Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Havana, Cuba IV

The buildings in Cuba made me really sad. Thanks to it's diverse past and colonization, Cuba has some incredible Spanish and French inspired buildings. They are even better because of their wonderful pastel colors baked by the sun. However, a good number of the buildings are crumbling and on their way out. Along the Malecón, a popular roadway by the water, the buildings are in the worst shape, tortured by the wind and salty air coming from the sea. It's awful that these gorgeous buildings with a perfect perch on the coast are abandoned and sitting empty, some with collapsed roofs and weeds sprouting from the cracks. Most are unsafe to enter and fenced off, but you can see graffiti and trash through the empty door and window frames. These devastated buildings have so much embellishment and detail in the facades, columns, and windows... it's impossible not to imagine the city in it's  glittering glory days of decades past and feel blue.

The home we stayed at was on the Malecón (one of the few inhabited), which stretches for 8 km along Havana's coast and is a lovely place to take a stroll. In the evening, the wall is covered with fishermen and couples kissing in the setting sun. I woke up before sunrise one morning, and experienced a nearly deserted and peaceful Malecón, except for the crashing waves on the seawall. It is such a landmark in Havana.

As tourism has picked up, the Cuban government has started restoring key buildings in the city, but they've got a long way to go, and so many homes won't make it. 

- Julia



Monday, January 28, 2013

And I'd like to thank...



 Another "aren't we wonderful" awards show is over and only the big one left on Sunday, February 24th. I dvr'd it so I could catch the awards I wanted to see, mainly best actor, best supporting actors (male and female) as they like to say. Goes back to Shakespeare's day when all actors were male.

With all the thanking going on it made me think about me. Well, actually me as in "writer".  We're a little more different than any other person in the movie business.

We work alone. 

Nobody to cheer us on, no group hugs, no nothing. Just a white screen in front of us waiting for our brilliant (or not so brilliant) words to be invented. I always thought that if I ever win anything I would simply say this:

"I'd like to thank somebody but actually I did it all by myself"

And writers do it by themselves. Sure, we might have a producer harassing us, or the occasional actor asking for more great lines, but generally we are alone in a room. Not counting those who "write" at Starbucks, we call that performance art.

So what happens when writers win. They thank their producer, not for his help but rather to have hired us. And we thank the actors of course, for not screwing it up too  much, and finally we thank our spouses and families and hope they won't complain if our next five screenplays don't sell.

But you can bet at the bottom of all this, we know that nobody would have had a job if it weren't for us. You can't make a movie without a story. So how do we have awards shows. Well, it's usually in a tent or hall somewhere and not covered by TV cameras because, after all, we're just the writers.

We're not like those scam Golden Globes which consist of around 75 foreign critics who sell their words to studios who give them freebies and trips. And we're not actors who get to dress up pretty and think the world revolves around them.

Am I bitter? Naw... here's why. I get to make the movie first.

About fifteen years ago I was working on a TV series in Vancouver as a writer/senior story editor. I had written an episode that started like this; 
 

EXT. CHINATOWN - NIGHT

Neon lights reflect on the wet dark streets of Chinatown as a soft rain mists across the steam rising from sidewalk grates. A man steps into streetlight, lost and disheveled… a desperate character.

Okay, so that’s the first scene in the screenplay I wrote. As I stood there I watched a crew of about forty people working in the rain, setting up lights, moving cars, putting up traffic signs, raising rain tents. Gaffers ran past me and actors were led to their trailers. Then an A.D. I knew walked up and looked at the street with all the busy crewmembers and then turned to me and grinned;

 “It’s all for you Jim.”

At that moment, he said what I already knew, all I did was write a handful of words and now a made-up shining city was coming to life and getting ready to make my dream come true.
Nobody can take that away from me.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Win It

screenshot from Scout.

If you don't have a calendar yet, head over to Scout blog this week where you can win a calendar or any print from our shop!

And while you're there, sit down with a cup of tea and dig into Jenn's beautiful travel posts. She recently shared photos from a trip to Italy! Sorrento, Capri, Positano.... it's a dream.

I've been in deep with work and my studies, but I promise to share more photos from Cuba here next week!

- Julia



Monday, January 21, 2013

A Tale of Two Movies




 I recently saw both Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, both of which deal with  true  stories. Of the two, Zero is a much better movie in terms of filmmaking. However the politics of each movie are quite different.

And it could cost one of them an oscar.

Argo is based, very loosely, on the 1979 Iranian revolt which resulted in the American embassy being attacked and over 50 Americans taken hostage. Six however escaped to the Canadian Embassy. A CIA agent came up with a plan to pose as a Canadian film producer and rescued the 6 who were with the Canadian ambassador.

The truth, from a Canadian angle, is that most of the movie was made up. In fact if you look at wickipedia and other sources, they all agree. Some of the characters are made up and much of what happens in the movie -- didn't happen. The ending in particular wherein Iranian police race to catch the 6 was complete fiction. All 6 left Iran (posing as Canadians) without incident.

In my mind, it's not a bad movie but I don't think it deserved so many awards and nominations.

But let's look at Zero Dark Thirty which also is based on a true story  -- how they found Osama bin Laden. This film is based on much detail and reality, far more than Argo would even begin with. It follows one woman (who was/is real) as she put together pieces of the puzzle with others through the use of torture and many other methods. It's a strong movie and not for the weak-minded.

However controversy hit the movie just as it opened. Washington people including  Sentators John McLain, Dianne Feinstein and others slammed it on the grounds that America did not torture anyone.This followed others to condemn the movie.

However, Zero was far more researched than most films and the writer never backed off what he had accumulated from the CIA and other sources.

When the nominations for the Academy Awards came up, Argo got more nominations than Zero.

So what's the reason;

Rumours suggest that Warners want Ben to be the new Clint Eastwood, who's now aging and ready to quit being the best actor/director around. And certainly most actors would vote for Ben as he's "one of us"Ben was not voted for Best Director however.

But neither was Zero. Katherine Bigelow, in my mind is a great director while Ben is a "working director" and really won't ever be great. Bigelow learned a lot from former husband James Cameron of Avatar, Terminator and Titanic.

It also shows another issue;  John Ford, a 6-times oscar winner said, in the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance  "When fact becomes legend, print the legend." 

Americans like heroic stories and Argo is that, you walk out of the theater happy that America won. However Zero is more complicated; they get bin Laden but also in the process it deals with much more complicated issues, right and wrong and somewhere in between heroic and uncertainty. At the end, it offers no real answers and I guess some people didn't like that. 

It's also odd that while both movies are nominated, the two directors were "snubbed" as they say in Hollywood.

Bottom line it becomes a choice between a movie about choices and consequences and a movie about a happy ending.

In the words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men: " You want the truth... you can't handle the truth". 

Haute Nail Colors By L'Oreal Paris!

It may not be spring just yet, but my nails are popping with a haute pink hue thanks to L'Oreal Paris! This new Members Only color from the L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche Nail Trend Setter Collection has six new shades. It was inspired by exotic flowers and bold hues of the "Le Nouveau Riche" collection. The color choices range from lime green to haute pink! The color riche nail polish can last up to ten days with maximum coverage!



Which color will you wear?



Monday, January 14, 2013

A Clear Precedent




There was a good piece in Sunday's LA Times newspaper this weekend referring to what the movie studios are looking for in the way of movies for this year and probably for many more. There's also some insight into who pays for those movies.

I'm borrowing from the article and adding my own thoughts about the subject.

What they're talking about are the Oscar contenders, or in other words, those artsy movies that most people don't really go to. If you look at some of this year's bunch, there's Zero Dark Thirty (my favorite), Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Miserables, Django and Lincoln.

What these movies also have is a common thread; they were all done without studio money. Even Lincoln, a Spielberg movie, was financed outside of the studio. What's the reason? Because studios only want to make movies that "don't have a clear precedent".  So what's that mean?

It means that they want movies that have a recognizability to them. And what does that mean?

It means this for example ; Some years ago Tim Burton made Alice in Wonderland. It did big business, a lot of money. The studios saw gold. Not in Alice, but in every kind of fairy tale that they could find. 

Thus they made Little Red Riding Hood, twice actually, different actors. Followed by Abraham Lincoln/Vampire Killer, Hansel and Gretel/Witch Hunters and soon to come Jack the Giant Killer. And at least a handful of others to come.

That's the precedent, or in other words, the motivation as to what movies to make. 

And the problem with the movies mentioned above are traveling solo, they have no precedent, no history or familiarity, except for Les Miserables. The movie was based on the play which was based on the book by Victor Hugo in 1862.

And besides the fairy tale movies, we have a new Die Hard movie, another Arnold movie, The Last Stand and a handful of sequels including the Lone Ranger. The Avengers made tons of money. The studios aren't taking any chances with original material for the most part. But the studios still make money on these originals, although not as much.

For example, Lincoln, financed separately gave distribution rights to Disney and of the $150 million it's made, Disney gets around $10 million and Spielberg and his partners get the rest. Same with the other original movies above.

Same as Zero Dark Thirty which was made for $40 million, much lower than the big studio movies. A remake of The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp is budgeted at $220 million. For a western?

But sometimes the studio movies crash and burn and make nothing. Take Battleship and John Carter. Remember them. Huge budgets and tiny earnings. 

What it means, is that original movies, of which the studios have made over the years, are slowly losing ground and that means less of them. On the other hand it means more sequels and movies based on fairy tales. So if you're a writer, I suggest you begin looking at any fairy tales that haven't been used yet.

And there's hundreds of those.

I have a few more words on Zero Dark Thirty, which I felt was the best movie, having not yet seen Lincoln.  Later this week. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

The CoFi Case Keeps Your iPad Haute!

When it comes to accessories that keep your iPad, tablets and other electronic devices warm during the winter months, there’s nothing like a Cofi case. The genuine leather case is perfect for your Kindle Fire, Nook or iPad. It’s haute and stylish with a “faux” shearling liner to keep your device protected while you’re mobile or simply storing it.


It’s also great for the world traveler who finds himself or herself jetting through airports with technology in hand. The case accommodates nine to ten inch screens… and secures your device with a zipper to close. The leather exterior comes in a number of options to keep you stylish no matter where you are in the world!

I received the Antique Silver Croco Case for my new mini iPad as a gift to test out! I found this case to be different from most because the “faux” shearling-style fabric really helps protect my iPad and Kindle Fire, unlike most other cases that simply cover your product.

To learn more, simply visit http://store.coficase.com/silver-croco-cofi-case/

The Jinx


Beginning of a new year brings the apprehension of many writers. What's gonna happen this year, will I work, will I end up on the street and a hundred other things that can happen to those who don't have a regular job. I look for work every day, that's the difference between me and the people who drive to work every day.

And then there's the jinx, or bad luck.

It's bad luck to count on projects that might never happen. A lot of writers won't even tell you they might have a job for fear of it going away. But it seems they go away anyways. So I'm going to tell you what is lurking out there for me.

Putting aside my screenwriting book which will be published in a few weeks and continuing to fund Ghostkeeper 2, there were three different projects that arrived in the early days of January 2013.

First, someone is reading my submarine screenplay. It's been optioned a few times but never made. Secondly there's the potential of a sequel to my Christmas movie which I felt was always there. And thirdly there is a strong chance that my lost airplane screenplay might get made.When I say, maybe, might, could etc, it means someone at this very moment is reading and/or deciding if they can make the movie. This year. Soon!!

As I mentioned at the beginning, many writers won't say what they're doing, nor that they have people looking at their material. I have a habit of openly answering that question if anyone asks.

In September of 2012, I signed a contract for Chaser, the movie that was optioned by a French company and whom will make the film hopefully this year. Not bad for an old guy.

As far as the potential for the other three screenplays, nobody knows. I often start off with a handful of projects that slip away by June.

How does anyone manage to live with those odds, mostly against me? 

It's freelancing. Never a guarantee that anything of mine will be sold let alone read and optioned.

I worked in an office once and lasted less than 3 weeks. 

But I'm not entirely alone on these projects I mention; in fact each of them came from a producer who would like to see the movie get made mostly because they also need a job. Like my friend says, what you need in this business is a guy with quarters and a rolodex.

True, that's analog thinking, but substitute the quarters for a smartphone which also now doubles as a rolodex and voila... someone as hungry or hungrier than me.

So don't worry about me, I'm not alone in my quest to sell my screenplays. I have around 39 screenplays on the shelf (or is it the "hard drive).

And the rest of the year to sell at least one. Or two. Or maybe even three.