Thursday, January 11, 2007

I've Moved

Somehow, with the greatest of ease, I figured out how to sign back in to this blog.

But it's too little, too late, since I have moved the blog to Wordpress some time ago.

If you have happened upon this site through some other dimension, please click your heels three times and then click the link below and you will be magically transported to the active My First Kiss blog.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

#6 of What Makes Me Think I Can Produce a Movie? Part 2

In the summer of '93, I took an extended trip to study Shakespeare at the London Academy of the Dramatic Arts. While I was gone, I rented my house to an actress friend of mine and another friend of hers.

My producing partner kept me up to date on what was going on with our projects - the two from the buddy cop writer and a religious thriller from a first-time writer/commercial director with an affinity for wine. I came home to little progress on all the fronts. Except what was going on inside my house.

The guy staying with my friend was a wannabe actor. He had studied theater in college (somewhere in North Carolina) and had been in L.A. for a few years pursuing his silver screen dreams without success. Undaunted, he decided to write a movie for himelf that could be shot for $50,000. He wrote the script while staying at my house. When he told me about it I asked to read the script.

It was a psychological thriller with four main characters and basically one location. And guess what? It was good. A page turner. Fresh. And cheap to make. I asked him if I could option it and convinced him it would be a waste to make such a great story into a low budget actor calling card. We could make it for more money, add a couple of names to it and have a real winner.

At the time, he was working as an assistant for some music video director and used his entertainment lawyer to negotiate the deal with us. Once that was done, the movie became our number one priority. I gave the script to a friend of mine (also a music video director) who was looking for a feature to direct. She loved the script, but of course had notes to go along with our own notes. And she wanted him to work with another writer on the changes. Fortunately, he was agreeable. The only problem was that he had a full time job, leaving little time for writing.

So, I found a private investor to give us some development money and had the writer quit his job. We paid him the same weekly salary he made at his assistant job to work full time on the rewrites. Because of our option, the writer got an agent and sold another script. Everything was going great. Except we didn't have the full financing in place. We put a business plan together. A budget. But no one wanted to give us money. They didn't have faith in the unknown first time writer. Nor the first time director. But we weren't defeated. We knew what we had - the makings of a great little movie that had the potential to make a bunch of money.

We renewed the option. Then there was the phone call. My producing partner had called the writer about something and left a message on his machine, then immediately called me. I believe there had been some minor disagreement on some story points and like producers oft times do, we were bitching about the writer. Turns out my partner didn't disconnect the call when she hung up to call me. Instead, she created a three-way call. And our private conversation was recorded on the writer's voice mail.

Needless to say, he was not a happy camper. I did my best to repair the damage but things were never the same. Then came the Northridge earthquake. My house was shaken off its foundation. And I was sick of sharing half my money with a partner whose only function in money-making part of the business was invoicing my clients. It was time to shake things up. Get out of the partnership. Being a big fat chicken at the time, my way of shaking things up was to bail. So, I moved to Vancouver.

I continued to work on getting the movie financed, the writer asked for his name to be taken off the script. What he really wanted to do was get the project back from me. He'd written another script that was sold and in production. Sadly, my final option ran out about a month before his movie was released. If I'd been thinking, I would have paid cash for the script. The purchase price was WGA minimum. Somewhere around $38,000 at the time. Why should I have done that?

The writer was Kevin Williamson. The movie that came out was Scream.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

#6 of What Makes Me Think I Can Produce a Movie? Part 1

After I walked out on my cushy exec job at Cannon Films, I started my own boutique entertainment advertising company. My first client was Global Pictures, an off-shoot of Cannon. Then I started picking the independent distributors that sell less than stellar product at AFM, Mifed and Cannes. Eventually, I started doing work for Fox International - that was one of my better gigs. I was making good money but quickly tired of the routine. Even though it was creative, it wasn't creative enough. So, I decided I wanted to make the movies instead of marketing them.

Thinking I couldn't do it on my own, I took on a partner... one of my clients from one of those low-level distribution companies. She came on board with a knowledge of the international distribution and financing, which I thought would compliment my own genius on the creative side of producing. Since we had no start-up money, we financed our producing partnership with the proceeds I was earning from my advertising company. In other words, I gave her a job which entailed bringing in new clients, liaising with existing clients and taking care of the billing. Anybody see where this is going? For that, I gave her half of everything I was making.

Our first producing project was the play -- mentioned in an earlier post -- which was definitely a big success. Then, she brought in a couple of scripts written by her best friend's boyfriend. Hey, you just never know. One of the scripts was a buddy cop action comedy that was well-written and marketable (this was 1993). Against my inner voice and at the urging of my partner, we did a verbal deal with the writer to try and get the project set up.

First stop was a meeting with Walter Senior, my contact and then president of Fox International. He loved the project. Too bad Bill Mechanic had just taken over at Fox and fired his ass. And too bad Walter fell for some Israeli woman and moved to Tel Aviv and had a brain aneurism and spent a couple of years in a coma before he died. Yeah, too bad.

Next stop was Tanglewood Pictures, an independent production company owned by Chuck Norris' brother, Aaron (also my contact). From this meeting we ended up with a deal. A letter confirming $750,000 (half the budget) for the international distribution rights if we raised the other half. Who says I can't produce? I was doing the happy dance until my partner convinced me to bring the writer along to a celebratory lunch at Tanglewood. A short time after the lunch the deal was dead. I heard there was some under the table flirting going on between the writer and Mrs. Norris. And I later found out that the writer cozied up to the CFO and made a short-lived deal on a different movie. And shortly after that the company went under. I really have no idea why our deal didn't happen. It could have been any of the above or something completely unrelated... my memory fails me.

But at this point, I was beginning to wonder... why do I have a partner?

Friday, December 8, 2006


I've been in the entertainment business for...well, forever, but never joined any of the professional groups that were available to me. Except SAG. I've never been a great group person. Probably because I used to be a little on the shy side. Some people labeled me as intimidating or aloof. But seriously, it was shyness. And my Dad. He always told me that if I wanted something done in this life I'd have to do it myself. So, there was no room for groups in my life. I was a lone soldier, prepared to fight my own war.

But, last year, I made a big decision. I decided to network. Something I had never done. Something I didn't want to do. Not that I'm completely anti-social. I've always done fine in meetings and even at parties. There were a lot of social events I attended when I worked at Cannon. Dinners for ten at fancy restaurants with executives like Terry Semel and Warren Lieberfarb - even one with Christopher Reeve. And intimate barbecues with the likes of Faye Dunaway. Yipee.

No, my problem has never been my social abilities. My problem has been maintaining relationships -- I have trouble keeping in touch with people if I have nothing besides, "Hey, what's up? Enjoying the weather?" -- and networking. Which to me, translated as getting to know someone because they can help me. In effect, using someone for my personal gain and on top of that, having to maintain the relationship. [Thanks again, Dad.]

As I said, early last year I decided to change all that and give the networking thing a shot. My first step was to join Women In Film (yikes, a group) and apply to their mentorship program. I'd never had, nor pursued having, a mentor. So, last November, I put in my application and got an interview with the head of the program -- the very awesome Linda Weitzler.

Finally, in early March I got word that I had a mentor. And a really good one, at that. I contacted my mentor with an introductory email and then we set up a meeting which took place on March 28. The meeting went really well. We liked each other. And it was left that the mentor would read one of my scripts (obviously the mentor could be of no help to me if my work sucked) and contact me in a couple of weeks with the news that we would either forge forward or I would be declined and need to find a new mentor - maybe one not quite so high up on the Hollywood food chain.

Time passed. Two weeks. Then a month. I sent a 'checking in' email with what I'd been up to in the past month. I got back a very sincere and apologetic email for not having read my script and that I would hear back soon. More time passed. Until finally it was decided that my wondeful mentor was too bogged down with other projects to be helpful to me at this time. My script was never read. But I still think this mentor was/is wonderful and we will be in contact again in the future.

The awesome Linda Weitzler found me another mentor she thought would be perfect. This one was the head of development at an animation company. Not necessarily my thing but this mentor had also worked with writers while in the studio system. I emailed my introduction on June 19. Then we had a long phone conversation and I sent two scripts (the mentor offered to read two scripts! - this one's going to be good). Again, I didn't hear from my mentor for over a month and sent a 'checking in' email. Finally, after a couple of reschedules we met for lunch on August 22.

We had a lovely lunch. The mentor had read both my scripts and was eager to help by setting up some meetings for me after Labor Day. Awesome. Our next contact was mid-September with notification that my mentor had left the animation company to start a company with a partner but wanted to continue with me and was happy to read my just finished thriller. Yay.

More time passed. I was busy working my career. I gave my mentor some space, fully understanding the commitment needed to start a new company. I went to Austin. Thankfully, by this time, I was much better at the dreaded networking. Because I had decided that I would only network with people I really liked and would want to hang out with -- life is too short to work with people you don't like. I also believe it is pointless to work on projects that I don't have passion for -- again, life's too short. Even with that stipulation, I came home from Austin with several new contacts/friends.

So, on November 1, I emailed my mentor with all my good news and a definitive list of the help I was seeking. Got an apologetic email in return with a re-commitment to being my mentor and a promise to be in touch the following week. Two weeks later, I sent an 'I really want you to be my mentor but maybe this isn't a good time for you and I should let you off the hook' email to which I am still awaiting a reply. As with my first mentor, I have no malice toward this mentor and look forward to staying in contact in the future. I really liked both of these people and I chalk the failure of our mentor-mentee relationships to bad timing.

In the meantime, I contacted the awesome Linda Weitzler and she agreed to keep me in this year's program -- yes, it's already this year's program. And I saw the awesome Linda Weitzler last night at the Women In Film holiday party. She told me there's been a change in the program this year. Now, the mentees need to supply her with a mentor wishlist including contact information. Then, she makes the calls, working down the list until she gets a 'yes' for the relationship to be set up. Wow. I get to have a say in my new mentor choice.

I want to email the awesome Linda Weitzler my 'dream mentor list' by Monday. Last year, I was looking for somehow who could aid inthe forward motion of my writing career. But this year, since I'm producing My First Kiss, I'm thinking I need someone who can offer guidance on the producing side as well. My movie will probably end up in the 2 to 4 million budget range. Definitely an independent, but not a lo/no budget movie that I'm going to shoot with my own HD camera and a credit card. (More on all that in future posts.)

So, who should I put on my 'dream mentor' list? I have my number one choice in mind, but the rest of the however many slots I decide to fill are open. I'm guessing no one is too big -- a couple of years ago somebody had Nancy Meyers -- but I also want to be realistic and get someone who's not so busy that, even though they want to make the commitment, they can't follow through.

Any suggestions?

Who would be your dream mentor?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


I was going to write about those two movies I mentioned in #6 of my previous post, but I went to a screening of Bobby tonight and I want to write about that.

I'm not going to bore you with a full blown review of the movie... because I don't know how for write a review. [minor spoilers] I will say that some of the acted story lines leading up to the tragedy didn't do it for me but the way Estevez intergrated the news footage into his movie was amazing and heart-wrenching. The end was truly powerful. And the speech over the ending was well-chosen and even more pertinent today. [end spoilers]

But there is another story to tell - one that made the movie even more special to me. As most of you know, I grew up in Calgary, Alberta (that's in Canada)... far, far away from Camelot and anything Kennedy. You may also know, I had a privileged upbringing until it all went to shit when I was twelve. We lived in an area called Mount Royal (how pretentious does that sound?) and our house was across the street from the family that owned the newspaper.

My hometown also had a little thing every summer called the Stampede. I loved the Stampede. It meant summer was officially in full swing. And it had a midway. And a rodeo with chuckwagon races. Last but not least... a parade to open the 10-day event. And there was always somebody famous to kick it off.

Since we lived across the street from the most powerful man in the city, we were invited to his house to meet the many dignitaries that passed through town. And one summer, that dignitary was Robert F. Kennedy and his family. He was in town to open the Stampede. And we were invited to a small luncheon in his honor. I wasn't all that excited to go. I knew we were only invited because they wanted someone to play with the Kennedy kids. Plus, I was young and Canadian and couldn't have cared less about politics... American or Canadian. Although, I had heard about the assassination of JFK and maybe I was curious to meet the brother of a slain president.

So, I put one foot in front of the other and followed my brothers and sisters to the manse across the street. Upon our arrival, we were ushered to the backyard patio. There were several adults hanging about, cocktails in hand. It was an intimate setting with no kids in sight. Boring. But we were told to be on our best behavior. And then it happened. I was introduced to the Senator. I looked in his eyes as he smiled and shook my hand. Robert F. Kennedy's charisma was like a jolt of high voltage electricity. I was immediately rendered immobile and speechless. I was only a kid, but somehow I was deeply affected by his presence.

After meeting him, we were sent to the recreation room to play with the Kennedy kids. They were all bigger than me. And a couple of them were acting like spoiled jerks. I got pissed off and pounded one of the boys on his back. So much for my best behavior. And probably not the best idea, considering their stature. But I lived to tell about it and, thankfully, I was not stampeded by the Secret Service with guns blazing. A quick apology and all was forgiven.

Anyway, go see Bobby. Especially for the real footage and the opportunity to hear RFK speak. He was a special person. Sadly, we can only imagine where this country might be today had he become president.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

What Makes Me Think I Can Produce A Movie?

1. I’m really smart.

2. I produced a book. You may not think that’s relevant to filmmaking but it is. I was a baby when I did Starart. I had no experience and had no connections. I only had a vision. And a lot of gatekeepers to get through.

3. I was the Art Director at . The mini-major with no walls. Film school in the combat zone. Many people who went through the Cannon boot camp have gone on to greener pastures, including my friend and Academy Award-winning writer, .

4. I know marketing.

5. I produced a play. It was a one-act…about a child abuser…two actresses…and one of them was me. Sounds like an equation for disaster, right? But, I know marketing. I decided to do it for charity and got ChildHelp USA on board as the recipient (not an easy task, btw). I booked the Tiffany Theater on Sunset (they didn’t give us a deal on the rent – only a small donation). Problem: Getting butts in the seats to watch two nobody actresses in a one-act play about child abuse. Solution: a) get my friend, to write a song for the play and a very cute five year-old boy to sing it live, and, b) bring in celebrities to host the evening, including Robert Englund (Freddy Kreuger) and Christina Applegate. In three weeks, we raised close to $4000 for ChildHelp USA.

6. I almost produced two movies. This story deserves its own post. For now I’ll just say, I was a producer first. And after these two movies, I decided I needed to learn screenwriting. At the time, I didn't realize I was getting out of the frying pan and into the fire.

7. I’m stupid enough to try.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Some people 'talk.'

Some people 'do.'

For me, whenever I talk about something, I have to follow through and do it. Talking guilts me into doing.

Hence, another blog.

My other blog is . I started that one to chronicle the making of my rock'n'roll photo/memoir book. I also started it knowing that if I put it out there, I'd have to follow through. I'm still working on the book, and I'm definitely following through.

This blog will chronicle the making of my movie, My First Kiss. Again, by putting it out here, I know I have to follow through. When I don't feel like making that call, I'll make that call.

So, here's the deal. I will not be mentioning the names of anyone I approach or make deals with, unless there is a contract and they give me permission. I will post about every step I take to make this movie. And you're more than welcome to share the experience. You can give me suggestions, tell me what I'm doing wrong, tell me what I'm doing right, ask questions and/or make jokes about me.

I have no idea what's going to happen.

How great is the unknown?