Category Archives: Hollywood Insider

Spike Lee, 15 For 15, By Michelle Alexandria

“”Bamboozled”” marks Spike Lee’s 15th film, in 15 years, the prolific and always controversial director’s latest project throws a pipe bomb into the current debate of racism in Hollywood. His impressive body of work includes classics like, “”Do The Right Thing””, “”Clockers””, “”Malcom X””, and “”Jungle Fever””. Spike uses his films as a billy club to force America to look at its ugly history of racism and continually remind us how that legacy still serves as an undercurrent to the racial attitudes that we all harbor today, whether you are black or white.

In his latest effort, “”Bamboozled””, he takes on the continued racism and stereotyping in the television Industry. This “”intensely thought provoking”” satire, makes wince, while you laugh at it. “”Bamboozled”” manages to elicit several distinct emotions in you at a single time, anger, laughter, held back tears, and even defiance at the same time.This award-winning director who sparks controversy with just about every thing that does and says recently sat down with EclipseMagazine and a roundtable of journalists from other organizations. Hi reputation precedes him. We expected him to be angry and controversial, but was surprised [and a little disappointed] to see him relaxed, happy, and ready to go toe to toe with us. RoundtableDid you have any problems pulling the cast, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Damon Wayons, Savion Glover, Tommy Davidson, etc. together?SpikeNo, they read the script and wanted to do it. They thought they where very good parts and could contribute to the movie.Roundtable When you look at blacks in the media today, what do you see as today’s minstrel shows?SpikeWell, where are you from? (He asks the reporter, reporter responds, “”I’m from BET.com””) [Spike, laughs], you guys [BET] show a lot, those videos you guys show, gangster rap, are a form of minstrel shows. Bling, Bling… I call them like I see them.Roundtable The Rev. Calvin Butts in NY, went off on a particular video, TLC, can you give us an example, or examples of videos that you feel are minstrel or something that set you off?Spike[Referring to elements in Gangster Rap Videos] The Bentleys, the ever flowing Cristal, the standard shot of people throwing $100 bills at the camera, the scantily clad – not my words – “”ho’s and bitches””, constantly gyrating. Bling, Bling….Roundtable Other than Gangster Rap Videos, what other shows, Comedy, or otherwise would you consider minstrel?SpikeI think there are shows on television that are boarder line minstrel. I’d hope that this film would show that in this new millennium you wouldn’t have to wear blackface or put on a minstrel performance.Roundtable Can you be a little more specific?SpikeNo, I think that’s as specific as I need to be.Roundtable Was there a difference in between in footage quality between the narrative portions and the television show?SpikeWe shot the show on Film, while the rest of the movie was filmed on Digital Video.RoundtableThe film really does a good job of showing the behind the scenes workings of the “”industry””….SpikeWe were trying to show how the industry works, but also show that we are partly to blame for what gets put out there because we are a part of it. We accept these roles.RoundtableAfter viewing the film some of us talked and discussed the pain that we felt while watching this film. At times, it’s also really funny, when can you laugh and not laugh?SpikeThe film is Satire and we want people to feel uncomfortable laughing at it.RoundtableAre people laughing with us, or at us?SpikeIt depends on who is doing the laughing. You really can’t dictate how people are going to react to your film. All you can do is put it out there. I don’t think this film is, “”ha, ha, ha,”” I think that people should be uneasy while they watch this film.RoundtableHaving said that, do you want people to walk out of this film thinking about their relationship to other people, their race, etc.?SpikeEverything, their relationship to the images, what they watch, what they think is funny, and to understand the history of racism in the Industry, etc…RoundtableIn a recent interview, someone asked you why there was no solution outlined or suggested in the film. SpikeI’ve seen this before, when “”Do The Right Thing”” was criticized because it didn’t offer any solutions. At the end of the film, you leave us hanging out in the wilderness without any answers. I think it’s a cop out to diminish the work.RoundtableThere was a lot of violence in this film. Did you have any reservations about including it?SpikeNo, I think the violence in the film is a comment on violence. It’s not exploitation or promotion of violence.RoundtableWho do you blame for the current slate of minstrel shows? The black actors who consent to do them or the producers who produce them?Spike There is enough blame to be spread around. The best thing about this film for me, is that I have tremendous respect for the original black actors who were forced to do minstrel shows and put on black face in the past. While at the same time, it’s made me even more critical of us [and I include myself] for what we do now, because we have a lot more choices in what we can do today.RoundtableFive years ago it used to be that African Americans where always the villains and that time they were completely a moral, one-dimensional killers drinking 40’s and doing drive-bys. Nowadays, it seems like Hollywood is over compensating by having white actors play the bad guy roles, the only difference is, now the villains are nice and cuddly, fully three dimensional characters. The type of guys you want to bring home to mother. For example, the Bruce Willis, character in “”The Whole Nine Yards””, is a killer, but a “”loveable killer””. Do you think that now that white actors are taking on bad guy roles Hollywood is more sensitive to how the character is portrayed than they were in the past, when black actors would play the bad guy?SpikeWell, they have always done that. For the most part, whether you are a black or white actor, the villain has always been the choice role. What has to change is the diversity of the writers.RoundtableNow that Hollywood, seems to be scared to have a black actor play a bad guy, while at the same time they don’t want them to play the hero either, do you think there are less roles for black actors today?SpikeIt depends on who the Heroes are. I think Denzel’s character in “”Remember The Titans”” is a hero. I don’t want to make any blanket statements, but I don’t think we have the range of roles that every one else does.RoundtableFrom a hip-hop point of view, we were talking earlier today about it becoming it’s own form of minstrel.Spike[laughing, and interrupting] wait, wait, I didn’t condemn all hip-hop, it’s the Gangster Rap that I don’t like. RoundtableDo you think there is anything on television now that serves as a good counter balance to the negative stereotypes?SpikeWell, I was watching the Yanks game, so I haven’t seen Gideon’s Crossing yet.RoundtableSomeone mentions that it has some annoying gospel music….SpikeIsn’t it funny, that whenever you see black people on television that they have gospel music playing, even on “”City of Hope””. [joking] Every single time… I mean, I’m not saying that we don’t love gospel, but we have a range of musical interests.RoundtableHow do you respond to the Time Magazine article that says that “”Spike Lee’s, Bamboozled, shames us all, you have rage for the powerful, and contempt, for the masses””…SpikeI have compassion for the masses, while at the same time you have to show people the truth. I think shame comes from the institution of television and film. If you look at the final montage of this film, it shows the legacy of the Industry. It’s funny if you look at the Academy Awards, they always have the 3-5 minute montage that shows the history of film. You may get a shot of Whoopie, or Denzel getting whipped, or Mookie throwing the garbage can through the window, but I say we start a petition to make the Academy Awards show the final montage of “”Bamboozled.””RoundtableSpeaking of the “”Bamboozled”” montage, why didn’t you continue it to the present day and show a linkage, did you think it would be too heavy a statement?SpikeNumber one, we feel that we do that to some extent with our commercial [they do a spoof of designer Tommy Hillfinger, calling his stuff Tommy ‘Hillnigger’] and the mou-mous [a spoofed gangster rap group]. Number two, there’s no way those groups would allow their videos, and clips be used in a montage like this. RoundtableWhy didn’t you handle this subject in a Documentary form?SpikeHow many people see documentaries?RoundtableHow much of Michael Rapaport’s character came from your direction and how much came from within him?Spike Michael Rapaport is nothing like that character. He’s very cool people, he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, he gets outraged when young white kids come up to him and say “”what’s up, my nigger.”” Unfortunately there are a lot of Dunwittys [Rapaport’s Character] out there, especially in this Industry and also running a lot of these rap labels. To get back to an earlier point, I don’t think every black person in my films has to be 100 percent “”angelic””, that you can’t have a crack head in the film, to me that wouldn’t be very realistic. My point is, there has to be a balance and I would like to see the characters be fully three-dimensional. As I said before, most villains have the meatiest parts.Roundtable You said that you were convinced that there are white people in Hollywood who think they know black people, better than black people themselves. Do you think that it’s possible for a white person, to know a black person better than another black person?Spike[laughing] I think that if I where white, and I thought that was true, I wouldn’t tell a black person that.RoundtableDo you think Generation X will understand what you were trying to accomplish with Generation X?SpikeI think they will.RoundtableIn the film, what do you think made the minstrel show so successful, was it the hype, or do you think the audience where naturally drawn to it?SpikeA combination of both.RoundtableWhat is your definition of a “”Minstrel”” show?SpikeIt’s something that everyone needs to make up their own mind, it’s not something that you would find a clear definition of in the dictionary.RoundtableHow do you respond to the following statement, “”this is a film that white people, definitely need to see, but black people can pass””… Their are black people who feel that “”we’ve seen this already before””, that “”we know our history”” and it’s “”too depressing to watch””.SpikeI disagree. I think everyone needs to see this film. A lot of black don’t know our history.RoundtableWhat part of the film affected you the most?SpikeFor the actors, Damon and Savion said it killed them to put on the black face every day. That it scared them emotionally. You can see them getting dehumanized and see their real emotion. For me, I’d say the end when we killed one of the characters. RoundtableWhat are your plans for the future, and what do you think of the Internet’s ability to bring new programming to the masses?SpikeIn the next few months we will be making some announcements about several new television projects that we are working on. I’m tired of all the comedies on television so we are creating new dramas. I don’t really see the Internet being a replacement for television, it’s fine for short films, but I don’t see a lot of people watching that little screen for an extended period, maybe in the future, but not now.RoundtableDid Savion’s statement “”as long as I’m hoofing and making money, it’s all good”” mean that young people only care about making money and not the consequences of what they do?SpikeThat’s not just young people. I think it’s up to each individual artist to make their own decisions as to what they think is right for them.Fini

Director Ann Lu Has Big Dreams of Hollywood Success

Ann Lu enters the skirmish known as filmmaking with “”Dreamers,”” a movie, coincidentally about the struggle itself. As of this writing, the eventual release date for the film remains indeterminate, pending a distribution agreement. It seems the final hurdle to the silver screen is the most challenging.

Imagine spending one-third of your time making films, and the other two-thirds haggling with powers-that-be. This is the true life of a filmmaker, beneath the varnish manufactured by Hollywood itself. When a filmmaker is not thanking critics for their praise, giving interviews to flattering writers, or running to the bank to deposit their latest seven-figure check, they are struggling: with investors and executives, with accountants, with cast and crew, with the power company and the IRS, and very often, with their own soul.For most, this struggle is too harrying. After a few years, they strike the tents, and retreat to vocations that offer more tangible rewards. Those are the people the industry doesn’t want; the non-professional, the easy capitulator. Its system is a well-constructed sieve, ensuring that only the grittiest sort remain in their auspices. All successful filmmakers remember their time being shaken through the proverbial sieve.Nascent filmmakers, regardless of talent, experience its purgatory. There are hundreds out there right now, fighting a single-handed war against artistic oblivion. It is a desperation that denies introspection, and eludes expression with words, at least until one has distant hindsight.It can, however, be portrayed with images. With “”Dreamers,”” Ann Lu has done just that. A visual memoir of the present, a cathartic outcry at times, “”Dreamers”” rolls all the frustrations of artistry and young life into a ball of gleaming images. Two kids, Dave and Ethan, shield themselves from hectoring childhoods with dreams of celluloid glory, which hold a power and beauty much like the sun sitting above the hills of eastern Tennessee, the film’s setting.Dreams are like amulets: intricate, splendorous, a charm worn for guidance, and also a weight that holds some in place and causes others to drown. As adults in Hollywood, Dave and Ethan learn– all too soon and all too well– that while dreams protect against some of the calamities in life, they also tear the soul apart from the inside.Their story does not resolve itself in their favor: their abilities to make these dreams work for them are not particularly potent; they are not prodigies. Nor does the story actually “”end.”” The artist who surrenders will find that his replacement has already arrived.Ann Lu is the new blood. Cautious, passionate, and imaginative, she makes you believe she deserves success, and is due, even if this is her first time as director. I picture her in China–before coming to U.S. in 1993– standing alone in a yellowing field, looking towards the sun. It is afternoon, the sun hangs in the west. She follows it in her mind.AntagonistHer aspirations have a powerful foe in contemporary Hollywood politics. With skyrocketing budgets, studio heads must be more cautious: they cannot produce many $ 50 million-plus movies that nobody goes to see. By necessity, contemporary films need to be commercial more than they need to be good. Which usually means they are familiar. The small, personal films are being turned down for their limited appeal, and the simple fact that the studios have less money to make them. For outsiders like Ann, there are now fewer inroads. She even worries if a director like Stanley Kubrick could succeed in contemporary Hollywood: “”Things were easier back then; studios were run by filmmakers. Somewhere, the M.B.A.’s took over and put emphasis on testing, marketing, and merchandising. It is hard for filmmakers with an agenda to fit in. Somehow, they have got to find a way to reconcile artistic integrity with commercial viability.””Her attitude is pessimistic, not defeatist. In fact, she believes industry is ignoring these films to their own detriment: “” It is a mistake to underestimate the size and purchasing power of people who watch this type of film. If they focus their product entirely for the seventeen year old ‘popcorn muncher,’ they are missing a whole group of people who can see value in films with personal vision.””””Even the way things are now, I think if you don’t give up, somehow you will get a break. I don’t know how: I’m still waiting for mine; but I think that if you wait long enough, you will find a way to reach audiences.””Eyes, Hands, and VoicesArt is material vision. The artist is simply one who knows how to use the given tools to make internal vision into material fact. In filmmaking, many of these tools happen to be other artists. Actors, cinematographers, set designers, and many others are artists just as much as writers and directors. Each brings personal vision to the project. The challenge of a director is to utilize these many visions in a way that successfully portrays her own. Without the talents of Neal Fredericks at her disposal, Ann could not have made such a distinct film. In “”Dreamers,”” camera angles and shooting techniques cross your mind more often than acting, dialog, or editing. Neal plays it to his best advantage, never letting you forget that the camera is the voice and not the eyes of the film; a viewer sees the characters and scenery with only as much sympathy as the cinematographer has himself.He is playful, even hedonistic with the photography, shunning the conventional, eschewing the objective, establishing the camera as a flamboyant presence within the film. He shoots dreamers in 35mm, 16mm, and video, according to Ann’s conception of the film. He also shows strong technical ability by conquering the film’s challenging lack of artificial light.At this moment, he is better known. His cinematography in “”The Blair Witch Project”” ( for which he has received only $5,000) was a serious topic of discussion last year, with its herky-jerky frames and varying picture quality. Neal got mixed praise and scorn for his facsimile of amateur camerawork. “”‘The Blair Witch Project’ is the first movie I know of that tried to portray reality with total immediacy and spontaneity”” he says, in part referring to the largely ad-libbed dialog.””Can I interrupt?”” Ann interjects. “”I was just thinking about [Ingemar] Bergmann’s ‘Persona,’ and the way it blurs the boundary of reality and illusion. ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is about the surface of reality, which in this movie comes off as an illusion. It intrigues me why this movie caught on with the public. The thinking is all improvisation, which makes it feel like an intrinsic record of the present. I think that opens a link to every audience. “” I believe Ed [Myrick] and Dan [Sanchez], were having a Bergmann moment during that shoot. They set out to do nothing more than re-create reality.””Neal adds: “”So many of us re-create reality in our own measured way. In the eight days of shooting, I think we set out to re-create reality in a more horrifying way.””””This film is one without control.”” Ann replies “” If there is no control, what is the point of being a filmmaker? I think if Bergmann saw ‘Blair Witch,’ he would say ‘why didn’t I make this?’ It has a lack of conscience in confronting reality. It intrigues me.””Neal: “” I could shoot a feature film. They are a dime a dozen. I prefer films that make the best use of camera and lighting. I like controlling my position, even if I am afraid to get involved. A real film director, like [Ann], controls the look. Her main style is to find places that match her imagination. For instance, she found the coffee shop that appeared in [“”Dreamers””], and she said to me: ‘look, this is the way my coffee shop looks ‘. “”Ann concurs: “” More than anything else, I want to re-create reality.Everything I did in this movie was creating the right environment, the right mood. That is why I only used natural lighting [which meant a lot of neon]. The goal was to reflect the psyche in the context it was in. Neal’s work helped achieve that. The look was self-reflective; very much about seeing and being seen.””Sexual BodyAnn and Neal met six years ago in Atlanta, working on “”Compelling Evidence,”” a B-erotic thriller. Ann has never gotten over the experience: “”I like films about sex and violence. The films are enjoyable in a primitive way, because they portray the human condition so shamelessly.”” “”Dreamers”” is a sensual if not erotic movie, containing several fleshy sex scenes. This is likely to become an Ann Lu trademark: “”I enjoy sex, it is part of life. I dream of breaking into people’s houses to have sex. If people go to a movie of mine and find the sex somewhat entertaining, that’s great. Movies are supposed to entertain. But if you go in, and come out wanting to write an essay about it, that’s fine too.””The set of the film was not immune to the tension created by differing sexual attitudes: “” Dave’s sex scene was a problem. The actor– Jeremy Jordan– is sexually ambiguous. Sex doesn’t mean much to him. Well, he had problems when it came time to do the scene. When they both took their clothes off and got close, Jeremy freaked.

An Interview with David Koepp By Courtney Kenny

David who? Many people may not recognize the name David Koepp, but they certainly know his work. He’s the man behind such blockbusters as “”Mission Impossible,”” “”Jurassic Park,”” “”Carlito’s Way””, and more. Note – This is an old interview that we conducted with David, but now that Spiderman mania – which David also wrote, has taken hold of us, we felt that it’d be neat to take a trip down memory lane and re-run this.

David Koepp, 36, was born and raised in the small town of Pewaukee, Wisconsin. He moved to Los Angeles to attend film school at UCLA and lived there for several years. Koepp first tasted success when he co-wrote and produced, “”Apartment Zero,”” directed by Martin Donovan. He later went on to write some of the top box-office hits of all-time, including Steven Spielberg’s “”Jurassic Park”” in 1993, Brian de Palma’s “”Mission Impossible”” in 1996 and Spielberg’s “”The Lost World: Jurassic Park”” in 1997.He made his feature directorial debut in 1996 with “”The Trigger Effect”” after previously directing the short film, “”Suspicious,”” in 1995.In his latest film “”Stir of Echoes””, Koepp took on the difficult task of writing and directing a film based on the renowned book by Richard Matheson. “”Stir of Echoes””is the story of a husband/father whose life changes after he’s hypnotized at a party. The man, Tom Witzky (played by Kevin Bacon), crosses over into a world where he can see everything that is going on around him, including the otherworld He’s become a receiver. And, he’s not alone.The dead surround him, sending him messages that he can’t understand. Tom must find a way to cross back over. But, not before he finds out what he’s received. David Koepp joined us to talk about making “”Stir of Echoes””, working with Kevin Bacon, and

John Singleton, Older, Wiser, more Reflective Director. An Exclusive One on One

At the age of 24, the youngest individual and the first African American ever to be nominated for a Best Director Academy Award, John Singleton made movie history with Boyz ‘N the Hood, his astonishing 1991 directorial debut. An intensely personal portrait of life and death in South Central L.A. that was inspired by the director’s own experiences, the film earned Singleton comparisons to past wunderkind Orson Wells and heralded him as one of Hollywood’s most important new directors. John followed up his amazing success with “”Boyz ‘N The Hood””, with other personal films like Poetic Justice which featured the film debut of Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, Higher Learning, and Rosewood. Last year John went mainstream with the smash remake of “”Shaft”” which starred Samuel L. Jackson. With his latest film, Columbia Picture’s “”Baby Boy””, John returns to his “”Boyz N The Hood”” roots with this intensely personal drama about a black man’s struggle to find his way in life.

Over the years John has been credited with discovering new talents like Cuba Gooding, Jr., Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, and igniting the careers of stars like Lawrence Fishburne and Ving Rhames. He hopes to have the same midis touch with his latest finds, R & B star Tyrese Gibson and Taraji Henson. We recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with John and his newest prot

Baby Boy’s Taraji Henson, On The Cusp of Fame. By Michelle Alexandria

Actress Taraji Henson has done it all and seen it all. This hot young star grew up in “”the hood”” as she calls it. We Washingtonians like to think of it has plain old Southeast, Washington, DC. One of the roughest neighborhoods in the country, at one point known for having the highest number of murders per capita than any other neighborhood in the country. Not a pleasant distinction to have. Although she grew up around rough surroundings, her parents made sure that she got out and experienced life. She spent many summers in the country with her grandparents, and attended and graduated from Howard University. With her outstanding work in acclaimed director, John Singleton’s newest film, “”Baby Boy””, ready to break down the doors of Hollywood. One cannot help but get caught up in her unbridled enthusiam and optimism.

EMTaraji. How did you get involved in this project?TarajiI went in and auditioned for it just like everyone else did. Because John was looking for new faces, it was basically like a cattle call. I went and read for John and the casting director told me that he really liked my work. Right after that he went into production on “”Shaft””, so I didn’t here from him until a year later.EMDid you study acting or was working before you went in for this audition?TarajiYeah, I did a lot of television. I’m professionally trained and can do it all. I do Greek Tragedy, Comedy’s, Shakespeare, anything. You name it I can do it.EMHas this movie opened doors for you?TarajiThis town is all smoke and mirrors. It’s not really going to have an affect on my career until the movie actually comes out. There’s a really good buzz going on about me right now, but most people will wait until they see how well the movie does at the box office. Everything in Hollywood is about the bottom line, money. I mean they are impressed by the fact that I’m in a John Singleton film, but it boils down to the dollars. EMWhere did you get the emotional strength to do that character?Taraji [laughs]My past. I just lifted up that old carpet and looked at the dust that I had swept under there. EMSo you’ve had yourself a Jody?TarajiOh my god, more than I care to remember. No more though, I’m over the Jodys EMAs a filmgoer, you know we like things to be in black and white. One of the things I was trying to figure out during the film was – is Jodie a good guy, a bad guy who gets redeemed in the end, or what?TarajiHe’s just a guy, a guy who is trying to find his way. I think, my character A.J. said it best, “”Sometimes as people we always want answers in black or white, we don’t want to deal with the gray. That’s where we learn our lessons in life – in the gray and you have to be willing to live in the gray.”” You have to not know what the future brings. I can walk out of here today and get hit by a bus tomorrow, you have to start living your life now.EMDo you think that so many black women, and really women in general are single now, because we do not want to deal with the gray?TarajiI think that has a lot to do with it. A lot of problems in black relationships is that we like to point the finger at each other instead of taking personal responsibility for our own actions. If you know you are in a relationship with a mamma’s boy, why are you taking care of him? Why are being his mother?EMAs young girls we are told that you should watch how a man treats his mother, because that’s how he’ll treat you. Is there a fine line?TarajiMost definitely, I’ll tell you one thing my son will not be a mamma’s boy. I think a lot of times as women we are told so much that a man will be unfaithful to you, after hearing that so many times you start to accept it. I’m not buying that. I think that if I can be faithful – so can he.EMHow close are you to your character?TarajiI’m a spitfire. There’s no doubt about that, but I can communicate. If I say I hate you, then I hate you, there’s no two ways about it. I’m not saying that I love you or any of that stuff. EMDo you find that all of your different experiences help you bring more to your characters?TarajiThe more you live the more seasoned you are in life helps you bring your characters to life. Acting is nothing more than the experiences that make up your life.EMWhat has the experience been like working on this film?TarajiAmazing. At first I was so intimidated, running around like a scared chicken. I remember when John, first called me. I was so nervous, I mean John has accomplished so much and here he is calling me personally, I was so nervous that my hands were shaking and I kept accidentally hanging up the phone. EMNow that you have the cache of having worked with John Singleton, what projects are you working on now?TarajiNothing, I’m just waiting for the film to come out. When it blows up, I’m sure the phone will start ringing off the hook.

Final Fantasy Producer Extroadinare Chris Lee, By Michelle Alexandria

Final Fantasy Producer Chris Lee has been around the blocks of Hollywood several times. Much like the director of Final Fantasy (Hironobu Sakaguchi), many people have seen his work, but not to many know his name. As a matter of fact, I had no idea who he was when I first met Chris during a private press lunch (I will not complain about the food, I will hold my tongue, it’s taking every ounce of will power not to complain about the “”food””…) at the MPAA’s headquarters in Washington, DC a few months ago. At the time the PR Reps asked me if I wanted to see a 17-minute clip of Final Fantasy and participate in a group Q and A with Chris Lee after words. Well being a fan of the game, this movie is one of my top three movies that I want to see this summer (and don’t get me started on how disappointing the summer movies have been so far), so I said sure, but who the hell was Chris Lee? The PR Agent said he’s the Producer of Final Fantasy.

I said “”Oh, ok””. So I went and looked him up in the IMDB. I didn’t see him there. I declined the one on one opportunity thinking that the group Q and A session would be good enough – not to mention it’s a lot less work, because I wouldn’t have to come up with all those brilliant, probing questions that I’m famous for. When am I going to learn not to turn down anyone? I still regret turning down the Blair Witch and South Park guys -who knew?Well during the original Q and A session (which I will post when the film opens) I found him to be a fascinating man, and quite the namedropper as well. He was so Hollywood, without being Hollywood. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he was the former head of production at Columbia Pictures. Responsible for putting together such films as – “”As Good As It Gets””, “”Jerry Maguire””, “”Philadelphia””, “”My Best Friend’s Wedding””, “”Sleepless in Seattle””, “”Starship Troopers””, “”Zorro””, “”Godzilla””, and others. Ok, “”Godzilla”” was a dog of a movie, but you can’t complain about the others (well maybe “”Starship Troopers””, which I liked). But you can’t argue with the man’s track record. After “”Final Fantasy”” his next project is a “”hip”” spy movie with Antonio Banderas, and a movie adaptation of the hit television show “”S.W.A.T.”” Let’s hope they don’t screw up the theme song, like they did with “”Mission Impossible II””. Well after finding all of this background information about Chris, I told the PR Rep that I had to get him one on one. Not to seem shallow, I did want to talk with him some more after our initial encounter. It’s just that all of this “”new found”” information made him even more interesting than he already was. So recently we had a quickie little telephone chat with him, and again I found him fascinating, and he told me several things that is “”not for publication””. Let’s just say the Final Fantasy DVD will Kick Ass. EMWhen we met at the MPAA, I must be honest I had no clue who you were, other than being the producer of the movie “”Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within””. Imagine my surprise when I later found out that you were the head of production at Columbia Pictures. Tell us a little bit about your stint there, what projects you worked on. Just what the heck does the head of production do anyway?CL [laughs] Well my first job was at Tri-Star pictures, where I worked for about 13 years. At Tri-Star, I started as a freelance script reader and worked my way up to become the President of Production at Tri-Star. When I was there, I became Story Editor, Production Assistant, President of Creative Affairs, etc. When Tri-Star merged with Columbia Pictures, I ended up moving over there. Through these various roles I had a chance to work on many different projects. You bring relationships and people to the studios and hopefully they’ll do well. I’ve been lucky in that the films that I worked on all did fairly well.EMScript readers are the first door or hurdle that a movie producer has to go through to get a project made and is also among the lowest end of the Hollywood ladder. As a script reader how did you know which films were going to be successful? Not only that but successful enough for you to pass the script along up to the next level in the chain and to fight for that script to be read? What in a script moves you?CLWell filmmaking is such a long process. I originally bought Final Fantasy when I was the President of Production at Tri-Star. At the time it was based on a 12-page outline. It wasn’t so much the story that I cared about it was working with the Director, and being part of such an innovative project. “”The Legend Of The Fall”” took us ten years to make, it started as a novella, went through several rewrites, etc. Harrison Ford was originally going to star in it, and it ended up being Brad Pitt. In order to be in this business you have to have passion for what you are doing and a perseverance to see a project through to completion. The challenge is reading something and knowing that it is going to be right for the market.EMWith such a long production schedule is it really hard to predict what the market will want to see?CLIt’s like I said, with such a long schedule, you are often trying to predict the audience wants to see in the future, not what they want to see now. Music is a good barometer of what future trends will be, so I follow that industry quite a bit. As a producer you cannot afford to be behind trends, you have to stay ahead of them.EMDo you think Videogames are a good barometer of future trends?CLNot the entire market, but definitely a good indicator. Four years ago when I bought “”Final Fantasy”” I also had the chance to buy “”Tomb Raider””. Which is another gaming title that I thought would make a great film. “”Tomb Raider”” I would have done differently than “”Final Fantasy””. I would have made that as a live action film because it was essentially Indiana Jones.EMThere are several Video Game franchises that are in various stages of production. What would you say are the top two or three videogame franchises that deserve the big screen treatment?CLYou know what? I don’t even know what other projects are in the pipeline. I know that I’m not doing anymore myself. I can think of a few games that I’d like to see get made, but I’m not sure if they are in the pipeline or not. The question you have to ask yourself is would the game property be enhanced at all by creating a movie out of it.EMLike Super Mario Bros?CLThat was a movie where the producers didn’t know what they wanted to do, or even why it should be a movie. A game that I would love to see made is Metal Gear Solid.EMWell there’s an obvious difference between a title like “”Super Mario Bros”” or “”Metal Gear Solid.””CLWell Metal Gear Solid is a movie even the lead character’s name is “”Snake””. People really love that game because it is so true to life. That game is a great example of true convergence. EMHow far do you think this convergence will go?CLOne of the interesting things about Final Fantasy is that while we were making this game, we were also creating a version to play on the Playstation 2. It won’t be so much as a game, but you will be able to rearrange the movie into any format you want, in essence become your own director. The DVD movie will have it’s own separate features, like multiple angles, editing ability, and some other enhancements as well. Hollywood is always trying to figure out what the next ancillary market you can get out of a movie. It’s funny that this movie started as a game franchise, became a movie, and is going back to being a game.EMWhere you thinking of these markets as you were creating this movie?CLYes. When you are doing a film like this, it is only natural to think about what other mediums you can port it to. With a property like “”Jerry McGuire there is but so much you can do with it. When doing a big action movie or franchisable film like Final Fantasy you are always thinking about the next possibility. For instance Sakaguchi is thinking about taking Aki Ross [the lead character] and putting her in another film.EMHow exactly would that work? Put her in a totally different animated film? Or use a mix like “”Who Framed Roger Rabbit?””CLWell since this has never been done, we haven’t figure out exactly how that is going to work, but it’s really matter “”casting”” her in the right movie.EMWhat can you tell me about your latest project, the one with the cool theme song?CLWhat project?EMS.W.A.T.CLWell, we are waiting for the script it’ll be young, hip, and fun. Other than that there’s not much I can say about the project.EMWell what else are you working on?CLWell I’m working on a new action film, starring Antonio Banderas for Warner Brothers. It’s going to be a cool, hip, spy film, written by the same guy who did “”The Fast and Furious””. It’s called ECK X and it’s already becoming a video game.EMHow did you come up with such a goofy name?CLWell the writer did, it’s the name of the character.EMWhat’s it about?CLIt’s kind of a hip spy movie that is a cross between Desperado or “”The Professional”” but a little more high tech. It’s sort of a spy vs. spy situation until they find out that they have a common enemy. I was shocked when I looked at Next Gen [popular videogame mag] and saw that it was already being made into a videogame.EMWell there you go, you already have your very own MGS, your Solid Snake. What did you think of the Tomb Raider movie?CLI’ve been so busy working on Final Fantasy that I haven’t had time to go see it.EMWhere you disappointed to see the numbers it pulled?CLWhat did it pull?EMAbout $80 million.CL[laughs] Well $80 million dollars is a great number in my book.EMDo you think that mainstream critics will understand what this film is about? What has the critical and audience response been to the movie so far?CLIt’s been largely positive. I think it’ll appeal to a large audience

Final Fantasy Creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, by Michelle Alexandria

Many people outside of the gaming industry have never heard the name Hironobu Sakaguchi, but many have seen or played his stunning work. As the head of video game giant Squaresoft, he has sold more than 40-million units of computer game software worldwide. He is most known for his beloved creation Final Fantasy. By any measurement possible this game series has been a huge success, selling more than 33 million units and breaking sales records worldwide.In 1991, Sakaguchi was promoted to executive vice-president of Square, where he oversees the development of all of Square’s games as well as producing other film projects. His dream of building an advanced digital studio was fully realized several years ago when Square opened the doors to their advanced studio in Honolulu-Hawaii (and hey I’m still waiting for my invitation to come and tour the place.) The early result of his labor of love is the 60 million dollar, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. It took Sakaguchi, four year to research, develop, and create this movie. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sakaguchi during a quick 15-minute telephone interview. It went a little something like this.

EMLet’s start by talking about the transition of Final Fantasy from the hit video game series to the theater. What made you want to do the movie?HSThe original motive wasn’t to do a film, but to build a brand new state of the art digital production studio that could push digital technology and the Final Fantasy game series to the next level. While working on new games for the next generation of gaming systems, I decided that there was no reason that we couldn’t use this new technology to make a new kind of film.EMWhen you first started thinking about this project, it was long before the Playstation 2, X-Box, etc. became known to the general public. Did you think that gaming platforms at that time [four years ago, circa 1997] were too limited for your vision?HSNo, it was actually the opposite. I was involved in all the original conversations regarding the development of the Playstation 2. The reason I wanted to build a new, more advanced digital studio was so that we could actually maximize the full potential of the new console.EMAre you using the Mya software [the software used to create the film] in any of your current games or just for film projects?HSOf course we are using Mya in several of our game properties. We used it in the last several installments of Final Fantasy, including Final Fantasy 10 and are using it again in some upcoming titles. EMThe Final Fantasy series has always been known and loved for its totally immersive game experience. The stories have been long and involved, while the game play itself has always been stellar. It takes the average gamer at least 40 hours (or months) to complete a typical installment of Final Fantasy. How do you translate such a deep and involving experience like this to the big screen, without disappointing the fans of the series?HS Yes, as a feature film, the story and experience will be much shorter than fans of the series are used to but I do not think fans of the game will have any problem getting involved in the storyline of the film. EM With a film like Final Fantasy, you have a built in audience base. When creating a film based on a franchise you have to create a film that will appeal to a broader audience, while maintaining your base. How difficult was it to translate the film to the big screen without loosing the essence that fans of the series love?HSWell actually, the Final Fantasy game series does reach a pretty broad audience already. We have done research, and have been surprised by the findings. When were doing this film we did it with our fan base in mind.EMFinal Fantasy VII is credited with reviving the Role-Playing Game genre and expanding the entire market. When Final Fantasy VII was released, it broke numerous sales records, and sold over 2 million units in the first week. The series has gone on to sell over 33 million units worldwide. How do you explain this amazing accomplishment?HS Well for starters the RPG genre was not dead. It was always hugely popular in Japan and other parts of the world. It was only in the US where RPG’s had a hard time selling. Why the breakthrough with Final Fantasy VII? I think there was a number of reasons, for starters, it was the first RPG to move away for the flat 2D image of the past. Final Fantasy VII was truly a cinematic experience, in story, game play, and in graphic quality. Also Sony did an excellent job of marketing the title.EMWhat other projects are you working on now?HSWe have a number of projects in the works now, including finishing up Final Fantasy X for the Playstation 2, and working on Final Fantasy XI, which will be completely online. For movie projects we are having several discussions about what to do next, everything from doing sequels, to taking several of the characters from the movie and putting them into other movies that are not Final Fantasy related.EMDo you think that the realism of these characters and the advancement in computer animation will ever make live action films and actors obsolete? HSNo, I don’t think animation will ever replace live actors. I think it can enhance live action films, but never replace them.

Anatomy of a Thriller – Behind The Others, by Tiffany N. D’Emidio

Acclaimed Spanish Director, Alejandro Amendabar’s “”The Others”” is a bone chilling, psychological thriller that takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. The Director’s first American film is a strange tale of loss, fear, and psychological war far. The film features a talented ensemble cast which is headed by Hollywood, A-Lister, Nicole Kidman.

Kidman stars as Grace, a widow raising two ailing children who are suffering from a mysterious affliction to light. Kidman brings to the table an outstanding portrayal of a woman on the edge of sanity. Her character suffers from excruciating headaches which only subsides by forcing complete quiet through out the house at all times.

Not only did this talented Director write and direct the film, but he wrote all the music as well. We recently sat down with this hot director. Here