Archive for the ‘Hawaii film and TV jobs’ Category

RoboCop Redux

February 19th, 2014
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Although I haven't seen the new RoboCop reboot/remake/re-imagining or whatever you want to call the latest incarnation -- or reincarnation, if you will -- I do have a personal connection to the original man-as-machine sci-fi action flick that came out in 1987. Since I frequently mention my failed screenwriting career as the impetus for becoming a local TV show producer, some of you may recall from past blog posts that a co-writer of the first RoboCop took a liking to an early script of mine and tried to get it produced through his contacts in the movie business. This was about 20 years ago, and after months of rewrites, nothing happened with the project.

Well, that's not entirely true -- stuff did happen. I learned a lot about how Hollywood works, and the reality of what it's like to be a screenwriter or producer from the phone calls and Fed Exed script notes I got over the next few months. Back then, writers weren't using email and Skype to communicate. There also wasn't a web-based cottage industry of script scouting services, screenwriting consultants, and dozens of contests that claim they can provide aspiring writers with access to top industry contacts if they win. Back when I banged out my first scripts on an electric typewriter, it was mostly about making personal connections in the business and finding a mentor who could help you get your foot in the door. To a certain degree, that's still true -- writing a great script is crucial, but you have to get it in the right hands. And that takes persistence, creativity or luck.

In my case, it was all three. I had written a dark comedy based on my 1988 stint in rehab for alcoholism, followed by a bizarre punk rock musical comedy about an aging loser who becomes the poster boy for the ultimate lifestyle makeover company... which is really a front for a global entertainment conglomerate that has designs on remaking entire cities and brainwashing residents into buying all their mass media products -- music, movies, TV, merchandise -- from the cradle to the grave. Yeah, like Disney or Comcast. This was around 1994 before merger mania and the internet giants started turning that fanciful notion into reality. Yet I didn't think the co-creator of RoboCop would be seriously interested in my script when I signed up for a University of Hawaii screenwriting workshop given by Michael Miner.

At best, I hoped he would give me professional feedback, which was part of the deal for participants. When each writer got up and pitched their script, he would listen, offer a comment or two on the scripts he had read, and work in some personal anecdotes about his experiences in Hollywood. I have a fear of public speaking and have blanked out in front of groups before, so unlike some of the others who got up and enthusiastically acted out parts of their script, I nervously tried to read a synopsis of the plot. After I finished, a young UH coed with short red hair held her hand up and asked in a bored tone, "Is it supposed to be funny?" Ugh.

But Miner quickly interjected, and told them it was very funny despite my terrible pitch, and tried to retell a scene from it. The other writers just sat there stone-faced. He shrugged and said you had to read it on the page to get it. Later, during a break, he walked over to the little classroom desk I was sitting at and said he liked my screenplay a lot, then added: "We should talk." That turned into a lunch meeting, and a subsequent offer to help me develop (i.e., rewrite) my script and shop it around. One reason he sparked to it was that before he wrote RoboCop, he was a cameraman and had worked on music videos -- my protagonist was a failed punk rocker, who winds up working a dead end job in a Hoboken record store before those became extinct too. He did take the finished rewrite to the president of MTV Films, who passed (they were making movies about singing cockroaches that were geared to their key demographic of 12 to 15-year-old boys) and another movie production company that had ties to the music biz. They passed too.

It was disappointing that the project never got off the ground. However, during that time period I continued writing new stuff that also got attention through big screenwriting contests and other personal referrals... and I've had at least half a dozen scripts get close to being sold or optioned for development, only to fall by the wayside as well. During the past 27 years since the original RoboCop came out, Miner has made a nice living writing a number of projects that weren't produced or got rewritten, but he's never had another movie that has gotten the same critical or popular acclaim of that iconic film. He still writes, has made smaller documentary films, and is an accomplished photographer with gallery showings of his work (some of his beautiful black and white landscapes were taken on the Big Island, in fact). We exchange Christmas cards, and I follow him on Facebook. For the record, he's posted favorable comments about the new take on RoboCop as a reflection of the times we live in now, not the world that existed in 1987.

In hindsight, it's easy to see why he took an interest in my script about recycling and repackaging old TV shows, music and movies for future generations of brain-dead consumers. At its heart, the original RoboCop was a smart satire about privatizing government services such as law enforcement, and mine was a satire about the lack of originality in the entertainment business. The irony is we never foresaw the entertainment powers-that-be taking a classic like his movie and giving it the makeover treatment. For better or worse, I suppose it's better than fading away and being forgotten.

If you've seen the new RoboCop, would love to know you're thoughts on it! Comments are open for now...

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Valentines Day is over, but you can still catch our segments about Watanabe Floral in the current Career Changers TV episode! Click here for daily viewing times and the link to our CCTV YouTube Channel. BTW, in the same show there's a segment about what's new at Waimea Valley... FYI, they have begun offering guided hikes by the Hawaiian Hiking Company and off-road expeditions through North Shore EcoTours. Both are great ways to experience the valley in exciting, new ways!

Menehunes Hoax, Miscellaneous News

August 26th, 2013
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Thanks to the internet and YouTube, this blog and video segments from my Career Changers TV show has led to contacts from all over the globe. TV producers from the Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, and Food Network have either emailed me or been in touch with people who appeared on CCTV to do their own pieces for national audiences. Sometimes they use my stuff as research or backstory, which is cool. But last week I got a good laugh when I opened this email:

Hello, Rich - I am a researcher with a television production company located in Hampton, Virginia called m2 Pictures. We produce a documentary-style series for the Destination American Channel called “Monsters and Mysteries in America.” Within each episode of this series, we explore accounts of monstrous and mysterious happenings throughout the United States.

In our research, we recently came across reported encounters with the Menehune, and were interested in featuring those stories in one of our upcoming episodes. In each episode we invite locals, experts, and those who have personal encounters to participate in on-camera interviews to help us tell the most complete and accurate story of each paranormal phenomenon. I recently came across an article you wrote for the Star Advertiser discussing the potential discovery of a Menehune Village by photographer Ann Thompson. I was wondering if you might be interested in speaking with me about your knowledge of the Menehune?

She was referring to my Star-Advertiser blog that was posted on April 1 (this one). Somehow, the date didn't tip her off that it was a prank (and a plug for my unproduced family/adventure script based on the Menehune myths and legends). After I replied to her, she wrote back that she felt a "bit foolish," but took it all in good spirits. What's more, she was going to follow up on some of my other suggested contacts who may wind up on that TV show to talk about their paranormal encounters.

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Speaking of local connections that have appeared on nationally-broadcast shows, I ran into Camille Komine of Camille's on Wheels food truck fame, at the annual Kailua Racquet Club Doubles Tournament last month. If you follow her on Twitter, you might have noticed she hasn't been Tweeting much about where she'll be next. That's because the club hired her to do their food service for  KRC members and tournament sponsors' dinners, which was a big hit. She's also been doing more private catering. In fact, she said Heidi Klum requested her to do all the cooking for Heidi's entourage when she was here in April (and got attention for saving her son from drowning). That was no April Fool's joke.

Camille has been featured on a couple of Food Network and Cooking Channel shows. The one she really enjoys talking about is Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, otherwise known as Triple D. According to her, Guy's research staff does a very thorough job of vetting possible candidates for the program, and she was certain that the piece we did on her for Career Changers TV helped convince them she would be good on camera. Here's that video link from our growing YouTube archives.

I asked if the Kailua Racquet Club experience has given her the itch to open her own full-fledged restaurant. She smiled and said there are no immediate plans, but I got the feeling that if the right location comes along at the right time, we may see her trade in her wheels for something with four walls and a door.

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Also, keep your eyes open for a favorite of local foodies making their own move from farmers markets and pop-up kitchens to a new home once occupied by Pacific Gateway Center's Lemongrass Cafe on North King Street near Chinatown. Due to budget cutbacks, PGC is moving their offices to their Kalihi kitchen incubator location, and renting out the N. King Street space to bring in more revenue. An announcement should be coming in the next week or two about the new restaurant that I think is going to excite many folks.

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You can still catch the August episode of Career Changers TV daily on OC16 until Sat., Sept. 7. Click here for viewing times and links to the CCTV YouTube Channel. Got more great stories for September, including some scoops you won't see anywhere else. BTW, I'm lining up sponsors for the big Halloween show and Christmas episode, so send me an email if you're interested in advertising!

Tasteful Nudity

July 18th, 2013
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Did that get your attention? Good, because I have something serious to say, although I did want to comment on the HBO series, Game of Thrones -- which my wife and I are loving, now that we've finally caught up with it through Netflix. There are great visuals, intricate plots, violent (yet imaginative) battle scenes, and yes, a fair amount of gratuitous nudity and sex in certain episodes. It's sort of like an R-rated version of Lord of the Rings for adults. At its heart though, is the dwarf character, who starts out as a wastrel and uses his wits as a way of compensating for his "half a man" stature. Watching him adapt and grow, metaphorically, into a cunning leader by using his skills of lying, deal-making and common sense observations, is inspiring. He's the ultimate underdog, who relishes the Game. But his most important quality is empathy.

We root for Tyrion Lannister, aka "The Imp," because he identifies with those who are mocked, beaten down or abused. He doesn't get on his high horse or moralize about the fairness of life or offer empty platitudes about helping others. He just shows it by small gestures, pardon the pun. However, those little things he does are magnified by the pettiness of his bigger, stronger siblings and their might-makes-right approach to ruling. Every wannabe politician and government official should study The Imp's character arc.

Oh, where was I? Ah, yes... the real point of this post was to direct you to a documentary that is available on Netflix via instant streaming: Chasing Ice. For anyone who is a skeptic of global warming concerns or thinks Al Gore was exaggerating the threats posed by climate change when An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006, all I can say is watch this movie. Now. Not only does it show proof that glaciers are melting -- it's happening much faster than anyone could have predicted. Sometimes, reality is scarier than any big budget disaster flick.

And that brings me to the latest Godzilla remake. The local TV "news" media has been all atwitter about the millions of dollars spent and hundreds of extras being employed while cameras roll in Waikiki, as part of future scenes of death and destruction coming to a theater near you (and will probably bomb like the last Godzilla remake). Wow, isn't that great! We get to see Hawaii demolished in another overblown Hollywood exercise in crap-tastic recycling of familiar monsters and cliche action "heroes" who don't seem to care much about threats to the human race until giant mutant creatures or hostile aliens show up.

So here's my gripe: Destruction is easy. Making movies about fake disasters is fun and exciting for those who get to be part of the experience. But making people care about real catastrophes that are occurring right now is hard. We'd rather look away from evidence of actual threats to the planet and escape into apocalyptic fantasies than do something to address clear and present dangers to humanity. Imagine if we -- or these giant entertainment companies -- would just put a fraction of the time and money they spent on the fake destruction of Waikiki, into something constructive... like helping some of the homeless get off the street, or fixing our aging infrastructure, or --

I forgot. You'd have to be living in a fantasy world to think we should expect our leaders to engage the public and rally them toward doing something useful. Instead, we get politicians who show up on Waikiki film sets for photo ops and a chance to hobnob with Hollywood royalty. I can see that little dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, smirking at our folly while knowing "Winter is coming" -- except in our case, winter is global warming, and rising sea levels.

If you want examples of real heroes, I nominate the filmmakers of Chasing Ice and An Inconvenient Truth. It requires true courage to tell people they have to wake up and take action before it's too late. End of rant.

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On a cheerier note, the world will not end tomorrow, so you still have time to see the July episode of Career Changers TV on OC16! Click here for daily viewing times, or visit the CCTV YouTube Channel to watch segments from past and current shows.

Spokesperson Wanted

April 10th, 2013
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Help Wanted: Spokesperson for 30-second commercials who can appeal to local audience, age range of 18 to mid-30s primarily. Must have outgoing personality, strong "Q Rating" among Hawaii residents (recognizable and respected). Ability to ad lib and be witty on demand is a plus. Pay open to negotiation. Contact Career Changers TV producer for details.

As yesterday's news about Augie T's involvement with a home security company that left customers in the dark demonstrates, both the advertiser and the paid spokesperson must do their due diligence before entering into a business relationship. In case you didn't see it, KGMB ran this story about Hawaii Alarm on April 9 in which Augie says he was a victim too. A few months ago, he originally planned to do an OC16 comedy/infomercial type show about himself becoming the VP for this new security company, Hawaii Alarm. Interesting idea, right? Blend the sell part of the story with humor to draw the audience in. There was just one problem: Oceanic Time Warner Cable sells a home security system, so Augie's show would be competing with OC16's parent corporation. On to Plan B.

I'm not sure if it ever aired, but I think Augie's "Funny Business" show was going to run on another channel that didn't conflict with OC16's relationship to Oceanic Time Warner. There was a link to the "Funny Business" video on the Hawaii Alarm site, but the video is no longer available. Since I don't know Augie personally, I have no idea what went down with the owner of that company or if Augie ever got paid for his work on behalf of them.

In any event, I have a well-established local advertising client who is looking for suggestions on a spokesperson -- someone like Augie, perhaps. Or maybe a young, upcoming musical artist/entertainer? It has to be someone who is affordable and looking for the extra exposure at this stage in his or her career. And the person needs to have some local street cred that will stop viewers from automatically switching channels when the commercial comes on TV.

If you have any recommendations, please post them in the Comments below (takes awhile for me to moderate and approve new comments) or send me an email to richfigel@gmail.com. Thanks!

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The new April episode of Career Changers TV features interesting stories about Pacific Biodiesel and Waimea Valley's business turnaround. Please visit www.CareerChangers.TV for daily viewing times, or go to the CCTV YouTube Channel to see the low res video versions of past and current segments.

Menehune Village Discovery?

April 1st, 2013
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menehune 2

Photographer Ann Thompson sent me the photo above and said in her email she came across this scene while hiking through a remote valley about three miles off the main Kalalau trail on Kauai. She claims to have seen "a very small man, approximately 3 feet tall" near the thatched hut. The "pygmy-like" tribesman ran into the forest after he saw her. Ann says she heard other voices and bird whistle sounds, but did not go closer because she thought the man may have had a bow and arrows slung across his back.

While I was skeptical about the photo and Ann's sighting of small natives, who sound like the mythical Menehune of Hawaiian legends, I felt compelled to contact the University of Hawaii anthropology department to see if they've ever heard similar stories from hikers or residents on Kauai. As it turns out, Ann isn't the first to report seeing little people in the Na Pali Coast area of Kauai. Curiously, when people have returned to the location where they believed they saw these tribesmen, the huts are gone and there is no sign anyone had been there... even though the hikers say they were able to find the same trees and rocks they used as markers.

What lends credibility to these incredible photos and tales is the fact that scientists discovered the skeletal remains of a race of three feet tall people in an Indonesian cave a few years ago. There had been debate as to whether they really were a "race" of people or merely deformed individuals. However, on those islands there were stories about little wild men who lived in the caves and the locals were afraid of these primitive people. Not quite like our image of the clever, industrious Menehune -- but could there be some connection?

If you Google "hobbit people," you will find links to many scientific articles about the discovery, including this piece in the National Geographic magazine. I took a particular interest in the find because I had written a fictional screenplay about a group of misfit kids and a cynical resort developer on Kauai who discover the Menehune actually exist and are responsible for big trouble at his hotel.

To this day, I still believe it would make a great family movie -- but I wonder if truth is stranger than fiction in this case, and my mythical little people may be a Lost Tribe, still surviving in hidden villages. Perhaps, they only come out at certain times... like April Fool's Day?

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The new April episode of Career Changers TV premieres Sat., April 6 at 8:30PM on OC16. It includes really interesting stories about Pacific Biodiesel... and we shot our intros at Waimea Valley, where the photo above was taken! For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV or check out videos from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.