This is my latest book about a film I made under unique and interesting circumstances. I first presented the topic as a webinar for Stage 32 (www.stage32.com/). A year later, I decided to tell the story in greater detail in book form. The following words are from Richard "RB" Botto of Stage 32.
"I am the CEO of the world’s largest social media site and
educational hub for film, television and theater creatives called Stage
A couple of years ago, we introduced our Next Level Webinar series,
essentially 90-minute live classes. I was on the hunt for top draw
educators and Stephen with his passion for film and his selfless desire
to teach immediately came to mind. 'How to Shoot a Film in 15 Days (And
Survive to See Profits)' was Stephen’s suggestion, one I took to instantly.
I heard from numerous filmmakers, screenwriters, actors,
cinematographers and other creatives who praised Stephen for giving them
the strategy, framework, and course knowledge necessary to push them to
go out and film their own material. Further, so impactful was the
material, various film conferences and festivals came knocking asking if
Stephen would have an interest in teaching it live. So Stephen took the
show on the road, leaving audiences dazzled, informed and inspired.
I have no doubt you’ll feel the same way reading this book. So pour
yourself your favorite libation and come curl up by the fire because
Stephen Mitchell can tell a story. And Stephen Mitchell has stories to
tell. A more reliable narrator, you will not find."
How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits) is available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon:
This photo shows me in my GTO in the late 60s/early 70s taking a corner
on Mulholland Drive at speed. It is actually a frame capture from a
film I made with Peter Helm that begins with our excursion to Willow
Springs Raceway and ends in the canyons of Los Angeles.
the resolution is poor, I love this image; it is more like an
impressionist painting depicting the speed and excitement of owning and
driving the car as it was intended--if not on a race track, at least
with exuberance. Notice the attitude, or body English, of the GTO during
its turn-in to the apex of the corner. I always thought that my
Berlinetta Lusso cornered 'flat' through a turn, but the GTO showed me
how 'flat' a race car could take the same corners. This goes to say that
the speed with which I negotiated this corner had to be considerable
for the GTO to show as much body roll as we see in the photo.
I can almost hear the sound of the amazing Ferrari twelve cylinder engine on full song and, though I cannot be seen clearly behind the wheel, I can assure you I was smiling.
“It looks like the jogger killed your wife,” Dornan told Martin over yet another in an endless series of swordfish sandwiches.
“What’s your point?” was Martin’s response. He enjoyed swordfish as much as the next fellow, but Martin was becoming annoyed with the Detective’s puerile eating habits.
“It looks like the jogger killed your wife,” Dornan repeated, assuming that the Senator hadn’t heard him.
“I need to tell you something before the waiter comes back,” Martin
told him in a hushed conspiratorial tone, which caused the Detective to
lean in closer. “First, don’t talk with your mouth full and, second, the
word like isn’t used when a subject and verb are to follow. You should
have said it looks as though the jogger killed your wife, which still
doesn’t make any sense.”
Dornan was getting to the end of his
rope with Martin’s didactical manner, though he wouldn’t have used
didactical to describe it.
“You don’t seem to appreciate what’s
happening here,” the Detective replied managing to restrain some of his
anger. “You have been a person of interest, if not the prime suspect,
in what has all the earmarks of a homicide case and I’ve just gotten you
off the hook by hanging it on an anonymous jogger. How much more sense
does it have to make?”
“To tell you the truth, it may not have
to make any sense at all. I have no idea what’s happened to my wife and,
as far as I can tell, you haven’t either. It’s all very speculative and
if you have any experience with women whatsoever, you would realize the
futility of any attempt to understand what they’ll do or when they’ll
“But, she’s been gone for…”
Martin interrupted him. “I think you’re taking this a little too
seriously. If I’d killed my wife, I think I would know it, don’t you
Dornan was about to launch into a tirade, but remembered that his mouth was full.
“I think everything happens for a reason, like that affair with the
Boat People. You should look at this as a sign that you have been put in
the right place at the right time.” Pleased with himself, Martin sat
back and savored his wine.
“The right place and the right time
for what?” Dornan whined. As usual, Martin’s non sequitur progression
caused the Detective to lose his train of thought.
I became interested in branding as it applies to actors after I had founded
my repertory company for film and television. My motivation was two-fold: to
develop actors who would be more interesting to the public as well as
mainstream Hollywood and to make the films our group made with them more
salable--our goal was to build a following for each of them. Over the
twenty-plus years that the rep company was in operation, I delved more and more
into the psychology and nuance of branding and this influenced the development
of my Action/ReAction technique, which has as a goal to train actors to play
The most frequent question I am asked by those wishing to better understand the
seemingly divergent demands of branding and the artistic expression of the
actor is: What Is Meryl Streep's brand? I wish I had a dollar for every time
I've been asked this question but it is understandable why it is asked. On the
face of it, Meryl Streep seems to be all over the map with her performances (in
the best possible ways) which would seem to belie the imperative to have a
well-defined brand. However, let's take a closer look.
Meryl Streep's brand is that of an intelligent and emotionally vulnerable
woman which is most effective when she adds a foreign national identity--French
in The French Lieutenant's Woman, Polish in Sophie's Choice ,
Danish in Out of Africa, Italian
in The Bridges of Madison County andIrish in Dancing at Lughnasa.
She played this brand for Woody Allen in Manhattan but without the
foreign identity. These are the roles that made her legacy and not films like She-Devil
where the brand was absent.
Sometimes, having an established brand helps an actor play against it like Tom
Hanks where his trustworthy, everyman image made the face of AIDS more
accessible to audiences in Philadelphia. Apollo 13 and The Da
Vinci Code both took full advantage of his established brand. Julie
Andrews' brand of innate, optimistic enthusiasm is another example where the
absence of her usual enthusiasm in The Americanization of Emily made its
You'll notice that Clint Eastwood has had a consistent brand since the late 60s
and Steve McQueen was consistent except when he went off it in a film, An
Enemy of the People, that was unsaleable and could not find an audience.
The Hollywood studios understood this and even had a clause in Clark Gable's
contract when they loaned him to other studios that they couldn't mess with his
brand. In the same fashion, Kate Hepburn, Cary Grant, Bette Davis, John Wayne,
Humphrey Bogart and the other greats of cinema all had consistent and
well-defined brands. They set a great example.
If an actor isn't concerned with the protection of his or her own brand, who
else will be? It's the same as McDonalds or In-N-Out maintaining quality
control on their franchises because, when all is said and done, acting is a
business. Unless one acts solely as a hobby, branding is a crucial concept of
which an actor needs to be aware.
From a strategic point of view, there are three types of actors in
"Hollywood": The Bankable Lead (whose popularity attracts investors
and audiences), The Antagonist (whose job is to upstage The Bankable Lead) and
Everybody Else (whose job is to be competent without distracting from the interaction
of The Bankable Lead and The Antagonist). The first two need to be branded. The
last does not as they are interchangeable and disposable.
The two posters here are from Steve McQueen movies--Nevada Smith from 1966
and Tom Horn from 1980, indicating a good run of 14 years for Steve and his
brand, until you realize that his brand first made our acquaintance in the
television series Wanted: Dead or Alive, which began in 1958, making
Steve a popular brand for 22 years. Not a bad run...
"What I mean is you're not interested only in the story and the
characters in the foreground...There's always something happening on
different levels on the screen. You're always telling us something about
other people, the people in the background, at the same time, and
making a comment on the scene, and telling us about the weather and the
time of day, and working at the mood you want us to feel." Bresach to Delaney Two Weeks in Another Town by Irwin Shaw http://www.amazon.com/Weeks-Another-Town-Irwin-Shaw/dp/0440191769
In a way, this passage sums up a major
characteristic of the Italian Neorealism movement and what the writer in the
story describes is, in my view, the fundamental challenge faced by every film director.
In my movie Dead Right, the story progression
developed elliptically; we see an action in Scene 1 and a new action in Scene
2, so the viewer can “read between the scenes” to know what would have occurred
that wasn’t shown but had to have taken place to make Scene 2 possible. This
goes against the old adage of “Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell
them; tell them what you have told them”which
I find rather tedious.
writing this for my new book, I found myselfwatching a
video interview with John McLaughlin talking about Miles Davis and the
recording of “In a Silent Way” saying, “it was a question of really pruning,
and he [Miles Davis] would say ‘don’t play this’. I remember we’d play the blues in F and he [Miles Davis]
said: “Don’t play the F.”
Sometimes, what you leave out is what defines the
piece and makes it memorable.
"Should this go in the same bag or a different bag?" An acerbic Detective Del Henderson (played by Kip Parrott) asks Lt. Bates a question about the victim's severed head as he cleans up the scene of a homicide in Bleeder & Bates...
This is Maddie Howard performing Action/ReAction in a preview of The Best Friend--a
one-woman show I've been writing for her. Having a one-woman (or
one-man) show to your credit as an actor is an extraordinary
accomplishment and it is quite a feat to be able to pull it off. Every
moment must be what we would call in literary circles a 'page turner'.
The most famous in my recollection was the extraordinary show Mark Twain Tonight! conceived and performed by Hal Holbrook in the 50s.
performed his one-man show Off-Broadway in 1954 and took it to Broadway
in 1966. He later won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading
Actor in a Play and an Emmy Award for the 1967 television version
produced by David Susskind on CBS. In all, Holbrook has performed the
piece more than 2000 times since 1954. This year marked the 60th
consecutive year that Holbrook has performed Mark Twain Tonight! Quite an annuity...
Others who have attempted one-man shows are Spalding Gray, Chaz Palminteri, Holly Hughes, Julie Harris and Patrick Stewart.
(Dan, my brother-in-law, and Sidney playing Gin Rummy)
For a significant period of our lives, my father and I independently
bought and sold automobiles for a living and for sport. For a living
because the activity remunerated us nicely and for sport--well, that's
The sport for me was that I was buying cars
that I enjoyed driving during the time I had them--everything from
Ferraris and Maseratis to Porsches and Corvettes at the upper end of the
spectrum to Mustangs and Camaros at the lower end. My bargain-basement,
high-volume specialty items were Volkswagens. For my sins, I bought and
sold two Chevrolet Corvairs (one of which I've already written about
and the other provoked the following exchange between me and a girl with
whom I was on a date: She, "Is this car on fire? Me, "Not yet."
I preferred the VW Beetle and Super Beetle but sold the occasional VW
Squareback with what was known as the 'Pancake' engine. I had one
particularly troublesome VW notchback--the only notchback I ever
bought--which I detested but somehow managed to own on three separate
occasions for reasons that defy explanation and each time contriving to
buy it back for less than I had previously purchased it and then selling
it for more than I had managed to get in previous sales. That I
maintained an antipathy for this particular car speaks to the degree
that I disliked it for, ordinarily, one would think that a car that
keeps coming back into my possession only to make me more money on each
exchange would be the prize of my inventory.
Though we had
distinctly different styles, policies and inventory, my father and I
would accompany one another when buying our cars. The companionship was
one reason for this but, as anyone who has ever bought and sold cars in
this manner knows, it helps to have someone along who can drive the new
acquisition home (assuming it is drivable). And here we come to the
complicated aspect of buying cars for sport as my father practiced it. My
father had his own approach, mindset and protocol in the buying of a
car. To him, these transactions were not just a competitive sport in trying to get the best deals, it was also a form of vaudeville in which he incarnated W.C.Fields. It began with
his approach to me.
I would receive a call from my father who
would say, "There's a car near you I want to look at. What if I pick you
up in twenty minutes?" I always said yes but I quickly came to realize
that the phrase 'near you' could be relied upon to mean only that I
needn't pack an overnight bag. If the car actually was in my area, I
could rely on the fact that he would have a second or third car to look
at in addition to the one near me and that, often as not, the rest of
my day was shot. On one occasion, I responded to his "There's a car
near you I want to look at" with "Fine, go see it and pick me up
afterwards if you buy it", which wasn't at all what he had in mind. He had
another use for me on these forays.
Being the salesman that he
was, my father understood the value of having a 'accompanist' along
whether buying or selling. It just seemed to facilitate the proceedings
like the good cop/bad cop, straight man/foil partnerships that work so
well in other domains. So, along I went. The scenario was always the
following: He was buying the car for his daughter (who was getting
married soon). She didn't have enough money to buy the car but my father would be
covering whatever the shortfall might be. The daughter was always
referred to as 'Corky'. The senior rule was to never find fault with the
car. It was always a great car that 'Corky' would love. That didn't
stop my father from negotiating the cost of repairing the car's deficiencies
from the seller's asking price. When all had been properly discounted, my
father would find that he was still somewhat short of meeting the
seller's price, at which point my father would offer to split the
difference between the price he had arrived at after negotiating the
seller downwards from his asking price and another, entirely arbitrary,
figure that my father had come up with. If the seller agreed to
splitting the difference, that became the new asking price and we would
move into Phase 2 of the transaction.
The purpose of Phase 2 was
to make the seller forget that there had been a Phase 1. Just when the
seller thought he had a deal with a negotiated price, my father would
start going over the car as though he had just arrived asking me to look
at this or that and engaging me in conversation about the car. The
seller was never aware that he was watching a bit of vaudeville and, I
must say, my father could be quite imaginative and entertaining and all this with a straight face. When he
had exhausted his repertoire and felt that the seller had been properly
distracted, my father would come back to the 'split-the-difference'
price as though it were the original asking price and, once again, offer
to split the difference. Usually, the seller went for it, having forgotten how we started or in what manner we had arrived at this juncture, and we had a
deal. Likely, he just wanted to be done with the whole episode and get
us out of his life.
At this point, having successfully
negotiated out all the repair costs and having split the difference
twice, my father would turn to me for the finishing touch by asking me,
"Do you think 'Corky' will be okay with this?" One day I wasn't
particularly happy to be playing my part (probably because it was the
third car he had bought that day and we were off in Irvine or some other
equally distant locale), and I answered him by asking, "Who is 'Corky'?"
I am working with Judy Go Wong writing a one-woman show (The Matriarch) for her. Since we live in different time zones, our collaboration has been taking place on the Internet via Skype. Here, we are working on a little 'business' with props--in this case her bracelets--as she addresses her extended family via a video that will come as a very unpleasant shock to them. Her preoccupation with the jewelry is meant to convey her disdain for the family members that may be watching her missive.
How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits)
Click to buy on Amazon
Click to view on Amazon
Action/ReAction at Stella Adler
Stephen and Dragonuk
Stephen Mitchell webinar for Stage 32
A review from my new student Louella
(Click on photo)
Ferrari GTO 3987 at speed by Yan denes
Ray D. Shosay's Journal
Dispatches from a (junior) suite in Paris
Ray D. Shosay's Journal (excerpt)
"Saturday, January 27, 2007
They say you can fool some of the people all of the time. Accordingly, I think we should concentrate on this group initially. We can move on to the people you can only fool some of the time at a later date if we deem it necessary. I hope to hear back from my agent about this as soon as he's out of rehab, as I don't think my messages have been getting through."
Elysée Wednesday: Drive!, Episode 1
Ignorance is Bliss by Stephen Mitchell
Kindle or Paperback versions
Exerpt from Ignorance is Bliss
"Out of the corner of his eye, Martin saw Martha shift in her seat. She leaned forward, as though something was about to be decided. This caused her breasts to push up against the neckline of her dress in a way that couldn't be fully appreciated out of the corner of one’s eye. So, Martin turned his head to look directly into the abyss of her cleavage. He was vaguely aware that Murray was talking again."
Carrera Panamericana (1950-54)
Click on poster to buy the poster and DVD
Ferrari GTO 3987
Elysée Wednesday TV
Elysée Wednesday: Drive!
“You ought to meet Steve. The two of you have the same kind of Ferrari.”
Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso
One evening, I was enjoying a John le Carré novel and a glass of Bordeaux...
L'art de l'automobile
My first Lusso prior to restoration
It was only after Sinatra was gone...
Once upon a time...
Meeting Enzo Ferrari
I came across this on a late night stroll in Paris near the Louvre.
Simone Kussatz interviews Stephen Mitchell
(Click on photo)
(Interview) version française
Natasha Loizeau (Interview) version française
Stevie Williams (Interview)
David Gritten reviews (Interview)
At Cannes with Priscilla Lingenheim who taped a segment of (Interview) version française
Rebel, Rebel by Marc Sonnery
Ferrari 'Breadvan' trivia
Stephen interviews Marc Sonnery
Ferrari 250GTO by Stephen Mitchell
Ferraris on Mulholland
Ferrari GTOs at Willow Springs &...
Ferrari GTO in Paris
Kenny Lombino's 16M Scuderia
Stephen Mitchell talks with General Richard Wilmot (part 1)
In 1980, Stephen founded an entertainment industry think tank in the guise of a repertory company for film and
television labeled The New Hollywood Studio System. In 1985, Stephen pioneered a unique application of product integration in branded entertainment with his cable TV series (Interview). In 2006, Stephen authored a protocol for the management and marketing of business executives. He is currently producing a documentary on the Ferrari GTO, one of which he owned for several years.