Thursday, January 19, 2006

An Exciting Day

It's hard to get back into any writing project after some time spent away, and in this case, it's been a couple of years. But I am feeling fully back to speed and making some wonderful progress on bringing this monster fully up to date.

Today was one of the wonderful days in the book's history. While looking at some non-Bava titles, I was watching a certain costume drama that I won't identify just yet... the visual style of the movie was flat as a pancake, then suddenly when it came time for the hero and the villain to cross swords, the movie was catapulted into Bava land. Loads of lollipop lighting. I had already interviewed the principal actor in this film, but not (obviously) about this movie. I was able to get his e-mail address from Tom Weaver, and put the question directly to him: Was Mario Bava involved in this production?

The answer came in the morning's e-mail: Yes, he was. Other information was included too, which helped to fuel a very nice sidebar for the book.

Riccardo Freda once told me "You have a good eye!" when I asked him to confirm Bava's presence behind the camera on a few of his films that weren't commonly known to be their collaborations. And now, once again, my eye for Bava's brushstrokes is vindicated -- but this is one of those happy occasions when there's someone who can confirm my hunch who A) speaks English and B) has e-mail! It's a delight to receive an answer to such a question so readily, and not to have to live with the uncertainty!

So the Bava filmography grows a little bit more -- and so does our knowledge of Bava's incalculable contribution to popular Italian cinema.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Back to the Book

In case you're wondering, our renewed work on the book is going well. After successfully locking down VW #124, we finally got back into it around the middle of last week, with Donna indexing the photo captions and me compiling the Bava filmography. Both tasks are now practically completed; I still need to add a few recently uncovered titles to the filmography -- including a musical short from the late 1940s that escaped the world's notice (as a Bava credit) until I found a 16mm print on eBay.

This week, while Donna moves on to her next task, it's my turn to go through a PDF of the layout to see if I still like the photo captions, if there are any illustrations I care to replace with more recent acquisitions, and to add whatever last-minute text needs including. New material does continue to be discovered -- like some matte paintings in THE INVINCIBLE GLADIATOR, for example, which Richard Harrison confirmed for me were the work of Bava, and a new (2005) miniseries version of HERCULES that was shown on the Sci Fi Channel last night. A misguided mess, it made the Kevin Sorbo series look as classic as the Steve Reeves movies by comparison. I'll have to at least mention it, because a project like this means that the peplum films that Bava helped to launch in the 1950s are continuing to send ripples through entertainment we're seeing today.

Monday, January 09, 2006

I VAMPIRI Questions

Q: I know the Bava Collection DVD is old news, but I just caught up with I VAMPIRI tonight, found the title terrifically impressive as a film (plus very well presented), and am spoiling for a conversation. Here are a couple of questions:

1. Was any part of the 'acted drama' actually shot in Paris? Is it all illusion, or if faked, how was the Parisian part all done? Just curious.

2. The more obvious question, which I'll put more briefly: How much is this Bava's movie? I don't know Freda's work overall well enough to hazard a guess, and I've got to ask! -- James Cheney

A: In brief, none of the film was shot in Paris, or specifically Montmartre. This aspect was entirely faked through Bava's use of glass mattes, which pasted blown-up photographic elements to large panoramic panes of glass, sometimes multi-layered. Freda also put some touches on these mattes. The street in Montmartre was filmed in the courtyard outside the offices of Scalera Film. I've seen some of the same views, without the Parisian scenery, in earlier films photographed by Bava, including Mario Costa's FOLLIE PER L'OPERA (1949).

About your second question: Freda directed the film on a bet that he could complete the film in 12 days. When he hadn't finished it in 10 days and demanded an extension, his producers refused and Freda walked. Supposedly only half the film was shot. A break was called in the shooting, during which time Bava worked out how to complete the filming -- ie., how to shoot the remaining half of the picture -- in only two days. By all accounts, he succeeded. I believe the film lost the services of some cast members during this period, including Antoine Balpêtre (the French actor who plays Professor Du Grand), so part of Bava's magic was rewriting the film so that Pierre, the young reporter character played by Dario Michaëlis (originally a supporting character), became the film's new protagonist.

One of the interesting changes made under Bava's watch was that Paul Muller's character of Joseph Seignoret was newly interpreted as a junkie rather than what he was originally -- a reanimated zombie! Freda shot an opening sequence that showed Muller in prison, being led to the guillotine (this lost footage is excerpted in the I VAMPIRI trailer hidden in the Filmography pages of the German BLOOD AND BLACK LACE DVD), and his interroration at the police station was supposed to have originally ended with his head coming loose and rolling off. If you look closely, you can still see the makeup scar surrounding his neck.

James, who rented a copy of the Image I VAMPIRI disc that didn't include my liner notes (which covered all this), originally asked these questions on the Mobius Home Video Forum and I asked him to forward them here. I don't want to get into a habit of pre-empting my book by answering a lot of specific Bava questions here on this blog, but as long as I was going to respond, I felt I should do it here, where the information could help fuel this blog and draw attention to the book. My thanks to James for cooperating.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Will the Binding Be Durable?

Q: Tell us more about what you're looking for [in terms of] binding. On a book this massive, it really needs to be ultra-sturdy, since I'd really hate for it to fall apart after a first reading... and I can't imagine you'd like that much either. -- Mark Zimmer

A: Durability is our greatest concern, so our minds are made up about wanting a reinforced, sewn binding. When prospective printers send us these dummy books for consideration, the first thing we do is remove their dust jackets, hold them by the front board -- letting the full weight of the book dangle freely -- and give them a number of good, rough shakes. We know that our customers will handle their book with more care than that, especially considering what they're paying for it, but we're concerned that the book should be able to stand up to frequent handling and even a degree of mishandling.

How About an Online Index?

Q: Have you ever thought to leave the index or at least the bibliography out of the book - which will lessen the weight - and make then nicely designed downloadable PDFs instead. Everyone who buys the book would be given the URL for accessing these features...and any other updates to the book could be made here too to make the book a living document...never out of date.

Or just make the index/bibliography available on the web so people who want to look up something can just go to the internet...which they do anyway. -- Steven Tate

A: The idea of publishing the index online, separately, did occur to us but we dismissed the idea. First of all, not everyone who pre-ordered the book is online and the last thing we need is to incur the additional expense of mailing additional print-outs to everyone who ordered the book through the mail. Also, the book will be unwieldy enough without people having to lug it to their computers, log on, and type out a URL every time they're unsure about which page a certain topic is on. I think that would get "old" fairly quickly.

Your suggestion that we adapt the index online to files that can be periodically updated/expanded/corrected is a good one and a strong possibility.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Q & A

Here is our first batch of Questions and Answers about the Bava book, as promised. For those of you who haven't yet read our initial blog entry, with all of the current information pertaining to the book's present schedule, scroll down or click the "Tim's Update #1" blog option to the right.

I'm wondering, is the book a limited edition or something? -- Bård Haugland

TIM RESPONDS: Yes and no. We have called it that in the past, and it will be limited in some respects; for example, only the pre-ordered copies we sell will be signed. After that, requests for signed copies will not be granted as a courtesy to those who supported the project by pre-ordering, though I may do some in-store signings. Why should we limit our potential earnings from the book by making it a limited edition? And besides, what would be the point of making a book, that took 30 years to write, available for only a brief period of time and a select group of people?

That said, we will be printing a finite number of copies of the deluxe First Edition, in the low thousands. Whether the deluxe edition will have a continued availability beyond its initial printing depends entirely on demand. We don't intend to destroy the printing plates -- but if the demand isn't there for another print run, it may suddenly go out of print and become a limited edition. Of course, there is always the possibility of a cheaper, text-only, softcover edition further down the road, but neither of us wants to think about that yet.

In short, if getting the original, full-color edition is important to you, it would be wise to act earlier rather than later.

If you're worried about the length and weight of the book, have you ever put any consideration into dividing it up into separate volumes? Sounds to me like you have so much info on the guy you could release a Bava Encyclopedia if you wanted to. -- Isaac Kennell

TIM RESPONDS: I actually campaigned for a two-volume presentation, but Donna (who is designing the book) was and is against it. She had more good reasons why we shouldn't do it than I could offer in the idea's defense.

First of all, publishing two books is more expensive than publishing one, even if the two books are half the size of the one. There's additional binding costs, and twice as much material to handle come shipping time. Furthermore, when we began accepting pre-orders for the book, the product description in our ad specified one book. It would impose additional postage costs and a need for twice as much packaging material to divide the project into two volumes.

Even if these practical concerns didn't exist, we would be left with the problem of dividing Bava's career between the two books into the films he photographed and those he directed. Since most of his early work has never been screened in English-speaking countries, the first volume covering those years (of which I am particularly proud) would be generally neglected, with most people wanting to read about BLACK SUNDAY and what came after.

So, after all is said and done, it's ultimately best to present his story as a whole.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm curious how you would have been able to make the previously listed publication date of mid-September 2005 (which means the original printer you had lined up would have needed the book by August 1st to meet the scheduled date), when now you're posting on your Bava Blog you'll needed until March 2006 to finish the book? It's just an obvious question that no one seems to have asked when discussing the recent delay. Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide on this. -- Jim Clatterbaugh

DONNA RESPONDS: We originally posted a publication date of mid-September, based on a non-stop production schedule of 10 weeks beginning at the end of May. By that time, the various stills, posters and artwork that others had restored for us were to be delivered to me. I had a week scheduled for fixing the text (primarily the index and the footnotes); 1 week for final layout of TOC and back matter; 4 weeks for dropping in pictures and tweaking the layout; 2 weeks for printing on the laserjet, final proofing, and making corrections; and 2 weeks to get it loaded into proper PDF files and sent to the printer. Our printer at the time was the same printer that's printing our magazine, and they told us the year before that they would need 6 weeks to print and deliver it. We knew their routine, we knew that what we saw on our screen would match the print, and they are 15 miles away from us, which meant that if there were any problems, I could be there during the press run.

Once we brought some sample files to them in May, they reluctantly told us they couldn't print the job after all, because our book had outgrown the capability of their presses. The page size was OK, but the year before, we had anticipated MB - ATCOTD to be an 800 page book. Now that it's over 1000 pages, they realized their bindery equipment would not hold that many signatures, and they'd have to sub it out to a different company in another state to do the binding, and it would not be the price they quoted. With the manual sorting of the signatures and the extra binding and shipping cost, it would be way beyond what they originally quoted. So they had to pass on the project.

Our quest for another printer took us through the end of the year. We originally had over 10 printers who responded to our query, most of them outside the USA. They say it takes 3 months for production (instead of 6 weeks) because shipping will take an entire month alone, printing and binding will probably take about 6 weeks, and the other 2 weeks is for pre-production and approvals of the work, which have to be shipped back and forth, since Hong Kong is not located 15 miles away.

The index that we thought was going to take 1 week took 3 months because of so many unforseen problems. The book was originally divided into 10 Pagemaker documents (some more than 175 pages each). When selecting text to index, the program kept crashing, sometimes in the middle of searching and replacing entries. I tried converting to InDesign, but the same problems and many more occurred. After a crash, some of the documents had to be re-done from scratch, reimporting the text and re-doing the index. Many times, I would have to backtrack and be sure it got what I put in before the crash. I wound up dividing the 10 documents into 26 documents, making each section about 50 pages each. Eventually I had to use memory management programs so I could have some warning before a crash happened, and macro programs to help globally replace items in the index when I had to repeat each search and replace 26 times for each of the documents. This was in addition to all the fact-checking that the index brought to light, double-checking names, titles, years, places, etc... many of them in Italian! The index spans about 35 pages right now, 7 point type.

And that's a selective index!

We could not finalize the pictures until we signed on with a printer because the recommended color profile for their press had to be applied for each picture as it is turned to CMYK, which is also the time that final color-correcting needs to take place. Most of the pictures are fixed up and restored, but all of them need to be color-profiled before the finals can be placed in the layout. Then the usual tightening of the text and balancing the columns needs to be done. I was also told that, if there are trapping problems, I'll have to fix them at my end. I'm looking into how to do this, since my current printer always did this for me in the past.

The footnotes need to be put on the page spread where they are mentioned, which means more layout time, but it will ultimately be easier on the reader, who won't have to hold their place in this 12-pound tome while searching for footnotes elsewhere in the book. Final cover art for front and back and endpapers need to be finalized once final dimensions are given from the printer. Once delivered to the printer, they will send back proofs which we have to sign off on or make corrections to, and shuffle things back and forth. Since we can't be there in person, they have to ship us proofs, possibly press sheets, and finally one copy of the book so we can approve it overall and approve the binding, before they bind the rest.

As long as we don't run into more unforeseen problems, 3 months to finish the book seems a reasonable prediction at this point. But who can tell? I certainly didn't think the index would take so long, so I'm hoping there aren't a lot of problems with the restored pictures I received back, the limitations of the programs, or the specifications that the printer requires.

We'll keep you posted.

We welcome everyone's questions about the Bava book. Just click on "Contact Tim." I will either reply to you personally or on this blog page in our next Q&A.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Tim's Update # 1

Welcome to the Bava Book Update Blog.

The reason for this blog is simple. Our previous Update page was controlled by Donna, which meant that, whenever I wrote a new update, I had to submit it to her and then wait for her to find time in her busy schedule to post it. With this blog, I can do all this myself and get the information out much more spontaneously.

Don't expect this blog to be as detailed as the Video WatchBlog, or as regular. I won't be posting updates every day, or even every week. But as things happen that are worth telling you about, you can read about them here... and the blog should get more interesting and a bit busier as we approach the Finish Line.

Our last update was posted on October 1st. Since then, our time has been spent compiling and completing the book's mammoth index (presently at 35 pages prior to final layout), and producing two complete issues of VIDEO WATCHDOG (#s 123, which was mailed last month, and the forthcoming 124). VW 124 is being held back from release until March, allowing us to maintain our bimonthly schedule through next Spring. This plan gives us the first three months of the new year to work exclusively on the Bava book and get it out the door.

Where things stand: This week, Donna is putting the finishing touches on VW 124 and buckling down to her final work on the book's layout -- inserting the illustrations, making sure they all look right, and designing the layout for a few still unfinished areas of the book (namely, the front and back matter). My own final work on the book amounts to perusing the manuscript one last time, dropping in some last-minute additional text to bring it up to date, and compiling a proper Mario Bava Filmography. The Filmography is something I long resisted, feeling that the book itself -- which follows a chronology -- was the filmography, but as a friend pointed out, if I don't provide one, someone else will inevitably base a filmography on my work and take credit for it. So I have to go through the manuscript and make a formal list of everything Bava worked on. My tasks shouldn't take too long; it's Donna who has the harder job ahead of her.

Over the past few months, we have also been auditioning a number of printers here in the United States and in other countries. We've looked at some beautifully printed books, and also some "dummies" (blank books) that show us how our book is going to look. We're looking at a large hardcover that weighs between 12 and 14 pounds, depending on the paper thickness we finally choose. We may try to whittle the weight down to 10 pounds, if possible. To read a 14-pound book is not easy, and as pretty as this book is going to be, I spent a lot of time writing it and want the writing to be read and appreciated.

One thing that everyone in this final round of printer candidates tells us is that the printing of our book will take three months to produce and deliver. Therefore, since we are devoting three months to finishing the book, that means -- if we need all of March to finish our work -- the earliest delivery date for the book would be sometime in June of this year. It's possible we'll finish ahead of schedule, in which case the book could be delivered sooner. We can't promise that... but we can promise to let you know here, on this blog, when we do finish and send our pdf's to the printer we finally select.

So for us, through the end of March, it's going to be book! book! book!

To recap: At present, we expect MARIO BAVA--ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK to appear sometime in the late Spring or early Summer of 2006.

Also, if anyone has any questions about the book they would like to submit, we can make an ongoing Q&A part of this blog. Just click on "Contact Tim" and send your question. We'll either get back to you directly or deal with your question here. Thanks!