Monday, July 29, 2013

Back to the Pacific war

As I've mentioned before, I'm helping a WW11 air force veteran write his memoirs of the Pacific war around 1944-45. His first name is Jule and he lives in Santa Monica. Jule, at 89, rides his bike to Venice beach nearly every Sunday and our little group of film people would see him there by himself.

After a few years, he began to join us and when I told him I wrote a book, Emperor of Mars, he became interested in writing, so much that he asked me to help him. For the last 2 months Jule (first name) wrote and I put his material in a more readable form.

But last Saturday, Jule and I drove out to Camarillo, a city north of Los Angeles, about 40 miles away. There we found an air museum and two cargo airplanes from the war - both were flown by Jule.

He flew cargo planes to the Philippines and finally into Tokyo itself at the end of the war. His unit was nicknamed the Tokyo Trolley.

The two cargo planes we saw in Camarillo, were the C47 and C37, both pictured here. It was quite a moment as Jule stepped into each of the planes that were so crucial to the combat. He explained almost everything to me, some of it having been forgotten but now fresh in his mind.

Then we drove to Santa Paula, about 25 miles away where we met two of his flyer friends. Santa Paula has a tiny airport, no tower at all. There we found a P-22 instructor airplane
that was Jule's training, two open cockpits. Again his memories flowed, telling me stories about himself and others whom he flew with.

All in all, a heck of a day for memories. Now I will get back to editing and hoping also to do a small documentary on the subject.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Reader

There is, in this business of writing, one thing that makes writers shudder.  For that one thing, it is a single person, male or female who, in their world have little or no power, but for writers, they are either saviors and monsters.

These are the "readers". And they can sometimes make or break you.

 Readers have always been around, I'm sure Homer had a reader or two on his plays more than 2000 years ago. And so did Shakespeare. And Stephen King too. We all meet the reader when we choose to write words.

The readers I am talking about are the ones that read our screenplays to see if they are good, bad or great. There are more readers now than ever, because I suppose, the executives are too busy too read screenplays.

It wasn't always that way.

Even back as close as 2005, an agent could call a studio exec and suggest he/she read a new "hot" script. A runner would bring the script over on a Friday and the exec would read it over the week-end.  This was before we could email screenplays. There was a time when there was no internet.

Now, with so much information on the internet, screenplays can be sent faster and easier and with more screenplays tumbling in, they need more readers.

Now the question you might be asking is this; who are these guys and why does anyone listen to them?  Remember that famous quote from that famous screenwriter, William Goldman who did Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, among many others. He said this;

Nobody knows anything.

And he's right. Readers are hired to read screenplays to find the next hit, and it's not a job that writers could call honorable. Most of the readers are secretaries or interns or friends. You can get anywhere from nothing to $100 a read.

So why, you ask, do the people on the lowest rung of the Hollywood ladder be given so much responsibility.

Nobody knows anything.

A reader and hand in a hot script and the exec pitches it to his upper management. If they hate it, guess who takes the blame.

I've had fights with readers on those rare occasions we've met, and I don't generally like them. They've said good and bad things about my work and mostly they were wrong although they were also sometimes good and gave me ideas.  The power that they have is not really anything, but a good review can push a screenplay further up and a bad one can kill it.

So... on my new screenplay The President's Heart, the reader gave me some initial great remarks. But then the reader launched into an area where politics come into the story, and 
said that a lot of what I wrote couldn't happen. In fact he said it is implausible.

"Implausible - causing disbelief." Websters

What the reader is saying about the politics scene I wrote is that it causes disbelief. You mean like a guy who flies in the air or space aliens attack earth, or Bruce Willis races a car through the streets of Moscow at high speed? Or how about Jim Carrey being God for the day in Almighty Me.

Are those plausible?

In fact, everything in a movie is implausible, it's not real, it's actors walking around talking perfectly and being heroes and murderers.

For your consideration; I know politics. I worked for Bobby Kennedy in 1968 and Trudeau in 1969 and read tons of books on politics and continue to be absorbed by all those pundit TV shows. 

But that comment remains on that reader's report and for that one time, he/she is king. And a lot of them know it. And ultimately it isn't usually good because it is subjective, I liked Lone Ranger, my friend Barry hated it. Who's right?

But finally, my last resort is this; when I taught UCLA screenwriting back in 2003, I had my students read each other's work and then comment. But I added one thing; if they criticized any other student's screenplay, they had to offer an alternative.

Now only if I could tell my writer he/she doesn't know what he/she is talking about.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Too busy?

Well, no excuses... I had a hell of a time Sunday as I attempted to do a 2 minute intro to our page and completely forgot my Monday blog.

I have a new appreciation for actors as I had to speak into a camera and explain what we are trying to do. I had it written out, an easy 2 minute speech of sorts. But it began to fall apart with each try. 

It's hard. I would start and stop, or forget the words and just get mad. Lots of bad words were said.

Finally I just winged it; I knew what had to be said and knocked out 4 versions and about twice that many that were stopped in between. The thing is that each one was different in it's own way, but I managed to finish the damn thing.

One interesting aspect I didn't think of was breathing. When I shot the first clip I replayed it on my Final Cut Pro software and realized I was catching my breath between sentences, it was noticeable to a pro but not really that much to the average person so I hope it passes quietly.

But I did call an actor friend and asked how actors do this -- all the time--. He said the secret is to breath from below, around the stomach. I tried that and it sort of worked but also would take me a week just to be almost okay.

And today I come back and there's Chris, my Irish-English buddy, saying "where's the blog". Both of us have been doing this for 4 years, maybe a little longer for Chris.

But I'm back at work, posted my 4 versions on my FB and it seemed that most liked the 4th one, which I liked the best also. You can go over to my FB and have a look, or even add your own fifty cents worth.

Next I'm editing a 2 minute version of Ghostkeeper to combine with the intro above. I already have a 4 minute version so it won't be hard to cut a 2 minute version out of it. I couldn't do any of this without Final Cut Pro or FCP, the editing system that took me a hell of a long time to learn and has paid off quite well. But I don't think I'll be editing for a profession, I'm not that good. You can see that on my YouTube channel.

For the FB videos just go FB and Jim Makichuk, you can scroll down till you find the site with my 4 videos.

For YouTube go to my YouTube channel to the left of this blog and lower.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Beginning the Ghostkeeper project.

It's almost 8 am and today is the beginning of attempting to fund Ghostkeeper 2 to the tune of $1.6 million dollars through the crowdfunding website called and I have no idea what I'm going to do.

One thing I know is that I will have a handful of excuses not to start today;

1. Gotta do my laundry.
2. Finish watching KTLA-TV morning news.
3. Check email.
4. Answer email.
5. Clean my laptop screen.
6. Plan where to go for lunch.
7. Check bills to pay.
8. Get my video camera ready to shoot my introduction.
9. Turn the tv off and stare at it for awhile.
10. Curse and start typing this blog.

People who have jobs have it easier, they have to show up somewhere and start work. I don't have to show up and I don't have a boss to tell me what to do. You'd think it sounds great but it isn't, because I can come up with even more excuses.

And finally I start with the blog which is kind of an excuse as it really isn't going to do anything for the project.

Here's what I have to accomplish in the next 2 weeks:

I have to make a list of all the things we have to do in order to startup our project. Here's what we need.

1. I have already posted the image from Ghostkeeper onto our page. It won't be accessible to donations until all the material is there. This is what it looks like...

2. Next is to write an introduction which I will do on-camera to tell anyone who enters our kickstarter page and this means I have to film myself, most likely at my desk, and speak to the camera, explaining to viewers exactly what we're going to do. I hope to do this in the next 2 days.

3. After that, I will edit video clips from the original Ghostkeeper, made in1980 to introduce the viewers to what we did. This video will be inserted once completed.

4. I want to use videos and photographs of the original cast who were 33 years younger. There are only 6 characters in the entire movie, one of them being the creature and we have three of them already. 

5. I will show photos from the 1980 movie in a montage, which I created below;

And so, these images and soon-to-be video clips will take at least 2-3 days of work and since the temperatures outside are climbing to 105F today, I am not stepping outside at all.

Next blog should be Wednesday where you will learn I am way behind. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Kickstarter and crowd funding

I'm finally going to take the plunge into crowd-funding, that curious way as to raise money for a movie. I've talked about this before but now I'm going to actually enter a project and will blog a few times a week to tell you how it's going.

I've talked about crowd-funding before so I'll give you some of the basics; crowd-funding is a source of financing for almost everything. In other words you can ask for money on several websites for your project; movie, music video, documentary, restaurant start-up, computer app development... almost anything that someone would like to start but doesn't have the money.

In my case it's my Ghostkeeper 2 screenplay, I've mentioned this before as well. As a quick update, I did a feature in 1980 called Ghostkeeper; it came and went and was forgotten until around 2005 where British and European fans began to discover it. This led to a screening in Toronto and a distribution deal for a 30th Anniversary DVD which was released in May 2012.

With all this attention, someone suggested I re-do it or at least make a sequel. I didn't want to re-do it, but liked the idea of a sequel. This is what I had; Ghostkeeper takes 3 young people who get lost in winter and end up in an old hotel in the Rocky Mountains. There they find a strange old woman and the presence of something else. Things happen, as they say, someone is killed and survival is not looking good for anyone.

So, for a sequel, I decided on this; what if the actors from the first Ghostkeeper return to the hotel for a reunion. These would be the real actors, except 30 years older. And of course, things begin to happen again.

Simple idea. Easy to sell, I thought. So I wrote the screenplay last year but was not able to finance it in time. So this year, my partner in Alberta and I decided to try one of the crowd-funding websites to finance our movie for $1.8 million. Not a lot of money for studios but an immense amount for us.

There are two main crowd-funding websites; and and they seem to get most of the requests.

Now here's how it works; 

I will put up a page in their website, sort of like Facebook and enter video, photos and any information that I can think of that will entice someone to part with $25 or $10,000. Who gives us the money? Well anyone can donate any amount, a minimum begining $10. The average is around $25.

Two things here; I use the word "donate" because that's what it is. The people who do donate will not get any money back, that is a clause of the Securities Commission. So what do they get?

Well, anything from caps and t-shirts to a DVD copy of the original or DVD's of both movies. A big donation could get a small part in the movie. 

Does it work? Kickstarter says a project can reach it's goal about 35% of the time, not great odds. Recently two "star-driven" projects did very well. A TV show called Veronica Mars was cancelled some years ago but this spring, the cast and producers asked for donations and got over $5 million dollars!

And another actor, Zack Braff from Scrubs also asked for money and he got over $3 million for his movie.

Does this mean we'll get our $1.8 million? The odds aren't in our favor but we gotta try. And so you'll be able to follow us as we attempt to make this movie in November 2013.

Hang in. Here's three of the originals, myself, Murray Ord, actor and Doug MacLeod, production manager in the lobby of the Deer lodge.