A Chat With David Selby

 

Selby Collage Framed

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

Once upon a long ago time—half a century, to be precise—my friends and I used to rush home from school to catch an American Gothic soap opera called Dark Shadows. The imaginative brainchild of creator Dan Curtis, the weekday series was unlike anything on daytime television. While it is often quipped that Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot Cove, Maine (Murder, She Wrote) is the murder center of the world, Curtis’ spooky Collinsport, Maine was the gathering place for witches, vampires, werewolves and ghosts—all of whom conspired to keep the innocent Victoria Winters off-balance in her quest to decipher a murky past.

Miss a single episode and you could literally miss a hundred years, so artfully did the storylines incorporate reincarnation, time travel, parallel time and dead relatives who, bless their hearts, just couldn’t stay dead and entombed in the Collins family crypt. From 1966 to 1971, the series developed what subsequently became a cult following that still exists today. Despite the wonky missteps of a feature length film called House of Dark Shadows in 1970, Night of Dark Shadows in 1971, a prime time series reboot in 1991 called Dark Shadows: The Revival and a Tim Burton horror comedy in 2012 called Dark Shadows, it’s the original that still stirs fond memories. Among my own favorite memories was the introduction of a brooding werewolf named Quentin who had a propensity for flying into a rage and hurling brandy snifters into the fireplace or against a wall. David Selby, the actor who made the role of Quentin so swoon-worthy, not only continues to act in film, television and onstage but is also an accomplished author, a distinction that earned him an interview slot on You Read It Here First.

The 6’3” West Virginia native is unabashed in his praise of why Dark Shadows was a much needed respite during the decade it debuted. “We had the Vietnam War going on, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and I think people in general were feeling anxious about the state of the world. The show was fantasy escapism that gave viewers something ‘different,’ fun and totally strange to look forward to every day.”

That it attracted notable stage actors such as Jonathan Frid, Joan Bennett and Nancy Barrett was a treat matched only by the tight-knit sense of family the cast enjoyed working together in a small studio in Manhattan. “We’d rehearse upstairs and then we’d run downstairs to shoot our scenes. We’d also get exhausted running to and from scenes if the sets were at opposite ends of the studio but the action was supposed to be continuous. Just like a live theatre performance, everyone simply kept going even if something went wrong.” To his knowledge, he never brained anyone with all those brandy glasses he threw.

The two of us enjoy a reminiscence about lightweight tombstones that wobbled and fell over if a character brushed against one during an entrance, copious amounts of dry ice that inexplicably wafted in through interior doorways, and actors who forgot their lines. “We used a teleprompter—which I personally hated—and if something went astray with it during one of Jonathan’s speeches, he’d just amble on saying whatever happened to be scrolling on the screen.”

When he was a teen growing up in the rural environment of Morgantown, Selby had no clue what it was he wanted to do when he grew up. He did, however, enjoy a passion for movies and liked to imagine himself playing Errol Flynn or—on some occasions—even pretend he was a musician. “College wasn’t something that was pushed on me by my parents. In fact, I became the first person on either side of my family to graduate from a university. I saw college as an opportunity to escape and to go somewhere else, although I didn’t know at the time where or what I’d be escaping to.” Nor did he have support among his peers who liked to joke, “Selby will be the first one to flunk out.” Instead he went on to earn several degrees—including a doctorate—just to prove them wrong. “It’s funny, though, that no one ever asks actors if they have a degree. The only thing they want to know is if the person can act.”

It was an instructor named Charles Neel who suggested he take a theatre class. “Theatre definitely saved my life because it gave me a chance to do for real all of the things I’d been acting out in my own imagination.” Once the acting bug bit him, he could never imagine himself doing anything else … and he hasn’t. While a lot of actors say that they got their start acting in the high school play, such wasn’t the case for him. “I tried out for a play and there was a scene where I was supposed to kiss the girl. And so I gave her a kiss and everybody laughed and I decided I’d never do it again.” Famous last words.

He didn’t really know anything about Dark Shadows in his early years in New York until a casting person named Marion Dougherty of Marion Dougherty Associates put him in a cab and told him he was going to an audition. The rest, as they say, is history. In the episodes where the werewolf character was first introduced, however, he didn’t have any lines; he was just a tall, brooding presence with distinctive muttonchops. “And I thought, ‘Oh great. Is this going to be some kind of silent movie gig where I never get to say anything? Why did I say yes to this?’”

So were those muttonchops real? “At the start, they’d glue them on every day and then pull them off after the shoot. This got to be tiring and so I decided to just grow my own.” This, however, brought a new set of problems. Specifically, if you want to run out to a grocery store on the weekend, you can’t just put on a pair of glasses like Clark Kent and no one will know who you are. “I was also doing a lot of theatre and playing characters who obviously weren’t wearing Victorian frock coats and having that much facial hair. Accordingly, I had to keep shaving them off. We later just went back to applying fake ones.”

As the show grew in popularity, it wasn’t just high school students like myself rushing home to see it. He relates with a grin that at his wife’s office in New York at the time, the staff would go into a boardroom and close the door to watch it. “And they weren’t the only ones who did that, either. All over New York, there were plenty of closed board room doors around four in the afternoon!” That he was so easily recognized by fans also created potentially dangerous mob scenes for him. “I remember being told that there was an event I couldn’t go to because of the number of uncontrollable—and unpredictable—people who would be there. And so they got me a car and put me in it and I had to drive myself home.” Golly, where are those Clark Kent glasses when you need a quick switch to anonymity?

Ten years after the end of Dark Shadows, Selby found himself playing another conflicted character—the rakishly handsome, charismatic and conniving Richard Channing on Falcon Crest. “What’s interesting about both series is that the families were headed up by extremely strong matriarchs played by Joan Bennett and Jane Wyman.” Were there to be a reality show where the House of Collins and the House of Channing were pitted against each other, he predicts that the last two left standing from the respective sides would easily be Joan and Jane.

While he continues to have a host of exciting new projects in the works—including Stephen King’s Castle Rock for Hulu—live theatre is a first love we share. “There’s nothing more energizing and personally rewarding than knowing that you’re really reaching people, that you’re giving them something they’ll long remember.”

Given his height and his physique, he’s no stranger to playing Abraham Lincoln. In fact, he originally wrote his novel, Lincoln’s Better Angel, as a stage production. In 2008 he played the role of Abe in James Still’s The Heavens Are Hung In Black at no less than Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. He proceeds to share stories about how the historic theatre was boarded up for years following Lincoln’s assassination. Not only was the structure believed to be bad luck and haunted but any future production about Lincoln himself was met with fear, disdain and even threats. Not unlike, it would seem, the superstition among theatre people about saying aloud the name of “the Scottish play.”

He remembers being onstage and looking up at the presidential box where the tragedy occurred. “I think our current times call for another Lincoln to emerge and guide us. He was certainly a forward thinker in guiding the country through its most troubled times, and a lot of what he had to say still holds true in the 21st century.” He further relates the tidbit that the 16th president had a higher voice than one might expect from someone of his stature. This, thus, required a smidge of adjustment on Selby’s part since the latter’s rich baritone voice is such a trademark of his acting persona.

Along with Lincoln’s Better Angel, he is also the author of In and Out of the Shadows, Promises of Love, My Mother’s Autumn and A Better Place—all of which are available on Amazon. A new screenplay is currently in the works.

So how does his approach to acting compare/contract to his approach to the craft of writing? That one of them requires an external director and the other is an internal director-in-his-head doesn’t phase him at all. “Just like when I was growing up and imagining myself in different play-acting roles, I tend to talk to myself a lot and do the voices of all my characters.”

I tell him that it is yet again something we have in common. As an only child, I entertained myself with a plethora of imaginary friends—all of them coincidentally named after the original Mouseketeers. I’d run around the backyard doing all of their voices, a scenario that caused the neighbors on more than one occasion to ask my parents, “How many children did you say you had?” To which they would reply, “Just the one.”

That it is something we still do as adults in our respective writing careers was a refreshing revelation and perhaps even early foreshadowing that we’d grow up to be actors and authors. With a wink and a grin, he closes our interview with the observation, “I’d say it turned out pretty well then.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget

Guerilla_Rep_Front_Cover

In 1909, the first feature film produced in the United States was a four-reel production of Les Miserables. Producers, however, didn’t think that the American public could sit still for any movie lasting more than an hour and, consequently, released it that year in separate one-reel installments between the middle of September and the end of November. Over a century later, movies continue to captivate us…and that’s without even knowing the multiplicity of elements that not only go into getting those films made in the first place but also getting them in front of an audience. Ben Yennie, author of The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget, gives us a peek behind the magic curtain of modern cinema.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: When did you first know that you wanted to play a dynamic part in the making of movies?

A: Despite the fact that I’ve always loved movies, movie making came to me in a very roundabout way. For most of my high school years, I wanted to be a Special Education Teacher. I had spent a lot of time volunteering with the kids in the high school’s program and I thought that was the direction I wanted to head in. At the time, my high school required every senior do a senior project. I had taken a video production course at the beginning of the year and decided that I would do a video on how to take care of one of the kids who was transitioning into a nursing home. While I was editing the video, I realized that I liked the process of filmmaking more than I liked the subject I was making the video on. So, I decided to go to film school.

Q: Did you originally see yourself as an actor, director or producer?

A: As with many others who enter film school, originally I saw myself as a writer/director. I had a knack for writing scenes, but pretty shortly into film school, I realized I was a really talented producer. I loved the social end of producing, and enabling creative people to be creative. As I went further into film school, I found that I understood finance very well for a filmmaker. The processes behind distribution and finance fascinated me. With that in mind, I transitioned more towards the deal-making end of producing. One thing led to another and eventually I ended up as a Producer’s Rep.

Q: Who or what were the influences that crystallized the choice for you?

A: One of the biggest influences was my first producing teacher, Bill Brown. He was also the person who got me to go to the American Film Market the first time. It was really under his tutelage that I took those first steps towards being a producer. There really aren’t many people who go to film school to be a producer. It’s not all that surprising, given most film schools’ producing programs aren’t all that good.

Q: What’s the best industry advice anyone has ever given you?

A: It’s cliché, but it really boils down to this: the film business is really about who you know more than what you know. The film industry relies heavily on social capital. If you are well liked and have good relationships with powerful people in the industry, you’re going to be far more likely to find success. The reason you go to the American Film Market is to meet the people you want to know and establish relationships with them. But remember, while you want to know a lot of people, the real trick is knowing the right people. In order to know the right people, you need to build a good reputation.

Q: So tell us how you made the transition from filmmaker to entrepreneur.

A: Well, if I’m honest, it’s not much of a transition to make. Filmmakers and entrepreneurs have a lot of the same skills. They’re both able to assemble a team, lead that team through long hours, and overcome any obstacle to create a product. However, filmmakers often lack a thorough understanding of marketing, sales, or financing. I happen to be fascinated with these aspects, so the transition was pretty natural. After putting in some time at The Institute for International Film Finance, I was able to see where the existing educational system was lacking and help to create a company that enables filmmakers to pursue a career independent of the studio system.

Q: What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

A: There are two things. The first, success is not a sprint, nor is it linear. It’s a long journey with many ups and downs until eventually something takes off. You just need to keep going, keep trying, and do whatever you can to pursue your goals. It’s not about your daily progress, or even your weekly progress. It’s about your monthly, quarterly, and yearly progress. The most important thing you can do is keep your long term goals in place, and try to move them forward a little bit every day. You can get discouraged if you don’t feel better off than you were yesterday. If you keep building, you’ll grow a little bit every month and year.

The second thing is that as you go, you’ll realize your own imperfections and want to change them. If you really want to move past them, then just decide to do so. Committing to massive behavioral modifications overnight is unlikely to stick. It’s far better to focus on being just a little bit better every single day. Even if you’re only 1% better, it will accumulate over time into massive, sustainable transformation.

Q: Tell us how you ended up as a producer’s rep and what, exactly, does this involve.

A: I have a few relatively rare and highly valuable skills in the film industry. Agents tend to like me, as do many of the distributors I’ve worked with. When it comes down to getting the film in the can, there are thousands upon thousands of details that need to be sorted out, and I lose interest. So, I focus my efforts on helping filmmakers navigate the waters that are generally choppiest, and require a highly specialized skill set that I happen to have a knack for. There are plenty of filmmakers who can make a great film, there are far fewer who understand how to market those films and help them actually make some money.

I shifted focus to enable people to create films and get them distributed. And that’s what a producer’s rep does. He or she’s essentially an agent for filmmakers and films, helping them get packaged, funded, and distributed. I’m still new to this, so I concentrate on packaging and distribution over financing. Financing is a place I’d like to move into in a few years though.

Q: Since you focus on distribution and finance, do you ever miss making films?

A: I do occasionally. But, honestly, I’m more interested in episodic content at the moment. I think that’s the way the market’s heading and I have a few ideas that I’m currently developing. Nothing will be ready for prime time for quite a while, though.

Q: Why did you decide to start going to The American Film Market?

A: I started going to AFM on a recommendation by a friend and mentor, Bill Brown. It took a few years, but eventually I took his advice and booked a greyhound bus ticket to LA. I stayed in a shared bathroom hotel with my then producing partner, and did it on as tight a budget as was humanly possible. The next two years I attended were even more successful. By my fourth year, I had 55 screener requests for the 5 films I was repping. Success builds upon itself.

Q: This month marks the debut of your first book: The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget. What inspired you to write it?

A: A lot of the inspiration was from some continual good-natured ribbing from another good friend and mentor, Tony Wilkins. I attended a workshop of his, where he spoke of how he wrote his first book and then encouraged me to write my own. After a few months, I finally decided to write it. Now, just under a year later, I’m a published author!

Q: So where did the name for it come from?

A: I was on the floor at AFM introducing myself, and I met a fairly powerful series creator who ran a fairly big crime show on Fox. I introduced myself as Ben, and said I was a Guerrilla Rep. He loved the name, and we entered into a bet on who could make money with it first. Well Tony (different Tony), I win.

Q: Give us a brief teaser of what readers can expect to find inside its pages.

A: My own ego aside, the most useful things in the book are probably the parts I didn’t write. The contributions from the 6 distributors and the extended interview with Daisy Hamilton are the best part of the book. It’s practical advice on distribution straight from the horse’s mouth. The first 16 chapters are relatively in depth pieces of practical advice on how to find success at the American Film Market, mixed with some personal anecdotes and advice garnered on the floor of AFM. However, the really useful information is the tips from the distributors and financiers.

Q: What did you learn about yourself over the course of writing the book?

A: I had a fair amount of detractors when I started writing who said that there’s no way I could add anything useful to a book. I almost caved to them. What I learned over the course of writing the book was that I really do understand the subject matter, and on this particularly narrow field, I am something of an expert. It’s definitely a bit of a transition to that role, but it’s an exciting and rewarding one. There’s an excellent quote by Flannery O’Conner that says “I write to discover what I know.” Writing this book allowed me to discover that I know a lot more than I thought I did.

Q: The film industry is really tricky to break into. What motivates you to keep going?

A: That’s a really good question, and I honestly wonder myself sometimes. There’s this sort of compulsion some people have to create. Storytelling is just in some people’s blood, and some of those storytellers gravitate towards the tools that only visual media have. Personally, I love the feeling of being plopped into a sensory deprivation tank and being told a story with moving images, and being a part of that is really exciting for me. I think within every filmmaker lies a dreamer, and it’s the dream that keeps us all going. For me personally, I love being someone who helps people’s dream come true. There’s a certain magic in that.

Q: What qualities do certain filmmakers have that make you want to represent them?

A: There are a few qualities I look for when considering whether or not I want to represent a client. The first is honesty. If you lie to me, I’m not very likely to work with you. If you continually misrepresent yourself, then I’m not likely to invest my time in you either.

The second is stamina and dedication to a project. Filmmaking is a marathon, not a sprint, and if I’m repping you, I need to know you’ll be there to help us promote. The world of filmmaking is becoming more and more about building a community and a fan base around yourself, and if you want to have success, you need to make yourself a part of it.

The third, and the holy grail, is some sort of talent and creativity. Just because you have the tools to say something doesn’t mean you have something to say. However if you have this in spades but not the other two, I can’t help you. This is a business, and business relationships rely on trust.   I need to be able to trust you and know that you’ll deliver on what you say you will. So while you need to have all three of these things for me to work with you, talent and having something to say is not the be all and end all of my search for good clients.

It’s surprising, but it’s not always the best film that lights up the festival circuit. It’s the one that can generate the most buzz. This factor needs talent and creativity, as well as hard work and dedication.

Q: If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

A: Honestly, I hate the current power structure. The fact that the industry functions on back room dealings at restaurants and film festivals is far from desirable. The general lack of transparency is alarming, and keeps new money from entering the business at the rate necessary for sustainable growth. If you don’t have an in to the industry, it can be very difficult to break in. I really don’t like the fact that if you piss off the wrong guy then your whole career can be kaboshed. I suppose this is true in any industry, but it’s particularly egregious in the film industry. One of my life goals is to disintermediate the industry, even by just a little bit. If I can do that through my ventures, then it’s a career well spent.

Q: Where do you think film production will be in the next 10 years?

A: At this point, even three years out is hard to predict. Ten years is nearly impossible to estimate, even for the most involved in the industry. But, since you asked, I’ll give a guess in broad strokes. If current trends continue, I think the really quality content is going to shift towards the episodic format and there will be an ever increasing focus on mobile and home based viewing. I think that finding success as a filmmaker will involve getting listed on some of the bigger aggregators and growing your own personal fan base to the point that you can build a stable income stream from selling your content to your fans. Then, the filmmaker will need to continue to grow by getting listed in festivals, larger aggregators, host community screenings, and work primarily independently of the major studio system.

Success will require filmmakers to build a cult of personality around their work, even more so than it currently does. The really difficult part will be rising above the ever-increasing level of white noise and oversaturation that’s flooding the market. In essence, the most valuable asset any aggregator or promoter will have is a truly engaged list. I think community and niche market distribution will be increasingly important, and a new realm of community screenings in atypical screening locations will become prevalent. Screenings in the backs of restaurants, schools, anywhere with chairs and a projector will be more and more common, and it will be on the filmmaker and promoters to spread the film.

Q: What would people be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I’m absolutely addicted to Karaoke. I’m pretty far outside the standard demographic for it, but it’s probably my biggest vice. In fact, the launch party for The Guerrilla Rep will have karaoke. Just because I like it.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Quite a lot. We’re really stepping up the game at The Producer Foundry, and I just got promoted to Vice President of Sales at Taal, a mobile app that enables employers to take video interviews on any iOS or Android device. I’m also still repping films, running a blog, and starting to develop the next book. I’m really excited about all of it, but less excited about the lack of sleep it’s sure to lead to.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I’d just like to thank everyone who made this book possible. I’d also really like to thank you for interviewing me. I’m looking forward to reading Office For One. *

 

Interviewer note: Ben is one of several dozen experts who contributed fantastic chapter content to my upcoming business book targeted to today’s sole proprietors.

Make Film History: Rewrite, Recut, and Reshoot the World’s Greatest Films

Make Film History

On September 16, 1890, Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince boarded a Paris-bound train, his first stop en route to New York to present an amazing invention that would radically change the way people saw the world. Not only did Le Prince never reach his destination but his body (which seemingly vanished overnight) was also never found despite exhaustive inquiries by the police. Fortuitously, his legacy – a camera that recorded the first motion picture – seized the imagination of kindred spirits who saw the device’s enormous potential as a medium for mainstream entertainment.

In his remarkable new book, Make Film History, author and film expert Robert Gerst, PhD. invites aspiring moviemakers of all ages to learn from the techniques of 25 cinematic game-changers over the past century and recognize how to apply the innovative lessons of sound, color, texture, music and editing to the development of their own projects.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: What ignited your passion for movies and what’s the first one you ever remember seeing? In what way(s) did that first movie “speak” to you?

A: High Noon! (1952) is the first film I remember seeing. My mother took me. What she thought a little kid would get out of an adult-oriented revisionist cowboy movie I don’t know, but my mother was someone who ignored what most people conventionally thought. She was willing to go anywhere and try anything. She gave me, I suppose, the capacity to see things my own way.

The film came on the screen.  “Do-Not-Forsake-Me-O-My-Darling” thumped along in the sound track.  I was enthralled. For years, I dreamed about that movie.  At school, when the teacher said, “Draw something,” I drew again and again my version of the landscape of High Noon. The movie, of course, is set in the American southwest, but I imagined it as a New England style foursquare house at the end of a sinuous road. Cactuses and mountains surrounded the house.  Above it, a bright sun with rays pointing to the cardinal points on the compass hung in the sky. (I now live in a house in Massachusetts that could double for the house I saw as the house of High Noon.)

When I viewed the film again a few years ago, it seemed a bit hokey. But when I saw it with my mother, it spoke to me. I remember High Noon, and remembering that movie inspires me to thank my mother for standing by me as I slowly became who I am. I only wish I had told her so while still she was among us.

Q: Are there some particular movies that speak to you today?

A: I like films that affirm, movies in which every element beats with the rhythm of a living heart.  Affirmative movies don’t necessarily talk happy talk. Lives of Others, for instance, is a very sad film. But the movie affirms that you liberate yourself when you liberate others. Writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
infuses that theme into the tiniest features of the music, the camera angles, the costumes.

In Lives of Others, a surveillance man in East Germany begins as a high-ranking officer and ends up, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a lowly postman. The film ends when he enters a bookstore and reads the dedication in the novel written by the artist he surveilled.  The bookstore clerk asks if he should gift-wrap the book. “No, it’s for me,” man replies. Freeze frame. It’s a poignant ending, an ending as affirmative as the final shot of Bicycle Thieves, where the man and his son walk off into the crowd together.

Q: You’ve come a long way from the days when you first cut movies standing at a Moviola. What are three high points along the journey that you feel most strongly shaped your approach to inspiring the next generation of filmmakers to go forth and be creative?

A: At college, Richard Wilbur, America’s first poet laureate, taught me what I know about poetry, and writing poems and stories and novels—all safely tucked away now in a drawer—taught me how to write prose.  Students I taught in a classroom at Mass Art taught me that people learn by doing.  Fatherhood invested me in the next generation.

Q: What would prospective film students be the most surprised to learn about you?

A:  I never went to film school. My film school was bird watching. When you watch birds, you wait and listen. You never know beforehand what you’re going to encounter, so you attend to whatever moves or twitters. That’s the state of mind in which to watch a movie and make one. I recommend bird watching to film students.  And I spent a couple of years learning to cut and shoot film. As it turned out, I didn’t become a professional filmmaker. I earned a Ph.D. in literature instead. But hands-on work making movies taught me how the most miniscule change in a line, a shot, and a soundtrack moves a film in a new direction.

Q: Make Film History: Rewrite, Recut, and Reshoot the World’s Greatest Films isn’t the first book to be written about film history but it may be among the most distinctive. Tell us why – and how – you went about developing and researching this project.

A:  I wrote the book to help you unleash your inner filmmaker. “You” probably started with me. The digital revolution reawakened me. When I had practiced filmmaking years before, movie making felt as esoteric as alchemy. But suddenly a filmmaking studio was opening in everyone’s computer. In my computer, I had this second chance to fiddle with movies. The tug I feel, I realized, others also feel. People who once would express themselves in poetry and dance now crank out You Tube videos. Some of them might want to learn about how actors act, how editors mix sounds, how filmmakers in general gestate movies.

I proposed an early version of the book and interactive website to Ken Lee and Michael Wiese of Michael Wiese Productions.  Michael suggested that I recast the book/webpage introduction to film that I first proposed into a historically oriented introduction to film history and filmmaking.

I blurted, “Twenty-five moments that transformed film history!”

Michael blurted, “Zelig does film history!”

Zelig is that 1983 movie where, with optical printing, Woody Allen, chameleon-like, slips into historic footage from the past. I spent about two years researching and writing.  I spent some time in the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles and visited the film archives and the restoration school at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.  I thought about the films I was screening for my film history students.  I read printed and digital sources, many contradictory. I tried to distill all this lucidly and accurately.

Once I submitted the manuscript, I worked for roughly another half year getting the web site to a state where Make Film History readers would find it engaging. On the site, reader’s access historic film clips, view film history photographs, and read related documents. The site features film clips that readers can download to solve or re-solve the question a chapter’s exercise poses. To enable even novices to experience the joy of building a movie moment, the site provides step-by-step editing instructions written for the entry-level software already installed in most computers.

Make Film History is a glimpse at twenty-five moments when movies changed. But it’s not an encyclopedia. It’s a love note.

Q: I love your interactive website (http://makefilmhistory.com). How did you come up with this and what was the most challenging aspect of developing it as a complement to the book?

A:  A long ago Mac Plus HyperCard computer game—Cosmic Osmo—inspired the website. Cosmic Osmo was an early attempt by Rand and Robyn Miller to enable people to slosh through a humorous, joyful universe.  Later they created Myst, which became so popular newspapers took to printing daily tips to help wanderers in Mystland progress from location to location. I myself never advanced past the Mystland dentist chair, but in my foursquare New England house my wife and son went everywhere.

Cosmic Osmo was my game, though. It was pure play—a cage operating according to rules that, once you discovered the bars, seemed to disappear and set you free.  Playing Cosmic Osmo felt like dreaming.  There were rooms to click around and planets to visit. The magus of this imaginary universe was one Cosmic Osmo himself, who pervaded the place.  The voice of Osmo, or one of his avatars, would sometimes and chant, “You’ve traveled through spaces, through all kinds of places, now please don’t disgrace, please play with our faces…”

If this sounds like Prospero’s cell, it was. In drawers and under objects you came across what you felt was Osmo’s presence. If there was a higher purpose to this game I never discovered it, but just playing this game unleashed my imagination.

I wanted the website for Make Film History to inspire similar feelings. The sequential chapters constitute a path.  Clicks take you to outlooks. You interact with film clips in the exercises. I developed the site in stages, first creating the navigation bar, then roughing out the master page for each chapter of the book, then adding content as I thought of it. Beyond the chapter structure, I certainly followed no outline. The pages just grew. They continue to grow. The site runs about 350 html pages today, probably about double what it was when I first put it up. Yesterday I put up a couple of pages about the Brox Sisters of the 1920s and maybe tomorrow I’ll add another page about video on the Internet.  I don’t know. Subsidiary pages begin with an image that mesmerizes me. Then I open a blank file and explain what I see in the image. Then I add sound or video for users to activate. I wake up in the morning and rarely know what glen of this forest I’ll be entering. But I know I’ll go somewhere. I use Dreamweaver.  I’m bird watching.

Q: Okay, here’s something I’ve always wondered about silent movies. We can read on the title cards what the characters are saying but they’re obviously speaking to each other during scenes for which there are no cards. Were silent movies fully scripted or would the director instruct them from the sidelines to “act like you’re upset,” “explain that you’ve lost something,” “convey suspicion,” etc.?

A: Silent movies traded in feelings, as music does. But no one feels a comma in an emotion. So no one wrote out scripts for silent films. If you think of a silent movie as a dance, you immediately sense the uselessness of a script. Directors would shout or whisper directions—“Move towards her slowly… Tell her you love her.” Beside the camera, violinists and other musicians often played to summon feelings out of actors. (Garbo favored a violin and cello duet). Directors made very long silent films without consulting a word of script. D.W. Griffith used no script to create The Birth of a Nation. Sometimes, one of his camera assistants asserted, Griffith would step onto the set to dance with Lillian Gish—“Miss Geesh” he called her— and then start shooting. Silent movies are dance or maybe semaphore. Motion makes them.

Though they weren’t scripted, most silent films were certainly written. There were two kinds of silent movie writers. One sort created what they called scenarios—story summaries for directors to chop and frame into bits of story played out in scenes. The other sort wrote intertitles. An intertitle was, in essence, a silent movie tweet. You said it fast and you said it first. The first shot of Sadie Thompson is words on a plain black background, “In Pago Pago—in the sultry South Seas—where there is no need for bed clothes—yet the rain comes down in sheets…” That’s title writing.

What actors said to each other in silent films they pretty much made up in the moment. Sometimes they said unprintable things. Profusely and obviously, characters cursed each other in What Price Glory?, and lip readers supposedly complained. Usually silent film actors tried to say what they felt their characters would say. Improv actors now work that very way.

Q: A recurring theme throughout your book is to “learn by doing” but even more so is the message to “learn by imitating.” Doesn’t this just perpetuate the cycle of reinventing the wheel through remakes, prequels and sequels and, accordingly, becoming predictable?

A: You can never predict where an exercise in imitation will take you because, however obvious the destination, the road keeps changing as you travel it: your own hand is always on the wheel. You start out imitating Fritz Lang and, if you’re made that way, Adam Sandler arrives. Michelangelo leaned to sculpt by copying statues from ancient Greece. Imitating teaches technique and it unshackles you.

Q: How does today’s movie business compare to what it was like in the past?

A: We’ve returned to the earliest years of movie making. It’s as if we’ve stopped the movie history feature mid-reel, rewound it, and George Méliès and the Lumiere Brothers have taken over where Edison left off.  The king is dead and the little guy is king. To me, this moment is unbelievably exciting. The twentieth century factory studio has vanished. Studios mainly market films now, not make them. Today, the studio name preceding a film is a Cheshire cat smiling into thin air. An ad-hoc production company of agents, producers, directors, and mother-in-laws actually made the film.

In today’s film world, you can shoot a major motion picture with a digital camera. Danny Boyle and his cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle shot much of Slum Dog Millionaire on Silicon Imaging SI-2K digital cameras. The camera head weighs 1.2 pounds. You can rent one for a day or week at your local video equipment vendor. Used ones sell on eBay. You can edit your movie on your lap top computer using Final Cut Pro.

There’s a dark fringe to this brightness. The film business, like the book business, has no clear view of where the industry is going. So people can’t make long-term commitments. In its heyday and even afterward, the studio system was more stable. In a documentary about film editing, film editor Paul Hirsch says that he walked into the editing room and when he looked up, thirty years years had passed. People just entering the film business now won’t experience that.

Q: If someone came to you and said, “I want to break into this business,” what would be your three best pieces of advice?

A:

1. “Only connect…” reads the epigraph to E.M. Foster’s novel, Howard’s End. If someone offers you a job, take it. Grip. Sub-titler. Assistant caterer. Whatever. Get yourself an offer. Then take it.

2. Don’t call yourself —don’t think of yourself—as an ARTIST. That’s for someone else to judge. Think of yourself as someone who cuts shots or applies makeup.

3. Live with compassion. May I reblog wisdom Anthony Burgess evidently offered in Inside Mr. Enderby?  Laugh and the world laughs with you. Snore and you sleep alone.

Q: Technology was quite a bit different even as recently as 50 years ago. What are some of the things that today’s moviemakers – who now have access to an impressive array of high-tech tools – learn from past approaches to lighting, sound and cinematography?

A: Watching the light, sound and cinematography in old movies teaches you that there really isn’t any such thing as “progress” in movies. Movies get easier to make and simpler to distribute, but they don’t necessarily get better. Contemporary film making tools are fantastically empowering. Even in software like iMovie, you can transition between shots in about twenty different ways. The great montagist of the 1930s, Slavko Vorkapich, couldn’t achieve more than one or two of those effects because optical printers then were unable to create most of them. But Vorkapich’s montages were diamonds. They express his sensibility, so they continue to communicate, regardless of how dated his films may be. Hearing César express his love for his son in Fanny is affecting, even if the sound track crackles in that early talkie. Watching the early filmmakers teaches you humility. Humility is the great teacher.

Q:  Have all the advances in eye-popping CGI and 3D come at the expense of weaker plots, poorly developed characters, and contrived dialogue?

A: Filmmakers may be de-emphasizing plot, character, and dialogue because movie viewers enjoy all kinds of things that CGI and 3D do well. Filmmakers seeking markets abroad find that memorable dialogue doesn’t translate well. Other elements of a movie—like action— travel better. In a comic book adaption I viewed this spring, the hero kept endlessly slipping in and out of his CGI skin. I struggled just following the story, but millions of people love this film.   The plot conforms, I’m sure, to the three-act structure paradigm that everybody quotes: Something bad happens. Something even worse happens. You deal with it. This movie almost certainly underwent an exhaustive plot point analysis to guarantee that, on page twenty, action required by the three-act formula happens. Good story bones must be there. But when I left the theater, I couldn’t remember what the movie was all about.

That movie is earning prodigiously. In two months, people in America and elsewhere have coughed up four hundred million dollars to view this film. That’s a pretty compelling reason to keep making movies like that. Save us, please, from the culture police. But I confess, my heart isn’t there.

May I float a possibly heretical thought? Plot may not be the be all and end all of movies. People have all kinds of reasons for enjoying performances. Spectacle can often be enough. Masques had minimal plots in the seventeenth century. Movies of the future may not be stories at all. In Brave New World, Aldus Huxley looked into the future and, instead of movies, he saw “feelies.” CGI spectacle movies may be moving the mainstream business closer to the non-narrative poetry of the avant-garde. CGI and 3D do not portend the end of movies. Martin Scorsese’s 3D Hugo, for instance, was beautiful.

Q: Many a black-and-white film has been colorized in an attempt to give it less of an “old” feel. What’s your reaction to this practice and what, if anything, do you feel gets lost in the transition?

A:  The actual number of movies colorized is miniscule. Of the thousands of films made by professional filmmakers since 1895, about two hundred seventy black and white movies—roughly one hundred sixty of them from the 1930s—have been digitally colorized since the early 1980s. For me, even one is too many. I understand why people who own rights to old black and whites consider colorizing them:  many people today say they’d never watch a black and white movie.  Maybe the 2012 Best Picture Academy Award for The Artist converted some of those people.

Black and white movies intrigue me as poetry sometimes does. Myth is universally understandable. Poetry isn’t. Poetry exists in a particular language and doesn’t survive translation. “Fuzzy-Wuzzy was a bear…. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?” is untranslatable. John Ford’s The Fugitive would be just as untranslatable. Black and white infuses the worldview of that film. When a director uses black and white effectively, colorizing harms his movie. Maybe movies made by visually uninventive directors don’t suffer much from colorizing. But could you imagine Citizen Kane in color? I gather that Jean Luc Godard once toyed with the idea of colorizing Breathless. Thankfully, he didn’t.

Q:  Your book sets forth the premise that there are 25 pivotal points in the timeline of movie history. What do you predict will be the 26th?

A: The book stops at twenty-five points on a continuum. I think of them as freeze frames in a very long take. I’d love a chance to write about others. The Paramount Pictures School of 1925.  The last days of 35 mm projection in 2012. It’s endless. As the twenty-sixth, however, I foresee smaller, more modular and haiku-like movies. We’ll return to the ten-minute one reeler standard. Nine-hour movies are over. Twitter already circulates films that run six seconds.

Q: Your book contains lots of nifty exercises at the end of each chapter. I’m curious, though, whether a reader has to have extensive experience with digital filmmaking software in order to get the most benefit from the lesson.

A: You need to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with basic features of the digital editing software installed in your computer if you’ve never done that before.  Beyond that, you’re good to go. The exercise instructions are written for iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, and I’ll be putting up Adobe Premier instructions shortly. The exercises work fine in more advanced digital editing software, too.  The goal is to unleash the filmmaker in everybody.

Q: Some people think that digitizing movie editing, shooting, and projection portends the end of movies as we know them. What do you think?

A:  I am excited about the future. Ending “movies as we know them” might be a good thing, if what supplants “movies as we know them” is movies we never thought of. Giving more people more ways to experience the joy of making, viewing, and loving movies is an absolute good.

Q: Hypothetically, you’re having a small dinner party and can invite any three of the visionary filmmakers referenced in your book. Which three would they be and what question would you put to each one that has never before been addressed in interviews or biographies?

A: To David O. Selznick: How did you feel about your father? To Dziga Vertov: Did you really believe that movies can make a new humanity?  To Georges Méliès: What do you think truth is?

Q: Can learning about movies help ordinary readers— who aren’t going to be movie professionals—live more imaginative and fulfilling lives?

A: There is an artist in everyone. We enter dreamland every night. Artists are just people who, when they wake, continue dreaming. Learning about movies induces in you the feeling, as love does, that you are not alone. That is, of course, an illusion. You are alone. But we live by that illusion. Movies are the meeting place of souls.

Q: So what’s next on your plate?

A Striped bass and blue fish, I hope. I’m going fishing.

When I finish with that, I’d like to write about husbands and wives who made movies together. Martin and Osa Johnson. Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina. Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber, for instance, were once the most esteemed movie couple in Hollywood. Now nobody’s ever heard of them.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

A: Like me on Facebook. Put in a word on my blog. I love to talk movies.

 

 

The Hollywood Murder Series

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When Peter S. Fischer left the bright lights of Tinseltown after nearly three decades as a network television writer/producer, it was with no intention of going quietly into a retirement mode on California’s central coast. If anything, the sound of keyboard tapping is louder than ever with his development of The Hollywood Murder Series, a sequence of mystery novels set against the historic backdrop of moviemaking’s glamorous heyday and which he publishes under his own imprint, The Grove Point Press.

The coincidence of my happening to interview Fischer stemmed from my having read his political thriller, The Terror of Tyrants, and – on the heels of my 5-star review (http://thegrovepointpress.com/tag/peter-s-fischer/ ) – sent an email to thank him for writing such a topical and chilling page-turner. Graciously, he not only took the time to respond but also to share his insights about the craft of writing.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: The glitz and glam of Hollywood has always attracted eager young hopefuls like proverbial moths to a flame. Coupled with this, however, seems to be an increasingly pervasive mindset of “entitlement” and arrogance. A case in point was a teen who recently wrote to me and declared, “The problem with movies and television today is that all you old people and your dumb ideas need to go away.” As someone who left the industry after a long career writing for hit series, why do you think that novelists and playwrights have a longer – and more respected – shelf life as authors?

A: First of all, I lend little credence to a teen who, unless she is exceptional, has no business lecturing us “old folks” about anything. I despair of a generation that believes “Thanks” is spelled “Thx” and spends a huge amount of time regaling each other about their last bowel movement or sexual encounter or the spinach they were unable to eat for lunch. These modern day twits know nothing about the art of conversation and for the most part do not even read unless forced to at the point of a hot poker. They get the television they deserve because TV is ratings driven. If you watch, you get it. If you don’t watch, it gets cancelled. Don’t blame us old folks for that!

The average TV executive at a studio or a network is about 30 years old. Movies have always been part trash, part escapism, often mindless and here and there, brilliant and absorbing. In an era where there are more and more low budget indy producers, you get a wide range from rotten to brilliant. No generalization fits. Ditto books and plays. For every Broadway hit, there are a dozen one-night turkeys. The same applies to books, Even in the old days when a handful of publishers controlled all of the market, many books were published that shouldn’t have been. Today, with self-publishing, the situation is even worse. I guess my point is, there will always be mediocre product and happily there will always be literature in many forms that rises above the norm.

Q: Once upon a time in Television Land, married couples slept in twin beds, no one swore, and husbands/fathers were not portrayed as henpecked twits. Nor were there reality shows in which contestants trashed one another and humiliated themselves to win a million dollars. In your view, are there any programs that indicate the medium is still salvageable as an entertainment venue or will it continue its drekky downward spiral?

A: In keeping with my response to the previous question, there has always been rotten television ever since the days of Lucy and Sid Caesar and Milton Berle, shows that were forgotten a day after they were cancelled. The old rule of thumb used to be for every pilot ordered to script, maybe one in five would be filmed. Of every filmed pilot actually aired, maybe one in five would be given an order for 6 and sometimes 13 episodes. Of those new shows, the odds of being renewed for a second season were also about 1 in 5.

It’s comforting to think back to the golden ages of television starting with the one-hour live dramas of the 50s and then the golden age of the sitcoms like Archie Bunker and Mary Tyler Moore and Cheers where the humor was genuine and character driven. For the most part network television is dismal and the best work is being done on the smaller cable channels where ideas and good writing make up for the lack of budget. Mad Men on AMC and House of Cards on Netflix are two prime examples.

Q: Blurring the line between fact and fiction has long been a popular device in doomsday novels, and you chillingly bridge that divide in your political thriller, The Terror of Tyrants. The premise: A corrupt government controls the major media (“an informed public is a dangerous public,” says one of the higher-ups), implements Executive Orders without Congressional approval, confiscates all firearms, fines and imprisons anyone who criticizes the administration, disables national telecommunications, and orchestrates a fake terrorist attack on a California coastal community in order to declare martial law, seize property and authorize assassinations. This book would clearly make a blockbuster movie but, given Hollywood’s fawning adoration of Obama, what are the chances of it getting produced?

A: The Terror of Tyrants will never get made as a movie unless it was championed by a powerful conservative producer with lots of money behind him. And even then it wouldn’t be easy because Hollywood actors and directors would be afraid to get involved. There are a couple of indy companies in Utah that have made some decent movies with a conservative message but in the end if you can’t get widespread distribution, it’s not worth the effort and liberal Hollywood has the theaters tied up.

Q: Any worries that there’s a drone out there with your name on it?

A: No worries. Invariably my name is spelled Peter Fisher by merchants and charities alike and the administration is a lot dumber than they are so I am safe. However, I do feel sympathy for any real-life Peter Fisher who may live in the vicinity.

Q: Your new Hollywood Murder Series is a juicy marriage of two subjects you know best – the mystery genre and Hollywood films. What governed your decision to start the storyline in 1947 rather than present-day? How many “years” have been published to date and how far do you plan to take this series?

A: I placed my books starting in 1947 because I consider the 30s, 40s and 50s, the Golden Age of Hollywood, rife with glamour real or imagined. These were kinder and gentler times as opposed to the chaos of modern day living and there is to me something intriguing about the nostalgia of old stars and old films. Since then hundreds, if not thousands, of brilliant movies have been created but the whole studio system run by Mayer and Warner and Zjukor, that was a world of its own.

I actually never envisioned a series of books, just the one – Jezebel in Blue Satin. And then I had to write a scene in a director’s office and I thought it might be fun to put a real person into the scene so I wrote in Gail Russell. That’s when it struck me that I could do a follow up book after a year had passed and so I settled on Treasure of the Sierra Madre and made characters of Bogart, John and Walter Huston, Tim Holt and even Ann Sheridan. The ninth book (1955) is currently being printed and revolves around Marty which was shot in New York. Number 10 takes place in Texas (Giant), number 11 in Memphis (Jailhouse Rock) and number 12 (Touch of Evil).The latter are in first drafts. There are a couple of on-going arcs from book to book and I believe I will wrap the whole thing up with either 15 or 16.

Q: Who would your protagonist, Joe Bernardi, prefer to brainstorm his ideas and theories with – Jessica Fletcher, Lt. Columbo or Ellery Queen?

A: None of the above. Except in one or two rare cases, Joe wants nothing to do with these murders that keep intruding on his life and when he gets involved it’s because he has a compelling reason why he cannot just walk away. He doesn’t consider himself a detective, not for one moment. He is closest in philosophy to Jessica who never considered herself a “detective,” at least not while I was running the show. Columbo took great delight in playing cat and mouse with his quarries but it was in the line of duty. It’s what he was paid for. Ellery loved the pursuit of the puzzle and wouldn’t quit until he’d unraveled it. So our man Joe is a reluctant protagonist at best , especially considering his job description. Whoever heard of a press agent solving murders?

Q: Does 21st century technology make it harder or easier for fictional villains to commit crimes and, conversely, for sleuths to solve them?

A: The technology of the 21st century has virtually destroyed the credibility of the so called ‘armchair’ detective. DNA is a shining example. Besides all the other highly technical and scientific things crime labs are capable of. It’s another reason why I started the series of books in 1947 . It’s also not a coincidence that we set the TV series Ellery Queen in the year 1947 for the same reason.

Q: What comes first for you when you sit down to pen a new story – the plot or the characters? In the case of a continuing thread such as Hollywood Murder Series, do you have the full map in your head – including the final destination – when you start out or do you sometimes allow your characters to take the steering wheel and, accordingly, take you along for the ride?

A: Good question. All of the above. First I need the gimmick, the incident that brings Joe into the story. I used Joe accused of murder once. I won’t use it again. I used Lydia, ex-wife, accused of murder. No more of that. In another I have his ex-live in gal pal Bunny eye witness to a murder and in deep trouble. In another, someone has plagiarized Joe’s book and ends up murdered. In another Joe sends out a press photo which may have gotten a man killed. etc etc etc.

Once I have the gimmick and I’ve decided the movie I am going to tell the story around, I invent a few characters and start writing. I don’t have an outline and in several cases – maybe half – have no idea what the ending is. Very often a lot of the pieces come to me while I am in the middle of a chapter. For the most part I let the characters take me where they want to go and most of the time I have no problem with it. Remember that between EQ and Columbo and MSW as well as my other shows, I probably have plotted over a hundred mystery scripts of one sort of another. It’s like second nature but more important, I discovered in later years that a rigid outline was stifling my imagination which is the main reason I gave up outlining. I do know the final destination of the series, I know what is going to happen to Joe’s career and to Bunny and to Jill and to the child, Yvette. How I reveal all this remains to be seen….

Q: The publishing industry has changed radically in the past decade and, as the combined result of downsizing at the major houses and the rise in popularity of ebooks, has driven numerous authors – yourself included – to go the DIY route. Tell us about the debut of your own imprint, The Grove Point Press, and the challenges/rewards of wearing multiple hats.

A: I think the days of the mass market, brick and mortar bookstores are over. People are reading less and less and other venues such as Kindle and POD are the coming thing. The old fashioned way the traditionalists do business has no future. If you are lucky enough to get an agent who is lucky enough to get you a deal for a book which they will publish the following year or maybe even later, it will sit on the shelf for maybe 5-6 months and then – unless it’s a runaway bestseller – it will be shunted off to Nowhereland to make room for the next Great American novel. Online your book lasts forever and there are enough success stories to lead me to believe that we are doing this the right way. I say “we” because my son Chris is handling everything about The Grove Point Press except the actual writing and he is doing a fantastic job. I have infinite patience and infinite enthusiasm for what we are doing

Q: If you could sit down for lunch with any famous author from the past whose writing and vision inspired you, who would it be?

A: I make it a rule never to break bread with any writer unless he is a lot smarter than me and a much better writer. This gives me a huge universe from which to select and I could spend all day picking and choosing! So I’ll keep it short. TV writers, only two. Rod Serling and Paddy Chayefsky. Novelists? Thomas B Costain, the first book writer that captivated me when I was 7 or 8. Scott Fitzgerald, Conan Doyle. Sinclair Lewis. Contemporary: Michael Connolly, John Grishham. Scott Turow. Playwrights: William Inge, Doc Simon, Tennessee Williams.

But if I had to pick only one it would be the late Robert B. Parker, creator of Spenser and Jesse Stone. I loved the way he plotted sparsely but effectively, the way he used humor to temper grimness, his facility with dialogue. I believe my style and rhythms, especially in the Hollywood books, are very close to his.

Q: What would your fans be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Although I studied writing and drama at Johns Hopkins, I had to put my writing ambitions on hold while I raised a family. Then at the age of 35 I literally sat down at my kitchen table in Smithtown, Long Island ,New York and wrote a movie not knowing that nobody sells a movie this way and nobody gets into the business from a place called Smithtown, particularly at my age. It’s a long story but the happy ending has my movie airing on ABC Movie of the Week, produced by Aaron Spelling under the title The Last Child. It gets nominated for an EMMY for Best TV Movie of the Year. I move to Hollywood and freelance for a few months before I meet Peter Falk and get hired by Universal Studios and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Costume Design 101

Costume Design

Back in the days when I ran a touring theater company, one of my closest friends was my costume designer, Richard Arlen Crane. Dick and I had met in the early 70’s when we were cast in a musical production called Young Abe Lincoln. “If you ever start your own troupe,” he told me, “I’ll make all the costumes for you for free.” His only proviso was that I write fun roles for him and that none would ever require him to reprise the part for which he was physically the best suited: the 16th President. (Not only did I honor this promise but in Exit Grand Balcony, I let him play John Wilkes Booth.)

Dick was obsessive about historic accuracy in his costume designs, though some of his modern improvisations to create a particular effect were often enough to raise eyebrows. “You might want to be careful bending at the waist,” he once warned about a breathtaking Louis XIV gown he’d made for me. “I used hacksaw blades in the bodice…” Whether or not this was true, I was smart enough not to ask. Costume designers – like piano players – are the people you least want to offend in live theater because of the subtle tricks they can play on you like leaving straight pins in awkward places or transposing all your songs to a different key.

It was also assumed that I wrote the plays and then gave Dick instructions on how to dress the cast. Quite often, however, Dick would call to tell me he had just purchased several bolts of brocade, satin and chiffon. “You should write the next play about a sultan and his harem,” he’d tell me. And so I did. I share all of this in preface to my recent interview with Richard La Motte, a costume designer whose career has spanned four decades and yielded an incredible collection of “been there/done that” material for his book, Costume Design 101. As I immersed myself in La Motte’s remembrances of iconic stars, popular movies and budget challenges, there was a common thread that made me smile and think, “Dick would really have loved this book.” Even after a first read-through, this text would likely have a plethora of yellow highlights, dog-eared pages and copious margin notes.

And that, as we move into my conversation with La Motte, is quite possibly the highest praise I can give a behind-the-scenes book about what it really takes to “dress the part.”

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: So what attracted an art major and former Marine to a career in costume design?

A: When I got out of the Marines, my mother told me about a Producers Apprenticeship Program. I went and interviewed with the thought of getting into construction and becoming a Production Designer. Instead, they assigned me to work in the Men’s Wardrobe Department at Fox Studios. All of my mentors were male costumers, men who had been costumers since the 30’s and had worked on many of the older films which I loved like Grapes of Wrath.  They worked in a time in the industry when costume designers were not a regular part of the crew, and were only usually called to do dresses for the female stars. Because of that, most films’ costumes were presided over by a Key Wardrobe Man and a Key Wardrobe Woman who supervised the wardrobe department and did much of what we would call ‘Costume Design’ today.

Q: Over the course of 40 years, you must have had the chance to see the work of countless costume designers. Who did you most admire for their style, innovation and creativity in the early years and who do you most admire now?

A: Actually I never had the chance to work with a lot of costume designers. The one I remember the best, though, was Dorothy Jeakins. (Interviewer note: Jeakins, born in 1914, was a studio freelancer who won recognition for her design work in The Music Man, The Sound of Music, Samson and Delilah and Young Frankenstein.) I also can’t really pick one designer over another – they all have different budget and time constraints to work with. But like everyone else, I think Edith Head was brilliant.

Q: Life is a series of choices in which we gather information and assess risks in order to either stay within our comfort zone or push the envelope and try something bold. How would you compare this to the choices that costume designers make in outfitting the characters in a film or television show?

A: As designers, we have to try and illustrate the drama using our medium, clothing. We also have to use historical research, human psychology and artistic principles in fashioning the overall look of the show as well as helping to delineate screen characters. The other big concern is ‘what kind of a film will the producers/director want to see and fund. We never work in a vacuum, so part of the ‘risk’ is in the presentation of our ideas and their cost.

Q: What would you say was the most challenging production you ever worked on?

A: Gods and Generals. I took over the show two weeks before shooting. The production lasted about half a year. We dressed between 500 and 1200 people a day, six days a week. We shot two, sometimes three units, sometimes 24 hours  a day (first unit nights, second unit days), sometimes in two different states at the same time. The sheer volume of clothes going in and out of the department, for repair, cleaning, reissue, new characters and bits, including the day-in, day-out manufacture of uniforms and cast clothing was enormous! My day started at 4:30, 5 a.m. and lasted until 9-10 p.m. almost every day (excluding Sundays when I only worked eight hours a day). It was more than a month into shooting before I felt like we had enough costumes to make our daily requirements. The anxiety was bad enough but added to the raw daily physical requirements – well, the experience made me very tired.

Q: What original design of yours still makes you say, “Wow! If I’m to be remembered for only one costume, this would be the one.”

A: It’s hard to pick one. As a show, I think The Wind and the Lion is still my favorite. I like the way both Sean Connery and Candice Bergen turned out. I have had women tell me that the riding skirt on Candice was a favorite of theirs – but the overall ‘look’ of the film still stands up pretty well. I’ve had people ask me if we shot in Morocco – but no, we shot it all in Spain and all the ‘Arab’ background was in costume.

Q: Do costume designers take their lead from what the director tells them to do or do directors defer to the designers’ knowledge of history, culture, fabrics, etc.?

A:  It’s different on different shows. Sometimes you have to prove yourself in the beginning with research and sketches, but after they start seeing a good looking show in dailies they tend to trust you – and everybody is so busy anyway they just let you go.

Q: What fabrics work better on screen and under hot lights than most people think they would? Conversely, what fabrics look nice in off-camera situations but are a nightmare for costume designers to work with?

A:  Since almost every film I’ve worked on has been period, I’ve always worked with fabric appropriate to the period. Usually naturals like wool, including wool crepe and cotton are the best, followed by linen (looks great, loses its shape). Shiny fabrics are more difficult. Silk can become too hot and the sound department hates the ‘rustling’ sound it makes, although raw silk is a great fabric. Satins can be hard to work with and cameras hate highly reflective fabrics as well as whites because of the ‘bounce’.

Q: How do you unleash your own creative process? 

A: I try to digest the script and think about what it’s trying to say – what it’s about – who are the characters and what’s their story function. I research the period and try to imagine what it looked like – maybe do some scribble sketches – perhaps look at other films done about the same period. I try to picture things like an overall color flow – then relax and try to think of ways to make this costume presentation my own – things usually become clear. 

Q: Knowing what you do about what people wore in earlier centuries, what period would most appeal to you if you could time-travel?

A: There are several contenders – American Revolutionary/Colonial period for the men, French Empire for the women, the streets of ancient Egypt or Rome – the Aztecs. I can’t decide!

 Q: How do you make ‘good’ art – symbols that connect – and engage a broad audience for pleasure and profit?  Do you feel the artist reflects or leads the general culture?

A: What unites us is our common cyclical life experience – it’s the essence of all drama. We are a person, a personality – we’re adjusted to ourselves at our age group. We ‘grow out of ourselves’ when we encounter a life situation that exceeds our ability to successfully solve based on our experience/ knowledge/ personal mythology. This leads to emotional turmoil – angst – then we have a cathartic moment perhaps a revelation – a ‘new answer’, and  the ‘old person’ dies and a ‘new person’ is born – and we enter the next or our ages. This is the three-act play of ‘introduction’- ‘confrontation’- ‘resolution’. We are all in some stage of this process. The successful artist finds meaningful symbols to concretize and communicate awareness of this process (think coming-of-age stories or mid-life crisis stories). The artist might use old forms like historical drama, or dress the ancient knowledge in new forms like Science Fiction; in this sense the artist-filmmaker might both reflect age-old concerns while leading the general culture into new forms.

Q: What is something about the Hollywood costume world that most people would be surprised to learn?

A: It’s a lot harder than it looks! I have heard people say things like, “Oh, a Costume Designer! That sounds like fun”. I have enjoyed satisfaction from my job but I never found the work to be fun.

Q: Tell us about your new book, Costume Design 101. What was your inspiration to write it and what was your selection process for determining the content?

A: I had worked on a film in Winston-Salam. We used the film school as a crew base. The Dean of the school, Mr. Sam Grog, asked me once my opinion on why his theatre costume department always had a hard time interfacing with commercial projects. We spoke quite a while on the difference between the requirements of the Costume Department in Theatre and Film. A few years later Mr. Grog became the head of AFI. The publishers of my book called him for a referral for someone to write a book on how theatre costume students could translate their knowledge to film work; he was kind enough to remember our conversations and my name.

Q: Who is your book’s target readership and what do you believe will be the takeaway value for them in reading it?

A:  I wrote the book to help anyone interested in the job of costume design on any film or television production, be they a student or someone already working in the industry. The ‘takeaway’, hopefully, is a realistic, unvarnished step-by-step guide to being able to function in a responsible, professional and successful manner as a costume designer – from job-interview through assessing department requirements, budgeting and scheduling, running a department, interfacing with production, and so forth.

Q: It’s interesting to see that your “retirement career” is real estate. How did 40 years of designing costumes prepare you for helping clients find a house that’s not only the right fit but suits their personality?

A: Actually it’s more about real estate investing. When I retired, I went back to school for two years and studied Interior Design which was a nice complement to my years as a non-union Production Designer where I designed and built sets for low-budget film, commercials and music videos. I intended to use the new knowledge to assist me in rehabbing interiors or creating thematic interiors.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Right now I’m doing some painting. I always have drawn and painted and enjoyed it; now I can spend a little more time at it!

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Everything in life happens by either Design or Default. I think it behooves everybody to learn a little about basic design principles. In its most simplified explanation – Good Design = the best use of demanded elements, whatever they may be – and the words of Leonardo De Vinci, “Simplicity is elegance.”

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Costume Design 101: The Business and Art of Creating Costumes for Film and Television is available at Amazon.com. To learn more about La Motte, visit his website at www.richardlamotte.com.

Your Screenplay Sucks

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For every movie that has ever been made, there are 14,023 writers who think they can pen something better. All right, maybe I’m exaggerating about that number but I’ve done script coverage on more than enough that have made me want to respond with the exact phrase William M. Akers so aptly snagged for his latest book. Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways To Make It Great is clearly one of the best checklists for aspiring screenwriters I’ve ever encountered. With 20 years of studio and network experience behind him, three films produced from his scripts, and 15 years at Vanderbilt as a screenwriting instructor in addition to globe-trekking workshops and story consulting, this consummate professional was enthusiastic to share his insights with aspiring screenwriters on how to hone their craft.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: When did the movie bug first bite you and what do you know now that might have been helpful to know at the beginning?

A: I went to graduate school at USC. One afternoon, I was sitting in the chairman’s office and he came out, having no idea who I was, and said, “Are you a screenwriter?”  I said, “Yes.”  He said, “Come in here.”  A producer had called and wanted one of his top screenwriting students to write a script. I got paid $1,500 to write a screenplay. It didn’t get made, but I was pleased to get paid. For my second script, I adapted a book that had been read to me in the third grade. That film did get made. It’s called The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. It did nothing for my career, other than be able to say, “Hey, I got a movie made!” Three days before the film came out, the releasing company went bankrupt.

Basically, all I’ve ever done for money is write movies, teach screenwriting, and do script consulting.

What I wish I’d known then was how to be the writer I am now. There’s a conundrum.

Q: Which movie in your youth left the most indelible memory on you?

A: Sorcerer written by Walon Green from the novel by Georges Arnaud, and directed by William Friedkin. That’s the movie that got me into the movie business. It’s about guys hauling dynamite (that had sweated nitroglycerine) through 200 miles of jungle to blow out an oil well fire. The sequence where he drives the truck across the swinging bridge in the rain is still one of the finest pieces of filmmaking I’ve ever seen. I saw it at the Green Hills theatre in Nashville, which had the largest screen of any theatre in the city. Friedkin has a documentary filmmaking background, and the movie seemed more real to me than anything I’d seen. When it was over, I felt like I had to go home and take a bath. I remember thinking, “I want to do that!”  My screenplay, 105 Degrees and Rising (and which Jon Amiel is attached to direct) is the closest thing I’ve ever written to that kind of material.

Were I to remake Sorcerer, I’d go back to the book’s title, The Wages of Fear and cast Benecio Del Toro for the Spanish hit man. I’d want Amidou, again, for the Arab terrorist. Thierry L’Hermitte would play the French financier and the lead, the American gangster, would be Robert Downey, Jr. We’d shoot in Mexico, end up great friends, and buy villas next to each other in Puerto Vallarta.

Q: Who were your mentors as you developed your craft and what were the takeaway lessons that you learned from them?

A: Wish to God I’d had one. Well, that’s not true. Ken Robinson, my USC filmmaking teacher, is someone I still go to with questions. Far and away the greatest teacher I ever had. I dedicated my book to him. Naturally, USC, in their immense wisdom, fired him.

Q: If you were stranded on an island (with electricity and all other amenities, of course) and could only take three movies with you, what would they be?

A: Hmmm. Do I want to tell the truth or do I want to look fancy-pants brilliant? Well, naturally, it would be My Ain Folk directed by Bill Douglas, Floating Weeds by Yasujiro Ozu, and Trains by Caleb Deschanel. “What an impressive list!” you’re saying, “I’ve never heard of those movies!  That Akers guy must be killer smart!”  And you’re no doubt correct. Okay, now the truth. Let’s assume I’ve got a 70 foot screen and my own projectionist, not just a DVD player and 52″ plasma TV. Ergo, Sorcerer, Lawrence of Arabia and Les Uns Et Les Autres.

I’ve seen Lawrence at least 10 times in theaters, in 70mm, and it always delights. Amazing everything – acting, editing, story, camera, character, scope. It’s my favorite movie and always has been. Les Uns Et Les Autres is the only movie I went to see two days in a row. I saw it on the Champs Elysées in Paris and it blew me away so I went back the next day. The fractured story style, told over generations, really works. I saw it in my twenties and was thrilled by every single frame. It’s not high falutin’, but it works for me.

Q: What are the three biggest mistakes wannabe screenwriters make when they set out to pen their first script?

A: They write something they don’t care desperately about, so when the going gets tough, they don’t have the yearning required to take the time to get it right. They underestimate the appalling competition, so they don’t realize how much honing it takes to get it right. They think this stuff is easy and don’t take the time to get it right.

Q: Somewhere along the wayside, people of all ages have lost sight of the importance of having good manners and/or thinking that rules apply to everyone else except them. Tell us about some of the protocols that absolutely have to be observed by writers if they’re serious about breaking into the business.

A: Everything your mother taught you, basically. Thank-you notes. Be polite. Don’t think you’re special and that the rules don’t apply to your screenplay. Understand that these days, silence means “No.”  Don’t bug people who are doing you a favor. Don’t get irritated at someone if they take six months to read your script. They’re doing you the favor, and you must never forget it.

Q: Where do good ideas come from and how do you really know if you have one that’s commercial?

A: If I could answer that, I’d live in a much bigger house.

Q:  Are certain genres easier for new screenwriters to break into than others? If so, what are they?

A: Beats me. New writers should write in genres they like to see in the theater. If you like to watch heist movies, write three or four of them. Because you understand the genre, you’ll know when you nail it.

Q: Which is worse – describing a character or setting in too much detail or leaving the reader to wonder?

A: What’s  the worst is being confusing. What’s the worst is making people read any words they don’t have to. Using too much detail in scene description is the #1 mistake beginning writers make. Tell us barely enough, and move on.

Q: Define “good clean writing” and what steps or exercises writers can do to achieve it.

A: First, start with poetry, or the Alien screenplay by Walter Hill and move in that direction from whatever style you’re using now. In my writing workshops, I’ve learned that too much detail is the bugaboo of all beginning writers. They see the movie in their head and want to put it on the page, which is admirable but wrong. Good, clean writing is:  If you take out one more word, the reader won’t understand what you’re trying to tell him. To clean up your writing, you have to go through it over and over with a red pen, reading it aloud, having other people read it aloud to you, until you can’t take anything out.

When I first started writing, I’d read a page out loud three times in a row before I’d move to the next page. If I made a single change, even a comma, I’d start over and read it again three more times. If I was on the third read and changed a word in the last line, I’d start over and read it three more times. It was unbelievably tedious, but I certainly tidied up my writing and sold the script, and it got made. So, gosh, it must be a good hint!

Q: Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

A: Because I critique scripts for money, I read a lot of scripts. I found that most people made the same mistakes repeatedly and I began to feel bad telling people repeatedly not to have character names that rhyme, etc. The idea is that the client reads the book,  performs the checklist, and then sends me a script that’s in way better shape. We can then discuss plot, character, and story construction, as opposed to cutting the flab out of their action description.

Q: With so many sequels, prequels and remakes being churned out by Hollywood, it would be easy for writers to think that producers prefer to play things safe and not pursue anything fresh and original. What are your thoughts on that?

A: I can only write what interests me or what someone pays me to. What producers pay other writers to write affects me only when I go to the movies. Some producers (though fewer these days) still want interesting material. It’s never been an easy business. If you want it easy, marry money and divorce before you have children.

Q: Technology is shrinking the globe in terms of access to film production. Do you think it’s inversely expanding the opportunities for new screenwriters or making the playing field that much more competitive?

A: There are only so many slots in theaters. There are only so many movies people will find online.

You can use a flip cam or you can shoot in Super Panavision. Just because everyone can use a pencil to draw, doesn’t mean there are heaps of Michelangelos. No matter what, it all comes down to the screenplay. No matter how low the production cost, it’s still, on some level, expensive. If your script blows and you decide to make a movie, you’re about to waste your investor’s money.

Q: What do you love most about this business?

1.)  Writing is a wonderful way to pass the day. I spent last Saturday hauling creek gravel in a dump truck. While I waited for the truck to be loaded, I sat in the cab and line-edited a script. How great is that!  

2.)  That I can retire and have health insurance for the rest of my life. Yay!

3.)  Working with talented people is the greatest thrill there is.

4.)  That so many stunning women want to have sex with screenwriters.

Ah, well… three out of four’s not bad.

Q: Given the youth-oriented emphasis in Hollywood, does anyone over the age of 30 really have a chance of getting their script sold and produced? Why or why not?

A: I’m over 30. I just finished a rewrite for a producer and that film stands a good chance of getting made. When it goes out to talent, the actress may say, “This is a piece of garbage. I won’t be in this.”  What she will not say is, “This is fantastic material. I never get stuff this good to read. I can’t wait to be in this movie, cause– Oh, look. Wait. Ewwwww. The writer is over 30!  Forget this project. Next.”

At least, that’s what I tell myself. Do keep in mind, they shouldn’t be able to tell how old you are when they read your script.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m finishing up a romantic comedy around the world of ballet during the Cold War. I’m starting a children’s novel about a wicked third grade teacher. I’m finishing a YA novel about a boy who accidentally brings pirates back from the past, and I’m part-way into a screenplay about a young couple who just can’t get ahead and come up with a novel way to earn a living that doesn’t go quite as they had planned. Helps to have different stuff cooking on the griddle.

Q: Any last bit of advice you’d like to offer aspiring screenwriters (besides, of course, buying your book!):

A: Get good at sales and marketing. Make movies, don’t just write them. Writing a great script is half the battle. Nobody tells you that. Final advice: Your first idea may not be your best one. Spend a lot of time coming up with the idea you’re going to take time to write and make sure it’s something someone is going to like and that, in theory, will be easy to sell. Don’t write something if you’re the only person in the world who wants to read it. This sounds like the opposite of the “write your passion” cliché, but if your passion is completely unsellable, maybe you should be a poet.

Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways To Make It Great is available at Amazon as well as Michael Wiese Productions (http://www.mwp.com).

Hollywood Game Plan

When I was 10, I had a grand plan to run off and join the circus. Well, it wasn’t so much a plan as it was a deep desire to leave home, do something interesting, and have a brand new assortment of friends. I didn’t know the first thing about circus life other than what I saw in movies and, further, I had no circus-y skills that might have made me a welcome addition to the fold. I share this bit of trivia because it’s not unlike members of today’s younger generation – and quite a few adults as well – who want to run off and make a name for themselves in Hollywood. They have no skills. They have no experience. And yet Hollywood exudes a dreamy coolness that beckons them like a siren’s seductive song. If you have, in fact, heard that song yourself and are thinking about answering it, Carole Kirschner’s new book Hollywood Game Plan should be at the top of your reading list.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Can you recall the moment when you first knew that a Hollywood career was what you wanted to pursue?

A: I was working as the assistant to the Director of a museum and one of the volunteers asked me if I was interested in being the P.A. for a friend of hers who was a television writer. I’d never thought about it before, but once she asked me a light went on and I realized how much I wanted to be in entertainment. I was incredibly fortunate because I got that job and it launched my career.

Q: What was your own “game plan” for breaking in and how long did it take to get to where you are now?

A: After I’d been an assistant at that job for a couple of years, I realized I needed to move on from the protected environment of working for this wonderful boss. He was very supportive, but I knew it was going to be hard to be more than a great assistant if I stayed there. So I decided to launch an intense campaign to get the job that would take me from being an assistant to being a decision maker. It took me about a year and a half to make that transition.

Q: Who were your most important mentors and what did they teach you that can’t be learned from books?

A: My first boss, Jim Hirsch was a terrific mentor.  He taught me how to work with writers in a respective way, he taught me how to be a mensch in dealing with everybody, from executives to people on the crew. He did all this without really talking about it, but by modeling it.

Q: There’s no shortage of aspiring writers across the country who believe that catching the next bus, train or plane to Los Angeles will make their dreams come true. What would you say are the most common realities many of them fail to take into account?

A: That your beloved first script (or second or third) will automatically make you an in-demand writer and everything will be smooth sailing.  The truth is it can take years – and many more scripts — before you get traction.  A lot of aspiring writers don’t have a game plan for getting an entry level job and getting out there and networking like crazy, while they’re honing their writing chops.

Q: To open doors in Hollywood, would you say that it’s more about who you know or what you know? Why?

A:  Actually I think it’s much more about who knows YOU… and wants to help you or be in business with you. And to get to that place requires strong writing, determined networking and creating a profile for yourself in the business.

Q: Given the advances in technology, is it really necessary to relocate to the west coast at all?

A: If you want to work in television you have to be on the West Coast. This is where the jobs are… and the meetings and parties and networking events that help you get those jobs are. It’s not so essential if you want to make indie films or put your work up online.

Q: Hollywood is based on perceptions. Since learning to market your authentic self to the entertainment industry is essential for success, what are some of the “right” ways to accomplish this?

A:  Think deeply about what makes you uniquely you. Use the good experiences from your past and the painful ones, too, to create your personal story.  Learn how to talk about yourself in a way that’s authentic, but also shines a light on your best qualities and accomplishments. Create a profile for yourself that’s consistent and compelling.

Q: How much does luck factor into a Hollywood game plan?

A:  Great question!  I think luck is when preparation meets opportunity.  You have a lot control over both of those things.  The “something amazing happens out of the blue” kind of luck is very rare, but when it happens you want to be prepared to take advantage of it.

Q: If a writer has just moved to Los Angeles and doesn’t know anyone yet, what does s/he need to learn about the art of networking and expanding contacts?

A: That networking isn’t about finding people and getting them to do things for you, it’s about creating a community of like minded folks who mutually support each other. It’s finding a way to help them, before you ask them to help you.

Q: Do you need an agent? And if so, how do you go about finding one?

A:  You need blazingly hot material before you can even think about getting an agent.  Once you have that, (shameless plug) if you read my book there’s a whole chapter on how you find an agent.

Q: Let’s talk about working with a mentor and what the respective expectations are about this relationship.

A: When you are fortunate enough to have a mentor (and very rarely does someone actually ask a person to be their mentor, it just naturally evolves) be respectful of their time and don’t ask for too much.  And if they help you get a meeting or job, make them proud.

Q: What if you have to take a day job to support yourself while you’re struggling to get discovered? Any advice on the subject?

A: Don’t get one that’s so demanding it leaves you too exhausted to work on your writing.

Q: Huzzah! Someone at a studio read your resume and invites you to come in for a chat. What do you say? What do you do? How do you make sure you don’t come across as a total doofus?

A: Be ridiculously over prepared for the meeting.  Know who all the people in the meeting are, what their backgrounds are, what projects they’ve been involved with, etc. Do your homework. Know your personal story so well you can say it in a natural way when they ask the inevitable question,  “So tell me about yourself?”  Do more research and have something interesting to say about the business and be prepared to talk about your material or pitch ideas if they ask.

Q: One of the things you talk about in your book is the importance of having a “Personal A-Story” that reflects some memorable aspect of your personality. But what if (1) you’re terrible at telling anecdotes and (2) you don’t have a story?

A: EVERYONE has a story! It’s just a matter of digging deep into your past and present life and figuring out what experiences and perspectives make you different from all the other aspiring writers. I guarantee it’s there. Very few people are natural story tellers, so you have to do a lot of practicing until you’re comfortable telling your personal stories. Since you’re writers you can always write them up first and then practice them in front of friends and get feedback, until it’s much easier to come up with and tell your anecdotes.

Q: Hollywood Game Plan is a must-have playbook for anyone contemplating a job in the film business. How did the inspiration for this book come about?

A: When I got into the entertainment industry I didn’t know anyone in the business and I didn’t have a clue about how to navigate it.  I made a lot of mistakes and I vowed that when I succeeded I would give people coming up the “unwritten” rules and information that would save them from making the same mistakes I did… and support them along the way.

Q: What do you feel is its strongest takeaway value for readers?

A: That it’s possible to succeed if you have a well thought out plan, you build a supportive community and you do a lot of homework. You do the work and then you go for it!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Getting to help more writers through workshops, an upcoming teleseminar and my career consulting practice, Park on the Lot.com. Plus a trip to Australia in late February 2013 to do workshops there as part of the Television Studio Event.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A:  Here’s what I say to writers at the end of my seminars:  Be brave. Be bold. And be relentless in your drive to improve.  This business is ALWAYS looking for new writers and new voices. If you’re talented and prepared, it might as well be you.  Good luck!

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 Hollywood Game Plan is available at Amazon.com as well as www.mwp.com.