Thursday, September 30, 2010

Polonia Day Redux

The lunatics at the Cult of Polonia, the Polonia Brothers Fan Club, declare today (the filmmaking twins' birthday) a national holiday.  Head prophet Tim Shrum usually bakes a cake in honor of the day, and naturally I have had a special fondness for two of them that  happened to be based on scripts I had written for them.  And people say that my screenplays are hard to swallow!

I think Polonia Day has been dimmed somewhat in recent years by John Polonia's untimely passing. I might suggest renting Monster Movie on DVD and watching the tribute to John as part of the extras, in which I was glad to be asked to have a small part.

Of course I am partial to the movies I worked on-- Among Us and The Da Vinci Curse/Dead Knight/Army of Wolves favorite among them--but the movies that I had nothing to do with that I enjoy include Dweller, The House That Screamed 2, and the original cult classic Feeders.

Check out the party here!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Go Engineers!

A pal from Worcester Polytechnic Institute sent me this nice t-shirt.  WPI has campus-wide role-playing gaming and once hosted a sci-fi convention.  Had I known this school existed when I was looking for colleges, I could have gone there and been among my people and perhaps been Homecoming king, except I think you also have to be smart.  Now I will have to settle on being its president one day.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From My Screenwriting Journal

I was looking for some of my old homemade comics and was surprised to find a screenwriting journal that I kept for a few years before starting this blog.  Here is an entry marked January 21, 2002.

Yesterday I made a more or less impromptu trip to Indy to meet with Ivan Rogers in a brainstorming session on "The Payback Man."  We just chatted for a little while and then got into a real idea session, moving all around, writing in my notebook, adding to the synopsis on Ivan's PC, and on and on, bolstered by Diet Coke and then wine.

After a few hours Ivan asked if I liked BBQ.  So off we went to Ivan's old downtown neighborhood, and a legendary spot called BBQ Heaven.  And was it.  Just past the bulletproof glass were steaming trays of ribs, collared greens, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, sweet-potato pie, and plenty of white bread to sop it up.

Then Ivan took me next door to a shuttered and dark VFW.  We went around back and Ivan hit a little buzzer.  There was an eye at the peephole, then we were in--a little backroom after-hours place, awash in Aretha and James Brown, everybody dressed in Sunday best and dancing, everything you wanted to drink at the bar as long as it is a shot and a beer.

We stayed for a few minutes and then Ivan said, "This place should be in the movie."  And I think it should be.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Remembering Ivan Rogers

I found out last week that an old friend, filmmaker Ivan Rogers, passed away.  He was a private person and wanted to go out without any ceremony, but somebody did update his IMDB profile and I'm sure he would have liked that.

For my part, I knew Ivan for more than twenty years.  I was a young associate producer at WIPB, a PBS station in Muncie, Indiana, when one day Ivan showed up to appear on a minority public affairs program the station produced.  I later learned he was in the area working on pre-production for "Caged Women 2."  I ended up running studio camera on the show and after asked if he would meet me for coffee so that I could pick his brain about filmmaking. 

I had heard of Ivan and knew that throughout the 80s, Ivan had been writing, directing, and starring in his own theatrically-released action movies (and sometimes distributing them) as well as appearing in other people's films.  At the time he was the only person I knew who had even brushed against the hem of Hollywood.

He was very gracious and spent a few hours with me, and surprised me by keeping in touch later.  I began to hatch a plan to write a screenplay for him, and set out in the evenings to write it out longhand.  It was an old-school action movie called "Grindhouse" that I later sent to Ivan, and he was kind enough to loan me MovieMagic Screenwriter so that I could learn properly formatting.

After I sold my first screenplay I bought MovieMagic Screenwriter for myself, and until this summer used the mower I also spent some of this first money on. The freezer I used the remainder on is still running.

Surprisingly, Ivan was always interested in this very first script, and over the last ten years I rewrote it several times for him and others under various titles, including "Red Puzzle," "Heat of the Lash," and "Hands Down."  Ivan asked me to send this script to a friend of his just a month or two ago. He always liked it, but we could never get it done.

However, we did work on several projects together.  When Ivan was in post-production for "Forgive Me Father" he was having trouble getting the editing done.  He had transferred the 35mm to SVHS, then was going to use the open edge numbers on the SVHS edit to cut the film.  I was a pretty good cut bench editor at the time and so I offered to cut one scene for him.  He ended up liking that scene and ultimately I ended up cutting about 40 minutes of action scenes for the film.  I basically never saw any of the characters alive until I went to the premiere at the Hollywood  Bar and Filmworks in Indianapolis.

In lieu of pay, I asked Ivan to help me shop some scripts.  Although this did not result in selling any of my own scripts, Ivan was good to his word and got me set up to work on another project called "Player in the Game."  Although this movie never got made, it did appear in the listings in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, which I believe ultimately led to all of the rest of the work I have done since.

Several years later I worked through about ten drafts of "The Payback Man" with Ivan before he went another direction with it, but we continued to keep in touch.  Even as his health began failing in the last few years he had a lot of plans and ideas.

Ivan acted in other people's bigger movies and was involved in larger scale projects to leverage his own movies that he controlled from top to bottom. Not everybody liked Ivan's movies, but he did what a lot of people just talk about doing. And he gave a young unknown a few hours of his time over coffee many years ago, which has led to a long writing career.