Monday, October 15, 2012

The French Deal

About 3 years ago I met some French filmmakers for a coffee. I don't really remember how they came to read my screenplay, Chaser, but they did and wanted to make it. However they felt they weren't ready for a feature length movie but would work towards that level.

Two weeks ago they emailed me and said they were ready to make it.

Chaser, oddly enough, would make a good French movie as it's more of a mindset than an American story. When I proposed to my agent that I wanted to write a screenplay with a man in a car for 70 pages he suggested I don't.

My story concerns an average guy who's lost his job and at a stoplight he witnesses a girl around 18 being abducted by an ominous looking man. Our guy begins to follow the man who drives away in a van. He wants to believe what he saw wasn't real, but it comes back to him in his memory.

However his memory is slanted, he's on meds and each time he remembers the incident, it's different. Sometimes it's a real abduction, other times it's the driver and the girl laughing and joking. The story is about memory and was inspired by Gore Vidal's autobiography in which he uses the word Palimpsest.

What it means is the ability to write on a paper and erase it, something that was common a thousand years ago by the Greeks and Egyptians as they wrote on papyrus, which they could wipe clean and write again.  Another theory is that we don't really remember a particular event, rather we remember the memory.

And that's what happens to our car driver. He begins to doubt what he saw and each time he remembers it, it changes a little. But he continues following the van which leads him into the desert and, ultimately, to find out the truth about the abduction.

You can probably see why it would be better as a French movie as it's not a linear story that is more acceptable to an American audience. I get these kinds of ideas now and then and find myself writing them even though I know American producers wouldn't like it, or at least most of them.

So it seems like we have a deal, a contract is flying around the cloud and hopefully it will happen. The director will rewrite my screenplay into French and I'm fine with that as I certainly couldn't even with my Canadian French.

The budget would be low and it would be filmed in France, I've been told about the location which seems to be as isolated as the Mojave desert is outside of Los Angeles. 

And so, I'm going to sell the screenplay but also will be filming a "making of.." documentary about the film and how it will work with an original English screenplay translated into French. 

So it could be a little bit of an adventure. With airfare included of course.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Help, advice, guidance

I subscribe to several writer's websites and can't help but notice the amount of help, advice and guidance out there that suggest there's secrets to writing that only they know and that only they can pass along.

Well, some advice is good, but ultimately, as I always say, come Monday and you're looking at your laptop or typewriter (yes, there are still writers who prefer typewriters), the only advice that matters is this;


You can take all the courses out there and have a script whisperer (there actually is someone who calls herself that) and go so McKee or dozens of other gurus but they won't be there behind your back to tell you what to write nor how to.

Unfortunately, the only way to write a screenplay is to write.  And write more. 

Okay, these are the themes in my upcoming book on Screenwriting but I'm giving you the "secret" for no cost. It took me a long time to consider writing a book on screenwriting, I told my friends who were urging me to write one, that there are at least 100 books on screenwriting.

I have experience in teaching, 2 years or so at UCLA extension classes. And I got good teacher evaluations with negatives around 1% and they were usually arrogant guys.  And I have one more thing that helps, as my director friend Paul Lynch reminded me.

I have written 19 movies in 20 years, and 30 hours of episodic series.  So one could suggest I know what I'm doing.

And as some of my former students said; a large majority of screenwriting books out there are written by people with no movie or TV credits. 

And again, another friend said; "Who would you want to teach you to fly, someone who read a few books, or a pilot?"

I know, I'm being harsh on these other writers, and you could think I'm pushing my book.  I do have a few of those books, Syd Fields and Art of Dramatic Writing and a few others. The best was Art of Dramatic Writing, and it's about plays. And it was written in 1946.

But the thing I don't like about all those others are the promises they make,  you know, things like this; "learn to write a kick-ass first act", 5 secrets to a million dollar screenplay, and stuff like that.

So, if you're writing or learning to write, buy all the books you want to, but ultimately you will have to write. And the only way to do that is --

-- to write.

(Mon: The French deal)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest blog

 As mentioned on Friday, now and then I let a guest blogger tell us his story. Have a read.

The Everyday Adventures of Lane and Russell is a short comedy film about two odd friends, a borderline sociopath and his goodhearted, socially-inept friend.  Lane is selfish and egotistical fellow who constantly abuses his kind-hearted friend, Russell. 

 Ironically, he does not even know how to drive.  He needs Russell to drive him to work!  On the other hand, Russell is an adorable idiot.  Despite his obvious lack of social skills, he gets along well with everybody because he does not have a mean bone in his body. 

  Despite the huge difference in their personality, these two have been friends since grade school.  But what if life as they know it changes?  How will they deal with it?  Will their friendship survive?

People who have seen the trailer tell me that this movie reminds them of several movies.  The hilarity of this film can be likened to that of Napoleon Dynamite.  Good-hearted Russell can be compared to Forrest Gump and the humorous absurdity of the film is comparable to Dumb and Dumber.  Of course, Lane will likely disagree.  He’d definitely take offense with this description.

So, how did we come up with this film?

The characters Lane and Russell came out of nowhere.  We didn’t really give them much thought.  In fact, they were created out of sheer impulse.  It was way back in 2000 when my friend / co-creator Chris Stephens and I goofed around in front of the camera, doing some improvisation.  Out of nowhere, we came up with Lane and Russell.  He played the perfect Russell to my Lane.  We had a friend film us while we did the improv.  Later on, we were stunned by how great the characters were.

Over the years, we have been playing Lane and Russell for people for kicks.  We’d be attending parties and we’d have people asking us to do a skit and we’d never fail to deliver.  Hilarity ensues once we start playing the odd couple.   

One day, we realized that the characters have been fully developed.  We just needed to create their world and this was when we said, “Okay, let’s do it.  Let’s shoot the film.”  This was four years ago.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish the film.  We’ve only shoot about 30 percent of it, so now we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the funds we need to finish the film.

Check out the Kickstarter video to see what the movie is all about:

Check out our site and social media as well:

Friday, October 5, 2012

The French Connection

Just a quick note; looks like I'm going to make a deal for a screenplay I wrote a few years ago. The story involves an ordinary guy who believes he's seen an abduction and isn't sure what to do.

A French director had liked the script during a meeting a few years ago and now it seems they're ready to begin to get it together for 2013 as a French movie, which I thought could be very interesting.

More about this next week.

Monday to Wednesday, I gave my blog space to a couple of filmmakers who just made a no-budget film and wanted to talk about it. Have a look; the difference between those who talk about making a movie and those who actually make one is a world apart. They did it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Ghost and 105F

The hardships of Southern California continue into October, today is expected to be at least 105F and this after a summer that averaged around 95F and often well over 100F. But it's not unusual either and the week-end looks like back to 80's temps.

The worst part is that I rarely want to leave my place to venture out into the blazing heat. And that meant I had to work harder and longer which I don't always care for.

But we move on.

I'm now working with Joe Thornton, an Alberta producer, on Ghostkeeper 2, as I mentioned in other blogs. We have a good working budget of $1.7 million but also allowing for changes in the budget which could cover a wide range.

This is because the $1.7 is our ideal budget and in this business you rarely get the ideal amount of money. And it doesn't matter how big or small your budget is, it will be cut somewhere along the line.

At $1.7, we can do a full union shoot for four 5-day weeks. Some films do 6-day weeks and in our case it would amount to 18 days rather than 20.  There would be a savings there that would amount to lower the budget.

However, I have found that 6-day weeks are just too tiring for a realistic crew. By saying realistic, I mean a crew of at least 20 people and not those made by 5 or 6 people. Working 6 days at a time tires the crew, they never really get a chance to rest as the 7th day often means doing laundry, catching up on your home and a lot of other issues.

With 5 days, it gives the crew a week-end to rest and catch up with their lives.

But it all depends on how much funding we can find. This is the usual thing for indie films with no studio backing them. And that is a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing is that you have to compromise your "vision" as one might say.

So I can't get that great crane shot or a special f/x that would stand out.

But less money means more imagination. At least that's the saying. On Ghostkeeper 1980 we needed an optical effect for a point-of-view shot of the lead actress. We were looking through her eyes as the room in front of her begins to bend and curve.

But we couldn't afford that effect so instead, John the DP held a wide angle filter near the lens of a handeld Arri 35mm camera and turned it back and forth while I held the camera and filmed the point of view.


And that takes us back to now. 

Joe is working out the Canadian financing opportunities, of which there are many in Canada and since he's a local producer in Calgary, he will have access to several different funds, that if done right, could give us a fair amount of the budget.

And my side needs to bring in a U.S. distributor and also financing so we're still a long way from a start date which just maybe December 2012.