Stuff To Read: Gothamist Interview With Jacob Burckhardt, Director of ‘It Don’t Pay To Be an Honest Citizen’

Music ‘Doubleplusgood’ by The Eurythmics from their 1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother) album (which was supposed to be the soundtrack for the 1984 film ‘1984’ but wasn’t used by the director Michael Radford. Go figure…)

Excellent news from Gothamist…the director Jacob Burckhardt is putting ‘It Don’t Pay To Be an Honest Citizen’ out on DVD (finally!)

Here’s what the DVD looks like (thanks to the film’s director Jacob Burckhardt for sending me one so quickly and also for the release party poster and flyer)

Thanks to Gothamist (again!)

Original article at Gothamist’s Interview With Jacob Burckhardt, Director

April 30, 2007
Jacob Burckhardt, Director

Jacob Burckhardt is a second generation observer of New York life. His father, Rudy Burckhardt photographed and made narrative films during the ’50s and ’60s of city life and his New York School artist friends. In ’84, Jacob made a fiction film about his bohemian life in Brooklyn casting the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and Beat novelist William S. Burroughs in small parts, as well as a young neighborhood thespian named Vincent D’Onofrio as a mugger. Burckhardt had lived in Red Hook from ’73 to ’80, long before the Fairway moved in, and thought it seemed ripe for filming. Now, his lo-fi, autobiographical movie is getting a DVD release and in honor, the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in the East Village will be screening It Don’t Pay To Be an Honest Citizen! on Tuesday at 7 p.m. followed by a beer and pizza reception. Gothamist recently corresponded with Burckhardt about his experience shooting on the mean streets of Brooklyn in the early ’80s and why pigeons are the best kind of New Yorkers.

Do you feel like your filmmaking style was influenced by your father’s photography?

I would say my filmmaking style was influenced by his filmmaking style. Work fast, don’t let your collaborators get bored. All you need to make a movie is a camera and some film. There’s a lot of inspiration in what’s happening in the streets around you. Don’t be judgmental, just appreciate it.

How did you cast most of the people in your film? Most of them seem to have an unstudied, naturalistic, “folks from the neighborhood” quality.

There were few people in the movie who were “professional” actors. William and Allen weren’t trained at all, but had incredible presence. I held quite a few auditions for the main part, and Reed Bye was the least professional and the most real. He is a poet–I think this is the only dramatic role he has ever done (I still don’t know if he was acting or just being). A lot of the small roles were guys I knew from around the neighborhood or friends who I thought looked good in the part. The ferocious greasy spoon counterman is Rackstraw Downes, a well known painter. I think the guy who said the title line “It don’t pay to be an honest citizen!” might have been a friend of the actual muggers.

Was the story of a young filmmaker getting mugged and trying to use neighborhood justice to get back his stuff based on personal experiences?

It is almost completely based on personal experience. One evening in 1978 while I was living in Red Hook I stopped at a cash machine on the way home late at night. Two kids followed me home and mugged me in my doorway. The cops caught them almost by accident. And so on. As the days went by and events unfolded, I was somewhat scared of course, but at the same time I realized that I was encountering a whole world that I had only read about, and some of the things people were saying to me were pretty funny, and I started to write it all down, and it became a short story (unpublished) and later this film. Most of the better lines, including the title of the movie, were actually said to me.

How did you end up casting Ginsberg and Burroughs in your film?

I was telling a filmmaker friend of mine that for the Mafia boss I needed someone who is old and physically not very strong but psychically totally dominating, like William Burroughs. He said, why not ask him? I could think of no good answer to that, and got in touch with Burroughs, and he was interested. He did the part perfectly, except for his Midwestern accent. An unknown (at the time) actor named Vincent D’Onofrio was a bartender at the Ritz, a club that has since turned into Webster Hall, and somebody I knew who worked there put us together and he tried out for the lead part. He wasn’t right for it–too big and tough looking–but he was a good actor so I asked him to play one of the muggers.

What other kinds of projects have you been working on lately?

After this one I made another feature called Landlord Blues. Then it became apparent that as budgets get bigger and bigger, fundraising and business become larger and larger parts of filmmaking. So I went back to making shorter movies, some I like to call “poetic documentaries” for want of a better term, and a series of comedy collaborations with Royston Scott, the latest of which is Tomorrow Always Comes, which has its own website, http://www.tomorrowalwayscomes.com. On June 15 I will be doing a show at Roulette involving live mixed sound and music with 16mm (Not video!) projections.

Where’s your favorite place to see a movie in the city?

In the old days I used to like places like the Selwyn on 42nd street where they would show first run movies, unadvertised, at reduced prices. There was an amazing dialogue between the audience and the film. I remember seeing 48 Hours there, and most of the guys in the audience were young black men, and whenever Eddie Murphy sassed Nick Nolte they roared. There’s a similar spirit at Anthology Film Archives–not the rowdiness, but the engagement. People go to those odd or exotic films because they want to get involved with them.

Which New Yorker do you most admire?

The pigeons, because nothing fazes them.

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The Renewal Negotiations Saga: Congress & The FCC Complicate Things A Bit For Dick Wolf

As if Dick Wolf and GE/NBC don’t have enough to worry about…apparently last week Congress and the FCC, having nothing better to do than make angry noises about violence on TV (as opposed to say the former dealing with their outrageous level of spending and the latter doing something to ensure that the Internet of the future is not owned and controlled by a lucky few corporations rather than the US citizenry and the world at large) have now decided that there is too much crime and violence on TV.

Whee! Can you say ‘election season’? At least TV Week is asking for the right solution…that the networks do something about the content and number of TV shows that deal with violence and crime themselves before our government decides to ignore real problems and acts as a federal V-chip for grownups and children alike. This will make the fate of any crime drama not yet renewed just that much more iffy.

Editorial: Violence Report an Industry Wake-Up Call

Editorial
April 30, 2007
Violence Report an Industry Wake-Up Call

“Last week’s report by the Federal Communications Commission recommending Congress take action to regulate violent programming is a wake-up call programmers and network executives need to take seriously.

The issue is as old as TV-and radio-themselves.
“The volume of protests against the orgy of crime on the air has deluged many a desk in Washington, and Wayne Coy, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, months ago issued a warning.” That was from a July 16, 1950, New York Times piece by its legendary TV critic, Jack Gould, in an article titled, “Time for a halt: Radio and TV carnage defies all reason.” In his almost too clever first sentence he writes, “If radio and television aren’t careful, somebody’s going to call the cops. … [T]he two media have exceeded the bounds of reasonable interest in murder, mayhem and assorted felonies.”

Then, as now, the creative community decried the threat of what they saw as possible government censorship of content.

Indeed, in an article we published nearly 15 years ago on Dec. 21, 1992, when the then Big 3 TV networks-ABC, CBS and NBC-struck an agreement of joint standards limiting television violence, many in Hollywood took exception to the plan.

“`It’s absolutely draconian and stupid,’ said Dick Wolf, executive producer of `Law and Order.’ … ‘This is the first step toward legislative censorship. I’m never going to sign it.”‘

Today the issue is still with us.

Interestingly, the one major part of the equation that’s changed since Mr. Wolf made those comments is that the networks and the studios have merged. Universal, for example, which has produced all the “Law and Order” series, is now the same entity, NBC, that airs them. NBCU has already said it opposes any government regulation of violent content “without clear, objective and consistent standards.”

We have never been a fan of government regulation of content, and, in this case in particular, agree with those who wonder if there are any standards of violent content for broadcast or cable that would pass muster with the courts.

And we have also been strong advocates of parents taking control of what their children watch on TV.

That being said, there is no doubt the networks could be doing more to curb the criticism they get.

Our biggest complaint is the networks’ seemingly unending TV show promotions of violent material during such family fare as “American Idol” and “Survivor.” “CSI” follows “Survivor,” for example, and many times the promos that run for it are not suitable for kids. The same is true when “Idol” runs promos for the next week’s “24” or “Prison Break.”

The networks need to do some self-policing before the government tries to do it for them.”

Remember that if you don’t like it, you can always change the channel or turn off the TV folks.

The Renewal Negotiations Saga: How About Cutting This?

In doing a little news searching I came across the following little gem courtesy of Gothamist:

Full article link at:
http://www.nypost.com/seven/04152007/news/regionalnews/price_of_fame_regionalnews_elizabeth_wolff.htm

PRICE OF FAME
By ELIZABETH WOLFF
April 15, 2007 — A city public school teacher makes a puny starting salary of $45,000.
But actor Matthew Broderick, who played one opposite Reese Witherspoon in the high school romp “Election,” is used to pulling down $9 million.
Rookie NYPD cops can expect $25,100 a year: Kevin Spacey, the spotlight-loving cop in “L.A. Confidential” is raking in $600,000 for a 10-week Broadway gig. It’s The Post’s look at who-makes-what. At least it’s comforting to know that if we elect the richest man in NYC, he’ll work for just a buck. Here, we reveal some of New York’s secret salaries:

Jerry Seinfeld, comedian, $100M
Dick Wolf, exec producer of “Law & Order” series, $70M
David Letterman, “Late Show” host, $40M
Richard Parsons, CEO of Time Warner, $22.5M
Regis Philbin, “Regis and Kelly” host, $21M
Jason Kidd, Nets point guard, $17.5M
Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia founder, $17M
Sean “Diddy” Combs, hip-hop entrepreneur, $16M
Gisele Bundchen, supermodel, $15.2M
Katie Couric, CBS anchor, $15M
Diane Sawyer, “Good Morning America” host, $12M
John Thain, NYSE CEO, $10.15M
James Gandolfini, actor, $10M
Carl Pavano, Yankee pitcher, $9.99M
Bill Clinton, former president, $9M (from private lecture circuit)
Conan O’Brien, “Late Night” host, $9M
Matthew Broderick, actor, $9M
Heidi Klum, supermodel/”Project Runway” host, $8M
Eli Manning, Giants quarterback, $7.5M
Joe Torre, Yankees manager, $7M
Isiah Thomas, Knicks head coach, $6.9M
Rachael Ray, TV host , $6M
Meryl Streep, actress, $5M (for “The Devil Wears Prada”)
Mario Batali, celebrity chef, $5M
Kyra Sedgwick, actress, $4M
Chuck Scarborough, WNBC news anchor, $3M (co-anchor Sue Simmons makes $500K less)
Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief, $2M
Jon Stewart, “The Daily Show” host, $1.5M
Kevin Spacey, actor, $600,000 (for 10 weeks on Broadway)
Eliot Spitzer, governor, $179,179
Sens. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, $165,200
Ray Kelly, NYPD commissioner, $162,800
Rookie public school teacher, $45,000
Rookie police officer, $25,100
Edward Egan, cardinal, New York Archdiocese, $18,000
Michael Bloomberg, mayor, $1 (in lieu of official mayoral salary of $195,000)
Auxiliary cop, $0

I think I know where Dick Wolf can cut some budgetary fat…his annual salary.

“Cut the salary, save the shows”.

Appropriately snarky music (Oink Oink)

Stuff To Watch: Which LO:CI Episodes Have Been Adapted For Paris Enquêtes Criminelles (PEC)?

Well thanks to Seb over at lawandorder-fr.com I have figured out which of the LO:CI episodes, the first 6 episodes of PEC will be adapting

Paris Enquêtes Criminelles adapted from LO:CI

#1 PEC Fantôme (Phantom) = LO:CI ‘Phantom’ (Marlane Gomard Meyer & René Balcer)
#2 PEC Requiem pour un assassin (Requiem For An Assassin)= LO:CI ‘The Faithful’ (Stephanie Sengupta)
#3 PEC Le serment (The Oath)= LO:CI ‘One’ (René Balcer)
#4 PEC Addiction (Addiction) = LO:CI ‘Smothered’ (Marlane Gomard Meyer)
#5 PEC L’Homme au scalpel (The Man Of The Scalpel) = LO:CI ‘The Good Doctor’ (Geoffrey Neigher)
#6 PEC L’Ange de la mort (The Angel Of Death)= LO:CI ‘Poison’ (Stephanie Sengupta)

There are also some casting updates to make here
Commander Vincent Revel (Vincent Perez)
Lieutenant Claire Savigny (Sandrine Rigaux)
Police Chief Bonnefoy (Jacques Pater)
Judge Lherbier (Hélène Godec)
Judge Fontana (Laure Killing)

Note that the ADA/prosecutor role is replaced by a Judge in PEC. Apparently there will be two judges who will be at the minimum recurring characters on PEC, both of whom are female! In some episodes you can expect to see both Judges Lherbier and Fontana while in others it is not clear whether both judges will have parts (things are still a bit slow to get out via the French media).

There will be 2 more episodes of PEC for its first season…I will update later when TF1 puts out more information on them.

Great Fan Site (in French) en Français: lawandorder-fr.com

Music ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey

Boujour!

I’ve got to hand it to this French fansite…the webmaster Seb really has got it together with the website lawandorder-fr.com

There are actually five sister sites that fall under the umbrella of lawandorder-fr.com: one for the mothership (NYPDJ), one for SVU (NYUS), one for the cancelled Trial By Jury (TBJ), one for CI (NYSC), and one for Paris Enquêtes Criminelles (PEC), the brand new French adaptation of CI.

I have to say I am extremely impressed with the cooperative efforts that go on there. I have been hanging out in their forums the past couple of days and I am impressed to no end that not only do they cover the Law & Order family, other sister shows like Homicide:Life On The Street get discussed. There are even threads in their forums for other US and British TV shows (I saw threads for shows like Third Watch (NY 911) and Prime Suspect. Very cool!

There have been a few crises like a couple of debates over fans using or misusing each other’s scanned images and content (old hat fights here in the States) but generally it’s a very happy crew that hangs out there. If you speak French, I highly recommend you go hang out there. I know it’s helping me improve my French a lot.

Oh and I hope Seb doesn’t mind that I’m going to post a few links to his content for PEC so we Americans can get a feel for what that show is going to be like!

Here’s a taste….I think this might be the opening credits for PEC (watch it with Windows Media Player)
PEC Opening Credits

Enjoy!

Stuff To Read: The USA Today ‘Save Our Shows’ Poll Results Are In

Ouch!

This result doesn’t help the cause of CI fans who want the show renewed.

“USA TODAY’s Save Our Shows poll reveals strong support among viewers: 57% want to keep L&O, the highest among 22 series in jeopardy, and 48% want CI back”.

http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2007-04-18-law-and-order_N.htm

“Strong support”!?! Are we looking at the same statistics here?

Wow! The CI fandom couldn’t even get above a 50% positive response to renew the show. In fact it looks like the only show to get a simple majority of people to ask for its renewal is the mothership and that was only 57%.

Things sure are different from back in the day where people worked like crazy to save shows like the original ‘Star Trek’, or ‘The Equalizer’. They had letter writing campaigns, fan conventions, got the press to take notice, etc.

Maybe TV itself has jumped the shark?

Stuff To Watch/Choses de Regarder: Paris Enquêtes Criminelles (Paris Criminal Investigations)

Whoo-hoo! / Zut alors!

Even if LO:CI doesn’t get renewed, CI fans can get their fix (that is if they don’t mind learning a little français)

May I present the website for Paris Enquêtes Criminelles courtesy of the French TV channel TF1? From now on here is a new abbreviation to get used to so that I don’t have to flail around on my keyboard searching for non-existant French characters like the circonflex “^” e that belongs in ‘Paris Enquêtes Criminelles’ : PEC. Learn it well, because I have a feeling I’ll be using it a lot.

Regardez bien/ Take a look at Commander Vincent Revel (played by Vincent Perez) and Lieutenant Claire Savigny (played by Sandrine Rigaux)

TF1’s PEC site is a bit less developed than NBC’s CI site is now, but it reminds me of how the NBC CI site was back in 2001…it’s a little more polished though than NBCs (which back in the day had very little video to it)

I particularly love this tiny snippet of an interview from Vincent Perez on what Perez thought the differences between Goren and Ravel are (I translated this partly with help from an online translator and then used my own modest knowledge of French to Americanize it):

“I watched very little of the original version so as not to be influenced by it, but I have the impression that Goren is very cerebral. Revel is more instinctive and perhaps more vulnerable. At times, it is necessary that Revel has doubts, that he is a little lost. These two characters however have much in common. We had already begun filming [PEC] when we left for New York to meet the American team. When Vincent D’ Onofrio spoke to me about his own experience, I really had the impression that we had passed by the same stages. What he said evoked my memories, of my personal interrogations of the character of Revel. It was amusing.”

Here’s how Sandrine Rigaux answered the question: “Did you seek your American counterpart Kathryn Erbe’s advice?”

“Not really, but naturally we spoke about the difficulty of coexisting with our partners. The Americans also advised us to develop the female character more quickly than they had done it. Building a character alongside Revel’s is inevitably delicate. This partnership of cops functions like that formed by Sherlock Holmes and Watson. I was to find my moments, without falling into the trap of imitating my partner at the risk of destroying the balance of our team. Vincent Perez really helped me.”

Unlike the American CI which began with ‘One’, the pilot of PEC is an adaptation of the CI Season 1 episode ‘Phantom’ or ‘Fantôme’ as the French call it. The clip on TF1’s site (click on the ‘Extraits’ tab to watch it) shows Revel and Savigny questioning Nadine Delcourt (played by Hélène Degy) about the death of Malek Kelkal (played by Mustapha Ben Stiti). The quick thinking American CI fan will recognize that Nadine Delcourt is an adaptation of the character Charlotte Fielding aka Cookie Caspari! You will also note that the writers preserved one of my favorite detective exchanges ever:

Goren: One thing this job teaches us is that guys will do anything for love.
Eames: Or money.

Paraphrasing and translating
Revel …les hommes feront n’importe quoi pour l’amour.
Savigny Oui. Mais aussi pour l’argent.

The second episode of PEC will be an adaptation of the first season CI episode ‘The Faithful’ called ‘Requiem pour un assassin’ or ‘Requiem For An Assassin’ If you watch the promotional spot for PEC (click on the Bande Annonce tab to watch it) you will see Ravel doing his version of the infamous ‘Goren show’ investigation of a mentally ill homeless man from ‘The Faithful’.

From what else I can glean of the show by watching its promo spot, PEC’s Captain Deakins/Ross equivalent, Police Chief Bonnefoy, is male (and played by Jacques Pater) and the ADA/prosecutor role we would have associated with ADA Ron Carver (played by Courtney Vance) is a female called Judge Lherbier (played by Hélène Godec)!

PEC’s first two episodes will initially air back to back on Thursday May 3, 2007 beginning at 8:50pm (that’s Paris time). I am hoping that these episodes will be available online somehow, or that someone in France can hook me up with DVDs once the show gets going. The French are skeptical of this remake of an ‘American’ show…many of them think why redo CI, when what the Americans have done is so good. I say give PEC a shot…it might translate well to French culture and get better ratings there than CI ever did here in the USA.