Monday, March 27, 2017

New guy on the block

... at least for me. But first.

As some of you know I came to L.A. around 1990 crossing the border, legally, and into the real world of screenwriting and big-time companies. Before that I was pretty much nothing as I lived in Alberta, not Vancouver or Toronto.

I had made a suspense thriller, Ghostkeeper, and it quickly got lost. But just before that I and my friend Phil Borsos made a short film about a barrel factory. It was about 15 minutes and we figured that we might get it into a festival. 

We did. A handful of festivals including the big fish. We managed one in particular, a finalist in the 1976 Academy Awards. A couple of doors opened. I was writing a bunch of scripts and one in particular.

It was based on my youth, age 12. And the new teacher who came into my life. Along with all the stories about the town, around 500 people. In the middle of nowhere. I took the screenplay and a few others to LA and everything opened up.

Don't leave yet, it gets more interesting.

This was around 1990 and I had my first agent from a director who had heard of me. The agent wasn't the best one, but he took me. It lasted two years with not one sale and few meetings.

Then I ran through a few other agents and ended up with the one I had till we parted a few years ago.

And my little story about me and my teacher and my buddies suddenly was "hot" as they say. In fact, I was getting meetings like crazy. I remember one time when I was working on a series in Canada and flew back to LA for one day and four meetings.


This was a weird thing for me, studies and networks and more. They liked me. Well, at least they said they liked me. And my script.

Emperor of Mars.

What's EOM? (that was the short way of saying it). I know, sort of smug but what the heck. I remember one producer, Steve Tisch. Maybe you've seen one of his movies, Forrest Gump. I walked into his office with his exec and "Steve" if I may say said "Ah, Mister Emperor Of Mars."

I couldn't believe it. Maybe after I left he'd forget, but for that moment, I was Mister EOM.

And that was the beginning of my screenplay going everywhere in town. I will scan one page for you. Most of the companies are still around, the players change but the company doesn't.

Just one thing.

Nobody wanted to make it.

That was around 1994. It still hasn't been made. Why? 

I don't know.

However it has been optioned six times - 6 times. I still have all the contracts. Around 2003 I was ready to make it, they let me direct and it was ready to go. Until one of the producers wanted more than the others. It was over as fast as it began.

However it got me a stack full of jobs, including around 15 screenplays made and episodic work. It was going all great until the one thing you've heard a few times before.

 The Death of the TV Movie.

Most of my movies were TV movies and that line above does not sound good. I'll repeat it fast as you've heard it before, "Death". 

Here's an example of what was the best agent I had. writing is a little hard to see but it gives you an idea as to how much work agents put into. Lots of phone calls and more calls and emails.

But everything changed after the death of the TV movie.  I'll try to post part 2 this week, probably around Wednesday.

Thanks again.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Changes and lattitude

Here I am again. My Lifetime interest seems to have gone with the wind. But I have a producer working very hard (and that's not often) to get my S.O.B. pilot going. Which is good. And for what I lost the last two weeks, I've gained this week for "Ideas" meaning that all the possible stories they didn't like, I can take somewhere else.

And this leads to Part 2 of my previous blog. Netflix.

Netflix changed everything when you could get a DVD straight to your home. And then Netflix began streaming to make it even easier for those of us who like to watch TV when we want to, not when the networks want us to.

And finally, Netflix broke through.

They made their own movies. And pilots. And that's when it all exploded.

Remember "The End of TV Movies".


Today you have a ton of TV movies coming back, Hallmark of course is the king (Or Queen) of TV movies, always was. But Lifetime was still going too, I was involved in that, actually still involved with Lifetime. My first sold screenplay was for Lifetime way back in 1989.

So there.

Right now we have mini-series (which was the word for TV movies like Rich Man Poor Man) and then "Roots", which was a huge mini-series. 

So they came back, TV movies and what we called mini-series, but now you can watch them all in one night. Most of them anyways.  

Today I can watch Sun Records, Bette and Joan and at least a dozen or so this week. 

And this also gives writers more jobs and is almost as good as the old days of 1980's. 


Because I was making around $38,000 for every movie I wrote. Rate is more now of course. But there's also Lifetime who gets production companies to get writers for $1500 a script. 

Yes. $1500.

So there you go, more movies, less money. I'm still in WGA and WGC (Canada) but a lot of writers often write a movie or two just for food. We have around 12,000 writers in WGA and consider that around 1500 - 2,500. Nobody really knows except WGA honkies.

And now with a lot of film students filing out of way too many film courses, it's easy to find kids for $1500. Maybe even less.

Gotta say it's still good to be a boomer baby.

Oh, yeah... That camera and projector at the top are mine, and I film with 8mm film (yes, it still is around) and the projector works too. The light comes from the early morning sun.

And neither of them need batteries!!

And drop by my FB too.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Sorry Jim... maybe.

Well, my shot at a Lifetime movie from producer "A" looks dead.

I wrote a few ideas into half pages and got reasonable comments but at the last ideas, no answers were returned. Now maybe they lost my ideas or passed them on to someone else.

This isn't really that bad as I can send my ideas around to other producers, as far as I know, probably a dozen more who want to do Lifetime movies for incredibly cheap costs. I've heard some of them are made for $350,000. 

Not WGA wages.

I've even heard a script can be sold for $1500. 


So where am I?

I'm not really sure if I'm out, but at any rate I can't wait to see my last ideas read. But that's a whole other story. This goes back to 2008 where those of us who made TV movies to anywhere from $3 million up to $8-10 million. 

Those were the days.

But it all crashed in 2008 when Survivor appeared a few years before and showed that networks could make TV shows for far less cost than having to get actors who eventually become very expensive. 

And writers got around $38,000 or so in those hefty days. Even more if they were showrunners.

All of this was thrown into the garbage and we even had two celebrations at the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Blvd and where the first Academy Awards occured.

But this time it was known as "the death of the TV movie". 

But thanks to Hallmark and Lifetime.

My last TV movie (to date) was in 2010 and to Hallmark and since then a lot of options from producers who were also trying to get money for anything. 

That "anything" turned out to be digital products and where film finally died (except to Martin Scorcese and a few others). Digital production was and is faster and for that period from 2008 up to 2010 the only TV movies came from Hallmark and Lifetime.

BTW my first script sale was to Lifetime in 1989. It was made in a rush in two weeks, shot in Toronto for scale WGC rates, around $28,000 or so.

But then came Netflix.

But that's a whole other story.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sort of a job...

Sorry to not post last week, I was having my niece from Canada and a lot of running around with other stuff of which some is actually a possible deal.

A friend of mine passed me over to a production company who does really low budget movies for Lifetime that he's done a few. So I started a story but unfortunately, one of their movies had pretty much the same plot line.

However, I worked on a "similar" idea which I wrote over the weekend. I'm talking 1 page. I also started a spec screenplay at the same time. It was an idea for a producer who worked with a studio but they passed last year.

I think.

Why do I feel uncertain?

Well, it could be that studio didn't like my script. Or they didn't like the producer.
Or both.

It happens. 

So I changed a few little things in the original 1-page. Actually it's more like a half page. That's not being quite a full page or a stretched out logline. At any rate all anyone wants to see is more than one paragraph and less than three.

So today, I am trying to figure out an idea that isn't quite like the producer's idea but yet is close to the producer's idea.

Fun, huh...

Anyways, I gotta start now. More later.

Yeah, that's me at 5 I think. Always loved them cowboys.