Tuesday, May 30, 2017

American New Wave Directors or Film Project Introduction

This morning, please turn in your film scripts. In the lab, read the article handouts and study for the upcoming exam on Friday. We may leave the lab a little early today if folks aren't using the time to study for the upcoming exam...we'll need the time to examine Blaxploitation and trends in the 1960's. See posts below.

Finally, for your final project, you have an option.

A. Collaboratively, work on an original film, using a film script (perhaps one that you have written), and create an original short film. All members of the team should work together in a significant manner to see the completion of the film project. (i.e., each member of the team should have a well-defined role to complete in the making of the film...)
B. Choose a director from the American New Wave, research, watch 1 film from this director and at least 3 clips from other films directed by the auteur. Use this information to create a short film documentary about the director & his/her impact on film.
  • Woody Allen
  • Robert Altman
  • Hal Ashby
  • Peter Bogdanovich
  • John Cassavetes
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Brian De Palma
  • William Friedkin
  • Dennis Hopper
  • George Lucas
  • Mike Nichols
  • Bob Rafelson
  • Martin Scorsese
  • Steven Spielberg
C. Select a director from the list below

Contemporary Film Directors:
  • Pedro Amoldovar
  • Wes Anderson
  • Darren Aronofsky
  • Kathryn Bigelow
  • Danny Boyle
  • Mel Brooks
  • Charles Burnett
  • Tim Burton
  • Joel & Ethan Coen
  • James Cameron
  • Jane Campion
  • Sofia Coppola
  • David Cronenberg
  • Cameron Crowe
  • Alfonso Cuaron
  • Julie Dash
  • Guillermo Del Toro
  • Claire Denis
  • Ava Duverney
  • Clint Eastwood
  • David Fincher
  • Jean Luc Godard
  • Terry Gilliam
  • Mary Harron
  • Werner Herzog
  • Peter Jackson
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarratu
  • Ang Lee
  • Spike Lee
  • Kasi Lemmons
  • Richard Linklater
  • David Lynch
  • Terrence Malick
  • Steve McQueen (not the actor)
  • Bennett Miller
  • Hayao Miyazaki 
  • Errol Morris
  • Christopher Nolan
  • Gordon Parks
  • Tyler Perry
  • Sidney Poitier
  • Gina Prince-Bythewood
  • John Sayles
  • Ridley Scott
  • Jim Sheridan
  • John Singleton
  • Steven Soderbergh
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Julie Taymor
  • Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Melvin Van Peebles
  • Gus Van Sant
  • Keenan Ivory Wayans
Watch 3 films from the director, research, and write a research paper on the director examining his/her films. See handout on Stanley Kubrick as an example.

More details to follow.

HOMEWORK: Study for your upcoming exam.


After the Civil Rights Movement, blacks in film began to appear more frequently, although not very often.

Blaxploitation is a film genre that emerged in the early 1970s when many exploitation films were made that targeted the urban black audience; the word itself is a portmanteau of the words "black" and "exploitation."

Characteristics of Blaxploitation films:
  1. Story uses the urban ghetto as a locale for its setting
  2. Often includes such characters as: pimps, hit men, drug dealers, the ho, etc.
  3. White characters are often antagonists: corrupt cops, evil politicians, easily fooled organized crime goons, etc.
  4. Characters are often stereotypes
  5. Black music (hip hop, rap, jazz, R&B, funk, blues, etc.) is used as a score
  6. Black actors play primary and protagonist roles
Popular genres of Blaxploitation films include:
Crime (Foxy Brown), action (Three the Hard Way), horror (AbbyBlacula), comedy (Uptown Saturday Night), nostalgia (Five on the Black Hand Side), coming-of-age/courtroom drama (CornbreadEarl and Me), and musical (The WizSparkle).

Here is a list of clips for your viewing pleasure:

They Call Me MISTER Tibbs (1970) (Sidney Poitier) - sequel to In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) directed by Ossie Davis
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) starring Melvin Van Peebles - considered (with Shaft) to have created the Blaxploitation cycle.
Shaft (1971) Directed by Gordon Parks; starring Richard Roundtree

The popularity of this film spawned these sequels:

Shaft's Big Score (1972)
Shaft in Africa (1973)
And a remake in 2000, Shaft 2000

Also by Gordon Parks:
Superfly (1972)

Blacula (1972) directed by William Crain
And its sequel: Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973)

And because Dracula was lonely:
Blackenstein (1973)
Abby (influenced by The Exorcist (William Freidkin, 1973) - 1974)

Female protagonists:
Cleopatra Jones (1973) starring Tamara Dobson and its sequel for all the sistahs:
Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975)
Coffy (1974) starring Pam Grier

These exploitation films were influenced by lesbian exploitation films (also prison exploitation films):
Black Mama, White Mama (1972)
Sugar Hill (1974)
Dolemite (1975)

Ralph Bakshi's Coonskin (1975) Bakshi is not black, but many white filmmakers took advantage of reaching a black audience in their films. Contemporary directors do the same thing, as Quintin Tarantino can testify.

Sparkle (1976) Musicals like this also included such popular titles as the Wiz (1978)
The Wiz (1978) (Starring Diana Ross and little Michael Jackson)

Later in the 1980's until the present, blaxploitation film style has been parodied:

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka! (1988)

Jackie Brown (directed by Quentin Tarantino) 1997

Pootie Tang (2000)

Directors like Spike Lee are encouraged to make films for a black audience. Many other actors, directors, and writers begin expanding the ground opened by blaxploitation.
Other critically acclaimed films:
The 100 Best Black Movies (trailer)

HOMEWORK: Study this material for your upcoming test.

1960's Trends in Film

1960's Film Trends:
With the change in restrictions based on the rating system from the MPAA, content in films gets grittier, more violent, more sexual, and more...well...Hollywood. View a few clips of famous films and film categories developed in the 1960's. Take notes on your graphic organizer. This material is fair game for the upcoming exam. Note years, genres, actors, directors, and films.

1960's Epic/Costume Drama Films:
Spartacus (1960) Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Charleton Heston, Peter Ustinov
El Cid (1961) Charleton Heston
Cleopatra (1963) Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
Becket (1964) Richard Burton & Peter O'Toole
The Sound of Music (1965) Julie Andrews & Christopher Plumber
Doctor Zhivago (1965) Julie Christie, Omar Sharif
The Lion in Winter (1968) Peter O'Toole & Katherine Hepburn
Planet of the Apes (1968, Rod Serling screenwriter; Franklin Schaffner, dir.) Charleton Heston

Angry Young Man Films:
Look Back in Anger (1959) Richard Burton
The Loneliness of the Longdistance Runner (1962)
The Caretaker (1963)
The Leather Boys (1963)
If (1968) Malcolm McDowell
Easy Rider (1969) Dennis Hopper

Beatles' Films
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Help! (1965)
The Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Yellow Submarine (1968)

Famous/Influential Directors

Stanley Kubrick: Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964, Peter Sellers), 2001, a Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971, Malcolm McDowell)
John Ford: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
George Pal: The Time Machine (1960), Jason & the Argonauts (1963), One Million Years BC (1966)
John Frankenheimer: The Young Savages (1961), The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Arthur Penn: The Miracle Worker (1962), Bonny & Clyde (1967), Alice's Restaurant (1969)
Robert Aldrich: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) with Bette Davis & Joan Crawford; The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Blake Edwards: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961, with Audrey Hepburn); The Pink Panther (1963 with Peter Sellers)
Alfred Hitchcock: The Birds (1963, Tipi Hedren), Marnie (1964, Sean Connery, Tipi Hedren), Torn Curtain (1966, with Julie Andrews & Paul Newman)
James Bond Films: Dr. No (1962, Sean Connery), Goldfinger (1964, Sean Connery)

African American Films:
Sidney Poitier films: A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Lilies of the Field (1963), To Sir With Love (1967), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

HOMEWORK: Study this information for your upcoming test.

Final Exam Review

Exam review

Our final exam covers a lot here. Please study and use your notes you took in class (there was a reason you should have taken notes) to study from. Look back at the blog posts and read or view the clips/articles that were linked. You will be responsible for anything that is posted there--including:
  • The Movies Learn to Speak (article)
  • The Jazz Singer (1927) & Don Juan (1926), Al Jolson, Vitaphone, etc.
  • The Benefits and Problems concerning SOUND IN FILM
  • 1930's Golden Age of Film: (blog post)
  • Hal Roach, Laurel & Hardy, "The Music Box" (1931), The Little Rascals
  • Universal Horror films and stars
  • Screwball comedies & style
  • Frank Capra films
  • Genre films: Gangster, War, Westerns, Musicals, Animation, Adventure
  • Famous actors/personalities in 1930's & 1940's films
  • RKO, King Kong (1933), Fay Wray--the scream queen, Max Steiner, Ray Harryhausen
  • The Marx Brothers: Duck Soup (1933)
  • Influence of the Great Depression on film, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart
  • Narratology, style of film, narrative techniques, avant-garde films
  • Technicolor (Walt Disney article) and color in film
  • Walt Disney, Snow White (1937) (article & blog posts)
  • Warner Brothers Looney Tunes (animation in 1930-1970)
  • How to write a treatment, 3-act structure; how to write a script
  • John Huston, dir.; Humphrey Bogart: The Maltese Falcon
  • Film Noir (article "Murder, Greed, & Betrayal: The Dark Streets of Film Noir")
  • The characteristics of Film Noir, how German Expressionism influenced Film Noir, etc.
  • The Wizard of Oz & Gone With the Wind (1939, color in film)
  • Citizen Kane (1941) & Orson Welles and his influence on film (Orson Welles Comes to Town article)
  • Mise-en-scene & deep focus shots, auteur, diegetic & non-diegetic sound, styles of film, mise-en-shot, montage, continuity editing, editing, producing, etc. (various posts)
  • Angles, shot types, 180-degree rule, how to direct, produce, and write a film, etc.
  • Casablanca (1942)
  • World War II and its effect on film
  • Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954), Psycho (1960); the MacGuffin
  • The Emergence of Television (article)
  • Samuel Goldwyn (MGM), influence of television on the film industry ("The Emergence of Television" article)
  • Elia Kazan, Lee Strasberg & the Actor's Studio in New York; influence on actors like Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, etc.
  • HUAC and the Communist Witch Hunt, McCarthy Era, Fatty Arbuckle scandal, Ring Lardner, blacklisting (HUAC article)
  • Nicolas Ray; Rebel Without a Cause; James Dean; teenage films of the 1950's
  • Drive-in Theaters
  • AIP & Samuel Z. Arkoff (American International Pictures: A Blueprint for Success" article)
  • Ed Wood & Roger Corman & "B" films
  • William Castle
  • 1950's Science Fiction films, The Cold War & its influence on film
  • MPPA relaxing its restrictions (Article)
  • Jack Valenti, Mike Nichols, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1966) ("Relaxing Restrictions: MPAA Ratings System article)
  • Rating system: G, M, R, X and what the letter stands for--later G, PG, R, NC17
  • How to direct, how to edit, how to write a film script
  • Writing a film treatment
  • 1960's film trends
  • The New Hollywood: America's New Wave (article)
  • Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider (American New Wave)
  • Steven Spielberg & George Lucas; Star Wars (1977): blockbusters & their influence in film
  • Blaxploitation (article & blog post)
  • CGI, Toy Story (1995) (article & blog post)
  • Producers, directors, writers, foley artist, grip, cinematographers, and film occupations
  • 1970's-1980's film trends (not on test, but we'll cover this after the exam)
  • Francis Ford Coppola (see American New Wave directors)
  • Roman Polanski (see American New Wave directors)
  • Martin Scorsese (see American New Wave directors)
  • Ridley Scott (see American New Wave directors; we'll cover this after the exam)
  • Spike Lee (see Blaxploitation & New Wave directors; we'll cover this after the exam)
The exam will be held Friday, June 2.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Psycho (conclusion); Library Lab & William Castle

Period 1/2: We will complete our viewing of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). Since we'll need a little over an hour to complete the film, we will move to the library computer lab after the film and complete/turn in your short film script. This is the first deadline. I will not penalize students who need the extra holiday weekend to complete their scripts. Nevertheless, the script will be due today or Wednesday next week (May 31).

There will be a final exam (although the course is not over) on Friday, June 2. See the post above for details as to what will be covered on the exam.

HOMEWORK: See above. Additionally, please review and take notes on the following subject: William Castle. In the COMMENT section of this post, for homework, please write your comment/thoughts about some of the films found at the links. You may, of course, see a complete William Castle film and write about that as well.

William CastleThe Wonderful World of 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. William Castle was called the Master of Movie Horror.

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:
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.

Watch the clips, write a comment about William Castle in the comment section below.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Drive In Theaters; Sci-fi Flicks; Ed Wood, Roger Corman, Samuel Z. Arkoff; Relaxation of the MPPA; Psycho

After screening the last 3 minutes of Rear Window, let's chat about the 1950's:

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 its result:

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!
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.
Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures (or AIP). The material below will help you understand this period of history as we move into the strange 1950's. Please take notes of key ideas and information. Read the handout for the exam next week.

From IMDB.com:

"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 paid Mr. Broder 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 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."
Much of this horror and science fiction material began to change what was allowed in films. With a market of teens, films began to cater to them. The Hays Code was beginning to crack! Read the article about the relaxation of the MPAA code.

1960, Alfred Hitchcock (Part 1)

One way to appreciate film is by examining its narrative structure. As young writers, this is a great exercise. You can learn a lot about writing by paying attention to narrative.

Narrative can be:
• Omniscient
• Limited (over the shoulder)/Restricted
• Multiple Perspective

Narrative largely depends on how time (or chronology) works in the story.

Chronology: (how time works in a story)
• Chronological/linear time
• Non-chronological/non-linear
• Flashback
• Frame

When we examine time and narrative in film, we should ask:
  • Who does the camera favor?
This is your clue as to who you need to be concerned with/about. Try to use this technique in your film projects.

Hitchcock applies several effective narrative techniques to keep his audience on its toes. The most famous of these is:

The MacGuffin: an object of importance to the characters but of little interest to the director (and consequently to the viewer).

As you watch Psycho, pay attention to:
1. The MacGuffin (what is it for which character?)
2. the Set-up
3. the 1st turning point or crisis
4. Development & shifting of POV (and our loyalties/concerns)
5. Other turning points (there can be several of these)
6. the Climax
7. the Resolution: how the film ends (and what that suggests)

HOMEWORK: Rad and annotate the articles on Samuel Z. Arkoff (AIP), and the relaxation of the MPAA for our test next week. Continue to work on your film script projects. Film scripts are due Friday. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hitchcock: Response; Rear Window (conclusion)

1st period (Until 7:55):

This morning please use the linked resources from the homework on Alfred Hitchcock to respond in the COMMENT section below this post:

  • What did you learn about Alfred Hitchcock by reading these articles (be specific when referring to or attributing an article or website)
  • What Hitchcock films have you personal experience watching? Which ones might you have heard about?
  • If you were to write a suspense/mystery/thriller in Hitchcock's style, what might your story be about?
With time remaining in the lab, please continue working on your film script project(s). Drafts of your script are due Friday. See previous posts for more details and advice.

1/2 period (8:00):

We will screen the last part of Rear Window. See the previous post for details about the film.

HOMEWORK: None. You may prepare for the coffeehouse (Tuesday, 7:00 in the Ensemble theater).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Alfred Hitchcock

LAB: (until 8:00)
  • Please read and take notes on Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Please continue adapting your treatments into film scripts.
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 (clip, 1931), Number 17 (clip, 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 (here's the full film), Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Joseph Cotten (from Citizen Kane), 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 (you'll see more of this guy), and Under Capricorn (1949) with Ingrid Bergman again (you last saw her in Casablanca).

In the 50's he went on to make these films: Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), and North By Northwest (1959)

We will be screening the first part of Rear Window at 8:00.

James Stewart...    L.B. 'Jeff' Jefferies
Grace Kelly...        Lisa Fremont
Wendell Corey...   Detective Thomas J. Doyle
Thelma Ritter...     Stella
Raymond Burr...   Lars Thorwald
Judith Evelyn...     Miss Lonelyhearts
Ross Bagdasarian..Songwriter
Georgine Darcy...  Miss Torso
Sara Berner...        Woman on Fire Escape
Frank Cady...        Man on Fire Escape
Jesslyn Fax...        Miss Hearing Aid
Rand Harper/Havis Davenport... Newlyweds

HOMEWORK: Continue writing your screenplays. Read the articles/handouts on Hitchcock: "About Hitchcock"Anecdotes, and "Alfred Hitchcock and the making of a film culture" & Vertigo.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Treatments Due; Turning Your Treatment into a Film Script; Rebel Without a Cause: Day 2

Lab: (Until 8:00)
  • Please turn in your homework regarding "HUAC" & "The Emergence of Television." See the previous post for details.
  • Complete your treatments and print these out before 8:00 this morning. Turn in your treatment for participation/writing credit.
If you finish your treatment before 8:00, please begin to shape your treatment into a film script. See the handouts on script format and the tutorial videos (if you have not already watched them or need more assistance with the format for a screenplay):

Script Format
A treatment helps describe the action and plot of a film. Filmmakers use this to help define scenes. To do this easily, break your film script into the various scenes you indicated in your treatment. Add dialogue and further description as necessary.

Script Project: 
You should write a script that is at least 5-10 pages in length. It can be longer. This page requirement is per writer. If you are working with a partner, then both of you should write at least 5-10 pages of the film script (so your screenplay will run somewhere between 10-20 or more pages).

I suggest sharing your treatment (after you break it up into scenes) with your partner and working AT THE SAME TIME. For example, one partner can be working on the odd scenes and your partner can be working AT THE SAME TIME on the even scenes. The idea is that you both contribute writing to the script project.
  • Next to the tagline or slugline, please put your initials in parenthesis to mark who is responsible for which scene. 
  • If you are working alone, you do not have to do this step.
Classroom: We will view the second and last half of the film Rebel Without a Cause.

HOMEWORK: Work on your script. This draft will be due Friday, May 26. Also, just a reminder that our senior coffeehouse will be next Tuesday at 7:00 in the Ensemble Theater. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Treatments; Television; Rebel Without a Cause: Part 1

This morning, while in the lab (until 8:00), please read the following articles and links. Take notes and answer the appropriate questions in your research:

1. The History of Television (particularly important to those of you planning on studying communications, media journalism, and/or broadcasting) is quite interesting. How much do you really know about that flat screen you have hanging on your wall?  Read the article (stop at the 1960's), take note of important information from the link.

2. Just before, during, and after WWII, war films were very popular. Lightening the mood was the 1949 film I Was a Male War Bride with screwball comedy legend Cary Grant.

Elia Kazan (director of Streetcar Named Desire - 1951) helped to form The Actor's Studio in New York City that trained method actors Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, and James Dean (all using the 'method' under direction of Lee Strasberg). The method was meant to help actors create more realistic portrayals in their roles, an updated version of Russian director Stanislavski's method.

A very young Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) played the Jewish thief in Oliver Twist (1948). Movies based on books continued. Film adaptation of the Bestseller Night of the Hunter (with Lilian Gish, 1955), Moby Dick (1956), and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Cecil B. DeMille continued his Biblical epics with Sampson & Delilah (1949), and a remake (this time with Charleton Heston) of The Ten Commandments (1956).

Finally, because of the baby boom, films began to market to teenagers. We'll see more of this in the infamous "B" films of 1950's sci-fi & atomic monster films like Godzilla (1954).

3. Create a 1-3 page film treatment (due Tuesday, May 16) for your film project. You may work alone or with one partner. Both partners should contribute writing and ideas to the project.

What is a Film Treatment?
pitch is used to convince a film company to produce your film. The pitch is usually a one page summary of the main action, characters, and setting of the film. Essentially it deals with the idea or premise of the film.

The film treatment is usually a 1-3 page document that tells the whole story of a film script focusing on the highlights or key scenes. Actually, the professional ones are likely to be 30 pages or more, but we'll shorten that for you.

A film treatment is more detailed than a pitch. It can include a scene by scene breakdown of a script. It is used BEFORE writing the real script so the author can plan his/her project. Yes, you read that right: plan. It is important to know the flow of your story, before you begin writing.

How To Write a Treatment
The treatment should read like a short story and be written in the present tense. It should present the entire story including the ending, and use some key scenes and dialogue from the screenplay it is based on. For a sample of what this looks like, check out the treatment examples: Example for a short treatment #1, example for a longer treatment #2: Planet of the Apes Revisited, and Treatment sample #3

What Should Be in the Treatment?
1. A Working title
2. The writer's name
3. Introduction to key characters
4. Who, what, when, why and where. Describe each setting. Describe each MAJOR or important character. Describe the "what" of each scene: what's going on, etc. and think about the WHY: why does the character do this, live here, work there, want this or that?, etc.
5. Act 1 in one to three paragraphs. Set the scene, dramatize the main conflicts. Break your treatment into BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END. Your beginning will deal with exposition, the inciting incident, and maybe a couple of conflicts presented in the rising action. It is typical to end the first act with a turning point for the protagonist.
6. Act 2 in two to six paragraphs. Should dramatize how the conflicts introduced in Act 1 lead to a crisis or dark moment.
7. Act 3 in one to three paragraphs. Dramatize the final conflict and resolution. The third act typically includes the climax of the story and its denouement or resolution. For help in plotting, read the next section carefully.
The Three Act Structure
Basic screenplay structure for a full-length film usually has three acts.

In The Poetics, Aristotle suggested that all stories should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Well, duh. You know that. But really. You need to remember this advice.

Breaking the plot of a story into three parts gives us a 3-part or act structure. The word "act" means "the action of carrying something out. For our purposes think act one (beginning), act two (middle), and act three (end) of your short film.

Act 1, called the Set-up, The situation and characters and conflict are introduced. This classically is 30 minutes long. For a short film it can be only a few minutes or 1 minute.

Act 2, called The Conflict, often an hour long, is where the conflict begins and expands until it reaches a crisis.

Act 3, called The Resolution, the conflict rises to one more crisis (the last one called the climax) and then is resolved.

MORE ADVICE: The best stories, say some critics, involve this structure:
  • 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 a short film can be tricky, as you need to consider the length and consolidate your action. Here are a few good examples. Note how these films condense story plot and character effectively:
Rocket Jump Film School (Like what you saw? Why not learn something about making a film...)

Other Film Advice: 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

In the classroom: (8:00)
We will watch the first part of Nicholas Ray's 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean, Sal Mineo, & Natalie Wood. See handout for more information.

HOMEWORK: Please read the articles on the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) & The Emergence of Television. Answer the following questions:
  • How did HUAC affect Hollywood and film makers of the time period?
  • How did the invention of Television threaten Hollywood and filmmakers in the 1940's and 1950's?
Also: Complete any links you did not view during class. If you've been absent, take a look at previous posts to catch up!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Casablanca (1942)

Please read Casablanca (1942) as an excellent model of effective film writing.

Film context: while the film takes place in December, 1941 (the same month the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, encouraging America to enter WWII, the film was distributed in November, 1942. The setting of the film is no accident. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) represents America. He's from one of the most identifiable U.S. States: New York. Seen as a neutral, by the end of the film Rick has made his loyalties clear. His actions (like those of the U.S.A.) will help determine the outcome of the war. The film is influenced by film noir (and has various similarities with that movement), but it is really a romantic drama. This is boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy has a chance to get girl back, but sacrifices his own happiness for her. The film in black and white suggests the dichotomy between good and evil, Axis vs. Allies, love and war, etc. With low-key lighting it suggests a more pessimistic or dangerous tone for the setting of the film. For more details about the film, take a gander at this:

Casablanca (1942)

Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by for Warner Brothers Studios
Screenplay by Julius J. EpsteinPhilip G. Epstein and Howard Koch
Produced by Hal B. Wallis & Jack L. Warner (executive producer)
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography by Arthur Edeson
Film Editing by Owen Marks

Humphrey Bogart...
Ingrid Bergman...
Paul Henreid...
Claude Rains...
Conrad Veidt...
Sydney Greenstreet...
Peter Lorre...
S.Z. Sakall...
Madeleine Lebeau...
Dooley Wilson...

You should recognize Humphrey Bogart (Sam Spade in Maltese Falcon), Sydney Greenstreet (Gutman/the Fat Man from Maltese Falcon), Peter Lorre (Joel Cairo from Maltese Falcon, and Fritz Lang's M), Conrad Veidt (from Different From Others & as Cesar the Somnambulist from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), and Ingrid Bergman (Hedda Gabler). Claude Rains was also popular (we mentioned him in the Universal monster movie The Invisible Man). So, as you can see...the cast was pretty familiar to the 1940's audience. They are part of the studio move star system of the time period.

If you will miss this film (showing Monday/Wednesday of next week) please read the entire script (or rent & watch the film on your own). You can find the rest of the script here: Casablanca.

HOMEWORK: None. If you didn't see or read Casablanca, please do so.

For fun: Bugs Bunny: The Origins of an American Icon

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Film Noir; The Maltese Falcon & The Concept Assignment

Film Noir:

Discuss what you learned about film noir from your homework. This morning, think/pair/share for 2-3 minutes on the topic. What did we find?

Here are a few things to watch for as we screen The Maltese Falcon:

1. A protagonist that is cynical or detached
2. A femme fatale who leads the protagonist astray
3. A mystery, crime, or use of suspense
4. A naive scapegoat to take the rap of some "crime"
5. Goons (hired criminals who give the protagonist a hard time)
6. Razor sharp dialogue
7. Reference and description of low key lighting

Lighting, Mise en Scene, & Film Techniques: 

3-point Lighting: key light, fill light, & backlight.

  • Key light: light aimed at the subject of a shot. The brightest light used, usually.
  1. High Key: lots of warm light. Bright. Often used in comedies, musicals, etc.
  2. Low Key: lots of shadows. Often used in horror, mystery, or suspense genres, etc.
Both high and low key lighting can be used to create conflict or dualism: light/darkness in a scene is often used metaphorically/symbolically. Our eye will always look for light first so we can focus the attention of a viewer. 
  • Fill light: softer light, usually aimed to contrast key light. Helps cut out shadows.
  • Backlight: light aimed from behind the subject. Enhances the depth of a shot. Often causes a "glow" around an object or subject.

Lighting can also light a subject from above (top lighting) or below (under lighting). We use the terms harsh or hot lighting to describe light that is very bright, and soft lighting when it is not that intense. Both can be used in a shot to create contrast.

Chiaroscuro lighting refers to the contrast between high and low key lighting used to create an emotional effect in a photograph or painting.
Let's put all this together as we view the film The Maltese Falcon (1941). 

The Maltese Falcon, directed and written for the screen by John Huston
Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett (see handout and links for more details!)
As you watch the film, identify the tropes of film noir and pay attention to lighting. You can read the script here at this link if interested.

HOMEWORK: Please read the first part of Casablanca (1942). If you will miss this film (showing Monday/Wednesday of next week) please read the entire script (or rent & watch the film on your own). Casablanca script.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Citizen Kane (Day 2) & Student Films

Topping the best films of all time is the important and influential 1941 film by Orson Welles: Citizen Kane (1941). As we view Citizen Kane, there are a series of important elements that can enrich our understanding of this film.

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 filmmaking includes:

Camera Work:
  • 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!
Narrative/Special techniques:
  • Multiple perspective!
  • Flashbacks!
  • Aging!
Motifs and themes:
  • The American Dream: For all of Kane's "success", he is not happy. He dies lonely, with only his "possessions" around him. Is all our striving to succeed in America an illusion?
The differing perspectives on Kane's life, especially in the absence of Kane's own point of view, force us to question what was truly important in Kane's life (and by extension what constitutes a life in general.) Judging by Kane's last muttered word: Rosebud, the most important pieces of his life were not the things that made him newsworthy, such as his newspaper successes and political ambitions, nor his friendships and associations. As Thompson interviews different people about Kane, we are given different perspectives on the man (some are unreliable). Odd, though, that we do not see Kane from Kane's POV.

  • Isolation
  • Materialism/Capitalism
  • Old Age
  • The Snowglobe
  • Sleds
  • Statues
Student Silent Film Projects: 

HOMEWORK: Please read the handout on Film Noir: The Maltese Falcon. What are some of the typical stylistic techniques used to classify film noir?

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...