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Letter of the Month: John
Would Have

Dear MovieMaker,

As of this writing, I am a little over a month away
from doing my second feature. My first, Miner, that I did in South
Africa and was subtitled into English, won an audience award at
FESPACO, but the critics hated it. "It’s too long," they
said. "There’s no plot." "This young man shouldn’t
make films," one even said. I came back to the U.S. in 1994
and was living in a residential hotel when I decided that I didn’t
care what the critics said-I was going to make another film. I
began writing the script for the film I’ll be shooting next month
(March ’98) and finished it in two weeks. I sent it off to my script
consultant (The brilliant Rick Schmidt, author of Feature Filmmaking
at Used Car Prices). Several weeks went by and I didn’t hear from
him. Finally, he wrote and said he really enjoyed what I had done.
He liked the way I dealt with the characters and the messy lives
that they had. His letter was really inspiring, but along with
it he sent a note that a man I had not heard of wrote about the
script. The man was Ray Carney, and the note in brief read, "Strong
script." Then he added, "Cassavetes would have been proud." Well,
I don’t know if my mentor in spirit would have been proud or not,
but there’s one thing I do know. Every time I get frustrated with
a project, or with the decline of American cinema, or discouraged
that the indie movement produces so much mediocrity…every time
I don’t think I can pursue my dreams anymore, I pull that Carney
note out and read it, and I say to myself, "Keep going. John
would have."

—Christopher Brown, San Francisco, CA via email:

The Work Gets You In

Dear MovieMaker,

I’m a senior at Colorado Christian University and
have been trying to decide which direction to take after graduation.
I’ve often considered going into film, but it seems like the only
way to get your foot in the door is through connections. I was
inspired by the interview with James Mangold (MM #26) where he
said that it’s the work that gets you in. I’m confident in my ability
to tell stories, and what I really want in life is to look back
and say it was not about the money, it was about the work; it was
about developing small, personal ideas and seeing them come to
life. I don’t want to see my energy wasted; I never want to settle
for less then what I might become. My question is-how do I start?
I’m getting my Bachelor of Arts degree soon, but I don’t know the
weight it pulls because I’ll be the first art major to graduate
through this program. Thanks for your time-any suggestions will
be greatly appreciated.

—Jeff Eppard, Lakewood, CO via email:

Tolerate Truth-telling

Dear MovieMaker,

Just received the new issue. It looks great. What
I love the most is the edge to many of the pieces that seems fresh
and brave: the questions about Scorsese and the Film Foundation,
the mention of Bogdanovich’s sink-the-Titanic ego, the Kubrick
review. It’s wonderful and almost unprecedented in the flack-happy
world of Hollywood shilling: the suck up journalistic universe
ruled by Premiere and Movieline would never tolerate such truth-telling.
Bravo and keep it up. There’s lots of dirty laundry to be aired,
if truth be told.

—Ray Carney, Boston University, Boston, MA

Nuts and Bolts

Dear MovieMaker,

I am writing you in the hope that you will consider
adding an element to the editorial content of your excellent magazine
for us independent filmmakers out here trying desperately to scrape
together as much information as possible while making our first
independent features. Basically, I’d love to see more hands-on,
nuts-and-bolts stuff.

Along with your "How They Did it" stories,
advice on distribution, interviews, etc., I’d like to see more
about the ins and outs of various cameras, for instance. Why should
I choose an Aaton over an Arri or a Bolex? I want to see discussions
on lenses and mikes. I want to see do-it-yourself SFX. How about
notes on casting? Editing? Sound recording? Obtaining locations,
permits, etc. In short-teach me how to do it!

When MovieMaker first came out I was excited about
it because I thought it was headed in this direction. As a subscriber
I’m trying to nudge you this way because I believe that what indie
filmmakers want most is hardcore, independent-style filmmaking
information they can use out there in the trenches.

—Kenneth Bearden, Houston, TX

Dear Kenneth-Thanks for the letter. I’m a moviemaker
myself and I know how valuable the info you want is to independents.
As I said last issue in MM notebook, we’re committed to bringing
you more and better hands-on content in the future. Along with
articles like "desktop moviemaking" in #27, we’ll be
taking entire issues to focus on the disciplines of screenwriting,
cinematography, directing, producing and acting. Look for our special
cinematography issue in May, where we’ll get those camera comparison
questions answered for you.-T.R.

Don’t Get into a Fine Mess

Dear MovieMaker,

Flipping through your January issue, I was surprised
at Mr. Hollywood’s claim that "everyone looks the other way
when you are only a short." I think the nice folks at ASCAP
and BMI would disagree. The music police will fine your butt faster
than you can say "intellectual property." There are lots
of sources out there for decent music at reasonable prices. It
would be self-serving of me to send you to,
but what the heck? Commercialism makes the world go ’round. You
can also take a look at a Hollywood Reporter Blu-book or any number
of industry resources. I think you’ll find lots of music libraries
and clearance companies out there.

—Mike Spitz, Boca Raton, FL, via email:

Subscribers: Call MovieMaker toll-free: 1-888-MAKE
MOVies or email to
change your mailing address or if you have any questions about
your subscription. Please allow 4-6 weeks for address changes to
take effect.

Omit Nothing

Last issue we pubished photographs of Orphans of
the Storm and The Celeste Bartos Film Preser- vation Center in
our film preservation article "Dust to Dust: The Politics
of Film Preservation." The photos were courtesy of the Museum
of Modern Art, but were uncredited. MovieMaker regrets the omission. MM

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