Monday, November 30, 2009

David Ansen Newsweek Crazy Heart Review



‘Crazy Heart’: Bridges Bares His Twangs

Published Nov 25, 2009

From the magazine issue dated Dec 7, 2009

Film opens Dec. 16: Once a headlining Country and Western star, Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is now lucky to get a gig at a bowling alley in Pueblo, Colo., which is where we first meet him in Crazy Heart. At a grizzled 57, he's a broke, chain--smoking alcoholic with four marriages under his belt and a tendency to run outside to vomit in the middle of a set. Still, he hasn't lost his voice, or, when he needs it, his charm, so you can understand why Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a small-town reporter who wants to interview him, might, against her better instincts, fall for him. (Article continued below…)

We're drawn to him too, no matter how many times we've seen these self-destructive singers onscreen before. There's something irresistible about the anti-glamour of crashing stars. Think of Rip Torn in the 1973 Paydayor Robert Duvall in 1983's Tender Mercies. Actors love these roles, and they bring out their best. Bridges is phenomenal. He knows this guy inside out, from the way he straddles a chair onstage to the way he argues with a sound man when rehearsing for a big Santa Fe, N.M., concert, where he reluctantly plays warmup to Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), the protégé whose success has eclipsed his own. Bridges, whose instincts are as good as any actor working, never hits a strained note.

First-time director Scott Cooper, who wrote the screenplay from a Thomas Cobb novel, gives his cast (which includes Duvall, in a small but tasty role) lots of breathing room. What he prizes in this character study is not originality, but authenticity. From the songs Blake sings (written by Stephen Bruton and T. Bone Burnett) to the light in the eyes of his aging groupies, the details feel right. Crazy Heart gets to you like a good country song—not because it tells you something new, but because it tells it well. It's the singer, not the song.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

TRULY EXCELLENT WRITING MEMOIRS FROM VIRGINIA GUNN DIEHL



Two Insults Away From Fame


I was living in Texas when my first husband tried to kill me. He tried to suffocate me with a pillow. It almost worked. The next day when he was at work, I gathered my dog and split. I went back to Atlanta, as that is where most of my family lives.


I really only had experience in two areas. I had worked in P.R. for a television station in Atlanta. I had worked as a receptionist for a radio station in Atlanta, and I had been a disc jockey in Del Rio, Texas. I had also been an airline stewardess (that’s what they called them back then) for Braniff Airlines.


I applied for a job at WAGA-TV5, the CBS station in Atlanta. I was hired as the part time, weekend receptionist. Believe it or not, there was once a time in television when you could actually speak to a person when you called the station, no matter what time it was. There was a person there to answer the phone the entire time the station was on the air. It was a pretty hard job, as the phone was always ringing. It never stopped. Sometimes it was quite scary at night. The crazy people called at night. They would want you to tell them what was on TV that night. One guy use to call me and ask if there were any scary movies on that night. I would have to look it up and tell him. He would tell me how much he loved blood, and especially killing women. I'd hang up on him, but he'd just call back later. Then there was the guy that wanted to suck my toes, and the list of whacky people with too much time on their hands, would go on and on. Former president, Jimmy Carter dropped in one night for an interview with someone that was kind of exciting.


One night the Program Director dropped in. He asked me what my background was. I told him I had been a disc jockey. He asked me if I would be interested in being a booth announcer. I had no idea what that was, but I said "Sure." That was the end of that and I went back to answering the phones. After a while, I was promoted to full time, daytime receptionist. The phone rang all the time, plus you had to actually dress for the part. The station manager would call, and if the phone rang more than five times, I'd get in trouble. There was a home for crazy people down the street, and for some reason they would come to our station when they escaped. I guess because it looked like Tara in Gone With the Wind. I had a panic button under the desk, I'd ring it, and the police would come and take them back home.


One time they had a big party for the stock holders. I had to dress up like Scarlett O'Hara, and walk up and down the circular staircase, welcoming them. Another time a bunch of streakers showed up with a cake for the station's anniversary. I welcomed them in, just like everyone else, and almost got fired for doing that. They had a great time running around the station naked for a while, until they came and chased them away.


There came a time in the 70's when all departments had to hire one black person, and one female. Once again I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a booth announcer. And once again I said, "Sure." I still had no idea what it was, but I was hoping it would mean more money. I found out that a booth announcer was someone that sat in a tiny room, the size of a closet, off the set where the news was delivered. Everyone could see you. Four sided, glass room, with a microphone. My job was to log exactly what time each program and each commercial aired. On the half hour, I would open the mike, and say, "This is WAGA-TV5, Atlanta." There would be commercials that aired that had to be tagged. I would open the mike and say something like, "Available at Rich's,” or wherever it was available. It was usually about 15 to 20 seconds worth of copy, and it had to be timed perfectly, or you would run into the next commercial. There was a big clock in front of me.

The black guy that was hired along with me fainted the first time he had to do it. It was a terrifying job. Lots of pressure, but it was fun to be doing something other than answering the phone, and I was the first, female booth announcer, so it was also an honor. Sometimes I had the morning shift, which meant I had to be there at the crack of dawn, when they opened the station. Early in the morning, I had to do the Farm Report, which I called the Pig Report. It was really long, full of information that farmers needed. One morning when I was giving the Pig Report, I came across a sentence that was talking about botulism organisms. I got confused and said, "Botulism orgasm." I was hoping no one was listening, but they were. Several phone calls came in about that screw up, pardon the pun.


There also use to be a time when if you called information, you'd actually get a person, and believe it or not, they were actually in Atlanta. Sometimes when I would call information for a phone number, the operator would say, "Is this Virginia Gunn?" That would totally freak me out, and I would say, "How do you know it's me?" and they would say they recognized my voice from my booth announcing job. Those were the good ole days, when you could talk to a real person on the phone instead of screaming at some computer voice the way it is now.


One day I was at my aunt Ann and Pegram's house, swimming in their pool. When I climbed out of the pool, my aunt, who is the closest thing to Martha Stewart I have ever known, except prettier, says to me, "You know, if you would just lose about ten pounds, you'd be quite pretty." I would have been insulted, except I knew she was right, that I did need to lose some weight, so I just made a mental note of it and went on my way. The next week, the station manager stopped me in the hall and said almost verbatim, what Ann had said. "You know, if you would lose about ten pounds, you wouldn't be half bad to look at." This time I was crushed, as this was no family member. Then he says, "Say Atlanta."


I said, "Atlantah." He says, "No, it has no h in it. I tried again. I still couldn't say it the way he wanted me to. So he says, "Say Chicago." I said, "Chicago." To which he replies, "Good, we'll get you a job in Chicago." That was the end of that, and I went back to my booth announcing.


One time I got real brave, and asked if I could audition for an on- camera job. I tried, but I failed miserably. I was just too scared. My voice wouldn't hold up, I couldn't follow the tele-prompter, and I decided that I was probably where I was supposed to be, in my little booth.


It was decided by the powers that be that I should become the weather girl, that's what they called them back then. I was sent off to diction lessons, and a diet doctor. The diet doctor put me on a 700 calorie a day diet. I had to write down everything I ate. He gave me some nasty protein drink and speed. The weight fell off, and I spoke even faster than ever before. The diction teacher taught me how to say, "Atlanta" properly and how to put ”ing” on the end of my words. She also taught me that you say, "Saturday, Sunday, and Monday", but all the other days in the week are pronounced, "Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday."


I had to buy a children's puzzle of the United States, so that I could learn my states, and where they were. They built a platform for me to stand on, because I couldn't reach Maine. During those days, weather was pretty simple. All of the weather people got their information off of a teletype machine. I had a white magic marker that I would use to draw in the cold fronts, warm fronts, etc. I practiced and practiced, but the thought of it all still scared me to death. The head weather dude, Guy Sharpe, told me to just be myself and everything would be alright. I thought there was probably more to it than that, but I plugged ahead practicing to be the weekend weather girl. Finally, the day arrived. My uncle sent me a telegram that said something like, Good Luck. Just remember, the worst thing that can happen is that you will embarrass the entire family, and we'll all have to leave town."


The station could see that I was truly terrified, so the doctor put me on valium. I took it for several weeks, but it didn't seem to help much. One night I was watching the play back of my performance, and noticed my eyes were almost totally shut. I stopped the valium, and lo and behold, my eyes opened up.


Then one time, I fell off the platform they had built for me. One minute I was there, the next minute I was gone. There was one night my contact lens fell out of my eye. I kinda forgot I was on television, and told the audience to hold on, we had to find my contact, and there I was crawling around on the floor looking for the damn thing instead of doing the weather.


A few weeks after I started this new job I was in Burger King. A woman came up to me and said, "Congratulations on your new job." I said, "How do you know about that." to which she replies, "I've been watching you." I almost dropped dead on the spot. It was the first time it had even occurred to me that anyone had been watching besides the people in the studio. I became even more nervous on the air. I do not know why they didn't fire me, except I think the audience was totally amused at just how clueless I was.


Many months later something scary and profound happened. Both of the main weather guys were taken down. One had a horrible car accident, and almost died. The other one had a heart attack. This meant I had to do all three weather forecasts every day, seven days a week. Noon, six and eleven. This went on for a long time, maybe it was weeks, maybe it was more than a month, I can't remember. For three or four days I had a temperature of 102 degrees from the flu, but I had to carry on, as there was no one else that could do it. Only then did I learn my craft well. Only then did I start getting comfortable with the camera, and finally I started loving my job. I became quite famous, because every time you turned on the TV, there I was.


So, I guess some times a couple of good intended insults can lead to the best job.

And that's how Virginia Gunn became, "Are you the Virginia Gunn?" for just about the rest of my life.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

AEI Ally Informant Media's Crazy Heart

The new poster and official trailer for the Scott Cooper-directed film starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, and Colin Farrell.







Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In honor of Dr. Nicolas Bazan’s novel and film project, Una Vida AEI co-sponsors New Orleans Opera's Francois Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet."


















At Houston Country Club with Fred and Betsy Griffin, Kayoko, sushi chef Jon





















With Kayoko and Nic & Haydee Bazan at New Orleans Opera to announce development of UNA VIDA as film.






















AEI Client Stuart Connelly Non-Fiction Bio Sells to Macmillan







AEI client Stuart Connelly has sold a biographical account of Clarence B. Jones' weekend with Martin Luther King before the “I Have a Dream” speech to Macmillan Palgrave (editor Alessandra Bastagli). Connelly will write with Jones.

Monday, November 23, 2009

AEI Clients Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin's The Kennedy Detail Sells to Simon and Schuster


North American rights to former Kennedy-detail Secret Service Agent Gerald Blaine and journalist Lisa McCubbin’s The Kennedy Detail, with exclusive interviews from surviving members of the detail including foreword by Clint Hill (Jackie’s personal agent) by auction, to Simon and Schuster’s Gallery Books (Mitch Ivers) by Atchity Entertainment International (Ken Atchity). Foreign rights managed by Baror International, dramatic rights by AEI.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Celebrate Opera in New Orleans

NOOA Celebrates National Opera Week Nov. 13-22

Celebrate Opera in New Orleans - America's First City of Opera!

Opera has become such a vital part of the American musical fabric that over 90 companies/organizations (nationwide) are participating in and celebrating the FIRST EVER National Opera Week. The New Orleans Opera offers a range of free programs for the public that demonstrate the allure and accessibility of this most multi-media of the arts.

National Opera Week is nationally organized by OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and locally by New Orleans Opera Association.

NATIONAL OPERA WEEK will officially launch with the presentation of the 2009 NEA Opera Honors to Marilyn Horne, John Adams, Frank Corsaro, Lotfi Mansouri and Julius Rudel on November 14 at the Harman Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

LIST OF CONTEST AND EVENTS ( selected)

November 14: Dr. Bazan book signing at the Maple Street Book Store, 1-3 PM

7523 Maple St.
New Orleans, LA
70118-5098
Support for Romeo and Juliet comes from A.E.I. and Dr. Kenneth Atchity, producer/literary manager, in honor of Dr. Nicolas Bazan, Professor and Director LSU Neuroscience Center of Excellence, for his contributions to eye and brain research, and to the New Orleans community, on occasion of the publication of his novel, Una Vida, a Fable of Music and the Mind.

November 21: Dr. Bazan book signing at Octavia Books 5:30 – 7:00 PM

513 Octavia St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
Support for Romeo and Juliet comes from A.E.I. and Dr. Kenneth Atchity, producer/literary manager, in honor of Dr. Nicolas Bazan, Professor and Director LSU Neuroscience Center of Excellence, for his contributions to eye and brain research, and to the New Orleans community, on occasion of the publication of his novel, Una Vida, a Fable of Music and the Mind. (read more)

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Orleans Opera’s ROMEO AND JULIET to be presented IN HONOR OF DR. NICOLAS BAZAN


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—NEW ORLEANS AND LOS ANGELES
In honor of Dr. Nicolas Bazan’s novel and film project, Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind, the literary management and motion picture production company, Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., is co-sponsoring New Orleans Opera’s upcoming production of Charles-Francois Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet,” with performances on November 20 (8 p.m.) and 22 (2:30 p.m.) at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in New Orleans.The opera will be conducted by New Orleans Opera General and Artistic Director Robert Lyall, with tenor Paul Groves as Roméo and soprano Nicole Cabell as Juliette.Bazan, the head of LSU School of Medicine’s Neuroscience Center for Excellence, has written a novel that explores the emotional and spiritual aspects of Alzheimer’s utilizing the lush setting of the New Orleans underground music world, to “show his love for his adopted city and State which is so vividly depicted in its pages,” according to Dr. Kenneth Atchity, Louisiana native and chairman of AEI. “We’re delighted to be able to bring Dr. Bazan’s first novel to the attention of the community he serves and to announce that a film based on it is in development as well.” The screenplay for Una Vida has been completed and offered by AEI to directors, cast, and financers.In the novel, neuroscientist Alvaro Cruz finds himself haunted by the recurring, yet elusive, dream of a banjo player in a cornfield, an image that leads him on a personal quest to uncover the mysterious past of a New Orleans street blues singer known as Una Vida. Stricken with Alzheimer’s, Una Vida can offer only tantalizing clues about her past, expressed through her mesmerizing vocals, incredible recollection of jazz lyrics, and the occasional verbal revisiting of a fascinating life that’s fading quickly and forever into the recesses of her mind. As Cruz searches for Una Vida’s true identity, he confronts the darkness within himself and learns profound lessons about the human psyche, the nature of memory—and about the human soul. In the end, Una Vida represents a triumph of the spirit and sends an intensely personal message of hope to the world even as scientists like Dr. Bazan continue their search for answers to one of life’s most devastating diseases.”Leeza Gibbons, founder of Leeza’s Place for the families of Alzheimer’s victims, calls Una Vida “a hero’s journey that leads a haunted neuroscientist through the mystery of jazz, the alleys of New Orleans . . . and the labyrinth of the mind.”Seating for this celebratory event is limited. Click here to order tickets or call the box office (504) 529-3000. For additional information please visit www.neworleansopera.org.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Orleans Opera’s ROMEO AND JULIET to be presented IN HONOR OF AEI Client DR. NICOLAS BAZAN


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—NEW ORLEANS AND LOS ANGELES
In honor of Dr. Nicolas Bazan’s novel and film project, Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind, the literary management and motion picture production company, Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., is co-sponsoring New Orleans Opera’s upcoming production of Charles-Francois Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet,” with performances on November 20 (8 p.m.) and 22 (2:30 p.m.) at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in New Orleans.The opera will be conducted by New Orleans Opera General and Artistic Director Robert Lyall, with tenor Paul Groves as Roméo and soprano Nicole Cabell as Juliette.Bazan, the head of LSU School of Medicine’s Neuroscience Center for Excellence, has written a novel that explores the emotional and spiritual aspects of Alzheimer’s utilizing the lush setting of the New Orleans underground music world, to “show his love for his adopted city and State which is so vividly depicted in its pages,” according to Dr. Kenneth Atchity, Louisiana native and chairman of AEI. “We’re delighted to be able to bring Dr. Bazan’s first novel to the attention of the community he serves and to announce that a film based on it is in development as well.” The screenplay for Una Vida has been completed and offered by AEI to directors, cast, and financers.In the novel, neuroscientist Alvaro Cruz finds himself haunted by the recurring, yet elusive, dream of a banjo player in a cornfield, an image that leads him on a personal quest to uncover the mysterious past of a New Orleans street blues singer known as Una Vida. Stricken with Alzheimer’s, Una Vida can offer only tantalizing clues about her past, expressed through her mesmerizing vocals, incredible recollection of jazz lyrics, and the occasional verbal revisiting of a fascinating life that’s fading quickly and forever into the recesses of her mind. As Cruz searches for Una Vida’s true identity, he confronts the darkness within himself and learns profound lessons about the human psyche, the nature of memory—and about the human soul. In the end, Una Vida represents a triumph of the spirit and sends an intensely personal message of hope to the world even as scientists like Dr. Bazan continue their search for answers to one of life’s most devastating diseases.”Leeza Gibbons, founder of Leeza’s Place for the families of Alzheimer’s victims, calls Una Vida “a hero’s journey that leads a haunted neuroscientist through the mystery of jazz, the alleys of New Orleans . . . and the labyrinth of the mind.”Seating for this celebratory event is limited. Click here to order tickets or call the box office (504) 529-3000. For additional information please visit www.neworleansopera.org.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Orleans Opera’s ROMEO AND JULIET to be presented IN HONOR OF DR. NICOLAS BAZAN


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—NEW ORLEANS AND LOS ANGELES
In honor of Dr. Nicolas Bazan’s novel and film project, Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind, the literary management and motion picture production company, Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., is co-sponsoring New Orleans Opera’s upcoming production of Charles-Francois Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet,” with performances on November 20 (8 p.m.) and 22 (2:30 p.m.) at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in New Orleans.The opera will be conducted by New Orleans Opera General and Artistic Director Robert Lyall, with tenor Paul Groves as Roméo and soprano Nicole Cabell as Juliette.Bazan, the head of LSU School of Medicine’s Neuroscience Center for Excellence, has written a novel that explores the emotional and spiritual aspects of Alzheimer’s utilizing the lush setting of the New Orleans underground music world, to “show his love for his adopted city and State which is so vividly depicted in its pages,” according to Dr. Kenneth Atchity, Louisiana native and chairman of AEI. “We’re delighted to be able to bring Dr. Bazan’s first novel to the attention of the community he serves and to announce that a film based on it is in development as well.” The screenplay for Una Vida has been completed and offered by AEI to directors, cast, and financers.In the novel, neuroscientist Alvaro Cruz finds himself haunted by the recurring, yet elusive, dream of a banjo player in a cornfield, an image that leads him on a personal quest to uncover the mysterious past of a New Orleans street blues singer known as Una Vida. Stricken with Alzheimer’s, Una Vida can offer only tantalizing clues about her past, expressed through her mesmerizing vocals, incredible recollection of jazz lyrics, and the occasional verbal revisiting of a fascinating life that’s fading quickly and forever into the recesses of her mind. As Cruz searches for Una Vida’s true identity, he confronts the darkness within himself and learns profound lessons about the human psyche, the nature of memory—and about the human soul. In the end, Una Vida represents a triumph of the spirit and sends an intensely personal message of hope to the world even as scientists like Dr. Bazan continue their search for answers to one of life’s most devastating diseases.”Leeza Gibbons, founder of Leeza’s Place for the families of Alzheimer’s victims, calls Una Vida “a hero’s journey that leads a haunted neuroscientist through the mystery of jazz, the alleys of New Orleans . . . and the labyrinth of the mind.”Seating for this celebratory event is limited. Click here to order tickets or call the box office (504) 529-3000. For additional information please visit www.neworleansopera.org.

WITH AEI NOVELIST JOCK MILLER CELEBRATING FOSSIL RIVER

Sunday, November 15, 2009

December 2009 Indie Next List






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The December 2009 Indie Next List

November 04, 2009

Here's a preview of the titles on the December Indie Next List flier, now on its way to ABA member stores in the IndieBound movement. A downloadable PDF version of the list will also be available beginning December 1 on BookWeb.org and IndieBound.org.

The December 2009 Indie Next Great Reads

Under the Dome: A Novel by Stephen King
(Scribner, $35, 9781439148501)
"Imagine a small town in Western Maine that is suddenly cut off from the rest of the world. Now, imagine what would happen next. King's latest is a story of good versus evil; the helpless and the helpful; people facing a terrible, senseless reality. This is Stephen King's best book since The Stand, and is destined to be a classic. Really." --Rita Moran, Apple Valley Books, Winthrop, ME

Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb
(Harper, $19.99, 9780061941009)
"Wally Lamb's Wishin' and Hopin' is a sure winner for laughter and fun this holiday season." --Margaret Osondu, Osondu Booksellers, Waynesville, NC

A Good Fall: Stories by Ha Jin
(Pantheon, $24.95, 9780307378682)
"Ha Jin never fails to amaze. His newest work, a collection of short stories, focuses on individuals who struggle to reconcile their cultural identities with their new and disparate surroundings. A Good Fall is at times tragic, at others humorous, yet persistently enchanting." --Bridget Allison, Phoenix Books, Essex, VT

Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich
(Metropolitan Books, $23, 9780805087499)
"Barbara Ehrenreich strikes a blow against the tyranny of the relentlessly cheerful! From cancer patients to corporations, the lemon-into-lemonade philosophy is being used as a weapon to place the blame for troubles on the victim. Bright-Sided is an erudite examination of the negative side of positive thinking." --Lisa Wright, Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck, NY

Crush It! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk
(HarperStudio, $19.99, 9780061914171)
"Refreshingly free of BS jargon (that would stand for Business School, of course!) Crush It! explains exactly why your business should engage in the world of social media, and it tells you how to do it. Vaynerchuk (better known as @GaryVee -- if you don't know what this means you need to read this book) built a $60 million wine business largely using free Internet tools, and his book will convince you that you can too." --Rich Rennicks, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC

The Gift: A Novel by Cecelia Ahern
(Harper, $19.99, 9780061706264)
"Every holiday season, people watch It's a Wonderful Life, and now readers will add The Gift by Cecelia Ahern to their seasonal calendar. It is sure to become an annual ritual and a holiday classic with a message -- that time is the greatest gift you can give." --Karin Beyer, Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI

Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed: Two Lines World Writing in Translation by Margaret Jull Costa and Marily Hacker
(Center for the Art of Translation, $14.95 paper, 9781931883160)
"On rare occasions, a book can have a visceral impact on a readers, and that's the case with Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed, a beautiful anthology of world literature in translation. Every translation in this volume is a gem, every piece its own little bit of light on a culture and a language." --Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO

Dracula The Un-Dead: The Sequel to the Original Classic by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt
(Dutton, $26.95, 9780525951292)
"This sequel, based on Bram Stoker's handwritten notes, will make you rethink all you thought you knew about Dracula." --Kristy Cate, Kristy's Bookshelf, Morganton, NC

The Dreaded Feast: Writers on Enduring the Holidays by Michele Clarke and Taylor Plimpton (eds.)
(Abrams, $15.95, 9780810982659)
"Those of us who approach the holidays with more trepidation than glee finally have a holiday book to call our own! Humor writers both classic (Robert Benchley, Corey Ford, James Thurber) and contemporary (David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, Dave Barry, Jonathan Ames) weigh in on the dark side of the holidays." --Carol Schneck, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

Double Take: A Memoir by Kevin Michael Connolly
(HarperStudio, $19.99, 9780061791536)
"Kevin Connolly was born without legs, but raised to believe he is no different from anyone else. He graduated with a degree in photography and now travels all over the world on a skateboard taking pictures of peoples' reactions to him. Connolly is a great writer, and Double Take is entertaining, funny, and enthusiastic. I can't stress enough how entertaining it is." --Mary Jane DiSanti, Country Bookshelf, Bozeman, MT

La's Orchestra Saves the World: A Novel by Alexander McCall Smith
(Pantheon, $23.95, 9780307378385)
"As WWII begins, Lavender Stone's life in London comes to an abrupt end when she learns that her husband has run off with another woman. Seeking refuge in the countryside, Lavender (La to her friends) moves into her father-in-law's house in Suffolk, where, among other things, she starts an orchestra -- and discovers a friendship that proves to be the most important thing to her in a world turned upside down. You will adore this story." --Anne Holman, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT

Lying With the Dead: A Novel by Michael Mewshaw
(Other Press, $14.95 paper, 9781590513187)
"Told alternately from the points of view of three adult children whose emotional scars are worse than the physical ones they received from beatings their mother administered, Lying With the Dead will get to you. Far from being sad, however, it's often funny, and it draws you in, making you fond of the three misfits and wonder if the truth can ever be discerned through the controlling mother's lies." --Nancy Fontaine, The Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, VT

My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey, with Rick Flaste
(Norton, $29.95, 9780393066302)
"It is easy for me to recommend My Bread because I have been using Jim Lahey's recipe for no-knead bread ever since the flawlessly simple and versatile recipe was published in the New York Times. My Bread includes more than 40 bread variations, recipes for sandwich ingredients, recipes for his classic panini, and suggestions for what to do with left over stale bread. This is the bread book to end all bread books." --Janina Larenas, Logos Books & Records, Santa Cruz, CA

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780151010899)
"Terry Teachout has written an amazing biography of New Orleans' native son Louis Armstrong. Drawing on newly available primary sources, he weaves together a biography that is both illuminating and inspirational. Armstrong's contributions to jazz, pop culture, and breaking the color barrier are well told in a crisp, clean prose. Highly recommended!" --James Wilson, Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA

Too Much Happiness: Stories by Alice Munro
(Knopf, $25.95, 9780307269768)
"A new work by Alice Munro is always cause for celebration, and this collection of stories is no exception. These stories are like smooth, fast rivers on the surface, hiding a deep turbulence. Each cool and intelligent voice lures me deep into the tale, but never fails to deal a swift jerk and embed a hook deep and permanent." --Karen M. Frank, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT

Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel
(Holt, $27, 9780805080681)
"In Wolf Hall, Mantel offers a new view of the reign of Henry VIII: from inside the head of Thomas Cromwell, as he ponders ways to increase the size of Henry's exchequer and aid the king's efforts to get Anne Boleyn into his bed through the sanctity of marriage. Mantel exposes Cromwell's thoughts as he frets over his family, his friends, even his enemies. A brilliant novel that encapsulates the Tudor era in the lushest of evocative prose." --Kathy Ashton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT

The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox by John Freeman
(Scribner, $25, 9781416576730)
"The Tyranny of E-mail is a riveting read and a clarion call to pay attention to the downsides of our increasing addiction to e-mail, and the subsequent loss of social connection and empathy. Freeman's fascinating book does not advocate abolishing e-mail, but rather gives insightful new ways to look at it. This is a tipping-point book for sure, as Freeman calls for a slow communication movement." --Sheryl Cotleur, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder's Journey Through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows by Kent Nerburn
(New World Library, $14.95 paper, 9781577315780)
"The Wolf at Twilight continues the story begun in Neither Wolf Nor Dog. Nerburn and Indian elder Dan embark on a journey into Dan's past, facing a painful legacy as they search to discover the fate of Dan's sister. If you have read Nerburn's earlier works, you'll want to read this beautifully told book. If you're not familiar with Nerburn's writing, this book will be a good place to start." --Sally Wizik Wills, Sister Wolf Books, Park Rapids, MN

The Darkness by Jason Pinter
(MIRA, $7.99 paper, 9780778326717)
"Jason Pinter's The Darkness is a fast-moving mystery featuring Henry Parker, a young reporter who keeps finding himself in dangerous situations and dark places. Pinter is an exciting young writer, and his Parker character is growing and developing with each book." --Terry Lucas, Open Book, West Hampton Beach, NY

The Red Velvet Turnshoe: A Mystery by Cassandra Clark
(Minotaur, $24.99, 9780312537364)
"It is the year 1383. Hildegard, a widow who has taken holy vows to preserve her independence, is asked by her abbess to undertake a mission to bring the Cross of Constantine to England. When a dead body is found en route and an innocent lad is accused of murder, Hildegard sets out to clear the boy's name and save him from the gallows. Clark does a brilliant job of recreating Medieval Europe with a wealth of historical detail." --Jennie Turner-Collins, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

The December 2009 Notable Titles

Fiction

But Not for Long: A Novel by Michelle Wildgen (Thomas Dunne Books, $24.99, 9780312571412)

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein: A Novel by Peter Ackroyd (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385530842)

Demon Bound: A Black London Novel by Caitlin Kittredge (St. Martin's, $7.99 paper, 9780312943639)

In the First Circle: The First Uncensored Edition by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (Harper Perennial, $18.99 paper, 9780061479014)

Pariah by Dave Zeltserman (Serpent's Tail, $14.95 paper, 9781846686436)

The Pursuit of Other Interests: A Novel by Jim Kokoris (St. Martin's, $24.99, 9780312365486)

The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon, $16 paper, 9781556593109)

A Year of Cats and Dogs by Margaret Hawkins (Permanent Press, $28, 9781579621896)

Nonfiction

America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story by Bruce Feiler (Morrow, $26.99, 9780060574888)

The Art of the Bookstore: The Bookstore Paintings of Gibbs M. Smith by Gibbs Smith (Gibbs Smith, $35, 9781423606437)

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan by Ali Eteraz (HarperOne, $25.99, 9780061567087)

Everything Will Be All Right: A Memoir by Douglas Wallace (Greenleaf Book Group Press, $21.95, 9781608320042)

Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen by Mollie Katzen (HarperStudio, $24.99 paper, 9780061732430)

Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore (Rodale, $26.99, 9781594867347)

Roll Around Heaven: An All-True Accidental Spiritual Adventure by Jessica Maxwell (Atria Books/Beyond Words, $25, 9781582702360)

Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays by Joel Waldfogel (Princeton University Press, $9.95, 9780691142647)

The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War by Caroline Alexander (Viking, $26.95, 9780670021123)

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oscar watch: Going crazy over 'Crazy Heart'







The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein on the collision of entertainment, media and pop culture

I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having a serious bout of trepidation when I headed off the other night to see "Crazy Heart," the new Fox Searchlight film that stars Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake, a hard-drinking, faded country star relegated to one-night gigs at bowling alleys and dingy saloons. After all, if there's ever a subject that been mined deeply in movies, it's the saga of the self-destructive country music singer. With so many real-life role models, from Hank Williams to George Jones to Waylon Jennings to Steve Earle (and about 100 others), it's a trajectory that's hard to avoid.

And after you've seen Robert Duvall as the broken-down Mac Sledge in "Tender Mercies," you know that it's a hard act to follow. But I'm here to say that "Crazy Heart" is the real deal. It's a beautifully told story (by first-time writer-director Scott Cooper) made even better by a terrific performance by Bridges, who does a wonderful job of showing us a good man who's hit bottom, having run through five or so wives and boozed away all the money he made when he was riding high. If Cooper was worried about any comparisons with "Tender Mercies," he doesn't show it, especially since he cast Duvall in a nice small role as a bar owner who doubles as Bridges' fishing buddy. Maggie Gyllenhaal costars as a vivacious small-town reporter who wheedles the skittish Blake into giving her a series of interviews, which turn into a surprisingly affecting relationship.

I'll leave the serious reviews to the critics, but as a country music fan, I was especially impressed by the film's attention to musical detail. It's pretty obvious that Bridges' performance will catapult him into the best actor Oscar race, but it's also the kind of performance that will impress musicians with the way it captures the idleness of life on the road as well as the angst of a performer who sees how his core audience has blithely deserted him, opting for a new kind of air-brushed, "American Idol" style of country over the rough-edged grit of Bad Blake's era.

Bridges' Blake is full of echoes of a host of old country icons. When I was a young rock writer, I spent a lot of time in smoky clubs, interviewing some of the unadorned original C&W luminaries. Once, preparing to interview Jerry Lee Lewis at a club in Memphis in the 1980s, I put my tape recorder on the table. Glistening with sweat from the pills and alcohol in his system, Jerry Lee said, "Son, a tape recorder is a dangerous weapon," reached around behind his back and pulled out a pistol, which he set lightly on the table, explaining "Now we're even."

Bridges has a little bit of that edge in his performance too. In fact, there were times when he seemed to be channeling a big chunk of the outlaw country vibe from the 1970s and '80s. To see him on stage singing, sweat dripping off his beard and seeping through his open-neck shirt, is to see someone who's a dead ringer for the ghost of Waylon Jennings, whose own personal life -- booze, cocaine and lots of wives -- isn't that far from the character Bridges plays in the film.

The music in the film is killer old-school country, written by T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, a Texas musician who died earlier this year after spending nearly 40 years playing with Kris Kristofferson (who many will say Bridges resembles at times in the film as well). And as if acknowledging its debt to Jennings, the film has a scene scored to Jennings' own "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way."

The film opens in New York and L.A. in mid-December for an Oscar-qualifying run before going wider after the first of the year. The highest praise I can offer is that "Crazy Heart's" music wonderfully embodies the spirit of the film and the film itself captures the bittersweet, soulful life force of country music.

Photo of Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Crazy Heart" from Fox Searchlight


AEI CLIENT NOVELIST RON WEAVER USES TAROT TO WORK HIS MAGIC

In the second novel that I’m writing, I was inspired to have my characters, David and Desiree, deal a Tarot card spread. They’d just met in the Rome airport on the way to Venice, Italy, and Desiree is going to a Tarot Ball during Carnival. She produces a deck of Tarot cards, showing David her costume–a nearly naked lady called The World. The cards’ instruction booklet explains how to use them to answer questions. At this point, as yet unknown to the characters, I intended to map out a direction for these soon-to-be lovers. I shuffled then dealt the cards for them, asking David’s question about why he was driven on a quest to visit Venice during Carnival. I was blown away by how close the progression of cards came to the direction I felt the story was headed. But that was nothing compared to what happened last Saturday!

Weeks ago, while writing a scene, I needed an appropriate costume for 20-year-old David to wear to the Tarot Ball. I looked through my deck of Tarot cards and, on a whim, decided on the Page of Cups. The image of a youth in a blue and yellow striped tunic holding a golden cup with a fish sticking out the top somehow felt right.

Saturday, as I plotted out the next scenes, I decided it was time for David and Desiree, now becoming a romantic item, to do another Tarot spread. I asked their question: “What is the future for us?” and dealt the cards. The progression of the seven cards had warnings of foes pretending to be friends and dire obstacles ahead, perfectly synchronized with the story in my mind. AND the Final Outcome card was the Page of Cups.

Sometimes I feel like unseen forces are guiding my imagination. I think I know what I’m going to write then something entirely unexpected will end up on the page. I enjoy the surprise and marvel that it came from me. What fun!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gumbo Writers.com Interviews Ken Atchity

Ken Atchity - AEI

Ken Atchity is probably one of the most prolific manager/producers I know. He's an amazing man who is brilliant in every way. I had the opportunity to speak with him over the phone about something I thought many writers would find interesting, how to turn your book into a film. Here's a glimpse into our conversation:

Jeff Rivera: I'm talking to Ken Atchity from Atchity Entertainment, and he’s going to be talking to us about how to translate your novel from the get go to be ready for film and television. So Ken welcome very much to the teleseminar.

Ken: Hey, Jeff. It’s great to be here. I hope everything is going well with you.
Jeff Rivera: It is, thanks Ken. So let’s start from the beginning. So suppose I’m a writer and I really want to have a novel that’s going to be cinematic ready. What should I do from the concept on to think about that sort of process?
Ken: Well that’s a great question because very few writers have that foresight and as a result 90% of the novels that we see for some films are ones that we have to turn down because they don’t follow film rules or consideration. So, the first thing a writer should think about is what does he like to see in a film. What do audiences respond to in a film? A little background on the business is also good. Today, there are three kinds of markets that has a means to writer. The first kind of market is the big Hollywood studio market, with a number of mini studios playing the same game, which is the game of a movie that costs above $25 million and goes up to a couple of $100 million. And that’s what we’re going to mainly talk about today. Let me tell you about the other two markets and why we’re not going to talk about them. The other two markets are the Indie markets, which is divided into (A) the commercial Indie market and (B) the artistic Indie market. I think everybody knows what an artistic Indie movie is, everything from The Reader to Revolutionary Road back to the Crying Game. Very few artistic Indies are marketable on a commercial level. The commercial Indie market, on the other hand, are the thrillers, action and martial pieces that you see that are clearly designed and created for a commercial market. They’re called genre movies. And they are the ones that get made and sold in the foreign market most easily. The art movies have a very hard time selling in those markets, including both foreign and domestic. In both cases, what’s missing in the Indie market is [development] money and because development money is missing, it's very very difficult to sell a novel into that market because you can’t shoot a novel, you have to shoot a script. So, for a novelist who is hoping to make an Indie movie because their novel is so unique and non-mainstream, their best bet is to find a screen writer to collaborate with or to become a screen writer themselves and to write to their own screenplays.
Jeff Rivera: That makes a lot of sense. So when you say mainstream market, are there any specific genres within that mainstream market that people should really focus on if they’re really looking to have a novel that will turn into, or turn well into something cinematic?
Ken: Yeah, well, that’s another good question. I mean what the mainstream market is looking for in novels are action thrillers, sci-fi thrillers and family adventures, like our movie Ripley’s Believe or Not with Jim Carrey directed by Chris Columbus coming up. They look for romantic comedies but unfortunately, there is virtually no romantic comedy book business. They look for dramas or even romantic dramas like the Bridges of Madison County, for example. But very few of those actually get made in the movie unless the writer is a bestseller. So you see Nicholas Sparks’ you know movies like The Notebook. The big market is looking for those kind of books, The Bourne Identity, etc. But they are looking for books that are a number one concept. Maybe I’ll just go through a few numbers of things you should jot down if you’re a writer trying to plan your book. And we’ll talk about them separately later. So, number one is a high concept. Number two is a male lead in a star castable age range. Number is a very clear-cut, three act structure, even if that structure is hidden in your novel. Number four is a happy ending. Number five is having a major American component or a major American setting. Number six is having a focus on the broadest possible audience. So, urban novels for example as much as they are bought in their particular niche like the ones by our clients for example, they don’t make an easy translation in the movie because there is a very narrow movie niche for that market and that particular niche doesn’t have a lot of development money. So, with those seven things in mind, you can sit down and you can start thinking about your novel and if you can turn it, you can make a novel that follows those seven rules, it will standout immediately from the pack of novels that break anywhere from one to all of those rules.
Jeff Rivera: One of the questions I want to ask you, I was kind of surprised with some of the genres you said that are really considered mainstream and sellable or cinematic. I’m not surprised by the actions or the thrillers and that sort of thing. But you brought up romantic comedies and romantic dramas, that’s interesting.
Ken: All you have to do is look at the box office when they do a really good book like The Notebook or Message in a Bottle, it does very well at the box office. And romantic comedies are rarely based on novels because there is no real novel market for comic romance. The general romance market that novelists write for is not really romantic comedy and doesn’t follow the rules of romantic comedy. So, that’s a difficult area to work in as a novelist hoping that your book will be made into a film. But all the other ones I mentioned including family drama are very strong in film and they love to based the film on a novel. Then fantasy, sci-fi action and of course graphic novels and comic books, that’s why Hollywood loves those kind of things because they have broad audiences and are based on preexisting material. That preexisting material in the case of comic book or graphic novel is very well aware of the three act structure and very focused on a viable film audience. They have heroines and heroes at the right ages that work in the same demographic that the film people are looking for.
Jeff Rivera: Right. So I’m just going to just kind of mechanically and strategically choose a genre that is easiest sell to go from book to film would be to choose an action and a thriller, a family drama, a romantic comedy or a romantic drama.
Ken: Yeah. I wouldn’t do a romantic comedy. As I said, it doesn’t work in the book business so that really isn’t a novelist’s choice.
Jeff Rivera: Okay. So don’t choose romantic comedy.
Ken: No, don’t choose romantic comedy because you wouldn’t be able to sell it as a book.
Jeff Rivera: Okay. So stick to the main genres that basically you’re going to sell big.
Ken: Right.
Jeff Rivera: Big price.
Ken: Yeah. Sci-Fi, action, big drama, family drama, romantic drama and fantasy.
Jeff Rivera: So lets say in this case we chose romantic drama as a writer. That’s the genre I want to write to go from book to film. What do I next now that I’ve chosen my genre that I want to write?
Ken: Okay. The next thing you do is you make sure your hero and your heroine are in the right age range. And the age range for romantic drama would be young, 20 something. For a moment we’re not talking about the teen audience. But, for the adult audience it would be 20 something up to say the oldest 40 something. After that it becomes more and more difficult to make into a movie partly for casting reasons, and partly because the studios have discovered that as much as the audience over 55 needs movies, very few of them will actually go to a movie theater. They’ll get it on the Netflix or watch it or on a pay per view but they’re not going to march out to the theater. Recently I turned down a romantic drama from a publisher because the two main characters were in their 60s. It’s too hard a road to hope to go out and say okay, I got Harrison Ford in a role that he will admit that he’s over 60 or a female lead who’s going to admit that she’s over 60, like Glenn Close you know for example. Everybody is going to look at me like I’m crazy.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: On the other hand you have a drama like Elegy with Ben Kingsley, who is older than I don’t know, if he’s 60, but he’s getting up there. You match him with Penelope Cruz and now you have a really good movie. Although that movie I think had limited if no theatrical release. It primarily went straight to DVD. It’s a very good movie based on a book. So, that’s the next thing to consider. In other words, find a castable protagonist and antagonist. Castable primarily means make sure you have a strong male lead and make sure they’re in the right age range. Now, why is that a strong male range? Because that’s the sexist because women don’t want to go to a movie to see women. They go to a movie to see men.
Jeff Rivera: Interesting.
Ken: They drag their sweetheart along to a movie because there’s also a sexy woman in it. But basically, they go to see the man. So it’s much harder to set up a movie even like a thriller. We’ve been working on several thrillers with female leads and its very hard to convince the distributors to put the money, the prints and advertising necessary behind this script because the lead isn’t a male lead that will bring women into the box office. See what I mean. Its women…
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: Making the decision.
Jeff Rivera: And Ken, since we’re being blunt and honest about this. This male lead 18 to 40 years old probably needs to be white.
Ken: Yeah. If you want to play in the Hollywood mainstream business, he needs to be white because that is it’s the broadest audience. Movies that are specifically black, for example, get a very small portion, which is something like 4% of the overall box office. Will Smith, who is the most popular actor in America today, will not play a role that is specifically African-American. He wants to play a role where the character could be anyone. In other words, he wants to play white if white is defined in Hollywood terms, which means broadest audience possible. Will, because he’s so great, has been accepted into the white audience without even a ripple. It's like racists have disappeared at the billion dollar box office, and that’s kind of what the situation is. So, you write it without the need for it to be black or the need for it to be Latino or the need for it to be Asian and now you have a real shot at setting up your movie.
Jeff Rivera: Great. So we need to have a male lead. Race not really defined but most likely white who’s 18 to 40 years old.
Ken: Exactly. What we mean by white here is not specifically ethnic.
Jeff Rivera: Okay. Okay. Not specifically ethnic. So Will Smith can play, Denzel Washington can play, but it’s not specifically a black male lead anybody can play.
Ken: Right.
Jeff Rivera: So now that we’ve got the genre. We’ve chosen, we’ve chosen the genre and we’ve chosen our male lead, what do we do next?
Ken: Well the next thing is to really make it clear that there are three acts in your story. And oddly enough novels don’t really think that way. Novelists don’t usually think that way but a movie has to think that way. And the big problem with novels usually has act 2, usually a novel has act 1 and then some big turning points happens that takes you into act 2 and then there is not act 3. I mean it just keeps going and going then the ending feels tacked on. But this can easily be fixed on the drawing board or in retrospect when you edit your first draft by saying, you know, what is the twist at the end of the book that makes the third act even more riveting and compelling than the second act was. So reason the screen writers are brought in the novels if a novel doesn’t have a clear cut act 3 then a screen writer is brought in whose job it is to find act 1, 2 and 3 and make sure that they can be clear in the audience’s mind.
Jeff Rivera: Right. So we need to have a clear three act structure.
Ken: Right. And then of course the next step is to make sure you have a happy ending; not an ambiguous ending, and not a tragic ending. Very few movies that you go to the box office to see have a tragic ending. But, there are exceptions and some of the exceptions almost proved the rules. For example, my favorite exception is Witness. Let’s call it a romantic thriller. In the last scenes of Witness, you have the Philadelphia detective falling in love with this innocent Amish, handmaiden on a farm. You’re really rooting for them to be in love because its so sweet and its so innocent and unusual. They seem to be soul mates. In the last scene of the movie as he leaves, the director put a very long shot of his drive away because as they part the audience’s heart is breaking when the detective decides he has to go back to Philadelphia and the car goes very slowly as though he was thinking it over. The audience is about halfway down the road rooting for him to make a U-turn and come back and stay with her forever on the Amish farm. But we don’t really believe in our hearts that would make any sense. Their cultures are just too different. So, in the second half as he continues to the highway, we’re now giving up that fantasy because we realize it doesn’t work and as he turns right and enters a highway and leaves forever. We know that was the right ending and then we feel this big gulf of anguish. It's one of the very few movies that manages to have an unhappy ending by traditional definition, but a right ending doing honor to the romance because not every romance is forever, and that’s what this movie is saying. Some romances are what they are when they are. They don’t have to be eternal to be valid. But normally what we want is a happy ending. We want the runaway bride to finally stop running and get married.
Jeff Rivera: Right. Could we go back just a little and talk about two genres that we didn’t cover. That could I’m thinking possibly be good for translation from book to film.
Ken: Sure.
Jeff Rivera: What about horror?
Ken: That’s a very good question. Horror films are made all the time. Although, the genre is currently in the down swing because so many of them are made. But, horror is very hard to write and to be an original horror novelist now. If you are a horror novelist and you haven’t yet made the swing into movies then you could design your next horror book, so that it follows the rule and yet it is one of the genres that will be considered. But again, the big studios, when they think about horror, they think about Anne Rice and Stephen King and a few others. And they’re basically rarely picking up original horror from writers they haven’t heard of, no matter how good it is. Of course there are exceptions. Peter Blatty’s Exorcist was picked up by the studios even though nobody have heard of Peter Blatty. The book became a bestseller and sudden it doesn’t matter that he wasn’t Stephen King. That he was possibly the next Stephen King.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: And it was such a great book and such a great story.
Jeff Rivera: So if they’re interested in the writing, should they then just brand it as thriller instead of horror.
Ken: Yeah, yeah. What’s very high in the film business right now is supernatural thrillers.
Jeff Rivera: Okay.
Ken: And I think that’s a very good idea of selling that even to the publisher of the supernatural thriller and not using the word horror. But because publishers don’t know what to do with new horror either. They all say they’ll look at it but the truth is when you send it out; they say well we don’t know what to do with this cause we don’t know who the author is. You know they do know what to do with the Stephen King even if it’s in published four times, they’ll publish it again, you know.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: We’re living, the publisher in their own way are up against the same thing the studios are. The publishers are up against the brand mentality of the American marketplace and so are the studios, which is why they buy books to begin with because they figured if somebody bought it as a book. For example Demonkeeper, we had the writer develope a script into the book. Then we sold the book and the minute we should the book within weeks, two weeks, I think. We sold it to Fox and it's now in development. So that’s an example of the kind of endorsement that the studios see books as being.
Jeff Rivera: Right. So we talk about selecting the right genre, we talked about selecting the right type of male lead. Where do female leads come in here, or co-stars? What type of female should be attached? Should there be a love story element. Like how does the female come into lead with that?
Ken: Well, I mean female lead is the same thing. It’s a castable lead. The more castable it is. Set your novel up as a movie. You know, all the way from Titanic where you have two people from different social classes but their roles were equally important roles in the story. So yes, you want a female lead who’s hopefully as strong as the male lead. And you can reverse that and have a female with the antagonist, a male protagonist a female antagonist. Then you have another kind of thriller that can also work something like Fatal Attraction, for example.
Jeff Rivera: Right. So in a sense there’s probably a good five to ten real A-list box office actors and actresses. So when I’m designing a character should I be designing it with while keeping in mind Tom Hanks or Tom Cruise? Should I keep that I mind. Is that a good idea?
Ken: I hear that question all the time and I think the best idea is no. It’s not a good idea. Because, after all, these people are actors and they like to become different people. So I wouldn’t worry about that too much. But I would avoid physical handicaps that are impossible to play without being physically handicapped. Children of a Lesser God for example had a female lead who, you know, was hearing impaired and only Marlee Matlin can play that role. I mean she hunted down and found that book so she could play it.
Jeff Rivera: Right. I know you talk about certain genre like action and thriller. Should I be concerned about budget? For example, writing a book that’s too big or should I not even worry about that.
Ken: Well, you should not worry about it because there is nothing too big in Hollywood. The bigger the better, as far as they’re concerned. They would rather spend over $100 million if its going to be bring in a billion dollar audience than spend too little on it. I mean only, in the Indie world do you worry about budget. Yes, don’t worry about budget. But that doesn’t mean you start throwing the kitchen sink in. It means you don’t hesitate to create a world that we’ve never seen before because Hollywood loves to create those worlds.
Jeff Rivera: You brought a good point Ken, which brings a question. You know we’re crafting this from scratch, the story. You know from genre pick to casting pick in a sense. Does that take the love out of the writing? Is it all too mechanical? Is it all too cookie cutter?
Ken: I know you don’t mean this cause you’re a very commercial guy. But you sound like a writer who doesn’t really care about money.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: In other words, were not talking about artistic consideration here. We’re talking about commercial writing for audience.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: And you can feel anyway you want to feel. You can feel like you hate this or you can feel like you love it. We don’t really care. We just want to see a great riveting book that does the job. So if you’re one of those people who can’t really follow the rules, well that’s fine. But I really doubt that you’re going to be selling your book quickly to Hollywood. Do you know what I mean?
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: Nothing is easy but you, with every one of those attitudes that you have, you handicapped yourself further.
Jeff Rivera: And that’s sort of the whole point of this teleseminar. Is that you’re writing it to get sold. You’re writing it to become a film, it’s not all fulfilling your…
Ken: Yeah and the way, the way I put that in non-financial terms is that you are writing for audiences. You want the biggest audience you can get. You’re not just writing to please yourself. I mean in one of my books on writing, A Writer’s Time, I say that there’s a bunch for fourth grade myth that screw writers up terribly. And one of them is write from the heart, period. And what I add to that is write from the heart about things that matter to the rest of us. You know what I mean?
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: There’s a big difference. So the first part of your question was it sounded like I just want to write from heart. I don’t want to think about rules or people or anybody else. Well okay that’s fine but don’t do be upset if 20 years later you still haven’t sold your book or your film, you know, if that’ what you were doing. But write about things that matter and suddenly you’re on the right track at least.
Jeff Rivera: Right. Are there any other rules that you think we should be aware if you want to go from book to film?
Ken: Well yeah I think that we should say they’re not God-given rules. There was no, you know, set of commandments that somebody took down from a mountain and bought down to the rest of us. These are just common sense principles of storytelling that go back as far as the Iliad and Odyssey in the Bible. As one Italian filmmaker once said, does every film have to have a beginning, middle and end. The thought goes yes, but not necessarily in that order. The point is yes we do need beginning, middle and end. You can be experimental with them as long as you’re successful. Like there’s a great book novel named Birdie that got turned into a movie with a very unconventional way of constructing the beginning, middle and end. There was Looking for Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner. Great novel, great movie. It was very unconventional because the end and the beginning were identical, but so powerful is the middle that you forget about the beginning until you get it again in the third act and you still don’t remember it and it’s too late and now, you know, these terrible things happened. So these are not rules. These are reflections on commercially successful storytelling. You know whether storytelling is [followed] by Alfred Hitchcock or Walt Disney or any of today’s great writers, they all tell the same principle. So they’re not rules. I want to emphasize that because writers naturally react to the word rules and say I’m an artist, I don’t follow rules. These are not rules. These are observations about what makes successful commercial storytelling in Hollywood movies.
Jeff Rivera: So they’re principles not rules.
Ken: Yes, they’re just observations. Instead of rules that somebody makes up and creates the world out of them, these are just – the world has already been created, now lets look at what the world consist of and see if we can distill them into principles that we can pass on to everybody out there who’s disappointed their novel hasn’t been sold as a film, yet.
Jeff Rivera: Right. Right.
Ken: I will say, if writers know this before they start writing their novels, they might decide to make their main character 40 instead of 82.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: And if they can’t do it, they have to – there’s a great book that I reviewed years ago at the Los Angeles Times where the main character was 80. I auctioned it and tryed to make it into a movie. I worked on it for five years and I just couldn’t get anybody interested in taking a risk on an 80 year old lead. A lot of 80-year-old actors are around who would love to do it, but not a lot of people want to spend millions of dollars taking the risk that (A) the actor will make it through the movie and (B) people will show up in the theater to see him.
Jeff Rivera: Right. But what about teen movies, Ken? I mean, like a young adult novel - is that a good genre to think about that could transition well from book to film?
Ken: That’s right. Young adult movies are extremely hot these days. As witnessed Twilight or our book, Demonkeeper by Royce Buckingham. He keeps writing them. He just came out with Goblins. His third book is called the Under [Bed] Goblin. And he’s a, you know, young adult couldn’t be hotter than it is now. So, many movies are made up for teen audiences. And the only difference is, obviously, you have younger kids. But you have to be careful that your kids are not too young because if you have 12 years old heroines and heroes there isn’t much market for them. You know the viewer almost needs to be 16 with a few exceptions before the studios will take it seriously.
Jeff Rivera: That’s what I was going to ask you. I was going to ask you, what’s the perfect age if you are going to write a young adult novel for the character to be?
Ken: I’d say between 16 to 18, maybe 17 is the right age. And they can go as high as 20. But the older, in the middle to late range of teen-hood, is what we want, not 10, 11 or 12 year old.
Jeff Rivera: So, would you say a male or a female character will be best for your lead in that case?
Ken: That can kind of go either way, depending on the kind of movie it is.
Jeff Rivera: Okay.
Ken: We are developing a story, it’s about a 17-year-old rock star who gets some bad news at Thanksgiving, leaves her life, goes off into the country side, runs into a situation that changes her life and it's a big tear jerking Christmas movie. And obviously it's meant for young people to give them a hip alternative to their parent’ Christmas. So it started as a young lady, you know, teen. And that element, I mean the teen thing, I think it’s pretty obvious when you think about it. Everybody knows…
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: Teens go to see the movies. They’re the biggest spenders in the box office.
Jeff Rivera: Right. Right. That’s great. What other rules would you say that, I’m sorry, principles would you say that an artist should consider when they’re coming from book to film and thinking from the very concept to the execution? That, you know in order to actually be taken seriously and actually acquired a production company?
Ken: Well, one of the others that we mentioned but didn’t talk about was a need for an American dimension.
Jeff Rivera: Okay.
Ken: The foreign market is very strong on buying American movies. Primarily they’re in love with American stars and with Hollywood production quality. So a movie has got to have either have American lead at least or be set in America to have a really good chance. Now, The Bourne Identity is the obvious exception because it’s set all over the world. But there’s always an American dimension and the lead is American. But generally, if you want to have the better, set your movie in the United States. I mean I can’t tell you how many potential novels I get that are all set in South America with no America leads. Basically, these get made, especially if they’re by major authors, in South America. But those movies as Indies movies, it takes years. I mean Love in the Time of Cholera, one of the greatest novels written in the last century, finally got made into a movie that did not do it justice and did not make any money at the box office. It wasn't really that good because for one thing the leads were very old. But nonetheless, those movies could get made but it’s a long stretch to getting made whereas, if it’s an American theme with the right age protagonist you have a much better chance. Hollywood is prejudice against setting things in foreign land that don’t have a direct appeal and tie-in to the American audience. Which is, whatever you want to say about it, either hopelessly provincial or love its own country. And the world loves, I mean, as much the world might hate our political from time to time, the world loves American subjects and American action.
Jeff Rivera: Right. And what else would you say definitely an American leader set in America and do you think that covers…
Ken: Well we talked about the genres already right. We talked about the happy ending. I mean the reason for the happy ending is you’re paying a lot of money for a theater ticket and you are probably depressed by stuff going on during the day. You don’t want to go out and pay to be depressed than that.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: It’s really simple. So you want a positive, uplifting ending that doesn’t mean you have to be giggling at the end. You want something that inspires you to feel better. That’s what Hollywood is all about. That’s not what the Indie world is all about but what Hollywood is all about.
Jeff Rivera: All right, great. So, just to reiterate something, you mentioned before about the romance scene. So, romantic comedy is difficult to find anyway in publishing but they do translate well into film. Is that correct?
Ken: Yeah, they really do. You could say The Devil Wears Prada was a romantic comedy, but that’s because the screen writer turned what was the novel into a comedy.
Jeff Rivera: In a romantic drama will you say the same thing? Romantic drama turns well into a film but publishers aren’t always…
Ken: You know I think publisher love it too. I mean everything from Love Story to Bridges of Madison Country are romantic drama and so is, you know, The Notebook and as mentioned before. They translate well into books too. The romance world is divided into genre romance and mainstream romance. And Hollywood almost never buys genre romance. They buy mainstream romance. So that’s what you’d be writing. If you’re a genre romance writer for example, you need to write a mainstream romance story like the Bridges of Madison County to break into Hollywood.
Jeff Rivera: And, just so people know, there’s a difference between a love story and romance right?
Ken: Well, yes. I mean a love story, the way you’re defining it is more realistic than a romance. A romance is more fantasy based. In a love story, like the book Love Story, does not have a happy ending. It was reality based and it was based on the reality of the heroine dying at the end of the story. Yet, it became a hugely successful book and because of that it became a movie which was successful, although not very good in my opinion.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: But nonetheless, it was a good example of turning the book into a movie. A better example, you know, was Prince of Tide which was a brilliant, romantic and dramatic book. You know 650 pages long that Barbara Streisand adapted, you know got adapted down to the size of a movie that capture, still capture the spirit of that book wonderful and was a very powerful movie. So books can be movies but the, again, the book had a happy ending. It had very clear dramatic structure, fantastic structure, had the right castable age. You know what I mean. Had all the criteria.
Jeff Rivera: Right. And what about a graphic novel, I mean why is a graphic novel a good idea and and is that – I’m asking you an obvious question Ken for a reason for people who don’t know the stuff. But why is that graphic novel a good idea to think about in terms of going from book to film?
Ken: Well, a graphic novel is what everybody is looking for. We work with graphic novels all the time. That’s what everyone in the film industry is looking for because they already understand the nature of Hollywood movies, which is things are simplified in a movie and they’re always simplified in graphic novel. They’re clearly dramatic in a graphic novel and characters are reduced down to a few characters or a handful of characters. So, a lot of the homework is already been done in the graphic model. But if you’re a good storyteller and you want to decide which underlying wright you should be creating so you could make a movie. We urged you to write graphic novels because a higher percentage of graphic novels are successful movies. Maybe 7% of all novels published by major houses are picked up by movie. And graphic novels by, you know, the important publishers is more like 70%.
Jeff Rivera: How much?
Ken: Maybe 70%.
Jeff Rivera: 70%?
Ken: 70% of graphic novels…
Jeff Rivera: Ah 30% okay.
Ken: Yeah.
Jeff Rivera: But still I mean 30% compare to what do you say was 7% of the regular novels.
Ken: No, I said 70, 7-0, 70%.
Jeff Rivera: Wow.
Ken: Yeah.
Jeff Rivera: So 70% of graphic novels are picked up by film in some way compare to what percentage of regular novels again?
Ken: Maybe 7%.
Jeff Rivera: Wow. 7% or 70%, its like if you’re going to choose which genre, you might as well, I mean the math is there.
Ken: Yeah. I mean it’s hard to find. I mean we have people looking all the time for comic books and graphic novels. Very hard to find once that aren’t already pick up for film.
Jeff Rivera: Wow.
Ken: You start looking for novels you’d have 200 on you desk 2 hours later.
Jeff Rivera: Wow. Wow. It’s amazing.
Ken: It is amazing and anybody out there who heard this and wrote a graphic novel, send it to us first please.
Jeff Rivera: Right. That’s a good idea. So if somebody has a novel that’s been all right but maybe hasn’t been picked up by film it might be a good idea for them to start thinking about translating their novel into a graphic novel.
Ken: Yeah, the problem is that graphic publishers don’t like to publish novels based on novels that are already published.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: Because they like the originals. And the other thing is to make sure you have the right to do that cause you may have already given them to a novel publisher.
Jeff Rivera: Right.
Ken: If you’re starting out at the age of 19 writing novels I’d say do a graphic novel first if you are interested in money.




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