Archive for August 2005
A reader from my Montreal Screenwriters group just sent me the first bit of feedback I’ve had from a reader of “Sheep’s End”:
This is FREAKIN HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’ve just read the first few pages. Oh my GOD this is funny.
I’ll send more comments when I’m done. I just had to tell you that it’s page 4, and I’m laughing out loud at my desk….
To use a punchline out of context: that’s a good start. And to think that I thought five ass jokes in the first four pages was pushing the assvelope.
I caught a Disciples of Ursula Big Band show last night. I’ve seen that band live more than any other, primarily because my wife plays is the band’s clarinet player. You can buy their music at the iTunes Music Store. They started as a swing band, but the repertoire has expanded to more rock-y tunes, world beat, and other variations on the genre. The kid on the cover of the album is Child Three, when he was two years old.
Looking over my list of things to get done on Friday, I note that I still haven’t put any words toward the “101” treatment. It’s building, though. Some day this week, it will explode, and all spill out through my fingertips onto my keyboard. I don’t feel like I haven’t been working on it.
I found the call sheet from last week’s shoot. I thought I must have lost it, but it was stuck to the back of a notebook. The kids’ mother was played by Anna Papadakos. The 1st AD is Thom Parkinson. My children are listed in a category titled “Extras & Atmosphere”.
Stuart arrived with two T-shirts I bought from the 101 Squadron CafePress shop, one for me and one for Child Three. They look really nice. You should buy 37 of them. And a few thongs.
Speaking of things and thongs 101, I added some details to Wikipedia’s Avia S-199 page, but some mathematician in Mexico nicknamed Drini insists on stripping out my contributions. I’ve followed Wikipedia since its inception and in fact did some work on it for Reader’s Digest (Canada) this summer. The one huge drawback of Wikipedia is its pocket dictators, like this Drini. Lesser visited pages fall under the spell of jealous guardians who brook no opposition, no dissent. It stops being an open-content project and turns into a series of gated communities. It’s no skin off my nose, and if he wants his little empire, I’m not going to fight him on it any more than I have.
I’ve just joined the Professional Hack Authors RecogniTion Society.
– You are incapable of holding down a regular job.
– Somebody stupidly paid you for some piece of crap you wrote.
– Your piece was published or produced, even if only on the Internet.
– You are willing to give us an IOU for your dues.
I am overqualified.
It’s noon, and I’ve finished chores 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8 from last night’s list.
In no particular order:
1) Invoice Reader’s Digest (Canada) for work this month, and possibly berate them for two missing payments.
2) Feed the cats my mother-in-law left with us by mistake when she moved to B.C.
3) Feed the guinea pigs.
4) Feed myself.
5) Gush over this snippet of e-mail from a former student: “Hope you’re enjoying the summer. I gotta say, your Data Accessing class is proving to be one of the most useful courses ever.”
6) Finish a screenplay review for TriggerStreet.
7) Start a treatment for the next rewrite of “101”.
8) Brush teeth.
9) And maybe even shower.
To: [ACTRA person whose name begins with S]@actra.ca
From: Lawrence Nyveen
Subject: Dr. Bethune
I spoke with you on the phone yesterday about my children’s experience with the “Dr. Bethune” production. My concern is not strictly with the amount the production plans to pay them as it is with their classification as background versus actor.
All three of my children worked on camera: [Child One] (age 11); [Child Two] (8); and [Child Three] (5). [Child Two] and [Child Three] worked eight hours on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005 and eight hours on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005. [Child One] worked only eight hours on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005. None has worked as talent before, and none is a member of ACTRA.
At no time was I informed of pay rate or classification, and I have yet to sign any documents concerning the children’s work. The two younger children were confirmed for the parts on Aug. 9 by Josa from the MSOPA for the first day of shooting, who described the work as “non-speaking acting roles”. She called to book all three children for the second day on Aug. 15.
I was only shown a call sheet at the end of the Aug. 16 shooting day. If I recall correctly, the children were listed as extras. For certain, they weren’t in the cast list.
The two days of shooting covered identical same scenes as far as I could tell. On Aug. 10, [Child Two] and [Child Three] played the younger children of an immigrant family that lives in a wagon. Their older sister was played by an ACTRA member named [T]. [T] was unavailable for the Aug. 16 shoot, so [Child One] was hired to replace her.
The children acted with Carl Alacchi, (who played their father, Franz), Anna ??? (mother), Trevor Hayes (Norman Bethune), Sabine Karsenti (Frances Bethune), and David Rigby (One-Arm Jack).
The scenes I remember are as follows:
INT. The children cluster around their mother, who is in labour. Franz hustles them outside. The kids protest: “No, no, mommy, mommy!”
EXT. Franz puts the children outside. [Child Three] refuses, lifts his arms to be carried. Franz picks him up, heads back inside.
EXT. The children are playing outside and spot Bethune and Frances, who have come for a visit. The kids run to greet them, and escort them to their father at the wagon. The kids’ dialogue: “It’s my turn!” “I found the stick!” “Doctor! Doctor!” “Pappy, pappy! The doctor”
EXT. The kids cluster by the wagon’s front door. [Child One] and [Child Two] are tall enough to try to look in the window. [Child Three] tries to listen at the door. No adults in this scene.
EXT. Bethune leaves the family after delivering the baby. Franz hands him money. Bethune won’t accept payment, and Franz won’t take it back, so Bethune hands the dollar bill to [Child One]. [Child One] courtsies, “Grazie”. Franz sends [Child One] inside to fetch the doctor’s things. [Child Two] comes out with his coat and hat; [Child One] carries the doctor’s bag. They hand the doctor his belongings. [Child Three] crawls into Franz’s arms. The doctor kisses all the children before he leaves. The kids wave goodbye: “Grazie, doctor, grazie. Ciao! Ciao, doctor!”
INT. Franz puts the children to bed before burning his family to death. [Child Three] refuses to close his eyes, just stares at Franz.
There may be a few more scenes I don’t remember, but the director also took close-ups of the children to go along with the broader action.
This is my family’s first time at this sort of thing, and I would have been left in the dark in terms of payment had Carl Alacchi not asked me about the terms the children were working under. I had no idea – I was relying on good faith (I know, I know). He explained that because they had dialogue, close-ups, and because they related to the main characters, they should be classified as actors. He and Anna recommended I speak to ACTRA.
I asked the 1st AD, Tom, about this on set. He told me the children should be paid for what they were doing. As the Aug. 16 shoot wound down, he told me that he had fixed it up with Aldo, the 2nd AD. Back at base camp, Aldo said he’d arrange the pay details with Josa.
On Aug. 17, Josa told me over the phone that the kids were classified as background, and that they would be paid a flat fee of $100 each for their work. I assume that was what Aldo arranged with her after the fact.
The people who saw the children’s work on set (Carl, Anna, Trevor, and Tom the 2nd AD) seem to agree that the children were actors, not background, and that they deserved a credit. The people who never saw them on set (Josa, Aldo) dismiss the work as background.
Like I said, we’re new at this game. If what the children did is within the realm of background, that’s fine. But on the advice of the people my children worked with, I thought I should bring this to your attention. Other than this, I have no complaints about the production’s treatment of the children.
Please let me know if there’s any necessary information I’ve left out. You can call me at 514-NNN-NNNN, although if I’m near the phone, I’m near the computer, so e-mail works fine, too. I freelance from home, so I’m always available.
The wife and kids and dog have gone camping, and I will be alone for the next two days. Strictly speaking, I have the two guinea pigs inside and the two cats outside, but that’s alone enough. I need this every once in a while.
Josa called today to say that the production is calling the kids background characters, but from what I had learned, with the kids’ lines and interaction with other characters, they should have been designated actors. That’s a contractual designation for performers who have fewer than five lines of dialogue and are part of the plot. Carl, who plays their dad, was sure they should be actors.
The difference is significant. As background, the production will pay each kid a flat fee of $100, without credit. As actors, they would get scaled pay per day of work, which would work out to about three times that amount per day, and a credit. The credit is important for future work, should the kids decide to do that.
I called ACTRA in Montreal for advice. The woman I spoke with told to take what is offered and submit a letter to the union. If ACTRA agrees that the children are actors and not background, it will take up the cause.
What irks me most is that the 13-year-old son of the 2nd AD (second assistant director) was on set as a production assistant. If he can be paid actual money, I don’t see why my kids shouldn’t be.
I think I’ll rent “Downfall” tonight. But what to eat….
We just got home after a long night at the set. I confirmed that the kids are getting actor -scale pay, as their roles expanded to speaking parts on set. That makes missing hockey worth it. The cast and crew couldn’t stop complimenting the kids, and I got a few more leads on agents from the actors.
The actor who played the kids’ mom said I should write plays. Strangely, she’s the third showbiz person in two days to tell me that. Maybe I should consider it. It seems like there are lots of opportunities to write for the stage.
1) The toenail I damaged during hockey more than a month ago is finally – and more importantly, painlessly – lifting off my toe.
2) The dog was not skunked tonight.
Josa called today. Children Two and Three are wanted on set tomorrow afternoon at 2:30. So is Child One, as a replacement for the original actress who played the oldest sibling – she’s on vacation. I’ll have to miss my Tuesday evening hockey to go with them, since the wife needs to be elsewhere.
I attended my monthly Montreal screenwriter group meeting this evening. Everyone seemed hooked on “Sheep’s End”, and wanted to know how it ended after my pitched synopsis. That’s positive, I suppose, but doesn’t help sell it….
I just completed the first draft of “Sheep’s End”, a fantasy comedy/adventure. I suppose most readers will compare it to “Shrek” or “The Princess Bride” but it doesn’t really share the same vibe. “Sheep’s End” has a lot more ass jokes.
I was a bit worried I wouldn’t get to the magic 90 pages, but I ended up at 91. The screenplay has three songs in it, so that will add some running time. I’m not worried about its length any longer. I’ll clean it up and send it out to a first round of readers.
I wrote “Sheep’s End” as an exercise in emotion. After a dozen years of journalism, I find it hard to infuse what I write with enough emotional conflict to make a compelling story. I hope I got it down. I’ll find out.