Of course the planning for the series started long, long before the two-year-ago mark. But I wanted to post the latest edition of the series poster to showcase the critical acclaim the Pilot Episode has been receiving - Official Selection in 45 international film festivals and awards competitions and 33 awards for acting, directing, cinematography, story, teleplay, original song, and original score.
I'm one of those folks who likes to work on many, many things at the same time. It's funny, but you never know when something seemingly unrelated from one project will help in another one.
So my immediate focus (if I actually have one) is on developing a new theatrical feature titled The Last Day of April.
The story's capsule is:
A young boy embarks on a dangerous voyage to take his terminally-ill best friend to what he believes is a magic island where he is convinced she'll be cured. Once there, they encounter an escaped fugitive and believe he is the island's Spirit who has assumed human form to help them.
I recently finished editing a teaser created by photographing several members of our fabulous cast in a studio, then placing them in various story-related environments, and capping it all off with an artsy watercolor treatment to each image. Underneath it all is music from our marvelously talented composer, Marc Enfroy. 230 Images were created for the teaser and 185 made it in. They will also serve as the jumping-off point for storyboards during pre-production.
I'm now working on finishing up what has become a 64-page Presentation Book which we will offer to potential financial backers for the project. It contains the usual business plan, budget info, industry comps, distribution plans, a seven-page story treatment, info about the cast and crew, location info, and many, many images.
- all images copyright © 2013 by Hank Isaac with all rights reserved -
Had a nice lunch & visit with Mr. TVWriter.com himself, Larry Brody. And no, this wasn't part of a prize or an interview, or anything like that. We just happen to live sorta close to one another. I was location-scouting a small town and taking in a classic boat festival and, well, things just worked out.
Larry and I are roughly the same generation. Yes, in all sense of the word, "roughly." I grew up with TV, a scant 30 miles from Manhattan. I remember our first TV. I think I was two or three. It was as large as a refrigerator with a screen the size of an iPad. Now, TVs are the size of iPads and their screens are as large as refrigerators. Interesting how many switches like that take place in the world.
I remember watching Steve Allen and the first broadcast of The Tonight Show. I think he said something like, "Things will never be the same." He got that right, huh. I remember watching "I Love Lucy."
"Hey, did you see that? She just--"
"Shhhhhh! Can't you see we're watching?"
Thus began the incipient alienation of the human race.
I've been trying to explain to people why I'm gradually weaning myself away from sites like Facebook & Twitter. I have a collection of so-called "friends," only a small handful of whom actually ever contact me directly (on those sites or anywhere). So I've decided (1) anyone who truly wants to talk to me will call on the phone or, even better, show up, and (2) I miss actual human contact. Because as far as I can prove, all my typed and sent comments are going to a very, very clever robot buried deep in some mountain and who has enough information about me to respond in a believable way.
What does any of this have to do with television?
Well, the media - and I include online stuff as well - have brought us "closer together" in one way, but in doing so, have forever shoved us apart.
And the gap is getting wider by the second.
I don't think anyone's actually reading these, so I don't feel I'm giving away any secrets.
I direct films from time to time and do all my own casting. For some reason, I'm often asked what I look for in an actor. Do I want specific "types" for a project? Do I look for training? Do I want energy? Thoughtfulness? Something else?
And the answer is: None of the above.
I look for one thing and one thing only. I look for the perfect blend of strength and vulnerability. I look for those because in my opinion, that's what allows an actor to reach out past the surface of the screen and touch the audience.
That's what we respond to as humans.
Everything else is just chocolate sprinkles.
With apologies to the island, its flora and its fauna, there is afoot what I like to term The Galapagos Syndrome.
It exists when an individual experiences something so far outside his schema that it actually has no meaning. It doesn't exist. The analogy is the well-known inability of creatures on the subject archipelago to sense danger from humans. What's a human?
In our world, it takes the form of the inability to recognize a problem. And if you can't recognize it, there's really nothing to solve, is there. Take the U.S. Postal Service. When a couple of decades ago, for the first time, more correspondence was sent via email than paper letters, what was the Postal Service's response? Raise the postage. And as it keeps getting worse and worse for that entity, what do they do? Commence the end of mail delivery on Saturday and lengthen the time it takes to get a piece of mail from one address to another in the same ZIP code!
Used to be, stores had sales during times of the year when people were less likely to buy things. The sale was an inducment to buy it now. This helped the stores and it helped the shoppers. Then, in the early 1980s, stores got scared. Thus was born the "pre-Christmas sale." and unknowingly, the stores began to train shoppers to simply wait them out and force them to put merchandise on sale to even sell it at all. Well done, stores!
What does this have to do with filmmaking? It's all about fear.
As bandwidth and download speeds increase, more and more people are watching recent films at home. What is the film industry's response? Remake old films, but not quite as well as the originals. They probably don't want to ruin those originals by doing them better. Thing of it is, a story that worked in the 1950s may not exactly work today. Not with the same mix, anyway.
Our world view -- our "schema," if you will -- is way different today and has changed decade by decade on its way here. Films reflect the times in which they were made in more ways than might seem obvious. And yes, there are many, many stories which transcend time periods. But they do it in a special way - they send us the story along with the time period and we accept that. We know we're not supposed to pretend it's "now," as it was clearly "then." This miraculously allows us to accept the story as a great story because it fits so well where and when it was told. Same with the film's characters.
Seriously, though, IMHO, what motivates the "Hollywood Machine" is nothing but fear. And operating from a base of fear almost always guarantees failure.
IMHO, here are the beliefs which will eventually destroy theatrical films:
• The audience only wants to see big name stars.
• A so-called "proven" story will always be successful.
• Special FX will always trump character and story - just like fish, audiences like things that
shimmy & sparkle.
• If you throw enough money at it, anything will ultimately succeed.
• It's not worth even responding to a query from an unknown writer because unknown writers
never really write anything an audience would ever want to see.
Had to throw that last one in there.
Like so many large entities (corporations, military, governments) the U.S. film industry spends so much time looking over its shoulder, it's not even noticed that the road ahead has vanished.
It took me fourteen years to top the opening action sequence so I could finish the screenplay. I'm introducing the film here, 'cause at 189 pages, no producer will ever read the screenplay - despite the fact that some wildly successful films have even longer screenplays. So anyway, what follows here is some of my concept art...
Fourteen-year-old student pilot Michelle Lawson breaks every rule in the book battling everyone and everything as she struggles to make the longest nonstop glider flight ever attempted and thus exonerate her war-hero father who died attempting the same journey.
CONCEPT ART - Michelle streaks low over Three Corner Junction while the town slumbers.
CONCEPT ART - Michelle aims Five Nine Foxtrot at a tiny opening in the trees.
CONCEPT ART - Michelle thermals with a hawk.
CONCEPT ART - Running out of lift, Michelle hunts for a route between two intense thunderstorm cells.
CONCEPT ART - Michelle makes a dangerously steep approach to her home runway at Kelly Field.
CONCEPT ART - An unfortunate error in judgement destroys Five Nine Foxtrot and nearly costs Michelle her life.
CONCEPT ART - 110 knots and 250' above Bonnie Park Ridge, Two Mike Lima crosses from Maryland into West Virginia.
CONCEPT ART - Over 12 hours into her journey and propelled aloft in a strong thunderstorm, Michelle passes out at 19,000'.
If you've read this far, you might like to know that every single aviation sequence in this story represents something that actually happened either to me or pilots I knew. There is an esprit and a comradery among pilots throughout the world which transcends age, gender, lifestyle, and national boundaries - to be sure, a lesson which bears emulating.
The Impossible Journey is a genuine character story disguised as an action/adventure film. It's a story about a daring and often foolhardy young girl on the brink of womanhood who, in the process of spending a harrowing nineteen hours in the tiny cockpit of a sailplane - the whole time only ever ten seconds away from crashing - uncovers a greater understanding of the father she barely knew.
Links to check out:
Lillymae's First Solo Flight - a short YouTube video about a young girl who solos a sailplane on her fourteenth birthday. I could feel my muscles tensing every step of the way - been there, done that. I know the feeling.
Windborn - 16-year-old Lucy Wills is taught to fly and ends up making an epic glider flight with her father. This is really an extraordinary video (two videos, actually) with some great photography and true high adventure featuring a very young female aviator (aviatrix?). It's to be purchased and I do not receive anything from its sale - it's just a fab experience.
Two of my original stories - The Annex, a feature film, and Forever Charlee, a TV sitcom, made the "Long List" in the 2013 Fresh Voices Pitch Competition.
Now, Forever Charlee is the lone survivor and is on the competition's "Short List."
We'll have to see if it makes it any further. Fingers crossed.
Just a quick note to remind everyone that my film, The Bench, is screening in competition at the Woods Hole Film Festival in Woods Hole, MA on Tuesday, July 30th, at 7:00 p.m. If you or folks you know are going to be in the area, see if you can take a little time to have a look. It's a fun film, suitable for all audiences.
As a Director, I get to see a lot of actors. In addition to screenwriting, I'm also familiar with pretty much every aspect of making films.
The actors I usually cast all have a number of attributes in common. The one I want to focus on here is: Uniqueness.
"Branding" is all the rage today. The concept used to apply mainly to things. But more and more it's being applied to everything, including people. So why is this important for an actor? If a Director and Producer see perhaps hundreds of "you" as they hunt for an actor to fill a role, why would they ever be able to remember you at the end of a week of sixteen-hour-a-day casting sessions?
Actors are adept at throttling their personalities (or trying to) for auditions for specific roles. Thing of it is, when an actor does that, it's pretty obvious. So what I look for is this: What do you bring to my production that I can't get anywhere (or everywhere) else? Just because you think you're cool doesn't mean I do. I've probably seen a dozen versions of "you" already today.