Friday, November 17, 2017

Just a reminder






So, here's where Ghostkeeper began. As I mentioned, this is virtually the beginning of the movie, in fact before it was being shot. These were (are) the first few Production schedules. We had found the money, or at least most of the money (you'll see what happens later in the shoot. You can find all the stories as we began. Most of our paperwork was pretty much a long way away. This is what I kept.

So you've already seen the first aspect of Ghostkeeper, a poster.
Now, you'll follow the days and months and years that led to what began to build a cult for my little Ghostkeeper movie that was hardly seen anywhere. Here's the bottom half of the Schedule.



 I'll post another blog Monday.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How to create a Cult classic Movie in only thirty five years.






Okay, I get asked about my "cult classic" Ghostkeeper feature which was made in 1980 and released in 1981 by a cult classic distributor (as in those classic guys who take our money that they keep). Well, at least our first guy died.

I started thinking about this, not so much cult classic as how to make a film and keep it coming around from dozens of countries and in awful copies as in VHS (yes, they're still out there), and 16mm versions and DVD's and 35mm prints. And now Blu-ray.

I'm going back to 1980 at first, and how the world was when I decided to make a movie.

So I'm going to show you how I did it, well actually a lot of other people did it. I just watched.

That's our first "artwork." 

This might be fun. Maybe even inventive and a little lesson on low budget feature films.

Hang on.







Friday, September 8, 2017

Still finishing moving


So it's still about storage and moving and all that stuff that I hate. But I am going to a new place and look forward to it.

Until then I am heading towards the new place and hopefully get back to work by the end of next week.

Hang on to How to Make a movie a cult following. 

 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Moving





Sorry for the delay, I'm in the middle of moving, or as I see it, "Hell!!" It is not fun, trying to sell off some stuff and just trying to not go crazy. I should be wrapped up, traveling and hopefully settled. Sorry for the wait, I'll drop lines now and then.

This is what it started like.... 

 

Monday, August 21, 2017

More


Okay, end of the Heaven and Hell story. I'm actually going back there in the next month to visit and hang out with some of the friends I made on the show. I'm also working on some of my book on screenwriting as I will be working online for another gig. 

Thanks for reading the blog, it's actually now nearing 10 years of my blog, amazing! I'm considering my own online screenwriting instruction. As some of you know I have taught screenwriting way back at the University of Los Angeles, (UCLA) one of the best screenwriting teaching courses in the world. 

Should have a new story asap.

Hang on.

Friday, August 18, 2017

H&H Part 23 - the end is near



 
They are well into the filming of my episode. The director meets me and says he's filming the scene as I had originally written it rather than the Kaplan/Mahon version. What's interesting here is that a director rarely goes over the heads of the producers but in this instance he did.

He also had the 1st AD talk to Mahon to keep her away from the actors and the scene itself. As the AD talks to her, she notices me but doesn't say anything. I figure I won't either. Let it go. The scene is finished and Mahon approaches the director and asks how it's going. He replies simply, "good." She leaves and he gives me a nod.

You would rarely see this on a series, I've seen it a couple of times on other shows. And while it shows the director's confidence as well as the actor's, it's also because they have spent time on the script with me or the other writers, including Rino and Jonathan who have experienced similar moments.

Believe it or not.




And my time is almost over. They are filming my first script and the second one will be filmed in September for which I probably won't be asked back since I had done all the necessary rewrites for it.

I decide to leave a week early as all the scripts are pretty much done and there's nothing left to do. Rino also is leaving at the end of the week. In 2 weeks, everyone will be gone and Jackson will be a tourist town again.

I take a day or two to say goodbye to the locals, Louise and the Greeks and even the stalker whom I meet one day on the street. He didn't seem to know who I was. I also visit the set and see the crew who worked tirelessly on this show and had some idea of the infighting between the writers and producers, but never really bothered us. Erica is there and says she'll see me at the bar and gives me a hug. Hugs are big on film crews.

I wasn't sure how I'd spend my last evening and figured it would end at the bar with the above-the-line crew as we all did for the last several months. But when I get to my hotel there's a message.

An invitation to dinner with three, count them, three of the most interesting women on the show. The two sisters, Marilyn and Lauren and Carrie, who scanned her face on paper and gave me a copy. What more could any guy ask for?

Naturally I figure someone else must have turned them down but I don't hesitate in answering YES!!

I rush through the bar, saying goodbyes. Karen the accountant says she'd miss my jokes, and we all promise to keep in touch even though most of the time it never happens. But in this case, I still do keep in touch with many of them. I see Jorn and ask him to come with me, he doesn't have to think twice.

Upon arriving at the restaurant just outside of town limits, I am in for another surprise. There, in the dim light and flickering candles, I realize there's something different about these three women,

No hiking boots and parkas and down vests.

Instead, they're all wearing light summer-type dresses, with hair done up and looking like three amazing Eliza Doolittles. The rest of the dinner is a soft blur, the five of us talk initially about the show, but then about things everybody talks about, life, hope, future. It's one of those moments you want to go on forever.

But like moments, they are soon gone as Marilyn's smiling candle-lit face dissolves into raindrops hitting against my windshield as I drive down the main street in early morning. The street is empty, I pass by the bars and cafes and shops that were part of my life for the last several months, snow had come and gone, leaves were on the trees and a few deer families took shelter under them. Resting in the cupholder is my last hot coffee from Louise, the coffee shop owner who said goodbye to me minutes ago.

I think of how small things can change a mood, a dinner, a sunny day, even rain falling. And it's then that a moment happens, one of those moments where you feel so good that even if you had to die that moment, you would still be happy. That moment came to me now.

It was not an easy show, I'd like to think that it was an anomoly, an abberation of how TV series should work. But I hear war stories from others in the following years that suggests it can  happen again.

When movies began in the late 1800's, a French theater critic was known to have said of them, "now there is an art form for the masses." Up till then art was for the wealthy and the aristocracy but movies, for a few pennies, gave ordinary people a glance into life they never had before.

I like writing stories and continue to do so and feel lucky I still can. As I write this my attorney is negotiating a sale for a Christmas screenplay. It's called The Town That Forgot Christmas. It's bad luck to go this far in mentioning a script sale, but if it doesn't there will be others.


 
And what was that moment I described earlier?

A black bear stood at the edge of the highway as I approached in my SUV. This was just outside the town limits. He was on two legs, sniffing and watching and at the last moment, darted off into the trees.

I stopped and reached for my camera. He stood within the tall pines for another moment and watched me. Then with a seemingly bored look, he dropped to all fours and slowly waddled off into the deep forest.

Probably thinking; "some writer, he never even considered a bear episode".

Epilogue: I still keep in contact with Karen the accountant, Jorn the Cameraman, Dan the Production Designer, Ray the locations person, and a few others. I still talk to Marilyn whenever we're in the same place, and Lauren just a month ago. All are doing well. Rino has passed away.


Only the deer send me off this morning. And yes, I did see Erica before I left.



 

Monday, August 14, 2017

H&H Part 22 - My show



 
 One of the actors playing a Park Ranger, nice guy and easy to work with. The old guy is me.

The time has finally come when my first episode will be shot. It's one of the two scripts I was given to write besides all the rewrite work on other people's scripts. The second of my scripts will be written later.

Kaplan offers some notes of which some are good. After he leaves, the director of this episode drops by to discuss his notes. He has several comments, all of which are not difficult to make. Many directors, especially TV directors don't like to have writers around as the old joke suggests "because we're the only ones who know they're faking it."

At the very basic level, every script belongs to the writer. In fact European countries only accept the writer as the owner of the story and script. Sure, the director brings it to life, but a script can stand on it's own as reading material, regardless if it's made or not.

But this director is very generous and ready to work with me. He has read the first draft and asks why a new scene was added, a "drug deal" with the dying man and his partner. He asks why I changed it to something stereotypical and not as good as my original script.

I tell him in two words:  Kaplan and Mahon, the producers. They thought it would add some edge to the story, I said it made no sense. Why did I change it?

You have a lot to take into consideration when making changes; a responsibility to the show and the actors. On the other hand, if you cross the producers (in this case, Kaplan and Mahon), you can get a bad rap for being "difficult to work with" throughout the industry.

And there's usually two reasons why someone can't get work in this business; either they're not very good or they're hard to work with.

And after a week of them keeping after me to make the changes, I did. But I also knew that the director, if he was good, would notice the changes and I know the actors would immediately.

This director said he would try to get the original script back. But I doubted it would happen.

Next came the actors.

They dropped by separately, as is the custom, nobody wants to share the script with another actor. Gunther, who was saved with me by Erica at the bar, complains about the "drug deal" scene in the new script. I tell him why I changed it and he shakes his head and says "they don't know shit."

After him, Franz, the actor playing opposite him comes in and says "I  noticed some changes". I tell him about Kaplan and Mahon's dumb ideas and he sides with me, the director and Gunther. So far 4 against 2.

Finally Erica comes into the office, grabs me by the  hand and takes me out onto the little ground-level balcony our office has. She says her character should have some faults and not be so perfect. Exactly the opposite of what her German producer wanted, which was having characters with no problems and riding horses in the mountains.

By now you must be getting an idea of the frustration of working with not very smart producers. Neither Kaplan or Mahon were "smarties" as Mel Brooks would say, instead they did more to harm the writing on the show than help it

Actors, especially star actors, like "the big speech". This is where they get to show how dramatic they can be. Think of Al Pacino in Scene of a Lady, or Denzel Washington in Training Day. Those scenes that win awards for actors.

I had written a scene like that for an episode, but it wasn't for Erica, it was for the supporting actor. The scene was about a wife's reaction to her husband's death was not sorrow but anger at him for betraying her. It was a good scene because it did the opposite of what the audience expected. Writers love to write this kind of scene but don't always have the right story. 

Erica wanted a scene like that. 

And since she wasn't in the new "drug scene", she really didn't care about it. This was all about her. It wasn't a hard thing to change so I said I would do it.

That evening the film crew had a baseball game with the rangers and local police and they beat us by ten runs. It was a relaxing moment, even with Kaplan there. Everyone was enjoying themselves, Lauren was adapting well to her new position as Art Director, Jorn the cameraman was looking forward to returning to his family after the show wrapped. And I attempted again to talk to Marilyn but stumbled on every sentence.

As I drive a police officer home he suggests we "buzz" a fellow officer who's on radar patrol but I decline, not wanting to get a speeding ticket as well as the impact of a few beers I had at the bbq after the game.

The next day they began filming my episode and I come to the set and meet the director, who's decided to shoot my original version " F..k them", he adds.

I can't really disagre






(Fri:  Mahon & I face off)