News & Updates
June 28, 2020
In the early 1980s, Cinefantastique was an extraordinarily detailed and authoritative sci-fi film magazine. Founded as a mimeographed fanzine a year before the 1968 release of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it became a serious, almost scholarly glossy. And in 1982, Cinefantastique opened the year with a double issue that featured “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
Looking back, Cinefantastique was right to recognize “Blade Runner;” its impact is still felt nearly 40 years later. However, in 1982 the $65 million production grossed just $41 million worldwide (in adjusted dollars, about $95 million) as one sci-fi title among many. June 11 saw the release of Steven Spielberg’s instant classic “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial;” June 4 was “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Those far less complex, more audience-friendly titles had already grossed over $125 million (this and all grosses here adjusted to 2020 values).
June 25 also saw the debut of “The Thing,” John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 classic, as well as 20th Century Fox’s “Megaforce.” The supernatural “Poltergeist” was riding high in its fourth week, and soon to come was Disney’s much-anticipated and very expensive “Tron.”
However, at around $65 million “Blade Runner” was the most expensive of these (“E.T.” only cost $26 million!). It starred Harrison Ford, who after the “Star Wars” films and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” was the ideal actor to attach to this. And while this was only Scott’s third feature, his “Alien” showed that complicated, highly visual, stylized, R-rated sci-fi films could work along with the Spielberg/Lucas kind.
Also key was Alan Ladd, Jr., now an independent producer after leaving head of production post at 20th Century-Fox where he oversaw “Star Wars” and “Alien.” He formed his own company, which initially partnered with Warner Bros. That combined pedigree led to the choice of the late-June date, considered as prime as any.
“Blade Runner” underrated its competition, but there were other issues. Early screenings reflected a confused audience, which led to months of unsatisfactory tinkering — and later, reviews that were mixed or worse.
Still, the film opened to #2, behind only the soaring “E.T.” in its third week — the biggest one of its run. Spielberg’s film — the biggest domestic grosser over the decades since “Star Wars” — performed beyond all expectations. Ahead of its release, there was suspicion is might be minor Spielberg, too kid-friendly and certainly no risk to “Blade Runner.”
The second “Star Trek” film also held well, grossing nearly as much as the initial 1979 film. Also in play was “The Thing” as a tougher, R-rated entry (which ultimately lost money, as well as the Spielberg-produced “Poltergeist.”
Time has been kind to “Blade Runner,” which regularly places at or near the top of best sci-fi films ever, nearly always ahead of “E.T.,” but it lost money on its initial release. History repeated itself in 2018 with long-awaited sequel “Blade Runner 2049,” which cost over $150 million but grossed $260 million worldwide. Similar to the original, it had major core fan interest (although much better initial reviews, and far less competition). In both cases, the high budget took films with decent initial response into financial failure.
Totally lost in the shuffle was “Megaforce,” a megabomb that somehow was thought to be a smart change of pace for “Smokey and the Bandit” director Hal Needham. Produced by Al Ruddy (“The Godfather”) this sci-fi adjacent action film featured advanced weaponry and other gadgetry; some noted its fighter jet battles seemed inspired by “Star Wars.” Among its problems was fending off Clint Eastwood’s similarly military-themed “Firefox,” which quietly became a big success.
Seven of the top 10 for this week were featured to varying degree in Cinemafantastique and other sci-fi related media. That so many were positioned at such a prime time shows how hot the genre had become.
June 25-27, 1982 (grosses in BOLD are adjusted to 2020 equivalent)
1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #1
$13.4 million/$30.1 million (+6%) in 1,215 theaters (+99); PTA: $11,015/$25,334; Final total: $435.1 million/$1.329 billion
2. Blade Runner (Warner Bros.)
$6.2 million/$14.3 million in 1,295 theaters; PTA: $4,749/$10,923; Final total: $32.7 million/$75.2 million
3. Firefox (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #2
$5.1 million/$11.6 million (-37%) in 891 theaters (+10); PTA: $5,753/$13,231; Final total: $45.8 million/$105.3 million
4. Rocky III (MGM/UA) Week 5; Last weekend #3
$5.1 million/$11.5 million (-19%) in 1,232 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,134/$9,508; Final total: $124.1 million/$285.4 million
5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Paramount) Week 4; Last weekend #4
$4.5 million/$10.4 million (-27%) in 1,225 theaters (-223); PTA: $3,538/$8,137; Final total: $78.9 million/$181.5 million
6. Annie (Columbia) Week 6; Last weekend #5
$4.5 million/$10.3 million (-15%) in 1,102 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,120/$9,476; Final total: $57.1 million/$131.3 million
7. Poltergeist (MGM/UA) Week 4; Last weekend #6
$4.1 million/$9.4 million (-13%) in 911 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,504/$10,359; Final total: $76.6 million/$176.1 million
8. The Thing (Universal) NEW
$3.1 million/$7.1 million in 840 theaters; PTA: $3,700/$8,510; Final total: $19.6 million/$45.1 million
9. Megaforce (20th Century Fox) NEW
$2.4 million/$5.5 million in 1,193 theaters; PTA: $1,970/$4,531; Final total: $5.7 million/$13.1 million
10. Bambi (Buena Vista) REISSUE
$2.1 million/$4.8 million in 508 theaters; PTA: $4,127/$9,492; Final total: $23.0 million/$52.9 million (reissue only)
Source: IndieWire film
June 28, 2020
The pandemic may have pushed back the theatrical release of Pixar’s “Soul” (from Juneteenth to November 20), but that didn’t stop Disney from dropping a new teaser trailer on Saturday, touting the original song, “Parting Ways” (written, produced, and performed by fusion specialist Cody ChesnuTT).
Pete Docter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, follows up his Oscar-winning “Inside Out” with the Cannes-selected “Soul,” which explores the answers to some of life’s most important questions of identity. The musical fantasy introduces Pixar’s first Black protagonist, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a New York middle-school band teacher who gets the ultimate gig playing piano at the top jazz club, only to fall into a manhole and journey to The Great Before, a fantastical place where new souls are formed before birth. There he encounters precocious soul, 22 (Tina Fey), who rejects the appeal of the human experience. But they team up so Gardner can return to Earth and complete his journey.
As Gardner emphasizes in the one-minute teaser, “Spend your precious hours doing what will bring out the real you — the brilliant, passionate you.” The predominantly Black cast also includes the voice work of Phylicia Rashad, Angela Bassett, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, and Daveed Diggs. Musician Jon Batiste composed the jazz score for the New York portion, while Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the ethereal score for The Great Before.
On Saturday, Essence Festival of Culture hosted a virtual “Soul” panel, which included Docter, co-director/screenwriter Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami,” “Star Trek: Discovery”), producer Dana Murray (“Lou” short), Batiste, and consultant Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole. It started with a simple idea, according to Docter. After coming off the high of “Inside Out” in 2015, he experienced a void: “I felt like I worked my whole life to make animated films, yet I found myself wondering, ‘Is this really what I’m born to do?’” he said. “I thought about my son. I took pictures the moment he arrived; I swear, we could already see him in there. And I was thinking, ‘How did that happen?’
“Well, because each of us is born with a soul…the soul is the center of who we are…it’s our makeup of what passions and inspirations we have. We wanted our main character in the film to have those passions born into him as well. It’s something we could all relate to and root for. A jazz musician was the perfect representation of what we were trying to say in the film.”
But, as with the Oscar-winning “Coco,” Pixar wanted to ensure cultural authenticity, so the studio hired Powers to collaborate on the script with Docter, Fey, and Mike Jones (the studio’s senior story and creative artist, and former IndieWire executive editor). His contribution was so integral to shaping Gardner’s character (they are both in their mid-40s and hail from New York City), that he was promoted to co-director: “But I had to transcend his experience,” Powers said, “and so they invited a lot of other Black voices into the fold.”
Pixar not only formed the “internal culture test” comprised of Black employees, but also recruited a range of outside consultants, including Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young (“The Arrival”), and celebrated jazz musicians Herbie Hancock and Terri Lyne Carrington. In addition, Batiste, Thompson, Diggs, and anthropologist Betsch Cole served on the consulting team.
“This group watched our story reels, gave us story notes, looked at the character designs and sets as they were built,” added Powers. “They even helped with animation reviews. These folks came in to go with us on the journey.”
For Batiste, who musically provided a “cosmic optimism,” his “goal was to make it authentic, as though it were a real jazz band, while also being accessible to all ages,” he said. “I wanted to make some themes that tie into the ethereal nature of the other world while still being in the Earth realm and vice versa. Trent and Atticus and I would sometimes blend the two worlds musically.”
Source: IndieWire film
June 27, 2020
Longtime producer Stuart Cornfeld, 67, died June 26 of cancer, but left a mark on Hollywood with collaborations with iconic directors and a run of hit movies dating back to 1980.
As a film student at the AFI Conservatory in the 1970s he worked with Anne Bancroft, who went on to introduce him to Mel Brooks. Cornfeld was an assistant on Brooks’ 1977 comedy “High Anxiety,” and the two men teamed as executive producers on David Lynch’s 1980 “The Elephant Man.”
Cornfeld went on to produce David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” which put the Canadian body-horror master on the map. Cornfeld also produced Steven Soderbergh’s “Kafka,” the young filmmaker’s first movie after the 1989 indie sensation “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” Guillermo del Toro’s “Mimic,” and the Vince Gilligan-scripted “Wilder Napalm.”
But Cornfeld’s closest collaboration was with filmmaker and actor Ben Stiller, with whom he launched Red Hour Productions and turned out a string of hit comedies including “Zoolander,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Dodgeball,” “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny,” “Blades of Glory,” and “Tropic Thunder.” In the 2010s, Cornfeld turned to indies and television, including Richard Ayoade’s cult hit “Submarine” and the reality-TV-skewering web series “Burning Love.”
“I love Stuart Cornfeld,” David Lynch told IndieWire. “Stuart was the one who introduced me to ‘The Elephant Man,’ which led to Mel Brooks giving me the chance to direct this film. Stuart, bless his heart, always believed in me and supported me. He was a true friend. He liked to take me to lunch — he took me to lunch many times. I turned Stuart on to Transcendental Meditation and he loved this meditation — through the years he always thanked me for telling him about it. Stuart was great to talk with — easy, fun, great insights, many laughs. I picture Stuart most likely laughing at the whole thing right now.”
“Better Call Saul” executive producer Mark Johnson, who first worked with Cornfeld on “High Anxiety,” told IndieWire that It’s hard to imagine a world without Cornfeld.
“All of us knew that he had a terminal illness, but you’re never prepared,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be without Stuart in the world. It’s almost impossible to describe. He was a force of humor, of passion. He was on the forefront of independent filmmaking, [but also] just plain good filmmaking. In an effort to hang out with the cool people, he overlooked the fact that he was the coolest one in the room.”
Johnson also revealed that Spanish painter Joan Bofill is at work on a documentary about Cornfeld, which the producer said is “remarkable because of who Stuart was.”
“Many things in this business — and in this life — will disappoint you. Stuart never did,” filmmaker Howard Franklin said.
“When I was a young struggling screenwriter, he literally gave me the shirt off his back,” “The English Teacher” screenwriter Dan Chariton told IndieWire. “And then half a dozen more, on the condition that I keep them dry cleaned in case I ever wanted to return them.”
“Stuart passed gently without added drama or chaos,” Johanna Went, performance artist and Cornfeld’s ex-wife, said. “I believe he experienced a good death if there can be such a thing. He was aware that his cancer was a runaway train. He did say, in that joking way he had, ‘This is the only trip I can take right now.’ He was at peace with dying and had clarity and presence.
A really great person left the planet today. Stuart Cornfeld was as funny, smart, talented & cool as a person gets. He was my friend, producing partner, and creative confidant. He knew movies, made movies and loved movies. World=less better without him. IMDB him. He was the best. pic.twitter.com/sOx85UvxC4
— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) June 27, 2020
RIP to the great producer Stuart Cornfeld, one of the nicest guys in film. We never worked together, but he was always so kind to me & always full of amazing stories. As well as his epic run of comedies with Ben Stiller, he produced Kafka, The Fly & The Elephant Man. A true gent. pic.twitter.com/QpimWxy9Eo
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) June 27, 2020
Stuart Cornfeld was one of the most unique, hilarious and lovely guys I’ve ever met. Everyone should be lucky to have someone like him in your corner. From The Elephant Man to Zoolander and so many in between. He will be missed. RIP pic.twitter.com/c6kgKMfQ8V
— Paul Scheer (@paulscheer) June 27, 2020
Stuart had confidence in me when there was no sane reason to. He gave me my first studio writing job, my first production experience, so much else. He was my rabbi, friend, comrade. He has lived in my head, indelibly, for decades. And always will. https://t.co/RkuaoO2pmB
— Howard A. Rodman (@howardrodman) June 27, 2020
Stuart Cornfeld was a genius, mensch, and repository of the weirdest and most fascinating Hollywood stories I’ve ever heard. This news is devastating. https://t.co/zsEFY2MIci
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) June 27, 2020
RIP Stuart Cornfeld. Made a lot of great movies but, more importantly, one of the most genuine people in Hollywood. Funny, smart, made of stories, Stuart was the guy you ran to wherever you saw him. “This party sucks. Wait, Stuart’s here. This party is awesome.” I’ll miss him.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) June 27, 2020
I love Stuart Cornfeld. He believed in me more than I believed in myself and he had the best stories and jokes. https://t.co/tWLbO8nFG9
— Emily V Gordon (@emilyvgordon) June 26, 2020
Anne Thompson contributed reporting.
Source: IndieWire film
June 27, 2020
Cameron Crowe’s rock-and-roll odyssey “Almost Famous” about his golden days as a Rolling Stone journalist has only gotten better with time. The film turns 20 this September, and its wild shoot continues to yield fascinating stories from the crew and cast. That includes one of the movie’s breakout stars, Patrick Fugit, who plays Crowe’s surrogate character William and was only 16 at the time of filming.
In a recent Vulture interview with Fugit about the making of “Almost Famous,” one memory that stands out is his on-set dynamic with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays legendary music writer Lester Bangs. Lester becomes William’s mentor and editor, and that mentorship onscreen also carried over behind the scenes on the movie.
“Philip was only there for a few days. He was another well-known theater actor with a lot of training, and he was less accepting of me than Billy [Crudup] was,” Fugit said. “They both would give me shit. They’d ask me, like, ‘How old are you again?’ And I’d be like, ’16,’ and they’d be like, ‘Fuck you, man. You’re from Salt Lake City? Okay, great. What have you done there to earn this part?’ But Philip was also kind of like, ‘Kid, you have a big part here. You need to show up to work. Make sure you do a good job while you’re here. Don’t just throw this away. There’s actors out there who scrape, and beg, and starve for this kind of a role.’”
Fugit also recalled a diner scene where a light on set was too bright, and getting in the way of his performance. “Philip stops the take, and he’s like, ‘Hold on. Hey, Patrick, you can’t even look at me. You can’t even act right now. I feel like the light is too bright.’” Hoffman convinced cinematographer John Toll to lower the lighting, but for Fugit, the moment brought an important lesson for the rising young actor. “I realized Philip was standing up for me, but also pointing out to me that we may be pretty close to court jesters and dancing monkeys, but if something’s impeding you, you have to say something,” he said.
Fugit’s recollection of his short time with Hoffman is the latest heartfelt tribute to pour out for the late actor this year, as Jesse Plemons recently remembered Hoffman’s generosity and genius on the set of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” and Ethan Hawke also said that Hoffman gave him some of the best acting advice he’s ever received while working on Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead.”
Source: IndieWire film
June 27, 2020
Oscar-nominated composer Carter Burwell has been at the Coen Brothers’ side since their explosive 1984 debut “Blood Simple,” and that will include writer/director Joel Coen’s solo effort, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. In a recent conversation with IndieWire, Burwell, who’s currently in the Emmys race for the soundtracks to “The Morning Show” and “Space Force,” talked about what he’s seen so far of “Macbeth” and reflected on scoring another Coen classic, 2007’s “No Country for Old Men.”
“Joel shot at least half of it and he has sent me some footage in the last week,” Burwell said of the Shakespeare adaptation from A24, which began filming in Los Angeles in early February; production was halted in late March. “I’ve read the script, and it’s not like they changed the story from what’s in the play. But it’s different. Joel has adapted the play for film and just like the adaptations Joel and Ethan have done with books like ‘No Country for Old Men,’ it’s interesting how it really does change. It’s the same story in the same language, but it’s a beautiful adaptation that really turns it into a film with a certain amount of visual power. It’s always moving forward. You’re in constant motion toward some conclusion, which is hard to pull off on stage.”
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” is being shot entirely on sound stages to give the film a look untethered from reality. “It doesn’t look like Scotland,” Burwell said. “It’s more like a psychological reality. That said, it doesn’t seem stage-like either. Joel has compared it to German Expressionist film. You’re in a psychological world, and it’s pretty clear right from the beginning the way he’s shot it.”
While Burwell has scored nearly every Coen Brothers’ film, from “Fargo” and “Barton Fink” to “The Big Lebowski” and “A Serious Man,” one film where the composer’s presence is most invisible is also one of their finest, “No Country for Old Men.” To the untrained ear, the film famously contains almost no music outside of the opening titles and end credits, instead relying on nimble sound design and dreadful silence to ratchet up unbearable tension. However, Burwell said that wasn’t always the plan.
“Ethan was dubious that there wasn’t any score that would work for the movie. He felt that the silence was an important part of the tension, and that movie, without tension, doesn’t work. Joel felt that, be that as it may, there were still parts of the movie that needed the sort of oomph that music can bring that just needed to be dramatically amplified, that they needed more than just the sound of wind and gunfire,” Burwell said.
He added that while there was a degree of behind-the-scenes disagreement on the soundtrack, they exhausted the possibilities and realized “we can’t have any musical instruments. It’s weird to say, but it told you you were in a Hollywood movie. Of course, you know you’re watching a movie, but there’s something about hearing a recognizable instrument that just defeated the raw illusion of reality,” he said.
Burwell added that “the piece of music that plays on the end credits I originally wrote for a place in the film, where you first see blood on the ground at the beginning. There is actually music in the film, but it’s always snuck in behind wind or car sounds.”
Source: IndieWire film
June 26, 2020
This distribution strategy helped the no-budget indie sci-fi feature COSMOS achieve a profitable minimum guarantee, a Hollywood premiere, a worldwide release, and a limited US theatrical run in NYC, LA, Las Vegas, and more.
I’m Zander, I’m 29 and, with my brother Elliot, I’ve just spent 5 years directing and producing our debut feature film, COSMOS—a contemporary sci-fi film that explores first contact when 3 astronomers intercept a signal from space. Costing $7,000, COSMOS is a “no budget” feature film (by industry definition of “No Budget” costing $50K or less) and a true grassroots indie, crewed by just 3 people, paid for out of our own pockets, shot on the original 1080p BMPCC and edited on FCP7. No one on the film got paid, including ourselves, and any money spent was on unavoidable costs—gas, electricity, software, food etc.
Here’s the trailer:
Since my last article, we’ve received an outpouring of messages from filmmakers seeking clarity on our distribution strategy, so my goal is to share how we got COSMOS in front of paying audiences. Steal, adapt, or ignore as you please.
June 26, 2020
Apple changes everything (again) and forces a decision for every filmmaker…and, no, it’s not whether to use the handwashing feature in the watchOS. Plus, we pay tribute to legendary (and dividing) filmmaker Joel Schumacher and we answer an Ask No Film School question that pits an episodic approach against tackling an indie feature.
As always, send us any questions and leave a comment!
June 26, 2020
We thought we were getting Tenet in July…now it looks like it’s going to be August.
Due to the global pandemic and worries about ticket sales and attendance, Tenet has now been delayed until August 12th.
Yes, Tenet has been delayed before. Warner Bros. originally set the film’s release for July 17th, where they wanted it to become the first major Hollywood tentpole to open in theaters. But as a precaution, the studio pushed the movie to July 31st earlier this month to give theaters two additional weeks to perfect new safety protocols.
Well, in that amount of time Americans refused to wear masks and ruined the possibility to see Christopher Nolan’s new movie next month. Cases are spiking all over our country and still lingering across the rest of the globe.
So the movie has been held until we can see it safely. Which they hope is now August 12th.
June 26, 2020
RED hints that the 6K S35 is inching ever closer to a possible wide-scale release next month.
RED CEO Jarred Land provided an update to Komodo’s projected delivery date. In a social media post, the hat-wearing Canadian took advantage of the Gram’s 2,200 characters to suggest production of the camera’s Stormtrooper version could begin at the start of July.
Earlier this month, RED started releasing custom colors for Komodo, a 6K Super 35 camera that’s expected to have integrated autofocus. Footage shot by the camera has started circulating, but since these are pre-production models, the final specs of the camera have yet to be released. With RED starting production on Stormtroopers, that is expected to change soon.
June 26, 2020
Shooting around corona is not easy, so why not let robots handle it?
We’ve talked about the trials and tribulations of shooting during a pandemic, but what if you didn’t need that many people on set? What if you could run things through a skeleton crew and instead of actors…you used robots?
Bondit Capital Media, the money behind movies like To the Bone and Loving Vincent, has a $70 million science-fiction movie called b, set to shoot during this awful time. And it’s going to star an A.I. Robot named Erica.
Japanese scientists Hiroshi Ishiguro and Kohei Ogawa, created Erica in real life as part of their study of robotics. They also taught her to act, applying the principles of method acting to artificial intelligence. Unsure if she’s method or more Stanislavsky, but I guess we can ask.