Ladd Ehlinger Jr. produced and directed the 2007 animated cult film Flatland. The first feature to be completely CGI animated by one person in Lightwave 3D, it received rave reviews. Phil Hall of Film Threat stated that "Flatland is a work of genius, and animation has a new force of power in Ehlinger," and Paul Di Filippo of Scifi.com called it a "glorious mathematical mystery tour."
When Green Cine picked up Flatland for inclusion in our library, we thought it would be cool for Ladd to write a series of articles providing a filmmaker's perspective to the world of independent and classic film. Here Ladd ponders an underrated film about filmmaking.
The Superstitious Stunt Man
I’ve been working on a television pilot that involves 3D cartoon characters interacting with live action. It’s been a while since I shot with real people as opposed to computer animated creatures.
So on the first day I felt compelled to initiate two new superstitions for myself. I've always found such rituals amusing (as long as they don’t take up a lot of time or effort).
First, I wanted to find a way to fool the evil god Murphy. I picked a piece of equipment that wasn’t necessary – in this case, a cheap pair of headphones - and stuck them under the sound man’s foot when he wasn’t looking.
I think it worked – nothing of consequence broke for the entire shoot. All of the cameras, lights, sound equipment, and so forth made it through without a scratch. Was this due to some supernatural force? Probably not. Most likely the ritual focused the entire group mentality on equipment well-being, just enough to get through without mishap.
The second superstition? A good soundtrack to listen to while driving back and forth to the set.
It only seemed natural to select the best soundtrack from the best movie on filmmaking ever made: The Stunt Man, directed by Richard Rush, and scored by Dominic Frontiere.
Perhaps you’ve not heard of it?
The Stunt Man tells the story of Cameron, a Vietnam veteran who’s on the run from the law. He wanders onto a film set and gets sucked into being a stunt man for a maniacal film director, Eli Cross, played by Peter O’Toole.
Peter O'Toole plays Eli Cross in The Stunt Man
The Stunt Man was one of those films in which everything seemed to go right. It holds by far the best performance by O'Toole in anything he's ever been in. Basing his portrayal of the sociopathic film director on David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia), O'Toole spits out chewed scenery with such flair that he towers out of the film into a sort of monolithic meme of mania.
The film is multilayered, it is complex, it is a "This is Not a Pipe" film; it is all of that and more. It is fun.
And not enough people know about it.
It was sad to be on set and reference The Stunt Man's most memorable lines and receive nothing but blank stares from the crew. I got crickets when imitating Peter O'Toole’s "I hereby command that no clouds shall pass before the sky, and no cameras shall jam!" or "If God could do the tricks that we can do, he'd be a happy man..."
Everyone stared at me blankly when I imitated Peter O'Toole from "The Stunt Man"
Job tip: if you are considering going into film in any capacity – producer, cameraman, soundman, props, grip, gaffer, actor, snake wrangler, whatever – please see this film, if for no other reason than your director will be happy to have someone to swap quotes with.
So did listening to the soundtrack improve things? Hard to say, but it certainly was a joy to drive to and from set listening to Dominic Frontiere’s score. It made the boring trip feel important and exciting, if only for a moment. It also brought back a flood of images – the glint of light when Cameron cuts his handcuffs, the bright blue sky behind Peter O'Toole, Cameron giving the camera the finger and screaming:
"Shoot this, Eli!"
Thank you, Dominic, and most especially, thank you, Richard Rush.
Flatland on Wikipedia
Flatland on IMDB
The Stunt Man Website
The Stunt Man on GreenCine
The Stunt Man on Wikipedia
Richard Rush on IMDB
Richard Rush on GreenCine
"Lawrence of Arabia" on GreenCine
"Lawrence of Arabia" on IMDB
Bookmark/Search this post with: