Well, as some of you know I was in LA this past week, my former place of residence from 1981-1994.
In 2008 I wrote a hit book, my life story, The King of Sting. I had optioned the rights to my life story once before in LA, which got me into the film industry back in the early 80’s. And over the years I’ve produced five feature sports films, including Champions Forever starring Muhammad Ali. I did another Ali movie in October of 2009.
My life’s goal has always been to have my life story put on screen and we are very close now.
Thanks to the book being picked up in 2009 by Eric Eisner. His father Michael Eisner was the CEO of Disney Studios for years and he produced a boatload of hit films. Eric’s brother directed Sahara with Mathew McConaughey. Major hit, over $120 million gross revenue. Eric flew to KC a few years back to meet me and make the deal. He’d never been to our city before. Great guy. We hit it off right off the bat.
Now when I go to LA I hang with Eric and his staff, all fun, bright young film makers. Including his head of development, Jake Ryan, who found King of Sting for Eric. We had several offers to make the film including Charles Roven who produced The Dark Knight (Batman).
As luck would have it, Eric and his people got the screenplay for the King of Sting – written by top notch writer Dan Gordon (The Hurricane with Denzel Washington, Wyatt Earp with Kevin Costner)– into Clint Eastwood’s hands last December. Clint thought it would be a great movie for his longtime producing partner at Warner’s, Rob Lorenz to direct. Rob is a two time academy award nominee for producing Mystic River and Flags of Our Fathers. Rob has been 1st AD and producer on most of Clint’s last 10 or so films including Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby.
Until last week I had never met in person with Clint or Rob. They’re doing a movie now called "Hoover" starring Leonardo DiCaprio. So as part of my trip out west, I met with them. Eric lives in New York but has offices in LA as well.
Rob was great. He’s 42, has loads of experience and is just brilliant. He helped Gordon ,Eric and I do a rewrite of the original script. Major League smart. Everyone wants to know about Clint Eastwood, but the truth is Rob Lorenz will be in charge of this project since he will direct. So we spent several hours together at Warner’s going over the story and how it got here. We really hit it off.
So the plan is for Rob to finish Hoover with Clint and then start King of Sting.
Hollywood studios, the big guys, Warner’s, Disney, Universal and Fox, are doing very few films now.
You see their names on the pictures but they don’t finance many movies anymore. Their credit lines have been cut way back, no more hedge fund money either. And soon no more DVD biz – movies will go straight to Pay Per View skipping DVD, sadly. Right now that’s a large revenue stream for studios and production companies. So the majors are doing only the big budget films, like BATMAN, SPIDER-MAN, TOY STORY and FAMILY ANIMATED FILMS. And not much on action unless its Iron Man.
They would rather spend $180 million on a film that has a shot worldwide to do $700 million than even a smaller film like THE HANGOVER, which can only do say $180 to $250 million in the US but not overseas because it’s American humor.
King of Sting falls into the smaller film group now, as would The Departed, Rain Man, hit films but just not $500 million worth. I don’t agree with this line of thinking, but the studios are trying to hit it out of the park each time and I feel that’s what got them into trouble in the first place. When you miss on a biggie you eat lots of red ink. However its not my call.
So even with names like Eisner, Eastwood, Lorenz it’s still tough to get a movie made today.
Smaller budgets get made but often end up with poor distribution. For example, Michael Douglas (big name star) did a great movie this year, "Solitary Man" was ion few theaters, the lowly Rio in Kansas City, for example. So not many people saw it even though I felt he was better in it than he was in Wall Street’s: Money Never Sleeps.
When I’m in LA I also work with my agent Matt Blake at CAA on other projects. We’re finishing a pilot for TV based on Stanford and Sons. My brothers and I plus our guest star comics each week are in it and we are all so crazy that it’s funny. Oh yeah. this is animated. I also have sold several film scripts over the years. My writing partner Dan York, former vice president at Universal,and I did a rewrite of a football story. Dan lives one hundred miles north of LA.
So it’s not really party time when I go out to LA, it’s a lot of work and meetings to stay in the game. I also try and touch base with big time comics and up and comers and their agents. I spend time at the Improv, Comedy Store (Pauly Shore’s) and The Laugh Factory.
One nice thing happened while I was out there I had lunch with four SME graduates. Sandhal Bergman (Conan), my cousin Keith Pittel and my sometimes girlfriend from KC, Gina Ninci. We had lots to talk about. Gina lives in San Diego, Keith and Sandhal, also a former gal friend, live in LA.
Next story I’ll bring some dirt and sex so you can be more entertained but this is a short version of how the ballgame works.
It ain’t easy, but its interesting.