Monday, December 31, 2012

The Hooterville View

Most of you have probably never heard of the Hooterville View unless you grew up in the 1960's. It was based on a sitcom called Green Acres and about a New York lawyer who decided to up and leave the city to a farm in the country.

The show was based on the premise that everyone in the farm town was a little crazy and the only one who realized it was Eddie Albert, the lawyer. But since he was the only one who was different, he was essentially the crazy one.

In Hooterville you could be a woman plumber named Ralph and you could have a pig that was named Arnold who was drafted into the army by mistake  and who yet wanted to "serve his country."

One episode in particular had the townspeople deciding on whether to have the World's Fair in Hooterville. Eddie, the lawyer told them it was impossible, the world fair couldn't come to the town. Their answer was to vote and the votes won over the lawyer. The fact that it was impossible made it even funnier. In other words the townspeople were living in an illusion,  a world where anything was possible just by saying it was.

We called it the Hooterville View and whenever someone said something unrealistic we said it was just the Hooterville View.

So what does that have to do with movies?

I joined Linkedin some years ago as it promised the ability to join other peers and maybe find financiers to fund movies. However after the first year I began to notice something happening.

People I didn't know kept requesting to join me.

At first I felt flattered that so many up and comers where interested. But it wasn't long before I realized it was nothing more than a contest as to who got the most accepts. And also that almost all of them were people who never have done anything.

So it became a reminder of that joke from Groucho Marx who said he wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have him as a member. Instead the "new friends" I got were full of confidence with their packages of movies from one to a whole slate of feature films.

All they needed was money.

Now and then someone posts that they have money for movies and the rush is on. One person said he's "writing" three movies which of course he will direct and also be co-producer on all of them. And another guy has a western script that can be made for $44 million and if that doesn't work he has a comedy for $300k. 

This is where the Hooterville View comes in. Unfortunately it was, like the townspeople, based in a reality that doesn't exist. 

Much of Linked in consists of these kinds of people, who don't really know how to raise money as well as the reality that they have no idea what they're doing. It takes more than buying a Canon 5D DSLR and ten pages of a script that they are "still writing".

But on one hand, I did find a producer to help me fund Ghostkeeper on Linkedin. But the catch here is that I already knew him and he was a seasoned producer. 

Should I shatter their dreams? I don't think so because they wouldn't believe it. So I drop by Linkedin now and then to see which actor/director/producer/screenwriter/waiter with a package of  movies wants to know me.

If life were only that easy.

A director friend of mine was once asked by a young wannabe filmmaker how he could get to be like my friend. My friend simply said "all you have to do is get a job at a TV station and work for 35 years."

But I guess everybody has to try.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tim Horton's, eh?

Tim Horton's is a legendary donut shop throughout Canada. It started with a hockey player for the Leafs, Tim himself, but who was later killed in a single car freeway accident in a De Tomaso Patera sportscar. However his legend lives on.

Tim's has donut shops in every province and they always have lines, both out the door and the drive-thru's. Anyone who gets a franchise is almost guaranteed success. A film camera friend of mine jumped onto the Tim's gold mine and does video presentations, training films and other PR jobs. He refers to his really nice home as "the house that Tim built.

There really is nothing like it in the U.S., except a slowly growing number in the east and even New York. It's not only donuts, they have soup and sandwiches, all reasonably priced.

There was a big controversy a year or so ago when Tim's threatened to use frozen dough. It was on the cover of MacLean's, the Time-like magazine.

Upon my arrival I sussed out the nearest Tim's (also called Timmy Ho Ho and a dozen other nicknames). It was less than a mile, perfect. You're looking at it up there, with snow and ice.

Last week I met an old friend of mine, we both grew up in the small town that Emperor of Mars was based on. He also fell in love with our teacher and we naturally sat in a Tim's over coffee recounting old memories.

Next week back t0 some business, as I meet with Joe and discuss Ghostkeeper. Then back to LA to begin the new year and the 4th year of this blog which keeps going. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Back to the true north

Beginning to settle into minus 28C temperatures as Calgary is having a "cold spell". There isn't much wind but lots of minor accidents, I usually pass 5 or 6 every day and see trucks hauling wrecked cars away.

I sometimes get Americans who tell me that Canada doesn't have the freedoms that America has. This, of course, is so totally wrong it rarely gets a reaction from me anymore. In fact it's in our national song, O' Canada. Some of the first words include "the true north strong and free" and we do have a bill of rights which include all freedoms that America has, except assault rifles.

Regardless we survived 12/21/12 and the planet is still here. 

But beyond that I met an old friend who grew up in the same little town as I did, and which was the inspiration for Emperor of Mars. We both fell in love with our Grade 5 & 6 teacher, Miss Mazure, who was around 18 years old or so. She is vividly portrayed in Emperor and some of you probably remember the booksigning last May.

My friend Peter and I recounted stories of the past and it was a pleasure to see that he had many of the same feelings for small-town Canada, very similar to small-town America, held great memories that formed who we are now.

I couldn't say the same for the 90 mile drive from Calgary toha halfway point for both of us, the roads were really bad, as you can see above. And of course, a handful of cars in the ditches. I don't miss the Arctic-like conditions at all. But it is a test of strength to drive anywhere during winter.

And back too the movies, I will be meeting with Joe Thornton, the producer for Ghostkeeper 2, the sequel. We hope to finance the movie to shoot this winter in Calgary but if you've read my past blogs, you'll know how damn hard it is to raise the money.

I'll be at the Deer Lodge for a visit, the hotel we shot the original Ghostkeeper and I am also doing a final edit on my screenwriting book which should be out in late January 2013. I also have a new screenplay to write, but that won't start until I get back in a week or so.

This morning I drove a mile or so to the nearest Tim Horton's coffee joint, well-known in Canada and slowly spreading into the US. It's a legendary chain that every true Canadian knows well. Sort of a MacDonalds of donut shops but nothing like the ones in the U.S. 

As I paid for my coffee and yogurt and scone, the young girl smiled and said "Merry Christmas", which took me aback for a moment... I wondered, can she really say that? Won't someone sue her? But apparently not. I paused, looked around and then spoke:

"Merry Christmas to you too". She smiled. 

I glanced around, nobody saw me say that. Phew... as the cartoons say.

While some countries don't have the freedom to say that without law suits, apparently it's okay at the McLeod Trail Tim Horton's coffee place.

The true north.  Eh?    

Monday, December 17, 2012


This week is rushed. I'm putting final touches on my screenwriting book which I want to publish in January. There's a few issues to deal with technically. 

Since the book is an instructional manual the format is set. But I am also including a complete screenplay as well, it offers some issues. The book is written on the computer but the screenplay is scanned. 

Trouble is the screenplay format has too reduce its size but also, because it's scanned from paper, it's a little grey. You would think this is an easy fix, but it's somewhat complicated. I have to figure this out.

I also have to get the cover done, with a photo my friends liked, rather than just titles. Since it's about a working writer (me) I thought this would be more interesting than titles which don't lend to getting attention. But that also has issues, but my friend Shirley, who was part of the blog at the very beginning, is going to help out greatly.

On top of all this, I'm preparing to go to Calgary, where my brother lives. He works in the newspaper business and we always get together at Christmas.

There might be a problem with the posts as I've been having trouble with Google, who seem to want me to change passwords every other day. So if I don't post over the next 2 weeks, it's due to internet problems.

Anyways, here's the first pass of the photo. I wanted it to look just a little surreal, rather than sharp and realistic. Let me know what you think. . Titles will go in bottom third, the dark area.

Will send photos of snow and cold.

Monday, December 10, 2012

On the road

I first read Jack Kerouac's landmark novel On The Road when I was fifteen. Needless to say it was a landmark moment in my life and one that remains an essential part of who and what I am.

The book is basically a rambling collection of stories around a handful of characters in the late 1940's. It was published in 1956 and immediately became a classic example of that period of time in America. Kerouac and his friends were literate, many were university students and others were just plain crazy people.

What's significant about the book is that it was arguably the first book about young people looking for something else besides the world they saw as different after a world war. And rather than look for jobs, they decided to travel across the country for no real particular reason except adventure, drinking, lots of sex and drugs.  And also seeing a country that was recovering from four years of seeing soldiers dying in Europe and the Pacific.

It was also the beginning of the Beat Generation, which would lead to rock and roll, jazz,  beatniks, hippies, the love generation and a feeling of discovery of another America. The one that was waiting to be discovered with cars, something that didn't happen that much in the 20's or 30's.

And it changed my life.

Not so much the drugs and sex, but the feeling I always had when I traveled across the great prairies and the Rocky Mountains and the truckstops where so many characters I've noticed and whom filled my screenplays. It was my adventure.

Kerouac wrote the book on a long roll of newsprint, he wrote on a typewriter at a frenzied rate, no doubt fueled by other substancesHe was from a French Canadian family in upstate Massachusetts and wrote not only of the lifestyle of the road but also of the discovery of what the country had become, from lonely towns to cities and in a way that made it all sound like a movie to me.

I have driven probably a million miles in the last 40 years, my trusty Ford SUV now has over 300,000 miles and I've had several cars. My friends say that all I need in life is a tank of gas and a highway I've never been on. The highway photo at the top of this blog is in Nevada and part of a documentary I did. 

And this brings me to the movie. Finally after years, someone has made On The Road. Francis Coppola, who made The Godfather, optioned it 25 years ago with the intention of making it but never got it together. Finally he gave it to Brazilian Walter Salles who made The Motorcycle Diaries, about the early days of Che Guevara. This took 8 years to get made and finally it will premiere Dec 21st.

But I always wondered if the book could be a movie. It's style of prose is completely different than most novels, it rambles, it rolls along. Sentences continue for forever and the energy was either felt or not. And that's the dilemma. Can it make a movie?

The early reviews were mixed, which I expected and I am uncertain about the outcome. I will see it, I have to see it, but yet a part of me doesn't want to be disappointed, not since it means so much. 

I guess I'll see if the adventure remains.