Friday, January 29, 2010

MAKING CITY ISLAND: PRE-PRE-PRE PRODUCTION PT.4



Dear readers and friends: thank you for your encouraging comments and for the encouraging bump in readership I'm seeing happen on this blog. That's because of you--clearly somebody out there is telling somebody else about our mission. If I can prevail upon you all to send a link about the movie to one person on e-mail, that would be huge. You can send them a link to this blog. Or to the movies very nice website. Or to our Facebook page--all those links are visible in the right hand column of this page.

By the way, the trailer can also be seen on Hulu as well as Yahoo Movies.

The point is: "City Island" is the people's movie. It's a movie that belongs to the audience. It won the audience award at a major festival (Tribeca). It seems to speak to audiences. And it needs audiences to support it to have the life we think it deserves. Thus, I've been calling on you guys who read this blog to feel empowered to help "City Island' along--because the movie will ultimately belong to you. Thanks for reading and I hope you're enjoying this book-in-progress...


It was at the end of Zachary and my New York scouting expedition that the next piece of the puzzle fell into place--though I didn't know it at the time. An old friend of mine, Lauren Versel--we'd met in Hollywood in the 1990's when she was a screenwriter--called me to catch up. Lauren (pictured w/me above) had moved to New York, gotten married, had two lovely children and decided to re-enter show biz, this time as a producer. She asked what I was working on, I told her about my fully cast movie with no money and she asked to read it.

And then, rather suddenly, a bit of serendipity came our way. Lauren had been trying to produce another movie which had the reverse problems of "City Island"--they'd raised some money but hadn't been able to get a cast together. The person who was investing in that movie asked to read my script. She liked it. Could she simply move the money from the one project over to the other? Lauren said: of course!

So we had about million dollars committed--a fifth or so of what it would take but believe me, that first money in is valuable in ways that goes beyond mere monetary value. For it shows that the train has, indeed, left the station--albeit slowly. And a moving train encourages others to hop on. Lauren took the project to the Berlin Film Festival early in the new year and the combination of Andy Garcia, our other actors, my script and some money already being in place proved immensely attractive.

Soon we had our second investor--another million. When this happens, you have enough pieces in place to start gathering other segments of the financing in different ways. Given the strong nature of our cast and a third of the budget now in place, we were able to start looking around for a Foreign Sales company to pre-sell territories in order to pump more cash into the as yet unmade movie. Sure enough one emerged--Westend Films--who became our partner. They took the project to Cannes, 2008. Now Cannes is in May and I showed Lauren the script in November. So a scant six months later we were well on our way to having the movie fully financed.

I can't explain how it feels when the momentum of your movie falls into a positive place and you know--you just know--that you really are going to launch this one. So many movies fizzle out, fail to get going, stall and get walked away from. And yet so many get made! So it can be done--the persistence and willingness to suffer inordinate pain and frustration is all that it takes. Plus stamina, belief and a strong denial mechanism. And a sick kind of craving for the gamblers high--knowing when you're on a roll and keeping all the pieces moving just as you want them too.

That May in Cannes, Andy and Lauren and I knew we actually had a movie. I remember sitting on the terrace of the Hotel Du Cap with Andy, looking out at the sea and thinking calmly to myself: this one will actually fly. At the moment I was thinking that, Clint Eastwood came strolling out of the hotel. He and Andy said hello to each other. As they were talking, I eyed Clint Eastwood--and he's one of those humans that, no matter what you think, you can't help but be stunned being in his presence--and thought to myself; "Sure. Clint. Whatever. We're getting our movie made. This is all just another day in the office."

And then cracks started to appear in the surface. Minor at first. Then growing worse. It's safe to say that by the end of Cannes, 2008, the bottom began to fall out of our movie. It seems most of our cast--except Andy--suddenly seemed like they had other things they'd rather do then make "City Island".




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Just read that City Island is going to be shown at the Miami Film Festival in March.

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