Posts Tagged ‘Paramount’

“I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this.”
Steven Soderbergh (on going Jack Sparrow with a Spielberg classic) 


Can you spot what’s different about Indiana Jones?

I know it’s now officially Fall, but the Screenwriting Summer School is still in session on this blog. Today’s class with be led by Professor (producer, writer, director) Steven Soderbergh (whose dad really was a professor at LSU in Baton Rouge). And now Soderbergh can add pirate (for “educational purposes only”) to his resume—and the results are fabulous.

In fact, I’ll go as far as saying what Soderbergh did is my favorite film related article/video I’ve seen all year.

Yesterday on his website Extension 765 he posted an edit of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) where he shifting the color to black and white (it looks great) and replaced the sound with a music track, rumor has it, done by Trent Reznor.

Now why would Soderbergh go to all the trouble? Why would Soderbergh mess with a classic? Why nix the John Williams Oscar-nominated score?

Simply to explore the old film school truism (at least that’s where I learned it many years ago) that you should be able to watch a film without the sound and still know what’s going on simply by the visual storytelling.

Visual conflict & key light via hot poker pulled from a fire.

Visual conflict & key light via a hot poker pulled from a fire.

According to Soderbergh the new score “is designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect.” Worked for me. I watched the whole new Raiders version by the other Steven S. last night from 10PM to midnight and think it’s an instant classic. (And I’m guessing will be instantly abhorred by others.)

Raiders does hold up well without dialogue, but then again I’ve seen it a few times so I’m not the best judge.

Speaking of judges… It’s a little ironic Soderbergh just lifted an entire Paramount film since on his website under Privacy and Terms it states; “Unauthorized use of the Contents is expressly prohibited by law, and may result in severe civil and criminal penalties. You might want to look up the word SEVERE, if you’re thinking about screwing with us.”

I’ve wondered if Tony Zhou’s excellent Vimeo account would be taken down because he makes his filmmaking points using many movie clips. I’m not a copyright lawyer, but my understanding is You Tube and Vimeo is a little beyond the means of educational purposes in a classroom. Often times I link to movie scenes found on You Tube that hit on points I’m trying to make, only to find out later that they’ve been pulled because of a copyright violation. I welcome any lawyers to clarify this area, because it is a direction I’d like to head for this blog in 2015.  Regardless, better catch Soderbergh’s Raiders ASAP in case Paramount makes him take it down soon.

Related posts:
Show, Don’t Tell (Tip #46)
Writing “The Artist” (Part 1) “I thought making a silent film would be a magnificent challenge.”
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 7) “The reaction to the action is critical.”—Blake Edwards via Marshall
Directing Tips from Peter Bogdanovich  “Silent looks between people—to me, that’s what movies are about.”—Peter Bogdanovich

Soderbergh Related Posts:
Steven Soderbergh is Platformagnostic
Fast & Furious—Steven Soderbergh
“State of Cinema” —Soderbergh
Sex, Lies, & Mr. Bill (Screenwriting from Louisiana) 

Raiders Related Posts:
Movie Cloning (“Raiders”)
Raiders Revisited (part 1)
Raiders Revisited (part 2)
Raiders Revisited (part 3)
Raiders Revisited (part 4)
Scriptnotes’ 100th Podcast

P.S. I’ve been getting a few hits from a Malibu Screenwriting group that’s having a meet-up tonight (9/23/14) in Westlake Village. The were following a link to my 2008 post Screenwriting & Exposition. For what it’s worth, Indiana Jones saying, “I hate snakes” at the start of Raiders is exposition. Plus a nice set-up that will have a bigger payoff later in the movie. For that group here’s another post you may find useful, “Exposition is BORING unless…”

Scott W. Smith

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Once upon a time in Hollywood…every film was shot on film. edited on film, and distributed on film. And once upon a time the studios that made the films also owned the theaters. It’s been a slow train coming but changes that began in the 50s & 60s are coming into fruition in our day.

When you break down the number of feature films that are released every year in the United States the number is actually fairly small. (Say between 400-600 films every year find their way to the theaters.) So it’s no surprise that there are only 40-60 distributors in North America.

This is the way Dov S-S Simens breaks that down in his book From Reel to Reel:

1) The major studios: These are the six or seven distributors (Universal, Fox, Paramount, Sony, etc) that make 20-30 movies a year at $10-$70 million (2005 numbers)
2) The mini-majors; The six or seven distributors (Miramax, New Line, Artisian, etc.) that make 5-20 movies a year at $5-$20 million budgets.
3) The independents; The 10-15 distributors (Fox Searchlight, Orion Classics, Samuel Goldwyn, Sony Classics, etc.) that male three to five movies a year at $1-$5 million budgets.
4) Exploitation. The 20-30 companies (Concorde, Crowe, Troma, Curb, Trident, etc.) that make 3-15 movies a year with words like “Blood,” “Zombie,” “Slime,” “nightmare,” or “Massacre” in the titles, at budgets under (well under) a million, and generate mostly foreign and video revenues.

And over the years there have be people like Warren Miller who have niche markets (like surf & ski films) and go from town to town renting auditoriums to show their movies. I have actually heard about a few independents who are doing a new version of this where they take their film into a town and then do a Q&A afterwards. I personally would love to see that model take off. Filmmaker as a traveling band.  While I could see doing one of those tours as fun, I don’t see that as a big money maker or a long term solution for most filmmakers.

I will say that young filmmakers today have an entrepreneur spirit today that was unheard of in the past. Perhaps it’s because the tools have changes. I have seen filmmakers not only make their own films, but design the posters and t-shirts, the DVDs, set up websites to distribute their films on top of the normal film festival route.  This stuff is changing quickly and has for at least the last 30 years.

In the 70s Betamax seemed like the future of distribution, until VHS dominated in the 80s. Mom and pop stores opened up to meet the new demand to watch movies at home until the giant stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video took over. Of course, DVD overtook VHS as the preferred way to view movies at home. (DVDs have held off Blu-Ray so far and now Blu-Rays machines can be found for under $100.) Meanwhile Netflix and Redbox have signaled the end of Blockbuster and Hollywood Videos as those two giants continue to close store after store.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how quickly this all evolves. The traditional way for films to be distributed is for the reels each film are shipped to each theater.  I imagine within a few years that will all switch over to some kind of digital delivery system.  One thing that slows this down is each theater has to switch over to expensive digital projectors. (This is not a good economy to do this.) Another concern is piracy. Imagine how easy it would be for people to steal & copy a high quality digital file of a feature film.

But just like the film editing process where almost all films are cut digitally, and how a growing number of films are shot digitally, and how feature films are starting to be digitally downloaded by Netflix and others, it’s just a matter of time before the theater distribution is totally digital.

Perhaps the only thing that hasn’t changed over the years is people still love movies. They still love stories. I hope that never changes.

So while there will be power shifts and jobs lost, there will be also new opportunities for creatives.

And the best news is it still all begins with a good solid script. (Well, at least it did until the success of the Paranormal Activities.) Happy Writing.

Scott W. Smith

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