REEL 13

Read our Blog Posts

REEL 13 Blog
  • February 16, 2010

    A Scouting Life: Roswell, NM

    by Sam Hutchins

    New Mexico is a very odd place.  It has some of the earliest Indian settlements we know of in the States.  The Anaszi people were living there as early as the 1500’s.  This brings only one thought to mind: why?  There are certainly some lovely natural features, but it’s hard to make dinner out of turquoise and quartz.  The landscape is frightfully harsh and barren, and even the best times there must have been hardscrabble.  Still the Indian (or First Nations, if you will) presence remains significant to this day.

    There’s also a significant Hispanic population in the state.  To be fair, the territory didn’t always carry the prefix “New.”  Before we swiped it from Mexico it was not heavily settled and remained largely unpopulated frontier territory.  Much of the current Hispanic populace can be directly attributed to economic hardships south of the border.  Sadly enough a line in the sand can represent the difference between prosperity and hardship.  Understandably many Mexican citizens made the move northward into New Mexico, doing their utmost to become former Mexican citizens.

    The question that vexes one is why the European Americans would migrate there.  The best answer I have is that many were just too weird to fit in comfortably anyplace else.  New Mexico seems to be a magnet for new age mystics, nutjobs who think they can assimilate themselves into the First Nations culture through the creation of bad artwork, and others who favor a hideous stone like turquoise.  It’s an ugly, garish, milky stone yet some people become fixated on it.  Odder still are the UFO fanatics.  Setting a southeasterly course, we headed straight for their Mecca.

    As we pulled into Roswell I could see that it had indeed been overrun by aliens.  The entire town was alien-themed.  What I saw was perhaps stranger than an actual extraterrestrial landing.  Roswell was once a charming old American town.  The Main Street there was as classic as one will find anywhere.  One and two story stone buildings line the blocks, fronted by old-fashioned streetlights.  Close your eyes and you can see what it once was.  Clearly there was once here a Woolworth’s, a soda fountain, a Szabo shoe store, etc.  Now, however it had been forever altered by alien life forms.  Without exception the storefronts had been converted to tourist traps catering to the UFO-whackjob crowd.  (Some more earnest than others, but all con artists in the end.)  Even the streetlights had alien features affixed to them.

    We wandered into a store and bought some gear like good tourists.  I got a shirt with a drawing of an alien on it for my sister.  She enjoys science fiction, but is smart enough not to take this crap too seriously.  Stephane bought an “I believe” t-shirt and put it on immediately.  He was getting much too much pleasure out of these people.  For my part I was just horrified.  People really buy into this garbage?  But I knew they did before ever getting to Roswell.

    A few years earlier I had been home in Cleveland for the holidays.  I made the acquaintance of a young woman and brought her home for the night.  Breakfast was a wee bit awkward as I was staying at my father’s house.  It quickly moved from awkward to painfully uncomfortable when my new friend told us, quite earnestly, of the time she had been visited by aliens.  It was clear that she absolutely believed that it had happened to her.  My father is the nicest guy in the world, but he couldn’t resist a few good-natured jokes at her expense.  She got angry, things got ugly, and I was mercifully able to get her out of the house and my life.

    Now we had found the place where all of these lunatics converged.  Somehow I found the place incredibly depressing.   Stephane led Darius and Kar Wai off to meet flakey Americans that they could feel superior to.   Splitting off, I wandered around until I found a liquor store.  Had a quick belt of whiskey and stashed the bottle in my bag.  Getting back to the truck I realized that one of the guys had the keys and I was locked out.  I sat on the curb drinking whiskey, taking pictures of the flies smashed on the license plate, and growling at anyone who got too close to me.  I wanted out of this city and this state.

    ….

    STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE SCOUTING LIFE.

    Sam Hutchins has been working in film production for twenty years. He started as overnight security on the set of “Working Girl” while attending film school at NYU. Since 1995 he has been a location manager for some of the top names in the business. He’ll be blogging from a unique insider’s perspective on the filmmaking process, as well as speaking to his colleagues in the production community to share their experiences with you.

  • February 15, 2010

    Best Movies by Farr: Weaver’s Winners

    by John Farr

    A look at three of Sigourney Weaver’s winning performances.


    Alien (1979)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    First of a long series, Scott’s film succeeds best at mixing genuine chills with a semblance of character development and solid ensemble playing. We first get acquainted with the diverse team manning spaceship “Nostromo”, before all hell breaks loose. It seems a nasty alien creature has been ingested inside one of the crew, and when it gets out, the group is trapped in their vessel like the proverbial sardines in a can.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Trim little classic has a skin-crawling immediacy, as director Scott builds a sense of impending danger, followed by moments of heightened suspense and terror once this nightmarish genie escapes from its bottle. Weaver makes a perfect feminist hero, ably supported by Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, and Ian Holm. Sci-fi that favors mood and substance over dazzle.


    The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    In 1965, Australian reporter Guy Hamilton arrives in Indonesia to track the turbulent Sukarno regime. There he meets half-Chinese news photographer Billy Kwan (Hunt), who quickly gets him acclimated to the people, place and politics. Billy then introduces Guy to Jill (Weaver), a British embassy attaché, and romantic sparks fly. But Guy is there to uncover the next big story, and a country on the brink of revolution is no place to fall in love.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Weir’s romantic thriller is a tense, colorful ride. The director heightens our awareness of impending societal disruption, keeping us continually on edge. Gibson has never been more magnetic as Guy, and the captivating Weaver exudes sensuality and mystery. Yet actress Hunt is the revelation in the gender-bending role of Billy — it won her an Oscar.


    The Ice Storm (1997)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Set in 1973, this pungent, disturbing tale of suburban malaise concerns the emotionally frigid relations between two families in the affluent town of New Canaan, Connecticut. Returning from his Manhattan prep school for Thanksgiving, 16-year-old Paul Hood (Tobey Maguire) is greeted at the train station by his remote father, Ben (Kevin Kline), and unsmiling mother, Elena (Joan Allen), as well as his Watergate-obsessed younger sister, Wendy (Christina Ricci). Unbeknownst to Elena, Ben is carrying on a torrid affair with neighbor Janey Carver (Weaver), while Janey’s spacey son Mikey (Elijah Wood) has been targeted for sexual experimentation by Wendy. Paul’s got issues of his own, too, including a crush on a priggish socialite (Katie Holmes). Unhappiness and alienation seems to be everyone’s lot, at least until the weather breaks…

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Based on Rick Moody’s novel, this perceptive adaptation by Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”) and screenwriter James Schamus effectively recaptures the bad hangover of the sixties drug-and-sex revolution, most emblematically at a discomfiting spouse-swapping “key party” that ends rather bitterly. Veterans Kline, Allen and Weaver are all first rate, but the young Maguire, Ricci, and Wood also hold their own, touching your heart with a coming-of-age awkwardness that sadly reflects their parents’ own disillusionment and inner gloom.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • February 15, 2010

    Best Movies by Farr: Difficult Women

    by John Farr

    Bette Davis. Ann Blyth. Mary Tyler Moore. Three masterful portrayals of nasty women.


    The Little Foxes (1941)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Married to husband Horace (Herbert Marshall) for his money, Regina Giddens (Bette Davis) and her leech-like brothers steal from him to invest in a cotton mill while the poor man recuperates from heart problems. When Horace returns and discovers the theft, Regina must cover her tracks, and inevitably becomes the victim of her own consuming greed.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Adapted from Lillian Hellman’s Broadway smash, the third and final collaboration between William Wyler and leading lady Bette Davis, again playing a viper in petticoats, is a poisonous, effective drama set in the turn-of-the-century South. Davis was never so wicked, playing Regina to the icy hilt. A fabulous cast and authentic 1900s detail bring Hellman’s loathsome characters to vivid life. Is this what they mean by Southern hospitality?


    Mildred Pierce (1945)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    This timeless, tawdry Joan Crawford melodrama is based on the James Cain story of a ruthless career woman (Joan Crawford), who will do anything to ensure her daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) gets all the advantages she never enjoyed. Veda grows into a spoiled monster, but the other characters surrounding the hard-working Mildred aren’t too sympathetic either, whether it’s the oily Monty Berrigan (Zachary Scott) whom Mildred thinks she loves, or lascivious realtor Wally Fay (Jack Carson), who just might help Mildred if she becomes friendlier. There’s a foul odor in this town, and it may be the scent of murder.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Here Curtiz the master creates a diabolical murder yarn. Crawford resuscitated her fading career with the driven Mildred, a part she was born to play. The Oscar- nominated Blyth grates as the hateful Veda (hard for her not to), and Scott and Carson each ooze their particular brand of acid as the calculating men in Mildred’s life. For a vicarious glimpse into seamy small town intrigue, you can’t beat this one. Joan won an Oscar.


    Ordinary People (1980)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Adolescent-aged son Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) must painfully rebuild his life and relationships, particularly that with his parents (Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore), after his beloved older brother dies in a boating accident.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    “People” is one of the more harrowing films out there (without blood or violence) thanks to Redford’s inspired direction and flawless turns by Sutherland, Moore and especially Hutton. Penetrating and painful to watch, the film delivers ample emotional rewards. Redford’s first foray behind the camera, the film won the Oscars for Best Picture and Director, as did young Hutton for Supporting Actor. A must.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • February 11, 2010

    A Scouting Life: Suffering a Fool

    by Sam Hutchins

    As we put Albequerque behind us we found ourselves stopping frequently to take pictures.  Nothing that was particularly relevant to the film, but great subject material still.  Strange stuff, too.  What possesses someone to live in a trailer next to the railroad tracks in the middle of nowhere?  Perhaps the trailers inhabitants would ask the same about my life in New York City, but I know that answer.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how someone would end up out here unless they were running from something.  Metaphorically we are all putting something behind us I suppose.  Be it a bad relationship, lost potential, or what have you, we all have a past.  This was a literal manifestation of it though, and the wind carried it like a warning.

    Eventually we made our way to the edge of Vaughn.  The Ranch View was just as great looking as we remembered it.  We shot it extensively now that it was open.  Odd that it looked borderline derelict last time we were here but was now open and serving breakfast.  Function of its surroundings I guess, and it’s precisely that environment I hoped to catch on film.  The whole scene had a palpable “In Cold Blood” vibe to it.

    The owner, Pete, seemed a little shady, making him consistent with his surroundings.  He spent most of the time we were there shooting the location trying to big time us.  The impulse is understandable.  It’s only natural to want to impress the people you meet, particularly when being visited in a small town.  Still, did he think the director who has a Palme D’or cared that he is able to close up his diner and go skiing whenever he pleases?  He went on the point where it was tiresome.  In these situations it is incumbent on me to steer the person away from the director.  That’s one aspect of my job that I dislike intensely.  I’m not one to suffer fools gladly in my own life and it pains me to be professionally obligated to do so.

    As we prepared to leave I asked him about the adjacent motel, also called the Ranch View.

    “Oh no, you don’t want to go there.”

    “Actually, yes, I do.”

    “No, it’s closed.  No one there.”

    “Then whose car is parked by the office?”

    He was at a loss for words, and looked to be a bit anguished.  I took him by the arm and sat him in a booth.

    “Look man, we’re going over there.  I have to.  It’s my job.  So unless you give me a real good reason to tell my boss,” I nodded towards Kar Wai, “Then I’m going to check it out.”

    “No, no, it’s cool.  But whatever you work out with them, my deal is separate.  And you can’t tell them that you’re paying me.”

    Heh, looks like Mr. Big Time here doesn’t even own the damn diner.  What a putz.  No matter, even with our smallish budget I knew we could take care of this guy as well as the actual owners.

    “Don’t sweat it, bro, I’ll take good care of you.”

    After all the agita it turned out to be a waste of time anyway.  The hotel, which looked wonderfully dilapidated from a distance, was unfortunately tidy inside.  After bidding good day to the 300 lb woman who was pretty obviously Pete’s mother we pressed on.  Everyone has his or her little dramas in life.  I’m not there to get involved; I just want to do my job.

    Vaughn proper was full of false promise.  There was lots of great old signage in front of weathered facades, but nothing had been maintained.  What appeared to be promising inevitably wound up being completely derelict.  Overall it was a bit of a letdown.  Should we decide to shoot at the Ranch View we would be a little short on other pieces to put with it locally.  I did still like the look of the Ranch View but the dearth of additional locations combined with the vague menace it carried were probably reason enough to blow it off.  That was kind of a drag as we had gone well out of our way to scout the place.  C’est la vie.  I unfolded the map to figure out our next move while we all had a smoke.  There was only one road west, and nothing remotely interesting was in that direction.  Scanning to the south a name on the map caught my eye. Turning to my companions with a big grin I asked them:

    “Hey.  You guys ever hear of a town called Roswell?”


    ….

    STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE SCOUTING LIFE.

    Sam Hutchins has been working in film production for twenty years. He started as overnight security on the set of “Working Girl” while attending film school at NYU. Since 1995 he has been a location manager for some of the top names in the business. He’ll be blogging from a unique insider’s perspective on the filmmaking process, as well as speaking to his colleagues in the production community to share their experiences with you.

Page 34 of 58« First...1020...3233343536...4050...Last »