Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finding a story that works

I'm gonna go a little further on this topic of ideas, as someone asked for a better idea of what makes a good story.

I find stories everywhere, every day, but 90% of them are gone by the end of the day. Once while traveling in Utah I stopped at a truckstop and as I was looking around I noticed an older man, maybe 70's, working class, putting up a poster for a missing girl. I figured he may have been her grandfather and I was struck by his humbleness, he had that pain of loss that nothing could cure.

I still think about that moment, and I know that someday it will become a story.

On the other hand, I had a chance to go to France on an exchange program thru the WGA and spend a month or so in a lovely villa somewhere north of Paris. But I had to have a screenplay that had a French location. I came up with a half-baked idea of a baseball player who is banned and has to go to a French town to teach French kids how to play baseball.

It was a bad story. No moment like the old man.

Now, I can rattle off bad stories with the best of them, I would say that most of my 34 specs aren't great, but greatness happens maybe once in a writer's life, and if the writer is exceptional, maybe a few more times. My specs are all "makeable" in that they are well written and can be made with real actors and crew.

But the stories to half of them aren't really that good. I don't feel bad because there are a lot of bad scripts that get made anyways, without mine.

In short I, and I don't attempt to say all writers, or even half the writers in WGA, need a story that has a heart to it, it has to have truth in some way. And I don't always get that. Emperor of Mars  has that truth, if you've been reading the blog, you know how many people read it, mostly major studios and producers.

Funny thing is; when I try to write a huge blockbuster, the executives will read it, but then they usually say "that's not the real Jim". And they're right, as much as I hate to admit it, it's the Jim who wants to sell a script that isn't what he does well. They want the truth and even though many execs don't really have an idea of what that is, they know when it's not there.

But truth doesn't always get made either.

My sources of stories are as follows:

Newspapers or magazines
True life stories (including episodes from my life)
Remakes of old movies
Things I see in everyday life or travels

And less common, stories I hear from friends. 

I tend to write down notes in several notebooks, little things that, if they begin to add up I create a file for them and then forget they're there. The reason I don't begin on them is that heart thing, I need to find the heart to it.  

Coming up with a plot is easy; boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again. A classic formula. Can you name one movie that has that plot; how about The 40-year Old Virgin.

How about The Graduate.

But those are easy to define. How about another one that's a little bigger. 


Sure there's spectacular 3D effects and huge battles but ultimately, it's the boy meets girl formula. 

Dances with Wolves is another favorite of mine, and it's not so much about boy meets girl, although that's also a strong plot gimmick, but it's also about loneliness, best seen in the scene where Kevin dances around the fire by himself, because it takes his loneliness of being all by himself at the little outpost.

These plots can be argued, but for me, that's when I know I have written something good. When it's' got a heart and soul and breathes real life. I've done it a few times, not many, one of which is a script called Side by Side, which is about an Irish hitman sent to bump off a gay union leader in the 1950's and falls in love with one half of a pair of Siamese Twins.

To be honest, that script is so not me in so many ways that people don't believe I wrote it. I don't even know where it came from, maybe from all the things I've seen and heard. And it wasn't my idea, it was a director I know, Paul Lynch, who planted the seeds. But once I began to write it I found the heart of it in the Irish hitman, he was a loner out of touch with the world and was not long for it.

In a way, he was John Wayne in The Searchers, a man who doesn't know how to live in society and is doomed for emptiness.

I find ideas in the LA Times now and then. I found a story on the editorial page years ago about Number 6, who was one of the wolves introduced from Canada to Yellowstone. Apparently he was found dead after several years and it appeared he was probably killed by other wolves. Survival of the Fittest.

But the editorial went on to acknowledge the bravery and strength of Number 6, that he was the major factor in the wolves surviving the first few years. Even rangers acknowledged that he was something special, smarter, quicker and more adept than even some of the humans who tracked him.

I wanted to make that movie. But here's where my ideas begin to wobble.

I lost interest after a few weeks. This is always a bad sign, usually I lose interest in most of my ideas in a day or a few days. But the fact that I created a file was a major step. This would be my Black Stallion.

I knew opponents of the wolves would probably complain about some "Hollywood writer" making up stories about how good wolves are. But I didn't really care, and it wasn't about that, it was about a singular beast on this earth, who for reasons we didn't know, was special.

Over the past 4 years I come across the file and take it out and put it into the "Active" folders and then after a few weeks file it back in the cabinet.

But the fact that it is still there tells me it's still trying to lure me in, to tell Number 6's story to the world.

In fact I might just go open it again this week. I just talked myself into it.

(Monday - more on this subject)

Monday, September 27, 2010

How to survive when you're not working for money

I've dealt with some options that writers do when they aren't writing for $$, which is most of the time, at least for feature writers and TV movie writers. Episodic is a whole other story as you actually can get paid not only for a script but if you're lucky enough or know the head writer (aka showrunner) you can get a weekly paycheck by being a story editor, working at the studio with hours almost like a normal job.

But if you're not one of the fortunate ones, you wake up every Monday morning and dread having to open the computer to that famous "blank screen" that challenges you to do something.

This is where you separate the pros from the wannabes. At least most of the time.

Right now, I'm not really making money on any of my ideas so I'm in that category that when someone asks me what I'm doing, I use the classic unemployed writer answer;

"Oh, I'm developing a few things".

What does that mean? It means I'm not earning money.

I can check emails, do some internet shopping, clean the fridge or vacuum the living room. I even bought a carpet shampoo cleaner which is an excellent excuse to not turn the laptop on. 

But I have one trait that is essential to writers who are serious about their work. 

I am curious.

You've heard me say this before but I really believe that a writer should want to know about almost everything. I want to know how things work, why people argue in public, is Highway 50 in Nevada really the loneliest highway in America?  You see the photo at the top of the blog? It's Highway 50.

And the biggest problem with this is that I find something new at least once a day, sometimes more.

But 90% of the time I do start work promptly at 9am. I keep regular office hours 9/5 because it's a self discipline I have trained my brain to do; otherwise I'd sleep in, hang around in pj's and find an excuse to do something tomorrow. Sometimes I start at 8am, particularly with blogs.

Although I sometimes think this blog is just an excuse to not write something I can sell.

Having said that, here's what I have on my big whiteboard, not in any particular sequence; 

Likely Scenario is a 3-page proposal I made for a "procedural TV series", meaning something in the line of the CSI's and Law&Order. I had a lunch with a friend of mine who's a development exec at a production company and she said their company was looking for something in that line.  I wrote the 3 pages in 4 days, reworking it until I felt it was smooth. It's kind of like CSI but is about spies. I'll send that out in a day or two. 

Casualties of Love - which I've told you three blogs ago, is something I hope to make before the end of the year. To this end I have created a short description of the 5 characters which my actor friend will post on, a website for actors looking for jobs.

From this we hope to find 5 actors who are really good and willing to do a reading of the script for gas money, coffee and lunch. I will also video it on DV to study later. I want to hear how the screenplay reads and sounds, make notes for changes and see how the actors are and how they interact with each other.

Since this is a 5-hander in a single location, it's relatively easy to stage, most likely sitting around a table.  I hope to do this before the end of October. 

Emperor of Mars - You know this project also, I'm starting to contact funding people for funding in summer 2011. This means phone calls and emails to anyone I think who can fund it or who knows someone who can fund it. Or might fund it. 

Annie's Calendars - My recently deceased mom left me a huge stack of calendars, the kind you get for free at drug stores or supermarkets. She would fill in each little box with a few words like "saw doctor" or "Jim called from Montana".

The calendars go back to 1971.

Annie dropped out in Grade 8 to work the farm, she didn't know about diaries; instead she used calendars. These are her diaries. And I am going to go through all of them to see if there's a book there. Response from my friends has been great, even from some of my former employers. But I will wait and see. 

Lewis and Clark today - I am totally obsessed with Lewis & Clark, who were the first Americans to travel across what would be the U.S. in 1803. And naturally it started with a movie I saw as a kid; The Far Horizon with Charlton Heston and Fred MacMurray.

I want to film a documentary that follows their route up the Missouri today and try to define how it and America has changed in the last 217 years. I was too late for their 200th anniversary but this will have to do.

Makichuk Lake - Yes, there actually is a Makichuk lake way up north in Manitoba, 15 miles north of a tiny Indian settlement called Brochet. Turns out one of my 2nd uncles died on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in 1944 and Canada names lakes after it's fallen soldiers. Most of these lakes, if not all, are in the far north, inaccessible to vehicles. You gotta fly in a float plane or ice roads. Seriously.

What I want to do it fly there and explore it, put up a "No Trespassing Sign" (joking!), and get a small container of water. Then I want to fly to France where he's buried and pour it on his grave. I don't quite know what it all means but documentaries are always vague at the beginning. I will interview his closer relatives and maybe it's about them, or me or all of us. 

Potential Director interest - I recently met a very nice director who has some interest in my scripts, we had a long discussion about what we've done and what we want to do and she is reading several of my screenplays with the intention of possibly setting them up somewhere. Unlike some people I've met in the last year, she strikes me as genuine and confident, traits I admire.

The projects I describe above are ones that some interest has been shown by legitimate entities as well as dream projects like Annie's Calendars and Lewis/Clark which I would fund myself. It helps I have connections and they go back to 1990 and without them I would be sitting around watching Jerry Springer or Judge Judy.

In addition I have a handful of producers who are desperate to find a project that someone would finance who show some of my 34scripts to a list of potential money that includes everyone from A-List to F-List. And  you never know who will come up with money.

All of this isn't about bragging; I am dead serious about developing new ideas every day, as you saw with the Christmas script in the last blog, half of selling a script is craft, the other half is luck. I, like other writers, am looking for a new job every day.
(Thurs: News about Casualties reading)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unemployment & writers

There's a lot of talk these days about unemployment, there's supposed to be an 11% unemployment rate in California and around 9% in the entire country. Experts also suggest that the conservative figures are more like 15% or higher. For a while Republicans held back from letting Unemployment Insurance benefits be released, mostly posturing and playing politics, but both parties do that so it doesn't really matter as it's the same game.

How does this affect the writers, and then actors and directors? Because after all they can't make a movie if they don't have a screenplay. It could be argued that even when they have a screenplay, it's  not that good anyways.

The WGA has supposedly 10,000 members, mostly in Los Angeles (WGA west) and New York (WGA east), and a few in the huge distance between the two cities. I say supposedly because it is increasingly difficult to get an accurate number.

You know how many of them are working?

Again, figures are hard to find and so there are basic estimates, the best one I've seen being that in any given quarter, there are around 1500 members working.

Fifteen hundred out of 10,000.

That gives us an unemployment rate of 85%.

This can be argued back and forth, but ultimately the truth is most WGA writers are out of work. It's one of the drawbacks when you have a few scripts you're trying to sell, or even get someone to look at them.

So what do we do when we're not being paid for working?

Some of us take other jobs; teaching writing classes at UCLA or other schools. UCLA advertises for writers in Written By, the guild magazine. You can buy it almost anywhere in LA. Others leave the business, their number filled up by new writers, some take any job they can find to pay the rent.

I've been a limo driver, a security guard, a newspaper subscription caller (I was the only one on that job that never sold a subscription. Not even one!). I've edited a travel guide of Las Vegas, did magazine articles for the Auto Club and even did medical reports for Workers Comp. I had to edit long testimonies and doctor's opinions. Actually it was sometimes a lot of fun.

Then there's writers who write spec scripts. This isn't something that all writers do, and it actually surprised me. I am extremely prolific at writing, I'm always writing something, a screenplay, an idea for one, an idea for a documentary, an idea for a pilot.

Since I have a background as a newscameraman, I make small documentaries which I shoot on digital and edit in Final Cut Pro, which took me 2 years to learn. But now I love that software and am currently editing a doc I shot with my deceased friend's son. It's about Highway 50 in Nevada, dubbed "the loneliest highway in America".

I love doing these docs because it's all in my hands, I don't argue with anyone about how it should be filmed or cut.

And I write specs somewhere in that collection of things I do to try to make a buck. But as I said, some writers don't do that. In fact some can't do it. I couldn't understand this at first but began to see what the problem was.

Alot of writers need to be hired in order to work. I know writers who couldn't write a spec if their life depended on it. And I don't think less of them anymore than they think less of me. There are a lot of us who do write specs that we hope someone will buy. I write at least 2 specs a year, full feature-length screenplays. Currently I have around 33 specs "on the shelf" as they say.

33 screenplays that are begging to be made.

So why haven't they been made yet? Simple enough.

I haven't found someone who likes one or more of them that wants to make them. They're not bad, they're just not what "they" are looking for. And I can't blame them. I always say they may not like my story, but they can't say my writing is bad.

The odds of getting someone to like your story is a combination of craft, timing and just plain old luck.

Take Christmas In Nowhere. I wrote it 4 years ago and it hung around ABC Family and Lifetime and Hallmark for that long. Oh, they all loved it, but they didn't want to make it. My old agent Frank used to say "I'd rather have you love Jim less and buy him more".

Guess what happened after 4 years?

They bought it. 

What did it take? What was the burning desire someone had to finally take the leap? Well, I asked the woman who pushed the project for Hallmark. Was it my great writing, or my track record, or my glowing personality?

No. It was none of them.

It was because the teen-age girl in my screenplay reminded her of her two daughters. 

That was all. Really. Okay, she did like the writing and they went with my draft of the screenplay with actors changing a line here and there. But it got made because the teen touched this producer's heart in a way only she could see.

And I look at it as pure luck. Sure the script was good enough to land on a stack of screenplays at Hallmark, but it was picked out of sheer luck.

And nobody can teach a writer that part.

Watch for it this Christmas.

(Mon: More movies)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meanwhile Shirley wins awards and travels the world with her latest Short Film 'Roxy'.

Those of who who started with this blog detailing the funding of Travel Day have often read about Shirley Petchprapa, the filmmaker and director who partnered with me on the project. We met when she was looking for screenplays and read one of mine, a drama called Secrets of the Salmon.

We almost instantly got along, the young, smart New Yorker and the Canadian writer and director. It wasn't long before we decided to make a feature film together with me producing one of my screenplays that she would direct.

One of the things that impressed me, besides her talent (and I rarely use that word) was that I don't know many filmmakers who can actually grind a lens, you know special glass and "sand" to make an optical lens. Shirley did that and she has designed and created several other camera accessories.

Shirley comes from Graphic Design and Art Directing eventually editing a documentary and producing, shooting and editing several documentary pieces as well as a narrative television short that was pitched to the SyFy channel in 2006.  It was around then that she decided to pursue filmmaking exclusively.

Earlier this year she received the Best Soundscape award for her short film 'Tuesday' ( from the Dresden Filmfest in Germany. She is currently traveling around the globe with her newest short, 'Roxy' (, which had it's World Premiere at the prestigious Festival del film Locarno in Switzerland. 'Roxy' is headed to the Mill Valley Film Festival in October as well as in competition at the Lucca Film Festival in Italy and the Marbella Film Festival in Spain. 

Iain Stott of 'The One-Line Review' says "There are echoes of J.D. Salinger’s A Perfect Day for Bananafish (1948) in Shirley Petchprapa’s intensely sensual and ethereally beautiful self-financed short film…" (Full review: You can also read some insights about her experience making 'Roxy'.

You can read some other recent press at the following:

Our first project was Travel Day and after a few disagreements, one of which I blogged about that nearly ended the project. Since TD went down (at least for now), we continued to talk about other projects.

We both come from different worlds and yet can agree on particular films and themes even though I'm a lot more commercial in the sense that I have done primarily TV movies and several of my screenplays are pretty offbeat and shall I say, artsy?

It wasn't long before we both agreed that The Last Station (previous title was slightly wrong) would be a good choice as I had done a workshop with it years ago and it got a glowing review at Sundance with the reader calling it a combination of Robert Altman, George Lucas and Horton Foote.

You don't get better than that.

We both agreed that the singular location would be greatly helpful in funding the project which will be dependent on cast; better actors cost more, although SAG has low budget programs that will definitely help us.

For now, I'm working on  both projects, Casualties of Love and Last Station to film in late fall or early winter.

So, for now, have a look at her short films and demo real ( and read the reviews on Roxy, all under Materials.

(Thurs: The Christmas Movie has wrapped)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Passion is HAUTE!

I absolutely love photography; it means “writing with light.” This photo captures the essence of who I am… I love it! It’s always interesting to me to learn a little about what a photographer sees when he or she captures your image. In this photo, I was completely natural, no makeup, sweating in the Curacao heat, all flaws exposed and my hair was a mess. But somehow my photographer captured something more. He saw something different as reflected in this shot. He said the light was hitting me well and became inspired by the idea of capturing his vision. Nothing here was rehearsed it was spur of the moment which generally reveals those raw moments that are haute. In my opinion, it’s the way that you capture life. There’s nothing more intoxicating.

What do you think about this shot by my celebrity photographer?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fashion Designer Mychael Knight's Haute New Dress!

Atlanta-based Fashion Designer Mychael Knight debuts Two², his haute new signature dress that can be worn four ways! I love designers who think about the everyday woman and her needs. After all, we can’t work an avant-garde look every day.

The former Bravo TV Project Runway standout and finalist from season three has always had a knack for understanding his clients’ needs. But this year, he decided to stitch something new. Knight wanted to experiment a little more. He admits that he needed a little “couture” cleansing allowing him to start fresh by stepping away from the Project Runway image with a blank slate.

“For four years, I’ve been thinking about a cool duality that’s chic and sophisticated,” explains Knight. So he designed a dress that allows for multiple fashion options. It’s Knight’s mark on the fashion world just like the wrap dress for Designer Diane von Furstenberg.

The Two² dress takes you from day to night… even to the pool. It comes in three color options, black/white, black/nude, black/red in sizes small to extra large in an easy jersey, lycra fabric. “There’s nothing more inspiring than designing around shapes and curves”, adds Knight. “I want women to be able to live in my clothes.”

Think about this… you’re a jet-setter; you arrive in Miami wearing the black and white dress. You dash off to lunch in your little white dress with the zipper in the back. Afterwards, it’s time for a little poolside relaxation, so you turn the dress to the front and unzip it with your swimsuit underneath. It’s now your cover-up. When it’s time to paint the town… switch it to basic black, change the neckline, flip it so now the zipper is in the back and add your bling! “I like to design for women who like to live life because they have their own vibe and movement.”

I predict fashionistas will quickly grab Knight’s new “It” dress because it’s travel-ready… one dress, four options for 24-hour HAUTEness!

Two² can be purchased online at for just $79.99!

Do you like dual function clothes?

A Shirley Project

I suppose, of all the things we remember, good or bad, we always seem
to keep those first times forever, whatever they may have been. For me,
it always comes back to the first time I ran away from home.
- Natalie in The Last Radio Station
 As many of you know, this blog began with the idea of me relating how I would develop and fund Travel Day, a screenplay I wrote several years ago, and to be directed by Shirley Petchprapa and produced by myself. 

However, after 8 months, a key figure in the financing in Canada basically disappeared. My contacts in Manitoba revealed that nobody has seen him for a while and while some rumors spread, nobody really knew where he was. And he wasn't just some hustler, he actually made several TV movies for American companies.

But wherever he was, he wasn't with us.

And by that time, it was too late to go to someone else as it was too late to fund TD as winter would be over and it was a winter shoot. In the interim, I blogged about my adventures working on a TV series that had problems of it's own.

So now Shirley and I are facing another winter and will discuss what we both would like to do. Besides Travel Day, I have another screenplay Shirley likes; it's called "The Last Radio Station" at the moment and is essentially a set piece, meaning one singular location.

The location is a truckstop somewhere in the middle of America (or Canada), once thriving but now off the main route due to an interstate freeway bypassing them. Only the locals continue to come by as well as some truckers and lost tourists. And in my story, a young girl who runs away from home, encouraged by a distant radio station.

There's also another element to the truckstop. 

It's got a DJ. You know, disc jockey. Not a VJ or Party mixer or loudmouth talkshow host. Instead it's a guy that time forgot, spinning music and stories to a distant audience with a transmitter that spreads a hundred miles across the flatlands of America. The radio station, the one the girl listens to sits atop the lonely truckstop with the DJ inside, known only as the "traveler".

There's two more issues; the radio station will soon be shut down and a mysterious stranger whose arrival will touch the lives of the half dozen people who will meet each other at this lonely outpost.

So from the producer's end, me that is, it's a project that's easier to fund because it is one location. This would most likely be a set designed in a studio that would include an exterior as well. Or it could be a real place as well. For now, we're keeping open to both choices as either could be viable and since I and 10 million others live at the edge of America's great desert, the Mojave, finding a place within a hundred miles is quite possible.

I'm meeting Shirley for lunch today and we will discuss which project we will do. More to come on this movie project.

(Mon: Emperor and other projects)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mocha Moon Introduces Haute Travel Bags!

A haute travel tote and makeup case by Mocha Moon makes travel easier. The croc embossed mocha colored Lori tote and Perez organizer with removable pouches is lightweight and holds all of your beauty essentials. It’s a chic alternative to the boring plastic sandwich bags that most people use to carry their makeup. Creator Lori Louis designed the functional travel bags to meet the needs of today’s travelista! “Our goal is to help you feel organized and empowered.”

I love the rich mocha color set that I won at a drawing on Sunday! And I can’t wait to put the bag to my travel test when I head back to Mexico for a yoga retreat at Ceibe del Mar in November. The bags also come in other colors so you can purchase one for all of your travel seasons!

To learn more about Mocha Moon visit

What do you think about Mocha Moon?

What’s HAUTE in my Travel Bag?

Going on a long road trip or just bouncing around town? Don’t forget to stay hydrated with a bottle of HINT water. The all natural, unsweetened essence water is perfect in helping you beat the heat. I recently checked into the Hyatt Regency in Louisville, Kentucky with a bottle of Hint water in my bag. Just a sip and you’ll stay hydrated without all the calories that come from sugar! I love the flavors… watermelon is my new fave!

To learn more visit or join them on Facebook at

Jet setting around the world can cause you to neglect your workout routine. But now you can take your daily workout on the road to get your haute body tight! I recently received a set of 3 DVD’s dubbed the Montenegro Method to help me stay physically active while on the go. All you need is 21 minutes to workout without leaving your hotel room for the gym so no equipment is needed. And the diet guide book with over 60 meal options is small enough to fit into your purse. So watch what you eat to stay fit!

What's in your travel bag that helps you stay fit and refreshed?

5th Street Cafe is HAUTE!

The haute new 5th Street Café opens in Atlanta’s chic Midtown. Traditional black and white French bistro décor with flashes of color, elegant crocodile, patent leather booths adorned with claw feet and new patio wows patrons who may shout ooOOh la la!

A.D. Allushi and Chef Ian Winslade, co-owners of ADI Restaurant Concepts, partnered with Atlanta Hawk Zaza Pachulia in converting ENO by Zaza into the European contemporary 5th Street Café. The group recently launched Buckhead Bottle Bar, located in the heart of Buckhead

For the menu, expect favorite bistro and café fare, such as a charcuterie plate of meats and cheeses, frisee salad with bacon, shallot vinaigrette and soft poached egg, potato gnocchi, basil butter and spring vegetables. The former wine shop and tasting room has been remodeled into a patisserie with fresh breads and pastries.

5th Street Café is a great spot to meet friends for a memorable evening out… I totally enjoyed girlfriend hour with my friend and fellow blogger Monique Steadman Eddleton. We had a blast! So Chic, so Haute!

To learn more visit

Will you check out 5th Street Cafe?

Begin all over

I've almost returned to normal life, or at least however normal it is to struggle to find money for movies with constant rejection. But actors get more rejection so onward I go.

As of now I have 4 projects I would like to get made in the next twelve months. They are:

1. The Casualties of Love.
2. A Shirley project.
3. Emperor of Mars.
4. The Christmas movie(which is presently optioned by a company)

Lets begin with The Casualties of Love. This is a play I wrote years ago and focuses on 3 friends approaching 40 who, as teens, had a rock band called, appropriately, The Casualties of Love. They team together to kidnap a fading rock star who has announced he will sell his music rights to an advertising agency. The three hope to convince the rock star to not sell out.

However it isn't quite that easy as they have seriously broken the law and slowly their plan unravels with their own selling out to life. And at that point a 17-year old girl appears to complicate their plan.

This film is a 5-hander, as they say in theater, meaning it's basically 5 people talking. Which means one location, which means less expensive, which means bare-bones budget. I think I can do it for $5000.

Who wants to see 5 people talking for 90 minutes?

Maybe nobody, maybe a few of my friends, maybe a few strangers. This is entirely a "labor of love". Well, maybe not totally, but I haven't directed in years and this will show me if the chops are still there.

Is it possible to make a film this cheaply. I refer you to past blogs about my friend Randy Gifford who made 2 movies for $10,000. And you can visit his website if you don't believe it can be done, it's

He managed to get a studio for very little if any money, got a designer to design two different sets, one a coffee house and the other a cafe. And the actors worked for free.

The gear needed was an HD camera, soundman and editing facility as well as lighting. These he got at bargain rates begging poverty and since there's not as many movies being made these days, not difficult to negotiate. Better to rent a few HMI lights for a little money than having them stacked in a warehouse.

Randy bought an HD camera and then persuaded an editor to edit both films. After the movie was finished, he sold the camera to pay for editing expenses. Eventually it cost a little more, but not much.

Now, where do I start? 

First thing is a rewrite, which I did a few months ago, making it a little more cinematic than the play was. Now I need to find some actors to workshop the script. This means sitting around a table, reading and acting out the parts while I watch and suggest things as well as finding new lines of dialog or spotting slow parts in the story as well as new scenes to add.

This can take place over a day or two, maybe more and costs are limited to coffee and some snacks. A small theater space is best for this, rather than at home, as it's a neutral ground and more democratic in it's ambience and tone.

The project came about when I did a documentary about 4 friends who had a reunion of their rock band which was went 34 years. Seeing them back together with all the baggage those years brought was not only fascinating  but funny, sad and complex. And I wanted to capture all those moments. I decided to make my rocker band a little younger but might reconsider as the readings will give me more insight into the story.

It's also heavily influenced by John Casavettes, one of my favorite directors, who was the father of independent films with movies like Shadows and especially Husbands, about 3 husbands who go on a drunk after their 4th friend dies at 40. 

Yes, it wasn't an original idea of mine. 

But you know what, everyone is influenced by something or some one, the idea of an original story is impossible, it's all been done. And not by us. 

By the Greeks. 

They had it figured out; betrayal, sex, love, anger and death. And when they couldn't find a new way to tell a story, they threw in gods. Zeus and those other guys.

But what makes Casualties mine, is that it's based on my friends, maybe a little on me, I was in several hopeful bands in my day as well. So maybe the template is Casavettes Husbands film, mine will be mine.

We'll follow Casualties (or, if you want to be trendy, C.O.L.) first, but before that I'll give you more details on the other two projects.

(Thurs: The Shirley project)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chanel Re-Opens Haute SoHo Boutique!

Chanel re-opens Soho boutique with a little more edge. The luxury brand has celebs and non-celebs flocking to its new store. There’s a new graffiti wall with Chanel spray paint and ten-foot high Chanel No. 5 bottle streaming the latest Paris runway footage that lets you know Coco is still in the house!

Haute handbags and dreamy lambskin makes this handbag bar second to none. There’s even an exclusive line of bags with a ‘Chanel Soho 2010’ engraved plaque. But don’t forget the shoes… the 2010 fall collection is out!

Personally, I can’t wait to view the J12 watch collection… still love mine! Looks like the first stop on my New York City tour will be in Soho.

Will you visit the new Chanel Boutique in Soho?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back to L.A.

Finally made it back to LA, one 13 hour drive from Chehalis, Oregon all the way through California and made it to go0d old Sherman Oaks by 8pm. It's time to start over, my mom has gone, I met a lot of old friends and made some new ones on my 8000 mile journey (yes, 8000 miles on the old Explorer), saw sadness, joy, cynicism, hope and so much more. A life-affirming voyage.

But what's that got to do with movies?


My life blood since I was 8 years old and able to walk two blocks to the movie theater in my little village of 500 people. Starting Monday I will get back to what I do best (besides epic roadtrips), and that is not only writing about movies, but beginning the impossible task of trying to make at least two in the next year, one maybe as early as October.

Then there's the Christmas movie.

I won't be making it, but I did write it and I think it begins production sometime soon.

So I hope all of you will join me yet once again on this journey of discovery as ScreenWriter magazine described; "each excruciating step."

We begin Monday.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Idris Elba Interviews Haute Travels in Curacao

What happens when a chance meeting turns into a really cool conversation with one of the stars from the biggest movie out right now, Takers? Something HAUTE… that’s why when I got the chance to meet Idris Elba, I really wanted to know how travel inspires him, but he wanted to interview me. I’m thinking to myself, “Why” I’m not that interesting.

So I sat there trying to keep it together as he asked me questions about my career and beyond all without a shirt on with just a pair of shorts and that British accent that’s so HAUTE. But I got through it and thought… there’s still a story here after all. I just didn’t recognize it.

Imagine sitting on a beautiful stretch of beach in one of the prettiest places on earth, Curacao, talking to “Driis” as his friends call him and not having seen his new movie or the television series, The Wire! Lol However, in my defense, I planned to see Takers this week! Fortunately, he didn’t seem to hold that against me and instead decided that he wanted to know more about this southern girl from Atlanta who knew absolutely nothing about all the things that made him famous. In fact, he seemed to like it. I was honest about it. And he may have even been intrigued by that. But from my perspective, it made him a person to me and not a celebrity. So in that unguarded moment, I was candid with him.

Here are 5 questions that Idris Elba asked before he went for a swim in the ocean... leaving me thinking, wow, he really got me with the role reversal!

Idris: Why did you move back to Atlanta?

Answer: So that I could spend more time with my parents who missed me while I lived in Chicago for so many years. Now they’re older.

Idris: What’s your favorite city to travel to?

Answer: Paris, it’s the place where I feel the most creative and free

Idris: Do you always poke your lip out when you think no one is watching?

Answer: I don’t… but he said “Yes, you do. I saw you do it.” Lol Of course, I kept denying it!

Idris: What makes you happy?

Answer: Helping people who want to write about travel… find their passion and follow their dream. At the end of the day, I’m also a story teller. So I help people lay the blueprint for creating their own script about their lives. 

Idris: What’s your real age?
Answer: ??… but he says, “No Way!” Yes, really.

Thanks Mr. Elba for flipping the script and giving me a story that I never expected. You just never know how chance encounters offer an opportunity for introspection in those spare moments (that we rarely have time for) allowing someone to see inside your soul. By changing things up, I got to learn a lot more about you than I could have ever imagined.

What do you think about Idris' role reversal interview?