The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, April 14, 2019

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, April 14, 2019

With the curtain falling on another edition of Ebertfest, we asked Oscar-winning filmmakers and others in the entertainment business to tell us about how they do what they do.

How to act when the investigation that won you a Pulitzer Prize is then made into a movie that takes Best Picture honors at the Academy Awards

Says BEN BRADLEE JR., the Boston Globe editor who supervised the paper's probe into sexual abuse by priests (2015's 'Spotlight'): "We're taught in this business never to use the first-person pronoun 'I.' That was a challenge when they were making this movie because all of a sudden, it did seem to be about us.

"The back story: We broke the story in 2002 and it took off like nothing we've ever seen before. Five years after we won the Pulitzer, we got a knock on the door from two young women, relatively inexperienced Hollywood producers. They said they wanted to make a movie about how we approached the story. We didn't really take them seriously — we wondered, given the seriousness of the subject, who would be interested in such a movie anyway?

"They went away and we didn't hear from them again for four or five years. They were getting doors slammed on them in Hollywood right and left.

"Then, all of a sudden in early 2014, the financing came together from the studios and they found a very good screenwriter and director and an A-list cast. We were a little wary still because you don't know what treatment Hollywood is going to give a story once you give them the rights.

"In the end, we were all really pleased with how it came out. It gave the journalism business a shot in the arm at a time when we were all kind of hurting.

"The actors all spent a lot of time with us individually. My guy, John Slattery, and I had a lot of meals together and a few drinks. We hit it off.

"The first time we really got a feel for the film was at the Toronto Film Festival, where it was shown for the first time — in a theater with over 2,000 people. We were really nervous how the crowd would react.

"The most memorable part came at the end, when you see the list of all the cities where the scandal spread in this country and around the world. There were gasps from the crowd; many were learning about it for the first time. It showed me that film really percolates through culture in a way that a news story does not.

"The film led many other victims of sexual abuse to come out and tell their story, which was great and gratifying and underscored the importance of investigative reporting in a democracy, especially at a time when newspapers are getting killed on the Internet."

How to make your sports movie appear as if the actors are actually star athletes

Says JAMES GARTNER, who directed "Glory Road," the story of Texas Western's color barrier-breaking NCAA champion 1966 basketball team: "It's simple, really. You get a cast who can play ball.

"Next, a great sports advisor/choreographer who works out legitimate and honest plays. Then, multiple cameras — seems we had eight during the later games.

"Finally, an aggressive editorial execution. For example, you will notice a huge difference between the first game early in the movie, and the championship game at the end."

How to know when you have the makings of a buzz-worthy documentary

Says BETSY WEST, who directed 2018's 'RBG,' about the Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "You know you've got the makings if it's a story about a person or persons who truly matter, and if you can get access to their world in a way that has never before been seen.

"Another requirement: find a story you can happily live with for the years it will probably take you to make the film."

Oscar-winning Ebertfest 21 special guest MORGAN NEVILLE ('Won't You Be My Neighbor?') says: "Remember that documentaries are still movies; they're driven by character and story first, and movies are fundamentally an emotional form of storytelling.

"Don't be afraid to show the emotion. That's where the gold is."

How to choose the perfect lead actor for your movie

UI Class of '80 grad and three-time Oscar-winning director ANG LEE says: "Simply put, it's a feeling that you can see the movie in that person. Usually, it's the better-looking version of yourself."

How to make audiences roar with laughter

'Freaks and Geeks' creator and 'Bridesmaids' director PAUL FEIG says: "When you get to production, shoot several alternate jokes in addition to the ones you have in the script.

"Let your actors have the freedom to play with your words, be hard on your work in the editing room and test-screen your movie in front of people who don't know you.

"Record the test audience's reactions on tape, go into the editing room, listen to it and replace the jokes that didn't get a good laugh with new jokes. Don't blame things that didn't work on the test audience 'not getting it.' It's better to have no joke than a joke that underwhelms because if you have enough of those, the audience will turn on you and hate your movie because they'll think you don't know what's funny.

"Repeat the screening process until all the jokes seem to work with most of the audience. Then, get your movie released and pray that anybody shows up."

Says actor/director ALBERT BROOKS ("Broadcast News," "Defending Your Life"): "There are no guarantees in comedy, that's what makes it interesting. The biggest laughs come from truth, so go for that.

"Once you have an audience believing and relating to a scene, you will find that sometimes the most trivial moment can get you your biggest laugh. Be truthful."

How to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar before your 25th birthday

JOHN SINGLETON, who in 1992 became the youngest director and first African-American nominee ('Boyz N the Hood') says: "My advice would be to write as many of your own films as possible to attempt to be an auteur filmmaker and project a singular vision in your work."

How to film a pulsating chase scene

Oscar-winning action film director GEORGE MILLER, of 'Mad Max' fame, says: "I think of cinema, and action scenes in particular, as visual music.

"It's not about each 'note' or 'chord progression', but how all the elements flow together in a persuasive whole."

How to write a script that gets a studio's attention

STEVE ZAILLIAN, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 'Schindler's List,' says: "For me, it's all about character — how if you have good characters, you can put them in almost any kind of story.

"I don't usually write about what I know. More often, it's what I don't know but have some interest in, and I learn about it in the course of the research and writing.

"As for attention grabbing, and this is just me, I shy away from voice-over. I use it on occasion, but find that it's often misused as unnecessary preamble. I can't tell you how many times I've seen voice-over covering the first five pages of someone's script, the effect of which, to me at least, is usually the opposite of attention-grabbing."

Topics (2):Film, People