Life and Death in L.A.: 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An L.A. billboard for Citibank: ''Almost as many ATM terminals as there are unsold screenplays.'' Ouch!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I don't have her ...

I called the producer and got her assistant. The producer has had one of my scripts for a number of weeks, and I was calling in hopes of coaxing some sort of reaction out of her. Not necessarily a green light, or an, "it stinks," because no one in Hollywood is ever that direct if they don't like something. I was looking for just some sort of acknowledgment that she read the thing.
The assistant, who was rolling her calls, greeted me with the sound of instant recognition and asked how I was--I've never met him, mind you. And I wondered if it's his job to sound familiar with everyone who's ever had a meeting there.
I asked if his boss was available, and his answer typified the sort of hazy, impossible to nail down kind of talk that goes on in Hollywood.
"I don't have her right now," he said.
He wasn't saying that she's not in. He wasn't saying she is in. He just didn't have her right now.
Then he assured me that I was on the call-back list.
So, the wait goes on. And I, too, don't have her right now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Back with the writer's group

I met with the writer's group tonight after a long absence. It felt good to be back, giving and receiving notes. Now that I've finished reading scripts for Big Bear it's on to other projects.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Quantum of "So What?"

Patrick Goldstein's column in today's L.A. Times reveals that DVD sales, like most other commodities, are in a slump, and studio execs don't know what to do about it. In recent times DVD sales have been the studios' bright spot -- even when a flick dies at the box office the studios could count on sales of those electronic discs to make up for hundreds of ridiculous projects that should never have been green-lighted.
But suddenly, no one is buying the DVD releases of all those awful movies they were duped into seeing in the theater. And, guess what? Theater attendance is up some 18 percent over this time last year. That includes box office hits, such as "Quantum of Solace," "Seven Pounds", and "Saw V."
Gosh, what do you make of that?
Perhaps it's just a case of people being a little more careful about the DVDs they buy. After all, when buying a DVD the customer obviously expects to see the film numerous times in the comfort of his living room. And, let's face it, movies like "Quantum of Solace" are pure crap, so who would want to replay it, anyway?
However, "Iron Man," a higher quality tent pole, has been selling just fine, thank you.
Here's the bottom line: In better economic times movie audiences might be willing to shell out for DVDs even if the movie is crappy, but when budgets are tight consumers are going to be a bit more discriminating about which films they put on their living room shelves. The studios have become too reliant on the international DVD market as the saving grace that would bring in a profit on the garbage that they've been producing.
So, how about this studios: Why not concentrate on making better quality films rather than making a bunch of crap that you hype the hell out of with the dire hope of making the real cash-o-la on the DVDs. Incidentally, DVDs are more attractive to studios because the stars are less able to track what money is actually earned on the discs and are therefore less likely to demand a bigger slice of the electronic profit pie.
In these uncertain economic times, studios, why not just concentrate on making better movies. Drop the hype and get into quality. We'll all be happier for it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Diversify or die ...

Everyone's figuring out ways thrive in this bad economy and filmmaker as no different. Among the panelists speaking at this year's Redstone West Film Festival, the bi-coastal yearly Boston University student event, were actor, director and producer Jerry Levine ("Everybody Hates Chris," "Monk," It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"). "Diversify within a field that you know something about," he said. "Crossing the line dilutes the skill of that creative (endeavor)" He recalled that when directing an episode of "Monk," series star Tony Shalhoub suggested that Levine play one of the small roles in that episode. He declined because he believes you should not cross the line into another creative discipline.
Makes sense, but then again that would have been bad advice for Orson Welles, who starred in, co-wrote, directed and produced "Citizen Kane." Of course, the world has few like Orson Welles.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Closer Look at 'The Closer' ...

I went to a networking breakfast yesterday morning sponsored by Changing Images in America that featured guest speaker James Duff, executive producer, creator and writer of TNT network's "The Closer." Duff is an eloquent speaker who offered great insights into the business of television as well as theater, where his career began. He's a successful actor, playwright, producer, director and screenwriter and he's got another TV series in the works. "The Fixer" will follow the exploits of a Hollywood producer who employs the services of a private detective of questionable moral integrity, reminiscent of the Anthony Pellicano scandal that rocked Hollywood in 2006.
A model of persistence, Duff wrote 17 television pilots before achieving success with "The Closer." His chief advice to actors and writers trying to make it in show business: Get professional representation, but he also warns to be careful of who you go into business with. "Make sure you're on the same page," he said.
Of new media, including the Internet and it many social networking and video serving sites, such as YouTube, Duff said that new media is not just a new delivery system but a new form, like the square becoming the cube.
"In the day of three networks we were all watching the same thing and talking about the same thing, like 'Star Trek' and 'Bonanza.' People want communities and the Internet is having an impact by building communities around these shows."
Duff revealed that he does indeed consult with LAPD detectives to make sure "The Closer" is accurate, and he opined that a good story is something that grabs him. "I'm so wrapped up in it I don't have time to think. I'm not even aware that I'm watching a story."
Duff, who was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1982, says that the uncertainty brought about by that diagnosis has helped inform his professional career. "I've never done anything I didn't want to do," he said.