Thursday, May 14, 2015

Have a Whiskey...

This is a rehearsal of "Have a Whiskey...",a one-man show I am writing for Mark Lee Adams and rehearsing with him on Skype...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Action/ReAction at Paper.Li

I love great films, fast cars, engrossing books, compelling art and conversations about any of the above. If you are of like mind, I think you will enjoy Action/ReAction at Paper.Li.

Today's issue features William Friedkin, Harvey Weinstein, Meryl Streep, Jean Negulesco, David Lynch, Reed Morano, The Third Man, The Lady From Shanghai, The Film Portal and Stage 32...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

GTO or..?

Life is a series of choices; some are trivial and others heavy with consequence. Some are just plain fun, like deciding which car to drive when leaving home for the day (or evening). More often than not, it was an amusing act that could set the tone and supply context for whatever adventure was in store.

One day, I was going to lunch at The Brown Derby in Hollywood with an aspiring writer who, at the time, was a bartender at Matthew Ettinger's nightclub the Plush Bunny. On that day, I threw the decision to him about which car to drive. The selection included the GTO, a standard steel-bodied, dark blue S-Type Bentley and a silver and black James Young-bodied, R-Type Bentley. He chose the R-Type; I think he liked the understated elegance of the James Young lines and the rich burled walnut dash and trim complementing the sumptuous leather upholstery--an appropriate conveyance for two gentlemen on their way to a proper luncheon. After lunch, we exchanged the Bentley for the Ferrari and spent the rest of the day tear-assing around L.A. in the GTO.

One evening, Matthew Ettinger and I decided to drive to Palm Springs for dinner (4 hours round trip) with our girlfriends. We could have taken the GTO and Breadvan, as you might expect we would, but that night we took the James Young R-Type. I don't know why because the road from L.A. to Palm Springs is great for traveling at high speeds and cutting up the moving chicanes also known as freeway traffic. In any case, we all went together in the Bentley and sang songs in the car (not) and as Matthew explored a running stream-of-consciousness that touched upon lugubrious comestibles (butter, for example) and other less quotable topics in a desultory fashion, I held the Bentley rock steady and true at over 90 mph in the pouring rain until we reached Palm Canyon Drive. When Matthew and I were out together, dinner was always something of an articulated, three-ring event often conscripting diners we hadn't previously met and by the time we closed the restaurant, the rain had stopped so I didn't have to drive quite so carefully on the way home.

During a later era, my selection included a Maserati Quattroporte, two Maserati Mistrals and a bright yellow, 327 Corvette Stingray with mag wheels. Each of these would set a different tone and tenor for the outing--even the two Mistrals had different personalities, if you can imagine, one being a little more raucous than the other. I really liked the Quattroporte--a series one with the rectangular headlights--and would sometimes go for rides up the coast at night and my father would come along. I liked this car so much that I drove it in spite of not knowing where to find reverse. A week or so after it arrived from Italy, I finally found reverse in a spring-loaded position alongside first gear; until that moment, I would have to push the car out of parking spaces or park at the curb in a red zone (leaving an 'out of gas/gone for gas' note on the windshield) where I wouldn't need to back up to leave.

You might think that deciding upon the right car for going on a date would be something of a fine art but, apart from a landmark occasion when I was working in Palm Springs on Dean Martin's film The Wrecking Crew where I suspect that the Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso may have had an influence on a woman in her thirties accepting my teen-aged invitation to dinner, I never got the impression the car I was driving factored into the situation.

On one occasion, I was on a first date with a very attractive woman and I was inexplicably driving a seven-year-old Chevrolet Corvair with (very) leaky seals that was pumping large quantities of oil onto the engine and exhaust pipes. It was a real treat for those keen on the smell of burning fossil fuels and the theater of stopping at red lights and having a mile or so of trailing smoke catch up with the car and engulf it was spectacular to say the least. Finally, my date asked me if the car was on fire. "Not yet," I told her.

I found that if you drive whatever car you have as though it were a Ferrari, there will never be a dull moment and who can ask for more than that?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits) cover art

When How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits) was published, I wanted a cover that expressed the irony that is the film business. I thought the optimism of the title should be contrasted by the cynicism of the graphic image. The implied expletive worked nicely but I always intended to add a splash of color that spoke of the blood, sweat and tears that went into the making of this or any film. I think we have done that and I want to thank Tom Gurnee and Louella Ladybug for their contributions to this cover.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ferrari GTO shifting mechanism

There are some whose interest in the Ferrari GTO stems from its financial value in today's world where exotic cars are portfolio items rather than objects of fun and adventure. Years ago, I ran into a fellow GTO owner in a New York-style piano bar/restaurant in Santa Monica (they even had their own version of Bobby Short) and we traded reminiscences and anecdotes focusing on our GTOs. He wanted to talk about finances--what he paid, restoration costs, what he received when he sold, its (then) current value, etc., etc.--and I wanted to talk about driving the car at full-chat on the way to 'Vegas.

As I look back on the exchange, it dawned on me that I never saw him drive his GTO; it was always in pieces undergoing restoration. When the long process was complete, he sold the car. His interest and attachment to the GTO were no less genuine than mine; the car simply provided us with a different sort of satisfaction. I wonder if he ever spends a moment savoring the gearshift action on his GTO...

What most people remember about their time behind the wheel or as a passenger in a Ferrari is the sound of the engine and the GTO--with its lack of insulation and unfiltered velocity stacks on the six, 2 bbl Weber carburetors--provides plenty of thrilling sounds to make the experience unforgettable. The thrill of speed and acceleration is greatly enhanced by these sounds and the fact that the engine is nervous and high-revving provides sensations that a Maserati, Aston-Martin or Shelby Cobra could not match. Driving the car is pure, relentless pleasure.

Though not commonly discussed, the gear change mechanism is one of the car's subtle, aesthetic components and provides a definitive aspect, of driving a GTO. Looked at one way, the DNA of the GTO brand as a mechanical design is manifest in the shifting mechanism. It is simple and straight-forward using a thin chrome lever emanating from a slotted, chrome gate and topped by a round, turned-aluminum knob. No effort whatsoever is required in moving the lever through the gate and the lightly spring-loaded action ensures that only the slightest hint from the driver to the shifter is required to send it into the next slot, which the lever seems to seek out on its own whether shifting up or down. In comparison, changing gears in a Corvette of the same period felt as though one were operating heavy equipment.

Every aspect of the GTO’s functioning seemed to have built into it an ease of operation that was designed to make any driver look like an expert and this fact, as much as the financial worth of the car as an investment, is what defines for me the essence of this extraordinary race car from Ferrari. The GTO was made to ensure success.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Writing for an actor's brand

It was not unusual for writers in the Hollywood studio system to know for which actor they were writing as they created a character in a script. This one is for Gable. That one is for Garbo. Though they had crafted a screenplay as a vehicle for a certain actor, it didn't mean that another actor wouldn't end up playing the part by the time the film was finally shot, however.

Nevertheless, when you write for a particular actor you want to include the special qualities he or she possesses so as to make the character more authentic and believable. You write for the actor's signature or brand, if you will, and then add an element that brings something new and unexpected into the mix so as to surprise and fascinate the audience without violating the actor's franchise.

I have had the pleasure of knowing the actors for whom I write since I first started in Paris with Montmartre and having the opportunity to continually develop and expand an actor's signature is one of filmmaking's special pleasures.

The clip seen here is a work in progress I am writing for Erin Nordseth, which is destined to be part of my Series of One--a collection of one-man/one-woman shows featuring a variety of personalities and situations.

It is rather like (Interview) without the interviewer.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Clarence Conly (Interview) excerpt

Amongst the 500 half-hour segments I created for my (Interview) television series over the years, one of my favorites was the Clarence Conly segment with Clarence being played by actor Alan Doshna. Most, if not all, of the masters of my movies and TV shows, had been 'lost at sea' but over time, some copies have surfaced and were provided to me by those who had taken part in the various projects. Recently, I was in contact with Alan who, thankfully, had retained his VHS copy of 'Clarence' and kindly made it available for me to convert the episode to a digital file. It has the look of an old VHS tape because that is what it is.

I started the Clarence Conly (Interview) segment as I did all the others maintaining the serious and thoughtful tone of a top-level interviewer like Keith Berwick or Charlie Rose. However, as 'Clarence' began recounting the story I had created for him, I found myself unable to maintain my composure and began laughing at what he was saying. I was out of control. As we proceeded along with the Q&A, I kept telling myself that I was ruining the segment but determined to carry on to the end. I figured that we could tape the show again when I had gotten the laughter out of my system. Thankfully, Alan stayed with me and didn't break character.

Afterwards, when I looked at the tape, I concluded that anyone would have found the answers hysterical and for the interviewer not to find it funny would have made the performance less real and the viewer was supposed to receive it as real right up until the final credits rolled. I left it as we taped it. Later, when David Permut called me after watching it, he was still laughing at the performance. He wanted to run with the project as a feature film. I suggested Marshall Brickman (Woody Allen's co-writer on Sleeper, Annie Hall and Manhattan) as a potential writer/director and David agreed.

I called Marshall's agent in Century City and asked simply, "Do you know who David Permut is?" He did, indeed, came the immediate response. I told him that David and I had a project that we would like to propose to Marshall Brickman as a writer/director. The result was that Marshall liked it so much he wrote a treatment on spec. More of this story can be seen here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cameron Mitchell, Zen and the Berlinetta Lusso

In the second half of the 60s, I was constantly looking for reasons to take road trips. This habit began when I acquired a 3.8-litre, Series 1 E-Type Jaguar coupe--probably one of the most beautiful cars ever made--and carried on through my ownership of two other magnificent cars, the Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso and the Ferrari GTO. On one particular occasion, I drove the Lusso to Tuscon, Arizona where my friend and mentor Paul Stanley was directing an episode of the television series The High Chaparral.

The show was a western drama starring Leif Erickson and Cameron Mitchell created by David Dortort, who had created the hit series Bonanza also for NBC. It was filmed at Old Tucson Studios, a movie studio and theme park that put on the sort of western shows one would see at Knott's Berry Farm when production companies weren't filming.

They say that getting there is half the fun and when the vehicle is a Berlinetta Lusso, one could accept that claim as understatement. No other engine sounds like a Ferrari V12 and the long stretches of road between Los Angeles and Tuscon made for a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the Ferrari's uninterrupted song at high revs for such prolonged periods of time. I especially liked the way the tightly sprung suspension caused the fenders to bob as the Lusso consumed the pavement in front of it traveling at twice the speed of other cars on the road. When I would stop to fill the tank at a service station, I had the same curious feeling I would get after spending time on my sailboat--that of still traveling at speed the way I could still feel the rocking of the boat long after I had come ashore.

I enjoyed watching Paul shoot as he was always well prepared ("Preparation, preparation, preparation!" Don Logan, Sexy Beast) and knew what he wanted. He seemed to enjoy good relations with his actors and crew though I noticed he was not averse to showing his displeasure in a manner that brought things quickly back to how they should be when it was merited.

One day on the set, I was having lunch with Cameron Mitchell and Harry Dean Stanton (who was guest starring on the episode) at a table set up by craft services on the western street. They were both in their western costumes and the subject turned to Zen. It seemed Cameron had become interested in the subject and I had the impression that Harry Dean was familiar with the teachings of Zen as well. In explaining Zen to me, Cameron picked up a pack of cigarettes and threw it onto the table. "That's Zen," he said.

Whether Cameron's was the most Zen-like explanation of Zen ever given or merely a hint of what he understood Zen to be didn't matter. His explanation stuck with me as a reference and how many things said to you can you recall with vivid clarity after forty-seven years?

On the way home, I found my own Zen at 7,000 r.p.m.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ray D. Shosay's Journal: Dispatches from a (junior) suite in Paris (excerpt)

I am having trouble downloading Skype on the hotel computer, which rejects any and all attempts to import alien content onto the hard drive. I tried getting in touch with Jean-Pierre Soutric, but he was off to his apartment in the Marais and therefore unable to intervene on my behalf.

I need the Skype software because my iPod coach is in Egypt giving a seminar that seems to have been organized, indirectly and for motives that are sufficiently vague, by Clive Davis and he won't talk to me on the phone for fear of incurring punitive roaming charges. The problem is that I somehow downloaded 60GB of electronica onto my iPod over-writing all the play lists that he spent hundreds of hours orchestrating after several comprehensive and exhaustive consulting sessions with me, which included psychological and aptitude testing along with recommendations from no less than three independent focus group specialists located in Los Angeles, London and Caracas.

This mishap occurred after a fille sympa discovered the Credence tracks I had covertly added to a play list, knowing that my iPod coach would have decommissioned if he'd known about it. She was down to her thong and escarpins when she asked if I'd mind her listening to music whilst she submitted to my will. I had no incentive to decline her request, but neither did I have cause to think she'd stumble onto 'Run Through the Jungle' and suffer such an adverse reaction. This horrible gaffe on my part not only ruined what promised to be a perfectly historic evening with the top left-foot model in Europe, but my reputation as well if she turns out to be half the gossip I believe her to be.…/…/B00DMEV1U4