I made my first film in France. I had originally gone to Paris to see the city and sample the life there and gauge the chances of getting my start in filmmaking. I wasn't expecting to stay beyond two weeks but when it came time to board the plane for my return to Los Angeles, I decided I wasn't going. Out of money but with plenty of confidence, I cashed in the round-trip portion of my airline ticket and set about acclimatizing myself to Paris. Within about two months, I was fluent enough in French to have business meetings without an interpreter.
I began meeting new friends, most of whom were actors or filmmakers, and began enjoying long dinners and stimulating discussions lasting until the small hours of the morning. Dinner took place at a different friend's apartment each night and I worked my own apartment into the rotation. It was a great way to assimilate into French life--albeit more bohemian than bourgeois--and to become immersed in a filmmaking culture.
One of my first endeavors was driving the new line-up of Citroëns for a film that a friend of mine was making at Citroën's private test track in the middle of a forest. We were there for several days, had enormous amounts of fun and got paid in the bargain! Amazingly, no Citroëns were damaged in the making of the film.
I was pleased to be able to meet Jean-Marie Lavalou and Alain Masseron, the two gentlemen who invented the Louma, the first remote-controlled camera crane. Roman Polanski had used it in Le Locataire (The Tenant) and the inventors demonstrated it to us in a Parisian courtyard where a group of filmmakers had gathered for the occasion.
I was also privileged to have met some French movie stars along the way. Lino Ventura, Françoise Fabian, Marcel Bozzuffi, André Dussollier, Philippe Léotard, Charles Gérard and Jean Mermet. The common denominator was that they all had worked with Claude Lelouch and were actors whose work I came to know before leaving Los Angeles for Paris. It was the equivalent of an aspiring French filmmaker coming to Hollywood and being invited to the homes of Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway and Clint Eastwood.
At one point, I wrote a screenplay creating roles for each of my friends who were actors and some who were not. It was not so much with the idea to 'make a film' as it was to have some creative fun with friends--very informal. I had loved Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run and conceived this film as a faux documentary about a painter who plies his trade on La Place du Tertre in Monmartre. After my first investor spent the money earmarked for the film on a Rolex watch (and other costly items) I found someone, or rather he found me, to fund the film. When I went to his office, I waited as he read the script. When he had finished it, he exclaimed "C'est terrible !" and left. His assistant shook my hand. "Looks like we're gong to make a film with you." But he said it's terrible," I countered. He laughed. "In French when we say it's terrible, it means it's good!"
So, Montmartre became my first film. We had fun and the film made people laugh. It was, obviously, shot in French so my first film was a French film and that made me very happy. All that remains of it today is the collection of clips that I salvaged which can be seen on YouTube. It was fun and irreverent and got laughs in all the right places except that a French policeman who was in charge of granting shooting permits didn't find it funny that I was depicting gypsies in Montmartre pick-pocketing the tourists. He effectively denied permission for us to shoot as punishment but using the famous French "Système D", the 'D' referring to se débrouiller and se démerder depending on your upbringing. We threw away his appended restrictions and proceeded unimpeded for the duration of the shoot in the best French tradition.
If I had it to do all over again, I would do it all over again. In fact...
How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits)
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Examples of Responsive Reactions
Click photo to see clips from Stephen's movies
Action/ReAction at Stella Adler
Point of Departure
A Series of ONE...
Stephen and Dragonuk
Stephen Mitchell webinar for Stage 32
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."
Ignorance is Bliss by Stephen Mitchell
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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)
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Ferrari GTO 3987
Elysée Wednesday: Drive!
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“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.
I bought Bentleys in England and Ferraris & Maseratis in Italy to re-sell in Los Angeles as a teenager. I met Enzo Ferrari, Juan Fangio and Steve McQueen. I 'grew up' on the set of Mission: Impossible and other episodic TV series of the era. For a few years, I owned a Ferrari GTO that is owned by Ralph Lauren today and valued at approximately $52M. I began my film career by writing, producing and directing Montmartre in Paris in French. I founded and ran a repertory company for film & TV for 20 years in Los Angeles. I created a TV series which had fans that included Marlon Brando. I authored the first new acting technique--Action/ReAction--that was not based on Stanislavski's Method. I am currently writing my third novel and shooting my spy thriller Exigence. If you can't make movies, live your life as though you were in one...