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'Funky Midnight Mover': The Songs Of Wilson Pickett.

Wilson Pickett helped define 1960s soul, along with Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and James Brown. Critic Ed Ward reviews Funky Midnight Mover, a new six-disc compilation of Pickett's recordings, released by Rhino Handmade.



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Other segments from the episode on April 1, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, April 1, 2010: Interview with Toni Colette; Interview with Edward J. Epstein; Review of Wilson Pickett box set "Funky Midnight Mover."


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Toni Collette: Keeping Track Of Multiple Personalities


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, sitting in for Terry Gross.

My guest is Australian actress Toni Collette. Her habit of taking on diverse
roles and her talent for character transformation sometimes leave audiences
unaware she's the same actress they've seen in other performances. Collette got
an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in "The Sixth Sense." Among her
other films are "Muriel's Wedding," "Velvet Goldmine," "About a Boy," "The
Hours," In Her Shoes" and "Little Miss Sunshine."

Collette's talents are currently showcased in the Showtime series, "The United
States of Tara," where she plays a mom with dissociative identity disorder,
once known as multiple personality syndrome.

(Soundbite of TV show, "United State of Tara")

Ms. TONI COLLETTE (Actor): (As Tara Gregson) I just really resent picking up
after them - I mean, not the kids, the alters. The messes they make can be
astounding. I mean, having multiple personalities is like hosting a kegger in
your brain, only you're passed out cold, while everyone else is just trashing
the joint.

DAVIES: Toni Collette won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of
Tara. In season two, which began last week, Tara and her family think they've
finally vanquished the alternate personalities, who haven't appeared in months.
But it turns out they're wrong.

I recently spoke to Toni Collette. We began with a montage of some of the
alternative personalities in the series. First we hear Buck, a macho guy,
talking to Tara's husband, Max. Then we hear T, a rebellious 15-year-old,
talking to Tara's daughter Kate. And finally, it's Tara herself, talking to her
understanding son Marshall, after the teenager T has had control of her body
for a few hours.

(Soundbite of TV show, "United State of Tara")

Mr. JOHN CORBETT (Actor): (As Max Gregson) Hey, don't smoke in here, okay, man?

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Tara) I only smoke when I party.

Mr. CORBETT: (As Max) Well, this isn't a party.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Tara) Says you.

Ms. BRIE LARSON (Actor): (As Kate Gregson) Are those my new skinny jeans?

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Tara) Don't they make my ass look fine?

Ms. LARSON: (As Kate) Fine for 40.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Tara) You know how much it blows being 15 and stuck in this
ancient body? I mean, look. I have a muffin top.

Ms. LARSON: (As Kate) It must suck.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Tara) You suck.

How is she? T, I mean.

Mr. KEIR GILCHRIST (Actor): (As Marshall Gregson) She wasn't that bad. I mean,
she was only here for a couple hours. Do you know she's a vegetarian now?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Tara) Am I high?

Mr. GILCHRIST: (As Marshall) Maybe a little, yeah.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Tara) Listen, I want to thank you for being such a strong,
supportive kid. I'm really lucky.

Mr. GILCHRIST: (As Marshall) We're lucky, mom. I mean, because of you, we get
to be interesting.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Tara) You like being interesting?

Mr. GILCHRIST: (As Marshall) I love it.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Tara) I think I have the munchies. Do you want anything from
the kitchen?

DAVIES: And that's our guest, Toni Collette, Toni Collette and Toni Collette...

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: ...from "The United States of Tara," playing the main character, Tara,
and then two of the alternative identities that the character becomes from time
to time.

Is there a difference between playing these different characters as alternate
personalities of the same person? Is that different from playing them as if
they were independent, free-standing characters?

Ms. COLLETTE: I try to do both, actually. I want the audience to be able to
invest in each of the alters and to believe them wholeheartedly. So I try to
make them as complex and as real and as whole as possible. But at the same
time, they're all part of Tara. They all represent something that she can't
quite access or that is repressed, and that's literally why they exist. So I'm
conscious of why they exist in two ways.

DAVIES: You know, this is a very physical role, or series of roles, because
when you, you know, when you become an alter and you transform yourself, I
mean, you do amazing things with your voice, but you also physically become a
different person.

And in some cases, there are people who are at odds with the body that they
occupy. It's a 15-year-old kid in a 40-year-old person's body. It's a macho,
male, kind of truck-driving sort of guy in a housewife's body. How does that
affect the way you do this?

Ms. COLLETTE: You know, in reading a script - and I have the luxury of working
with such fabulous material on this show - I find that characters either leap
off the page and they're complete as I read them, I hear them and I feel them
and I see them and I taste them, and it's a very immediate response. And
there’s almost not too far to travel to make them whole, you know.

So, you know, with T, I - she was very clear and very immediate.

DAVIES: That's the teenager, right? Yeah.

Ms. COLLETTE: That's right, yeah. She's 15, and, you know, she, I guess,
represents escapism and irresponsibility and just giving her finger to the
world and complete self-indulgence. And so I wanted her to physically just be
moving out in all directions and kind of sloppy.

With Alice, she's very tightly wound. She's - we haven't talked about her, but
she's the 1950s homemaker, and she's kind of the most controlling of the
alters. She represents a kind of a need for order and is - can be manipulative
in trying to achieve that.

DAVIES: The aggressively conventional mom, in a way. Yeah. Right, right.

Ms. COLLETTE: Yeah, yeah. But everything's just under the surface with her. She
keeps a smile at all times, and - but still gets her way. But she's quite anal,
which I quite enjoy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLLETTE: And Buck, I was most nervous about creating Buck because first of
all, I didn't want him to be a cliché, and I didn't want him to become
laughable and for the audience to, you know, just be taken with the idea of a
woman playing a guy.

I wanted the audience to be able to relate to Buck or invest in him as a
character as much as the female alters. And so with that particular alter, I
hung out with some fairly masculine blokes and - just to get a few tips on his

And, you know, I tried to avoid giving Buck a Southern accent, but I always
came back to it. I thought it would be too much of a cliché, but somehow it
works, and it was kind of inescapable, in a way. It's what I first heard, and I
just kept coming back to it.

DAVIES: In "The United States of Tara," you know, one of these roles is a 15-
year-old kid, and you have to pull off being a teenager. And I know that you
took this role on just a few months after you'd given birth to your daughter.

Ms. COLLETTE: Yeah, three months.

DAVIES: Yeah, and, you know, it works. Was it hard kind of getting into shape,
and trusting that you could pull that off?

Ms. COLLETTE: Abso-freaking-lutely, and I was petrified. This was my first
child, and it was the most heart-opening experience. I've never felt so
vulnerable in my life. And then to have to be so physical in front of a crew
that I didn't know and knowing that it would be seen by others eventually was
really a little bit scary and exciting.

I like putting myself in uncomfortable positions. There's something to gain
from it, and I love the project on the whole. So I was willing to go there. But
in terms of the physicality, I - you can't exercise straight away after having
a child. And so I had to wait, I think, six weeks, and I was happy to wait. I
was too busy staring at this brilliant, new creature that I had in my arms.

But once I started - I don't know. It was like it was me connecting to the show
before even arriving in L.A. to shoot the show. So it just started the ball
rolling internally, I guess, as well, which was handy.

DAVIES: There's a scene where you, as Buck - I mean, the macho alternative
identity - gets into a fight in a parking lot with a teenager, who's one of
your - a kid who has been unkind to your daughter. And you're really going at
it. I read that in this scene, you actually caught the kid with a hard right
and sent him to the hospital. Is this true?

Ms. COLLETTE: I believe it was a hard left.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLLETTE: Yes. But he - we did a few takes, and he had a lot of studs and
spiky bits in his costume. So I didn't walk away unwounded. I had scratches and
blood and bruises that lasted quite some time, but I felt quite proud of them,
because I'd never done a fight scene before.

Yes, I did clock him on the chin, and he didn't take it very well, actually. He
had to do some press - I think the Toronto Film Festival was happening. He was
getting on a plane the next morning, and he was the one who talked about going
to hospital, but let me tell you - and the crew will back me up - he was fine.

DAVIES: Well, I wanted to dial the clock back a bit in your career and talk
about "Muriel's Wedding," which was a breakout role for you, got you a lot of
attention, made, you know, in Australia, in your home. And we have a scene here
where you're Muriel. And, of course, you're this sort of overweight woman who
is insecure and obsessed with the music of the group ABBA and also obsessed
with getting married and has, in fact, at this point in the story, she's moved
to Sydney to try to escape her old life and has made up a story that she's
actually engaged to someone, she wants to be married to someone, someone named
Tim Simms.

And in this scene, her friend, who's played by Rachel Griffiths, discovers that
Muriel has been visiting bridal shops everywhere and trying on gowns, and she
comes in to confront her.

(Soundbite of movie, "Muriel's Wedding")

Ms. RACHEL GRIFFITHS (Actor): (As Rhonda Epinstalk) What is going on, Muriel?
I've seen your wedding album. You've tried on every dress in Sydney.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Muriel Heslop) Well, that doesn't mean I'm getting married.

Ms. GRIFFITHS: (As Rhonda) What else does it mean?

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Muriel) I want to get married. I've always wanted to get
married. If I can get married, it would mean I've changed. I'm a new person.

Ms. GRIFFITHS: (As Rhonda) How?

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Muriel) Because who would want to marry me?

Ms. GRIFFITHS: (As Rhonda) Tim Simms.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Muriel) There is no Tim Simms. I made him up. In Porpoise
Spit, no one would even look at me. But when I came to Sydney and became
Mariel, Brice asked me out. Now that proves I'm already different than I was.
And if someone wants to marry me, I'm not her anymore. I'm me.

Ms. GRIFFITHS: (As Rhonda) Who?

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Muriel) Muriel, Muriel Heslop, stupid, fat and useless. I
hate her. I'm not going back to being her again. Why can't it be me? Why I
can't I be the one?

DAVIES: And that's our guest, Toni Collette, with Rachel Griffiths in the film
"Muriel's Wedding." You grew up in a working-class suburb of Sydney yourself,
right? Do you identify with Muriel and her character at all?

Ms. COLLETTE: Absolutely. When I read the script, I just had to communicate to
P.J. that it had to be me. I had to be the one. I just thought: There's nobody
else who can help tell this story. I totally understand this person, and I have
to do it.

DAVIES: You know, I'll hope you'll forgive me if I ask you a question that I
know you've probably been asked so many times that you're tired of it, but this
involves an incident when I believe you were 11 years old, and I read that you
faked the symptoms of appendicitis so accurately that a healthy appendix was
actually removed from you. Do you have much memory of that event?

Ms. COLLETTE: Not really. I mean, I don't - it's so embarrassing. I don't know
why I did it. I remember my mother telling me when she was 11, she had her
appendix out. And I was like, well, how could you - how did you know that was
the problem? And she said: When the doctor pressed on the spot, it didn't hurt.
It was when he released his hand is when she felt pain. And so I guess I wanted
the day off of school, and I faked it. And I, you know, acted accordingly when
he released his hand, and then he ordered me into the emergency room. And I
just never voiced - I never owned up to it.

And I know that a lot of people say that actors of needy of attention, and I
hate to admit it, but perhaps that was part of that, because I don't see myself
as a very needy person. I try to shun any kind of attention that I get and
focus on my work. But at that point, perhaps that was part of that embarrassing

DAVIES: You know, looking back at "Muriel's Wedding," this film that was, you
know, was a real take-off point for your career, you know, a lot of people
would not recognize the Toni Collette when they look at that film today
because, you know, you're much heavier. And I read that you gained 40 pounds
for the role. I mean...

Ms. COLLETTE: Forty-three.

DAVIES: Forty-three.

Ms. COLLETTE: Every pound counts.

DAVIES: Were you asked to do this? I mean, how did that happen?

Ms. COLLETTE: Yes. Well, she was written as an overweight young woman, and
yeah, that was definitely something they were determined for me to do. I know
people wear fat suits, but they definitely were fattening me up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLLETTE: In fact, I do remember coming to New York for the first time and
doing a whole heap of press, and I remember people being fascinated when they
were informed that I'd put on weight, that a young woman would do that. But I -
if I love a character, I - to be honest, I wouldn't do it again. I've done it a
few times since, and it's - I think the older you get, you don't have the
bounce-back, and it's not quite as healthy. But people were really fascinated,
and I don't know. It seemed oddly acceptable for a male actor, but for a
female, oh, my God. How can you possibly? And I was kind of outraged by that.

DAVIES: We're speaking with Toni Collette. Her series, "The United States of
Tara," is now in its second season. We'll talk more after a short break. This

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guest is actress Toni Collette. She
stars in the Showtime series, "The United States of Tara," which is now in its
second season.

Well, in 1999, you got an Oscar nomination for your role in "The Sixth Sense,"
the M. Night Shyamalan film. And in this film, you're a struggling, single
mother who has this kid who sees ghosts. And I thought we'd listen to a scene
where you're at the dinner table with him, and you're asking him about the fact
that your late mother's special bumblebee pendant seems to disappear from your
room and end up in your son's room, even though he says he's not taking it.
Let's listen to the conversation.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Sixth Sense")

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Lynn Sear) So who moved it this time? Maybe someone came in
our house, took the bumblebee pendant out of my closet and placed it nicely in
your drawer.

Mr. HALEY JOEL OSMENT (Actor): (As Cole Sear) Maybe.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Lynn) God, I am so tired, Cole. I'm tired in my body. I'm
tired in my mind. I'm tired in my heart. I need some help. You know, I don't
know if you noticed, but our little family isn't doing so good. I mean, I've
been praying, and I must not be praying right. It looks like we're just going
to have to answer each other's prayers. If we can't talk to each other, we're
not going to make it. Now tell me, baby, I won't get mad, honey. Did you take
the bumblebee pendant?

Mr. OSMENT: (As Cole) No.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Lynn) You've had enough roast beef. You need to leave the
table. Go.

DAVIES: And that's our guest, Toni Collette, in the film "The Sixth Sense." A
terrific role, terrific performance. Tell us how you got this part.

Ms. COLLETTE: Well, it's funny, you know. I was in New York, and I was
desperate to work with Martin Scorsese. I went to audition for a part in a film
he was making called "Bringing Out the Dead," and whilst I was here, my agent
sent me another script.

And I didn't know much about it. He told me it was a new director, writer-
director, and it was starring Bruce Willis. And no disrespect, but I just
thought I don't want to do a movie like that. I just made an assumption about
the kind of film it was going to be.

So I put off reading the script, and one night I was, you know, I was a little
bit jet-lagged. I was up late, staying in a friend's apartment, and I thought
oh, hell. I'll pick it up. And I couldn't put it down. And I just thought it
was absolutely brilliant, and we all know about the twist at the end now, but
man, the way you feel when you're watching it, I felt that when I was reading
it. It was just so intense and so beautiful. I thought it was this beautiful,
spiritual tale.

So, anyway, I went to meet Night, and I auditioned, and that's that. I get a
message one day from my agent, and I call him back from a - this was before
cell phones, so it was just a pay phone on the street. And I'd - he yelled on
the phone: Toni, you've been offered. And I thought he was going to say, you
know, the Scorsese film, and I screamed in the middle of the street.

And he said hang on, hang on. Did you hear me? You've been offered "The Sixth
Sense." And I was like oh, no. And I remember feeling disappointed. Even though
I liked it, you know, Martin Scorsese, you know, is like the be all and end

So I went back to my hotel room, and there were messages from Night, and he
wanted to talk to me before I was flying back to Australia, and I was avoiding
his phone calls. I was, like, oh, God. I don't want to commit to this one if
the other one happens. The other one didn't happen. I ended up having an
amazing experience on "The Sixth Sense." I loved making the movie. I loved
working with everyone on that. I've got some great friends from that film, and
there you have it.

DAVIES: Could you tell us about the audition? I mean, do you remember what
scene you did?

Ms. COLLETTE: I remember I did the scene in the car at the end, and that's the
scene that really made me want to do the movie. It's such a powerful and
emotional scene. I also remember that prior to my trip to New York, I'd been in
Mexico, and on my 25th birthday, I shaved my head.

So I wasn't looking particularly Hollywood, and so I was not insecure about
that. I thought oh, well, if they're going to hire me, they're going to hire me
for what I can do. Everybody knows there's wigs out there. And luckily they
did. Yeah.

DAVIES: I have to ask why you shaved your head.

Ms. COLLETTE: Because I was 25, and I was alive.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLLETTE: And I had a lot of tequila.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Well, it'll grow back, until a tattoo, which won't come off. You
mentioned a scene...

Ms. COLLETTE: I got a couple of those, as well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: You were also in "Little Miss Sunshine," which was a terrifically
successful film. And in this one, you're the mom, kind of the one centered
person surrounded by these folks who are so caught up in their own obsessions
and agendas, and it's just a terrific film.

But one of the interesting things, I read that this film, which was shot in a
very short period of time, had this ensemble cast and that the directors, who
were a husband and wife team, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, had you all go
on outings, like bowling, in character. Is this right?

Ms. COLLETTE: Yeah. We had - I can't remember now if it was one or two weeks,
but it was an extensive rehearsal period, and a luxury in the film world. And,
yeah, it was really - they made it such great fun. And, you know, it was about
all of us learning to feel comfortable with each other and - as well as
learning about the characters and building the characters.

So part of that was, yeah, hopping in our van and going off on little
adventures, one of which included bowling.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLLETTE: I went bowling recently and got six strikes in one game. Things
have improved.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Ooh, you're an athlete.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: You know, when you look at your work, there are so many different
accents, all done just so beautifully and convincingly. Do you have a technique
for this?

Ms. COLLETTE: Not really. I mean, an accent can, in a way, be an entry into a
character. I grew up watching a lot of American television. So the American
sound has been in my psyche somehow for a long time, and is quite familiar. So
I think that does make it easier.

Also, I think having a musicality about me, that helps in identifying different
things in languages and getting them right. I just - I've never struggled with
it, and I know that some actors do, and I feel very blessed to not have to
think about how I'm sounding when I'm acting. So I can just, you know, not have
to think about the technicality of it and try and be more in the moment.

DAVIES: When you're shooting a film like "The Sixth Sense" and you have a
working-class Philadelphia accent, does it stay with you when you're off the

Ms. COLLETTE: No, I don't do that. I know some actors do. I've worked with
them, and I, you know, I just go back to this, what you hear now.

DAVIES: Uh-huh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Well, Toni Collette, it's been fun. Thanks so much for speaking with

Ms. COLLETTE: Thank you. That was a real trip down memory lane. Thanks so much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Toni Collette stars in the Showtime series "The United States of Tara."
I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Crunching Numbers In The 'Hollywood Economy'


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies in for Terry Gross.

Everyone knows that movies cost billions and make millions and that we're
paying a lot more for tickets than we used to. But did you ever wonder how the
box office take is split among the theaters, the studios, the artists and the
video stores?

Our next guest, Edward Jay Epstein, has spent years figuring out the finances
of the movie business and he says power relationships in Hollywood explain a
lot about why movies follow predictable formulas and why independent films are
hard to make and get into theaters.

And Epstein's new book, "The Hollywood Economist," has other fascinating
insights, like how cup holders drive seats – cup holders on seats drive up
revenue, how states and some foreign countries subsidize studios, and why most
multiplex theaters have exactly 299 seats; that's because 300 would trigger a
requirement of the Americans for Disabilities Act that every row be wheelchair

Edward Jay Epstein is an investigative journalist whose written books on
subjects from the Kennedy assassination to the diamond industry. I spoke to him
recently about his new book, "The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial
Reality Behind the Movies."

Well, Edward Jay Epstein, welcome to FRESH AIR. You know, movies once
captivated the American public. The audience was enormous. Give us a sense of
how much the American public was watching movies decades ago, back, say, in the
'40s, as compared to how often we go today?

Mr. EDWARD JAY EPSTEIN (Author): In the 1940s it was the national pastime.
Approximately 67 percent, two-thirds of the American public every week on the
average went to a movie. And they didn’t just simply see a movie, they saw
newsreels, they saw cartoons, animation, shorts, a second feature, but it was
their weekly pastime. Today, less than 10 percent of the public on the average
go to the movies in a week.

Now, even with movies like "Avatar," they score enormous numbers but the
percentage still doesn’t go above 10 percent. They take their numbers from
other movies that are playing at other theaters. You still have less than 10
percent of the population and it's been this way for the last 10 years.

DAVIES: You know, one of the differences between the movie business today and,
you know, 40 or 50 years ago was that there were fewer theaters, bigger
audiences and bigger screens. Now you have multiplexes with, you know,
thousands of screens, which means that movie - that studios have to produce
thousands of prints of their films. Is that a significant expense?

Mr. EPSTEIN: Well, prints now cost roughly, people use a number a thousand
dollars a print. It could be more or less. But so if you’re doing five thousand
prints, it's $5 million. Now, if the, you know, you’re doing "Avatar," it’s not
a significant cost. If you’re doing a film like "Hurt Locker," in which case,
you know, your total box office is $8 million, it’s a - it'll wipe out your
entire box office. So it’s a significant cost. Not as significant as

DAVIES: But they actually do make actual films on reels. These aren't simply
digital computer files that we're seeing in theaters, right?

Mr. EPSTEIN: That's interesting you raised that point, Dave, because now when
films are shown digitally, there's a digital file. But the movie companies, the
studios, the distributors, whatever we're going to call them, still charge -
this is not something they make public - they still charge the film for what
they call a digital copy, even though the digital copy, rather than a $1,000
might cost them $50, and they then contribute the money for digital copies of
the movie to help the theaters convert from analog projectors to digital
projectors. So they have a basic scam going on, and that is charging for
something that doesn’t exist.

Now, what happens is, it adds to the deficit of the individual movies but helps
all the studios together by helping the theaters to convert to digital, which
will in the future reduce their cost.

DAVIES: So the studio makes a movie and then its distributor, which is a
subsidiary of the same studio, charges a fee which includes high costs for
prints of the movie which aren't really the major cost but it’s a way of
extracting revenue from the film, right? That then gets used to convert the
theaters to digital projection.

Mr. EPSTEIN: In the case of digital projection, that’s true. In the case of
analog projection, which is still the majority of theaters, they actually make
a print but they get a footage allowance from the film labs, which they get
back at the end of the year if they use a certain amount of footage, and that
reduces their cost by 10 or 20 percent, which goes into their treasury and
doesn’t go to the account of the film.

The films are all set up. The titles are set up as off-the-books corporation
for the purpose of simply accounting on the film. The actual flow of money into
a studio is very different from the money that is credited to the film.

DAVIES: Now, you write that studios don’t really make a lot of money from the
box office. I mean a lot of it goes to the theater owners and to the
distributors and to the advertising and printing costs. So where do they make
their money if it's not from their theater audience?

Mr. EPSTEIN: Well, the reality of the movie business is very simple. They have
a library of movies of literally thousands of titles. Those titles they can
sell over and over again to television stations, to cable networks, to pay
television, to put them on video - now of course it's DVD - license them to
games. This brings in a steady and major flow of money, which pays for their
entire production, the money that they actually earn from the ancillary rights
to a movie.

And these rights, to keep them flowing - and it's worldwide, it's global, it's
not just America - to keep the money flowing in, they need hit movies because
when they sell a package and they sell these movies not individually but
they’ll sell 20 movies to a pay television network or to a foreign television
network, they need few hits, big hits like "Batman" or "Avatar" or whatever you
have, to drive the package through the whole system. And they make their money
by basically selling the same product over and over again through different

The beginning - it all opens with the theater and the box office. Now, you
know, if we go back to the 1940s or earlier, all the money came from the box
office, so people still think in terms of a box office as the heart of the
business. But that all changed in the '50s, when television came in. Now you
have 90 percent of your audience at home basically, watching television or
watching their computer or watching their DVD machine or whatever they have
there. And because of that, the studios have to be - have a means of reaching
the home audience as well as the audience that actually gets into a car and
comes to a movie theater.

DAVIES: What about product placements in films? Is that a major source of

Mr. EPSTEIN: It's not a major source of review to the studios, but it's
helpful, especially in independent movies, where people get free computers and
free cars to use. They don’t get the cars to take home but they get cars to use
during the production. Airplane tickets. It helps reduce the budget of a movie.
It isn't the major source of money.

What is a major source of money is government subsidies. You know, that - or
even state or city subsidies in America. That could reduce your budget by 25 or
30 percent. Product placement is more or less, you know, a nice freebie that
comes on top of everything else. It's the cream in the coffee, if you like.

DAVIES: Now, when a movie's being made, one of the risks is that an actor or
actress will walk off the set, get ill, get injured. What kind of insurance do
they have for stars?

Mr. EPSTEIN: Well, you can't make a movie, at least a movie where you'll have
any sort of independent financing, unless you have cast insurance. Cast
insurance says that if any of your major players - could be the director or the
stars - are incapacitated, the insurance company will compensate you fully.
Even if it means scraping the entire production, you'll get back every penny,
including script development cost. It's a very expensive cast insurance. It
could be five percent of your budget.

DAVIES: Are there some stars that have higher premiums because they have a way
of not finishing films?

Mr. EPSTEIN: Well, yes. The insurance companies, one of the things they do is
evaluate risk. They're not fools and they look at every aspect of a star's
history, whether they’ve taken drugs, whether they’ve been in trouble with the
police, anything, whether they had an injured arm or leg, anything that might
reoccur. I mean because, again, insurance companies are risking hundreds of
millions of dollars in the case of some major films like "Terminator 3" against
a few million dollars in premium. So that they want to make sure that the stars
don’t do stunts - not that the stars would do the stunts normally - but they
want to make sure that doesn’t happen.

They want to make sure that the stars don’t expose themselves to any risk by
playing any sports during the movie or even driving a car in some cases. And
they want to make sure that they won't suddenly disappear.

DAVIES: We're speaking with Edward Jay Epstein. His new book is "The Hollywood
Economist." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you’re just joining us, our guest is writer Edward Jay Epstein. He
writes about the economics of Hollywood. His new book is called "The Hollywood

You’ve written about how difficult it is for independent films to get financed
and to find an audience. And I know that when I read - sometimes when I watch
films that are described as independent films, it will say that they are
distributed, in fact, by one of the big studio names that we know - you know,
Paramount or Warner Brothers. What do we mean when we say an independent film?

Mr. EPSTEIN: An independent film is a film that it does not have a studio green
light. Studios might later pick it up to distribute, they might buy it at a
film festival. Sony has an entire division, Sony Classics, which buys films
essentially at film festivals, nowadays not paying more than $2 million a
movie. But an independent film, the major difference between an independent and
a studio film is a studio film has a distribution date the day it is greenlit,
the day it goes into production.

When "Wall Street II" went into production in September of 2009, it knew that
it was going to be released April 23rd, 2010. When an independent movie is
made, it has no distribution and no distribution date. So it might have to go
to film festivals. It might be years later before it gets distributed, or might
never get distributed. For that reason, it’s much harder raising money if you
don’t know when the money's ever going to be returned to you.

DAVIES: So an independent film, when it’s made, there is no assurance that a
major studio will distribute it. So how do people finance independent films?

Mr. EPSTEIN: Well, there's been many different attempts to finance independent
movies. Sometimes it's rich people finance independent movies. People like
William Randolph Hearst made films back in the 1920s. For a long time they were
financed by selling the rights to the film in foreign territories - Germany,
France, Japan. And by selling those rights and then borrowing money on the
contract that they would be paid for those rights, they were able to finance
the movies. But this has become exceedingly difficult in the last few years.
And this year, 2010, it’s almost impossible to find enough presales to finance
a movie.

DAVIES: So in other words, you would sell the assurance that once a film
finishes its American run, that the foreign rights would belong to whoever is
putting up the financing and then use that promissory note, in effect, to get a
bank loan or some other kind of investment. But you don’t really know at that
point what kind of success it'll have and whether it’ll have a foreign
audience, do you?

Mr. EPSTEIN: Well, you don’t - you know, if you’re a foreign distributor, you
don’t have to put up any money. You just sign an agreement that if the film is
finished and if it plays - sometimes as a contract it has to play in American
theaters - you will put up so much money for the rights to that territory.
Let's say Germany. So you agree to pay $10 million for the German rights to the
movie if it's delivered. Then the movie producer has to go to a bank and say, I
would like to borrow $10 million on this note. The bank will say, well, how do
we know it'll be finished? Then you have to get a completion bond from
essentially an insurance company which says that we guarantee that the movie
will be finished, and that bond might cost you another million dollars. So it's
a very complex process, raising money, and this process made much more
difficult recently because of the end of, say, the DVD market abroad or the
shrinking of it abroad.

The end of independent distributors in America - some people are no longer sure
the movie will be released in America, so foreign distributors don’t want it -
and the growth of local film industry, all these things have come together, so
these days it's very hard to finance a film other than from investors or
angels, however you want to describe people who are willing to risk money for
the pleasure of seeing a film made.

DAVIES: You know, it’s a little discouraging as I listen to you describe how
all this works and how the studios want to get a teen audience to justify the,
you know, tens of millions in advertising and distribution costs that they will
incur, and how hard it is for independent producers to get financing to get a
film made. Do you think that overall the quality of cinema has been degraded by
the finances?

Mr. EPSTEIN: I do think that the quality of movies have been juvenilized, if
not degraded, have brought down in their age level and their intelligence, by
the requisites and the realities of what a studio needs to do to keep money
flowing in. You know, I think that everyone in Hollywood would like to make
socially relevant and intelligent movies. These are intelligent people in
Hollywood and they would like to make movies like Quentin Tarantino makes,
they'd like to make really good movies.

The problem is, they know that they need an audience to come to the theaters
that they can find, and that audience tends to be teenage and high school
students and people that basically want action in movies. So more and more they
produce the movies that will produce the audience they need and somehow they
hope that a little money will be available to make "The Hurt Locker"s or the
other movies that they would really prefer to make if they had their way about
it, if they had the ability to do what they wanted to do.

DAVIES: Well, Edward Jay Epstein, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. EPSTEIN: Thank you so much, Dave.

DAVIES: Edward Jay Epstein's book is "The Hollywood Economist." You can read
the first chapter on our Web site,
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
'Funky Midnight Mover': The Songs Of Wilson Pickett


Wilson Pickett was one of the male singers who defined 1960s soul, along with
Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and James Brown. Rough where Cooke and
Gaye were smooth, urban where Redding was country, and lush where Brown was
spare, Pickett made a huge impact, then seemed to have vanished. Now Rhino
Handmade has released "Funky Midnight Mover," a six-disc collection of
Pickett's recordings for Atlantic, where he spent most of his career.

Rock historian Ed Ward has this review.

(Soundbite of song, "I Found a Love")

ED WARD: Pickett was born in 1941 in Alabama, the grandson of a preacher. But
as a teenager, he fled the cotton fields to Detroit, where his father had moved
earlier. He loved to sing and frequently went to Dayton, Ohio, where he
performed a bit with a gospel group, the Violinaires.

When an up-and-coming Detroit vocal group, the Falcons, lost their lead singer
in 1961, Pickett auditioned for them and they snapped him up. His familiarity
with Dayton got the Falcons a club gig there, and they introduced "I Found a
Love," a song Pickett had written with the Falcons bass singer, Willie
Schofield. The response was so good that the group headed over to Cincinnati to
record it at King Records, taking the Ohio Untouchables, the band that had been
backing them. They were so powerful, they overloaded the microphones. But the
song became a huge hit in early 1962.

It was a rich moment. Among the other Falcons were Eddie Floyd and Mack Rice,
who became important singers and songwriters, and the leader of the
Untouchables was guitarist Robert Ward, a blues master who left soon afterwards
for a solo career, leaving the rest of the band to eventually become the Ohio

Pickett always had big ambitions, and he soon went solo, recording for a number
of labels, most notably Lloyd Price's Double L. Jerry Wexler, at Atlantic
Records, heard Pickett's version of "If You Need Me," and had Solomon Burke
record it. Oddly, Atlantic made no effort to sign Pickett himself until mid-
1964, and even then his records didn't do very well.

It wasn't until May 1965 — when Wexler had the inspiration to try Pickett out
in front of the Stax house band in Memphis — that they found the magic formula.
Sitting in the studio with white guitarist Steve Cropper, Pickett found that
the kid knew his gospel, and after fooling around for a while with something
the Violinaires used to do, they made history.

(Soundbite of song, "In the Midnight Hour")

Mr. WILSON PICKETT (Singer-Songwriter) (Singing) I'm gonna wait till the
midnight hour. That's when my love comes tumbling down. I'm gonna wait till the
midnight hour when there's no one else around. I'm gonna take you girl and hold
you and do all the things I told you. In the midnight hour. Yes I am. Oh, yes I

WARD: Writing songs with Steve Cropper and two ex-Falcons, Mack Rice and Eddie
Floyd, both of whom were now working for Stax, Pickett scored two more smash
hits, "634-5789" and "Ninety-Nine and a Half Won't Do," before record company
politics dictated that he move to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama for
the next sessions.

Pretty much all of the music from this period is excellent, with top-notch
songwriting, playing and, of course, singing. The biggest hit was the song
Pickett's best remembered for written by Mack Rice, who also recorded the
original version, and given its title by Aretha Franklin, another Detroiter,
who played keyboards on Rice's version. Pickett, however, turned it into
something else, as 1966 turned into 1967.

(Soundbite of song, "Mustang Sally")

Mr. PICKETT: (Singing) Mustang Sally, I guess you better slow your mustang
down. Oh Lord. What I said now. Mustang Sally, now baby, oh Lord, guess you
better slow your mustang down. Oh yeah. You’ve been running all over the town
now. Oh, I guess I'll have to put your flat feet on the ground.

WARD: Then, in January of 1969, he did something totally unexpected.

(Soundbite of song, "Hey Jude")

Mr. PICKETT: (Singing) Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it
better. Remember to let her in your heart, then you can start to make it
better. Hey Jude, don’t be afraid. You were made, made to go out and get her.
The minute you let her under skin, then you begin to make it better.

WARD: He'd been hanging out with Fame Studios' new guitarist, a tall blond kid
from Florida named Duane Allman, and somehow this guy had convinced him to
listen to the Beatles. Even more remarkably, when "Hey Jude" was released early
in 1969, it did well on both the soul and the pop charts.

By 1970, though, squabbling between Atlantic and various studios reached such a
pitch that the company decided to record Pickett in the new hot place,
Philadelphia, and packed him off to work with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The
change did him good. The album Wilson Pickett in Philadelphia contained two
more smash hits..

(Soundbite of song, "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You")

Mr. PICKETT: (Singing) Girl try to remember when we didn't have no shoes. We
stuck together just me and you. It took a long time to get what we got today.
Now you wanna give it all up for another guy. Baby, I'm telling you don't let
the green grass fool you. Don't let it change your mind.

WARD: "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" and "Engine Number 9" were Pickett's
last two hits on Atlantic, though. Two years later he left for RCA, where he
had moderate success. And then in 1977 he signed with a label Atlantic
distributed called Big Tree. Disco was what was happening, and time hadn't been
kind to Wilson Pickett, who was now carrying a reputation as a dangerous person
to be around. The sessions were mostly uninspired, and buried in his last album
was a song that maybe told too much about what was going on in his life.

(Soundbite of song, "Lay Me Like You Hate Me")

Mr. PICKETT: (Singing) Lay me like you hate me. Girl you so mean. You tease,
you twist my mind. You lay body down with such ease. Girl I don’t know about
you. Oh, the changes you been putting me through. So you lay me like you hate

WARD: It was 1978, and Pickett just couldn't make it happen any longer. He
continued to tour and occasionally to record, but his reputation for violence
made club owners wary of booking him, and his records didn't sell. He was
inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, but himself in jail a
year later for fatally injuring a pedestrian with his car. He went back on the
road after his release, but health problems laid him low, and he died in 2006
of a heart attack.

DAVIES: Ed Ward lives in the South of France. He reviewed "Funky Midnight
Mover," a collection of Wilson Pickett's Atlantic recordings on Rhino Handmade.

You can hear several tracks from the album at You can join us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter at nprfreshair. And you can download podcast
of our show at

(Soundbite of song "Knock on Wood")

Mr. PICKETT: (Singing) I don't want to lose this good thing...

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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