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Terry Gilliam on working with Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Heath’s last film:

We had just finished in London. I went to Vancouver and Heath went to New York and two days later he was dead. I am sitting, working in Vancouver and Amy my daughter, who was producing the film, said, “You’ve got to come into this room.” And I said, “What’s up?” And there it was it on her laptop, on the BBC website: “Heath Ledger found dead.”

It’s impossible to believe, there’s no way he could be dead. It seemed it took all day before it began to really sink in that he was dead. Then I just didn’t know what to do, so I said that he had shot about 40% of what was supposed to be done – we can’t finish the film, it’s over. Amy and the others wouldn’t let me quit. It took us a week and a half before I began to think that maybe there was a way of fixing it. But I was never sure.

Even when we started shooting again there were certain scenes I’d thought we were going to do one way and we couldn’t do it, so it was constantly adjusting to reality. […]

All the stories were bullshit. They were trying to turn him into this… that playing the Joker had made him crazy. Absolute nonsense! Heath was so solid. His feet were on the ground and he was the least neurotic person I’ve ever met. Heath was just great and that’s why it became so impossible to understand. But for the outside world they had to sort of invent a reason. But it wasn’t drugs. It was prescription drugs – but even that doesn’t make sense completely. Nothing makes sense about it except that Heath was not what the public thought he was. He was incredibly intelligent, generous, sweet, wise, solid as a rock, and unbelievably playful. So when he acted it was like playing, but wherever that playing went he followed it fearlessly. But then I would say “cut” and we’d be talking about football. So there was none of this twisted neurosis that a lot of actors suffer from. […]

It’s weird, but that was one of the most tragic things ever in my life but also one of the most magical things in my life because I had Johnny, Colin, and Jude come in and rescue the whole thing, working for nothing, with all the money going to Heath’s daughter. That was pretty extraordinary.

Filmmaker Spotlight: @AnnaAkana !

 

By Chelsea Fung

Twitter: @CineChel

 

At the tender age of 19 Anna Akana was entering bars before she was of age, to perform stand-up,  and dropped out of college to become a pupil of film school taught by the silver screen lit up by her shadowy influences: Tim Burton, Stephen King, and Joe Hill.

Today, Anna runs her brilliant, spunky, raw YouTube Channel that stands up against social stigmas, challenges the men who proclaim they have a case of ‘yellow fever,’ and writes, directs and stars in out-of-this-world short videos such as Pregnapocalypse, Here She Is, and her newest cosmic short, Miss Earth and she may possibly be a super hero, by night.

Where did you get your start in the industry?

I started doing stand up when I was 19. Because I was underage at the time, at certain clubs I would be forced to wait outside until it was my time to go on stage. Then I would do my set, walk off, and be kicked out again.

Stand up is such a unique experience that I absolutely loved, but I realized I wanted to pursue acting. My focus since then has primarily been in film. I’ve done a ton of web projects and short films, and I finally feel confident and capable enough to tackle a feature in 2015.

 

Where do you get inspiration to fuel your shorts and projects?

Honestly, it all comes from boredom induced by strict deadlines. I’m always working on something, whether that be sketch or a vlog or a short film. When you hold yourself to deadlines, you create a ton of content (with a focus on improvement). The more you create, the more ambitious you become with your projects. Short films were a direct result of over 200 web series sketches and vlogs. After you create enough 2 minute videos, you start to wonder what else there is. Deadlines and discipline and quantity with a focus on quality have always been what keeps me going.

 

And of course, it’s all very fun. Hard work, but still fun.

 

 

A few quirks or interesting characteristics about yourself:

I’m a very quiet person. I like to sit back and watch everyone talk and interact. I don’t say much unless there’s something I can add to the conversation. I can “turn on” the confidence and charm and be talkative if I have to, but if the social situation doesn’t call for it, I’m very reserved and observant.

I believe that an abundant amount of cats are the perfect form of birth control. Haha.



If you were officially a superhero, what would your superhero name be and what would be your superpower?

Gah, I’ve been pondering this question for like 20 years. Still don’t have an answer. If I could only have one power, it would be teleportation. No more traffic for me!



Did you go to school to study acting and directing?

I dropped out of community college two years in. The most education I have with acting is attending various classes in Los Angeles in Meisner, scene study, cold reading, etc. As far as directing goes, my experience is solely my self-produced projects. However, I do treat the short films of this year as a film school. It definitely is a learning process.

 

Tell me about assembling your team and cast for your shorts:

My shorts have had virtually the same cast and crew for the entire year. We got into a work flow and an environment that we all knew and loved, so I kept bringing the same people back. Megan Rosati, a good friend and an insanely talented actress, has been in almost every single project I’ve ever done. From So Fetch Sketch to Miss Earth, I’ve brought Megan back not only because she’s a joy to have on set, but because she’s passionate about her job and isn’t afraid to speak up when she has an idea or suggestion.

I hope to work with a more diverse crew and cast in the future. For the feature, I definitely want to do traditional casting. I have certain people in mind for various supporting roles, but I would love to have the leads be star names.


What is fueling your future feature? Any details you would like to share about it yet?

As of right now I’m taking meetings with investors. If I can’t raise my desired budget, my last resort would be crowd and self-funding. I don’t feel comfortable releasing any details, just yet, but it’s a romantic comedy written by two very funny women I know.

 

What inspired you to pursue film?

The process itself is so rewarding and fun. I started out as an actor, but that mostly means hurry up and wait. Once I started developing my own content, I fell in love with being on set and bringing it all together.

Your shorts, such as, Afflicted Inc., Here She Is, and Hallucination, have a swarthy tone throughout. What/who has influenced this style of filmmaking?

I attribute the black tones in my films to Stephen King, Tim Burton, Joe Hill and Richard Matheson. However, most of my writing is influenced by mental health. I’m incredibly passionate about shedding light on the stigmas associated with mental illnesses. When our bodies are sick and people extend their sympathy, bring us soup, offer up solutions. When our minds are sick people tend to shy away from you, be afraid, or call you outright crazy. I’m fascinated by the way society and individuals view mental illness, and most of my shorts comment on that.

 

Do you have a specific character you like to play the most?

I love acting in other people’s projects honestly, haha. I’m a huge fan of comedy, although I have a killer scream of anguish/anger in my tool belt.

If you have to stay in one character for a whole day; who would it be and why?

Probably my school girl character. That Japanese accent never gets old.



Tell me about your feline entourage:

Lily, Jimmy, Abby and Congress are my furry children. At times they can be difficult to deal with (especially during feeding time), but I love them! They’ve taught me a crazy sense of responsibility and bring a meaningfulness to my life that I imagine only children really can.



When will they be making their social media debuts?

Ha! I have trouble keeping up my own social media, much less having Instagrams devoted to them!



In the spirit of Halloween, I’m curious, what’s your biggest fear in life?

That I won’t sufficiently live. I am a workaholic, and sometimes I sacrifice experiences in order to be productive. I hope I don’t end up imbalanced and regretting these decisions when I’m older.

 

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?

Miss Earth, which released on October 16th, is a science fiction comedy that I wrote, directed, and starred in. It was in collaboration with New Form Digital, who pitched in some money, and the rest I funded with my life savings. It’s the longest piece of content I’ve done so far, and definitely the most ambitious.

 

Who is your favorite director and why?

It changes, but right now my favorite director is James Gunn. Guardians of the Galaxy is the epitome of what I want to do with my life. There’s not enough science fiction comedy with heart in it, and he nailed that one on the head. My favorite directors are always writers as well, because directing is just that last draft.

 

Any advice to your fellow filmmakers?

Create, create, create. The only way to get better at anything is to do it all the time.

Any advice specifically to female filmmakers?

Keep going. Sometimes you’ll doubt yourself, certain people will make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, others will discourage you or objectify you or tell you, you don’t deserve to be where you are in life, but just as many other people will encourage and be inspired by your work. Keep your audience in mind, but always do it for yourself.

 

 

David Lynch's 10 Lessons On Filmmaking

1. The thrill is in the hunt for a good idea.

We don’t know an idea until it enters a conscious mind. Ideas have to travel quite a ways before they come into the conscious mind. So by transcending, you start expanding that consciousness, making the subconscious conscious.

You’ll catch ideas on a deeper level. And they have more information and more of a thrill. It’s the happiness in the doing that got greater for me. Catching more ideas became easier, along with a kind of inner self-assuredness. Looking back, I did not have much self-assuredness in the beginning.

2. Inner strength is key to working in the entertainment business.

In this business, or in any business, you can just get streamrolled if you don’t have this inner strength. And the more happiness you have going in, life becomes more of a game than a torment. And so you look out at the world of people that used to stress you. It could happen that you would just put your arm around them and say, “Let’s go have a coffee.” Everything seems happier.

I always wondered if Transcendental Meditation would make someone just so calm that they didn’t want to do anything. They’d just become a bland person and only wanted to eat nuts and raisins. But it’s not that way. You get more energy. That’s the field of unbounded energy within every human being. It’s very, very important for the work, this thing of happiness. It’s so important to be happy in the doing.

3. Positivity is essential to the creative process.

Stories always have held conflicts and contrasts, highs and lows, life and death situations. And there can be much suffering in stories, but now we say the artist doesn’t have to suffer to show suffering. You just have to understand the human condition, understand the suffering.

A lot of artists say anger or even the experience of fear or these things feeds the work, and so the suffering artist is a romantic concept. But if you think about it, it’s romantic for everybody except the artist. If the artist is really suffering, then the ideas don’t flow so good, and if [he is] really suffering, he can’t even work. I say that negativity is the enemy to creativity.

4. Everything must serve to push the idea forward.

For me there is always a plot. There is a story that makes sense to me. But in the story, there are things that are more abstract. There are feelings, and cinema can say feelings and can say abstract thoughts. Cinema can go back in time, or forward, and it’s very magical. But you do not do it just to do it. You do it to realize the ideas you fall in love with. The ideas are gifts, such beautiful gifts. And I am always so thankful when I get an idea that I fall in love with. It is a beautiful day to get an idea that you love. What we need is ideas. That is the only thing we really need.

5. Don’t get ahead of your idea.

Don’t think about the money or what’s going to happen after the film is finished. The first thing you need is an idea, an idea that you fall in love with. The idea tells you the mood you choose for the characters, how the characters talk. It tells you the story, it shows you all the details, and so all you have to do is stay true to that idea as you shoot your film.

Even with a little amount of money it is possible to figure out a way to do things. So you stay true to the idea, and you don’t let anyone interfere with it. And all rules include final cut and total creative freedom. If you don’t have the final say or the creative freedom what’s the point of doing anything?

6. Everyone must be on board with your idea.

The trick is to get everyone working with you to go on the same road, based on the same ideas. And you do this by talking. In the prop department for instance, the prop person can bring me some things. They may be very good things, but they’re not in line with the idea. So, you tell the prop man the reason that they’re not in line, and to look for things that are more like this. And the next time he comes, it will be much closer to the idea. And one day he will bring things because he catches the idea.

It’s the same way with actors. You have rehearsals, and it gets closer by talking and talking. I always say, they catch that idea there, the way they talk, the way they think, the way they move. It’s the same way with all the departments that are helping me.

7. Get inspired, not influenced.

There’s a difference between influence and inspiration. I was never a film buff, and I was not really interested in art history when I was a painter. For me, I always say the city of Philadelphia was my greatest influence. The mood of that place when I was there, the feeling in the air, the architecture, the decay, insanity, corruption and fear swimming in that city are the things I saw in films.

I don’t really care what is going on in the world, nor with cinema. However, once in awhile, you can see a film that is truly great. Or you see some new paintings and say, “That person has really got something fantastic.” It is an inspiration, and it pushes you forward.

8. Don’t ignore your transitions.

Cinema is very close to music. In music, lots of times you have different sections, so a very loud, fast technique and then very, slow; very high things and very low things. It is all moving forward at a certain pace, and everybody knows that the piece of music written on the page, that a certain conductor with a certain orchestra can get something so profoundly above the others. It’s a magical thing. Cinema moves through time like music. It goes from one scene to another. One of the things that is important is these transitions between one thing and another, one thing flowing into another. And these transitions are very important and very beautiful.

9. Cinema doesn’t need to make sweeping statements on society.

A lot of times, someone finishes a film and in the film there’s a man and a woman, and certain things happen. And the journalists will say, “Oh, does this mean you feel this way about women and men in general?” No. It’s this particular woman in this particular place going through these particular things. That woman does not represent all women — and this is very important.

10. Stop the film vs. digital debate. There’s room for both.

For a long time I championed digital. I fell in love with digital withInland Empire. And recently, I was working on deleted scenes from Twin Peaks. And for the first time in a long time, I saw the footage shot on film, and I was overwhelmed by the depth of the beauty that celluloid, that film can give. It has such a depth and such a beauty. And I like to photograph factories, and I think that in photographing factories I also saw the difference between digital and celluloid in film.

So, there are all these different choices we have. In digital we have very long takes. You don’t have to stop the camera. You can keep it rolling. And you can talk about the scene while the camera is rolling, and a lot of time that helps to get a film deeper and deeper. Digital is lightweight, much faster, no dirt, no scratches, no tearing, and there is so much control in post-production. It is a beautiful thing. But maybe these different mediums will all stay alive and one thing will be right for this project and another thing will be right for that project.

Care of Filmmaker Magazine

Today marks the birthday of a pioneer of Taiwan’s New Wave film movement, and one of Taiwan’s most prominent filmmakers, Edward Yang.  Born in Shanghai in 1947, Yang was actually raised in Taipei where he began to study Electronic Engineering before eventually moving to Florida and receiving his Masters Degree in Electrical and Computer engineering.  Apart from a brief stint at the prestigious USC Film Academy, Yang’s early years were driven by more practical career choices, with his passion for cinema left lingering on the back burner.
 
As fate would have it, his career path led him to Seattle, where in 1972 he watched Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God.  The film reignited Yang’s love of film, and illuminated the world of European cinema to the young engineer, with the films of Antonioni becoming a primary source of inspiration.  This inspiration would soon lead to fruition, as over the next decade he directed a series of programs for Taiwanese TV.  It was in 1983 that Yang would finally get his chance at a feature length directorial debut, entitled That Day, On the Beach. 

Over the course of the next 20 years, Yang would release seven films, each seemingly more critically acclaimed than the preceding; a feat considered more impressive by the fact that his third film earned him the Silver Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival.  His seventh and final film, Yi Yi, received critical accolades including the prestigious Best Director Award at Cannes.  Despite the success and notoriety of his films, Yang’s film catalog remains difficult to track down, mainly due to the director’s insistence of making films for art’s sake, and not financial gain; a testament to his philosophy that mixing art with business will result in the influence and eventual corruption of the art form.