Friday, June 28, 2013

Anonymous no more...

One thing I never really expected is that there are people out there who like to take me down, as they say. It comes and goes when they get tired or I just shut them off. I don't really need to defend myself anymore at this point in my career to someone who doesn't offer their email or name. 

So, I'm deciding to shut off anyone who doesn't use their real email address. Actually it's not that big of a deal, since I rarely get those messages anyway.  But every now and then I muss up someone's attitude and they just have to tell me I'm not as good as I think I am. But they don't tell me who they are or what they do.

This, of course, suggests that they've never seen any of my movies, some are pretty good and some are the ones you do to get paid, every writer has a few of those, at least every writer who has real credits. 

One issue is self-publishing, to which Anonymous felt was second class. Actually the book is published through Amazon and Createspace and myself. There was a time when self-publishing was about wacko guys in the woods writing a book on their paranoid rantings or some people who have receipes for bbq and so on.

But now "self-publishing" is pretty big. Stephen King self-published on Amazon and Penny Marshall among others. In fact the publishing industry is quite scared of losing famous authors and others as Amazon takes over. They even have a movie site wherein a writer can enter their screenplay at no cost for evaluation and even a complete storyboard.

So Anonymous -- go play with your iphone or even better write something that Aaron Sorkin will hire you for. Then email me back, I'll give you some notes.

btw if you don't know how to write, get my book. eh?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Anonymous again

Got a comment in the previous blog from Anonymous (how come they're always anonymous) reminding me of the moaning of the good old days. Well I guess we old timers have had a lot of good old days. My dad said he had good old days and I had good old days...

... with one difference.

I also have the good new days as well, having finished my spec screenplay, entitled The President's Heart, and am working on a documentary for the ww11 pilot, as well has helping him, at 89, writing a bio of his time in the war.

And I'm starting a Kickstarter project, hopefully to fund Ghostkeeper although I fear it might not do well. In that case I have Plan B to fund it for half the budget it is now.

My book on screenwriting (and the good old days) was published last week and should get some traffic once I get some reviews, two are ready and a few more are coming. 

But Anonymous spotted some irony there that I couldn't see the A didn't spell it out so I'll have to re-read the post.

So, yes the good old days were great, but I'm also into the new days too.  And they will become old days some day too.  And as Anonymous said there aren't a lot of Soprano credits in my credit list, and they're right, I never got a gig with David Chase.

But it's subjective, for example, I got some great reviews from my Christmas movie as well as the Ghostkeeper movie. They weren't 100%, nobody gets that but all it takes is someone to write you a letter saying they liked the Christmas movie to make you feel good.

At least until you have someone who wants to put you down. I can't help wondering if that person would put their credits down so we can all see what they've done.

And I don't moan. Maybe I grumble, but not moan. I don't have much time for that.

But then there was that first time in France when....... zzzzzzz.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Done, move on

Well, one more spec screenplay finished and hopes that it will be sold. 

A friend of mine was talking about what he felt was the biggest problem in the movie and tv business - there are too many people in it for one thing - - but there's something else that is contributing to the mess.


More and more kids are going to film school because it's cool and they have dreams of being stars and star directors and star writers. And their parents tell them they are -- but that's another blog.

What happened with digital and computers is that it gave everything away - VHS cameras were terrible, High-8 was better but digital was great. So great that they had to make it for everyone. And everyone can make a movie-- youtube.

There's an old expression, actually not that old -- "the good news is that everyone can make a movie -- the bad news is that everyone can make a movie".

When I grew up in the film industry there weren't as many people around, and they would hire the best but that changed with youtube and their millions of short films. Now everyone was a star.

And that's okay, because why not? Can't the ordinary guy film his cat chasing a stick, you tell me? Is that a movie? Should it be showing at your theater? 

What also happened is that since the studios and networks don't quite know what works for this millennial generation who watch some movies and not others and don't seem to have a star system anymore. Most of their time takes up staring at a smart phone.

And since networks and studios don't know, they try everything. And since there are so many writers out there, bad or good, they don't really know which to choose. So they look at everything. And when they look at everything they really find a lot of junk. Good stuff is rare. The Sopranos is better written than Charlie Sheen's "Anger Management" but there's more of Charlie's shows than Tony's.

It's sort of like buying cereal at the supermarket, which one do you buy, the same one you buy all the time or a new one. Which is healthier, which tastes better. And so on.

One of the guys who started the 100-plus TV channels said they thought there would be programming for everyone on earth - niche channels - but now that it's in full swing with 500 channels or more he realized he was wrong.

Instead, they created mediocrity - something for no one. 

"mediocre" -- of only ordinary or moderate quality, barely adequate"

Turn on your TV tonight and let me know... 


Monday, June 17, 2013

Down to the line...

Got to finish my new screenplay today, means I have to finish before lunch... have to do about 8 pages or more... but I've got it pretty much finished in my mind. 

I'll post a blog later in the day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Father and daughter compete?

A new movie opens this week-end at "select theaters" as they say, but which means it's only showing in New York and Los Angeles. It's mostly a tryout to see if there's an audience for it. If there is, the movie will expand to more theaters. This is usually the case for "arthouse" movies, the ones that are not filled with CGI and explosions and zombies.

The movie in question is The Bling Ring, which tells the real-life story of a group of well-to-do valley kids who rob the homes of famous people like Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and a few others.  For those who don't know what the title means, it's about "bling", in other words, jewelry, incredibly expensive clothing, TV sets, whatever they can carry out of a celebrity's home. 

What's interesting about the movie which is about bored middle class kids who gain entry into celebrity homes is that both the kids and the celebrities have a lifestyle that amounts to nothing much. 

The film was directed by Sophia Coppola, daughter of Francis Coppola, who made The
Godfather and Apocalypse Now with Martin Sheen. Sophia's first movie was Lost in Translation with Bill Murray. She is acknowledged as a good director, but there are many in the film industry who feel she isn't deserving of anything but having a famous father.

For the book, I did like Lost In Translation and didn't like her other films. But then I'm not the audience for her, nor for the Bling Ring, for which the LA Times calls "a story about self-absorbed shallow people".

And at the same time, her dad's movies Tetro and Twixt (weird titles?) did no business and Twixt was released this week as a POD
movie. Of course, he has his huge wine estate north of San Francisco so movies for him are a hobby.

But the movie I'm anxious to see this week-end is a documentary called Twenty Feet From Stardom, and I recommend it to everyone. It's about the back-up singers from the 1960's up to now, people like Darlene Love who sang lead on "He's A Rebel" among others but never
got the recognition. Interviews include Sting, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and others and the sound track is fantastic.  Hope it comes to your town.

The week ends with my screenplay finished, which I will mention once I register it with the Writer's Guild. I'm keeping it a little secret as it truly is a unique story, one that nobody's ever seen, if that's possible. 

And every writer likes to say that but this time... it really is.

That is until I discover four other writers working on the same topic. 

You never know.

Monday, June 10, 2013

One more job lost...

I have often noted the loss of jobs in the entertainment business. Best example of this is the little documentaries I make. In 2005 I returned to my home town in northern Canada (yes, there is a southern Canada) and made a 42 minute documentary of the town's 100th anniversary. 

To do this I had a crew of 3 people, myself as camera, my friend Gordon as camera and another friend Preben who helped us. We filmed about 8 hours of DV video. When I returned to L.A., I began editing it on Final Cut Pro, an editing system for professional use. 

There I was able to edit and add music which I created on garageband and recorded the narration in a closet. So besides Gordie and Preben, I essentially made the documentary by myself.  And I sold a lot of copies.

So what?

Well, my director friend Paul dropped by and watched as I edited another piece of work for a producer in which I shot the interviews, edited the pieces, inserted video from other sources and did the music again. I used freeze frames, pan 'n scan edits and much more. 

When I finished Paul said something interesting; In doing all those jobs, I took away work from at least a half dozen people. 

Now me taking away a half dozen jobs isn't much, but if you multiply it by 10 or 100 or 1000 people like me doing all this work by themselves, it begins to add up. And it's not only the entertainment business; I was talking to the gas meter reader a few months ago, the guy who comes along to measure gas to my stove. He said his job is going away as the company will be using satellite to measure gas usage.

I called a dvd duplication house awhile ago to make a dvd for Europe, this place had 3 separated offices and now - only one.

Last Friday I heard about something else; Amazon will take a screenplay, yours or mine and

convert it into storyboards. Storyboards are mostly single frames drawn by an artist, sometimes black and white, sometimes color.

But Amazon has a computer that actually reads the screenplay and then DRAWS the storyboards for you. In color.

Storyboard artists are shivering this morning, that's for sure. The storyboards you see here are hand-drawn.

So what about writing, when will a computer begin to write screenplays? Well, writers have science on their side because computers, according to futurist Machio Kaku, will never be able to create strong stories from life and experience. In other words, there'll always be a demand for content that computers, which are just glorified adding machines, will not be able to write like humans do.

At least for the next 50 years, but then I won't be around. 

BTW the color storyboard at the top of the blog is from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a Stephen Spielberg film. It's the scene where Richard Dreyfuss begins to make a tower from mashed potatoes.

Below is Amazon's ad.



Friday, June 7, 2013

My book is out!


Finally, my book on Screenwriting it out. I've already had a few sales, hoping for much more as I've contacted some film bookstores and a few chains. Would love to have it at Walmart but they don't really deal with these kind of books.

What the book about?

First of all it's based on my lectures at UCLA where I taught extension classes in screenwriting for a little over two year. At the same time I remained loyal to my craft by writing screenplays and even having one made during that time.

As those of you who have read my blog, you'll know the problems with the book which were technical in nature, not in content. Amazon's printer just couldn't do it right. Finally they did it after a lot of phone calls and shouting over 6 weeks until they figured it out.

Who's the book for?

I like to think it's for everyone, from an average movie fan, to aspiring writers and even to experienced ones. It's primarily an instruction book, "how to write a screenplay" but it has a lot of anecdotal stories about the business; things like the battles that happen in screenwriting, the disappointments, the fun parts and a lot more. I think it's a good book for anyone who's a movie fan.

How can you get a copy?

Amazon sells the book for $14.99 plus shipping (they have 3 or 4 ways of shipping).

I can sell you a copy for $10 plus $2.85 for media shipping. I think Canadians order from the U.S. and there is no duty, no matter what anyone tells you. Free trade has to have some good stuff for us.

Anyways, thanks for hanging around, I will continue this blog when we begin to hunt for money for Ghostkeeper 2, starting in 3 weeks. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Best written TV shows

Last night I attended a function at the Writer's Guild theater to listen to some legendary writers as well as find out what the best writing in TV history. It was an interesting evening for several things. Note that it's not the best TV shows but rather .
the best-written shows

First of all, we got to watch clips of different eras; the 1950's, 60's, 70-80's and 90's-2013, with each era having two people from that era. So we had the following;

Carl Reiner who's 91 and who created, among other shows, The Dick Van Dyke Show.

1960's- had Norman Lear who created the American version of
All In The Family and spinoffs like Maude and many others. Also Gail Parent who did the Carole Burnett Show

70's - 80's had Stephen Bochco who created NYPD Blues as well as Jim Brooks who created The Mary Tyler Moore Show as well as making Terms of Endearment (which won 3 oscars). Also Winnie Holzman who did My So-Called Life.

And for the present day, Vince Gilligan whose Breaking Bad series was quite a ground-breaker. Also Matthew Weiner who created Mad Men and Ronald Moore who did Star-Trek New Generation and Battlestar Gallactica. Also Steve Levitan who did Fraser and Wings.

Needless to say I was in awe of these people, especially Reiner. I have a comedy record with him and Mel Brooks, The 2000-Year Old Man, which was made in the 60's and still is some of the best comedy you'll hear.

Each of them had time to talk about the era they were in as well as the frustrations of fighting networks who felt they knew more than the writers. It's a classic situation that will always be, as you probably know if you read my blog two years ago on the TV series I did.

But the best was Carl Reiner and Norman Lear who told stories of the early days of television. Reiner, at 91 was a little slow to walk out but when he sat down he fired off story after story with hilarious responses from the audience.

As we watched clips of the 101 best written shows, it was interesting to note that applause was very age-responsive; older people applauded for older shows and younger applauded for younger shows. 

It would be hard to really judge the best in the first place, but this was mostly for fun and to
help sell TV Guide, which most people I talked to thought was gone long ago. I found a stash of old TV Guides dating back to 1967, when they cost 15 cents, and gave them to friends of mine. I have my 1968 TV Guide with the cast of Gunsmoke on the cover.

All in all it was a fun night with a nice reception afterwards where starving actors work as bartenders and food servers... but hey, we were all there once.

Here's the top 10 best written TV shows;

10 - The West Wing
9 - The Wire
8 - Cheers
7 - Mad Men
6 - Mary Tyler Moore Show
5 - Mash
4 - All In The Family
3 - Twilight Zone
2 - Seinfeld
1 - The Sopranos

So what do you think?