Whatcha Been Doin', Esther?
(Credit List under this article)
By the time I made it to Hollywood, the studio "golden era" had long since passed. Still, it's been a most amazing experience and I treasure it. If I'd had a clue the people I had long admired were just folks with feet of clay, I would have worked up my nerve to join them earlier in my life.
As an MGM studio employee, I worked for some of the best and most prolific writers and producers on the scene. When the Vice President of TV hired me, I acted as a script advisor since he wasn't fond of reading scripts and left it to me. In Comedy Development, I realized, after all these years of being paid as a writer myself, that I learned more from hearing what was said about writers behind their back than what was said to me in story conferences.
While I was working for the Vice President of Television, I wrote and sold my first original screenplay to Dick Clark Cinema Productions. He formed a company with Sterling Silliphant to produce my little picture. It went from being a feature film to a TV movie. By this time, I was working in Comedy Development at the studio. Next I went to work for Stanley Greenberg, who was my hero. Some time before I met him, he had written and produced "The Missiles of October," the finest TV show ever made--in my humble opinion. I learned valuable lessons from that harsh taskmaster who would not tolerate even one script error.
When the studio sent me to work with Ron Turbeville on his screenplay, "Bobo's Old Lady," I was once again thrown in with a man who demanded screenwriting perfection. He preached to me the importance of being totally professional in a field as competitive as screenwriting. I learned to do it right, but not without a lot of tears and hurt feelings along the way.
While working at MGM, I continued freelancing, and wrote "An Evening with Charlie Chaplin," "Murder on the Oneida," "Final Approach", "Bojangles," and "The Second Wave," all of which ended up in development and in turn-arounds and all kind of things. I've worked on a Barbra Streisand film plus several episodic TV shows, and I was Production Coordinator on "CHiPs." I've been teaching screenwriting on the University of Missouri campus for the past three semesters, and more recently produced a feature film, "Lithium Springs" for Florida's Ocean Entertainment Group. Early in 2004, I sold a screenplay, "Malice in the First Degree," a feature with a $20 million dollar budget, scheduled to go into pre-production in the near future. Knowing how these things go, I'm not holding my breath.
For three years, I was a freelance reader/consultant for Dick Clark while working for MGM. I've had the great pleasure of being hired by major production companies to advise them on what will or won't make a viable film.
When my young son, Dean, an aspiring screenwriter, died in 1994, I made the decision to help other writers--to do for them what I wish I had done for him. So, I stopped actively looking for writing assignments. Having said that, here are a few projects I've recently undertaken:
"Malice in the First Degree", Feature film writer; Puerto Rico & Hollywood Film Enterprises; current project
"Lithium Springs", Producer, Ocean Entertainment, Carter Lord Executive Producer; 2004
"Screen Writers Handbook", writer; current project (based on letters from aspiring screenwriters from around the world, asking every question imaginable, and my replies. A sort of Dear Abby for screenwriting hopefuls)
"Spearfinger", Writer-Director, Topeka Civic Theater play; Fall, 2003
"Blue Gardenia", Option, feature film; Blue Wave Productions; 2003
"Blue Gardenia", Twenty minute trailer; Blue Wave Productions; 2003
"Tomorrow's News", Ghost Writer, novel; 2002
"Sarah's Mountain", Option, feature film; PSO Entertainment; 2003
"Ghost Dancer", Writer, freelance assignment; TV Pilot; 2001
"Final Prophesy", Polish Writer, freelance assignment; feature film; 2000
"Colterville", Adaptation Writer for audio, from novel of the same name; Broadcast Club of America; 1999
"Ghost on the Haunted Ship", Audio Production Writer, Broadcast Club of America; 1999
"Spearfinger", Audio adaptation Writer, also talent; Broadcast Club of America; 1999
"The Shadow", Audio Adaptation Writer, live performance; Florida Dinner Theater; 1999.
"For the Love of Teddy", Audio Adaptation Writer, from a novel of the same name; 1999. The show was also performed before a live audience at the Huntington Theater, Huntington, West Virginia, 1998
"Tools of the ScreenWriting Trade", Textbook author; Oak Shadow Press;1998. 2nd Revision April 2003.
"The Howard Hughes Story", Writer; Stockton Briggle Productions; 1997
"The Pirate", Network Presentation Writer, from the novel, "The Pirate"; Stockton Briggle Productions; 1997
Workshops - 1995 to Present
I began conducting workshops, to honor my son Dean, the October after he died. That was in 1994. I took my ex-boss from "CHiPs" with me for the first workshop which took place in Kansas City, Missouri. After that, I often took Donald, but I also took along "The X File" Emmy-awarding producer Paul Rabwin; Anne Marie Gillen, Executive Producer "Fried Green Tomatoes", recently CEO of Morgan Freeman's production company Revelations Entertainment and now producing on her own; Jack Allen, a remarkable Vice President of Development and TV producer; Mark Schulmann, at that time the top story person at DreamWorks TV; Randy Torno, former Vice President of Production, New Republic Pictures; Randi Cushnir, who was once Vice President of Development for Tom Hanks Production Company; and Paul Mason, Senior Vice President of Viacom. A list of those workshops is on this page. If it says "independent," it means I was asked to conduct a workshop alone.
Appalachian Film Festival, Huntington, West Virginia, June 2004 (two days)
Charlotte, North Carolina (Mint Museum of Art, with Don Gold, two days)
Raleigh, North Carolina (Art Space, with Don Gold, Jack Allen, two days)
Denver, Colorado (Trivoli University Center, with Colorado Film Commissiioner Michael Kline, Don Gold, two days)
Jupiter, Florida (Burt Reynolds Ranch, with Don Gold, Jack Allen, three days)
Dallas, Texas (Dallas Screenwriters Association, with Don Gold, Mark Schulman, two days)
Charleston, West Virginia (West Virginia Writers Conference, independent, three days)
Providence, Rhode Island (East Coast Screenwriters Conference, with Anne Marie Gillen & Paul Mason, two days)
Orlando, Florida (KVG Studios, independent, two days)
Winter Park, Florida (Art Museum, with Don Gold, Jack Allen, Paul Rabwin & Randy Torno, two days)
Miami, Florida (Business Women's Center, with Jack Allen, Randi Cushnir, two days)
Austin, Texas (St. Edwards University, with Texas Film Commissioner, Don Gold, two days)
Kansas City, Missouri (UMKC campus: 1995-thru present; independent, one day)
Tampa, Florida (FMPTA, Tampa chapter, with Don Gold, two days)
Orlando, Florida (FMPTA State Conference, with Jack Allen, three days)
Cripple Creek, Colorado (Cripple Creek Film Festival, with Colorado Film Commisioner Michael Kline, Don Gold, Anne Marie Gillen, two days)
Colorado Springs, Colorado (Master Class. Independent, two days)
Concord, MA (independent; with Don Gold & Anne Marie Gillen, two days)
Mr. Dora, Florida (independent, one day)
Pittsburgh, PA (Pittsburgh Writers; with Don Gold, two days)
Pittsburgh, PA (Pittsburgh Writers, Master Class. Independent, two days)
Colorado Springs, Colorado (Pike's Peak Area Screenwriters, with Don Gold & Paul Rabwin, two days)
Mr. Dora, Florida (independent, six weeks)
Cocoa Beach, Florida (independent, two days)
Ocala, Florida (Brick City Square, independent, one day)
Daytona Beach, Florida (Daytona Community College, independent, one day)
Tampa, Florida (Barnes & Nobles, independent, four hour workshop)
Palm Springs, California (independent, six weeks)
Greenville, NC (Eastern University, independent. Guest lecturer)
Raleigh, NC (St. Augustine's University, independent, four hour morning workshop)
Raleigh, NC (Screenline, Raleigh Community College, independent, two days)
Columbia, Missouri (Rag Tag Cafe, independent, two days)
Topeka, Kansas (Shawnee-Osage Library, independent. Guest lecturer)
Topeka, Kansas (Thoroughbred Systems, independent, six weeks)
Raleigh, NC (Quail Ridge Books, independent, four hour workshop)
Yucca Valley, CA (Water Canyon Coffee Company, independent, six weeks)
OTHER DRIBS AND DRABS ...
CRYSTAL REEL AWARDS, Florida Motion Picture & TV Assoc., Excellence in (Florida) Films (Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, etc.), 2000
C.A.S.T. Project, Screenwriting Contest,Hollywood, California, 2003
Kansas City Screenwriting Contest, Kansas City, Missouri, 2003
Recipient, SPIRIT OF HUMANITY AWARD for outstanding contribution to beginning filmmakers and screenwriters, 1996