Monday, June 15, 2015

It started in 1989...

I got a phone call from a producer who, besides not knowing how to text, calls me from time to time about a screenplay I wrote that he likes a lot but has not been able to put it together with money. Close though, and he still hunts for a buyer.

But this time he surprised me with a bit of news about

Emperor of Mars, of which I wrote the screenplay in 1989 and I wrote and published the book in 2013. It seemed that a former executive from Disney was shopping around for a nice little family story and he had read it some years ago.

The next thing he said was "Has Jim sold it yet."

To which my producer said, "Not yet."

The next thing he said was "Why don't we make it?"

That was a good phone call but naturally I'm not getting excited about it. Because it's not the first time.

Let's go way back... 1989, some of you weren't even born yet.

As most writers, I always wanted to write my life story. The problem was that my life story wasn't special. I grew up in a little town of 539 people and at age12 moved to a big city. So where's the great story?

This is what I had; the small town environment, a 12-year old girl who I idolized. But the biggest thing was my Grade 6 teacher, Miss Mazure. She was barely out of teacher's college and I fell madly in love with her. I was 12 she was around 19.

So that was my story. Not enough to fill out a handfull of pages. By this time I had worked on several TV stations and was looking to find a story to write. That story.

I needed something else.

Then, just by accident (as they say) I found something out of the blue.

I read newspapers and magazines all the time and this time I noticed a story about a radio broadcast that had played a mysterious voice supposedly from Mars. And he was coming to Earth in two weeks. This was almost in the 1960's.

And I realized that this was my story, my "macguffin." This expression comes from legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, who explained what the audience would know. The idea.

My idea was the small town, the girl and the teacher and... the Emperor of Mars. In short I took that news story and it became the heart of the story. Now I could expand my ideas, there would be the boy (who was me), my school friends, the 12-yr old girl and the teacher.

By the way, this blog and the following one is a great way to see how you can write your story. 

Now here's how I used the Emperor.

One night something strange happened in the small town. The boy heard it on the radio and someone else saw strange lights in a wheatfield. This person became part of the story also.

I wrote the screenplay in about 6 weeks and didn't have a title. Then an executive at a  pay channel who had gotten me some money to write the screenplay suggested the obvious title.

Emperor of Mars.

But nobody in Canada wanted to make it.

This changed when I moved to L.A. in 1990 and my agent there started to pass the script around. It quickly became a favorite and with it I had meetings with every studio and production company in town. They all liked it. 

But they also didn't want to make it. They said they loved it and then asked what else did I have. Here's a short list of the big one, all major players (some gone now) as they say. And there's at least forty or more smaller "players" of which you'll see this Friday.

Dreamworks                 FX Network                        Castle Rock
Universal                      Columbia                              Sarabande
Touchstone                  Imagine Entertainment      Nuefeld-Rehme
Paramount                   Morgan Creek                      Tri-Star
Warner Bros                 David Geffen                        Wizan-Black 
Zucker Bros                 Linda Obst                             Hollywood Pictures
Jerry Bruckheimer     Interscope                             Steve Tisch
New Line Films           Lorimar                                  Fogwood
Chestnut Hill                Harry Gittes                         Pathe

And more.

But I still didn't get a buyer. But they liked me, as Sally Field said, they really liked me.

Or did they?

Friday - my life really changes because of the Emperor of Mars

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