Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Alfred Hitchcock

Please take a look at the link on Alfred Hitchcock. Read the articles "About Hitchcock", Anecdotes, and "Alfred Hitchcock and the making of a film culture".

Here are a few clips from Hitchcock's 50's films:

Dial M for Murder (1954)
Rear Window (1954)
Vertigo (1958)
North By Northwest (1959)

After reading and viewing the clips, please work on your fiction film projects.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

B-Flicks & Film Project

Today, please read about Samuel Arkoff, Ed Wood, and Roger Corman--all influential "B" horror/suspense film makers. As you watch it is important to consider why these films were made, who the audience was for these horrible horrors, and how these producers, directors, and film makers went on to influence our contemporary horror/suspense film making.

After reading and watching, please respond to this post with a comment about what you thought. You are free to comment on any of the following: (please refer to specific clips/films & use examples) what purpose does the horror flick serve in society? How does marketing a film through trailers entice or ruin the movie? How were horror films of the 1950's similar or different from those in our own time? And, of course, other reactions.

After viewing and commenting, please continue to work on your film projects. Those of you who have shot footage, please download and prepare the clips for editing. Those of you who have not yet started, please remember the deadline is June 7. The camera may be signed out, but please realize we only have one. Plan ahead and progress with your project.

Ed Wood & Roger Corman

From IMDB:

Ed Wood (Jr.) (10 October 1924 – 10 December 1978) was an American screenwriter, director, producer, actor, author, and editor, who often performed many of these functions simultaneously. In the 1950s, Wood made a run of cheap and poorly produced genre films, now humorously celebrated for their technical errors, unsophisticated special effects, large amounts of ill-fitting stock footage, idiosyncratic dialogue, eccentric casts and outlandish plot elements, although his flair for showmanship gave his projects at least a modicum of critical success.

Wood's popularity waned soon after his biggest 'name' star, Béla Lugosi, died. He was able to salvage a saleable feature from Lugosi's last moments on film, but his career declined thereafter. Toward the end of his life, Wood made pornographic movies and wrote pulp crime, horror, and sex novels. His posthumous fame began two years after his death, when he was awarded a Golden Turkey Award as Worst Director of All Time. The lack of conventional film making ability in his work has earned Wood and his films a considerable cult following.

Glen or Glenda (1953)

Jail Bait (1954)

Bride of the Monster(1955)

Plan Nine from Outer Space (1956) Written and shot in 5 days! (and it shows!)

Roger William Corman (born April 5, 1926), sometimes nicknamed "King of the Bs" for his output of B-movies, is a prolific American producer and director of low-budget movies, some of which have an established critical reputation: many of his films derived from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Corman has apprenticed many now-famous directors, stressing the importance of budgeting and resourcefulness; Corman once joked he could make a film about the fall of the Roman Empire with two extras and a sagebush.

It Conquered the World (1956)

The Little Shop of Horrors

The Raven(1963)

The Terror (1963)

The Masque of Red Death (1963)

Samuel Z. Arkoff


"By the early 1950's, Samuel Z. Arkoff was a brash lawyer scratching out a living by representing his in-laws and the Hollywood fringe, which included many of now-infamous director/angora-clad transvestite Edward D. Wood Jr.'s social circle. Arkoff was physically imposing and capable of scaring anyone who opposed him. One of his clients was Alex Gordon, a screenwriter who had submitted an unsolicited script to Realart Pictures, an outfit that was profitably re-releasing 20-year old movies, often under new titles conjured up by it's owner, Jack Broder.

One such film, Man Made Monster (1941), had just been re-issued as The Atomic Monster, coincidentally the same title of Gordon's screenplay. Zarkoff, smelling blood in the water, paid Mr. Broder a visit and incredibly, obtained a $500 settlement. Broder's sales manager, James H. Nicholson was dumbfounded by Zarkoff's ability to extract a dime out of his tightfisted boss and proposed a partnership. American Releasing Corporation was founded in 1954 and their first release was a low-budget feature by 29-year old producer Roger Corman. Made for less than $50,000, it netted $850,000 and Corman was brought into the fold as a silent partner.

By 1955 the company was renamed American International Pictures, or simply AIP within the industry. Initially focusing on westerns on the premise that locations came cheap, and although profitable, Arkoff was unhappy with the returns and solicited theater owners for advice on what types of films filled seats. By the mid-1950's, thanks to television, the audience numbers had dwindled considerably with the key demographic now teenagers and young adults, who craved horror movies and drive-ins. AIP jumped into the horror genre with both feet and made a fortune. Under the aegis of Nicholson and Arkoff, the company survived in a constricting industry by catering to the whims of the teenage trade and adapting to trends.

AIP's long (350-plus) roster of kitsch classics, running the gamut from horror to rock'n'roll, from juvenile delinquency to Italian musclemen, and from Edgar Allan Poe to Annette Funicello, have formed their own unique niche in film history. His company became infamous for clever advertising schemes that were often more entertaining than AIP's movies. Arkoff never tolerated egos and his films were more often than not, profitable, thanks to tight budgets and a sharp understanding of the target market. After Nicholson's 1972 resignation, Arkoff assumed full control of the company and remained in charge until the 1979 merger with Filmways prompted his own departure. He then became the head of Arkoff International Pictures."

Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)

I was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

Teenage Caveman (1958)

War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

High School Hellcats (1958)

Two of my personal favorite Vincent Price films (which never really were horrifying, but fun, nonetheless):
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) Here's the trailer.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1973) Here's the trailer.

Partner Nicolson's last picture was:
Legend of Hell House (1973) a particularly entertaining and effective horror film.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rebel (Conclusion), Film Project, & William Castle

Today, we will watch the conclusion of Rebel Without a Cause. Your character sheets are due at the end of the period, as well as your Drive-in Theatre homework.

After the film: read, watch, and post a response to this post in 2-3 paragraphs or so about the clips and information you learn about William Castle (see below). This is due at the end of class.

With remaining time, please work on your fiction film project.

The Wonderful World of William Castle

Competing with a growing television audience, filmmakers in the 1950's had to entice viewers into seeing their films. The worse the film, the greater the need for effective trailers. Of the best promoters of his directing and producing work, William Castle shines over all others. See why below!

William Schloss was born in New York City. Schloss means "castle" in German, and William Castle probably chose to translate his surname into English to avoid the discrimination often encountered by Jewish entertainers of his time. He spent most of his teenage years working on Broadway in a number of jobs. He left for Hollywood at the age of 23, going on to direct his first film when he was 29. He also worked an as assistant to Orson Welles, doing much of the location work for Welles' noir film, The Lady from Shanghai.

Castle was famous for directing low budget B-films with many overly promoted gimmicks. Five of these were scripted by adventure novelist Robb White.

After a long career, William Castle died of a heart attack in Los Angeles in 1977.

His films include:

Macabre (1958): A certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London was given to each customer in case he/she should die of fright during the film. Showings also had fake nurses stationed in the lobbies and hearses parked outside the theater.

Utube clip: Macabre:

House on Haunted Hill (1959): Filmed in "Emergo". An inflatable glow in the dark skeleton attached to a wire floated over the audience during the final moments of some showings of the film to parallel the action on the screen when a skeleton arose from a vat of acid and pursued the villainous wife of Vincent Price. The gimmick did not always instill fright; sometimes the skeleton became a target for some audience members who hurled candy boxes, soda cups or any other objects at hand at the skeleton.

The Tingler (1959): Filmed in "Percepto". Some seats in theatres showing the Tingler were equipped with larger versions of the hand-held joy buzzers attached to the underside of the seats. When the Tingler in the film attacked the audience the buzzers were activated as a voice encouraged the real audience to "Scream - scream for your lives."

13 Ghosts (1960): Filmed in "Illusion-O". A hand held ghost viewer/remover with strips of red and blue cellophane was given out to use during certain segments of the film. By looking through either the red or blue cellophane the audience was able to either see or remove the ghosts if they were too frightening. 13 Ghosts.

Homicidal (1961): This film contained a "Fright break" with a 45 second timer overlaid over the film's climax as the heroine approached a house harboring a sadistic killer. A voiceover advised the audience of the time remaining in which they could leave the theatre and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the remainder of the film. About 1% demanded refunds, but were subjected to demasculation and called "cowards". Homicidal clip.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961): The audiences were allowed to vote in a "punishment poll" during the climax of the film - Castle appears on screen to explain to the audience their options. Each member of the audience was given a card with a glow in the dark thumb they could hold either up or down to decide if Mr. Sardonicus would be cured or die during the end of the film. Supposedly, no audience ever offered mercy so the alternate ending was never screened.

(1962): Each patron was given a "Magic" (gold colored plastic) coin which looked nice, but did absolutely nothing.

Strait-Jacket (1964): Castle had cardboard axes made and handed out to patrons. This film, by the way, starred Oscar winner (not for this film) Joan Crawford - Mommy Dearest herself.

I Saw What You Did (1965): Seat belts were installed to keep patrons from being jolted from their chairs in fright.

Other film trailers from William Castle:

The Old Dark House (designed by Charles Addams: the illustrator/writer who created "The Addams Family")
The Night Walker
Let's Kill Uncle
Thirteen Frightened Girls

William Castle acted as producer to Roman Polanski's direction of:
Rosemary's Baby
The film remains one of the most artistic Castle productions ever made. Clip here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rebel - Part Deux & Viewing homework

Today, please watch Rebel Without a Cause and answer the character grid (to be turned in after the end of the film).

HOMEWORK: Please view the 1950's Drive-In notes/clips/materials below. Explain in a few paragraphs how drive-in theatres helped to create the B-movie genre, how these films reflected the fears and topics of the day, and why the films might have appealed to a teenage audience. Do you feel that films today still market to your age group? Provide examples when answering.

Drive-In Theatres

A little history.

Richard Hollingshead, a young sales manager at his dad's Whiz Auto Products, invented something that combined his two interests: cars and movies.

Richard Hollingshead's vision was an open-air movie theater where moviegoers could watch from their own cars. He experimented in his own driveway in New Jersey. Hollingshead mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, projected onto a screen he had nailed to trees in his backyard, and used a radio placed behind the screen for sound. Clever!

The inventor subjected his beta drive-in to vigorous testing: for sound quality, for different weather conditions (Hollingshead used a lawn sprinkler to imitate rain) and for figuring out how to park the patrons' cars. He lined up the cars in his driveway, which created a problem with line of sight. By spacing cars at various distances and placing blocks and ramps under the front wheels of cars, Richard Hollingshead created the perfect parking arrangement for the drive-in movie theater experience.

The first patent for the Drive-In Theater (United States Patent# 1,909,537) was issued on May 16, 1933. With an investment of $30,000, Richard opened the first drive-in on June 6, 1933 at a location in Camden, New Jersey. The price of admission was 25 cents for the car and 25 cents per person.

The design did not include the in-car speaker system we know today. The inventor contacted a company by the name of RCA Victor to provide the sound system, called "Directional Sound." Three main speakers were mounted next to the screen that provided sound. The sound quality was not good for cars in the rear of the theater or for the surrounding neighbors.

The largest drive-in theater in patron capacity was the All-Weather Drive-In of Copiague, New York. All-Weather had parking space for 2,500 cars, an indoor 1,200 seat viewing area, kid's playground, a full service restaurant and a shuttle train that took customers from their cars and around the 28-acre theater lot.

Please take a look at these clips. Drive in down memory lane...

Clip A.
Clip B.

Science Fiction (or sci-fi)

The Cold War and the fear of nuclear annihilation by the communists is reflected in the many b-films made in the 1950's. Here's a sampling. Enjoy!

Forbidden Planet (1956) (starring Leslie Neilson, this is based on Shakespeare's The Tempest)

The Blob (1958) (starring Steve McQueen)

Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) Ed Wood’s terrible film masterpiece!

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Attack of the Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fiction Film Prep (Script due today) & Rebel Without a Cause

During period 1:

Today please complete and print out your script. For your next film project, if you are planning to work with others (up to 6 other students can collaborate on a film), get together in your small groups and read each others' scripts. Decide on the best script to use for your short narrative film. You, of course, may elect to work alone in which case please start thinking about the following:

1. Plan my film. Who will I need as actors in this film? Do I have friends or family members that might be willing to help me out?
2. What locations will I need to shoot? Can some established shots be still pictures from the internet or from my own digital camera?
3. What props, set pieces, or costumes will I need to acquire to make the film work?
4. Fill out a storyboard for each scene (see PAGES, there's a template there).
5. Create a shooting calendar. How much time is the film shooting likely to take? Begin to organize and plan ahead.

2nd period:

We will begin screening: Rebel Without a Cause starring Natalie Wood and James Dean.
As you watch the film, please prepare a character action grid for two of the following characters (you can mix & match them):

Jim Stark, John "Plato" Crawford, Judy, Frank Stark, Goon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Disney Animation (Personal Response)

Walt Disney continues to dominate animation and live-action blockbuster family films. Here's some samples. Please watch and post a comment below about your reaction and/or personal thoughts about what you're seeing:

The Brave Engineer (1950)
Morris, the Midget Moose (1950)
Lambert the Sheepish Lion (1952)
Social Lion (1954)
Hooked Bear (1956)
Goofy cartoon (Cold War 1951)
Donald Duck short (1954)
Chip & Dale short (1954)
Paul Bunyan (part one) (1958)
Paul Bunyan (part two) (1958)

Feature Films:
Cinderella (1950)
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Old Yeller (1957)

1950's film

Today: Please read and research information about the 1950's using the film site, by decade.

Afterward, please take a look at some of the following clips/trailers for 1950's films.

Harvey (1950) James Stewart
Blackboard Jungle (1955) Sidney Poitier and another clip here. Blackboard Jungle.
The Bad Seed (1956)
The Wild One (1953) Marlon Brando
Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire (Marlon Brando, 1951), Suddenly Last Summer (Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, 1959), Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1955) (Elizabeth Taylor & Paul Newman)
James Dean: Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
East of Eden (1955)
Giant (1956) with Elizabeth Taylor

Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley - (1957)

The Robe (1953)
Ben Hur (1959)

Marilyn Monroe:
All About Eve (1950) Bette Davis
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Some Like it Hot (1959)

From Here to Eternity (1953) Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr
Tale of Two Cities (1958)

For the remainder of the class, please complete your script as well. It is due Monday, May 17 (see below for instructions/models).

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Short Script Project

You have read some scripts, you have seen many films. Now it's your turn to write a very short film script (4-6 pages). Due: Monday, May 17. Finished early? Start filming!

Some advice:

The problem with short films is that they are short. You do not have the luxury for long, character and plot development. The inciting incident should attack the plot just before the climax. This means characters need to be depicted quickly, using visual clues that establish setting, character, mood, conflict and theme.

To help you, follow the steps outlined below with appropriate advice:

1. Decide on the message or theme of the script. What do you want to say to the world about the world?

2. Decide on the best genre to convey your message clearly.
A. Sample genres (how the story is told): realistic drama, comedy, black comedy, farce, romantic comedy, historical drama, sci-fi, fantasy, western, chick flick, urban, musical, action, suspense, horror, mystery, educational, gangster, martial arts, etc.
B. Sample styles (how the camera is used): film noir, expressionistic, slapstick, screwball comedy, exploitation, naturalistic, formalistic, avant garde, b-movie, surrealism, bollywood, parody, silent, mockumentary, Hitchcockian, gritty, neorealism, dogma 95, etc.

3. All films (and stories) need three basic components:
A. A setting (or world): You need to establish a world (diegesis) quickly in order to move quickly to explore a character’s problem. Setting your film around a familiar event or ritual helps make this happen: a funeral, a birthday party, a graduation, Thanksgiving with odd parents, etc. The more recognizable the setting, the more you can focus on the problem and character. It also helps to give your story a finite time frame. Giving internal deadlines helps pace the film.

B. A character (or protagonist): characters are interesting because of their goals. What does your character want that she cannot do without? The stakes should be high enough for an audience to care. Wanting a sandwich is not good enough, unless the character is literally starving and this is the last sandwich on earth. Drive your character to act by a specific want, need or obligation. Even if the character isn't aware what it is she wants, the audience needs to know this up front and quickly. Otherwise we will lose interest.

C. A problem (or conflict): your problem should reflect your theme. You want to convey your message or world view to the audience. Think how problems facing the character may help do this. Keep notching up the stakes for your character until the concept sounds interesting. Make the character suffer a bit (and act) before rewarding or completing your plot line.

4. POV matters. Snow White from the Witch's POV is a different story than that of Prince Charming. It's all a matter of perspective. Pick an interesting perspective.

5. If you don't know what your theme is, neither will your audience.

6. Successful short short films focus on one moment or event. This moment should be something important or significant not only from the character's perspective, but also important/significant to the general audience member.

7. Limit dialogue. Film is a visual medium. Use its strengths to your advantage. Show don't tell.

Need help? Inspiration? Models? Look here!

Simply Scripts (short film samples)

Here are some websites with short film samples (videos).
Student Short Films (public access TV show featuring student films)
Futureshorts (another site to watch short films)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Citizen Kane - Analytical Paper/Guest Artist/Documentaries

Today, please work on completing your Citizen Kane papers. These will be due Tuesday, May 4 at the beginning of class. Please complete the writing/assignment over the weekend if you do not finish during class.

For those of you interested in learning a little more about being a published author, guest speaker Dana Paxton is visiting the senior class today. Mr. Painting has offered the opportunity to anyone seriously interested in Science Fiction to join him today for Mr. Paxton's seminar. Please bring a writing utensil and paper/journal to room A240. Please remember that your Citizen Kane paper is due next class.

Some groups/students have completed their documentaries and these can be viewed under the workshop folder, in the appropriately named: "Documentary Project" folder. Feel free to view classmates work. Some of these films are eligible for the upcoming Rochester Young Filmmaker contest, our very own film festival, and/or screening at the Senior Coffeehouse on June 2 at 7:00.

Please turn in your homework: ?, Observation/comment(s) on The Emergence of TV.

HOMEWORK: Please complete your Citizen Kane paper, and read the article: "American International Pictures" for Tuesday when we will discuss the 1950's and the short script project.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Documentary Film Rubric

There is a film contest that your documentary films could be entered into: The Rochester Teen Film Festival (deadline for 10 minute or fewer minute films of any style) is June 11. Presentation and screening is in August.

Rubric for your Documentaries:

A/A+: Video theme is compelling, significant, and well supported by effective camera work and transitions. The subject and portrayal/coverage of the subject raises and evokes questions, while attempting to move deeper into the subject. Video includes effective music/sound track, credits, title, and cinematography. Project was obviously a group effort. Film turned in on time and in correct format.

B/B+: Video is important and supported by camera work; transitions are appropriate and useful. The subject may raise or evoke questions, but film may have some gaps or weaknesses. Video includes music/sound track, credits, title and cinematography, but may have some mistakes or weaknesses. Project was probably a group effort. Film turned in on time.

C/C+: Video approaches film subject, but without much inspiration or effective analysis. Subject may have some gaps that would be improved with reediting or more effort, but overall the film project was completed. Video may be missing any of the following: music/sound, credits, title. Camera work may have some problems or weaknesses that affect the success of the film. Film turned in late.

D: Film was a C/C+ level, but turned in rather late or the project was attempted, but not completed.

F: Film incomplete or not turned in.

Citizen Kane (again) & The Emergence of TV

Please continue to watch and take notes on Citizen Kane. Please read the handout on The Emergence of Television for Friday and respond in a paragraph any observations or reflections, questions, or what have you to turn in.

Monday, May 3, 2010

London, Paris, Barcelona Trip 2011

Students interested in joining the SOTA school trip to London, Paris and Barcelona!

There is an informational meeting Thursday May 6 at 6:00 in room 238.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Citizen Kane/ AP Prep

Tomorrow, during 1st period, all students taking AP exams in the upcoming weeks will be attending an assembly in the Ensemble Theatre.

Those staying behind, please watch the following clips:

Rosebud (Simpsons)

Citizen Kane (Kids in the Hall)

Afterward, please complete any missing work for this marking period. During period 2 we will resume watching Citizen Kane.

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...