Sunday, 31 October 2010

Elliot Goldenthal working with Michael Mann on Public Enemies

Michael Mann appears to makes his music composers work as hard as his actors in getting the exact nuance he is looking for from his scenes. Elliot Goldenthal who scored Public Enemies also worked with Michael Mann on 'Heat', so he knows what he is involved in. The final result is of the highest quality, though to some doesn't match the impact of previous scores. For Mann, music has always been of equal importance to every other element in a film, and not there just as lip gloss. Music in a Mann film is often a loaded emotional message sent straight into our being that often resonates so strongly that we may even have a sense of what the character is truly feeling at that moment.

Here is a Wall Street interview with Elliot Goldenthal on working with Michael Mann on the Public Enemies score. A snippet is below, and you can click here to go to the article.

You’ve worked with Michael Mann on “Heat” and now on “Public Enemies.” I sense music is important to his films. True? How is he to work with?
He doesn’t like too many twists and turns in the music’s structure. He really responds to things that evolve very, very slowly. He wants music that the images, the edits, the dialogue can float above without it corresponding too much. With Michael, you have to be prepared to make a lot of changes. He changes his mind. He watches the movie everyday in total and makes adjustments so you have to know the job is making adjustments along the way as well.
What’s your reaction to your music when you go to a movie theater and see a film you’ve scored?
It never feels finished. That’s the thing. My personal view of my work is that everything feels abandoned.
Click here for full interview

One of the more moving pieces on the Public Enemies soundtrack is JD Dies (in the clip below).

Overall, I don't think Goldenthal defines Public Enemies in the way that say Moby or Lisa Gerrard have in the Mann movies they have been involved in. I find it surprising that Mann hasn't been tempted to do a collaboration with Hans Zimmer. Who would like to see that happen?!

Compare JD Dies with Chevaliers de Sangreal, which is taylored for Cathedral like grandeur. Breathtaking scoring. Hans Zimmer is a musical genius.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Miami Vice Location Shooting

Miami Vice Gun Training

On the theme of gun training, here are some more video clips, with former SAS weapons specialist Mick Gould on Miami Vice.

Collateral Tom Cruise Training

One of the most impressive aspects of Collateral was Tom Cruise's utter realism in his use of a firearm. He didn't look good. He looked exceptional.

Behind the scenes of the shooting scene in Heat

Michael Mann Video Interview: From LA Takedown to Heat

Here is a bit of must see Michael Mann interview treasure. This has to be one of the best video interviews available with Michael Mann as he clearly presents his methodology of shooting films and explains the progression from 'LA Takedown' to 'Heat'. Amazingly, in this interview that must be at least 10 years old (his hair is still brown!) he admits he finds it hard to find a movie he wants to shoot and wishes he could shoot more. He said exactly the same thing in the recent Financial Times interview I posted below. It's a fascinating insight into how Mann's mind works. Note what he says about the role of architecture. Great stuff.

Dion Beebe on shooting Michael Mann's Collateral in HD

Here is an excellent article I came across detailing DP Dion Beebe's (Miami Vice, Collateral) approach to shooting Collateral. I made the mistake of thinking Miami Vice was a poor visual outing for Dion when I first saw it. But many viewings later, I don't know what I was thinking. Miami Vice is stunning and in some instances, genius. At some point I will post my top cinematographic moments... but there are many.

You can get the full article by clicking here, and read a snippet below:

On an HD shoot, Beebe quickly learned, the devil’s in the details — like the sudden appearance of filter dials on your camera. "With a film camera, you load the film and you go, and you know that if you’re running six cameras, you’ve got a standardized system in place so you’re getting the same results," he explains. "But if you’re running four HD cameras, you’d better step through each, making sure that the gain setting is the same, that the matrix settings are all the same— that there aren’t color shifts within them. You need to switch between them on the HD monitors and make sure they’re all matching up. There’s none of this just-pick-it-up-and-roll unless you’ve pre-set everything beforehand. It’s all very doable, but there’s a whole new set of things you’ve got to factor in."
Beebe acknowledges that Collateral has spurred "a lot of discussion" about the continued viability and relevance of the film medium, concerns that he dismisses as largely irrelevant to the job at hand, which is storytelling. In the end, he says, both film and HD formats are just tools used in service of a narrative. The trick is to get out of the way of technology, rather than stay in thrall to it. "There can be information overload when you step into the digital domain and the HD world, in terms of compression and bits and storage— these elements that, in the end, have nothing to do with what you’re trying to do in telling the story," he says. "My feeling is that technology will take care of itself. You will have the expertise around you to solve the technical challenges you’re going to meet. I’ve always felt happy to just step over the technology and find a way of creating the image."

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Michael Mann talks about 'Luck' and future projects

On our feedback page Hosea kindly left a link to a brilliant bang up to date interview with Michael Mann courtesy of the Financial Times. They prefer not to have their articles copied, so you will find the link here and below. But I will take a snippet which shows his remarkable interest in the 15th-century battle of Agincourt between England and France. The article also covers Mann's interest in a Robert Capa biopic as well as a Chicago mafia story featuring Tony Accardo. Also covered is his exciting current TV project, 'Luck'.

In terms of character study, which I think Mann is exceptional at, I would hope he goes down the Robert Capa route. As I commented to Hosea on the site feedback page, I think Michael Mann has a personal homage he may want to pay to this historic photographer. Capa set up the world renowned Magnum group with Henri Cartier-Bresson. With a documentary history, Mann will have a deep connection with Magnum photographers. Indeed, I see in Mann's visuals stylistic nods to Cartier-Bresson, not only in the intuitive use of lines and composition, but also that characteristic over the shoulder intimacy in portraits. Of course, I may be wrong, but in my own creative photography, Cartier-Bresson's work has been an incredible education. 'The Decisive Moment' defined what Bresson stood for and in a sense, I feel Mann similarly looks for these moments of "truth" in his actors and the final film. It is those moments that make Mann's films so rich. Robert Capa had a similar ability to capture decisive moments. So visually and in character, Mann could have a fascinating journey with the Robert Capa screenplay. Mann must be eager, because the Capa biography the screenplay will be based on is not even due to be published until summer 2011.

Click here to go to the article.
A snippet is below:

Michael Mann’s project with HBO
By Matthew Garrahan
Published: October 22 2010 23:03 | Last updated: October 22 2010 23:03 
...Mann also has his eye on an epic tale set in medieval Europe, about the build-up to the 15th-century battle of Agincourt between England and France. The inspiration for the film came in Paris when Mann went to visit La Sainte-Chapelle, a gothic chapel, on the advice of his friend Richard Rogers, the architect. 
“We went to see it and it blew me away. From that, it becomes: ‘Can I locate myself, an audience, in a medieval perspective?’”

Saturday, 23 October 2010

AT&T Michael Mann Blackberry advert

Michael Mann directed AT&T and Blackberry advert
Being behind in the UK, I came to this late. I remember watching the TV adverts only a week or so ago and doing something else, only to be suddenly arrested to the screen in what was a very Mannesque run of complex night visuals and high tech drama. It was the new AT&T Blackberry advert. I said to myself, "looks a rip off from Mann's visual repertoire, and his 'Lucky Mercedes' advert." Little did I know that it WAS a Michael Mann directed advert - how did I not know that was coming? Anyway, here is a little info I have pulled together about it, if you are interested. I am amazed that adverts can attract the level of talent they seem to be these days, but glad they do.

Here is the advert:

Levi Meeuwenberg, a leading 'free runner' was in the advert. He says the following at SkyNative, his own freerunner social site:
I recently appeared in a commercial for ATT's Blackberry Bold 9700. It was shot and directed by Michael Mann here in Los Angeles. I'm the guy with the blackberry being chased. Originally they wanted the guy to do some parkour moves but I only got to do one really basic move (tictac 270-cat), and they cut it out anyways. Hah. Comment if you see it on TV!

The following is taken from
BBDO, AT&T and BlackBerry have just released a new interactive advertisement directed by Michael Mann (Public Enemies, Heat, The Insider) that ties a broadcast TV spot (a 24-style action-thriller) with a your Facebook account information to insert you into the story. The television broadcast version of the advertisement is a bit shorter, and keeps the identity of the central character a mystery. In the online version, your photo, key information, and even your friends are inserted into the action.
Also of note, Roberto Schaefer (Quantum of Solace, The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction) was the director of photography on the spot, which was edited by the two-time Academy Award-nominated Saar Klein (Almost Famous, The Bourne Identity, The Thin Red Line).
Go to to watch/be in the spot now.

The Keep - Michael Mann 1983

The Keep Part 1

The Keep Part 2

The Keep Part 3

The Keep Part 4

The Keep Part 5

The Keep Part 6

The Keep Part 7

The Keep Part 8

The Keep Part 9

The Keep Part 10

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Michael Mann likes fishing

Here is a clue to what Michael Mann perhaps likes to do when not working relentlessly. Fishing. This is an anecdote of someone who took Mann fishing back in the eighties. I know... tabloid, but what the heck. It is interesting to build a profile on a man who spends his life examining the profiles of others.

On a hot day, Michael Mann and Jim Belushi fish with Jim’s son Robert.
Well, Trevor's been a friend of mine for about twenty-five or thirty years, and he's always said, "Buddy, your fishing abilities are great, so let's just put some celebrities on your boat and bring a film crew down." So I did. I brought [Jim] Belushi out the first trip.
Were these folks who were already chartering with you?
Yes, quite a few of them. Belushi first went out with me, jeez, mid-eighties. I had Jim Belushi and [movie producer, writer, and director] Michael Mann out with me, and they caught a lot of fish. It was a really hot day and even on the water it was probably high eighties, low nineties, no wind whatsoever, and my wife has pictures of Jim Belushi and Michael Mann fishing in their underwear. I threatened to put that in the Enquirer. [Laughing.] They said, "If you do, we're going to sue you."
I take out the [production] VP of Warner Brothers, Bruce Berman. Between Bruce Berman and Michael Mann, a lot of people from Hollywood come here in the summer and they broadcast me as: "If you go to the Vineyard, you gotta go fishing with Buddy."
If you want to read more about celebrity fishing click here

Alternative Music Ending to Michael Mann's Heat

The iconic end scene of Heat

I am so glad I found this wonderful insight into the ending of Heat, which is one of my top cinematic moments. For me, Moby's "God Moving Across the Face of the Water" has become almost a life anthem. The end scene of Heat is iconic to me. It resonates with something deep inside of me, something even now I find hard to understand. But this write up of the music development of this scene is short but fascinating. Be sure to follow the link to the source of this, because you can actually play a stream of "End Titles" by Elliot Goldenthal, which is just superb and sadly commercially unavailable.

The precisely hodge-podged sources for Michael Mann's musical cues—sometimes original compositions, sometimes culled from pre-existing pop, rock, industrial, and/or electronic groups—are as diverse as the dusty Los Angeles turfs he agilely vignettes in his consummate epic crime male-odrama Heat.
Film scorer Elliot Goldenthal's original cue for the end titles (performed by the Kronos Quartet) was ultimately replaced by a Moby track—the Reich-like "God Moving Across the Face of the Water" which appeared on "Everything is Wrong" that same year.  While both selections capture the enveloping electricity of an adrenaline rush effervescing into the blinking lights of a warm L.A. night, the Goldenthal better emphasizes a potential lack of resolution, thus providing an appropriate emotional bookend to that composer's hauntingly spare and ambivalent opening track.  The Moby, in a new version specific to the film, features an additional bridge that seems rather to triumphantly celebrate the story's fulfillment.

To read more and play the wonderful streamed music click here

To read a host of brilliant writing about the work of Michael Mann click here!

Michael Mann's Public Enemies: Perspective from someone on set

The set of Public Enemies. Photo by Rob Olewinski.

By Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

I spent a few days in the summer of 2008 on the set of Michael Mann's Public Enemies, which was shooting at the time in Chicago. It was a night shoot—the death of John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) in front of the Biograph Theater. These observations and ruminations, which will be posted in three parts, were written at the time. Portions of these notes have since been used in other pieces, including a few posted here at The Auteurs' Notebook.  Dispatches Part 2 can be found here, and Part 3 can be found here.
I've seen John Dillinger shot many times. Once, it was Warren Oates who got gunned down. I've seen it happen to Lawrence Tierney, too, and then there was a soft-focus re-enactment in a television documentary, an anonymous actor in front of an anonymous movie theater. But how many times have I seen Johnny Depp get shot now? Each time, it's more or less the same (but of course, every take is subtly distinct, which is why we have multiple takes). The artificial streetcorner with the alley. He walks along the sidewalk, dressed in a summer shirt and straw hat. The streetlight falls on his back, a crease in the shirt formed a shadowy valley. I imagine it as an image—the shirt as a landscape—and I think: "I want to wear my shirts that way, a little untucked." Depp doesn’t look like Dillinger, but it doesn’t matter. That rakish face looks like how Dillinger should feel. Dashing, like a vagabond—the way we want Our Dillinger (there’s that Chicago logic, that funny way we cling to our monsters: they might not be good people, but they’re our people). A man comes up from behind and clicks the prop gun. Again and again. Depp falls forward, and the camera, handheld, follows the movement of his body, plunging as he crumbles.
The film is being photographed in HD, but this shot, in slow motion, is being filmed on an unblimped 35mm camera. It's got a furious, high-pitched clicking. On the video assist monitor, we can see the angle: the cameramana following Depp from behind. While they repeat and repeat and repeat the shot, technicians light the next scene, which will be in front of the Biograph Theater itself. The marquee has been redecorated so that it looks like it did when Dillinger was shot there. They're working diligently, separated from the current set-up by a throng of extras who stand silently, arms folded, watching Depp die, hopeful to glean some bit of "genius" to further their acting careers. A large camera sits on a dolly, covered by a transparent plastic sheet like a couch in a furniture showroom.
And of course, I’m thinking: "In life as in the dictionary, ideas come before images." Here I know the image, but I don’t know the idea. It becomes the great game of film-viewing, watching through the video assist a rough estimate of an image that hasn’t been made yet. An image that might not even make it into the movie. The thing about cinephiles is that, when you take us out of the cinema, we get hungry. We latch on to everything that might resemble a movie. The onlookers have their Depp, I have my little screen.
Some directors sit in a folding chair in headphones, watching the video assist. Some talk through their assistants. Michael Mann directs standing up. During every take, his attention darts from the monitor (there is only one and only one camera; two more monitors are set up with the little tent to shelter them from rain, but they're blank) to the action going on twenty feet in front on him and back. A director is responsible both for something real and something filmed. A director is two people at once—a director, supervising some real event, and a filmmaker, shaping some future image.
Mann paces. After every few takes (and of this shot, there'll be dozens) he darts over to the actors. He takes Depp aside, standing close to him, talking over actions and movements which the actor occasionally mimes out. On this hushed street, you can hear just about anyone’s voice, but not Mann's. He talks quietly. Or, maybe, he talks just as loudly as he needs to.

Over the years, Mann's approach has changed. At the beginning of his career, he seemed like a contemporary of Jean-Jacques Beineix. He was the Beineix who wasn't a misanthrope. Now he's the only obvious contemporary to Claire Denis and Johnnie To. His career is the story of a director who began with "the look" and discovered the image. From the "cinematic" to cinema. The Mann of Thief through Manhunter, like Beineix, seemed to care about the appearance of the image more than the image itself. They're good movies, but making good movies isn't enough. It was about staging things for the camera more than capturing an image. Closer to a photogram than a photograph. I remember a scene from The Keep like I do a scene from Beineix' The Moon in the Gutter: I remember the color, the lighting, but not whether the images were close-ups or wide shots, whether the camera moved, whether it was one shot or several. Even The Last of Mohicans seems to have been made by someone thinking: "What if we made a movie that looked this way?"

He's always worked on location. Back then, he'd start with something at least partly real and make it feel completely artificial, completely plastic. I recognize Lake Michigan in Thief, but only the way you recognize a triangle or a square. What I see first is a color and a line. Images that sort of scuttle themselves, marooning the viewer. (It's possible to also think of a roster of ferrymen, directors who use the film to row the audience out to a certain place and then bring them back in time for the end credits: Shirley Clarke, Eric Rohmer, Yueh Feng, Charles Burnett, David Mackenzie, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Aleksandr Sokurov. These directors should not be confused with kidnappers like Santiago Alvarez or gallery guides like Peter Greenaway.) But something happened around Heat. Aesthetics gave way to ethics, imagery to images.

The first shot of Thief and that final tableau from Heat are obviously directed by the same man—or at least by the same tastes—but the ideas aren't the same. It's the difference between letting your tastes find something and having a feeling inside you that you use your tastes to express. The first shot of Thief and the last shot of Heat: rumbling electronic music, night time, lights forming a V shape that disappears on the horizon. In Thief, it's a man getting into a car and driving away. In Heat, it's two men perfectly still. Funny how it's only in a moving image that we can really capture stillness. In neither image are the figures "acting" in the traditional sense. James Caan just gets into a car. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino pose; they look like statues (but then I think: "Statues also die."). Similar images, but not the same. Like that conversation De Niro and Pacino have in their only other scene together in the film, the final shot of Heat is Utopian. Two people expressing themselves completely and shamelessly. I think it's that ideal that Mann has aspired to since: to let go of preferences, of standards in framing, editing, composition and to express whatever he might be thinking or feeling through the image. Instead of simply telling their stories, he will become one with the characters he admires.

Watching the death scene in Public Enemies, repeated over and over, I realize that there are really two key performers here: Depp and the cameraman. Two well-rehearsed actors. Since Collateral, Mann has been treating the camera more and more like something that can perform. No one else has shots so actorly, expressing in grand gestures but also small nuances. I think of the way the camera pulls back as Jamie Foxx scrambles out of his taxi, and how Foxx's terror is nothing without the camera's movement.

Read this article here
Read Part 2 here
Read Part 3 here

Michael Mann's The Insider script

If you want to study Michael Mann's script for The Insider (educational purposes), then you can find it by clicking here.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

DSLRs being used on Michael Mann's "Luck"

David Presley with a Canon 1D Mark IV for use on "Luck"
Seems Michael Mann continues to innovate in the digital realm, working with David Presley, Mann's main video technician, on the exciting forthcoming TV series "Luck". And I thought Mann was a Nikon fan.

By: Jared Abrams
I got the chance to hang out with David Presley this weekend during some tests of the new Canon 1D Mark IV for an upcoming pilot for HBO called “LUCK”. David is Michael Mann’s main guy in the video department. He was doing some tests of the rolling shutter on the 1D. We set up some duvetyne above this white on white ceiling fan to get some strobing at fast shutter speeds. The HBO pilot is based on horse racing and David wanted to try to use DSLR’s because of their size and image quality. I set him up with Birns and Sawyer who had the only 1D in town.

William Petersen Interview for Michael Mann's 1986 Manhunter

This footage of an interview with William Petersen really does go back in time, all the way back to 1986 when Manhunter was released. Manhunter is a powerful film and has Mann's visual stamp all over it. If you have never seen it, check it out. The interview is quite insightful and worth the time to invest in watching it to know some of the deeper processes behind its making.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Michael Mann back in the TV Saddle

Some more information and interviews are coming to light for the forthcoming "Luck" TV series directed by Michael Mann. With it are revelations on future projects, which interestingly seems to point to a future set sci-fi genre movie! We will have to wait and see on that little number. In the meantime, enjoy the introduction to this recent interview with Mann on the first screening of "Luck". If first impressions are anything to go by, everybody on the project seems very, very excited with it. My prediction: This is going to be a Mann heaven return to TV glory. I can't wait. And I don't even like horse racing.

Michael Mann and Nick Nolte
Dustin Hoffman (left) talks to Michael Mann

With his arms folded, and showing just the slightest of smiles, Michael Mann stood in his office on a recent afternoon and watched the opening title sequence to the first episode of "Luck," the HBO series that will air next year and give Mann his first television directing credit in 22 years. On the screen, a montage showed racehorses, gamblers, mob men and money as the Massive Attack song "Splitting the Atom" pulsed along with its languid whispers of desire.

For the full article click here