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Vocapedia > Arts > Films / Movies / Cinema











cinema        UK










cinema        USA










American underground cinema        UK










Free cinema        UK


Free Cinema

was created primarily

for pragmatic reasons.


In early 1956,

as Anderson

and his friends Karel Reisz,

Tony Richardson

and Lorenza Mazzetti

were struggling

to get their films shown,

they decided to join forces

and screen them together

in a single programme

at the National Film Theatre,

which Reisz had conveniently

been programming for three years.


They soon realised

that although the films

had been made independently,

they had a definite

'attitude in common'.



coined the term 'Free Cinema'

(a reference to the films

having been made free

from the pressures of the box-office

or the demands of propaganda),

and together produced a 'manifesto'

in which they stated the ideas

behind the presentation

of the programme.


Although the name was intended

only for that one-off event,

the 'publicity stunt' proved so effective

- with the event attracting

wide press attention

and all screenings sold out -

that five more programmes were shown

under the same banner

in the next three years,

each accompanied

by a programme note

in the form of a manifesto.


But Free Cinema was much more

than just a clever piece

of cultural packaging.


It represented a new attitude to filmmaking,

rejecting the orthodoxy and conservatism

of both the mainstream British cinema

and the dominant documentary tradition

initiated by John Grierson in the 1930s.


The Free Cinema group

dismissed mainstream 1950s British films

as completely detached from the reality

of everyday contemporary life in Britain,

and condemned their stereotypical

and patronising representation

of the working class.


As the programme note

for the third Free Cinema programme



"British cinema

[is] still obstinately class-bound;

still rejecting the stimulus of contemporary life,

as well as the responsibility to criticise;

still reflecting a metropolitan,

Southern English culture

which excludes the rich diversity

of tradition and personality

which is the whole of Britain."


In contrast,

the Free Cinema filmmakers affirmed

their "belief in freedom,

the importance of people

and in the significance of the everyday"

(Free Cinema manifesto).


Their films attempted

to rehabilitate

an objective, critical, yet respectful

and often affectionate portrayal

of ordinary people at work or at play.

- 13 April 2020
























UK > cinematographer > Roger Deakins        USA










cinematic universe        USA










the big screen        USA










films nitrate ou "flam"        SWI










film conservation        Switzerland / USA




























National Film Registry        USA


Every year,

the Librarian of Congress picks 25 movies

to add to the National Film Registry.


And every year,

they range from headline-grabbing blockbusters

to wonderfully obscure collections

of interesting historical footage.


Musicals, silent films,

sports documentaries, indie classics;

all will be preserved for posterity.


















film        UK













film        USA












filmmaker        USA










film lover        USA










cinephile        USA










black British film-making > Horace Ové        UK










Lincoln Center’s Film Society        USA










flick        UK










flick        USA










reel        USA










movies        USA










motion pictures        USA










film        USA










classic film
















cult classic        UK










cult film        USA










feature film / feature        UK / USA














indie feature        USA










be made into a film        UK



























streaming > Netflix        USA


























photoplay        USA












short film        UK










shorts        USA










animated short        UK










animated short films        USA










premiere        USA






















Super 35

(originally known as Superscope 235)

is a motion picture film format

that uses exactly the same film stock

as standard 35 mm film,

but puts a larger image frame on that stock

by using the space normally reserved

for the optical analog sound track.


Super 35 was revived

from a similar Superscope variant

known as Superscope 235,

which was originally developed

by the Tushinsky Brothers

(who founded Superscope Inc. in 1954)

for RKO in 1954.


The first film to be shot

in Superscope was Vera Cruz,

a western film produced

by Hecht-Lancaster Productions

and distributed through United Artists.























is an anamorphic lens series used,

from 1953 to 1967,

and less often later,

for shooting widescreen films that, crucially,

could be screened in theatres

using existing equipment,

albeit with a lens adapter.


Its creation in 1953

by Spyros P. Skouras,

the president of 20th Century Fox,

marked the beginning

of the modern anamorphic format

in both principal 2.55:1,

almost twice as wide

as the previously common

Academy format's 1.37:1 ratio.


Although the technology

behind the CinemaScope lens system

was made obsolete by later developments,

primarily advanced by Panavision,

CinemaScope's anamorphic format

has continued to this day.


In film-industry jargon,

the shortened form, 'Scope,

is still widely used

by both filmmakers and projectionists,

although today it generally refers

to any 2.35:1, 2.39:1, 2.40:1,

or 2.55:1 presentation or,


the use of anamorphic lensing or projection

in general.


Bausch & Lomb won a 1954 Oscar

for its development of the CinemaScope lens.

- Wikipedia, 7 May 2023



























70 millimeter film - extra-wide format >

Ultra Panavision 70        USA










wide-screen process > Panavision        USA



is an American motion picture equipment company

founded in 1953

specializing in cameras and lenses,

based in Woodland Hills, California.


Formed by Robert Gottschalk

as a small partnership

to create anamorphic projection lenses

during the widescreen boom in the 1950s,


Panavision expanded its product lines

to meet the demands of modern filmmakers.

The company introduced its first products in 1954.

Originally a provider of CinemaScope accessories,

the company's line of anamorphic widescreen lenses

soon became the industry leader. In 1972,


Panavision helped revolutionize filmmaking

with the lightweight Panaflex 35 mm movie camera.


The company has introduced other cameras

such as the Millennium XL (1999)

and the digital video Genesis (2004).

- Wikipedia, 7 May 2023


story.php?storyId=90849612 - May 28, 2005
















VistaVision picture        USA



is a higher resolution, widescreen variant

of the 35 mm motion picture film format

which was created by engineers

at Paramount Pictures

in 1954.

- Wikipedia, 7 May 2023





















Technicolor        USA



 is a series of color motion picture processes,

the first version dating back to 1916,

and followed by improved versions

over several decades.


Definitive Technicolor movies

using three black and white films

running through a special camera

(3-strip Technicolor or Process 4)

started in the early 1930s

and continued through to the mid-1950s

when the 3-strip camera was replaced

by a standard camera loaded

with single strip 'monopack'

color negative film.


Technicolor Laboratories

were still able to produce Technicolor prints

by creating three black and white matrices

from the Eastmancolor negative

(Process 5).


Process 4

was the second major color process,

after Britain's Kinemacolor

(used between 1908 and 1914),

and the most widely used

color process in Hollywood

during the Golden Age of Hollywood.


Technicolor's three-color process

became known and celebrated

for its highly saturated color,

and was initially most commonly used

for filming musicals  such as

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

and Down Argentine Way (1940),

costume pictures such as

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

and Gone with the Wind (1939),

the film Blue Lagoon (1949),

and animated films such as

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937),

Gulliver's Travels (1939),

and Fantasia (1940).


As the technology matured

it was also used

for less spectacular dramas

and comedies.


Occasionally, even a film noir

– such as Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

or Niagara (1953) –

was filmed in Technicolor.

- Wikipedia, 7 May 2023


















35mm film-making        UK










16-millimeter film        USA













Super 8 film        USA / FR












Super 8 projectors        UK


1749247.html - 12 July 2009
















 Regular 8mm Splicing





 Regular 8mm Splicing

Michael Carter    May 4, 2017


My Regular 8mm editing or splicing set up is shown.


Prints from negatives were slit

then spliced together for projection.


How to use a Bolex splicer is shown.


That splicer will do Super 8mm

or Regular 8mm acetate films.











8mm film        FR / USA












8mm film > editing > splicing


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWPYe2Wxsks    *****
























splice tapes
















film preservation        USA










film preservationist        USA














restore        USA












negative        UK










celluloid        USA



































nitrate film        UK / USA


35-millimeter nitrate film,

a professional

and higher-resolution stock

that is unstable, flammable

and challenging to preserve.










https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mZDt8vYMBw - 27 October 2009










film magazine








film buff















London's Cinema Museum        UK










indie cinema        UK










































USA > Hollywood        UK / USA
































USA > Tinseltown        USA










USA > Hollywood's golden age > 1930s-1940s        UK










USA > 1940s > glamour of old Hollywood        UK        2013










USA > Hollywood films








USA > The birth of Hollywood        UK










USA > Hollywood publicist        USA

















India > Bollywood        UK










India > Bollywood        USA




















USA > American independent cinema        USA










independent films        USA










indie feature        USA

































single-shot movie        USA










summer movies        USA










summer blockbuster        USA










cult movie        USA












B movie        UK






B movie        USA






Z movie        UK






50 Lost Movie Classics        UK






movies > violence        USA




















Saul Bass title sequences: ten of the best        UK        2013


Saul Bass

was the master of the title sequence,

working on such films as

Anatomy of a Murder,

North by Northwest and Goodfellas.






credits        UK






opening credits





main title designer

Wayne Fitzgerald    USA    1930-2019        UK
















remake        UK












remake        USA










reboot        UK


























sequel        UK









































sequel        USA










prequel        UK
















franchise        UK


























franchise        USA










instalment        UK / USA
















Lord of the Rings

The third and final instalment in the Tolkien trilogy

franchise    UK / USA






















stills        UK












still photography        UK











American Silent Motion Picture Photography - in pictures        UK        2013


David S Shields' new book Still:

American Silent Motion Picture Photography

documents the development of still imagery

from the earliest days of the cinema.


Then, these immaculate portraits

and crisp publicity shots

were used to lure customers

to the box office.


Now that many of the films

are lost or forgotten,

the power of these images

to evoke the essence of a movie

is increasingly precious.


Here's a selection of our favourites


























True Grit

Theatrical Trailer Official    2010





True Grit

Theatrical Trailer Official (HD)    Video    Clevver Movies    2010


True Grit hits theaters on December 25th, 2010.

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges,

Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Paul Rae

True Grit trailer courtesy Paramount Pictures.


















trailer        UK






















trailer        USA










trailer > voice-over artist / movie trailer narrator        USA

















colour        UK












black-and-white movies        UK










crisp black and white




















screenplay        UK








Harold Pinter's screenplays        UK






adaptation > Alan Moore's graphic novel, V for Vendetta        UK








film adaptation > Alan Bennett's The History Boys





film adaptations





from paper to celluloid





bring N to the big screen        UK






Patrick O'Brian's seafaring novels

have been made into a blockbuster movie.        UK

















Don Martin Mankiewicz    USA    1922-2015


Oscar-nominated screenwriter

and a member of the family dynasty

that produced film classics

like “Citizen Kane,” “All About Eve”

and his own “I Want to Live!,”

a weepy death-house drama

starring Susan Hayward

as a woman wrongfully accused of murder










James Henry Kimmel Sangster    UK    1927-2011        USA


prolific screenwriter

best known for his classic 1950s horror movies

that dipped into the cinematic delights of gore and sex

and helped define the British company Hammer Films










screenwriter / writer > USA >

Budd Schulberg > On the Waterfront        UK










screenwriter / writer        USA












comedy writer > Larry Gelbart        USA


























storyline        UK


























alternative endings        UK








































footage        USA










private footage        UK






















take the censors to court

to overturn an 18 certificate        UK






censorship        USA






censorship        UK













US censors > NC-17 rating        UK






USA > Hays Code of 1934        UK


















best film speeches >

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning"        UK






    scene        USA        2010






a scene from the film        USA        2010






in the opening scene















digital video








miniDV camera
























camcorder        UK










picture quality








FireWire / iLink / DV in /IEEE 1394 plug










USB connection








plug the camera in
























































shuffle the scenes around








pirate DVD copy























digital film-making








digital camera








digitised post-production








digital projection








digital distribution








digital sound








digital graphics and special effects








digital landscaping








digital distribution








Internet movie provider








online pay-per-view showing















VHS        UK / USA






































A British film

produced by Michael Leighton George Relph,

designer and film producer,

born February 16 1915; died September 30 2004


The Guardian    p. 31    8 October 2004















Thomas Alva Edison    USA    1847-1931

























cinema machines










UK > Who's who of Victorian cinema

















UK > British Film Institute    BFI












USA > Fim Society Lincoln Center        USA















Corpus of news articles


Arts > Films / Movies / Cinema




Happy 100th Birthday,

16-Millimeter Film


The format was initially a boon to amateurs.

Now, with moviemaking gone digital,
it’s the choice of auteurs like Darren Aronofsky
and Kelly Reichardt.

April 18, 2023


By Devika Girish


One hundred years ago, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced a shiny new camera that promised to revolutionize moviemaking. The company had been selling filming devices for more than two decades by then, but this novel contraption — the Ciné-Kodak camera, sold with the Kodascope projector — offered a new thrill: the ability to make and screen movies at home, with no special expertise.

The technical marvel, however, wasn’t just the camera but also the film inside. Until 1923, the film used most commonly in motion pictures was 35 millimeters wide. That year, Kodak produced a new format that was only 16 millimeters. The image wasn’t as sharp when you blew it up on the big screen, but it allowed for smaller, cheaper and more portable cameras.

16 millimeter ushered in a new era of movies made outside the Hollywood system. Regular folks could now record their own lives, journalists and soldiers could film in the midst of war, and activists could shoot political documentaries in the street. Until digital video arrived in the late 1990s, 16-millimeter film was the mainstay of the amateur or independent filmmaker, requiring neither the investment nor the know-how of commercial cinema.

Last week, at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, which holds thousands of 16-millimeter reels in its collection, the film archivist Elena Rossi-Snook projected some shorts for a group of undergraduates from Marymount Manhattan College. As the projector whirred, a beam of light cut through the darkened room, painting the screen with scenes from the 1946 animated “Boundary Lines,” a stirring movie by Philip Stapp about social integrity in the wake of World War II. That was followed by “The End,” an antiwar stoner comedy directed by a teenager, Alfonso Sanchez, in 1968. The third film, “Black Faces” from 1970, was an ebullient, one-minute montage of portraits of Harlem residents.

These productions, precious documents of the lives and concerns of ordinary Americans, have endured, Rossi-Snook explained, because their makers had relatively cheap and convenient access to film, a medium that can last hundreds of years if stored properly.

Today, 16 millimeter is no longer optimal for the amateur filmmaker. Analog film is increasingly expensive, fewer and fewer labs can process it, and the format doesn’t allow the nearly unlimited shooting and instant playback that video does. But even as it turns 100, 16 millimeter still has a unique look that neither 35-millimeter film nor video can rival.

When projected on the screen, analog film has a three-dimensional, pointillist texture called “grain,” a product of its synthetic makeup. There is more grain in 16 millimeter than in 35 millimeter, resulting in a fuzzier, flickering picture. In the 20th century, that was a drawback for professional filmmakers seeking crisp, theatrical images. But today, as high-definition media saturate our lives, some directors choose 16 millimeter precisely for its rougher look. It reminds us that what we’re watching is not the world as is, but filtered and transformed, with great creativity, through a chemical process.

The filmmaker Darren Aronofsky has shot several movies on 16-millimeter film, including “The Wrestler” (2008), “Black Swan” (2010) and “Mother!” (2017). But when he was making his debut feature, “Pi” (1998), 16 millimeter was a necessity, not a choice. The resolution of available digital cameras wasn’t good enough for feature filmmaking at the time, and Aronofsky couldn’t afford 35 millimeter. But he and his cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, soon realized that 16 millimeter — especially the high-contrast stock they used called reversal film — emphasized the hallucinatory style of “Pi,” a black-and-white psychological thriller that delves into the obsessions of a paranoid number theorist.

“We decided to really lean into 16 millimeter,” Aronofsky said in a phone interview. “I wanted the big grain and the contrast-y look. It’s funny, because we just had the 25th anniversary of the film, and we blew it up for IMAX. And the IMAX people were nervous because of how grainy it was. They wanted to know if I wanted to clear out some of the grain with computer technology. And we said, absolutely not. We loved the look of it.”

Several TV shows from the late ’90s and early 2000s, including “The O.C.” and “Sex and the City,” used Super 16, a variation of 16 millimeter with a larger picture area that gave them a sense of real-time immediacy. The first 10 seasons of “The Walking Dead” were also largely shot on 16 millimeter to capture the grimy, crumbling feel of classic horror cinema.

The cinematographer John Inwood, who filmed 150 episodes of the comedy “Scrubs,” recalled that 16-millimeter cameras, which are smaller and lighter than their 35-millimeter counterparts (and even many contemporary professional video cameras), were crucial in developing the series’s frenetic mockumentary style.

“It was good for ‘Scrubs’ because we moved the cameras a lot, and we were sometimes in tight spaces,” he told me. “We shot in an actual hospital, the former North Hollywood hospital, and we shot in every square inch of it, even down to the morgue.”

As digital cameras have become sharper and more versatile, many filmmakers have turned to 16 millimeter to evoke the analog past and the blurry, precarious nature of memory. In an interview with Gold Derby, Newton Thomas Sigel, who filmed Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” (2020), said the director had insisted to Netflix that they use 16-millimeter reversal film for the sequences set amid the Vietnam War, despite the costs and logistical challenges. The film had to be shipped from Vietnam to an American lab for processing, and by the time the crew members could see what they had shot, Chadwick Boseman’s acting schedule had already ended. But Lee was adamant that the scenes look authentic, like archival newsreels filmed in the field in the 1970s.

The veteran cinematographer Ed Lachman used Super 16 on two of his collaborations with the director Todd Haynes, both of them period dramas: the mini-series “Mildred Pierce” (2011), and “Carol” (2015), which garnered him an Academy Award nomination.

On both projects, the format was chosen to mimic photographic images from the 1940s and ’50s, and the grittiness of postwar America. But Lachman realized that the grain also brought “tension to the surface of the image,” paralleling the repressive qualities of the characters in both “Mildred Pierce” and “Carol.”

For Lachman, the appeal of 16 millimeter transcends nostalgia. It comes down to cinema’s status as an art, meant to stylize rather than simply reproduce reality. He likened film to painting, and grain to brushstrokes. “The grain changes in each frame with exposure,” he said. “It’s like breathing, almost like an anthropomorphic quality.”

The filmmaker Kelly Reichardt recalled that when she started shooting her 2016 feature, “Certain Women,” she didn’t have the budget for 16 millimeter. But when she and her cameraman, Christopher Blauvelt, did test shoots in Montana, where the film is set, Reichardt was horrified at how “flat” the snow looked on video.

“With film stocks, things weren’t so real looking,” Reichardt said. “A lot of it is grain, and 16 has more grain than 35. So when you blow it up, you don’t get the hard lines that you get in HD, which is what you see in sports.”

A grant ultimately allowed Reichardt to shoot “Certain Women” on 16 millimeter. It made the production more laborious, but the results — soft, textured images of wide roads, snowy mountains and grassy plains, all shimmering with light, dust and shadow — made it worth it.

“I guess it’s about beauty, in a way,” Reichardt said. “I remember on ‘30 Rock’ they did a little thing where Lemon walks in front of the HD camera, and it’s like, she’s a skeleton hag. You know? You see every single thing. It’s very unforgiving. For nature, too.”

A version of this article appears in print

on April 20, 2023,

Section C, Page 2

of the New York edition with the headline:

Happy 100th Birthday, 16-Millimeter Film.

Happy 100th Birthday, 16-Millimeter Film,
April 18, 2023,






Ralph McQuarrie,

Artist Who Helped

Bring ‘Star Wars’ to Life,

Dies at 82


March 5, 2012

The New York Times



Ralph McQuarrie, the artist who transformed George Lucas’s rudimentary concepts and earliest scripts into lush, vivid images of intergallactic expanse and light-saber combat that became the visual core of the “Star Wars” saga, died on Saturday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 82.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, said Stan Stice, a friend and co-author of the 2007 book “The Art of Ralph McQuarrie.”

Mr. McQuarrie had a hand in some of the most successful science-fiction and adventure films of the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s. He created the original drawings for the mother ship in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) and the spaceship for Mr. Spielberg’s “ET” (1982). He also did conceptual art for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), “Star Trek IV” (1986), “Batteries Not Included” (1987) and “Jurassic Park” (1993), as well as for the original “Battlestar Galactica” TV series.

In 1986, he shared an Academy Award for visual effects for the movie “Cocoon,” about a group of elderly people who regain their youth with the help of aliens.

But Mr. McQuarrie was best known as the concept artist for the first three of the six “Star Wars” films: “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Return of the Jedi” (1983). Mr. Lucas’s tale of cosmic civil war against the evil regime of Emperor Palpatine had been rejected by both United Artists and Universal when Mr. McQuarrie was brought on board. After Mr. Lucas placed before him illustrations from comic books and several pages from an early script for the first “Star Wars” film, Mr. McQuarrie came back with a dozen full-color renditions of Mr. Lucas’s imaginings.

Mr. McQuarrie’s paintings, most of them in gouache, would be pivotal in persuading the board of directors of 20th Century Fox to finance the first film in the series, and to distribute the others under the production of Lucasfilm Ltd.

“These paintings helped George get the movie approved by Fox because it gave them something to visualize, instead of just a script,” said Steve Sansweet, the author of 16 “Star Wars” books and until recently the director of fan relations for Lucasfilm.

Among the original images was a tall, elegant, expressionless Art Decoesque golden female robot. Standing to the side was a small, silver robot with a trashcan-like dome, bearing what looked like a big Swiss army knife with an array of implements. That painting became the model for the two droids in the “Star Wars” films. The female evolved into the male droid C-3PO; the sidekick became R2-D2.

Another painting depicted a laser-sword fight between two characters. One was swathed in a flowing black cape, a Japanese samurai-like helmet and a mask that filtered a deep, raspy voice; the other was a blond figure wearing a scuba-like breathing mask. They would become the archvillain Darth Vader and the young hero Luke Skywalker, later revealed to be Darth Vader’s son.

“Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision ‘Star Wars,’ ” Mr. Lucas said in a written statement. “When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘Do it like this.’ ”

He added, “In many ways, he was a generous father to a conceptual art revolution that was born of his artwork, and which seized the imaginations of thousands and propelled them into the film industry.”

Ralph Angus McQuarrie was born June 13, 1929, in Gary, Ind., and grew up on a farm near Billings, Mont. He saw combat with the Army during the Korean War and survived a bullet to the head. After the war he attended what is now known as the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

His is survived by his wife of 29 years, the former Joan Benjamin, and a sister, Joan Wolf.

Mr. McQuarrie first worked as a technical illustrator for the Boeing Company. He later joined an animation company in California and produced illustrations for CBS’s coverage of the Apollo space program. He was introduced to Mr. Lucas by two colleagues of the director who had known Mr. Lucas when they were students at the University of Southern California film school.

Mr. McQuarrie’s work has found fans not only among moviegoers. The Hasbro toy company created a line of McQuarrie Signature action figures, based on his initial concepts of Star Wars characters, including Chewbacca, Han Solo and Darth Vader.

And he became one himself.

“He had a cameo in ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ dressed as a rebel officer, no dialogue,” Mr. Sansweet said. “Fans loved that, and in 2007, the 30th anniversary of the first ‘Star Wars,’ Hasbro produced a figure of General McQuarrie, rebel officer. His hands are behind his back; it has a blaster in his holster. It looks just like him.”

Ralph McQuarrie,
Artist Who Helped Bring ‘Star Wars’ to Life,
Dies at 82,






Bert Schneider,

Producer Whose Films

Reflected an Era,

Dies at 78


December 13, 2011
The New York Times


Bert Schneider, a producer of “Easy Rider” and other films that reflected and helped define the social unrest of the late 1960s and early ’70s, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 78.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Audrey Simon.

Mr. Schneider was a major behind-the-scenes force in the movement to make Hollywood more responsive to a youthful audience. But he may be best remembered for one of the rare moments when he was in the spotlight.

“Hearts and Minds” (1974), which Mr. Schneider produced with Peter Davis, was a documentary that focused on opposition to the Vietnam War. It won the Academy Award as best documentary in 1975. On Oscar night, as the two men accepted their award, Mr. Schneider chose not to give an acceptance speech but to read a telegram from the Vietcong delegation to the Paris peace talks, which were then under way, expressing thanks for American peace efforts.

Older and more conservative voices of the Academy responded by having Frank Sinatra read a statement, written by Bob Hope, expressing regret that Mr. Schneider’s political statements had been part of the evening.

For those who knew Mr. Schneider, his sentiments were unsurprising, considering that he had been an executive producer of “Easy Rider” (1969), the biker film starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper that captured the sex-and-drug attitudes of a young generation. The film reportedly cost less than $400,000 to make and by 1972 had grossed $60 million worldwide.

His next film was Bob Rafelson’s “Five Easy Pieces” (1970), a dark family drama starring Jack Nicholson, who had been a supporting player in “Easy Rider.” Mr. Schneider was also a producer of “The Last Picture Show” (1971), Peter Bogdanovich’s award-winning reverie on small-town Texas life in the 1950s, and “Days of Heaven” (1978), Terrence Malick’s turn-of-the-century drama. His last film was “Broken English” (1981), an unreleased picture that included the only screen-acting appearance of Oona O’Neill Chaplin, the daughter of Eugene O’Neill and the widow of Charlie Chaplin.

But Mr. Schneider and Mr. Rafelson, his frequent filmmaking partner, began their producing careers with much lighter fare. In the mid-1960s, when both were working at the Screen Gems division of Columbia Pictures, they created “The Monkees,” a freewheeling comedy about a Beatles-like rock band, the four young members of which the two men cast through a classified ad. The fictional group soon had real hit records, and “The Monkees” received the 1967 Emmy Award for outstanding comedy series.

A year later, Mr. Schneider and Mr. Rafelson made “Head,” a feature film depicting the members of the Monkees through a druggy haze. It flopped but is now considered an intriguing period piece.

Berton J. Schneider was born on May 5, 1933, the second of three sons of Abraham Schneider, an accountant who later rose to the chairmanship of Columbia Pictures, and the former Ida Briskin. He grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., and attended Cornell University.

Mr. Schneider married four times, divorced three times and was widowed once. The actress Candice Bergen was among the women with whom he was romantically linked. In addition to his daughter and a son, Jeffrey Schneider, both from his first marriage, to the former Judith Feinberg, he is survived by four grandchildren.

It was during that early marriage when, working in New York for Columbia, Mr. Schneider, along with Mr. Rafelson, came up with the idea for “The Monkees.”

“I was into the American dream,” Mr. Schneider told Peter Biskind, the author of “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘n Roll Generation Saved Hollywood,” revealing his less than rebellious early adulthood. “I pushed my political instincts into the background. I wanted a family, career, money, the whole bit.”

Then he moved to Los Angeles.

Bert Schneider, Producer Whose Films Reflected an Era, Dies at 78,






Jimmy Sangster,

Writer for British Horror Films,

Dies at 83


August 21, 2011
The New York Times


Jimmy Sangster, a prolific screenwriter best known for his classic 1950s horror movies that dipped into the cinematic delights of gore and sex and helped define the British company Hammer Films, died on Friday. He was 83.

His death was confirmed by Hammer Films in a statement on the company’s Web site.

Among Mr. Sangster’s biggest hits were the Gothic horror films “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957), “Horror of Dracula” (1958), and “The Mummy” (1959).

Mr. Sangster was a production manager at Hammer when he was drafted to write his first feature-length picture. That film, “X The Unknown,” (1956) featured a radioactive blob from the center of the earth, a clever exploitation of contemporary fears of all things nuclear. He recalled in an interview that he was paid 200 pounds for the script.

Those early films, generally shot in rapid succession on tight budgets, were not immediate critical darlings. According to news reports, reviews called several of Sangster’s movies sadistic, nauseating and wholly unimaginative. But they were popular with audiences and are cult classics today.

“They basically reinvented the genre,” said Simon Oakes, the president of Hammer. Those movies, he explained, took horror out of the land of lumpy monsters and brought to it a physicality, sexuality and vivid style. “Horror of Dracula,” one of the first British horror films to be shot in color, helped establish the actor Christopher Lee, who played “the terrifying lover who died — yet lived” (in the words of one of its tag lines), as a sex symbol.

In interviews, Mr. Sangster, who had an easy, self-effacing humor, recalled his psychological thrillers, not the Gothics, as his own favorite pictures. Those included “The Scream of Fear,” (1961) which Mr. Oakes said the present-day Hammer Films is in the process of remaking, and “Paranoiac,” a 1963 film The New York Times called an “economical little chiller,” and something “tantalizingly close to a bulls-eye.”

Asked by the Web site Hammer Graveyard what led him to the horror genre, he replied, “I wrote horror movies because it was my job,” adding, “So, when anyone asks me what were the influences that prompted me to be a ‘horror film’ writer, I tell them it was Wages!”

James Henry Kimmel Sangster was born on Dec. 2, 1927, in North Wales. He starting working in films at 16, made his way up from gopher to screenwriter, and even directed a handful of movies including “The Horror of Frankenstein.”

Mr. Sangster’s survivors include his wife, the actress Mary Peach, and a son, Mark James Sangster.

In the 1970s, when horror movie fans spun toward Hollywood films like “The Exorcist” (1973), Mr. Sangster began writing for American television, both TV movies and series, including “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Ironside” and “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” which he continued to do for more than two decades.

He also wrote an autobiography called “Do You Want It Good or Tuesday?” (published in the United States in 2009) as well as several novels, mostly mysteries and crime stories, featuring the occasional gun runner, or, in the case of “Touchfeather,” (Norton, 1968), a woman The New York Times described as an “undercover sex-pot.” But it was those early successes with a lusty vampire and Gothic terrors that made his reputation.

“All of a sudden I’m a cult figure,” Mr. Sangster said to The Daily Telegraph in 1996. “But it’s all due to about five movies: a couple of Frankensteins, a couple of Draculas, and a mummy."

Jimmy Sangster, Writer for British Horror Films, Dies at 83,






‘No Country for Old Men’

Wins Oscar Tug of War


February 25, 2008


The New York Times




HOLLYWOOD — “No Country for Old Men,” Joel and Ethan Coen’s chilling confrontation of a desperate man with a relentless killer, won the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday night, providing a more-than-satisfying ending for the makers of a film that many believed lacked one.

The Coens, who live in New York and remain aloof from the Hollywood establishment, also shared the directing and adapted screenplay awards. Joel Coen thanked the academy members for “letting us continue to play in our corner of the sandbox.”

No film ran away with the night, however, as the 80th annual Academy Awards gave a bruised movie industry a chance to refocus its ever-inward gaze on laurels instead of labor strife.

Daniel Day-Lewis won best actor for his portrayal of a ruthless oil tycoon’s rise from the sweat and sludge of wildcatting to wealth, power and madness in “There Will Be Blood.”

And Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for best actress for her incarnation of the tormented chanteuse Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.”

“Thank you life, thank you love,” an elated Ms. Cotillard said. “It is true there are some angels in this city.”

None of the best picture nominees went home empty-handed: all picked off a significant win in one category or another.

Javier Bardem won a fourth Oscar for “No Country,” capturing the best supporting actor for his role as the cattlegun-wielding, pageboy-wearing serial killer. He thanked the Coens, saying they “put one of the most horrible haircuts in history over my head.”

The Oscar for “No Country” was a long-sought triumph for Scott Rudin, a prolific producer who has specialized in movies on the smarter end of the spectrum, but only once before received a best-picture nomination, for “The Hours” in 2003.

Tilda Swinton took best supporting actress for playing a nervous wreck of a corporate lawyer who throws morality under the bus of her ambition in “Michael Clayton.”

The indie delight “Juno,” about a pregnant teenager with a mouth on her, won for best original screenplay, by Diablo Cody, who once worked as a stripper. She tearfully thanked her family for “loving me for who I am.”

“No Country” was denied in several technical categories, as well as in cinematography: Robert Elswit won that Oscar for “There Will Be Blood,” whose extended tracking shots in harsh open spaces and dimly lighted images of claustrophobic spots made for stunning scenes despite long stretches with little dialog.

With all four top acting prizes going to Europeans and the New York-based Coen brothers’ film in contention for several others, it was a night when Hollywood’s glittery establishment came out to honor what was essentially a gaggle of outsiders.

Another example: “Falling Slowly,” the ballad from “Once” about the music created in the space between two people, won best original song. It was written by the film’s stars, the Irish Glen Hansard and the Czech Marketa Irglova, who have since become a real-life couple.

“Atonement,” nominated for seven awards, won for best original score. The awards were otherwise all over the map, with the first nine going to different films, leaving the show’s host, Jon Stewart, to set the tone with a riff on the three-month writers’ strike that had threatened to turn the Oscars itself into a marathon of montages.

“You’re here — I can’t believe it, you’re actually here!” he joked as the show opened. “The fight is over, so tonight,” he added, “welcome to the makeup sex.”

Mindful of the election season, he took note of the Democratic primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. “Normally when you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty,” he said.

“Ratatouille,” a rodent’s-eye view of the accessibility of art, won for best animated feature. Brad Bird, that film’s director, thanked his junior high school guidance counselor: “He asked me what I wanted to do with my life,” Mr. Bird recalled. “I said, ‘Make movies.’ He asked me what else I wanted to do with my life. And I said, ‘Make movies.’ ” Mr. Bird said the doubt he faced was “perfect training” for a life in Hollywood.

“Taxi to the Dark Side,” an examination of American torture practices, won best documentary feature.

Also in the early going, “La Vie en Rose” won for best makeup and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” won for costume design. “The Golden Compass,” in which every human character is born with a shape-shifting animal companion known as a “daemon,” scored a big early upset in the visual-effects category, beating two far more successful films: “Transformers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

Among the lesser-watched categories, “The Bourne Ultimatum” won Oscars for all three in which it was nominated: film editing, sound mixing and sound editing.

“The Counterfeiters,” a Nazi-era drama, became the first Austrian film to win an Oscar, for best foreign-language film.

Owen Wilson presented the award for best live-action short to “Le Mozart des Pickpockets,” and played it straight, avoiding any reference to his personal collapse and hospitalization just as his “Darjeeling Limited” was being released last fall. Best animated short went to “Peter and the Wolf,” and was presented by an animated Jerry Seinfeld, in his “Bee Movie” character.

The animation award, and Mr. Stewart’s opening monologue, provided a lighthearted liftoff for an Oscars telecast sure to be weighted down by the field of mostly small and dark films in the running for the top honors. Embraced by critics, those movies have been less warmly received by the mass audiences whose attentions have sustained the Academy Awards as one of the nation’s few remaining shared rituals.

The lack of a clear consensus among critics and audiences left the potential for an Oscar night in which the top awards were scattered in every direction. Among other things, the evening promised to be a tug of war over sensibilities: Academy voters were being asked to choose between the nihilism of “No Country for Old Men,” in which the serial killer prevails; the hopeful spunk of “Juno,” in which a pregnant teenager forges her own solutions; or, perhaps, a saga of childhood betrayal and lives destroyed, in “Atonement,” set against the backdrop of British retreat in the early days of World War II.

As Mr. Stewart put it: “Does this town need a hug?” He added, “All I can say is, thank God for teen pregnancy.”

The 80th annual Academy Awards, held at the Kodak Theater here, delivered a welcome return to pomp and ritual for a town still recovering from the strike by film and television writers that stripped the glitz from the enterprise. “I think the town is ready to celebrate,” said George Clooney, walking up the red carpet accompanied by his girlfriend, Sarah Larson. “I know I am, but then that’s never been a problem for me.”

On Sunday, however, jitters still surrounded a broadcast that was assembled quickly around a roster of independent-style films, none of which has shown the audience appeal of a “Titanic” or “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” previous best-picture winners that pulled large audiences to the awards show in the past.

The early proceedings were slightly ad hoc, not quite normal for a show that operates more like an industry, bringing the 6,500-member Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences roughly $40 million in net income each year. Security was tight, but did not operate with the usual precision. Promised ID checks and wristbanding did not occur. Mr. Stewart, the evening’s host, had little more than a week to prepare once writers voted to return to work.

With help from a smash-up special effects opening and Mr. Stewart’s monologue, things started out with a bang. But the show began to drag as one dusty montage after another of Oscar history piled up, more numerous and less effective than in recent memory.

The machine came slightly off the rails later on, as Mr. Stewart brought Ms. Irglova back out after a commercial break when she had been denied the chance to give an acceptance speech.

Probably nothing caught the slightly cynical air of self-reference better than Jack Nicholson’s lead-in to a montage of all 79 prior best-picture winners. “They touch the humanity — heh, heh, heh — in all of us,” laughed Mr. Nicholson, with a touch more of the Joker than human warmth.

A film community that lost its balance, and never quite got it back, was also clearly unsure how much fun was too much fun under the circumstances: The annual orgy of status, heat and sequined victory laps, Vanity Fair magazine’s Oscar after-party, was abruptly canceled, as were several other ordinarily hot-ticket private gatherings.

That sense of being unmoored was not the only disconnect on display.

All the stated concern for films and filmmakers aside, Oscar night has always been about stars — just ask ABC. Thirty nine million people tuned in two years ago when “Crash” upset “Brokeback Mountain,” one of the worst ratings performances in memory. (The 2003 telecast, shadowed by the beginning of the Iraq war, was worse.) That is compared with 1998, when 55 million viewers watched “Titanic” win 11 Oscars, Jack Nicholson beat out Matt Damon, and Helen Hunt slip past Kate Winslet.

Though no one would deny that this year’s contenders are long on talent, they are exceedingly short on celebrity. Casey Affleck’s breakthrough in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was nominated, but Brad Pitt’s starring performance was not. Cate Blanchett picked up nominations in both actress categories, but Angelina Jolie (“A Mighty Heart”) and Julia Roberts (“Charlie Wilson’s War”) went unacknowledged.

Rather, relative unknowns like the 21-year-old Ellen Page and the 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan nabbed nominations for best actress (“Juno”) and best supporting actress (“Atonement”), respectively. For that matter, Mr. Clooney (“Michael Clayton”) and Johnny Depp (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”) picked up best-actor nominations, while the twice-honored Tom Hanks (“Charlie Wilson’s War”) and Denzel Washington (“American Gangster”) went empty-handed.

Instead, the megawatts would be supplied by the awards presenters — Mr. Hanks and Mr. Washington among them, along with stars like Jessica Alba, Renée Zellweger, Forest Whitaker, John Travolta and Harrison Ford — creating a scenario in which the Hollywood establishment turned out to sustain an institution that had failed to repay the gesture.

If Hollywood’s preoccupation with its intramural tensions seemed at odds with the celebratory order of the day, some here have suggested a divide involving the movies themselves: between the darkness and despair of films like “There Will Be Blood” and “No Country for Old Men” and what the industry’s countless amateur political analysts discern as a more hopeful mood abroad in the land. By that logic, the frustrations over the Iraq war that gave rise to such films, as well as more direct cinematic responses like “In the Valley of Elah,” may have come a year too late to strike a chord with a public that has finally moved on, at least to the next election.

Perhaps nothing has drawn more attention and concern than the sharp line dividing films that have pleased the widest audiences from those embraced by critics. Thanks to “Juno” and its $130 million in ticket sales, the five best-picture nominees together have grossed $327 million, $111 million of that since the academy nominations were announced, an unusually strong Oscar bump. But the combined grosses are a far cry from a decade earlier, when “Titanic” inflated the total.

“Juno” was not the only $100 million-plus movie up for an award; the animated “Ratatouille” received five nominations; “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Transformers” and “Enchanted” each had three. But in the major categories, only “American Gangster” exceeded that mark besides “Juno.”

Art and quality aside, the paucity of widely seen movies up for consideration is ominous not just for ABC selling commercial time against the telecast but for the academy itself, rendering it that less culturally relevant. Left unchecked, the trend threatens to turn the yearly ritual into a niche affair instead of a shared national experience.

Yet for all the doom and gloom on the minds of academy members and obsessives — Heath Ledger’s death provided another reason to mourn — there were many areas in which excitement could be seen bubbling up out of the ground like Daniel Plainview’s black gold in “There Will Be Blood.”

If small and dark films captured the attention of critics and the academy, it was not for lack of ambition among Hollywood studios.

David Carr contributed reporting.

‘No Country for Old Men’ Wins Oscar Tug of War, NYT, 25.2.2008,






Writers Vote to End Strike


February 13, 2008
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s writers made it official on Tuesday night, voting to end their bitterly fought strike at the 100-day mark by an overwhelming margin.

Of 3,775 writers who cast ballots, 92.5 percent voted in favor of ending the strike. Officials of the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East disclosed results of the tally here an hour after voting closed at 6 p.m.

“The strike is over. Our membership has voted, and writers can go back to work,” Patric M. Verrone, president of the West Coast guild, said in a statement.

The decision to end the strike became all but inevitable after the guilds’ governing boards on Sunday unanimously approved the tentative three-year agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, following strong expressions of support at mass meetings on both coasts.

Union members must still decide whether to ratify the contract in coming days. But Tuesday’s vote to end the strike brought relief to an industry that wants to get its television productions and future movie schedules back in order.

Wednesday morning will bring a rush to the office by television writers who are especially eager to get existing series like the CBS comedy “Two and a Half Men” and the ABC drama “Grey’s Anatomy” quickly up to speed.

The strike upended the television viewing habits of millions of Americans by shutting down production on most dramas and comedies and forced movie studios to halt some big-budget films. It also dried up the livelihoods of not just the 12,000 guild members but tens of thousands of people who rely on such productions for work.

How much economic damage was wrought by the walkout has been subject to debate.

Writers predicted that the strike would cause $2.5 billion in economic losses if it continued to the five-month mark, as did their 1988 strike. But a report from the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles, estimated losses for a strike of that length at only about $380 million, because companies had already spent heavily to stockpile programs and other factors.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a running tally by the producers’ alliance estimated that the walkout had cost writers about $285 million in lost wages and had cost workers in other film unions nearly $500 million.

The strike’s end appeared to make a walkout by Hollywood’s actors less likely when their contract expires June 30. The actors’ unions have not yet opened negotiations; but the road map for digital media compensation laid out in recent agreements with both writers and directors raised the prospect that similar solutions could work with actors.

The writers’ dispute was settled when company executives — notably Peter Chernin, the News Corporation president, and Robert A. Iger, the Walt Disney chief executive — opened talks with Mr. Verrone, along with David J. Young, executive director of the West Coast guild, and John Bowman, who headed the unions’ negotiating committee. A crucial break came when the two sides created a provision that provides the guilds a gain in the payment for digital distribution of entertainment beyond the terms of a recent deal between Hollywood producers and the Directors Guild of America.

Leslie Moonves, chief executive of CBS, said Hollywood executives might do well to spend more time with guild leaders in coming months, if peace is to prevail in the long term. “The lesson is, we shouldn’t meet every three years,” he said.

    Writers Vote to End Strike, NYT, 13.2.2008,






After the Writers’ Strike


February 11, 2008
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — It is not quite peace that has broken out here in Hollywood. But emotions are finally settling down in the entertainment industry’s bubbling cauldron of labor disputes. This calm holds the promise of three years without strike threats, picket lines and the loss of Americans’ favorite television shows.

The tentative deal officially announced early Saturday morning between striking writers and Hollywood studios, networks and production companies — all but ending a three-month-old strike — has already made the threat of an actors’ strike this summer less likely. By Saturday afternoon, a pair of warring actors’ unions were trying to make amends with each other and prepare for joint contract negotiations that could suddenly prove smoother than most had dared predict a few days earlier.

Movie and television writers will almost certainly be back at work on Wednesday, pending the results of a Tuesday vote, in person or by faxed proxy, on whether to lift the strike. On Sunday, the governing boards of Writers Guild of America leaders unanimously approved the provisional deal with production companies, making approval by members likely.

“There comes a time in any strike when it is time to settle, and that time is when the pressure is greatest on both sides,” David J. Young, executive director of the Writers Guild of America West, said at a news conference Sunday at the guild’s headquarters here.

Mr. Young spoke of “huge victories” for screenwriters. He particularly cited a provision — to take effect in the third year of the contract — that calls for writers to get a percentage of revenue instead of a fixed fee for the streaming of entertainment on the Internet. Just how robust the digital media business will become remains a question, but the writers believed they needed to stake their claim now. And they wanted to avoid repeating a mistake they made some 20 years ago in agreeing to what they view as too small a piece from the sale and rental of videos and, ultimately, DVDs.

“That was the final critical issue, and producers ultimately moved on it,” Mr. Young said in an interview after the news conference. “It establishes the precedent that we wanted established.”

Not incidentally, the prospect of a writers’ settlement has already changed a complicated power equation that has kept a strike-weary business on edge about a possible walkout by perhaps 150,000 actors when their own contract expires, on June 30. With writers pointed back to work and directors having settled their new contract weeks ago, the actors would stand alone if they pressed for gains larger than those just achieved by their colleagues, especially in the contentious area of new media.

The Screen Actors Guild, which had been a staunch ally of striking writers, sharply changed directions on Saturday and tried to make peace with the more accommodating American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The actors’ guild, with some 120,000 members, decided to drop a referendum and board resolution that would have increased its muscle on the customary joint negotiating committee it shares with the federation. The federation has about 70,000 members, more than half of whom are also in the guild.

The actors’ guild, which covers the movie industry and much television series production, has argued that its higher earnings entitled it to more bargaining power, and it was pursuing a block voting mechanism that would have solidified its power within the committee. The federation, which covers some prime-time television series, has for decades done its series and commercials bargaining in tandem with the actors’ guild. (Game shows, soap operas, and news broadcasts are dealt with in a separate negotiation.)

Rather than accede to the Screen Actors Guild’s changes within the committee, the federation had prepared to open television series talks with producers on its own in March. But the guild, after an emergency board meeting on Saturday, scratched its block voting idea and declared its desire to join the federation in talks with producers. The guild had earlier indicated it wanted to put off any negotiations until closer to its June deadline.

Reconciliation is not a given. “They need to give us some clarity on what it is they’ve actually done,” said Roberta Reardon, president of the federation, in a telephone interview Sunday.

Ms. Reardon’s union has been pressed by members to resolve Hollywood’s uncertainty by getting to the bargaining table. But its own set of successive negotiations has been postponed for months in deference to the writers and directors.

If the actors’ guild, known for its aggressive posture in talks, were to remain linked to the federation, which is widely viewed as being more pragmatic, the likelihood of an actors’ strike in June would almost certainly diminish. Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, the federation’s national executive director, has made clear that settlements with directors and writers can point the way toward relatively normal, and strike-free, negotiations for actors.

“I won’t call it a solution, but it’s a road map to a solution,” Ms. Hedgpeth said Sunday of the more generous new-media compensation approach that has emerged in the writers’ and directors’ settlements.

A spokeswoman for the Screen Actors Guild declined to comment on the union’s negotiating plans. She said her union planned to review the writers’ deal closely in coming days.

As to whether peace would prove contagious, especially where the actors are concerned, Hollywood’s sophisticates remained wary. “I would say the odds, if I were a betting man, are more toward settlement than not,” said Eric Weissmann, a veteran entertainment lawyer. But, he added, “Who knows?”

Among movie studios, the threat of an actors’ strike has already caused far more disruption than the reality of the writers’ walkout. For months, studios have been hustling to finish their feature films by early June. Indeed, while television production fell, feature film production in Los Angeles actually rose during the writers’ strike. Movie companies have been stockpiling against the possibility of what the filmmaker Terry George, speaking to writers in their New York assembly on Saturday, called “nuclear winter” — a prolonged shutdown and merged strike between actors and writers.

But there was enough sweetness and light in the air by Sunday afternoon to make the prospect of more conflict seem remote. One top executive, still too skittish to speak for the record at a time when writers were voting on their return, said his lesson from the last few months’ labor stand-off was, “People should talk to each other.”

Even Patric M. Verrone, the strike-hardened president of the West Coast writers’ guild, was joking about the joys of returning to the grind. “Writers can be back at work on Wednesday,” Mr. Verrone told the assembled media crowd at his news conference, even as his recorded voice was going out to writers on robocalls, talking up the deal and describing the vote. “Or even Tuesday night if they want to go to the office really, really late.”

    After the Writers’ Strike, NYT, 11.2.2008,






Writers Begin Strike

as Talks Break Off


November 5, 2007
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES, Nov. 4 — A strike by Hollywood writers began in New York just after midnight Monday, and negotiators for screenwriters and producers broke off talks, according to the Associated Press.

More than 12,000 screenwriters represented by the Writer Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East in the early morning hours in New York began the first industry-wide strike since writers walked out in 1988. That strike lasted five months and cost the entertainment industry an estimated $500 million.

A contract between the unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — which represents networks, studios and other producers — expired Wednesday night after more than three months of acrimonious negotiations. Guild leaders called for a strike to begin Monday morning. A federal mediator, who joined the talks last week, asked the sides to continue talking in a Sunday session.

Throughout the weekend, guild leaders held orientation meetings for strike captains, who would supervise picketing teams, and otherwise prepared for an effort to shut down as much movie and television production as possible. Representatives for the producers and writers on Sunday declined to comment on the talks.

The Writers Guild of America East said that beginning at 9 a.m. Monday, hundreds of its members would picket outside Rockefeller Center, with its cluster of major media companies in the neighborhood. And picketers here are expected to march outside more than a dozen studios and production sites in four-hour shifts, one beginning at 9 a.m., the other at 1 p.m.

The sides have been at odds over, among other things, writers’ demands for a large increase in pay for movies and television shows released on DVD, and for a bigger share of the revenue from such work delivered over the Internet.

    Writers Begin Strike as Talks Break Off, NYT, 5.11.2007,






Disney to Cut Smoking

in Family Films


July 26, 2007
Filed at 8:45 a.m. ET
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Walt Disney Co. will eliminate smoking from all its films released under its label and will discourage smoking in films released under its Touchstone and Miramax brands, the company said Wednesday.

Disney chief executive Robert Iger made the pledge in a letter to U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass, chairman of the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, who last month held a hearing in Washington, D.C., on the topic.

''The Walt Disney Co. shares your concern regarding deaths due to cigarette smoking,'' Iger wrote.

Iger also said that a public service announcement will be included on any DVD of a film that includes smoking and that the company would encourage theater owners to show an anti-smoking message before screening films that depict characters lighting up.

Universal Pictures said it instituted a policy to reduce smoking in youth-oriented films in April, but did not announce it publicly until Wednesday.

The studio said it will include a health warning along with films that include smoking.

''We believe it's possible to do that while respecting filmmakers' creative choices and we are committed to partnering with them in this effort,'' Universal Studios chairman Ron Meyer said Wednesday.

In May, the Motion Picture Association of America said it would begin considering smoking as a factor in rating films.

Markey praised Disney's decision.

''Now it's time for other media companies to similarly kick the habit and follow Disney's lead,'' Markey said.

Disney to Cut Smoking in Family Films,






Blacklisted Writer

Bernard Gordon Dies


May 12, 2007

Filed at 1:22 a.m. ET

The New York Times



LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Bernard Gordon, a screenwriter blacklisted during Hollywood's anti-communist crusade in the 1950s, has died. He was 88.

Gordon died Friday at his Hollywood Hills home after a long battle with cancer, according to his daughter, Ellen Gordon.

''He was highly principled, scrupulously honest,'' his daughter said. ''He could argue anybody under the table.''

Gordon wrote dozens of movies but many never carried his name until the Writers Guild of America began restoring credits to blacklisted writers in 1980. About a dozen of Gordon's credits were restored, more than any other writer, said Dave Robb, a longtime friend.

Among them was Gordon's co-writing credit on 1957's ''Hellcats of the Navy,'' which starred Ronald Reagan and his future wife, Nancy Davis.

Gordon's movies included ''55 Days at Peking,'' ''Battle of the Bulge'' and the 1962 science fiction cult classic, ''Day of the Triffids,'' along with low-budget fare like ''Zombies of Mora Tau.''

Gordon was born Oct. 29, 1918 in New Britain, Conn., and raised in New York City. He moved to Hollywood around 1940. He was declared physically unfit for the military and spent World War II working in the film industry.

He also joined the Communist Party and was active in a labor guild. Gordon eventually quit the party after revelations of Stalin's crimes, his daughter said.

In the 1950s, Gordon was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating Communist influence in Hollywood. He was never called before the panel, but an acquaintance named him before the committee and he was fired from a studio and blacklisted, along with hundreds of other film industry workers.

Though condemned as un-American, Gordon never thought his political views were undermining the nation, Robb said.

''They were all super-patriotic. They just thought the U.S. was going down the wrong road,'' Robb said.

For a decade, Gordon couldn't work under his own name but continued to churn out films using pseudonyms. He spent several years in Spain, where he wrote and produced movies. His last movie, ''Surfacing,'' was in 1981.

In 1999, Gordon took the lead in protesting the awarding of an honorary Oscar to director Elia Kazan, who had named names before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

''He helped to support an oppressive regime that did incalculable damage to America and abroad,'' Gordon later wrote in the Los Angeles Times.

Gordon wrote two books: 1999's ''Hollywood Exile, or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist,'' and 2004's ''The Gordon File: A Screenwriter Recalls Twenty Years of FBI Surveillance,'' which was based on his 300-page FBI file.

Blacklisted Writer Bernard Gordon Dies, NYT, 12.5.2007,






Jack Valenti, 85, Dies;

Confidant of a President

and Stars


April 27, 2007
The New York Times


Jack Valenti, who became a confidant of President Lyndon B. Johnson and then a Hollywood institution, leading the Motion Picture Association of America and devising a voluntary film-rating system that gave new meaning to letters like G, R and X, died yesterday at his home in Washington. He was 85.

The cause was complications of a recent stroke, his family said. He had been hospitalized in Baltimore in March.

For 38 years, Mr. Valenti was the public face of the movie and television production industry and one of its fiercest advocates. He lobbied Congress to protect filmmakers’ intellectual property from piracy and to ease trade barriers overseas. And he fended off lawmakers’ recurring campaigns to curb violence and sex on the screen, arguing for free expression. He devised the film-rating system precisely to avoid censorship by local review boards.

He also remained a starry-eyed fan, cherishing his friendships with Kirk Douglas, Sidney Poitier and Frank Sinatra, falling speechless before Sophia Loren and savoring his seconds in the spotlight as a regular presenter at the Academy Awards.

As a Houston political consultant, he was in the motorcade when President John F. Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, and he watched as Johnson was sworn in beside Jacqueline Kennedy aboard Air Force One.

Mr. Valenti soon became known, and for a time mocked, for his unfailing loyalty to Johnson, if not outright idolatry of him. “I sleep each night a little better, a little more confidently because Lyndon Johnson is my president,” he once said in Boston, inviting guffaws nationwide.

Even after leaving a senior post at the White House in 1966, Mr. Valenti remained at Johnson’s service, secretly arranging the president’s surprise detour to the Vatican to meet with Pope Paul VI on the way back from Vietnam in December 1967.

His fidelity was lifelong. Mr. Valenti, a bantam 5-foot-7 who forever looked up to the towering Johnson, picked fights with critical Johnson biographers like Robert Caro and Robert Dallek.

Mr. Valenti’s forthcoming memoir, “This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House, and Hollywood” (Crown), does as much to polish Johnson’s legacy as his own. He was to have begun a six-city tour on June 5 to promote the book.

In 1966 Mr. Valenti took his talents for personal politicking — and lionizing his bosses — to Hollywood, heeding the request of Lew Wasserman and Arthur Krim, then chairmen of MCA/Universal and United Artists respectively, that he take over the Motion Picture Association. “If Hollywood is Mount Olympus,” Mr. Valenti once said of his new liege, “Lew Wasserman is Zeus.” He became the organization’s third president.

At the time, Hollywood was still officially operating under the Hays Production Code, the industry’s draconian and increasingly outmoded self-censoring rules that flatly barred nudity, profanity, miscegenation and even childbirth scenes from being depicted on film.

Mr. Valenti was soon confronted with two films in 1966 that convinced him that the code had become obsolete. He dealt with one, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” by negotiating a compromise in which three out of four particular vulgarisms were cut.

Later that year, M.G.M. released Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blowup” even though that film, showing brief scenes of nudity, lacked Production Code approval. Sensing that other films would also begin flouting the code and in turn create a vacuum into which local politicians and censorship boards might rush, Mr. Valenti decided to act.

“I knew I had to move swiftly, and I did,” he later recalled. “I was determined to free the screen from anything like the Hays Code. But I also emphasized that freedom demanded responsibility.”

So by late 1968 he persuaded the national theater-owners association to buy into a system of voluntary ratings, based on an ascending scale of adult content, that would be enforced at the box office: G, M (later PG), R and X.

The system was not without flaws and detractors, and it required some tinkering. In 1984, after receiving complaints about frightening parts of PG-rated movies (“parental guidance suggested”) like “Gremlins,” the association added the PG-13 category (“parents strongly cautioned”). Though the other ratings were trademarked, the X was not, and pornographers quickly co-opted it. In 1990 the association replaced the X with NC-17 (no one 17 and under admitted), hoping it would be embraced, but distributors have mostly spurned it for commercial reasons, leaving many filmmakers to make wrenching cuts to adult-themed films in pursuit of an R rating.

Mr. Valenti always rebutted critics by citing an annual survey, paid for by the association, showing that parents of young children strongly believed that the ratings were useful.

In 1983, at the height of the Reagan administration’s deregulation efforts, Mr. Valenti led a fight to preserve federal rules intended to protect television producers and studios from the market power of the three major networks. The Federal Communications Commission was considering repealing the rules and allowing the networks to produce programs, thus giving them vertical control over production, distribution and exhibition.

In his memoir, he said he asked Mr. Wasserman, who had once been Ronald Reagan’s agent, and Charlton Heston to urge the president to oppose the repeal. The White House did just that, and the federal rules remained in place until 1995, by which time mergers between studios and networks had rendered them unnecessary.

In Mr. Valenti’s last decade at the association, it became consumed with fighting digital piracy. But one of his bolder strokes, in 2003, blew up in his face. He had learned that half the films being sent to industry people on DVD, known as screeners, for awards campaigns were turning up for sale illegally around the world. So he banned screeners altogether. A storm of protest ensued — loudest of all from the major studios’ own specialty divisions, which rely heavily on awards attention to publicize their films — and the policy was overturned by a federal judge, who said it ran afoul of antitrust laws.

Jack Joseph Valenti was born in Houston on Sept. 5, 1921, to the son and daughter of Italian immigrants from Sicily. He traced his passion for politics to the day his father, a clerk for the city government, took him to a political rally, where the 10-year-old Jack was invited to give his first speech, from a flatbed truck, for the Harris County sheriff. “I never recovered from it,” Mr. Valenti wrote.

As a youth he worked for a chain of second-run movie theaters in downtown Houston, roaming the city putting up posters in storefront windows in exchange for free passes. Hired as an office boy at the Humble Oil Company (an antecedent to ExxonMobil), he attended the University of Houston at night but still managed to be elected class president his sophomore year.

A voracious reader, he devoured everything by Macaulay, Churchill and Gibbon, and his speaking and writing style would mix his native twang with the rhetorical flourishes of his heroes in a brew of cliché, cornpone, compelling phrases and clunkers that one critic called “a kind of Texas baroque.”

In 1982 Mr. Valenti published a guide to oratory, “Speak Up With Confidence,” which was revised and reissued in 2002. He also wrote “The Bitter Taste of Glory,” a book of essays (World, 1971); “A Very Human President” (W. W. Norton, 1975), about Johnson; and a political novel, “Protect and Defend” (Doubleday, 1992), edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

As an Army B-25 pilot in World War II — the Naval air corps had rejected him because of a heart murmur — he flew 51 missions over Italy, but never piloted a plane again after returning his flak-battered bomber to the United States. He went to Harvard Business School on the G.I. bill, then returned to Humble Oil’s advertising department, where he helped its Texas gas stations jump from fifth to first in sales through a “cleanest restrooms” campaign. He co-founded an advertising agency in 1952, with a rival oil company, Conoco, as its first client. He later added Representative Albert Thomas, a Johnson ally, as a client.

It was in 1956 that he met Senator Johnson at a gathering of young Houston Democrats. As a sideline, Mr. Valenti had begun writing a weekly column in The Houston Post, and he rhapsodized there about the senator’s “strength, unbending as a mountain crag, tough as a jungle fighter.” Their friendship grew, and when Johnson became Kennedy’s running mate, he had Mr. Valenti run the ticket’s campaign in Texas. Mr. Valenti helped stage Kennedy’s televised meeting on Sept. 12, 1960, with a group of Protestant Houston ministers, an event that was instrumental in helping him overcome anti-Catholic bias.

Mr. Valenti cemented his ties to Johnson in 1962 when he married Mary Margaret Wiley, a Johnson secretary. The couple accompanied Johnson to Rome for the funeral of Pope John XXIII, and Mr. Valenti was put in charge of the Houston leg of Kennedy’s 1963 swing through Texas. After a dinner there on Nov. 21, Johnson asked Mr. Valenti to fly on Air Force Two the next day. Moments after learning Kennedy was dead, Mr. Valenti was summoned to Air Force One, where he was hired on the spot as a special assistant.

In his memoir he recalled helping rustle up votes for Johnson’s monumental Great Society legislation; witnessing Johnson’s private browbeating of Gov. George Wallace of Alabama after the attacks on civil-rights marchers in Selma; and being accused (unfairly, he maintained) by Robert F. Kennedy of leaking to the news media stories about Kennedy’s chances of being made Johnson’s 1964 running mate.

But Mr. Valenti may have rendered his most vital White House service by being a source of companionship, public praise and private candor, Mr. Dallek said; before leaving the White House, he warned Johnson how much the war was hurting his credibility with voters. Mr. Valenti spent more time socially with the president than any other aide, often bringing along his wife and their toddler daughter, Courtenay Lynda, a Johnson favorite.

In addition to his wife of 45 years and his daughter, now an executive vice president for production at Warner Brothers Pictures, Mr. Valenti is survived by a son, John Lyndon, of Los Angeles, the chief executive of icreate.com, an informational service for the film industry; another daughter, Alexandra Alice, a photographer and video director in Austin, Tex.; and two grandchildren.

Mr. Valenti, who was four days shy of 83 when he stepped down from the motion picture association, continued to come to work, nattily dressed, long afterward. “Retirement to me is a synonym for decay,” he wrote in his memoir. “The idea of just knocking about, playing golf or whatever, is so unattractive to me that I would rather be nibbled to death by ducks. So long as I am doing what I choose to do and love to do, work is not work but total fun.”

Jack Valenti, 85, Dies; Confidant of a President and Stars,







Blurring the Line

in the Bleak Sands of Iwo Jima


December 20, 2006

The New York Times



There are certain assumptions that American audiences, perhaps without realizing it, are likely to bring to a movie about World War II. The combat picture has been a Hollywood staple for so long — since before the actual combat was over — that it can sometimes seem as if every possible story has already been told. Or else as if each individual story, from G.I. Joe to Private Ryan, is at bottom a variation on familiar themes: victory against the odds, brotherhood under fire, sacrifice for a noble cause.

But of course there are other, contrasting stories, a handful of which form the core of “Letters From Iwo Jima,” Clint Eastwood’s harrowing, contemplative new movie and the companion to his “Flags of Our Fathers,” which was released this fall. That film, partly about the famous photograph of American servicemen raising the flag on the barren volcanic island of Iwo Jima, complicated the standard Hollywood combat narrative in ways both subtle and overt. It exposed the heavy sediment of individual grief, cynicism and frustration beneath the collective high sentiments of glory and heroism but without entirely debunking the value or necessity of those sentiments.

“Letters,” which observes the lives and deaths of Japanese soldiers in the battle for Iwo Jima, similarly adheres to some of the conventions of the genre even as it quietly dismantles them. It is, unapologetically and even humbly, true to the durable tenets of the war-movie tradition, but it is also utterly original, even radical in its methods and insights.

In December 2004, with “Million Dollar Baby,” Mr. Eastwood almost nonchalantly took a tried and true template — the boxing picture — and struck from it the best American movie of the year. To my amazement, though hardly to my surprise, he has done it again; “Letters From Iwo Jima” might just be the best Japanese movie of the year as well.

This is not only because the Japanese actors, speaking in their own language, give such vivid and varied performances, but also because the film, in its every particular, seems deeply and un-self-consciously embedded in the experiences of the characters they play. “Letters From Iwo Jima” is not a chronicle of victory against the odds, but rather of inevitable defeat. When word comes from Imperial headquarters that there will be no reinforcements, no battleships, no air support in the impending fight with the United States Marines, any illusion of triumph vanishes, and the stark reality of the mission takes shape. The job of these soldiers and their commanders, in keeping with a military ethos they must embrace whether they believe in it or not, is to die with honor, if necessary by their own hands.

The cruelty of this notion of military discipline, derived from long tradition and maintained by force, is perhaps less startling than the sympathy Mr. Eastwood extends to his characters, whose sacrifices are made in the service of a cause that the American audience knows to be bad as well as doomed. It is hard to think of another war movie that has gone so deeply, so sensitively, into the mind-set of the opposing side.

Since the fighting that Mr. Eastwood depicts is limited to a single, self-contained piece of the Japanese homeland, the bloody roster of Japanese atrocities elsewhere in Asia and the South Pacific remains off screen. But this omission in no way compromises the moral gravity of what takes place before our eyes. Nor does it diminish the power of the film’s moving and meticulous vindication of the humanity of the enemy. (Mr. Eastwood also, not incidentally, exposes some inhumanity on the part of the American good guys, a few of whom are shown committing atrocities of their own.)

Any modern military organization depends, to some extent, on the dehumanization of its own fighters as well as their adversaries. (In “Flags of Our Fathers” the Japanese are all but faceless, firing unseen from bunkers and tunnels dug into the mountainside; in “Letters From Iwo Jima” we see the grueling work and strategic inspiration that led to the digging of those tunnels.)

An army needs personnel, not personalities, and one of the functions of the art and literature of war — especially on film, which exists to consecrate the human face — is to compensate for this forced anonymity by emphasizing the flesh-and-blood individuality of the combatants. Think of the classic Hollywood platoon picture, with its carefully distributed farm boys and city kids, its quota of blowhards and bookworms, all superintended by a wise, crusty commander. Even as they approach stereotype, those characters give names, faces and identities to men who have gone down in history mainly as statistics.

Historians estimate that 20,000 Japanese infantrymen defended Iwo Jima; 1,083 of them survived. (The Americans sent 77,000 Marines and nearly 100,000 total troops, of whom close to 7,000 died and almost 20,000 were wounded.) The Japanese commander was Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, whose illustrated letters to his wife and children, recently unearthed on the island, were a source for Iris Yamashita’s script. Played by Ken Watanabe, Kuribayashi, who arrives on Iwo Jima with a pearl-handled Colt and fond memories of the years he spent in America before the war, is a dashing, cosmopolitan figure. He arouses a good deal of suspicion among the other officers for his modern ideas and for the kindness he sometimes displays toward the low-ranking soldiers.

The general is a practical man (those tunnels are his idea) in an impossible circumstance, and Mr. Watanabe’s performance is all the more heartbreaking for his crisp, unsentimental dignity. He anchors the film — this is some of the best acting of the year, in any language — but does not dominate it. Much as the Imperial Army may have been rigidly hierarchical, Mr. Eastwood’s sensibility is instinctively democratic. As the battle looms, and even as the bombs, bullets and artillery shells begin to explode, he takes the time to introduce us to Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a guileless baker with no great desire to give his life for the glory of the nation; Lieutenant Ito (Shidou Nakamura), who will settle for nothing else; Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), an Olympic equestrian who once hobnobbed with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks; and Shimizu (Ryo Kase), who Saigo suspects is an agent of the secret police.

It is customary to use the word epic to describe a movie that deals with big battles, momentous historical events and large numbers of dead. But while some of Mr. Eastwood’s set pieces depict warfare on a large scale, the overall mood of “Letters From Iwo Jima,” as the title suggests, is strikingly intimate. Even though the movie has a blunt, emphatic emotional force, Mr. Eastwood also shows an attention to details of speech and gesture that can only be described as delicate.

He is as well acquainted as any American director (or actor) with the language of cinematic violence, but he has no equal when it comes to dramatizing the ethical and emotional consequences of brutality. There is nothing gratuitous in this film, nothing fancy or false. There is the humor and the viciousness of men in danger; there is the cool logic of military planning and the explosive irrationality of behavior in combat; there is life and death.

As in “Flags of Our Fathers,” nearly all the color has been drained from the images, a technique that makes the interiors of the caves and tunnels look like Rembrandt paintings. The anxious faces seem to glow in the shadows, illuminated by their own suffering. At other times, in the hard outdoor light, Tom Stern’s cinematography is as frank and solemn as a Mathew Brady photograph.

A few scenes serve as hinges joining this movie to “Flags of Our Fathers.” While “Letters From Iwo Jima” seems to me the more accomplished of the two films — by which I mean that it strikes me as close to perfect — the two enrich each other, and together achieve an extraordinary completeness. They show how the experience of war is both a shared and a divisive experience, separating the dead from the living and the winners from the losers, even as it binds them all together.

Both films travel back and forth in time and space between Iwo Jima and the homelands of the combatants. In “Flags of Our Fathers” the battle itself happens mainly in flashback, since the movie is in large measure about the guilt and confusion that survivors encountered upon their reluctant return home. In “Letters From Iwo Jima” the battle is in the present tense, and it is home that flickers occasionally in the memories of men who are certain they will not live to see it again.

“Letters From Iwo Jima” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It includes extremely graphic combat violence.



Opens today in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Directed by Clint Eastwood; written (in Japanese, with English subtitles) by Iris Yamashita, based on a story by Ms. Yamashita and Paul Haggis; director of photography, Tom Stern; edited by Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach; music by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens; production designers, Henry Bumstead and James J. Murakami; produced by Mr. Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz; released by Warner Brothers Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures. Running time: 141 minutes.

WITH: Ken Watanabe (Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi), Kazunari Ninomiya (Saigo), Tsuyoshi Ihara (Baron Nishi), Ryo Kase (Shimizu), Shidou Nakamura (Lieutenant Ito) and Nae (Hanako).

Blurring the Line in the Bleak Sands of Iwo Jima,






Wall St. Woos Film Producers,

Skirting Studios


October 14, 2006

The New York Times



LOS ANGELES, Oct. 13 — Since the birth of Hollywood, movie studio chiefs have been makers and breakers of careers, arbiters of taste and gatekeepers who decide which movies are made.

But as Hollywood power shifts more to Wall Street investors, financiers are starting to bypass studio bosses by dealing directly with successful producers.

Now, instead of deals being cut over lunch at Spago or the Grill, movies are increasingly being greenlighted in conference calls to New York.

The reason is a simple desire for more control. Wall Street financiers want a greater say over what movies they finance and who makes them; producers want more artistic independence and a larger share of the profits.

The studios themselves are nudging the trend along, too, since they are making fewer movies.

A result for moviegoers is that they could begin to see even more thrillers, comedies and horror movies at the multiplex — the types of movies Wall Street favors, because of their more predictable payoff.

Joel Silver, the producer of the “Lethal Weapon” and “The Matrix” movies, is the latest and most important Hollywood figure to cut a big deal with Wall Street.

He has just joined forces with a consortium of financiers who have agreed to provide $220 million to produce 15 films over the next six years. Mr. Silver will not only have creative control, he will own the movies outright.

“I’ve spent 20 years working for studios,” Mr. Silver said in a recent interview beside an L-shaped azure swimming pool at his Brentwood mansion, a home he referred to as the house ‘The Matrix’ built. “It was always their call.”

To his new partners, Mr. Silver seems like a good bet. In more than two decades as a producer on the Warner Brothers lot, he has produced 46 movies, which have generated $5.6 billion in global ticket sales.

Ivan Reitman, the director of “Animal House” and “Ghostbusters,” struck a $200 million deal with Merrill Lynch in August to produce 10 low-cost films. Tom Cruise and his producing partner, Paula Wagner, after splitting with Paramount Pictures over the summer, are in discussions with potential investors, as are several other producers.

“Hedge funds are picking out who they want to be in business with,” said Rob Moore, president for worldwide marketing, distribution and home entertainment at Paramount Pictures, who gets calls weekly from producers lining up money. “They don’t claim to know how to make movies. They are investing in a track record.”

But such investments are not risk-free, as others have learned. At least since the early 1980’s, studios have occasionally distributed and marketed movies financed by outsiders, some of them from overseas. In the late 1980’s, for example, Crédit Lyonnais famously backed a troubled MGM and Carolco Pictures, which went bankrupt.

Indeed, Hollywood is rife with stories of financiers who came to town with a pocketful of cash, only to leave empty-handed, except for a photograph of themselves with a smiling starlet.

But the new investors are hoping that with enough analysis, they can avoid the fate of some of their predecessors.

In deciding whether to invest with Mr. Silver, the investment firm CIT Group examined not only genre films he had produced, but similar films made by competitors, as well as a wide range of other movies. This style of movie financing has been driven by necessity. Studios have been forced to trim their slates because of higher costs, but they still need a steady stream of movies to distribute. In turn, producers need financing, because the studios are backing fewer films. And cash-rich financial institutions are looking for places to invest, hoping to earn double-digit returns while limiting their exposure to the fluctuations of the stock market.

“It’s a confluence of interests between the people with the cash, studios and producers,” Mr. Reitman said. “As Wall Street gets involved in movie financing, hedge funds don’t want to be ‘stupid money’ and want to align themselves with people who have a history of success. They are looking for a guide. They don’t want to be sold a script that’s been around for eight years.”

Studio executives, who earlier would have balked at such deals, are now open-minded. “I wouldn’t say it’s bad timing given where our strategy is going,” said Jeff Robinov, president of production at Warner Brothers, which, like many studios, is making fewer films. With Mr. Silver providing his own movies, Mr. Robinov said, he can focus on bigger films, like the “Harry Potter” and “Batman” movies.

And regardless of who finances the movies, the studios still make money from distributing them.

Two years ago, studio-slate financing was the toast of Hollywood, with hedge funds and other investors linking up with studios to co-produce films. But many of those deals have yet to pay off. In some cases, studios kept lucrative film franchises for themselves. In others, financiers picked the wrong movies to back.

“Here is a huge industry with a lot of capital,” said Wade Layton, managing director of CIT Communications, Media and Entertainment, referring to private investors. “First, they start off with studios as a way to get up to speed. Then you start to look for deals with producers.”

So far, Mr. Silver’s deal, which includes the investors J. P. Morgan and D. E. Shaw, is the most generous a producer has landed. Mr. Silver will produce a mix of horror, comedy and action movies that will cost $15 million to $40 million apiece to make. Mr. Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment currently has enough money for eight movies and if those are successful, the revenue will be used to finance the remaining films.

The films are to be distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures, which gets a distribution fee. The first film to be released under the deal is “White Out,” an action thriller about a United States marshal who tracks a serial killer across Antarctica. It is to be released in 2008.

“I would never take a big movie to a financier,” said Mr. Silver, who also has a separate producing deal with Warner through 2009. “What do you say if you go over budget by $10 million? What do you say?”

“With these movies, 30 days and you are done,” he said, wiping his hands together.

Mr. Reitman’s Cold Spring Pictures — a venture among Mr. Reitman; his producing partner, Tom Pollock; Merrill Lynch; and two other investors — retains half the copyrights to its movies. Cold Spring must find a studio to distribute the films and put up 50 percent of the budgets. The financing is $50 million in equity and $150 million in debt. “We don’t want them telling us what to make,” Mr. Pollock said. “But we know if we don’t perform, they won’t be happy.”

Mr. Reitman’s group, like Mr. Silver, will share in 100 percent of DVD sales, which are often highly profitable, compared with an industry norm of 20 percent.

In return for giving up potential profits, financiers want to curb Hollywood’s notoriously wild spending. “We are not making investments for them to fund development,” said Michael Blum, a managing director at Merrill Lynch.

But Wall Street financiers are loath to meddle with the movie-making itself. And producers prefer it that way. “When bankers start reading scripts, you know you are in trouble,” Mr. Layton said.

Mr. Silver agreed: “I don’t mind if they come to premieres. If they want to come to the set, that’s fine — but I’m not making movies in L.A.” (Mr. Silver’s movies are filmed around the world.)

Two weeks ago, Mr. Silver invited his new backers to his estate, Casa de Plata, where they celebrated over sushi, roast beef sandwiches and cocktails. The same week, Mr. Reitman and Mr. Pollock took their partners to Cut, Wolfgang Puck’s new steakhouse, where, Mr. Reitman noted, Merrill Lynch, paid the bill.

“I don’t think any of them are in it for the glamour,” Mr. Pollock said. “They kept talking about their next big deal, which was recreational vehicles.”

But Mr. Reitman said his investors wanted the lowdown on John Belushi, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in their younger days.

Did he share any gossip?

“A little,” Mr. Reitman said, smiling.

Wall St. Woos Film Producers, Skirting Studios,









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