Wednesday, May 29, 2013

William Castle

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

"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.

HOMEWORK: Please read about the MPAA restrictions and the American New Wave.  Complete the graphic organizer for each chapter and turn in as homework on June 3. Film projects are due June 5.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Drive In Movies, Ed Wood & Roger Corman

Please work on your film projects during the lab today. Take a few minutes as a break and read about Drive-Ins, Ed Wood, and Roger Corman.

Drive-In Theatres:

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) 

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.
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)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Emergence of TV & the Film Project

 The History of Television (particularly important to those of you planning on studying communications, media journalism, and/or broadcasting). Read the article (stop at the 1970's) and link. List 3 things you learned from the article and link and turn in as participation credit today.

Then, work on your project:
1. Create your opening and closing credits.
2. Continue to pull stock footage and photos from the internet and upload them into your film.
3. Upload any film footage you have shot in the past week or weekend.
4. Edit any footage you have already taken and uploaded.
5. Make a plan to shoot your film. Talk to your partner(s) and decide how you are going to complete this film project. Once you have a schedule, stick to it. Try to make progress every day!

HOMEWORK: Please read the handout article given to you today and watch the following videos:

"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."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Script; Film Project

By the end of today's class, you should have a working script draft. Use the time in lab today to do the following:

1. Finish your film draft (this should be between 4-10 pages in length)
2. Begin creating your opening and closing credits.
3. Pull stock footage and photos from the internet and upload them into your film.
4. Upload any film footage you have shot in the past week or weekend.
5. Edit any footage you have already taken and uploaded.
6. Make a plan to shoot your film. Talk to your partner(s) and decide how you are going to complete this film project. Once you have a schedule, stick to it. Try to make progress every day!

HOMEWORK: Shoot your film.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Script Writing

Using your treatment, please begin writing your script. You should use proper script format. Check the link on the side of this blog page for details if you have forgotten them.

The best stories, say some critics involve this structure:
  • A who that must do (Action or Cause) something so that (some Effect) something won't happen.
or in other words:
  • A character (usually your protagonist) who must do X in order that N won't happen.
  • A character is often driven by his/her desire to a specific goal. The story, then, is what gets in the way.
Writing Dialogue - 4 minute film (Video)
Writing Screenplays that Sell (Video)

Writing Better Screenplays
Entering a Scene
How to Write a Script

Script Format
Script Format video (part one)
Script Format video (part two)
How to Format a Movie Script
Writers: Story Telling Tips

HOMEWORK: If you didn't write more than 2 pages today, please get caught up by completing at least 2 pages of your script for homework. Read and complete the graphic organizer on HUAC and TV (see handouts today) to turn in Friday. If you are still stuck, pop some popcorn and take a look at this video (it's 20 minutes long) and learn. It's rather informative. Writing a Script.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Screenwriter

Directors often write their own scripts. Jean Cocteau, Eisenstein, Bergman, Herzog, Allen, Spike Lee, John Huston, D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Eric Stroheim, Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Francis Ford Coppola, etc. to name a few. Some writers collaborate on a script (as you might be doing), while others are brought in at a later draft to "fix" a script. Other times directors or producers will take up the pen, although they are not always listed as "screenwriters"--for example Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock.

Some scripts are talky, while others hardly use dialogue to tell the story. Some writers use a direct narrator (usually in the form of a VO), but others include multiple perspective, telling the story from a variety of characters' points of view (POV). Usually, a story or script will include a theme and/or a message. American filmgoers usually prefer a happy ending with a lesson that "goes down smoothly" or is as unobtrusive as possible, as we generally hate to be told what to think or do, although we might not be the best at doing those things.

The mise en scene is usually up to the director, but description in script writing remains an important element. The more detailed a script, the less the director has to do in a manner of thinking.

Scripts are often modified by actors (who change lines) or directors who encourage a script to be rewritten to fit a certain movie star or actor. Certain actors are very good at certain things or portraying certain characters. Matching the right kind of actor to the right kind of part is an important job.

Good dialogue is a result of having a good ear, says your homework article. The right choice of words, the length or syntax of human speech, the diction and what characters say helps to define them and builds characterization. As character is king in contemporary writing, it is important to really nail your characters right and depict them accurately, in such a way as to make them at once unique--and also a vehicle for the viewing audience. In other words, we need to identify with characters. If they come across as too pedantic, too glorious, too infallible, or too rigid, we lose interest as we cannot always define ourselves by watching them.

As you watch films, consider who you ultimately identify with in the story. Then think "Why"? What is the screenwriter, actor/director, etc. doing to manipulate me into "liking" or "hating" this character...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Rope (Part 2); Treatment Due!

We will complete the film Rope this morning. Afterward, please return to the lab and print out or complete your treatment and hand it in by the end of class.

HOMEWORK: Continue working on your script for your film project.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Student Film Sample

Student film: I Dream of Zucchini.

Alfred Hitchcock & Rope, Part One

During period one, please begin brainstorming an idea and begin writing a treatment/script for your final film project. You film should be between 3-10 minutes in length, include a script (that you will hand in), and a treatment (a 1-2 page synopsis with a list of characters, proposed title, and description of the plot--due next class, May 13.) You may work with up to five people on this project.

During period 2, we will begin to screen the film Rope (1948). You will be watching up to three Hitchcock films and writing an academic paper on the director and his influence in film. Please read the articles: "Directors Are Dead" and "My Most Exciting Picture" (about the film Rope) for next class as well.

Alfred Hitchcock is considered the "master of suspense" and his career in film was a long and influential one:

His first full length film was The Lodger and appeared in 1926. This was followed by Downhill (1927), The Ring (1927), Champagne (1928), The Farmer's Wife (1928), and Easy Virtue (1928), The Manxman (1929), and Blackmail (1929). These were British silent films (Blackmail was not, as you can hear). You are free to watch any of these films as extra credit.

In the1930's, Hitchcock made even more films, mostly suspense films for which he became famous. These included: Rich and Strange (1931), The Skin Game (1931), Number 17 (1932), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) with Peter Lorre, The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Secret Agent (1936), Young and Innocent (1937), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Jamaica Inn (1939), then Foreign Correspondent (1940).

At this point in his career, Alfred Hitchcock moves to Hollywood to work with producer David O. Selznick. He makes a variety of films for Selznick, although the two approached film from a very different perspective. Hitchcock often felt trapped or restricted by Selznick's contract. The films include: Rebecca (1940) Laurence Olivier, Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Joseph Cotten, Life Boat (1944) Talula Bankhead, Spellbound (1945) with Gregory Peck, Notorious Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman (1946), The Paradine Case (1947), Rope (1948) with Farley Granger & Jimmy Stewart, and Under Capricorn (1949) Ingrid Bergman.

HOMEWORK: Create a 1-2 page treatment for your film project. Your treatment should include a working title, a cast of potential characters, a list of who is working on what parts of the film, and a synopsis or summary of the plot, film style, and theme. This treatment is due by end of next class. Please also read the articles "Directors Are Dead" and "My Most Exciting Picture" by Alfred Hitchcock.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Orson Welles, Auteur

Citizen Kane is considered the world's #1 film. It is typically included in film studies curriculum. Because we are far behind schedule in our course, we will be skimming over the film, examining a few scenes.

Today, please watch these scenes from Citizen Kane (1941):
Orson Welles as Auteur:
Welles directed, wrote (partial), and starred in this film (even though it was thought he wasn't old enough to portray Kane). While Welles had direct control over the film and its look, there were other people who contributed artistically. Some of the invention and creativity of film making includes:
The Deep Focus shot!
Low angle shots revealing ceilings!
Moving shots used as wipes!
Overlapping dialogue! (not original to Welles, but a trend in Screwball Comedies)
Long uninterrupted shots!
Expressionist lighting and photography!
Multiple perspective! (adds complexity to a plot...)
Orson Welles, Other Films from the 1940's & 1950's:
Film project consideration: You will be expected to make a short film as part of your requirement this marking period. You may choose to work alone, with a partner, or in a group of up to four or five people. This morning, decide who you may wish to work with on this project. Working alone IS an option.

Once you have decided who you would like to work with, brainstorm a few ideas for your film. You may choose the short film you wrote a script for (for those of you who actually DID write a script), or a new idea. If you need to, use the graphic organizers to plan what kind of film you'd like to create. Make sure everyone has a voice in the project, as it is easier to enjoy a project if you are invested in its creation. You should have a clear idea who you want to work with by next class period.

HOMEWORK: If you missed any of these clips today, please watch them for homework. Take notes on what you see, with names of titles and years. Complete the reading on "Writing".

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Maltese Falcon Review: 2

Today, please complete your film review on The Maltese Falcon. Your film review should be between 500-1000 words. Please refer to the notes I gave you about writing a review.

If you finish early, please read the article on Orson Welles.

HOMEWORK: Please read the article on Orson Welles and write a paragraph explaining what contributions he made to film (to be handed in).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Maltese Falcon Review

A film review can be as general as summarizing the plot of a film while naming actors and directors, or can be as critical and analytical as to praise or condemn an aspect or error of the film.

Generally, they start off with a brief history/summary of the film. Historical information can be found on-line, as can information about the director, writer, and style of film or its tradition. This usually leads into the body of the review which includes a few paragraphs on any of the following aspects of film, grouped together in similar packages when there's not a lot to write about: actors, film crew, cinematography or direction of photography, direction, quality of writing, special effects, editing (pacing), sound, color (when appropriate), treatment of subject matter (theme and message), etc. The review summarizes the experience of the film by quipping whether or not the film was worth the admission price or worth the time for a viewer. A societal connection about the relevance of the film can be helpful.

Take a look at the sample reviews for the movie The Croods.

After watching The Maltese Falcon, please return to the lab and begin a review of the film. Start out by researching and gathering the important information you will need, before jumping into the writing. Gather ye ducks in a row, before planning to cook them....


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