My favorite show on Netflix is BoJack Horseman, which reveals a lot about me, since it’s a show about an emotionally dysfunctional has-been in Hollywood. So, back in January 2018, I was motivated to write a spec script for the show. I thought maybe I could replay the events decades earlier, described in “My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” – There once was MOONLIGHTING“, but hoping for a better result this time.
About a quarter century ago – my, how time flies! – I worked on a Paramount Television production from the team responsible for the hit 1980s series MIAMI VICE. It was a pilot starring Edward James Olmos for a proposed TV series called “Hollywood Confidential.” Olmos played a former L.A. cop who now runs a top-flight private detective agency catering to spoiled Hollywood types. (This pilot helped launched the acting career of Charlize Theron.)
As I wander through Hollywood throughout my life, I occasionally work as a background actor, also known as an “extra.” Here is a story about my experience lately when I was a “featured extra” on an NBC mini-series.
This is my stream-of-consciousness report about production experience these days.
The TV mini-series “Law & Order True Crime: THE MENENDEZ MURDERS” was in production in September and October of 2017 and aired as eight hour-long episodes on NBC on Tuesday nights at 10:00 pm from September 26 to November 14. It was produced by prolific producer Dick Wolf’s Wolf Films, based at Comcast’s NBC/Universal lot in Universal City, California. NBC, the “National Broadcasting Company,” is a prominent broadcast network that was one of the original television broadcasting companies.
Since Middle School, I have been a writer, and was the editor of my school paper in Ninth Grade.
I began in television in high school and became producer and writer for the New Year’s Eve variety program “CELEBRATION” which aired on network affiliate TV stations in Minneapolis for several years. I then helped build and put on the air a new broadcast TV station, Channel 29, and became its Operations Manager as well as Writer, Producer, and Director for in-house programs and clients’ productions. I went on to work for several production companies, including TV production trucks, and went out on my own as an independent Writer, Producer, and Director. My productions included live and taped talk shows, variety programs, holiday specials, sports broadcasts, interstitial segments, concerts, conventions, commercials, and industrials. Minneapolis is a major market area, which Nielson ranks as 15th largest.
Barnard’s Law No. 1
The greatest need of humans is not food, shelter, or even sex. It’s the need to rewrite what another has written.
Barnard’s Law No. 2
It’s not the idea. It’s the execution.
Barnard’s Law No. 3
Dinosaurs never see it coming.
Barnard’s Law No. 4
The responsibility to communicate is upon the communicator, not the listener.
Barnard’s Law No. 5
The job of children is to play. The job of teens is to deceive their parents. The job of adults is to slay their demons.
Barnard’s Law No. 6
Clarity is the soul of communication.
Barnard’s Law No. 7
Life is full of grand plans that suddenly need to be fixed with duct tape, and that’s okay.
Barnard’s Law No. 8
Be succinct. A short PowerPoint slide with just ten bullet points was good enough for God.
Barnard’s Law No. 9
In any group, the majority will misunderstand much of what you’re sure they understand.
Barnard’s Law No. 10
Hysteria breeds where context is ignored. Looking at results of history without knowledge of history leads to poor judgment and prejudice.
Barnard’s Law No. 11
The Internet demands of everyone that they be outraged by everything. It then amplifies it.
Barnard’s Law No. 12
Everyone else’s mess is far worse than our own mess. Roommates, especially.
Barnard’s Law No. 13
Heroes run in the opposite direction than the rest of us.
Two decades ago, I bought a book.
In producer-speak, that means I acquired the rights via option to make a movie from a book. I knew a TV news reporter, and she had made contact with a reclusive author who wrote a book she thought I might be interested in. Actually, “reclusive” is too weak of a term; we both had determined that the author was in hiding. Contact was difficult and cryptic. Nonetheless, he and I got on the phone, and he figured that I would be someone he’d like to work with to get his book made into a movie, and I liked the deal, too. We sealed the deal without ever meeting.
How Is a Filmmaker Consumed by a Passion Project?
The following is a guest post from Michael R. Barnard, who is in the final days of an Indiegogo campaign for his film, Everybody Says Goodbye: The Story of a Father and Son.
For many years, I have been chasing a motion picture project that has completely consumed me. It’s called Everybody Says Goodbye: The Story of a Father and Son, and I first began writing the screenplay in 1998. Having come so close to making the movie a few times, I keep referring to this project as “a fish-hook in the eye” because it’s impossible for me to ignore and walk away from.
I spent a lot of time on the mean streets of Hollywood. I lived there, worked there, had friends there, I walked them a lot. My screenplay for the feature film EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE—The Story of a Father and Son is set there, in 1998.
The sketchy stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Vine Street is a little nicer now, but not by much. There has always been a veneer of potential violence.
It’s a little different style-wise, too. Back in the 1990s, if you saw a couple walking hand-in-hand along this stretch, and that couple was of opposite genders, and if each of them were their original gender, then you knew they were scared tourists separated from their tour group.
(originally published April 22, 2010)
There was a recession in 1991. Not as big as this Great Recession, but big nonetheless. A hallmark of the 1991 recession was that, for the first time ever, a recession had a negative impact on “Hollywood” [Entertainment Weekly, 2/22/91: “How will the recession affect Hollywood?”], [Den of Geek, 8/18/14: “How 1991 nearly broke Hollywood”]. Home video, cable TV, and video games had broadened the “biz” and brought commodity vagaries to the tightly-controlled movie biz. It was also the time of the burgeoning new indie film biz, which blossomed in the late 1980s. And I, of course, was trying to get a movie made.
[UPDATE: This was written long before my friend Prince passed away. I still miss him and am still shocked.]
A friend just now found and sent to me this post from Prince.org, the Prince fan site that described how I pulled off the production of Prince’s ALPHABET STREET video on impossible notice! It is from the book, Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince by Alex Hahn. Funny that I’ve never seen this before.
In the past two days, I’ve had some conversations that remind me that there is no “fun” in crowdfund. It is a necessary evil, borne of the collapse of the economy, possibly the only chance for the art of filmmaking to continue. That’s versus the marketing channel that is the current Hollywood studio approach, where a “movie” is whatever can be marketed.
A crowdfund campaign is all work, a harsh referendum on the person, spiritually debilitating and, of course, a death knell for a movie project more often than enabling. (Literally.) There is no fun in crowdfunding. It overtakes one’s life for a month or two.
If anything I’ve written has informed or inspired you, you will enjoy reading my novel NATE AND KELLY. Read the many reviews!
It’s dramatic historical fiction about the most fascinating year of the 20th century:
“Here’s the deal, father. The three of us and mom and Pamela are going to New York City. We are going to start a new advertising business there; the city is good for that. We are all getting a brand new start. It’s time for us to believe that the future will bring prosperity and wonder again.”
After working in television, radio, and video since high school, I eventually pushed myself into the indie film biz, which suited my creative and entrepreneurial nature. That involved me acquiring scripts and novels of other writers and trying to make them into movies. [UPDATED, see end of blog posting.]
One of the odd things about being an independent filmmaker is the battle to get into production. Those of us who don’t have well-to-do families or impressive connections to powerful people have to cultivate other ways to fund the production. This is especially true today with all the turmoil in the indie film biz and the economy in general, but it’s always been true anyway.
When looking back on many years of trying to get A FATHER AND SON into production (at one point the title was EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE–The Story of a Father and Son), I realize there were many experiences that I call “a fishhook in the eye.”
Facebook goofiness. The rules: we were supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about ourselves.
25 RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME