#3 Frank Darabont – The Mist

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” – H.P. Lovecraft

If you ask me, this the not the director’s well-known comfort zone. But boy I was hooked to my TV screen as I was experiencing this horror. I am a firm believer that one must only watch such films in theaters. So I am hoping that some or the other film festival comes to the town with this movie on the schedule. I wouldn’t dare to miss it.

So just like the director coming out of his niche, let me do the same. Let’s make this post completely out of trivia. Anyway I would not want to spoil the film for you. Just one spoiler – there are actually some disturbing creatures in the film.


1. In the film’s opening scene, the picture David is painting is of Roland the Gunslinger from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.

2. The books in the grocery store’s book rack are all Stephen King novels.

3. It was shot in mere 37 days

4. William Sadler played David Drayton in an audio version of the story.

5. Frank Darabont had originally been offered $30 million by a producer to make this film, but with one crippling caveat: Darabont would have to change his planned ending, a conclusion he’d personally envisioned and nursed for twenty years. In the end, he turned to producer Bob Weinstein and made the movie for half the amount, but only after forfeiting his directorial salary.

6. Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Melissa McBride went on to appear in the Frank Darabont The Walking Dead (2010), another post-apocalyptic survival adventure.

7. The first film Frank Darabont has made that is set in “the present,” barring the “framing story” in The Green Mile (1999).

8. Director Frank Darabont wanted to cast Stephen King in a supporting role, but King turned his offer down. The role eventually went to Brian Libby.

9. Darabont had been interested in adapting The Mist for the big screen since the 1980s.

10. Director Darabont chose to film The Mist after filming the “straighter dramas” The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile because he “wanted to make a very direct, muscular kind of film.”


After watching the film I cannot fail to admire the title of the film and also the byline – Fear changes everything.

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#2 Frank Darabont – The Green Mile

We each owe a death – there are no exceptions – but, oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long. – Paul Edgecomb

The film is ranked 43rd in the IMDb top 250 list.

You can simply admire the similarities between The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption or you appreciate how contrasting the two films are. The choice is really yours. But these first two films sure did create a niche for writer-director Frank Darabont.

Just like The Shawshank Redemption, the film is an adaptation of a story by Stephen King. This time King was eager to work with Frank Darabont. So was Tom Hanks. Shawshank did open new possibilities for him. Yet again a prison based story with characters even more interesting than his previous film. Especially the sub plots. Every character, no matter how little screen time it has is exceptional. Frank gives full credit to the actors.

Speaking of performances, the film brought Michael Clarke Duncan in front of the world as a compelling actor. The journey for the big man wasn’t so easy. He worked as a bodyguard for celebrities like Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, and The Notorious B.I.G. Bruce Willis, after Armageddon suggested his name for the role. Michael had to train under acting coach Larry Moss. He was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.


 

In actuality, Michael Clarke Duncan is of a similar height as his co-star David Morse and is a couple of inches shorter than James Cromwell. Among other things, creative camera angles were used to create the illusion that Duncan as John Coffey towered over the prison staff, even Brutal Howell and Warden Moores.


 

The film explores all the subplots so well that even the three hour long film seems fast and interesting. There are limited characters but every character has an important role to play.

There is no clear antagonist in the film. Every character is peculiar. We don’t know what are the crimes committed by Eduard Delacroix or Arlen Bitterbuck. It is just that some of them are sorry for what they are.


Doug Hutchison (Percy) was given, according to the director, the squeakiest shoes he’d ever heard. He thought this was the greatest bit of fate, and a “perfectly wonderful, annoying character trait” that he kept it in the movie, and you can hear sometimes how loud his shoes are.


 

The execution of Eduard Delacroix in the film is described in a even more brutal way in the original work. I think it is the strongest scene in the film. The director describes it as ‘a necessary compromise to suit the audience’. If this was the compromise, the original work if I ever be brave enough to read it is going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

The film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and received none. The accolades were in a different league altogether.

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 and a half stars out of four, writing “The film is a shade over three hours long. I appreciated the extra time, which allows us to feel the passage of prison months and years.” Forbes commentator Dawn Mendez referred to the character of John Coffey as a “‘magic Negro‘ figure.” Stephen King considers the film as the most faithful adaptation of his work. The worth of these achievements is greener anything else.

 

#1 Frank Darabont – The Shawshank Redemption

“It is mine to screw up now” – Quentin Tarantino

I think I can build a post out of some beautiful lines from the film itself. And I think I should. It would be a crime if I don’t.

Andy Dufresne: If they ever try to trace any of those accounts, they’re gonna end up chasing a figment of my imagination.

Red: Well, I’ll be damned. Did I say you were good? Shit, you’re a Rembrandt!

Andy Dufresne: Yeah. The funny thing is – on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.


To begin with, this is Frank Darabont‘s first film. The film is an adaptation of a Stephen King story named Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The film is written and directed by Frank himself. I feel these details are important to mention because I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for a new director to get the rights of a renowned author.

Stephen King sold the film rights for his novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, for $5,000. He never cashed the check. Years after Shawshank came out, the author got the check framed and mailed it back to the director Frank Darabont with a note inscribed: “In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve.”

It took Frank Darabont 5 years to complete the script. And the journey was not a smooth one at all. Just like the film itself, that’s all it takes, pressure and time.

Every man has his breaking point: The film, if you look at it closely, is full of narration. A person from the school of thought that preaches cinema being a visual medium would regard this film as a disgrace to the medium. And as we look it it right now, nearly 20 years from its release we can say that Morgan Freeman‘s narration is the factor that drives the film forward. It helps us connect with the characters to a deeper level. As my cinema teacher once said, in cinema, there are no absolutes. There is no right and wrong. It is all relative. The maker had his breaking point. He was skeptical about keeping the narration throughout. He had doubts if the audience would appreciate it or not. He explains in an interview that Martin Scorsese came to his rescue. Not in person but through cinema. Frank watched Goodfellas and realised that the film is all narration. If he could then it shouldn’t be all wrong.

I was in the path of the tornado: (well almost) The location where the film was shot “had a date with the wrecking ball,” as the director himself explains. He believes that there is no other place in the world where the film was possible otherwise.

Get busy living or get busy dying: A friend of mine said that the film is all about boredom. I respectfully (?) disagree. The film is not about boredom. Look from any character’s point of view. Although the treatment seems to suck every ounce of happiness out of your body, the film in all sense is about hope. How can anyone misinterpret the basic message of the film that Hope is a good thing. And no good thing ever dies.

Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt were all offered the role but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with Waterworld, Forrest Gump and Interview with the vampire respectively. Kevin Costner would later regret that decision.


 

Honorary mentions to some of the smart lines in the film:

Morgan Freeman calls Tim Robbins‘ plan of having a hotel in Mexico “shitty pipe dreams.” Well he means it literally without realizing it. Foreshadowing!

The salvation lay within.  At least the tools of salvation did.

“I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free” – Red (Morgan Freeman) The music player scene was added by the director and it does not exist in the original story by King.


The film did not get a warm reception worldwide on its release. The feeling of being in a prison for the entire movie may not attract a lot of positive vibes. And it is not an action movie, not in the slightest possible way. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1994. It didn’t win even a single one. But it brought it again in the spotlight. The film’s initial gross of $18 million didn’t even cover the cost of its production. It did another $10 million in the wake of its Oscar nominations but the film was still deemed to be a box office flop.

Yet, Warner Bros. shipped 320,000 rental video copies throughout the United States, and it became one of the top rented films of 1995 and currently it holds the 1st position in the IMDB top 250 list. Some redemption at last!

#3 Within 40 Hours (2012)

This was the first documentary I was involved in. And it was based on the students of Kamla High School in Mumbai.

1. Pre-production: It is important to invest a good amount of time in pre-production. But that does not mean we can spend 90% of the time on deciding what to do. In our case, the school that we worked for was supportive by all means. We could shoot wherever we want, we could go in a class in the middle of a lecture and interact with the students very easily. So we were sure at least there are no hindrances from the organisation. We could focus on the creative aspects. We chose the right organisation.

2. Best time to shoot: In photography it is known as the Golden Hour. Luckily enough for us, to match the timings of our college and the school, we had to shoot either early in the morning or just before sunset anyway. And in the month of February, the climate was just beautiful for a shoot. I’ve taken some of the prettiest shots out of sheer co-incidence just because the time was right.

3. Some people are camera conscious: Some kids are natural in front of a camera. Some are not. And that applies not only to kids but to everyone. As this was a documentary we could get away with the hesitation as it acted as a character trait to the person. Also, the subject was psychology so we actually used this to convey our point more convincingly.

4. You don’t need to get it right in the first take: We were interviewing ourselves. We were making a presentation where we were telling the audience about our experiences and what we learnt during these 40 hours of work we did at the NGO. So we had the liberty to note down the points so that two people don’t repeat the same ones. And we did so. That worked so well while editing the film. But on the other hand, it made everyone very conscious while they were talking. The best way to deal with this was to cut the shot a line before they fumbled and then ask them to start again just before the line they said incorrectly. I added a movement in the middle so that I could get a cutting point. And it did not appear as a mistake while everyone watched it.

5. The above only works when the subject is ready to coordinate: As we interviewed the professors, we were running short on time. We had to do it in one go. So we had to settle for a simple cross fade to cover up.

6. Double tap: We were using Lapel Mics for recording the interviews. It is important to check that there is no necklace or any element for that matter which is constantly banging on the condenser.

7. Shoot a lot of inserts/ cut-aways.

8. Cinemascope (2.35:1 ratio) adds a really professional look to your film.

9. Music can make or break your film

10. The film was awarded as the best project and it marked the end of our first year in BMM. It left me on a high and inspired my next Documentary, Pardes. More about it soon!