The Short Screenplay
It is happening right before our eyes. All you have to do is read the daily newspapers.
Feb 15, 2013 – The New York Times
Good Fit For Today’s Little Screens
Although the story is about short stories, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. The Short Film will prosper for the same reasons that the short story is now being heralded. “It is the culmination of a trend we have seen building for five years.” The Internet has created an insatiable maw to feed. “The short film will undoubtedly also help fill the need.” “The single serving quality of a short narrative (read – short film) is the perfect form fit for the digital age.” The New York Times goes on to say, “Stories, (read – short films) are models of concision, can be read (read and seen) in one sitting, and are infinitely and easily consumed on screens.”
The contagion has already started. The idea and appeal of the short film, like a spider spinning it’s web into our web, or an octopus, its tentacles reaching in all directions, even an amoeba spreading its ink blots, is as I write this, reaching far and wide.
The New York Times – March 4, 2013
A Screenplay Contest From Beijing
The announcement by the Beijing municipal government of the Beijing International Screenwriting Competition, inviting completed short film scripts, is a welcome gesture and promise for the short screenplay. The contest is to, “get movies made.” The only condition is that, “all the stories must be about Beijing.” Fair enough. It’s their ball park. “Once we have a good script, we will try to find investment.” The short film scripts are due by April 20, 2013, and may be submitted only by students in the US. All finalists will be flown to Beijing in June, when cash prizes totaling more than $100,000 will be awarded. No small potatoes.
This is just an indication of what is sprouting up in the most unexpected places. The point is that the short film is now increasingly in demand and the interest can only continue and grow. The potential is enormous. Everybody wants to play small ball.
New York Times, March 5, 2013
“Don’t Touch That Remote: TV Pilots Turn to Net, Not Network”
This story, another building block, points to the change in the approach to TV programming because of social media, pointing specifically to recent trends on NBC, HGTV, AOL and YOUTUBE among others. Hail, Hail the gangs all here.
With the evolution of the Computer Age, producers of intellectual property – screenplays, short films, now think in terms of distributing directly to the public through sites like iTunes or Netflix. The sharing of ancillary rights have now become more important and relevant to the question of the distribution potential.
We’ve seen the advent of digital media. The whole game has changed. We now rely on smart phones, tablets, immediate hookups with Amazon or iTunes, outlets being born each day. We buy on the spot. We think instant distribution. The short film will stream before your eyes in a wink. One-click shopping. It’s become an impulse buy. Some glint of entertainment catches your attention – click you’ve got it. Apps, on demand … there is at our disposal a whole range of offerings. Kindles are only the beginning and they will all stream short films for short attention spans. Now – quickly so I can move on the next big thing. Audiences can’t wait to slurp up digital content.
The new question on the block is “What is the social media plan for this short film?”
Upstart distribution companies are spouting up everywhere and the reasons for the new demand are obvious. New technology, digital cameras, editing software, easy lighting techniques, make filmmaking easier, more available and, just as important, affordable for would be filmmakers. You no longer have to break the bank to make your film. More films can and will be made, more outlets will be available, more audiences will be accessible. Film financiers are encouraged. They can now make a profit. There are practical reasons for them to invest in films. Indications are that Independent Films are flourishing.
For the short screenplay and the short film, the proof of the pud is in the eating. Reality is where the rubber hits the road and a million more truisms. It is terrific when the time we live in catches up to what I’ve been screaming for years. The short screenplay is a necessary step towards the full length feature film. It is the tasty appetizer before the hearty meal. It allows screenwriters to practice the craft of screenwriting, to try out their strokes once more before going over the cliff into the heady waters of the full length screenplay. Believe me … you have to walk the walk before you run.
Personally, word of my Short Film Development Program, has seeped out without my whispering into someone’s ear, I haven’t said a word or lifted a finger. In the past two weeks, I’ve gotten calls from Film Festivals in Italy and Berlin, asking that I submit either my full Short Film Program, or as many short films as I can, for their festivals. They need good short films. There is a demand for short films.
That is the whole point of my Short Film Development Program. It is clear that there is an enormous market opportunity for the short film. And…the short film means …exposure on your run towards the feature. We can whet the appetite of the film powers that be waiting in the wings.
If not now …When?
It bears repeating. …, “An opportunity is like the sunrise … blink …you miss it.”
cinema, film, film financiers, film funding, film maker, film making, film production, independent film, internet, movies, screen story, screenplay, screenwriters, screenwriting, script, scriptwriting, short films, writers, writing Best Short Film, short film, short screenplay
The Oscar for Best Short Live Action Film goes to:
Posted on February 26, 2013 by Irv Bauer 1 COMMENT
On October 17th, 2012 I posted – “Impressive Short Films at the #NYFF” – a review of six of the films selected and shown at the New York Film Festival. A couple of weeks ago Vimi and I went to the IFC in Greenwich Village, to see the program of Short Live Action Films nominated for the Oscars. The six short films were on a par with the program that we had seen at the New York Film Festival in October… with one major exception. We had the good fortune to see, #CURFEW, by #ShawnChristensen, from the US, once again. The film is even better than we had remembered. Then …we held our breaths. We wanted it to win. Knew it would win. I hadn’t written about it immediately …give it a shout out … I was nervous for it … felt personally invested because of all the fine scripts my students write… it was close to home…didn’t want to jinx it in any way.
This Sunday was the big night, Oscar night… and…”Curfew,” won the Academy Award for the Best Short Film in the Live Action category. We could breath again and I can now Bravo it. A terrific short film. Good script … very well cast … and directed …and produced. As I had said before, the little girl Sofia, played by Fatima Ptacek is delicious. Shawn Christensen wrote, directed, produced, played the lead character and did a wonderful job all the way around. He deserves the award and everything that follows in it’s wake. He is out there now in a big way. All one can ask.
“CURFEW” film by Shawn Christensen
On October 17th this is what I wrote about it:
” Curfew,” by Shawn Christensen, from the United States, perhaps the best of them all, is a nineteen minute, character driven two hander. We see a young man in a bathtub full of bloody water. It is a shocking sight. We are watching a suicide. He sits sadly, determined, his wrist bleeding his life away. The telephone rings. He doesn’t notice. It rings…rings…rings. He looks at it disinterested…finally reaches for the phone on the floor next to the tub, a woman voice, desperate, pleads for his help. ”This one time,” she begs. She hangs up. He hangs up. He sits …sits…sits. It is funny in its absurdity. Profound in its overtones. He gets up slowly, binds his cut wrist and goes to an upscale apartment, where he looks completely out of place. His sister, Maggie, gives him instructions about baby sitting her daughter Sofia. We meet the precocious Sofia, nine going on twenty three. The adventure begins. Richie has been given a list of places they can go, and what the money he is given, can be used for. Sofia turns her nose up at Richie at Hello. Her disdain drips. Their journey, the stumbling, the reaching out, the tantrums, the fear of touching, is all there before us. Finally the honesty that alters their relationship is surprising, captivating, and ultimately, very moving. Sofia is delicious, played by Fatima Ptacek. Wherever Shawn Christensen found her, she is a keeper, and he is a young writer/director that will be watched with much interest.
MY SHORT FILM DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
It is significant and bares repeating because this one short film was a contributing factor in my deciding to do the Short Film Development Program and in my going the extra mile in arranging for the public showings where the short film will be viewed and reviewed. I bring this Film to your attention because the Short Film Nominees Program is still playing around in a theater near you. Go and see them, even if the theater is not that close to you. Worth the effort to see what others are doing in the Short Film area. Look at the standard, think of what you might do and what is possible.
There definitely is a future for the Short Film and it is a wonderful, and, I think, necessary step in practicing the craft of screenwriting before you tackle the full length form.
I’ll keep you posted.
director, film, screen story, screenplay, screenwriters, screenwriting, script, writers, writing Academy Awards, Best Short Film, Curfew, Oscars, Shawn Christensen, short film
Oscar picks and New York theater
Posted on February 22, 2013 by Irv Bauer LEAVE A COMMENT
The ,”OSCARS,”…AND DRAMATIC REVELATIONS…let’s say it wasn’t about marketing and was about artistic merit … we should be so lucky!
My Choices :
Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field – “Lincoln”
Best Supporting Actor: I have no horse in this race.
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis – “Lincoln”
Best Director: Ang Lee – “Life of Pi”
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – “Django Unchained”
Best Adapted Screenplay: David Magee – “Life of Pi”
Best Documentary: Dov Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky and Estelle Fialon – “The Gatekeepers”
Best Foreign Film: Michael Haneke – “Amour”
This was a hard one. It was also the most interesting categorie as well as the most competitive.
“Amour,” and “A Royal Affair,” a toss up with the edge going to, “Amour.” Not far behind and worth a shout out, “No,” is right up there. All three very good films. Bravo to all, and as long as we are, hailing…, “Life of Pi,” again, loudly, and for all time.
The Dramatic revelation…
Just for a change of pace, I went to the Theater.
STEPHEN SONDHEIM and ETHAN HAWKE
Ethan Hawke in “Clive”
“CLIVE” at The New Group in New York
At The New Group, one of the more adventurous and ambitious of New York’s Theater Companies we have, “Clive.” The New Group do a limited number of plays each season, carefully chosen, well produced, directed and acted. Their standards are very high. Thy are consistently reliable and if they slip occasionally …they do try. The Artistic Director, Scott Elliot, is relentless in trying to bring interesting work to his audiences. Geoff Rich, the Executive Director says that what they try to do is to provide, “a true forum for the present culture.”
“Clive,” is written by Jonathan Marc Sherman and directed by Ethan Hawke. Mr. Hawke also plays the title character of Clive, fills and carries the play.
Watching the play I found myself thinking about actors. I have always thought actors to be the gift of the theater. Acting is not a 9 to 5 job and then you go home and zone out in front of the TV. They are in it come hell or high water and always at war with the beast. The next role, the workshops, classes, readings, rounds, agents, small parts, smaller parts, commercials, the road, waiting on tables, driving cabs, the chatter, the backbiting, who else can you talk to but other actors, the friendships … what I did for love… and always the craft … doing what you love to do with your life’s blood. And don’t try to explain it to anybody. In the words of the film heartthrob of yester-year, Van Johnson, “they’re civilians.” Actors must act and part of their great frustration, is the lack of opportunity. So we see in, “Clive,” Vincent D’Onofrio, a bavura actor. You’ll recognize him from TV’s, “Criminal Intent.” He brings the stage to life. We should see more of him on our stages. The ensemble is terrific. It’s like one big acting class. Young actors trying to shine in their instant choices to realize a moment and then move on. You have to start somewhere.
Ethan Hawke is a film star. “Training Day,” “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead,” among many others. He has also been, “a contender,” on Broadway. Tom Stoppard’s, “The Coast of Utopia,” “Henry 1V,” “The Sea Gull,” all big time stuff. He has paid his dues… made, makes choices of grandeur. Rather than playing it safe, nestling into the star actor’s prerogatives of audience adulation and approval, he has carved out a different path for himself. He wants to not only challenge himself, but also lead a meaningful, artistic and for him, healthy and vigorous life in a very difficult and frustrating cultural environment. He seems to be having a good time. It all comes together in, “Clive.” He is the reason for and the fulfillment of, ” Clive.” I guess he thought it would be easier to do it all himself. He gets an A for effort and a B for getting burned.
Not nearly all his fault. Jonathan Marc Sherman, says that, “Clive” is based on, inspired by, and stolen from the German version of Bertolt Brecht’s “Baal.” Mr. Sherman goes on to say that he used a literal translation to do his adaptation. It might have made a difference if the adapter understood German and breathed the nuance and texture of what meaning lay beneath the words in German so that he could adequately find the English understanding for the adaptation. What did the original play say …what was, “Baal,” all about?
We all steal. The key is to steal from the best and then do your version, wonderfully. Brecht pinched from John Gay’s, “Beggar’s Opera,” for his, “Three Penny Opera.” He took what he wanted and then made magic with it.
“Baal,” was Brecht’s first play, written when he was 20, in 1918. It is an angry young man’s play. A German young man, struggling with the society he was living in. Germany had lost the first World War. The country was in chaos. Brecht was furious with the theater and it’s taste for illusion and theatrical magic. He wanted to shake it up, rip it down, move his audiences with his vision of social conditions as they were. He wanted to provoke change by the challenge of his work on the stage. He was audacious, in your face, no holds bared, society, warts most of all. His was a theater of the despised, the depraved, and the despairing. Theater to run from. It was harsh …brutish … gutteral, like the German language itself. That was his, “Baal.” You can have cake if you are prepared to pay for it. Even if you aren’t. So long as you pay, and he would make his audiences pay. You see the seeds in, “Baal,” of, “The Three Penny Opera.” He’s talking about the same down-trodden underclass, but he had a social concern. I don’t see that social concern transposed to our culture, in, “Clive.” So what is, “Clive,” about?
Of course Mr. Sherman has updated, language, characterizations, locations … all to make it seem new and shiney today. For all of his changes, unless you find the right equivalents, things don’t remain the same, even if you intend them to equate. They just don’t. Mr. Sherman is talented … there are flashes … moments … some insights, crude but they and an honest attempt at relevance. There integrated musical doors with strings hanging from them; sounds nuts, but they are woven into the production design and occasionally plucked by characters scratching out melodic sound (not overdone) to enhance, contribute, to the dramatic moments. Surprised as I was …they work. Another attempt at style is when the characters break to the audience and speak their own stage directions … a devise that added …what? It felt like an affectation of playwriting that was passed off for Brechtian style. And…more important … Mr. Sherman doesn’t have to do the dirty. He doesn’t fulfill the potential of the production. He doesn’t show the ugliness in all of its larger than life frontal assault on our sensibilities. Naming rape, seduction, assault, brutality … death …is really not the same as seeing it up front and personal. We get shadows, whispers of grossness, callousness, the harshness of man’s inhumanity to woman, and man. We see actorly versions of our culture’s underbelly, leaning heavily on sex, drugs and rock and roll for it’s own sake …and then I wrote … So What … or paraphrasing the mantra in, “Clive,” “A rat dies in the gutter … so what …?” Indeed … so what. Who cares. And …we should care … about something or some one. Up there on the stage something must be happening that touches me at some point, for some reason. You can’t just tell me that everything is shit and so what … What does that say about me sitting in the dark nibbling my fear. I go to the theater for nourishment of some kind, not to just take up space and time. Nothing really happens in Clive’s story. He just is … and does l… destructive to himself and everyone, women, men, virgins, babies, anyone near him, anyone who might care for him, and then …, “a rat dies in the gutter … so what,” …and everyone shares the blame … including all of us.
“PASSION” at the Classic Stage Company in New York
I’m not sure that Stephen Sondheim in a somber mood is the musical to see on Valentine’s Day. The Classic Stage Company apparently thought so and as once again brought a perceived, classic, to it’s small open stage, Stephen Sondheim’s, “Passion,” first produced in 1994 on Broadway, The CSC, now in their 45th season, has continuously done outstanding work and has enhanced the cultural life of the New York theater scene. Kudos to Artistic Director Buzz Kulick.
“Passion,” is pure Sondheim, a hailed and justifiably honored artist, an American original …words and music by… musical theater icon in his own lifetime. He is our prize … a gift to one and all … even the few doubters in our midst. I don’t like everything Mr. Sondheim has written. I also admit that I can’t always take Stephen Sondheim straight. His words are great but sometimes his melodies or lack there of …aahh.
Used to be you’d come out of a musical comedy humming a melody or have a show tune stuck in your head like a never ending toothache. I came out of, “Passion,” whistling the scenery …which in this case wasn’t bad. The production design and sets were created by John Doyle who uses the small open stage wonderfully. He also directed, and gives us an intimate, engaging and nuanced, “Passion,” sung as well as acted. With interesting, as well as appropriate costumes by Ann Hould-Ward and an atmospheric and subtle lighting design, by Jane Cox, that guided us dramatically and shifted the mood and action gracefully. The lighting enhanced the overall affect, fitting hand in glove with the elegance of the production. The sound design by Dan Moses Schrier and the orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, musical direction by Rob Berman, make for the overall perfection of this production. I doubt that you will see a better rendering of, “Passion,” anywhere. I think that it is the Director John Doyle who deserves enormous praise for the overall achievement. His work is straight forward, balanced, sure handed and inspired. He guides his ensemble in Sondheim’s passionate romp, seamlessly, dramatically without lingering on the highs or dwelling on the lows. His direction is masterful.
That the production is terrific and worth seeing and that I also think that, “Passion,” is not a great work is not a contradiction. The credits note that the musical is based on the film, “Passione D’Amore,” directed by Ettore Scola. Mr. Scola is one of Italy’s most acclaimed Directors. I’m now curious to see the film to see what was lost in translation. And it’s not all Stephen Sondheim’s fault. James Lapine wrote the book, adapted from the film, set out the story for Mr. Sondheim and shares the responsibility for all of the moans and groans. It feels like a Freudian case study in hysteria set in an atonal monotone. I guess melodies are so out, and emotional logic has been played to the breaking point. We’re supposed to forgive it all because it is a musical.
Playing the more demanding role of Fosca, the gentle soul consumed by passion, Judy Kuhn, no longer a young innocent, displays a dramatic ability necessary to fulfill the difficult persona of a woman, sick in body and even more in spirit, who is consumed with an urgent passion that blinds her to everything else in her life. Ms. Kuhn makes the plight and her passion, believable. No small feat. She sings it as well and…very well indeed. Carrying the burden of all that passion is Giorgo, the Captain, lover of Clara and beloved of Fosca. There’s enough passion for everyone and Ryan Silverman carries it all on his broad shoulders. Mr. Silverman handles the role with ease and a commitment to character that fills the house. An experienced performer, Mr Silverman has starred as Raul in, “Phantom,” and Al in, “Most Happy Fella,” among others. He can sing big time. He’s a keeper who can do it all.
A story about passion … love dressed up and nowhere to go. At the outset we meet the lovers, Clara and Giorgio. They can’t bare to be apart. He has to go to a new posting. She will wait. The pain of parting. At his new posting Giorgio meets Fosca … sick …sickly …sick sick at heart, until she meets Giorgio … and heart beats faster. She falls in love and needs his love to regain her health. Giorgio will be her friend, to help make her better. He is reluctant. She is insistent. He bolts back to the arms of Clara. We then find out that Clara is a married woman and this great love, full of passion, is only passion on the side. Giorgio goes back to the base and Fosca, his Commanding Officer’s cousin, is now sicker and her passion, full blown. Her illness is like the flu and Giorgio catches it only it’s not the flu but some love bug that consumes him. Back to Clara, who, he sees, will not love him without question or give up her comfortable life for him, but if he will wait for five years until her son grows up… He runs back to Fosca and in the great tradition of Opera … he confesses to Fosca that he loves her …they make love … full of passion. Then, big love that he has …he goes off to the new post, after all he is a Captain. Fosca …dies. He reads her last letter and we fade out … end of passion … end of love …end of story. I was underwhelmed. Also, ninety minutes without an intermission.
#Amour, #AngLee, #LifeofPi, film, italian cinema, Michael Haneke, movies, Oscars, screenplay, script, Trintingnant, Uncategorized Academy Awards, Best Actor, Best Picture, Daniel Day Lewis, Django Unchained, Ethan Hawke, Quentin Tarantino, Stephen Sondheim, theatre
“Golden Boy” by #CliffordOdets
Posted on February 6, 2013 by Irv Bauer LEAVE A COMMENT
The summer I turned 18, I wanted to go to work in a hotel to make the year’s tuition for NYU. The family, my mother and my aunt Bertha decreed that I would go to camp and take my cousin David, 10 years younger, with me. I was to look after him. It was a time in my life when I still listened, on occasion, to my family. The camp was in the wilds of Maine …all boys. Just what I needed. I was to run the waterfront which wasn’t bad but what was I going to do at night? I had a new interest. I had discovered the theater, having been in an original school musical in my freshman year. I even remember the name, “Up and Atum.” It had been a big hit on campus and I had a great deal of fun. I ended up playing all the minor roles (quick changes of costume and facial hair) and singing my tail off. I loved it…the bug had bitten. I didn’t know what I wanted to do …something…acting …directing …playwriting. It had all come with such a rush. I knew I wanted in … but, “in,” what …and oh those long summer nights. I went to the library and took out all of Eugene O’ Neil and the collected works of Clifford Odets. I admired O’Neil …Odets got to me. I heard him the way I had heard James Joyce. For the second time, I thought, like the kid in, “Chorus Line,” who goes to dance class with his sister and watches, “I can do that.” I had read Odets with a hunger, understanding with my skin as well as my head. I read, “Golden Boy.” I could see it … I could hear it… I could feel it. If that’s what the theater was …that’s the, “in,” I wanted. It wasn’t a job … it was a life I wanted “in,” to. Of course I didn’t know the rest of it then …that was to come later but I knew it was the beginning and Clifford Odets and his plays had something to do with it. Significant.
Sooooooo recently I went to Broadway’s Balasco Theater to see, “Golden Boy,” with a good friend who knowing of my Odet’s appetite and who can afford today’s tickets, as a birthday present, took me. I went and brought all of my baggage with me.
Clifford Odets was THE major American Playwright of the 1930s and 40′s . He went to Hollywood and got eaten up. Partly his own doing. He also did very good work in film, “Sweet Smell of Success,” ” None but the Lonely Heart,” with a very different Cary Grant. Wrote, directed… an English story …it’s worth checking out. James Agee, terrific writer, one of the best film critics anywhere…ever, (Agee on Film -Book One – his film reviews) calls Odets, “one of the true dramatic poets alive today,” (written in 1946). It is true, ever obvious in his plays.
I was anxious to see what, Bartlett Sher and the Lincoln Center theater had accomplished. I had my fears. A few years ago, again for Lincoln Center, Mr. Sher had taken Odets out of moth balls and mounted, “Awake and Sing.” With the same loyal friend, I had gone to see it. If that moth could ball, it would have. It’s called, “Awake and Sing,” not, ” Awake and Talk.” Mr. Sher has a tin ear. He had rendered Clifford Odets, cliche, flat and dull. He had mis-cast. He made the language arch and he missed the street poetry and the pain of humanity and struggle of the play’s characters. He didn’t show us the yearning … the depression’s ache …the song of the future was left off stage. There is a rhythm in Odets’s work. His dialogue sings his drama. It is an Americanized, transposed, translated Yiddish into NY street of the period. It is a street poetry, a lyrical street patois. It is not an archaic, precious, cute, artificial theatrical sound or of dated fancy folk. It is germaine to doing his plays. You have to hear it for it to sing. Bartlett Sher doesn’t hear it.
In Mr. Sher’s efforts to makke this production more available to today’s audiences, he has given us a generic, “Golden Boy,” flimsy …showy, fast and furious, compromised to the one. The words are there but Odets, his sensibility, his historical perspective, his enormous feeling for humanity and the struggle for the soul of America, is just not in this tired, surface redering of an important play. The American golden boy who tries to beat the game and is instead beaten by …the game. What can be more American …more timely …more dramatic. “Golden Boy,” is of it’s time …about it’s time if you know that is the story that Clifford Odets is telling. It is a period piece and should be played with some understanding of time and place.
Joe Bonaparte, is an Italian kid from the Depression streets of New York. His value system didn’t come from boxing. It came from years of violin lessons, growing up in his father’s house, listening to his father talk, over chess to their intellectual neighbor Mr Carp, about their world. He also talks to his older brother, Frank, the union organizer. Joe didn’t grow up in a vacuum. All of those influences together cause the pull against the driving force of ambition, the dark side of the American dream…success in dollar signs and fast cars. Joe, the kid, read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover. He’s no dummy …smart …he must have retained something. He’s not just an Italian street kid out of nowhere who wants the big time in the America of 1937. The problem comes from being torn between two worlds. The old and the new. Push …pull…heart ache …drama. We all want both worlds… Art …financial rewards. That’s our dilemma. Well not all … some of us. ME! That’s why, “Golden Boy,” should resonate with us. That’s why it deserves to be done. That it were done with feeling and promise and an ear for Odetics, can only be hoped for. Music Mr. Sher … music for the soul, to soothe the soul. Listen and you shall hear… You don’t know about Joe unless you know and understand his historical past. Where does he come from …what drives him…what is his dream ? This is not a dream play. The Depression was deadening and Joe wants out … and for him boxing means out. We have to feel the weight of that. I didn’t. I didn’t get any of the why in this production. He was just energy wanting to go fast. Not nearly enough.
Seth Numrich, plays the, “cock-eyed wonder,” who gives up 10 years of practice and love of music and the violin, not exactly chopped liver, for boxing …and where did that come from …protecting himself in the fierce streets … the mean streets … the humiliating streets. Italian kid carrying a fiddle case …sissy. Impoverished immigrant childhood … Learned nothing… nothing stuck to him …? Genetic …? “Speed, speed, everything is speed …nobody gets me.” Fancy car …speed … which he buys (used) with his first winnings. Everything is reduced to action. A lot happens and fast … no time to wonder why Dear. Inconsistencies …forget about it. Fast …go past it. It’s excitin’ ain’t it. And that’s how the young enthusiastic actor out of Julliard plays it. Encouraged, I’m sure by Mr. Sher’s artful direction. The young fellow hasn’t got a chance. I felt for him…but he’s young.
Lorna Moon – (not Sun) hangs on to the fight guy manager. He took her out of the gutter, off the bread line, out of the beds of bums. She’s a whore and he saved her ass. She owes him and doesn’t forget it. For her life’s not about love …it’s about survival. Her need is beyond desperation. More to his gal …a realist if there ever was one…than meets the eye. And he’s an eyefull to boot. She is played by Yvonne Strahovski who wondered in from nowhere Australia and got it right. That’s what I love about the theatre, you get magic when you least expect it. In a cast assembled with a tin ear, a blind eye and no understanding of ensemble acting, she is a gift. She is a shady lady, down but not out … hanging on by her fingernails, but in her own way, loyal, courageous and still open to love. The way Ms Strahovski plays her, she has honor and street smarts, knows what time it is but can’t help herself when faced, pushed into her own need for love. It is a heart felt remarkable performance. She’s playing the part Odets wrote. I don’t know what the others are doing. In what passes for acting in Mr. Sher’s misguided and misunderstood production, a standout is Danny Burstein playing the trainer, Tokio, who also gets it right.
Michael Arnov playing Siggie, the brother-in-law is all pop and energy, spits out his words as if he is in a cartoon. Speaking of cartoons, the most overblown of them all is Anthony Crivello who plays Eddie Fuseli, homosexual gangster, like a blow-torch attached to a loud speaker. My big boo, painfully and sadly for me, is Tony Shaloub, an experienced and talented actor. He plays the father, an old world Italian workman with a social conscience and a love of culture … music …good conversation … family, and a time honored work ethic. There’s a lot there to chew on. Mr Shaloub makes questionable choices or has been directed into those choices. What Italian immigrant? He gives us a comic, animated, made up Italian persona with an accent out of where …no recognizable Italy. He is acting from the moment he opens his mouth and I don’t believe him for a moment. That leaves the big father – son scenes nowhere to go … mute. They feel nothing because you don’t believe and the drama is gone and where will we have dinner after this thing is over?
Without real tension the push and pull between art – music – old country culture and the new world, money -boxing- fast cars – managers – other whores – success- championships – death … Joe Bonaparte, violinist/boxer who met his Waterloo because he wanted to rule the world. You can’t tell the audience that they have to feel it …if they don’t feel it. Then what is, “Golden Boy,” …a title but no cigar.
This is a play about the son, the next generation of those who got off the boat wanting the promise of America …but what did the promise mean is the question that Odets asks. I didn’t get the music. It’s an opera all by itself and Odets gives us a violin to play. I watched a version of, “Golden Boy,” that made Odets an old fashioned cliche and in a B-Picture. Bartlett Sher strikes again. John Lahr, esteemed critic in the New Yorker, says, “For decades, Odets has languished in the discussion of American theater’s great playwrights.” I couldn’t agree more. I only hope that this production, for what ever reason, by it’s mere presence and the big push by critics like Mr Lahr who have heaped praise on it, stimulates theaters all over, to put the play on their stages so new generations get a chance to see Clifford Odets work.
In March, not Lincoln Center, this time The Roundabout Theater, will bring us Clifford Odets’s tribute to Hollywood and the American way of film, “The Big Knife,” directed by Doug Hughes. I can’t wait. Stay tuned.
director, Uncategorized, writers, writing acting, actor, Clifford Odets, director, drama, Golden Boy, plays, stage, stage plays, theatre
#Lincoln …the movie.
Posted on January 20, 2013 by Irv Bauer 1 COMMENT
I thought I’d get an avalanche of responses to my challenge to my faithful, transient…occasionally curious …bored …lazy …film lover-hater readers. ”Lincoln,” …you turn…? I got a meager handful of half- hearted hints. “Liked-loved it,” “OK.” I was underwhelmed. Since no more seem to be forth-coming it’s Saturday afternoon, no playoff game in sight, it’s cold outside, having returned from Florida my blood has turned to water, I could read, don’t feel like it and I can’t think of another good reason to avoid… so… , “Lincoln.”
Thank goodness for my little books which many know, I am never without. “The ability to make a note when needed …is the difference between writing and not writing.” I made notes in Florida in November. “Lincoln,” opened Vimi and I ran …ran mind you … at least in the car ran to the local movie theater. The trick is the late show. All the oldies are snug …bed- y-bye. There were six people in the audience including us. Big ticket opening and old folks like Lincoln…and Spielberg, nice Jewish boy playing with Tony Kushner another nice Jewish boy, uses big words so well, what can be bad. But it’s the late show so no worries. We saw, ”Les Miz,” and were the only two in the theatre. So no barometer. Our own private screening room. It should be called, “Les Mess.” It will get it’s own treatment later.
So, finally, “Lincoln.” It has the sound of seriousness. A historical document on film. A friend said it should have been called, “The 13th Amendment.” A grand civics lesson. Every child should be given one. Daniel Day-Lewis is Lincolnesque to the core. His is a remarkable performance. Award deserving. We have a grim battle scene of men, black-white, blue-grey, in the mud…blood …gore…mortal combat, hand to hand and then some, (Saving Private …) and … Lincoln leading the troops, slowly, hunched over on horseback, through the haze and fog of war. Impressive … Americana front and center. Stirs the blood. Soon we get a moment with young … young black soldiers …The Gettysburg address …even a young white boy gets into the act …how else to get those fine inspiring words into the muddled time line of the screen story. All good stuff … but is it a great motion picture or is it, once again, the triumph of marketing in a cynical age. I think, and I am not the voice of G-d …nor do I want to be the voice of G-d … I think that it is a good film, a film to be seen by one and all … at least it strives to be taken seriously. I also think that it is a film with flaws. Not nit-picking, fault finding flaws, around the edges flaws. Flaws …major flaws, that can be seen and heard and criticized.
It seems to me that the bug in the soup is Tony Kushner. I’ve long thought that he was too in love with his own words…and…it is not a matter of stage or film. The man loves to pontificate, called for or not. And…he gets away with it. Darling boy that he is. It’s not that I’m a minimalist. I love words when they are needed and that covers a lot of ground. I use words. I believe that sometimes more …is more. Your ear, and eye in film, should tell you when it is excessive. When the little voice in your head screams, “Will this guy never shut up,” you know the game is up. It’s one step to boring. It might carry the sound of profundity but it’s also heavy going, window dressing…watch out the voice says because it may just be boring. Let’s face it Tony Kushner suffers from verbosity. At times, “Lincoln,” feels bloated …to me. Words for the sake of words. What happened to, “If you can see it …you don’t have to say it.” It’s film. Get on with it.
That brings me to collaboration. Spielberg, Kushner, not exactly Rogers and Hart or even Rogers and Hammerstein for that matter. Speilberg’s film drags under the weight of Kushner’s words. I watched the film…I thought …interesting…admirable … it didn’t grip me or take me away …it didn’t move me. I was outside looking in. I saw the film. I got it. I wanted more. I wanted the Lincoln that has moved me from childhood. Understand… ah yes …the 13th Amendement debate…relevance to today. Politics. You see …it’s always been that way. All through the movie they didn’t know what story they wanted to tell. I wanted the Lincoln who makes me cry thinking about the enormity of the man and his words … his words …his words…his words. I want what he made me feel about the expectations for this country I feel every day. Feelings and the fulfillment of ideas that Lincoln laid out for us. I wanted a Lincoln for our time. I wanted a, “Lincoln,” for all time. And …it’s not Daniel Day Lewis, who was grand … towering … a performance to hold your breath for. And it’s not Sally Fields who is peerless in her approach, touching in her sensibility and heart breaking in her Molly. She is deserving of the highest of honors and that I hope that she receives. What I came with was Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Fields. Not Lincoln. And only by manipulation the 13th Amendement.
I could talk about incongruities, things that don’t seem to fit, and performances that feel like they drift in from other films but you get my drift. My beef is with Spielberg and Kushner. It should be a better film…I think.
You want to see a film of historical significance …go and see, “A Royal Affair,” a wonderful film from Denmark, then talk to me about entertainment that can be significant. Sweeping and small all at the same time. It deserves it’s own space which I will deal with soon. Meanwhile tomorrow we observe the fifty seventh Presidential Inauguration Day. God bless America.
cinema, director, film maker, film making, movies, reviews, screenplay, screenwriters, screenwriting, script, scriptwriting, writer, writers, writing Academy Awards, Jamie Fox, Leonardo DiCaprio, Oscars, Quentin Tarantino
Posted on January 13, 2013 by Irv Bauer LEAVE A COMMENT
“The d is silent,” says Django quietly, in Jamie Fox’s nuanced and very appealing title role performance in Quentin Tarantino’s, for me, stunningly surprising new film “Django Unchained.” Surprising because I was not a Tarantino fan…until now. I thought that he made quirky films, comic book driven, popular but choppy, over blown and loud. When they worked, “Pulp Fiction,” I was interested but not enthused. My wife and I went last night … no expectations …mainly talked about where we were gong to eat afterwards. We were already past it. Ho hum …then on line …waiting to go in, we were accosted by an enraged women who had just come out of the theatre. “Get your money back …too much blood. It’s disgusting.” She pointed to, ‘Les Miz,’ … “that’s historical.” I didn’t tell her that we had seen it the night before and it should be called, “Les Mess,” but that’s for another day.
We went into the theatre. The lights went down. “Django Unchained,” was ushered in with a musical fanfare. But let me jump to an overview after the fact. “Django Unchained,” is a terrific motion picture. Where “Lincoln,” is overblown, fatuous and not clear as to what story it wants to tell rendering it neither fish nor fowl, “Django Unchained,” knows exactly what it is and doesn’t pretend to be anything else…and what it is …is a large panoramic sideways glance at America, warts and all. Our past with reverberations of the present loud and clear. I’m sure no other American filmmaker could have made “Django Unchained.” Its heart in comic books, video games and it’s dreams of action heroes and old movies, preferably Italian spaghetti westerns or social action stories favoring the ultimate triumph of the down trodden, Mr. Tarantino goes where angels fear to tread with a shout out to Franco Nero who played the original “Django,” passing through. This is pre-civil war slavery as you’ve never seen it before. This no sequel, prequel, to, “Gone With The Wind,” and Django is no Rhett Butler …although remember we are talking about dreams. It may be an homage, in its own way, to, “Birth of A Nation.” It eludes to the Klu-Klux Klan which figured prominently in Griffith’s classic. In “Django Unchained,” they are shown to be a bunch of clowns who can’t even get their white hoods right. Probably closer to the truth in it’s buffoon portrayal.
Mr. Tarantino mixes it all up and it comes out wonderfully right. A German dentist, really a bounty hunter, played just right by Christoph Waltz, earlier in “Inglourious Basterds.” Samuel L. Jackson, one of Mr. Tarantino’s band of traveling players, does an extraordinary job playing the White Columned (reminds one of Tara) “House Nigger.” He uses the term so often that there it’s almost a throw away, which again is Mr. Tarantino pissing in the wind. We get it and we applaud his audacity. Jackson plays Stephan to the hilt, eyes popping, a ‘Stephen Fetchit,’ a defender of the faith. Then …there is Leonardo DiCaprio …a handsome southern gentleman and plantation owner, Master of the House, the other face of Rhett Butler…angry …hateful…brutish …a villain in velvet gloves. And …Jamie Fox …towering …simmering …seething … We fear for him …
We cheer for him. That’s right …get every last one of the bastards. Burn the house down. He does it with just the right panache touched with vulnerability. He is never over the top. He is always in the fray, part of the action, true to his quest to save and free his wife. It looks like the actors are all having a whale of a good time making this film. Oh to have been a fly on the wall. The German Dentist, King Shultz, talks about the Norse mythic heroine Brunhilde, (in Wagner’s opera Gotterdammerung) …who can only be saved by one who can overcome all obstacles, the hero Siegfried, and Jamie Fox embodies Siegfried … in this Southern/Western film? That seems right too even if you don’t know that he is referencing the legend or the opera. It fits. The logic all fits.
The film is visually stunning. The score is eclectic and works wonderfully. The whole thing is a bit screwy … a bit off …but exactly right. I can imagine Tarantino thinking …wouldn’t it be something if the bounty hunter, killing white men for money, the instrument of the slaves emancipation, was a Jew. He was smart enough to know that a Jew would be too much…like pouring salt on a wound, so he made him German, the arch type American enemy of bygone days. Almost as good. I can see the NRA members and the good ol’ boys clambering for their automatic weapons. Shut the door and close the windows …the values of old white guys are being threatened. There is a black man on a horse with a gun strapped to his hip. HELP! Protect the children. I don’t think they have to worry. I’m sure the children love Quentin Tarantino. “Django Unchained,” is that kind of film. It is exhilarating. It stirs the blood. As I said …it caught me off guard. My bad. All I can now say is, Bravo Quentin Tarantino. An American Writer/Director made this film…now. It is a film for our time …in our time. I’m sure it will please crowds worldwide. I hope it makes a gazillion dollars. Of course Harvey Weinstein will gleefully count every penny. There’s something poetic about that too.
For all kinds of reasons popular, personal, artistic and practical, “Django Unchained,” certainly is a serious contender. If, “Life of Pi,” is going to be ignored… who knows why, and “Amour,” will take Best Foreign Film at the Oscars and the critics choice by popular bamboozlement seems to be “Lincoln,” I back “Django,” as a deserving counter weight. Screw conventional wisdom and the marketing blitz… its going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
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Posted on January 1, 2013 by Irv Bauer LEAVE A COMMENT
The best part…the fun part … the exciting part. The burst of an idea… the exuberance and energy of it. The glory of it… it must be like giving birth. I can only imagine … but I have felt the jolt of a new idea. Some of you have to nurse it along before it becomes clear. Others jump out and it bangs you on the head. They come charging out from anywhere, unannounced, unpredictable… sometimes uninvited. An overheard piece of conversation drifting down the street, a fragment of a newspaper story. Yes I still read newspapers. I like to feel them in my hands. Old habits… Once the germ has infected you … you have to cultivate it…let it grow into a full fledged storm in that hot house of your head and then let, whatever will attach itself to that little bugger, do it’s will. Who knows, with a little patience…time and …attention, something (story ?) may grow. Alright, now you’re sick with consumption, clogged with stuff, pregnant with pauses… what do you do with all this excess? You have to get it out of the hairy theory infecting you… into a form …a mass … a practical presence… The hard part… molding it into a film form … creating a screenplay.
The Screenplay…, “A Technical Manual …Artfully Written.” Writers who know the value of the camera …you are writing for film, a visual medium …and telling your stories from the point of view of what is to be seen on the screen in an interesting, unique and insightful way. “Artfully Written.” Artists who write with the technical necessity of the visual component, in mind… that’s what screenwriting is all about. And, the more you do it… practice…the better you get at it… and …the more interesting your screenplays will be … and …the more available to the film industry you make yourself.
The New Year, 2013 is a New Beginning. Take up the challenge with both hands and your teeth. Go get ‘em tigers! Speaking of tigers… go see “Life of Pi.”
#AngLee, #LifeofPi, director, film, screen story, screenplay, screenwriters, screenwriting, script, writers, writing 2013, Academy Awards, Ang Lee, camera, Globe Awards, Life of Pi, New Year, Oscar’s, visual
“Young and Eager”
Posted on December 27, 2012 by Irv Bauer LEAVE A COMMENT
Vimi and I are at our hide-away retreat in Delray Beach, Florida, for some sun, swimming, even trying to get a little work in. It’s been a terrific change, just what we needed to recharge and …it is working. The weather has been great, the movie houses are not jammed (late show at 9: 30 …easy) more about the current crop of films for another day. I want to talk about, “Young and Eager.” When I lived in Paris, many moons ago, I ran a theatre for a minute and a half. It was at The American Student and Artists Center on the Blvd Raspail in Montparnasse, toujours Montparnasse. I was gong to do neglected American plays by O’Neil, Odets, Saroyan, Tennessee (we did get to do, “Streetcar.” I played Mitch and loved it. Sitting with the guys over beers at Le Select, I even mentioned doing an original American play …if I could find one. We went on drinking beer, watching the ladies and planning for our fantastical futures. That was the end of it … I thought. Some weeks later, my great pal and leader of the pack, although he never said so or acted the part …but we all knew and acclaimed it so …Matt Carney, joined me at Le Select …always Le Select …if it was good enough for Hemingway, it was good enough for us. Matt had a friend who had written a play and would I read it? Of course … a friend of Matt’s …etc …and so forth… I read the play and to my surprise … it wasn’t bad. There was an original idea …it had some language …it had a limited cast, I think 8 or 9 and an abstract set. It was possible. We had a stage … and all kinds of artists who would create and build a set …pour qua pas …why not? Why not indeed. Too many distractions. The Van Goghs in Amsterdam, playing Americans in European films (I actually played a lead in an English film…the big bad American of course…fun.) Then there was also, the Theatre in London and the bulls in Pamplona …and … women. Distractions galore.
I always regretted not doing that play when I had the chance. “An opportunity is like the Sunrise… Blink …you miss it.” When I stopped to think, which wasn’t often in those days, I realized that the play was written by Matt Carney himself. Of course… it was original, had ideas and plenty of, parole d’ bonnheur, good talk. That was Matt all over. He was a returning Marine Vet working on a PhD in Philosophy at the Sorbonne on the G.I. Bill. He was a little older than the rest of us, a Bon Vivant if there ever was one, a prodigious story teller, a good and generous friend, one of the first Americans to discover Pamplona, (became the premier bull runner of all time, a legend in his own time) and was gracious enough to take us all with him. Matt was an adventure all by himself. I was glad to have known him, spent good time with him and was honored to be considered his friend. To say that he is missed doesn’t begin to frame Matt.
Matt was also an encouragement.
I thought … if Matt can write a play … I could write one too. That’s how it all began.
Now… what was I going to write about? What did I, in all of my 25 years of maturity, know anything about? I had gone to NYU, took Journalism, but not wanting to work on a newspaper. When I got out … I took a job in Public Relations, because I didn’t want to wait on tables while waiting to do what I really wanted to do …be an actor. Alright …I admit it … didn’t everybody want to be an actor in their 20’s. That’s what the theater in Paris was about. Anyway I had 3 PR jobs in 3 years in the next years, each better, more responsible than the one before. I had a knack for it. In fact …that’s how I got to Paris. In my 20’s, I was telling a country what to do …I couldn’t cross the street myself. “Young and Eager,” is that story with my observations about Public Relations thrown in. I wrote the farce in 6 days. On the 7th I rested. Passed out is more like it. The only thing I remember is that my heart almost pounded out of my chest I was so excited. I didn’t know what I was doing. It was all instinct but my instincts weren’t bad and I had a good ear so the dialogue was pretty good.
When I got back to New York, had some success in acting and re-wrote, “Young and Eager.” This time it took me five months. I still didn’t know what I was doing. I was in, “Camino Real,” the last play that Jose Quintero directed for Circle in the Square, (an amazing experience and deserves space and time along side Matt Carney so I’ll leave both for another chapter in the further adventures of…) to help out a fellow cast member of, “Camino,” and my apartment mate, Barry Primus, a very good actor and friend, I wrote a scene for his scene study class at Herbert Berghof’s Studio because Barry was tired of doing the same old stuff. I took a scene out of a short story by Philip Roth, “Eli the Fanatic,” and adapted it for the stage. It was only for a class so no harm done. The scene worked well and …I was hooked. I could not …not finish the work. I wrote a full TWO ACT PLAY based on a 12 page short story. Nobody told me that everybody and his brother (sister?) had taken a shot at the story and it was deemed, “un-adaptable.” Then follows yet another show biz saga …that will have to wait for another day too. Philip Roth …the rights…option …money … and Sidney Bernstein. Great man…theatre or otherwise. My first producer and the best one I ever met before or since. He liked writers, best friend had been Clifford Odets. After he named names Sydney never spoke to him again. The tale of, “Eli,” or, “Irv the Fanatic,” will also have to wait for another day. Broadway …drama … intrigue … lies… lies… lies, the usual Broadway bullshit …What I didn’t know could have filled Yankee Stadium.
One of the little perks of that glorious moment in the sun was that it attracted The William Morris Agency, major players in the Entertainment world. I was a peach…flavor of the month. Went to lots of lunches and smiley meetings. What else did I have? “Young and Eager.” Excitement …plans …there’s a hit! Jackie Mason wants to buy it…tour it on the summer circuit and bring it into Broadway. I still don’t know what I was doing. Another instant when I stepped back to think …Jackie Mason …a terrific comedian … I liked him …had the best timing in the business. It would change the play … shtick it up … Yes it was a comedy … it was supposed to be funny …I hoped that it was funny …but I was also saying something about America and the Public Relations ethic that has such a profound effect on every aspect of American life and people buying their own bullshit. I said, “No.” I couldn’t pay my rent …I said, “No.” Jackie Mason called me …, “You don’t want to sell me your play…?” I was embarrassed. I’d re-write …I’d call him. You don’t know how many times over the years I’ve kicked myself for not selling the play to Jackie Mason. I never called him. The years passed. I would take it off the shelf …change a few lines …put it back. People were interested…the energy went somewhere else…so did William Morris. Life takes you. Nothing happened with or for, “Young and Eager.”
Last year I thought about all of the scripts I’ve written …good scripts …I think…all sitting on shelves, gathering dust, not gong anywhere for reasons that we all know and love…what a waste. Why not take the plays down …dust them off …put them on the computer …push the button …and Voila …they are gone to Regional theaters, Community Theaters, University and High School theaters, Off Off Off somewhere …somebody, someplace might want them. Couldn’t hurt …I’d try. Sooooo I took down, “Young and Eager.” I’d cut and paste …a little tuck here … a snip there …good as new …ready to send out to a secondary world. I had a birthday coming up with a 0 in it. I’d give myself a birthday present. “Young and Eager,” shiny and new, before my birthday. We were going to Delray Beach for a stretch …perfect.
That’s what I thought …that was my plan. The computer would make it easy …take no time … a new age of rapid … instant access was upon us … get with it Irv. I started … changed a little … then I changed a little more… then it hit me… who was I kidding … I needed a re-write, nothing more nothing less. I wrote, “Young and Eager,” 40 years ago …it was a young man’s play. I was now rewriting it as a much different writer, experienced, toughened …no more illusions, I know a little more about what I am doing. I’ve taken the time … I’ve done the work… I’ve dreamed the dreams. I poured myself into, “Young and Eager.” I finished in time for my birthday, Dec 23, 2012. It was the best birthday present I could have given myself. I think that I’ve fulfilled the potential that was always there but that I couldn’t write until now. I can actually say that I am thrilled. Forget about secondary sources …I’m ready for prime time.
That brings me back to THE REWRITE. Cut and paste will not do it. It’s not about saving time using the tricks the computer makes available. Your instincts, good as they are will only take you so far. Rewriting is about re…writing. There is no way around it. There are no short cuts. Rewriting is labor intense. I takes time. It means physically doing it all over again. It is the only way to control the internal melodies of the entire piece. I is painstaking. A scene by scene, line by line …word by word reappraisal of the work. You have to feel it in your fingertips. It’s not that writers consciously want to avoid the work. For some reason they feel that they wrote it …it is there. Period. Athletes are constantly in training. Dancers miss a day at the barre and you’d think the world is coming to an end. Singers spend a lifetime searching and trying to perfect, the “pozizione.” Only writers think that they have been, “touched,” have the, “gift.” Don’t have to practice. Don’t have to master a craft. It’s all inspiration. Lightening will strike. What happens if lightening doesn’t strike …you stand there with your finger in your nose?
Writing isn’t a job. It is a philosophical choice. It’s what you do in your life. It’s what you have to do. If that’s not the way you feel …if you haven’t got the time or aren’t willing to make the time … don’t do it …it will be too hard.
If you want to write …learn the craft … and practice… and don’t short change your rewrite. Hopefully it won’t take forty years. It means allowing; expecting the changes. The work is really a new work born out of the old work. It is its own draft. That means something. You can kid everybody …you can’t kid yourself. The best is yet to come. Everybody says that … I mean it. And screenwriting… “A TECHNICAL MANUAL ARTFULLY WRITTEN.” More on that later too. Happy New Year all… lucky ’13.
Clifford Odets, playwrights, rewrite, screenwriting, script, writer, writers, writing advertising, Broadway, copywriting, public relations, rewriting, stage plays, theatre
#Rewrite – a very personal one!
Posted on December 15, 2012 by Irv Bauer LEAVE A COMMENT
…five yellow pads…
…and a partridge in a pear tree…”
This morning at 6.58 a.m. I finished a major rewrite. My first play. I was 24 living in Paris. In a burst of energy it took me 6 days to write.When i came back to the States a few years later I could have sold it. I didn’t. I didn’t want it distorted. A major comedian wanted to buy it and do a tour of it before Broadway. I could have used the money for things like the rent. It sat there… gathering dust. I pulled it off the shelf a couple of years ago. 50 years later. I thought I could cut and paste and send it to regional theaters or amateur theaters, community theaters and make a few bucks.
What it needed was a full rewrite. Which, in the quiet of our retreat in Delray Beach, Florida I have done. Six weeks, preceeded by many months of note taking. Dec 14, 2012 – 6.58 a.m.
This is what rewriting is all about. Constant involvement with the material, time and focus.
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#LifeofPi – Interview with #AngLee and #DavidMagee
Posted on December 12, 2012 by Irv Bauer LEAVE A COMMENT
True Believers – Ang Lee, #Director – David Magee, #Screenwriter
When I reviewed Ang Lee’s, “Life of Pi,” at the New York Film Festival, I saw a great film artist at work. When I met him one-on-one I saw a humble man, a decent man, a very human man. It was obvious that the man and the filmmaker were integrated and you couldn’t tell where one began and the other left off. Ang Lee, a special individual, where the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. With, “Life of Pi,” Ang Lee creates a groundbreaking movie event about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and shares a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. They are both hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. In their tense, always dangerous, time together, they form an amazing and unexpected bond … a seventeen year old boy, Pi …and a fearsome tiger named Richard Parker, in an unforgettable tale of courage, perseverance, and hope, at times thrilling, harrowing and triumphant, humorous and inspirational. What could be more tantalizing and delicious.
Ang Lee, Director/Producer, is one of the world’s most revered and honored film directors. He has won two Academy Awards; in 2006 for his direction of, “Brokeback Mountain,” and the 2001 Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language film for, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” among many other international honors and awards. Mr. Lee moved to the United States from Taiwan in 1978. After receiving a BFA in Theatre from the University of Illinois, he went to New York University to complete a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Film Production. Ang Lee’s first feature film, “Pushing Hands,” won Best Film at the Asian-Pacific Film Festival in 1992. His, “Father Knows Best” trilogy, “The Wedding Banquet,” was next, followed by, “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman,” named Best Foreign-Language Film by the National Board of Review. Then the ravishing, “Sense and Sensibility,” “The Ice Storm,” and the box office triumph, “The Hulk,” which was then followed by, “Brokeback Mountain.” These uniquely diverse film choices more than adequately prepared him to create what might be his crowning achievement, “Life of Pi.”
Ang Lee said that David Magee was chosen for the daunting task of adapting Yann Martel’s best selling novel, a far reaching work with profound implications, because of the work he did on, “Finding Neverland,” for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for best screenplay in 2004. That year he also won a Golden Globe. Mr. Magee said that what he tried to do was marry the profound and whimsical with epic adventure and deep introspection. The screenwriter had to admit that while he read the book for pleasure some time before the assignment, now that he had the job, he wondered how he, “could translate it for the screen. For me,” he said, “it was simply telling a story about a story. In the book, Pi is telling a story to the character of the writer just as Ang Lee is telling us a story with his film.”
In telling Pi’s story, Ang Lee pushes the boundaries of cutting-edge motion picture technologies. Science and the art of film making combine magically. Richard Parker, our Bengal tiger, is a fully realized, accessible character who we believe is actually in that lifeboat with Pi. “I couldn’t have made this film five years ago. The technology wasn’t available.” He said he uses, “3D to help us reach the truth,” he smiled, “we always need to pretend to reach the truth.” He explained that he used 3D, “to expand the scope of the film, immerse us in Pi’s physical journey, and envelope us in the story’s emotional hold. I wanted,” he emphasized, “the experience to be as unusual as the book and that meant creating the film in another dimension. 3D is the new cinematic language, and in “Life of Pi,” it’s just as much about immersing audiences in the character’s emotional space as it is about the epic scale and the adventure.” He was quiet for a moment, as if he was having an internal dialogue with himself, “The movie is what you see. I knew that, “Pi,” must be large…a large truth.”
Obviously, Ang Lee was fascinated by, “Life of Pi.” “I was intrigued ever since I first read the book which pronounced un-filmable.” Mr Lee said, “I am a film maker. I live for this kind of thing. Doing something new like, ‘Pi,’ puts me on alert.” You could see that he really enjoyed the challenge. “Why am I doing this … Why, why …WHY …?” He said that he, “was like an avid film student, eager to push the envelope, expand the boundaries, break new ground.” “Pi,” and 3D allowed him to do that. “It took me to the emotional feelings I needed. My way to a film is not a philosophical approach. I am a filmmaker finding my way. I do a lot of hunt and peck before I am ready to film.” David Magee agreed saying, “we spent an enormous amount of time in preparation.” Ang Lee continued, “it is a movie about faith … it takes place on the water …which is like the desert… it presents a test of faith.” David Magee added, “the two castaways face unimaginable challenges, including nature’s majestic grandeur and fury, which lash their small lifeboat. One particular monstrous storm becomes a spiritual experience for Pi, leading him to question God’s plan for him. ‘I’ve lost everything! I surrender! What more do you want?’ Pi rails at the sky.”
Through it all, Ang Lee shows us that Pi never loses hope. That he is safely tethered to a life force that he may not understand but is within him. He finds joy in the challenge, solace in the ocean’s beauty; the luminescent rainbow hues of magnificent schools of flying fish; the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells; and a radiant humpback whale that streaks to the surface of the ocean. Extraordinary visually stunning moments, interwoven with an emotional journey. “Large…faith…,” Ang Lee smiled his soft smile. He linked casting the part of Pi to another act of faith. “We searched for a young man who had the innocence to capture our attention, the depth of character to break our hearts, and the physicality needed to embody Pi on his journey,” said Mr. Lee. “During his audition, Suraj Sharma, an inexperienced young man from New Delhi, still living with his parents, filled the room with emotion, much of which he conveyed simply through his eyes. His natural ability to believe and stay in the world of the story is a rare treasure.” Lee took a small breath as if savoring the moment. “When we saw Suraj, we saw the film. I told you …it was all about faith. Suraj became the spiritual leader on the set. We were all experienced and perhaps a little jaded. Suraj’s innocence reminded us…why we want to make movies. Every day was a miracle for him.” He nodded his satisfaction, “The innocence takes us …and we believe.” Magee smiled and said, “working with Ang Lee made me a believer.”
Listening to both of them I believed too. Ang Lee lives his films and allows us the privilege of living with him. I can’t wait for his next film and look forward to seeing what David Magee does next as well.