Monday, June 25, 2018


I was in L.A. recently and took in a visit to Sherman Oaks in the valley and a drive to San Clemente over two weeks hanging out and renewing old friends. Sherman Oaks is the same, a nice little niche if you're on the south side. There's an old saying for Sherman Oaks where a nickname came from called S.O.B.

One evening I was with an old friend, actually a pilot in ww2,  and at 95, still good. There was another man, 70's, driving us. He asked where I lived and I said Sherman Oaks, to which he countered with "south side?"

I said "Of course."

So what does that mean.

Well, what it means is that you're on the south side of Ventura Boulevard and you're living on the right side of town. The south side faces nice homes and the hills where mansions lie. Ventura separates both sides by canyons, you know, Laurel, Coldwater, Beverly and others.

Also the rich side.

But lets go back to my Canyon, Beverly Glen, the one I use when driving over the hill to the true Los Angeles.

It's where I lived in SH and was on the "right side" as they say. Or S.O.B.

And it's not really what it sounds like, S.O.B. not what you think.  It means you're on the right side.

So the stranger knew I was on the right side, or South of the Boulevard. And I lived on Dickens Street, a good name for a writer. I heard stories that famous writers of the 30's lived in a motel that is still across the street.

I know that James Dean lived a few blocks away on Sutton street and in a cottage behind a bigger home. 

I lived there for 28 years and had a great 1946 style apartment and was thoroughly cool. I knew it was built in 1946 because a couple came by and said they had lived in the first apartment of 10. They said the rent was $15 month.

But what is the rest of S.O.B.?

The other side of Ventura has some of Sherman Oaks leading up to Van Nuys which is somewhat a rougher side. Thus it was more dangerous.

But I was safe, on S.O.B.'s side and spent my time in the 10 apartment group and perfect. 
You can see it as it stands out. I and another person helped me work on the fountain.

Ironically my apartment was far from the rich homes in terms of money, and the homes above me. I only knew one person with a big home on Mulholland Drive and he got it all from his father in Calgary, Alberta.

But I liked my 2-bedroom apartment on the second floor and it lasted 28 years. Longer than anywhere else I lived. 

The lovely Alex and I cleaned up the entire front area and fountain as the owners never helped.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The young and the others

 There's been some interesting changes in the world of screenwriting. 

"According to the WGA's annual report writers ages 41 to 50 have replaced writers ages 31 to 40 as the group enjoying the largest share of employment in the movie business" LA TIMES.

 So what does that mean to anybody?
Well, probably the last days of us boomers but for awhile it means that the baby boomers are once again walking all over the younger writers.  The article also said that work for writers has gone down 24%. This is due to the fact that studios are cutting back on more screenplays of substance and more on the big box office hits that are often 4 or 5 times as expensive. 
It also means that studios are making international movies for everybody, meaning China for one reason. There's a lotta people over there who like American movies.
Ironically the "down home" movies like Annie Hall, Jerry Maguire or any movie with Jack Nicholson are history. There's no real answer why; unless it has to do with the current audience which sees the creature/superhero movies. The last thing they want is a human story about life.
My feeling is that they don't really want to face life because it doesn't look very good to them, fewer 20-somethings are looking for work, the others are going back home to mom and dad. Recently a 30-year old son sued his parents who wanted him out of their home and find a job.

And now, they're at the bottom of the list for writing gigs.
Where does that put me?
Definitely a boomer of course, at the far end, but still working mostly because, in Billy Joel's words; "Retire to what?" I couldn't imagine playing golf or going on vacations or any of that. 

I write. 
Another question though, is this; why are older writers getting more jobs than younger  writers?

Simple. Because they know more.
Does that mean they're better?
No, but they know more. They've done great work and bad work and they know the difference.
But mostly because they are more of a guarantee for a TV series or even movies. As the old saying goes; "They've been to the party before."
What about the hundreds of kids coming out of film school?
Good luck.
What they'll face is that the really good writers will get work, but with an emphasis "really good." I know about that; I taught classes at UCLA extension and after a few years came to realize the truth.
That not everyone is gifted.
In fact there are very few who are gifted.
I wasn't gifted, I just worked hard to learn how to write reasonably good screenplays, enough that I got 20 movies shot (although half were Page 1 rewrites of another writer's script but it still counts in credits).
And I was lucky as I got in before the whole country began having film courses.
But consider this;
You're not an actor... 

But that's another day...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Back to the valley



 I've been on the road as they say, spent some time in Sherman Oaks where I lived and hung around. Back home in a week. Sorry to get pushed back.

Got to see my favorite cafe, Crave, on Ventura and Van Nuys. They're the best. 


Will be back in a week.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Why me?

We've reached the point where those of you who know the business are saying, "ok, this is not very exciting at all, we think producer's lives are filled with parties at the Ivy and movie stars and expense accounts and cocaine".  And those of you who are not in the business are saying the same thing. 

This is the reality of producing a movie, if you've followed me since the beginning, you know what it really is like.  Boring as hell, phone calls unanswered, email forgotten, and cheap lunches at Chili John's or Carney's. Well, Chili John's is worth any lunch at the Ivy. Welcome to the life of a producer. Granted I'm not one of the big guys but you know what?

It's the same thing for him or her. 

You're trying to sell a dream to someone who doesn't want to dream, or to finance a dream. Unless it's a brand or a sequel or something based on Marvel comics.

One of my favorite stories is told by Paul Lynch, my director friend. He recounts going onto the set of the remake version of the classic film The Lost Horizon, the one where a lost explorer happens on Shangri-la, the perfect mountain paradise where nobody gets old. Ross Hunter was the producer of the remake in the 60's. He was known for the Doris Day/Rock Hudson romcoms (romantic comedies) and I'm sure I've lost at least half of you who don't know who I'm talking about. 

Regardless, Hunter was producing Lost Horizon.  Lynch had an invitation to come on set at the studio so he did and met the director and some actors.  As he stood around, someone suddenly appeared in front of him, Hunter.  This is something that happens on any film that you might drop into, the director or producer will suddenly appear in front of you.  I had this happen on a Robert Altman film once, a somewhat relaxed set with Cissy Spacek, and having directed, I know the feeling. You know immediately when someone new is on set and you feel obliged to find out who they are.  Altman liked me and I hung around drinking beer all day.

But Lynch was surprised to see the legendary Hollywood producer introduce himself. Lynch introduced himself, they exchanged "pleasantries" and Hunter learned Lynch was from Canada and said wonderful things about the country and then snapped his fingers and said "camera!" And immediately, a photographer appeared from out of nowhere and took 2 photos of Lynch and Hunter. Then Hunter was gone. Two weeks later Lynch received an 8x10 of him and Hunter with a signed autograph. 

So what's the  big deal? Those were the big producers, bigger than life. Everything was an event, it was magic, it was Hollywood. 

Those days are gone. Now it's just business. About as exciting as watching two bankers having lunch. There's no more romaticism, no excitement. Why? Because corporations have taken over the industry. Beancounters. The biggest excitement I get is taking my friend Shirley to lunch.  Everything else happens from my little home office with phone calls and email. Mostly email. And besides the fact that I am making no money, rather spending it, there's one thing that travels through my mind every day.

Most odds are against me.

A large portion of the Writer's Guild are against me. My own people.  Of 8000 members I have around 28 who drop by now and then to read. 


Maybe they don't like me. But 95% don't even know me. 

The one thing I know is that many writers just hate it when someone else gets a job. Hell, I even hate it. And now I'm even trying to PRODUCE a movie. That's usually left for fast-talking carpet salesmen, not writers. After all we are pure and honorable. And everyone knows producers are conmen and thieves. We are an odd lot, miscreants no doubt, dreamers and hopefuls. I only have a handful of friends who are writers, and we are very supportive of each other. And I'm sure that's the case for many others.

But producing is not a stretch for writers. If you watch series TV like the CSI franchise and the NCIS franchise and Law and Order, and sitcoms like Two and a half Men, you will notice anywhere from 5 to 15 credits for producers at the beginning of the shows. These are not producers in the larger sense, they are writers.

Why writers?

Because in TV, writers learned early that in episodic, you need a new episode every week. And while a movie script can take years to develop to filming, TV episodes gotta be there every week. So in the 70's, writers figured out to ask for producer credit. It's not like what I'm doing, trying to find money for one movie, in fact most writer-producers know very little about producing. They just write and rewrite the episodes.  

There's usually one or two real producers but all the rest of those 10 or so producer credits are basically gifts to writers. And  it comes with having a say in most matters.

But movies are different, and I will be the producer as well as the writer, but will be joined by other producers mainly due to the fact that it's not my money that I'll be using, and other producers or agents who bring in money will be getting producer credit. Or Executive Producer, or maybe co-producer. 

But the only real producers who do budgets, hire crew and actors and work constantly on the film, will be myself and most likely the Manitoba producer who is the gateway to the tax credit and a sizeable part of the financing.

So as the week-end begins, I am only too glad to see a boring week go by and I focus on next week and the emails I know are lurking, waiting to send me good things.

At least the weather is nice.

Friday, June 1, 2018


Sorry for being out of touch for a while. We can call it a little bit of a medical touch but by the end it was just fine. So... I'm back and running. Will start up tomorrow. 

And, as usual, it's not what it is.

But I'm finishing my simply wonderful story about love, lost love, no love, some love and love at any age.

I think there was a movie about a bunch of people who meet each other. But this one is different.

Okay, it's a little bit over the top. 

How do you act when you meet your ex.

Run, jump, fly, or just figure it out.

And no, I'm not sick. Just busy. Sort of.

Thanks for hanging around.  More next Monday as usual.