The Credits http://www.thecredits.org Celebrating Film and Television's Creative Community Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:31:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Sundance of Horror: L.A.’s Screamfest is Freakish Fun http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-sundance-of-horror-l-a-s-screamfest-is-freakish-fun/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-sundance-of-horror-l-a-s-screamfest-is-freakish-fun/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:30:47 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12536 L.A.’s Screamfest is assured of two things this year: it will once again be the biggest horror film festival in the United States, and it won’t draw the ire of the Professional Clown Club. There appear to be no murderous ... Read More

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L.A.’s Screamfest is assured of two things this year: it will once again be the biggest horror film festival in the United States, and it won’t draw the ire of the Professional Clown Club. There appear to be no murderous clowns in this year’s festival lineup.

If you’ve been following entertainment news over the past few days, you might have noticed the kerfuffle between the Professional Clown Club and FX’s American Horror Story, the latter being the most relentlessly freaky show on TV. The PCC doesn’t like the show’s character Twisty the Clown, a serial killer whose weapon of choice is a pair of scissors and who imprisons children on a school bus. The group is claiming that Twisty is contributing to “clown fear” (a real thing, known as coulrophobia), and they’re joined by organizations like Clowns of America International, the country’s biggest clown club, who bemoan the entertainment industry turning the clothes and makeup hardworking Americans wear to work into the very image of gleeful murder and mayhem.

Killer clowns in television and film are a thing (okay, and real, in the case of John Wayne Gacy), the Joker being the most prominent example. They’re also great for promotion. Just look at this story from earlier this year when a creepy clown was stalking residents in Staten Island. Yup, it was all for a movie.

Now I’ve got my own reasons for supporting the clowns, but if you wanted to make a great horror film, it could be the Professional Clown Club and Clowns of American International banding together to strike fear in the hearts of TV showrunners and filmmakers alike. How? By dressing us up as murderous executives and creative-types.

This was a long lead, admittedly, to tease Screamfest Horror Film Festival, the biggest and best of its kind in the United States. If you want to question the bonafides of Screamfest, which continues until October 23, just take a gander at some of the members of their advisory board: Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Clive Barker (Hellraiser), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), John Carpenter (Halloween), and Eli Roth (Cabin Fever). For the discerning horror fan and the budding horror filmmaker alike, Screamfest is where you want to be.

Screamfest is all about launching the next Carpenter, Roth and Craven. It was in 2007 that Paranormal Activity played for the first time in front of an audience at Screamfest. This is where new work from American and international independent horror filmmakers often begin their careers, landing distribution and representation as a result of the festival.

Formed in August 2001 by film producers Rachel Belofsky and Ross Martin, Screamfest’s modus creep-orandi is to give filmmakers and writers in the horror/sci-fi genres a venue to have their work showcased to people in the industry. Here’s a brief snapshop of some of this year’s selection. Note, not a single sadistic clown in the bunch.

Julia, written & directed by Matthew A. Brown

Single sentence synopsis: After a horrific crime, victim Julia Shames turns her last name into a verb against her tormentors, one slash at a time.

 

Preservationwritten and directed by Christopher Denham

Single sentence synopsis: It’s the most dangerous game, on a nature preserve, with Ken Cosgrove from Mad Men (Aaron Staton).

White Settlers, written by Ian Fenton, directed by Simeon Halligan.

Single sentence synopsis: A couple moves into the Scottish countryside looking for an idyllic life and find whatever the opposite of idyllic is.

 

Zero, written & directed by Chris and Robert Smellin.

Single Sentence Synopsis: Your kid’s dead, ma’am, so it needs to die.

 

Bonus: We couldn’t help but mentioning the 4-minute short Mineral, written and directed by Michael Marino, which has the best logline of all time; After painfully passing a kidney stone, a slob discovers that a new breed of monster has invaded his home with deadly intentions. 

God bless Screamfest.

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The Life of the Mind: Making The Theory of Everything http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-theory-of-everything/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-theory-of-everything/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:30:49 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12507 In an introduction to a first edition of Stephen Hawking’s groundbreaking popular science book A Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan tells a story about how he happened to wander into the ancient ceremony of the investiture of new fellows ... Read More

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In an introduction to a first edition of Stephen Hawking’s groundbreaking popular science book A Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan tells a story about how he happened to wander into the ancient ceremony of the investiture of new fellows into the Royal Society. On that day, Sagan noticed in the front row a young man in a wheelchair very slowly signing his name in a book. “A book that bore on its earliest pages the signature of Isaac Newton. When at last he finished, there was a stirring ovation. Stephen Hawking was a legend even then.”

Stephen Hawking is the rarest of breeds; an iconic scientist. His A Brief History of Time has sold some 10 million copies since its publication in 1988. In its’ pages, Hawking conveys the majesty and awe of cosmology with nimble prose, making subjects such as the Big Bang, light cones and the uncertainty principle digestible to the layman. More current editions have included wormholes, time travel and the possibility of a universe without a Big Bang origin. What it didn’t include were a bunch of equations, as Hawking’s first editor at the Cambridge University Press, Simon Mitton, convinced him early on that for every equation in his book, his audience would be halved. The book contains a single equation: E = mc2.

What just about everyone knows is that Hawking is a genius who has spent the majority of his life in a wheelchair, and that he uses his a computer to speak. He has suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease (in Britain, it’s referred to as motor neuron disease, MND), which has battled since he was 21-years old. The original diagnoses gave him two years to live. Having beaten every odd in the book, Hawking’s fame is inextricably coupled with the fact that he’s accomplished so much despite his disease. His reach is such that he’s appeared on an episode of The Simpsons (1999’s “They Saved Lisa’s Brain) and is often mistakenly believed to have been the computerized voice in Radiohead’s “Fittier Happier” – it’s actually frontman Thom Yorke’s. (He did, however, give his voice to parts of the Pink Floyd song “Keep Talking”.) Everyone‘s heard of Stephen Hawking, yet practically nobody knows what he’s really like, nor that the creation of his most seminal work would have been impossible without his first wife, Jane.

That will likely change now with the release of The Theory of Everything. Written by Anthony McCarten and directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire), The Theory of Everything aims to shed light on his personal life and the young, healthy man that came before A Brief History of Time, the wheelchair and the computerized voice, and detail how he and his wife Jane managed a marriage amid a death sentence, and how Jane helped her ailing husband create one of the most seminal works of 20th century.

It begins with screenwriter Anthony McCarten, whose long-standing fascination with Professor Hawking, specifically how someone who became so severely physically compromised wrote his seminal book. McCarten marvels in the production notes that Hawking’s physical deterioration ultimately allowed him to compose his communications at the agonizing rate of a one word per minute. “Here, in one man, was an unprecedented juxtaposition of extraordinary mental prowess and extraordinary physical incapacity.”

While the film follow’s Hawking’s courtship of the brilliant, beguiling Jane, and his creation of “A Brief History of Time,” the more crucial text to the film is its source material—Jane Hawking’s “Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen.” Her memoir relates the incredible story of their marriage, with Jane Hawking’s candid portrayal of two extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances providing McCarten with what would become the thrust of his script.

(L to R) Felicity Jones stars as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking. Photo Credit:  Liam Daniel / Focus Features

(L to R) Felicity Jones stars as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking. Photo Credit: Liam Daniel / Focus Features

“It’s a marvelous love story between two people, incredibly intense and challenged in the extreme: first by the physical decline, and then by the advent of fame in their lives. When news of his imminent death proved exaggerated, and two years became 10, then 20, their situation demanded that their love take bold and unorthodox forms if it was to survive. Theirs was a love story without precedent,” McCarten said in the production notes.

McCarten began adapting “Travelling to Infinity” without guarantees; he met with Jane at her home, and continued to talk to her over time, but no promises were made. It would take years to secure the legal rights to the film.

Eventually the script landed in the hands of director James Marsh, an Oscar winner for his incredible documentary Man on Wire. Marsh shared the same image of Hawking in his head the majority of the world had until he received the script. “I had the fixed image of Stephen Hawking as the great scientific mind with the wheelchair and the voice machine,” he said in the production notes. “He found the fascinating point of view, which was to tell the story from the perspective of the woman who was falling in love with an able-bodied man; she then makes the critical choice to stay with the man she loves when he is diagnosed with a terminal illness.”

Director James Marsh on set. Photo Credit:  Liam Daniel / Focus Features

Director James Marsh on set. Photo Credit: Liam Daniel / Focus Features

The director was also drawn to the script because its’ spirit recalled Man on Wire, which looked at tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between New York’s Twin Towers. The Theory of Everything is also about a man who manages to transcend conventional human boundaries and limitations. “There is definitely an affinity, and there is also a cosmic irony: Stephen is physically constrained and yet mentally he is able to go wherever he wants. His mind can and does travel to the outer limits of the universe, but his body is confined.”

Casting is always crucial, but in this case the film not only falls apart if the wrong person is cast as Hawking, but is potentially insulting. Hawking the human being is much more than his famous brain, his illness, his computerized voice and even his well documented sense of humor. The Stephen Hawking portrayed in Jane’s book is a conflicted, complicated, and for a time desperate and depressed individual. This is to say nothing of having to portray someone who gradually lost the use of their body, from a vibrant and healthy 21-year old to a middle aged man with the use of only a few muscles, someone who had to refashion an entirely new way of communicating with the outside world.

Eddie Redmayne.Photo Credit:  Liam Daniel / Focus Features

Eddie Redmayne.Photo Credit: Liam Daniel / Focus Features

Enter Eddie Redmayne, best known in America as Marius in Les Misérables. He pored over every detail of description of Hawking in the book and in his research. “Jane discusses in her book how Stephen had incredibly expressive eyebrows,” Redmayne said in the production notes. “That was something I spent months in front of a mirror working on.” Eventually Redmayne got a chance to meet the man himself, and noticed that how Hawking’s ‘yes’ is sort of a smile, and his ‘no’ is nearly a grimace, but they only show in a few of his facial muscles, meaning he’d have to learn how to isolate those.

The job of teaching him fell to movement director Alex Reynolds. Reynolds schooled the actor on just how the he could portray the various degenerative stages of motor neuron disease on-screen. Reynolds had recently worked on World War Z, where she created the movement for the fast-moving zombies, working with animation director Andy Jones and VFX supervisor John Nelson. In World War Z, Reynolds was working to help create movement en masse, creating a core zombie team, casting and training location specific zombies and refining their movement on set. Her work here was, of course, on a completely different scale but no less daunting.

Reynolds work was aided by Redmayne’s own research. He obtained permission to visit motor neuron disease patients both at a clinic and at home. Because no existing documentation of Hawking’s early stages of deterioration exist, Redmayne and Reynolds consulted with a motor neuron disease specialist to chart the progression of the disease. This research allowed Redmayne and Reynolds to create a chart (the higher the numbers, the later stage of deterioration) that would show had advanced the disease was for a particular scene. During the 48-day shoot, which, like most films, was not shot in sequence, this chart proved invaluable.

Eddie Redmayne as Hawking in a later stage of motor neuron disease. Courtesy Focus Features.

Eddie Redmayne as Hawking in a later stage of motor neuron disease. Courtesy Focus Features.

“Eddie prepared for months, to be ready to give multiple levels of performance,” McCarten said. “He had to be aware on any given day for a scene, ‘Is this stage four of my voice?’ ‘Does this mean stage three of my body?’ He would go from ‘a 4.3 day’ for one day’s work to, for a scene set 10 years earlier and filming the next day, ‘a 2.7 day.’ Each day required all of his talent, discipline, and intelligence.”

The chart was used by many members of the crew, including Marsh and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme. “It demonstrated what was possible and not possible for Stephen at a moment in time,” Marsh said. “This had a big impact on how Benoît shot a scene, and on how we framed it.”

The cast and crew had to help Redmayne on his huge task of engaging the audience with no more than just a cast of his eyes and a small shift of the body. “This is not easy for an actor to pull off, and it came at a physical cost to him. Every day he was in some sort of stress position that he had to maintain for hours at a stretch, while still projecting and making the character emerge out of the disability,” Marsh said. No member of the cast or crew had as much pressure or as hard a role as Redmayne than Felicity Jones, who played Jane Hawking.

Felicity Jones task was just as important as Redmayne's. Courtesy Focus Features.

Felicity Jones task was just as important as Redmayne’s. Courtesy Focus Features.

While it might seem that it takes less effort for Jones to portray the healthy, vibrant Jane than Redmayne’s transformation, that would be a simplistic view. Jane Hawking was far more than a support system and cheerleader for her husband’s illness and genius, she was a brilliant woman in her own right, and one who had to make agonizing decisions, over and over again, to keep their love, and Hawking himself, alive.

Jones met with Jane Hawking early on, and found a woman who had dedicated her life to Hawking while at the same time retaining her own identity. “It was important for her to be recognized in her own right, which is why she continued on with her studies while caring for him and raising a family. What this woman accomplished!” Jones said in the production notes.

Jones’ role required her to consistently show paradoxical feelings. She had be loving while also feeling put upon, burdened, frustrated, hopeful, despairing.

“There were days on the shoot when our work mirrored what Stephen and Jane actually went through,” Redmayne said. “I would have to say to Felicity, ‘I can’t actually do what it says in the script, you’re going to have to lift my arm here.’ This would be in the middle of an already difficult emotional scene; she would have to work around my limitations.”

 Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones stars as Jane Wilde in Academy Award winner James Marsh’s THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, a Focus Features release.  Photo Credit:  Liam Daniel / Focus Features

 

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Spirits & Passion Collide in The Book of Life http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/spirits-passion-collide-in-the-book-of-life/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/spirits-passion-collide-in-the-book-of-life/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:30:53 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12495 Animator, painter, writer and director Jorge R. Gutiérrez has won Annies and Emmys for his animated television series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera for Nickelodeon. His work caught the eye of another Mexican polymath, writer, director, producer and ... Read More

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Animator, painter, writer and director Jorge R. Gutiérrez has won Annies and Emmys for his animated television series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera for Nickelodeon. His work caught the eye of another Mexican polymath, writer, director, producer and novelist Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim), who’s producing Gutiérrez ‘s feature debut The Book of Life, which bows this Friday, October 17. The Book of Life is an enchanting story of friendship, family and courage as old school traditions and new school animation come together for this powerful visual narrative.

Set in Mexico in the 1920’s on the Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), The Book of Life follows a love triangle between three best friends – Maria (Zoë Saldana), a feisty damsel that is anything but distressed, Joaquín (Channing Tatum), the local hero with an ego even bigger than his biceps, and Manolo (Diego Luna), a soft spoken bullfighter who’d rather be strumming a guitar than side-stepping a charging bull. After two underworld spirits, the kind-hearted La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and self-absorbed Xibalba (Ron Perlman, a Del Toro favorite), place a bet on who will win Maria’s heart, Manolo must travel through three fantastical worlds and face his greatest fears to prove that his love goes beyond any mortal barrier.

L-r: Producer Guillermo del Toro and writer/director Jorge R. Gutierrez at the Mexico premiere of 'The Book of Life.' Courtesy 20th Century Fox

L-r: Producer Guillermo del Toro and writer/director Jorge R. Gutierrez at the Mexico premiere of ‘The Book of Life.’ Courtesy 20th Century Fox

What creative spirit possessed Gutierrez to bring this deathly-inspired tale to life? The animation, story and music, as well as his passion for the Day of the Dead, suggest the director’s deep-rooted love for his Mexican heritage.

“The Day of the Dead and the Dia de Los Muertos is my favorite holiday because I think the idea behind it is incredibly universal and beautiful, and the idea is this: as long as we remember those who came before us, as long as we tell their stories, we sing their songs, we cook their favorite dishes, we tell their jokes — they’re here — they’re here with us,” said Gutiérrez in an interview with The Huffington Post‘s Nell Minow.

This triple-threat loves the Day of the Dead so much, he even proposed to and married wife Sandra Equihua – who so happens to be the creative director of The Book of Life – on the holiday. In a behind-the scenes interview with IMDB, Gutiérrez explains that his personal connection began when his best friend passed away at the age of nine. His grandmother explained to him that his friend is with him always. And it is this message that inspired Gutiérrez to dedicate the film to him.

From the characters to the scenery, the compassionate storytelling and loving detail is there in every frame. The Book of Life is a celebration of love, connection and family, one aided by Gutiérrez’s background as an animator.

“I wanted the world to feel handmade,” said Gutiérrez in a behind-the-scenes featurette. To achieve this look, he took inspiration from Mexican folk art. “These folk art toys were a reflection of the people. And I love folk art because of that. It’s this idea that it is art by the people for the people. It’s a mirror of who we are in Mexico.”

The animation of 'The Book of Life' borrows from Mexican folk art, down to the imperfections which only accentuate its' beauty. Courtesy 20th Century Fox.

The animation of ‘The Book of Life’ borrows from Mexican folk art, down to the imperfections which only accentuate its’ beauty. Courtesy 20th Century Fox.

To make sure fellow animators got the imagery right, Gutiérrez employed Central American artisans to hand carve wooden puppets of the characters, which were later rendered into 3D form.

Despite the finesse that comes with computer-generated animation, Gutiérrez insisted that his artistic team leave this holiday’s classic imagery of vibrantly colored marionette style puppets, rusted metal and chipped paint true to form. “I kept saying to them, ‘We are digital artisans, and I want to see flaws and mistakes and texture and dirtiness because that’s what gives folk art its flavor’,” Gutiérrez said to Minow in The Huffington Post.

Even the music attests to the influence that Gutiérrez’s love affair with his native city had on the film. From Elvis Presley and Biz Markie to Rod Stewart and Mumford and Sons, Gutierrez’s musical direction gives iconic songs a new, Mexican-inspired life with Mariachi style covers. Plus, new songs from Us the Duo and the team of Paul Williams and two-time Oscar winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla make the soundtrack as colorful as the animation.

Although inspired upon tradition incredibly unique to Mexico, The Book of Life’s message to honor the past while writing your own future is a theme that knows no cultural barriers.

 

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Paramount Hosts Interstellar Oculus Rift Experience http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/paramount-hosts-interstellar-oculus-rift-experience/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/paramount-hosts-interstellar-oculus-rift-experience/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:30:08 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12484 I went to space. I’ve seen the stars and the distant worlds that occupy the endless, mysterious vacuum above us. I went where few have gone before, leaving behind everything I knew as “home.”

Well, actually, let me clarify. My ... Read More

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I went to space. I’ve seen the stars and the distant worlds that occupy the endless, mysterious vacuum above us. I went where few have gone before, leaving behind everything I knew as “home.”

Well, actually, let me clarify. My mind went to space, and not in a way that intends “I’ve finally gone insane.” My physical self sat in a chair (quite comfortable if I may add) at the AMC Lowes in Lincoln Square and strapped on an Oculus Rift to take part in an experience based around Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film Interstellar. Aside from a handful of photos, posters and teasers inspiring us as humanity heads into its unknown future, Interstellar, much like many of Nolan’s past films, has been shrouded in mystery. What better way to jump into it than by hopping into the world yourself?

Your view of the great unknown begins from behind a window on the spaceship Endurance. Through your headset, you are instructed to make your way through the ship and prepare for zero gravity. The organizers of the event encourage you to look all around you, not just stare forward – and once you do so, it clicks: this feels like an out of body experience. I’m not moving myself but I feel as if I am a part of the body that is. I can see every nook and cranny of the ship and every detail of its contents.

Having the 'Interstellar' Rift experience. Courtesy Paramount.

Having the ‘Interstellar’ Rift experience. Courtesy Paramount.

After moving through a few rooms, they drop the gravity (and your chair), and suddenly you feel like you’re floating. As you ascend through the ship towards the cockpit, objects float in zero gravity and I turned my head as I pass them by, seeing them exist there still, occupying that same space. And this is when that out of body experience started to feel real. The environment you are immersed in suddenly feels like it exists. It’s no longer a ride, or a massive flat screen that holds depth within the frame. It’s no longer something we can so easily pull ourselves out of by looking at our phones or the person next to us. Everything we see, everything we hear, feels tangible and exists within an entirely new world – a world that our minds now believe to be the real thing.

I can slump in my seat and tilt my head to get a better view of what’s outside my window. Spatially I feel relevant, like I belong. I am not an omniscient controller telling a camera where to go and how to act. The thin wire that connects us to movies and games is now stronger than ever.

'Interstellar' Oculus Rift Experience. PHOTO by: Amanda Schwab/Starpix

‘Interstellar’ Oculus Rift Experience. PHOTO by: Amanda Schwab/Starpix

The final seconds of the “ride” have you strap in to the pilot’s seat as you prepare to enter a wormhole. As the countdown begins, and the engines of the Endurance start to hum louder and louder, I couldn’t help but close my eyes to brace for… Whatever it may be. It’s moments like these that make an experience with the rift much more impactful. In your mind it’s real and you will react accordingly.

Entering the tunnel in mind and body. Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Entering the tunnel in mind and body. Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

The first teaser for Interstellar has Matthew McConaughey saying “…we are still pioneers, and we’ve barely begun…” It’s entirely too fitting to have an experience like this with that in mind. This is only the beginning of what these will experiences will be able to provide. As the Oculus Rift, and technologies like it, improve dramatically, the opportunities for filmmakers to tell their stories in ever more immersive ways will as well. Buckle up.

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Potent Posters: 8 of the Year’s Best http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/potent-posters-some-of-2014s-best/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/potent-posters-some-of-2014s-best/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 14:30:18 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12434 Never heard of BLT Communications before? You will after you take a gander at this story — they’re a pretty powerful force in the movie poster game, creating beautiful, striking images for films big and small.

Movie posters and prints have ... Read More

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Never heard of BLT Communications before? You will after you take a gander at this story — they’re a pretty powerful force in the movie poster game, creating beautiful, striking images for films big and small.

Movie posters and prints have come along way, from old Hollywood classics to viral sensations—like the one caused by Hunger Games: Catching Fire moving-image poster (created by Ignition Creative). But what has stayed consistent is the importance, and artistry, behind movie posters. Because when it’s good—it’s movie theater popcorn gold. While 2014 is winding down, we’ve rounded up some of our top contenders for best movie posters of the year, with a doff of our caps to the people who made them.

 

Inherent Vice

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

Designed by: Dustin Stanton

Dustin Stanton’s scintillating poster is a fitting visual come hither for Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest. The singular director adapted one of our most singular novelist’s works, Thomas Pynchon’s groovy, grungy, narcotic noir Inherent Vice. Stanton nails the look and feel of the film with a simple, alluring image. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as detective Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, Stanton’s poster captures Pynchon’s take on 1970s Los Angeles: the post-60s hangover, eye-popping color and a bleary eyed, hazy city populated by burnouts, beach bums and free spirits coming back down to earth. And, of course, the thing Los Angeles has always had — beautiful women in bikinis. With twenty years in the entertainment advertising business, Stanton kills it again.

 

Listen Up Philip

Designed by: Painted by Anna Bak-Kvapil and designed by Teddy Blanks.

A comedy about a brazen writer, played by Jason Schwartzman, as he anticipates the release of his second novel. Note the eyes of our beautifully painted poster — does a single character look anything less than neurotic with those piercing peepers? Designed by Teddy Blanks, those portraits of actors Schwartzman, Elizabeth Moss, Richard Pryce and more were brilliantly hand-painted by artist Anna Bak-Kvapil and capture the self-regard and paranoia of the hyper-intelligent characters.

 

Birdman_1

 

Designed by: BLT communications

Not Batman, but Birdman. Michael Keaton (playing washed up actor Riggan Thomson) gets the graphic design treatment in a film he, and every other actor in this remarkable story, gave their all for. The poster is a beautiful, and literal, approximation of Riggan Thomson’s main problem—he can’t seem to get out from under the superhero he once played, the eponymous Birdman. Thomson tries to claw his way back into fame by staging a play in New York City (an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”) if only he could get his alter-ego out of his head.

 

godzilla_ver16

Designed by: Ignition Creative

A movie of epic proportions deserves a jaw-dropping poster that pays homage to the world’s most famous monster. With the artistic juxtaposition of the movie’s title growing out of Godzilla’s back, and the relative stripped down aesthetic, it’s a brilliant way to capture the spirit of one of global cinema’s most lasting creations.

 

**sin_city_a_dame_to_kill_for_ver3

 

Designed By: Illustrator and graphic designer Mac Archibald

For a neo-noir crime thriller like no other, illustrator and graphic designer Mac Archibald seamlessly brought Frank Miller’s original ‘Sin City’ graphic novel style to the big screen. From comic book pages to the gorgeous (if hyper-violent) film shot in native 3D, Archibald’s poster does justice to a city that has very little of it.

 

*men_women_and_children

Designed by: Mondo/BLT Communications

In this haunting yet timely drama, director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In the Air) asks us to reevaluate if we really know the people we know. In the digital age of continuous, ubiquitous communication, Reitman’s proposition is brought home with a telling image of strangers in a crowd almost seemingly unaware they aren’t actually alone. We might not look up enough in our daily lives, but this poster sure caught our eye.

 

**grand_budapest_hotel

Designed by: BLT communications

If a movie poster embodied its director, this one would take the prize. In true Wes Anderson fashion of clean cuts, bursts of color and relentless symmetry, the image of the Grand Budapest Hotel looks as if it were meticulously copy and pasted onto the mountain landscape. For a film so meticulously designed, BLT made sure the poster would be up to Anderson’s discerning, detailed taste.

 

alive_inside_xlg

Designed By: Eclipse Advertising

This heart-wrenching documentary by Director Michael Rossato-Bennett pieces together the force music has on the human mind and soul—so much so that it can heal in ways medicine cannot. Like the poster says: Listen to your heart.

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The Timely Kill the Messenger Looks at the Price of Truth http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/kill-the-messengerjeremey-renner12470/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/kill-the-messengerjeremey-renner12470/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 14:13:50 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12470 On August 18, 1996 Gary Webb, then a San Jose Mercury News Staff Writer, reported that, “For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street ... Read More

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On August 18, 1996 Gary Webb, then a San Jose Mercury News Staff Writer, reported that, “For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.” That line opened Webb’s three-part series “Dark Alliance,” a report that would ultimately define the rest of his life and spark years of debate.

Today, a little over 18 years later, Focus Feature’s Kill the Messenger is opening in theaters to tell the challenging, timely story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb and his crucial, costly reporting linking America’s drug epidemic, the CIA and rebel forces in Nicaragua. The movie is set to reopen the important conversation about Webb’s reporting and its backlash, and the critical role the fourth estate plays in keeping governments honest and people aware.

As a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News in the 1990s, Webb received a key tip that led him down a spiraling path into the underground drug trade and the complicity of a part of the American government shrouded in mystery. Webb’s unrelenting investigation eventually took form with unprecedented headlines like, “America’s ‘Crack’ Plague has Roots in Nicaragua War” and “Shadowy Origins of ‘Crack’ Epidemic.” At first, Webb’s breakthrough work appeared to elevate his influence and stature in the journalistic world. Yet, every step of the way, Webb faced an uphill battle to tell the truth he believed he was reporting. Institutional forces, including the CIA and mainstream media outlets, discredited his work.

Chris Matthews has seen both sides of aisle – from his days as a top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill to his current journalistic career hosting MSNBC’s “Hardball.”  Matthews remembers that Webb’s editor left him hung out to dry. In fact, in 1997 the executive editor of the San Jose Mercury News, Jerry Ceppos, published a letter to readers pulling back on the “Dark Alliance” series.

“I believe that we fell short at every step of our process – in the writing, editing and production of our work. Several people here share that burden,” wrote Ceppos. “We have learned from the experience and even are changing the way we handle major investigations.”

Standing increasingly alone, Webb’s credentials dwindled as time passed. In 1998, New York Times’ writer James Adams looked back at Webb’s investigation, noting, “The other investigations carried out by The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, to varying degrees, undermined the Webb thesis.” Adams continues that the CIA’s inspector general said he also found no evidence to support Webb’s reporting.

Eventually, in the wake of dissenting opinions and a crumbling reputation, Web attempted to reclaim his creditability by writing his 1999 book “Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.” Focus Features attributes much of the new film to Webb’s book along with Nick Schou’s 2006 book also titled, “Kill the Messenger.” Both accounts try to reclaim Webb’s career from the wave of opposition that followed his breakthrough series. And the film’s cast and crew believe they are finally shining light onto a buried story and redeeming much of Webb’s damaged legacy.

Director Michael Cuesta, who has won Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for Homeland, said at a Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) screening, “This is an important story to tell about a guy who really believed in getting the truth out there. Investigative reporting was his bliss.” Cuesta has previously stated, “I also tried to show Gary carrying the burden of wanting to get at the truth. What does that do to a man? Especially one who gets into a war he can’t win?”

Similarly, it’s that sense of a journalist fighting an unwinnable war to tell the truth that producer Naomi Despres believes illuminates a larger point about freedom of speech and the press.

“Gary Webb’s story is so powerful,” said Despres. “Here was a man driven to tell the truth even when forces much greater than himself did not want the truth to be told. I hope our movie inspires people to ask questions and to be vigilant in pursuit of the truth in their own life – and for communities to demand the truth from our newspapers as well as our government.”

Two-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner not only portrays Webb, but also served aas one of the film’s producers. “When I read the script I knew that I wanted to be a part of bringing Gary’s story to the screen,” Renner said at the event. “I would describe Gary with some of the same adjectives I describe myself: tenacious, perseverance, fearlessness.”

Director Michael Cuesta (L) and actor Jeremy Renner attend Capitol File's 'Kill the Messenger' Screening at MPAA on September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capitol File Magazine)

Director Michael Cuesta (L) and actor Jeremy Renner attend Capitol File’s ‘Kill the Messenger’ Screening at MPAA on September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capitol File Magazine)

When a tale like Webb’s is adapted for the big screen, it has the chance to reach new audiences, potentially playing a key role in cementing how the public will remember historical events. And there is no doubt that Kill the Messenger promises to help close the gap between Webb’s original 1996 reporting, dissenting accounts, and our own perceptions about what it means to have a free and open media.

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Composer Steven Price on Scoring Sacrifice in Fury http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/composer-steven-price-on-scoring-sacrifice-in-fury/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/composer-steven-price-on-scoring-sacrifice-in-fury/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:30:59 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12402 It’s a rare thing for a composer to begin work on a film before the film has wrapped. Rarer still for that composer to find himself on set, watching the action he will underlay with music unfold before his eyes. ... Read More

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It’s a rare thing for a composer to begin work on a film before the film has wrapped. Rarer still for that composer to find himself on set, watching the action he will underlay with music unfold before his eyes. Yet very little about the making of David Ayer’s World War II film Fury was typical, and for Oscar-winning composer Steven Price (Gravity), this meant getting a chance to be a part of the filmmaking process as it was happening.

“About a year ago I got the script sent over, and I’m not the best script reader in the world,” Price says. “It tends to take me ages, but something about the way David Ayer writes characters helped me get to know the crew on the tank really fast, and I got really interested. I read all of it in one sitting.”

Price got the script during production, and found out that they were filming about 40 minutes from his front door. “I went to Oxford and got to see them shooting one of these battle sequences. It couldn’t’ have been better, they drove me over in Land Rover, and it’s just this freezing day, and they’re doing long shots and there’s not a camera in sight. I’ve never seen that sort of World War II filming before.”

Director David Ayer on the set of Columbia Pictures' FURY.

Director David Ayer on the set of Columbia Pictures’ FURY.

The authenticity Ayer went for meant the enlisting of World War II veterans, tactical and military advisors and real tanks, including a German Tiger tank, the first time a real one had ever been used in a film. Things got so real, in fact, that an extra was stabbed by a bayonet (it pierced his shoulder, he survived). It also extended to what he wanted from his composer.

How does a composer even attempt to match or honor the authenticity of a film that the New York Times Michael Cipely has described as a World War II film that popular culture has rarely seen? By capturing and carrying the mood of the film, which follows a single tank crew, led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) over the course of a single day into a horrifically tense battle behind German lines, in which they are outgunned by the superior German tanks (including the Tiger) and overmatched to the tune of 300 German soldiers against five Americans.

“At our very first meeting, David thumped his chest and said, ‘I want to feel.’ Conversations with David were always about mood and the psychological parts of the film, rather than about music. My job was to get into their heads – they’re exhausted, they’re basically in hell, and they’re spending day after day moving on into the next town, never knowing when the next horrible thing might happen. That sense of exhaustion, of constantly moving forward, led to my score having a very heavy tread to it. Tanks have this steady, grinding motion, just the sheer weight of the thing, but also the heaviness on the soldiers’ minds all the time. David and I talked about PTSD, about how deeply damaged the men were at this point in the war, and I tried to bring that weight to the score.”

Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) and other soliders in Columbia Pictures' FURY.

Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) and other soliders in Columbia Pictures’ FURY.

One of the components that Price wanted to reflect in his score was the fact that World War II was the first truly mechanized war. “David and I talked about the nature of this war, the first mass mechanized war, and how there were these death machines, but within those machines were humans. So the score has this mechanical motion, a forward motion, but within that are broken, exhausted men.”

Trini "Gordo" Garcia (Michael Pena), Boyd "Bible" Swan (Shia LeBeaouf) and Sergeant Binkowski (Jim Parrack) try to hold back Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) as he attacks an SS Sergeant in Columbia Pictures' FURY.

Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LeBeaouf) and Sergeant Binkowski (Jim Parrack) try to hold back Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) as he attacks an SS Sergeant in Columbia Pictures’ FURY.

In order to achieve this, Price used actual recordings from set of the various, groaning noises the tanks made and the ambient sounds of battle. “They had authentic tanks, and they recorded a lot of that for me – slamming hatches, machine gun fire, shells dropping on the floor of the tank — these real metallic noises.” Price also used radio wave signals (as he did for Gravity) and the jingling of dog tags. Once Price is done with these songs, they’re rarely recognizable from their original source, but their effect is haunting and in keeping with Fury‘s realism.

When composing for the orchestra, Price used his musicians in novel ways, creating the big orchestral moments you’d expect but also using small contingents, and having them make as much ‘broken sound’ as possible. “The most common note I got was, ‘Make it sound more broken, more exhausted.’ The bows were slipping off the strings, they were trying to play so quietly.”

To capture the human beings inside these death machines, as well as a situation that presents itself to the tank crew at the heart of the film, Price relied on choir singers. “I used a lot of human voices, and I did the same with the voices as I did with my instruments–instead of full voices, there’s some croaking voices, and I put some solo voices buried into the score.” When Wardaddy’s crew find themselves behind German lines and surrounded, Price relied on a chanting choir to put the audience inside the tank with the characters. “While they’re technically winning the war, they’re surrounded, so I recorded a lot of constant chanting choirs, both small and big, and they’re always kind of moving around you, hopefully making you feel like you’re being surrounded.”

Listen to the subtle chanting in the below clip become more pronounced as the scene intensifies:

Although the Nazi regime’s back was essentially broken by April, 1945, it still fought on, with thousands of people dying in the war’s senseless, brutal finish. Ayer’s film puts his tank crew in the very heart of these battles. They often don’t know where the danger is going to come from. “There’s this sense of dread in the film, so we put a lot of whispering voices in there, but you can’t pick up what they’re saying, only that they’re chanting in German.” What exactly are they chanting?“Extracts from the Lutheran bible, which of course felt apposite to the pain of war.” Yet when you hear it in the film, it’s undeniably unsettling. “Sometimes they’re very quiet, other times they’re really yelling.”

Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal with Director David Ayer on the set of Columbia Pictures' FURY.

Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal with Director David Ayer on the set of Columbia Pictures’ FURY.

Price credits the chanting choir as the big “ah ha” moment he had when trying to capture the tank crew’s inexorable movement towards their grim objective. “When I fell upon this chanting choir, this was our way of maintaining a constant pulse, but one that’s ever evolving. I was always trying to find this way of making the score exhaustedly grinding forward, filled with threat, but also able to evolve into something quite moving. You’re just working away and you try something different, there’s a little hint of something there, and then, all of a sudden, there’s a couple of hours where it makes the previous two weeks where you were struggling along suddenly make sense. The choir became almost an army. I recorded them in a big group, and then sometimes I’d get every single one of them on their own mic and ask them to whisper, and I’d take these individual voices and move them around, so sometimes it’s like someone’s sitting on your shoulder one moment, and then the next they’re gone.”

Price got to bring on a few musician’s he’s worked with in the past that helped him achieve the emotional register he was looking for. “Lisa Hannigan, an Irish singer who worked with me on Gravity, I got her back in but in a much different way for Fury. She was singing with John Smith, and I wanted these solemn lines that creep in sometimes. Then I had the cellist I work with a lot, Will Scofield, who somehow always plays exactly the sound I imagine in my head.” Price’s orchestra was none other than the London Philharmonic. “They were great, there’s a huge amount of orchestrals.”

Price has worked on his share of epic films, including Gravity, Batman Begins and the last two films in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Fury was a filmed with arguably the biggest star in Hollywood, a healthy budget, and actual tanks, yet Price says it felt like working on an indie film. “It was so great to work with a director who wanted you to explore and find a unique voice for the film. It always felt like an indie film in terms of the way you were thinking about it, and the risks David was willing to take. The scale of the film and the story were huge, but we were playing with extreme ideas at the time. David wanted you to feel, and we weren’t going to stop until that emotion was in the film.”

Listen to the score here

Featured Image: The end of the beet field battle, Norman (Logan Lerman) struggles with Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) asking him to kill the German Corporal (Branko Tomovic) in Columbia Pictures’ FURY.

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What to Expect From Season Five of The Walking Dead http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/what-to-expect-from-season-five-of-the-walking-dead/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/what-to-expect-from-season-five-of-the-walking-dead/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 14:30:08 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12365 This Sunday at 9 p.m (EST), Rick, Daryl, Michonne and The Walking Dead gang are back. Cable’s most popular show has survived a rotating cast of showrunners (Scott M. Gimple is now their third) and the slings and arrows of disgruntled fans ... Read More

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This Sunday at 9 p.m (EST), Rick, Daryl, Michonne and The Walking Dead gang are back. Cable’s most popular show has survived a rotating cast of showrunners (Scott M. Gimple is now their third) and the slings and arrows of disgruntled fans and critics (especially during season two’s extended stay on Hershel’s farm) by a zombie-like ability to maintain just enough momentum to keep fans interested. “The show reinvents itself every eight episodes,” said Gimple in AMC’s production notes, a member of the Dead team since he joined as a writer in season two.

And this has been true; while meandering from Robert Kirkman’s original graphic novel at times, The Walking Dead has made up for occasional narrative lapses and a lot of turnover at the top by relying on Kirkman’s source material to keep feeding new, intriguing players into the narrative. Just when the show needed a boost after season two, it got katan-wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the unhinged, murderous Governor (David Morrissey) pumping in fresh blood, both their own and the blood they shed. The show has managed to introduce a slew of fresh (or mostly dirty) faces to give the central cast a much needed jolt. Not to mention the fact that every few episodes, a significant character bites it (often by getting bitten by a walker).

Also, season four spoilers below.

Danai Gurira as Michonne - The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Gallery - Photo Credit - Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Danai Gurira as Michonne, doing what she does best in season 5, Gallery – Photo Credit – Frank Ockenfels. Courtesy AMC.

While imperfect, The Walking Dead has almost always been riveting, especially during the past two seasons. The Governor was the first credible human villain we got in a long time (Shane, memorably played by Jon Bernthal, was more of a brooding romantic competitor to Rick), and the two-season build up to the war between Rick and the gang (now beefed up, both physically and theatrically, by two The Wire alums Chad L. Coleman, as Tyreese, and Lawrence Gilliard Jr., as Bob, with a third The Wire star set to be introduced this season) was both spectacular and awful (RIP Hershel). The good guys got separated, and season four saw them all, one way or another, heading towards the potential safety of Terminus.

Whether you consider it a guilty pleasure or one of TV’s most reliably intense dramas, what The Walking Dead has never been is boring — even the much ballyhooed season two, spent entirely on Hershel’s farm, had its moments. A bit of research into the show’s fifth season points to what sounds like the most ambitious sixteen episode arc yet.

Where We Left Off

When we last left our survivors, many of them were trapped inside a railcar inside Terminus, a “sanctuary” advertised through road signs scattered across the state as a place where “those who arrive, survive.” Only by the time Rick and the rest of the scattered crew arrive, Terminus seemed to be less a DMZ from walker combat than yet another false paradise ruled over by sociopaths, a little like a hippy version of season three’s Governor-led, conservative-seeming Woodbury.

Who’s in the Railcar Again? Rick, Michonne, Carl, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, Bob, Tara, Eugene, Abraham and Rosita.

Where’s Beth? No clue. But Carol and Tyreese are making their way towards Terminus, after their horrific suburban vacation in the 14th episode of season four, “The Grove.” Don’t remember it? How about two words as a refresher; sororicide and filicide.

Prepare for a Super Bonkers Premiere

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead .Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels /AMC

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) have their work cut out for them in the premiere. Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels /AMC

The reviews are in for the premiere, and they’re all pretty much in agreement that the premiere is thrilling. Variety calls it “a dazzling adrenaline rush filled with suspense,” and MTV News writes that it’s “undoubtedly the most (quite literally) explosive, relentlessly violent and ultimately satisfying season-starter the show has ever delivered.”  Gimple says in the AMC production notes that the premiere of season five is one of the biggest episodes they’ve ever shot. “There are a lot of moving parts. Every single one of our characters in the railcar has a moment within it.”

Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, is one of several members of the cast who couldn’t get over the scope of the script. “It is a complete action movie. This episode is so exciting, so disturbing, and so real. This world is escalating.”

Executive producer Gale Anne Hurd told Entertainment Weekly that the upcoming episodes are the series most ambitious episodes.  “Not only the action set pieces, but also the level of emotional weight that’s brought to bear on the characters.”

Series star Andrew Lincoln, who plays the endlessly tormented former cop Rick Grimes, is back to being the group’s leader in the premiere. “Rick is very much back,” Lincoln says in the AMC production notes. “He has made peace with the fact that there is a very brutal side to him, but he has a humane side too.” Lincoln says that after receiving the premiere script, his first thought was, “How are we going to shoot this?!” His second thought was, ‘How is this going to fit in 47 minutes?!”

Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Sasha, had a similar thought. “It’s always interesting when you read a script and go, ‘Okay, that’s impossible.'” Norman Reedus, playing arguably the series most beloved character, Daryl, says that Gimple’s premiere episode is insane. “Fans are going to freak out.”

Michael Cudlitz, who plays Sgt. Abraham Ford, the man committed to getting to Eugene (Josh McDermitt) to Washington D.C. with Eugene’s potential cure, says that he thinks the script for premiere was one of the most satisfying hours of television he’s ever read. “There are so many moments where you will have genuine excitement for what is happening. Things you want to happen, do happen; and things you can’t believe happen, happen.”

New & Improved (Actually Older & Even Grosser) Walkers

Walkers - The Walking Dead _ Season 5. Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The walkers will be deteriorated even further in season five. Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

One of those constant changes Gimple was talking about was of the walkers themselves. “The walkers this year that Greg Nicotero and his team are designing do reflect that we are deeper in our timeline. They have been around longer, are more damaged, and are really horrific. We are using the philosophy that you will see these walkers and what they have been through in their physiology. They are still just as dangerous.”

Before Nicotero goes to work making ever more revolting walkers, the Walking Dead team brings in potential zombies to their zombie school. “I love zombie school,” says Hurd. “People come in and we see if they fit on the show. You don’t want to destroy the believability of this world we’ve created. There were some standouts this season. I think fans will be very impressed.”

Nicotero worked with his KNB FX team to create arguably the grossest, most believable zombies ever committed to the screen for season five. Chad L. Coleman, who plays Tyreese, says that the walkers this season even out-gross the flame-walkers from last season’s episode ‘The Grove.’

L-r: A burnt up walker from season 4 & a seriously decomposed walker from season 5. Which is more revolting? Courtesy AMC.

L-r: A burnt up walker from season 4 & a seriously decomposed walker from season 5. Which is more revolting? Courtesy AMC.

New Threats

“While there is no shortage of walkers, they are the predictable threat,” Hurd says in the production notes. “A lot of it has to do with the threat you pose to the people around you after you have done something that crosses the line. Can you regain your humanity? Are you safe to be around? That’s certainly one of the things we are examining. Just look at Rick last season compared to season one when he rode into Atlanta on horseback. It’s all putting our characters into situations in which they find out what they are really capable of.”

Hurd told EW that season five will see the show move back into urban environments, a much more dangerous proposition for the survivors. “The show has spent a lot of time in primarily rural settings. But you’re never going to find the cure to the zombie apocalypse in the sticks. Now with them embarking on a mission, they have to reenter what we call the City of the Dead. There are many cities of the dead that they’ll have to encounter to complete their mission. So not only does it make it more difficult because the number of walkers, but also there are more hiding places in which their human antagonists can lurk. So however stiff and difficult the stakes have been up until this season, now they’ve been raised even further.”

There are also new characters, including the leader of the Terminus, Gareth, played by Andrew J. West. Gareth doesn’t appear to be as outwardly psychopathic as the Governor was, but when you found out how he’s been leading the people of the Terminus, and what they do to survive, he’ll likely out-crazy the Governor in the long run. The aforementioned third The Wire alum joining the cast is Seth Gilliam, who will play Father Gabriel Stokes, a major figure in Kirkman’s graphic novel.

Perhaps the biggest threat to our characters, however, comes in the existential sense — it’s themselves.

“In Season Four, Scott Gimple focused on the questions ‘Can you get away from the things you have done?’ ‘Can you turn your back on the past?’” says executive producer David Alpert. “Season Five is an emphatic response to that you are what you have done, you are where you’ve been, and you are where you are from.”

“Are we too far gone to be people anymore, to actually be human beings, to be able to relate to one another on an emotional level, to be able to live a real humanistic and emotional life,” Gimple told The Hollywood Reporter when discussing season five’s theme.  “Are we too far gone?”

The Walking Dead fans have never been too far gone to return to the show, and this Sunday’s premiere will likely prove that once again.

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World War II Veterans Helped Fuel Fury‘s Realism http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/world-war-ii-veterans-helped-fuel-furys-realism/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/world-war-ii-veterans-helped-fuel-furys-realism/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:30:53 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12362 The most all encompassing war in history has been depicted on screen countless times. Filmmakers have been portraying the horrors, and heroes, of the “good” war, from D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge to Pearl Harbor, from every conceivable ... Read More

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The most all encompassing war in history has been depicted on screen countless times. Filmmakers have been portraying the horrors, and heroes, of the “good” war, from D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge to Pearl Harbor, from every conceivable angle. In just six years, from 1939 to 1945, World War II took the lives of more than sixty million people, some 2.5% of the global population, and filmmakers have been grappling with the immensity of the war ever since.

American filmmakers have attempted to recreate major battles in Europe from the American point of view (Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan), battles in Japan from the Japanese point of view (Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima) and searching portraits of the psychology of soldiers (Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line) to name just three. European and Japanese filmmakers have made hundreds of films about the war, and a recent German television series, Generation War, which followed five young German friends as the world is on the brink of war, was a huge success in that country. The series depicted the lives of five patriotic characters who, save for one, never become committed Nazis. “The movie says that young men and women were seduced and then savagely betrayed—brutalized by what the Nazis and the war itself put them through,” wrote The New Yorker’s David Denby. “Their complicity, in this account, is forced, never chosen. Aimed at today’s Germans, who would like, perhaps, to come to a final reckoning with the war period, Generation War is an appeal for forgiveness.”

Whether or not you believe Generation War‘s director, Philipp Kadelbach, and writer, Stefan Kolditz, have created a realistic picture of what young Berliners were really like at the time, their attempt to show a different side to the world’s most thoroughly cinematically scrutinized war might resonate with writer and director David Ayer (End of Watch, Training Day). Ayer, a veteran himself, committed himself to making a World War II film unlike any other with Fury, which opens October 17. His goal was to depict the reality of what it was like to be in the armored divisions fighting in World War II — the life expectancy of a tank crew was six weeks. Ayer wanted to show not only what it was really like to be a part of a tank crew, but how ferocious, and awful, the war was right up until the very end.

Ayer’s covering a part of the war that has rarely been shown on film — when the Nazi empire was all but finished but still the war continued on, soldiers still fighting and dying in what, in retrospect, seems like senseless carnage. Ayer has said in the production notes that he aimed to show “a different world from your usual war movie, where we celebrate victorious campaigns like the invasion of the European continent, or D-Day, or the Battle of the Bulge, these famous battles that American troops have taken part in.”

Fury takes place on a single day in April, 1945. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is a tank commander responsible for keeping his five-man crew alive. “He’s responsible for their operations, their morale, and especially making sure that they are operating as a machine,” Pitt said in the production notes. “His calls are going to determine who walks away and who doesn’t. But at the start of the film, they’ve lost one of their five members, and a new kid [Norman Ellison, played by Logan Lerman] is thrown into our family. It’s not just that he’s new, it’s not just that he has no tank experience – he’s actually a threat to our survival; if he can’t perform the whole crew is in danger and people will die. He comes in with great innocence, and the question is, how do you raise a child in a day? Wardaddy has to get him calloused and get him performing, to ensure the safety of others.”

Director David Ayer on the set of Columbia Pictures' FURY.

Director David Ayer on the set of Columbia Pictures’ FURY.

In order to create a credible portrait of the final days of World War II, and the operations of a tank crew, Ayer relied on tactical and military advisors, real tanks (five models of the M4 Sherman, and, for the first time ever on film, a German Tiger tank), his own commitment to research, and, most crucially, the memories of World War II veterans. One of those tactical advisors, Kevin Vance, said that Ayer’s approach created a visceral, wholly unique WWII film. “In most World War II movies, we have this association with ‘the good war’ – and it is, but over 60 million people died in World War II. That’s a dichotomy that hasn’t been fully explored, and that’s what David demanded of this film.” Perhaps no advisors to the film were more crucial than the veterans of the 2nd Armored Division who served in World War II who met with the cast.

“David is ferocious about authenticity,” says Pitt. “We got to meet several vets who were all in their 90s; they had survived D-Day landings, and the Battle of the Bulge…it was a very humbling experience to sit in their presence and listen to their stories. They had very visceral descriptions of what it was like to be in the tank: the heat, the exhaust, it was oily, the smell of death was always in the air. Most of them were undertrained, they were underequipped, they were dealing with incredible hardships and weather, lack of food, lack of sleep. And they had to push on under the most harrowing of conditions.”

Four veterans in particular provided first-hand accounts of what their experiences were like inside a tank in some of the most ferocious battles in the war.

There’s Paul Andert, who at 17-years old in 1940 lied about his age to get into the army. Andert became a staff sergeant with the 41st Infantry in the 2nd Armored Division during the war. “Patton became our division commander – he was strong in educating us,” he says in the production notes. Andert remembers Patton making it clear to the men that each of them had an opportunity to show leadership. “Patton says, ‘You don’t push spaghetti; you pull it’” – that is, as a leader, if you make a move, your men will follow. Andert recalled these words time and time again, in battle after battle. “He put the fight in us – he put in the idea to get out there and move. Don’t stay still.”

George Smilanich explained to the cast and crew how every member of his unit needed to know everyone else’s job. “Everyone on the crew could do anything the other guys could do. We could rotate if we had to – if we lost somebody during a battle, one of the other crew members could step in and take over, whatever job it was. We could drive a jeep, we could drive a halftrack, we could drive a tank. It was like a big, happy family – if I wanted the assistant driver to take over, I’d trade places with him; if the gunner wanted to step out, the assistant driver would step behind the gun. The commander gave the orders and told us what we should and shouldn’t do, but that’s how it was. And when we lost somebody and somebody else came in, he joined right in.”

Ray Stewart, eventually a bow gunner in a tank crew, was only 21 years old in the spring of 1945. In this way (and a few others), he was something like the character of young Norman Ellison in the film. “I had four guys in there who were trained by Patton, and I was the new guy,” he says in the production notes. “I was going to try to do the best I could. My tank commander at the time was trying me out. The gunner eventually moved into his place; he became the platoon leader. Of course, we had other guys that moved into his place.”

Donald Evans, who served in a reconnaissance company of the 66th Amor Regiment in the 2nd Armored Division, described for the cast and crew what it was like to be inside a tank when the enemy was firing at you. “When they’re shooting those machine guns and it’s bouncing all around you, you’re feeling it in your armored car or your tank – just hearing it shakes you up,” says Evans. “There’s nowhere to hide.”

The veterans offered invaluable details as they told their stories. One example is how every fifth bullet from the tank’s machine gun is a tracer, and so many of these super-hot tracers are fired they can melt the barrell. Then there’s how soldiers could differentiate between outgoing and incoming artillery (when it’s coming at you, it whistles). For an American inside a relatively thinly armored, tiny Sherman tank fighting against the colossal German Tiger, their greatest asset was the Sherman’s mobility. These details, and hundreds like them, helped Ayer and his cast and crew create a credible, realistic World War II film.

“Veteran accounts are hugely important, because they bring it to life,” says David Rae, one of the military technical advisors on the film. “They give you the actual ground truth of how a crew fought through different theaters – through Normandy, North Africa, through the low countries, and finally to Germany, that final push. They give you interesting stories that you can grab hold of and emotionally attach yourself to.”

 

 

 

 

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Drummer Antonio Sanchez Gives Birdman it’s Essential Beat http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/drummer-antonio-sanchez-gives-birdman-its-essential-beat/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/drummer-antonio-sanchez-gives-birdman-its-essential-beat/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 14:30:06 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12343 Comedy relies on timing, as everyone knows. For a comedy film (especially one as soulful as Birdman), the timing comes not just from the actors abilities to land a joke but from the way the film is edited. Skilled editors ... Read More

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Comedy relies on timing, as everyone knows. For a comedy film (especially one as soulful as Birdman), the timing comes not just from the actors abilities to land a joke but from the way the film is edited. Skilled editors help create juxtapositions, perfectly timed cuts and unexpected shots that give a particular scene a lot of its comedic punch.

By now you likely know at least a bit about what Birdman‘s all about — Michael Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson, a washed up actor once famous for playing the eponymous superhero, who is mounting a Broadway play as his comeback. That play is an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” no less, and Thomson’s desperate comeback attempt is being threatened by money woes, a mercurial co-star (Edward Norton), a vengeful critic, and most of all, his own weakening grasp on reality.

What does this have to do with world renown Mexican drummer and Birdman composer Antonio Sanchez? Without Sanchez, the incredibly ambitious, sensationally constructed film would have had a hard time landing its many comedic moments. This is because director Alejandro González Iñárritu, working with ludicrously talented cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, an incredible crew, and committed, daring actors had meticulously crafted the film to appear is if there’s not a single cut in the entire run time.

“Nothing was improvised,” Iñárritu said in the press notes, “it was a study in timing with the precision of a clock.” Not exactly a recipe for comedic gold, yet the film is funny, ferocious and utterly compelling. This is thanks in part to the work Sanchez did to give a film that appears to be a single take the necessary beats (literally, in this case) to make it work as more than just a perfectly choreographed motion picture. “By editing you can alter rhythm and pace. Not having that tool in a comedy can be extremely challenging,” Iñárritu says. “So I thought the drums as the main score would provide the film not only a good vibe but the possibility in helping me find the beat it needed.”

From L to R: Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Michael Keaton on the set of BIRDMAN. Photo by Alison Rosa. Copyright © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

From L to R: Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Michael Keaton on the set of BIRDMAN. Photo by Alison Rosa. Copyright © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

Sanchez’s involvement in the film is a touch serendipitous, which is fitting for such a surreal, beautiful film. “I met Alejandro a few years ago, playing with Pat Meatheny in L.A.,” Sanchez says. “After the show there was an after party. Alejandro was a big fan of Pat, and he was happy there was a Mexican playing drums with him.” [Laughs]

This began a cycle of Iñárritu coming to see Sanchez play. They established a rapport, the two talented Mexicans plying their trades in different mediums, each loving the work of the other. “Then one day last year, out of the blue he called me and told me he was working on his next film, and he thought a drum score would be great for it. Of course I kind of freaked out, in both a good and a bad way. I thought, well, that would be incredible but I have no idea how we’d pull this off. But he seemed so confident. He’s very knowledgable about music, so if he thinks it’s going to be right for the movie I figure it would be right.”

Iñárritu didn’t fill Sanchez in on just how ambitious his project was. “Alejandro mentioned the way the film was going to be shot, but I don’t think he actually talked about how the drums would work with this method. He simply said the nature of the story and the characters could work really well with drums. But obviously he was already envisioning all of that.”

With just 30 days to film on location in New York, and to film in such a way that everything had to be planned down to the head movement and specific marks of every actor, there was practically zero room for error. Sanchez was initially asked to simply record some demos in a studio in Los Angeles of his drumming.

“Alejandro would just basically say, ‘Okay, in this scene Riggan is kind of going crazy in his dressing room, then he gets up and opens door and walks through a long hallway and his mind is all over the place,” Sanchez says. “He starts getting closer to the stage door, now he opens the stage door and goes on stage and the whole audience is there, now…go! What would you play?”

Sanchez would begin improvising, imagining Riggan moving through the St. James theater as he played. “I had Alejandro sit there with me, and I told him to raise his hand every time Riggan does something, so I started improvising…as a jazz musician that’s what I do, but I’d never had to do it to someone else’s imagination before [Laughs]. I just had him there, I imagined the scene with him, then tried to play something I thought that would fit with what he was envisioning.”

Once this initial session was complete, Iñárritu took the demos, spliced them up, and put them in different parts of movie as a temp score. “To get an idea if it would work, they brought me over to Los Angeles so I could see the film with the drumming that they put in place, but I could hardly recognize it because it was so spliced up,” Sanchez says. “So then the idea was to go back into the studio in L.A. and redo it, but now against the actual images in the film.”

One of the problems that Sanchez found with his original demos was that they sounded too good. “They were really pristine, the drums just sounded too good and clean,” he says. “Because of the nature of the movie and the characters, Alejandro wanted something a little dirtier, a little greasier, so when we did final stuff in L.A., I prepared the drums in a way to sound old and rusty and more organic.”

Now with the drums properly dirty, and the actual film to watch while he played, Sanchez and Iñárritu sat down together again. “Now he would give me instructions beforehand and say, ‘In this scene, listen to what Riggan is saying, then when he says these three words, I want you to stop what you’re doing. Then when he starts talking again, go into something different.’ He’d give me these pointers, and I’d be improvising and playing while watching the film. It was so much fun to get inside Alejandro’s head and see his thought process when it comes to music. The fact that he’s so knowledgable about music and so hands on about it really helped.”

Sanchez changed his entire approach to drumming in order to create the sound Iñárritu was going for. “I made myself sound a little loose, and not precise, and all over the place, if you will. Another thing we did that you normally never do, is we recorded a few tracks of drums on top of each other, and that makes it sound like it’s something almost superhuman going on, so when we layered some of those tracks on top of each other it really made it sound so convoluted and crazy, and that fit perfectly with Riggan as he went crazier.”

And yet there was still one more bit of complication Sanchez had to work out. You may notice while watching the film a few glimpses of a young drummer playing while the action swirls around or past him. “That’s actually a friend of mine, Nate Smith,” Sanchez says. “I recommended him for it, I wasn’t around when they shot those scenes, and he was just playing…his drumming was not going to be heard on the movie, only seen, but then when we did sessions in L.A., I had to match what he was doing in the image with what I had to do drumming-wise. There’s so many films that are about music where the image and sound completely do not match, and sometimes I’m amazed that either the director doesn’t care or didn’t notice,” he says. “As a musician it’s so obvious to me when someone’s playing or not playing, but Alejandro was careful, so I had to learn what Nate was playing in those scenes so I could match it when the camera would pan to him, I’d be playing something then the camera panned to Nate and I’d have to remember what he was doing so it would it match. That took a little while.”

Eventually, Sanchez got it, as he did for the entire film. Without his drumming, Birdman might not have taken off the way it did. When you see it, and hear it, perhaps you’ll appreciate just how crucial the beat really is.

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