It’s Story Time….so far

Again my apologies that we haven’t arrived in London yet, but this last little tale about my early efforts to break into writing leads up to my departure from Australian shores. So there I was, stuck with a script called The Steel Prince and no idea what to do with it. There was certainly no way I could get Film Victoria interested in it. I had met with someone at their offices a few years earlier after I sent them the first script I had ever written: a horror story called “The Inheritance” which was a cross between Dirty Harry and The Exorcist; after reading it, the woman I met with at FilmVic told me “you certainly know how to structure a screenplay” but went on to assure me that they did not make films like that in Australia so I would be better off going to Hollywood. Hah! I was around eighteen-years-old at the time so Hollywood might as well have been Mars as far as I was concerned. The upshot was though, that if they hadn’t wanted to make a movie like The Inheritance, then they certainly weren’t going to make The Steel Prince. But I had not a clue on how I’d ever get a script to someone in Hollywood so it would be gathering some dust. Around this time (I guess it was about a year before my eventual conversation with David Tomblin and my departure for London) I was reading a book on the making of “Return of the Jedi” and found some things that the film’s director, Richard Marquand, had to say very encouraging. One thing in particular was how his agent mentioned George Lucas was looking for someone to direct Jedi and suggested they throw Marquand’s name into the mix. Marquand scoffed at the idea and thought there was no way Lucas would even consider a small-time English director who had done no big movies. His agent insisted, however, and it turned out that Lucas was a fan of one of Marquand’s earlier films “Eye of the Needle” and agreed to meet him. Long story short, he got the job and wound up directing Jedi. That story made me think he might just be able to relate to my hopelessness of ever getting a script to a Hollywood agent and therefore he might be willing to help me. Again, I turned to my letter writing skills. I found out that he was editing a movie in France and sent the letter to him there, telling him about myself and The Steel Prince. Lo and behold I got a letter back from him telling me he would be happy to read my script. I sent it to the cutting room he was working in in Paris, and over the next several months, I exchanged letters with Richard Marquand (I still have them in my files at home in Melbourne) as he helped me develop The Steel Prince through two more drafts. After that he sent it to his agent at Creative Artists Agency (who I think at the time was Rosalie Swedlin) to see if he could help me get some representation. Nothing ever materialized from that but Marquand was a true gentleman for all his help and tolerance. Next chapter: London (for real this time) and a further adventure with Richard Marquand).

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It’s Story Time….so far

Boy, I hope I’m doing this right. I’m not blog savvy. Well, I tried to start a blog on eBlogger but darned if I can figure that site out so it’s gonna go here (in episodic stages kind of like the way old Charles Dickens used to publish things in Household Words way back in the late 1800s). It’s called Uselysses an OddEssay on my struggles to find success in the movie biz (ugh, what a terrible curse! why didn’t I want to do something easy like be an astronaut?). Anyway, it began in Melbourne Australia where I managed to land a job with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the ABC, but not the U.S. version) at their Ripponlea Studios center. My job title was Location Assistant, and the duties entailed driving cast members to and from the studio to whatever location we were filming at on any given day. It was an easy gig – drive them to location, sit around and watch filming until it was time to take someone back to the studio. I got to meet some Aussie stars (but these were in the days before Nicole Kidman or Russell Crowe were stars so not them), and I worked with Kylie Minogue before she was ever heard of. She told me she had gotten the role by accident and was planning on going to college after shooting was completed. The next I heard of her was a few years later, when I was working in London. I was listening to this happy little pop song on the radio and when it ended the DJ announced it was by new Aussie singing sensation Kylie Minogue. I was like, wow, so much for college and good for Kylie. Boy, I wish I knew her nowadays.

Anyway, I had this job for about two years and worked on a couple of shows before I decided it wasn’t enough work or experience to really help me out. I interviewed on many films for a job as a runner (the bottom of the ladder in production) but couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I couldn’t land a job. I mean, being a runner? I could handle that in my sleep. To make it sound like I had more experience, I would say in interviews that in addition to driving the mini bus, I would also help out on set when able, like helping out the grips and whatnot. Now, being inexperienced as I was, I had no clue that the moment I said this whoever was interviewing me knew I was lying. Because (as I learned later while working on a show in England) it was absolutely against union rules for anyone not a grip to even touch any of the equipment or go near it. So I never got a job because no one bothered to tell me “look dude, I know you’re just trying to get a job, but when you tell me you helped out the grips I know it’s B.S. so forget it.” Why couldn’t someone just tell me that? They wouldn’t have to hire me. Just arm me with the information that could save me in my next frigging interview. Yeesh!

So I never did get a job as a runner on any Aussie movies. It was time to head for different shores. I got in touch with a very famous (in the movie biz) 1st A.D. (that’s a first assistant director) named David Tomblin who at the time did all of Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ films and asked if he would help get me a job if I came to England. I’d just read an interview with him in a magazine and he sounded like a cool guy so I figured I’d send him a letter. Since he’d done a lot of work on Spielberg’s movies I figured I’d call Amblin Entertainment’s offices and see if they had an address for him. Their receptionist put me through to someone’s office and when I explained to the girl who answered that I wanted to find out where to write to David Tomblin she said – and this is no word of a lie: “well he’s standing right behind me so would you like to talk to him?” Hell, I didn’t want to talk to the guy! I wanted to figure out how to present my case and put it all in an extremely well-written letter that he wouldn’t be able to ignore. So like an idiot I said: “Sure, I’d love to talk to him.” He got on the phone and I stuttered my way through an introduction and then managed to tell him I was gonna go to England and try and get a job in the movie business. He told me I was crazy. But he said if I went to England he would meet with me and try and help me get a job (told you he was a cool guy). He did warn me that there was no guarantee (is there ever?) and that I shouldn’t go to England merely on the hopes that he could get me onto a movie crew. I told him I was getting nowhere in Australia and that I was off to England no matter what. So he gave me his number in London and said call him when I got there. So I bought a plane ticket and off I went (well, it was a little more detailed and a helluva lot harder than that makes it sound but these are the broad strokes here). Next chapter: London