The Big Picture (1989)

PG-13 | 100 mins | Comedy | 15 September 1989

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HISTORY

Originally developed at Paramount Pictures, as noted in a 2 Sep 1988 LA Weekly item, the project went into turnaround and was picked up by Columbia Pictures during David Puttnam’s fifteen-month reign as studio chief. Later, Paramount’s former president of production, Dawn Steel, replaced Puttnam at Columbia, in a move that mimicked the character “Allen Habel’s” replacement by hard-nosed “Lori Pressman.” Steel greenlit the film, and it began shooting 1 Feb 1988 in Los Angeles, CA, according to the 14 Jun 1988 HR production chart. Steel reportedly disapproved of The Big Picture after seeing a rough cut, as noted in the 2 Sep 1988 LA Weekly and Aug 1989 Box review. Her opposition was rumored to be related to the depiction of Lori Pressman as a merciless female executive, although Box dispelled the rumor by saying “the movie simply turns out to be not very good.” As with the majority of projects left behind by Puttnam, Columbia tried to sell distribution rights to another studio but was unsuccessful. A 2 Feb 1989 NYT article reported that eighteen companies had viewed the film but no offers had been made.
       In a 17 Nov 1995 LA Weekly letter to the editor, producer and co-writer Michael Varhol claimed that executive producer ... More Less

Originally developed at Paramount Pictures, as noted in a 2 Sep 1988 LA Weekly item, the project went into turnaround and was picked up by Columbia Pictures during David Puttnam’s fifteen-month reign as studio chief. Later, Paramount’s former president of production, Dawn Steel, replaced Puttnam at Columbia, in a move that mimicked the character “Allen Habel’s” replacement by hard-nosed “Lori Pressman.” Steel greenlit the film, and it began shooting 1 Feb 1988 in Los Angeles, CA, according to the 14 Jun 1988 HR production chart. Steel reportedly disapproved of The Big Picture after seeing a rough cut, as noted in the 2 Sep 1988 LA Weekly and Aug 1989 Box review. Her opposition was rumored to be related to the depiction of Lori Pressman as a merciless female executive, although Box dispelled the rumor by saying “the movie simply turns out to be not very good.” As with the majority of projects left behind by Puttnam, Columbia tried to sell distribution rights to another studio but was unsuccessful. A 2 Feb 1989 NYT article reported that eighteen companies had viewed the film but no offers had been made.
       In a 17 Nov 1995 LA Weekly letter to the editor, producer and co-writer Michael Varhol claimed that executive producer Richard Gilbert Abramson “renounced all interest” in the film after it went into turnaround at Paramount and only became re-interested after it received a green light at Columbia. Varhol acknowledged Abramson’s onscreen credit but emphasized that he did not take part in the production at the behest of the filmmakers.
       An 11 Jan 1989 HR news brief announced that The Big Picture would be the “Mystery Film” to be screened at the upcoming United States Film Festival in Park City, UT. Columbia released the film theatrically on 15 Sep 1989. It was met with negative reviews and tepid box-office reception.
       End credits contain a “Special Thanks” to “Friday Night Videos” and No Sleep Productions, and the following statement: “Excerpts from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ courtesy of Hal Roach Studios, Inc.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Aug 1989.
---
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1988
p. 1, 28.
Daily Variety
9 Mar 1988.
---
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 1989
p. 3, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1989
p. 4, 14.
LA Weekly
2 Sep 1988.
---
LA Weekly
17 Nov 1995.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Sep 1989
p. 8.
New York Times
2 Feb 1989
Section C, p. 17.
New York Times
15 Sep 1989
p. 6.
Variety
8 Feb 1989
p. 26, 28.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Special appearances by:
Bruce Kirby
PEZ® People:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Aspen Film Society Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Elec best boy
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Rigging gaffer
Rigging gaffer
Still photog
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Ed trainee
35mm negative cutter
16mm negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Swing gang
Swing gang
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Mus mixed at
Mus rec eng
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Sd asst
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
ADR ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Foley walker
Foley walker
Sd eff rec
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
ADR mixer
Foley mixer
Sd ed services
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff asst
Visual eff
Title des by
Opticals by
MAKEUP
Key makeup artist
Key hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod coord
Scr supv
Asst loc mgr
Asst to Michael Varhol
Asst to Christopher Guest
Asst prod coord
Casting asst
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Post prod accountant
Prod asst
Craft service
Dog trainer
Horse wrangler
Welfare worker
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Extras casting
First aid
Prod services & equip by
STAND INS
Stunt double
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Whites Of Their Eyes," written by Christopher Guest and Michael McKean, performed by PEZ® People, sung by Michael McKean
"You're Driving Me Crazy," written by David Nichtern and Greg Prestopino, performed by Greg Prestopino
"Angel," written by Eric Kaz, performed by Bonnie Raitt, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
+
SONGS
"The Whites Of Their Eyes," written by Christopher Guest and Michael McKean, performed by PEZ® People, sung by Michael McKean
"You're Driving Me Crazy," written by David Nichtern and Greg Prestopino, performed by Greg Prestopino
"Angel," written by Eric Kaz, performed by Bonnie Raitt, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"The Christmas Song," written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells, performed by Dick Haymes, courtesy of MCA Records
"Blame It On The Bossa Nova," written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, performed by Eydie Gorme, courtesy of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme
"Midnight At The Oasis," written by David Nichtern.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 September 1989
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 15 September 1989
Production Date:
began 1 February 1988 in Los Angeles
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 November 1989
Copyright Number:
PA436748
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Ultra-Stereo®
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29330
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, California, Nick Chapman wins an award for his student film, First Date, upon graduating from the National Film Institute. As a result of the award, Nick is hounded by phone calls from talent agents and signs up for representation with Neil Sussman, a superficial man who admits he has not viewed Nick’s film. Soon after, Allen Habel, the head of a movie studio, meets with Nick, who pitches his idea for a feature film character study about two men and a woman vacationing in a winter cabin, and the adulterous love affair that is revealed. Habel suggests changing one of the male characters to a female so that the affair takes place between two women, an idea that Nick abhors. Later, Nick and his live-in girl friend, a young architect named Susan Rawlings, attend a party at Habel’s mansion, where Nick is introduced as an up-and-coming director to starlet Gretchen Gorman. Habel’s wife, Polo, distracts Susan with a tour of the house, boasting that it cost $4.6 million, while Gretchen attempts to seduce Nick and asks him to think of her for the lead role in his film. In another meeting at Habel’s office, the studio head tells Nick to change the locale of his story to the beach because “snow is a problem,” and winces when Nick mentions that his characters are middle-aged. Habel insists on making the characters younger, as the only people buying movie tickets are fourteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds. After the meeting, Nick runs into Gretchen on the studio lot and she asks him to be her date to a party that weekend. Nick tells his good friend, cinematographer ... +


In Los Angeles, California, Nick Chapman wins an award for his student film, First Date, upon graduating from the National Film Institute. As a result of the award, Nick is hounded by phone calls from talent agents and signs up for representation with Neil Sussman, a superficial man who admits he has not viewed Nick’s film. Soon after, Allen Habel, the head of a movie studio, meets with Nick, who pitches his idea for a feature film character study about two men and a woman vacationing in a winter cabin, and the adulterous love affair that is revealed. Habel suggests changing one of the male characters to a female so that the affair takes place between two women, an idea that Nick abhors. Later, Nick and his live-in girl friend, a young architect named Susan Rawlings, attend a party at Habel’s mansion, where Nick is introduced as an up-and-coming director to starlet Gretchen Gorman. Habel’s wife, Polo, distracts Susan with a tour of the house, boasting that it cost $4.6 million, while Gretchen attempts to seduce Nick and asks him to think of her for the lead role in his film. In another meeting at Habel’s office, the studio head tells Nick to change the locale of his story to the beach because “snow is a problem,” and winces when Nick mentions that his characters are middle-aged. Habel insists on making the characters younger, as the only people buying movie tickets are fourteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds. After the meeting, Nick runs into Gretchen on the studio lot and she asks him to be her date to a party that weekend. Nick tells his good friend, cinematographer Emmet Sumner, about the date, but keeps it a secret from Susan. However, on Saturday, he wakes up Susan when he returns home from the party and admits he was out with the starlet. In the morning, he tells Susan he wants to see other people and drives to Gretchen’s home, only to find she is out with her boyfriend. When he returns home, Susan breaks up with him and he agrees to leave. Nick leases an expensive apartment, which is touted by the landlord as the former home of television game show host Chuck Barris. As he continues working on his script, he meets with Habel and a few other executives, who forbid him to shoot the film in black and white and demand that he use at least fifteen popular songs on the soundtrack. Despite the artistic comprises he is asked to make, Nick continues to embrace his newfound status and leases a Porsche, driving it to pick up Emmet for a lunch date. On the way to a restaurant, Emmet talks about his newborn baby but Nick ignores Emmet when he receives a call on his car phone. He asks Emmet to step outside so he can have privacy. Resuming their ride, Nick announces that famous cinematographer Andres Vargiak has been hired to shoot his movie instead of Emmet, to whom he had promised the job. He drops Emmet off without stopping for lunch and peels away, shouting “Ciao!” Later, he picks up a copy of Daily Variety and learns that Habel has been fired. Neil Sussman informs him over the phone that his project is “dead,” but Nick begs for a meeting with the new studio head. In Habel’s old office, he meets with Lorie Pressman, who claims she always had reservations about his project and is unimpressed when Nick attempts to pitch new ideas. Later, Nick takes a meeting at Brown Entertainment, a company that uses market research to generate low-budget projects, but balks at the executive’s idea for a buddy film about Abe Lincoln and Babe Ruth. Out of money, Nick takes on jobs as a telemarketer, a mover, and a messenger. He calls to inform his parents that he will not be home for Christmas, and lies that his project has been delayed, not cancelled. One day, Nick delivers a package to Susan’s office and asks if she wants to see a movie with him. Susan is not ready to revive their relationship but suggests he get in touch with his estranged friend Emmet. At a movie theater, Nick runs into Lydia Johnson, an experimental filmmaker and fellow former student at the National Film Institute. Lydia shows Nick her apartment, an old mannequin factory, and introduces him to a rock and roll band rehearsing next door. She suggests Nick film a music video for the band, which does not have a name. Eating Pez candy from a pocket-sized mechanical dispenser, Nick gets an idea to name the band the Pez People and film them in human-sized Pez dispenser costumes. The video, which incorporates clips from Nick’s and Lydia’s student films, airs on television, and Habel Habel’s assistant, Todd Marvin, sees it. Meanwhile, Nick reconciles with Emmet, then cooks lunch for Susan and convinces her to take a road trip to the desert. Learning about the Pez People video from Todd, Habel calls Nick but he is not home. Assuming he is busy making a deal with someone else, Habel instructs Todd to call around town and get more information. Todd’s inquiries incite a frenzy of rumors about Nick, who is none the wiser as he and Susan enjoy their weekend getaway. Later, he returns home to a slew of answering machine messages, and goes to Neil Sussman’s office, where he is presented with a stack of scripts for his consideration. Nick tells Neil he wants to make the film he originally pitched to Habel, in black and white, with Emmet as the cinematographer. His wish is granted, and sometime later, he directs a scene while Habel, Todd, Susan, and his parents watch from behind the camera. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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