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Posts Tagged ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:’

“I wanted to make a skyrocket big enough that I could shoot the damn thing in the air and they could see me in Los Angeles. So that’s what I did.”
Austin-based filmmaker Tobe Hooper on making The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Tobe Hooper made documentaries and commercials in Texas before making a hippy/psychedelic feature film called Eggshells in 1969. When only a few people outside of students at the University of Texas in Austin saw the movie, Hooper put aside his European art house film sensitivities and made this to turn heads—

It worked. He went on to direct Lifeforce in 1985 (which is said to be a favorite of Quentin Tarantino) and Poltergeist (which was produced by Steven Spielberg).  The line from Poltergeist “They’re here” was a “Show me the money”-type line that became was often quoted throughout the 80s.

P.S. Eggshells has been called “the first feature shot in Austin” and I don’t know if that’s true, but Hooper has to be considered a founding member of what’s turned Austin into one of the great film communities in the world.

H/T Brad Apling for sending me some Tobe Hooper links that give me a track to run on.

Scott W. Smith

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“[The Texas Chainsaw Massacre] captures the syntax and structure of a nightmare with astonishing fidelity. The quality of the images, the texture of the sound, the illogic by which one incident follows another —all confirm to the way we dream. No one’s done that before, at least not in a commercial, mass market movie…What makes Chainsaw interesting is that since we are watching it with our eyes open, it’s a nightmare which we can’t wake up.”
Michael Goodwin/ Village Voice 
Celluloid Mavericks: The History of American Independent Film by Greg Merritt

Before Nick Kazan became an Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Reversal of Fortune)—or even a working screenwriter—he was a playwright in Berkeley, California with a fondness for the writings of Harold Pinter—but he also found early inspiration from an unlikely place.

“Eventually I moved to Los Angeles and I was writing movie scripts—some with friends—I wrote a great many of them; 10, 15, 20—I don’t know how many I wrote before I had any success. Then one day I read an article by Michael Goodwin in the Village Voice about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Well, I grew-up in New York City—I went to a high-toned college (Swarthmore College) so I can be a little bit of a snob.  So Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a film I normally would have gone to see. But I read this article where he talked about how film functions like dream. About how this movie was very scary and very funny the way dreams are, and I had to go out and see the movie. I saw the movie and I came home and I had an idea. And in four or five days I wrote a script which had the same feeling, the same ethos, as Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Well I read it over and thought, ‘This is horrifying,’ and I put it in my drawer. And I went about working on other things, and about a month later I said, ‘You know, maybe I should take a look at that script, maybe it wasn’t quite as terrible as I thought. And it was a script with very little dialogue in it—it was mostly visual. And what dialogue it had was peculiar, Pinter-esque in a kind of way, but also Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque in a way…I sold that script and that’s how I became a screenwriter.”
Screenwriter Nick Kazan (At Close Range)
The Dialogue Interview: Learning from the Masters interview with Mike De Luca

That film actually got made but Kazan felt it was so poorly done he had his name taken off the movie. And while a time or two I’ve been accused launching a screenwriting career difficult— consider Kazan’s path:
1) Swarthmore College—4 year degree in today’s dollars $57,000 per year=A $228,000 education
2)
Became a produced playwright
3)
Wrote “10-15- 20” scripts before launching his career

Kazan earned his keep in the same way I’ve pointed out in past posts the paths that John Logan (Hugo) and Michael Ardnt took—which is a lot of writing before they were discovered. And though Kazan downplays it in interviews, it should be mentioned that his father was Elia Kazan—the Oscar-winning director On the Waterfront (of one of my all-time favorite films). And one of the reasons he downplays who his dad was I imagine, is because when he was writing those 10-15-20 scripts without success his dad’s legacy wasn’t helping much.

P.S. Tobe Hopper directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a small cast and crew made up of college teachers and students. He also wrote the script with Kim Henkel.

Related posts:
Directing Tips from Peter Bogdanovich  “Silent looks between people—to me, that’s what movies are about.”—Bogdanovich
DAVID MAMET’S BOLD MEMO? “IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.”—Mamet
Write 2 or 3 Screenplays this Year (If you can write a screenplay in a few days like Kazan did, this shouldn’t be a problem)

Scott W. Smith

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Two days ago I saw Jason Reitman’s film Up in the Air for a second time.  That’s just a well crafted film and obviously I’m not the only one who thinks so. On top of being named best screenplay by the National Board of Review & it picked up Best Screenplay from the Los Angles Film Critics Association Award and also Best Screenplay, Adapted from the Austin Film Critics Award as well as several other nominations including the Golden Globes.

An Academy Award nomination appears a sure thing, with many calling it a front-runner to win for best adapted script.

I’ve already  mentioned director/co-writer Jason Reitman in the post Up in the Air Over Iowa, but I thought I find out a little more about the co-writer of the script,  Sheldon Turner.

Turner went to NYU but in an interesting twist was not a film major, but graduated with a law degree. Then he had a passion to write screenplays.

“I never took a (screenwriting) course, what I did was read every screenplay I could get my hands on. And I tell people go find the crappy screenplays because they are abundant man. And that was what my inspiration was to a degree. So I wrote 12 screenplays before I gave one to anybody. Literally I was writing a like script a month–editing was not a huge priority at that point, and I just put them on the shelf. And then the 12th one–actually the 13th one I finally felt like I hit it. I felt good enough about it to give it out to people and that was, of course, the one I went out and sold. But I knew I had to get that training.”
Sheldon Turner
The Dialogue interview with Mike de Luca

Up in the Air is only his third produced screenplay credit with the first two being The Longest Yard and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. But he’s a hot ticket now with at least ten films in development. But don’t forget the 12 screenplays he wrote in order to become a writer in demand.

Scott W. Smith

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