Before coming to the academy, Nathaniel Kohn was a screenwriter and producer in Hollywood, London, and South Africa. He produced the epic film Zulu Dawn (with Burt Lancaster, Peter O'Toole and 6,000 Zulu extras), and was involved in other projects in that wheel-and-deal world. Moving to the communications research world, he struggled to apply theory to his personal experiences, showing how everyday life and the pursuits of Hollywood interact and how communication and cultural theory (mis)inform those exchanges. The book is filled with priceless tales of finding a black market money changer in Johannesburg to pay off his extras during the filming of Zulu Dawn, the on again/off again nature of movie projects, the obsessed women and dreadful men, the egos, and the duplicity. His experimental writing styledescriptive ethnography, imaginary screen dialogue, recounted conversationsmakes this a highly readable work.
About the Author
Nathaniel Kohn is an associate professor at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, teaching courses in writing for the screen, producing for film and television, cultural studies, and critical theory.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Prologue: Hail the Conquering Hero 2 The Ticket Chapter 3 Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be? Chapter 4 The Sony's Dying Glow Chapter 5 My Elusive Dreams Chapter 6 So to Speak Chapter 7 Among Other Things Chapter 8 Wonder Never Seizes Chapter 9 Compounding Fracture Chapter 10 Elementary Africa Chapter 11 Messing
What People are Saying About This
Nate Kohn’s odyssey begins with a Muslim money changer in Johannesberg named Shorty, who hands him two suitcases containing a fortune in black market currency to pay the Zulu extras on an epic Kohn is producing named Zulu Dawn. Why, Kohn wonders, are the bills held together by rusty paper clips? His journey leads him thirty years later to a brilliant screenplay by a black college student named Hadjii, born in the deep South, who taught himself to write by doing hypothetical episodes of Seinfeld. Kohn produces Hadjii’s screenplay, Somebodies, which costs only $35,000 but is accepted as one of 118 official entries at Sundance, out of 3100 submissions. To be accepted as an official entry at Sundance is the most important thing that can happen to a low-budget independent film.
Kohn in this remarkable book combines memoir and polemic, the campus and the sweaty real world. He begins and ends as a working producer, raising cash, making deals, persuading, negotiating, improvising. In between is another life as a university professor (Associate Director of the Peabody Awards, no less) who becomes seduced by Theory, even though he knows from his own experience how irrelevant Theory is to the jumble of hopes, compromises, scant glamour and endless drudgery out of which real movies somehow stumble. Pursuing Hollywood is one of the few books about the movies that says something new and useful, expressed with poetry and wisdom.
This is an important work; it troubles our usual understandings of texts, authors, and the pursuit of celebrities, fame and recognition in the postmodern media culture. The seductions and obsessions that accompany the pursuit of self in this messy world are brilliantly exposed by Kohn.