College Archive


The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the 1970s American Cult Film

This past December (Fall 2014 semester), I took a film studies course entitled “Cultural Perspectives in Film” (FILM 2117). The concentration for the course this semester was American cinema of the 1970s, so we spent our weeks screening all kinds of films from the decade and discussing them in class. From Putney Swope (1969) and The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973) to An Unmarried Woman (1978) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), our class watched films of all genres and analyzed them under the lens of the counterculture audience of the ’70s.

Aside from the in-class screenings, students had to choose one film from a group of four or five selected by Professor Paula Massood to screen at home and answer five questions. This assignment was given three separate times during the semester, and the final assignment had students answer the same questions, but allowed them to choose their own film. The only criteria was that utmost be an American-made film produced in the ’70s.

Since I had asked the professor if she wouldn’t mine me designating this course as an honors course in the beginning of the semester, she allowed me some leeway in choosing a film for my final assignment. After some discussion, I chose to screen and analyze The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) for my final writing piece. Professor Massood and I agreed that I would answer an extra question about the American cult film during the ’70s. Below is a selection of questions and answers from the paper. I hope you enjoy reading a “Rocky Horror virgin’s” first-time experience with the film and its rich cult history!

Questions 4 and 6 have been removed since they were pertinent to class discussions and readings. 

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1Q) Please identify the film and provide some production history.

1A) Few spectacles of cinema have gained as much cult popularity as the The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS for short). A British musical comedy film released in 1975, RHPS was produced by 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. Made on a budget of $1.2 million, the film became the second highest grossing film on 1975, grossing nearly $140 million across theater rentals and box office sales (IMDb). Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was the film that beat it in the box office, but clever RHPS advertisers used this to the film’s advantage; posters and merchandise were branded with the RHPS mascot, a red set of lips, and a tagline which read, “A different set of jaws” (Wikipedia).

Despite its overseas origins as a 1973 musical stage show, the film adaptation is perhaps the greatest example of a film “made” in America. “Made” here meaning that it only started profiting and gaining notoriety and popularity in the states. After its initial box office flop at its London and Los Angeles releases, the film was put on the midnight screening circuit in major cities across the United States by Fox executive Tim Deegan (Wikipedia). The idea was to hop on the growing popularity of midnight screenings of strange, low-budget films such as Reefer Madness (1936) and Pink Flamingos (1972) in college towns. RHPS skyrocketed into pop culture stardom when audiences at New York City’s Waverly Theater turned it into what it is now: a cult film that relies almost entirely on a mixture of audience participation and stage play accompaniment.

2Q) Briefly summarize the film’s plot.

2A) RHPS notoriously follows a very strange narrative. The film is based on the 1973 stage production and book, both written by Richard O’Brien. O’Brien would go on to co-write the screenplay with director Jim Sharman, as well as star in the film adaptation as Riff Raff. A love letter to the golden age of science fiction films and B movies (mainly horror), RHPS pays tribute to the films, music and social mentality of the 1940s and 50s, as well as defining the counterculture generation of the 1960s and 70s.

The film follows the story of Janet and Brad, a newly engaged couple living in Denton, Ohio. As they travel through a storm to meet an ex-tutor and friend, Dr. Scott, they experience an auto-breakdown near the residence of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (played by Tim Curry). When they approach his gigantic castle in search of a phone, Riff Raff, a house servant, invites them inside. They meet Frank-N-Furter’s other servant, Magenta (Riff Raff’s sister and lover), and eventually the doctor himself. After Janet and Brad realize that they’ve stumbled upon the Annual Transylvanian Convention, Frank-N-Furter sings about how he’s a transsexual transvestite from Transylvania. This begins the couple’s nightlong journey through the castle and a sexual, emotional, and mental transformation.

Frank-N-Furter promises that he’ll help the couple, but first invites the two up to his lab to “see what’s on the slab.” It turns out that Frank-N-Furter has discovered the secret to life itself, and he creates a Greek god-like human being of physical perfection (a reference to Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein and the monster that he creates). This creature, named Rocky Horror, is the newest one in Frank-N-Furter’s line of creations. The doctor says that other beings he brought to life never turned out as perfectly as he’d hoped for, but Rocky is different. One of his past creations/captives, a motorcycle-riding, saxophone-toting rock-and-roller, Eddie (played by Meat Loaf) accidentally escapes from the castle’s deep freezer and causes a ruckus at the convention. Frank-N-Furter silences him by murdering him with an ice axe, horrifying Rocky, Janet, Brad, and the rest of the convention visitors. Realizing his actions have startled the guests, Frank-N-Furter makes up for it by celebrating with his guests the fact that he’s going to “make Rocky a man.”

As he and Rocky retire to the master bedroom, the rest of his guests retire to their own quarters. Frank-N-Furter has his way with Rocky and then disguises himself as Brad and Janet, respectively. He sneaks into Janet and Brad’s bedrooms, one after the other, seducing them both into giving up their virginity. They know they made a commitment to the other to save themselves for after marriage, but Frank-N-Furter’s alien powers of seduction and sensual pleasure prove too much to handle. Rocky’s escape from the master bedroom is what eventually forces Frank-N-Futer to leave Janet and Brad alone. While Frank-N-Furter punishes Riff Raff for doing a poor job of supervising Rocky, Janet finds the “creature of the night” hiding in the lab where he was born. She and Rocky share an intimate moment during which Janet realizes that giving into her carnal desires and sensual pleasures is what she’s always wanted. Her experience with Frank-N-Furter is what made her realize she should be more open to exploring them.

Frank-N-Furter, his servants, Rocky, Janet and Brad all reunite back in the lab. They realize that the man Janet and Brad were going to visit in the beginning of the film, Dr. Scott, has come searching for Eddie, the ex-delivery boy who was being held captive in the deep freezer. Dr. Scott enters the castle and confronts Frank-N-Furter and his servants over dinner, calling them aliens. Frank-N-Furter reveals that dinner was actually meat from Eddie’s corpse, and that they are all transsexual aliens from the galaxy of Transylvania. He “Medusas” all of his guests (a process which freezes them into Greek statues) and transports them all to his final floorshow.

During the show, Frank-N-Furter sings about his ideology to be whatever you want and not just dream of being it. Still in a hypnotic, Medusa-induced state, the rest of his guests sing along with him. Riff Raff and Magenta break up the show, stating that they’re taking over because of Frank-N-Furter excessive decadence and uncontrollable lust on earth. They murder Frank-N-Furter and Rocky, transport the castle and all inside it back to their galaxy, and leave Janet, Brad and Dr. Scott permanently altered and scarred by the experiences of the night.

3Q) Does the film follow any genre conventions?

3A) RHPS follows many genre conventions while also creating an entirely new one. The main genres that the film pays homage to are movie musicals and science fiction, although there are also aspects of horror (through set design and gore), drama (during romantic encounters between leading ladies and male heroes), and comedy (in crisp, stinging dialogue and satirical views of marriage, chastity and concern over physical appearance). As far as movie musicals go, RHPS is fairly conventional. The characters express their feelings and ideas through song and dance, the plot is advanced with each song, and as Tim Curry says, “it’s very much a musical [because] a lot of the energy of the whole event is in the music” (RHPS BTS Featurette). Where the film breaks movie musical conventions is in the content of the song and dance, and how it’s all portrayed visually on-screen. Everything is highly sexualized and sensational, with bare-naked bodies, men in women’s clothing (corsets, fishnet stockings, heels), and sexual acts all shown throughout the film. These subjects were very taboo prior to the Counterculture Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. When American youth lost trust in their government during the Vietnam War and scandals of President Nixon, their generation formed a niche audience that yearned for any and everything that was against what their parents had raised them to believe. Sex, violence and rock-n-roll music are just a few of the things that make RHPS so appealing to this audience.

The science fiction side of the film also followed a lot of conventions while starting new ones. The way that Rocky Horror is born is almost identical to the creation of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster (from Universal’s 1931 Frankenstein film). The powers of giving life, aliens from another galaxy visiting earth, and the setting of a castle on a dark, stormy night have always been traditions of the sci-fi genre. The story of RHPS being narrated from the perspective of a knowledgeable narrator (in this case, a criminologist) is another genre tradition the film kept alive. Many of the sci-fi films from the 1940’s and 50s featured the bringing in of a professional, some detective or physic or specialist who could explain to the rest of the characters what was going on. What RHPS changes is the idea of the classic version of Dr. Frankenstein dressing in drag and having sexual relations with the townspeople rather than fleeing from them. The film takes a lot of pre-used plot points and characters and then sensualizes are fetishizes them.

Director Jim Sharman called his film a “1970s version of The Wizard of Oz” (RHPS BTS Featurette). Like The Wiz (1978), which truly was a ‘70s version of The Wizard of Oz (1939), RHPS took the idea of a group of characters exploring a fantastical, magical world led by an eccentric ringmaster and made it raunchy, gothic, and infectiously good fun for audiences to listen to. Meat Loaf being featured in the film is a clear sign the music was written specifically to please younger fans of rock and roll. Sharman also commented that he was excited for the piece because “for once there wasn’t something that was created by a very small group of people to be turned over to a [studio] to be pulped out, but in fact the people that originally created it and the actors had a lot to do with it.” The independent, low budget nature of RHPS shines through in obvious technical ways (i.e., boom microphone shadows and stunt wires in shots), but also in very meaningful musical and narrative ways. The story being unlike anything before it is of integral importance to its cult popularity.

5Q) Can you compare the film with any of the titles we’ve screened in class?

5A) In a 1975 interview with STOIC (Student Television Of Imperial College), Curry remarked “he was hesitant [to take the role] in that if it worked, it might be a difficult image to shake off” (STOIC Interview). Acting generally is a high-risk business, in that the actor is the thing that everyone working on a film crew or going to see a movie focuses on. The lighting, camera work, directing, makeup, art and costumes are all there, but it’s the performance that people immediately look at. Curry’s portrayal of Dr. Frank-N-Furter is certainly no exception: it was a high-energy role which required him to dress in drag, act as a bisexual alien, and strip down in front of the camera. This is immediately comparable to Duane Jones’ portrayal of Ben in Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Robert La Tourneaux’s portrayal of Cowboy Tex in The Boys in the Band (1970). Both roles required a great deal of commitment to jump into the unknown. Ben slapped a white woman and took charge of a fully white team of survivors in a time when racism and segregation were boiling in the United States. Cowboy Tex sold himself off as a male stripper and homosexual callboy in New York City, a place where the LGBT scene was often heavily discriminated against. Risqué roles are never easy for an actor to play, but the subsequent performances are usually worth their weight in gold (the emotions and feelings are often all the more real when actors have personal stakes involved).

Putney Swope (1969) is another film that can be juxtaposed with RHPS. Aside from the obvious difference that the former focuses on racial tension on the latter on sci-fi sexuality, both share one very big similarity: the main character, whom the film was named after, is completely dubbed over. In Putney Swope, the title character’s dialogue was dubbed by director Robert Downey Sr. He stated in an interview that it was because the actor couldn’t remember his lines, but it’s hard to believe that Downey’s interest in French New Wave films and his desire to play off of conventions in a white and black relationship didn’t influence the decision (Massood Lecture 1). In RHPS, Peter Hinwood played Rocky Horror, and was selected primarily for his physical features. “He was an underwear model with no acting experience; all of his speaking lines were cut, and his singing voice was dubbed by singer Trevor White” (Broadway). With each film, the director made a major decision during post-production to alter the main character of the film. The result in both films is a character that looks and sounds like a puppet. Swope is an African American man who restructures a predominantly white business into a black one, but he ends up running it into the ground. Did Swope really ever have control of the situation? Rocky starts out as a creation of Dr. Frank-N-Furter and is killed as a creation of the Transylvanian race. Did he ever have a say over his own fate, or was he doomed from birth?

Lastly, Days of Heaven (1978) also strikes a very familiar chord with RHPS. Terrence Malick crafted a storybook-style auteur film about a family trying to make it (Massood Lecture 2). The picture’s setting is the Texas panhandle during the 1910s, but it’s a timeless film in that it could really happen during any time at any place. The film isn’t necessarily set in the moment, and RHPS is very similar. The director did lock the film in the 70s by having a car radio play a news broadcast about President Nixon, but the idea of aliens from another planet visiting the earth to explore and spread their ideas is timeless. The science fiction genre is generally about questioning reality and our human understanding of the world we live in, so who knows: maybe there is a galaxy full of transsexuals somewhere in our universe. Days of Heaven may explore a different genre and its corresponding conventions, but the parable of The Farmer getting entrapped in a love triangle alongside Abby and Bill juxtaposes well with Dr. Frank-N-Furter getting involved with Rocky and a newly engaged couple.

Honors Question: What contributions did The Rocky Horror Picture Show make to the midnight movie? Are there any cult film genre conventions it paved the way for?

HQA) As a continuation from the previous question, the most important reason I’d replace Putney Swope with RHPS is because it kick started an American film genre: audience participation-based cult films. Beginning in NYC’s Waverly Theater (called by theatergoers a “mecca for midnight movies,” holding midnight screenings of films like Night of the Living Dead on a regular basis), a small group of audience members who went to see RHPS started dressing like the film’s characters, shouting back dialogue at the screen, and performing bits of the film on the stage in front of the projection screen. These traditions would spread to other theaters in NYC and catch on like wildfire, eventually becoming a nationwide phenomenon.

It should be noted that midnight movies “were far from being an exclusively American phenomenon,” with theater exhibitionists holding midnight screenings across the United States, Britain and France for years prior (Midnight Movies, 3). RHPS even pays homage to this fact in the opening song, “Science Fiction Double Feature,” which is about late night B science fiction films being screened for cheap, good times. Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s floorshow is another tribute to theater activities of the past, mixing live burlesque and carnival performance (dressing in costume, wearing makeup and masks, pretending to be someone one isn’t) with classic Hollywood movie musical ideas and themes (the RKO Pictures logo towers over the stage, harkening back to upbeat song and dance of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals).

The moment that RHPS became the American phenomenon that it did was on Labor Day weekend of 1976, when “Louis Farese, a kindergarten teacher form Staten Island, felt compelled to speak to the [Waverly Theater] screen. He is credited as the first person to yell lines at the movie” (RHPS Official Fan Site) He coined the term “counterpoint dialogue,” using it to express his joy in having off-screen conversations with the onscreen characters. More theatergoers began reserving weekly seats in the Waverly Theater balconies, and joined Farese in shouting at the screen and dancing to the film’s soundtrack. Around Halloween of that same year, some came in dressed as their favorite leather and lace-toting characters. These traditions caught on and continued well past Halloween. Live performance was mixed into the RHPS experience when audience members got up for the “Time Warp” dance sequence. Others began to walk to the front of the theater to perform as the characters onscreen, and eventually a full floorshow version of the film would be performed live on the stage in front of the projection screen as RHPS played (RHPS Official Fan Site).

By 1977, “newspapers, magazines, you name it, had begun to pick up on what was going on at the Waverly” (RHPS Official Fan Site). Word spread across the country as NYC residents who had been part of the Waverly phenomenon moved out. Many of them carried their RHPS traditions over to new theaters around the country, and the film became what it is today: a cult film experience relying on audience participation. In a 1990 review of the film, Roger Ebert wrote that RHPS “is not so much a movie as more of a long-running social phenomenon” ( Midnight audiences of the 1970s didn’t just want to sit back and watch another Hollywood film with clear heroes and villains. They clearly wanted to have their own unique experience, where they were really paying for their own show. They wouldn’t go into a theater to sit down, watch a film, and discuss it afterwards. They would dress up, act out, sing and dance, and reinterpret scenes from RHPS in their own unique way, creating their own special kind of blockbuster film.

Other films have carried on the audience participation cinema torch. For example, interest in The Sound of Music (1965, considered by many to be the last successful Hollywood movie musical) was rekindled after the success of RHPS. In 2005, the Hollywood Bowl amphitheater began hosting live sing-along screenings to the movie musical. Many audience members and critics have referred to the experience as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Prozac.” The greatest modern example of audience participation cinema is Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003). This was another film that bombed upon its initial release, but was reinterpreted by college students on the midnight movie circuit. Actions like throwing spoons at the projection screen, playing football, dressing in tuxedos, and quoting lines from the film as they’re screened live have all become time-honored traditions of The Room experience.

O’Brien mentioned that “there was a surreal dreamlike quality to the movie that was never present in the stage show” (RHPS BTS Featurette). This surreal quality is the main convention for audience-participation cinema that RHPS was the first to capture. Contemporary audience participation cinema and cult films such as The Room, Eraserhead (1977), Re-Animator (1985), Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), Sharknado (2013), and many others all share in this same surreal feeling: you can’t really believe it’s happening as you watch it. Whether it’s because of poorly designed or decorated sets, terrible acting, strange and non-sensical stories, etc. Maybe Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s call to “[not] dream it, [but] be it” is what made RHPS the longest running theatrical release in history (it’s still screened nationwide today). Despite it being a British-born film, this is an American-made movie in every sense that forever changed the midnight movie culture and the audience participation cult film.



The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Dir. Jim Sharman. Perf. Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick. 1975. 20th Century Fox, 2002. DVD.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).” IMDb. Web. 11 December 2014.
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“The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Wikipedia. Web. 11 December 2014.
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“Rocky Horror Picture Show – Behind The Scenes Featurette (Remastered).” YouTube. Web. 15 December 2014. >

Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Perf. Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff. 1931. Universal Pictures, 2009. DVD.

The Wiz. Dir. Sidney Lumet. Perf. Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor. 1978. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 1999. DVD.

Wood, Robin. The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s. 1979. 25 – 32.

“STOIC Interview – Time Curry Talks About The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).” Student Television of Imperial College. 1975. YouTube. Web. 16 December 2014.
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Night of the Living Dead. Dir, George Romero. Perf. Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea. 1968. American Pop Classics: The Archive Collection, 2012. DVD.

The Boys in the Band. Dir. William Friedkin. Perf. Kenneth Nelson, Peter White, Leonard Fray. Paramount, 2008. DVD.

Putney Swope. Dir. Robert Downey Sr. Perf. Arnold Johnson. 1969. Homevision, 2006. DVD.

Massood, Paula. Massood Lecture 1, “Putney Swope (Robert Downey Sr., 1969).” Film 2117, American Cinema of the 1970’s. W.E.B., CUNY Brooklyn College. 3 September 2014. Lecture.

Champion, Lindsay. “Happy Birthday, Dear Rocky! 38 Freaky Facts About The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” August 2013. Broadway. Web. 16 December 2014 >

Days of Heaven. Dir. Terrence Malick. Perf. Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard. 1978. Criterion, 2007. DVD.

Massood, Paula. Massood Lecture 2, “Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978).” Film 2117, American Cinema of the 1970’s. W.E.B., CUNY Brooklyn College. 10 December 2014. Lecture.

Hoberman, J, and Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Midnight Movies. Boston: HarperCollins & DaCapo Press, 1983. Print.

Piro, Sal. “How it Began.” The Rocky Horror Picture Show Official Fan Site. Web. 16 December 2014. >

Ebert, Roger. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show Movie Review (1975).” Roger Ebert Website 1975. Web. 15 December 2014.
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Klaus – A Christmas Thriller Short Film

To all of my friends at The Utopia of Daniel: the IndieGoGo campaign for my undergraduate thesis film has officially arrived!

This is one of the most humbling moments of my filmmaking life. It goes without saying (hopefully, haha) that a lot of time and effort went into making this campaign unique, informative and rewarding. I’d very much appreciate if any and all readers would take a look at the campaign.

So click on the link, learn about the project, see the rewards, and contribute what you can (sharing the project counts)!

The Klaus cover art was designed by my friend and Macaulay Brooklyn colleague, Sarah Allam.


Stingingly Successful Satire on the World Wide Web–An Analysis of the Nostalgia Critic’s Satire

This past May (Spring 2014 semester), I took a course entitled Satire and Mass Media at CUNY Brooklyn College. Professor Brian Dunphy taught the course, and both he and his lessons were nothing short of amazingly mind-opening and altering. Together with the students, Prof. Dunphy dissected satire in the modern world and analyzed why it sometimes works so well and other times fails so miserably. At the end of the semester, each student was tasked with selecting a satirical topic and analyzing not only if it works as satire, but why.

For my paper I chose to discuss the Nostalgia Critic, a highly popular internet personality/critic played by Doug Walker. The goal was to determine if Walker’s character and work could be considered satire, and if so, figure out just how successful 21st century online satire is in comparison to more traditional means of satirical expression (newspapers, magazines, cartoons, books, on-air TV shows, etc.).

Below is the paper in its entirety.Please take a few moments to read why the Nostalgia Critic is not only a satirist, but why Doug Walker is one of the forces on the forefront of modern digital satire. Also, after you read, feel free to watch a tribute I made to the critiquing style of Walker last year by clicking here.

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 Stingingly Successful Satire on the World Wide Web

Daniel Scarpati, University and Rudin Scholar, CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College

A quick search of “satire” on the web will return dozens of fake news sites, phony television news clips, and bogus political blogs. Among the most highly visited sites of these types are The Onion, SatireWire and The Daily Currant. Most socially-connected people online have long-since realized these are purely satirical and illegitimate. What doesn’t come up in the search are other sources of web satire, such as series’ like the Nostalgia Critic and Between Two Ferns. This begs the question: is web content focused on non-political, non-news related media effective satire? And if so, how effective is it in comparison to what it’s satirizing?

Our class defines satire as having four primary components: it develops out of frustration, it can’t only be spiteful, there’s a clear desire to either cure or destroy the world, and it captures the zeitgeist.[1] In no case are these components more visible than with the Nostalgia Critic (NC for short). This internet personality was created by Doug Walker, a 33 year-old Chicago native, in 2007. Prior to the character’s inception, Walker worked as a night janitor at an automotive electronics factory. This was a job he hated so much that he felt compelled to quit by ripping his shirt off to reveal the phrase, “I QUIT,” painted on his chest while dancing to the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey.[2] The quitting ended up getting him featured in a segment on ABC’s 20/20, Extreme Quitters. “Sometimes the best way to quit a job is also the best way to find a job,” Walker said as he recounted his experience.[3] The millions of hits his quitting video garnered on YouTube inspired him to take advantage of the popularity and upload videos of him criticizing films, television shows and other forms of video content that he felt deserved it.

The web character, film critic and career path that followed (Walker now makes his living through his internet production company, Channel Awesome) were wholly based out of frustration. Walker was fed up with his lot in life and decided to do what he really wanted, which just so happened to be showing others how fed up he was with films. Since before college, he wanted to be like Siskel and Ebert, two of his idols and “teachers.”[4] One of the best traits he found in them, which is a trait he has passed onto the NC, is that they’re never just spiteful or hate-filled. All three critics believe that there’s a real magic to cinema. Regardless of whether or not the film works for whatever reason, every person has a “unique and meaningful reaction” to the final product.[5]

Focusing on the NC, the content he produces always wants to cure the world. Although his main trait is ridiculous amounts of comical verbal and physical aggressiveness, the NC rarely fails to find some redeeming quality of the media he’s reviewing. In the episode, Are Superheroes Whiny Bitches, he discusses the reception of the latest Superman film, Man of Steel. Although “audiences enjoy defending it” and “critics love obliterating it,” the NC can’t fully side with either party.[6] Instead of arguing for or against the film’s unrelenting use of self-reflection scenes and Jesus imagery, the NC offers a third approach: understanding how much we cheer on superheroes has to do with how much we associate with them and their feelings. “If superheroes want to represent who we want to be, they must first understand who we are.”[7] Superheroes need drama (both interpersonal and intrapersonal) in order for audiences to connect to and support them. Yes, the balance between drama and “superheroey stuff” seems to be thrown off all too often (other controversial films in a similar light include The Amazing Spiderman (2012), Superman Returns, Hulk, and Thor), but it must exist for any superhero film to work.[8] If filmmakers can rework scripts and plots to have an effective balance and goal to connect with audiences, superhero movies can and will work much better.

There’s always a clear goal to save the media genre the NC is tackling. In his review of Batman and Robin, a film that has a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the NC lays out the stark differences between the fourth film in the series and the movies before it.[9] Whereas the past films “moved forward with [their] dark storyline[s] and complex character development,” Batman and Robin “has instead gone back to the campy, bright and colorful style of the original Adam West TV show.”[10] The NC lays out why this doesn’t work very clearly: it lacks interesting characters who audiences can sympathize with, it’s full of over the top effects and one-liners, and as the fourth film in the series, the action sequences and “superheroey” acts are just getting old. The NC states that he enjoyed where the first films in the saga (Batman and Batman Returns) took the superhero and tailored the childish cartoon and comics into something much more dark and adult, so he wants to save this saga.[11]

The final component of what defines satire as effective is the most important in regards to the NC. Prior to 2013, the year the NC came back from a brief break, the show only focused on nostalgic things. By Walker’s definition, nostalgic things like television shows, cartoons, web series and commercials had to be at least 10 years old.[12] Reviewing this content was like a double-edged sword. It worked because the NC was looking at the content from the perspective of someone from the future, someone who had already lived at least 10 years past the content. Determining if it held up a decade after it was produced was a true testament to its quality, plus it helped to determine what worked and what didn’t work. It’s been said that a person can’t judge a presidency until at least two terms pass, and the NC proves that in some cases the same logic applies to media.

As for the other side of the blade, this reviewing style didn’t work because it technically had all been done before. Yes, the critic and time period had changed, but the content being judged had been the same. For ten years, others had been reviewing, criticizing and/or praising it, so it sometimes added a sense of staleness. The NC’s review of The Room is a perfect example of this flaw in his early review style. In this episode, three other web critics featured on Channel Awesome’s website were featured trying to stop the NC from doing his review. They believe that too many other critics reviewed it and there was “no need for [the NC] to sacrifice [his] sanity as well.”[13] Granted, this only added to the humor of the episode, but it proved his content prior to 2013 couldn’t all be classified as effective satire on the web.

When fans voiced their desire for reviews of more recent media, the NC reworked his reviews to focus on anything that’s not currently in theaters.[14] With this new criteria for nostalgic content, the NC enters a new realm as a web series and internet critic. He’s finally able to review new, untouched material, and to become much more like Siskel and Ebert than he had ever been before. Focusing on the critique of newly-released content and not joking about how well older content holds up years later, makes way for a more editorial and professional voice that parallels some of the more established and published critics today, such as Richard Roeper, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle, or the Hollywood Reporter’s Justin Lowe to name a few.

Looking at the first episode after this revamping, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the NC reviews and analyzes why the reasoning/thought process of the film’s melodramatic family is so terribly off. In the opening scene of the film, a couple is applying for adoption and filling out forms at an orphanage. As two social workers review the forms, they notice that the couple failed to answer the question about why they’re qualified for an orphan. In response, the family states that “they just had too much to say.”[15] The NC smacks his palm to his face and says, “If your reasoning wouldn’t work on your second grade teacher, chances are it wouldn’t work on the United States adoption services.”[16] The episode then cuts to a skit where the NC is dressed as a college student addressing his teacher, Mrs. Travers:

NC: Here’s my test, Mrs. Travers! [slams down an exam on a desk]

Mrs. Travers: Um, you failed to answer every single question listed.

NC: I know. I just had so much information I could put down for all of them I decided not to!

Mrs. Travers: I’m sorry, that means you get an F.

NC: As in fantastic?

Mrs. Travers: No, as in failed!

NC: As in failed to not be fantastic?

Mrs. Travers: No, as in you failed the test!

NC: As in I failed the test of not failing the exam you so currently gave to me?

Mrs. Travers: Why are you still here?

NC: I need a mommy.

In this separate skit portion of the show, the NC is able to not only perfectly capture what’s not working with The Odd Life (people say and do things that are so tremendously ridiculous and would simply never happen in real life), but also show it not working in practice. This method of reviewing media is something that’s wholly unique to the internet. Published reviewers in print news, magazines, journals or televised shows can only go as far as to critique the film and find its failures and successes. They’re not able to go the extra step by creating audiovisual examples to entertained and educate audiences while mocking source material, which is where the NC stands out.

Other new episodes of the NC follow this same pattern. Walker and his creative team sit down, find flaws in the media they’re reviewing, and then write skits to show it all in practice. These skits don’t only drive home the point of the critic—they present a visual that’s easier to remember than regular conversations between two critics, words on paper, or people speaking to a camera. Now the NC is doing more than being a critic; he’s creating his own topical material, born out of deep frustration with a film or TV show, with the intention to lay out what works and what doesn’t work in order to ensure it works next time.

What about other internet celebrities? There definitely exist other web series that do things the same as their off-the-internet versions, but in a different way. Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis is an example of a similar web series based out of frustration of a job gone wrong. Galifianakis stated in an interview, “the sycophantic way that the Hollywood machine runs [is] fun to make fun of it.”[17] All of the episodes involve an intentionally low-budget, poorly shot look and non-scripted interview between a celebrity and Galifianakis. They’re intended to be a jab at cable access interviews being scripted, mundane and all-around fake. Here, Galifianakis has created an alternative to shows like Inside Access and Inside the Actors Studio and has gained millions of fans. The latest episode featuring President Barack Obama has over 22 million views on YouTube.

Similar ideas for satirical, unscripted web content have spawned other series such as Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, Tom Hanks’ post-apocalyptic drama Electric City, and soon, Steve Buscemi’s Park Bench. The view counts for each show make it clear that although there will always be an audience for the traditional television drama, newspaper article or comic film review, the audiences for web satire are growing everyday. The main reason this new wave of digital content isn’t as effective as it will be in the future most likely has to do with people not being aware the content is there. For the most part, you have to be on the web to know what’s available on the web—there are no TV commercials or previews in movie theaters for these online series. At most, they’ll be promoted through video advertisements on various websites and have an article or two written about them in the papers. The more people that become aware of the rich web satire that exists, the less people the traditional, non-satirical, and in some cases, less-effective media forms may have in their audiences. In the Nostalgia Critic’s case, the words spoken by Jay Sherman in the ‘90s cartoon, The Critic, have never been more meaningful:[18]

Jay: “It’s very simple: if you stop going to bad movies, they’ll stop making bad movies.”

Hollywood Producer: “Uh-oh. The jig is up.” [he dives out of a high-rise window]

Just apply the same logic to the TV shows, news articles, novels, film and other media outlets that are being effectively satirized online everyday.

– – –


[1] Dunphy, Brian. “Presidential Satire.” Satire and Mass Media. Brooklyn College, NY. 23 April 2014. Lecture.

[2] “How I Quit My Job.” Prod. Doug Walker, et al. Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome. 7 April 2008. ThatGuyWithTheGlasses. Web. 20 May 2014.


[3] “Extreme Quitters: Leaving a Job and Making an Impression.” ABC News. 20/20, 17 May 2013. Web. 25 May 2014.


[4] “Siskel and Ebert.” Prod. Doug Walker, et al. Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome. 9 November 2009. ThatGuyWithTheGlasses. Web. 20 May 2014.


[5] “Farewell to Roger Ebert.” Prod. Doug Walker, et al. Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome. 5 April 2013. ThatGuyWithTheGlasses. Web. 20 May 2014.


[6] “Are Superheroes Whiny Little Bitches?” Prod. Doug Walker, et al. Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome. 2 July 2013. ThatGuyWithTheGlasses. Web. 20 May 2014.


[7] “Are Superheroes Whiny Little Bitches?” Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome.

[8] “Are Superheroes Whiny Little Bitches?” Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome.

[9] “Batman and Robin (1997).” Rotten Tomatoes. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2014.


[10] “Batman and Robin” Prod. Doug Walker, et al. Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome. 23 May 2008. ThatGuyWithTheGlasses. Web. 20 May 2014.


[11] “Batman and Robin” Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome.

[12] “The Review Must Go On.” Prod. Doug Walker, et al. Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome. 22 January 2013. ThatGuyWithTheGlasses. Web. 25 May 2014.


[13] “The Room” Prod. Doug Walker, et al. Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome. 13 July 2010. ThatGuyWithTheGlasses. Web. 20 May 2014.


[14] “The Review Must Go On.” Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome.

[15] The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Dir. Peter Hedges. Monsterfoot Productions, Scott Sanders Productions, Walt Disney Pictures, 2012. Film.

[16] “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” Prod. Doug Walker, et al. Nostalgia Critic, Channel Awesome. 5 February 2013. ThatGuyWithTheGlasses. Web. 20 May 2014.


[17] Marikar, Sheila. “Zach Galifianakis :Comedy’s Sensitive, Sarcastic Sensation.” ABC News. ABC News, 6 October 2010. Web. 24 May 2014.


[18] “Eyes on the Prize.” The Critic. ABC. WABC-TV, New York, New York. 2 March. 1994. Television.


This Semester… No Words…

In the words of Sander Cohen, “IT… IS… ACCOMPLISHED!”


This semester was definitely the one from “down under.” I haven’t been able to blog, vlog, work on any personal projects, work on any professional jobs. It’s been terribly rough, but it’s finally over. It’s over. Until next semester, when I begin production on my own thesis film. But until then, it’s over.

The classes were pretty much all production based. So I worked on film after film after film this semester. I:

  • directed my film cinematography scene recreation, what’s often considered the toughest assignment in the film department
  • was the director of photography on 4 films
  • was the location sound mixer on 2 thesis films
  • was the 1st assistant director on 1 thesis film
  • was the locations manager/assistant locations manager on 2 thesis films
  • produced 6 of my own films for various class projects
  • assisted in some way/shape/form on dozens of other films (editing, color correction, sound design, etc.)

I’d like to share as much of the work as possible, for all to see. Linked below is everything that’s online so far. It will be updated as new projects go online!



External Hard Drives for Video Editing 101

As a double major in Film Production and TV/Radio, I constantly witness peers questioning the concept of video editing off of external hard drives. Most post-production courses that I’ve taken don’t focus all that much time on this aspect of the digital filmmaking process, which I hope to remedy with this blog post. Since I’m a double-certified computer technician and an aspiring video professional who already records and edits corporate video content and narrative films through external drives, I believe that I’m a very useful first-hand source for all of the basics. Friends, colleagues and co-workers who’ve ever questioned the subject: this is for you.

If you don’t care about the specifics and just want to know which drive I recommend for PC and Mac platforms: the LaCie Rugged 500GB External Hard Drive (1x USB 3.0, 2x Firewire 800, 7200RPM) is the absolute best portable external video editing hard drive that money can buy.

If you don’t care about specifics AND want to spend as little money as possible, go for the G-Drive Mini 320GB Portable for Mac or the Western Digital My Passport 500GB External for the PC.

*I highly recommend you check the connections on your computer before purchasing to ensure that your drive will actually connect! Take the time to read below if you have no idea what I mean.*


1) Drive Speeds and Types:

There are two main types of external hard drives that people use today: Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) and Solid State Drives (SSDs). Simply put, HDDs are made up of platters (silverish circular discs) that store information on them. In order to read from or write to an HDD, an arm inside the drive has to move back and forth and make contact with different parts of the spinning disc. Because they have these moving parts, HDDs are more prone to break and slower when compared to SSD counterparts.

Still talking about HDDs, these types of drives come in two speeds: 5400RPM (rotations per minute) and 7200RPM. Typically 5400RPM is for reading and writing data–this is the kind of drive that someone who just wants to back up files would get. When you start getting into video editing, the platters need to be spinning as fast as the possibly can to access different parts of the HD video, audio, pictures and other medial files you’ll no doubt be editing with.

The last thing to know about HDDs is that they’re inexpensive. Since most only last a few years before experiencing technical issues, people buy these with the knowledge that they’re only temporary. Plus new drives come out all the time. So to summarize: HDDs have moving parts, break easier than other drive types, can spin at 5400 or 7200RPM, and are cheap.

HDD on the left, SSD on the right. Even a quick glance and you’ll see the difference.


SSDs are fairly new in the world of computing. These drive types have no moving parts–they instead access memory from NAND Flash Memory, which is what smartphones use. Without going into technical details, the main things to know about these drives is that they’re much faster since there are no moving parts and no discs to be spun and accessed, and they’re physically smaller than HDDs.

The only two cons to SSDs are that they’re only available in smaller sizes (512GB seems to be the limit nowadays) and they’re very expensive. Whereas you would generally spend $0.15 per GB in HDDs, you spend $0.90 per GB in SSDs.

2) Connections and Ports:

There are a lot of different connections out there nowadays, but there are two main ones that almost all video editors use: Firewire 800 and USB 3.0. Both of these connections transfer enough data per second to be used as efficient external editing drives.

In short, USB 2.0 is what everyone commonly refers to as “USB” (which stands for Universal Serial Bus, just for your information). This connection type allows for data transfer rates up to 480 megabits per second (not to be confuse with megaBYTES). Most flash drives are USB 2.0, because this connection is not only perfect for general file transfer, but it’s the most common connection type around.

Firewire 800 is the next level up, allow for transfer speeds of 800mbps (hence the name). A Firewire 400 connection exists that transfer at 400mbps, but it’s rarely used anymore. USB 3.0 was introduced in 2008 as the new ultra fast alternative to file transferring, clocking speeds of 5 gigabits per second, or 10 times faster than USB 2.0. That fact alone should help you understand why USB 3.0 is great for video editing: it’s really, really fast–faster than most would ever need.

There’s another port called Thunderbolt made by Intel for Macs, but it’s really not an interface you should consider for purchase. Why? Thunderbolt does boast a 10gbps transfer rate, but you’ll never need that much speed, guaranteed. It’s also used exclusively on Mac in terms of coming stock with the computer (PC users add on Thunderbolt ports after manufacturer purchase). Plus it’s expensive and limits you to connecting it to Mac products made after 2011 (which came with this port), or any high end video editing computers you may have access to. Unless the drive you’re looking at has other connection types, I wouldn’t recommend Thunderbolt.

A quick reference picture showing how long it takes to copy one HD video file to an external drive over four different connections. The less time it takes, the faster it is, and the more useful it is for video editing.


Now although a drive may have a Firewire 800 or USB 3.0 connection, that doesn’t mean that your computer will be able to connect. You need to look at your computer and make sure that you have a port to plug the device into. Firewire 800 ports look like rectangles and USB 3.0 ports are usually coated blue and have a small “SS” mark next to them, standing for SuperSpeed. The graphic below shows you what to look for.

USB 3.0 ports are blue and have “SS” marked next to them.

Firewire 800 ports are square in shape and have a three-pronged mark next to them. USB 2.0 ports don’t say “SS” and are generally black, and Thunderbolt ports appropriately enough have thunderbolts next to them.


3) Formatting and Partitioning:

Lastly, after you purchase a drive, you need to format it and/or partition it. This is the most complicated aspect of external drives, and also the most complex to explain. To keep it simple:

External hard drives generally come in two main file formats (meaning the way the drive is formatted–this formatting is intangible coding and affects the way computers recognize the drive when plugged in): NTFS for Windows and Mac OS Extended for Mac. NTFS can be read by both PCs and Macs, but Macs are not able to write any files to it. Mac OS Extended can only be read by Macs. Why is each format useful/important: because if you know you’re going to be working solely on a PC or Mac, you want the format to reflect that. It’s important for an external drive’s format to match that of the internal drive’s format on any given computer, PC or Mac, if you want it to function properly.

Regardless, there are ways for PCs to read Mac-formatted drives and vice versa. Programs like NTFS-3G and HFS Explorer can be purchased and downloaded on PCs and Macs, respectively, to access files from drives with counterpart formats.

An alternative to paying for programs like this and having an external drive that can be read from and written to cross platform is drive partitioning. In its most basic definition, partition involves taking two pieces of a drive and formatting them differently (for example, if you have a 500GB HDD, 250GB would be made to work with Windows and the other half with Mac). The main pro is that you now technically have two hard drives, however the big con is that portioning a drive generally slows its overall performance (and you’d never want to copy files from one drive’s partition to its other partition–think about it and you’d realize this means the arms accessing two parts of a HDD platter at the same time).

Another more common way to have a drive that can be read by and written to Macs AND PCs is to use the FAT 32 Format System. This is what I format a majority of my drives in because of the fact that it can be read across PCs and Macs without any major short-term performance issues. Just like everything else, it has a big downside: file sizes can only be 4GB large. This can sometimes be tricky depending on what kind of files your camera records (if you’re editing with HD video files), but there are ways around it.

If I did a poor job explaining this third section or you still don’t fully understand formatting, have a look at this blog post on CNet. They summarized things pretty well.

In Conclusion…

You have to ask yourself a lot of questions before purchasing a drive. Are you a Mac or PC person, or do you work across both platforms? Do you want to spend extra money for a faster SSD, or save money on a cheaper but larger HDD? Does your computer support any connection type fast than USB 2.0, or do you need to edit on a different computer? And on that different computer (whether it be at school, the library, etc.), is there USB 3.0 or Firewire 800?

All of these things should lead you to a clear choice about which drive is best for you. As I said before, the LaCie 500GB External USB 3.0 and Firewire 800 is my personal favorite and the drive I most recommend. It’s highly durable, extremely fast, easy to format and maintain, and relatively inexpensive.

This post is dedicated to my Single Camera Production Spring 2014 class and Professor Patkanian. Hello everyone! Hope this helped.


Days 20 – 25, I’ve Done the State of TX Some Service [1/30/14]

Hello again, NYC–it’s good to see you! Let me tell you, I never really understood that they were other places out there quite so different than you. Having been on a trip to across the country has been eye-opening to say the least, but I’m back in the Empire State with a fresh look on life and a new mindset on how I think my future should be.

It’s very strange how travel is so mind-altering. It’s something that I’ve never done on this level (traveling between time zones and to other countries–which is what everyone tells me TX is, haha), so it’s so new and foreign to me. The country has gotten so much smaller since I woke up in TX on Saturday morning and went to bed in NY on Saturday night. Learning that it takes a mere five or six hours to be across the country is a crazy realization.

I had a teacher in high school that told his students, “We create our experiences.” My little break from you has reaffirmed that belief, NYC. The energy we put out into the world is what we get back. For years, I strived to put out positive energy and strong goals of working with DeLorean Motor Company and having the chance to “live the dream.” Now, years after originally conceptualizing and planning on getting in touch with DMC about a possible internship, I can safely say I’ve lived the dream. It makes me both deeply proud and humbled to hear those words exit my mouth. Not many other people can say they lived a dream of theirs to the fullest, at the age of 20 no less. I’m grateful to so many others that I’m one of the few that can say that.

In the words of Othello, “I’ve done the state [of Texas] some service… No more of that.” At least for now, that is. Now it’s time to prep for the Spring 2014 semester.

A final post-internship Vlog will be coming soon. I plan to incorporate select footage from the internship and highlight my experiences through an overall look back at the past month. Definitely something to look forward to!

I've been to Texas and back, and I've lived the dream. For the next year and a half it's going to be a real deep self-discussion as to what to dream up next.

I’ve been to Texas and back, and I’ve lived the dream. For the next year and a half it’s going to be a real deep self-discussion as to what to dream up next.


Days 13 – 19, Southern Hospitality [1/20/14]

Time is flying way too fast now. I’m sure that a lot of Macaulay students feel that way when traveling away or abroad. I know I’m not alone on that level, but man do I wish time could slow down just a bit so I could enjoy this wonderful southern hospitality some more. I’m finding it easier to enjoy working down here; people seem to be more all-around jovial down here; traveling and driving is a bit more fun down here; self-reflection and alone time is easier to experience down here. Lots of pros, very few cons (one big one being constant humidity)!

As promised, here’s the gallery full of photos I took all over the beautiful state of Texas.

And don’t forget to actually check out the video content I’ve been producing at DMC! Here’s the first official video to go live on the web:


Days 7 – 12, The Lone Star State [1/13/14]

Texas being referred to as “the lone star state” is starting to make a lot of sense to me. Exploring the beautiful countryside, small-town American streets, sprawling city of Houston and other nooks and crannies alone (a majority of the time, but not always) makes one feel very lonely, or at least small compared to the size and scope of the world around him/her. That’s how I felt this weekend when I finally had the chance to see some sites and explore.

The gallery below contains all of the pictures I took on the weekend, most of which I mentioned in the video. Feel free to browse and leave a comment if you’re interested in hearing more about anything I’ve talked about or photographed!


Days 4, 5, 6, Getting Warmed Up [1/7/14]

Only three days in and I’m already breaking the rules of my VLog! Boy oh boy has this week been hectic so far. It’s a good, fun kind of hectic, don’t get me wrong. But hectic nonetheless. Watch below for more:

Long story short, I’m here in Texas. It’s pretty chilly. I’m working for DMC and having an amazing time so far. I’m staying at an absolutely lovely bed and breakfast hosted by a wonderful family. Things are going well, and I’m beyond thankful for that. I constantly acknowledge that there are tons of problems out there with the world, and I always try to remain humble. No pun intended (being that Humble is where I’m living).

The beautiful city of Houston as seen flying in to IAH airport past midnight.

The beautiful city of Houston as seen flying in to IAH airport past midnight.


Day 1, What Should Have Been The Trip To Texas! [1/3/14]

Day One has officially arrived! Today was the day that I was supposed to travel down to Houston, Texas to begin my internship with DeLorean Motor Company, but due to the blizzard that hit the northeastern coast, all flights were canceled. Below is the first VLog episode, where I explain my current situation in more detail.

As I said in the video, the only real thing to know about this VLog is that I will post one video EVERY WEEKNIGHT, MONDAY TO FRIDAY, for the duration of my away internship (which lasts until January 25). That means that every night or early morning, there’ll be fresh content to watch from yours truly about what’s been happening with me in TX.

Obviously this first VLog isn’t quite as polished as I had hoped it would be, but such is the nature of the best laid plans o’ mice and men–they oft go awry. Until Monday, this is Daniel signing off!

P.S. – Happy Belated New Years to all!