Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sydney Pollack

Sydney Pollack died last week and I would be remiss if I didn't write something about him.

I think I was more of a fan of Sydney Pollack the person than of Sydney Pollack films- though he made a bunch of great films as director, producer and actor. I especially love Tootsie.

What I liked about Pollack was this: here's a guy from Indiana who worked his way up through they system by going to New York to become an actor; working in live television (remember live dramas on TV?), then directing TV westerns (if you don't remember live TV then you don't remember westerns on television either) and other episodic TV in the 1960s. He went from TV to film at the very tail end of the studio system when a director could come up through the ranks.

His films were notable to me for his casting. He used really big stars (Redford, Streep, Hoffman, Pacino, Fonda, Streisand, Cruise, Hackman, Bill Murray, Lange, Teri Garr, Harrison Ford, Penn, Kidman and the list goes on) as leads and big stars in supporting roles. You don't see that so often. How great is Bill Murray as Dustin Hoffman's roommate in Tootsie? Or Willie Nelson in Electric Horseman? He must have been doing something right to have names like those lining up to go to work for him in supporting roles.

Late in his career he became a prolific producer with his production company- Mirage- and he continued acting. He produced Michael Clayton (in which he plays a supporting role) which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar this year. He also championed smaller film directors- he produced for the late Anthony Minghella- and small projects. His last film as director was the small and interesting documentary The Sketches of Frank Gehry.

Sydney Pollack will be missed.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Adams Family

While on hiatus from Filmmaking 101 one of the things I did was watch the remarkable HBO mini-series John Adams. The series was based on David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize winning biography of our second president, John Adams. The series stars Paul Giamatti as Adams and Laura Linney as Abigail Adams, David Morse as George Washington and the always terrific Tom Wilkinson as Ben Franklin.

The show was excellent on many levels, not the least of which was the craft of filmmaking. Combining period costumes and exteriors (Colonial Williamsburg) with state of the art graphics- 18th century Philadelphia and the White House were recreated in a computer- brought the early years of our country to life.

The film made me think about the guts our founding fathers had to divorce themselves from Mother England on the hope that things would be better. Given that our fledgling country had no currency, constitution or nation government, this was no small risk taken.

The other thing that struck me was what an unusual lead character John Adams makes. Unlike the convenient heroes of our country- warriors, noble men, victims with a cause, crusaders- John Adams was a cantankerous, cranky, sarcastic, talkative New Englander. He never met an argument he felt he couldn't win. He stood up for what he believed even when it wasn't popular. He fought authority, he did what he felt was right, and he made enemies of powerful people.

Dale Carnegie he was not.

A few summers ago I went to a family reunion on my mother's side and saw my future and my past. Almost all the men there were cantankerous, sarcastic, talkative and bald. I was proud to be there because I, too, am an Adams. The HBO film, like the family reunion, showed me my past and my future- warts and all.

See the mini-series it is worth the effort. And for this one time I will sign off with my full name.

Peter Adams Hawley

Monday, June 2, 2008

Flashpoint Academy Year 1: that's a wrap!

Hello again, it's been awhile since I have written. Thanks for your patience and all the emails asking where I have been, I hope this helps explain somethings.

This past Saturday, May 31, Flashpoint Academy celebrated the successful completion of our first academic year with an event we called Flashbash.

During the afternoon we presented work from all four Flashpoint disciplines- Film, Recording Arts, Game Development and Visual FX & Animation. In addition we screened our two Production in Action films, The Collector and The Intruder, and a highlight reel of all the special events held at school during the previous nine months.

Here are some numbers from the Film Department:

62: Student film productions produced and edited.

32: Film Students that began and September and survived until June.

14: Film Students who began classes in January.

8: Making of The Intruder documentaries created by the fall film students.

4: Making of Not A Pretty Face documentaries produced by January students.

2: Weeks until June 16 when those January students return and begin the push through the summer during which they will make a second film, a music video, and learn Avid.

1: Tired Chair of the Flashpoint Academy Film Department.