurturing.

I don't think that I had realistic expectations going into the project in terms of just how much time would be involved not only in the completion of the film itself, but in the distribution end.

But having said that, I learned that passion goes a long way. I just have to find another film subject now that I'm equally as passionate about.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Amy Heckerling on “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Clueless”

What was it that got you into filmmaking?

AMY: I’ve always loved movies, as a kid, forever. I’m watching one right now.

What are you watching?

AMY: Bye Bye Birdie.

When you first started wanting to make movies, what path was available to you?

AMY: I didn’t realize that there was a path. Then when I felt like I can’t NOT do this, I have to do it, there were film schools. But there were only a couple, a handful of them. There was UCLA, USC, the School of Visual Arts and NYU. And I had my heart set on NYU.

Why NYU?

AMY: Well, first of all, I couldn’t afford to pay tuition and pay to live somewhere. So that took care of California. The School of Visual Arts was a vocational school really, and I wanted to go to a university.

NYU was less connected to the show biz community than the California schools, but there was a gritty artiness to the movies they were trying to make and I appreciated that. It was a better fit for me, I was happy there.

What did you get out of your NYU experience?

AMY: We learned all the aspects that went into a movie: there were courses on lighting, a course on cinematography, a course on art direction, there’s courses on writing. And then there’s Sight and Sound, which is where we started making our little movies. Everything revolved around Sight and Sound.

What films did you make in the Sight and Sound course?

AMY: First thing you made a couple of one-minute films; we didn’t have sound equipment. Since I didn’t have sound equipment at my disposal – we didn’t have sync sound but you could put in music –I made a movie that was like a silent film, because I still really wanted to tell a story with dialog. I didn’t want to do a little visual movie, with music and pictures. I wanted to do a story. So I made up cards, telling what the dialog was. People were acting like they were in a silent movies, but it was obviously the 1970s. So that was kind of goofy.

Then I did a musical, because NYU was going broke. So I did a kind of Andy Hardy movie about saving your school. It was still obviously the 1970s, but people were acting like they were in the 1930s. I always had my head in another time period, but in a weird way.

What did you do after film school?

AMY: Well, I took my little movies and, even though they had won awards, I didn’t feel like I was going to go to a company making movies and say, “Look at this,” and then they would make my movies. So I said, “I need something better to show people.” At the time, there were fewer people involved in the industry and it was much tougher.

Now, with all the equipment people have, you can make a feature for no money and use that as a calling card.

So I felt like I need a better calling card, so I went to The American Film Institute, where we could make much slicker, more professional-looking movies and have more access to the industry.

How tough was it to get into AFI then?

AMY: Everybody at NYU tried and only my cameraman and I got in.

What did you do at AFI?

AMY: Associates make videos, which I was not so happy with – I was a film lover. There was a big difference between what videos looked like and what films looked like.

And then your second year you can make a short film. So I made a short film and showed it to the studios. Actually, I had a screening at AFI and we sent invitations to agents and who ever you knew who knew somebody. And one of the people was David Gersch, from The Gersch Agency. He was a kid whose father had an agency.

So he showed it to some people, and I had a meeting at Warner Brothers. Then I pitched them something and they liked it, so then I was writing.

The thing that I wrote went into turnaround at Warner Brothers when they got new executives, and then it was at Universal, but it never got made there. Then it was at MGM and they were going to make it, when David Begelman was there, but then there was an actors’ strike. In the interim, they found a similar project with big stars attached, so they said that it was an act of god that they couldn’t do mine, force majeure.

It was an act of god that there was another similar script?

AMY: That’s what they said. So we had worked all this time for nothing.

So what was your next move?

AMY: A guy I knew showed me a script. It was Fast Times At Ridgemont High. It was Art Linson. At Universal, I had an office next to him. He had shown me other scripts to see what I thought and we’d talk about stuff. And I thought that was what he was doing with this script, wanting to know what I thought of it.

And what did you think of it?

AMY: I thought that these kids – a couple of them have jobs at a strip of stores on the street in a small town and others didn’t have jobs – and I said, “What if you put it all in a mall?” Because the mall was like the soda shop of the 1980s. And then you’d have the people working there and the people coming there and you could have more people work – because I think kids should work.

So he said, “That’s great. What else?” And I said, “There’s all these funny things that different people do and then there’s this wacky guy Spicoli. Why don’t you give these things to him to do?”

How did you get the job directing Fast Times?

AMY: They called and said “Do you want to direct it?” I was thrilled – I really wanted to direct. And then I met Cameron (Crowe), who I loved. And then we were doing it. We started working on the script and he was awesome. He’s Cameron Crowe. He’s amazing.

Tell me how you went about casting the movie, because it’s brilliantly cast.

AMY: Well, thank you. One thing that always annoyed me about high school movies – although as I watch Bye, Bye Birdie it doesn’t seem to annoy me – was that I always felt that they were grown-ups dressed in high-top sneakers and that makes you a teenager.

I wanted to have real kids because the point of Fast Times was that things were too fast, they were too young for things that were happening. So they had to really look young. They couldn’t look like little grown-ups. They had to be children.

But then as we were going through the casting process, first of all you’re limited because they have to be over eighteen. And Art Linson said something pretty brilliant to me: “You won’t be unhappy if you just go with the talent. So if somebody looks ten years old and they’re eighteen, that’s great, but if they’re not talented, you’re not going to be happy. And if somebody is a genius actor – like Sean Penn and Forest Whitaker – you will be happy.” So I did what he said.

That movie was shot in 35 days, without a very long pre-production period and not a very long post. I mean, that was a cheap movie. It was a $5 million dollar, 35-day movie.

What was it like for you on your first day on the set?

AMY: It was terrifying because I had to shoot a car driving by and I didn’t know how big it should be. I knew where the camera should be, I just didn’t know how big the car should be, how fast it should go, how long I should follow it for. But then I shot that and we were just shooting. You know, like everything, the first step’s the hardest, even if the first step is nothing.

Was the crew supportive?

AMY: The cameraman, Matt Leonetti, was an angel. The crew was very nice to me, the AD was wonderful, the editor was wonderful. The big problem was when I went to Europe – the crew was not so nice there. They were not so receptive.

That was on National Lampoon’s European Vacation?

AMY: Yes.

Was it was because you were a woman?

AMY: I don’t know. A woman, an American, a Jew, who knows. It could have been on many levels, it’s hard to tell.

Anyway, Fast Times was an amazing movie at that time, particularly in the way you portrayed sex as not always being fun and sometimes being unpleasant.

AMY: I wanted to show that aspect of it, because there’s way too much fuzzy focus sex, and I wanted to say “these kids aren’t ready for this and here’s how it could not be good.”

How involved were you in the marketing of the movie?

AMY: There was no advertising and they weren’t going to release it. They released it in a couple hundred theaters around the country with no pre-advertising. It did okay, but not what it should have done. There was no faith in it.

Why do you think that was?

AMY: I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it – I’ve got too many things to be mad about now, I don’t want to bring up anger from the past.

So what happened career-wise after Fast Times came out?

AMY: I had a lot of meetings with everybody who had a “virgin” script.

Was there something in particular you wanted to do?

AMY: I didn’t get to do something I wanted because I still felt like I had to do what they wanted – as far as scripts they wanted to make – otherwise it would take forever and it would never happen. But I definitely didn’t want to do another “girl loses her virginity” movie. There’s tons of those.

What led you to write Clueless?

I had written a movie called Rat Race, which was based on a French movie, Mon oncle d'Amérique. It was developed at Disney and they kept giving me notes that weren’t related to the story and I was miserable. And then, ultimately when they passed on it, they said “This is too smart.”

So I got depressed. And then I said, “You want stupid? I’ll show you fucking stupid like you’ve never seen.” Now ultimately that isn’t what I did, but it was a reaction.

I wound up going into Fox and they said writers keep coming in wanting to do movies about nerds, but that they wanted something about the in crowd. I said, “Okay, if I can make them idiots.” And they said, “We don’t care – we just want something about the in crowd.”

And then I thought, I want to do something about a really, really happy person. Someone who is the opposite of what I am. So I made this girl where if you yell at her, she just thinks it’s silly and she never gets hurt. And she’s always happy, no matter what’s happening. And then I thought, I wonder where she would fit? And then I remembered (Jane Austen’s) Emma and I re-read Emma. And I did a pilot and they said, “Nah.”

So I got a new agent and he read it and said, “This should be a movie.” And so he sold it as a movie.

How had you changed as a director between Fast Times and Clueless?

That’s so hard to say, because you’re not the same person on any level. The only thing I can tell you with assurance is how my face has changed.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

50 Filmmaking Tips From Nigel Cole

Nigel Cole is a British film and television director whose works include Made in Dagenham, The Wedding Video, and Calendar Girls. In a series of tweets he has been sharing literally (ok, not literally) everything he knows about making a film. (Originally posted by The Raindance Film Festival at:

1. The script is everything. You can ruin it, but no amount of great acting, clever camera work or editing will make it better than the script.

2. Watching a film is like being hypnotised into a dream like state. Everything fake or false in the film shouts wake up! at the audience.

3. There are 2 parts to a film. The ending and everything else. Beginnings are easy. Any scene is a great opening scene. The ending is hard.

4. If you cast the wrong actor there is very little you can do. If you can’t find the right actor rewrite the part for an actor you love.

5. Every scene needs to move the story along in some way. If it doesn’t you’ll cut it after the first preview.

6. Shooting a film is all about compromise. Knowing where you can’t compromise is what makes you different from other directors.

7. Most actors want to be great. So they try and do great acting. Tell them to stop it.

8. A hundred minutes is a long time to keep audiences interested. The second act really needs to get interesting.

9. The small parts make a big difference. Give them character – there is no such thing as a receptionist or policeman. They are people.

10. Don’t get stuck on an approach to a scene There’s little point in doing 27 takes of the same thing. If it isn’t working change something.

11. Characters don’t have to be nice to be likeable. Nice is boring. But they do have to be entertaining.

12. Never ask the actors to improvise sex scenes. It’s very embarrassing for them. You need to tell them what to do. Move by move.

13. Try to give an actor just one note at a time. It’s impossible to lose yourself in a scene if you are trying to remember a dozen notes.

14. Never have a character talk to themselves. Always looks fake. Find an action that reveals the character’s thought process.

15. It’s tempting to do lots of angles of the scenes you love and skimp on the duller ones. Wrong. It’s the dodgy scenes that need options.

16. All storytelling is a balance between subtlety and clarity. How do you be clear without being obvious? Solve that and you’re on your way.

17. You can start a story with a chance event or coincidence but by act 2 it all has to be driven by the choices the characters are making.

18. Movement is the forgotten art of film. Move your actors in a way that illuminates the scene rather than placing them to suit the camera.

19. Pace is the hardest thing to judge on set. But in the cutting room it’s almost always too slow. Make sure you do a quicker take.

20. Don’t just shoot the dialogue. Ask yourself what the characters are seeing, show the audience the world through your character’s eyes.

21. Storyboards are useful for action and SFX. Useless for everything else. Watch the scene with an open mind -then decide how to shoot it.

22. Continuity is over rated. It’s only a problem five percent of the time. The trouble is knowing which five percent.

23. Get out from behind the monitor on set. It’s an easy place to hide but go and watch the scene with your own eyes. The actors will love it.

24. Rushes are hard to watch – a time consuming, demoralising, insomnia producing, backwards looking nightmare. But you’ve got to do it.

25. Be specific. Don’t be vague. Make your mind up, say something, make choices. Decide specifically what you are saying at each moment.

26. Rehearsals before the shoot starts are a chance to get all the talking done. There’s so little time on set.

27. No one ever noticed the shoes a character is wearing in a film. But the actors and wardrobe people care very much about shoes.

28. On set, shoot the rehearsal. Everyone will complain but it will probably be the best performance and minor technical issues won’t matter.

29. All film is horrible until you put music on it. Most directors watch rushes with music in b.g and slap it all over the cut from day one.

30. Stay away from the snack table (in the USA known as craft services). Directing a film is bad enough for your health as it is.

31. Finished films are never as good as the rushes and never as bad as the first assembly.

32. Never do a joke on top of another joke. One joke at a time.

33. Crossing the line is an easy concept to grasp (google it) but I’ve seen cameramen with thirty years experience get confused by it.

34. However long the shoot you’ll wish you had more time. Cut the script before you start. Try not to shoot scenes you didn’t need.

35. Practice telling your story on friends, strangers- everybody. Only when people tell you that you have a great story will you be ready.

36. Some actors get better the more takes they have and some get worse. When planning coverage shoot the ones that get worse first.

37. Just because the crew are laughing doesn’t mean it’s funny.

38. In script meetings most people’s notes are about logic. I don’t believe this character would do that. I don’t believe that would happen.

39. You are going to be with your editor 18 hours a day for several months, crammed together in a small room. Choose someone you like.

40. To get a job a director must persuade the producer that they will do a better job than their previous work suggests they will.

41. Most actors are good at saying the lines as if for the first time. Looking as if you are hearing lines for the first time is harder.

42. Test screenings are vital, watching with an audience tells you what’s wrong with the cut. But ignore focus groups, they will confuse you.

43. You are going to hate the poster. But there’s nothing you can do about it.

44. The best moments happen by accident. Create an atmosphere where they will happen. Here’s an example from Brando

45. Story is mystery. Withholding information is more important than giving it. Make the audience ask questions. Create suspense.

46. Ask yourself what the purpose of the scene is. Why haven’t you cut it? Make sure that is what you shoot.

47. Extras get a lot of stick. But they can bring a scene alive for the actors if you motivate them properly.

48. Crews work harder when there is naked actor on set. Everyone gets busy so they are not caught looking.

49. A prop that looks fake can kill a scene. Suitcases must look heavy for fucks sake.

50. Have something to say.

(Originally posted by The Raindance Film Festival at:


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Roger Corman on "Dementia 13"

How did you first get connected with Francis Coppola?

ROGER CORMAN: I hired Francis out of the UCLA film school as an editor. I had bought the American rights to two Russian science fiction films, which had wonderful special effects, but they were filled with outrageous anti-American propaganda. And so I hired Francis to re-edit those films, and delete the anti-American propaganda. And then he went along and worked with me on several films as my assistant, and particularly on a Grand Prix Formula One race car picture, called The Young Racers, in which we traveled from track to track.

Francis and our key grip built racks and various compartments into a Volkswagen microbus, so that the microbus was actually a traveling small studio. We used that, with a crew of six or seven professionals, and then we would hire local people.

When the picture was finished, I had to go back to do a picture in the United States, but it occurred to me we had efficiently functioning crew and everything in microbus, so we could stay and do another picture.

We were finishing at the British Grand Prix, which that year was at Liverpool, but the problem was that British labor laws were very difficult. We only had permits to work in and around the track. But I knew that the Irish labor laws were looser. So I said to Francis, 'If you can come up with an idea for a horror script, you can take the microbus and several of the crew and just put it on a ferry and go across the Irish sea and shoot there.'

He came up with a very interesting idea for Dementia 13, and he contacted some people he'd been with at the UCLA film school and they flew over to Dublin and everybody lived in a big house there while he shot the picture.

It was a very interesting psychological suspense story. We took one idea from Hitchcock, which was that the leading lady would die early in the film, just as she did in Psycho. I always thought that was great, because nobody ever expects the leading lady to die halfway through the film!