WRATH goes to Hollywood 


I recall those early heady days when Permuted Press offered me a contract for Objects of Wrath . They signed me to a trilogy, and paid me for two books I hadn’t even written yet. I got the advance within three weeks of signing, just days before Christmas. And, let me tell you,  it saved Christmas for my family. I had visions of family vacations in Jackson Hole and delusions of movies made. That was before reality set in, and I realized that a) the books weren’t going to sell themselves and b) Hollywood sure as hell wasn’t going to be kicking down my door.

Since then, I’ve finished four novels. Tears of Abraham, a stand-alone novel about the next Civil War, went into bookstores all over the country last year. Once again, I thought, “okay this is it.” Alas, the book died on the vine, after zero promotion and being miscategorized as science fiction (despite my vehement objections). So, after getting my hopes crushed many times, I’m jaded.
Still…

I signed an agreement last week with Council Tree Productions, a Hollywood based film and television production company helmed by veteran producer Joel Eisenberg. It’s a new company, but Joel has some juice in Hollywood, and he’s also a writer. I really look forward to working with him. The other partner in the company (also a writer) is the founder of a successful private equity firm. They invested $180 million in Telemundo, and have conducted billions in transactions. These are serious people.
What now?

After my initial dance in the street, I’m looking at more waiting, hoping, and work. Just signing with a producer is a big deal, a tremendous opportunity, but it’s far from the end of the journey.  The producer will come up with marketing materials and shop the idea to various studios. We’re hoping for a televison series with one of the streaming services like Netflix, or with cable. I’m busy writing scripts for episodes, which may or may not ever see the light of day. Once the series has the attention of a studio, things start to get interesting. The producer will attach a director, and secure financing for the project. I’m hoping for a “direct to series” deal, which is the best possible scenario. That means the first season (13 episodes) gets picked up by the studio. What’s more likely, though still statistically improbable, is that we get signed to shoot a pilot. If the show gets green-lit, that’s when the real celebration begins.

I’m anticipating something of a roller-coaster ride. Highs and lows, some near misses and dashed expectations. Hopefully, by the end of the year the project will be in development, somewhere. Even then, I won’t know until the studio green lights the series.

I’m quietly optimistic, and very grateful for this chance. My work will be in front of people who can change the trajectory of my life with a phone call, and that’s exciting. The thing is to enjoy the journey, to embrace it. Even if things don’t play out the way I hope they will, it’ll be quite the ride. And other doors may open that I can’t foresee now. I’m learning how to write for film, and that’s a fun process, a very different beast from novels.

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Jupiter Ascending Review: Nerd Heaven!

Jupiter Ascending is a movie I’ve looked forward to since I saw the first trailer for it more than a year ago. I’m a huge science fiction fan, and within the last twelve months, there have been some excellent films released: Gravity, The Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Jupiter Ascending, which is my favorite of the bunch.

This isn’t hard sci-fi and makes no pretense of being so. It’s a fully realized space opera, original and visually breathtaking. I saw it in 3-D, and I highly recommend enjoying the film in that format.The CGI is stunning, and there are some extended set-piece scenes that put my jaw on the floor.

There is an intricate back story, one which the film makers no doubt paired down for the sake of pacing, but I was impressed, nonetheless. There is a Shakespearean feel to the film (if the Bard wrote about guys in gravity boots with spaceships and super-cool light shields) with this family who has no sense of humanity juxtaposed with a well and truly grounded heroine.

There is a good bit of humor in the film, which I appreciated, including a long scene reminiscent of a trip to the DMV that had me in stitches. The acting was solid, and some of the performances were deliciously over the top. The film makers put a great deal of effort into the details of the world building, from the opulent living quarters these advanced humans enjoy to a wide variety of aliens and genetically altered species that populate the film.

Overall, this is now one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies. I hope they make a sequel

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IKHPGEK

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American Sniper: Reivew and Controversy

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I read Chris Kyle’s autobiography last year, and when I learned that the book was going to be turned into a movie, I was thrilled and a bit skeptical. Clint Eastwood has delivered a movie that exceeded my expectations, a war film that deserves a place beside Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse, Now. I hope it wins a truck-load of awards.

The pacing is excellent, juxtaposing scenes stateside with the war in Iraq. Bradley Cooper is utterly convincing in this role as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. His performance is nuanced and heart breaking. The battle scenes are riveting. As the credits rolled, the entire crowded theater remained in their seats. No matter his flaws, Chris Kyle is an American hero, and this film is a great tribute to him and the brave men and women who risk their lives everyday defending our freedom.

Chris Kyle’s heart comes across better in the film than it did in the book, the inner conflict between duty and family, and the most emotional scenes of the movie revolve around Kyle’s inner struggle, whether it’s making an agonizing call on the battle field or a phone call to his wife.

There has been a surprising amount of controversy surrounding this film. A few celebrities have condemned it, Michael Moore publicly slamming the film. People have called the movie racist. Kyle experienced war in a way most men never do. He experienced savagery and witnessed atrocities that shaped his outlook on his enemies, people who were actively trying to kill him. He lost close friends in combat. The movie does not depict all Iraqis in a bad light; one of the most intense scenes in the movie does quite the opposite. The fact is, insurgents did melt into the civilian population, using IEDs and snipers to kill American soldiers. The notion that the film rewrites history is ludicrous.

The film is not political; it’s about what happened to the soldiers who were there and how the war stayed with them even when they were home. Whether or not the war in Iraq was justified or not doesn’t matter to the men and women who served in that fight. They carry the scars either way. The film doesn’t go into the justification for the war, doesn’t condone or glorify it. The fact is, war is ugly and mean and bloody and it’s always been that way.

Kyle prioritized his life thus: God, Family, Country. His ability to kill without remorse is chilling to soft civilians like me. I write about heroes, but I’m far from actually being one. But he’ s the guy you want at the gates when the city is under siege, standing on the wall, fighting back.

american sniper

I plan on rereading the book, and I’m sure I’ll watch the movie again before it leaves theaters. If you plan on seeing only one movie this year, see this one!

http://www.amazon.com/Sean-T.-Smith/e/B00IKHPGEK

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