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The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Greatest Film Never Made?

How does one know thyself? When confronted by the realities of our station in life, how do we respond to them? Will we take advantage of what time we have left to fulfil the passions that burn within us?

These questions percolated in my mind as I read Tim Lucas’ novel The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes, a fictionalized account on the making of Roger Corman’s 1967 psychedelic opus The Trip – which first appeared in cinemas on this day 55 years ago.

Cover art by Charlie Largent.

The Subject

Cinemaverick: Corman in his element during the making of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967).

By the mid-1960s, Roger Corman, a top-tier producer/director for B-movie studio American International Pictures (AIP), had become dissatisfied by the constraints of his series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations starring Vincent Price. Endeavouring to make films that reflected the controversies of the times, his first attempt at such a movie, The Wild Angels (1966) – a biker drama starring Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, and Bruce Dern – was a major box office success. For its follow-up, Corman turned his attention to a particularly hot-button subject: lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD or acid.

Japanese poster for The Trip.

Directed from a screenplay by a long-time member of Corman’s talent pool, Jack Nicholson – better known today for playing a certain Clown Prince of Crime! – the resulting film, The Trip, follows disillusioned commercial director Paul Groves (Fonda) as he seeks to gain personal insight through an LSD trip: the first of its kind depicted in a motion picture. Guided by his guru friends John (Dern) and Max (Dennis Hopper), Paul witnesses a parade of sensual and terrifying imagery throughout his hallucinogenic odyssey that forces him to consider his place in the world, and especially his relationships with women; he is torn by his feelings for his wife Sally (Susan Strasberg), who he is soon to be divorced from, and Glenn (Salli Sachse), an acquaintance of Max’s with whom he feels a mutual attraction.

Alternately confounding, nauseating, sexy and funny, The Trip remains a thoroughly engrossing watch, marked by its rapid editing and depictions of nudity, both of which were considered ground-breaking for the time. Although its style and subject matter reflect key interests of the hippie movement (LSD was made illegal across the United States soon after its release, and the film’s portrayal of it prompted the British Board of Film Censors to ban the movie for 35 years), the film’s thematic underpinnings still carry weight decades after the Summer of Love. As someone who doesn’t have any experience with such drugs, I was pleased that the film wasn’t an excuse for flashy imagery, and that it grounded the psychedelic experience in human drama through its focus on whether Paul can form personal connections amidst the emotional turmoil of a divorce. Among those The Trip impressed upon its initial release was a young film buff from Cincinnati named Tim Lucas…

The Author

Lucas with his legendary tome Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. To say this guy knows his movies is putting it lightly.

A renowned film critic/historian with fifty years of professional writing experience, Lucas is best known for co-publishing (with his wife Donna) the pioneering home media review magazine Video Watchdog (1990-2017), and for writing the celebrated critical biography Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark (2007). He has provided audio commentaries on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of over 100 movies, covering not only most of Bava’s films and several of Corman’s, but works by directors as varied as Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Sergio Leone and Orson Welles. Lucas has also penned three published novels: Throat Sprockets (1994), The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula (2005) and The Secret Life of Love Songs (2021). A throughline that connects Lucas’ work is his focus on our capacity for experiencing and expressing love for each other. This is an appropriate motif, given the themes of Corman’s film and the story he has weaved about its creation.

In 2003, Lucas began writing a comical screenplay about the making of The Trip with his friend, writer/artist Charlie Largent. Their story was structured around Corman’s revelation that, despite not outwardly fitting in with the counterculture of the period, he prepared for the film by undergoing an LSD trip on the beaches of Big Sur, California, surrounded by colleagues who witnessed and recorded his observations.

Bill Hader, Corman and Joe Dante at the 2017 script-reading of The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes.

Although The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes was soon optioned by Corman’s protégé, Gremlins (1985) director Joe Dante, and it is set to be co-produced by SpectreVision (Elijah Wood’s production company), the film has yet to see the light of day. The closest the project has come to being actualized was a 2017 script-reading at the Vista Theater in Los Angeles, billed as “The Greatest Film Never Made”; reviews of the reading unanimously praised Bill Hader’s portrayal of Corman. These aborted attempts to make the movie inspired Lucas to rewrite Kaleidoscope Eyes as a novel, drawing on correspondence with Corman’s wife/producing partner Julie, and his long-time assistant Frances Doel, to expand the story beyond what was in the script, which by this time had undergone several revisions, including contributions from writers Michael Almereyda and James Robison.

Commentary

My personal collection of Lucas’ first three novels.

Lucas’ earlier novels are characterised by their unconventional approach to narrative structure. Primarily written from the first-person point of view of the protagonists, they frequently take unexpected turns into other modes of writing, including transcripts of film scenes and interviews (Throat Sprockets); diary entries, letters and commentaries written by characters years after the referenced events (The Book of Renfield, in the style of Bram Stoker’s Dracula); and songs (The Secret Life of Love Songs).

The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes continues this trend, albeit to a lesser extent than its forebears, by presenting its first four chapters out of chronological order, with chapter titles indicating the month and year in which the events take place: the story begins in November 1966, with Peter being awed by Jack’s script for The Trip, before flashing back five months earlier to Roger in the throes of post-production on The Wild Angels. It diverges from Lucas’ previous works by being his first novel to be largely written in a narratorial third-person style, with its only ventures into first-person occurring in Chapter 11, which chronicles Roger’s trip. As a reading experience, I would describe Kaleidoscope Eyes as Lucas’ most accessible novel, and appropriately his most cinematic.

The picturesque beaches of Big Sur, where Roger partook in his trip, became a major location for The Trip.

As with his earlier books, Lucas demonstrates meticulous attention to detail: his vivid overview of the changing cultural landscape in mid-60s Hollywood in Chapter 2 (which he describes as “the Summer of Foreplay before the Summer of Love”) infuses the location with a sense of excitement, where anything is possible and change is the law of the land. His imagination is on full throttle in his renderings of Roger’s trip, which are appropriately thoughtful yet bizarre. Consider the passage where Roger’s musings over the grains of sand that comprise Big Sur’s beach evolve into the observation that “God was a surfer”.

My personal copy of Reynold Brown’s poster art for X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.

Given the setting, comparisons to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) and its 2021 novelization are inevitable (Lucas has revealed that Tarantino was among the first to read Kaleidoscope Eyes’ script, and quickly voiced his desire to play the role of Roger’s friend, screenwriter Chuck Griffith). Like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which revels in its tributes to classic Hollywood TV shows, movies and Spaghetti Westerns, Kaleidoscope Eyes is full of references to Corman’s other films. These include his civil rights-themed drama The Intruder (1962) – the commercial failure of which makes Roger hesitant to make more “personal” films – and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), the poster art for which helps him devise an on-the-spot pitch for The Trip to his AIP bosses Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson.

Chuck Griffith about to meet his demise at the jaws of Audrey Jr. in The Little Shop of Horrors – a little movie that has left a large legacy.

I also spotted several funny references to The Little Shop of Horrors (1960): when Chuck tries to buy LSD from a dealer at Venice Beach, the dealer promises “Lots plants cheap”, a verbatim reference to a sign on Mushnick the florist’s wall, and Audrey Jr.’s catchphrase “FEED ME!” rears its head during Roger’s trip. The book is also packed with period detail (such as Metrecal, a predecessor to Sustagen that Roger drinks), and references to the music of such artists as Herb Alpert (“Spanish Flea”). As with the call-backs to Roger’s movies, these might throw off a reader unfamiliar with them, but Lucas’ fast pace allows 60s novices to get back on track to the heart of the narrative.

A scene from Corman’s pseudo-Poe film The Terror (1963) – described by Lucas as a “sorry-assed picture” – featuring Jack Nicholson and his then-wife Sandra Knight.

An advantage of the novel’s third-person approach can be seen in Lucas’ fleshing-out of the book’s cast. With a few exceptions, the supporting characters of his other novels tend to be abstract, in part due to the often-egotistical perspectives of the protagonists. Here, most of Roger’s friends and colleagues are clearly-defined, likable creatives who you want to see achieve success. Peter is a wide-eyed dreamer who wants to carve a legacy of his own, rather than simply being “Hank’s boy”. Jack is a hardworking, emotive artist who is frustrated by the bad hand life has dealt him thus far – his divorce from actress Sandra Knight inspires Paul and Sally’s split – but is determined to reward Roger’s friendship and trust.

Lucas gives Frances Doel (pictured in 2011), an overlooked member of Corman’s team, a chance to shine.

Appropriate given her background and Oxford education, Frances is very much the Alfred to Roger’s Batman, a sounding board as much as she is a faithful assistant. Chuck – who recalls Harry Connick Jr.’s portrayal of Dean McCoppin in The Iron Giant (1999) – is a cool beatnik who happily guides Roger through his trip despite his initial 600-page script for The Trip being discarded in favour of Jack’s more streamlined take. Another of Roger’s protégés, Peter Bogdanovich – whose directorial debut Targets (1968) is prominently foreshadowed by Lucas – is a sharp-witted dandy keen to make the leap from critic to filmmaker. In their brief scenes, Bruce and Dennis are intellectual, curious thespians eager to give Roger their best work in their performances as John and Max, and while he does not turn her into a fully-fledged character, Lucas offers a nice appreciation of Salli and her portrayal of Glenn.

The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood share much in common, but both are reflective of their authors.

Whereas Lucas’ previous novels can be described as ranging between melancholic or tragic in tone, Kaleidoscope Eyes is the first to demonstrate his lighter side, imparting a sense of optimism that shines through the darkness. It shares a view with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that, as long as you have friends in your corner and take risks, you can clear the hurdles Hollywood puts in your way.

What about Roger himself? Given the book’s generally light tone and its loving tributes to several celebrated talents, it might have been easy to make him an amiable everyman, a vehicle through which the story unfolds, but Lucas turns the maverick moviemaker into arguably his most complex protagonist yet.

Paul directs a commercial in The Trip. While Corman has admitted that Paul is something of a semi-autobiographical vehicle, Lucas demonstrates they aren’t one and the same.

In his audio commentary for Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Lucas notes that the heroes of many of the director’s films are truth-seekers. This is an attribute that also describes the leads of Lucas’ prior novels, and one which he applies to Roger, whose persona is defined by his incongruities: he has the dress-sense of an old fogey, the mind of a businessman, the heart of an explorer and the soul of an artist. Despite his personal tastes not lining up with those of his younger hippie colleagues, he is determined to accurately portray the psychedelic experience with as much realism as possible in the confines of a low budget, consulting Chuck and Jack about their experiences with LSD and extensively reading the works of such proponents of the drug as Dr. Timothy Leary in preparation for his trip and the film informed by it. Roger’s various faculties come into play in not only how he conducts his work – he views himself as a problem-solver who wants to work out “how to turn $300,000 into several millions” – but his love life.

Peter Fonda and Salli Sachse relaxing behind the scenes of The Trip. The relationship between their characters reflects the “real-life” drama Lucas reveals to us.

Reading through Lucas’ books, I have been struck by his consistent focus on the relationships between his main characters and the women in their lives. His stories cover a wide spectrum of how men interact with “the fairer sex”, including seeking a partner with mutual erotic interests (Throat Sprockets); experiencing the pain of unrequited love and the danger of seduction (The Book of Renfield); and discovering the duality between spouses and muses (The Secret Life of Love Songs). Here, Roger is depicted as a 40-year-old serial monogamist; although courteous and deeply attracted to women (“The Earth is a woman… and I am HUMPING HER!” he screams during his trip), he has trouble allowing them to embrace his multifaceted makeup. Despite having three different girlfriends over the course of the story, Roger’s behaviour is carefully portrayed by Lucas as not creepy or predatory, but indicative of someone who ends relationships as soon as it is clear they are not long-term.

Mr. and Mrs. Corman (pictured in 2010) – a co-production five decades in the making.

Paralleling Paul’s conflicted feelings for Glenn in The Trip, Roger is unsure about the deepness of his friendship with Julie Halloran, a researcher who shares his passion for problem-solving. He deliberately falls out of contact with her while preparing for the movie, fearing that she would not approve of his own “research”. The manner in which Lucas resolves this will-they-won’t-they dynamic not only does justice to the climax of The Trip, but the union they would eventually share together.

Lucas delivers two symbolic masterstrokes during Roger’s trip, which serve to convey his attitude to life: the constant, heightened ticking of his watch, and a “journey” into a giant rabbit-hole covered by screens showcasing every movie that has been, and will be, made. Unlike Paul, who is subconsciously ashamed of the commercialism of his chosen profession, Roger (in both the story and real life) has always embraced the artistic and commercial aspects of filmmaking. His determination to take advantage of what time he has left (in typically punctual fashion for Roger, his trip ends ahead of schedule!) has led him to not only push boundaries in his own movies, but also foster promising talents who might not have otherwise gotten the big break they needed. Indeed, numerous graduates of Roger’s informal “film school” would go on to become Oscar winners, including Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme and James Cameron.

“Art + business”: Corman seals a deal with Ron Howard for the latter’s directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto (1977).

And the ending? Well, although you can already find out about it online (Dante has already shot part of it as a form of “insurance”, and Ozploitation legend Brian Trenchard-Smith has told me that he was involved as a stand-in), I encourage you to discover its power – it’s a provocative capper that’ll leave you with those burning questions I asked at the start of this deep dive. Without giving too much away, it also neatly harkens back to both the ending of The Book of Renfield, and a phrase Roger may (or may not?) have uttered towards the end of his trip. This line, in turn, is a reference to a phrase claimed by Stephen King to have been uttered by Ray Milland’s character in an unedited version of the ending to X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

A fun, hauntingly beautiful tribute to one of the great craftsmen of the film industry and the power of his work, The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes earns my highest recommendation. I only hope it’s a matter of time before the rest of the movie version is made…

Oh, no! The author of this article accidentally dropped acid before taking this selfie… now he thinks there’s a bunch of go-go girls dancing to the tune of “Tomorrow Never Knows” within the camera lens!

The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes is available from PS Publishing at https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-man-with-kaleidoscope-eyes-hardcover-by-tim-lucas-5700-p.asp (print) and https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-man-with-kaleidoscope-eyes-ebook-by-tim-lucas-5829-p.asp (eBook). Signed copies of the book are available from Video Watchdog at https://videowatchdog.com/home/HTM/mwke.htm.

The Trip can be rented on Apple TV+ and is available on Blu-ray from UK distributor Signal One Entertainment at https://www.signal1entertainment.com/products/the-trip-blu-ray.

Watch the trailer for The Trip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWX_-rO-1nU

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Film Reviews

An Honest review of Elvis

After what feels like 5 years, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is finally here. Ever since Tom Hanks got COVID I feel like I have been hearing about this movie once a week. Probably because it was filmed in Australia, but the hype train to this movie felt enormous. Something that is usually quite dangerous for an audience’s expectations. But its finally here and boy is it something. It’s one of those movies I think will really unite audiences because what works works and what doesn’t really does not…

What is structure?

Walking out of the packed cinema, everyone around me had the same core criticism of Elvis – a weird structure and pacing. The opening of this film is some of the most bat shit crazy effects and transitions I have ever seen. Baz gives zero fucks about what everyone else is doing and as usual goes with his gut. In the first 10 minutes, there’s animation, split screens, psychedelics, and a lot of spinning transitions. While this is not for me personally, I did appreciate it. It felt like a refreshing way to open a movie and it didn’t take me long to settle in. And then, it disappears for the rest of the film…

If Elvis maintained this breakneck speed and crazy style, I would have appreciated it much more. Instead, we move into this slow and dragging pace that makes you look at your clock and go “FUCK ME THERES 2 HOURS LEFT?” It’s not that it’s that bad it’s just when you have such a fast-paced opening, you kind of have to keep a little bit of the momentum going. I could not count how many people were checking their phones or going to the toilet after an hour of this. I think it comes down to one key reason.

The writing of Elvis is unique. A scene in this film kind of goes like this – Tom Hanks narrates something big in Elvis’s career happening and then we cut to the consequence of this rather than showing it. But what really damages this is that all these scenes drag on for a very very long time. And while I do appreciate Baz not just showing us all the famous and well-known aspects of Elvis’s life, this structure gets repetitive and brings the story to a halt.  For example, that whole sequence of the Christmas show went for a staggering amount of time. While I know it’s a big part of his career, it just doesn’t fit this movies pacing. I just think that if Baz maintained that fast pace and cut some scenes down, this movie would be a lot more engaging.

Austin fucking Butler

It’s no secret that Austin Butler smashes this performance of Elvis. The voice, the moves, the mannerisms – everything is spot on. To me, it just shows a level of hard work and passion that is so appealing to see on screen and hear about in interviews. Having an actor truly love the role is so addictive and makes the character so believable. On top of this, it never felt like Austin was overdoing it. He never pushed anything to far or begged for the audience’s attention. It just felt like an honest and passionate portrayal of a man that Austin and Baz clearly care about so deeply.

Tom Hanks…

I don’t think its Tom Hank’s fault that his performance in this doesn’t work. Instead, I think it comes down to two key reasons. Firstly, his name. Tom Hanks is just at the level of fame where as soon as he is on screen, it is a challenge for us to suspend of disbelief. Sure, when he plays an American it is easy for the audience to accept his character but let me ask you this. In the last 10 years, are you ever actually watching him and not just thinking that you are watching Tom Hanks on screen? I truly believe he is just so famous and so often typecast that convincing us of these oddball characters has become near impossible.

The second reason is the accent. I think Tom is doing a Dutch/ American accent, but I could not tell. I never settled into it or felt that it was natural for one moment. Its not necessarily terrible it just feels so forced and out of place. 

Australian Actors

The Australian actors in this are incredible. Everyone in this smashes their accent and never made me question it once. As usual, Richard Roxburgh and David Wenham are amazing. They both play characters that feel out of their comfort zone and yet it still feel so natural and effortless. Kodi Smit – McPhee just takes over the screen whenever he is on it. He is on track to being one of Hollywood’s best actors in the next 5 years.

The Ending (Spoilers)

Man, that ending… Few film endings leave you constantly pondering it and replaying that final scene in your head for days. Elvis did just that to me. The film wraps up very quickly and does this beautiful cut to the real Elvis. What is so incredible is that it doesn’t try too hard to wrap things up in a bow or give a positive spin on the Kings life. Instead, it shows his final days for what they truly were. Bleak and miserable. We see his passion for performing but also the darker side of his life so clearly in those final few moments. It leave the audience with this bittersweet taste in their tongue, seeing how easily such an evil man ruined a true artist. Perfect editing, directing, and acting.

Should you watch Elvis?

I do think its worth seeing in the cinema. Just prepare yourself for a rollercoaster… Apart from the slow second act and Tom hanks’, I did enjoy this movie and would recommend.

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The Euphoria Rant  

Euphoria has been talked about to death. And here I am, about to write another article on this insanely popular TV show. And why? Because it’s a perfect TV show to talk about. It is designed stir up as much controversy and discussion as possible. It’s designed to split people. So lets dive in.

SEASON 1

Now I started watching this Show when season 2 had finish so my experience was very different to other people. I watched the show very spaced out over 2 months, mainly because I found it so boring. But there were a couple things that really stood out to me about season 1. The opening of each episode is a perfect way to start a show. It launches you into this world instantly and makes you care about each of these characters in 12 minutes. People are not appreciative of how hard that is to do. For all his faults, Sam Levinson smashes that opening. To me, it reminds of me of the Good Fellas opening – something I know has been done 1000 times before. But essentially, its so effective because it launches you into their lives instantly. You know these characters like a close friend in a way that can take some shows 4 seasons to crack. Big tick from me.

I also think the acting in this show is amazing. A standout for me is Jacob Elordi as Nate Jacobs – and that’s not just because he is from Brisbane. He plays a psychopath perfectly. That calm quiet demeanour with fits of rage is horrifying. As a great villain does, he really makes you hate him. The comparison is always how Delorse Umbridge is he out of 10? Nate Jacobs is a solid 8. He even makes some of the shitty writing sound less shitty. Everyone else is very good as well, no one stands out in a bad way. I do feel sorry for how much crying Sydney Sweenie has to do… every single scene, all the time.

Speaking of cast, the side characters are what make this show good. Personally, I just didn’t care about Rue. Maybe I’m heartless or biased because I haven’t experienced these things, but her story was just so fucking boring. It feels like everything that happens with her character takes place in the first two episodes, and then its just on repeat for the rest of the season. Her story with Jules is good and I like the “will they won’t they get together” aspect (an easy way to keep fans watching) but after about episode 4 I just didn’t care for either of them. Once again, maybe I am an asshole but their relationship just feels dry and yet also over the top. Also, they take up way too much screen time when you have characters like Fez, Chris, Kat and Nate carrying this show. There stories are the only part of the show that kept me watching. Every scene with Rue just felt like a distraction from this amazing ensemble.   

SEASON 2

I know it’s not controversial but hey guess what, season 2 is absolute garbage. I hate shitting on movies and tv because I know how hard people work, but season 2, fuck me what a miss. Nevertheless, the show grabbed me straight away. With Fezco and Cal’s story it hooks you right in. They are honestly the two best character openings of the whole show and the highlight of all of season 2. In particular Cal. He is such an interesting and engaging character that I am so glad they explored more.  Obviously, Fez is top tier. He is charismatic in such a natural way, and I think that’s because he just isn’t acting. I mean seriously this man is the exact same in real life.

So where does this season go wrong? I think there are two reasons this second season is such a flop.

Number one, Sam Levinson had not idea where to go with this show. If someone can honestly watch this season and tell me he knew where to take it I will give you a sticker. This season is completely lost. We are exploring things we have seen completed in the first season. We are watching scenes on repeat – episode after episode. We are spending time with none of the engaging character from the first season. We are dragging simple stories out just to fill up episodes. We are forcing over the top soap opera drama every single second. Just imagine for one second that this show ended on season one. Think of how effective it would be, how critically acclaimed Sam would be. Just like Fleabag, and every great British show, if you don’t have anything better to follow up with MAYBE JUST STOP.

Number 2, the editing. This point has been talked to death, so I will just briefly mention it. In this season, there is a captivating scene where Rue does a eulogy for her fathers’ death. Her performance is great, the writing (of this scene) is good, and it looks incredible. But you know what’s not so incredible? SEEING THIS SAME SCENE 5 TIMES ACROSS THE SEASON. I have now idea what Sam Levinson was going for but it was not effective. It was so predictable that I  knew the next words coming out of her mouth. It felt like Levinson watched Christopher Nolan for the first time and wanted to experiment with some time shit. No tick from me.

Also, this season dives way to much into Lexi Howard. I know she was a big hit in the first season and appealing but in the second she’s the writing of her character is weird. She has this stupid naivety to her about the play that makes no sense. Hear me out, this character is supposed to be extremely clever and yet she does realise this play is going to offend people? WHAT???

The play is also just a complete mess. How the fuck did Sammy think it was a good idea to spend an ENTIRE EPISODE about a play recapping a season we have witnessed. It is just showing us scenes we have already seen but done worse? If it was me, I would have had the play happen completely off screen. Thereby, you see the devastation it causes and the audience kind of creates this monstrosity in their heads.  Almost like reading a book. Maybe in the after-credit scene you release a 20minute special that shows the whole play, like in Hawkeye. But hey, that’s just me.

Final Thoughts.

Before I wrap up, I need to talk about the cinematography and lighting. It is… flashy. Its over the top and distracting but still kind of cool. Some scenes pull you out of the drama because of how unrealistic it looks. Honestly there’s only one way to describe it, a music video. The whole show looks like a music video and ultimately it comes down to whether you like that style or not. For me, not so much.  Also, the music is very good. Not my taste but clearly effective as it appeals to a younger audience (which is what this whole show is trying to do ((be as cool and edgy as possible)).

So the final question…

SHOULD YOU WATCH EUPHORIA INSTEAD OF REWATCHING THE OFFICE?

Maybe just the first season, then jump right back into that sweet sweet comfort show.

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Why The Batman Slaps? | The Batman Review

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How to be a Screenwriter w/ Stephen King

Stephen King’s 8 Rules for Screenwriting

I read this book in about 4 days. It is one of the most interesting and engaging pieces of nonfiction I have ever read. But that’s not why we are here. We are here to apply what Stephen King says about novel writing to screenwriting. And fuck me is there a lot.

The book to me, is split into two halves. An autobiographical section, about Stephen’s early life, and a second section diving into the nitty gritty of writing. In this article, I am simply going to make a list about my favourite pieces of advice he gives.

I still highly recommend reading Stephen’s book.

  1. How to edit

“When you write a story, you are telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” John Gould

Stephen King’s first editor told him this and he says it is one of the best pieces of editing information he has ever heard. It basically means that your first draft should simply be whatever is honest to you. It doesn’t matter if its boring, over the top or silly. As long as its truthful to the story you want to write. However, when you are rewriting you need to remove all the elements that don’t add layers to this story, no matter how much you love them.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with door open. “

 When you are writing your first draft it has to be just you, the page and your thoughts. Otherwise, the story is tainted by other people’s opinions. But when you write the second draft, you should listen to your editor, wife, sister, dog, basically whoever you trust to read your shit.

2nd draft = the first draft minus 10%

Pretty self-explanatory no?

2. The Motherfucking Toolbox

Stephen’s toolbox analogy is something he learned from his Uncle’s toolbox. When you get stuck or things are hard, you use your toolbox. It prevents you from getting discouraged and helps you get straight to work. While the King is talking about novel writing, what he says still applies to screenwriting.

The First Level = Vocabulary. (It doesn’t matter how smart or fancy your vocab is, as long you use it correctly.)

The Second Level = Grammar. (I wont lecture you about grammar since Mine isss shocing)

The Third Level = Paragraphing (Using it correctly – its just instinct)

Dogs not necessary.

3. Writing Good dialogue.

For screenwriters, this is definitely one of the most important points. Writing good dialogue is essential for a good script. And what Stephen says is even more useful. To write good dialogue, it just has to be honest and authentic. Dialogue is a skill best learned by people who enjoy talking and listening to others.

King uses H.P Lovecraft’s as an example. While his tales of horrific monsters were genius, his dialogue was truly terrible. This is simply because he was a loner who didn’t interact with others. As a result, what he wrote well… it goes like this

“nothin… nothin… the colour…. It burns… cold an’ wet…. But it burns…. It lived in the well…” Etc Etc. You get the idea.

4. READ AND WRITE EVERDAY.

Every single day. No excuses

Find a place. Anywhere. Just read a script.

5. Fuck plot. Use your characters.

This is something Stephen consistently brings up throughout his book. He stresses that you should write these deep and multi layered characters and let them take the story. Wherever it goes is completely up to how these people would actually act in that situation. It sounds weird but he claims it is definitely the best way to right and engaging story.

Do not try and bend your characters actions to the plot!

6. “Use what you know to enrich the story, not lecture about it”

No one wants to read a 130 page script about your life, relationships, and goals. People don’t give a shit. However, what you can do is embed these stories from your own life into the characters. Give them life by blending them with your own relationships, family and friendships. It will make your characters so much more engaging because they will seem like real people.

In particular, King emphasises the importance of embedding your “work” into your stories. Quite literally, use the shitty jobs you have had to enrich the story. For example, John Grisham, he uses his past as a lawyer not to lecture but simply to add a sense of realism to the story.

7. Write about anything, as long as you tell the truth.

When you start writing, you may be sitting there thinking now what the fuck do I write about? The truth is, anything. Absolutely anything. As long as it is honest and genuine. An audience will quickly be able to spot someone trying to imitate another screenwriter or sell movie tickets. Audiences are attracted to a good story and relatability, not a plot twist, or the wanky techniques you use to seem indie or like you watch French new wave.

Sorry, rant over.

8. The ideal reader

I will finish on this final point.

When writing you need an ideal reader. For Stephen King, this is his wife. For you, it can be anyone. Mum, Dad, girlfriend, wife, dog, mirror. You just need to pick one person in your life and write for them. As you write the first draft, every emotional beat, scary moment or funny line, you should have them in the back of your head. What will make them react positively? What will make them laugh, cry or jump in fright. And when you finish your first draft, and only then, you show them first. You listen to what they have to say and make the changes you agree with. But this is very important. They have to be able to tell you the truth. No bias bullshit. Straight to the facts, what works and what doesn’t. And finally, you should respect their opinion. They have to know a decent amount about film and writing to make the cut.

“honesty’s the best policy” – Miguel de Cervantes

        “Liars prosper” – Anonymous

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Drug trials, guns and Hollywood fame

Rebel Without a Crew Book Summary

Before I start this very short book summary, I just want to preface something.

I don’t know what I am talking about.

I am a 19 year old film school dropout (potentially) who has never seen Citizen Kane. I am not a “professional reviewer” nor a professional writer. I simply love film. And that’s what this page is about. A shared love for all things movie and tv.  

I digress.

Rebel without a Crew flipped my perception on making a movie. It inspired me to make my own shit (this), work harder and most importantly, defer from film school. And for those who cannot be arsed to read it, this is for you.

 The book is split into 4 key parts.

  1. Pre shooting
  2. Production
  3. Making it in Hollywood
  4. The 10 minute film school

The first section – my favourite – dives into Roberts own love for film and how he financed El Mariachi. Similar, to most big name Hollywood Directors, he had been making short films since he was little and as expected, these came out garbage. Robert’s theory is that to make a successful feature you want to get all the garbage out of your system.  Essentially, just start making films. Whether they are good or bad, you will slowly learn what keeps and audience engaged. For Mr Rodriguez, once he got out all the garbage, he stumbled onto success with Bedhead and then El Mariachi.

What is so fascinating about Robert’s story is how he financed his first feature. Instead of spending 3 years gathering funds or doing it through film school, he instead chose to raise the $7,000 through a drug trial. Robert spent a month in a hospital swallowing pills, being stabbed with needles and most importantly, writing his script. This showed me that there are so many different paths to funding your films. While I will not be rushing out to any local drug trials, I will be trying different methods to fund my upcoming shorts.

Big pockets = more room for gear.

Perhaps what engaged me the most was Robert’s work ethic. During the shooting of El Mariachi, he was either filming or editing for sometimes 12 hours a day. He would often work so late that no restaurants were open and would be “forced” to eat at Fat Burger. On top of this, Robert was seeing his wife and sometimes working jobs. This truly felt like a big ol fuck you. I have spent the last year drawing up hundreds of excuses as to why I have no time to read or write. After reading this short book, I knew I had to cut the crap and realistically, get to work.

While Robert gives plenty of useful information on creating short films, I felt the post production phase was the least interesting aspect of his book. It basically dives into how quickly his success began accumulating after finishing El Mariachi. Every studio in Hollywood wanted a piece of the film and were offering huge picture deals and amounts of money. Not to mention his huge success at Festivals and the amount of celebrities’ he amount. But there is one one key reason it didn’t grab me. A reason that Robert consistently establishes throughout. You have to do it yourself and learn it yourself.  You cannot learn creativity in film school or read about it in a book. You cannot be taught a director’s vision. You only develop it by going out there and shooting it yourself. So is this book completely useless then? Well no, and this is why…

Robert’s debut film

The 10 minute film school.

If you are interested in film whatsoever you have probably heard about this many times. It is basically Robert’s tips for breaking into the industry without any money or connections. The 10 minute film school can be split into 6 parts:

  1. Fuck the money, its about creativity (paraphrasing)

As almost every director in Hollywood will preach, a lot can be done with little money. Robert even argues that it is actually beneficial. This is because it shows studios and executives how much you are able to accomplish with a little budget. Plus, less stress, etc etc etc.

2. It is not about ‘movie experience’ but instead ‘experience in movies

‘Movie experience’ is any lower job on a film set, production assistant, runner, intern, the list goes on. This, according to Robert, is detrimental as it teaches you the ineffective ways of high budget film making. Also, it only teaches you how other people make films. However, ‘experience in movies’ is doing it yourself with little to no money on a shitty video camera. This ensures that you are creating your own unique creative vision.

3. Get the bad movies out of your system!

Feel like I kind of covered this.

4. Be your own director of photography

This one is simple. Robert’s idea is that if are your own D.O.P you learn as you go. Instead of wasting time asking a hundred questions or blaming the cinematographer when the shot looks garbage, it is all on you. You will problem solve and the rest will fall into place.

5. Write your own original material

By writing your own material, you once again, have no one to blame or give credit to. In addition, it comes from a personal place of truthfulness that is imperative for a good script.

6. Work hard, MAKE YOUR MOVIE

Sam Raimi, Kevin Smith, Edgar Wright, Richard Linklater, Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Rodriguez. What do all these names have in common? They made their first features or shorts with no budget and no resources. They simply had a specific creative vision in mind and used that resourcefulness to make it happen. And why were they all successful? Because they told such honest and original stories. This is the core message of Robert’s book. And it is also the reason all these directors made it so far in Hollwood.

“Work hard and be scary” – Robert Rodriguez 1995.