|Mountain Bluebirds were occasional visitors to my hogan when I lived in Tsaile, Arizona.|
When I started reconstructing this website a few weeks ago, I also began organizing my tear sheet files. Tear sheets were the way magazine and newspaper writers preserved their work before the Internet. If you recall, I had to reconstruct this compendium site because Box Office bought Film Journal International last year and then removed FJI’s content from their website in March. That left dozens of freelancers, many of us contributing writers to FJI, reeling; our websites were built on those links, as were our Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic profiles. After the sale of FJI, I began creating PDFs of my articles from the website; I have over 500 reviews and interviews, but because of the faulty search function on that website, I am not sure that represents all of my work for FJI over the past 23 years.
The hours I spent rifling through tear sheets led to me to create file folders by date, separating feature articles and interviews from film reviews, the latter of which I’m still sorting. I discovered my travel, and food pieces, too. I am not in the least bit nostalgic, but during this dusty task, I could not help reflecting on the many remarkable artists I have had the privilege of interviewing. That led me to create new categories for this website, among them “Some of my Favorite Interviews.” This list may change over the course of a year as I can’t list all of them. I hope the older articles will lead readers of this post back to movies they have not seen in years, or have never seen at all.
Yesterday, I came across an interview from the fall of 1998 when I heard that Irwin Winkler would be shooting on-location in Greenwich Village. I called his Hollywood office to ask if I could get an interview. My magazine editor said it would be a waste of time; another writer had asked, and gotten a “no.” It was never easy to get on-location interviews. In the course of my telephone pitch, Winkler’s assistant asked if I had ever been on-location. “No,” I said, “except when I was a film student.” She called me back an hour later to say that Winkler would allow me on the set. I was to get there in the morning and hope that the crane shot went well. Then I could get my 45 minutes with Winkler.
When I got to the West 4th Street location, I recognized John Seale, the Oscar-winning cinematographer. He was standing on the curb at the border of Washington Square Park, holding up a light meter. I introduced myself, and took advantage of the few minutes I had with him as he walked me over to Winkler. I asked him to define great cinematography. “It fits the story,” he said, and then smiled. “The story” is a trope in Hollywood. Production designers, composers and editors had given me the same answer when I asked them about their craft. Seale knew that and he added: “It has to be seamless. This is my first time with Irwin, and he understands that.”
Winkler was seated in front of his monitor when we reached him. He looked up and said: “We’re losing the light, Johnny.” Apparently, the crane shot had not been completed. The iconic Hollywood producer and director motioned for me to sit in a canvas chair; on the back of it was a sign in neat lettering, “Visitor.” It meant anyone who wanted to speak to Winkler now whispered in his ear. “Almost 4 hours,” he said to me, pointing at the cranes, “and it will be about 10 seconds of screen time. We only have the permit for today.” I knew at that point that I would be there more than 45 minutes.