GATHERERS, another new one for SooJin Buzelli at PlanSponsor. This is for an article about how healthcare and retirement planning can work in unison.

I liked all my sketches for this, though, as usual, only one of them actually works for the prompt. It usually takes me a bit to really suss out the core of the article. There’s a balance that the working sketch strikes that none of the others do.

When these projects pop up, and I can more or less draw anything, as long as it relates back to the topic, I almost always try to exhaust whatever current topic my mind is focused on, before trying different subject matter. Last time it was knights, this time it was strange animals. 

I usually get a lot of color advice from Kali, but she had a bigger hand in this one than usual. Pretty much steered the whole ship for a little while.


Meet Pig, from one of our newest productions, Pig Goat Banana Cricket!

We’ve got 10 more days until our “Nickelodeon: New Animated Comedies” panel at SDCC where we’ll be showcasing PGBC as one of our new shows!

Also, in addition to releasing new concept/production art every day from the show, we’re going to SLOWLY reveal the Pig Goat Banana Cricket poster we’ll be signing at the Nick booth..shall we make a puzzle together?!


Some of the photos above are previously unseen black and white shots from filming of Pink Floyd: The Wall,  taken by the production’s stills photographer David Appleby, discovered in a store room at Pinewood Film Studios and put on show to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary milestone.

Pink Floyd: The Wall was written almost entirely by Roger Waters, the band’s intellectual, self-analytical, sometimes tortured lead singer. Its central character, named Pink, is played by Bob Geldof, of all people, who could not be less like Pink. The credits say he is being “introduced.” He’s onscreen more than anyone else, goes through punishing scenes, and even sings at times, although this isn’t a performance film but essentially a 95-minute music video. Geldof morphs through several standard rock star looks, all familiar from other stars: The big-haired sex god, the attractive leading man, the haunted neurotic, the cadaverous drug victim. In his most agonizing scene, he shaves off all his body hair in a bloody reprise of Scorsese’s famous short “The Big Shave.” The best audience for this film would be one familiar with filmmaking techniques, alert to directorial styles, and familiar with Roger Waters and Pink Floyd. I can’t imagine a “rock fan” enjoying it very much on first viewing, although I know it has developed a cult following. It’s disquieting and depressing and very good. No one much enjoyed making it. I remember Alan Parker being somewhat quizzical at the time; I learn from Wikipedia that he fought with Waters and Scarfe and considered the film “one of the most miserable experiences of my creative life.” Waters’ own verdict: “I found it was so unremitting in its onslaught upon the senses, that it didn’t give me, anyway, as an audience, a chance to get involved with it.” —Roger Ebert

Here is your chance to download this historic Pink Floyd document: Roger Waters’s screenplay for Pink Floyd: The Wall, illustrated by Gerald Scarfe. You can also listen to an insightful LaserDisc commentary by director Alan Parker (NOTE: different/omitted from Columbia Music’s DVD).

The Other Side of The Wall  is a 25 minute documentary about the making of Pink Floyd: The Wall, originally aired on MTV in 1982. The documentary looks at the conception, design and live shows of The Wall performed by Pink Floyd in 1980 and 1981. It features in-depth 1980s era interviews with Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason and shows footage of The Wall performed at Earl’s Court in 1980. It also features archival footage of the Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd and discusses how David Gilmour was brought into the band to initially augment their live shows when Syd became unreliable due to his drug problem and how Gilmour ultimately replaced him. A short retrospective of Pink Floyd post-Syd in included. The documentary also discusses is how Roger Waters’ concept of The Wall came about and how Pink Floyd, the band, were on the verge of breaking up while performing The Wall concerts. Included are interviews with Mark Fisher (stage designer), Jonathan Park (stage designer), Gerald Scarfe (animation designer and director) and Bob Geldof and Alan Parker in relation to the making of Pink Floyd: The Wall.

Retrospective: Looking Back at the Wall  is a 45 minute documentary that provides some very interesting insights and recollections from the creators of the film. The DVD of the film is available at Amazon and other online retailers.

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Of his directorial debut, acclaimed director David Fincher summarised to The Digital Bits: Alien 3 was flawed from its inception and it was certainly flawed — actually, pretty fucked up — well before we started shooting. So there you go. Take all of the responsibility, because you’re going to get all of the blame. The good folks at Strange Shapes have posted the following article from an 1992 issue of Premiere magazine (vol 5, no 9, May 1992) and is interspersed with Fincher’s reminiscences from other interviews over the years following the film’s release. Needless to say, it’s a bloody fantastic read and a must for anyone interested in the filmmaking process.

David Fincher, a 27-year-old first time director, was determined to fulfil his creative vision on Alien 3  despite intense efforts to hold him back. “Push some smoke up,” says David Fincher, “Push it up!” “Stand by!” says the first assistant director through a megaphone. The crew train hoses and funnels on a silvery monster that looks like the offspring of a giant praying mantis and the Antichrist. It takes a few minutes for the crew to get the steam and smoke up to full inferno. “Here we go! More fog!” cries Fincher. The camera dollies in. The camera operator, lying on his belly, ducks under a flat pipe and curves around to shoot the alien through a scrim of chain link. The Alien whips its head from side to side and starts to howl. In the movie, this moment will come a few minutes before the climax, when the indomitable Lt. Ellen Ripley and a team of religious-fanatic convicts dump a vat of molten lead on its head.

Yesterday they shot the scene ten times, using black paint for lead – 10,000 gallons of it over and over on the head of some poor guy in a rubber suit. “Cut!” says Fincher, drawing a finger across his throat. The crew immediately starts to wet down the set for another shot. It’s December 1991, and they are shooting Alien 3  on a soundstage on the Twentieth Century Fox lot. Principle photography began almost a year ago in London, but when shooting went 23 days over schedule and untold millions over budget, Fox pulled the plug and ordered the filmmakers home. Originally scheduled to debut in the summer of 1991, then put off till Christmas, the movie is now aimed at Memorial Day 1992.

[Alien] just seemed so real to me. I was aware of being told things about people and story through the art direction rather than exposition. I always thought Ridley was brilliant and I never appreciated how brilliant he was until I tried to make this movie. Actually he came down to the set once when we were setting fire to something. In he walked with his silk suit and one of his big Cuban cigars, looking fabulous. Ridley asked how it was going and I said, ‘Really bad.’ And he said, ‘It never goes well… this is not the way to make movies, make sure you make a little film where you have some control whilst they’re beating you up. —David Fincher, The Independent, 1992.

For months Hollywood has been rife with Alien 3  rumours: that it’s a disaster, that it cost upwards of $60 million, that preview screenings were horrible, that Fox chairman Joe Roth hated it, that it really needed 6 weeks of reshoots and another $15 million and then maybe it would work. There is another side too — that it’s visually brilliant, daring, a work of art from an extraordinary young director. If nothing else, the movie is certainly extraordinary for the choice of its director. David Fincher is probably the only 27-year-old first-time filmmaker ever hired to direct a $50 million movie (Fox’s official number, give or take a few million.) Add to that the first director was let go while sets were being built, that the line producer was fired just before the start date, that the script wasn’t finished until two weeks into shooting, and you have a young man with his hands extremely full. As one of his friends puts it, “He was right out of Naval Academy School, and he got put at the helm of the Titanic.”

It was a baptism by fire. I was very naive… I’d always had this naive idea that everybody wants to make movies as good as they can be, which is stupid… I’d always thought, ‘Well, surely you don’t want to have the Twentieth Century Fox logo over a shitty movie.’ And they were like, ‘Well, as long as it opens.’ So I learned then just to be a belligerent asshole, which was really: ‘You have to get what you need to get out of it.’ You have to fight for things you believe in, and you have to be smart about how you position it so that you don’t just become white noise. On that movie, I was the guy who was constantly the voice of, ‘We need to do this better, we need to do this, this doesn’t make sense.’ And pretty soon, it was like in Peanuts: ‘WOP WOP WOP WOP WOP!’ They’d go, ‘He’s doing that again, he’s frothing at the mouth, he seems so passionate.’ They didn’t care. —David Fincher, The Guardian interview, 2009.

Today is the seventh day of reshoots  — “Not reshoots,” Fincher corrects, a bit sharply, “stuff we didn’t get before” — and they have been working on this one five-second shot since 7:30AM. It’s now 4:30 in the afternoon, and they are two hours behind. Fincher is dressed in jeans and sneakers, with a grey baseball cap and a trim beard. He is calm, ironic, and exceptionally self-possessed, with some sly humour of Bill Murray. When a crew member makes an adjustment and tells Fincher he thinks it’s good enough. Fincher calmly demurs: “This movie isn’t made for people who see a movie one time, it’s a movie for people who’re going to see it five times.” Fox executive Michael London whispers, “That’s where a lot of the friction comes. David wants it to be perfect every second.” He quickly adds, “Which is what he’s paid to do.” It comes out only a tiny bit grudging.

Now Fincher is trying to fix a new problem — the Alien is shaking its head so much that the steam doesn’t seem to be coming off its body. “You know what it is,” he says, “As long as it’s straight up and down, it’s all right, but when he picks up that left knee…” And he wants to make a lighting change. When someone asks what the change is, London shrugs: “I’m sure it’s infinitesimal.” We seem to be heading straight to the door marked CREATIVE DIFFERENCES. It takes another hour before they’re ready to shoot again. “Bring up the steam,” says the AD through his megaphone, “here we go. Everybody man their stations. On your marks.” They shoot it. “Let’s do it again, right away,” says Fincher. “Steam up,” says the AD. “Get the lead on… and… ACTION!” “Cut.” Fincher orders more changes and dashes over to the editing room. As he walks, he talks about how tough the shoot has been and how he’s fighting to keep the film bleak. Although he’s often described as arrogant, he seems merely direct. But he occasionally drops a remark that would make a studio executive with millions of dollars on the line a tad nervous: “I’m not making this movie for 50 million people,” he says, “I’m making it for 8 people, my friends, people who know the cameras and lighting.” That works out to a budget of just over $6 million per friend.

Oh it was just hellish. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me. It would be stupid for me to say that I didn’t know what I was getting into. It has taken me five years to decide on a first film and I always held out for something like this. The lesson to be learned is that you can’t take on an enterprise of this size and scope if you don’t have a movie like The Terminator or Jaws behind you. Because when everybody’s wringing their handkerchiefs and sweating and puking blood over the money, it’s very nice to be able to say, ‘This is the guy who directed the biggest grossing movie of all time, sit down, shut up and feel lucky that you’ve got him.’ It’s another thing when you are there and you’re going, ‘Trust me, this is really what I believe in,’ and they turn round and say, ‘Well, who the hell is this guy?’ There are people, who shall remain nameless, that I was bumping into as I was trying to put this thing [Alien 3] together who put the whole experience into a really interesting perspective. They would say, “Look, you could have somebody piss against the wall for two hours and call it Alien 3 and it would still do 30 million dollars worth of business.” That’s the impetus to make these movies, you can’t keep the people away. —David Fincher, The Independent, 1992.

Back on the set, Fincher has another go at the scene. “This shot is about five times more complicated than when we started out,” London says. The studio was expecting just 2 simple shots of the writhing Alien, but Fincher has added dripping water, foreground pipes, and extra steam. Fox executive vice president Tom Jacobson and senior vice president Jon Landau have joined London and all three executives are looking over Fincher’s shoulder. “Action, action, action!” cries the AD. The steam guys blast the Alien with thunderclap bursts of smoke. “Let’s go again while we’ve got steam!” the AD calls. “Save the steam,” Fincher says calmly. “Play it back for me.” He watches the playback intently. Finally he nods, satisfied. It’s 6:30, eleven hours after first call. He’s got his five seconds of film, his way, and it looks great.

Fincher: So what do you want to know about my movie?
Q: How you got involved, the production process, what happened in London. All that staff.
Fincher: Well, it’s weird, because when I got involved, it was, we have a movie to make. How do we solve these problems? How do we get this movie made? I’d love to just take the 50 million bucks and just fuckin’ start over again.
Q: That’s worth talking about. Maybe we can save some young director…
Fincher: What would you say? There’s no way a first-time director can make a $50 million movie in this town with the fuckin’ recession on the eve of the millennium, you know, with the panic that exists in this business right now. There’s no way. You can’t do it, because in the end, if you can’t say, “I made Jaws, trust me,” why should they trust you? One time, [producer] David Giler, incredibly aggressive and pissed off on a conference call with Fox, said, “Why are you listening to him for, he’s a shoe salesman!”
Q: Meaning your Nike commercial.
Fincher: Exactly. And it’s perfectly valid. What do I know? I’m a shoe salesman.

The son of a Life magazine reporter, Fincher produced a local TV news show while still in high school. As a nineteen-year-old Industrial Light & Magic employee, he shot some of Return of the Jedi. He was a founding member of the ultrahip Propaganda video house, which four years later was bringing in a $50 million annual gross. And he had moxie to spare — he tells of meeting Sid Ganis when Ganis was the president of Paramount and pitching him a complicated idea. “He said to me, ‘Fincher, nobody is going to give you $40 million for a first picture.’ And I said, ‘Sid, I know that. What would I do with a 40-minute movie?’”

Fincher: I’d been doing commercials and videos for eight or 10 years before anybody gave me a shot at making a movie. And I wish they hadn’t.
The Guardian: The film we can’t mention?
DF: Yeah, let’s not.
TG: But there’s this fantastic quote that I found, where you said of Alien 3 that, “a lot of people hated Alien 3, but no one hated it more than I did.”
DF: I had to work on it for two years, got fired off it three times and I had to fight for every single thing. No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me.
TG: Have you grown to like it since then, Alien 3?
DF: God, no!

Hill & Giler had discovered Ridley Scott and James Cameron when they were virtual unknowns, so they were well disposed to hiring beginners. They asked Pruss, who had worked on a screenplay for Fincher, for a reference. “I said, ‘Yeah, I know him,’” Pruss recalls. “He wouldn’t direct the movie in a million fucking years.” Fincher, it turned out, considers the first Alien  one of “the ten perfect movies of all time.” Pruss tried to tell Fincher he was making a mistake. “I said, ‘David, you’re fucking nuts. Why are you doing this? Why don’t you direct your own movie?’” he recalls. “And he said, ‘I don’t know, there’s just something about it. It could be cool. Don’t you think it could be cool?’

I wanted to do an Alien movie, I wanted to do one since I was 16. I felt like I had a relationship to the Dan O’Bannon side of it as well as the Walter Hill side of it, as well as the HR Giger side of it. I felt like I kinda knew what I would do with that. The fact that I wasn’t allowed to was my own fault. But, you know, that was a world that I loved that I couldn’t get enough of. So that was an easy thing to want to get involved with, and probably too easy because it was totally fucked up for so many other different reasons. —David Fincher

With Fincher signed, Fox hired Larry Ferguson to do a four-week emergency rewrite on the script. The plot Fincher came up with on his own, prior to the hiring of Ferguson, left the suits aghast. “They said, ‘My God, this is four fucking hours, it’s $150 million.’ And they were absolutely right.” He laughs. “I was just so taken with the legacy that it had to be Apocalypse Now.”

Fincher: In the draft Larry was writing, she was going to be this women who had fallen from the stars. In the end she dies, and there are seven monks left – seven dwarfs.
Q: You’re kidding.
Fincher: Seriously. I swear to God. She was like… what’s her name in Peter Pan? She was like Wendy. And she would make up all these stories. And in the end, there were these seven dwarfs left, and there was this fucking tube they put her in, and they were waiting for Prince Charming to come wake her up. So that was one of the endings we had for this movie. You can imagine what Joe Roth said when he heard this. “What?! What are they doing over there?! What the fuck is going on?!”

When Ferguson turned in his draft, the movie almost fell apart. Fox coughed up $600,000 or so for Hill & Giler to do an emergency rewrite. The producers scraped Ward’s wooden planet and moved the action back to Twohy’s prison setting. Since both Fincher and Weaver were taken with the religious element of Ward’s story, they made the prisoners what Giler terms as “your basic militant Christian fundamentalist millenarian apocalyptic” types. In just three weeks they had a first draft. The studio liked it, Weaver liked it. But alas, Fincher had a few reservations. The start date was pushed back to January 14 1991, and for the next 2 months, Hill, Giler, Fincher and the studio fought over the script, budget, the sets — even as more sets were being constructed. Hill calls the period “brutal, a real battle royale.”

In a tense meeting between Fincher, Michael London, Tom Jacobson and line producer, Ezra Swerdlow, Fox cut the shooting schedule down from 93 days to just 70. Fincher would only get 25 SFX shots (less than half what Aliens had.) The filmmakers ended up working eighteen-hour days and six-day weeks, just to try and met the stop date. At one point, when an explosion effect backfired, five crewmembers got burned, one badly enough to go to hospital.

Every day we’d shoot all day and, at midnight, David would have to get on the phone and defend shooting the next day’s work. You shouldn’t hire someone like Fincher unless you’re going to let them go. So I think it was very difficult for him. Really, it was difficult for everybody. I think the film is really good, though, what he did. It was a very specific vision that Fox wanted him to do. It was not his take on it, which I think made it more complicated for him. It made a difficult film that much more difficult. I thought Fincher was amazing. —Sigourney Weaver, ShockTilYouDrop interview, 2010

Once more last minute fight cost Fincher the goodwill of his producer-writers. Over the Christmas holidays, Hill & Giler were going to take a ten-day vacation, and a writer named Rex Pickett was hired for one more bit of rewriting. Fincher took Pickett out to dinner and told him all the problems he was having with the script. “I said, ‘Am I crazy? Am I totally insane?’” Fincher recalls. “And he said ‘No, this makes sense. Maybe you’re just not communicating it well.’”

It all blew up when Pickett wrote a memo savaging Hill & Giler’s script. Giler read the memo and exploded. “I was pissed, absolutely furious,” says Giler. Hill said the thrust of the memo was “that we were fools not to recognise the merit of the ideas the director had.” Although Pickett’s rewrite was thrown out [he wouldn’t comment], the irate producers left London and never came back. Says Hill, “they hired another writer behind our backs, they were being in our opinion very unrealistic about certain economic realities, and our conception of what a producer is had already been nullified. If they weren’t going to do anything we were telling them to do then what was the point in being there?” The blow-up rocked the London set. “It was electrifying news,” says one of the crew. “It basically stopped the production.” Then shooting began, and things got worse.

Q: I heard Landau and you were at each other’s throats.
Fincher: We have had amazing, amazing bouts, with screaming and spitting, cat-scratching, the whole thing. It’s his job to control costs and my job to get the shots. It was a bloodbath – a constructive bloodbath.
Q: So did he pound you?
Fincher: It’s all a random and bloody blur. Ask Muhammad Ali, “How much do you remember?” I can’t really form the words because I’m so brain-damaged.
Q: So did he actually try and call “cut”?
Fincher: No, he tried to fucking wrap before we’d shoot stuff.
Q: Like at the end of the day, call “Wrap”?
Fincher: Yeah, like, “Okay, it’s 6pm and we need to get out of here.”
Q: So what would you say?
Fincher: “There’s no point in trying to force it before it’s done. It’s a guy in a rubber suit. If it looks like a guy in a rubber suit, we’re fucked.”
Q: And you’d say it in that calm tone of voice?
Fincher: Absolutely. Constantly. That’s one of my most irritating qualities.

On the first day of shooting, Weaver was lying naked on a table, covered only by a sheet. She was wearing a contact lens to make her eye look bloody, leaving her almost blind. Fincher called over the production’s bug wrangler, who was carrying a cup full of… lice. “David said, ‘just sprinkle a few bugs on her forehead,’” says Weaver. “And my eyes are open and I’m talking, and all these bugs drop down on my face. They went into my ears and my eyes, and I — who pride myself on having worked with gorillas and everything and being a good trooper — I went nuts. You realise what it’s like to be naked and blind and have bugs thrown in your face? It was the worst beginning with a director I could imagine.”

But the lice turned out to be cute baby crickets, and from there things went relatively smoothly. As the script had not be finished, they began with the dialogue sequences, saving the action scenes for later. Fincher won Weaver back completely a few weeks later when they shot the autopsy scene. “To me it’s the most emotionally charged scene because you are doing something absolutely despicable to the person that you love more than anybody in the world, and I was terrified because that scene was so important to me,” says Weaver. “If David had been insensitive, it would have been a nightmare. But he was great, incredibly sweet and supportive. You do find out what people are like when you shoot. He’s not only brilliant but also a very good guy.”

Line producer Swerdlow, was also impressed with Fincher. “A lot of directors just tell you what they want the end product to look like, but not how to get there,” he says, adding that “David is a world-class visual-effects expert and seems to understand lighting very scientifically.” Fincher was particularly happy to be working with Jordan Cronenweth, the cinematographer of Blade Runner  and one of his all time heroes. “When Cronenweth works, it’s like he’s playing 3-D chess and the rest of us are playing Chinese checkers,” says Fincher. “The tonal range is amazing. It’s like Ansel Adams.” But Cronenweth worked slowly (in part because of the language barrier, according to Fincher) and Fox began pressurising Fincher to let him go. “I think they felt the two of us were in cahoots,” says Fincher. Finally, after yet another transatlantic phone call, Fincher reluctantly fired his hero.

With a new cinematographer, things picked up. They even had some fun – Weaver says that as far as laughs on the set go, this was her favourite Alien. But when they started to shoot the big action scenes late in February, things started slowing down again. The pace was brutal — days typically started at 7AM and continued until 1AM the following day. Fincher was supervising four units and spending his nights and Sundays working on script changes. “Thank God he’s young,” says Weaver. By this time, Swerdlow was becoming convinced that the original proposed 93 day shoot was correct. “Fox wasn’t thrilled to hear it,” he says. The exchange rate had shifted against the dollar, and shooting in London was getting more expensive by the day. Often, Swerdlow and Fincher would get on the phone together to argue with the home office.

But the biggest and longest running fight was over the ending. Hill & Giler (who continued to consult long-distance on the movie after Fox threw in another hundred grand or so) wanted a clear-cut, good guys/bad guys ending. The argument reached a climax in early February during the “shoe salesman” conference call. Hill and Giler left Birnbaum’s office with Fox on their side — or so they thought. But the next day, Giler says, “we had a kind of extraordinary meeting, where Roger basically said, ‘You guys are sophisticated writers, you’ve conned us to your point of view with the force of you ideas and logic, but basically we want to go with Fincher’s idea.’” Birnbaum says he doesn’t remember the incident quite that way, “David [Giler] and Walter [Hill] wanted the scene to go one way, and they made all the sense in the world. But when Fincher came up with his point of view, it made sense to us too. So I said, ‘If both arguments hold water, I’m going to go with the guy who’s shooting.’” That was the last straw for Hill & Giler, who then severed all contact with the production.

What was ironic was that Fox chose David Fincher, who was so talented, and from the second he got the job they undermined him by not giving him what he was asking for. For me it was a real education in how not to make a movie. —Sigourney Weaver, Total Film, 2006.

I mean again there were about six months on that movie where things were really exciting and we were going to do all of this different stuff and then the studio took over and that is sort of where things took a nose dive. It was like things were mandated, like blueprints for sets were cut in half and they just said, ‘this is the half of the set you get.’ It all comes down to the script. That’s the thing you fight over the hardest and the longest and fight for first … I mean we had a lot of really great stuff. Jake Scott [the son of Ridley Scott] did some amazing designs for a bunch of stuff that I brought to London and flipped everybody out with. They were like, ‘This guy’s bringing in his own set design.’ But there was a lot of really interesting stuff and we just never got to explore it, because we were chasing a start date. —David Fincher, AICN Interview, 2007

As shooting continued into May, Fincher passed the targeted stop date. When production went about 10 days over, Jon Landau showed up and took over from Swerdlow. “I wasn’t totally unhappy with it, because the stakes were getting very high,” says Swerdlow. But Weaver was incensed. “Jon came over with instructions to cut this, slash that, and there was an inference that David was this enfant terrible going mad. It was very contemptuous of the effort we were putting in to come in and say this isn’t necessary and that’s not necessary,” Weaver says. By now they were shooting the climatic scenes — the same scenes they would partly reshoot a year later. The work was enormously complicated. “You’re talking about a creature that is ten effects guys, and the fucking steam effects is, like, twenty guys,” says Fincher, “and to just turn the steam on took ten minutes, and we’ve got five or six cameras rolling, and you rehearse the whole thing, and a Louma crane is up on a fucking 25-foot platform, and it got to go through these chains, and the chains have to be in the right place. That kind of choreography takes time.”

And Fincher was meticulous about getting the effects he wanted. “Jon couldn’t push David as a director,” says Swerdlow. “He could push crews, but the shot itself had to be the shot David wanted. If something was wrong in the art direction or the mechanical effects, Fincher would wait, and that was something you couldn’t push him on. You just couldn’t.” After watching for two weeks, with the film still unfinished, Landau pulled the Alien 3 plug. The sets were put in storage and the filmmakers ordered home. Weaver tried to use her clout and called Joe Roth directly, but it was too late. “In the end,” she says, “it came to a showdown between the director’s vision and a dwindling amount of cold, hard cash.” Roth says he couldn’t be sure that Fincher wasn’t wasting film on unnecessary effects. “Its really hard to tell on Science Fiction,” he says. “Fincher had shot a long time before he came back, and I felt it was important to see the movie at that point and reconstruct what needed to be finished.” Besides, Birnbaum adds, Fincher’s background was in commercials, and commercial directors tend to shoot and shoot. Fox had already spent upwards of $40 million. “The artists want to make a piece of art, and I have to take every piece of art and put a price tag on it,” he says. Ironically, Fincher had shot 93 days — just as was originally predicted.

Q: What did you do when they pulled the plug?
Fincher: As upset as I was, I was so exhausted, I was glad to get back on the plane. We were told they were going to hold the sets until Joe Roth could take a look at the picture, but they decided it was more cost effective to cut the film and see exactly what was needed – what’s laughingly known as the surgical strike. So we assembled it –and it was like two hours and seventeen minutes– and we showed it to them. It was quite a sobering experience.
Q: I saw a list of your reshoots that was seven pages long.
Fincher: No, no. You must have seen the wish list …
Q: So to this day there’s still a dispute over how to handle the ending?
Fincher: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. In my most depressed moments, people say, “You know, they didn’t know how they wanted to end Casablanca.” Hopefully this is Casablanca.

A few weeks after returning to LA, Fincher showed his rough assemblage to Hill & Giler, who came back to the project in post-production. “Everybody could see there were problems,” says Hill. Roth says his notes were basis first-screening notes — “too long, could be better paced, needs to be more like a traditional horror film.” For the next year, Fincher laboured in the editing room. He made about $250,000 for Alien 3, not much more than a DGA minimum. Fox ultimately decided to keep him in LA and to cut down his “wish list” from almost six weeks to a mere eight days (at a cost of about $2.5 million extra.) Weaver remembers his response when the studio started pressuring him to bolster the horror side of the film. “He said to them, ‘We all sat there and decided to make a china cup, a beautiful, delicate china cup. You can’t tell me we should have made a beer mug.’”

But as the film approached final cut, people’s spirits started to pick up. Weaver and Fox and even Hill; Giler started praising the film. “It really stands on its own as a brilliant Alien picture, very unusual and very provocative,” says Weaver, who is not given to hype. And it’s clear just from the script that what Hill & Giler wrote and what Fox agreed to do is a very ambitious movie with a stark brooding quality that smells of art — brilliant or failed, it will certainly not be your average monster movie. Fox was even happy enough to kick in more money for Fincher to shoot one of his pet scenes — the birth of a baby Alien. “There’s no question we’ve had our dark hours,” says London, “but in the end, Fincher’s vision and his talent are all up there on the screen. David doesn’t see it this way, but I think all the battling actually helped it get there.” None of this seemed to make Fincher much happier, though. He just saw the things he could have done, the things he could still do. “Here we go!” cries the AD. “Steam! Steam!” A raging orange fog sweeps through the set, a tangle of chains and pipes that looks like the intestines of some martial god. The floor is gleaming wet, the puddle contained by an artificial lake bed of plastic edged by one-by-twos. This is the last day of reshoots – at least that’s what they’re saying now — and they’re shooting the climax of the movie.

I walked naively into this spinning propeller of Hollywood [with Alien 3] … There’s nothing worse than hearing somebody say, ‘Oh, you made that movie? I thought that movie sucked,’ and you have to agree with them, you know? —David Fincher, AICN interview, 2007.

“Faster with the smoke,” Fincher calls out. He’s happy with his shots and tells the AD to order all of them printed. “Get that fucking tail out of there,” he tells the Alien effects guy, Alec Gillis. “it looks like a fucking coat hanger.” He’s in a good mood today. He’s wearing the Spielberg uniform again. When the take is over, he ribs Gillis. “I’ll take out one of your thumbs next time that happens.” Gillis ribs back: “Yeah? I’ll have to take it out of my ass.” The suits are still around in force. Later, Fincher starts setting up an odd shot — on the other side of the soundstage, he’s placed pipes on the floor. The Alien is “climbing” the horizontal pipes while a camera shoots it’s reflection in a huge mirror propped up at the end of them, making it appear that the alien is climbing vertically. “David wanted to build a whole set,” says London, “We said no; then he got creative.” Tom Jacobson comes to take a look over Fincher’s shoulder. He tells him it’s a great shot. “It’s all done with mirrors,” Fincher says dryly. Jacobson asks another question. Maybe he’s just making conversation. “The planet,” he says, “is that being done in camera?” Fincher shrugs, “we didn’t plan it that way. We haven’t found the right planet. We have location scouts out.” —by John H. Richardson, 1991.

If we failed to do one thing in this film, and we failed to do many things, it was to take people out of their everyday lives. It’s not a scary scare movie but a queasy scare movie and I think people resent that. Actually, my dentist, as he was drilling my teeth, was giving me his thesis on the things wrong with this film and he said, ‘When you go out of this movie you haven’t gotten away from Aids, you haven’t gotten away from race riots, you haven’t gotten away from fear of other cultures.’ We tried to make a movie about now and I just think in terms of the world box office we may have chosen wrong … You know, if I make 10 shitty movies, I’ll deserve the flak and if I go on to make 10 great ones, this’ll probably be looked upon as my first bungled masterpiece. —David Fincher, The Independent, 1992.

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Kino Obscura’s David Liu has unearthed this comprehensive and fascinating conversation between Akira Kurosawa and Gabriel García Márquez. The interview was published in The Los Angeles Times in 1991. Márquez, a former film critic in Bogata, Colombia as well as the author of A Hundred Years of Solitude, spoke with Kurosawa on a diverse range of topics for more than six hours.

Márquez: I don’t want this conversation between friends to seem like a press interview, but I just have this great curiosity to know a great many other things about you and your work. To begin with, I am interested to know how you write your scripts. First, because I am myself a scriptwriter. And second, because you have made stupendous adaptations of great literary works, and I have many doubts about the adaptations that have been made or could be made of mine.
Kurosawa: When I conceive an original idea that I wish to turn into a script, I lock myself up in a hotel with paper and pencil. At that point I have a general idea of the plot, and I know more or less how it is going to end. If I don’t know what scene to begin with, I follow the stream of the ideas that spring up naturally.
Is the first thing that comes to your mind an idea or an image?
Kurosawa: I can’t explain it very well, but I think it all begins with several scattered images. By contrast, I know that scriptwriters here in Japan first create an overall view of the script, organizing it by scenes, and after systematizing the plot they begin to write. But I don’t think that is the right way to do it, since we are not God.
Has your method also been that intuitive when you have adapted Shakespeare or Gorky or Dostoevsky?
Kurosawa: Directors who make films halfway may not realize that it is very difficult to convey literary images to the audience through cinematic images. For instance, in adapting a detective novel in which a body was found next to the railroad tracks, a young director insisted that a certain spot corresponded perfectly with the one in the book. “You are wrong,” I said. “The problem is that you have already read the novel and you know that a body was found next to the tracks. But for the people who have not read it there is nothing special about the place.” That young director was captivated by the magical power of literature without realizing that cinematic images must be expressed in a different way.
Can you remember any image from real life that you consider impossible to express on film?
Kurosawa: Yes. That of a mining town named Ilidachi, where I worked as an assistant director when I was very young. The director had declared at first glance that the atmosphere was magnificent and strange, and that’s the reason we filmed it. But the images showed only a run-of-the-mill town, for they were missing something that was known to us: that the working conditions in (the town) are very dangerous, and that the women and children of the miners live in eternal fear for their safety. When one looks at the village one confuses the landscape with that feeling, and one perceives it as stranger than it actually is. But the camera does not see it with the same eyes.

The truth is that I know very few novelists who have been satisfied with the adaptation of their books for the screen. What experience have you had with your adaptations?
Kurosawa: Allow me, first, a question: Did you see my film Red Beard?
I have seen it six times in 20 years and I talked about it to my children almost every day until they were able to see it. So not only is it the one among your films best liked by my family and me, but also one of my favorites in the whole history of cinema.
Kurosawa: Red Beard  constitutes a point of reference in my evolution. All of my films which precede it are different from the succeeding ones. It was the end of one stage and the beginning of another.
That is obvious. Furthermore, within the same film there are two scenes that are extreme in relation to the totality of your work, and they are both unforgettable; one is the praying mantis episode, and the other is the karate fight in the hospital courtyard.
Kurosawa: Yes, but what I wanted to tell you is that the author of the book, Shuguro Yamamoto, had always opposed having his novels made into films. He made an exception with Red Beard  because I persisted with merciless obstinacy until I succeeded. Yet, when he had finished viewing the film he turned to look at me and said: “Well it’s more interesting than my novel.”
Why did he like it so much, I wonder?
Kurosawa: Because he had a clear awareness of the inherent characteristics of cinema. The only thing he requested of me was that I be very careful with the protagonist, a complete failure of a woman, as he saw her. But the curious thing is that the idea of a failed woman was not explicit in his novel.
Perhaps he thought it was. It is something that often happens to us novelists.
Kurosawa: So it is. In fact, upon seeing the films based on their books, some writers say: “That part of my novel is well portrayed.” But they are actually referring to something that was added by the director. I understand what they are saying, because they may see clearly expressed on the screen, by sheer intuition on the part of the director, something they had meant to write but had not been able to.

It is a known fact: “Poets are mixers of poisons.” But, to come back to your current film, will the typhoon be the most difficult thing to film?
Kurosawa: No. The most difficult thing was to work with the animals. Water serpents, rose-eating ants. Domesticated snakes are too accustomed to people, they don’t flee instinctively, and they behave like eels. The solution was to capture a huge wild snake, which kept trying with all its might to escape and was truly frightening. So it played its role very well. As for the ants, it was a question of getting them to climb up a rosebush in single file until they reached a rose. They were reluctant for a long time, until we made a trail of honey on the stem, and the ants climbed up. Actually, we had many difficulties, but it was worth it, because I learned a great deal about them.
Yes, so I’ve noticed. But what kind of film is this that is as likely to have problems with ants as with typhoons? What is the plot?
Kurosawa: It is very difficult to summarize in a few words.
Does somebody kill somebody?
Kurosawa: No. It’s simply about an old woman from Nagasaki who survived the atomic bomb and whose grandchildren went to visit her last summer. I have not filmed shockingly realistic scenes which would prove to be unbearable and yet would not explain in and of themselves the horror of the drama. What I would like to convey is the type of wounds the atomic bomb left in the heart of our people, and how they gradually began to heal. I remember the day of the bombing clearly, and even now I still can’t believe that it could have happened in the real world. But the worst part is that the Japanese have already cast it into oblivion.
What does that historical amnesia mean for the future of Japan, for the identity of the Japanese people?
Kurosawa: The Japanese don’t talk about it explicitly. Our politicians in particular are silent for fear of the United States. They may have accepted Truman’s explanation that he resorted to the atomic bomb only to hasten the end of the World War. Still, for us, the war goes on. The full death toll for Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been officially published at 230,000. But in actual fact there were over half a million dead. And even now there are still 2,700 patients at the Atomic Bomb Hospital waiting to die from the after-effects of the radiation after 45 years of agony. In other words, the atomic bomb is still killing Japanese.

The most rational explanation seems to be that the U.S. rushed in to end it with the bomb for fear that the Soviets would take Japan before they did.
Kurosawa: Yes, but why did they do it in a city inhabited only by civilians who had nothing to do with the war? There were military concentrations that were in fact waging war.
Nor did they drop it on the Imperial Palace, which must have been a very vulnerable spot in the heart of Tokyo. And I think that this is all explained by the fact that they wanted to leave the political power and the military power intact in order to carry out a speedy negotiation without having to share the booty with their allies. It’s something no other country has ever experienced in all of human history. Now then: Had Japan surrendered without the atomic bomb, would it be the same Japan it is today?
Kurosawa: It’s hard to say. The people who survived Nagasaki don’t want to remember their experience because the majority of them, in order to survive, had to abandon their parents, their children, their brothers and sisters. They still can’t stop feeling guilty. Afterwards, the U.S. forces that occupied the country for six years influenced by various means the acceleration of forgetfulness, and the Japanese government collaborated with them. I would even be willing to understand all this as part of the inevitable tragedy generated by war. But I think that, at the very least, the country that dropped the bomb should apologize to the Japanese people. Until that happens this drama will not be over.
That far? Couldn’t the misfortune be compensated for by a long era of happiness?
Kurosawa: The atomic bomb constituted the starting point of the Cold War and of the arms race, and it marked the beginning of the process of creation and utilization of nuclear energy. Happiness will never be possible given such origins.
I see. Nuclear energy was born as a cursed force, and a force born under a curse is a perfect theme for Kurosawa. But what concerns me is that you are not condemning nuclear energy itself, but the way it was misused from the beginning. Electricity is still a good thing in spite of the electric chair.
Kurosawa: It is not the same thing. I think nuclear energy is beyond the possibilities of control that can be established by human beings. In the event of a mistake in the management of nuclear energy, the immediate disaster would be immense and the radioactivity would remain for hundreds of generations. On the other hand, when water is boiling, it suffices to let it cool for it to no longer be dangerous. Let’s stop using elements which continue to boil for hundreds of thousands of years.

I owe a large measure of my own faith in humanity to Kurosawa’s films. But I also understand your position in view of the terrible injustice of using the atomic bomb only against civilians and of the Americans and Japanese colluding to make Japan forget. But it seems to me equally unjust for nuclear energy to be deemed forever accursed without considering that it could perform a great non-military service for humanity. There is in that a confusion of feelings which is due to the irritation you feel because you know Japan has forgotten, and because the guilty, which is to say, the United States, has not in the end come to acknowledge its guilt and to render unto the Japanese people the apologies due to them.
Kurosawa: Human beings will be more human when they realize there are aspects of reality they may not manipulate. I don’t think we have the right to generate children without anuses, or eight-legged horses, such as is happening at Chernobyl. But now I think this conversation has become too serious, and that wasn’t my intention.
We’ve done the right thing. When a topic is as serious as this, one can’t help but discuss it seriously. Does the film you are in the process of finishing cast any light on your thoughts in this matter?
Kurosawa: Not directly. I was a young journalist when the bomb was dropped, and I wanted to write articles about what had happened, but it was absolutely forbidden until the end of the occupation. Now, to make this film, I began to research and study the subject and I know much more than I did then. But if I had expressed my thoughts directly in the film, it could not have been shown in today’s Japan, or anywhere else.
Do you think it might be possible to publish the transcript of this dialogue?
Kurosawa: I have no objection. On the contrary. This is a matter on which many people in the world should give their opinion without restrictions of any sort.
Thank you very much. All things considered, I think that if I were Japanese I would be as unyielding as you on this subject. And at any rate, I understand you. No war is good for anybody.
Kurosawa: That is so. The trouble is that when the shooting starts, even Christ and the angels turn into military chiefs of staff.

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Edited down from a similar documentary made for a long out-of-print LaserDisc release, The Making of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  features interviews with Miloš Forman, Saul Zaentz, Ken Kesey, and both Michael and Kirk Douglas (the only true disappointment here is the absence of Jack Nicholson).

Kirk Douglas bought the rights to Ken Kesey’s novel before it was even published in 1962. While the book became a bestseller and a counterculture classic of the time, Douglas produced a Broadway adaptation with himself in the lead role of Randle P. McMurphy and spent years trying to get a film version off the ground. Turned down by every Hollywood studio and most of the major American directors, it was finally made independently by a pair of first time producers-actor Michael Douglas (who bought the rights from his father) and jazz record impresario Saul Zaentz—and émigré director Miloš Forman (Hal Ashby was originally going to direct, but eventually dropped out and replaced by Forman, according to Danny DeVito's 2009 appearance on Inside The Actor's Studio). It became a box office smash (eventually earning $200 million on a budget of less than $5 million) and the second picture in Hollywood history to sweep the top five Academy Awards.

Thanks to frame-paradiso for this trip down memory lane. If you haven’t seen this amazing film or not for a while, don’t hesitate and get the 35th Anniversary Collector’s Edition available at Amazon.

Miloš Forman about the movie:

One day, I got a package from California. There was a book inside I’d never heard of written by an author I’d never heard of but when I started to read I saw right away that this was the best material I’d come across in America.

“Hell, Milos, I tried to get the rights to the fucking book, if you know what I mean, but that old boy Douglas beat me to the punch,” said Jack Nicholson when I offered him the part.

All the scenes stood or fell with Jack Nicholson, who was a dream to work with. He had none of the vanity, egomania, or obsessions of a star. He insisted on receiving the same treatment as everyone else. He was always prepared for his scenes and had a clear idea of what he wanted. His sense of humour put everyone at ease, which is always a great asset on a set. He helped the people around him because he knew that the better their performances were, the better he would look in the end.

Discovering Nurse Ratched in the prim, angelic Louise Fletcher surprised me, but the more I thought about it, the more it made me sense. I’d learned long before that it’s better to cast against type in the leading roles and with it in the minor roles. For reasons of economy and clarity, I prefer to give the audience a quick read of secondary characters by casting obvious physical types, but with the principal roles, it’s more engaging to uncover a different personality under the obvious type, to peel away the erroneous expectations, to be surprised by a deeper knowledge of the character.

Also, recommended viewing: here’s a little over 13 minutes of deleted scenes, courtesy of frame-paradiso.

These scenes display what a fine director Forman is. They are all excellent scenes but it’s often said that the ability to cut good material in order to make a better total picture is a hard-learned skill. Scenes included here play fine on their own but the film is so right as it is that they aren’t needed. Of particular note is a scene where McMurphy has the various behavior altering punishments utilized by the hospital explained to him.

Dear every screenwriter, read this: Lawrence Hauben & Bo Goldman’s screenplay for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only). The DVD/Blu-ray of the film is available at Amazon and other online retailers.

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I’ve had people insist that I used 3d an photos, despite my assertion that I haven’t. You can see the thread here http://www.reddit.com/r/comicbooks/comments/2ag3ku/this_is_a_painting_iron_man_by_ryan_lang/ But this isn’t for them. This is for people that like to see the process of an illustration. I tried to break it down, but if there are any questions, please ask. I have no problem with artists using photos or 3d in their digital work, so when I say I didn’t use photos or 3d for this image, it was that I wanted to see what I could accomplish on my own (with a couple of filters at the end). And if after this process post people still refuse to believe that I didn’t use photos or 3d….. I will take that as a compliment.