MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Gary Kurtz, Producer of Star Wars, Comments on Dennis Stanfill

Gary Kurtz and George Lucas on the set of Star Wars

"Eventually the Fox board decided they wanted to see a rough cut of the movie — at the worst possible time.

The board [including Princess Grace of Monaco] came to the mix one night. We could only work at night because the mixing theater was busy during the day. We were supposed to mix at Warner Brothers and their big stage, and we got preempted by Clint Eastwood and his film [The Gauntlet]; he was a much bigger name at Warner Brothers than we were. Goldwyn didn’t have any time either, but the head of Goldwyn said, “Well, I could let you work at night, and we’ll pull in another crew.” So, we worked from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day.

The board came in when we were just finishing up the [very unusual at the time] Dolby stereo mix. They came at the beginning of our session, at 8 p.m. I don’t think we had any titles then. No end titles or anything.

The board sat there and watched the film, and at the end they got up and left, not a word. No applause, not even a smile. They just got up and left. We were really depressed. Stanfill came up to me right at the very end, he was the last one to leave. He said, “Don’t worry about them. They don’t know anything about movies.”

Terry Stanfill, Princess Grace, Dennis Stanfill

Terry Stanfill comments: "We remember the Sunday night Dennis called us into his office when he signed the go-ahead payment to begin Star Wars.  Francesca has what we still call the :Star Wars desk.  He thought it was important enough to call us in to watch--but who could have possibly imagined that it would have come to this!"

Read More at Mashable 



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The beautiful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve


 Icelanders have a beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. This custom is so deeply ingrained in the culture that it is the reason for the Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” when the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas giving.

At this time of year, most households receive an annual free book catalog of new publications called the Bokatidindi. Icelanders pore over the new releases and choose which ones they want to buy, fueling what Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association, describes as “the backbone of the publishing industry.”

    "It's like the firing of the guns at the opening of the race," says Baldur Bjarnason, a researcher who has written about the Icelandic book industry. "It's not like this is a catalog that gets put in everybody's mailbox and everybody ignores it. Books get attention here."

The small Nordic island, with a population of only 329,000 people, is extraordinarily literary. They love to read and write. According to a BBC article, “The country has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world… One in 10 Icelanders will publish [a book].”

It seems there is more value placed on physical, paper books than in North America, where e-books have grown in popularity. One bookstore manager told NPR, “The book in Iceland is such an enormous gift, you give a physical book. You don't give e-books here." The book industry is driven by the majority of people buying several books each year, rather than the North American pattern of a few people buying lots of books.

When I asked an Icelandic friend what she thought of this tradition, she was surprised.
“I hadn't thought of this as a special Icelandic tradition. It is true that a book is always considered a nice gift. Yes, for my family this is true. We are very proud of our authors.”

It sounds like a wonderful tradition, perfect for a winter evening. It is something that I would love to incorporate into my own family’s celebration of Christmas. I doubt my loyalty to physical books will ever fade; they are the one thing I can’t resist collecting, in order to read and re-read, to beautify and personalize my home, to pass on to friends and family as needed. Combining my love for books and quiet, cozy Christmas Eves sounds like a perfect match.

Read more at Treehugger.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Art Johnson Thrills Again with Deadly Impressions

 

Before he began writing, Art Johnson was a Grammy nominated musician with over 40 years of experience in music and 10 CDs.




Los Angeles, CA; 05, December 2015: Before he began writing, Art Johnson was a Grammy nominated musician with over 40 years of experience in music and 10 CDs. He has toured all over the globe and his life experience has inspired his second mystery/thriller, Deadly Impressions, following the success of The Devil’s Violin. Johnson lives in Monaco, where the Princess Charlene has a copy of The Devil’s Violin kept in the palace.

In his new book, Deadly Impressions, Johnson’s combines his travels and intelligence with a fascinating thriller that hold its readers captive to the last sentence as it follows FBI special Agent Chris Clarke and his partner Carlos Chubbs Gonzales to Los Angeles to investigate the kidnapping of a twenty-four year old heiress. Her grandfather, multi-billionaire Ezekiel Fick, who has the President of the United States on speed-dial, cracks the whip over the Mayor of Los Angeles, which puts LA Police Chief Fergus McCreary on the hot seat to find Stephanie Fick—and fast.

After organizing the departmental investigation, Chief Mac goes behind closed doors to call in Arnold Blackburn, an ex-LAPD Lieutenant recently booted off the force who is now a Pri-vate Detective in LA County. Arney Blackburn has respect from both sides of the law which gives him access to information the LAPD isn’t privy to. But the abductors won’t follow the rule book. A week goes by and yet no ransom is demanded.

Why was she kidnapped if not for money? Is her grandfather’s Swiss/German back-ground and the fact that his uncle was a key architect under the wing of Adolph Hitler during World War II giving this crime a political slant? To what degree are some of Hollywood’s most famous involved: especially those who had relatives in Europe during the war, whose art collec-tions were confiscated by the Nazi regime? Deadly Impressions asks hard questions about the past and the answers will dictate who lives and who doesn’t.

Deadly Impressions is available on Amazon in paperback ($14.95) or on Kindle ($4.95). Don’t miss this artful and suspenseful new novel.

Find out more about Art Johnson on Facebook.

About Majestic Publications:

A division of Majestic Productions, Majestic Publications is a boutique media and mar-keting specializes in digital, press, internet book promotions for titles likely to be acquired for television or screen. For more information, contact books@majesticproductionsllc.com

For Media Contact:
Publicist, Cindy Villarreal
512-659-2268





Sunday, November 29, 2015

Screening of "Is That You?" Israeli Academy Award winner for best independent film December 1, 7:30 pm at Laemmle Town Center Encino

Fundraiser for an Israeli Culture Program to bring positive awareness to kids of all ethnicities. All proceeds go to Lashon Academy Hebrew Charter School.

Written and directed by Dani Menkin, starring Alon Aboutboul, following Q&A with Dani, silent auction including complimentary flight to Israel donated by ELAL. All proceeds go to Lashon Academy Hebrew Charter School.

Tickets are $25 which can be purchased on the Laemmle website.
http://www.laemmle.com/films/40217





After Ronnie (alon Abutbul) is fired from his job at the age of 60, he sets off to America in search of his childhood love. His road trip across the ins and outs of multiple states turns into a life changing journey.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

For cable networks, holiday movies are the gift that keeps on giving

Photo Credit: UPtv


Even Ebenezer Scrooge might have been impressed with how TV networks are profiting from holiday movies.

Along with early displays of decorations by retailers, the continuous loop of holiday music on radio and the festive color of Starbucks coffee cups, nothing rings in the season quite like the volley of holiday movies that flood the small screen.

Hallmark and its Hallmark Movies spinoff, for example, are showing 21 new original Christmas-themed movies this year, up from just 13 in 2010. Lifetime has seven of its own, and the Atlanta-based cable TV channel UP TV has three in its bank, in addition to returning holiday movies of years past.

These holiday movies are proliferating because they're cheap to produce, generate strong ratings and lots of advertising revenue for the television networks. Hallmark parent Crown Media Holdings credited its holiday programming for helping to spur an 11% increase in advertising revenue last year to $328 million.

November and December are key months for advertisers that want to get in front of consumers in festive moods. Advertisers spent $13.8 billion on television spots during November and December last year, comprising 18% of all ad dollars spent in 2014, according to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media.

"Advertisers are attracted to eyeballs," said Jason Maltby, head TV buyer at the prominent advertising agency Mindshare. "There's the added benefit that holiday programming tends to be upbeat and positive, and you're always looking to put your brand message in an environment that makes people feel good."

The television channel guide is littered every year with festive titles such as "Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery," "The Flight Before Christmas" and "Elf" as dozens of original and acquired movies, as well as a long list of specials, roll out on cable, broadcast and streaming networks in November and December. In some cases, the Yuletide ringing started on Halloween.

Broadcast networks rely more heavily on specials and perennial favorites such as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

But the surge of holiday programming is more apparent on cable, where networks such as Hallmark, Lifetime, ABC Family and the small channel UP can dedicate weeks, or months, of programming to the genre.

The holly jolly is working. ABC Family saw its ratings double last year in the holiday period that encompassed the week of Thanksgiving through the first week of January, according to Nielsen.




The network's programming block, dubbed "25 Days of Christmas," is more heavy on acquired movies such as "The Polar Express" and "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," as well as the occasional holiday-themed episode of its original series. The block has proved to be such a key tent-pole event through the years that in 2007 the network launched a supplemental block, "Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas," for November.

"The holidays are one of the biggest times of the year for families all across the country," said Salaam Coleman Smith, ABC Family's executive vice president of strategy and programming. "There's been such a wealth of Christmas movies and programming that have been created over the years … [that] we really felt like there was a unique opportunity to create this stunt that featured the best of Christmas content. There's something for everyone."

Hallmark, meanwhile, saw its ratings last year nearly double in the holiday period. UP TV experienced a 74% bump, while Lifetime saw it's ratings go up 4% in the holiday period compared with the rest of the year.

"Viewers are really rabid for this content," said Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming for Studio City-based Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. "All we hear every year is that people want more of it."

Additionally, these programs are good investment for cable channels because they are inexpensive to produce and are evergreens, returning for years to come. These two-hour movies cost about $1 million to $3 million to produce, which is equivalent to the cost of producing one episode of an hourlong drama on cable.

TV movies on the Big Four networks have waned in recent years as broadcasters have preferred long-form series that keep viewers engaged over an expanded period of time. That has created an opportunity for some cable networks to become the main suppliers of holiday movies.

The investment in made-for-TV movies is a less risky one on cable because the platform allows for repeated plays the year that a movie debuts and beyond.

"You hear people say, 'We watch your movies while trimming the tree' or 'We watch your movies while wrapping gifts,'" said Barbara Fisher, UP's senior vice president of original programming. "And for us networks that are geared toward families, it's a no-brainer to be in this space."

The holiday movies are popular in part because they follow a simple formula: a Scrooge-like character discovering his or her Christmas spirit; someone stranded while trying to get home for the holidays; and, of course, the heartwarming romance.

There's also a growing roster of talent eager to star in holiday movies. Actresses such as Candace Cameron Bure, Beverley Mitchell and Lacey Chabert have become mainstays of the genre.

"It makes me giggle," said Cameron Bure, who this year stars in "A Christmas Detour" on Hallmark. "I will wear the title proudly. I get so many messages from people saying, 'I hope you have a new Christmas movie coming out.' I love that people know me from those."

Mariah Carey, the unofficial queen of the holidays with her hit "All I Want for Christmas," directed and stars in "A Christmas Melody" for Hallmark. And Dermot Mulroney, also for Hallmark, stars in "North Pole: Open for Christmas."

"The stigma of doing cable TV Christmas movies has really diminished in the last few years," said Tim Johnson, the producer of Lifetime's "Becoming Santa" and "A Gift Wrapped Christmas." "Ten years ago, it was harder to get actors to do it. Now we're getting calls from agents saying, 'We have this client who wants to do a cable Christmas movie.' They know the audience is there."

Of course, the flood of holiday dramas could reach a tipping point. But for now at least, they are ratings gold for some networks.

Planning has already begun for next year's slate and beyond, and expansion in the number of hours dedicated to the programming and/or the number of original TV movies is expected. Hallmark, for one, is looking to increase its output of originals to 28 in 2018.

"The demand is there and the suppliers are there and there's room for more," said Dan Angel, an executive producer of "The Bridge" on Hallmark. "We just have to keep up."

Reposted from the LA Times