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FILM BUREAU: A Student Journal

Featuring the writing of Film students from William Paterson University

Edited by Chriss Williams, MFA, JD Associate Professor, William Paterson University

May 2013, vol. 1, no. 1


TABLE OF CONTENTS Welcome

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ABU vs. PAULY D: Stereotypes in Media By James Toscano

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WRITING THE OPENING SCENE By Brittany Carr

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VISUAL STORYTELLING By Caitlan Arthur

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ADA AND SELMA: DIFFERENT, BUT THE SAME By James Merse

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Chriss Williams is an Associate Professor at William Paterson University. His first Feature Film, ASBUR Y PARK , premiered at Lincoln Center, screened at the Palm Springs and Atlanta Film Festivals, and won the Gordon Parks Award for Directing. His second feature won the prestigious Newark Black Film Festival. His short films have screened at festivals including The American Film Institute Film Festival, Black Maria Film Festival, and San Francisco Black Film Festival. Chriss was mentored by Spike Lee, and worked directly with Julie Taymor and George Stevens, Jr. He attended NYU’s Graduate Film Program, and is admitted to practice Law in New Jersey.

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Welcome to the first issue of Film Bureau: a Student Journal. I’ve taught filmmaking, screenwriting, producing, film theory, and film criticism—EVERY area in the world of film- for almost 20 years at both elite, and open enrollment colleges and universities. During that time, I’ve seen and read imaginative and enlightened student work. Films have always had a showcase- festivals, screenings, online, etc.- but there are few places that showcase student writing. Until now. My goal is to create a journal that showcases writing covering all facets of film including criticism, screenwriting, reviews, and visual storytelling elements used in preparation for production. By doing so, I hope- owing to the French New Wave, Dogme 95, and the Mumblecore film movements- to create a space where students can share their love of film, and support one another in an artistically competitive environment. Finally, I want to thank the student writers whose work is presented here, and those students who offered suggestions and guidance along the way. Your ideas were invaluable. Chriss Williams

"’Chapter one. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion.’ Uh, no. Make that ‘He romanticized it all out of proportion. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.’" --- Woody Allen as Isaac Davis in “Manhattan”

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APU vs. PAULY D: Stereotypes in Media By James Toscano

In cinema, culture can become a touchy subject. You have writers who might come from a particular ethnic group who create a narrative about another ethnic group based on stereotypes. These stereotypes often offend the depicted group. According to Clark, there are four stages of minority portrayal in cinema: nonrecognition, ridicule, regulation and respect. (Clark 1822). The non-recognition stage is the one in which an ethnic group is not depicted or represented at all. Hindus fit into this group because with the exception of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and Apu on The Simpsons, do you ever see the Hindu culture on screen? The second stage is ridicule; characters in this stage lack any kind of depth, and they are mostly idiotic depictions of stereotypes. Italians and homosexuals are in this category. In the regulation stage ethnic groups are depicted as either good or bad. For instance, African Americans are either depicted as the President of the United States or as gangbangers. They are hardly ever depicted as the family man with a functioning family unit. This leads us to the fourth and final stage, respect. In this stage characters are depicted as being well-rounded.

My family heritage is very mixed; my father is 100% Italian and my mother is half Irish, half everything else. My father’s side was very much in touch with the customs and culture they brought from Italy. However, on my mother’s side, eating Irish soda bread on Saint Patrick’s Day was the extent of the Irish culture I experienced. So, if there were a group that I would most identify with, it would be the Italian side. Unfortunately, with the airing of “Jersey Shore,” the fist-pumping, loud mouth punks who have nothing better to do than tan and go to the gym remain a popular view. Because of this, Italian culture remains stuck in the stereotyped, ridicule stage of Clark’s four stages. Taking these stereotypes into consideration with Bogel’s five categories that African Americans fall into when portrayed in film, one could say that Italians also fall in a variety of stereotypes. (Bogel 5-11). Specifically, I found these stereotypes of Italian-Americans in film: the hand flapper, the mama’s boy, the food lover, the mafia associate, and the guido/guidette. It is said that Italians always use their hands when they talk. An example of this is illustrated in the movie Big Night where all the Italian men are always flailing their arms around when talking, especially when the brothers are engaged in an argument with one and another. Another example of the Italian hand flapper is in an episode of Family Guy, where Peter (the idiot father on the show) decides to grow a handlebar mustache and says he now feels comfortable going into the local Italian deli. At the deli he begins to sputter out gibberish that sounds like Italian to the owner, while using his hands to talk. In this instance the creators of the show are capitalizing on this stereotype.

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The second stereotype I created for Italians is the mama’s boy. Italian mothers supposedly have the stigma of being over-bearing; a good example of this stereotype in the media is in The Sopranos. In the show, Tony Soprano’s mother actually is linked to the source of all his real family issues. Another great example of the overbearing mother stereotype is Marie from Everybody Loves Raymond. In this show, Marie, the mother in this Italian family, is always meddling in Raymond’s life, marriage, what he is eating, how he is feeling. For Marie, Raymond’s wife Debra can’t cook, can’t clean-- bottom line she is not good enough for her son. The third stereotype for Italians in film is that they love food. It is a stereotype that Italians are known for their Sunday dinners with family where their grandmother’s sauce is the love of the family. This stereotype was seen throughout the Sopranos and in the movie Goodfellas. In Goodfellas, Henry Hill states plainly, “In prison, dinner was always a big thing.” Another example is Joey Tribiani from the show Friends whose best friend is always a meatball sandwich. In this show it is a well-known fact that no one can mess with Joey’s food. There is even an episode where Joey and his two best friends are riding in the back of a taxi when they hear what appears to be gunshots. Joey lunges himself over to one side, his friend thinks that he did it to protect him from the shots. Later in the episode we find out that the only reason that Joey went to that side was because his meatball sandwich was there. The fourth stereotype for Italians is their connection to “The Mafia.” There are endless examples of Italians being mafia bosses in films such as the aforementioned Goodfellas, the classic trilogy of The Godfather, the movie Casino, The Sopranos and even reality TV shows such as Growing Up Gotti and Mob Wives. The fifth stereotype we see in media of Italian-Americans is the guidos and guidettes. The best example of this stereotype is MTV’s reality show Jers ey Shore. In this show, we see fist-pumping, hairspray using, extremely tanned group of characters. They all walk around with the Italian flag on their shirts or hats, causing chaos and feeding into this stereotype. Thankfully, there is more to the Italian-American culture than what is portrayed in the media today.

Clark, Cedric. “Television and Social Control: Some observations on the Portrayals of Ethnic Minorities.” Television Quarterly 8, no. 2: 18-22, 1969. Bogle, Donald. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Film. New York: Continuum, 1994.

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WRITING THE OPENING SCENE by Brittany Carr The pitch “Who Can You Tell?” is about a teenage girl struggling through the aftermath of an abortion. Writer’s note: The fact that the main character has an abortion is alluded to throughout the script, but never revealed until the end. The opening scene was meant to create a sense of confusion in the reader. The scene would therefore be more meaningful reading it a second time. It was meant to be similar to scenes from M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Sixth Sense.’ When watching the movie for a second time, you start to notice that no one actually speaks to Bruce Willis, alluding to the surprise ending. Professor’s note: I’m a script reader for a major script competition. When I read this opening scene, I was immediately drawn in, wanting to know what was going on, interested in Charlotte, and curious about the significance of the kid almost getting hit. In its simplicity, Brittany shows a clear writing style, beautifully introduces the characters and sets up a question; a question that the reader desperately wants answered. This is no easy task! EXT. CITY STREET, DAY CHARLOTTE, 18, stands on the curb. besides passing cars.

There’s no one else on the street

A car slows to a stop before her. CHARLOTTE gets into the passenger seat. The driver, JULIA, stares at her before driving away. JULIA Are you all right? Fine.

CHARLOTTE Just fine.

JULIA We can talk about it, ya know. You don’tCHARLOTTE There’s nothing to talk about. There’s a moment of silence. CHARLOTTE What am I doing? JULIA Don’t you mean what have you done? CHARLOTTE You’re not helping. JULIA I’m being serious though. You’ve already done it. There’s no going back.

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CHARLOTTE I know that. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do now. JULIA Move on? CHARLOTTE It’s not that simple.

It can’t be.

JULIA I didn’t say it was easy. CHARLOTTE looks out the window.

A young boy runs into the street.

CHARLOTTE JULIA! JULIA swerves the car to the left and parks the car. The child stands in the middle of the street for a moment before running back to the sidewalk. JULIA What the hell was he doing out there?! I could have killed him! Charlotte begins to cry. JULIA Oh God, what’s wrong? I’m sorry, he came out of nowhere. CHARLOTTE You almost killed him. JULIA I know. I didn’t mean to. he’s fine. He’s not dead.

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CHARLOTTE You didn’t kill him. Julia stares at Charlotte. They drive away in silence.

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VISUAL STORYTELLING by Caitlan Arthur As signment: Students were given a scene from a film and asked to take 20 photographs that tell the story. They then had to remove 5 pictures, then another 5. The goal is to reenforce the motto: “Show, don’t tell,” by making sure that shots (and direction) tell the story, rather than relying on dialogue. Here, Caitlan uses simple shots to show that a connection is made, leaving Tom “hit,” like Fabrisio told Michael Corleone in The Godfather, “by the thunderbolt.” But, even without the dialogue, one can see that only a few shots are needed to show that Tom will never forget this encounter with Summer. 500 DAYS OF SUMMER by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber INT. ELEVATOR - LATER Tom is listening to headphones. Summer enters the elevator and Tom actively puts on a show to ignore her. Summer hears the music. SUMMER The Smiths. Tom, pretending not to hear or care, gives her an unenthusiastic wave. SUMMER I love The Smiths. Tom, still pretending, takes off his headphones. TOM Sorry? SUMMER I said. I love The Smiths. You have good taste in music. A beat as Tom processes this information. TOM (amazed) You like the Smiths? SUMMER (singing) "To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die." Love it. The elevator doors open and she gets off. TOM (accidentally out loud) Holy shit. 8


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ADA AND SELMA: DIFFERENT, BUT THE SAME By James Merse Jane Campion and Lars von Trier both directed films centered on a woman, telling totally different tales of objectification. The Piano and Dancer in the Dark tell the tales of two women in different places in the world, during different time periods, with different situations. But with all the differences, both filmmakers subjectify them by stripping away a primary human method communication: sight and the ability to speak. Moreover they both suffer from a lack of control, and must endure the pain and suffering.

In Dancer in the Dark, Selma has an obvious physical disability: she is nearly blind. Von Trier subjects his main character to a disease right from the start as the viewer watches Selma fall into darkness as she falls victim to an optic disease that claims her eyesight. While blindness is the (initial) hardship in Von Trier’s film, in The Piano, Campion’s character, Ada, is mute by choice, and is subjected to an arranged marriage. Ada lost her first husband to a lightning strike, and is forced into a relationship with a man on the other side of the world. At the beginning of both of the films, the women do not have control; it runs parallel with Laura Mulvey’s comment, that “the man controls the film fantasy.” (Braundy, Cohen 838) But Mulvey’s ideas about women in film are not entirely synonymous with the events that unfold in the films. Mulvey writes that women in film serve as an “erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium,” and in Campion’s film, Ada is an actively sexual character; she engages in a barter system with a

character trading sex acts for her piano. (Braundy, Cohen 838). While at first glance, one may think that Ada is Mulvey’s erotic object that the audience “gazes” at, but the film portrays her in a role where she takes control of the meetings and eventually the sex. Ada’s husband may be gazing at Ada, but the audience and Ada’s lover are sharing the experience with her. Dancer in the Dark didn’t have any sexual situations, and Mulvey’s “gaze” was only slightly evident with one character in the film, Jeff; he had obvious feelings for Selma, and - Ipsum offered to drive her home and wanted to take care of her throughout the film: he even drove her while she was running away from the cops. But it never reaches a level where Selma is objectified in a sexual light. She is always shown wearing clothes with full coverage, and she told Jeff plainly that she did not have the time to invest in a relationship, because she was so focused on taking care of her son and getting him the operation. In both films, the women face intense pain: both physical and mental. Selma faces capital punishment and is eventually hanged, and Ada has her finger cut off by her jealous husband, both concluding events shown in long, drawn out depictions. The two films have many similarities in the sense that the women they focus on go through events that they can’t control. Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44. 12


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CREDITS Cover Star: A scene from A Clockwork Orange Abu by Matt Groening Ada (Holly Hunter) from The Piano directed by Jane Campion, photographed by Stuart Dryburgh Pauly D pix by MTV Production still from Breathless: Jean-Luc Godard acts as dolly grip while DP, Raoul Coutard, shoots. Design & Art by Williams

“The cinema is not an art, which films life: the cinema is something between art and life. Unlike painting and literature, the cinema both gives to life and takes from it, and I try to render this concept in my films. Literature and painting both exist as art from the very start; the cinema doesn’t.” --- Jean-Luc Godard

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Film Bureau: A Student Journal  

Students writing about Film.

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