A Textbook Example?

It appears as if Gina, An Actress, Age 29 is set to be included on a DVD supplement to the 2nd edition of Richard Barsam’s Looking at Movies. (My agreement with the publisher is non-exclusive, so Gina will still be for sale on its own even after the book/dvd come out.) If you want to get the book with the DVD it will be out sometime… in the near future. That’s all I know at the moment.

Anyway, as part of all this, yesterday I got an email from the publisher asking if I want to do a director’s commentary for the DVD. I’ve always been reluctant to do something like this because I think they have the risk of coming off as boring or pompous or both. (Exceptions: Anything by Paul Verhoeven, most of the stuff on Criterion, and a few others.) But since this is for “educational purposes” and, I guess, since someone has requested it from me, I’m weighing it out now.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Has anyone done one? Was it fun? Worth it? Do you cringe when you listen to it now? Also, how did you do it? Was it just you blabbing away, or did you have a sidekick feeding you questions and lines like “It’s a genre film, but it’s very untraditional.”? Anyone have any inventive ideas about how to make it interesting? If not, maybe I’ll just politely decline. I’m not sure I even have the time — it has to be done by the beginning of April and I’m pretty busy right now.

10 Responses to “A Textbook Example?”

  1. John Summers Says:

    Two good ones to watch: Three Kings. Go.

    For Three Kings, Russell clearly came prepared and did a few takes. It talks about the film on every level possible. (Except maybe his disagreements with Clooney).

    For Go, Liman came on with editor Stephen Mirrione, who was clearly an important collaborator on that film. They reminded each other of things and relived some of their creative arguments (eg. dinner table scenes).

    Or you can go with the technique used for Deep Blue Sea (which I haven’t seen yet, but I hear…) They intercut Sam Jackson making fun of the film while Renny Harlin pompously goes on about how great it is.

  2. dvd Says:

    I did one for one of my shorts, and it’s a pain if you’re self conscious like myself, but at the same time it’s sort of fun. I just wrote down a list of things I wanted to touch on and between that and spontaneous comments brought about by watching the thing, I was able to pretty much keep talking through the whole thing (recorded alone, at home on my computer). At some point in the next few months, I’ll be doing one for my feature – but since I had three co-directors on that, it should be much easier.

    My problem is not so much being pompous as being overly apologetic. I’ve got to work on that. But I think that it’s especially worthwhile if the film has been complete for a while; it gives the track valuable perspective.

    Check out Altman’s tracks if you want some commentary inspiration – they’re some of my favorites.

  3. Sujewa Ekanayake Says:

    Do it man do it. I liked (& learned some tricks from) Ed Burns’ commentary from Sidewalks of New York.


  4. Alan Gratz Says:

    I’m happy to volunteer to pretend to be you. I can discuss the making of the film in great detail, even though I wasn’t there for any of it. That would be interesting, though not very educational.

    You could also do the commentary ala MST3K, and have a silhouette of yourself pointing out things on the screen. But perhaps that’s not in the spirit of the project . . .

  5. William Says:

    Go for it! Having another crew member with you sounds like a good idea. Listen to The Limey for a pretty funny passive/aggressive commentary track between Steven Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs. Have fun with it.

  6. Josh Oakhurst Says:

    Hey Paul – you should definitely do it.

    Remember, commentary tracks are for film nerds anyway. Its unlikely your track will sound silly or pompous unless the film is silly our pompous.

    Yeah. Have fun with it!

  7. Ajit Says:

    Do it but have someone there. The more the merrier. Talk about the struggle, the techniques, that stuff is always interesting.

  8. Darren Says:

    Hey, that’s great news, Paul. Maybe now I’ll finally get a chance to see your f—ing film. ;)

    You could always tailor your commentary specifically for the readers of Barsam’s book. I haven’t read it but assume he offers specific strategies for becoming more engaged as a viewer. Maybe you could think of your commentary as one more side of a developing dialogue.

  9. thustlebird Says:

    Hey Paul, Dan Kremer here. First time I have really looked at your website in great detail. Nice. I look forward to seeing your review of JACKAL OF NAHUELTORO (PANHUELTORO). It is definitely exciting to see that it is on DVD…not for ALSINO AND THE CONDOR.

    Congratulations! For fun, I did audio commentaries last year for my experimental shorts (the brutally honest family members, needless to say non-film-erudite people, are the only ones who listened to it and said they enjoyed my commentary more than the movies themselves because they had no clue what the hell was going on in the movies and it enlightened them). I plan on doing one for CRUMBS FROM A HARD-BOILED EGG when it is finished, but I think it will be a particularly difficult one because it is so personal. I don’t think you have to fear that problem with GINA.

    I agree with Caveh Zahedi that Jaglom’s EATING commentary sucks, but Jag’s LAST SUMMER IN THE HAMPTONS commentary is fun. For commentary inspiration: yes, Altman’s Criterion 3 WOMEN commentary is top-notch, the Michael Powell/Scorsese one for COLONEL BLIMP (my favorite film)…and the guilty pleasure of the BILLY JACK films (while pedantic and sometimes unbearably delusional, Laughlin and Taylor are entertaining which is good in audio commentary). I hate commentaries like the one for Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS and RYAN’S DAUGHTER (academics in commentaries are laughably pompous-sounding). Cronenberg’s commenataries are excellent as well.

  10. thustlebird Says:

    And avoid Drew Casper’s commentary for ADVISE AND CONSENT, in which he spells the word “auteur” for the okies from Oatmeal, Nebraska listening to an academic’s audio commentary for a 1962 film (“Preminger was an auteur, that’s A-U-T-E-U-R.”) Thanks, Mr. Casper! You learn something new every day, I guess.