Category Archives: hollywood

John Hughes Never Stopped Writing Until His Heart Stopped Beating

John Hughes, one of my favorite, most beloved screenwriters and filmmakers, passed away three years ago, on August 6, 2009.

That his work has managed to stand the test of time, a feat so many writers fail to achieve, is a remarkable phenomenon in itself.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is now over twenty-five years old. But the line, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” is as relevant today, if not more so, as it was in the 80s.

Even more impressive than his writing, however, is how Hughes did it. Constantly. Fervently. With passion and vigor.  He was never without his moleskin (of which he left behind over 300) and he never ceased to observe, edit, and synthesize everything around him. For him, writing was not so much a profession as a condition of life. It was his ethos.

On the day of his death:

[His wife], Nancy awoke in her Manhattan hotel room to find her husband’s side of the bed empty, which was not unusual. It was Hughes’s custom to get up early and enjoy a morning constitutional when staying in New York. The routine provided him with an opportunity to get a head start on his relentless observing, sketching, and note-taking.

Hughes had collapsed on a sidewalk a few blocks from the hotel. He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, near Lincoln Center, and pronounced dead of a heart attack. (from Vanity Fair)

What’s truly inspiring is that when Hughes passed away, “…he was doing something he loved. He was out note-taking and observing.” This, I believe, was the key to his talent and his genius. He wrote, and wrote, every day, until his heart stopped beating.

I can’t imagine Hughes penning a more fitting ending to the story that was his life.

And so, to appreciate his death is to celebrate his life. Thanks for the movie memories, John.

 

 

 

Great Expectations: Pixar anoints its first female protoganist in “Brave”

Dear Pixar: You had me at her hair…

With a resplendent mane of fiery red curls, Merinda, the hero of Pixar’s latest animated feature “Brave” is truly the hallmark of a princess whose time has come. And not just because the animation of her volume of hair required a technological breakthrough, which it did.

Six years in the making, Merinda is the first female protagonist to join Pixar’s all-male cast of leading heroes, breaking the mold of the damsel-in-distress princess archetype that punctuates virtually all films produced by Pixar’s predecessor, Disney.

Associate producer Mary Alice Drumm describes “Brave” as a movie about redefining expectations for female protagonists:

“I think when people think about a girl as a hero, they think less strong, less brave. But Merida is brave like her father and brave like her mother. She’s a very relatable person, and I think people are going to have some interesting things to talk about after they see the movie.” ~SFGate

Producer Katherine Sarafian adds:

“There’s the bravery of adventure, with sword fights and chases and all that,” she says. “Then there’s the bravery of being seen for who you are. If you see yourself in a certain way and the rest of the world sees you in another way, that’s a struggle. It’s brave to look at who you are and speak your truth and find your way in the world.” ~SFGate

Brave opens June 22, and although its leading lass is garnering attention for her gender, Sarafian says the film is still a Pixar movie, with “big action, big heart, big humor, big adventure.”

If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?

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The Secret To Success? You Have To Learn How To Fail

Craig Stecyk, Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta

Hear the name Stacy Peralta and you instantly think either: A) I love Stacy Peralta! or B) Who the heck is she?

He is the highest-ranked skateboarder of his time, turned multi-million dollar businessman, turned filmmaker. He is also the creator of, and father-figure to, the Bones Brigade, a skate team that featured the era’s top competitors, including Tony Hawk.

While heading up the Bones Brigade, Stacy went on to produce almost a dozen videos, which became some of the most influential skateboarding flicks of their time and set him on a path to film-making. His film Riding Giants, which traces the origins of surfing, specifically focusing on the art of big wave riding, became the first documentary film to open the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 and established him as a powerful filmmaker and storyteller.

His latest documentary, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography is not only a look-back at his life, but more importantly, an insider’s view on the evolution of skateboarding and how its pioneers and legends (like Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Tommy Guerrero, and Mike McGill) were driven by sheer passion to create an art form. They were true innovators.

This was hands-down my favorite film from Sundance 2012 and in this intimate interview at the Sundance Cinema Cafe, Stacy shares his secret to success:

The secret is I had to learn how to fail. That’s the secret to success…is that you’ve got to learn how to fail. Because you fail more than you succeed.  You’ve got to get up off the ground and that’s the thing about success. You have to learn how to take those punches. When we skateboarded, we banged ourselves up all the time. But if you didn’t learn how to fall, if you didn’t learn how to bang yourself up, you couldn’t continue.

The film, expected to get a distribution deal for a theatrical release, is not a movie about skateboarding, but an emotional journey about passion, self-expression and the drive to create something meaningful and beyond the realm of possible.

Another Happy Day: A Lesson on Family Pain

There are some pieces of art that just hit you in all the right places. That’s how I felt when I saw “Another Happy Day” at Sundance last year.

The film, set in Annapolis, MD and loaded with an A-list cast including Ellen Burstyn, Ellen Barkin, Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth and Thomas Haden Church, tackles one family’s terrain of emotional landmines that have given rise to a “primal web of resentments and recriminations.”  

The tone of the film is anything but happy, and yet there are so many moments of indelible humor, I couldn’t help but find myself smiling and laughing throughout it. Like the scene when the mother (played by Ellen Barkin) is duking it out with her son (played by the mesmerizing Ezra Miller):

Mother: “Get out, you son of a bitch!”
Son: “You just insulted yourself, Mom.”

The film serves a painfully honest example of what happens to a family unit when conflicts, feelings and memories are repressed and buried, and judgment is couched in every smile. The result is anything but resolved and healthy.

During the holidays, if you find your family driving you a little bit nuts, I highly recommend checking it out:)

Twilight Screenwriter To Women In Hollywood: We Need Some Fighters

melissa rosenberg amy senger 300x224 Twilight Screenwriter On Women In Hollywood: We Need Some Fighters

Twilight Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg with Amy Senger

When screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, previously known for her work on the television series Dexter and The O.C., was offered the chance to adapt the vampire series, Twilight, she was promptly informed she’d have only five weeks to write it. “Five weeks? You can’t write a screenplay in five weeks!” she replied, to which the studio asked her, “Well, you want to get it made?” She did, and as a consequence, all she did for five weeks was write: “You don’t shower, you don’t pet the dog, you don’t eat.

At the recent Future of Film Summit, where she participated in a panel discussion on why women matter in Hollywood, I sat down with Melissa and asked what her biggest challenge was in adapting the Twilight series. Her answer? Meeting the expectations of the fans. In order to have the experience of the viewer, she refused to read ahead, wanting each installment to stand on its own.

With the fourth movie Breaking Dawn Part 1 opening to a $139.5 million domestic gross this weekend and touting a wedding, a honeymoon and a birthing scene, Rosenberg says Part 2 still leaves lots to anticipate: “The thing I’m looking forward to is seeing Bella as a vampire. It’s a very different character. The fidgeting, the stuttering, the insecurity, the awkwardness- it’s gone. I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to seeing vampire sex versus human sex [laughing].

When asked what advice she had for women looking to succeed in Tinseltown, Rosenberg had this to say: “Be prepared to compete. Be prepared to take a hit. Pick yourself back up, and get in there. It’s not an easy field to get into but we need you…we need some fighters.”

Here’s my talk with Melissa and, yes, Robert Pattinson is just as lovely and charming in person as he is on screen.

How to win the zombie apocalypse

Zombie man costume

The zombie apocalypse has arrived. Your neighbors are creeping after you and the world is facing its most terrifying disease. Everything is coming to an end. Here is how to not only survive but win.

First thing first, this is a war, it’s the zombies vs the living. We must act appropriately. I’m talking daily training with push-ups, discipline, and combat practice. The good news is that we have all the advantages, we are faster, smarter, and stronger. Plus, we can form groups that multiply our abilities.

Step 1 – Join Steve’s Army

I like to think of myself as a master tactician and solid leader. I will be leading this force and we will not hide from the zombies. Every day we will kill several of them. All are welcome to join the army, men, women, and children. With the condition that you accept my command and discipline.

Step 2 – Killing the Zombies

The two most important elements of a zombie war are intelligence and weapons.

For intelligence, I’m not talking about IQ but knowledge of the zombies. How many are they, where are they, what are the best locations to attack from. We want to be offensive as well as defensive and will win through superior tactics.

This is especially important because unlike most wars losing a soldier is a double loss. Our fighter joins the enemy as zombie.

We will spend a majority of our time patrolling, creating maps, working out communication channels, and more. Like Sun Tzu said, “every battle is won before it is ever fought.

Ideally we will have a doctor, scientist, or researcher among us who can help us understand the zombie. Like this fellow:

For weapons, we need to consider our enemy. In the show, The Walking Dead, firing a gun makes a loud noise and attracts more zombies. This makes firearms only ideal for certain situations. Used only as a last resort or when you want to attract the zombies for a killfest.

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Hollywood History: A visit to the American Film Institute

We took a trip into the Hollywood Hills to find a rare copy of the original screenplay for A Few Good Men. A favorite film of ours written by the legendary Aaron Sorkin. Rumor has it that the American Film Institute (AFI) has over 5,000 scripts in physical form and not available online.

Our directions took us in the wrong direction and we ended up among the mansions of the Hills overlooking the Institute. As we backtracked down the steep winding roads Amy kept saying “that looks familiar…who do you think lives here?”.

A quick turn down Los Feliz Blvd and we were in, staring at the old Warner Bros. Building and a beautiful campus of trees, walkways, and high-tech equipment.

Old Warner Bros Building

You see the AFI is in part a learning institution offering a 2-year Master of Fine Arts in all the vital filmmaking disciplines: directing, screenwriting, producing, editing, cinematography, and production design.

At the top of the campus sits the Louis B. Mayer Library with a collection 10,000 books, 1,600 transcripts, the previously mentioned scripts, and, my favorite, the 30+ industry periodicals like THR and Variety.

In the library, Amy nestled into an armchair after securing the Sorkin screenplay and I browsed around. It was like Hollywood heaven or more exactly the “Movie” section at Barnes and Noble, but with exotic and rare books, display cases, and that old dustiness of books.

Eventually I got that feeling like I was in the center of the movie business and settled down to catch up on my daily Variety gossip and weekly THR news.

The AFI is one of those rare institutions created by an act of Congress in 1967 and receiving its initial funding, $1.3 million, from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In that capacity its first role was to serve up films for preservation to the Library of Congress, which it has done with over 20,000 titles covering 1893 to the present day.

The second was to bring “together leading artists of the film industry, outstanding educators and young men and women who wish to pursue the 20th century art form as their life’s work,” said President Lyndon B. Johnson upon signing the legislation that created AFI.

Since then the Institute has grown dramatically with an annual budget of $24 million and assets over $30 million. It has established well-known programs such as the AFI 100 Years series where they document the best of 100 years in movies. Covering topics like the 100 best movie quotes, 100 best villains, and the 100 best movie songs.

Then there are the two film festivals, the AFI Fest in Los Angeles and SilverDocs hosted in the AFI Silver Theater in Washington DC.

AFI's Silver Theater in DC

As we were leaving, feeling giddy with all this Hollywood romance, we noticed the wide variety of people hanging out around the campus. The diversity was incredible and probably due in part to two of AFI’s best programs the Catalyst Workshop, designed to bring experts in Science and Engineering into screenwriting, and the Directing Workshop for Women, both desperately needed in the industry.

It was a great experience for us and we definitely recommend it the next time you are in Los Angeles. Oh, and make sure to cap off the trip by visiting one of the local restaurants because you will certainly be dining with filmmakers.

[photos: randomduck-silver, Marcus Vegas-hollywood sign]

The best movie costumes for Halloween (guys edition)

Halloween Series

Fabulous movie costumes for Halloween (Ladies Edition)

The most famous movie couples for Halloween

Now the fellas…

 

Frank Rossitano (30 Rock)

 

Ferris Bueller

Ron Burgundy

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