Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Religion of Depth of Field

I can't remember when when someone first uttered the term "depth of field," to me in a conversation.  But I remember it sounded holy; it seemed to automatically consecrate it’s speaker to a higher level of filmmaking.

It was intimidating at first; that term you’d smile and nod your head at, pretending you knew precisely what the other filmmaker was talking about.  Then it became that thing you said to sound like you knew what you were talking about.   

Later, after a couple days of looking at the results on the monitor of my first short film, depth of field became the difference between crap and Scorsese.  It was the secret separating the wanabees from the professionals, and if you had it, it gave that image in the frame a quality which separated it from all the other “video” out there.

Back then, it was all about the Red Rock Adapter, and we embraced it in spite of it’s many flaws just for a taste of that shallow depth of field.  Nevermind the inverted image you had to fix in post, or the soft corners of your frame.  Nevermind that depth of field is one variable effect depending on the focal length of the lens you use -- this was a revolution, and shallow DOF was the official religion.

After that came impressive, yet inexpensive camera bodies, the Red with it's vaunted, but unusable 4k resolution, then the DSLRs with 35mm image sensors that can fully utilize cinema prime lenses without cropping any imagery, which is now everything. -- Maybe even more than "depth of field," "35mm" is another one of those holy things that endow a filmmaking product as a must have.

But what does any of it mean?  Depth of field particularly is rarely spoken of in terms of meaning; what it actually achieves, how it can be used, or what it accentuates.  At best it’s all about how pretty it makes the image; or it's just a matter of preference.  How many filmmakers see beyond the bullet on the pamphlet as that fantastic must have feature, or as the thing that will make their film look like a “real” film, and actually see the tool and all the tricks they can do with it?  After all, two films shot at two different focal lengths, are two very different films...

Directors are idolized with the same labels.  Haven't you heard?  The Coen Brothers like using wide lenses, and Michael Bay likes long lenses.  As though the prescription for becoming Tim Burton, is fundamentally determined by the lenses you use.  (Incidentally he likes the 21mm and goes up to 50mm, but never beyond.) 
Cronenberg likes shooting entire films with one lens.  David Lynch is a shallow depth of field, long lens man, while Scorsese prefers wide angle lenses – “25mm and wider” for “crispness, and for a dramatic use of the lines."  Meanwhile Woody Allen likes to use the zoom lens a lot as a means of breaking up a scene without cuts...  All of these filmmakers have reasons they keep coming back to these conventions, why don't we hear more about the reasons?

In the end, it's about the movie.  It's about the story and the images, and how those images are manipulated to achieve amazing effects.  "Was the image sensor a 35mm image sensor?" isn't a really a thought if those images are composed with mastery.  "Depth of field," "35mm," are elements in a greater language.  Use the tools, use them creatively, and tell a story.

Charles Rhoads

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sidney Lumet

This piece is written by our friend & writer Jonathan Tsuneishi who has been so kind to allow us to share it. It's a short and sweet ode to the great Sidney Lumet. His talent will surely be missed! - TKS

For my money, he was one of the great American Directors. Sidney Lumet was that, not because he directed with the visual vibrato of John Ford or Howard Hawks, but because he recognized the human spirit and could break your heart with a scene.

He directed fourteen films, receiving an Oscar nom as a director for “12 Angry Men”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “Network”, and one of my favorites, “The Verdict”, which incidentally was a film by Twentieth Century Fox.

He gave being liberal a good name, not by standing on a soap box, but by directing scenes and getting performances out of actors they sometimes didn’t know they had in them. It’s been many years, but before “The Verdict”, Paul Newman was considered a matinee idol, a good looking hunk. “The Verdict” shows he could act. A drunk, washed up attorney who takes on the catholic church represented by powerful and supremely smart Boston attorney, James Mason, over a medical malpractice case. But instead of accepting a settlement, Newman does the right thing and fights to expose the church’s greed for the dignity and life of a young woman.

It is surprising Lumet never won a Best Director Oscar though he was nominated four times. Unlike recent years, where one had to question the eventual winner of films considered but left behind, the films that did win in the years Lumet was nominated were David Leans’ "Bridge on the River Kwai", Milos Forman’s "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", John Avildsen’s"Rocky", and Richard Attenborough for "Gandhi."

You could argue that “Rocky” doesn’t belong, but the point I’m making is compare that group of films by Lumet and those Oscar winners to what we’ve had the last few years and you come away believing that in Hollywood’s obsession for box office share and weekend grosses, they have forgotten how to make a movie that matters.

Sidney Lumet passed away Saturday, April 9th.

Monday, February 21, 2011

That Was Then, This Is Now

I've been looking at a lot of older films lately.  Older as in 60's and 70's.  Movies like The Graduate, Deliverance, Midnight Express, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Altered States, Bonnie & Clyde.  What I've discovered is that once upon a time in this great industry of ours story was key and dialogue was plentiful.  Story, I love.  Dialogue?  Well, it has to be extremely well written, acted, directed for me to be blown away by it.  I like beats and long silences that bring out emotion or visual stimulation in film.  I'm finding, though, that the 60's and 70's didn't have a whole lot of that.  Movies from that era had ridiculous amounts of conversation for a good 2 hours that really made the actor or actress a focal point that seems to be missing in recent movies.

Let's take the movie 'Network' for example.  Charles saw it a couple weeks ago and wouldn't stop raving about it.  I'd seen it years ago so had a foggy memory of what it was like.  'Network' was streaming on Netflix so I figured I should take advantage of that before it went away.  And I'm really glad I did.  What a fantastic piece of work!  Brilliant acting and one very prophetic and daring screenplay. 

Network was 121 minutes of conversation.  When there wasn't conversation there was narration.  I think the only time there was a beat or pause was during the breakup speech from William Holden to Faye Dunaway.  There were 3 profound and unforgettable speeches in this movie and so much hidden meaning blatantly discussed in front of what is considered now to be an impressionable and sensitive film audience.  Subjects such as media exploitation, creating story for ratings rather than reporting the truth, sensationalism, corporatism, communism, and fascism were all covered in this movie quite well.  The live footage of a militant guerrilla group (who would today be labeled terrorist) sets Faye Dunaway's character, Diana Christensen, on a wild ride as she, the heartless TV programmer who'll stop at nothing to be number 1, comes up with the idea to exploit the leftist groups and individuals by putting them on TV.  Her pitch to them is to offer up an audience of millions who will hear their radical message.

They buy.  Peter Finch's character, the nutty Howard Beale, buys into it.  Laureen Hobbs, (" I'm Laureen Hobbs, a badass commie nigger.") played by Marlene Warfield, buys into it and buys into it hard as she yells her head off at one point realizing that all of the money supposed to go to her guerrilla group is being spread out to different network interests in the form of profit percentages.  That speech is one of my three faves.  As negotiations are being worked out Laureen Hobbs blows her stack saying not at all what one would expect from such a militant.



                      (a nervous man, to the new

                       arrivals, now entering)

                Where the hell have you been?


                      (embracing the

                       GREAT KHAN)

                Ahmed, sweet, that dodo you sent

                for a driver couldn't find this

                fucking place.

      There is a genial exchange of helloes and waves between

      the phalanxes of AGENTS --


                Let's get on with this before

                they raid this place, and we all

                wind up in the joint.


                      (to FREDDIE now

                       pulling up a crate)

                We're on Schedule A, page seven,

                small c small i --


                      (whisking through her

                       copy of the contract)

                Have we settled that sub-licensing

                thing? We want a clear definition

                here.  Gross proceeds should consist

                of all funds the sublicensee receives

                not merely the net amount remitted

                after payment to sublicensee or



                We're not sitting still for over-

                head charges as a cost prior to



                      (whose nerves have

                       worn thin, explodes:)

                Don't fuck with my distribution

                costs!  I'm getting a lousy two-

                fifteen per segment, and I 'm already

                deficiting twenty-five grand a week

                with Metro.  I'm paying William

                Morris ten percent off the top!

                      (indicates the

                       GREAT KHAN)

                -- And I'm giving this turkey ten

                thou a segment and another five for

                this fruitcake --

                      (meaning MARY ANN GIFFORD)

                And, Helen, don't start no shit

                with me about a piece again!

                I'm paying Metro twenty percent of

                all foreign and Canadian distribution,

                and that's after recoupment!  The

                Communist Party's not going to see

                a nickel out of this goddam show

                until we go into syndication!


                Come on, Laureen, you've got the

                party in there for seventy-five

                hundred a week production expenses.


                I'm not giving this pseudo in-

                surrectionary sectarian a piece

                of my show!  I'm not giving him

                script approval!  And I sure as

                shit ain't cutting him in on my

                distribution charges I

                            MARY ANN GIFFORD

                         (screaming in from

                         the back)

                Fuggin fascist! Have you seen the

                movies we took at the San Marino

                jail break-out demonstrating the

                rising up of a seminal prisoner-

                class infrastructure!


                You can blow the seminal prisoner-

                class infrastructure out your ass!

                I'm not knocking down my goddam

                distribution charges!

      The GREAT KHAN decides to offer an opinion by SHOOTING

      his PISTOL off into the air. This gives everybody

      something to consider, especially WILLIE STEIN who

      almost has a heart attack.

                            THE GREAT KHAN

                Man, give her the fucking over-

                head clause.

Then, of course, there is the infamous speech by Peter Finch...

And finally, the daring and frightening honesty that pours forth from the mouth of Jensen...

      He leads HOWARD down the steps to the floor level,

      himself ascends again to the small stage and the podium.

      HOWARD sits in one of the 200 odd seats.  JENSEN pushes

      a button, and the enormous drapes slowly fall, slicing

      away layers of light until the vast room is utterly

      dark.  Then, the little pinspots at each of the desks,

      including the one behind which HOWARD is seated, pop on,

      creating a miniature Milky Way effect.  A shaft of white

      LIGHT shoots out from the rear of the room, spotting

      JENSEN on the podium, a sun of its own little galaxy.

      Behind him, the shadowed white of the lecture screen.

      JENSEN suddenly wheels to his audience of one and roars



                You have meddled with the primal

                forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I

                won't have it, is that clear?!  You

                think you have merely stopped a

                business deal -- that is not the

                case!  The Arabs have taken billions

                of dollars out of this country, and

                now they must put it back.  It is

                ebb and flow, tidal gravity, it is

                ecological balance!  You are an old

                man who thinks in terms of nations

                and peoples.  There are no nations!

                There are no peoples!  There are no

                Russians.  There are no Arabs!

                There are no third worlds!  There is

                no West!  There is only one holistic

                system of systems, one vast and

                immane, interwoven, interacting,

                multi-variate, multi-national

                dominion of dollars! petro-dollars,

                electro-dollars, multi-dollars!,

                Reichmarks, rubles, rin, pounds and

                shekels!  It is the international

                system of currency that determines

                the totality of life on this planet!

                That is the natural order of things

                today!  That is the atomic,

                subatomic and galactic structure of

                things today!  And you have meddled

                with the primal forces of nature,

                and you will atone!  Am I getting

                through to you, Mr. Beale?


                You get up on your little twenty-

                one inch screen, and howl about

                America and democracy.  There is no

                America.  There is no democracy.

                There is only IBM and ITT and A T

                and T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbide

                and Exxon.  Those are the nations of

                the world today.  What do you think

                the Russians talk about in their

                councils of state -- Karl Marx?

                They pull out their linear

                programming charts, statistical

                decision theories and minimax

                solutions and compute the price-cost

                probabilities of their transactions

                and investments just like we do.  We

                no longer live in a world of nations

                and ideologies, Mr. Beale.  The

                world is a college of corporations,

                inexorably deter- mined by the

                immutable by-laws of business.  The

                world is a business, Mr. Beale!  It

                has been since man crawled out of

                the slime, and our children, Mr.

                Beale, will live to see that perfect

                world in which there is no war and

                famine, oppression and brutality --

                one vast and ecumenical holding

                company, for whom all men will work

                to serve a common profit, in which

                all men will hold a share of stock,

                all necessities provided, all

                anxieties tranquilized, all boredom

                amused.  And I have chosen you to

                preach this evangel, Mr. Beale.


                      (humble whisper)

                Why me?


                Because you're on television, dummy.

                Sixty million people watch you

                every night of the week, Monday

                through Friday.

Everything, I mean everything, dialogue in this movie is mind blowing.  Not only are these speeches fantastic but so is the everyday conversation...the producers sitting around having a frank discussion about killing Howard Beale, the confrontation between Schumacher & Hackett, the break up between Diana & Max discussed in terms of 'canceling the show'....Pick any part of this movie and you will find the conversation enthralling.  

Today we have movement, action, effects, cheap jokes, simplistic dialogue, and restrictions on everything (couldn't share the video clips for 2 of the 3 speeches above...that's how tight everything has become!).  Back then they simply told stories and let the viewers formulate their own opinions.   They assumed the audience was smart enough to understand.  They allowed freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom to create like we haven't seen in quite a while.  Writers wrote for actors and actresses not for corporations and formulas.  

We may never return to that kind of filmmaking again.  We may never be given that freedom to say what we as storytellers want to say in a film again.  But we will always have those older movies at our disposal to watch and re-watch as many times as we desire and remember that once there was a time when artists could put the business aside and simply be creative. - TKS

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to Meet Good Ideas

Coming across a good idea ought to be the most likely part of the uncertain and especially unlikely process of getting a film projected onto a theater screen; but before the Cinderella story; before an audience walks into that theater, or the marketing campaign was successfully devised to bring that audience in, or the film somehow made it into Sundance or Toronto -- whereby the right people screened it and the right things were said and the right buzz grew into that distribution deal -- before a cast and crew serendipitously came together and really made something great enough to be noticed; before that first unlikely investor came along and took a risk, or a producer saw some fleeting potential in a script and decided to put their contacts and connections on the line... there was a writer and an idea, and it probably wasn't pretty.

They had to meet.  And goddamn it, they had to get along.

Yeah, there are people out there that will say "I knew this was a great idea from the beginning!"  They'll lean back and fawn over how easy it all came to them once they "found" the idea; conveniently overlooking all the strife it took to turn that idea into a good script.

Jealously you ask them: "But how did you get that idea?"

The edge of their lips turn into a coy smile; they don't even do you the courtesy of thinking about the question: "No idea, just came to me."

The words are true, but I still want to punch this fictional person in the face.  I digress, but as writer of this blog, I'll take the liberty.

(A can of Mountain Dew flies across the room, hitting the pretentious man squarely in the face.  His nose seeps blood, mixing with spilled drink as it spots his expensive white shirt.  The dry cleaner won't be able to get that stain out...).

Finding a good idea is hard.  What's more, you don't come upon ideas, ideas come to you.  You can put yourself around the right people, in the right setting and situation where ideas might hang around, but that's about as much as they'll allow.  No, they come to you, and they'll do so whenever they damn well please.  Then when they come, well, you have to like them.  Just because an idea approaches you doesn't mean you're attracted to it.  We go through ideas all the time, politely smiling at them before we go back to talking with our friends.

Some ideas are more interesting than others.  All you can do is think about how cool that idea is; you can't believe they tapped your shoulder or decided to dance with you.  Other ideas seem engrossing on the evening you meet them, but its very hard to spend any time with them after that; all looks and no substance.  They're secretly boring.

Can you sit down and have a conversation with your idea?  Will it be one of those conversations that go on and on, spilling with great tangents and material?  Can you put up with them?

The best ideas get in your head man, and they change the way you see things.  At the same time they're possessive.  Everything you see, hear and smell -- every other thought -- gets interrogated by the idea first.  Trees, highway, car wreck -- Could you work in the story?  It doesn't matter where you are -- supermarket or meeting, your idea is there vying for all your attention.  Sometimes it takes a while for that possession to take hold.

No one wants to admit they have trouble romancing a good idea, but then again, how many ideas are truly "good," before a writer took a chance and decided to make that long, hard commitment?

The days go on and doubts inevitably ensue.  You don't really know this is a great idea, do you?  In fact, you're still thinking about that smarmy guy who said it all came so easy.

Thinking about the long journey ahead, and just how improbable the script you're writing will end up on the big screen, you sit down for a heart to heart with your idea: "Hey.  Listen, I think you're really interesting.  We've been spending some time together and that's no small thing for me -- I don't just spend time with any idea, you know.  The problem I'm having is..."  (You hesitate you don't want to tell them the truth)  "Why aren't you brilliant?  Why aren't you behaving symphonically, idea?  Why aren't you bursting with inspiration?  Why aren't you feeling like a great idea every single day?"

Meanwhile you wonder, is this idea truly destined for great things, if I have to put in all this work? 

But is it really the ideas fault?  You start questioning yourself: "What's wrong with me?  Is this my fault?  Am I any good?  Am I even cut out for writing?  If I have to put in all this work, am I truly inspired -- A good idea like this comes along and this is all I can do with it?!..."

"Confidence," you tell yourself.  Ideas respect confidence, but personally I suspect it's not a cure all adage.  Sometimes you just have to make a clean break.  Tell an idea it's not working out creatively.  It's not really bringing much to the table after all, and you need to move on to the next idea.  Or maybe it's just too difficult, and that is a good sign.

Maybe you just decide to take a break from your idea.  You know... temporarily.  "Maybe we'll meet each other again when you... when I'M... More mature."

-- Next thing you know that piece of shit idea is in bed with Steven Spielberg, and Spielberg's pulling all the stops.  He's wooing the idea with his studio, with his financial resources.  And that's the one that got away...

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, take a moment to be thankful for your good ideas.  Also be thankful Steven Spielberg hasn't had your idea first.  He's a tough act to follow.

Charles Rhoads

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joy Lies Within The Low Budget

There is often a void left behind after a production has completed its stages of pre, production, and post.  For me, it's right after we've wrapped that seems to be the hardest.  I spend days and days round the clock preparing for a shoot - running around, planning, strategizing, stressing out, anticipating, problem solving, and thinking fast.  It abruptly comes to a close and I'm left the next day nursing my body aches and wondering, "What the hell am I supposed to do now?"  I long for a back to back barrage of productions so often simply because I manage to work on very enjoyable sets.

This summer was a slow one.  We had a couple of our own productions in the music video realm and some random interview and performance stuff but not enough to keep me moving as fast as I like.  So, I picked up a couple other odd jobs that had nothing to do with producing whatsoever but kept me around the camera. Then those jobs ended and it was back to twiddling the ol' thumbs.


Too many days in a row of not being on set began to drive me a little nuts.  I noticed an ad for a PA on a 3 day shoot, in a remote location, staying in a resort, with not one red cent of pay.  "Sounds great!" I said to myself and off I went to work on the last days of a really bad sci-fi/horror feature.  It was fun.  The director had no real understanding of the words 'crew' or 'team' or 'group' so we, the crew, banded together and made it happen.  It was the best 3 days of free work I've done in a while mainly because connections were made and there was a set camaraderie that can only be found on a low budget film.

I busied myself with company stuff after that then dove head first into our latest music video.  As soon as that was done I came up for air and realized I just wanted to get back to swimming the depths of creative production.  Lucky for me a producer/director I work with on and off popped up again.  He put together a crew for a 3 day contest and I was to be his production supervisor.  I was only needed for one day since the writing had to be done in one day, the shoot the next day, and the editing the following day.  We were an eclectic San Diego group of varying age ranges and ethnicities and it was a blast.  The rain had been coming down all week but the skies dried up for our shoot day.  (Something that had awesomely enough happened on the music video shoot as well, come to think of it.)  The clouds offered a natural diffusion for most of the day then spread out to show off billowing patterns against patches of blue.  It was smooth and easy and quick. Yet another fine day of free work for me.  As we said our goodbyes the sound recordist reiterated my satisfaction by saying, "You spend so much time working on large, stressful sets you forget what it's like to enjoy your job.  Then you get a chance to work with a crew of people who make films for fun and you remember how great it can be."  No truer words have ever been spoken.

That was the end of summer.  Since then things have come to a screeching halt.  I've thrown myself into a winter office position teaching me the ins and outs of payroll for both union and non-union commercials.  Super informative.  Incredibly useful.  But oh so dull to be indoors battling paperwork instead of the elements, crew, locations, and budgets.  I love being in control of a shoot.  I love being in charge.  I love being a leader on a production.  But more than anything I love being on a set in any capacity. It's proving difficult for me to sit still and learn more of my trade via a 9-5.  I just keep telling myself it's winter.  It's the holidays. It's relatively slow out there until March again.  And who knows?  I may come to love the payroll aspect of producing.

What I do know for sure, heart lies in the trenches with the struggling indie filmmakers.  Should someone invite me to participate in a low budget shoot, in the dead of winter, on a nearby mountain top, for an 18 hour day, I'd be hard-pressed to say no. - TKS

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Respecting the Shoot Day

The shoot day.  We're talking about an ethereal thing here, a temporary window in time when ideas are channeled into the real world.  To be able to conjure those ideas through a lens as clean and true as imagination takes an immense amount of time, effort, stress and mental sharpness.  It takes a great producer, and a talented director, DP, and AD that understands how vital preparation truly is.

Treating a shoot day as anything other than a time where shots are set up and the director realizes his vision -- or conducting any activity that doesn't best support those things -- is missing the point.  Wasting time figuring out what you want; fumbling around unnecessary obstacles or any other lack of preparedness is not respecting the shoot day, and you've got to honor it as though it were a god.  Disrespect a shoot day and it will decimate your film or video like a Russian winter.

Anything, and I mean anything that can be done before that actual shoot, that doesn't have to be done during the shoot, should be thought about and taken care of well in advance.  And just like the actual filming is a team effort, so is the preparation.

For a producer, the word preparation is synonymous with the job.  The producer does nothing less than create those 12-14 hour per day playgrounds where the director and DP can make their vision come alive.  This means overseeing a project, securing financing, locations, cast, crew, and ensuring the availability and smooth function of all required resources and personnel (including equipment, props, wardrobe, and vehicles) that make up a shoot day.

For a director, respecting the shoot day means knowing precisely what you want, and how you're going to get it, not figuring it out as you go.

Meet with the DP, create the shot list together, and know it well -- down to the lens you think you'd like to use.  Storyboard if possible to really understand what it is you want and what it is you'll actually get.  Visit your locations and have actors and camera movement precisely choreographed (and rehearsed if that's your style).  At least discuss what you're looking for from your actors well in advance of the production.  Know what you want your set to look like, and have it arranged with the production designer well in advance.  The same goes for wardrobe.   Also know the edit as best as you can before you shoot a single frame to avoid over-shooting and so you know when you can cut a shot.

I know there are plenty of stories to go around about famous directors that fumble their way through a shoot and still create amazing work; I'd wager those guys either made Faustean deals or they've got amazing DP's, producers and crew backing them up to make up for the lack respect.

For a DP respecting the shoot means creating that shot list and knowing it well, along with lighting plots which are distributed to members of the G&E crew well in advance of the shoot.  It means adequately scouting the locations and identifying potential lighting problems with the gaffer, who should determine locations of the electrical outlets, breakers, and the current capacity of electrical circuits in the building.  It means being familiar with the schedule and taking into account the location of the sun. 

For an AD it means understanding your set in its entirety; scheduling realistically, including set-up times and shoot times, with time included for travel and wrap and lunch; knowing where to stage make-up and equipment, where everyone should be and what they should be doing as it relates to the schedule before you ever reach the set.

For talent it means knowing what the director wants, and understanding the script before you reach the set.

It's mind boggling how much effort and energy has to go into making that shoot day special in a way that 12-14 hours of any other day are not.  If any of member of the team neglects to adequately prepare, it distracts from the only things that you should be fundamentally doing on the shoot day: Building setups, making light/gel adjustments, making creative discoveries, coaxing moments out of hiding, and gathering shots.

The shoot day is fragile soil on which you plant a good script.  What comes up -- if anything -- comes out of a lot of hands and effort in the 12 or so hours between when the day begins and ends.  Footage doesn't materialize before or after, only during, and it's precious time.

Charles Rhoads

Thursday, September 2, 2010

You Gotta Watch This Movie: Gone With The Wind (1939)

There really is nothing as spectacular as seeing a movie on the big screen.  All our new technological conveniences are just that, conveniences.  Being enveloped in that full screen cinematography, that dark, cavernous room filled with people who become non-existent once you become hooked on the story, that sound surrounding and booming with warmth and excitement...ahhh, yes.  It's the best.

And about two weeks ago I saw the best of the best on that gorgeous screen..."Gone With The Wind".  Yep.  American Cinematheque blew my mind yet again with a screening of "Gone With The Wind" at the Aero Theatre.  When that projector rolled and the opening credits came on, the classic '39 movie music played, and the theater went dark, it was all I could do to keep from crying tears of utter joy.

I spent many repeated days as a kid/teen watching and re-watching that epic film on TV.  I have no idea how it was introduced to me...I vaguely remember it as a two part special on ABC or something...but I do know that as soon as I saw it I was in love.  In love with the South, those massive hoop dresses, the Civil War, the romantic notion of plantations, Scarlett's brash nature, and Rhett Butler.  I L-O-V-E loved that character, that man, that idea of a man.  Virile, handsome, scoundrel and sensitive, a man of smarts and survival.  I became obsessed with Clark Gable. Obsessed.  I scoured the TV guide every week, reading page by page, section by section, piece by piece...searching for all the films between 1920 - 1960 looking for his name, underlining, circling and scheduling myself to watch.  There weren't a lot but there were a few.  At least one every couple weeks.  I was so disappointed when there was no Clark Gable for the week!  To this day and since that first day of GWTW, I look for the Rhett/Clark combo in every man I've ever been attracted to.  It's nuts, but it's true.  And I find bits and pieces of him in almost every guy I've dated but never the full package.  No wonder I'm single...!  Anyway, getting way off topic here.

Gone With the Wind has been such a pivotal movie in my life.  The crane shot over the wounded soldiers lying on the Atlanta train tracks was the first cinematographic moment that I was ever consciously aware of.

The massive flames behind Rhett and Scarlett as they ride past the ammunition set on fire and ready to blow was my first conscious journey into special effects.

Janet Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Clark Gable, Hattie McDaniel, and Ona Munson gave me my first taste for acting, talent, celebrity.  They set me on a path to try it myself (needless to say, I failed drama class miserably) and turned me into a scrapbooking, picture clipping fool...another reason I scoured the TV guide...for pics of my favorite actors/actresses.

And how about epics?  I love epics thanks to this movie.  Sweeping grandeur, intermissions, endless amounts of flowing landscape filled with earthy tones, crane shots, aerial shots, long tracking shots.  Fantastic!  I devoured North & South, The Far Pavillions, Ghandi, The Jewel In The Crown, The Thorn Birds, Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, Doctor Zhivago as if they were the last feast I would ever lay my eyes upon. 

Being an impressionable kid who questioned all those impressions I was never won over by the romantic ideal of the slave running South, though.  I did a lot of reading and researching from a very neutral place.  But I respected the story aspect of it all.  So many angles, so much meaning, so much division portrayed from the agrarian culture of the U.S.  Yet, while I respected the story I missed the main plot in this particular movie. 

As I watched "Gone with The Wind" up on that big screen for the first time ever in my life I became attached to that main plot, that main character, that main reason for this film to exist, like never before.  Scarlett O'Hara, for the first time in dozens of watching times, stood out on that screen like I'd never seen her.  It hit me like bricks...this was a truly strong female lead role in a major motion picture that I had completely overlooked!

By now it's well known that I am a supporter of the strong woman to the utmost.  Not a feminist, but a supporter of that which is the pillar in life.  At the Aero that evening I realized how so many people, including myself, had "Gone With The Wind" totally wrong.  They called it a movie about the South, about gallantry, about loss and destruction, North and South, divisions, slavery, plantations, and about a love story.  While it is all that, it is so much more about the journey of a woman who's circumstances force her to be as strong and uncompromising as steel.  Those other elements were her supports, our subplots. 

We start off seeing Scarlett as a spoiled Southern Belle teen.  She wants only one man and that's Ashley Wilkes.  She is determined to get him.  How could he not love the belle of the ball?  How could she not possibly get everything she wants?  She learns he is marrying his cousin Melanie (Olivia De Havilland) and decides all she has to do is tell Ashley she loves him and he will be hers instead!  So, already we are seeing the strong will of our lead female character come to light.  It continues with an angry tantrum and her first meeting with Rhett Butler...her male equivalent.  It goes even further when she callously accepts Melanie's brother Charles' proposal at the start of the war, taking revenge on Ashley's passionate kiss goodbye to Melanie.  Charles dies of pneumonia and Scarlett is forced to be a mourning widow.  She sobs to her mother, "My life is over! Nothing will ever happen to me anymore!"  The solution is a trip to Atlanta to visit Melanie and we see Scarlett's wheels spin as she realizes that's where she'll be able to connect with Ashley again as well.  She immediately shocks Atlanta at a benefit bazaar when the mourning widow she is, accepts blockader Rhett Butler's invitation to dance. Later, as the city falls to the Yankees, Scarlett is faced with delivering Melanie's baby amidst explosions and gun fire then getting herself, Melanie, the baby and Prissy back to Tara.  She commandeers Rhett for a moment but is abandoned by him as he takes off to join the army for one last 11th hour stand against the Union.

Arriving at Tara, Scarlett is confronted by a county destroyed, Tara ravaged, her mother dead, her father gone insane, and her needy family looking to her to save them.  And save them she does...bedraggled and worn, a sobbing Scarlett falls upon the ground to pull up a lone carrot that she ravenously devours only to gag it back up again.  Right here is the turning point.  The spoiled child Scarlett O'Hara is gone.  She now becomes a woman who must beat all the odds.  "As God is my witness, as God is my witness, they're not going to lick me, " she declares. "I'm going to live through this.  And when it's all over I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill, as God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"

Things progress at Tara...A stray soldier is shot and killed by Scarlett when he comes in to pillage and rape; beaten Confederate soldiers return; Scarlett and family till the fields, building a bit of income to feed the family and the soldiers; overseer Jonas Wilkerson comes back to buy out Tara after finding out the taxes are too high for Scarlett to pay; and Scarlett's father dies when he rides out after Wilkerson and gets thrown from his horse.  Ashley returns and Scarlett goes to Atlanta to charm money from Rhett only to find him locked up in a jail by the Yankees who are either going to hang him or take his money.  Rhett, of course, doesn't help and Scarlett is forced to find another solution.  She bumps into her sister's beau, Frank Kennedy, who is prospering with a lumber store in Atlanta and within days they are married.  Tara is saved by Scarlett's quick thinking and shrewd maneuvers and the family slowly begins building their wealth again.  Scarlett leaves her sisters behind and, after a puddle of crocodile tears used to convince Ashley and Melanie to head back to Atlanta with her, she gathers the remaining house servants and sets out on a path to become business woman extraordinaire.

Atlanta becomes a series of Scarlett strengths, mistakes, falls, and pick-herself-up-again scenarios.  She rides past the shanty town alone and is attacked; her husband dies (quite the story unto itself as this is where the rise of the KKK is mentioned); she expands the lumber store into a mill; she finally marries Rhett, obtaining loads of money and a massive house; she has a daughter;  she gets caught in a tender moment at the mill with Ashley, destroying her marriage to Rhett in the process; she falls down the stairs and loses her unborn baby; she loses her first born daughter to another horse riding accident; Melanie dies; and Rhett leaves her.

Yet Scarlett still manages to muster the strength needed to carry on. Throughout the film we constantly hear her say, "I won't think about that right now.  I'll think about it tomorrow."  It's her way of pushing any guilty conscience to the back of her mind but as Rhett disappears into the fog Scarlett knows there will be no tomorrow if she doesn't deal with today.

Ask anyone who's seen the movie once or twice what the last line is and they'll probably give you this (1:08):

Check again, friends. Start at about 03:35.  Just as strong but so glanced over as Scarlett once again pulls up her bootstraps and formulates another plan for survival.

Yes. That's right, "After all, tomorrow is another day!" And one I hope that will reveal a return to Hollywood's heyday of fine storytelling and strong roles for women and men alike. - TKS