A 9-minute long spontaneous Q&A with Frank Darabont backstage at the 2009 Saturn Awards. The primary topic of discussion: The Shawshank Redemption. The interviewer asks Darabont if he ever gets tired of people coming up to him to tell him, “Hey, you made Shawshank, one of my favorite movies,” and Darabont’s response is pretty priceless: “Absolutely not. You can’t get tired of that, you’d be douchebag.”
The Woman in the Room, 1983 Written and Directed by Frank Darabont. Based on a story by Stephen King.
"Clearly the best of the short films made from my stuff" - Stephen King
In 1983 you did The Woman in the Room. Can you tell me how that happened? As I understand it it’s one of the first Dollar Babies, right?
Frank Darabont: In 1980, I was 20 years old, working many miserable low-paid jobs just to survive and dreaming of a career in films someday. During that time I was a theater usher, telephone operator…man, I can’t even remember all the awful jobs I had back then. I even ran a forklift and did a lot of heavy lifting for an auction company that liquidated industrial machine shops. That was the year I approached Stephen King about The Woman in the Room, and I hadn’t even had my first job in movies yet! But I nonetheless decided I wanted to make a short film from his story, which I thought was lovely and deeply moving, so I wrote him a letter asking for his permission. I was shocked that he said yes. (I found out later about his “dollar baby” policy, which shows what a generous man he is. I doubt The Woman in the Room was the first dollar baby, but I’m certain it must be among the first wave of those films.) Let me digress to say that my very first real job in films happened later that same year, after I’d gotten Steve’s permission to do The Woman in the Room. Chuck Russell hired me as a P.A. on a shitty no-budget film called Hell Night, starring Linda Blair. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t really recommend it. Quentin Tarantino keeps telling me he really likes Hell Night, but I keep telling him he’s the only one. It was one of the cheesier entries in the “slasher movie” cycle. But if you ever do see it, you can check out my name in the end credits — my very first movie job! “P.A.,” by the way, stands for “production assistant,” although I’ve always felt it could also stand for “pissant.” It is the lowest job in movies, a gofer who runs around doing every crappy job they hand you and never getting any sleep. I made 150 dollars a week, which was horrible pay even back then. But it was my entry into the film business, and began my association with Chuck Russell. Chuck was a line producer on low budget films at that time, just making a living, which is how he hired me. We later became dear friends and wound up collaborating as writers on a number of screenplays, including A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. That was Chuck’s first directing job and my first professional writing credit, in 1986.
Anyway, back to 1980. I wrote Steve King my letter, he said yes, and it took me three years to make The Woman in the Room. It took a while to raise enough money (from some kindly investors in Iowa) to shoot the movie and get it in the can. But then I had to personally earn the rest of the money needed to put the film through post-production: editing the film, doing the sound, paying for the lab work, etc. By 1983 I was working as a prop assistant on TV commercials — not great money, but it was enough to get my movie finished. I earned $11,000 dollars that year and spent $7,000 of it finishing my movie — how I survived on $4,000 that year is something I still can’t explain; to this day I have no idea how I did it. (The IRS was also quite curious…that was the only year I’ve ever gotten audited for taxes, because they couldn’t believe anybody could survive on $4,000 a year.) All I can say is, my rent was cheap and I lived very frugally. I spent that entire year with a borrowed Moviola in my bedroom, editing the film. I had heaps of 16mm film piled all over the place. At night, I had to move all the piles of film off my bed onto the floor so I could go to sleep. In the morning, I’d have to move the piles of film from the floor back onto my bed so I could walk to the bathroom. Very glamorous! But eventually the movie did get done, and we entered it for Oscar consideration in the short film category. There are two things we should correct: 1) It wasn’t the 1986 Academy Awards, but earlier — either ‘83 or ‘84, I forget the exact year. 2) More significantly, The Woman in the Room was not nominated…it was named in the top 9 out of the 90 short films submitted that year, but we failed to make the final cut of 4 nominated films. (For some strange reason, the common belief has arisen through the years that the film was nominated, but that is incorrect.)
Did King comment on what he though about it? The Woman in the Room is a rather personal story to him…
Frank Darabont: He liked it. In fact, we used his quote “Clearly the best of the short films made from my stuff” on the video box. He did feel the character I added, The Prisoner (played by Brian Libby, who later played Floyd in The Shawshank Redemption) was a bit cliched, and I can’t disagree. Steve’s favorite bit was the dream sequence where the mom turns into a rotted corpse — he loved that! Hey, give Steve a rotted corpse and he’s your pal for life. Here’s some trivia: that corpse originally appeared in Hell Night. (If I remember correctly, Linda Blair stumbles into a room at one point where a bunch of corpses are propped around a table — it was a male corpse, but in my short I passed him off as a woman. Corpse in drag!) Some two years after Hell Night, I borrowed the corpse to use in The Woman in the Room from the makeup fx guys who built it. He wound up sitting in my living room for a few months. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night and forget he was there. I’d wander half-asleep out to the kitchen to get a glass of water and he’d scare the shit out of me, this big human shape sitting in the dark in my living room. That dream sequence was something I also added to the story — looking back on it, I guess I took a lot of liberties with Steve’s material. I’m kind of surprised he liked it as much as he did. But he liked it well enough that when I approached him again in 1986 to ask for the rights to The Shawshank Redemption, he said yes. So spending three years busting my ass to make that short did pay off in a very nice way. It gave Steve a certain amount of confidence in me. As for me, I look at The Woman in the Room now and wonder what Steve saw in it. The movie actually makes me cringe a little, as I suppose any work you did as a kid will make you cringe (unless you’re Mozart). Honestly, it looks like an earnest but very young filmmaker at work to me. The result strikes me as pretty creaky and overly careful in its approach. I think I was really afraid of making any mistakes, so my approach to shooting and editing was cautious, to say the least. And it’s slow! Yikes!
Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of a radio performance of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds has become the thing of legend. But it’s also the kind of legend that’s spread so wide and lived for so long that it’s evolved into fantasy status. Surely the amount of people that tuned in their radios that evening and believed Earth was under attack from Martians was exaggerated, right? It didn’t actually cause terror and panic in households, right?
It did. And here’s the proof: A seven-minute video of a very young-looking Welles (he was 23 at the time) addressing an onslaught of press members on October 31, 1938, the day after the broadcast. It’s fascinating how this footage captures a bewildered storyteller, one who would soon go on to become one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived, defending his artistic intent and who is genuinely shocked to learn of the kind of impact that his experimental Halloween broadcast — which told Wells’ alien invasion story as news bulletins reporting on events happening in real time — was taken as anything but a creative way to experience the story.
Even more, it’s great how Welles actively isn’t trying to revel in the instant fame thrust upon, pointing out that he wasn’t the first person to ever tell a story in such a way, and that he can’t imagine his little radio play having such far-reaching consequences, such as making these types of productions illegal. It’s a tremendous thing to watch, and as if there weren’t already plenty of reasons to stand in awe of the man who made Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil, this provides quite a few more.
The Dude and his dad in the early 1950s: Jeff and Lloyd Bridges.
Called “the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived” by über-critic Pauline Kael, this 2010 Oscar-winning best actor embodies traits far beyond brilliance as an actor. He is an exceptional musician, a photographer, an occasional vintner and a storyteller. He hails from an illustrious Hollywood family, working as a child with his father Lloyd and brother Beau on television’s “Sea Hunt.” Bridges endures with vigor and grace. His own decades-long marriage and daughters remain the center of his world. His casual, easy-going air have endeared him to audiences for almost 40 years, starting with The Last Picture Show in 1971, reinforced in Starman in 1984 and the cult classic The Big Lebowski in 1998. After the life-changing role of Bad Blake in Crazy Heart in 2009, he returns to the screen with Tron Legacy and as Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit, directed by the Coen Brothers.
“When a small handful of enthusiasts gathered at the first cinema show at the Grand Cafe in Paris on December 27, 1895, to celebrate early experimental film, they didn’t know that over the next century, their fringe fascination would carve its place in history as the “seventh art.” But how, exactly, did that happen? In 100 Ideas that Changed Film, Oxford Times film reviewer David Parkinson and publisher Laurence King — who brought us 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design and the epic Saul Bass monograph — offer a concise and intelligent chronicle of the most influential developments since the dawn of cinema.”
Truly a visionary writer, J. G. Ballard has constructed a body of work marked by recurrent themes and obsessive symbols that is capable of transcending generic codes to decipher the present and propose plausible views of the future. This exhibition offers an itinerary through Ballard’s creative universe: his times and obsessions, his dissection of the secret keys of the contemporary, the traces of his own life in his fictional body of work, his artistic and literary referents, and his precise, disenchanted intuitions of a future life governed by the concepts of aseptic dystopia and disaster.
Ballard’s work represents an open-ended body of work that still has many revelations in store for his readers and the capacity to throw light on the course of our future. An author with an enormous influence on later generations of creators in all disciplines, from fantasy cinema to industrial music, Ballard is the author, among many other works, of The Empire of the Sun and Crash, adapted for the cinema by Spielberg and David Cronenberg, respectively.
The sections of the exhibition are:
• “What I believe” • From Shanghai to Shepperton • Landscapes of Dream • Inner space • Disaster area • Technology and pornography • Asepsis and neo-barbarism • Epilogue • Bibliographical area • Ballardian art
BBC documentary exploring the life and work of the great Italian composer Ennio Morricone, until 1995. Morricone has composed and arranged scores for more than 500 film and TV productions. This documentary was first shown on BBC2 in 1995 and was directed by David Thompson.
— Part 1 looks at his early years. — Part 2 looks at Morricone’s collaboration with Sergio Leone. — Part 3 features Morricone recording in Rome, and looks at his work on “The Battle of Algiers” (1965) and “1900” (1978). Includes interviews with Morricone, Gillo Pontecorvo and Bernardo Bertolucci. — Part 4 looks at Morricone’s ’80s work on “Casualties of War” and “The Mission”, with interviews with Morricone, Brian De Palma and David Puttnam.
Ennio Morricone in his own words: “I’ve always put concrete sounds, everyday noises, into my works. Many people probably think I’m capricious putting sounds like typewriters and tin cans into music. I do it to give an element of actuality.”
One of the most fascinating aspects of The Exorcist blu-ray release last year was the famed Owen Roizman footage from behind the scenes finally being shown for the first time. Never-before-seen footage of cast and crew working diligently in silence (the footage has no sound) to make one of the most famous horror films of all time makes for eerie viewing. Especially exciting for Exorcist fans who had desired such rare snippets for decades.
The footage was ultimately put to use in the documentary Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist, which was top of the special features checklist for the jam-packed Exorcist blu-ray.
While the Raising Hell documentary itself was a fascinating watch (albeit still second to Mark Kermode’s brilliant The Fear of God), I would have loved the option to just watch the rare footage, without the modern-day interviews inter-cutting between snippets. So, I took it upon myself to cut all of said rarities into one uninterrupted video.
For the critically acclaimed, breakout feature Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin and his small film crew, Court 13, set up production in an abandoned convenience store in Montegut, Louisiana to make a film that celebrates a place where people refuse to leave their homes—no matter how dire the situation. Special Effects Unit Director Ray Tintori talks us through the film’s visual effects, and how they had to navigate shots around the tragic Louisiana oil spill. Find out how Zeiltin’s blown up truck became a prop, and how “as a community you can challenge some pretty fierce odds” in our behind-the-scenes documentary.
Director of Devils is a quasi-PR piece made around the time of the film’s release. Running 22-minutes it features Ken Russell, being driven somewhere, talking about the film and its controversy. He talks about the Huxley book, the large amounts of research that went into it, and even goes over the historical facts he unearthed. The film also features behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot, which offers alternate angles to certain scenes, looks at the sets, and even presents footage in the latter half of the film’s score being recorded for the final moments being recorded. Excellent little featurette.
“The way to learn how to make movies is to watch them and to make them. When I was a kid you could make 8mm movies, and now more than ever you can do them on your phone, edit them on your computer. The access to the technology for a filmmaker and a visual storyteller is right there, in your hand. So, that is really what you need to do to learn how to become a filmmaker.”
“I think that I was influenced initially and excited initially by Scorsese because of how talented he was, but I think the thing that was also coming through to me in terms of his point-of-views was how much he was heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock. I discovered Hitchcock’s films after Scorsese’s films and then became obsessed with them, and I’m still obsessed with them to this day. So, I would say that the one who excited me when I was young was Martin Scorsese, who’s still one of my heroes. And then I discovered all sorts of things through cinema, through Alfred Hitchcock. And when I was in film school, my mind was opened up to other points of view. I became obsessed with Federico Fellini, and as I was growing up I always loved FF Coppola.
I think when I look back at the movies that excited me when I was young, it was the films made by American storytellers that were heavily influenced by European films. That’s sort of what stuck to me to this very day. I love foreign films, too, I love Wong Kar Wai, Krzysztof Kieslowski… and I think I was particularly affected by filmmakers who are trying to express themselves through a particular point of view.”
“The other thing that was great was the advice that I got from Steven Spielberg. After ‘Cloverfield’, he started working with J.J. and I asked J.J. if he thought I could talk to him, and he told me that he loved ‘Cloverfield’, so why not, and he asked him and Spielberg said yes. We talked about directing children and he told me I should really ask them what they would do in every situation. You know, he said, you are trying to remember what it was like to be 11 or 12 years old, but they are. Give them more room, ask them what they would do.
That turned out to be great advice. As I said, I’m very interested in points of view and a lot of the movie was filmed from their points of view and I was able to incorporate it.”
“Well, I think the reason that most remakes are bad because they are generally not made from a passionate place. There are remakes that I loved – John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, for instance, or William Friedkin’s ‘Sorcerer’, which I think is an amazing remake of ‘The Wages of Fear’.
I was approached about the remake and I was very affected by the story, but the story also reminded me a lot of my childhood. I actually did turn the film down because, I told them, this is a beautiful film and I don’t want to remake it precisely because of that. They kept pursuing me and I couldn’t get my other projects made, and in the meantime, I read John Lindqvist’s novel – he also wrote the screenplay – and I was very affected by it and I thought it was a great horror story. More than anything, it was very clear it was a personal story. It so reminded me of my own childhood, the pains of adolescence, family, divorce… So I suddenly started thinking that maybe there was a way of being faithful to the story but to personalize it. I ended up writing to John Lindqvist and saying to him how much I loved the movie that he and Tomas Alfredson made, and how they were pursuing me and how I was torn about it. I told him that what excited me about it was that it by far the most personal thing I could get involved with at that moment, even though, of course, it was his story. I wanted to find a way to remain faithful to it but at the same time to put it into a world that I knew when I was growing up. We’re about the same age, John and I, and he turned out to be a huge fan of ‘Cloverfield’, and he loved the idea of me doing an American version of the film. I really want you to do it, he said, especially when I hear you describing it like that, because it really is about my childhood. That was really when I decided to go on with the project. I made the film wishing to express what I thought Lindqvist so brilliantly expressed in the novel and in Alfredson’s picture, offering a story of the pain of adolescence through a vampire story. That’s the way I approached it and I have to say I did have a lot of trepidation about the end result, but all in all, it was a wonderful experience.”
“The kindness and one early Christmas present from our site’s friend Boris, the creator of the brilliant independent website Cinephilia & Beyond, put us in touch with the rising Hollywood ace Matt Reeves.”
A young Tony Scott stars in his brother Ridley’s first film Boy and Bicycle. This was the film that inspired Tony to make movies, and it’s a long way from the loud, brash, stadium rock ‘n’ roll films he became famous for in later life.