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      Finishing principal photography early summer 2015, we've already begun the post-production (editing) phase on MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES with an eye towards the Fall / Winter 2015 - 2016 film festival season.  Keep abreast of updates and developments by "Like"-ing MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES ON FACEBOOK, or clicking the link below to join our weekly GullCottage / Flying Bear Films mailing list.  To financially support MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES directly, click the logo to the right to connect with the production ... you mogul, you!

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* PAGE 4 - THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES: Production blog #1 - Shooting begins, Mars, PA   
PAGE 5 - THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES: Production Blog #2 - "Phase 2", Los Angeles, CA

PAGE 6 - THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES: Production Blog #3 - "Phase 3", Philadelphia, PA

A Message From Director / Writer /

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      Alfred Hitchcock once opined ... "In a narrative film the director is God; In a documentary film God is the director".  And over the last few months, while putting this project, STEVE VERTLIEB: THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES, together I've had constant questions - from managers to film crew and everyone in between - asking "what will be the thrust of the film".  And while I've given them the outline / "narrative shot list" of sorts - the "this will be followed by this and by this",  I've also attempted to stress Mr. Hitchcock's extremely well perceived axiom by saying ...

                                                                                                                                                        HOOP DREAMS (1994)

     "Y'know, with the best documentaries - like say director Steve James' 1994 HOOP DREAMS or David Gelb's 2011 JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI, very often the 'central thrust' (the "thematic central nervous system" of the piece if you will) is DISCOVERED while doing it; while filming it.  Like Dr. Frankenstein culling together all of his parts - which are then one day struck by lightning and brought to life (not unlike writing a screenplay by the way - where one day, usually 1/3rd of the way in, it suddenly comes to life and begins speaking back to you in it's own voice saying, 'No, THIS is what I'm about'), so will our docu - perhaps in defiance of plan or script, assert it's OWN voice and reason for existing ... as we actually get into the physical act of making it.  Expect this, and embrace it when it happens".

     Humans that we are, we wish to (and futilely believe we always can) have complete grasp and control of that within our nifty little "world-space".  And such a concept as "it will reveal itself as we go" is often hard to accept.  But sometimes (as did the old Clipper pilots when traversing the Atlantic) we must plan our projects to the nth degree, but at the same time learn to "wait for and catch the wind" when it unexpectedly blows in from whence we may not have anticipated.  Such a wind has entered our flight path, and has (exemplifying that "God is the director" element) to a degree ordained a new subtextual motif to our documentary's narrative.  

     Over the last few weeks (since appearing on a genre message board or two) our  hyperbole-laden title, THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES, has generated a great deal of emotional feedback - both positive and negative.  As negatives tend to garner all the press (have you watched the evening news lately?) so shall we address some of these concerns.  The film itself will do the same. 

                                                                                         Steve & legendary Hammer Studios composer James Bernard

      I believe there are at least two kinds of documentaries - what I call the "What Is?" docu and the "Who Is?" docu.  The "What Is?" are those which relate how something got done, like AMC's wonderful old series BACKSTORY, or those consistently engaging feature length docus by Laurent Bouzereau (JAWS, CHINATOWN, BACK TO THE FUTURE, the restoration of REAR WINDOW, etc.).  The "Who Is?" focuses more on an individual (or group); and WHAT they do (the hook which at first captures the audience's interest) is ultimately secondary.  WHY they do the WHAT is that which becomes the ultimate focus. 

     With HOOP DREAMS the subject of an inner city teen with a shot at making it in the NBA is a fascinating story indeed.  But that of the young man's morally upright family, eaking out a day to day existence in a low income urban neighborhood, and how the parents' years long selfless sacrifices for their children may now rescue them from the squalor of poverty - IF they're willing to "play the game" in some regards - is a hundred times MORE fascinating.  Also, with the "Who Is?" type of docu, the person under the "spotlight / microscope" need not necessarily always be lionized.  Ray Muller's THE HORRIBLE, WONDERFUL LIFE OF LENI RIEFENSTHAL is one of the most fascinating docus ever ... about a person who's character compass ranges from self delusional to morally reprehensible.

      The central theme of STEVE VERTLIEB; THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES has been, since it's inception (and still continues to be) two fold.  On a microcosmic level it posits "Why would this soft spoken, elfish, whom some (though not us) would call a 'social outcast of a little man" spend his life obsessed with film ... and genre film in particular?".  And on the larger scale macrocosmic level - "Why, after being historically derided as a 'non-legit' art form, does genre continue to not only stubbornly survive but thrive, ... especially during times of social fear and unrest?".  The answer to both is a simple one for those who know and love the form - it allows us as both a society and as individuals to face real world demons as well as "exorcise" those even more despicable internal ones (fears, hang ups, etc.) lurking within our own hearts and souls.

What we're about: THE GULLCOTTAGE / SANDLOT NETWORK (trailer)

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What we're about: THE GRINDHOUSE: WITH CRAIG & JIM podcast series (trailer)



     On the historical side our docu is set to chart some of the most volatile times in "recent" U.S. history: WWI and WWII, the McCarthy era, the Civil Rights Movement, politically turbulent 1970s and post 911 world; and how there is ALWAYS a spike in genre popularity during these times.  During the Civil Rights era for example, when movies such as GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER and THE DEFIANT ONES were being protested (and even banned) in the South, other films such as PLANET OF THE APES dealt with similar issues attendant to the day, but in a more "user friendly" manner which the general public was more willing to digest - even if they didn't realize at the time that they were doing so. 

Chained to the cause of Civil Rights: THE DEFIANT ONES (1958) / PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

     You find the same in post 911 America.  When films such as IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, STOP LOSS and even THE HURT LOCKER (a critical though not huge financial success) were being ignored by the general public, others such as the BOURNE series, CASINO ROYALE, and even the first SPIDER-MAN and SUPERMAN RETURNS, dealt with many of the same issues as in those aforementioned more "serious" movies, but once again in a more psychologically user friendly (i.e. cloaked) manner which audiences were willing to accept. 

 Indelible images from 911 resurface in CASINO ROYALE and SUPERMAN RETURNS (both 2006)

      Subject matter in those "non serious" genre films included such post 911 issues as terrorism - both domestic and abroad, controversy over "Patriot Act" like policies; and hell, both SUPERMAN RETURNS and CASINO ROYALE even featured key sequences wherein an airliner threatens to become an object of mass destruction.  This is NOT mere coincidence.  It is a collective societal consciousness realizing it NEEDS to ventilate this pressure cooker material.  And it "saves" us as did movies like PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE INVISIBLE MAN and Abel Gance's J'ACCUSE allow similar trauma relief in the post WWI world; as did INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, INVADERS FROM MARS, THE SPACE CHILDREN and others similarly do during the "Commie scare" 1950s; and as did LOGAN'S RUN, ROLLERBALL, SOYLENT GREEN, ZARDOZ, QUINTET, DAMNATION ALLEY, THE EXORCIST, CARRIE and more allow during the socio-politically turbulent 1970s. 

Corporations control the social and political landscapes
via gladiatorial "bread & circuses" in ROLLERBALL (1976)

      On the more intimate personal side we chart and corrolate eras of Steve's life: childhood, derision as a "geeky" outsider teen, his on air days at WTAF TV 29 in Philadelphia followed by financial disaster and the end of his marriage in the aftermath of losing his position there, as well as his struggles to reconcile his Jewish faith with a more "humanistic 'EST-like' life philosophy" and more.  And in the midst of all of this personal turmoil (and we all have our own versions of these kinds of struggles) how his obsession with "saving" the movies (as in his passion for them, and his fandom which has lead to his collection - and we'll get to more on that in a moment) has in return "saved" him in the same way in which genre has (in some respects) help "save" modern culture - by allowing it (as with Steve) a catharsis from the horrible-ness of daily life.  Now ...


   Collector Bob Burns with the "Holy Grail": the original KONG armature

      Is Steve perfect?  No!  And it's not my intent to paint him as such.  Like the rest of us he's a flawed human being.  But a) being "human" is not a bad thing.  And b) IT's what's most interesting in ANY docu: the flaws of the "Who?" and how their obsession with the "What?" helps them to cope with and overcome these flaws.

      Something I DO take a great deal of umbrage with however is this recurring (I dunno, call it ...) "notion", "idea", "belief" that being an archivist can only be interpreted as a "collector of THINGS".  Collectors of stories and experiences are every bit as important (to some, including me, even MORE SO) than physical memorabilia.  I've often used the Shakespeare analogy.  How Shakespeare's plays are amazing and engrossing in and of themselves.  But if you know the backstory of the era in which they were written - the social context of the day, and the personal life of the creator at the time of the inception of the work, then that work becomes TEN TIMES more fascinating ... AND CONTEMPORARY, because we can then juxtapose OUR own lives (as flawed and f***ed up as they are) onto the work and it's creator (as flawed and f***ed up as he was in parts), then come away feeling a bit more human, and a bit more encouraged that we too can do better, and maybe even create something halfway decent. 

      So, Steve's "collection" of first hand stories / reminiscences (spending an afternoon with Frank Capra watching IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT; Miklos Rozsa's none-too-happy experiences while recording the score to THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD in Italy; given a day long tour of L.A. by, then spending the evening at the home of Robert Bloch, and others) ARE (as our teaser trailer says) " a genuine link to a Hollywood history of which some have only imagined. 

     As for "chides" at his "collection" being scads of letters?  Well, hundreds (that's right dudes and dudettes, I said HUNDREDS!!!) of letters from Merian C. Cooper, Miklos Rozsa and Hammer Studios composer James Bernard - are an invaluable archive to students of classic cinema wanting to know a little more about the personal lives - at a particular point in time - of these legendary artists.  How in the name of all that is common sense-ical can they not be? So in this respect, yes - I and others DO see Steve's "collection" every bit as valuable (if not MORE so) than the more generally accepted as "legit" collections of say Forrest J. Ackerman, Bob Burns or Wes Shank.
 But then again, being NOT "generally more accepted as 'legit'" is something of which all of us in the genre world are already used to, no?

   Steve with Philly Pops founder / Musical Director - Peter Nero

     Hey, no disrespect intended, but you must keep in mind there is a newer and younger generation of film buffs, journalists and movie makers who don't necessarily concur / agree with the 50 - 70 yr. version of what constitutes genuine "film archive-ism".  While certainly owning the original KING KONG puppet armature or one of the original "pod cars" from LOGAN'S RUN is truly important to the preservation of film history (and I only wish I myself was able to afford some of these pieces of magnificent memorabilia), to many (once again, myself included) those "Vertlieb" letters and technical sketches from Merian C. Cooper and Ray Harryhausen, detailing the day to day filming of KONG, and the technical challenges presented while doing so, are of infinitely more value.  

      As for some of Steve's aforementioned flaws, well, ... I can point to moments in my own life, both creative and personal, which I'd care to forget; as I'm sure we all can.  But once again, our individual "benign obsessions", which helps us to overcome these, is where the true and fascinating story lay.  It is not my intent to lionize or make Steve Vertlieb out to be something which he isn't.  Nor is it his desire.  But that of both of us is to take those faults and quirks and insecurities (which we all possess), and to paint a portrait of a person to whom everyone can identify, at least in part.  And for anyone to say they have NOTHING in common Steve is a straight up lie, ... at least a lie to themselves anyway.  No, we wish to show how some "obsessions" / "addictions" can have a POSITIVE aspect / impact, ... and can even leave something behind for a future generation. 


     There is another adage (yeah, I've got a million of them) which states, "There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth, ... which usually lay somewhere in the middle".

      As the documentarian, it is my job to attempt to hone in on that elusive middle ground.  And in order to do so I must gather the recorded experiences, positions and POVs of all involved, then attempt to lay them out that the audience may objectively reach it's own conclusion(s).  To attempt to satiate "all involved" in the "gathering" process is an act perhaps akin to laying on a railroad track and playing "Chicken" with an oncoming locomotive.  But this is the goal we've set before ourselves with our first feature length documentary - STEVE VERTLIEB: THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES. 

     So bring that bad boy on!  'Cause we ain't budging! ...

                                                                                                                                               CEJ - July 2013

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