Friday, July 31, 2015

How ideas sneak up.

No doubt most of you know about that jetliner that disappeared last year. And this week we've learned that a piece of the airplane called a flaperon floated to shore on an island in the western Indian Ocean. A flaperon is a wing component.

And something else showed up also. A suitcase.

It hit me almost immediately. A suitcase that shows up on an island, or a distant shore.  I began thinking what could it be. What would the contents show. Most likely there is a story to be found there.

The story could be tragic or it could be something else altogether, maybe falling off a ship or maybe even it has secret stuff inside. Maybe it has a million dollars inside. 

Or a camera. Where you see photos of someone or something?

What about the person who finds it, what would he or she do? Maybe there's an address inside. What if you would go to that address. 

Would you open it?

It's amazing how a story can be spun.

Have a good week-end.

btw I got a huge amount of readers on the Side By Side screenplay. I'm going to figure out how to post it over the week-end.


Monday, July 27, 2015

You've never seen this one...

I've had time to think about my trip to Windsor, the little city across the river from Detroit. And of course that means, "what stories can I use for something new."

Now that I'm waiting for Hallmark to decide if they want to use one of my three ideas for one of their Hallmark movies, of which I've explained in the past. My producer sent the 2 page stories a few weeks ago so from now on, it's out of my hands.

In the interim, a director friend of mine is trying to sell a screenplay I wrote some years ago, a weird story that he suggested. Quickly, it's about a hitman who is sent to a city to kill a union agitator but the hitman has to save him from a gang and thus is now his unlikely friend who turns out to be gay. But the real story is about the hitman and conjoined twin women and he falls for one of them.


Yeah, I said it was weird. Here's what they said on Kevin Spacey's website:
 "The main characters are well-defined, the story moves along at a good pace, tension mounts appropriately."

"I really liked it from the first page, it got a little weird with the intro of the twins but after awhile I began to appreciate the inventiveness of it all. Very clever, Bravo"

"Reminded me of Chinatown, best part is the Sally/Sophie characters that compliment each other"

"This script is great. This story is great. I read this story with the girl upstairs, we started reading yesterday and she came home and demanded we finish - the story had so captivated her imagination."

"This was certainly a strange tale, but it grew on me."

"You've created the perfect film noir world, your penchant for character, mood and atmosphere, the progress of the story became a very enjoyable experience."

"The fact that you have both a plot and character is a commendable quality in and of itself."

So what do you think?

Some of my writer and director  friends think it's the best thing I wrote. 

And I didn't want to write it. But the director pushed me on, even though I know little of gay life except for that time in Detroit when my car was broken and I walked into a bar where there were a lot of friendly women. Only friendly women. I had a couple of beers waiting for the auto club and actually had some conversation with them.

And I had very little knowledge about co-joined twins. I didn't even know the word "conjoined".  And the word "Siamese" seemed dated. And why was that word used so long?

So how does a small-town farmboy who moves to the big city write a story of a world he doesn't know?

I treated them like everyone else. In other words, as I wrote their world (with suggestions from my director friend who has a thing for weirdness) as they saw it, just like everyone else. To them, nothing was unusual, the twins worked in a fish packing place, the gay union guy is married to a woman and life goes on.

If you read it, you see that in the writing. Nobody really thinks they're weird, no more than the old lady who lives beside me, who clips leaves off the trees at 6am. Nor the girl with orange hair, or the woman who steals magazines at the Ventura/Van Nuys magazine rack. 

I guess we all have odd things about us, at least to some people.

But by making every "odd person" in the story very normal, it worked out a lot better than if I was trying to write how a co-joined couple live or laugh, or in this instance, love. 

Yes, the hitman and one-half of the conjoined pair make love.

Like I said, I've never written a story like that. In fact I've only written a love scene which was inspired by that same director. I gotta find new friends.

But what was strange to me, was how people reacted. The thought of watching love-making with a cojoined twin would be interesting.

So I just said "they made love." Let the director figure it out.

Besides, my mom, if she was still alive, would probably go with it. If she discovered that Ellen was a "lizbee-an" and still liked her, she'd like the two sisters.

Thinking about it, I might posts the entire screenplay if I can figure out how to do it. Then you can read it and see what you think.

Meanwhile, I wait for Hallmark.

Monday, July 20, 2015

From 12 to

Sorry no blog last week, I went back to where I grew up from age 11 and up till I was married. I had quite the time, lots of memories and my ex-wife, of which was the main reason I returned.

Right now I'm full of memories from almost every turn, some of them vague, others good, and the bad ones seem to not have shown them selves. It helps when you have close friends for well over forty years and who still talk to you. Even the sons of old friends are friends.

I grew up in Windsor, a small city across the river from Detroit, which was huge as compared to Windsor. I had families on both sides of the border and still do, which makes it more interesting.

Growing up in the Motown days was nothing else but great music and what was then, a great city in Detroit and where you could go anywhere. But that's all gone. The huge castles off Woodward Avenue are gone or burned, some of them still stand though.

It was the home of all the slick Motown artists, Supremes, Temptations, Stevie Wonder, even the Jackson 5. On Friday and Saturday nights, many of the Motown acts would travel to as many schools they could and where they would lip-sync their latest hits.

But it was also a strong influence from tough white bands like MC-5 (who influenced the British punk movement) as well as Bob Seeger and Alice Cooper and tons more. 

For us it was the best place to be on the planet.

And it was my beginning a career when I got a job at a local TV station to work in the mailroom. That job ended two weeks later as I got a promotion to the editing room. That's where I learned how to edit film, although far from making a feature film.  It was only 16mm film commercials, which we taped or glued together and take to a projection unit where the commercials ran.

No digital here. Not even VHS.

Later I was transferred to radio where the station had a 50-thousand Watt broadcaster that would boom through ten states. But my hope was film and there was an opening soon (much easier than trying to find a job now) for the news film department, run by a World War 2 cameraman.

That's when I got into TV news and we did stories both on the Canadian and American side. Detroit was it's toughest then, homicide rates went up to almost a thousand murders. And we witnessed a shooting just a few yards away. 

It was exciting and I loved every minute of it.

And last week, I was there again. 

And I met with my ex. We already had contact with each other and both of us looked forward to catch up after more than 26 years.

It worked like a movie. And we're a lot closer now.

Now the question is this; what's the movie?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Work for free

Here's possible work for a writer, that is if you want to work for free.

"Looking for writer interested in collaborating on micro-budget romance movie with some comedy. You will have creative input on all areas from the script breakdown to the final rewrite. We are looking to have the script finalized by end of summer and begin production in the fall. We're interested in creating something awesome. You will receive a writer credit both in the film and IMDb. How ever there is now pay."

You tell me, does this look like a good deal? They apparently can't spell either, look at IMDb, you'd think they can spell it correctly? And the last sentence, should that be "no" pay?

So why am I getting all mad from that. Because if someone who wants to get you to write for free, they could at least spell the words right.

The above ad was on mandy.c0m, which is one of the free places to look for screenwriting jobs or any kind of film job for that matter. And there's a lot of these kinds of ads, where the writer works for free.

Most of these ads offering a writer to work for free come mostly from film school graduates or drop-outs. And if they can't write a screenplay themselves, then you're not going to learn much except frustration. And no money. And nothing that will give you a little bit of exposure.

And a reputation for working for free.

Okay, maybe some of those ads are heartfelt, and they really don't have money. But that's still no excuse.

Some of the most spoken words to writers of any age and any stage in Hollywood are these:

"We can't pay you."
"Can you do this for free?"
"We'll pay you when we get money."
"It's just writing."

And these words have been asked of me and every real working screenwriter and film graduate hears them. 

Some years ago two producers approached me to write a screenplay and met me at a production house where a very unscrupulous exec producer worked. We talked about the story and the deal was to be made.

The exec producer left the room to take a call and I decided to get some coffee in their coffee room. As I poured coffee I heard the producer saying these words, "And we have this Canadian guy who'll do it for free."

Something hit me, a Canadian guy who'll do it for free? It didn't take much to realize I was that "Canadian guy." So after we left the producer and were in the parking lot I told the two producers I wasn't going to write it for free. They went into shock of course, but then I said if they paid me an option, I might write it.

They agreed and I went home and wrote about 10 pages. All the time I never signed the contracts they sent me. We met the horrible exec producer and he said he couldn't make it for now. 

Then I said that I would be happy to give it to them, just as long as they paid me. They thought I signed the contract which said I would write for free. They already had a buyer and if they wanted the story, they had to pay me my deal. 

And they did. Reluctantly.

For all you emerging writers out there, I really caution you about working for free. Remember this, nobody can do anything without a screenplay and if they can afford to buy you a coffee, they can (and should) buy you lunch. And if they don't buy you anything, then they're unlikely going to pay you anything.

Stay away from those kinds of people.

Remember this: Once you hand over the screenplay, they can do anything with it. That's why you really need to get something, even if it's a hundred bucks. Right now I'm preparing a Kickstarter project for a travel book I'm finishing. I wanted some pencil sketches and found a great artist and I told her that she gets first money, even before me.

That's because I feel that I should give her first money, she's going to do work and she should get paid for it. 

Another way to get at least some money is this; If it's a friend or some kids wanting you to write or anybody who wants you to write for them, be it a page or a dozen pages or a screenplay, tell them that you want some money to cover your "house nut" which includes rent and living costs like food. 

In other words you will write but they have to cover that time with some money as their job will take away from your personal work.

Because, once you hand the script over, it is gone, gone.

Monday, July 6, 2015


I have to work on some audio early this morning, will get back to the blog later today.

Theme might be on director Michael Bay who's behind The Last Ship on TNT.

Friday, July 3, 2015

No blog today, big holiday week-end, American 4th of July or also known as Independence Day when they were free of Great Britain in 1776. I also got one of the biggest pageviews for one day, 255 page views. The numbers you see on the blog page are just those who subscribe, but 90% show up now and then, making the numbers bigger.

And now I'm looking at 6 years of the blog which started on August in 2009. I never thought it would go this far but managed to write about screenwriting and everything else I can think of that is connected to the film and TV business.

Here's some numbers, the page view for Monday had these people:

Great Britain

In total, since 2009 there have been 65,244 pageviews and 632 posts.

Thanks for the pageviews.  Back on Monday.