Hey folks, Harry here with the second part of Moriarty's Rumblings from the Lab #14. If you haven't read the first part of Moriarty's work this week you missed an incredible interview with master filmmaker and anime legend Hayao Miyazaki. So click here and enjoy!!! If you have, then by all means, finish up the Rumblings of the dear ol Professor...
I can tell you someone who's got to be sweating his each and every moment right now -- director Peter Hyams. He was actually back on the streets of Los Angeles this weekend for at least three days. This is following the now-notorious test screenings-that-weren't, when various media outlets started shooting their mouths off about the screening before it happened. I've spoken with people close to the film in the past, and I know there is more than one ending to the film. I'm hoping Hyams was shooting for himself this weekend, and not because he lost his struggle with Universal. He's a director who I'd like to see catch a break here, and the word on his darker, more overtly horrific cut of the film has been strong. I'm reserving all judgement on the film until I see it -- Arnold makes me nervous these days, and I'm allergic to the first Andy Marlowe draft of the script -- but I certainly wish Hyams well as he enters the home stretch.
I also wish nothing but well to the fine folks behind Naked Trucker. What, you may ask, is Naked Trucker? Well, it's almost impossible to describe. SNL alumni David M. Koechner and Dave (Gruber) Allen have created an act that is achingly funny, one that you can catch several times monthly at Largo in Hollywood. Allen is the Naked Trucker, a man who wears nothing but a guitar and his god-given common sense as he sings songs about this great country of ours and about life on the road. His side man is Koechner's Gerald "TBone" Timmons, and the combination of the two of them is painfully funny. It's the kind of character comedy that the Groundlings and SNL and Second City and Improv Olympic all encourage and it really pays off here. I saw the act last Tuesday, and I would strongly encourage you to check it out tonight at 10:00, or on October 9, when they'll be playing at 10:30. If you go, I strongly recommend reserving a table. It's a great night out, and I can't wait to see what Dreamworks TV does with Gerald when they shoot their pilot built around the character. He's got the potential to be as real and as funny as the wonderful work Mike Judge and Greg Daniels do on KING OF THE HILL.
Speaking of them, it looks like Fox has signed with the duo to create a one-hour show that looks at the music industry next year, centered around a fictional record label. I'm jazzed about this, and I'm surprisingly excited about another potential series Fox is developing, a weekly one-hour based on LA CONFIDENTIAL. Having read all of Ellroy's work, I believe his characters have enough life to support a series. The writing has to be smart, grounded in the period, and it has to give us a real portrait of how LA has evolved from one corrupt form to another. As we face yet another LAPD scandal, it's a grim reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Enough about what makes me happy. I feel like ranting a little here, and I'd like to start by wishing nothing but ill on the absolutely offensive group of trained monkeys currently staffing and managing the Mann's Chinese Theater. I had an experience at that theater this weekend that just about put me off it for good. To help you understand what this means to me, let me offer this: movies are my church. We all have a place we go that gives us peace for at least the time we're there, a place where they can center themselves. For many people, it's church. For me, it's a darkened movie theater. Always has been. The best theaters are more than just exhibition rooms for me... they're places you get attached to. When I moved to Los Angeles, I truly thought I'd find a culture here that appreciated their movie palaces, that knew the value of a great room. Nothing could be further from the truth. I remember when General Cinema raped the Avco on Wilshire. There used to be a magnificent downstairs screen, the first theater in America to have Dolby Surround, the first to have THX, a landmark house. In 1993, GCC cut the theater in half, and they created two extremely substandard houses that both lean towards the former center of the screen.
Still, the Avco was never an icon like the Chinese is. Any day of the week, the front of that theater is jammed with tourists from around the world. When people lined up for STAR WARS this year, it's no coincidence that the Chinese is where they did it. This should be the finest filmgoing experience the city has to offer, and instead, the place is rapidly degenerating into a dump, a dive, a cavern that is staffed by people that know nothing about the films they're showing, managed by morons who argue with customers, who can't tell when their sound system has stopped working. The experience of seeing a film there has become almost intolerable, and Friday night may have tipped it over past "almost." Harry Lime and I got together to go see SW: EPISODE I again. It's just come back to the Chinese and the Village for one week, and it seemed like our last chance to see the film in a theater. The Labs are walking distance from the Chinese (although most of it's uphill, since we're roughly 300 feet below the street's surface), so we hoofed it for the 10:00 show. There was no trouble with tickets. Hell, there was no advertising outside to even indicate what film was playing. Nothing you could see anywhere said STAR WARS on it. Once inside, we had no trouble finding seats. A few minutes before the film was supposed to start, there was a sudden, startling noise from the front center channel speakers of the theater... a sort of a BWAP! FWAP! BRRRRRRPPPPPPTTT! FWAFWAFWAPPA! sound, but at incredible volume. No one seemed to notice or care, but when the lights went down and the first commercial came up (one of those damn LA TIMES spots), there was no sound.
Actually, that's not true. There was sound, but it was like the speakers had been buried and had concrete laid over them. It was very faint, all front center channel. The next commercial came on, a MoviePhone spot, and it was the same way. A couple of people walked out to complain, and when the first trailer came on, there was finally sound at full volume.
But it was only coming from the rear and the sides.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing as the trailers continued. Dialogue was muffled, while sound effects were overwhelming. Something was obviously wrong. I expected the film to stop, but it didn't. Instead, we just kept right on watching, and the movie started, and the sound was still gone. It was apparent the speakers were blown, but the theater was going to just play the film anyway.
When I went out to the lobby to find the manager, no one seemed to know what I was talking about. When I found the manager and told her what was going on, she looked me right in the eyes and said, "The speakers are fine."
"What?" I asked. "No, they're not. Come in and listen for yourself."
"No, they're fine. Really. There's just not supposed to be sound during those trailers."
I searched her face to see if she was kidding, but she didn't smile at all. This woman is in charge of one of the most famous theaters in the world, and her idea of effective management is to lie to a customer, even if it makes no sense, and let a faulty presentation continue uninterrupted.
I don't imagine the upper management of Mann's is going to care that they lost the business of myself and Harry Lime that night. It's obvious STAR WARS is just a filler booking for them anyway. They couldn't be treating the film worse. But maybe Lucasfilm will care if they hear about how their product is being displayed. It may be the opposite end of the summer from STAR WARS mania, but that doesn't seem to merit this kind of piss-poor presentation that is becoming all too common.
I'd like to offer a quick congratulations to Lorenzo Agius, who shot the new PREMIERE cover. He did something I genuinely didn't think was possible, and his pioneering work deserves credit. He has managed to take the first truly awful photo of Angelina Jolie. Of course, his work would have gone unnoticed if the fine folks at PREMIERE hadn't decided to splash it across their cover. Nice choice. Good work.
To avoid closing out today's RUMBLINGS on a negative note, I'd like to share a story that should serve as inspiration to all aspiring writers out there. It's one of those "overnight" success stories that really does illustrate how talent and perseverence counts more than anything else for people who, like myself, like Harry, and like most of you, are infected by dreams of cinema.
Last week, the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER published a small, easy to miss article about Dimension Films optioning a script called DEADER. The logline for the script sounds interesting -- "A woman journalist working for an Underground East Village newspaper investigates a bizarre cult in which the members literally commit suicide, only to be brought back to life" -- but the article doesn't really convey what makes the story so wonderful.
The author of the script is a guy named Neal Marshall Stevens. He's not unknown in LA. He optioned an earlier script, THE SLOW MAN, to 20th Century Fox for Harold Ramis to develop. Still, he was the classic struggling writer, already 43 years old. He'd had a number of agents who never sold anything, and he ended up having his wife, someone who has no industry experience, manage him. Upon completion of his latest script, he had his wife contact Stan Winston's company to see if they would read it. David Greathouse, one of the execs there, read the script but passed on it. When talking to Judy Stevens, Greathouse asked if there was anything else he could read. She sent over two of Neal's other scripts, one of which was a horror film.
And then the great stuff started.
First, they got an enthusiastic call from David, who is in love with the horror script. Stan is also in love with the horror script. They want to send it to a few people.
This is on a Wednesday. Thursday, the script goes out. By Sunday night, Judy finds herself on the phone with Bob "Dimension" Weinstein. Monday, the Stevens' are meeting at Dimension. By the end of that initial "creative" meeting, there's a mid-six figure offer on the table, along with a two-picture option among other things. Just like that, it's sold. Now Stevens is preparing to sign with new representation, he's incorporated, and he's fielding offers for more work.
This is a guy from Boston. He went to NYU Film school, but started without any connections in the business. He's just someone who worked, who kept at it, who built up a shelf of sample scripts and finally put the right one in the right hands.
Is his story remarkable? In the grand scheme of things, no, I guess not. But it's always good to read one of these, and it's good to remember that it happens. It's good to see someone who cares about their craft break through. I'll admit, I haven't read DEADER. I have no idea what I think of him as a writer. I do know this, though... I look forward to finding out.
And now I've got to get back to some of our long-term projects here. I know I have those AMERICAN BEAUTY interviews here somewhere... I just have to put my hands on them. Until then, let me send you out into the world with your homework assignment for this week. I want you to go to the FIGHT CLUB website by CLICKING HERE and send me your best postcards. You'll have to look around to find the postcard maker, but you'll enjoy yourself while you do. It's a cool site. I want postcards. Lots of postcards. Remember... creativity counts.