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Film Talk

Film Talk: Directors at Work

Wheeler Winston Dixon
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Film Talk
    Book Description:

    What 1970s Hollywood filmmaker influenced Quentin Tarantino? How have contemporary Japanese horror films inspired Takashi Shimizu, director of the huge box office hit The Grudge? What is it like to be an African American director in the twenty-first century?The answers to these questions, along with many more little-known facts and insights, can be found in Film Talk, an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking from the 1940s to the present. In eleven intimate and revealing interviews, contemporary film directors speak frankly about their work-their successes and their disappointments, their personal aspirations, struggles, relationships, and the politics that affect the industry.A medley of directors including those working in pop culture and documentary, as well as feminist filmmakers, social satirists, and Hollywood mavericks recount stories that have never before been published. Among them are Monte Hellman, the auteur of the minimalist masterpiece Two-Lane Blacktop; Albert Maysles, who with his late brother David, created some of the most important documentaries of the 1960s, including Salesman and The Beatles: What's Happening?; Robert Downey Sr., whose social satires Putney Swope and Greaser's Palace paved the way for a generation of filmmakers; Bennett Miller, whose film Capote won an Academy Award in 2005; and Jamie Babbit, a lesbian crossover director whose low-budget film But I'm a Cheerleader! became a mainstream hit.The candid conversations, complimented by more than fifty photographs, including many that are rare, make this book essential reading for aspiring moviemakers, film scholars, and everyone interested in the how movies are made and who the fascinating individuals are who make them.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4147-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    Film Talkis a series of interviews with contemporary film directors from all aspects of the film medium: pop culture directors, documentary directors, feminist filmmakers, social satirists, and Hollywood mavericks. For the sake of convenience, I have organized this material into three distinct sections. “The Old Masters” include Ronald Neame and the late Val Guest, who created some of the most important and influential films of the Golden Age of British cinema, from Neame’sThe Horse’s MouthandTunes of Glory, to Guest’s science fiction classicThe Day the Earth Caught Fire.Also included in this group are the late...

  4. The Old Masters

    • Ronald Neame (The Horse’s Mouth, Tunes of Glory, I Could Go on Singing, The Poseidon Adventure)
      (pp. 3-22)
      Ronald Neame

      Ronald Neame is one of the last surviving members of the British film industry during what he himself terms its “golden years.” An intimate of Alfred Hitchcock, J. Arthur Rank, Noel Coward, David Lean, and numerous other luminaries, Neame began his career as a camera assistant in 1933. He photographed some of the most memorable classics of the British cinema, including Gabriel Pascal’sMajor Barbara(1941), Noel Coward and David Lean’sIn Which We Serve(1942), and David Lean’sBlithe Spirit(1945), before moving on as a producer of Lean’sBrief Encounter(1945),Great Expectation(1946), andOliver Twist(1948),...

    • Val Guest (The Quatermass Xperiment, Expresso Bongo, Casino Royale)
      (pp. 23-37)
      Val Guest

      The late British filmmaker Val Guest will forever be remembered as the director of three science fiction horror classics from Hammer Films:The Quatermass Xperiment(1955), known asThe Creeping Unknownin the United States and given its odd title spelling for the “X” certificate the film received from the British censor for its horrific content;Quatermass II(1957), also known asEnemy from Space;andThe Day the Earth Caught Fire(1961), an apocalyptic nuclear disarmament thriller. His work ranges from bizarre comedy (Expresso Bongo, 1960) to crime films (Hell is a city,1960) to classic British comedy (The...

    • Budd Boetticher (Buchanan Rides Alone, The Killer Is Loose, Arruza)
      (pp. 38-57)
      Budd Boetticher

      Budd Boetticher (pronounced “bettiker”) was primarily known for his work as a director in the Western genre, but I didn’t want to tell him that. Boetticher refused to be pinned down with any labels and described any attempts to pigeonhole his talents as “laziness on the part of all those critics!” Born Oscar Boetticher Jr. on July 29, 1916, in Chicago, Boetticher attended Culver Military Academy and later Ohio State University. During college, he went to Mexico to recover from a football injury and saw his first bull fight. Entranced by the drama of the ring, Boetticher wanted to make...

    • Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Salesman, What’s Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A.)
      (pp. 58-80)
      Albert Maysles

      Two of America’s foremost nonfiction feature filmmakers, Albert Maysles and his brother David (1932–87), are recognized as pioneers of “direct cinema,” the distinctly American version of the Frenchcinéma vérité. They earned their distinguished reputations by being among the first to make films in which the drama of human life unfolds as is, without scripts, sets, or costumes. I have long admired the Maysles’ work, especially their 1969 filmSalesman, and I had the good fortune to meet Albert Maysles at a conference in Arizona. We struck up a pleasant conversation, which led to this interview a few days...

  5. Cult Visions

    • Jack Hill (The Big Doll House, Coffy, Foxy Brown, Switchblade Sisters)
      (pp. 83-97)
      Jack Hill

      As his Web site boasts, “legendary cult-film director, grunge auteur, notorious—these are some of the phrases used recently to describe writer-director Jack Hill. He has also been referred to as the man who initiated the women-in-prison genre of the seventies, and whose films helped define the so-called blaxploitation genre, as well as the man who discovered Pam Grier. Unlike most cult films, though, Hill’s films were commercially extremely successful in their initial release, despite being generally snubbed by contemporary critics. But that situation has been remedied in recent years, as many of today’s serious critics—perhaps inspired by the...

    • Monte Hellman (The Shooting, Two-Lane Blacktop)
      (pp. 98-118)
      Monte Hellman

      One of the legendary figures of the American cinema, Monte Hellman is best known for directingTwo-Lane Blacktop(1971), considered by many to be the definitive “road movie.” But Hellman’s career goes back to the 1950s and his work in the formative days of television. Later, he worked for maverick producer/director Roger Corman on a number of projects. He then branched out on his own as a director, while continuing his work as an editor for such luminaries as the late Sam Peckinpah. In recent years, he’s been involved in various projects with Vincent Gallo, Quentin Tarantino, and numerous other...

    • Robert Downey Sr. (Putney Swope, Greaser’s Palace)
      (pp. 119-136)
      Robert Downey Sr.

      On March 3, 2001, I had the opportunity to talk once again with Robert Downey Sr., a gifted filmmaker and the father of actor Robert Downey Jr. I first met Robert during the spring of 1969, when his filmPutney Swope(1969) was a breakout hit and he was finishing up post-production onPound(1970), a film that unhappily never received the attention or distribution it deserved. I was working as a writer forLifemagazine at the time, covering what was then dubiously termed “underground cinema.” Unlike some other filmmakers I interviewed, Downey welcomed me into his cutting room...

  6. New Voices

    • Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge, The Grudge 2)
      (pp. 139-159)
      Takashi Shimizu

      In the spring of 2004, I traveled to New York to deliver a lecture at Columbia University, visit some old friends, and generally catch up on life in the city where I spent the sixties and seventies, deeply immersed in the culture of the cinema. As luck would have it, the Walter Reade Theatre was screening Takashi Shimizu’s supernatural thrillerThe Grudge(2003), the first 35mm version of a project that Shimizu had seen through two previous video incarnations and one additional 35mm version. (It has now been remade as an English-language film, financed by Sam Raimi and distributed through...

    • Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader)
      (pp. 160-173)
      Jamie Babbit

      Jamie Babbit’sBut I’m a Cheerleaderwas one of the breakout independent film hits of the 1999–2000 season. Babbit, a surprisingly assured thirty-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, came to filmmaking through amateur theater and went on to direct a series of short films, includingFrog Crossing(1996) andSleeping Beauties(1998), before making her debut as a feature director withCheerleader.

      Cheerleadertells the story of “femme” Megan (Natasha Lyonne), a young woman who doesn’t realize that she’s a lesbian until her parents stage an “intervention,” which results in Megan being shipped off to True Directions, a “de-programming” center where...

    • Bennett Miller (Capote)
      (pp. 174-187)
      Bennett Miller

      I first met Bennett Miller when we were both guests on National Public Radio’sAnthemseries, as part of a panel discussion on digital filmmaking with producer Peter Broderick in the spring of 1999. I had just finished my bookThe Second Century of Cinema,which explored the future of digital cinema in what was then the dawn of the twenty-first century, and Peter Broderick, as the CEO of Next Wave Films, had just produced Christopher Nolan’s first film,Following(1998). When Bennett and I met, we immediately hit it off. He had just finished his first feature-length documentary,The...

    • Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou)
      (pp. 188-204)
      Kasi Lemmons

      Kasi Lemmons is one of the new generation of African American filmmakers who grew up in the business working as an actor in everything from McDonald’s commercials to series television and soap operas, and then moved on smoothly to the big screen in such films as Jonathan Demme’sSilence of the Lambs(1991) and Bernard Rose’sCandyman(1992). However, even while she was absorbed in building her career as an actor, she also worked diligently as a writer on her own unproduced projects and longed for a chance to direct her own film. That moment finally came withEve’s Bayou...

  7. INDEX
    (pp. 205-217)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 218-218)