MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Friday, August 19, 2016

MEG'S Long, Long Journey to the Screen

Giant Shark Movie ‘Meg’ Had A Ridiculously Complex Journey To Screens


Macmillan

It seems strange that Hollywood hasn’t already made a movie where Jason Statham fights a giant shark, which is more or less the plot summary of Meg, a movie that just cast Rainn Wilson as the well-meaning billionaire who unleashes said giant shark by mistake. But Meg is a movie with a decades-long history of not getting made that lays bare just how hard it is to make a movie that seems like a slam dunk.

Meg first pinged Hollywood’s radar in 1997, when the thriller of the same name from prolific thriller author Steve Alten first hit bookstores. Alten’s book was practically designed for Hollywood: It followed Navy SEAL and diving expert Jonas Taylor, who stumbles over a giant shark in the Marianas Trench and is immediately dismissed as a crackpot. He goes back to help retrieve a submersible and a series of accidents unleashes the giant shark on the ocean. Alten’s mix of old-school monster movie and Tom Clancy-esque technothriller was unique, and he’s kept returning to the concept with five other novels.

Alten’s book was, quite literally, optioned before it was printed. Alten’s agent used the plot to tempt Disney into optioning the novel and then turned that around to get Alten a publishing deal. But before Disney could start building sharks, Deep Blue Sea, a movie about sharks with human intelligence eating Samuel L. Jackson, went into production, so Disney held off. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Renny Harlin’s gleeful B-movie did okay at the box office, but wasn’t the globe-spanning hit Disney was hoping to see. Disney threw Meg back, but it didn’t stay in for long, as in 2004, the producers behind Hellboy, along with the editor of CHUD.com at the time, Nick Nunziata, optioned it for Guillermo Del Toro to direct.

Unfortunately, as fans of his many, many abandoned projects can tell you, Del Toro’s eyes are often bigger than his stomach. So, in 2007, it went to another filmmaker, Speed director Jan de Bont. De Bont, by the way, hasn’t directed a movie since 2003’s Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, and in 2010, Meg was released into the wild yet again.

Aside from a brief mention in 2011 from Alten that the movie was back on track, Meg was dormant until 2015, when it was announced Eli Roth was taking over directorial duties. What changed?

The short answer was that China was interested. Just as The Rock and Matt Damon have turned up in Chinese-funded projects, Meg will largely be paid for by obscure production company Gravity Pictures, which will distribute it in China. But even with the funding on lock, there was still the matter of finding a director, as Roth left and was replaced by National Treasure director Jon Turteltaub.

It seems Meg has finally escaped production hell. In addition to Wilson, Orange is the New Black star Ruby Rose and Chinese megastar/pop singer Fan Bingbing have signed on, and Meg is on track to arrive in March 2018. But, of course, if the giant shark has learned anything from Hollywood, it’s that even a sure thing may be harder to make than it looks.

Read more


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ken Atchity Featured in the UK Express: The hollywood producer and writer who loves making waves

KEN ATCHITY has quite literally been making waves on the Hollywood film scene.



Ken Atchity 


The writer, editor, literary manager and producer now operates the only wave generating tank in North America with his partners.
The Louisiana Wave Studio is a huge tank built originally by the Disney Company for their film the Guardian.

“We’ve filmed numerous movies there and it’s always an astonishing thing to watch in action,” says Ken, who is from Louisiana himself. “Waves from 2ft to 7ft can be made at the touch of a button.”

Wave generating tank
The 72-year-old now operates the only wave generating tank in North America
 
A brief look at Ken’s CV should leave no one surprised that he seized on the chance to try something unique and different.

He has spent a lifetime leaping into the unknown, from the moment he left Yale having won the university’s prestigious Porter Prize for his 853-page dissertation on Homer’s Iliad.

“When I told a great editor, Norman Cousins of the Saturday Review, that I was feeling claustrophobic in the Academic World he suggested I enter the world of entertainment where ‘anything goes’ and ‘nobody knows anything’ – to quote from William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade.

“A year later, I was the executive producer on 16 romance films in Montreal, Canada. I’ve never looked back.”

Ken had got the film-making bug and was soon rubbing shoulders with stars like Angelina Jolie, James Belushi, Tim Allen and Rupert Everett.

“Sure, there are plenty of stories,” says Ken. “I could tell you about the ‘trailer war’ between Tim Allen and Julie Bowen at the Target Center in Minneapolis during the shooting of Joe Somebody, but maybe I’d better stick to my walk-on role in that film as Jesse Ventura’s bodyguard!

Messiah
Atchity has written more than 20 books – including the novel The Messiah Matrix
 
“I’ll never forget the time, either, that we were filming in London and Maggie Gyllenhaal shot one of her scenes in Hysteria while her daughter was secreted underneath her ample Victorian bustle.

“Of all of them I loved working with Angelina because she’s so business-like about her acting—refusing even to take a toilet break so as not to hold up a shot.

“In contrast, I won’t name the actress who demanded that we buy her an $8,000 watch as a “gift”—then, when we politely refused, showed up hours late for the next day’s shoot.”

It’s words, though, that get Ken’s juices flowing. He has written more than 20 books – including the novels Seven Ways To Die, The Messiah Matrix and Brae Mackenzie – and when he isn’t doing it himself he is helping others navigate the publishing minefield. 
 
The Lost Valentine
The Lost Valentine is among Ken Atchity's film productions

Ken has made literally hundreds of film and television deals for storytellers wanting their books to be films - including movies, series and reality shows - since he began producing in 1987 after retiring from his tenured professorship at Occidental College. 

As a literary manager his authors have logged nearly 20 New York Times bestsellers. Added to that he is the creator of the free on-demand webinar presentation "Sell Your Story to Hollywood" for aspiring storytellers available at Real Fast Hollywood Deal. I bumped into him at the Dublin Writers’ Conference, run by the book promotion service Books Go Social.

“I have good time management skills and can keep my ego under control – things I learned from my high school and college Jesuit teachers,” says Ken. “They were the world’s toughest coaches.

“I’ve sold seven or eight scripts for the prodigious John Scott Shepherd, two of which have been made to date: Joe Somebody (with Tim Allen and Julie Bowen) and Life or Something Like It (Angelina Jolie, Ed Burns, Jim Belushi).

“Steve Alten’s Meg is the biggest sale I’ve made ($2.2 million to Doubleday-Bantam), and is finally going into production this summer starring Jason Statham and Bingbing Fan after about 15 years in development at three studios. 
 
Belushi and Ken Atchity
Ken had got the film-making bug and was soon rubbing shoulders with stars like James Belushi
Then there’s Jerry Blaine and Lisa McCubbins’ The Kennedy Detail which was a New York Times bestseller and was made into an Emmy-nominated film for Discovery. They plan to make it into a feature film next.

Ken is married to Kayoko Mitsumatsu, accomplished producer for NHK (Japanese National Television), and president of the non-profit YogaGivesBack.org (“For the cost of one yoga class you can change a life”). They have two children, Vincent and Rosemary, and four grandchildren.

With all that going on you would think he might be ready to wind down, but he doesn’t see it that way. 
 
Joe Somebody
Joe Somebody was one of the several scripts Ken Atchity sold for John Scott Shepherd
 
“Outside of family and friends, I now intend to give all my remaining energy to storytelling and storytellers,” says Ken. “I’ll continue teaching along the way through writers’ conferences and webinars, like my new one with Daniel Hall, which is called Sell Your Story to Hollywood.
 
Nothing else matters, though. Stories are how we change the world – for better or for worse.”

In Ken Atchity’s case, it seems there are still plenty more waves left in the tank.

Nick Rippington is a sports journalist with Express newspapers. He is also author of the UK gangland thriller Crossing The Whitewash.
 
Reposted from the Express UK
 
 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

New Comic Book Release by Kareem Abdul Jabbar & Raymond Obstfeld: Mycroft Holmes: The Apocalypse Handbook

 
Basketball legend, novelist, and superstar polymath Kareem Abdul-Jabbar brings his take on Sherlock Holmes' older brother to comics at last! An all-new adventure set in the world of the bestselling Mycroft Holmes novel, The Apocalypse Handbook, sees the diffident, brilliant Mycroft pulled into a globe-spanning adventure at the behest of Queen Victoria and a secret organization at the heart of the British government.

A madman is on the loose with civilization-destroying weapons, each two hundred years in advance of the status quo. Can the smartest man in England set aside his idle, womanizing ways for long enough to track down the foe that may be his match?

Pop Culture Uncovered
 
"I actually gasped aloud at several points, when I wasn’t cackling with laughter, the dialogue and personalities are just so on point and so well supported by the art that this was a joy to read."

ComicWow

 
"This is a great issue to start off a series that is going to be full of adventure and intrigue. Our protagonist is, thus far, really interesting. His intelligence resonates really well, and is almost mesmerizing. The creative team on this series has done an amazing job so far, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here!"

The Hulking Reviewer 


 "Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook #1 is a sensational start to the series combining an intriguing story setup with entertaining character development and action. It’s an engrossing issue from the first page to the last due to the smooth writing and beautiful visuals. The way the attack on the British museum unfolds sets the tone early, and the focus on Mycroft’s behavior makes him feel like a unique character while leaving room for some serious growth. I know it’s only one issue but at this rate this series could easily become one of my favorites. I highly recommend it." 


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Book Reviews by Joan Gives Brae MacKenzie Five Stars


Book Reviews by Joan
The Latest Review
 

Brae MacKenzie: A Romance of Mythic Identity

By Kenneth Atchity


When folklore becomes alive.


"This is a story that most adult women will love. The author does an excellent job of bringing forth the characters of this young woman and man and then elaborate, thorough descriptions of the countryside, the weather and the plants. I was enthralled with this story."   5 Stars


purchase on Amazon.com
By Joan A. Adamak, Joan's Musings

This book encompasses a beautiful love story and it is like a travelogue of Scotland, for those of us who have never been there. Brae MacKenzie is a successful San Francisco painter, who seems to have it all, but because of family losses during childhood, cannot find happiness within herself, especially after her charismatic husband suddenly dies. She is left with a son, but she has always felt a sense of loss and longing since childhood. Her artistic passion hasn't filled that void, and with the untimely death of her husband, the old pain resurges and her depression becomes deeper and deeper. Brae's father senses his daughter's pain and before she embarks for an exhibit in England, he hands her a family heirloom hidden away for years...a letter with a treasure map, which says: "Since you are still among the living, your heart is not broken...follow the map to Scotland." The London exhibit, in its ultra-chic hollowness, prompts Brae into taking the advice of that bewildering letter. She hops a train for Glasgow. When her train emerges in an ancient Caledonian forest, Brae is pulled enough out of her depression to feel something and she stops at the next station. 

She is met by Damon, a well-built young Scot, who although a stranger to her, yet seems to know her. He becomes her personal guide into the myths and history of Scotland, including identifying all of the fauna, and takes her on a trip by horseback around the country, setting up camp, cooking and protecting her. But he doesn’t say much, doesn’t seem to want to talk, is rather withdrawn and dour. She gets accustomed to it and begins to look outside of herself. They travel much of Scotland to the ocean and as time passes, Brae begins to feel again and find some joy and beauty in life. She has inherited her grandmother’s house and lands on the edge of the ocean Damon becomes friendlier and even laughs with her sometimes. He explains her deceased grandmother’s life, and finally admits to her that he will never marry because he is sterile and he wouldn’t burden any woman with that. But she has a child, she realizes that they are falling in love and that he will never make a move, so she does and he responds. Her travels and kinship with him bring out the best in her and in him.





Saturday, August 6, 2016

Ruby Rose in Talks to Join Jason Statham in MEG!

Ruby Rose is in negotiations to join Fan Bingbing and Jason Statham in MEG.


Jon Turteltaub is directing the monster movie, a Warner Bros./Gravity Pictures project.

Jon Turteltaub, best known as helmer of the National Treasure movies, is directing the movie, which has a March 2, 2018, release date.

Statham leads the ensemble, playing a former Naval captain and expert diver recruited to undertake a deep-sea mission to rescue Chinese scientists under attack from a terrifying threat: a Carcharodon Megalodon, the 70-foot, 40-ton prehistoric kin to the great white shark.

Rose will play Jaxx, described as a kick-ass engineering genius and member of the marine research team.

Read more

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Jessica McNamee signs on as the female lead in the shark thriller Meg alongside Jason Statham and Chinese actress Bingbing Fan.


(Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Former Sirens actress Jessica McNamee has joined the upcoming shark blockbuster Meg as the female lead, EW has confirmed.

McNamee, who also costars in the upcoming CHiPs big screen adaptation, will star opposite Jason Statham in the Warner Bros. film. Based on Steve Alten’s 1997 novel MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror, the story will follow a former naval captain (Statham) who is tasked with rescuing a group of Chinese scientists trapped in their underwater observation program in the Mariana Trench. The title of the film is derived from “Megalodon,” the ancient shark-like creature.

Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure) will direct the film, which has an expected release date of March 2, 2018.

McNamee can also be seen in the upcoming Emma Stone dramedy Battle of the Sexes.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Kevin Flanagan of District Magazine talks to Ken About the Art of Storytelling!



It was a great year for Irish film with The Room and Brooklyn receiving Oscar nominations. Kevin Flanagan talks to Hollywood producer and author Kenneth John Atchity, about the importance of story and why the Irish are good at telling them.

Kevin met Ken Atchity at the international writer’s symposium held recently in Dublin. There he was able to get the producer’s views on the magic of story from the man who is known internationally as a “Story Merchant.”

I love Hollywood.

In 2003 I spent a month in Los Angeles attempting to sell my script to a Hollywood agent. It was memorable queuing at the local Kinko’s store where they had a photocopying machine that only copied film scripts and the queue was long! People are friendly, once they heard I was from Ireland our individual projects were discussed and phone numbers were swapped. As they say, you have to be friendly in Tinseltown because you never know who you will need on the way up (and down).

The other thing I loved was sitting in my favourite coffee shop Urth CaffĂ© on Melrose Avenue watching drop-dead gorgeous waitresses serve us coffee. They all looked, to my naive eye, like film stars. My cynical Irish friend burst my bubble. He had been working in Hollywood for years and said, between sips of his soya latte, ‘beautiful people are two-a-penny here!’.

As I continued to sit with my mouth wide-open my friend nudged me. A famed Hollywood producer had arrived outside the patio in an open-topped Bentley. Heads swivelled as he took a table, surrounded by a group of acolytes dancing attendance. Certainly the waitress perked up.

Everyone in Hollywood, I soon discovered, was climbing the greasy pole. Actresses, writers, directors, but at the top, wielding the real power, was the fabled Hollywood producer who can make (and break) anyone. You could smell their power and sense their arrogance.



My impression of Hollywood producers had not changed over the years till I meet Ken Atchity in Dublin this June past. Atchity has produced over 30 Hollywood movies and is known in the book world as the ‘Story Merchant’ because he also sells stories to publishers–and publishes them through Story Merchant Books. Soft spoken, educated, he is not at all like the usual hustler I saw on a daily basis in Hollywood. Ken Atchity is above all a reflective man who has built his life around the concept of “story.” He has been an academic, a writer, before he became a movie producer. He loves “story” and wants to share that love.

He certainly did that in Dublin when he spoke this summer to a group of writers, and what he said has stayed with me and helped inform my own work. According to Atchity, whatever the genre – movie, TV series, book or computer game – its core chances of success all come down to story. But story is not confined to the creative arts.

“Look at Brexit,” Atchity says as we sip a drink after his lecture in the bar of the famed Gresham Hotel, “the day after the referendum a lot of British people wanted to have another vote as they were led to believe Brexit was a story about the immigration crisis. But it was also about 200 other things as well: the value of pound and the stock market. But the story was moulded around immigration and national identity and people bought into it.”

Ken lowers his glass and smiles, “Lying is an old Catholic word for what we all do all day – another form of storytelling. If your wife walks down the steps after a long night out and asks “how am I looking?” do you tell the truth or a story to get by and not stir up a row?” He takes another sip. “Everybody is telling a story!”

Storytelling goes back to the dawn of man, Atchity insists, and Homer was the greatest storyteller of them all, probably as product of the oral tradition of storytelling having to be committed to memory. It becomes deeply ingrained.

“Stories are there to warn us what happens when people bring disaster on themselves and their people. To this day story still acts as an exhortation and a warning as what happens when someone brings destruction on all around him. Great stories are changing the world by changing the perception of people.”

Atchity believes storytelling impacts profoundly on both young and old.

“You hear parents saying disparaging remarks about groups of people – say Poles or black people – and you wake up one day as an adult and you believe fully in them.”

But despite this pessimistic view Atchity thinks things in the world are actually improving.

“Fewer people are dying in wars. People are giving up smoking. Communication is helping us. As the saying goes, living well is the best revenge and we are slowly learning to leave things behind. Optimism is the more logical of two options. I love the story of the optimist who was pushed off Empire State Building and half way down says, “Well, so far, so good!”’

Atchity has always believed in the power of “story” and I ask him why that is.

“I think it all goes back to my childhood growing up on front porches in my Cajun Louisiana (maternal) family. My uncles and cousins were storytellers – some accomplished, some not so good. I loved the feeling of community that happened when they began swapping stories and jokes. And though I studied analysis and logic in Jesuit classrooms my heart was with the storytellers. As an Italian friend of mine said one day, trying to explain his new wife’s erratic behavior, “Let me tell you a story instead–isn’t life, after all, just a story?” It’s the power of stories that change the world more than anything else.”

Among a vast oeuvre Atchity has produced his share of horror movies, including Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes. But horror is a genre in decline. Does Atchity have his views on why this is?

“Aristotle’s theory was about how audience needs catharsis. They see horror on stage, walk out of the theatre and give a sigh of relief that the “horror” does not affect their lives. But in today’s world all that has changed. Daily we hear and see horrific things – decapitations and mass murder at every turn. Horror is no longer escapism. Audiences now need to escape their daily dose of real live horror by going to the movie house. There they can watch heroes in blockbusters win and the bad guys lose.”

Despite the decline Atchity still continues to produce movies in the horror genre, “At the moment we are working on a very low budget horror spoof – Friday 31st – and that maybe is the way to go.” // We discuss our best loved horror movies. One of Atchity’s favorites was filmed on the campus he was attending at Georgetown University in Washington.

“Scenes from The Exorcist were shot at my alma mater. I remember reading the book in the early 70’s and being scared to death. Having been raised a Roman Catholic I believed it was all real! From a pure horror point of view it’s my favorite.”

The Exorcist was released in 1973 but not shown in Ireland till 1998. How things have changed! Now, according to Atchity, “horror movies are relegated to low-budget productions with an occasional excursion into brilliance. The market isn’t as robust as the general market is. It’s a selective audience, that doesn’t appear to be growing—because of the advent of alternate media such as online games, web series. Cheap ones are made because the loyal horror audience will see it and is enough by itself to make them profitable even if they don’t cross over to the larger audience.”

We move on to discussing another core shift in storytelling – the move from movies to TV mega stories, Game of Thrones being the prime example. Are these TV series successful because they allow “story” to be told in greater depth?

“A series or miniseries allows the storyteller to develop the characters more fully than the restricted time allowed for a film. The best writers and directors today are in television as well as film.”

Ken has enjoyed walking in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom while in Dublin, and I ask him for any words of wisdom for modern Irish writers.

“Tell a story with universal impact – something we all care about – and make sure it has three well-defined acts and each act is powerfully dramatic. It’s also important to make sure the main character is someone we can all relate to, even if he’s not likeable. Do all that and get someone in Hollywood to give you feedback on it.”

Irish writers get on the case – you know the right person in Hollywood to send it to!

Read more at District Magazine