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Transcript of Conversation
American Zoetrope Awards: Palme d'Or (1974) Gene Hackman
Michael Higgins Starring: Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a renowned surveillance expert in the West Coast, known for building his own equipment. However, he is an unhappy man, who is paranoid about his privacy. His character depicts 'the microcosm of America at that time: not a bad man, trying to do his job, haunted by a guilty conscience, feeling tarnished by his work.' (Ebert, 2001) He receives $15,000 for a surveillance job and realises the couple he is following could be in danger if he delivered the tapes to his client. 'He'd kill us if he got the chance.' He tries to save the couple only to understand he had misinterpreted their words, endangering his client. His failure makes him relive old traumas. Main Bibliography & Webliography Background 70s in the United States: In 1972, the Watergate scandal broke out. > new social environment: the surveillance obsession and the lack of trust - eavesdropping era > President Nixon resigned eight months after 'The Conversation' was released The Vietnam war was almost over, but it still triggered social unrest. Francis Ford Coppola One of Hollywood's auteurs. His name was in vogue in the 70s after his massive success with the first 'Godfather' film (1972). He was working on 'The Conversation' for two years and claims it is his 'most personal project'. Coppola in Hollywood Coppola emerged in the 1970s as one of the founders of the New Hollywood era. Directors with film school education and who had new approaches to filmmaking, as well as new techniques. So how did they thrive in Hollywood? Hollywood history 1890s Thomas Edison invents the Kinetoscope, one of the first ever motion cameras for individual viewing. 1910s To escape lawsuits and high fees imposed by the MPPC, many independent filmmakers moved West to the Los Angeles area. Why California? Good year-round weather good conditions for filming outdoors A small village happy to become a filming location... HOLLYWOOD 'Kinetoscope', http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetoscope, consulted on March 1, 2013 'The Old California', 1913, first film to ever be shot in Hollywood. Its success attracted even more filmmakers. World War I Hollywood in 1910 Nickelodeon boom Motion Picture Patents Company (or The Trust): eight companies, claiming rights for production, distribution and exhibition of films, as well as for using Edison's equipment. He then registered the patent for another invention, the Vitascope, a projector. In the beginning of the 20th century, films were exhibited in local theatres for the price of a nickel - the nickelodeons. > They were inexpensive and were not seasonal. > Working class had more time available. > Films continuously played all-day long. Nickelodeons brought cinema to the masses. 1920s The Hollywood studio system Hollywood Sign Erected in 1923 to advertise for house sales in the hills.
It was only meant to last 18 months, but it grew popular in the Hollywood cinema industry and became a cultural
landmark in the country. The good climate and the proximity to Mexico were favourable to a popular genre: Westerns. In the early 20th century, European cinema, particularly French cinema, was dominant.
But the breakout of the war in 1914 disrupted several European industries in such a way that allowed Hollywood to reign. 1940s-50s 1970s The decline of the studio system American cinema was highly lucrative: standardised methods of production and distribution for the masses (Nowell-Smith, 1996:91). Vertical integration: The Hollywood oligopoly: RKO, Paramount, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer The Big Five: The Small Three: Universal, Columbia and United Artists Hollywood Golden age Revenues had already decreased by 40 per cent during the Great Depression. The main reasons : > The creation of organisations and unions
to protect actors and participants in the movie industry from the oligopoly of the major studios. > Supreme Court's decision to end vertical integration as it violated anti-trust laws (Paramount Decree, 1948). (Olson-Raymer, HSU) (Olson-Raymer, HSU) some filmmakers opened studios with an industrial organisation, gaining control of the production, distribution and exhibition. > The advent of television The return of the independents The Hollywood industry faced major changes and there was no longer an oligopoly of the major studios. A new wave of independent filmmakers emerged... and they arrived to stay, with films usually financed and distributed by the studios. One of them was... Francis Ford Coppola Away from the studio Most of 'The Conversation' was filmed away from studios. In fact, the whole conversation recorded by Harry Caul takes place in San Francisco's crowded Union Square. images from The Single Minded Movie Blog (2011) 'The Conversation' in The Single Minded Movie Blog, http://singlemindedmovieblog.blogspot.pt/, consulted on March 1, 2013 Difficulties Sound: Real life sound makes it harder to get a clean record of dialogues. What did Coppola do?... High tech sound equipment; Walter Murch, "who not only edited the picture but created the complicated and interesting sound design and mixed the sound and music." Steady camera: maintaining the stability of the camera is especially hard when filming outdoors, whenever the cameraman has to travel a distance with it. What did Coppola do?... Lighting: In a studio, manipulating light is easy, but not The elements: There is no control of traffic, air traffic, people in the street, bad weather, choosing the right location for the film's purpose. outdoors. One must control the number of filming hours and the moment of the day they will film a scene outdoors. "By now you may notice that the building across Harry's street that had the wrecking ball on it is already partially wrecked, so you can see right into the walls, which is another level of surveillance." "In The Conversation I wanted the camera just to be dead, just to be there as if it was an eavesdropping device." What did Coppola do?... City regulations: In San Francisco, filming permits are issued by the San Francisco Film Commission. Advantages Price: It's cheaper to film away from a studio rather than to build special sets. Paramount only accepted to finance and distribute 'The Conversation' because of Coppola's previous success with Godfather (1972). 'The Conversation' was a low budget film. Conclusion 'The Conversation' is a low-budget film, filmed mostly outdoors, produced by a small independent company but financed by a major studio. Ebert, Roger, 'The Conversation', 2001, in http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-conversation-1974, consulted on March 2, 2013 Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, 1996, The Oxford History of World Cinema. The definitive history of cinema worldwide, New York: Oxford University Press. Pramaggiori, Maria & Wallis, Tom, 'Film: A Critical Introduction', 2005, London: Lawrence King Publishing, pp. 282 - 287 'The Conversation', in ImDb.com, consulted on March 2, 2013 Murch, Walter, in 'Walter Murch - Editing the Sound and Music', Berlinale Talent Campus, available in http://www.berlinale-talentcampus.de/story/80/1580.html, consulted on March 3, 2013 We're some way off from Hollywood's Big Eight oligopoly, but major studios still play an important role in the industry However, there is room for independent filmmakers - the auteurs - such as Francis Ford Coppola. '1970s Film History' and 'The Conversation', in www.filmsite.org, consulted on March 3, 2013 > the faith is the Government was weakened and Congress attempted to limit the presidential power