Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to Life

Finally wrapped up the funeral and house sale of my mom's home.  Lots of interesting things happened, the best of which I connected with my ex-wife whom I haven't seen since 1986 and reconnected with my brother's ex-wifeEileen and my terrific niece Rica, who is quite the girl.whom I haven't seen since 1986. I am almost back on the blog, apologize for the drop in postings, but right now things look bright; sold a screenplay, starting to work on a documentary and also a rewrite of a screenplay I wrote a few years ago, which I intend to direct very soon.

So hang in there, I have lots of stories left and some interesting views on Hollywood after spending 5 weeks in ozone territory (a term favored by studios and networks and referring to that great expanse of country between L.A. and NYC).

It really was a month of sadness, rediscovery, sentiment, hope and inspiration. Life don't get much better.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Almost back to normal

Won't bore you with details but my mother's funeral went off well, she had a great 10-year run after my dad died and became herself rather than "John's wife". She made new friends, her own and even friends half her age and kids too.

She had her funeral planned even to the luncheon and it went smoothly and upbeat which was how she wanted it. My friend Gordie always made popcorn for her and it became their connection and Gordie planted a small handful very discretely into her coffin. She would have laughed at that, and probably was.

It was also a time to forgive and forget old feuds which only made the entire experience better for us. My brother, an editor at a Calgary newspaper and I had constant invitations for dinner in the small town of Swan River, in Manitoba, people brought garden vegetables to our door, even some home-made wine, and we couldn't walk down the main streets without someone approaching and giving us their support.

We sold her house in 3 days and I'm now wrapping up everything and heading back to L.A. with stopovers in Calgary, Vancouver, Portland and Eugene (both Oregon) and might enjoy a night's rest at an outrageously expensive Carmel inn.

Life has ended, life has changed and life is all we got.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hold on posts

Haven't done a blog for a week, my mother passed away Tuesday, Aug 3 and I'm dealing with the funeral and putting a house up for sale so I'll be absent for at least a week or so.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Write what you know

Being here in the small town I was born in has my mind thinking back. One of the key phrases you hear often from the "old pros" and the writing teachers is this;  

Write what you know.

By this, they imply that if you should want to be a writer of screenplays or novels or probably anything else, you should write what you know, what your world is or was. In other words don't write a story about Brooklyn if you've never lived there. Or a story about doctors if you've never been one.

But what about science fiction?

Do you have to have been in another galaxy to write a Star Wars type movie, have you been on Mars in order to write the Martian Chronicles (by Ray Bradbury). More on this later.

I grew up to the age of 12 in the small town I mentioned. There is a saying that the person you are at 7, is the person you will be. I believe that. Most of the screenplays, at least the specs, and some hired jobs, were set in small towns. No coincidence.

In fact, my best script, according to many was Emperor of Mars, about as close to real life as I dared to make it. It was compared by one producer as similar to Stand By Me. 

The odd thing about the many small town scripts I've written is that I wasn't really conscious that I was doing that; writing what I know. It took a friend who's read most of my scripts to tell me that.  She also said that those scripts were generally better than ones set in a city or foreign location.

I  mentioned a screenplay that has been optioned and it seems will be out for Christmas. It was based on a real event, one that happened to me years ago. I was living with a very nice woman with three children,  preteens and one teen girl. We were driving back from Oregon to Calgary and our car, a formidable Maverick for those who might remember, when a piston rod ripped up through the hood.

This caused us to stay in a  little town along the Columbia River for 2 days during which we met several people and had what was then a boring time. And we missed New Year's Eve parties in Calgary, something the teen was absolutely crushed about.

But in the years that followed, that time seemed to be better as most past events do. We laughed about it and still do.

A few years ago I decided to write a screenplay based on that incident. A Christmas story is known in the business as an "evergreen", simply meaning that it can be televised over and over again at Christmas time. Same as movies about Thanksgiving or any other holiday that comes once a year.

And all networks and studios like a movie they can drag out each year for showing. One movie, Christmas Story is repeated for a full 24 hours at Christmas every year.

I used the basic premise of what was called Christmas in Nowhere but changed it drastically in order to fill out a 2-hour movie. (Actually 90 minutes without commercials). One needs conflict in order to make a story interesting and I injected a lot. 

I passed it around for a year or so, a lot of people liked it but nobody wanted to buy it. It stayed around Hallmark and ABC Family and even Lifetime for a few years. There was always an excuse to not do it, and I forgot about the script.

Then I get a call from a woman who said she wants to get it made, and she called from a real producer's company which meant this was real. This happened around the end of April this year.

(Next: Why a script is bought)