Monday, November 23, 2015

The "Others"

A week or so ago I received email from the Writer's Guild (WGA) of which I am a member. For the record I'm also in the Canadian writer's guild, WGC. I get emails from both but this time it came close to home, from WGA.

Once a year, WGA arranges to possibly find work for the following under the category of the following people;
Minority writers
Writers with disabilities
Women writers
Writers age 55 and over
LBGT writers.

In plain speak, this is the WGA's way of saying they're helping the above categories. And where do I come in?

Writers age 55 and over.

Or as my woman writer friend says, "older men are now in with women writers."

So what am I going to do? Well, go for it, eh. I am over 55, I think maybe 98 but that's more like I feel.

So what is it all about?

It means that all of the above can send in a TV script and or a spec script and maybe a screenplay, I'm not sure of all of it.

Who do they/me send it to?

To current showrunners, people who are writer/producers. They're the people who make decisions as to who to hire and who to fire and who deals with the networks and other stuff. 

But first it goes thru WGA biz and then the showrunners will read all of the submissions, maybe a few thousand, maybe less. Then they pick the ones that might have the chops, as they say.

And what happens?

You, me and anyone else of the group can get to meet the showrunners and even maybe get a script deal out of them. Or stay with them forever.

So I sent my S.O.B. script to them. By the way, there are no names on the script, so as to make sure that the showrunners don't know who sent a script and friends don't sneak in.

This is a difficult thing to deal with in another way. Everyone on that list above is valid for this kind of deal. But most of them are unhappy about one category.

Writers over 55.

Why? Because we're the majority group - men - old men. 

So is it fair? Remember there are no names on the scripts so showrunners don't know if the script they read is from an LGBT writer or an old man or an angry woman. And they are angry. 

There's a great article in last weeks LA Weekly about it and I'm going to try to post it on my blog later.

What do I think? I think I have a greater chance being a man since there's more of us than the other groups. Having said that I will now realize I have lost my chances. A Catholic thing. Don't brag.

But I am a good writer for women's roles, and I can verify it. Jody Foster's company, Smart Egg called me in because they didn't believe a man wrote a screenplay they were contemplating. If you want more, I can send that too.

It's a tough one, and I really wouldn't want to be in any of the other groups, I like where I am. 

But whomever wins a shot with some showrunners, we're a lot better than DGA aka Director's Guild of America. 

They're not doing anything like WGA at all. My director friend over 60 is very angry because nobody hires him anymore.

But he's done well for himself, and doesn't really need the money. Just a movie now and then.

So should I take a potential writing job from a woman because the majority of writers over 55 are probably twenty times as many as women. Maybe forty or fifty times?
First of all, there is no guarantee for me to get a job.

And since the scripts have no names, it's pretty hard to see who gets a job.

One story; I was working on a series in Vancouver with two male writers and a female intern writer. I was there for 2 weeks and noticed immediately that the two male writers had the girl running for coffee and errands.  On the third day I took her aside and told her to tell them to get their own coffee and all the other crap.

She slowly did that, with my help and ended up in my office learning a few things here and there. I left after the 2 weeks and she thanked me for the help. Ten years later I saw her at a studio and she was now a showrunner herself. And she did remember me, very much.

So you can't say that I was one of those jerks.   

But I've said this more than once and I repeat it;

The best thing about writers is that they can write. They don't need actors or crews or directors! Everyone else on the crew has to be hired, the actors, the camera "people" and the director. Writers however, depending on how much money they have or need, can always write and sell something.

I've sold five spec scripts and have about twenty more hanging on "the shelf."

Content, as Machio Kaku says, will always be needed a hundred years from now. 

Writers don't need anyone in order to write a story. Just a reasonably working laptop or whatever.

Remember, they need us more than we need them.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A smile for Paris

Like all of us, I was really upset with the terrorists who took so many innocent lives. My French producer lives in central Paris said his close friend took a bullet but fortunately is recovering. 

The producer (and director) will be making my script Chase (La Poursuite).

It's a very difficult issue, living here in the U.S. and Canada. Canada is especially distant from most of the world's troubles and mostly because Canada isn't familiar to most troubled places.

I was in Paris four years ago with my brother and found a nice little hotel in the Republique area just off Blvd St. Denis and stayed for a week. We had the perfect Paris experience, I hadn't been there since I was working in Luxembourg on a film.

I also met some Algerian men, I think I mentioned this in a past blog. Anyways, Dave and I would wrap up each evening with a few glasses of wine. Each night, I noticed a barber shop for Africans and also noticed that the barber shop was always loud. Lots of arguments. 

On our last night I decided to go across the alley and ask them what the arguments were. That's when one of them, a big guy, approached me and pointed saying I was John Malkovich. I said no, but he said yes.

He took me inside, introduced me and suggested all of us go for wine at that little place Dave and I went to. I found out that the arguments were about sports and politics interestingly enough. 

Etonne, the big Algerian said it was hard to get jobs there. And BobX, the barber shop owner was always afraid he might lose the barber shop. The others also felt it was difficult to make a living. But for now, we were all friends, I think there may have been one who was suspicious but when I showed him my 4-yr old pic he had to laugh.

It's the photo on the blog cover, how could you not like that kid?

Sadly, it occurred to me Friday, my brother emailed and wondered how those Africans were doing, and realizing it would even be harder for them, as employment was rare. I wish I had a solution. 

And I wish I can see them again sometime soon to drink and laugh and talk about our lives, good and bad.

Anyways, I'll post something else in the next day or two.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The long and short of TV series.

A long time ago a TV show consisted of 39 episodes for a full season. As of today, we're looking at possibly 2 or 3 episodes for the season.

It seems that the networks are realizing that if a new TV show comes on air, and gets bad ratings, they used to dump it.

But no more. Why?

Because there could be a market for a dud TV show, it could go to netflix or hulu or all the others, even if it's only a handful of shows. So that great show you and 100 other fans get to watch it again, and get this---

- the buyer might even make a few more episodes. Maybe it was the wrong network, that's all. That's already happened with a few shows. NBC canceled it's Community series and then turned it around to Amazon.

So what's happening is that we all get to see whatever series there is, 26 episodes is/was the usual now with 13 episodes for the first "season" and then, if the ratings are good, it stays. If not then now it can go to some new network just building and they can buy it. And at a cheap rate.

What does it mean?

It means we can see more TV shows than ever. Over and over.

The funny thing is this; other countries have always been doing 4 to 10 episodes for an entire series. Britain is one that does that a lot. They'll do maybe 4 episodes of a series then maybe 4 more next year. You know, those slow-moving 2 hr shows with great English actors?

You can see this now with the smaller networks like TNT, A&E, USA, Bravo and more odd networks coming into view as we speak.

All I want to see are the hundreds of the sixties and seventies TV movies, of which one was Stephen Spielberg's first movie, called Duel. Great movie.

But is it too much?

There's never too much... right? So what's good for writers? After all, this is a writer's blog. 
 It means that there will be need for more writers. And that's a good thing.

Michio Kaku said so. 

Who's he? Well, just one of the most famous theoretical physicists on the planet.  And he says this...

"There will always be need for content"  (or something like that).

Content is writing. So don't worry. Just come up with ideas for the next 5-episode TV series.

And we can watch more TV series.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Town That Christmas Forgot

 Here's one of my Hallmark movies, just in time for Christmas. It's showing from today till Sat 11/14. I thought maybe some of you would like to know how I wrote it.

Many writers make up stories but I find that my stories, which come from real life, are far more entertaining. Once again, the script was made up from real-life. A lot of people said I should write a spec screenplay for Christmas as there's always a good market for Christmas movies. It took a few days to come up with something from my real life and came out in three separate parts.

The story is about a rich family who get trapped in a small town in the mountains when their expensive car broke down and they had to stay overnight as the vital car part had to be brought it. They were stuck.
1. So... the idea of a car breaking down came from a trip I made with my ex-partner and her three kids. We were driving from Eugene, Oregon back to Canada after Christmas holidays with her parents. Somewhere near a town called The Dalles her Ford Maverick suddenly ripped through the car hood.

I couldn't remember how we were rescued but a tow truck came along and took us to a small town where we realized we had to stay overnight so the garage mechanic would fix it. This meant overnight and the tow truck driver was extra friendly, telling us where to stay, where to eat, etc.  My partner's daughter was in a frenzy as she realized she'd be late for New Years while the boys just hung out. Next day it was fixed and we drove on.

2. The next part was the town itself and it came from two sources. First of all, I needed a dying town and this came from a documentary I was filming years ago. My director friend and I stayed in a small coal-mining town that was dying, people moving out, all that.  I also grew up in a small town (539 pop.)3. 

3. And the 3rd part was from my childhood in a very small town where every Christmas we had a big talent show which, in a town of 539 people, had some surprising talent singing, dancing and our finale, the Grade 6'ers would put on a tumbling act.

So this would become the basic idea of the story and I called it Christmas In Nowhere.

That's the whole idea. 

Now I had to change some things;

First, we didn't have an expensive car and we weren't rich but I had to create that family so that they were strangers to the town and they had a different take on it. I also created the townspeople from my own memory of 539 people. Easy.

Secondly, I created several characters who lived in the town and who would interact with our rich people. Then I had to take out one of the real kids and my ex, because three would be too many. So I settled on the 12-yr old girl and 10-yr old boy.

And of course, an old man who looked like Santa and was angry at the town mayor. 

Then I needed more conflict so I decided to copy those talent shows from my home town. But I needed one more thing.

The town mayor said they can't have a Christmas show. But his wife is set on having one.

And that's where the rest of the outsider family enters. 

The wife is on the mayor's wife side.
The husband helps the mechanic.
The daughter finds a nice looking 13-yr old boy.
And the 10-yr old boy discovers that the old Santa and mayor had a bad past.

And so the out-of-town family, because they're more objective, help the town to finally end with the big show.

The script hung around for nearly five years until an exec development person read it and it was made. Someone at the network changed the title to The Town Christmas Forgot.

Here's the list of screenings starting today.

The Town Christmas Forgot (4 days) - Thursday 11/5 (8pm)
                                                                      Friday      11/6      (6am)
                                                                      Friday      11/13    (2pm)
                                                                      Saturday  11/14 (8am) * PST times


Monday, November 2, 2015

This week

Just thought I'd show you my weekly projects status, the top projects are priority, meaning someone might actually want something I have. This page is renewed every Monday, don't know if you can see it up close, I think so.

I sent my S.O.B. pilot to WGA as they have access to showrunners on the basis of minorities. These being women writers, LBGT writers, handicapped writers and of course, over 55 writers which is ME.

If the showrunners like it, I might get a shot. If not, I still have access to people here anyways.

I've always had this sort of "dream list" for years, I renew every Monday as mentioned and I probably focus most on the top names.

One project is one of my oldest scripts and it got a lot of attention for awhile back in 1990 and then forgotten. And last week a director friend suggested I should put it out again because, as he said, it's relative.

So get ready for BURGER ZOMBIES.

Yes, a 25-year old screenplay that was way before the zombie craze. So, maybe someone will want to "jump on the wagon" with me and get the g-damn thing off and running (as my dad would say.)

Here's a poster we did up.

Whattya think, eh?

Does it work for ya?

Or am I too late for a Z-pic?

Actually I should show you some other pieces of "art". 

And here's my 30th anniversary of Ghostkeeper.

The irony here is that the movie is about five people in an empty hotel in deep snow in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. It's a British distributor who decided on doing his version, complete with south american temples and palm trees.

The real version, actually the 30th anniversary is the normal one.