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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Las Vegas 1962

Las Vegas 1962 from Jeff Altman on Vimeo.

1962 Las Vegas Captured in a Dazzling 16mm Home Movie


By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg, Editor, Atlantic Magazine
Jeff Altman, a professional film colorist in Chicago, revived his grandfather's beautiful 16mm Kodachrome footage from a trip to Las Vegas in 1962. It's an amazing time capsule of a city that looks very different today. Altman tells the story of how he gave the film a second life on the Internet in an interview below.

Who shot the footage? How did you end up with it? 

My grandfather shot all of the "archival" movies I have put up on the Internet. He was a veteran and a Chicago cop who was an enthusiast for 16mm film, opposed to 8mm which was more of the norm for home movies. It was an expensive hobby, which apparently lead to quite a few arguments with my grandmother over its costs.

The timeline as far as how I obtained the footage is a little long. My grandparents have always lived out of state during my upbringing (I've always lived in the Chicago area). My grandfather died about 11 years ago, and some five years later my grandmother moved back to Chicago to be closer to the rest of the family. When she moved back, she was getting rid of a lot of stuff she didn't need anymore. I was in film school at the time, and rather than throw it out or give it to charity or something similar (she, or anyone else in my family, didn't know what to do with it), she gave me several large boxes of his film, a projector, and his 16mm camera.

I stowed the stuff away for another four years, because I knew enough at that time how much care that sort of stuff needs and I would have probably destroyed it if I had tried to project it. Fortunately, career wise, I wound up working at a post-production company, specializing in color correction and film transfers. Being able to do all of the restoration myself was, oddly, a nice way of being able to reconnect with my grandfather.

Who are the people in the video?

My grandparents, and most likely other people involved in the American Legion, or similar organizations. The only people I recognize are my grandparents.

It's gorgeous footage, and very much captures another era.

It is! Kodachrome was a very beautiful film stock that, when exposed properly, could render very beautiful colors and images. The real disappointing thing to consider is how much film out there that's just like this, that people don't know what to do with, is just slowly rotting away in basements or attics. I wouldn't at all consider this footage he shot as rare or even particularly unique; a lot of people took these sorts of home movies during these eras. I'm merely in a unique position to be able to do this sort of work.

For more videos by Jeff Altman, check out his Vimeo channel.
Via Curiosity Counts.

Huston and Chaplin on Film Making

  • If you make movies about movies and about characters instead of people, the echoes get thinner and thinner until they're reduced to mechanical sounds.
  •       - John Huston

  • Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.
  •       - Charlie Chaplin

The changing film and tv industry...

The Summer Blockbuster Flop 

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are warning that Hollywood is on the verge of a meltdown. They say that studios' reliance on big budget action movies could doom them.  And so far this summer, there have been six major flops. So is the movie industry going through some soul searching? 

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg launched the era of the modern blockbuster with their movies Star Wars and Jaws.  So people took note when last month they warned that Hollywood could suffer big for its reliance on huge action movies. Indeed, there have been six big budget flops in the last few months.  The latest -- R.I.P.D. which cost 130 million dollars to make and has earned just 23 million worldwide.

The number of people who could be put to work on lower budget and even large budget traditional films for the money it takes to make and market one blockbuster, Spielberg argues, could fund a new Genesis of film making and a new Golden Age for film.

The flops are films in the works from two to thirteen years. You cannot shift the industry on a dime.  And the industry focuses on television, games, theme parks, music, toys or products, and other revenue sources.

Breaking through the clutter is harder than ever before. There are many other intriguing alternatives for your recreational dollar, and your time. The younger, most sought after audience is even more cluttered with alternatives than those over 40. The add the larger number of films opening each weekend, and hanging on from previous weeks, and the movie going public has more choice then ever before.

In response studios are trying too hard to launch new big budget block busters in an age of DVD, Blue Ray, on-demand streaming and Netflix. But existing sequels are making money while new big budget gambles flop. 

Meanwhile low budget low humor films are breaking through on dimes for the dollar. 

Independent films are finding a niche, partly in theaters and partly in ancillary markets, such as on-demand and unit sales. But even the indys cost more to produce then ever before, at least those what gain theatrical release and are deemed worth the high marketing costs to launch in theaters.

Movies are green-lighted by committee, with the age of the mogul and the producer product centered break through are limited. 

Could it be marketing to the lowest consumer at the lowest taste and education level to guarantee maximum possible tickets sold?

Marketing cost has skyrocketed, with the global market the new primary target. So recouping the cost is double or even a much as five times the production costs.

It is difficult to sell audiences on traveling to a destination, risking neighborhoods or locations, putting up with poor service, cell phones in the theater and so on.....

The movie going experience needs an overhaul.

Meanwhile five years ago everyone was crying about the death of television, and now television is its most profitable ever, even being called the new Golden Age of Television. Even large Hollywood film producers and stars are now doing television, even down to obscure cable channels and gambles like Netflix and Amazon.

Small films are going direct to cable, Netflix or on-line distribution. They may not make tons of money, but they are profitable and often finance the next movie while keeping its creative staff in house and home.

Back to movies...the international market is now primary, with the entire international market being dwarfed by the growth of China as a market for films. Rural people are being forced to move to new cities, making non-traditional (read Western) entertainment a new market. 3D and iMax have an advantage, as those screens equal traditional screens in the "new China". The government distributes films, funds films and decides which foreign films get distributed, where and when. Production in China is growing, with American and International film companies investing heavily in the fastest growing production and audience in the world. China is number two to North America as the biggest grossing market in the world, due to overtake the US within six or seven years.

In terms of content humor, locations and "things" that may not be "legible" to the world wide market are being taken out of films, reducing dialogue, historic references from the US point of view, and strictly US cultural references.

The basic model of working within 'the industry' has changed, become more complex, with additional update work and expenses in 'specs', alternative finance and distribution options, the celebrity model, foreign pre-sales, studios as distribution partners or simply requiring you pay them to use their name, multi-platform marketing and much more.

This is a time of evolution, revolution and change in this industry. The digital revolution, the Chinese and foreign markets, shifts in cultural norms and beliefs, multi-liqualism, inflation is costs and the role of film and video entertainment in our cultures.

Can the movie theater's be saved?

Will there be television in its traditional network form in the future?

In a world where people watch or consume only what they want, will they be open to the variety and diversity of opinions that they were forces to be exposed to when there were fewer entertainment options?

What is the future of the movie business? Television? Entertainment?

From KCRWs to the Point and other research and notes....(click here for To The Point)
First published 9/6/2013

Remembering a true teacher, Mr. James Eithrheim


To those who put down anyone who is not "acting" for a "living" I give you a profession that has a great impact on the arts than any single actor or so called "talent". Teaching.

My high school drama teacher James Eithrheim, in the early 1970's shown here inspiring actors at Oak Park and River Forest High School, instilled values, knowledge, a thirst for life and the need to experience life into his many students. 

Teachers do make a difference. 

In only the four years of his 30 year career, my fellow actors include at least one theater professor, an Academy Award Best Actress nominee, dozens of Tony's, many more Jeff's, artistic directors, writers, directors, producers and of course actors singing his praise, including at least one member of the Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors, yours truly. 

From the voice of Homer Simpson to a Broadway musical star, Soap Opera award winners, and accolades on the London stage, his students have touched millions, each in their own way..


Posted 4-9-12 (Mr Eithrheim passed away days after this was posted)



On year ago today James Eitrheim, educator, has left this earth a better place for artists

This man inspired hundreds upon hundreds or actors to go with their hearts, whether they taught, took to the stage or became involved in other aspects of the industry, participated in church or community theatre or moved on in other ways to where their heart led them.

His students included actors who voice high profile characters in film and on TV, who have graced the New York and world stage earning major awards, who have been seen in film as stars and day-players, and who have graced the small screen from soaps and sit coms to weekly dramas.

The years I attended Oak Park and River Forest High School (1969-73) we were lucky to have four highly qualified theater instructors, with Mr. Eitrheim as department chair. A sample of students they inspired during my four years include the voice of Homer Simpson, a New York playwright, several university professors, many high school teachers, several broadcasters, Tony award winning actors, two soap opera stars, a New York City Prima Ballerina, and an Academy Award nominee.

I went on to be an actor, writer, marketing professional, journalist, broadcaster and to serve my fellow talent for 17 years on the National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild, all indirectly from the passions fired in part by Mr. James Eitrheim.

A good man, a great teacher has left this earth.

-Art Lynch

James (Jim) Alden Eitrheim passed away April 16, 2011 at home surrounded by his family after a 5 month struggle with cancer. He was born Feb. 21, 1933 on a farm in Baltic SD. He graduated from Augustana College in 1958 after taking two years out for service in the United States Navy. Jim served aboard the destroyer USS Rowe. On August 17, 1958 he married his college sweetheart Diane C. Johnson. Jim received his Masters of Arts in the spring of 1959 from the University of Illinois at Urbana and in the fall of that same year he began a 31 year teaching career at Oak Park and River Forest High School, in Oak Park IL.

He retired from OPRFHS in the spring of 1990 and accepted a faculty position teaching theater at The University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota. Jim retired once again in 1998 after a wonderful 39 years in the teaching profession. In 2000 Jim and Diane moved to their current home in Pequot Lakes, MN.

He served for over 5 years on the Joseph Jefferson Award Committee in Chicago IL. In 1990 Jim was honored by his Alma Mater with their Outstanding Alumni Achievement and Service Award.

Throughout his life Jim has always been an active member of the Lutheran faith, serving on various committees and choirs. He is currently a member of Lutheran Church of the Cross, Nisswa MN.

Jim was preceded in death by his parents Dan and Selma Eitrheim, his brother Donald, and his niece Susan Lankford.

Jim is survived by his wife Diane, son Kristofer (Eileen) of Bettendorf IA, daughter Karin (Steve) Maas of Chanhassen MN, son Erik (Dawn) of Owatonna MN, brother Norm (Clarice) of Sioux Falls SD, sister Esther (Bill) Boadwine of Baltic SD, sister-in-law Joan Eitrheim of Crooks, SD. He rejoiced in the lives of his 5 grandchildren: Greta, Ingrid, Alec, Erik & Ava, and his 9 nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at Lutheran Church of the Cross on May 7th 2011 at 1:00pm with a reception to follow.

Memorials are requested to the following funds:

The Jim Eitrheim Theatre Scholarship at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD

The James Eitrheim Award for Excellence in Dramatic Arts, Oak Park and River Forest High School, Oak Park , IL

Lighting for the Sanctuary at Lutheran Church of the Cross

Posted April 18, 2011

Disabilities are not a reason not to work in Hollywood, thanks to Joey Travolta

Inclusion Films opens doors in Hollywood

Inclusion Films Joey Travolta
Greg Donoghue grew up around film sets. His father worked as a film publicist in Europe and his uncle is Pierre Spengler, a producer of the "Superman" movies.

But the 30-year-old had never seriously considered a career in the movie industry until he got a chance to direct his own short-film called "Sunshine Manor," a love story about relationship between a nursing home patient and her doctor.

"It takes a lot of patience, and time is your worst enemy," Donoghue said of his directorial debut. "I'd rather build sets than be a director, but the experience is going to benefit me when I try to get an interview."

Donoghue, who was diagnosed a few years ago with a form of high-functioning autism, was among nearly two dozen special-needs crew members who worked on "Sunshine Manor." The film was shot over three days in Burbank this summer as a class project for a 20-week-long course offered by Inclusion Films.

Founded by Joey Travolta, older brother of actor John Travolta, Inclusion Films trains adults with developmental disabilities in the nuts and bolts of filmmaking -- from writing the script to building sets and using film and editing equipment -- with the goal of finding them jobs in the entertainment industry or some other field.

Students with autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome are trained by working cinematographers, set designers, actors and other professionals who are active in the industry.

"The filmmaking process is a great teaching tool about life," said Travolta, 61. "A lot of our students aren't going to be filmmakers and may never work in the film business, but they are going to be able to go into the workplace and have a sense of what it's like to be on the job. This builds their self-confidence."

Click read more below, or go to the LA Times Company Town blog (click here) to continue.

Based in Burbank, Inclusion Films works with Easter Seals of Southern California to provide jobs to graduates of the program and is in discussions with various studios to set up internship programs for the students, Travolta said. Many of the participants are referred by the nonprofit regional centers that contract with the California Department of Developmental Services to provide job training and other services for special-needs people.

"We've seen phenomenal things happen with the students in this program," said Mike Clark, executive director of the Kern Regional Center, which in the last three years has referred about 70 students to Inclusion Films' program in Bakersfield. "They see themselves as people who can do something with their lives."

Diane Anand, executive director of the Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center in Los Angeles, acknowledged the difficulty of finding work in the movie industry for special needs adults, but said the film workshops instilled confidence that helps graduates find jobs or pursue further education.
"This really resonates with our clients," she said. "They're learning how to interact in a real-world work environment and how to interact with their peers."

Travolta launched the Burbank business in 2006 after a long career as a singer, actor, director and producer. The Englewood, N.J., native briefly worked as a special education teacher in New York before embarking on a singing career in 1978, performing on such variety shows such as "American Bandstand" and "Donny & Marie," the show starring the two Osmonds.

Travolta went on to act in movies such as "Beverly Hills Cop III" and "Oscar" before shifting his attention to writing and directing his own movies, including "Enemies of Laughter" starring Peter Falk and the comedy "Partners."

The idea for Inclusion Films happened almost by accident. Travolta was helping his daughter organize a film festival at her West Hills high school.

After reading a newspaper article about his involvement in the school film festival and his acting workshops for children, the mother of an autistic teenage boy named Taylor Cross asked if he could help her son make a film about being autistic. Travolta mentored the boy and together they made the 2006 documentary, "Normal People Scare Me."

After his experiences working on the documentary, Travolta began to teach film to other autistic children at camps.

"I found my calling," he said. "This allowed me to merge two things that I really love: filmmaking and working with special-needs children and adults."

With the help of professional instructors, many of whom had worked with Travolta on his earlier films, students take classes in script writing, prop building, editing and cinematography, then apply what they learn by making an actual short film. One 2009 film called "Spud," about a 12-year-old victim of neighborhood bullies who reinvents himself as a superhero, was written and directed by Tyler Norman, a student with Asperger's syndrome.

Using his Hollywood connections, Travolta also brings in high profile speakers, including "Rain Man" writer Ron Bass and "Criminal Minds" star Joe Mantegna, to meet the students.

With the support of Inclusion Films, former student Michael Cooney of Boston launched his own production company, Team Diversity Media, which produces commercials and music videos with students from Inclusion. The company produced a promotional video for Easter Seals and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

After receiving a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Cooney worked at a radio station but had trouble finding permanent work because of his condition, cerebral palsy. He credits the workshops at Inclusion Films with giving him the confidence and the contacts to start his own business.

"I used to think that disability was something to hide," said Cooney, who also teaches at the school. "I learned that having a disability is a gift and that I have abilities I didn't even know I had before I came here."

Published 12-28-11

On Location: 'Tree of Life' protection designer Jack Fisk
On Location: 'Cars 2' production designer Harley Jessup hits the road
On Location: Venice rides Hollywood wave
-- Richard Verrier

From the LA Times Company Town blog (click here).
Photo: Joey Travolta, left, founder of Inclusions Films in Burbank, is joined by former students Michael Cooney, Joseph Geronimo and Hayk Galstyan, and current student Quinn Kieffer-Wright. They were photographed on a set built by the students for a short film production called "Love on a Train." Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times.