EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS The Good and The Bad: Connections # 72

     First,  The Good.  May was a very busy month.  I have been put under contract to produce two feature films.  Ironically both stories are set in Florida, one in 1874, the other in the decade of 1950s.  The aggregate budgets for the two films will be around  $40m-$50m.  But that’s a guess.  Right now I’m creating a detailed budget for each project.  It’s a lengthy process that  involves gathering lots of information and making thousands of decisions  based on what I’ve learned.  Each of these budgets will be about 100 pages in length.  So stay tuned.

     Now The Bad. Sadly two dear friends passed away.  Both men were screenwriters and i had the great privilege of collaborating with both.

     I  knew Stanford Whitmore the longest, having met him when we were under contract to Universal Studios.  He wrote the pilot episode of the TV Series “The Fugitive,” starring David Jansen.    Stanford has many credits in TV and Film, and I will put a link to his credits on IMDB.

     My other dear friend was Ralph Gaby Wilson.  I met Gaby through our mutual literary agent who gave me one of his screenplays.  I read the screenplay and told the agent “I have to meet this guy!”   Thus began a long and enduring friendship.

     I truly miss both of them.



EXTRA! EXTRA! Technology and Academy Awards: Connections #69

NAB 2013.   Model of Black Magic's new 4K Camera.

NAB 2013. Model of Black Magic’s new 4K Camera.

     Last year I attended NAB — the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Black Magic announced it would deliver a Cinema Camera with 4K resolution for $3,999.  Well, it has taken them almost one year to deliver this camera to the folks who want it.  It is a great camera for a very low price.  The marketing talk was “4K for 4K (four thousand dollars) but Black Magic did themselves  one step better.  It’s now 4K for a ridiculously low price of $2,999.  And it includes their hi-end post production color timing tool Resolve.

     This Sunday night is the Academy Awards.  Who will win?  Who will lose?  But in  truth everyone nominated is a winner.



Green Screen Shoot on 12/30/13

Green Screen Shoot on 12/30/13

     This year is ending on a high note for me.  Yesterday, December 30th I directed a green screen shoot with actor Martin Bell at Prestige Studios in Hollywood, California.  This shot is VFX 1 and the actor standing  at the podium behind the camera slate will be digitally composited with the stage of Miami Auditorium at it would have looked during the Miami Beach High School graduation ceremony in 1956.

Director John Orland telling actor Martin Bell how to wave cashiers check in the air.

Director John Orland telling actor Martin Bell how to wave cashiers check in the air.  Note the American Flag has only 48 stars because this scene takes place in 1956

     I am always the first person to arrive at a location and the last one to leave, and yesterday was no different.  So, for me, it was a 15 hour day.  No complaints, though, because I love to make movies.



EXTRA! EXTRA! Cinerama Dome’s 50th Birthday: Connections #65

     November 7th, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California.

     November 7th, 1963 I was a newreel cameraman for KHJ-TV in Los Angeles.  The occasion was the world première of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” in a theatre based on a geodesic dome developed by R. Buckmaster Fuller.  This premier marked the dawn of “single lens” Cinerama.

Photo of the Cinerama Dome on November 7, 1963

Photo of the Cinerama Dome on November 7, 1963

     Directed by Stanley Kramer, the cast was outstanding: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, and a host of other stars including legendary Buster Keaton.


EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS News and Nostalga: Connections #60

      Jonathan Winters recently passed away  in Montecito, CA, and it brought back memories of the ’60s when I worked as a newsreel cameraman in Los Angeles for Channel 9, KHJ-TV.  I had a special license plate on my car.  It was exactly like the one in this picture, but without the license plate holder and the words “SLO Skiers.”  This was during the days when gas station attendants filled up your tank with gas.  So many attendants would ask me what the “PP” meant.  These were the days of the 20th Century Fox TV hit “Payton Place.” Of course, I would always reply “Payton Place.”

PP License Plate

PP License Plate

     I covered hundreds, maybe thousands of news stories and one of them was the world premiere of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” which also happened to be the grand opening of the newly built Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

     Recently while I was supervising some video mastering of “Atlas Shrugged – The Strike” at FotoKem in Burbank, I saw this picture of the premiere of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” on the wall in the lobby of the Conversions Department.  The place has lots of expensive video recorders, monitors, etc.  You don’t want to have to pay the monthly electrical bill to power this equipment, and dozens of skilled technicians inhabit this place, which is not cheap, either.

     Getting back to this picture,  I think I can recognize myself in the crowd of photographers and newsreel cameramen outside on the sidewalk. If you look very carefully, you can see the reflection of me taking this picture.  In show biz, this is a twofer.  Oh well, I’m not a comedian.


World Premier at new Cinerama Dome in Hollywood

EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS Fuel for the System: Connections #59

     I was never very good at English composition in Grade School.  Two reasons:  I was tall for my age and was usually assigned the last seat in the last row.  The second reason is that I was a poor speller, so I substituted simpler words to replace the words I couldn’t spell.  Gold stars were important to me .  Also, because I didn’t test well in aptitude tests I thought I was dumb.  I did have trouble speaking and reading at an early age, so much so that I made up my own language.  I remember one word in particular:  “dum-dum” meant “water.”  Where that came from I will never know.

     After my traumatic first experience seeing a movie, and my parents taking me to a projection room to see the projector casting the beam of light with the image onto the silver screen, I fell in love with movies.  A movie theatre was a place I could escape my shyness and stare at the people on the movie screen without them staring back at me.

     All of this leads up to now.  i love writing screenplays.  I choose places and situations I know very little about to become the “world” for the characters to populate.  Research is time-consuming but I enjoy learning new things.  I have been working on my current project for 2-1/2 years.  A lot of time you might say but it has been a very busy period of my life.  My goal is to complete a first draft of this screenplay by my birthday, July 18th.

     During the past 2-1/2 years,  I’ve moved from West Los Angeles to Summerland, CA.  I have Post Produced five theatrical motion pictures.  The two highest profile films are “Atlas Shrugged Part I” and “Atlas Shrugged Part ll.”  On another film, I worked in Detroit, Michigan, because of the state’s tax incentives.  California must do a better job of  giving incentives to producers to keep production in this state.  Practically every state in the U.S.  is offering economic incentives to lure producers to shoot movies and TV shows in their home states.  Same with other countries.  The world might be an oyster but the pearl is still Hollywood.

     On another front, I have developed two screenplays with a new writer, Michael Thomas Daniel, who lived with my wife and me for four plus months while he wrote these two screenplays.  I  have begun the process of setting up these two truly amazing screenplays with A-List people in Hollywood.  But it is a difficult task because ninety-five percent of the screenplays being submitted are less than professional level, so agents and personal managers have built walls around their creative castles to protect themselves from drowning in a sea of crap.  The mission to get someone to want to read a screenplay is to convince them you have something really special, but everyone says that.  My mission remains, fueled by my steadfast belief in these two screenplays, knowing they will make wonderful films.  Stay tuned!


EXTRA! EXTRA! PASSING Dale Robertson, Actor, Dies at 89: Connections #58

      I worked with Dale Robertson back when he formed the theatrical distribution company United Screen Arts (USA),  run by Harry Kopelan.

     One of the films The Man From Button Willow, which I recall being animated, was produced by Dale.  Another film A Swinging Summer  with Raquel Welsh doing the twist at Lake Arrowhead before she became a movie star.  And another film starred Tom Laughlin who delivered the 35mm film elements to me in his horse trailer.

     And so it goes, all things must end.  RIP