September 16, 2004

LA Wrap Up

The LA Shorts Fest ended on a rather sour note. The closing ceremonies and awards presentation was on Monday night. The high point of the festival had been the opening night ceremonies and after party to which all filmmakers were, understandably, granted free access. So we were looking forward to the wrap up, but as director Harper Philbin and I approached the ticket counter minutes before the finale was about to commence we were told we'd each have to pay $25US. Harper flashed his filmmaker badge at the hapless ticket person to no avail. Outside the theater we cornered one of the harried festival organizers -- who was already fielding protests from several other filmmakers, one who had come all the way from France -- who stood fast and proffered pitiful excuses about being a non-profit organization and various other nonsense. None of which got us into the show. The idea of paying to attend one's own awards ceremony was so outrageous we lit out of there leaving the festival behind in a wake of vitriol.

You might think that this all seems a little harsh, after all it's only twenty-five bucks, but this was the proverbial last straw. The entire festival was marred by inexcusable projection problems and opportunistic festival organizers who wouldn't lift a finger for the filmmakers they were supposedly hosting, choosing instead to make money off of us who had come from far and wide for the pleasure of seeing our films on the big screen in Hollywood. Case in point: If you attended a regular movie at the ArcLight Cinema you could park for free, if, however, you were there as a filmmaker you were given a 'Special Rate' on parking of $2.50. Again, a small thing that became irksome when combined with horrible projection, outlandish screening fees and complete absence of services of any kind for 'guest' filmmakers. I overheard one female documentary director saying: "I will make it my life's work to make sure no one ever enters this festival again!"

So, needless to say, we still don't know whether our film, Flickering Blue, won an award or not.

Having said all that, my week in Los Angeles was fabulous due to the many wonderful, generous people I had the honor of meeting and spending time with, the magnanimous Jimmy Karen foremost among them. He took good care of me, treated me to lunch in his favourite haunts, introduced me to all of his buddies and had me up to his house for drinks before taking me onto the Paramount lot as his guest for the advanced screening of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He even drove me around town in his cherry-red '67 Mustang convertible.

Flickering Blue's director, and my friend, Harper Philbin is a former Angelino, and he and his old pal Bruce, a professional colourist from LA who lent his skills to our film, introduced me to sushi in a little out-of-the-way place that no tourist would ever find. Sushi is not something I'd dare to take a chance on, but I was placed in senior sushi chef Ike's skilled and trusted hands.

I also had a wonderful time reconnecting with my friend and fellow screenwriter, the lovely Karen Craig. Karen and I met nearly four years ago in Vancouver, and being with her reminded me of how important it is to stay connected with your colleagues. She has done very well for herself in the City of Angels, and her discipline, tenacity and commitment to her craft continue to inspire.

September 11, 2004

Just Another Day in Hollywood

Yesterday Jimmy Karen took me out to lunch at another throwback to the Golden Age of Holllywood, The Magic Castle, where I met more of his wide-ranging gang of veteran actor buddies. In addition to being a '...lavishly appointed restaurant that serves a critically acclaimed menu in an elegant manner,' the Magic Castle is '...the private clubhouse for the academy of Magical Arts.' When you arrive at the Magic Castle you enter through a small library where after your reservation has been confirmed a bookshelf opens up to allow you inside. The labyrinthine interior leads you from one show parlour to another where every evening Academy member magicians perform.

Later that evening I attended an advanced screening of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow on the Paramount lot as a guest of Jimmy Karen and his lovely wife Alba. In an earlier post I wrote that I'd never seen as nice a theater as the ArcLight on Sunset, but it didn't compare with the Paramount lot theater with its plush armchairs and enough leg room in the aisles so that you wouldn't have to stand up to let people through. When everyone had arrived and taken their seats the lights went down and the picture came up; no annoying Coke commercials or previews, just the movie. It's all about the movie.

September 10, 2004

The Screening

Our little-film-that-could screened last night at ArcLight Cinemas on Sunset Boulevard. The theaters at the ArcLight are the best I've ever seen; huge screens and comfortable assigned seats with double-wide armrests, (I hate always bumping elbows with the person next to me). However, the projection problems that have plagued the LA Shorts Fest thus far also affected Flickering Blue. Harper spoke to a rep from ArcLight earlier in the week when we noticed that the projection appeared too large for the screen, and, understandably, they passed the buck to the festival organizers who have apparently brought in their own projectors which don't fit the format of the ArcLight theaters. Our crusty director of photography, Jack Anderson, was particularly chagrined. Audience reactions were great regardless, which demonstrates how a good story can resonate and overcome imperfect images.

September 09, 2004

Musso & Frank

Yesterday Jimmy Karen took Harper and I out to lunch at Musso & Frank Grill, which has occupied the same real estate on 6667 Hollywood Boulevard since 1919. Jimmy and a rotating crew of fellow Hollywood stalwarts such as legendary producer Walter Seltzer, (who will be celebrating his ninetieth birthday in two weeks!), have been meeting for lunch on Wednesdays in the back corner booth for decades.

Musso's is a dark, musty place with mahogany paneled walls and red-leather booths. The waiters all look as though they've been there since the place opened and still wear bowties, red jackets and black slacks. It was like having lunch in a museum exhibit. The menu hasn't apparently changed much in eighty years, and you can still order fried liver and onions or corned beef hash.

Jimmy and his pals spent much of the time railing against incumbent George W. Bush and lamenting Kerry's missteps on the campaign trail, and the rest of the time regaling the youngsters, (me and Harper), with tales from the Hollywood trenches. When the check arrived Jimmy and Pat Harrington, (a great actor who, sadly, is best remembered for his role as Schneider on television's 'One Day at a Time'), who were sitting on either side of me, fought over who'd pay for my lunch.

September 08, 2004

Opening Night

Los Angeles is truly a mind-boggling place. On the long drive from LAX to my hotel just off Sunset Boulevard my mind reeled continuously, trying to recollect celluloid memories as we drove past one film location and/or Hollywood landmark after another. Because of LA's notorious traffic I was late checking into my hotel. I ran most of the seven blocks down Hollywood Boulevard to ArcLight Cinemas on Sunset, with one eye on the Walk of Fame stars beneath my flying feet.

Bryan Singer was in attendance, with his entourage, to accept the Maverick Film Achievement Award, which was created by LA Shorts Fest to "...celebrate, honor and pay homage to those who generously contribute to and support the continual growth of the independent film movement."

Later, at a very-Hollywood after party on a patio with a waterfall hosted by Skyy Vodka, Harper Philbin and I had a chance to meet and speak with Bryan Singer. We had an 'in' because the star of our short film, James Karen, worked on one of Bryan's films, Apt Pupil, and had told us to say hello for him. Bryan immediately lit up and shared an on-location Jimmy Karen anecdote of his own. Evidently, the eighty-year-old gent makes an impression wherever he goes.

I also had the opportunity to meet Andrew McCarthy of Brat Pack fame. I asked him about his work on what is, in my humble opinion, one of the better Canadian films of the last ten years, New Waterford Girl. He called it, '...a strange little film.' I later learned that McCarthy is sick to death of being asked about, and pigeon-holed as the guy from, Pretty in Pink, and I'm glad I chose not to gush about how my wife Esther has made me watch all of his films from that era.

September 07, 2004


I'm flying to Los Angeles this afternoon to attend the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. The festival opens tonight with a program of Disney short animation films. My film, Flickering Blue, screens on Thursday night in a program entitled, 'Things to do Before You Die.' All screenings take place at ArcLight Cinemas on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California.

The festival bills itself as the largest short film festival in the world, (five hundred short films in seven days) and is one of the handful of festivals that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars) watches closely. The last five short film Oscars went to films that screened at this festival.

I'm most looking forward to the Flickering Blue reunion which will feature director Harper Philbin, DOP Jack Anderson, 1st AD Patrick Priest, our star Jimmy Karen and the film's humble author, (me).

September 06, 2004

About Sunday...

Last week I was able to screen an advanced edit of 'On a Sunday,' a short film I wrote for Bevan Klassen and 40 Below Films out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The story for 'On a Sunday' was culled from my childhood memories of growing up in a certain farming community just south of Winnipeg. It's probably the most personal thing I've ever written for the screen, and I was anxious about how it was going be handled. However, Bevan and his filmmaking team have crafted something unique and authentic with this film, and I'm proud to have been its author.

Anyone with a special place in their hearts for the Canadian prairie will love this film. Steve Morrison's (director of photography) talent and Bevan's framing choices combine to create outstanding images, and make that desolate landscape and those colossal skies look as beautiful as they appear in my fondest reveries.

And that advanced screening was just on a tiny QuickTime Player on my laptop screen. I can't wait to see it in a theater.