Category Archives: LGBT

Howard Bragman’s New Series

HOLLYWOOD — Several news and entertainment outlets are reporting that celebrity publicist Howard Bragman is producing the show in conjunction with JUMA Entertainment for air on A&E. The show will turn the cameras on the journeys of public figures who are looking for a vehicle to support them as they come out of the closet as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Bragman is known for representing celebrities like Meredith Baxter, Chely Wright, Chaz Bono and Isaiah Washington. (Note: For this post, I use gay to mean all LGBQT people.)

I met Howard at the OUTFEST “Coming Out in Hollywood” panel on Saturday. He’s an incredibly tall man; I think he’s twice my height! He was very sweet and got down on his knees next to me for this photo. He’s a formidable presence and, on the panel, he spoke passionately about the importance for people to be out in our industry. Although it is complicated and difficult (knowing the once adoring public can turn on dime), Howard talked about how more visibility leads to more acceptance for everyone. He made a comparison to the lack of blacks in film and television in the 50’s and 60’s and how their insistence on being included brought diversity to mainstream media.

While listening to the panelists discuss the pros and cons of being an out actor, I was having a revelation. The focus of the panel was, in my opinion, a minor point in the bigger conversation. Don’t get me wrong, whether an actor is out or not does have an influence on the public but it really isn’t the big kahuna. A gay actor isn’t the same thing as a black actor. A gay actor is STILL INVISIBLE to the audience. That’s the “problem” with being gay, it can be quite easy to “pass for straight.” More gays in the industry and more gays being open doesn’t really change anything because, onscreen, it’s all the same. It’s not like putting a black, an asian, a hispanic or disabled actor on screen.

It hit me like a thunderbolt and I had a hard time sitting there. Howard was right. It was incredibly important that Meredith Baxter came out because everyone saw her as the all-American Mom. Her coming out made the public more aware that the all-American Mom could be a gay woman with five children and grandchildren (as Meredith is). For much of the audience, Meredith Baxter (the person) is indistinguishable from Meredith Baxter (the actress). Meredith’s coming out revealed gay Moms in America like me. It put my son’s life into the public dialog in a whole new way.

What is missing, in my opinion, are gay characters in mainstream film and television. Gay parents, gay teachers, gay repairmen, gay plumbers, gay farmers. Current estimates are that 1 in 8 Americans are gay. Imagine if there were one gay character for every straight character in contemporary television shows and movies. Just average, every day people who do their jobs, raise their children and live in the world like everyone else. And, in this regard, I disagree with some of the panelists. I do NOT think our coming out is our most important story. It is one of our stories. We have many others. Our sexuality is only one aspect of our personality. And just as the sexual rites of passage are important to the LGBQT population, it is important to the straight population. But, for all of us, it is just PART of who we are, not all of who we are.

I want every human being to have the right to “live out loud and proud” … no matter who he or she is. Everyone. And, I’d like us all to be visible in our media, in the stories we tell.

I wish Howard the best of luck on his new series. I do think it is important. Most of all, I hope it leads to the creation of many more gay roles in television and film … roles that are played by GAY AND STRAIGHT actors. That’s what I’m waiting for! Howard’s agency is FIFTEEN MINUTES, as in “Hey, where’s MY fifteen minutes of fame?!?”

Webisodes aka The Web Series Phenom

Everyone has been discussing web distribution since my first Sundance Film Festival in 1996. I swear! There has been a panel on alternative forms of distribution at nearly every Sundance for the last fifteen YEARS. Serious film producers would always turn up their noses and say disparaging things about web content.

“No one is making any money at it,” they would sniff. “No serious filmmaker would consider such a thing.” After 15 years of promoting and prognosticating, it seems like Web Phenomenon is finally here.

At last year’s Power Premiere, I met the delightful Susan Miller. A terrific writer with a boatload of credits, she talked about her web series ANYONE BUT ME. It sounded like a fun concept and the series is now heading into its third season. It has over 4 million views worldwide and has been awarded with: 4 Streamy Nominations & Best Actress Win; Webby Honorees for Drama & Writing; 4 Indie Soap Awards; AfterEllen’s Visibility Award.

This last weekend, Meredith Baxter mentioned her latest acting gig. The web series WE HAVE TO STOP NOW with Cathy DeBuono and Jill Bennett. Two therapists on the verge of divorce discover the relationship book they co-authored is on the New York Times bestseller list. A reality show/documentary film crew moves in to capture the “magic” that made the book so successful. Comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer starred as their distressed therapist in season one. Now, Meredith Baxter is joining the cast for season two, as a rather odd therapist who doesn’t want the clients to talk too much during their sessions.

You may recall I was the production manager on a feature film called GIRLTRASH: All Night Long that Angela Robinson, Alex Kondracke and POWER UP developed from a Showtime web series. To understand more of how that series became a feature, you can take a look at the GIRLTRASH Blog to get the inner workings of that process.

Jamie Lieberman (Alec’s girlfriend) went to school with a bunch of people at Emerson (in Boston). They developed a web series that has now been picked up by Warner Brothers. Starring a bunch of young unknowns, DOWNER’S GROVE is a funny slice of life in a boring, small town.

There are a lot of plusses to making your own web series.

Webisodes tend to be short. Three to six minutes in length. You don’t need a huge budget or massive time commitment to put them on. You get to create your own characters in their own world. You don’t have to wait for a production executive to give you the green light. Since they tend to avoid risky projects, you can go out on a limb and prove the merit of your idea. Web series tend to build rabid fan bases that become their market for future stories. I have noticed that many web series reach out to their fan base for funding. Some sell subscriptions to support the series. Others get traditional advertisers to back their projects.

The biggest negative to a web series is the one faced by everyone in this business. Being wildly successful is a long shot. You have to invest a lot of time and money and creative energy in a project that may not go anywhere. If you’ve got a great concept and can serve a loyal market niche, you can have a life devoted to creating stories you love for people who greatly appreciate them. And, if you’re really lucky, they may catapult you into the big time.

A MARINE STORY Gets Attention at OUTFEST

OUTFEST, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is coming to a close today and the awards were announced this morning. I was delighted to see that A MARINE STORY won the audience award, the grand jury award and an acting award for Dreya Weber. Sweet. A MARINE STORY is the first film I worked on when I got to town. I went to one of the weekly industry mixers held by LGBQT icon JD Disalvatore (The Smoking Cocktail). Since she was producing the film, she introduced me to director Ned Farr and lead actress (also Mrs. Farr) Dreya Weber and the rest is history. I loved the project and thought it was important and told a story that needs to be in the mainstream. I loved that the script didn’t take predictable, cliche routes. And, as it turned out, actress Paris Pickard (Saffron) was good friends with Alec’s girlfriend, Jamie. (The film world is so dang tiny.)

I was also delighted to see that the Peruvian film CONTRACORRIENTE received a Special Artistic Achievement Award. Kathy Wolfe (Wolfe Video) said it was incredible and not to be missed. As usual, she was right.

I must also mention a LAUGH OUT LOUD short film I saw, YOU MOVE ME. The premise line for the short did NOT impress me at all and I thought I would hate it. But it was really funny. Witty dialogue, two funny characters, and I hear it may become a feature. You’ll want to catch it for sure!

The full list of OUTFEST winners:

Special Programming Award for Freedom, Sponsored by ONEHOPE Wine
THE TOPP TWINS, Directed by Leanne Pooley

Special Programming Award for Artistic Achievement
Sponsored by The Los Angeles Athletic Club
UNDERTOW (CONTRACORRIENTE), Directed by Javier Fuentes-Leon

Special Programming Award for Emerging Talent
Sponsored by Kodak
Drew Droege, Actor

Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Short Film
Sponsored by CRE – Computer Rentals & AV Solutions
I’M JUST ANNEKE, Directed by Jonathan Skurnik

Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film
Sponsored by Entertainment Partners
YOU MOVE ME, Directed by Gina Hirsch

Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Flm
Sponsored by Yellow Cab
FOREVER’S GONNA START TONIGHT, Directed by Michelle Lawler

Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Feature Film
Sponsored by Overture Films
A MARINE STORY, Directed by Ned Farr

Audience Award for Outstanding First U.S. Dramatic Feature Film
Sponsored by HBO (cash prize of $5,000 from HBO)
THE FOUR-FACED LIAR, Directed by Jacob Chase

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Short Film
Sponsored by Stella Artois
CLOSE (POD BLUZKA), Directed by Lucia Von Horn Pagano

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film
Sponsored by Wolfe
SAMARITAN, Directed by Magnus Mork

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film
Sponsored by The Directors Guild of America
STRANGE POWERS: STEPHIN MERRITT & THE MAGNETIC FIELDS, Directed by Kerthy Fix and Gail O’Hara

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding International Dramatic Feature Film
Sponsored by Absolut
THE SECRET DIARIES OF MISS ANNE LISTER, Directed by James Kent

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film
Sponsored by The Standard Hotel, Downtown and Sunset Blvd.
Dreya Weber, A MARINE STORY

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film
Sponsored by Ramada West Hollywood
Stephen Guarino, BEARCITY

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Screenwriting
Sponsored by APA Talent and Literary Agency
Douglas Langway and Lawrence Ferber, BEARCITY

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding U.S. Dramatic Feature Film
Sponsored by Lexus
A MARINE STORY, Directed by Ned Farr

Meredith Baxter’s Family Ties

I went to the OUTFEST shorts program last night and it was fantastic. Apparently there is something call “All Girl Friday” and there’s a shorts program that is part of that. The theater was full and the audience was in good spirits. Several of the shorts were quite funny! Laugh out loud funny.

The best part of the evening was meeting Meredith Baxter. You may remember her as Alex P. Keaton’s mom on the hit television series FAMILY TIES. Most recently, she appeared as Lilly’s mother on the television drama COLD CASE (a show that I have loved, loved, loved since the beginning). Meredith is big news at OUTFEST because she just came out a short time ago. TWO people asked me to photograph themselves with her. She asked if I was the official photographer. Cute. Made me like her more than I already did. Apparently she’s doing a panel today on what it means to be gay in LA … so I’m off to the panel for insights. Should be interesting. Will write more on it tomorrow. Meredith is waiting.

Post note: Went to the panel and enjoyed it immensely. The main point of discussion was about the consequences for actors coming out. Given the big dust up over Sean Hayes’ performance on Broadway, it was an interesting topic to view from the perspective of the actor seeking work and trying to build a career. Building a successful production film career is capricious, complicated, and volatile. It is, however, a cakewalk compared to building an ACTING career. The public is a fickle lover. And when she turns on you … well, enough said …

So it was interesting to hear the point of view of the panelists. Meredith was the only female on the panel (shocker? not!) She was quite clever and had several witty comments. Howard Bragman (Fifteen Minutes Public Relations), Meredith’s PR guy was also on the panel. His firm specializes in guiding actors through difficult media times. He had a lot to say about the importance that coming out made for the LGBQT community. The more visible and present we are, the better it is. I had heard Writer/Producer Don Roos speak numerous times at Sundance. I really loved his film, HAPPY ENDINGS. I did not know the two other actors on the panel. They both spoke about how important it is to be out and how they always had been. And I didn’t know either one of them. I thought that was significant. I have since been able to discover that one actor was Doug Spearman of NOAH’S ARK. I’m still searching for the other one.

Modern Detective’s Toolbox: Facebook

I don’t know how anyone can hide in the digital age. The fastest way to ferret out anyone or anything has got to be Facebook. I’ve been testing this on my writing projects lately. I’ve spent days and days researching in libraries, scouring historical society holdings and sifting through government records in search of “the truth” about a character or a story I am working on. It can be very satisfying to find some new nugget in these Herculean quests but I have found there’s a much quicker path to greater rewards. It’s Facebook and the internet.

Two years ago, I started researching a project on Robert Mugabe. I wanted more background information on his family, his wife and her family and their children. There was so little published that hadn’t been “sanitized” by the Mugabe government, I just couldn’t find anything that felt “real” about any of them. So, I went to Facebook and entered the family name and the country of their birth. Up pop several people who looked like they were probably related. I send off several Facebook messages (because you can do that even if you aren’t friends). Lo and behold, I get an answer from someone who can get me to the 98-year-old mother of one of the key players in the story … AND the woman is still alive. Seriously. The mother was still alive. Talk about access to real nuggets of truth. It was like the discovery at Sutter’s Mill all over again.

Today, I wanted to get in touch with some filmmakers and artists in Zambia. I’d met them in 2006 when we were there filming BAD TIMING. The phone numbers weren’t working and I needed to reach them pronto. Two were easily located on Facebook (name + country = target acquired). Another did not have a Facebook account. No worries, her niece has one. A couple of messages were exchanged and within 30 minutes, I had her current cell phone number. A quick Google search gave me the number for the National Arts Council as well. It also reminded me of a wonderful director I had wanted to remember to contact about the film she recently completed. I discovered she’d been to the Berlinale and was featured in a documentary. And, it had her email and telephone. Naturally, we’ve been corresponding all day!

GIRLTRASH Hierarchy vs. Anarchy

Making GIRLTRASH: All Night Long was like being in the military. To be blunt, working on ANY film is like being in the military … minus, perhaps, the threat of a mandatory stop-loss at the conclusion of your tour of duty. Even though it is common, at the wrap of a film, to find a lot of film crews that “re-up” for subsequent film projects because these specialized teams have developed a level of trust, respect and safety in working together. I am certain many of the GIRLTRASH crew will work together, again.

GIRLTRASH is a POWER UP film. POWER UP is the only 501(c)3 non-profit film production company and educational organization in Los Angeles. As far as I know, it’s the only non-profit film production company and educational organization in the world. In their commitment to education, POWER UP has a Mentee Program that allows POWER UP members become part of the film crew and acquire the necessary skills to continue in a film production environment. Over two-dozen women and men joined the Mentee Program on GIRLTRASH. People came from as far away as Singapore, Australia and The Netherlands to work on the film. In the continental U.S., there were mentees from DC, Tennessee, Arizona, and New York.

They were divided into three teams that rotated through all of the key positions on a crew so they could gain experience in every area. They rotated through the AD Department, Craft Service and Transpo/Float. They were generally the first in and last out every day. I was impressed and amazed at their level of commitment and determination.

Their training began with a PA handbook and a meeting. The learned how to be a S.T.A.R (by being swift, tactful, aware and resourceful). They learned Set Etiquette and Walkie Etiquette. They learned to bring extra socks, extra jackets and notebooks. They learned about networking and set politics. They learned about hierarchy.

There is a clear chain of command on a movie set.

The AD department sends out the call sheet and communicates who and when everyone is to be on set. NO ONE else gives out call times. The AD department also communicates with the cast. The First AD is the “king of the set.” He/she is responsible for the smooth and efficient operation of all departments so the director can “make his/her day.” The Second AD supports the first AD in marshaling the crew quickly into position and communicates with the cast. The Second Second AD manages all of the paperwork including the call sheet, the sides, SAG paperwork, the G’s and such.

The G&E (Grip, Gaffing and Electric) department powers the set. The Key Grip, Best Boy Electric and team will run cables from the generator throughout the set to power the cameras, lights, and audio equipment. The Gaffer will bring in the gear to modify and adjust the lights (scrims, screens, flags and so on).

The Camera Department and Audio Department are pretty obvious for most folks. The Camera Department includes the DP, the 1st and 2nd AC. The Audio Department includes the sound mixer and boom operator (or, as I inelegantly referred to him one evening, “the Boom Dude”). Other obvious departments include Art (production designer, art director, and prop master); Make-Up and Hair; and Costume/Wardrobe. On set, you learn that you don’t touch anything in another department unless you’re asked to or you ask first.

The Transportation Department moves all of the trucks to the proper locations each day AND makes sure that all picture vehicles are on set AND provides shuttle services for the crew on the days that the staging lot is distant from the set or the crew is in motion (process trailer or tow dolly).

In addition to the production mentees on GIRLTRASH, there were mentees in Camera and G&E. The mentees learned a great deal by working on a professional crew AND provided invaluable support and assistance to the entire GIRLTRASH crew. As the Production Manager for the film, I was intimately aware of contributions and learning gained each and every mentee.

It’s exactly the sort of learning that I sought to provide as part of the FilmZambia project in the fall of 2006 when we took 14 students and four faculty to Lusaka, Zambia to create the first feature film in that country. Unlike the POWER UP experience, the FilmZambia students were making films in a nation that had NO film industry. We had to carry everything with us and fashion it from whatever was available locally. The learning curve was steep and the experience required every bit of resourcefulness and ingenuity we could muster. Fortunately, the students were up to it.

I got an email from one of those students today remarking on how grateful he was for that experience and opportunity. Maybe that’s why I gravitated to POWER UP in the first place and why I am so aware of the benefits of the Mentee Program. I think these sorts of experiences are incredibly valuable, equally rare and totally worth having!

Tomorrow, more about the genius of the key players in the making of GIRLTRASH!

Bring Your “A” Game

Producer Lisa Thrasher said it best, “When you come to LA to make films, you better bring your “A” game because all of the best filmmakers are here. Here, you are competing with the best of the best. In some other part of the country or some other part of the world, you can be a mediocre filmmaker and still get films made. Not here. Not in the film capital of the world.”

We were on our way to a V-Day luncheon, an extraordinary event founded by Eve Ensler. V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. Held on February 11, it was attended by Ensler and Charlize Theron, Jane Fonda, Gabourey Sidibe, Rosario Dawson, Dermot Mulroney, Jehan Agrama, Donna Dietch and dozens more film and feminist glitterati. Two extraordinary producers, Midge Sanborn and Sarah Pillsbury, were seated at our table. (They produced DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, RIVER’S EDGE and HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT.) We chatted about Facebook and the challenges of getting a film made in the current market. Tough. So tough.

And, yet, as hard as it is to get a film made, I was in the middle of working on a film for POWER UP. And it was definitely requiring everyone’s “A” game. The film was written by Angela Robinson and directed by her partner, Alex Kondracke. Based on the super successful web series sponsored by Showtime, it starred Lisa Rieffel, Michelle Lombardo, Gabby Christian, Mandy Musgrave, Kate French, Rose Rollins, Clementine Ford, Megan Cavanagh, Jessica Chaffin and Michael O’Connell.

The film takes place in one epic night. It’s about everything that happens to Tyler and Daisy (Lombardo and Rieffel) as they try to get to a “battle of the bands” style competition. They are waylaid by Daisy’s sister, Colby, who has her sights set on hooking up with Misty, the girl of her dreams. The night spins wildly out of control. So, like SUPERBAD, the film takes place in one night. What that meant for our crew is that the film was shot mostly at night. Call times tended to be around 4 or 5pm. We wrapped around 4 or 5am. By the end of the production, mostly everyone was sporting a vampire-like paleness.

It didn’t take long to figure out this was no rinky-dink, college-indie-production.

Even though this was a SAG ultra-low-budget film, it was totally “A” game. Throughout the production, we were moving a 5-ton truck full of gear and a cube truck full of expendables, gear and craft service supplies. The 5-ton towed our generator into position so the Grip & Electric crew could provide stable power to all teams. We had two Panavision cameras, therefore, obviously, two camera crews. We also used a steadicam crew on several of the “club” locations and a crane crew on one amazing traffic sequence. Since the film is a musical, we had great audio guys who had to capture and mix sound AND provide sync playback. We had to have a transportation coordinator just to move everything into place. With this sort of filmmaking, you can’t just change direction on a dime. You’re moving TONS of equipment and nearly a hundred people a day into position.

Some of our more extraordinary moments had to do with our street scenes. We used a process trailer on two days and a tow-dolly on two days. Four of our 28 days were moving … literally. A process trailer has the “picture vehicle” with the cast up on a trailer that is being towed around the streets of Hollywood. It’s a wide setup that requires four (4)! motorcycle cops with you at all times. The tow dolly has the front wheels of the picture vehicle strapped in and towed behind the camera truck. It’s a narrower setup that only requires two (2) officers. It’s like a half-off sale. The tow dolly days were in the Arts District of LA … bright lights and sparkly night skies. I can hardly wait to see it on the big screen. Definitely going to see everybody on their game.

GIRLTRASHED

It has been so long since I blogged, I was wondering if I’d even remember how to do it. As you may (or may not) recall, I joined the crew of GIRLTRASH: All Night Long the Tuesday BEFORE Thanksgiving! Initially, the film was going to be done by December 23. Scheduling conflicts with the cast pushed another week of filming into January … and, then, the rains began and days were added. And it rained more and we kept pushing and pushing and pushing. It was a monumental struggle to get to the finish line. We finally wrapped on about midnight on Monday, February 15, 2010.

As some of you know, I taught digital filmmaking, 3D animation, web design, graphic design and publishing for a number of years in Arizona. I was always looking for information on how to make the TRANSITION from student to professional. The hardest part for “newbies” is that they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know what to ask. While I was making the film, I was being mindful of sharing what I learned when I was done. I haven’t had time to write for the last three months but I plan to spend the next few weeks sharing what I’ve seen, what I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced in the hopes of helping those who want to pursue this crazy dream.

At the end of the day, I can say that serving as the Production Manager on the POWER UP film GIRLTRASH has been one of the most amazing and valuable experiences of my life. It has also been one of the most difficult and challenging experiences. At the end of the production, I caught a wicked cold that has knocked me flat for a couple of days now. Sleep seems to be helping. My voice has dropped two octaves. I sound like a sexy 17-year-old boy.

Tomorrow, understanding the crew.

Ultimate Directing Workshop with Angela Robinson

I’m excited about this upcoming workshop! (Get more information from the POWER UP website) Learn technique, style and form for directing features, shorts and television. Learn how to direct cast, work with the DP, writer and producers to fully realize your vision. Students will get an opportunity to have Angela block a scene from their project or script as well as understand fully what the director responsibilities include.

Materials include: Angela Robinson feature script, TV Script, and more information on what you need to make it happen. Learn how to navigate your path through the system by understanding the options and opportunities available.

WHEN: February 27-28
WHERE: West Hollywood, CA
TIME: 9am – 5pm

Angela Robinson, Writer, Director, Producer. (Herbie: Fully Loaded, D.E.B.S., the L word, Hung)

SPACE IS LIMITED! REGISTER NOW!

Angela received a BA in Theatre from Brown University and went to work in Off-Broadway and Off-off-off Broadway Theatre at Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage and HERE. She ditched the theatre in hopes of making any money at all and attended NYU’s Graduate Film Program — which only succeeded in getting her deeper in debt. Angela moved to L.A. and made the short film called D.E.B.S. through the POWER UP film grant program. The Film premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was then financed as a feature film for Sony’s Screen Gems. The feature also premiered at Sundance the following year. She directed HERBIE: FULLY LOADED for Disney, was a Co-Executive Producer on Showtime’s THE L-WORD for 3 years, directed, wrote and produced the web-series, GIRLTRASH!, and is currently a Consulting Producer on HUNG, a new comedy on HBO. Angela is also making a foray into comic books – a graphic novel of GIRLTRASH! will be released by Random House in 2011 and she is also writing a new comic book for D.C. COMICS called THE WEB, due out in September. Click here for more information!

We HUNG with Colette Burson & Dmitry Lipkin

POWER Couples

 

HUNG creators Colette Burson and Dmitry Lipkin graciously shared their insider insights on screenwriting, series development, and SUCCESSFUL network pitching at a POWER UP workshop. They were profoundly inspiring in their passion for their craft and the joy (and challenge) of bringing their work to an audience.

To be honest, it was startling when they first walked into the room. I thought Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes were making a surprise visit. Seriously, Burson & Lipkin really resemble Winslet & Mendes! Throughout the evening, I kept having the sense that we were seeing the American version of that very creative and powerful British POWER COUPLE.

Burson and Lipkin were originally scheduled to appear at the POWER UP 2Day TV Writer/Producer Intensive workshop in September but were unable to attend. Being the committed, supportive artists that they are, they rescheduled and presented the evening of 22 October at the Production Office of Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S.) and Alex Kondracke (the L word). Their production office was very dramatic — lots of brick, high ceilings, amazing wood accents — trés urban chic. Robinson and Kondracke are previous POWER UP grantees. Being in their space provided additional subtext to an already exciting event. There was a feeling of “great-POWER-UP-connections-equals-great-success” wafting through the autumn air.

burson_coletteBurson and Lipkin spoke about their bumpy road to success. Appropriately, Burson commented that success in the film and TV business is NOT like the male orgasm. “It’s not that you write the perfect script, meet the right person and suddenly your career shoots straight ahead,” said Burson miming something we might see on HUNG. She squinted her eyes slightly and began feeling the area all around her. Then, she grinned and said, “You try this, you write that, you talk to these people, you rewrite again and take another meeting. A career in this business is a lot more like the female orgasm!” Everyone in the room laughed in agreement and understanding.

lipkin_dmitryRussian-born Lipkin was a successful New York playwright who decided to move to LA to launch a career writing for television and film. To get started, he took a class through the UCLA extension to motivate himself to complete a spec script. He shared how he used that script to get an agent at CAA and how that agent got him meetings with producers. After a couple of frustrating YEARS, they asked him to write something original. He did. Happily. Not too long after that, he came up with the idea for THE RICHES. Then, a serendipitous meeting with a new executive at Maverick Studios and a cigarette break with Eddie Izzard led the creation of his first series … which was derailed by the writer’s strike after the first season. See, there it is, the female orgasm. Never a straight shot. (Variety has a nice summary of the path to HUNG for Tennessee Wolf Pack Productions — the Burson/Lipkin brand.) In their downtime during the strike, Burson and Lipkin came up with the idea for HUNG, a half-hour comedy that Lipkin said he was looking particularly excited about because longer shows can become a bit “Balkanized.” So Eastern European, so erudite.

During their presentation, husband and wife shared about the ways they balance their family life (two children) and their work life. Burson also talked about her love of writing about a specific milieu. She gave an example of the changing milieu around the “politics of water.” bursonLipkin Burson observed that over the years, the wealthy have begun to acquire all of the land around water … around oceans, lakes, rivers and streams … making it difficult for the average family to have access to water. They used this in the development of HUNG. Burson and Lipkin decided that main character, Ray, would have waterfront property because it had been handed down by his family, but he would be surrounded by McMansions and condescending, surly neighbors. This increased the dramatic tension for Ray and allowed Burson/Lipkin to explore this shifting “water milieu.”

Similarly, Lipkin explored the milieu of the American Gypsy in THE RICHES, a story about a character born into a family of thieves and con artist who wants to go straight. It was fascinating listening the them discuss story creation and character development.

Burson & Lipkin’s Writing Recommendations:
  • Life is long and your writing will evolve. You want your writing psyche to be fierce as possible to work in this business.
  • Young writers often think they have a writing “style.” This is often just a writing rut. Strengthen your writing by working on new things.
  • Always be thinking: What does the character want that they cannot have and what is he/she doing to move toward it?
  • Know the Dramatic Question for the series, the Major Character Arcs and the Thematic Question for the individual show. Episodes that connect to all three will be more satisfying for the audience.
  • Currency is this town is ideas, we sell ideas, not scripts or shows.
Burson & Lipkin’s Pitching Recommendations:
  • Pitching is a tool for you. It helps you find what is dramatic, exciting and engaging as you speak it to others.
  • You pitch a series thematically. You pitch the story engine and the structure of the typical episode.
  • Practice your pitch. Role play it.
  • Be yourself in the pitch room. They want to know you’re sharp, have a wide range of interests, are well-versed in numerous topics AND you are going to be easy to work with.
  • One way to begin a pitch is to mention well-known incident related to your story to engage the listener (remember a few years ago when a woman was slapping her child in a parking lot and it was discovered she was a “Traveller” … an American Gypsy?) If they recall, continue with facts to deepen your connection to the story, then reveal your characters and milieu.
Burson & Lipkin’s Networking Recommendations:
  • Network, network, network. Luck comes from unexpected avenues from surprising people.
  • As relative newcomers, they spoke to the difficulty in breaking into the industry and, while they want to give people an opportunity, it can be difficult because of the inherent risk of an unknown quantity. They praised HBO, (“God Bless HBO,” they intoned over and over again) for their support for HUNG.
  • People remember. They told an amusing story about a writer they tracked for over TWELVE YEARS because they liked his work.
  • While doing a short film for POWER UP (after she’d already done a feature), Burson joked that there were days she thought it should be called Power Down but went on to say she learned a lot and was grateful for the break.

This completion to the already inspiring POWER UP Workshop was fabulous! I’m looking forward to seeing the couple at the Power Premiere on November 1 … it should be an excellent opportunity to hear more about what they’re up to! Besides, I’m anxious to hear more about their son, Wolfe, a young man with a passion for self-direction already! Couldn’t happen to a nicer couple!

Other posts of interest:
Don’t Read the POWER Up Summaries
Workshop Day Two
Workshop Day One
POWER Up Changed Alec’s Life (and mine, too)

Why We Need Organizations to Support Women in TV/Film

Women working in FILM
In 2008, women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 3 percentage points from 2001 and an increase of 1 percentage point from 2007. Women accounted for 9% of directors in 2008, an increase 3 percentage points from 2007. This figure represents no change from the percentage of women directing in 1998.

Women working in TV
Women comprised 26% of all creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography working on situation comedies, dramas, and reality programs. This percentage represents no change from last season. Women writers and directors of photography experienced significant declines this year. The percentage of women writers dropped from 35% in the 2006-07 season to 23% in 2007-08. The percentage of women directors of photography declined from a meager 3% in 2007-08 to a microscopic 1% in 2007-08.

© Dr. Martha Lauzen, 2008. All rights reserved as quoted in POWER UP Magazine

Dustin Lance Black’s VIRGINIA Starts Monday

WRONGVIRGINIAWHAT’S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA, a film that was written by (and will be directed) by Dustin Lance Black (the Oscar-winning screenwriter of MILK) begins shooting Monday, 28 Sep, in Michigan. Gus Van Sant (who will be honored at the POWER UP 9th Annual Power Premiere in November) directed MILK and serves as Executive Producer on VIRGINIA.

Jennifer Connelly will play the charming but psychologically disturbed mother of a 16-year-old son (according to a tweet today, the role will be played by Australian newcomer Harrison Gilbertson). In the film, Connelly’s character, Virginia, has been having a 20-year clandestine love with a sheriff (played by Ed Harris), who is running for the state senate. Harris’ senatorial bid and Connelly’s secret are challenged when her son begins a relationship with his daughter (played by Emma Roberts).

Tictock Studios is financing the film and founders Hopwood DePree and Scott Brooks will produce with Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and Eric Watson. Roar’s Jay Froberg and Greg Suess will be exec producers and Film Bridge Intl.’s Ellen Wander is handling international distribution. CAA, which packaged the picture, will broker the domestic distribution deal.

Fundraising Season

With the turning of autumn leaves comes the yearning for all things green. Money, that it. As in our greenbacks. Perhaps it is the approach of year’s end and the reminder of tax season’s approach that has so many charity events scheduled for the fall. Some folks suggest it’s the season of giving and gratitude that brings them out. Some even say it’s because the kiddies are back in school. Whatever the reason, I’ve got THREE big fund-raising events I’m wanting to attend. The 9th Annual POWER UP Power Premiere, the OUTFEST Legacy Awards 2009 and the 2009 LAGLCC Gala.

PowerUpLogoThe POWER-UP event (1 November 2009) will be honoring Honoring 10 Amazing Gay Men and Women in Showbiz. Female honorees include : RACHEL MADDOW, KELLEY McGILLIS, CAROL LEIFER, Harriet Newman Leve, Sharon Isbin, Patricia Resnick, Angela Courtin, Megan Cavanagh, Liz Feldman, and Susan Miller. Male honorees include GUS VAN SANT, DON ROOS, Silvio Horta, Lance Bass, Paris Barclay, Graham Kaye, Bob Cohen, Mark V. Olsen, C. Jay Cox, and Will Scheffer. Contributions range from $125 to $500. If you’re interested in attending, you can get more information at 323 463-3154.

outfestThe OUTFEST Legacy event (30 September 2009) will be hosted by BRUCE VILANCH and will honor ALAN POUL. LAURA LINNEY will be presenting the award. Of course, I do adore Laura Linney AND it’s for a good cause: the preservation of LGBT films. The event will be held at the Directors Guild of America. Contributions range in price from $125 to $500. If you need more information, you can call 213.480.7088 or go to OUTFEST.org.

laglccThe Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (LAGLCC) Gala (4 October 2009) will be held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It will be hosted by QUEER AS FOLK’S Hal Sparks with appearances by Daniella Sea, Jennifer Elise Cox (Jan Brady of the Brady Bunch), Kate Linder and Adam Bouska. They will be honoring the “Business of the Year”; “Corporate Partner of the Year” and the “LAGLCC-Raytheon Community Advancement Award Winner” as well as awarding two scholarships to “Young LGBT Business Students.” Contribution is only $100. Purchase tickets at www.LAGLCC.org.

The Front Runner Becoming a Movie!

TFRbannerTHE FRONT RUNNER was an amazing book that touched me profoundly in my tender teen years. While working on my script today, I discovered that the book is being made into a film that is scheduled for release in 2011. The film is being exec-produced by Greg Zanfardino (Alliance Filmworks/Moniker Entertainment) and produced by Tyler St. Mark (nephew of Kathy Bates).

Written by Patricia Nell Warren, The Front Runner was published in 1974. It’s the story of a cross-country coach who works at an obscure college because of his controversial personal history. Three terrific cross-country runners come to his school, one who may be Olympic material. The coach falls in love with that runner (as a former professor, this plotline is always difficult for me because of the whole ethical, imbalance of power thing but, that is my issue). The relationship is touching and the challenges as meaningful back then as they are now. The story races adroitly to a difficult resolution. I remember crying like a baby when I read the book. It was one of those “touchstone” moments in my life.

TFRscriptSo, needless to say, I was delighted to see the book is coming to mainstream culture. There were no casting announcements on the website or IMDb.

Alliance Filmworks / Moniker brought QUEER AS FOLK to the U.S. and are slated to release a second film based on another Patricia Nell Warren story. ONE IS THE SUN is the story of an Indian woman who was also a chief. Obviously Alliance/Moniker and Warren seek stories for the under-represented cultural factions. I’ll be watching for more info on both films.

In The Know with JD Disalvatore

If it’s gay in LA, you can be certain that JD Disalvatore knows all about it, is letting everyone know through her website The Smoking Cocktail and, if it’s an important event, either be attending or hosting the event! She’s got the pulse on everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) that’s happening in town.

JD Disalvatore Honored by GLAAD

JD Disalvatore Honored by GLAAD

Recently she started The Top Ten Gay Stories of the Week on her blog. Fabulous.

Did you know they’re making a biopic of LIBERACE’s life starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Did you know Ilene Chaiken is casting for her new show? Did you know openly-gay Neil Patrick Harris is hosting the Emmy’s? Bookmark JD’s blog and you’ll be in the know, too.

How did I come to know about JD? When I was getting ready to move to SoCal, I was trying to figure out how to meet people in film and television. I was looking for GOOD networking opportunities. I was looking for a break, the inside track, and a good time.

Serendipitously, I stumbled on a flyer about the monthly Smoking Cocktail LGBT mixer JD hosts at the OBar in WeHo. It’s the third Wednesday of every month, come rain or shine or shooting schedules. So, I decided to attend. I was still living in Phoenix at the time but decided to chance the trek for one of JD’s mixers. Alec and Elisa graciously agreed to accompany me for the six-hour (each way) journey. When we got there, JD discovered we had just crossed the desert (in July) and didn’t know anyone. She hauled us around and introduced us to everyone. We met so many fun people. People on boards, people from studios, people who do indies, people who laugh and have a good time. It was soooo worth it.

As time has gone on, I’ve been to more mixers and more events. JD is always there with camera in hand. She fills the room with a good-natured, infectious throaty laugh that gets everybody going. There’s always a buzz around JD. She’s a committed filmmaker (doing God’s work, as she likes to say), an ardent activist, and a perpetual explosion of activity. As Jon Lovitz used to say, “Get to know her.” You’ll be glaad you did.

Related Posts with Thumbnails