Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On No, Mobsters and Rampaging Elephants

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

Amusing Chefs
That is, I managed to amuse the chefs who work for Jamie Oliver. Those of you who read last week’s blog know of my misadventures with a mutant blob of pizza dough. Late one night while still punchy from lack of sleep, I sent a note to Mr. Oliver via his website about how I enjoyed the wacky experience and the pizzas it produced. They kindly responded with some advice to avoid having dough that grows exponentially. I then sent them the photo of the dough in question. They found it quite hilarious. I always enjoy it when my cooking brings happiness – even if it’s just hearty laughter.

Avoiding the Word No
Jon and I were told this about casting actors. You look for reasons to say no in order to quickly pare down the number of submissions. These are not random choices. They are obvious: too short, too tall, too young, too old, wrong body type, wrong ethnic type, etc. That way you aren’t seeing hundreds of people for one role. You’re just seeing dozens. That can make for a really long day, believe me. At any rate, the same applies for pitching novels or scripts. The initial reader is always looking for a reason to say no. For written materials, like novels, it’s a longer process. In General, one can’t just glance at a page and toss it aside. It’s happened, but usually, a few pages have to be read to make a decision. The initial no is usually because the material doesn’t fit the publishing company (Sybaritic Press does not do young adult stories, especially no young adult erotic, but we get a lot of submissions for it). If the query letter is bad (poorly written or too pushy or too pleading), I’ll say no without reading the material. Experience has taught us that bad query letters equate to a bad experience with a potential author. With scripts, the cover letter can kill a pitch as well. Beyond that, sending the wrong type of script to a producer gets nowhere fast (Jerry Bruckheimer is not likely to read a drawing room farce) and it is pointless to send the Sci- Fi Channel a historical romance unless one of the couple is an alien or a vampire (preferably both). Sounds logical, but it happens all the time. Some writers will not only send the wrong material to a producer or network, they will argue that these are the kind of scripts that they should be producing. Boy, that would make me want to spend lots of money and time working with that writer. HA!

Beyond avoiding the initial no, there are other reasons to reject a pitch. Most come down to money. How expensive will it be? Can it find an audience to make back the cost plus a profit. In the case of a TV series, does it have a large enough, sustainable audience to make a profit? For a long time, Jon and I had problems getting past the second hurdle in a pitch. We didn’t know enough about the practical aspect of making films to convincingly speak about costs. It wasn’t until after we’d made Demon Under Glass that I learned how to schedule and budget a film based solely on a script. Making a film and developing the many project we have started since then has taught us a lot about what things really cost. We’ve worked with professionals who know how to creatively keep costs down and maintain the right production values on screen. But even that may not be enough. When making a pitch, it helps to know what kind of money a producer has spent on similar projects. It is most prudent to be very close to that same budget. That’s never easy. Budget info is still really hard to come by despite pay services like imdbpro. Casting directors often know budgets because they need to know what they can offer talent. We cultivated a great relationship with a casting director who often advises us. A lot of research is done before writing the pitch. Then, you have to find the right words to get them to schedule a second meeting.

This has been what I’ve been up to for a couple of weeks while Jon re-writes a romantic comedy that’s up for funding. I’m keeping notes on that process that I’ll share in a blog when I’m allowed to discuss it. That’s called ‘How to Avoid Throttling the Director.’

I’ve finished the Onesheet for Blood Oath (the Soldiers live action pitch). I’m very happy to have the support of a gay publisher of Yaoi in the US. Hopefully, he will bolster our contention that there is a niche of avid fans out there for this sort of show. I’ll post the text for the onesheet and the treatment later today. The artwork is still in the works.

My Life in Film and The Godfather
Warning: Seemingly pointless rambling mixed in with necessary ramblings to follow.

I’m not saying that my life is literally like being involved with mobsters. Though I’ve had glancing relationships through various friends connected to associates. Of course, Craig would be one of them. My favorite work conversations with him invariably involved mobsters. There’s nothing like a co-worker’s expression when they hear: You should never ask why he’s called Thumbs, because he’ll show you the whole collection of them. Or They whacked their own Don without permission when they found out he was gay. They thought the Gambinos would kill them all. Incidentally, that New Jersey Family is widely believed to be the basis for the Sopranos. Puts a whole new spin on Tony, eh? I’ve had my own strange conversations with friends over mobsters. Such sentences as No, Gideon, not everyone was a bagman in high school. And to his father: You took Skinny Joey Merlino and his friends to Fellini films? Seems, he was trying to teach them some culture.

No, it’s not literal involvement with mobsters -- just that some of the conversations I’ve had about mounting films remind me of a particular scene from The Godfather (if you have never seen it, you should. If you have, watch it again). The scene is when Michael Corelone is talking to his father in the vegetable garden. Vito (Marlon Brando) explains that after his death, a trusted friend will come to Michael with an important meeting. At the meeting, he will be assassinated. It’s said in a very casual tone. Our favorite film advisors often speaks to us in such terms when outlining all the possible disasters that will befall us on any given film. He’s never said that we’d be assassinated, but given that he has said things like but the Burmese army took a detour to find the runaway monks, so it all worked out, or when you get a rampaging elephant, make sure to get a second unit on it for footage, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. The current list of potential disasters makes me wonder anew at the theory that working in the field you love is joyful stress. Meanwhile, one of my production partners keeps saying, after we begin development, I’ll settle a lot of relationships. Of course, what I hear is: After the baptism, I’ll settle all family business. That makes a person with my twisted imagination very careful to stay on his good side.

I must get back to work. There are a lot of beautiful, naked men to look at on screen. Hey, it really is work. I have to check out the shows on our pitch network. Jon and our partner have pointedly told me they weren’t interested. Sigh. It’s all up to me.

Stay tuned. A whole lot of things are influx. I should be able to talk about them soon.

No comments: