Alexander

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby George Olson » 01/25/06 12:33 PM

Interesting note:

Sunday night at the Stan Kramien Stage Magic Competition and Ladies Night of SAM 59, David Charvet acting as emcee announced he had just signed a Contract with a majr studio for the film rights to his book about Alexander!

GO
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Postby David Alexander » 01/25/06 06:24 PM

That's good for Charvet, but no guarantee that a picture or even a treatment will ever materialize. It took 15 years for the director of Ray to see his bio of Ray Charles become reality. Most never see their dream pictures realized.

The latest Superman film went through any number of stars, directors, and re-writes before the project was settled and filming began for a release this summer.

The "champion" of a film may be a studio executive who green-lights the project, but given the strange vagaries of Hollywood, this executive could suddenly find himself out of a job and the project cancelled on simply shelved for months or years.

Glad to hear Charvet sold the book and glad to know he got a check, but the reality is it may be years before we see a film based on the book...or never. It's a crazy business.
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Postby magicam » 01/25/06 07:25 PM

Didnt the recent movie, "The Fantastic Four," go through the same thing for a decade or so? And as we learned from Richard Stokes (Richard, are you out there?) at the last LA Conference on Magic History, the 'hot,' Tom-Cruise-starring War Magician movie seems to have hit the wall, apparently in part because the movie's backers lost interest when they found out that David Fishers work was, ahem, highly fictionalized and/or poorly researched.

In the early 1990s, I dated a screenwriter who lived on Highland Avenue in Hollyweird (about 2 blocks away from the Castle). She earned most of her 'Hollywood' money by polishing screenplays, but she also sold a movie script (to Disney I think) for some very handsome option money. But I don't think anything happened to the script beyond that (i.e., Disney did not renew the option). From her I learned that hitting the big time was extremely difficult, at best. Sometimes she rolled in the cash; other times she had no money thats why her primary job was working as a waitress. Her biggest success (at least to me) was creating the TV series "Charmed," the one (on WB network?) about the 3 sister witches, and she got Aaron Spelling to help her pitch it (of course, he got a co-producer credit in return, or something like that). She created "Charmed" shortly after we parted ways, and I talked with her a couple times after that. I think she told me that she got her inspiration for the show from me introducing magic to her - wish I got a cut of that action ....

Clay
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Postby David Alexander » 01/26/06 12:32 AM

So Clay, you dated Constance Burge, eh? Interesting.

I've known a number of TV and film writers that made good livings being script doctors, doing uncredited polishes, and selling options to scripts. One married couple I knew lived in a very expensive Santa Monica condo and drove matching BMWs, all on the sales of options. Not one of their scripts was ever produced, but they pulled in $200K+ for several years.

One young woman I met was known to several writers of action films. They couldn't write dialog to save their lives, but she could.

She did well for herself for several years, driving an expensive German car and living in a penthouse in Newport Beach....but she wanted more. After several years of high-priced anonomy she pushed one writer/producer into giving her credit so she could join the Writers Guild.

During my research for the biography of Gene Roddenberry I had several long interviews with Oscar Katz who had been head of programming at CBS and later ran Desilu. Oscar was an old hand at buying and producing programs. He told me that out of 100 ideas pitched to him (a pitch being a few sentences describing a show a writer or producer wanted to make) maybe, just maybe two or three would go to development where the ideas would be fleshed out.

Fewer still would get to the pilot stage where an actual story would be written, produced and filmed. As you can see by what appears on television these days - programs that sound good on paper but get one or two outings before their cancelled or "retooled" - are often the norm.
For film, the odds are probably worse.

The real secret is: television and film producers have little idea what the public will accept and support. It's all a big guessing game and some guess better and more successfully than others.
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Postby magicam » 01/26/06 08:11 AM

David:

Interesting? Something I should know? Yes, we dated for some time, set up by my cousin (also an actress) and having our first blind date during the R. King riots - being the gentleman that I am, I told her that she had to get her own ass out of Hollywood and into the suburbs if we were to successfully meet me for dinner....

If you know Connie, then you may know that, aside from Charmed, she did get at least one other pilot done, which was a comedy about medical interns, I think. I saw the pilot and I thought some of it was very funny a mystery why it wasnt a TV show (maybe it was for a short time?), but proof of what you say about TV execs.

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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 01/26/06 10:31 AM

Originally posted by Magicam:
If you know Connie, then you may know that, aside from Charmed, she did get at least one other pilot done, which was a comedy about medical interns, I think. I saw the pilot and I thought some of it was very funny a mystery why it wasnt a TV show (maybe it was for a short time?), but proof of what you say about TV execs.
What year did she do the pilot? Just wondering if maybe it competed with Scrubs, which has been on since 2001.

-Jim
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Postby Pete Biro » 01/26/06 10:58 AM

I have a friend who wrote Ocean's 11 and a couple of other recent big hits... he's making more money than God right now... he moved into directing a film he wrote but the actress in the lead didn't like him and he was fired (as the director) but he's still on top writing stuff for major stars.
Stay tooned.
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Postby John LeBlanc » 01/26/06 12:03 PM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
he moved into directing a film he wrote but the actress in the lead didn't like him and he was fired (as the director) but he's still on top writing stuff for major stars.
Word is the male lead wasn't jazzed about him, either. The movie turned out pretty good anyway -- heck of a story.

John
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Postby David Alexander » 01/26/06 12:33 PM

He was replaced with Rob Reiner who the stars may have seen as more suitable for their status than a freshman director.
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Postby Richard Stokes » 01/26/06 05:06 PM

Clay,
Twentieth Century Fox came close to making a Jasper Maskelyne movie forty years ago, based loosely on 'Magic Top Secret'.
American writers John Wilder and Jerry Ziegman (from Peyton Place) worked on a screenplay in 1968.
Their enthusiastic correspondence with Jasper gave every impression that his wartime adventures would definitely be turned into a Hollywood movie...
The Twentieth Century Fox version would have climaxed with Jasper's heroic rescue attempt of a female agent held by the Gestapo in Yugoslavia (fictional episode, of course).

Paramount's recent version, based on 'The War Magician', has stalled.
Australian director, Peter Weir was already having doubts about the subject matter. He flew up to Brisbane and interviewed Alistair, Jasper's son.
Alistair spoke candidly about his father and gave Weir an earlier copy of my research.
In October 2004 Weir contacted Alistair to say he was withdrawing from The War Magician film. Weir wrote:The decision not to proceed, while influenced by our meeting and the Stokes material, was finally my own. Ive avoided biographical material so far, and if I was to break my own rule I had to proceed from a solid factual base. That was not possible for reasons well known to you.

Paramount have spent (squandered?) a great deal of time and money on the new film.
For example, Peter Buchman has written a script. And he wouldn't come cheap.
I assume , following Fisher's embellishment, Buchman would have climaxed the movie with the Battle of Alamein (even though Jasper Maskelyne was not involved in the creation and implementation of the Alamein deception plan).

Paramount, incidentally, claim exclusive rights to Jasper Maskelynes name, likeness, writings, books and life story.
This stance has unfortunately impeded genuine research into the real Jasper Maskelyne.
Paramount don't appear to realise they have been sold a dummy.
Jasper's books were ghost-written by an inventive hack, Frank Stuart, who combined pseudo-biography with wartime ripping yarns.

But returning to this thread:

Given that so many pitches are rejected, and given that so many screenplays are shelved and never reach production, why is it that the few surviving films which emerge are so bad?
Wouldn't Darwinian selection produce fitter survivors?
What goes wrong?
Today I would like to take my children to the movies. It's holiday time in Australia. But the ten films on offer (mainly from the USA) are crap.
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Postby Gary Brown » 01/28/06 09:28 PM

I've got one to add. In the late 1990s, I heard some buzz and was eventually contacted by some studio representatives concerning Jar of Fools , Jason Lutes fantastic comic strip turned graphic novel which features Flosso as a major character. (If you'd like details, stop by the Flosso site . Their reason for calling me was to get some copies of The Coney Island Fakir , which they were providing to actors trying out for the part. At that time, one rep advised me that Mel Brooks and Danny Devito were considering the part of Flosso (both excellent choices) -- they were sending copies of my book to both (I think Brooks was in Paris at the time) as part of the process.

Well, it all seemed pretty exciting. Later, I read that the major studio that had purchased the rights sold them to some shlocky horror film outfit. Then all word of the production disappeared -- like magic!

Gary
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Postby Guest » 01/28/06 10:42 PM

Hello gang-

I am new to your forum and do not wish to step on any toes. In regards to Claude Alexander Conlin, I know only what I have read in the two books on on him. My expertise lay with the history of my great grandfather, Jefferson Randolph (Soapy) Smith. On behalf of the Smith family, I am here to state that I never agreed with information, or was even made aware of information, that Claude Alexander Conlin shot and killed my great grandfather in 1898 up in Skagway, Alaska.

The Smith family already knows who killed Soapy Smith, and it was not Conlin. We have a vast collection of personal and business documents, and have studied the man and his criminal ways for over 100 years. As fun as it would be, there is no mention of Conlin.

You can read more about the true story of Soapy Smith, and more details about my views on the Conlin theory (see page entitled "Wrong Undone") at Friends of Soapy Smith website
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Postby David Alexander » 01/28/06 11:44 PM

Richard Stokes asks a reasonable question: why are so many movies so bad? The same can be applied to television.

The general answer often lies in the old adage, "Too many cooks spoil the broth." That, and the nature of making film, it being a collaborative medium.

Often, too little attention is given to the story, how well it hangs together and what sort of pay off it has at the end.

Then there's the problem with finding the right actor, believable in the part and the right director to bring out that "rightness."

I could go on, but to all that (and many other aspects) you have to add "input" by various "suits" who think they know what the public wants because it's what they want.

It isn't "art" produced by one person....it's a collaborative medium produced by a number of people and sometimes, regardless of how fantastic the project sounds on paper, it just doesn't work on screen....and then, sometimes it all comes together, everyone gets it right, and you have something like The Maltese Falcon. They don't call them "classics" for nothing.
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