miercuri, 6 noiembrie 2013

5 Famous Filmmakers and How They Actually Got Famous


You see their name every time the theme song starts playing in the intro scene and every time the screen fades to black in the endings. Even though you don't read these credits, the names slowly stick into your brain with every other movie you watch, and, eventually, you break down. You find yourself opening up Google and desperately typing in the name. Then you see it- the link to Wikipedia. You click on it, hoping for an answer to who this new mystery person is. You find him.

 Quickly, you scroll down, briefly searching through the page. Was he ever on drugs? Did he ever kill someone? Is he dead? Any conspiracy theories? None of these show up.

'There's no controversy in this one.'

 What next? Obviously, you go to the 'Early life' section. Maybe he got bullied, maybe his parents were drunks. Again, no.

 One thing left to do- find out how they started their career. You browse the same paragraph until you see it- the movie that brought them fame and fortune. You copy the name of it and paste it into YouTube, hoping to see some masterpiece. Instead, you see another random feature film from the 70's. You can feel some enthusiasm that was put in the making of it, but other than that, why did it stand out?

 Obviously, it wasn't exactly the film that scored all the points for them. So today, we'll be looking at what actually made them famous.

 1.Steven Spielberg- Amblin'(1968)

 We've heard a lot about Steven Spielberg, and some of you may already know of this film. It's a silent short about a couple hitchhiking around the country until they finally make it to the ocean. Fair enough, that is.

 Basically, this movie started Spielberg's career as a filmmaker.

 Back Story...

 Spielberg started making movies as a kid. At the age of 17, he completed his first feature length film called Firelight.

 Considering how hard making a watchable movie with no money was back then, Firelight should have been a good enough project to impress the average editor, right? But not Chuck Silvers.

 It wasn't until Spielberg walked into Chuck's office with a copy of Amblin' under his arm. Immediately, the guy asked for a private screening and, in less than month, 22 year old Spielberg was directing Joan Crawford in a Night Gallery episode. How's that for a success story?

 What actually happened

A lot of us tend to underestimate successful people. There's no difference with Spielberg.

Most of the things you know about him tell you one thing: College drop out makes boring short movie and becomes world renowned.

Actually, the story is a bit longer.

At first, Universal had a 7 year contract with Steven, starting in 1968. The young director made a few TV movies, with the theatrically released 'Duel'.

Still, it wasn't until 1975 that the name 'Steven Spielberg' actually meant anything, with one of the greatest box office hit movies of the century: Jaws.

* Jaws was made exactly seven years after Spielberg's contract. You know what they say- The last minute is the most productive one.

But honestly, have you ever heard of a movie called 'The Sugarland Express'? Or 'Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies'? Probably not. Universal may have picked him, but they would have never kept him unless it was for all the not- so- popular bunch of films he made for them.

 2.Spike Lee- She's Gotta Have It(1986)

 Maybe not as well- known as Spielberg, but still an important figure in film making.

 In 1986, he came up with a cheaply edited, black and white romantic comedy about 3 guys, each charming in their own way and a girl, who has to decide which one to spend the rest of her life with. Simple subject, simple film.

 To cut the story short, this movie jump started his entire career as a writer, director and everything else, shooting him into fame and fortune.

Back Story...

Unlike Spielberg, Spike Lee's first film was a student film called Last Hustle in Brooklyn. Through college, a few more shorts came up until he finally settled on 'She's Gotta Have it'.

 As stated before, this was shot in black and white over a period of two weeks. Budget? About $ 175,000. He never mentioned where his funding came from, but I'm assuming it was some film institute somewhere.

 The movie grossed $ 7 million. Easy money, right?

 What actually happened

 In case you've seen the movie, you probably remember him as an annoying machine talker wearing a Brooklyn hat. Somehow, he also made it big.

 While the above might be true, this story happens to be longer as well.

 Entering the long, hot, unemployed summer of 1977, Lee spotted a Super-8 movie camera in a friend’s house. Borrowing it, he roamed the streets of a panic- stricken New York City, filming everything that came in his way: The anxiety over the Son of Sam killings, the unrest that bubbled up during blackouts and the countless other aspects of urban life. He then put in hours of editing all this footage into a documentary called Last Hustle in Brooklyn.

 It was almost a decade later that he encountered his mainstream success with She's Gotta Have It.

 3.Peter Jackson- Bad Taste(1987)

 Peter Jackson is a New Zealand director, writer and producer. You probably know him as the guy who made The Lord of The Rings trilogy and it's prequel, The Hobbit trilogy.

 Because one can never make enough money out of a kids coloring book...

Again, my guess is you've heard of this movie, but never actually got to watch it. Here's a plot summary for you: Aliens abduct humans to use as meat in their intergalactic fast- food chain.

 To sum it all up, Peter Jackson effortlessly got it to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, where the rights to it where immediately sold to twelve different countries.

 Back story...

 Like Spielberg, Peter Jackson had been fascinated with movies as a child. Growing up on Ray Harryhausen films and inspired by Monty Python's Flying Circus, Jackson eventually got his hands on a Super 8 camera, which he used to direct movies with his friends.

 At the age of 12, he attempted to remake King Kong using stop motion animation. Other notable films he put together as a child are a WWII epic called The Dwarf Patrol, a James Bond spoof named Coldfinger, as well as a 20 minute short that got to air on national television, The Valley.

 In 1983, Peter started work on a short called Bad Taste.

 Somehow, the film turned into a 90 minute splatter feature with all the necessities: blood and lots of cruelty to aliens. At some point, Jackson was convinced that his masterpiece could go commercial.

 He got in touch with the New Zealand Film Commission, who got in touch with Jim Booth, who arranged the screening at Cannes. Done.  

 What actually happened

 Yet again, the story happens to be longer. About four years longer.

 First of all, he started working on Bad Taste in 1983. However, it wasn't until 1987 that anyone had heard of it. Therefore, I want you to imagine the following:

 Peter Jackson never actually had a crew. His 'crew' was made out of 4 people(including him), none of whom were paid. 4 people who sacrificed their weekends over a period of four years to get the thing done. And it wasn't just the weekends- one of them got divorced because of Bad Taste, another lost his car in an explosion scene, while Jackson took up the entire family kitchen and bathroom in order to build props - using a cooking oven.

 They went even further, building an entire house so they could shoot at it with a rocket launcher. And those cliff scenes they did a few hundred feet above the ground? Those were done with no safety equipment, using homemade filming gear.

 I'd say it was quite well earned.

 4.Martin Scorsese- I Call First(1967)

 Martin Scorsese. That's enough said.

 I Call First was his first feature film. Put together by him and his fellow students, it's about a guy whose girlfriend was once raped. Fabulous subject, what else?

That's pretty much it...

 What happened next? He became friends with popular movie makers such as Spielberg, George Lucas, Brian De Palma and Francis Ford Coppola. Then came Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, as well as fame and fortune.

 Back Story...

 Martin Scorsese was raised in Little Italy, Manhattan. Both his parents were actors, but I assume this credit comes from them making several appearances in their son's films(technically speaking, they were actors after Martin got into film making).

 He started out with short films, most notable of these being The Big Shave. Then came I Call First, then the best rewards imaginable.

What actually happened

 Personally, I have no idea. All sources so far point out to a giant gap between being an unknown Arts student and diving head- first into the industry.

 For lack of a better explanation, we'll either have to call that luck or the Illuminati. And speaking of the Illuminati...(I'm not a paranoid 9/11 freak. Please, do understand my Illuminati humor)

 5.Stanley Kubrick-  Paths of Glory(1957)

 For a brief biography, Stanley Kubrick is the guy who made 2001: A Space Odyssey and got killed by the Illuminati for making Eyes Wide Shut.

'Don't worry about the explosion scene. Bush is taking down the towers next week.'

 As far as it goes, Paths of Glory takes place during WWI, following an army unit sent on an impossible mission by their superiors. The movie was both a critical and commercial success, launching Kubrick into stardom.

 Back Story...

 Kubrick was born to a regular family in The Bronx. 

 At age 12, his father taught him how to play chess, sparking his lifelong fascination with the game. It was a year later that the guy also got him a Graflex camera, just to make sure his kid had a few more things to be obsessed with.

 Aged 17, Kubrick was hired as a photographer for Look magazine, while making short documentaries. Impressed with his early success in filmmaking, he quit his job and began work on some more short film projects. 

 By the 1950's, he was making feature lengths(that you've never heard of) such as Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss and The Killing. The latter was the first to be shot with an actual cast and crew, landing him a job at MGM.

 His next project was Paths of Glory, which started his career as a professional director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer and editor.

 What actually happened.

 He got into film making in 1951 and made his first feature film by 1953. However, four more years were to go before his commercial success.

 Did he have a crew? Nope. His first films were done entirely by him and his wife. Did he have any actors? Again, 3 years of his career had passed by the time he actually had access to any actors.

 Even with his 1957 breakthrough, it was still seven years later that he actually achieved his fame(or at least made a film that you have heard of) with Dr. Strangelove(1964).


 With every famous movie person there's years of hopeless projects and even more of raising a loyal audience.

 It's not just the work and the results. It's the work, the marketing, the networking, the getting in touch with the right people, the learning and applying, the obsessions, the bright ideas and the drive to complete your project. Question is- can you make it through?

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