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March 09, 1995 - Image 14

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-03-09

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6- The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, March 9, 1995

Screenwriter
By Alexandra Twin
Daily Film Editor
- Movie stars hit the talk shows.
Directors periodically hit late night.
Yet, rarely does an audience get an
opportunity to hear it straight from
the horse's mouth - namely, the
screenwriter.
Often the unsung hero of film, the
University's Film and Video depart-
ment has decided to try and remedy
this problem. Solution? Bring in the
Oscar winning author of "Ghandi,"
University grad John Briley, and see
what happens.
In Angell Hall, Auditorium D to-
night, the screenwriter will talk about
Hollywood, movies and the art of
existing in an industry where you're
generally perceived as being "just a
product in the mechanism." .
Briley began his career as a stu-
dent at the University. He studied
English literature and theater, wrote
film reviews and opinion pieces for
the Daily and set his life on course to
teach. Yet, that wasn't completely
where his heart was. "Initially, as a
student, I pretended that I didn't want
to be a writer, since at the time (1950)
it seemed so impractical," said the
congenial Briley in a recent inter-
view. "I certainly never thought that
I'd write drama... I was from a poor
section of Detroit. Who wrote drama
professionally? There was Arthur
Miller and William Inge and then
forget it. There were no film pro-
grams in America. Every university

to make rare
had a theater writing program full of
300 potential playwrights and no
work."
At aprofessor's suggestion, Briley
decided to apply to schools in En-
gland to get his Ph.D. There he found
a second home and an entry into the
world of writing. Jobs writing and
directing theater led to a 5-year stint
with MGM studios under the then
existent "studio system" in which
writers agree to work with just one
movie studio for a set number of years,
writing basically whatever kinds of
films the studio wants them to write.
It was during this time that he truly
learned how to be a screenwriter. He
and his family eventually found them-
selves returning to the US. because
"The kinds of films I write really
don't exist too much outside of
America." He currently resides in Los
Angeles with his wife and youngest
son, 8-year old Jamie.
In light of his experience, he is
slightly critical of the idea of film
school, believing that the best way to
learn the trade is to just watch other
movies and moviemakers, either on a
set if you can get access, or at the
theater. Yet he, at one point some-
what early in his career, seriously
considered the University's offer to
return, become a film professor and
help such a program get started: "It
was a great opportunity, particularly
for a free-lance writer," he said. "I
loved the teaching that I had done, I
loved the University, but I realized

appearance
that I couldn't do it all, that the
writing was just too time-consum-
ing."
More like life-consuming, for with
numerous film scripts, plays and even
a few novels under his belt, writing
drama has proven far more accessible
than he'd initially suspected. In addi-
tion to "Ghandi," his credits include
"Pope John," "Marie," "Cry Free-
dom" -- the Denzel Washington-fu-
eled bio-pic of slain South African
activist Steven Biko - as well as a
recent treatment of the children's clas-
sic "The Wind in the Willows," a film
triat he hopes to direct in the next
couple of years.
When the University this time
aked-him to return, to spend a week
teaching a mini-course on
screenwriting to film students, he was
;ager to accept. Students viewed
"Ghandi" and submitted a portion of
one of their own screenplays for him
to help them with. They read the
screenplay for "From Here to Eter-
nity," a Briley favorite. He shared
stories and insights from his personal
experience.
Tonight's public talk should be
more of the same. Why not check it
out? Movie stars will always hit the
talk shows, directors frequently grace
late night. How many opportunities
will you get to hear it from the screen-
writer?
John Briley will be speaking
tonight, in Angell Hall, Auditorium
D at 7:00. Free.

The unofficial coming-out of the
American independent film occurred
at the Cannes Film Festival in May
1989. The most prestigious of all
world film festivals awarded its high-
est honor to first time American di-
rector Steven Soderbergh's eclectic
mix of voyeurism, revenge, and tech-
nology, "sex, lies, and videotape."
Five years later the feat was re-
peated by Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp
Fiction." In the five years between
these two acknowledgments of the
American independent film the in-
dustry has witnessed a significant
growth in the distribution of the inde-
pendent film. In the process the qual-
ity of the independent film has far
outstripped that of the studios. The
overwhelming success this past year
of the indies, both in Oscar nomina-
tions, and in particular, at the box
office, may mark the first significant
revolution in American film since the
development of the multiplex in the
mid-to-late '70's.
The success of post-Soderbergh
indie films has climbed steadily. Rob-
ert Redford's Sundance Film Festival
and Workshop has been a valuable
source for the development of indie
films as well. Five years of works
such as "My Own Private Idaho,"
"Down By Law," and "'Trust," steal-
ing an increasing amount of the klieg

Money
lights from Joel Silver actic
and Chris Columbus family
reached a head this past yea
country with "Fiction" and
Britain with "Four Wedding
Funeral."
What is yet to be seen, hom
in which direction this im
revolution will take place: A
financial. As jealous as th
studios are of "Fiction
"Funeral"'s Best Picture no
are more envious that each fil
on shoestring budgets of ur
million each, reaped tremendo
its. "Funeral" became the m+
cessful British film ever in/
and, along with "The Lion
turned the highest world-w
centage of profit in comparis
budget of any film this yea
Fiction" has already grossed t
its budget in America alone.
Yet the studios continuet
a lot of money in the hopes of
a lot of money. The up-
"Waterworld," the most ex
film of all-time, has already
edly cost $175 million, or m
the entire budget allowance
National Endowment for th
That is not to say Kevin Cos
post-apocalyptic half-man, h
won't be one hell of a qualit
If the studios choose to bo
willingness of the independe
maker to take a chance on qu
multiplex may become as re
a place to attend as the movi

still matters
on films If they choose to draw from the smaller
fun has studios only lessons of business, and
ar in our intrude upon the financial indepen-
in Great dence of studios such as Miramax,
gs and a Gramercy, and New Line, and make
- them conglomerates, the major stu-
wever, is dios will be in a position to dictate
pending content, most likely altering it for
rtistic or increased profit rather than merit.
e major Similar to what is now occurring
n" and in the music business, the supposition
ds, they of alternative pushed by trend-hun-
m, made gry major corporations will be mixed
nder ten with those artists who truly posses
ousprof- integrity. However, if that does oc-
lost suc- cur, the film industry will find it more
America difficult to pull itself out of the stag-
King," nation and re-invent itself through
ide per- honest, artistic work because it is a
son to its much more expensive medium. De-"
r. "Pulp spite the current trend of credit card
en times filmmaking which has launched Ri-
chard Linklater and Kevin Smith,,
to spend among others, they stilLneed to seek,
making studio assistance after their product is
coming completed for distribution. Creating
xpensive a local, independent film studio is
y report- obviously a much more ambitious-
ore than task than the creation of a record
for the label.
he Arts. If "sex, lies, and videotape" was
tner as a the artistic breakthrough that "Never
half-fish mind the Bollocks here's the Sex Pis-
y film. tols" or "Rocket to Russia" were
rrow the musically, "Pulp Fiction" is the indie
ent film- film industry's landmark financial
ality the work, their "Nevermind." Which di-
warding rection the industry runs with their..
e house. new commodity is yet to be seen.

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It's never too early

1995 PROUD

to g

FRIDYS/ATUD

t the BLUESI

V PRESENTS
"4O
0S

, .
.

March 10and 11 at8 PM
March 12 at 2 PM
Power Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets on sale at the League Ticket Office
$8 Regular, $6 Student with ID
Call 764-0450 for more information

Located on the
upper level of

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p

LESBIAN GAY BISEXUAL PROGRAMS OFFICE & THE U-M OFFICE
OF MAJOR EVENTS/DIV. OF STUDENT AFFAIRS PRESENTS

I.

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COLONEL MARGARETHE
CAMMERMEYER in person

i,

author of SERVING IN SILENCE: Perpetuating
Military Prejudice-A Prototype for American Society

Discrimination Against Gays & Lesbians in the Military

I

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Its Free! Its Tonight!

The Michigan Telecommunications & Technology Law Review
Presents
Beyond Jake Baker:
Policing The Internet
Speech, Privacy & the New Media
A Panel Discussion Featuring:

AL A Mf4IY(~

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..... . C' .:.. i ..,.3

Cathrnirne vMaceuinnon IIarrv Steinhardtr

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