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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Daughter of the legendary filmmaker Orson Welles, Christopher Welles Feder talks with TV STORE ONLINE about her portrait of her father in her 2009 book In My Father's Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles...
TV STORE ONLINE: You worked on your book In My Father's Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles [Algonquin Books] for quite a few years before it was published...I was wondering if you ever experienced any disconnect as the writer of the book even though Orson was your father?
WELLES FEDER: Well, I think I had to step back in a sense. I couldn't have written this book when I was younger because I needed that time to gain some perspective on our relationship as well as his death. It took me six years to write the book.
TV STORE ONLINE: What is your first memory of Orson from when you were a kid?
WELLES FEDER: I talk a bit about it in the very beginning of the book, and it's when my father put on a magic show in Hollywood for the troops. At his own expense he put on a magic show to entertain some troops who were on their way over to the Pacific during World War II. I was mesmerized by all of his magic tricks as a kid.
TV STORE ONLINE: In your book you talk about the strong connection you felt between yourself and your father, yet there a couple insinuations that are made by your mother and I think one of your childhood schoolteachers that your relationship with him was similar to that shared between two lovers...
WELLES FEDER: (Laughing) Before I talk about that, I was want to remind people that my book is about how I came out from my father's shadow and about the journey I took to come to terms with having such a famous parent and how I made a life and name for myself in my own right. When I was a teenager, I just had this tremendous crush on my dad. It wasn't like I actually grew up with him. I only got to see him on school vacations. At that point, he was a very glamorous figure to me and I saw him for that through very romantic glasses. He was just a romantic figure that dropped in and out of my life as I was growing up. He wasn't around to take me to the dentist or to help me with my homework. That was what people where picking up on about that.
TV STORE ONLINE: One of the things that I like about the book is the inner dialogue you present the reader with...It's heartbreaking to read about the situation where you wanted desperately to be invited to live with your father full-time, yet you never spoke up to ask him if you could live with him...I was wondering if you never spoke up because of the possibility of being disappointed in his answer?
WELLES FEDER: Yes, your absolutely right. Of course I wanted to ask him if I could, but it would have been impossible because he was living hand-to-mouth by then and he was living in hotels traveling around Europe trying to get his films made. It would have been impossible for him to support me or anyone else at that time in his life.
TV STORE ONLINE: Can you imagine living that way?
WELLES FEDER: Well, his whole life was making movies. That was his passion, that was what he lived for. I think he liked living in hotels. He didn't have attachments to one place or to any people. That's the way may creative people are. They are focused only on their art.
TV STORE ONLINE: The most heartbreaking and moving moment in the book is in the chapter where you reconnect with Orson for the first time after many years of not seeing him in Hong Kong...
WELLES FEDER: I think that he had become even in private-Orson Welles by then. There was Orson Welles-the man you saw on television-and then there was my father, the man in private. We stopped talking to each other because there was a point where that Orson Welles, who you would see talking to a journalist on television, became the man who you saw in private. I think that period in his life was a very difficult time for him to maintain personal relationships. It was difficult for me at the time to understand, but I've since come to terms with it all.
TV STORE ONLINE: The way your Mother acts...You try to explain it throughout the book, but I was curious to see what aspects of your personality today do you think stem from her or from your father?
WELLES FEDER: Well, I think I've modeled myself on my father much more. I've been told that I share some of his personality traits. He was always upbeat. He was always optimistic. I've chosen to be writer and to live a creative life. He was my model and my inspiration.
TV STORE ONLINE: If your parents were alive today....How do you think that they would've responded to your book?
WELLES FEDER: I don't think either of them would be very pleased. I was honest about who my mother was in the book. She wasn't very kind to me. I think she would have been offended by my honesty. My father loved to re-invent himself, and how Dorothy pulled back the curtain on the Wizard in THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939), I think he would have been disconcerted because I show him the way he really was, when he liked to present himself as if he was his own invention.
TV STORE ONLINE: In the book you mention how you discovered certain aspects of father through his work...I was wondering if you could talk a bit about that?
WELLES FEDER: I think that when I began to discover his films, and discover the artistry in them...It helps me to make my peace with it all. A kid, when they're growing up doesn't want a genius. They want a father, and by discovering his films it really gave me peace, in that, while he couldn't be the father that I wanted him to be-he left these amazing treasures for the world. It's very consoling. I am very proud to be his daughter for that reason.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
In My Father's Shadow can be purchased via Amazon HERE.
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Thursday, September 11, 2014
Cinematographer Bryan Loftus (The Company Of Wolves, Siesta) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about getting his start with Stanley Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove (1964) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
TV STORE ONLINE: Before we get into 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, I wanted to ask you quickly about your involvement in the 1970 documentary film THE BODY, which Pink Floyd's Roger Waters scored the music for...
LOFTUS: Yes, right. Well, that was quite a long time ago. I did all of the optics for the film. It's part of post-production now, but back then it was a bunch of opticals and mattes for the camera.
TV STORE ONLINE: So how did you come to work on 2001 with Kubrick?
LOFTUS: Well, the basic reason was that...The first real work that I ever did in the film industry was on matte paintings. Stuff like a painting of a landscape that you would put in around a castle and then re-photograph. I had acquired experience working that way but with separation masters, which was when color film was broken down into three different layers of colors. It was a good way of reproducing imagery because effectively you were working with black and white film as a result, and it would produce a very fine grain image. Because of all of the special effects shots in 2001, Stanley had decided that he wanted to do the entire film via the separation process. This detailed, taking a shot of the spaceship in 2001, and then adding a matte of the stars in behind it and then re-photographing it and adding other elements in as well and then re-photographing the entire thing all together. He wanted to use the separation process because when you worked that way you could instantly be able to see in the shot if anything had gone wrong in the re-photographing when you put the YCM (Yellow, Cyan, Magenta) colors of the film back together again off of the negative.
Stanley also liked working with younger people as well because they were more flexible than other more experienced technicians. He used to like the fact that younger people wouldn't tell him if something couldn't be done because they effectively didn't know it couldn't be done because they had never tried it.
Every shot in 2001 that required process work went through the YCM process, and at the end of it we had something like 250,000 feet of film that we had worked on. The film was shot on 65mm, and there was only one optical printer in the world that could accommodate that. It was owned by Linwood Dunn in Hollywood, and Stanley had it flown over to England and I was the person who was put to the task of running it.
TV STORE ONLINE: This process also applied to the Stargate Sequence is it appears today in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY?
LOFTUS: Yes, but with the Stargate, the YCM process was done incorrectly, therefore, when we would combine the colors back together from the separation process the colors would be put back together out of order. We called it "Purple Hearts", because there was an amphetamine drug at the time going around that had the same name. The combination of colors that were used on the landscapes for the Stargate, ultimately, we went through all of the combinations that we could think of. You had three color strips, and you took those and made three high contrast versions off of the negative, and then three low contrast versions. Effectively you would be creating twelve different stripes of film for every shot in the Stargate off of the positive and negative film. So by effectively combining those the wrong way you would end up getting lots and lots of different colors on the film. You couldn't predict the color combination and how it would come out. So we just had to keep going and going through all of the combinations. Stanley finally said, "Well, I think I've seen everything that we can do. Can we get other combinations?" So, I came up with the idea of random combinations.
We had three cardboard lids that came off of the filmbacks that Kodak used to give out. I made up three spinning rotors that were effectively like roulette wheels. And on the cardboard we wrote various settings down - different apertures for the printer, color filters, ect., and then spun it and what came out is what we tried. There was no human thought that went into it really. Once you tried all of the combinations, the human mind sorta shuts down unconsciously, so this was the only way that we could get over being stuck on that particular ideology for the Purple Hearts.
Stanley really wanted color combinations that had never been seen before. That was his thing. His approach was that if you were doing something that you knew or something that you had experience in, then you weren't going to be able to achieve something that had never been done before. He was always pushing us into that area, and because of that we found color combinations that had never been seen before. It was a wonderful way to work. It was like having the keys to the kingdom. It was fantastic fun. He used to say, "I want you to do what you don't know what you can do." (Laughing)
TV STORE ONLINE: Was it ever frustrating trying to achieve that Kubrick level of perfection?
LOFTUS: I never got frustrated, but some did. I could see that it got to some people. Stanley would come in and say, "Try it again. Do it again." We did lots of experiments that never made it into 2001. I remember he came in one day with this new type of microscope that allowed you to take pictures, for example you could throw dust up into the air and allow it to land, and then you could take whatever it landed on and put it under this microscope and get these amazing photographs. He brought in photographs of crystalline structures in metal. The imagery in these were amazing. It looked like temples of an alien civilization. The Stargate stuff was shot by Doug Trumbull on this giant camera system. From there, that footage was taken and put into separation masters and we would change the colors in that footage.
TV STORE ONLINE: You worked with Geoffrey Unsworth a great deal on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY as well?
LOFTUS: I did. Stanley had this habit of collecting people for the future. He would employ you knowing that he would need you later on. When I first came on 2001 I was brought on as Unsworth's Camera Assistant.
My credit on IMDb for 2001 is that of a "Focus Puller", which is quite silly because I was a SFX Supervisor on the photographic side. I believe my credit on the film is the same, and there are six of us on the title card. After a few months of working on the film I went up to Stanley one day and said, "Stanley, I'm bored. I'm here but I'm not really doing anything." So he put me up in the front office with Con Pederson and my new job was to keep track of the progress of the special effects shots down in what we called the "Brain Room". The film had something like 700 special effects shots in it. It was a tremendous task to keep track of those.
Each of those shots had to be individually created. I handled the technical organization of that, and Con Pederson handled the artistic side. Ivor Powell was there with us as well, and he handled the scheduling of the crews that were working on the shots because they were running twenty-four hours a day. It was a fantastic operation really. I don't think any film before it had run in quite that manner.
TV STORE ONLINE: With everything that has been said about Stanley over the years...Was he a good collaborator?
LOFTUS: I thought so. He had a fantastic sense of humor and memory. He remembered everything, and keep in mind we were on the film working for two years. He would come up to you and remind you of something that you had told him six months prior. You would give him an answer, and he would say, "No, No. You told me this six months ago...." He didn't like to be lied to. He would say, "If you don't know the answer, tell me that you don't know the answer." He was a great chess player and he always had a twinkle in his eye. Organizing 2001 was a wonderful chess-like construction.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you work on any aspect of the Centrifuge set?
LOFTUS: I didn't, but I did watch a bit of it. I still remember the first time they turned it on after they had finished putting it together. It started to turn around and all you could hear were hundreds and hundreds of nails dropping. They had to run the Centrifuge for about a week before they could shoot on it to clear all that out.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you remember seeing any of the variational ideas for the Monolith as it was being conceived for the film? I've read about it being all sorts of different shapes and glass with televisions inside of it....Or how about the different attempts at sanding it down and painting it because the light would reflect off of it and not be consumed by it which I believe was what Stanley had wanted it to do....
LOFTUS: Right, he wanted it to be a sort of Black Hole. He didn't want the light to come back from it once it had hit it. I wasn't involved in any of that but I know that those people that made it spent ages and ages on it trying to get it just right.
TV STORE ONLINE: Going back to something I forgot to ask you at the start...I read somewhere that you actually got your start with Stanley on DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)?
LOFTUS: That's correct, yes. I worked on the effects that come at the end of the film with the bomb going down with Slim Pickens. That was the first time I met Stanley. The whole process for the bomb went the hard way. We shot Slim on the bomb in front of a blue screen, and then we shot the background, which was the base slightly spinning. It was a bit crude really, but we got away with it because the film is a comedy. We combined the base spinning with the blue matte, and because it was shot in black and white, it made it quiet easy.
TV STORE ONLINE: Were you around the set of STRANGELOVE when they did the infamous cut pie fight scene that was to occur in the war room?
LOFTUS: I didn't actually see them shoot that but I remember going to lunch at Shepperton Studios and everyone was standing around covered in custard pie! I said, "What's this all about, then?" Someone said, "They're shooting the pie fight today." The War Room set was one of the most incredible film sets I've ever worked on. Ken Adams did an amazing job on that set. You walked in there and your jaw dropped. It was stunning. Stanley had the floor polished over and over so the lights would reflect off of it.
TV STORE ONLINE: So you started with Stanley on STRANGELOVE, worked with him for two years on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY...Was there an invite for you to follow along and work on NAPOLEON with him?
LOFTUS: Well, he was researching NAPOLEON while we were shooting 2001. He had a huge collection of books. The joke was, "Who is going to play Napoleon? Who do you think? Stanley!" (Laughing) He was very Napoleonic. It was a tragedy that WATERLOO (1970) got made before and ruined his chances to make that film. Stanley had First Editions of almost every book on Napoleon. You would walk down the front office and you could drop in on Stanley in his office and he would be reading about Napoleon. He was a great guy, and I was very sad when he passed away. Ivor Powell and I had been talking for quite some time about organizing a 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY reunion and we wanted that to happen in 2001, but of course that never was to happen.
TV STORE ONLINE: The film was marketed at a certain point as "The Ultimate Trip". I have to wonder, considering you were a younger man at the time the film came out, if you didn't partake in psychedelics when you went to see it on its release?
LOFTUS: (Laughing) I didn't, but I knew quite a few people that did at that time. It was the sort of thing to do then, wasn't it? I did go to see the film when it was released and I was completely blown away at the sheer scope of it. It's one of those films that shouldn't be allowed to be seen on home video. It's such a big film, and when I was working on I had no idea that it would've turned out like it did. I had only seen a few of the scenes when I was working on 2001. The studio backers came to visit and ask Stanley, "What's going on? You've spending a great deal of money for two years on this!" Stanley had put together this reel of some of the scenes that equaled about fifteen minutes. It was all spectacular stuff. I was just walking by the preview theater one day and Stanley saw me and he said, "Brian! Brian! C'mon on here, and take a look at this." He dragged me in and it was just him and I. The thing that impressed me the most was the music he had put to it. I said, "My God Stanley, what is that music?" He said, "It's Mahler's Third." I've never seen that footage again with that particular music to this day, but when the backers saw it, they said, "How much more do you need?" It was powerful stuff.
I spent a lot of time with Stanley in the cutting room. We would go through all of the process shots and he would approve some and tell me to cut out the others, and while I was in there with him I was privy to him asking me questions about whatever he was interested in. He had no sense of true hierarchy. If you worked on the film you were involved with everything. I was in there the day that Ray Lovejoy put on this LP of music called 'Classical Hits', and while they were cutting it together 'The Blue Danube' came on! Someone said, "That's it!" I remember that distinctly. The Ligetti music that Stanley used in 2001 was suggested to him by his wife Christiane. She had been at home listening to it on the radio because there had been some sort of concert on the air and when she heard it -- she rung him up and told him about it and he put out a memo that read something like: In case it is as extraordinary as Christiane says, we should be prepared to contact the composer..." (Laughing)
Stanley would say to people, "Do this. Do that." Then they would either do it or they would forget to do it. If you forgot to do it, then he would get annoyed. So he developed this memo system where if he needed you to do something he would send you a memo. Then if you forgot to do something he woulds say, "Didn't you get the memo?" People started telling him, "I'm sorry Stanley, I did not receive that memo." So Stanley created a new system where if he had sent you a memo you had to write a memo back to him confirming that you received his first memo! It was extraordinary. Everyone was typing memos. It got out of hand to a certain extent. He was so wonderful at devising systems like that on the spot. He employed three girls to type memos for him while we were shooting 2001.
When handheld tape recorders first came out, Stanley got a hold of two of them while we were shooting the film. I remember one day while we were in the rushes theater, he had one recorder in his left hand, and the other in his right. He would speak into one recorder, and then play it back while recording it with the other. I saw him doing this and I said, "What the hell is he up to now?" What he wanted to know what how many times he could record backwards and forwards before the audio became unintelligible. That was typical Stanley. He always had to push technology to realize its limitations.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014
TV STORE ONLINE: Where does the story for BORDER RADIO start for you?
VOSS: Allison Anders, myself, and Dean Lent were all at USC film school together. I had actually met Allison a few years prior though as I was a high-school drop out and when I did catch up and enroll in Junior College, Allison was enrolled there was well.
From there, Allison and I met Dean Lent and we three became chummy and we crewed together on the short films that we made at USC. We loved black and white, and so we teamed up because we had that commonality between us. People that saw those said, "Hey, you guys should make a feature..."
TV STORE ONLINE: What films inspired you early on to eventually pursue a life as a filmmaker?
VOSS: Well, I have a pretty broad range of interests. I can remember as a kid going to the drive-in to see John Wayne in TRUE GRIT (1969). MEAN STREETS (1973) was another film that I saw that really had an impact on me. In terms of some of the indie stuff, we were really inspired by films like BLOOD SIMPLE (1984) and STRANGER THAN PARADISE (1984), because when we saw those, we understood that there were people out there that were doing what we were trying to do with BORDER RADIO.
TV STORE ONLINE: So did you go along with Allison and Dean when they went to work on PARIS, TEXAS with Wim Wenders the year before BORDER RADIO work started?
VOSS: I didn't! In retrospect I really wish that I had though. At the time I thought that it was more important to stay at USC and get my degree. I did visit the set of PARIS, TEXAS a couple times. In fact, the scene where Harry Dean Stanton is watching the home movies of his kid and getting all teary-eyed....He was really watching some film footage of my friends dog. That was the first time where the three of us realized that films are often made by the seat of one's pants. We were a little dismayed by that at the time I think, but we all realized just how fun it is to work that way too. We did a little of that on our new film, STRUTTER (2014). There were days were we didn't know quite exactly what we were going to shoot an hour before we were to start for the day. It's fun to wing it. It's easier to do it when you have some experience under your belt as well.
We tried some of that early on with BORDER RADIO and we ended up basically shooting two different drafts of the movie. We started out and we shot this sort of existential drama, and then we changed directions in the middle of it, just because we knew it would be a hard sell. So we changed it, and brought in the rock element and made it more of a shaggy dog story. Some of those earlier scenes that we shot are on the Criterion DVD for the film.
TV STORE ONLINE: Is there any truth in the rumor that actor Vic Tayback helped to finance BORDER RADIO?
VOSS: Yes, that's true. He and my dad were drinking buddies. He had done really well on a television series that he was on. He was our first stop when we were raising money to make BORDER RADIO. He gave us a couple grand to start working, and while it wasn't a lot of money, it was a king's ransom for us because it got us started. We were shooting on 16mm, and even back then at that time it was super expensive. Our average lab bill was between $3,000-$4,000 dollars. We would often have to wait 6-7 months to get our dailies out of the lab.
TV STORE ONLINE: When you finished the film, did you take it to Vic Tayback and what did he think of it?
VOSS: I think we took him a work-in-progress to try to get some more money from him. He was pretty funny because he didn't really know what to make of it. He said, "John Doe? Who the fuck is John Doe? What kind of name is that?" "This Chris D. This is the good guy? This brooding-looking bastard." He didn't quite get the concept. I did work with him again though. He was in another film I made a few years later called HORSEPLAYER (1990). I think that was his last film that he worked on before he passed away.
TV STORE ONLINE: If you look at BORDER RADIO via the context of when it was made, with its mood and tone....Do you think it's fair to say that PARIS, TEXAS had a direct influence on BORDER RADIO? There is a very similar tone to both films....
VOSS: I haven't ever thought of it as a direct influence on us, but I'd say that Wim Wenders' body of work up till that point was influential on us. Films like ALICE IN THE CITIES (1974) and KINGS OF THE ROAD (1976), were both black and white films, and they feature an alienated hero that wanders around in an existential landscape. Then the long, sustained takes as well, that was something that everyone was doing around that time in film. You see that in Michelangelo Antonioni's THE PASSENGER (1975) for example. The entire climax of that film is a long dolly shot where all of the action takes place off camera. No doubt though, that we were all influenced by the new German cinema.
TV STORE ONLINE: How did you guys come across Chris D. for the film? He's not your typical "rock star" type of guy?
VOSS: Well, I was always a big fan of his band that he had at that time in Los Angeles called 'The Flesh Eaters'. He was very accessible and I can't remember if it was Allison that suggested him or not, but it was a matter of walking into one of the clubs that he was playing at and handing him the script. He was cast against type for sure, and he brought John Doe along with him to the film. David Alvin was also a friend of Chris D. as well. He was really pivotal in helping us cast the film.
TV STORE ONLINE: Speaking of John Doe...What's your favorite X album of all time?
VOSS: I'd say the first four albums. My personal favorite would probably be the second album, 'The Wild Gift'.
TV STORE ONLINE: While you're shooting the film...How does the three director dynamic work?
VOSS: Well, we were really operating as the entire crew of the film. We did have a couple extra sets of hands on a few of the scenes, but mostly it was just the three of us. Dean was a cinematography student first and foremost, and we would all negotiate for what was in the frame. We would talk a lot about where was the best place to set the camera up for the first shot of the scene. We were all so busy that we really didn't even have time to argue about who should call action.
TV STORE ONLINE: My favorite scene in the film is where Chris D. burns his guitar...
VOSS: Chris D. went into town and he came back with a bottle of Tequila. He had that guitar and he said, "I'd like to burn this on the beach." We said, "Okay!" He contributed so much to BORDER RADIO.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Rachel Elkind, producer / co-composer of the scores for the Stanley Kubrick films A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) and THE SHINING (1980) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about Kubrick and the haunting images of THE SHINING....
TV STORE ONLINE: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think back about working with Stanley Kubrick on THE SHINING?
ELKIND: Working on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) had been such a positive experience for me, but I can't say the same thing about THE SHINING. Some of the images in that film became very nightmarish to me when I had to watch them over and over while Wendy [Carlos] and I were composing together. There is nothing more traumatizing than an artist who can't create. In a way, the Jack Torrence character was very Kafka-esque. Stanley was such a brilliant photographer and he had a very wonderful eye, but my experience on THE SHINING wasn't a very happy one I'm afraid. I stopped working after the experience on THE SHINING.
I just felt that when you saw those images over and over, it was just a negative thing. Having been to Africa and seeing for myself how film can effect those that aren't familiar with what television is, or what a film is directly, I just didn't want to do more work with all of the real horrors in the world out there because I didn't want to contribute to the world in that way.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did Stanley ever tell you why he chose not to use the score you did for THE SHINING?
ELKIND: He never told us directly. We only heard that it just wasn't what he wanted for the film. Stanley's idea of music was to use needle drops. What Wendy and I had wanted to do for the film was to give it a very textual feeling, something that was very Takamatsu like. We would send Stanley lacquer acetates of the music that we were composing for THE SHINING while they were still shooting the film and even before it would get to him we would hear from the people that we were working with us at Warner Brothers that our music was very scary.
TV STORE ONLINE: I've heard the score and it's very frightening...
ELKIND: We thought so as well. We also thought that our score was quite magical in a sense and in particular we were very happy with how the work turned out for example in the ballroom scene. Although our score was never used, Wendy and I felt totally justified in how we had envisioned the score for THE SHINING when years later, Stephen King made the ABC mini-series, and his score sounded very much like the one we had did for Stanley.
TV STORE ONLINE: When Stanley asked you and Wendy to create the score, did he ever meet with you or sit down to talk with you about what he wanted for the music for THE SHINING?
ELKIND: He never explained anything to us. He never really ever told us what he wanted. We wrote all the music based on Stephen King's novel. Just before Wendy and I started to work with Stanley on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, we had been working with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. When we heard that Stanley was shooting CLOCKWORK we hadn't even met him yet. Being in our 20's, we were arrogant about the fact that he hadn't heard about either of us. At the time I was friends with a literary agent in New York City, and she knew Stanley's lawyer in Los Angeles. I sent him a recording of our version of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and said, "This is perfect for Stanley's project..." He said, "Well, I'll listen to it and if it's everything that you say it is, then I'll send it to him." He sent it off to Kubrick, and within a week Wendy and I were on our way to London to meet with Stanley. When we got there he had already cut in some of our music into A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. With THE SHINING it was a very different experience.
TV STORE ONLINE: Wendy put out a portion of THE SHINING score on CD a few years back under the title "Rediscovering Lost Scores, Vol. 1..."
ELKIND: Yes, but that is only about an hour of music. We actually had about four hours of music that we did for THE SHINING. The piece we did for the Torrance family driving up to the hotel in the beginning originally featured Jimmy Owens on Trumpet, but Stanley didn't like it. He thought that it sounded too much like "Little Boy Blue", but maybe he hadn't ever heard Miles Davis (Laughing).
TV STORE ONLINE: I really like the score you and Wendy completed. It really seems like it is this exterior force that could exist in the hotel with the family moving against it...
ELKIND: That was certainly the idea for it. I did all of the voicing on both the scores for A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and THE SHINING, but I'm really sorry that people never got to hear what Wendy and I did for THE SHINING in its entirety.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Artist and animator Cal Schenkel talks about working with Frank Zappa on his 1971 rock music culture film satire 200 MOTELS...
TV STORE ONLINE: I'm a huge fan of the Frank Zappa film 200 MOTELS (1971)....Do you hear that a lot?
SCHENKEL: No I don't! (Laughing) I've heard various comments about the film over the years but I don't think I've ever met a "huge" fan of the film... (Laughing)
TV STORE ONLINE: Given it's sort of free-form aesthetic I was wondering if there was actually ever a script written for 200 MOTELS and did you ever see it?
SCHENKEL: I did. I still have a copy of it somewhere. Of course, the script went through quite a bit of changes along the way as you can imagine. The whole thing started...I went to London in November of 1970 about a month or two before the filming started. I went to get together with the art director. I had done some initial drawings for the backgrounds and other elements that were based on some discussions that I had had with Frank. We were shooting the film at Pinewood Studios outside of London. I can't remember now, but it was sometime around the Christmas holiday that Frank, myself and his secretary Pauline [Butcher] had a number of meetings and in those Frank began to dictate the script to Pauline and I took some notes on various things that he wanted to see included. As I said, there were a number of changes that were fairly complex. It was a quick shoot, and we didn't take a lot of pre-production time at the studio either.
TV STORE ONLINE: How about the building of the 'Centerville' sets? What was the inspiration for those?
SCHENKEL: Well, Frank and I talked quite a bit about that. We wanted to keep it simple, and we wanted to keep it flat, and he wanted it to be just this basic average little downtown area outside of the suburbs. Frank had wanted me to do some of the actual painting of the set but the union schedules at the studio wouldn't allow for that. We played with a lot of interesting things. We used vacuum form PVC for a lot of the sets, because it gave a dimensional look to the sets.
TV STORE ONLINE: You designed the blue penis mobile that we see in the film...
SCHENKEL: I did, it wasn't too complicated and I just drew it up in one afternoon.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did Frank ever discuss the idea behind the concept for the film? Did he ever say, "This is a movie about what I think that people actually think that a rock stars life is like on the road."
SCHENKEL: Oh no, not in any way. There may have been some idle talk at an evening out to dinner or something like that but it just wasn't something that would have been discussed. It wasn't a weird shoot or anything like that either. It was a pretty normal shoot at Pinewood Studios. All of the crew members that were employed at Pinewood just did their jobs for us. They didn't ask any questions about what we were doing, but the Orchestra that was used in the film, initially, they didn't take what they were doing very seriously.
TV STORE ONLINE: The film was shot at Pinewood Studios, and in 200 MOTELS we see an homage to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) with the appearance of the black monolith in a scene in the film...
SCHENKEL: Right, yeah (Laughing). 2001 was such a popular film at the time that we were shooting 200 MOTELS. I don't know if Frank was a fan of 2001 and I'm not sure why he put that into 200 MOTELS. He was always satirizing things, so that may have been why he included it into the film. He may have just included it in 200 MOTELS because 2001 was also shot at Pinewood. The thing I remember the most about shooting at Pinewood was that FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971) and one of the James Bond films were also filming there at the same time that we were, so it was fun to go down and hang out around the studio commissary and meet some of the actors and crew members from those movies.
TV STORE ONLINE: A year or two ago there was a new DVD of 200 MOTELS released and there is a audio commentary track on the release by the "Director" of 200 MOTELS Tony Palmer. On the commentary track he says some nice things about the production and also about working with Frank, but yet it's fairly common knowledge amongst Zappa fans that Palmer and Frank had a falling out at the end of the shoot of the film, where Palmer threatened to take the master tapes of the film away....
SCHENKEL: Right, there was a falling out. I think that both Frank and Tony each had their own ideas about what 200 MOTELS should be. I also think that the conflict came because they were both trying to jam so much stuff into that movie and there wasn't enough money for them to each get in everything that they had wanted to include. There were things that didn't quite come out right, and things that just didn't get done. That's the reason why the animated sequence made it into the film, because originally it was supposed to be done live-action. I can't remember now if the filming for it wasn't complete or if something just went wrong, but Frank, in the end just decided that we should just do it as an animated sequence.
TV STORE ONLINE: Didn't you have a hand in doing that animated sequence yourself?
SCHENKEL: I designed it, and I did some of the hand animation for it. The lions share of the work went to Chuck Swenson, who was a master of animation. I did a lot of background stuff and a few of the characters that are in that sequence.
TV STORE ONLINE: I'm a huge fan of Jeff Simmons, and the record of his that Frank played guitar on and released on his Bizarre record label called Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up. Jeff was supposed to be in 200 MOTELS but was fired by Frank...
SCHENKEL: (Laughing). Right, yeah. You probably know the story then about how Jeff was replaced for the film, then? Frank started auditioning people to play Jeff's character in 200 MOTELS and he just couldn't find anyone that fit, so finally he said, "The next person that walks through the door is going to play Jeff." The next person to walk through the door was Ringo Starr's chauffeur...(Laughing) So Frank gave him Jeff's part.
TV STORE ONLINE: I heard once that Frank had wanted to cast British actor Wilfrid Brambell, who played Ringo Starr's grandfather in A HARD DAYS NIGHT (1964), for Jeff's part?
SCHENKEL: (Laughing) He did. Frank brought him to the studio to try out for Jeff's part.
TV STORE ONLINE: That would have been wonderfully insane...
SCHENKEL: It would have been really cool.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you have anything to do with the movie poster art for 200 MOTELS?
SCHENKEL: I didn't. That is a great illustration. I did do the inside packaging for the 200 MOTELS album though. I was just too busy with the animation in the movie at the time to do the cover.
TV STORE ONLINE: Off subject of 200 MOTELS, one of the things that I really love that you did animation wise was that television commercial that you did for Frank's 1974 album Apostrophe (') with the DJ Dogg....
SCHENKEL: Thanks. I worked with an animator on that. I think the concept generally just came from Frank. To be honest, I don't really remember any of the details now about how that all came about or how long it took to complete. It was pretty basic in that the animation was done around the soundtrack. So Frank did the soundtrack and then gave it to me and I designed and produced it around that. See YouTube here.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
For more with Cal Schenkel please visit his official website here.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014
Next up in our 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Interview Series...
TV STORE ONLINE: Tell me about how you came to work on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)?
BRIAN JOHNSON: I was first approached to work on 2001 by Stanley's office via Les Bowie. At the time I was working on the show Thunderbirds (1965-66), and apparently Stanley was watching the show. He had a list of people from the show that he wanted to meet with out at MGM Borehamwood and so I went out to see him.
TV STORE ONLINE: He did make an offer to everyone on the list didn't he about a job on 2001?
BRIAN JOHNSON: I believe he did, but as far as I know after that first contact with the studio, I was the only one that pursued the opportunity.
TV STORE ONLINE: What was your first impression of Stanley when you met him?
BRIAN JOHNSON: I knew I had to be out at his office at MGM at a certain time, and when I got there his secretary told me, "Stanley is out on such-and-such stage today..." So I went walking around and ended up on the big stage at MGM. There was a painter in the corner, fiddling around doing a few bits. I went up to him and said, "I was told that Stanley Kubrick would be on this stage." The man turned around and he said, "Yes, that's me." That was how I met him. He smiled at me and we started to talk. He was wearing that old blue jacket that he liked so much. And an old pair of blue trousers. He had like four or five of those same jackets in his collection and they made him look like he was a painter.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you get on well with Stanley?
BRIAN JOHNSON: Only as well as the next fellow who worked with him I'd imagine. I do remember one time...We were working on the blacked-out sound stage shooting one of the models and we were chatting and somehow the conversation turned to flying. I was quite keen on lite aircraft flying and Stanley said, "You know, I've given up flying and you should too..." Shortly after this, issues of the big glossy American magazine Flying would appear on my desk at the studio ever month from Stanley and he would put notes throughout the issue for me to review. He would comment on various things about flying lite aircraft. Months passed and while we were waiting for some film to develop or something or other, he said, "How is the flying going?" I said, "I'm flying Gliders and some power engines now..." Then he responded with, "You know, I learned how to fly." I said, "Did you?" I had no idea about this when he mentioned it to me. He then went on to tell me about how when he had learned to fly and how when he had went up on his first or second solo flight about how he had frozen at the controls. He said that he got scared but that he had managed to land the aircraft and that after that he decided that he would never fly again even with a professional pilot at the controls.
He also would talk to me about the film he wanted to make after 2001. He said, "I've got a couple things that I'm working on. One I can't talk about now, but the other is a film about Napoleon." I said, "Brilliant." He said, "I just have one problem...I'm gonna play Napoleon!" (Laughing) I thought that he was joking with me because he would do that sometimes, but then again, how many times over the years since 2001 has that been speculated on? (Laughing) I said to him,"I don't know if I like the idea of that!" He said, "Well, no one does..." (Laughing)
TV STORE ONLINE: And the first shot you worked on in 2001 was the "floating pen" sequence?
BRIAN JOHNSON: Yes, it was. There had been many attempts at that shot before the glass plate was introduced but I wasn't there for that. I walked onto the set and I was handed the pens and a bunch of 3M double sided tape, and that was something completely new for the time. We set it up and shot it.
TV STORE ONLINE: I know that there has been so much said and written about the Centrifuge set for 2001.....
BRIAN JOHNSON: Right, yeah, there has been hasn't there? I spent a great deal of time on that set because I had to set up all of the computer readout screens. Those were all set up on 16mm Bell & Howell projectors that were attached at various points on the outside of the Centrifuge set. It was [Special Photographic Effects Supervisor] Wally Veevers idea to use various different types of lenses on each projector. This didn't work because when the Centrifuge went around, the readouts on the computer on the set would eventually be upside down at a certain point in the Centrifuge rotation, so it occurred to me that we would actually need to install a steel plate underneath the projector and add an additional projector that would run at the same time but upside down, so when it rotated, the screen image, the readout, would be right side up no matter at what point it was at in the rotation of the Centrifuge. Wally was insistent that all of the projects had to be in a upright position but when he tried out his rig he was having some key-stoning problems.
Stanley had this thing about having two different people work on the same project at the same time, so as I was getting the lenses around for the Bell & Howell for Wally's project, I was experimenting with my own rig with the stock projector lenses. When Stanley walked onto the set, Wally fired up his rig and it was all over the place, and when I figured up my rig, not only did it work but the readouts on the screens on the set were much brighter. Stanley said, "Right, file yours Wally..." Then he walked off the stage. After that, Wally wouldn't talk to me again, and I moved on to spend the rest of the shoot working with Doug Trumbull.
TV STORE ONLINE: All of those readouts were animated sequences that we see on the computers on the Centrifuge?
BRIAN JOHNSON: That's right. They were all shot by Douglas Trumbull. Each projector had about five minutes of animation on them.
TV STORE ONLINE: You also had a big hand in the shooting of the model spaceships in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY as well, right?
BRIAN JOHNSON: I did. I worked with Stanley on that. I was given the job of getting all of the models ready to do the still photography with Stanley. We had an Electrician, myself and Stanley on a completely blacked-out sound stage. Stanley would work for hours lighting the models and then he would shoot the 4"x 5" plates, and those plates would then be used to make enlargements for the animation. We used Polaroid Land 300 stock. It was the same stock that spy planes used, and it was very fine grain black and white. It was very high process stock, it was fantastic stuff.
TV STORE ONLINE: Could you break down the entire process of how that worked for me?
BRIAN JOHNSON: Sure. So we would go to the storyboards and take the shot that we were doing on any particular day and then I would set it up on the blacked-out sound stage. The electrician would come in and set up the lights were Stanley wanted them. Stanley would set the key light were he wanted it, then we would blanket the exposure. We had problems with processing the film because we at times would work with a f/stop of 128 for about 10 minutes -- which was basically an aperture the size of a pinhole -- this was because we had to get a certain depth of field, but also everything had to always be in focus as well. So we'd shoot something, send it off and it would often times be rejected because it wasn't perfect.
From there, I had to clean the negatives that Stanley had shot. Then Stanley would go over those to determine which part of the image he wanted to appear on the screen. Once he had decided, he would have someone cut out the model from the composite made from the negative with a surgical scalpel and then that would be placed onto the glass plates. Once the glass plates were made, they would re-photograph those with a film camera. They cameras would track along with the image or move in on it as was necessary. We didn't very often shoot the models with a film camera, but we shot more with a still camera really. It was animation. It was important to do it this way because then we could then go back and re-re-photograph those with background projections in place. An example of that would be how one sees space in the background via the windows of the space station.
TV STORE ONLINE: Was the rotation of the space station itself as it appears in the movie today done that same way?
BRIAN JOHNSON: That was actually done in real time. That was a big model and it was lit up with lots of bulbs and we did really really slow camera moves on it. You couldn't virtually even see it turning while we were shooting it, it was that slow moving.
TV STORE ONLINE: I've heard from other crew members and read about the numerous instances were a star would accidentally bleed into one of the models in the animation process and how Stanley would request an insurance claim be submitted for the mistake...
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, he had lots of those...(Laughing) There was one filed nearly every day. The thing is, all of the images were "held" takes so they could go from one process of the animation to another...For example, we should shoot a track-in on a spacecraft. It would next go to the "blobber" department, as it was called, and they would project each frame of what we had shot and then they would create the matte background that was needed for the shot so the stars could be put into the shot. Then it would go next to the department that made the stars themselves, and then eventually all of it would end up together on a strip of film as one single shot. There were often times when one frame or two would be out of sync in the process and a star would bleed into the spaceship and then the entire thing would have to be done all over again.
For most of the shots that I did with Stanley, there would be like four or five held takes, and one of those would be processed. All of these would be filled into a library, and by the end of the shooting of 2001 we had a library that was beyond belief. It was filled with held takes, undeveloped film and God knows what else. It was also very important for everything that went into the final shot be done first process, because once you start getting into film optics, then you start messing around with positives and negatives and there is a reduction of image quality, and we wouldn't have been able to complete the work in the time that we did. Effectively, the entire process was sort of like shooting with a motion control film camera, except at that time we didn't have the computers to control the cameras.
TV STORE ONLINE: You also assisted in the physical building of the some of the models used in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, didn't you?
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, Doug Trumbull and I did a lot of the "dirtying" down of them. We also added plastic enhancements to some of the models to give them more visible details for the camera. Myself and [Production Manager] Robert Watts went to the Nuremberg Toy Fair in Germany which was the largest convention for toy models in the world. When I was on Thunderbirds, I had been using a lot of plastic kits on the models for that show that I had gotten from two great companies based in Germany. Robert could speak German so I had him ask one of the companies if we could go to their factory and just hold buckets under their machines to get as many of a single piece that we wanted. I thought this was a better idea instead of buying 1000 of their kits and only using one piece out of each of them. The Germans have always been good about that sort of thing, so they allowed us to come to their factory and we went through all of the bits that they made, picked the ones that we liked and were able to get all of the pieces that we needed. We had thousands and thousands of bits packed and ready to go at customs at the airport when we arrived the next day.
Some of the models that were created for 2001 were kind of plain, so what Doug Trumbull and I did was to take all of those little plastic bits and embed them. We did that on the Moonbase model and on several of the space satellites.
TV STORE ONLINE: How big was that Moonbase model?
BRIAN JOHNSON: The whole thing including the landscape was just 4 feet by 4 feet. I built one portion of it. We photographed it, and because we photographed it with a wide lens with a big exposure, we got the depth we needed right from the start. We made the moon craters by pouring plaster and then taking a 6 inch brush and flicking it with water as it set. That was how all of the craters were made. We had sculptresses Liz Moore and Joyce Seddon helping us. When I was working on Space 1999 (1975-77) I did the exact same thing there to make some of the landscapes for that show. Why not? It worked well.
TV STORE ONLINE: How about the sequence with the Moonbus flying across the surface of the moon? Was that done with animation?
BRIAN JOHNSON: There was some shots that were done that way of the Moonbus, but the majority of that was done with the actual model and the camera moving back and forth on a track shooting it. When we were watching the Moonbus footage in the dailies, Stanley wasn't happen with it because he thought that it was too shaky, but I realized that it wasn't the actual footage that was shaky but that there was something wrong with the projector that was showing the dailies. With Stanley, you couldn't just come out and say that. With Stanley, you had to be diplomatic about how you approached him about things like that. I told him, and he just couldn't get his mind around it, so we ended up shooting it all over again. We ended up shooting it about five times actually.
When we started to create the moon landscapes for 2001 we were working off of NASA photographs that they had sent us, and once we had shot it, we'd have to go back and re-shoot it too, because each time we would complete the shot, NASA would send us another set of photographs that showed the moon landscape in greater detail. That went on and on.
TV STORE ONLINE: How about the shooting of that amazing sequence where the TMA Pod comes down inside the Moonbase and lands?
BRIAN JOHNSON: Right, that was done with a counter-weighted beam that held the pod model up in the air that was designed by Wally Veevers. It had a spigot that came out of the back of it. I noticed how there was nothing on the spigot that would lock the model into place because when the pivoted arm went down there was nothing to stop the model from sliding off the spigot and crashing. I fitted it up with a device that locked it on. It was a system that was designed to automatically raise and lower the pod onto the landing pad, and it took a team of us to have it land down with the air coming out of it as well.
TV STORE ONLINE: There's been a photograph going around the internet for many years of the 2001 space station model laying out in a field on the back lot of MGM Borehamwood....
BRIAN JOHNSON: That's right. MGM didn't scrap the model, Stanley did. After the movie finishing shooting, all of the models were put into storage containers and were put into a storage facility next door to Elstree Studios that MGM had rented out. After a number of years, and when MGM folded, the storage company notified Stanley that the cost for the storage had to be paid for to keep it going but he decided not to pay it. So without telling anyone, the storage company just dumped everything that was in the storage lot into a field. It laid there for years and years and someone eventually photographed it and the picture started to first appear in fan magazines before it eventually made its way onto the internet.
TV STORE ONLINE: I know you also worked with Douglas Trumbull on the Stargate Slit-Scan sequence as well...Was there any rhyme or reasoning behind the organization of the imagery that was created for that sequence for the film? How did you guys which shapes or patterns were to come first when you were making it?
BRIAN JOHNSON: It was very dependent on Doug getting it all sorted out. I think that there were certain aspects of it that were discussed with Stanley and that was then organized and planned out. We had to shoot the planet for the film. Doug had created a planet machine that worked quite well for the film.
TV STORE ONLINE: I've read something in the past where as Jupiter appears in the film today, Stanley had really wanted to use Saturn in the film but the special effects crew fought him on it?
BRIAN JOHNSON: That's true. Stanley was asking the impossible or nearly impossible, and when he asked Doug Trumbull and Wally Veevers, they told him that. Stanley wouldn't get mad or stomp his feet. He would stop and listen to what everyone had to say and he, in the end, decided against it. We had already spent such a long time, like nine months, planning to shoot Jupiter and by the time that he had asked about Saturn it was just too late to switch or try to do that.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you have any memories of trying to shoot the portion of the Stargate sequence that was to be called "The City Of Light"? It was to be this sort of lighted alien city full of skyscrapers?
BRIAN JOHNSON: I have a vague memory of that actually, but if I recall, we only ever did some test footage for that. It wasn't something that was going to be in the film, I don't think. I also recall helping Dan Richter dress up in a body suit because Stanley had wanted to try to film an alien, and Dan was dressed up and I had to put all of these little balls onto his suit. I know that we did some tests of that, but in the end that didn't work either. I worked on the "Star-Child" as well. Liz Moore sculpted it out of fiberglass, and I built the eyes for it that moved around. We finished that, and we put it on a rig and took a couple passes at it with the camera, and then we went back at it again but with more defused lighting. There was gauze put on the lights and the camera because when we shot it, the image was just too sharp.
TV STORE ONLINE: How did the eyes move in the Star-Child?
BRIAN JOHNSON: They were just full-sized sculpted eyes that had these little model aircraft motors on the back of them.
TV STORE ONLINE: How long did it take for Liz Moore to sculpt the Star-Child?
BRIAN JOHNSON: It didn't take her too long if I recall. I think it just took her a couple weeks to do it after there had been a few different variations on the design.
TV STORE ONLINE: I've spoken to many that have worked with Stanley over the last few years about 2001 and his other films...Do you think that he was a good collaborator?
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, I think that he was smart enough to surround himself with great people and in turn we all worked together to create some wonderful films with him. I don't think that Stanley deserved to get the Academy Award for Special Effects on 2001 though. I think that that should have went to Douglas Trumbull. There were many people that worked on 2001 that didn't credit for their work. [Special Photographic Effects Supervisor] Tom Howard has a credit on the film and he did absolutely nothing on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. He only got a credit because he was MGM's resident special effects guy in Great Britain. Back in those days you were lucky to get a credit though...(Laughing). But that all changed when George Lucas came to us to work on the STAR WARS TRILOGY (1977-1983) with him. After that was over, everyone, even the guy that went around the sound stage and emptied the trashcan got a screen credit...(Laughing)
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