Finally, after a 4 year wait, F-Stops is here for review! It is a film that marks Paul?s return to acting after 17 year?s as a director/writer. Though his role is small, his character is quintessential to the film, a tie in of the past and present of the film?s main character, Gabe Ellis.
In today's society where "Reality" shows are the mainstream, this film certainly fits right in. Especially enjoyable is the way the director jumps in and out of scenes with Paul M. Glaser, ( ?Older Gabe?), presenting an obvious seminar on the elements of filmmaking. Elements which maybe scripted but also are truthful and poignant in "real life."
Christopher Fetherolf gives a wonderful performance as "Gabe" and "Gabe's" enthusiasm keeps you wanting more!He is determined to demonstrate his craft, and to prove himself a worthy director. He's intense, engaging and commanding as the leader of his group of merry men! This, combined with the cinematographer character "Shane" and his obsession and attachment to his camera, adds to the complexity of the plot.
Further, as the film progresses, the continued enhancement of each of the characters personalities and the increasing confidence they gain with their individual "performances", adds a great deal to the direction of the story. Rarely does a story begin with a comic flare and progress dramatically into an attention capturing thriller. With an outstanding cast and Paul Michael Glaser this film would be enjoyed by everyone. I certainly hope that the distributors will not wait any longer to show this excellent film to the viewing public.
Working with Paul was a great experience for the cast and crew of "F-Stops". Jeff Bassetti expressed:
"Paul is truly and amazing actor and good friend. He saw our original promotional trailer and immediately we took a meeting and chatted the concept up. At the time of production he was possibly going to be conflicted with another project and at the last minute his schedule opened up. He came down to the theater at 4am! He laughed as he said to me... ?I hope you haven?t made a mistake... I haven?t acted in 18 years...? I looked at him and said... ?It?s like riding a bike.? he replied with... ?For your sake I hope you?re right!? LOL He was great... I just placed him really and gave him some minor direction... The scene?s emotion was really in the dialogue and he really brought it to life! We went through some casting for his character just in case it wasn?t going to work out... Man that was tough and painful! We ?read? a guy who looked like God... Literally! And this guy had read the scene as written and then just kept going... And going for 15 minutes! He didn?t give any natural pauses where I could jump in and say ?thank you very much? and so on.... He just kept spouting dialogue. He said ?I was wondering when you were going to stop me... I figured I had a captive audience so I just went with it.? Shortly thereafter I said... ?if Paul can?t do it, then we push that segment until we can get him.?
Special thanks to Jeff Bassetti, the Writer/Producer/ Director and Christopher Fetherolf, the Writer/Producer/ Director/Actor for the wonderful preview and comments. This independent film was released for film critics review only. It, so far, has not been released to theaters. ?F-STOPS?, won best Thriller at Houston World Fest: Silver Award, Winner of the International Cinematographer?s Guild competition and was showcased at Cannes 2004. Distributors! Let's get this film out there!
courtesy and copyright of Burning Galileo Films
The aperture opens framing a solitary man sitting on a cement bench. The coldness of his situation is illuminated by the darkness that surrounds him. He talks aloud:
?In this path that you choose, gets into your blood, into your brain. When you have a quiet moment with your soul, you have to admit the truth. You have become evil!?
The aperture closes and re-opens focused on a group of men in the process of robbing a bank. One of the gunmen, Dale, checks out the bathroom only to find someone hiding in a stall. A familiar voice of a detective engages him in a conversation about surrendering, but a ?no can do? attitude results in a gunfire exchange with deadly consequences.
?All you need to make a movie is a girl, a gun and a camera...? Jean Luc Godard.
In a quick framed shot, shadowed and highlighted in various shades of cobalt and sky blue, a man speaks openly about film making. His expressive facial features, enlarged on a theater size screen behind him, enhance the power of the words he chooses.
?You think you?re so fucking cool. You think you?re gonna walk outta here, God and demons are gonna owe you something cause you?re so fuckin? hip. You actually think that you?re the next voice of wisdom for your demographic. I can smell it on ya ?dreaming of Hollywood premieres and red carpet after parties. Well let me be the first to enlighten you. Nobody owes you anything! ?
Cut to a young Gabe Ellis on the phone trying unsuccessfully to pedal his film, his first ?masterpiece?, fresh out of grad school. His actors relax and chat.
Later, the ?actors?, Dale, Trent, and Ivan, in Gabe?s independent film practice their lines outside a laundromat. Pleased with themselves they enter ready for their Hollywood shot, their shinning moment on film. Poor spoken, ill timed lines get a disgusted ?Cut? by the director, Gabe Ellis, just as a real gun toting thief enters. He takes over, making his demands, flashing his gun as the cameraman, Shane, keeps rolling. Gabe is excited with the action and watches ?real? criminal moment?s playing out before him. He absorbs the thief?s tone, style and actions until the police arrive and arrest him.
?Neo-realistic docudrama shot gorilla style? is Gabe's new theory of filmmaking. Realism, life, that?s what he claims is missing in his work. Craving more realism, he visits the thief, Gideon, in his cell. Tapping into the criminal mind, Gabe interviews him to find out what makes him tick, what he feels when he?s committing his crimes. Gideon tells him that he had a ?shitty? childhood, lack of parental supervision, watched a lot of ?Starsky and Hutch?. ?Once you go down that road, it gets into your blood, into your brain.? When Gideon is released, Gabe asks him to teach the actors how to add a sense of ?realism? to the characters. A criminal consultant, he changes their clothes, teaches them how to come across meaner, more determined.
Gabe hires a cinematographer, Shane.
Pacing across the stage, the man shadowed in cobalt, continues his presentation on filmmaking:
?A film with a written script is art imitating life. A vision within a vision within a vision,? but when there is no script, just instinct, you rely on life itself to be the author. No rules, unpredictable, untamed. But when you capture that on film, it?s better than mammoth, it?s better than Chekhov, it?s fucking raw! It?s gorilla? and you are fucked!?
Gabe continues working on his film. His actors now redressed, adding ?darkness? to his characters. You can see that Gideon?s influence is creating a new tone for them. After each robbery scene, it is becoming harder to separate what is fiction and what is not. A sense of realism, art imitating life, is taking shape. His cinematographer, "Shane", records everything, the action in the scenes and behind. The arguments, the stress, every minute of every day is captured through his lens. Twice while trying to shoot a robbery scene, Gabe's film is interupted. First by a store clerk excited when he is surprised by the actors and camera and then by a police officer who thinks he has witnessed a robbery in progress.
Gideon adds more of his own personal flare to the film and suggests hiring a ?hostage.? He takes the band of ?merry men? shopping for an ?extra.?
After screening several hookers in an impromptu ?casting call?, Nancy is selected. Additional realism is added when live ammo is brought in for practice shooting and Gideon informs Gabe that he has already been using live ammo? and helping himself to more than the planted money. Shane films the discussion.
The presenter continues his discussion of filmmaking:
?There are three rules, interpretation, your interpretation,? never compromise but allow the film to breath on its own and follow the rules but know when to bend them, break them. For instance, the 180 degree rule, pick a side, stick to it, because if you cross the line, the audience is going to be confused. And if the audience is lost brother, so are you, spinning out of control, hypnotized by chaos. What a ride! Don?t fool yourself, it?s still blind leading the blind.?
While having lunch in a diner before a shoot, Gabe asks the crew why they are doing that before they?re supposed ?rob? them. In the blink of an eye, they jump to their feet, pulling their weapons out and informing the dinning patrons that this is a robbery. Assertive, demanding as if this were all second nature to them, they achieve their goal. Gabe is thrilled with their spontaneity and the stunned reaction of the dinners and staff. Gabe thanks the patrons for their participation in his film. The owner of the diner is pissed off, screaming at them to leave as the cashier cracks Gideon over the head with a baseball bat.
Back in real life, a detective confronts Trent ?s girlfriend and informs her that Gabe and his film crew are wanted for several armed robberies. She tells him that Gabe is just working on his film and wouldn?t do that. Meanwhile, the actors continue with their filming becoming more assertive and commanding in the presentation of their characters. The detective decides to set up a road block based on the route he believes they are following. He sits back and waits for them.
Trent makes a phone call to his girl friend, Cynthia, and learns that the police are after them for armed robbery. He panics and demands explanations form Gabe. In front of the ?actors?, Gabe questions Gideon about whether or not he took the planted money or everything from the cash registers of the consenting manager?s business. ?I?m in my element? What did you expect?? he says. Method acting!
Press on the robbery filmmakers, now called the ?Hollywood Bandits?, is everywhere an acknowledgement that excites Gabe. His film has finally taken on true realism? robbery, kidnapping?fugitives! Keep filming!
Gideon convinces the actors that he is really the only one responsible, the only guilty party and because they were not aware of his criminal acts, they are therefore not guilty of any crime. He thanks them for turning his way of life into art! Nancy, the ?hostage?, tries to ease everyone?s fear by demonstrating how she will act for the police to convince them that they didn?t know anything of what Gideon had done while they were filming. Shane keeps on rolling.
Though not totally convinced, they agree to continue to film through the next day. They stop at a mini-mart gas station. While Gabe fills his tank, the actors take it upon themselves to begin their next robbery scene.
The aperture opens framing a solitary man sitting on a cement bench. The coldness of his surroundings illuminated only by a dim beam of light cutting diagonally across the room highlight the silhouette of tic-tac-toe lines on the back wall. He talks aloud, his voice echoes a narration as the actors display their aggressive action in the mini-mart. ?Well, my life was everything I?d asked for. I?d traded that away so quick for another, there are things that get lost for people who don?t understand the inner workings of human being. They get lost for people like me. You get lost and so you pick a direction and you follow what happens and you hope that along the way, in the confusion of it you rationalize, and you moralize. And when you can?t make that picture fit, light grows very, very dim. When you find that quiet moment with your soul, you have to admit the truth.?
Meanwhile, the detective is still waiting at his roadblock when he learns that the film crew has double-backed on their route.
Now in a hotel room, Trent tells Gabe that he?s leaving and he indeed does. The Hollywood Bandits continue to gain press on the television and newspapers. Detective Mercer tells the viewing audience to comply with the film crew and just get license plate numbers and the direction they travel.
Gabe is enthralled with the direction his film has gone and is now, more than ever, determined and obsessed with finishing his film. The next day he has Kyle call Detective Mercer and read a script to his answering machine. A funny scene as Kyle never quite gets it right and even forgets to tell Mercer where he wants to meet. The film goes on. Shane, the cameraman, still records EVERY second of this adventure? acting and real life.
Nancy is left in the hotel room, bound and blindfolded on the bed. Detective Mercer bursts through the door, ignoring Nancy , sweeping the room for perps. A hidden camera captures every dramatic frame of her ?rescue?, while waiting in a van, Gabe and his crew watch the ?drama? unfold on his laptop computer. ?Authenticity? explains Gideon, referring to the manner in which the detective sweeps the room before helping the ?hostage.?
Later, Gabe sends Det. Mercer a tape explaining to him that he?s only making a film and with Gideon being a felon, well, old habits die hard. He continues to assure the detective that he and his film crew had no knowledge of the robberies and that restitution would be made when the film makes a profit.
Gabe prepares to shoot his final scene at a liquor store. Trent , after a phone call from Gabe, is persuaded to come back and rejoins the cast for the continuity of the film. The store clerk asks the actor what he wants, ?paper or plastic?, but because it?s not recycled, he doesn?t care. When a female customer interferes with the scene and Ivan turns to yell at her, the clerk pulls out a gun and the scene now takes on a whole new reality. The clerk decides he?s going to teach them a lesson, the difference between the real world and the imaginary one. The other actors are scared and Ivan pleads with everyone to remain calm and put their guns down. In a quick shot, the pissed off clerk shoots Ivan in the forehead, stunning everyone, It?s chaos and rains bullets as the clerk is shot dead by everyone. The director, stunned, finally yells ?cut?, but the cameraman continues to keep filming capturing frame after frame of real life- anguish, sorrow, and disbelief. Gabe?s wish for reality has become just that, a hard core, edgy film with deadpan realism. They are all no longer actors, film producers, but instead they are the ?Hollywood Bandits? wanted for armed robbery and now, murder. Welcome to reality!
The shock of it all settles in, in the minds, hearts and souls of not only the film crew, but the detective as well. Verbal discontent and fighting between Kyle and Gideon reaches its peak. Secretly, Gabe calls Detective Mercer. And yet, despite it all, they decide it?s more important them ever to finish the film.
Flashback to the opening scene of the bank robbery, it continues with Kyle entering the bathroom after hearing the gunfire exchange between Dale and Mercer. He too is then shot by Mercer. With his gun drawn, Mercer enters the bank lobby as Gabe continues his filming. Gideon is pissed off after he learns that Gabe tipped off Mercer to the bank job. Shane has enjoyed every moment of his filming experience. Determined to capture every frame of every second, he continues to keep his camera rolling working for that ?climax ending? Gabe desperately wants for his film. The bank is now surrounded by police as Gideon starts shooting. Mercer goes down with a shot to the shoulder. Shane keeps filming. Gideon, armed with a gun in each hand, backs out of the banks front door. Shane keeps filming. Gideon, realizing his back is to an army of police, with his guns in the air, he turns and begins shooting at them, Shane continues to film. In a hail of bullets, Gideon goes down, Shane goes down, the camera keeps rolling. Cut to an audience applauding, cheering. The camera is still rolling as Nancy removes it from Shane?s hand as he lies there motionless. Flash out to the front of the bank where Gabe lays face down on the side walk, non-threatening wound above his eye. While he?s shouting ?It?s a wrap! It?s a Wrap!? he is quickly helped up to his feet by police officers and handcuffed. Nancy , seen as just a bystander or bank hostage, is escorted away from the scene by police. She leaves in a van, camera in hand, and the echoes of Gabe still shouting ?It?s a wrap! He laughs as she pulls away with his masterpiece film.
?I remember this film as the best documentary film ever made and the worst piece of pornographic bullshit ever to? Some say that it?s exploitation. I have my own opinions about it but I?d rather let history decide. I suppose you already have. You can get a copy of it in every Blockbuster under the cult section, Russ Meyer, Norman Waters ,.. and me. I just hope that you understand that life and art are two separate entities. They may inform one another and imitate one another, but an honest documentary is an oxy moron. I just wanna make this perfectly fucking clear because I?d hate like hell for you to see me as some kind of pop con, some kind of hero. Because I?ve been reading about this world, you?re world. Let me tell you a little secret. It?s all bullshit. Nobody can tell the difference between fact and fiction. There are no absolutes. Everything is relative. We?re all diluting ourselves. We love the lies. We need the lies. We can?t sleep without them. I don?t know which is worse, the need to believe or the inability to. So, you wanna know what my advice to a young filmmaker?. Make sure that you really want to. Make sure that you really, really have to. But make sure that your life is not gonna end if you never get to.?
During his speech, flashbacks to Gabe's trial and Nancy's departure with the reels of film occur.
Caught up in the emotion and realism of what he just said to the students, Gabe Ellis raises his handcuffed hands to them.. ?I?m outta here.? He turns to leave. Cheers and applause follow him. A student yells ?Gabe, Mr. Ellis, was it worth it??
Gabe chuckles. ?Sometimes? as he leaves the stage.
With the fire of determination in the brown eyes of the student, you the viewer of this film, know that he is off to begin his own ?masterpiece?!
A great film! All of the actors have given a marvelous, strong performance. Let?s get it out there! Please visit their website:
Burning Galileo Films
Jeff Bassetti, Writer/Producer/ Director
Christopher Fetherolf, Writer/Producer/ Director/Actor
Paul Michael Glaser.... Gabriel Ellis (older)
Christopher John Fetherolf.... Gabriel Ellis
Matt Godecker.... Gideon Tuscanelli
Hope Wood.... Nancy Lambert
Jim Formanek.... Dale Johnson
Nick Freeman.... Ivan Rightman
Aaron Hendry.... Kyle Fenning
Reza Safai.... Shane Ketterick
Marvin Safford.... Trent Washington
Christopher Fairbanks.... Mercer
Alison Richards.... Alice Jacobs
Please stop by their website to read their bio's
Contents of this page are the copyright property of PAULMICHAELGLASER.ORG and Burning Galileo Films.
Review and summary by Pam
All contents copyright of PaulMichaelGlaser.org
All materials on this site are used for informational purposes only! This website is created only for the personal enjoyment of the fans of Paul Michael Glaser, the Internet public and anyone else interested in sharing the journey of Paul Michael Glaser. Photos and multimedia samples were taken from various sources like TV , Mags, newspapers, media interviews, etc . No copyright infringement is intended, nor are any profits being made from their use. Transcripts by Pam .