Alain Silver Interview
I sat down with author and producer Dr. Alain Silver November 1 at his home in Santa Monica. It has an ancient feel. It's filled with hundreds of 33-play vinyl records (mainly movie soundtracks), a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a TV that looks to date from the 1970s.
Born December 7, 1947 in Chinatown in Los Angeles, Alain grew up in the San Fernando Valley. His mother was a French war bride. His father, who studied cinematography in France and at one time worked as a photo processor in a night club, mainly worked in the aerospace industry. Upon retirement in 1971, Alain's dad worked at William Morris talent agency in Beverly Hills for five years as a mailroom supervisor.
After receiving his Ph.D. in motion picture history from UCLA, Dr. Silver proceeded to publish 14 books, produce about low budget 30 movies and about 120 CDs of music.
He's finished three yet to be published books, including one about director - producer Roger Corman.
Alain: "My co-author James Ursini and I were given an advance by Silman-James Press to write a book called Visions of Directing. And it just didn't work in the two director interviews we did.
"So we did a book about Corman as a director, while the publisher was more interested in Corman as a producer. The director books that Jim Ursini and I have done are auteur books about the personal vision of the director. We did David Lean, Robert Aldrich and this Corman book is the same, formatted film by film.
"We did three hours of interviews with Corman about the 54 films he directed. He's done hundreds of interviews. He tells the same stories. He has a particular approach and if you read his book "How I Made 100 Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime," it's all in there."
Luke: "Ever since you were a kid, you wanted to work in Hollywood?"
Alain: "Yes. I didn't realize until I was older that that my father had not pursued his ambitions to be a cinematographer took away what might have been a significant advantage. Hollywood is nepotistic."
After 12 years of Catholic school, Silver graduated from high school from Chaminade Preparatory.
Luke: "Were your parents devout?"
Alain: "My mother was French so she insisted on Mass every Sunday. But we always got there just before the Offatory and left just after the Communion. We participated in the minimum required parts of the Mass. I'm well versed in Catholic history and rituals. I've been lapsed for a long time.
"UCLA was inexpensive. I got a scholarship from North American Aviation. The children of employees were permitted to take the SAT a second time and based on their score, they were awarded scholarships. After I left UCLA, I had some money left over from the scholarship.
"When I got to UCLA in the late 1960s, motion pictures was not an accepted discipline. So I was an English major for two years before shifting over to production. My undergraduate degree was in motion pictures and there were three people in my graduating class. Most of the department was graduate students.
"I did my Master's thesis on the films of Robert Aldrich and my Ph.D. on David Lean. The thesis turned into my book on Lean. I knew my co-author James from Chaminade High School. Jim wrote his Master's Thesis on Preston Sturges.
"I tried to get into the industry after I got my bachelor's degree. I went around and looked for work as a production assistant. That's when I learned about the Assistant Director's training program which was co-sponsored by the Director's Guild Of America and the Association of Motion Picture And Television Producers.. I applied in 1970 after my bachelor's, and didn't get in.
"UCLA solicited me to enter their graduate program in motion picture studies. I was one of their first people in their Ph.D. program. I was offered a scholarship for one year and a teaching position for another as part of my deal. By the time I finished the course work, I was not interested in a career in academia. So I tested again for the Assistant Training program in 1975 and got in. And that's how I got into the industry. Not through persistence or knocking on doors.
"The program was set up in 1965 to open up the industry to people who did not have connections. If you're not a member of the Director's Guild and on its qualification list, you can't be employed. And one of the few ways to get into the Director's Guild is to go through the training program, which is 400 days of work. When you complete that, you're a freelance Assistant Director which I did for the required 520 days. Then you can be a First Assistant Director which you're supposed to do for 260 days. And then you can become a Unit Production Manager (UPM), which is a below the line producer.
"I got my first job as a UPM in 1981 on Spaceship. I then decided that my ambitions were not within the studio structure. About two-thirds of the days I worked [training between 1975-80] were in television which pays the same as features. But TV is not tremendously creative work. It's hard and unrewarding as an assistant director."
Luke: "Did you long to become a full fledged director?"
Alain: "That was certainly the film school ambition but after I worked in the industry for a while, I saw that directing, particularly in TV, was not all that it was cracked up to be. And it seemed to me that the easiest way to segue into features was as a producer.
"I worked on this feature Beat in 1999. The two other producers were primarily responsible for funding. I was responsible for scheduling and making sure the director did the picture in the best possible way. There were many problems. I'm not going to pass judgement on the result. But the other producers suddenly found themselves with a picture that was not as easy to sell as they had thought.
"They wanted to re-cut it. I was caught in the middle [between the other producers and the director]. I said to one, 'I understand your situation but it's unfair to blame the director since he delivered the script.' And the producer agreed. 'Yes, and I liked the script. But now that it is a movie, I can't sell it.' "
Johnathan Crow of the All Movie Guide writes: "William S. Burroughs' ill-fated performance of his "William Tell act" -- resulting in his wife Joan Vollmer getting a bullet in the brain with a shot glass atop her head -- soon became the stuff of Beat legend. This film, directed by Gary Walkow, traces this doomed romance from its inception to its bloody end. The movie opens in 1944 New York, where Columbia journalism student Vollmer is already living a bohemian life filled with pharmaceuticals and a host of future beatniks, including hunky Jack Kerouac (Daniel Martinez), a young Allen Ginsberg (Ron Livingston), and of course, Burroughs (Kiefer Sutherland). Also frequenting Vollmer's pad is Lucien Carr (Norman Reedus) whom everyone is enamored with, especially Dave Kammerer (Kyle Secor), who winds up dead after trying to jump the object of his affection. Seven years later, Joan and William have married in spite of Burroughs' obvious homosexual predilections. Their domestic bliss is strained when the two have to flee to Mexico City after they get slapped with a drug rap. Ginsberg and Carr, now correspondents for the UPI, visit the couple only to discover that Burroughs split town with his lover-for-hire. Vollmer and the boys decide to go on a road trip that is brimming with heterosexual tension. William eventually returns from his sex-binge suspecting that Joan had a fling with Carr. During that fateful night, Burroughs pulls out a gun that he was going to sell for drug money and performs one of the most spectacularly botched party-tricks in literary history.
"There's a shift in how you market independent pictures. It goes back to the '80s and what kind of budget you can expect to raise on an independent project. In the late '80s, you could shoot anything, it seemed. You get by attaching very marginal names as actors to raise funds. And then the foreign buyers caught up to the fact that the American independent product they were buying was substandard. Plus the video shelves in all those little stores in Europe filled up. There just isn't the need that there was in the late '80s when you just bought anything you could that was American.
"I produced a couple of pictures in 1989 for an Australian executive producer (Tom Broadbridge) and that was literally the assumption he was working under. He'd been fairly successful with a company that distributed Australian pictures including an early hit called BMX Bandits, starring a teenage Nicole Kidman.
"Tom wanted to make some American movies for a price with some minor names with certain formula elements. He once told me about a trailer for Prime Suspect for Cannes - 'Make sure you put all the gun shots and all the tits in it.'
"Tom hired my partner Patrick Regan and me to produce the picture. It was written by a guy (Thomas Cost) who lived with actress Susan Strassberg, the daughter of Lee Strassberg. She attached some other actors, Billy Drago and Frank Stallone, who we got instead of Richard Roundtree.
"Thomas Cost, who mainly worked as a production designer, came in and told me that he thought he'd written a brilliant film noir and he wanted to shoot it in an impressionist manner. And the first thing I said was, I don't think we want to talk to Tom about film noir and expressionism. It's not what he's relating to.
"We had a budget of $500,000, financed by a New Zealand bank. It was going to have a completion bond, which was surprising given the low budget. A completion bond means that a company comes in and for a percentage, 1.5-3%, and insures there's completion of the picture. The company gets takeover privileges if they see there's a problem. If there are overruns, they have to come in and spend money. Needless to say, they're not in the business of taking over and spending money. They want to make sure that doesn't happen. They make sure by significantly checking the budget and the schedule and feeling secure there's a good picture. And in the worst instance, when a picture's in serious trouble, they come in and take over.
"The picture was doable but the problem was that the script made no sense, which I shared with Tom Broadbridge before he went back to Australia. He called me at a weird hour from Australia saying he'd read the script on the flight and it made no sense.
"We went and got it rewritten by Bruce Kimmel. The story's about a high school guy who goes on a weekend camping trip with his girlfriend. She's brutally murdered. He's so traumatized that he loses his voice and is put into an institution where his psychologist is Susan Strassberg. He escapes to clear his name and find the real murderers. Susan re-encounters him and helps him. It was a hopelessly convoluted plot.
"Thomas Cost had written it so that after his first sexual experience with this girl, this kid's showering in this waterfall and her severed head comes over the waterfall. I read that and said that is impossible. I can't even get you a decent severed head with our budget.
"So on the spur of the moment, I said, instead of a waterfall, it's a small lake. And he's gone swimming and she's by the shore. And while he's 100 yards off shore, this dark figure comes out of the bushes with a knife. He sees her being killed. He swims as fast as he can but he can not get there. He gets there just in time to have her die in his arms. That's what we shot. Of course Thomas didn't like it.
"It's an ok scene. We were limited by the capabilites of the actors in the cast. But we had to do those kinds of things to the script. And as pre-production continued, we had far more problems. Our DP (Director of Photography) and Production Designer couldn't understand what Thomas wanted. It's the first movie he's ever directed.
"I remember a scene at the production meeting a week before shooting. There are two killers in the woods and there are cutaways to their hands holding knives. But one actor is white and one actor is black. But these cutaways are supposed to look the same.
"Both executive producers wanted to fire Thomas but I fought to keep him on. We'd made a deal with the guy who'd written the script and brought in the package [of actors].
"We started shooting and we saw the dailies and they were impossibly confused...We saw by day two or three that this was not working. I talked to the bond company and they agreed. But we didn't have a pretext. Thomas's deal was that he couldn't be arbitrarily fired. While the production attorney wrestled with those issues, we kept shooting. On day five, I was in the office. My partner was on the set. I just got off the phone with the attorney, still trying to find a pretext to find Thomas. My partner called to say, 'Thomas just attacked me. He tried to choke me. The first AD and the DP had to pull him off of me.' And my first reaction is great, we can fire him.' And we did the next day.
"We brought in Bruce Kimmel, who did the rewrites under a psuedonym (Alex Josephs). He came in for a small fee and made the movie work on the remaining days, including re-shooting. We were rewriting the script before each scene. Bruce would be shooting a scene and I'd be rewriting the next scene.
"Susan Strassberg had to work the first day after Thomas, the man she lived with, was fired. And that was not easy. She burst into tears the first four times she came out of make-up. And she had to go back in. It was a long day. My producing partner was banned from the set because Susan held him responsible for Thomas's problems. I was the only producer allowed to speak to her.
"We finished on schedule and under budget. The problem was, we had a lot of Thomas Cost's material. And as we cut the picture together, we got rid of many of Thomas's scenes. It came out 84 minutes long. Tom Broadbridge had a deal with an early incarnation of Sony Pictures. They were based in New York and called Sony SBS. And they were picking up pictures for distribution. He owed them a picture. One of the Australian pictures he gave them, they didn't want. So he gave them this one. They said, great, but it has to be at least 96 minutes long.
"That was impossible. We shot a really long title sequence in the cemetary and got it up to 88 minutes. My producing partner Patrick Regan quit. We thought about this character you never see, this aggressive district attorney. How about we make him like the Peter Coyote character in Jagged Edge? So we wrote and shot two full scenes and four transitional pieces, shot them in two days, for $8000. We got to 96 minutes. At the screening, Tom Broadbridge turned to me and said, 'You shot all these minutes for $8000. Why couldn't you have shot the whole picture at that ratio?" One of those impossible questions.
"We delivered the picture to Sony. A couple of weeks later, there was an article in the LA Times with the president of Sony SBS. The president talked about our film, though he didn't mention it by name. He said we have to be more careful with these pickups. He didn't have a problem with the quality of the picture but in the shooting of the post-production inserts, we'd used a Panasonic TV. And when the people back in Japan at Sony first saw this movie, they focused on this instant of a Panasonic TV.
"Prime Suspects was made for $520,000. Tom sold it to Sony for $420,000 and then he made a deal for foreign distribution for $750,000. He was happy with his instantaneous profit. The company that bought the foreign, when they took delivery of the picture. They had bought it off the original script. They realized when they took delivery of the picture that the budget was not as high as Tom had said. He told people the budget was $2 million bucks. They might've bought it if you said it cost one million but not two million. So when they got the picture, they realized they'd overpaid and they reneged on the deal.
"And it went to a lawsuit because the New Zealand bank believed the contract was good. The case went to arbitration and the arbitrator nullified the contract because the picture was too different from the original script. I testified that all the changes we'd made were to improve the picture. Tom resold Prime Suspects for half the original amount, long after I did a second picture (Night Visitor) with Tom that was distributed by MGM-UA. It was the same formula with very gratuitously violent and extreme and tasteless script. Again I had Bruce Kimmel do a rewrite to try to inject a little humor and tone it down. It starred Allen Garfield, Elliott Gould, Richard Roundtree.
"My favorite thing in that picture was that we made the Richard Roundtree police detective "Captain Apollo Crane." Chapman makes a lot of stage cranes and they're named after various Greek and Roman gods. The biggest crane is called a Titan. Their mid-size crane is called an Apollo. And we based it on Apollo Creed from the Rocky series.
"I walked onto the set and saw there was actually a name plate called "Captain Apollo Crane." In some of these independent projects, you have to maintain a sense of humor about the material which in this case was flat and inert.
"Both of these instances, Prime Suspects and Night Visitor, reveals what it was like in the late '80s trying to fulfill audience requirements and trying to make a decent picture. At that point in my career as a producer, if I had a project offered, I couldn't just say no. That's different today. If somebody offers me a project I think is dreck, it is easy for me to say no. I don't need the money and I don't need another credit.
"You can never tell how a picture will turn out. I thought Beat would be well received. It's been finished for almost two years and it might eventually get a domestic release.
"Rupert Hitzig directed Night Visitor. It was the first movie he directed. He produced a lot of studio pictures. He was aware of the limitations. The only thing I had to teach him was that he couldn't bring all of his friends from these big budget pictures to this million dollar picture. Because they just wouldn't understand this level. The problem with any picture of this level, the way they are put together dictates the range of aesthetic results.
"Sometimes directors can't stand back from what they're doing, they get so involved, that they can't tell when a scene works. Because of the short schedules and other constraints of independent pictures, it is easy for directors to lose focus of the whole picture and get lost in the details. The best thing a producer can do is try to pull the directors back and let them see what by definition they're supposed to see. If there's anything a director needs to do at any given moment, it is try to help situate an actor. Where is this scene in the movie? Where is your character? Directors are prone like actors to getting sucked in to the details that blind them to the bigger picture.
"I had that experience with someone as sophisticated as Rupert on Night Visitor. We looked all over Los Angeles for a basement. And I said, Rupert, just build it on a stage. You can't find many basements in Los Angeles large enough to shoot in.
"It's hard enough doing these pictures. And when you have directors locked into certain concepts and don't understand that you've brought them a location better than what they wrote, it becomes a problem to do an independent picture for a budget.
"I did a picture Runaway Dreams in Fort Lauderdale with first time director Michelle Noble. I gave her her first job in the business as a PA and she brought me onto this project to mollify the bond company and make them feel secure. And after I spent a few days in Fort Lauderdale, I said to Michelle, 'I'm sorry. I know the camera's facing east. But we could've shot this in LA.' And she agreed. It was a beach with palm trees. There was nothing about where we shot that said Fort Lauderdale.
"The movie was based on some 60 Minutes reports about teenage runaways to Fort Lauderdale who became underage prostitutes. The producer on the movie had produced the 60 Minutes reports. The movie played in a couple of film festivals but was never released in the US. It was right there on the bubble of independent film sales that finished in 1990. And the flux that started in 1990 continues to this day with independent films. The last three features I've worked on have yet to receive a domestic release.
"I've shot some digital features on Sony DV (Digital Video) cameras with director Christopher Coppola. We shot Palmer's Pickup in Super 16mm for a million dollars. We shot while we drove across country with as small a crew as possible. When we cut the picture, we found that a minimum of 1000 frames were ruined. The bond company freaked. They didn't want to extend the delivery date (because the financing for the film was based on it being delivered at a certain time). So we took the picture digital. We transferred the whole movie to high definition video and clean it up there. It cost about $200,000 to do that but the results were great. We went from 16mm to high definition video to 35mm.
"We premiered it at a film festival in Berlin at a huge 1000-seat theater with a monster screen. And the film looked great, though a little grainy.
"When you shoot on video, you can make movies for $10,000 and market direct to video. Video allows filmmakers to make movies for a small amount of money and not go through all the compromises necessitated by fundraising. You don't have to find name actors, work out schedules. The pictures I've produced, not counting the digital ones, have had budgets ranging from $500,000 to $6 million. You can't just snap your fingers and come up with that money. There are always strings attached and compromises.
"To get name actors, you have to pay them a higher proportion of the budget than you would want to. For Beat, while the cast budget was not that high, we couldn't have shot it anywhere else than Mexico. We had a tremendous DP (Director of Photography) for $900 a week. You can't find that in the US. We had a great huge crew of 90 people. The costume designer had won a couple of Mexican academy awards.
"I was an executive producer, in name only, on a $3 million Showtime picture shot in Canada. I wrote the script with my wife Linda Brookover. It was shot in Canada because that costs less. But it had to have a Canadian director and producer to qualify for Canadian subsidies. We had a great crew but we had to make aesthetic compromises. We had to deal with political issues and hire certain people to qualify for Canadian content.
"It was my first time back with the studio thing. When I got the contract from Showtime, it was 95 pages long, for a simple option of a script.
"Since it was the first script Linda had written, I went along with it. And it made us a lot of money. But I think I could've gotten a much better result had I produced it here and applied many of the lessons I'd learned and making better aesthetic choices. The problems with shooting in Canada were above the line issues (stuff that shows on screen).
"In independent production, having the best possible script doesn't guarantee you anything. Getting good actors doesn't guarantee you anything. It's still a long road from there to finishing and selling the picture.
"Christopher Coppola and I have been working for four years trying to sell a project called Black Stallion Rebels. It's the third Black Stallion movie. It's based on the same series of books. It's a low budget and G-rated, which is a phenomenally good market. But it's a difficult sell because people are so greedy about what they want out of a project. Within three months, we had an offer from Warner Brothers to fund it but we passed. Warners would not guarantee a theatrical release of more than 200 screens and that's not giving a picture a fair shot.
"Warners knew that if they gave us the money to make the picture, they'd make a lot of money on the video sales. There were big profits to be made with low risk. And what we wanted was slightly more risk - 500 screens at least, maybe a 1000, and a decent ad budget to give the picture a shot.
"The first Black Stallion movie made the equivalent of $100 million 22 years ago. But the major studios are not interested in taking risks to make a little money. They're interested in taking a big risk to make a lot of money. They're not interested in a guaranteed $5-10 million unless there's no risk. If you want them to back a picture theatrically, they have to imagine a huge upside or it's not worth their effort. And that studio mentality makes it so difficult for independent pictures to compete for distribution slots.
"This has destroyed the mid-level market. The studios have bought out the largest independents like Miramax, October Films, and New Line and forced you to go to a much lower-level alternative where it is difficult to compete. What's the last independent picture to show on 2000 screens? The Blair Witch Project? It doesn't happen often. A lot of people out there making independent pictures think they're going to be the next Blair Witch Project. It's not realistic."
Mr Marcus Update
Mr. Marcus writes Luke: "I knew something was missing in my life. Good to know you still have a lot of stuff on your mind and even better you know how to get it off. If you ever need the black perspective as E.T. once said "I'll be right here". E.T. isn't that a Jewish thing...?"
Jim Kouf Interview
Best known for his action films, 1987's Stakeout, 1997's Gang Related and 1998's Rush Hour, Jim Kouf also wrote two teen sex comedies, 1983's Class and 1985's Secret Admirer. I spoke with Jim by phone November 2, 2001.
Jim was born in Hollywood on July 24, 1951.
"I grew up in Burbank. My neighbors were a make-up man and sound people and camera operators. I never paid much attention to it growing up but when I was in college, I found that I could write."
An English major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Jim received good grades for his classes in writing drama.
"I've always loved film and I made films in high school, never thinking that you could make a living at it. Once I realized I had talent, I wondered if I could make a living at it. Hollywood was closer than New York."
Luke: "How did you bust your way in?"
Jim: "Just like everybody else. I got a copy of a script, because I had no idea what a film script looked like, and that was how I learned to write. I didn't take any film classes because they didn't have any. Now everybody's got a film school.
"I have a knack for telling stories. My brain works in a movie way."
Jim wrote the 1983 TV movie White Water Rebels, collecting his first paycheck for a script.
Luke: "Which of your films has had the most meaning for you?"
Jim: "The most meaning? Umm. God, I don't know. They're all special in some way when you start them. Then they either become these beasts that you never want to see again or you embrace them and they go with you whereever you go. They all mean something, either painfully or joyfully. Obviously the films that were the most successful meant the most for my career like Rush Hour and Stakeout.
"I used the psuedonym Bob Hunt for the 1994 film The Hidden. I like it more now than when they first made it. It was one where they didn't have quite enough money to do the monster correctly so I was horrified when I saw it. But in retrospect, it's won some awards. It's not so bad.
"There were movies like The Alien made earlier which had incredible monsters in it and I looked at this one and went, 'Oh God, this is going to sink my career.' It's not that I didn't like the film. It's that I didn't like the big bug in the film."
Luke: "You specialize in action films?"
Jim: "I've tried many different genres. The action ones are easier to get made. Some of my best scripts haven't been made - a more dramatic piece or more unusual in their story-telling technique. You either take a lot of chances and they make it because you've taken a lot of chances or you take a lot of chances and they don't make it because you've taken a lot of chances."
Luke: "How did you meet your wife Lynn Bigelow?"
Jim: "We met at Paramount. My old writing partner (David Greenwald) and I were writing Airplane 3 and she was working on Airplane 2."
Jim directed the 1997 film Gang Related, which was rapper Tupac Shakur's last hurrah before he was murdered.
"He was a talented guy and knew what he was doing on set. I heard a lot of nightmare stories about him going on but I never had any problems with him. He was more worried about somebody shooting him than anything else. I remember being on the set with him one day when he got mad at his bodyguard and said, 'You're not watching my back.' And I remember we all looked around and started watching our own backs. He brought a heightened reality to what we were doing.
"The shoot was a good experience. It lasted 30 days and we shot it all in downtown LA. Considering we shot a feature film in 30 days, things went smoothly."
Luke: "Did it scare you casting someone like Tupac?"
Jim: "No. The only thing that would scare me is if he couldn't act. If he can act, I'm all for it."
Luke: "Is it possible for someone to have too shady a past for you to cast them?"
Jim: "Like Saddam Hussein? Yeah, I don't think I'd cast Saddam in a movie. Unless he could really act."
Luke: "Maybe I'm just a wimpy Jewish boy, but it'd scare me casting Tupac?"
Jim: "No, no. When you meet him, he's just a genuine guy."
Luke: "But didn't he sing about killing cops."
Jim: "Yeah, but he didn't go out and kill them. He was singing ghetto stuff. That was part of the world he grew up in."
Luke: "Do people at school make comments to your kids about your films?"
Jim: "No. What I get mostly is, 'I saw Rush Hour last night. It was really great.' You've got to be really interested in film to talk to a screenwriter or a director. We're so removed from what they know about films. Most people when they go see a movie think those people (the actors) are doing the movie. That's the magic of movies. You forget they're acting and get into the story. Most people want to talk to John Travolta and Tupac."
Luke: "You wrote for the TV series Angel?"
Jim: "Yes, with my old writing partner David Greenwalt. I wanted to get into television for a couple of seasons to see what it was like. The part I didn't like about television was that it sucks away your life. TV happens every week and every eight days, you're shooting and writing something new. I much prefer the slower pace of features. The good part of TV is that it happens. Every Tuesday night at 8PM, there it is. The problem with features is, well, if we don't make it this year, we'll make it next year.
"You can do a lot of serious material with television that you can't do with features anymore. They'll say with features, well, we're looking for an action comedy. Television is a great opportunity if you want to give up your life."
Luke: "Tell me about 1997's Con Air?"
Jim: "My wife and I were the original producers on that. We took the original material, which was based on a Los Angeles Times article, and fashioned a story. I wrote much of the original draft but I did not fight for a credit. The Writer's Guild determines all credits. I was directing Gang Related at the same time and I had no time to write a dissertation on why I thought I deserved credit on it.
"We couldn't deliver Tony Scott, the director that Disney wanted. Jerry Bruckheimer wanted to produce the film so Disney took it away from us and gave it to Jerry."
Luke: "And they threw you an executive producer credit?"
Jim: "That's right. The whole structure of the film is ours. My original version had the Con taking their jet aircraft, a 737, and heading for the White House over the rush hour traffic of the freeway system so it couldn't be shot down. That was taken out because nobody thought that was possible."
Luke: "What was your role with 1993's Kalifornia?"
Jim: "We found the script, found the studio, helped cast it, and worked with the writer and director. It was a real cantankerous relationship between the writer Tim Metcalf and the director Dominic Sena. They wound up accusing each other of various dastardly deeds."
Luke: "And you were the calming force?"
Jim: "I tried to be. It was like trying to bring the Palestinians and Israelis together."
Luke: "In the typical battle between a writer and a director, wouldn't the director almost always win?"
Jim: "Yeah. Essentially, once you start making a movie, the director is in control and there's nothing a write can do."
Luke: "Tell me about the 1993 film Another Stakeout."
Jim: "It was not as good an experience on set as the 1987 Stakeout. I don't think the film we finally released was the best film we shot. I felt that the film we released was too silly. We had a much better version that was more in keeping with the original Stakeout, which was an edgier picture. We did shoot that. But sometimes, what happens when everybody decides they're making a comedy, they try to be funnier. And sometimes the comedy falls flat on its face.
"When you do those test screenings, and you get one laugh, you think, we should go for that other laugh. People forget that you sometimes have to go with your gut feelings about things. You can't let these recruited audiences dictate the final cut."
Luke: "What was it like working with director John Badham?"
Jim: "John and I have had our ups and downs. I've done three films with John. We have our times when it works wonderfully well and times when it is difficult. That's typical of any relationship in film because everybody has a different opinion about what is going on."
Luke: "He seems like a meticulous filmmaker?"
Jim: "John loves to be on the floor. He loves to shoot."
Luke: "The 1987 Stakeout film?"
Jim: "That went well. John was really in tune with the material and did a good job. It's a miracle when a movie comes out the way you imagined it because of all the elements that have to come together to make the movie work. Movies are magic and when they work, it's almost out of your control. Audiences will pick up on things that you don't see and don't think about."
Luke: "Class and Secret Admirer."
Jim: "It's amazing how many comments I get from men in their 30s who say, I grew up with that movie. These were coming of age movies. And we thought we were just writing a comedy."
Luke: "Do you think movies affect people significantly?"
Jim: "I think movies have the power to affect people in great ways."
Luke: "If movies can have a significant affect on people, then surely that can also be an affect for evil? Do you have a responsibility to society for your work?"
Jim laughs: "I don't think I've ever written anything too evil. Unless people really hate my comedies. There's nothing worse than a bad comedy. I have a responsibility to myself. I don't think along those lines [of responsibility to society]. I try to write entertaining movies.
"I try to write movies that I would want to go see or that I would want to take my kids to go see. I'm not interested in gruesome movies. Kalifornia was as grim as I get. Even my oldest daughter, who's 13, has not seen Class or Secret Admirer. When she's 16, I'll say, 'Here's a stack of what dad did 20 years ago.'"
Jim's lived in Montana since 1985, appreciating its "wide open spaces." He has four kids.
Dinner With A Conservative Rabbi
I had dinner Saturday night with a Conservative rabbi who felt that by working in the Conservative movement, he was presiding over the death of Judaism. Only Orthodox Judaism has withstood modernity and flourished while Conservative and Reform Jews have assimilated the values, practices and clothing of the Gentile.
In Orthodoxy, one lives almost all of one's spare time within the Orthodox community. One has few if any non-Jewish friends. While non-Orthodox Jews live their lives largely within the secular world whose temptations eventually overwhelm their increasingly tenuous Jewish connections.
I enjoy many of Reform's innovations with the prayer service and I respect many of the intellectual contributions of the Conservative movement. But it is a movement for academics and intellectuals. It's failed to capture the masses who overwhelmingly are no more observant of the Torah than Reform Jews.
I decided 18 months ago that by not throwing my abilities behind any one Jewish organization, I could not have an effect on the future of Judaism. So I decided to thrown in my lot with Orthodoxy and tried to keep my doubts and lack of observance to myself. In non-Orthodox circles I can be much more honest about what I am thinking and doing, while in Orthodoxy I struggle to conform to the rigorous norms and keep quiet about the ways I fail to live up to the standards.
The great thing about Orthodoxy, is that once you fit in, you have your social needs taken care of. You can always be sure of invitations to meals on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays and you need not be lonely again.
Which brings me to this book review in Sunday's LA Times:
Using the near-miraculous survival of Judaism as a case study, he [Dr. Stark] points out that the faithful are able to resist the temptations of the secular world only so long as they are "encapsulated by their own religious and social exclusiveness."
The emancipated Jew, he points out, is at the greatest risk of assimilation, and that's why he offers the provocative observation that "today American Jews are not very 'Jewish.' "
Do Movies Move People?
Everyone I've spoken to in Hollywood has said yes. Resoundingly yes. Yes movies move people. But then you follow up with a question about the moral responsibility of filmmakers to move people in positive ways, and the question to filmmakers becomes much more difficult for them. Well, the relationship between movies and violence is very complicated.
Hollywood wants to take all the credit for affecting people, but none of the blame for affecting people towards evil.
Just like pornographers. They will take the credit for re-igniting couples sex lives but then claim that pornography has no ill effects because it has no meaning, it's just light entertainment. People, be they pornographers or Hollywood producers, don't want to take moral responsibility for their work.
Rodger Jacobs writes: Luke: Okay, what's all this about moral responsibility in art and culture? Who determines what is moral and what is immoral? It almost sounds that if you had your way we would all be watching "Old Yeller" repeatedly and reading books that only have a"morally uplifting" message. Don't you see the need for diversity in art and politics and human thought? Only be examining opposing points of view can we be assured that our own views are secure --- or not.
Luke says: It's not that complicated. I think people should take moral responsibility. That means if people do X deed, be that deed writing a book or a movie or simply the way they talk to a stranger, and that deed X harms innocent people, then people should take responsibility for having done something immoral and seek to not repeat the sin.
The Real Story
Johnathan writes: Luke, forget the has-been producers with their third-rate films that are long forgotten, even by the half-dozen people who saw them. Who cares about their ten-rate ideas for new projects that will never get off the ground? And who gives a flying fuck what a "producer-professor" (in other words, neither) at the Los Angeles Valley Community College thinks about anything? Particularly Buddhism.
Which is not to say you shouldn't have sat in on his class. Your acid observations about the vacuous gossip masquerading as intellectual discourse provided a poignant reminder of the best of old LukeFord.com. Do you remember? That was when you would deftly illustrate the chasm between what the pornsters said and what was really going on. Your "moral conflict" over the pale Russian woman with the Persian face fuzz was the frosting on the cake. Was she Jewish? Orthodox?
FindLuke is absolutely correct: "your most riveting subject matter is already at hand: your struggle with Jewish Orthodoxy in America." When asked to define the essence of storytelling, screen-writing teacher Frank Daniel answered: "Somebody wants something badly and is having difficulty getting it."
You desperately want to be accepted by and welcomed into Orthodox Judaism. You long for connubial bliss in the Orthodox bosom of a good Jewish girl. Yet it seems you don't have a snowflake's chance in hell of getting either. That's the story. Particularly in the drastically altered political landscape of post-Sept 11 America. The content is all there, a highly combustible mixture of religion, politics, and sex. Just add (the former) Luke Ford.
You don't have to give up your obsession with becoming a Jew. You don't have to stop beating on the locked doors of synagogues all over Los Angeles. You don't have to forsake Israel. You don't have to stop lusting after zaftig Jewesses. You can have it all, Luke. You just have to write it down, like you used to.
The first step is to make yourself aware of the world in which you live and to make your neighbors aware, too - even if you have to pound them on the head with a two-by-four to do it.
Speaking of which, please follow this link and read it. You will note that it is to one of the most prestigious publications in the English-speaking world. Then, pass it on to all of your friends, acquaintances etc. so that they too, can have some hard evidence with which to judge things.
From the Sunday Times: "FOUR out of every 10 British Muslims believe Osama Bin Laden is justified in mounting his war against the United States. And more than one in 10 say the attacks on the World Trade Center were justified..."
Chaim says: I swear, Jews have gotten dumb and fat and weak and lazy during their long years of media dominance. For a very long time, jewish control over mass media shielded the Juden from what others thought, and the Juden came to believe their own ridiculous multiculti propaganda. But guess what - the Muslims will have none of it. No number of teary-eyed "holocaust" movies or books or segments on 60 Minutes or reports on Yad Vashem will have any affect on them. (Though it will have an effect - to create in them a sense of scorn.) Jews, especially politically liberal jews, have gotten very very dumb over the years of jewish dominance. And now that dominance is slipping away, to be replaced with something very different. For starters, there will soon be a Palestinian state next to Israel, from which still further attacks will be mounted and demands made. The ability of the West to defend the jews will be increasingly compromised by the known presense of a dedicated group of fifth columnists throughout the West that Christendom no longer has the strength to resist. (Even now, the ACLU lap dog Mark Green bleats that it is a shanda to permit prayer in public schools. We should be strengthening the hand of Christendom against Islam, not weakening it.)
Amalek: I think you should do more to confront los angeles jews and make them see that just because they control television movies etc. does not mean that the rest of the world has bought into their world view, such as it is.
Amalek: C'mon, this is a key moment in history, an inflection point, and jews (eg Marc Green, running for mayor in NY, ACLU) still are fighting to keep the very last trace of God-worship and christianity out of our public schools. Someone needs to whack em with a 2x4.
The Missing Component
Helpful writes: I think I've figured out the missing component that made LF.com so compelling and LF.net so dry by comparison. It's not the gratuitous nude photos. It's not the hateful email feuds between XXX and YYY. It's not the perverse entries in the masturbation diaries. It's the Cricket! How is old Australia doing in the world Cricket arena, mate?
Khunrum writes: Not one update on the dreaded Australian Porn Mafia. Paper Tigers I say. Everyday we were led to believe armed assassins were being dispatched from Down Under to teach Luke a violent and bloody lesson. Poppycock! :)
WJPhillips writes: Nightmare Alley is a hell of a film, but it was directed by Edmund, not Edward, Goulding. It's about an outsider who tries to worm his way into show business, lets down everybody in sight, gets exposed for his lack of any real talent and self-absorption, and winds up as a geek in a carnival sideshow. Nothing like anyone we know, then. Did any of the welshing bastards who bet you'd be back porn-scribing by October pay up yet? That screed about Mr Ellis A Cohen reads like Gene Ross without the smut quotient.
Alice writes: Dear Luke: Yes, my name refers to Nightmare Alley. It is a pretty good movie. It wasn't on video for a long time. And its afrom a book. You may have seem that I'm not a really good speller, so first I put my name in wrong and then when my friend told me, I found that it was already taken. So I might as well leave it.
What does your name mean? I know you are jewish. Don't jews have Halloween? Or do you have something else thats the same? Where you get costumes and candy A lot of what people write on lukeford.net (or before when it was lukeford.com) I don't really get, but when you said you didn't understand about why people thinbk it is fun driving drunk and high, well I can tell you about that. When you are drunk and high, everything is fun. Not because it really is fun, but because you are drunk and high. And if you get away with it, then you remember it as fun. But if something bad happens, like you crash the car or you throw up everywhere or even have a really bad hangover, then you might learn a lesson and not think it is so fun anymore.
"Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" is a movie, too. It has Johnny Depp. It wasn't a popular rental, but the guy who directed it is from Monty Python. And he made Time Bandits, which I didn't like, but Monty Python I think is really funny.
Luke says: Luzdedos means two together create light.
Chaim Amalek writes: Speaking of carnivals, geeks, and sideshows, the other night I saw ONE OF THE MOST DISTURBING MOVIES EVER MADE: "Freaks" by Todd Browning (1932). Luke, absent any connection to your old porn beat by which you can keep that porn-pen of yours alive, you need to rent this movie and post your review of it. Dedicate it to any of the gedolim who want to expel you from your community.
Franco writes Luke: Just wanted to say that I find the producer interviews interesting and entertaining, I actually caught part of a show/documentary (whatever) on Stanley Kubrick this morning, so I guess I have a preference for behind the scenes talent exposes and how they manage to transfer their creativity from ideas to actual fruition. I guess it may have to do with the level of maturity that people have and need in order to be entertained, a damn good example of this is the movie "The Usual Suspects", I recommend it to everyone I know, and either they tell me "Holy shit, what a great movie", or they will say "All they did was talk, I got bored and couldn't finish it", I can only pray, laugh, and feel pity for the latter (for lack of a better word) fools. If you haven't seen it (The Usual Suspects) I highly recommend it buddy, one of my all time favorites, maybe even all time, in as far as just pure good storytelling with a perfect cast. If you do see it, or have seen it let me know what you think of it.
The Eunechs Are Whining
Chaim Amalek writes: This is fucking hysterical. Luke, you should violate us copyright law (itself the domain of sissy lawyers) and post this posthaste.
Fred writes: Sir-- As an intellectual propery lawyer I must protest. Copyright law is not the domain of sissy lawyers. It is the domain of virile masculine lawyers, out to protect the public from foul miscreant infringers. One more outrageous remark like that and I will be forced to tell my mother about you.
Ann Coulter writes:
We've finally given liberals a war against fundamentalism, and they don't want to fight it. They would, except it would put them on the same side as the United States.
With the media suffering from fainting spells, the country is being run by people who can splice cables and land jets on ships in the dark of night. These are men, a subspecies of Americans heretofore invisible to the elites. But now the elites are complaining that the men aren't working fast enough.
Not exactly smashing stereotypes of liberals as mincing pantywaists, the left's entire contribution to the war effort thus far has been to whine. In lieu of a military response against terrorists abroad and security precautions at home, liberals would like to get the whole thing over with and just throw Jerry Falwell in jail.
Walter Cronkite, better known as president of the Ho Chi Minh Veneration Society, has compared the Rev. Falwell to the Taliban. In response to Falwell's comment that gay marriage and abortion on demand may not have warmed the heart of the Almighty, Cronkite proclaimed it "the most abominable thing I've ever heard." Read On
Luke Reads Hunter Thompson's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
And I don't see what is so amusing about driving while drunk and high.
So I went to sleep listening to Rabbi Tatz on 613.org. I'd like to be the Hunter S. Thompson of Jewish Orthodoxy. Without the sex, drugs and rock n'roll.
I was two blocks south of Pico Blvd when the morning prayers began to take affect. Suddenly the world seem suffused with purpose and meaning and I could detect the hand of God in every tree leaf. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive..." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge golemim, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred milas an hour with the top down to my Modern Orthodox synagogue.
Fear And Loathing In Los Angeles
I was somewhere around Beverly Hills when the homemade strawberry lemonade banana smoothie began to take hold.
I dashed into the public library for a pitstop and then checked out Hunter S. Thompson's book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as well as Emminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey, Marcel Proust by Edmund White, Selina Hasting's 1994 biography of Evelyn Waugh and The Complete Short Stories Of Evelyn Waugh.
I felt the need to jazz things up on lukeford.net. So far critical reaction to my interviews with producers has been negative.
I drove to Los Angeles Valley Community College on the corner of Burbank and Coldwater Canyon Blvds and arrived shortly after 2PM. My appointment with producer - professor Alan Sacks was for 3:30PM. I like to arrive early.
I gathered my meager materials, a tape recorder, notepad, sony digital camera and some spare batteries, cassettes and discs, and set off around campus, wearing my stylishly black look - Calvin Klein sweater, black T-shirt, black jeans and black Klondike Klodhoppers. And my silver-blue yarmulka I bought in Sfat, Israel last July.
On campus I spotted pornographer Maggie Knowles. The students dress slovenly. I wander next door to Grant High School and watch the kids play games.
I feel uncomfortable. Part of me doesn't believe that I've truly left, or deserved to have graduated from, high school.
I find Mr. Sacks at 3:30 PM in the "smartest classroom on campus." He's a short Jewish guy wearing glasses and Buddhist regalia.
He's got a copy of last week's Los Angeles Daily News paper with the banner headline "Valley Tops In Film Jobs."
Alan says with a snicker: "They also said the porn industry is part of these film jobs. I was thinking, how many students are we training that are going to work in that industry?"
Film people look down on TV people who look down on commercials people. And they all look down on porn people.
Alan wears a small idol on a silver chain around his neck. "It's my own mezzuzah," he says. "It's a dohrje. It's a symbol.
"Padma Sahmbaba brought Buddhism to Tibet 2500 years ago. He came out of water on a lotus blossom while holding the dohrje in his hand. It's a power symbol.
"I've been interested in Tibetan Buddhism since 1975. I joke with my wife and kids that I am a Jew for Buddha."
Luke: "Do you practice it?"
Alan: "I went into a meditation center at lunch time today. Not to practice but to get a brochure. I like to sit and meditate every day, even if it is just ten minutes."
Luke meditates about 20-30 minutes almost every day.
Alan: "I try to remember to look at colors. I'm looking at the color of this tape recorder, seeing that pretty red color. Just to remember that that's out there. So that's a form of meditation for me. I like to think there is more compassion and peace in the world than exists right now.
"I have an affinity for Buddhism. I don't know why. In 1975, I was introduced to this Tibetan Buddhist Llama, a wonderful wonderful man named Tafe Toka Rimposhea. My ex-wife said let's go up to his meditation center. I'm looking at myself after meditating, saying, this is pretty California. Then I had a five minute audience with Tafe. He asked me what I did and I said I was a producer in Los Angeles. And he said, 'You will work for me one day in Los Angeles.'
"I laughed at that. But six months later, I found myself setting up a meditation room and weekend seminar for him.
"Rimposhea called me up a couple of months ago and we talked about the stupor, a building that houses a lot of power. You get enlightenment walking around it. He built one of these in Northern California. He's been in retreat for two years and has hardly been talking to anybody."
Alan's just bought a copy of the William Strunk, E.B. White classic "The Elements Of Style." Sacks discusses the book with a smart matronly looking woman beside him.
"It is gender biased," she says. But what do you expect from something written over 60 years ago?
Alan's class from 4-6 PM teleconference's with Derrick deKerckhove's class at the University of Toronto. Mentored by media theorist Marshall McLuhan, Dr. deKerckhove directs the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology. The quality of the students in his class, many of them pursuing graduate degrees, are light years ahead of the dimmer bulbs in Alan's community college class. But what the Los Angeles class lacks in raw intelligence, it more than makes up for in racial diversity. The Toronto class is all white with the exception of a couple of Japanese students.
Today's special guest is 16-year old animation whiz kid Donovan Keith who comes in via teleconfering from Chabot Community College in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Alan began communicating with Keith after reading about him in Wired.com. "I want to help him get some jobs in the industry. I want to make a movie about him."
Luke: "If you wanted to develop a movie about him, what steps would you take?"
Alan: "First, I'd meet with him and figure out what the story would be. The story would probably be - this kid comes up with a program. And then big business comes in to corrupt him and somebody wants to buy him out. Is he going to sell out or is he going to remain a true artist? And he's going through this at 15 years old. Or, a kid like this could probably command a job for $200,000 a year. How would that change you?"
It's 4PM and only a couple of people have come to the class. Alan gets on the phone and asks various people to come by. At 4:15PM, we watch the Canadians come into their conference room and take off their jackets.
I expected Dr. Derrick to be a pompous bore but he's quick and witty.
My attention is not fully devoted to the program. When I walked in the door at 3:30, I noticed this pale Russian with a incredibly womanly figure, who worked as the secretary up front. She had some hairy fuzz on her face, like many Persians. She wore a tight black miniskirt and a tight form-fitting top. She's totally hot looking.
I'm overloaded by sexual stimuli as I step on to the campus of this secular college. In my neighborhood, most people I know are religous and dress modestly. Here the girls mainly wear tight jeans and revealing tops.
"Hi, I'm your moral leader. I want to talk to you about modesty. Please get into my van."
It's so pointless for women to dress all slutty if they're not going to give it up to you.
One hispanic couple bring in their twin boys, who appear about ten years old. They talk to Alan about two of his movies - The Other Me and The Smart Classroom.
Donovan talks about a recently released animation feature: "The movie has some good aspects. Some Eastern philosophy and a female lead. That's always good. More diversity."
The Toronto professor talks about the continuity between Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat and Shrek.
A black woman dressed as the devil walks in. She's the college president. She wants to buy souls.
A student asks Donovan about military uses for 3-D animation.
Donovan: "There are far too many military applications for 3-D animation... The military doesn't seem to have much artistic vision."
Student: "They have the budget but not the story."
Dr Derrick: "They have a very old story."
Donovan talks about "simplicity of line and form" while I stare at the Russian secretary in the monitor. But how can I look upon a wench when I've made a contract with God over my eyes?
Where does Donovan finds his stories?
Donovan: "You have to go inside. You have to think about what message you want to get across. In Hollywood, far too much emphasis is put on focus groups instead of what we're trying to say to people. It really depends on if you're in it for money or if you're in it to tell people what you want them to hear."
Student: "Not the generic you, where do you get your stories?"
Donovan: "I look at my life. And whatever is important to me in my life, I want to share with others. If I'm feeling really happy one day, I want to spread the love."
Alan: "If Disney offer you a lot of money to work with them, would you go with them or stay independent?"
Donovan: "I'd go with them [Disney] long enough to get the money to afford to be independent."
Alan: "I'd agree with that."
Most everybody seems opposed to corporate movie making in favor of independent producers.
The couple ask for Donovan to give some wisdow to their boys who are interested in animation.
Donovan: "It takes a lot of work but it's a lot of fun."
Most of the last 20 minutes of the class revolves around using pirated software. The students' ethics are as sloppy as their clothes.
Donovan, who's about to release his own animation software program, says: "I do not pirate software anymore. Now that I've become a developer and realize how much work goes into it.
"It all comes down to karma. If you want to have good karma, you don't pirate software."
The students deride this. They think stealing software and music and the like is just fine because they're poor and the corporations are rich.
FindLuke writes: I read your latest interview with producer/professor Alan Sacks. Or should I say, your latest "account" of the interview. And it's there - in your observations, witicisms, and commentary - that the writing is at its best. It's definitely sharp. Undeniably inviting in its neuroticism. I guess one could say that I care less about the world(s) that you cover, and more about how you remark on your time spent there. The somewhat disconcerting line about morality and owning a cube van provides a classic example of what I would consider the very best of Luke Ford. I wouldn't say it "jazzed-up" the piece. It "Ford-ified" it.
Luke replies: Thank you. Your feedback is very important and helpful to me. You see, I have no inner core. Everything I am is simply a reaction to the feedback I receive. It's called Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Curious writes: What's with all the bedding in there [Luke's van]? Does he actually sleep in it or is that to conceal the bodies?.......
Khunrum writes: I love the wire mesh in Luke's ride which I presume in a former incarnation was meant to keep the driver separated (and safe) from either the prisoners on their way to the poky or stray dogs being transported to the pound ....
Fred writes: I always assumed that it was for dates that didn't quite work out.
Curious writes: But the date's pepper spray could easily permeate the caging that separates the driver's compartment from the rear vivisection area.
Trembling Before God - Kitty Goes A Courting
I spoke the other day to my friend "Kitty," an attractive secular Jewess. She'd recently been invited to a singles party at someone's home. When she got there, she realized that everyone was Orthodox. She hung out and met a couple of guys and gave them her phone number. She talked to them later on the phone and explained that she wasn't religious and didn't intend to become religious, which cooled their ardor.
Later she got a call from the hostess, who was very upset that Kitty, a secular Jew, had come to the singles party that was intended for only Orthodox Jews. The hostess said she'd never be able to forgive herself if Kitty dated one of the guys she met there and influenced him to become less observant of Jewish Law. Kitty concluded that religious people are frequently obnoxious and spiteful and put up too many walls between people.
Curious writes: Is "Kitty" really the new to the tribe, Kendra Jade?
Chaim Amalek writes: Gentlemen: Are we not yet sophisticated enough to see that the person Luke refers to as "Kitty" is none other than Luke Ford himself? And that what happened to "her" at this social event is what Luke relates has been happening to him at various orthodox jewish temples in the greater Los Angeles area?
Khunrum writes: Chaim, Are you telling us Luke is a cross dresser? What gave it away, that slinky knit dress and klodhopper shoes (with white socks)?
Helpful writes: I believe the term is "She-Mensch."
I Don't Like To Paint Anybody Black
I spoke for a few minutes Wednesday morning to a famous TV movie producer.
Producer: "I do a lot of interviews. I don't like to paint anybody black. If you're looking for any kind of exploitation, you've got the wrong fellow."
JMT writes: You should have replied, "paint it black, you devil" and seen whether he got the reference. JMT (confident that Luke does not get the reference)
Luke says: I am ignorant of popular culture because consuming such stuff is time taken from the study of Torah and white supremacist literature.
JMT replies: Some insane stoned chick in the audience on the Rolling Stones live album, "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out" is heard squawking "paint it black . . . paint it black . . . paint it black, you devil."
"Paint It Black" is the title of a Rolling Stones song.
The Rolling Stones are English musicians.
England is located in the British Isles, across the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S.A.
P.S. Just what the fuck is wrong with you that you don't *own* a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, anyway?
I spoke Wednesday to movie producer Andrew J. Fennady who says he's finishing up a novel.
Luke Gets Mail
Alice writes: Dear Luke: What I was always interested in about porn was that it was a sidebar to movies, and movies, especially cult movies, are really what interest me. So there was a crossover, like when Ginger Lynn made a few straight movies, but especially Traci Lords. who I read about on your old site. How people go back and forth is interesting.
So when you quit your porn site, I wondered what you would be doing. I'm not really interested in the jewish thing, I guess because I'm not jewish, but I guess you had troubles with it. Then you started the producer thing. The first interview with Bernson, I think it was, was pretty boring. But your interviews are getting better.
I gather you don't really know anything about movies and aren't interviewing people because they are making movies that are important in a genre or in the moment or even have watched their movies. Well, who knows, maybe they'll be importnant someday too.
Well, anyway, what I wanted to write about was that the person who wrote as FindLuke wants you to be a celebrity in your own write, but the only thing you are known for is porn but apparently you don't want to do porn anymore, and I guess you need to make a living so you are doing a book about producewrs. Well, I have a lot of books about producers and every other kind of movie. I especially like old film noir. My screen name is a pun on a movie called "Nightmare Alley." It is from 1947 and was directed by Edward Goulding, the same man who directed movies like "Dark Victory" (1939) with Bette Davis. It stars Tyrone Power and is about a carnival worker who gets dark and depraved.
So anyway you should do what you feel will work for you and if you have a book about producers I will probably buy it from Amazon.com. To tell you about me, I am 34 and divorced and have two cats and a lot of videotapoes. I do not have any children. I live in New Jersey and I work for a chain of video rental stores in AR/AP. Probably you would call me a punk rocker. I am going as a vampire for halloween. Well, I hope you are well and that you do what makes you happy even if some people don't understand.
FindLuke writes from Toronto: First, a word of praise: bravo. I've long followed your online exploits, Luke, and found your "work" both challenging and out-and-out refreshing. Whether it be porn, or Orthodox Judaism, your first-person accounts provide a most welcomed bit of push-pull-realism on the net.
Which is why I must tell you that I'm positively dumbfounded by your current project: Hollywood producers. First, the topic is ripe with banality - no matter how many names they drop, or deals they've brokered - it's boring. Who in the world is going to read this? (Aside from the producers themselves, looking to see their names in print.) And why? Where's the sense of catharsis that your past work is dripping with?
I think I speak for many here, when I say that I never, ever, read any of the producer interview transcripts you post online. It's the least engaging thing you've ever done, to be honest. Second, and most important, it's missing the one crucial ingredient common to all your past success: Luke Ford. Where are YOU in this story? How is Luke Ford moving, fighting, fucking, and challenging this world? Without you, it's flat. Your projects must begin and end with YOU, Luke. Start with a title along the lines of "Luke Ford takes on __________."
While many of your contributors wish that you'd return to the porn, I feel that the your most riveting subject matter is already at hand: your struggle with Jewish Orthodoxy in America. The moral, political, and religious climates are perfect for that kind of offering. You could call it "Luke Ford takes on Judaism," or something a tad more striking like "Extreme Jew." Your work with Hollywood producers could serve as a chapter on the dangers of secular Judaism. Porn, too.
Helpful writes: My favorite still has to be the woman producer who was puzzled by the lack of success of the educational menstruation film.
Luke's Forthcoming Interviews - Jay Bernstein, Roger Gimbel, Morris Ruskin
In the next few days, I will interview the former manager of Farrah Fawcett and Suzanne Somers, Jay Bernstein, Morris Ruskin, as well as the producer of about 80 made for television movies, Roger Gimbel. Email Luke if you have any suggested questions.
Here's an interview of Morris Ruskin.
I also have interviews scheduled with Aaron Shuster, as well as with Shelley Zimmerman and Chris Catallo who produce the Warner Brothers TV show The Nightmare Room.
I asked producer Debra Hill for an interview. She declined today. She's writing her autobiography.