Monday, March 24, 2014

Breaking in.

Now and then I get asked how I managed to break into the movies, how I got to last this long and how can they do it. My answer usually starts off with this;

Find someone who's better than you are.

I don't mean better on everything but better than some things. And it helps if they're talented, it can make up for your own deficiencies. I have a lot and I'm just damn lucky I connected with a few people who helped me out.

Here's 9 steps how to do it.

1, I needed a summer job and got it a local TV station in Windsor, a small Canadian city across from Detroit. It all changed when my wife and I went to the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1972. It's where I met Phil Borsos. Phil had one outstanding asset.  I'm the bearded guy behind the blonde girl and Phil is behind the grey-haired lady.

2. He had talent. Lots of it.

And I knew two things quite well; how to shoot film and how to write. We complemented each other as they say.

3. It led to shooting a short film in 1975 called Cooperage. It was about a barrel factory. It made barrels out of oak wood for whiskey. We filmed it in 2 weeks and then got a good editor to edit it. It won the Canadian version of Oscars for short films and won in some other countries. And it was a finalist in the 1976 Academy award. 

It led to other jobs for me, writer, producer, director. But not much happened there either. Then I met someone else who knew how to get money. He got me $650,000.

4. Then I made Ghostkeeper, a horror film that wasn't all that great but was a feature film. But after that, I made some cheap movies and figured it was all over.

5. Then I met Paul Lynch. Paul is a director, probably known for Prom Night, another horror movie and also dozens of episodes of the Star Trek series. He got me an agent in Hollywood.

6. Then I got a green card through a weird circumstance, US Government was offering green cards to Canadians. All you had to do was write a letter. I wrote one. I got a green card. But the agent didn't work out too well, he never really found me any jobs.

7. Then I met Frank Balkin, brand new in the agency business, and when he went to a larger agency, he took me along. From then I got a hell of a lot of assignments and ended up with 15 or so movies, both mine and rewrites. 

8. Then around 2005, movies changed. Especially TV movies. In fact it was so bad we had regular parties at the Roosevelt Hotel lamenting the TV Movie. Nothing happened until 2010 when a lady in an office picked up my spec screenplay about a family stuck in a small town over Christmas. It got made.

9. Right now, today, I have three potential projects that will hopefully get made. One is a French company making a screenplay of mine as a French film; another is a screenplay for an actor with a fan base and another, recently, is a screenplay that a New Mexico writer/director wants to make.

Just one thing; those three projects can fall apart within months.

So, if you want to know how some writers make it, this is a fairly good example. Phil and I were friends until he passed away at age 41. I still think of him.

10. First step again; find someone who's better than you are. And have something that they can't do.

It's the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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