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The Birds

The following is an excerpt posted by Bookgasm of Horror Films FAQ, written by John Kenneth Muir. Check out the rest of the excerpt here.

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds opens on a seemingly normal day in the early 1960s with attractive Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) visiting a bird shop in scenic San Francisco. As she enters, a flock of birds is seen in the distance among the skyscrapers: circling and cawing but otherwise nonthreatening. This view is a deliberate foreshadowing of what is to come, a simmering before the inevitable boil.

Once Melanie is in the store, however, things do heat up. She attempts to pull a prank on a handsome man, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), by pretending to be a bird-shop employee. But Mitch, who claims to be there to purchase two “love birds,” is actually pulling a prank of his own and soon gets the better of Melanie.

This game of cat and mouse spurs a veritable obsession in Melanie, and she soon tracks Mitch to his home, sixty miles up the coast in scenic Bodega Bay, a little hamlet described as a “a collection of shacks on a hillside.” Her not-so covert mission is to initiate a sexual relationship with Mitch. Melanie does so under the guise of delivering him his love birds.

Once in town, Melanie also meets the town’s schoolteacher, Annie (Suzanne Pleshette), another woman who once shared an intimate relationship with the apparently promiscuous Mitch. There is a quick rivalry between Annie and Melanie, and some jealousy, too. Meanwhile, as Melanie grows closer to Mitch, she is looked upon with stern disapproval by Mitch’s shrewish, controlling mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy). Lydia is a cold, emotionally closed off woman, still despondent over the death of her husband years earlier.

While all these tumultuous personal relationships shift and grow, the inexplicable suddenly occurs. Birds of all varieties launch a coordinated attack on Bodega Bay, ambushing the local school, killing Annie, dive-bombing the local diner, and laying merciless siege to Mitch’s family farmhouse, a location reachable primarily by motor boat and therefore isolated…

Today, The Birds has lost little of the searing dramatic punch that captivated audiences four decades ago. The lack of a scientific or rational explanation behind the avian attack lends the film a powerful and undeniably sexual subtext. The bird attacks, one can detect upon close viewing, occur because of turbulent human emotions. In short, this film is all about not just the birds, but the bees.

Keep reading at Bookgasm!

Horror Films FAQ explores a century of ghoulish and grand horror cinema, gazing at the different characters, situations, settings, and themes featured in the horror film, from final girls, monstrous bogeymen, giant monsters and vampires to the recent torture porn and found footage formats. The book remembers the J-Horror remake trend of the 2000s, and examines the oft-repeated slasher format popularized by John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980).

After an introduction positioning the horror film as an important and moral voice in the national dialogue, the book explores the history of horror decade by decade, remembering the women’s liberation horrors of the 1970s, the rubber reality films of the late 1980s, the serial killers of the 1990s, and the xenophobic terrors of the 9/11 age. Horror Films FAQ also asks what it means when animals attack in such films as The Birds (1963) or Jaws (1975), and considers the moral underpinnings of rape-and-revenge movies, such as I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Irreversible (2002). The book features numerous photographs from the author’s extensive personal archive, and also catalogs the genre’s most prominent directors.


The Appeal of Investing in Films

Gini ScottGuest Blogger: Gini Graham Scott, author of The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film as well as the upcoming Finding Funds for Your Films or TV Project, talks about investing in films for Ray O Light Media.


Are films a good investment opportunity. I think they are for the right kind of investor. Here’s why. I have written this in a Q&A style to answer the major questions that prospective investors ask about whether to invest or not.

1. Why is film investment an attractive investment opportunity? Is it because of the high return or because of the nature of business?

For many investors, the high return is a big draw, because films do have the potential for a very large return, though there is a very high risk with a lot of big “Ifs”. A film can do extremely well if it has a good script, good acting, good production value, has a budget that fits the type of film this is, and strikes a chord with distributors or buyers for the TV, DVD, foreign rights, or other markets. Then, if the film goes into theatrical release, it has the potential to have an even larger audience, though theatrical is not the primary source of income for most films, just the big blockbusters, since the theater owners take about 75% of the box office unless a film goes into a long-term release and there is a high costs for prints (though an increasing number of theaters are going digital). The value of a theatrical release is more for its promotional value for gaining other kinds of sales, except for the huge blockbusters.

Despite the potential for high returns for some films, investors in it for the money have to realize that any film investment is a big risk, because many problems can develop from when a film goes into production to when it is finally released and distributed. Theses risks include the film not being completed because it goes over budget and is unable to get additional financing or there are problems on the set. Another risk is that the film is not well-received by distributors and TV buyers, so it doesn’t get picked up. Or even if a film gets a distribution deal, the risk is that there is little or no money up front, so the film does not see any further returns. So yes – a film can have a high return, but an investor can lose it all.

As a result, for many investors, other key reasons for investing are more important. They believe in the message of the film. They like and support the film producers, cast, and crew. They like the glamour of being involved with a film, including meeting the stars and going to film festivals. They see their investment as an opportunity to travel to distant locations for filming and for promoting the film. And they see investing in the film as a tax write-off, much like giving to a charity.

2. What kind of investment returns can investors can expect, since many independent productions are not designed for big screens, where are the sales coming from?

If all the stars align, and there is a good film done with a reasonable budget and distributors, buyers, and an audience responds, the film could readily earn 4 to 10 times its cost, making everyone very happy. A low-budget indie scenario for this level of return might be a film shot for $50,000-200,000. It might get $500,000-750,000 for a TV sale and earn $1-2 million more through DVD, streaming, and foreign rights sales, even without a theatrical release.

For most films, the main value of a theatrical release is the PR value of getting the film known, so buyers will want to purchase or rent the DVD and TV buyers will want to show it on one of the premium cable movie channels. Also, most films don’t get a theatrical release, and the funds are earned through other channels.

3. What kind of movies can usually generate good profits, since the recent Oscar Awards show that a big investment does not necessary mean big returns?

Some of the big blockbusters that pass the $100 million threshold can certainly make a profit from a successful theatrical release, both in the U.S. and abroad. But whether they make a profit depends on their budget. Because of the high salaries of stars that are typical in these films and other high cost items, such as special effects, many blockbusters still may not make a profit. Thus, dollar for dollar, many low-budget indie films may be a better investment, since the multiples are higher with a success; there is more likelihood that a low-budget indie, which is done well at a reasonable budget, will be sold and make back it’s money, and the potential for loss is much less.

Keep reading this article on the Ray O Light Media website.


Finding Funds for Your Film or TV Project includes a complete overview of the many different ways to get funds for your film – from preparing the materials you need, such as business plans, private placement memorandums, trailers, sizzle reels, and crowd-funding pitches – to how to make effective presentations to prospective funders, from as family members, friends, and business associates, to angels, private investors, established producers, and film financiers. Scott provides a comprehensive introduction to the many options for fund-raising, and includes information on how to prepare the materials necessary, from business plans and Private Place Memorandums to video and PowerPoint presentations to using crowd-funding techniques.


A Very DVD Obscura Christmas: 10 Holiday Movies You May Never Have Heard Of

‘Tis the season of long lines, last-minute holiday shopping, copious cookies, and  classic Christmas movies. Or is it? Now featured on, Author Alonso Duralde offers a sampling of some great exceptions to the rule with his list of 10 great holiday movies you probably haven’t heard of. From Lassie to La Bûche, these films are a great way to mix up your movie marathon M.O. He’s made his list, now it’s your turn to check it twice.

10 Holiday Movies You May Never Have Heard Of

  1. Lassie
  2. Some Girls
  3. Remember the Night
  4. Santa Claus (1959)
  5. La Bûche
  6. The Store
  7. It Happened on Fifth Avenue
  8. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
  9. The Silent Partner
  10. We’re No Angels

Click here to read what Duralde has to say about each film on


Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas by Alonso Duralde

Don’t waste another second of your valuable holiday time on another boring Christmas movie. Film critic Alonso Duralde highlights the best – and worst – movies of the Yuletide season with this fun and informative film guide. Whether you’re looking for the classics, family favorites, holiday horror, Christmas-themed crime epics, or the most wonderfully awful cinematic lumps of coal, Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas will point you and your rental queue in the right direction. Whether your idea of a holiday classic is White ChristmasBad SantaDie Hard, Eyes Wide Shut, or Gremlins, you’ll find the right film for you, as well as an exhaustively entertaining breakdown of the various screen Scrooges, from Alistair Sim to Jim Carrey to…Tori Spelling? And get ready to encounter movies you may never have heard of from the gritty noir Christmas Holiday, starring 1930s singing ingénue Deanna Durbin in her first hard-bitten adult role, to the loony Santa Claus, a Mexican kiddie movie in which St. Nick teams up with Merlin to fight the devil! Plot synopses, video availability, and fun facts – did you know the actor cast as Uncle Billy in It’s a Wonderful Life was also in the running to play mean old Mr. Potter? – make this a stocking stuffed with information you’ll turn to every Christmas season. Available from Limelight Editions and booksellers nationwide.

Alonso Duralde is the author of 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men. He has written about film for and the Advocate, among others, and programmed film festivals, including Outest and the USA Film Festival/Dallas. A regular contributor to The Rotten Tomatoes Show, Duralde has been featured in documentaries for IFC and Starz, and on the Brokeback Mountain and Valley of the Dolls DVDs.
Follow him on Twitter.