William Boyd's Film Journalism

William Boyd
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THE ARTIST

A couple of years ago I was approached by the producer Hilary Bevan Jones and asked to write a short, silent film.  It was only to be “silent” in the sense that dialogue was banned – music, sound effects and so forth were all permitted.  The challenge was irresistible and I wrote a short film – a 10-minute war movie called “The Three Kings” -- about three special-forces soldiers behind enemy lines who are trying to rescue a downed helicopter pilot...

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NOTES TOWARDS A DEFINITION OF A FILM DIRECTOR

Howard Hawkes defined a successful film in this way: “Three good scenes. No bad scenes”.  If only it were that easy, you think.  Your name is Alan Smithee  and you want to be a film director.
    “Film director” is a catch-all phrase and many sub-groups are contained within it.  They include those directors who also write their own scripts (Mike Leigh, Eric Rohmer, Wong Kar-Wai, for example), as well as those directors of immense money-generating power and/or acclaim...

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THE 2007 SCREENWRITERS’ STRIKE

It is Monday the 5th November 2007 and I have gone on strike. I’ve been a member of the Writers’ Guild of America (West) for twenty years now and this is the second time I’ve downed tools on their instructions.  The last time was in 1988, a writers’ strike that lasted from March to August and apparently cost the “industry” some 500 million dollars...

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WAR FILMS

When I was preparing to shoot my World War I film “The Trench” (1999) I deliberately set myself two serious challenges.  However the film turned out – good, bad or indifferent -- I wanted to be able to put my hand on my heart and to say, first, that it was as factually accurate and as realistic as possible and, second, that it in no way sentimentalized or glorified the particular conflict it dealt with...

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NORTH BY NORTHWEST

North by Northwest was released in 1959 between two of the great masterworks of Hitchcock’s career, Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960).  Looking at the film today and knowing its chronological context one is tempted to see it as a welcome moment of light relief between the darker, more complex forces that powered the other films.  For North by Northwest belongs squarely in the genre of “caper movie”...

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'A WASTE OF SHAME': SHAKESPEARE AND HIS SONNETS

There are many mysteries in the life of William Shakespeare and perhaps none is more intriguing than the one he initiated himself when he published, in 1609, a collection of his sonnets. When we start to consider the enduring enigmas and controversies that circle and shroud the sonnets it’s a good idea to establish the few unarguable facts first.

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FILMING HITLER

April 20th 1945. On this day, almost sixty years ago, Adolf Hitler celebrated his 56th birthday, in the Fuhrerbunker deep below the Reich Chancellery in a Berlin virtually surrounded by the Russian army, devastated by artillery and heavy bombing. On previous birthdays the custom was that he would be greeted by his personal staff at midnight, but he had given orders that this year he was not to be disturbed.

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