Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Mid-Week Post... on Sunday

This is the sort of post I used to put up on the middle of the week, comprised largely of links to various articles, podcasts, and blog posts I found interesting -- but since there's no time for that anymore, such items will have to go up on Sundays.

I've never worked for or with Zach Braff.  The few episodes of his long-running comedy "Scrubs" that I stumbled across over the years were pretty good, but not enough to convert me to a fan -- it just wasn't the kind of show I get hooked on -- nor have I seen his movie "Garden State," or anything else Zach Braff has done or appeared in.  

I state all this simply to point out that I have no dog in the public fight that recently erupted between Braff's legions of devoted fans and a small mob of social media stone-throwers upset over his use of the Kickstarter crowd-funding site to raise money for a movie he wants to direct.  But after listening to this interview on KCRW's The Business --- in which Braff offers a compelling response to his critics -- I lean towards cutting him some slack.  If people want to send Zach Braff money to help get his movie made, more power to them AND him.  I won't contribute, but if you want to, why should that bother me?  How you choose to spend money is your business, and nobody else's.

Beyond attempting to dispel the huffing-and-puffing surrounding the Kickstarter kerfuffle, Braff has a lot to say about what it takes to get even a small feature film made these days.   Apparently it's not easy, even when you've got something of a name and a plausible track record in the business.  The money people have always called the shots in Hollywood, so to retain control, you have to become the Money Man.  That's what Zach Braff is trying to do, and under the circumstances, who can blame him?  

If you've already made up  your mind about this, don't yell at me until you've actually listened to that interview.  Then -- if you still feel the righteous heat of rage pulsing through your veins -- yell away.  

Because in cyber-space, no one can hear you scream...


I recently stumbled across two industry bloggers who aren't exactly new, but were new to me -- and possibly to you as well.  They're at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of experience and approach, but both are worth reading for very different reasons.

Rachel Marks, a PA from Florida who planted her flag in Hollywood, has a new blog called Breaking In and Standing Out to replace her old one.  I have only two small gripes about Rachael's new venture -- there's no e-mail link on the home page to allow direct communication with her (not that I could find, anyway), nor has she included an industry blogroll.

I understand why a young woman who, having moved to big, bad LA, would be leery of hanging her personal e-mail out in public, but that's what Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo (among others) are for.*  Using an e-mail account from any of those providers would provide a blog-only e-mail to allow her readers direct access.  Many newbie readers may have questions or comments that don't relate to a specific post, which is when an e-mail link can be useful.  

I've always believed that the other industry blogs I find interesting might also appeal to various readers of my blog, which is why those blogrolls are over there on the right side of the page.  Most industry blogs offer such a list including anywhere from five to many dozens of links.  There's no right or wrong here -- it's a matter of taste -- and I'm sure Rachael has her reasons for running such a streamlined blog. 

Anyway, these are minor gripes.  A blog is a very personal thing, a reflection of ourselves and our perceived place in the world.  Judging by what Rachel has posted thus far -- advice ranging from the obvious (don't smoke dope on the job), to what should be obvious (but apparently isn't), and an evaluation of production information services I was unaware of -- Breaking in and Standing Out  could be a useful resource for newbies struggling to gain a toehold in an industry that has no idea they even exist.  

Not yet, anyway. 

Julie Ann Sipos runs a lively blog featuring great graphics and tales from inside the belly of the the Tinsel Town beast.  As her blog backstory  makes clear, Julie has been around the Hollywood block in various incarnations, and her voice resonates with experience, insight, and humor.  Julie goes to Hollywood is a fun and informative read -- her writing sparkles with wit, and she puts up new posts at a pace that leaves me dizzy.  Maybe that's because, unlike many of us who write about the industry, she's a pro at the keyboard, and it shows.  I think everybody, veterans and newbies alike, can learn something from her -- and if all you shell-shocked, newly-graduated film students don't believe me, try If Jesus went to film school on for size.

It's a good one, and so is Julie goes to Hollywood.  


It may be a bit late in the season for this kind of thing, but Tim Goodman's pointed and entertaining television commentary/criticism for The Hollywood Reporter is always worth reading.   Here's Goodman's collected twitter feed from the recent upfronts in New York -- just in case you're wondering why broadcast television is in such deep shit, among other things.

In this short podcast commentary, veteran writer/producer Rob Long meditates on pilot season and selling what you've got -- or what the networks want.  It's not always the same thing.

William Friedkin  was one of the dynamic young directors who took Hollywood by storm when I was in college back in the early 70's.  He made a huge splash with his first feature "The French Connection" (a film that still holds up pretty well 40 years later), then went on to make tons of money for the studios by scaring the crap out of audiences with "The Exorcist."  Although that marked the high point of his success, he's continued to make features ever since -- and if  "Sorcerer" ended up as what Jimmy Carter might term "an incomplete success," it has some hair-raising pre-CGI sequences involving heavily-laden trucks crossing canyon gorges in South America over extremely rickety bridges that put me in a cold sweat.  No computers, no special effects -- just good, careful rigging and execution in a difficult environment.**   Friedkin did a nice job with "To Live and Die in LA," and caused a stir with his most recent release, "Killer Joe."

The man can still provoke, but it was those early films that built and sustained Friedkin's formidable reputation.  In this era of cookie-cutter summer blockbusters, sophomoric bromance "comedies," and all other fluffy garbage Hollywood pumps out every year, it's hard to convey the excitement his first two features generated.  "The French Connection" is a gritty classic that laid the foundation for so many subsequent (largely lesser) efforts.  And when you hear how that film got made in the streets of New York, you probably won't believe it. 

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.  Friedkin has a book out now, and has been busy promoting it on the airwaves.  My copy is sitting over there on the coffee table, waiting to be read, but you can get a taste in this interview he did with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW's The Treatment a few weeks ago.  It's a good one, and well worth your twenty-five minutes.

And finally, here's a cryptic Tumbler visual from a blog by an assistant director, because sometimes a video clip really is worth a thousand words.

* This is a good idea for any newbie coming to tilt at the windmills of Hollywood, BTW -- save your personal e-mail for friends and family, and set up an entirely separate e-mail account for film industry contacts.  

** Years ago, I worked for a while with a Key Grip who had just started his career at the time Sorcerer was made.  He told some great stories about the year he worked on that film down in South America, and how much he learned helping with the rigging of those harrowing canyon-crossing scenes.  


k4kafka said...

Loved the "peeking dog" link...or was it a Peking dog ?

Julie Ann Sipos said...

Hey Michael, thanks so much for your nice words, means a lot to me when somebody gets it (and says so, publicly). Right back atcha and I hope you don't mind living in my sidebar! Best wishes...

Michael Taylor said...

Kafka --

Maybe both...

Julie --

Being that lighting is my job, I'm happy to turn the spotlight your way -- hey, I like to share the wealth. And life on your sidebar is just fine...