For years, I spent time enthralled in the Laemmle Theatres scattered
around Los Angeles watching one French film after another absorbing the
cinema culture of that country from its top filmmakers--Truffaut,
Godard, Resnais, Melville, Audiard, Becker, Costa-Gavras, Malle,
Tavernier, Beiniex, Bier, de Broca, Sautet, Chabrol, Leconte, Clouzot,
Lelouch and Veber among others.
When I finally decided it was now
or never with regard to beginning my own adventure in filmmaking, I
hopped a plane for Paris knowing full well that I was not seeking a
conventional film career and was eager to have the experiences that an
unorthodox approach would provide. I expected to stay in Paris for two
weeks. I stayed two years during which I made my first film Montmartre and some months later, The French Chef, a TV pilot starring French actor Philippe Léotard.
was my first and only choice for the project. He had charm, a warm
personality and a bemused countenance that made you smile. I had seen
him in Le chat et la souris (Cat and Mouse) directed by Claude Lelouch and in John Frankenheimer's French Connection II
and it was the image of Philippe in his scenes with Serge Reggiani in
the Lelouch film that first came to mind as I considered who I wanted
for the role. We put an offer to Philippe's agent and the next day he
If nothing else, filmmaking is an exercise in
problem solving and the first problem to be solved was the fact that
Philippe spoke no English. The pilot was destined for the nascent cable
TV market in America and subtitles were not an option; neither was
dubbing the voice of an English speaking actor. As a result, Philippe
learned his English text phonetically. This was made a bit more
difficult for him as I had already adopted the habit of writing dialogue
on the set or location while the crew was setting up the shot. So,
there was Philippe standing across the street from Le Tour d'Argent
restaurant with Notre Dame in the far background learning his speech
while Parisian traffic flew past as though departing the grid in a
Formula 1 race.
The second problem had an easier solution for us
if, perhaps, not for Philippe. I wouldn't ordinarily write about this
but it is a subject that Philippe himself confronted in his public
writings. Bob Swaim broached the subject in his DVD commentary for his
excellent film La Balance for which Philippe won the César Award for Best Actor, the French equivalent of an Oscar. Philippe liked to take a drink.
the first day progressed, it became evident that Philippe was
increasingly under the influence and this manifested in an unexpected
manner--he became friendlier and more charming as the day wore on. The
problem--for us anyway--was that we would not know where to find him
when a set-up was ready as he had wandered off to a café in search of
refreshment. I solved this by giving my partner's son the job of
following Philippe around and reporting to me which café he had gone
into so we would know where to fetch him when ready to shoot.
second day of shooting found us in a kitchen where Philippe would be
preparing a tantalizing recipe for our viewers. I had in mind an equally
tantalizing assistant for him and, with this in mind, I turned to Alain
Bernardin who was the proprietor of the Crazy Horse Saloon on the
Georges V to ask if I could borrow one of his Crazy Horse showgirls
to appear in the production as Philippe's assistant. I had just acquired
the US cable TV rights to the Crazy Horse show and Alain was pleased to
oblige. When I picked our showgirl up on the morning of her shoot, I
thought there had been some mistake. The girl who got into my car was
plain, dressed in a Pendleton shirt and jeans and was about as far from
being a Parisian showgirl as one could imagine. On the way to the
location, she talked of being a Jehovah's Witness and her plans to marry
her fiance--also a Jehovah's Witness along with his family--who was in
the States. I asked how being a showgirl at the Crazy Horse went down
with the family. "Not too well," was all she said.
to notice us when we arrived at the location--La Mère Catherine in
Montmartre--but thirty minutes later when she came out of the powder
room in full make up and hair not to mention a mind-stunning tube dress,
all work came to a halt and my choice of 'assistant' was validated.
As I made the rounds in Los Angeles upon returning to the States, The French Chef
was a great calling card. Everyone loved the show and thought it was
very entertaining but no one knew what to do with a
comedy/cooking/travelogue show hosted by a charming French movie star
and a girl from the Crazy Horse Saloon. Interestingly, the first meeting
I had was with Al Burton at Norman Lear's company. He wanted to know
how I had gotten the rights to the Crazy Horse when he had been
negotiating with Bernardin for them for months (!!).
forget Philippe. In spite of whatever problems he was facing personally,
he made the production of The French Chef an entirely pleasurable experience and was a
complete gentleman to us all.
How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits)
Click to buy on Amazon
Click to view on Amazon
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
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: Drive!
Click photo to watch on Amazon Direct Video
“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...