Monday, December 2, 2013

A Stooge week-end --

Well, I made it to the 16th Annual Stoogefest again and had a nice evening at a great old theater filled with 3 Stooges fans of every shape, color and age group. The "Alex" was built in 1925 and played vaudeville acts as well as silent films. 

Now, it's been completely redone in it's original style and looks great.

The Stooge event begins with a host to talks about the Stooges and later, introduces several family members including Moe's daughter. Moe was the one with the crewcut for those of you who aren't stooge fans.

This year held a surprise when they announced that someone found a print of a Stooge film in Australia that had never been seen since a big fire at MGM years ago. It seemed that someone in Australia had kept a copy in his basement and finally decided to see if anyone wanted the print. It's biggest feature was that it was shot in color way back in 1933 and now, the only print of that era.

When it came to the audience, as I mentioned, every kind of person and almost every age group. There are the hardline Stooge fans who call themselves Stooge-files and there's the "Knuckleheads", who belong to the Knucklehead club of course.

There were five shots played as usual and with some comments beforehand as sometimes the shorts had what we could call "insensitive" to certain groups.

And as for me, I'm just one of the many people who like to drop by now and then to bring back memories of the little movie theater I would go to in my small town of 539 people. Our theater was a revised church hall that became my lifeline living in a small town with very little to do.

From the movies, I learned about the world and also learned about who made the movies. I would always watch the titles and credits and began to remember names of people who wrote the movies, directed the movies and everyone else whose name was on the screen from casting to make-up and everything in between...

Here's my rag-tag movie theater now gone forever as it was torn down in 1988.

As you can see, the Alex is a little more flamboyant than my old theater. But it still gave me movies to watch and with them, the 3 Stooges.

Friday, November 29, 2013

2014 Iceland Calendar

We hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving holiday with family and/or friends! We are staying the weekend with Yuriy's brother and had dinner with about 50 members of the Manchik clan last night. We ended the night with a roaring fireplace, a wonderfully cheesy Christmas movie, and a handful of our cousins. It's officially Christmas season!

We are so happy to share our new 2014 travel calendar featuring our photos from Iceland. Thanks to everyone who purchased our last couple of travel calendars and pushed us to make another! If you want to get one for yourself or someone on your Christmas list, do it this weekend while they are 25% off for Black Friday. We also added a bunch of new travel prints to the shop, along with the calendar.

Use the code "FRIDAY" now through Monday to get 25% off the entire shop. 

We'd love to reserve the first calendar for one of our blog readers, so leave us a comment and say hello! We'll pick a name at random on Tuesday, Dec 3, at 10:00am PST (when commenting, use an email address that you check regularly).

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Stooges and me...

 It's that time of the year again and hundreds of people are preparing for Saturday, November 30th. I and some friends will be gathering at the Alex theater for none other than the 16th "Three Stooges Big Screen Event".

We're not talking about Lady Gaga (whose costumes often feel inspired by the Stooges) nor bad comedians like Dane Clark... nor Iggy Pop and the Stooges.

 We're talking about the real 3 Stooges.

I haven't attended each event but at least half of them and always enjoyed it. So what happens at the 16th annual Stooge event?

First of all, the event draws fans from everywhere and even women show up, more each
year. There's an issue about women here; it's mostly accepted that the Stooges are for men while women shake their heads and wonder what the attraction is.

I've always said that there are two things women dislike; air conditioning in a car and the 3 Stooges. Their quota of eye gouges and banging heads together just isn't their piece of pie. BUT in recent years women began showing up in larger numbers and when the host asks for the traditional "Woo, woo, woo" (a Curly expression), the women's side is often louder than the men as they proudly shout out.

It all began the the Stooges black & white short films that played in my hometown when Ii was about 8. These were mostly with Shemp rather than Curly. Curly, the bald one, is everyone's favorite (audiences felt for him as he was always the one picked on and the one who was more innocent). Believe me, there is a lot of psychology to what the Stooges did.

Later when I moved to the city I saw Curly for the first time and he was my favorite. Living across the river from Detroit, I watched Stooges three times a day and even my younger brother became a fan.

The Stooges were the remnants of the vaudeville entertainers who worked the circuits of theaters across America, this was mostly before movies but even after movies began there was always the vaudeville entertainers.

The entertainment was always pretty raw, pretty girls, jokes and slapstick which included slapping, tripping and anything else that looked dangerous.

The Stooges were also considered not as artistic as Chaplin or Buster Keaton who were truly experimenting in film. But the Stooges managed to keep going year after year and produced hundreds of short films that were shown before the movie in theaters everywhere.

Then, around the late 1950's, they resurfaced as TV began to show the Stooges among a dozen or so other forgotten vaudeville entertainers. And that's where a new fan base occured - us baby boomers.

I have gone to all four graves of the 3 Stooges here in LA. They were Moe, who had the moptop haircut, Larry, with long curly hair and then Curly and Shemp, who were brothers. Shemp replaced Curly after he passed away early in life.

My brother always said that everything you needed to know about life, you could find in a 3
stooges short film. They were always looking for a job and they made fun of the rich. They even mocked Hitler in one of their shorts.

It was a rite of passage for most of my friends, we all loved the Stooges because in some ways, they expressed a lot of what real life would become for us, looking for work, making mistakes, trying our hardest and just finding a place for our world. 

The Stooges continue to entertain people in 2013 and all over the world. I know a woman from Guatamala who watched the Stooges in her country, not needed to understand the language, the Stooges visual language was and still is universal. She said her mother used to call her Larry, after her own curly hair.

And here's
a photo here where my brother and I duplicated a scene from a Stooge film in which Larry carries up an ice block up a long stairway. We discovered the real stairway and it looked pretty much the same as back in the 1940's.

So, I'm looking forward to another shot of my childhood that stayed with me. I'm a true "knucklehead" as we're known.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where was I?

I'm going off the track today as far as the movie business. 50 years ago today in 1963, President John Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. As with most of the world, I remember where I was. 

For me, I was in high school, Grade 9 I think, and we were just finishing a boy's gym class when someone came in and told our gym teacher, Mr. Riberdy something. He then proceeded to tell us that the President was dead.

I have to point out that I lived in Canada, but across the River lay Detroit, you know, the Motor City. And being so close to America, we felt it just as strong. But later I would discover that the whole world felt it, all the way from a Texas city called Dallas.

I entered the 1960's with hope and excitement, having moved in 1959 to Windsor, Ontario, which sat ironically south of Detroit. It was piece of Canada that was actually south of the United States.

My gym teacher also said that JFK was shot because he was Catholic. Remember this was 1963 and JFK was the first Catholic president ever and there was a lot of flack from the Christians who were afraid of having a president who would have to listen to the Pope. Naturally this was ridiculous but in those days... it wasn't. And since I was Catholic and attended Catholic schools, it was particularly close.

I remember being in a fog for the next few days and when he was buried, my local grocery store put black paper over it's windows. Canada was just as affected, being that it was and still is, the closest country to the U.S.A, both in location and in our hearts.

It took a long time to figure out what happened that day, it was a shooting, but it was so much more. JFK promised a bright future for America and the world, he started the Peace Corp and didn't go to war with Russia.

What happened was a loss of innocence. The 1950's were, at least to me as a kid, the best time. We were the baby boomers, born between 1946 to 1964. Our generation had it easier than any other proceeding us.  We grew up on TV and movies and went to school (unlike a lot of our parents), we had homes, schools, families and everything else and nothing seemed to worry us. 

But after JFK the world changed. Vietnam came and 50,000 Americans died. Four students at Kent State University in Ohio were shot dead by National Guardsmen and others wounded while protesting the war. There were marches on Washington to stop the war, with the largest being around 2 million people from all walks of life. 2,000,000 people.

Then I got involved in politics when I joined Students For a Democratic Society, or SDS as it was often called and was quite involved with stopping the war.   In 1968 I went to Indianapolis to work for Bobby Kennedy in his quest to become President. I ended up in a bad area near downtown where I went from house to house getting African Americans to register to vote.

I was amazed at the reception I got, me with a sportcoat and tie and very Canadian... they treated me incredibly well and they truly had a love for RFK. And I saw the American political machine at work, which impressed me big time. And yes, I shook his hand, even with Colonel Sander's chicken on it. Bobby was shot in L.A. a month or so after I worked with so many others only to see another death.

Then Martin Luther King was shot and killed and in some odd coincidence, a rock concert at Altamont near San Francisco with the Rolling Stones ended when a concert-goer was killed by Hell's Angels. I say coincidence because Altamont finished the 60's with a bang.

After that I joined the Trudeau campaign in Canada, for Pierre Trudeau, a colorful and masterful politican who had the youth vote and was, to my mind, the best leader of our country that we ever had.

So the 1960's started with a boom but ended with a darkness that still haunts this country. The 70's brought us disco, which seemed more like an apology to Americans but turned out to be a fad.

So today, I'll take a moment to remember that day in my high school gym and try to balance all the hours that will contain tons of words about that day and about what it meant. 

For me, it was my first acknowledgement of adult life and what it could take from me and how it still weighs in my heart and what could have been.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Strolling the Streets of Paris is HAUTE!

It’s always fun to stroll through the streets of Paris and discover life in the moment. I spent some time near the glass pyramids of The Louvre Museum finding inspiration in the people and places that I encountered. The gardens allow quiet moments of reflection that only Paris can inspire.

Fashion, beauty and travel go hand in hand… I even brought along my Sholdit, a scarf turned clutch wrap with a secret zip compartment. On this occasion, it was a fashion statement to match my dress with colors of pink that pop.

Come along with me as you browse the photos below… Xx

Monday, November 18, 2013

Maybe a sale... or not?

I had a message left on my phone Friday,  posted around 1pm but never noticed it until around 4pm. Message was simple enough, someone wanted to "talk" to me about my script. He gave a name and a company.

Those are the kind of calls a writer likes to hear. 

Someone wants to talk about my script. At first it sounds great. "Talk" is akin to buy? For a moment, I went back to my Christmas movie in 2010 wherein a woman left a message for me and actually saying; "we'd like to make a deal, who do we talk to".

That was plain and clear and within a few days the contract was signed. And the movie was made 4 months later. I actually have kept that message on my answering machine and now and then press it again "we'd like to make a deal..."

So why shouldn't I be happy about this new one? Because they "want to talk with me" about the script. Not buy -- talk. 

Now my friends say that no company is going to call me to say they don't want the script. So why am I expecting the worst.

Well, for one, I don't know which script they mean; I have a half-dozen circulating around town. But that'll be easy to know once I call back today.

And for another reason to be uncertain can be told in 3 words. Emperor of Mars. The screenplay I wrote in 1989 and was "almost made" 4 or 5 times. And each time it started with "we'd like to talk to you about your script".

So, now you understand? 

Talking and buying are two different things.

I know, I know, some of you out there would be happy to have someone call who wants to talk to you, or take you to lunch or have you wash their car.

That's the problem with experience. You get dropped too many times and after a while you begin to be more suspicious than ever. Being dropped 2 or 3 times is hurtful but how about a hundred times, or two hundred times.

So what else would they want, if not an outright sale? How about these possibilities?
- What else do you have?
- Can you do a free rewrite?
- We don't have a lot of money, can we have it for free?
- Can you change it to Romania?
- We have someone else in mind to rewrite it.
- Can we put another name on it as well as yours?

That's the insecurity of being around as long as I have.

After all, after around 50 or so screenplays I've written and dozens of others that I never finished, I begin to think I really don't deserve it.

Actors are the only others in this business who go through the insecurity thing;  writers and actors are always judged on what they bring to the table, actors bring their face, writers bring their 100 pages of story.

So here I am, Monday, wondering exactly what time I should call back. I checked the producer and he is valid but I'm not sure what his company was as it was a little blurred in the message.

So there I am... I figure 10am is a good time. Or does that suggest I'm too anxious? Maybe 10:30.

Stay tuned....

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Envelope... and money

Last week the LA Times started it's oscar race by putting out their own special addition to their paper called The Envelope. As in the Academy Award.

It's all about who's gonna win, who might, why they win, how they win and most importantly how many ads will actors, writers, directors, studios and anybody else with a horse in the race spend money.

And as usual; it's all about the actors.

Today's cover features Michael McConaughey once again with his movie Dallas Buyers Clubs. It also has the "Buzzmeter"which gives us some insight into who's being talked about in the circles that count. There's "the odds", for gamblers, what are the odds against who might win or lose.

There's articles about who's hot and who's not, who's out of rehab, who's in rehab, how actors lives are changed and how great Hollywood is. 

But there any articles on writers? 

I've never seen one but then I rarely read it. After all most people think actors make up their dialog. Really.

Yesterday I went to see Robert Redford's movie, All Is Lost, and got in for free with my WGA card. This is also the time that 20 or 30 movies want your vote and thus members of WGA, DGA and SAG get to see them for free.

But since I'm a nice guy and they're letting me in for free, I buy popcorn and a coffee or that rare soft drink (Dr. Pepper if available).

While WGA is for anyone in WGA, the studios do control the numbers of SAG (actors union) which has thousands of members. Only voting committee SAG members and only directors in DGA (this excludes assistant directors and other below the line members).

WGA members also get free DVDS delivered to our door as do DGA directors. The DVD comes with warnings that if you give the DVD to anyone, your wife or dad or dog... you will be destroyed. WGA is less paranoid.

To be honest, I rarely open the weekly Envelope, mostly because it's all about ads and stories about actors I really don't care for. Also it's information that's pretty much been passed around since January 2013.

They're even advertising movies that haven't opened yet, like Tom Hank's Saving Mr. Banks, about how Walt Disney saved Mary Poppins. It'll open soon as well as several movies that won't be in big release until January.  This is so they can qualify for Academy Awards which requires they be shown in at least one theater for one week before the end of the year.

I had my own experience with this when my old friend Phil Borsos and I took our little barrel-making short to L.A. in 1976 and had a theater play it for one week to qualify. It's not really difficult, for our short was played at the end of the last movie playing at the Los Feliz theater. We'd wait till the projectionist played it and rewound it and we'd take it back to the motel. It eventually was a finalist.

So the season begins, not Christmas, the money-spending ads that the studios will pay to win that golden statue.  "And the award goes to..."  $$$$$$.

Merry Christmas