Marcus Wolland performing The Magnificent
at Seattle’s Straight-Edge Theatrics.

Live Theater Meets Home Theater with StageDirect

The latest from StageDirect, a Portland, OR-based
company that films fringe theater for VHS and DVD release, The
Magnificent Welles
depicts an impassioned Orson Welles as he struggles
in vain (long distance over the phone from his hotel room in Brazil)
with studio eggheads for final cut of The Magnificent Ambersons.

Like other StageDirect videos
such as Straight (a comedy about gay-straight conversion
therapy) and The Haint (a Southern Gothic ghost story), The
Magnificent Welles
is a one-man show performed with the kind
of nuance that only a writer/performer could give. And the story
is interesting enough, too, even for those who already know that
Welles was a “frustrated genius,” painfully unappreciated during
his own lifetime.

StageDirect is a noble idea. The company has ingeniously
attached itself to the niche audience that the American independent
cinema, in telling stories that the big-time studios wouldn’t touch
with any foot pole, has laboriously etched out for itself over the
years. And it’s even a well-researched idea. The company is clearly
marketing itself to DVD target audiences of film buffs with disposable
income. Though the theater is just more powerful live—plain and
simple—The Magnificent Welles, Straight and The
aren’t stories that you’d find at your local cineplex,
and the performances are really fantastic.

I’d rather have seen these shows in the theater, but
maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Considering how fringe theater
struggles to stay afloat these days, maybe that’s the point. For
more information, visit —Belinda Baldwin

Pure Imagination
is a pastiche of facts, figures and fun…

The Golden Ticket

If you’ve ever craved a scrumdidilyumptious
bar, steered clear of those with the name Slugworth, wondered why
Grandpas Joe and George and Grandmas Josephina and Georgina sleep
in the same bed, hummed a few bars of "I’ve Got a Golden
Ticket," licked your own wallpaper to see what flavor it might
yield or explained how to counteract the effects of a fizzy lifting
drink, then Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the
Chocolate Factory
($29.95; St. Martin’s Press) is the
book you’ve been waiting more than 30 years for.

Written by Mel Stuart, director of the 1971 cult/family
classic, and Entertainment Weekly contributor Josh Young,
the book is to Wonka fans what the Chocolate River was to
Augustus Gloop—absolute indulgence. The book provides a photographic
exploration of both the hardcore details of the making of the film
(from pre-production to post),
as well as the movie’s aftermath and rise to its iconic state
in pop culture history. With exclusive interviews, bits of trivia
and relatively unknown facts about the production (including the
logic behind the Oompa-Loompas’ orange face/green hair appearance), Pure Imagination is a pastiche of facts, figures and fun
for diehard fans of the film and newfound admirers alike. —Jennifer
M. Wood

The Orphanage Shoots for Film Look on a Digital

Every moviemaker considering a DV shoot inevitably
asks The Question: How do I make my video look more like film? Whether
you’re a new moviemaker or, say, Cameron Crowe, it can be
an agonizing dilemma.

Has The Orphanage discovered The Answer? Founded by
three Industrial Light & Magic alumni, The Orphanage, a California-based
digital production company, has made a name for itself providing
post-production for everything from a Cher music video to Crowe’s
Vanilla Sky.

Their famed post-processing solution for video is
now available as a plug-in set for Adobe After Effects. Called,
appropriately, Magic Bullet Suite 1.0, it is available exclusively

Magic Bullet works like this: first, it de-interlaces
video from 60 interlaced frames to the standard 24 frames per second
rate. In the process, it reduces “artifacts” in the
digital image, improving color and image quality.

Next, in the “Look Suite,” users can select
from 15 different presets to simulate different film “looks,”
or create their own look with effects sliders. The looks range from “Basic” to
“Epic,” which simulates the early Technicolor films,
to “Bleach Bypass,” which would work for those who are
looking to mimic the look of a movie like Three Kings.

From there, the plug-ins enable users to create optical
effects like fades and dissolves, crop their footage to different
film and TV aspect ratios and check their footage against NTSC broadcast

Magic Bullet is available in two versions: SD ($995),
which supports video resolutions up to 720×486 NTSC; and HD ($1,995),
which has no resolution limit. With all these tools, all you’ll
need is a good story—which is the simple part, right? —Jason

A New Way to Network:

It’s a bad day to be an agent. Or so
would have us believe. The new Website, an Internet-dating-meets-industry-networking
venture from the folks who brought you, bills itself as
one-stop shopping for everyone from the lowliest amateur actor to
a repeat guest of the Tonight Show to an award-winning director.
The site offers a detailed biography of each artist and industry
rep, complete with video and audio files, resume and contact information.
In theory, the site enables artists from all over the world to meet
and collaborate with each other using Internet technology. But does
it work?

First, the basics. TalentMatch provides three main
categories of membership: Talent, Industry and Fan. Once inside,
TalentMatch allows each user to search for any kind of artist or
industry representative by type, number of years of experience,
number of professional gigs—even by distance from a particular
zip code.

The practical application of this site for moviemakers
remains to be seen, as the value of the technology to moviemakers
will be directly proportional to the number of moviemakers using
it. If in short order there are hundreds—or thousands—of
DPs, directors and actors to choose from, the increased talent pool
will mean success. But only time will tell if the notoriously skeptical
and very independent film industry seriously embraces a new tool
for collaboration. —Jason Mann

Terror, Titillation and Killer Art

The Art of Noir
The Posters and Graphics from the Classic Period of Film Noir

By Eddie Muller
The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc.
New York, 2002
338 color illustrations, 271pp, $50.00

Sex and violence. greed, depravity
and fear. duplicity, sado-masochism and death. and sex.
did i mention sex? The best film noirs had it all—all the
titillation the dark side of your imagination could handle. But
to prove it, producers had to first get you into the theater. The
way they enticed you to see these pulp masterpieces was to create
a secondary piece of art—a dust jacket, of sorts—a poster
that packed a knock-out punch so economical that it could pulverize
any possible resistance to paying the price of a ticket with a single
glance. That’s a tall order—more difficult, perhaps,
than creating a trailer. But the creators of these posters knew
their mission, and as this gorgeous coffee-table volume proves in
spades, they delivered more often than not,.

Let’s face it, film noirs
have always been horror movies for adults.

Let’s face it, film noirs have always been horror
movies for adults. The only difference is that usually the supernatural
motif that stimulates the minds of youth (who still believe anything
is possible) is removed in favor of those all-consuming preoccupations
with the pursuit of money and sex. But all the other basic elements
of horror reveal themselves throughout this incredible large-format
collection of posters, lobby cards and other promotional material
from the noir era. The darkness, the mystery; the blood and terror
are present on every page. No wonder this timeless stuff is still
so fascinating to us.

Not only does it arouse our reptilian brain stems,
it also reminds us of our youth. The posters in The Art of Noir are not only cool, they’re warm, fuzzy ambassadors of nostalgia,
as well.

Eddie Muller, who has written other books on noir
and is probably as close to being an expert on the subject as anyone,
could have gone into the backstory of the artwork deeper than he
has, but that would be stretching to find an unsatisfying aspect
of this book. Muller has put together an incredible collection of
noir graphic material worthy of any movie lover’s home library.

If you can’t afford the pricey original posters,
this volume may be as close as you’re going to come to assembling
your own display of classic killer art. —Tim Rhys

Bravo for Primera

You’re almost there. You’ve agonized over
dialogue and camera angles. You’ve slaved over Final Cut for
hours. You’re finally ready to get your movie out to the one
audience you know will love it (or at least pretend to love it):
your friends and family. But how can you distribute it?

On plain old VHS tape? But then your gorgeous action
shots would be a fuzzy mess. Over the Web, in condensed blips? The
way you worked to fix the color in post, that just might kill you.
No, you need to output to DVD to protect your sanity, let alone
impress anyone other than your mother.

Primera Technology would love to help. With a Bravo
Disc Publisher, their new automated DVD burner/printer, you can
burn and label up to 25 DVDs at a time. The machine contains a 4x
DVD burner that burns either DVD-R or DVD-RW media, and it also
burns CDs at 48x! The ink-jet label printer can maintain a resolution
of up to 2,400 dpi, providing “stunning graphics, photos and
text,” according to Primera’s Website. Best of all,
the system is totally hands-free—just start burning and go
get lunch!

The machine is a great addition for anyone looking
to produce small runs of CDs or DVDs from home, and at $2,495 for
the DVD version (a CD-only Bravo is $1,995), it is significantly
cheaper than many duplicators.

In theory, the Bravo is an excellent tool for an independent
moviemaker, especially one who has limited or infrequent DVD distribution
needs. Whether it works well enough to displace online DVD publishing
services or high-volume processing houses remains to be seen, but
its ease of use and low cost are undeniable.

The Bravo requires FireWire and either Windows 2000/XP
or Mac OSX, and comes with disc burning and label design software. —Jason Mann