Sunday, March 30, 2008


From my friend Jeremy Pikser:
"Don't know if you will be in NY, . . . but "War, Inc.", a film I co-wrote with Mark Leyner and John Cusack is going to be at the Tribeca Film Festival at these times and venues. It's a wild and weird ride."
Jeremy Pikser is an Academy Award Nominated Screenwriter, of "Bulworth."

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."


Published: March 30, 2008
"I think that directing on any level is extremely stressful . . . " (read more)

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Friday, March 28, 2008


"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


From New Directors/New Films, JimMyron Ross in “Ballast.”

Published: March 26, 2008

For nearly four decades New Directors/New Films has been the straightforward, serviceable name of a generous program presented every spring by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. I’m not suggesting that they change or rebrand it, but after watching the first half of this year’s lineup, movies of modest means and evident ambition, I prefer to think of the festival as Serious Directors/Small Films. (read more)

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Friday, March 21, 2008


"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."


"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Sunday, March 16, 2008


from: Carnegie Mellon's:

Psychology: Perceiving Life

Psychologists have shown that animistic perceptions are automatic and show up in very early infancy. The studies with infants track their eye movements and stares. Infants stare longer at objects that move purposefully.

Here is a robot moving in a self-directed, purposeful trajectory, making it seem animate.

Here is a robot that does not look animate. The robot jumps regardless of the situation.

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."


IT seems fair to say that in the world today there are not many stories bigger or more complicated than the movement of large groups of people from one country to another. And yet, perhaps because it is so vast and complex, it is a story that can be comprehended only in its fine-grained, human particulars. A timeworn piece of Hollywood wisdom (occasionally attributed to Dostoevsky, John Gardner or some other writer) holds that every narrative arises from one of two situations: Someone goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. The immigrant’s story, in its basic form, fulfills both of these archetypes. An individual or a family leaves a familiar world, by either choice, necessity or some perceived combination of the two, and arrives in a place that is as strange to the newcomers as they are to it. (read more)

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Saturday, March 15, 2008


While Classical Narrative Structure is the dominant form of storytelling in mainstream movies, alternative storytelling formulas include Realistic Narratives and Formalist Narratives.

Realistic Narrative

Films with Realistic Narratives generally favour episodic stories, which means stories that move along from one episode to the next, in no particular order, almost like a “slice of life”. As audiences, we only get to see a part of a main character’s experiences, but we generally learn enough about the character to identify and sympathize with him or her.

Audiences who are most familiar with action lms or lms that move along at a quick pace are often disappointed by Realistic Narratives. Generally, this is because it takes time for the main storyline to emerge. As well, these movies avoid clichés, stock characters and situations, simple melodrama, romantic ideas of Destiny and Fate, and happy, expected endings. Because of this, audiences often have to work harder to enjoy Realistic Narratives, and many movie-goers simply aren’t prepared for this when they head out to the theatre.

It should be said that Realistic Narratives are no more “real” than movies that follow a Classical Narrative Structure. They are perhaps more complex, but lms like John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H (1969), both memorable realist lms, are still imaginary stories told to entertain audiences in particular ways.

Formalist Narratives

Unlike Realistic Narrative, Formalist Narratives generally make it very clear to audiences that we are watching a made-up story, which the director can play with in any way he or she likes. They tend to use the narrative structure to highlight themes the director feels are important by stylizing, exaggerating, or distorting particular elements in ways that convey the artificiality of the film experience.

In the history of lm, directors like Jean Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, and Steven Soderbergh have all explored Formalist Narratives with striking results. Contemporary examples of films with Formalist Narrative structures include Run Lola Run (1998) and Moulin Rouge! (2001).
© Pacific Cinémathèque:

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


: essential reading :

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."



"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Monday, March 10, 2008


The following passage is reprinted from The Theory of the Theatre: And Other Principles of Dramatic Criticism. Clayton Hamilton. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1910. pp. 184-192
DOUBTLESS no one would dissent from Hamlet's dictum that the purpose of playing is "to hold, as 't were, the mirror up to nature"; but this statement is so exceedingly simple that it is rather difficult to understand. What special kind of mirror did that wise dramatic critic have in mind when he coined this memorable phrase? Surely he could not have intended the sort of flat and clear reflector by the aid of which we comb our hair; for a mirror such as this would represent life with such sedulous exactitude that we should gain no advantage from looking at the reflection rather than at the life itself which was reflected. If I wish to see the tobacco jar upon my writing table, I look at the tobacco jar: I do not set a mirror up behind it and look into the mirror. But suppose I had a magic mirror which would reflect that jar in such a way as to show me not only its outside but also the amount of tobacco shut within it. In this latter case, a glance at the represented image would spare me a more laborious examination of the actual object.

Now Hamlet must have had in mind some magic mirror such as this, which, by its manner of reflecting life, would render life more intelligible. Goethe once remarked that the sole excuse for the existence of works of art is that they are different from the works of nature. If the theatre showed us only what we see in life itself, there would be no sense at all in going to the theatre. Assuredly it must show us more than that; and it is an interesting paradox that in order to show us more it has to show us less. The magic mirror must refuse to reflect the irrelevant and non-essential, and must thereby concentrate attention on the pertinent and essential phases of nature. That mirror is the best that reflects the least which does not matter, and, as a consequence, reflects most clearly that which does. In actual life, truth is buried beneath a bewilderment of facts. Most of us seek it vainly, as we might seek a needle in a haystack. In this proverbial search we should derive no assistance from looking at a reflection of the haystack in an ordinary mirror. But imagine a glass so endowed with a selective magic that it would not reflect hay but would reflect steel. Then, assuredly, there would be a valid and practical reason for holding the mirror up to nature.

The only real triumph for an artist is not to show us a haystack, but to make us see the needle buried in it,-- not to reflect the trappings and the suits of life, but to suggest a sense of that within which passeth show. To praise a play for its exactitude in representing facts would be a fallacy of criticism. The important question is not how nearly the play reflects the look of life, but how much it helps the audience to understand life's meaning. The sceneless stage of the Elizabethan As You Like It revealed more meanings than our modern scenic forests empty of Rosalind and Orlando. There is no virtue in reflection unless there be some magic in the mirror. Certain enterprising modern managers permit their press agents to pat them on the back because they have set, say, a locomotive on the stage; but why should we pay two dollars to see a locomotive in the theatre when we may see a dozen locomotives in the Grand Central Station without paying anything? Why, indeed!-unless the dramatist contrives to reveal an imaginable human mystery throbbing in the palpitant heart -- no, not of the locomotive, but of the locomotive-engineer. That is something that we could not see at all in the Grand Central Station, unless we were endowed with eyes as penetrant as those of the dramatist himself.

But not only must the drama render life more comprehensible by discarding the irrelevant, and attracting attention to the essential; it must also render us the service of bringing to a focus that phase of life it represents. The mirror which the dramatist holds up to nature should be a concave mirror, which concentrates the rays impinging on it to a luminous focal image. Hamlet was too much a metaphysician to busy his mind about the simpler science of physics; but surely this figure of the concave mirror, with its phenomenon of concentration, represents most suggestively his belief concerning the purpose of playing and of plays. The trouble with most of our dramas is that they render scattered and incoherent images of life; they tell us many unimportant things, instead of telling us one important thing in many ways. They reveal but little, because they reproduce too much. But it is only by bringing all life to a focus in a single luminous idea that it is possible, in the two hours' traffic of the stage, "to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure."

An interesting instance of how a dramatist, by holding, as it were, a concave mirror up to nature, may concentrate all life to a focus in a single luminous idea is afforded by that justly celebrated drama entitled El Gran Galeoto, by Don José Echegaray. This play was first produced at the Teatro Español on March 19, 1881, and achieved a triumph that soon diffused the fame of its author, which till then had been but local, beyond the Pyrenees. It is now generally recognised as one of the standard monuments of the modern social drama. It owes its eminence mainly to the unflinching emphasis which it casts upon a single great idea. This idea is suggested in its title.

In the old French romance of Launcelot of the Lake, it was Gallehault who first prevailed on Queen Guinevere to give a kiss to Launcelot: he was thus the means of making actual their potential guilty love. His name thereafter, like that of Pandarus of Troy, became a symbol to designate a go-between, inciting to illicit love. In the fifth canto of the Inferno, Francesca da Rimini narrates to Dante how she and Paolo read one day, all unsuspecting, the romance of Launcelot; and after she tells how her lover, allured by the suggestion of the story, kissed her on the mouth all trembling, she adds,

Galeotto fu'l libro e chi lo scrisse,

which may be translated, "The book and the author of it performed for us the service of Gallehault." Now Echegaray, desiring to retell in modern terms the old familiar story of a man and a woman who, at first innocent in their relationship, are allured by unappreciable degrees to the sudden realisation of a great passion for each other, asked himself what force it was, in modern life, which would perform for them most tragically the sinful service of Gallehault. Then it struck him that the great Gallehault of modern life -- El Gran Galeoto -- was the impalpable power of gossip, the suggestive force of whispered opinion, the prurient allurement of evil tongues. Set all society to glancing slyly at a man and a woman whose relation to each other is really innocent, start the wicked tongues a-babbling, and you will stir up a whirlwind which will blow them giddily into each other's arms. Thus the old theme might be recast for the purposes of modern tragedy. Echegaray himself, in the critical prose prologue which he prefixed to his play, comments upon the fact that the chief character and main motive force of the entire drama can never appear upon the stage, except in hints and indirections; because the great Gallehault of his story is not any particular person, but rather all slanderous society at large. As he expresses it, the villain-hero of his drama is Todo el mundo,-- everybody, or all the world.

This, obviously, is a great idea for a modern social drama, because it concentrates within itself many of the most important phases of the perennial struggle between the individual and society; and this great idea is embodied with direct, unwavering simplicity in the story of the play. Don Julián, a rich merchant about forty years of age, is ideally married to Teodora, a beautiful woman in her early twenties, who adores him. He is a generous and kindly man; and upon the death of an old and honored friend, to whose assistance in the past he owes his present fortune, he adopts into his household the son of this friend, Ernesto. Ernesto is twenty-six years old; he reads poems and writes plays, and is a thoroughly fine fellow. He feels an almost filial affection for Don Julián and a wholesome brotherly friendship for Teodora. They, in turn, are beautifully fond of him. Naturally, he accompanies them everywhere in the social world of Madrid; he sits in their box at the opera, acting as Teodora's escort when her husband is detained by business; and he goes walking with Teodora of an afternoon. Society, with sinister imagination, begins to look askance at the triangulated household; tongues begin to wag; and gossip grows. Tidings of the evil talk about town are brought to Don Julián by his brother, Don Severo, who advises that Ernesto had better be requested to live in quarters of his own. Don Julián nobly repels this suggestion as insulting; but Don Severo persists that only by such a course may the family name be rendered unimpeachable upon the public tongue.

Ernesto, himself, to still the evil rumors, goes to live in a studio alone. This simple move on his part suggests to everybody -- todo el mundo -that he must have had a real motive for making it. Gossip increases, instead of diminishing; and the motions of Teodora, Don Julián, and himself are stirred to the point of nervous tensity. Don Julian, in spite of his own sweet reasonableness, begins subtly to wonder if there could be, by any possibility, any basis for his brother's vehemence. Don Severo's wife, Dofia Mercedes, repeats the talk of the town to Teodora, and turns her imagination inward, till it falters in self-questionings. Similarly the great Gallehault,-- which is the word of all the world,-- whispers unthinkable and tragic possibilities to the poetic and self-searching mind of Ernesto. He resolves to seek release in Argentina. But before he can sail away, he overhears, in a fashionable café, a remark which casts a slur on Teodora, and strikes the speaker of the insult in the face. A duel is forthwith arranged, to take place in a vacant studio adjacent to Ernesto's. When Don Julián learns about it, he is troubled by the idea that another man should be fighting for his wife, and rushes forthwith to wreak vengeance himself on the traducer. Teodora hears the news; and in order to prevent both her husband and Ernesto from endangering their lives, she rushes to Ernesto's rooms to urge him to forestall hostilities. Meanwhile her husband encounters the slanderer, and is severely wounded. He is carried to Ernesto's studio. Hearing people coming, Teodora hides herself in Ernesto's bedroom, where she is discovered by her husband's attendants. Don Julián, wounded and enfevered, now at last believes the worst.

Ernesto seeks and slays Don Julián's assailant. But now the whole world credits what the whole world has been whispering. In vain Ernesto and Teodora protest their innocence to Don Severo and to Doña Mercedes. In vain they plead with the kindly and noble man they both revere and love. Don Julián curses them, and dies believing in their guilt. Then at last, when they find themselves cast forth isolate by the entire world, their common tragic loneliness draws them to each other. They are given to each other by the world. The insidious purpose of the great Gallehault has been accomplished; and Ernesto takes Teodora for his own.
"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Sunday, March 9, 2008


The following interview is reprinted from FILM DIRECTORS ON DIRECTING, BY JOHN ANDREW GALLAGHER

JAG: Five Corners is HandMade Films' first American film.
TB: It's their first American release and the first one they've financed. I would say that HandMade was pretty much long distance geographically in London, as well as practically speaking for most of the film until we finished shooting, then they had their comments about the cut, but it was pretty much a hands-off operation once we got started.

JAG: Once again, you've made a low-budget movie that looks big-budget.

TB: It's about as cheap as you can make a film in the mainstream today. It's a real movie populated with Screen Actors Guild members, a NABET crew, catered by a real catering company, so it was made in that sense like a $20 million movie. It only cost $5 million, largely because my producer, Forrest Murray, and myself, said we'd make it for $5 million. We like to feel we'll do what we say we're going to do.

JAG: It's also a period film.

TB: It's tough. It's a New York movie, shot all on location, set in 1964, with a lot of nights, and a very large speaking cast, so all of those things were major challenges to bring it in on budget.

JAG: With those kinds of pressures, how do you keep it from getting crazy?

TB: The only way to keep a movie from getting crazy is to not be a crazy person. I like to think of myself at the very least as a very professional and responsible filmmaker. If I say I'm going to make a movie for a certain price, which is basically what I say when I go into business with anybody, I make that movie at that price, and make the same movie that we all started to make, the same script we all started with, at the money we said we'd make it for.

JAG: How do you go about creating an atmosphere for the actors?

TB: You don't have to create that much of an atmosphere. You just have to prevent it from becoming the wrong atmosphere. You have to avoid letting it devolve into something it shouldn't be. It's easy to have a happy set, it's easy to have actors that are welcomed to be creative and a crew that is contributing to the spirit of the film and not just doing their job, because that's what everybody wants and that's what everybody gravitates toward. It's when you start impeding that atmosphere and start imposing an ego on it that things go wrong. In effect, it's really letting it happen as opposed to making it happen.

JAG: Do you rehearse much prior to shooting, or do you wait until you're on the location?

TB: I don't like to rehearse mainly because I really can't get much out of it. The idea of rehearsing a scene that say two or three people are going to play on an empty set is just too difficult for me. Until an actor sees it for real and can think, "Gee, look at all these things I have to play with," the things that the art director, prop master, or director thought to put on the set, it's pretty hard to rehearse because the rehearsal you might have undergone when you're working in an empty room goes out the window when you get on the set and find out there's table and chairs where you didn't think there was going to be one, or nothing where you thought something was going to be. I like to rehearse on the set with the actors under battle conditions of the reality of what's happening.

JAG: Do you find the actors respond better to that?

TB: For the most part actors do. Some actors feel that they need and want rehearsal time. I haven't come up against a situation where an actor so needed pre-shooting rehearsal that I felt they or the movie suffered because they didn't have it. Maybe some day I'll do a movie in which somebody says, "I just can't go to work without a week's rehearsal," so we'll find a way to do that. Basically, directing for me is solving the problems that you're presented with. It may be an actor problem, a location problem, or it might be that you get up in the morning and you have a weather problem. None of these things is insurmountable and they're all gonna happen. I don't have a method. My method is to do what's best for the actors.

JAG: What kind of preparation did Jodie Foster have for her Bronx accent?

TB: She worried about her accent. We found somebody who specializes in accents and we brought him out one day to work with her. In an hour or so, he said, "She's got it," and she did. Again, there's a problem you face and you deal with it however you can. In an hour, she got it fine. If it required her having somebody on the set throughout the picture, that would have been fine, too, but that was the solution to the problem.

JAG: John Turturro is outstanding as the psychotic Heinz, yet you also feel sympathy for his character.

TB: Turturro's character is a pretty amazingly violent and simmering personality. If you look at this picture cynically, you might see this guy has no redeeming values and he's a psychopath. But within the script there is the room, and John brought to it a humanity that most bad guys in the movies don't exhibit. That's based among other things on the notion that the prisons of this country are filled with terrible guys who've done terrible things, but outside that prison there's somebody that they love. There's a wife or kid somewhere, somebody that loves them, who sees something in them that the judge and jury will never see, a compassion or a feeling. They're not just murderers, they're not just bad guys. I'm happy to say that Turturro's character reflects that philosophy of mine that every bum on the street or every bad guy in prison was somebody's little boy.

JAG: Gregory Rozakis gives a very quirky and off-beat performance as the detective who talks about Indians in the Bronx.

TB: He was the star of Kazan America, America ( 1963). The first few days of shooting we did a lot of the detective scenes. In a sense I worried more about that than anything else in the movie because it set the tone for the other performances. It walked a tight rope. I wondered, "Is it too much, is it too far out?" Gregory didn't know it, but he was sort of the trial horse for the tone of the picture. He was great.
. . .

JAG: What qualities would you say are essential to the job of directing movies?

TB: I think everybody has different qualities that they bring to the job, but as a producer or as an actor I certainly have enjoyed most and benefited most from working with directors who embody the qualities of patience, human kindness, calmness, joy, and having fun doing your job. There's another school of thought that subscribes to the notion that great art comes out of this crucible of pain, suffering, and human conflict on the set. I just don't subscribe to that in my work, and so for me, the most important quality is the ability to lighten up, have a good time with your work and enjoy working with the people on the film. For me the process is the product. I don't really have a big stake in the success of a film in a personal way as much as I do have a stake in the process of making it. A movie takes a year of your life if you're working fast, from the moment you begin to know you're going to make the movie through pre-production, production, post-production, and the machinations of releasing it. You can't guarantee that a film will be well received critically, and you can't guarantee it will make money or that it will be well received by the public. But as a director, the headiness I feel, the power of the director, is that you can guarantee that the year will be a well-spent year of your life and that's almost my entire interest in making a film. Part of that well-spent year, by definition, is that you do the best work you can do, but not at the expense of enjoying spending the time doing it.

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Director, Mike Nichols and Julia Roberts

Mike Nichols formerly half of the legendary comedy team of Nichols and May, has been one of the leading directors of stage and screen for more than 30 years. Broadway directing credits include Barefoot in the Park, Luv, The Odd Couple, Plaza Suite, Prisoner of Second Avenue and The Real Thing, for all of which he was awarded the Tony for Best Direction. He most recently directed Broadway's reigning musical hit, Spamalot.

Film credits include: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate (Academy Award for Best Direction), Catch 22, Carnal Knowledge, Silkwood, Working Girl, Postcards From the Edge, Regarding Henry, The Birdcage, Primary Colors and Closer. He also directed two award-winning projects for HBO; Wit and the acclaimed mini-series Angels in America.

Mr. Nichols has received the George Abbott Award, the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honor, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America. He has also been honored by the Museum of Television and Radio and the Lincoln Center Film Society.

In the inaugural edition of THE HUFFINGTON POST, Director Mike Nichols wrote what follows:

"In directing a play or a movie-- whether a farce or a tragedy -- the problem to solve is really the same. There are the same questions. First of all why are we doing this? What`s our point? What are we telling? The audience says silently - so, now, why have you called us together? And you have to have an answer. The first thing I think you have to do is make clear that they are in good hands, they mustn't worry, we know what we are doing. The next question the audience asks is: why are you telling me this? And you have to have a good answer for that one. One answer is: because it's funny. Laughs are a good reason -- as we know daily from Jon Stewart. If that is not the answer in the theatre there is another: because it is your life.

I wonder lately whether our politicians don't have roughly the same requirements of them. When you think, for instance, of Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention it met these requirements and continued with an eloquence based on both reality and metaphor, something we have not been hearing much.

I think that metaphor is in trouble. To take the bible literally, as fundamentalists do, is an attack on the greatest collection of metaphors we have. We need metaphor as we need stories. We need stories that mean more than just the events that transpire in them. Anyone who has read to children knows that the development of their entire personalities requires stories beyond the literal. They are the only way to understand and develop ideas. If we have, as de Tocqueville predicted, become pure market forces then we need to do CPR on metaphor pretty fast. Dr. King knew that an improved reality begins with a dream. In dreams begin responsibilities." -- Mike Nichols

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008


[On Steven Spielberg]
"Steven Spielberg is the only person I've come across who fits my criteria of genius. And I don't throw that word around. Genius is imagination and attention to detail. The ability to achieve to the minutest detail what you perceive in your imagination. I don't think there's another person on earth who's as great a plot structuralist or better storyteller."
- Richard Dreyfuss, Best Actor Oscar, 1977.

[On the Council of Trent and the Arts]
". . . the recommendations of such writers . . . may be summarized under three headings: (i) clarity, simplicity, and intelligibility, (ii) realistic interpretation, and (iii) emotional stimulus of piety."

"Truth, moreover, called for accuracy down to the minutest detail. On this level, the new realism almost becomes synonymous with the old Renaissance concept of decorum, which requires appropriateness of age, sex, type, expression, gesture, and dress to the character of the figure represented . . . It is these 'correct' images that are meant to appeal to the emotions of the faithful and support or even transcend the spoken word. "
"Art and Architectures in Italy, 1600 - 1750"
by Rudolf Wittkower, Joseph Conners and Jennifer Montagu. pp. 1

[On a reviewer of the work of Painter and Author Wyndham Lewis]
" . . . he roundly declared that it had 'no compeer in Europe'. . . Describing it as 'a labour of love', the reviewer explained that 'everything about the room, down to the minutest detail, is in perfect consonance with the general design."
"Art Beyond the Gallery in Early 20th Century England."
by Richard Cork. pp.230

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."


Forest Whitaker, 2007 Academy Awards. Best Actor Oscar
"Because when I first started acting, it was because of my desire to connect to everyone. To that thing inside each of us. That light that I believe exists in all of us. Because acting for me is about believing in that connection and it's a connection so strong, it's a connection so deep, that we feel it. And through our combined belief, we can create a new reality." - Forest Whitaker, 2007 Academy Awards. Best Actor Oscar
TO SEE: To seek to understand the story in its minutest detail. What "universal idea" does the story express? What aspect of humankind does the story reflect?

TO EXPERIENCE: To seek to understand the story, personally.
For example: The characters' thoughts, feelings, needs, values, desires, fears - their actions." As if" what is that like to me?

TO SHARE: To communicate the story.

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."