Monday, April 30, 2012

So my movie is finally re-released, eh?

Yes, finally after all my blogs talking about Ghostkeeper, the feature film has been re-released after nearly 32 years.

It happened somewhere in the night, in the rain-drenched streets of Seattle where two brothers run 2 distribution companies. My guy, Bill, was the one who discovered 2 fairly good 35mm prints of Ghostkeeper in a film storage place in NYC.

Ghostkeeper as most of you who read the blog know of, was my first feature film. In 1980 I wrote and directed it and the film was done under my company, Badland Pictures. In the last 5 years a somewhat dubious cult following began; some people liked it, some didn't and some didn't understand it.

So what goes on now?

Well, to try to sell as many copies as is possible. Since this isn't Avatar, the distribs went with a run of around 500 dvds, to be sold "direct" from their website called Code Red. They're known for horror pics and they added mine to the catalog.

DVD's now are somewhat at the edge of the cliff, streaming has gained tremendously and many industry people think dvds might last another 2 years or so. Same goes for Blue-Ray which is just a more expensive dvd. It'll hang around for a bit more, but technology will soon make it as useful as a VHS cassette.

In the meantime, Blu-Ray can play standard DVDs so no need to upgrade movies. Ironically Blu-Ray failed to take off as much as the studios wanted. I think consumers got tired of having to renew movies from VHS to DVD and now to Blu-Ray. Most people I know don't really care about that extra quality. Hell, I don't.

Ghostkeeper is coming out on DVD and that's it.

If they sell 500, that'll pay off their investment and I might get a few bucks from it.  I don't really know what the costs were, nobody ever knows that but I assume around $3000. Those costs consisted of paying the storage fees, then making a copy on Digi-Beta which is an industry standard digital file.

It's used as a "Master", and it allows copying to DVD or any other format. This way the actual 35mm print doesn't have to be run through the scanners anymore than they have to. Film scratches easily.

We did a commentary on it, Riva Spier, the lead, Murray Ord, the male lead and me. I'd never done one before but it went okay. We sat in a music studio of Pico Blvd, in a big house that used to be a Korean brothel.

Yes, I began getting ideas for a movie; Revenge of the Hookers? Hooker Zombies? The mind reels.

All three of us enjoyed seeing each other after just over 30 years and surprisingly remembered a lot about the filming.

But the real treat was Georgie Collins, now 86, who played the "crazy old lady", her interview is also on the Ghostkeeper dvd. She is sharp as a tack and has great stories.

I also edited and included a short interview with John Holbrook, the cameraman who was the DP who filmed it.

So what does any of this matter? In the big scheme, nothing. Just another movie that, 5 billion years from now, will be destroyed with everything else.

But in the meantime, I'll enjoy a little attention from the fans who liked it and those who didn't. And everybody likes a little attention now and then.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Respect Part2

There's another joke that circulates among writers, it goes like this:

Why don't directors like writers on the set? Because writers are the only ones who know the director is faking.

A new director I met once asked if it was necessary to have the writer on the film set. The answer to that depends on the director. Good directors usually might ask the writer on the set, insecure directors won't. But again, no real rules.

But the fact that the director asked me that question is it's own answer. If you're asking you really have the answer and it's a big "NO".

I've been "on the set" for a dozen movies and in all cases was at the request not of the director but the producer. I traveled to Luxembourg to work on two movies, originally written by other writers, then to Manitoba to work on three movies, two of which were mine and then to Puerto Vallarta for another writer's script, all in one year.

Since these were TV movies (MOW's) the producer had more power over the director. This is in contrast to a few other movies I wrote where I didn't show up, usually because they really didn't need me. My last movie, Town That Christmas Forgot, was filmed in Hamilton, Ontario and I stayed in LA.

To be honest, I really don't like to go on set for movies because, frankly, it's boring as hell. I find myself hanging around the craft service table eating donuts and talking to production assistants. Some crew members ask why I even show up, after all, the script has been written.

That's the issue for some jobs; rewrites. They can be good or they can be hell, depending on who you're working with. Sometimes it's the producer, sometimes the director, and some times the star who might have some power.

And a lot of people not in the "business" wonder what writers do at all. I really believe most people think the actors make up the words. Every year when the oscars are announced, the media afterwards mention the actors and directors.

Never the writers.

How's that feel for being insecure. Hey, we're over here. We're part of the movie too. In fact there wouldn't be a movie without us.

Regardless, movies are mostly a director's medium. But TV is the writer's medium and this is where we strike back.

Because episodic TV has to have new shows every week, writers learned fast that nobody can do anything without a script. And because writers stay on the shows and write new episodes every week, it's the directors who come and go. They're often referred to as "traffic cops", they show up, they say a few "action's" and they leave.

But the writers stay. Without them there's no show next week.

When you watch the credits on TV shows, you'll notice, at the beginning of course (nobody wants tail credits, the ones that fly past at the end of the show), show producers and executive producers.

The truth is almost all of them are writers. I've seen as many as 15 "producers" in the first few minutes of a TV show but they're not producers in the sense that they sign paychecks.

And when the Emmys are broadcast, you always hear the actors thank the writers.

But when it comes to respect, this is my take on it.

I don't really care if they (producers and actors and network execs) respect me or not, just pay me. I've written great scripts, good scripts, okay scripts  and sometimes not great scripts and the better the producer, the better the writing goes.

A good producer will recognize the writer's value and will give good notes and suggestions. A bad producer will make your life a living hell.

A writer friend of mine who passed away a few years ago was always quick to tell me to demand respect.  He would challenge anyone on the set who dared to even ask about what writers do. It was always a little too far for me, but he demanded respect.

But again, respect is what you create, not what anyone else thinks. Maybe it comes with confidence, maybe some of it is built into some of us and not in others.

But even then, if I happen to walk onto the set of a movie I may have written, someone will undoubtedly ask...

"So why are you here?"

I usually say "for the donuts".

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Phillip Island (& koalas!)

Before heading into Melbourne, we stopped by Phillip Island, which is just full of nature parks and things to see and do outdoors. 

First things first-- we needed to see some koalas before leaving Australia. So we went to the Koala Conservation Centre, where we saw plenty of koalas (and other animals) in their natural habitat. 

Koalas were really hard to find because they curl up into a ball high up in a tree and don't move for hours. It was a fun game seeing who could spot the koala first. We learned that koalas eat up to 1 kilogram of leaves per day, which doesn't provide much energy, so they spend 20 hours a day sleeping and resting! 

Someone looks sad, but he's just sleeping.

The staff in the park place signs near each koala because they are so hard to see in the trees!

Australia has some crazy looking birds! Our birds back home are so ordinary in comparison.

When seen close up, koalas are much bigger than I expected!

Can you spot the koala in this photo?

Strangely enough, the wallabies provided more action than the koalas at the Koala Centre. 

Koalas climbing... a rare sight.

Echidnas move through the undergrowth looking for ants.

Next, we went to the Nobbies Centre, which sits on a cliff overlooking the waters of Bass Straight. Here we saw Australian Fur Seals (from a distance) and a baby penguin hiding under one of the bridges. There is a boardwalk that winds through the lush green cliff, and offers views of the famous blow hole. Bass Straight is the site of many shipwrecks, due to "the rip" (a stretch of turbulent waters) and heavy fog caused by the mixture of warm and cool water. 

The "blow hole" is a sea cave that explodes with water when the turbulent water rushes in and sprays out. 

Dinner in an empty parking sitting on a cliff above the water. This is it... last meal cooked on our little stove.

There's a "Penguin Parade" that I would have loved to see on Phillip Island, but it wasn't cheap (and we are), so we skipped it. 

There was so much nature and wildlife to experience in Australia. Those Aussies are big on wildlife  conservation and environmental love. We loved them for it. 

- Julia

Monday, April 23, 2012

Aussie Road Trip -- Last Campground

We couldn't have picked a better place to spend our last night on the road. Wilson's Promontory is a national park that juts out onto the water and has abundant campgrounds, beaches, and wildlife. 

Yuriy prepared the salmon for dinner that we got from some fishermen in Eden, using spices we'd carried for several months all the way from Turkey. After dinner, we followed a trail from our camping spot, which led us to a stunning beach and a breathtaking sunset over the water. The world is so big, and God didn't overlook a single spot of it... but especially not Australia. We obviously can't stop posting scenery photos from our trip along the coast


- Julia
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