EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS The long Hot Summer: Connections #73

     My dear New York friend, Composer Bob Christianson and his talented lyricist/book writer Alisa Hauser have received  a national Emmy nomination for outstanding Music and Lyrics for “No Trouble,” beautifully performed by Scott Coulter, in the HMS production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE CONCERT that aired on Public Television last December and will repeat again this December.

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     For my birthday on July 18th my wife Marcia arranged for me to ride along with a Police Officer in a Ford sedan on the midnight watch with the Santa Barbara Police Department.  I will say that you can’t get more upfront and personal than this.  I was told it was a slow night.  A traffic accident with injuries;  possible use of narcotics;  a parole violation that ended up with us transporting the young man to Santa Barbara County Jail, which is run by the sheriff’s’ Department; public drunkenness: the hispanic male had been released from jail only two days before, so we took him to dry out at a detox center.  Sadly, they were going to put him back on the streets at 5:30AM.

     The officer who I spent the 10-hour shift with I got to know really well, and he’s a good man, a gentle soul, and an asset to the SBPD.

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     I am now on the Board of Directors and the Treasurer of the Community Film Studio of Santa Barbara.  We are a 501 (c)3 non-profit.  I am currently overseeing the deliverables of The Bet, our first feature film, to Origin Releasing.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! PASSINGS! Connections: #66

     It’s been a tough couple of months with the passing of two dear friends.    First, a while back, was Lew Weitzman who was my literary agent, on and off, for more years than I care to mention.  However, I will mention that Lew was one of the kindest, most mannered, honest, caring men I’ve ever known.  I attended his memorial at the Directors Guild Theatre in Hollywood, which was filled to capacity with family and friends.  He founded the Preferred Artists Agency, which is now being headed by his son Paul Weitzman.

     Just last Sunday Syd Field passed away.  We worked together back in the day at David L. Wolper Productions.   The show, which ran for 33 weeks, was Hollywood and the Stars on the NBC Television Network.  Syd then wrote a “how to” book  for screenwriters that sold over one million copies.  He went on to write several other best selling tutorials, and he is acknowledged by his peers as the most effective teacher of screenwriting — Ever!

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EXTRA! EXTRA! PASSINGS PBS Loses a Friend: Connections #63

     On July 10, James L. Loper, a founder and former president of  KCET Channel 28 who helped build the public broadcasting station into one of the nation’s leading noncommercial outlets, has died. He was 81.

     Loper, who went on to oversee the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, died Monday at his Pasadena home, his family said. No cause was announced.

     An Arizona transplant, Loper was a doctoral student at USC in the early 1960s when he joined a small group, the Committee for Educational Television, that was trying to establish a public broadcasting station in Los Angeles.

     When KCET went on the air in 1964, Loper was director of educational television. About two years later, he took charge of the station, first as vice president and general manager and then as president from 1971 to 1983.

     He “left an indelible mark on the history of KCET and public television,” Al Jerome, chief executive of KCETLink, as the former PBS outlet is now known, said in a statement. “Jim launched several national productions that aligned the Hollywood entertainment community with the newly emerging national program service PBS.”

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

Clete Roberts, popular Los Angeles TV Reporter

Clete Roberts, popular Los Angeles TV Reporter

TV Reporter Clete Roberts was a close friend of James Loper and did many public affairs segments for KCET, and I was the 16mm newsreel cameraman.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS Christmas in May in Chicago: Connections #61

     The flight on United Airlines from Los Angeles to Chicago was one of the bumpiest rides in my entire life.  About one hour away from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport the aircraft started its gymnastics.  I was seated in the last row at the rear so I was aware if there was turbulence it would be amplified.  But this was ridiculous!  Without any warning the plane started bumping and grinding like a stripper in a dark club.  The plane then dropped like a roller coaster plunging down a steep incline.  There was absolute silence in the cabin.  The turbulence continued for what seemed like hours but in reality was probably about 20 minutes.

     I endured this torture to be present at the recording of my friend Bob Christian’s taping in Skokie, Illinois., of “A Christmas Carol,”  which will be shown on PBS this Christmas season.

     There were 3 complete shows with 7 cameras, one of them always flying in the air, a 44 piece symphony orchestra, conductor, two coral groups, and wonderful talent playing the principal roles in this timeless story. One show was with an audience and some little girls were dressed in their Christmas finest.  At the end of this performance there was a well-deserved standing ovation for all of the performers.

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     The other two performances, one of them pictured above, were for backup to accommodate making the best possible choices of everyone’s performances.

     All in all, “A Christmas Carol” is a wonderful show, and I’ll be counting the days to Christmas.

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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.

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World Premier at new Cinerama Dome in Hollywood

EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS So Damn Busy … Where Did September go? Connections #54

     I just finished viewing “Howard Terpning Portrait Of A Storyteller,” who is one of the most lauded painters of Western Art, and it is beautifully photographed by my talented cinematographer friend Howard Wexler.   It is difficult to describe this movie in just a few words, but it gives the viewer an inside look at the creative process of  this gifted painter.  What makes this movie so fascinating is that the viewer will realize that Howard Terpning’s committment and his attention to detail is not dissimilar to the committment and attention to detail that is required by anyone who’s engaged in any type of creative endeavor.

     This month I produced Public Service Spots in conjunction with the Emmy Awards, using Howard Wexler as my cinematographer, for BeatLiverTumors.org, and I will have more to say about this wonderful organization and the heroic woman behind it, Suzanne Ridley, in a future Blog.

     I also completed my work as Post Production Producer on “Atlas Shrugged Part 2 The Strike.”  We were on a very tight schedule to complete “Atlas 2” in time for it’s opening in over 800 theaters on 10/12/12.  Trailers for “Atlas 2” are currently playing in theaters.

     I have so much more to write about, so I plan to update this Blog after I take it easy for a few days and enjoy being back home in Summerland, California.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS The Neck Of The Fish, The Smell Of The Wine: Connections #48

THE NECK OF THE FISH

The names have been eliminated to protect the guilty.

Some years ago, I was approached by a producer in San Francisco about coming on board as the Director of a TV Pilot called “Firehouse Chefs.”  Good idea, I thought, and it still is a good idea.  Firemen can always be seen going up and down the aisles shopping for food to cook for each other when they’re on duty and living at the firehouse.

The host of the show was a handsome middle-aged fireman who had appeared on several local TV stations sharing his recipes with the viewers.  And he really did know how to cook. The producer arranged for us to shoot at the fire station where the San Francisco fire boat was docked.  I had gone there and signed off  on the location although it was near the Oakland Bay bridge and traffic noise would be a slight  issue.

What I didn’t know is the Navy Blue Angel precision aerial team would be a sound issue…because the day of the shoot just happened to be Navy Day, a yearly occurence in the city of San Francisco, which meant that Navy jets were flying very low and very often near the firehouse where we were shooting with the host and guest fireman from the firehouse with the…fire boat.  No.   There was  no fire boat.  Midway through the shoot its engines came to life and it sailed away because, of course, it was Navy Day.  But the guest fireman, a likeable chap, assured me the fireboat would return after it performed shooting water high into the air for the crowds of people assembled near the wharfs by San Francisco Bay.

The cooking show called for the main recipe to be barbecued filet of salmon.  And what a beautiful speciman of  salmon it was.  As our genial fireman host was filleting the red beauty, and in my rush to get a clean take before all hell broke lose with the Blue Angels flying just a few feet above where we were shooting, the guest fireman, when describing how to hold the salmon for filleting it, uttered the words “neck of the fish…”   It was undetected by me, and there was no way to change it without going back to re-shoot the segment in San Francisco, which our meager budget did not permit.  The show wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either.  It didn’t sell.  There was no Cooking Channel back then.  But the “neck of the fish” lives on in my mind, and maybe millions of years from now, evolution will deem it necessary for some species indeed, to have necks.

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THE SMELL OF THE WINE

     Some years later, I came up with a concept for another cooking show, “Magic Stew.”Simple concept:  the female host, a good cook, has a helper who is a magician .  He can conjure up additional items the cook needs for her recipe.  My agent found an investor and the magician.  I cast the lead, the female host, a high energy gal who knew how to cook. There were several stipulations that came along with the money.  The agent’s wife had to be the co-producer, and the agent had a friend who would supply the video cameras, monitors, grip and electrical equipment.

I kept calling for a rehearsal before the shoot but it never happened.  The magician was getting nervous and so was I.  Not only did the magic tricks have to be practiced but the chemistry between the two principals had to be worked out…or so I thought.  But the days just kept ticking by, and  the gal was unavailable.  “Always working,” she said when I contacted her.  I considered replacing her, but I didn’t.  Big mistake.

The day of the shoot the two principals finally met.  The gal was so-ooo high energy, she overwhelmed the host — and I couldn’t control her.

The video cameras didn’t have playback capabilities, or so I was told.  I couldn’t review the takes.  To make matters worse, my co-producer, who was supposed to watch the monitors, didn’t.  I looked over at her and, low and behold, she was sleeping!   Unfortunately, I couldn’t be inside the kitchen because it was in a private home and when filled with the talent, production people, and equipment, was suddenly very very small.

I had a food stylist who prepared the ingredients for dishes at a nearby house. There was a constant stream of food deliveries while the shoot was in progress.   Occasionally we had to stop shooting because flights leaving Bob Hope Airport could be heard, so I  had to juggle the takes between the food being prepared and available and distant airplane noise not interfering with the sound quality.

To finish off the meal a glass of wine was to be poured.  The trick here was there was a bottle of white wine but red wine was the proper choice to accompany the meal.  Of course the magician could change it from white to red, and he did.  It was the smoothest trick in the entire show.  But… as he sniffed the glass of instantaneous red wine, he said “Ah, the smell of wine…”  You cannot say this on a show that professes to be about cooking.  Even if the show had sold the host and the magician would have self-destructed, if I didn’t kill them first.

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