The Trust for Public Land Opens a New Public Park This Weekend in Echo Park. Join Greg Laemmle at the Grand Opening.

Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than 3 million acres and completed more than 5,200 park and conservation projects. This Saturday our friends at TPL will open a new pocket park in Echo Park.

ca-patton-street-park-plan-2014The Patton Street Park and Community Garden is a .4-acre site adjacent to a City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Community Center. Local families with small children had to look elsewhere for places to play, but this park will meet the huge demand for outdoor play areas in the neighborhood. Amenities include a playground, fitness equipment, and small picnic area and community garden. The fenced park will be open from sunrise to sunset and will be operated by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

The grand opening is Saturday, August 1st at 10:30am. Greg Laemmle will be in attendance representing the Laemmle Charitable Foundation, a long-time TPL supporter. We hope to see you there.

Patton Street Park and Community Garden
317 Patton Street
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Engagement of Whit Stillman’s METROPOLITAN Begin August 14 at the Royal

A CONVERSATION WITH WHIT STILLMAN ABOUT THE SCRIPT OF METROPOLITAN

By Sharan Shetty, first published in theawl.com, 22 Aug. 2012

It’s been 22 years since Metropolitan was released. It was your first film, your first script. What were your inspirations, in terms of content?

I always wanted to write novels but I didn’t think I had it in me in terms of discipline and tolerance for solitude. Already in college I had decided to instead set my sights on film or television but had no idea how to get into the business. I tried to write fiction and humorous short stories, and some were considered successful, but it was always a huge effort for a small reward. I was always intimidated by the process. I also had a day job: I was an agent for illustrators and cartoonists.

At a certain point, the script for Metropolitan started naturally coming together; the idea was to think back to a time that had been very important for me. And I remembered this experience, during my very depressed freshman year in college [at Harvard], coming back to New York and getting invited to a debutante party. A lot of stuff in the script is actually true: the escort shortage, things like that. I had a friend who was more from that milieu than I was, and I think the mothers felt they could call me or him as escorts for their daughters, and they’d get both of us, a sort of 2-for-1 deal.

And once you’re invited to one, you get invited to another. It was great, because I was very discouraged and depressed in school, and didn’t know that many people in New York. It was especially nice because I fell in with this funny, friendly group of people, including girls very much like Sally and Jane, who had access to their parents’ apartments late at night. The parents would be sleeping in residential quarters, and it’d be a rather large apartment, and they would let us hang out there after the parties.

And we just had a sensational time. It was one period where I wasn’t just in the dumps. So it loomed in my memory even in my mid-30s, as this kind of interesting memory of when I was 17.

Bryan Leder, Allison Rutledge-Parisi, Chris Eigeman, Edward Clements, Will Kempe, Carolyn Farina, Dylan Hundley, Ellia Thompson, Isabel Gillies, and Taylor Nichols in Whit Stillman’s METROPOLITAN (1990). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures
Bryan Leder, Allison Rutledge-Parisi, Chris Eigeman, Edward Clements, Will Kempe, Carolyn Farina, Dylan Hundley, Ellia Thompson, Isabel Gillies, and Taylor Nichols in Whit Stillman’s METROPOLITAN (1990). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures

 

Did you set out to redeem the people involved in that debutante scene? You’ve mentioned before that that sort of educated, wealthy class is often stigmatized. Was there a thought there that, as Charlie thinks in the movie, they had been wrongly portrayed?

It was more trying to preserve something in amber. I was specifically portraying the 1969 deb season, as during that season there was very much the feeling that the debutante era was over. The whole Woodstock, post-Vietnam cultural shift was coming. Also, everyone lost their money. There were so many stories like that. I remember one family: the father was a Wall Street operator who lost all his money but they had already paid for his daughter’s deb party. So they actually went ahead with the party and then moved to Australia, broke. It really was like that. Many of those parties disappeared over the next several years. And yet a few survived and continue to this day.

You said you had a day job. What was the process like of writing the script during that period? It seems like you almost lived a double life.

It was an odd thing. The first two years I didn’t have a child, and then I did. So I was on this nighttime writing schedule where I would write from 10 to 2 at night. I’d have dinner and split a beer with my wife, then I’d have a cup of coffee and get back to writing. I remember trying to write at 1, 1:30 am, and just sort of falling asleep. And I think that was actually a good creative state for weird ideas. I shifted to a morning schedule once I had two kids, and I still found that if I slept badly I actually had better ideas.

You’re seen as having a sort of literary, intellectual voice. There’s a very subtle irony to it, especially in Metropolitan . Did you consciously develop that through drafts, or was it a natural way to illustrate these characters?

Well, I hate a lot of the stuff I first come up with, so it’s very much a process of rejection. The key thing to look for is when a character seems to have some sort of autonomy: where they’re making decisions without you needing to expend much effort in writing them. When you’re trying to force things in a script, it seems like it’s getting somewhere, but it isn’t real or interesting. All the bad material you’ve written becomes an albatross around your neck. So I really don’t like writing a lot of bad stuff, I prefer to just keep narrowing it down to stuff I think is solid. I hate doing an outline, or some sort of big treatment idea, or anything where I’m supposed to tell people what the story is before I’ve written it. I find that approach incredibly unhelpful. Sure, the general ideas about the ending and the characters are in my mind, but I find it better to develop those as I go along.

The characters and conversations are so finely sketched, which I think is what makes the film work so well. How many of these characters are composites of people you knew?

It is, to a certain extent, rooted in reality. In real life, particularly in this debutante scene group of people, each person has a function. One is inviting everyone to their house. Another is judging them all, having opinions on everything. One is sort of the decadent group leader, who is picking up interesting stuff and theories. In the case of Metropolitan , the people I spent time with during that summer were definitely inspirations for the characters. But at a certain point, the fictional character has to create their own dynamic and be their own person. With Metropolitan , I find it interesting that very often the people who it’s based on deny any similarity and the people who it’s not based on say “Oh, that’s me.”

You sold your apartment to finance the film.

And I still don’t have an apartment! I’m cat sitting this week.

So you were, like your character Tom Townsend, of “limited resources.”

(Laughing.) Yes, precisely.

What, then, convinced you so strongly it was a script that needed to be made?

Well, I was pretty desperate. I was desperate to get my career going. I had entered my 30s, I had been prospecting around the sides of the film business, but I hadn’t really gotten into what I wanted to do. And the apartment was really just a rental apartment: I sold the right to buy the apartment. Legally, I bought and resold it. But I just borrowed money to buy at the insider’s price and sell at the outsider’s price. So with that $50,000, I could shoot an indie film. The final shoot cost was $98,000. Key for us was when the co-producer, Peter Wentworth, who had $40,000 in seed money for a producing project of his own, instead put it into Metropolitan so that we were able to go directly into editing. The remainder of the budget was raised through friends, but not until we already knew we had something pretty good in the can. Metropolitan‘s final cost, excluding deferments was, $230,000 but we only had to put in $210,000 because DuArt Film Lab’s very tough controller was away when we needed to get the print for Sundance and we could pay the final bill from the film’s initial sales.

It’s not a script that, on paper, would seem to communicate the tone you see on screen. Or did it? How was the script received by friends or people you showed it to?

The script generally read well. It really depended on whether the reader had screenwriter biases. There were two reactions to it that were very negative, and examples of such biases: one was a friend of mine, a wannabe screenwriter, who was very communicative about things. He was scathing about the long monologues in the script, such as Nick Smith talking about Polly Perkins and Rick Von Sloneker. He hated that. We also sent the script to the woman was running the NYU Tisch School program that might have helped but she said she wouldn’t even consider it because the screenplay didn’t conform to proper screenplay format! The dialogue wasn’t centered or something. And so she couldn’t help us, because it wasn’t professionally formatted.

Then I asked my godfather, Penn professor Digby Baltzell (“Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia”) to read it and he specifically liked the Polly Perkins story. He really loved it—and it turned out to be the best scene in the film.

And how did the actors view the script? Was it tweaked at all during production?

The actors were all great. One of the reasons I like doing films in this age range is you get really great actors who don’t already have agents or whatever, and they’re great talents, and it’s great to discover them and put them in their first film.

Taylor Nichols, who played Charlie, was actually not that keen on the script. He had a problem with all the sociological monologues his character delivers. But what he really liked was the Charlie-Tom relationship at the end of the film. And in the editing room, he proved correct: we had to pare down those speeches. That was the real challenge, to winnow down Charlie’s sociological rants that were everywhere in the script. What I found is that when a character is telling a story, he can talk as long as he wants. You can write a 5-page monologue if it’s a story; that’s why Nick telling the Polly Perkins story works. When people are telling stories on screen, you can show the others’ reactions, play it off those reactions, and it can be fun. But when it’s someone just giving an opinion on things, even if the opinion is kind of interesting, that is potentially deadly. It has to be really quick.

The beginning intertitles are often analyzed: “Manhattan, Christmas Vacation, not so long ago.” What were your reasons for setting the film in “not so long ago”?

It’s interesting you noted that, because I did it for two main reasons. One was just low-budget indie film production reality: I couldn’t afford to do a film set in 1968 or 1969. We’d need period cars, costumes, all that. So I didn’t specify. I also think that isn’t very interesting; once you specify a time, once you say “this is 1969,” you separate people from the story. So the idea was to suggest the past, but not say too much. People can come to their own conclusions about what period it is. And the reaction was great: there were some people who thought it was the 50s, others, the 60s, others who thought it was the 80s, when it was filmed. What helped the ambiguity on film is that most of the cars left parked on New York streets all night long in the dead of winter are pretty old. Few are going to park their new Jaguar out there.

There also seems to be a change in tone before and after Christmas. Before, the film is mostly intellectual conversation. After, it’s drug-taking, candor games, and fistfights. Was that a conscious decision?

Definitely. That’s supposed to represent 60s going into the 70s. The whole transition between the cultures of those respective decades.

Ah.

whit_stillman_a_p
Whit Stillman

Yeah. Within three months of the debutante parties I went to, it was a whole different world. People had long hair, were experimenting with drugs. It’s funny, because I snuck into a deb party with my cousin in Philadelphia, back when I was quite a bit younger, in, like, 1967. And back then, the deb scene was the world that seemed strange and different, like the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald. By the time of that New York summer though, that world was falling apart and a whole new one was coming in. So the difference in events after Christmas in the movie really reflects the change I experienced of the 70s coming in.

On a more technical level, one of the things I love about the writing, and which I think is underrated, is the use of repetition. Just certain phrases: things are “surprising,” people are “tiresome.” Is this a characteristic of the urban haute bourgeoisie that you’d noted? Or was it a purely comic device?

Both, really. It’s definitely a characteristic of the UHB and my personal vocabulary. And in American comedy, repetition is very important. It’s funny because when you go to Europe, they don’t really like it that much. When you’re dubbing or subtitling, in Europe they will try to vary the language, and you have to say, “No, we want to repeat that exact phrase over and over.” And they say, “why?”

There’s no real clear protagonist in the film. You start thinking it’s Tom, but then you realize that maybe he is, as Charles says, a “huge phony.” Nick, on the other hand, despite his snobbery and meanness, can be endearing. Is he the real hero here? And did the hero change from your first conceptions of the story?

You’re absolutely right. I see the film now as having four identification characters, and that’s evident in the script. Those four characters are Tom, Audrey, Charlie, and Nick. I also think it’s in that order, with Tom being the most obvious, but then the viewer realizing that maybe that’s not the case.

At first, I really thought the protagonist was going to be Tom. But as I was writing the script, I thought “Wow, this guy’s kind of a jerk. He has this lovely girl [Audrey] who adores him right under his nose, and he prefers this meretricious, prude girl [Serena].” Well, I’m going to withdraw the word “meretricious,” because I don’t know what that means. But then I tried to make it about Audrey, since it seemed like there was too much focus on Tom. And then during all that writing, I was simultaneously trying to get in my own observations about the social milieu at the time. All that is manifest in Charlie’s dialogue and long, ranting observations: that was me being the sociologist.

But in the end, I think there’s something comical and compelling about the intellectual gravity of Nick that really became an engine in the script. You get caught up in it, even if you don’t think you are. One of the criticisms I get of the film is that all its energy goes out once Nick Smith leaves. I can see how people react that way, because you’re getting a lot of the fun and comedy from Nick. A lot of these things, frankly, I did not catch as the writer of the script. People had to bring it to my attention.

For about three-quarters of the film, it’s mostly conversations. The last fourth is a very Hollywood ending, all action. What made you move toward that type of more conventional, rom-com ending?

That ending required a lot of work. Shooting what was written at the end there, when they barge into Von Sloneker’s room, was just so bad. It was painful. Luckily, the  editor found this little smile Audrey gives Tom to redeem the scene. That wasn’t even directed. Same with the beach scene—she touches or adjusts Tom’s collar, and it’s a beautiful touch that really brought to life what was written. And the very last shot, with Tom, Charlie, and Audrey just walking down the road—I’m really embarrassed by it. In the script, it actually ends with a cool sports car passing them on that road, and the audience watching them fade away in the rear view mirror. Of course, with our budget, that was basically impossible. Sometimes you just can’t do what’s in the script.

Right. I’ve heard many writers talk about how important it is to write the conclusion first. Where in the writing process did you hit upon that ending, and how did it affect the rest of the script?

Well, I wrote about a third of the script, and then I thought, oh my god, I have to see how this ends. So I wrote the end of the script, but then I had to go back and write the middle part of the movie. For me it was like the Transcontinental railroad, where you have the tracks coming out from San Francisco, which is the end of the movie, and the tracks coming out from Chicago, and I had to get the tracks to the same spot somewhere. I don’t know where in the movie is the golden spike, because the writing is both from the back and from the front.

That being said, not much is resolved in the ending. These eight kids realize that though they’ve spent winter break constantly together, they may never see each other again. We, likewise, see bits and pieces of their lives, but not enough to make an informed judgment of who they really are or will be.

One of the things I strongly felt is that if you’re writing a romantic story in this age range, you should not be saying these people are going to get married. You should not be saying that they’ve found a life solution, that Tom and Audrey are going to live happily ever after, or ever after in any way. You have to say that this guy and this girl are going to have a relationship. And it might be a nice relationship, but very possibly it’s not their definitive relationship. My feeling was that Charlie would always remain a friend of Audrey’s, and Tom might be the old boyfriend she rarely sees. Which worked, because when I was writing Last Days of Disco, Charlie and Audrey are still friends. They’re not dating each other, but they’re still going out together. I think loose ends are important. They make the script, the film, more real.

LIMITED OFFER: Tickets for RISKY BUSINESS on 7/30 in NoHo are $5 if purchased before Wednesday at noon!

Before MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, a 19-year-old Tom Cruise was already involved in some… RISKY BUSINESS. Buy your tickets before Wednesday at noon and pay only $5! Full price tickets are $11.

RISKY BUSINESS screens at 7:30pm on 7/30 at the NoHo 7 and is part of our THROWBACK THURSDAY series in partnership with Eat|See|Hear.  Woody’s Grill Truck will arrive at the theater around 6:30pm. You can bring food from the truck into the theater! Click here to buy tickets.

risky-business
NOTE: You are not Tom Cruise. Attendees are required to wear pants!

For more info about our #TBT series, visit http://www.laemmle.com/tbt.

 

Special NICKY’S FAMILY Screenings in Honor of the Recently Passed Sir Nicholas Winton

Sir Nicholas Winton
Sir Nicholas Winton

This month we were saddened to learn that Sir Nicholas Winton, a hero who for half a century said nothing of the fact that he rescued hundreds of mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia right before World War II, had died at the age of 106. We were proud to screen NICKY’S FAMILY, the documentary about his life, in 2013 and gladly do so again.

Please join LaemmleMenemsha Films, and Tugg.com Sunday, August 2nd at the Playhouse, Town Center, Music Hall or Claremont 5 for what promises to be a very moving and special morning.

Use these links to reserve your FREE tickets* now:
10:30am on Sunday, August 2nd at the Playhouse
10:30am on Sunday, August 2nd at the Town Center
10:00am on Sunday, August 2nd at the Music Hall
10:30am on Sunday, August 2nd at the Claremont 5
* While supplies last

STRAY DOG Q&A’s with Oscar Nominee Debra Granik this Weekend at the Music Hall

Debra Granik
Debra Granik

Harley-Davidson, leather, tattooed biceps: Ron “Stray Dog” Hall looks like an authentic tough guy. A Vietnam veteran, he runs a trailer park in rural Missouri with his wife, Alicia, who recently immigrated from Mexico. Gradually, a layered image comes into focus of a man struggling to come to terms with his combat experience. When Alicia’s teenage sons arrive, the film reveals a tender portrait of an America outside the mainstream. STRAY DOG is a powerful look at the veteran experience, a surprising love story, and a fresh exploration of what it takes to survive in the hardscrabble heartland.

STRAY DOG director Debra Granik, an Oscar nominee for her Winter’s Bone screenplay, will participate in Q&A’s after the 7:20 PM screenings at the Music Hall on Friday and Saturday, July 24 and 25. Kirsten Schaffer of Women in Film will moderate.

Courageous Defiance in the Face of Horror and Evil: Christian Petzold’s Masterful PHOENIX Opens July 31 at the Royal, August 7 at the Playhouse and Town Center

Next week (July 31 at the Royal, August 7 at the Playhouse and Town Center) we’ll begin screening one of the best movies of the year, the German film noir PHOENIX.  It’s set in Berlin just after the second World War and follows Nelly (the great Nina Hoss), a German Jew and concentration camp survivor. Like her country, she is scarred, her face disfigured by a bullet. After undergoing reconstructive surgery, Nelly emerges with a new face, one similar but different enough that her former husband doesn’t recognize her. Rather than reveal herself, Nelly begins a dangerous game of duplicity and disguise as she tries to figure out if the man she loves may have been the one who betrayed her to the Nazis.

Film critics are hailing the movie. In the Village Voice, Stephanie Zacharek declared the film “rapturous…ardent, urgent and smoldering…so beautifully made that it comes close to perfect.”

August .2013  Dreharbeiten zum CHRISTIAN PETOLD Film PHÖNIX mit Nina Hoss , Ronald Zehrfeld und Nina Kunzendorf Verwendung der Fotos nur in Zusammenhang mit dem Film PHÖNIX von Christian Petzold ( Model release No ) © Christian Schulz Mobil 01723917694

Director/co-writer Christian Petzold (Barbara, Yella) said this about his latest film: “The first day of shooting for PHOENIX: a birch forest, a man in Wehrmacht uniform, women in concentration camp garb. Our reference was a photograph supplied by the Shoah Foundation: a coarse-grain color picture of a woodland crossroads in impressionistic morning light. And, only at second glance, death: the corpse in the grass. Even during the shoot, we noticed that something wasn’t right. The light was good, we’d settled on the framing, it seemed like an accurate recreation of the image, but it didn’t work. The reconstruction of the horror, the cinematography in and around Auschwitz – as if we were saying, ‘Now it’s time. Now we’re going to condense the whole thing into a story and impose order on it.’ We threw away all the material from that first day of shooting.

Phoenix_Schrammfilm5062

“Raul Hilsberg wrote that the terror meted out by the Nazis and the obedient public essentially made use of well-known techniques. What was novel were the extermination camps – the industrial extermination of people. For the old techniques, there was literature, stories, songs… None of that exists for the Holocaust.

 

PHOENIX  ein Film von CHRISTIAN PETZOLD mit  NINA HOSS und RONALD ZEHRFELD.Die Geschichte einer Holocaust Ueberlebenden die mit neuer Intentität herausfinden will ob ihr Mann sie verraten hat. Story on a woman who has survived the Holocaust. Presumedly dead, she returns home under a new identity to find out if her husband betrayed her Phoenix. Il racontera l'histoire, après la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, d'une femme qui a survécu à l'Holocauste. Tout le monde la croit morte. Elle revient chez elle sous une nouvelle identité et découvre que son mari l'a trahie... ACHTUNG: Verwendung nur fuer redaktionelle Zwecke im Zusammenhang mit der Berichterstattung ueber diesen Film und mit Urheber-Nennung PHOENIX  ein Film von CHRISTIAN PETZOLD mit  NINA HOSS und RONALD ZEHRFELD.Die Geschichte einer Holocaust Ueberlebenden die mit neuer Intensität herausfinden will ob ihr Mann sie verraten hat. Story on a woman who has survived the Holocaust. Presumedly dead, she returns home under a new identity to find out if her husband betrayed her Phoenix. Il racontera l'histoire, après la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, d'une femme qui a survécu à l'Holocauste. Tout le monde la croit morte. Elle revient chez elle sous une nouvelle identité et découvre que son mari l'a trahie... ACHTUNG: Verwendung nur fuer redaktionelle Zwecke im Zusammenhang mit der Berichterstattung ueber diesen Film und mit Urheber-Nennung“One text had a major influence on our preparations: Ein Liebesversuch (‘An Experiment in Love’) by Alexander Kluge. The story is set in Auschwitz. The Nazis are looking through peepholes into a sealed room. They’re observing a couple who, according to their records, used to be passionately in love. The Nazi doctors are trying to revive this love: They want the couple to sleep with each other. The goal is to establish whether the woman has been successfully sterilized. They try everything: champagne, red light, spraying them with ice-cold water – thinking that the need for warmth might drive them together again. But nothing happens – the two of them don’t look at each other. In a strange way, the Nazi doctors’ failure is a victory for love: a love lost that can’t be re-kindled by these criminals. I think that was the most significant text for us. Is it possible to leap back over the deep, nihilistic chasm torn by the National Socialists and the Germans, and to reconstruct things: emotions, love, compassion, empathy – life?

 

“Nelly doesn’t accept stories, songs, poems claiming that love is no longer possible. She wants to turn back time. I’m interested in people who don’t accept something and, in doing so, are defiant and stubborn.”

LIMITED OFFER: See RAGING BULL on 7/23 in NoHo for $5!

The next 50 tickets for this Thursday’s ‪#TBT screening of RAGING BULL are only $5.00! Buy now: http://www.laemmle.com/films/39515

raging-bull

RAGING BULL is part of our THROWBACK THURSDAY series in partnership with Eat|See|Hear. Thursday’s featured food truck is Woody’s Grill Truck! For more info, visit http://www.laemmle.com/tbt

Robert Redford on FALL TO RISE: “A heart-filling drama about the outstanding dedication of dancers to their art.” Culture Vulture screenings this Monday and Tuesday at all Laemmle venues.

FALLTORISE.blog The engaging, richly textured drama FALL TO RISE follows a renowned principal dancer whose injury forces her out of her company and uncomfortably into the role of motherhood. She realizes that her identity depends on dance and struggles to return with the help of another former company dancer. With its star turns by Martha Graham Principal Dancer Katherine Crockett (featured in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and the acclaimed actress Daphne Rubin-Vega, this is a timeless tale with a distinctly New York flavor, revealing the conflict between art and life, between marriage and independence.

OFFICIAL SELECTION of 13 fests and counting including Dance Film Association and Film Society of Lincoln Center’s DANCE ON CAMERA
WINNER “Best Feature” On Location:Memphis International Music and Film Festival
WINNER Director Jayce Bartok “Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Filmmaker Award”
WINNER Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLiFF) Spirit of Independents Award

FALL TO RISE is a heart filling drama about the outstanding dedication of dancers to their art. Director Jayce Bartok beautifully captured the emotional difficulties of dancers coming to terms with age and identity.” – Robert Redford

“Daphne Rubin-Vega gives a performance that’s raw, real, funny, passionate, and full of aching humanity.”
Michael Musto – OUT/ADVOCATE

“These universal themes and ideas are what makes the film successful on a base level, but the performances are what elevate it. Rubin-Vega’s Sheila is of particular note, as she shows an impressive range throughout.” 3 1/2 STARS – FILM THREAT

“Remarkable, convincing, very physical lead performances by Daphne Rubin-Vega and Martha Graham dancer Katherine Crockett.” John Beifuss – MEMPHIS COMMERCIAL APPEAL