My week on the Marne River came a few months after I shot ‘Montmartre’ using Parisian actors who were friends or friends of friends. It had been a wonderful way for me to inaugurate a career as a writer-director. Paris had given us a cool but dry October in which to film. I shot in and around the art galleries, on the Place du Tertre and along alleyways that led nowhere yet were gateways to the imagination.
At the first screening of ‘Montmartre’, I made the acquaintance of a man who had enjoyed success in the insurance business and was looking to make a career change. My film had intrigued him. It didn’t take long to establish that we shared a passion for boating. He kept a sloop moored at Toulon; mine was a little further away at the Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles. Over dinner, we traded a sufficient number of sailing stories to establish our bona fides and the result was an invitation to spend time aboard his boat for a week. There we could discuss ways in which he might make a move into the entertainment industry. It wasn’t until a few days before our departure that I discovered our destination wasn’t Toulon, but Meaux.
While he did have a forty-two foot sailboat on the Mediterranean, he kept a forty foot cabin cruiser on the Marne River near Meaux, which would be our destination. So it was that we packed up and, with our girlfriends, drove off to an area famous for its mustard. The setting was an unspoiled harbor in a woodsy area next to a small inn. I tend to see settings in the context of movie locations, and this one couldn’t have been more picturesque. I don’t remember there being more than a dozen boats and we were the only people on the scene that day. After we brought aboard our provisions, my friend started the engine and we slipped out of the small harbor onto the Marne. We cruised along the river enjoying the late afternoon light looking for a place to anchor for the evening. We found it. There was a bend in the river that was wide enough to keep us well clear of any boat traffic and their wakes.
We set about preparing our first meal on board, which was probably filet mignon with fresh vegetables and frites, though it could have been macaroni out of a box and we would have savored it given the circumstances. The wine was a Bordeaux with outstanding credentials and we ate a meal that was memorable for its companionship. We were two couples who had only recently met, but were completely at ease with one another in the manner of old friends. After dinner, we smoked cigars (mine was a Davidoff Dom Perignon), listened to a tape of Miles Davis and hardly talked at all. I studied the stars in the sky and wondered to myself how life could get any better than it was that evening on the boat.
The next morning after our petit déjeuner, we swam in the river and sunbathed until we grew restless. My friend then steered the boat along the river until we came to a village where we docked and went off on foot to explore. We searched through the antique shops and bought from the boulangerie, charcuterie, and patisserie not to mention the local wine merchant before returning to the boat for lunch. I backed the boat away from the dock and motored down river towards a suitable spot to enjoy our meal. My friend and his girlfriend were eager to hear about my life in southern California. They were especially curious to know why I would leave behind two Maseratis, a sailboat and all that was Hollywood to come to Paris to start a filmmaking career. I explained that I had been seduced by French cinema and the style of life it depicted. I told them I felt more at home in Paris than I did in Los Angeles where I was born.
They wanted to hear the details of the time I spent on the sets of American television series like ‘Mission: Impossible’ or the movies I’d worked on like ‘Winning’. They hungered for Hollywood in the same way I needed Paris. We agreed that spending half our time in France and the other half in California might be the ideal. Having arrived at this consensus, we washed the dishes and went swimming again before worshiping the sun once more. It wasn’t until late afternoon that we got around to the subject of business. What could we do here that could be sold in America, my friend wanted to know. Was there something that could satisfy my desire to shoot in France and his to be involved with Hollywood? The answer didn’t come that day.
In fact, it would be weeks before I came up with the idea of shooting a television pilot using a French actor speaking English that would be equal parts travelogue, cooking and comedy. It wasn’t until July that we engaged Philippe Léotard, who didn’t speak English at all but mastered the dialogue phonetically. Rolex provided a yellow gold Day-Date, Renault an automobile and Alain Bernardin one of his dancers from the Crazy Horse Saloon. La Mère Catherine on the Place du Tertre provided the location. It would not be the last time I was to shoot there. ‘The French Chef’, as the pilot was titled, became a calling card that opened doors to the major production companies of Hollywood for my friend and me. His dream of becoming a Hollywood producer would be realized.
None of this was known to us that afternoon as we enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of the river and easy rapport of our new friendship. The next day we were joined by another couple. My friend became circumspect in their presence not wanting to speak of his aspirations regarding Hollywood. It didn’t matter. The river had already worked its magic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHUsoYUqEl8
How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits)
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Examples of Responsive Reactions
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Action/ReAction at Stella Adler
Point of Departure
A Series of ONE...
Stephen and Dragonuk
Stephen Mitchell webinar for Stage 32
Ferrari GTO 3987 at speed by Yan denes
Ray D. Shosay's Journal
Dispatches from a (junior) suite in Paris
Ray D. Shosay's Journal (excerpt)
"Saturday, January 27, 2007
They say you can fool some of the people all of the time. Accordingly, I think we should concentrate on this group initially. We can move on to the people you can only fool some of the time at a later date if we deem it necessary. I hope to hear back from my agent about this as soon as he's out of rehab, as I don't think my messages have been getting through."
Ignorance is Bliss by Stephen Mitchell
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Exerpt from Ignorance is Bliss
"Out of the corner of his eye, Martin saw Martha shift in her seat. She leaned forward, as though something was about to be decided. This caused her breasts to push up against the neckline of her dress in a way that couldn't be fully appreciated out of the corner of one’s eye. So, Martin turned his head to look directly into the abyss of her cleavage. He was vaguely aware that Murray was talking again."
Carrera Panamericana (1950-54)
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Ferrari GTO 3987
Elysée Wednesday: Drive!
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“You ought to meet Steve. The two of you have the same kind of Ferrari.”
Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso
One evening, I was enjoying a John le Carré novel and a glass of Bordeaux...
L'art de l'automobile
My first Lusso prior to restoration
It was only after Sinatra was gone...
Once upon a time...
Meeting Enzo Ferrari
I came across this on a late night stroll in Paris near the Louvre.
I bought Bentleys in England and Ferraris & Maseratis in Italy to re-sell in Los Angeles as a teenager. I met Enzo Ferrari, Juan Fangio and Steve McQueen. I 'grew up' on the set of Mission: Impossible and other episodic TV series of the era. For a few years, I owned a Ferrari GTO that is owned by Ralph Lauren today and valued at approximately $52M. I began my film career by writing, producing and directing Montmartre in Paris in French. I founded and ran a repertory company for film & TV for 20 years in Los Angeles. I created a TV series which had fans that included Marlon Brando. I authored the first new acting technique--Action/ReAction--that was not based on Stanislavski's Method. I am currently writing my third novel and shooting my spy thriller Exigence. If you can't make movies, live your life as though you were in one...