Tuesday, August 11, 2009

DAVID'S AFRICA ITINERARY

For those who might be interested in where I'll be for the next...6 weeks, here's my itinerary.

I'll have no phone access from 8/10-9/11.

My internet access will be spotty at best in that period as well.

That's right kids.

I'm going OFF THE GRID.

Why am I going to Africa? Because I've wanted to see Namibia for 20 years and I was already all the way over here, so I figured this was a good time to pop down and say hi. I forgot it was winter when I booked the ticket though. At least it won't be too crowded with tourists.

Anyway, enjoy the radio silence starting around 8/12.

And have a great summer.


David

DAVID'S AFRICA ITINERARY

Wed 12-Aug-09 Fly TLV-JBN 1:10AM- 9:30AM
Aug 12-17 Hop a Transkei Baz Bus to Cape Town stopping in a new backpacker hostel every night
Aug 17-19 Capetown
Aug 20 Fly Cape town (CPT) to Walvis Bay (WVB)
head right out to the Namib desert
Aug 21 Dune #7
22 Aug - 04 September - The Desert & Delta Explorer Safari
Swakopmund (skydiving?) - Spitzkoppe - Himba Tribe - Etosha National Park - Kavango River
Okavango Delta Excursion - Caprivi National Park - Chobe National Park - Vic Falls.
Sept 5&6 Vic Falls
Sept 7 Fly back to JoBerg
Sept 8 See Soweto
Wed 9-Sep-09 Fly JNB to Tel Aviv
Sept 10 Tel Aviv
Fri 11-Sep-09 Fly TLV to JFK via Brussels
Depart 1:10 am Arrive 12:15 pm
Sept 21 JFK to LAX

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2009 TALA Master Class Back-up and Wrap-Up

I didn’t complete the full masterclass blog in a timely manner, but here's the wrap up. At the time, it just got to be too much. I was barely sleeping and this was effecting my performance in the class. I knew I was pushing myself too hard when we went to see a theatrical performance at the end of Day 7 and I nearly fell asleep during the show. I needed to focus on my pitch and connect with everyone there and enjoy myself. That and my dad arrived on day 8. It was his first time in Israel and that was an added distraction. If you’d like to follow my journeys around Israel since the end of the workshop, check out my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705065403&ref=profile) and check out a few hundred pictures, many a status update and some interesting threads that somehow arose with a dozen people I knew from high school that led to my blog about the first time I asked someone on a date. And that lead to the kernel of a new screenplay: “Wasted on The Youth”. It’s a love story in the style of “Groundhog Day” meets “Back to the Future”. As I develop it, I’m growing more and more fond of it and I should have a treatment finished in a few days. In the meantime, here are the highlights from the end of masterclass which the blog didn’t yet cover.

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Post-Masterclass

Yesterday I had the culmination of my entire trip. When I interviewed to be part of the 2009 TALA Masterclass, they asked if there was any special reason why I should get in. I replied, I'm making a narrative feature film about Leonard Bernstein. I'm telling his entire life story by just focusing on the two most remarkable years of his life. 1947-48. His first two trips to Israel. The second DURING the War for Independence.

During that time he actually conducted the Israeli Philharminc Orchestra on the front lines. He didn't create any new works durin this time, and he had the hardest time even finding work after an amazing, fluke, debut at the NY Phil in 1943. He'd been fired from that asst. conductor position because of his ego and no one would hire him for a permanent position. But because of his hardship and other personal reasons, he went to Israel and his life transformed. The most momentus concert in that period was in 1948 in Beer Sheva. The Israeli army (9th Batallion) had taken the city and Bernstein wanted to play for the troops. It was so dangerous only half the orchestra (21 players) agreed to go with him. A military convoy picked them up in Tel Aviv and in extremely dangerous conditions they traveled back to Beer Sheva. There he played for 3000 people in an ancient outdoor amphitheatre as the story goes (told in Day 8 - pitches)

Well a woman in the master class (Iris) has a cousin who's a historian. She called him at my behest to see where that amphitheatre was. I wanted to visit it. I was told it no longer exists, BUT he knew some people who were at the concert and he gave me the number of Shaul Biber the man who organized the concert and led the military convoy that picked up Bernstein 71 years ago.

Yesterday I sat down with Shaul and interviewed him. It was amazing. What a way to end my trip in Israel.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

TALA Masterclass Day 9-10 (and extra day)

Day 9
We had 1-on-1 meetings with many one of the masters of our choice. I met with Sarah Treem. What can I say? She’s unassuming, with a keen mind and someone who’s had a remarkable path to success. What did I say? I can’t quite recall. Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too badly.

For the second half of the day, Israeli’s spoke with us. The President of the Israeli Film Fund. A documentary filmmaker. So many people. I already can’t remember anymore. It’s just a blur. All I can tell you is that we finished the night with a meal served to us by deaf servers in the lobby/restaurant that houses a theatre where they do performances of a show featuring an entire cast of Deaf and Blind actors. We didn’t see the show, but it sounds fascinating.


Day 10
A half-day. The final good byes. Ruth turned the camera on us (with no warning) and said, OK, what did you think of the master class?” Yikes. Way to put us on the spot. A few criticism were deservedly laid out, but most people focused on what they got out of it in a positive light and people really genuinely got a log out of this.

Many people were leaving the next day. A wonderful farewell lunch and then we all went our several ways. But we were told there was a special addendum to the Masterclass. A few American execs were traveling in Israel just by chance and they’d gotten them to come in for a session where a few Israelis would pitch.
I asked “Why no Americans?” I was told most would be gone.
I said “I’m here”.
“You want to pitch?”
“I’d love to.”
“OK.”
Sweet.

Later that night we had wonder dinner at Chartucherie owned by the father of a participant Natalie.

Day 11 (not on the calendar)
Day off. My dad and I walked around old Jaffa and I saw a cool show called “Momentum” by the group Mayamuna. It was sorta’ like “Stomp” with singing and fewer props. If you ever see it coming through where you live on tour, see it. An amazing cast. And one guy pulls off a video version of a Jon Brion solo looping session playing all the instruments in one song. If you’ve see Jon you know what I mean. Except they did it with video too. Crazy cool.


Day 12 (the added session)
My pitch to David Stapf, president of CBS. Another public pitch. (Thank God it was at 2pm after they’d been talking for 2 hours. And I was second.)

It was possibly the most important 5 minutes of my career over the last 5 years. We’ll see. I pitched him an idea I came up with on my layover in Brussels. And I killed. More on that later. I can’t divulge the details, but I can tell you the pilot does involve an Airsex Championship that someone loses. (Where do I get my ideas from???)

That’s it. That’s the Master Class. I hope you enjoyed being a voyeur. If you want to see the official Masterclass website, go here: http://www.talamasterclass.com/

Please comment on the blog or on the FB site. Join up to follow the blog, or/and join my group “David Rodwin’s Writings” for updates on all things me involving words.

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TALA Masterclass - Day 8 - more about pitch day.

Day 8
The pitches. I mentioned briefly how impressed I was with everyone’s pitching, and what more can I say? Not much unless I get the explicit approval of people to publish their works in progress.

As for me, I pitched my Bernstein in Palestine film. I was the first to go. At 9AM. Try pitching to a room of 100 people including Gail Berman, Bill Masters, Sarah Treem and the head of an Israeli TV network Katriel Schory-IFF, and Karni Ziv-Hot the president of the Israeli Film Fund.

I had to warm up the room a little which took 30-40 seconds and then I dove into the film. I focused a little too much on the dramatic set pieces. But it was worth it to end by showing a huge slide projection of this fantastic picture of Bernstein leading half the Israeli Philharmonic in an ancient amphitheatre in Be’er Sheva in 1948. They’d taken the city the day before and he said he had to go and conduct there, but only half the orchestra agreed to go with him it was so dangerous. In the picture he’s playing Gershwin’s American in Paris. During this performance, the Egyptian air force flew over and saw 3000 people congregated at the top of the Negev desert and assumed it was a troop movement. They radioed Cairo who radioed their forces in Jerusalem and they changed their war plans…in order to defend against…Bernstein.

I finished just before the five-minute mark. (We were being timed. Only one person had the bell rung that they went over, and she had an Israeli TV exec come up to her afterwards and ask her for the script…which she promised to have for her in a week, since she hadn’t actually begun to write a single word of it)

After that 5 minutes they had some questions for me. They felt I hadn’t focused on the personal story enough. So I gave them a 30 second concise answer and they all seemed satisfied and said I should include it in the pitch. I was hoping to pique their interest enough to ask some questions, so it all worked out from my perspective. One person suggested I tell the story and only reveal at the very end that it’s Leonard Bernstein I’m talking about. And while that’s a possibility, if the person doesn’t know who Lenny was off-hand (as so many don’t these days) that’d be a punch line that would fall so flat the entire pitch would be in the trash. I bet if I pitched it that way for this session, they’d have told me ‘you have to tell us who this is about from the beginning’. Still it all went really well. Now all I have to do is get the rights to make the movie. Not a small task.


The pitch session in all took a good 3 hours with 15 people pitching and getting lots of feedback.

* * * * *

I can’t believe we did this later in that day, but we then had a New Media session with Gail Berman who talked about her new celebrity venture in collaboration msn called www.wonderwall.com which has already garnered over a billion hits in less than a year. People love their celebrities.

* * * * *

And then we had a New Media presentation with Arik Bernsterin, producer of "Gaza Sderot". Which is a site I really wish I’d known about back in January during the Israeli incursion in Gaza. It put a human face on those events.

* * * * *

Then we had one on one sessions with masters. I sat down with Gail and had a lovely brief chat where I kibbutzed and did a light 2 min pitch on a show I developed a week earlier in Brussels. She suggested I take it to MTV or Spike. How one does that without an agent I don’t know. I tried to figure out how to make best use of my time. I mentioned that I didn’t have a mentor. She assured me I’d find my way. Sometimes I think we just need someone to tell us to keep going. No, actually we also need someone to help open a door or two. If you don’t have that help, you spend years banging on the door and may fail of fatigue before you get in.

* * * * *

Speaking of fatigue, we were all exhausted that night, so it was good that it was a night off in observance of Tish’B’Av – the celebration of the destruction of the temple and other great calamities. Woo-hoo! This meant we were given a sandwich in a box for dinner as most places throughout Israel were closed for this day of fasting (1 of 4 throughout the year).

I had just wanted to unwind, so I ran down to the beach and dove in the Mediterranean. It’s so wonderful – like a bath. (but saltier).

Over dinner I had a lovely conversation about…rent in NYC. No matter where you are you talk about how much it costs to live in NY. More accurately, we were talking about people we knew who had sweet deals in NY. One guy knew a bunch of stand up comics who had a place on 106 & B’wy they shared paying only $200/mo, but that was a while ago.

That reminded me of when I interviewed Eric Bentley the once famed theatre critic (in the 50s. They were the best English language theatre reviews outside G.B. Shaw). Eric was also a playwright (not well know), and the first English translator of Brecht. They were buddies in the 1940s in LA. Eric had a deal where he was paying $220/mo for a 4 bedroom apartment on Riverside and 95th St. overlooking the Hudson. He had a roommate whom he confessed payed $700 (back in 1992), so he essentially made his living by renting out that one room. The sad thing was this extraordinary man of the theatre couldn’t make a living another way. A sobering outlook to the future for a life in theatre at the ripe young age of 21.

One guy at dinner knew who Bentley was and had actually seen the original production of “Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been…” which is what I was interviewing Eric about. It was a theatrical docu-drama of the US Congress’ House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigation of stage and screen during the McCarthy Era. That lead into the story of what Brecht did when called before HUAC. He lied through his teeth and ran. They asked him if he was ever a Communist.
“Nope.”
“Ever know any?”
“Nope.”
“Ever write a play about Communism?”
“Nope.”
“Hmm. OK. We thought you did, but I guess not. Thanks for your time.”

Brecht took the first train to NY, then took a boat to England and never set foot in the States again. He was sure the next Nazi regime was on the rise.

That led to a lovely story about someone who actually met Lillian Hellman, an idol of her, partially because of her response to HUAC. She wrote them a letter and said they had no right to call her to testify. Period. In much more powerful words than mine, but it was a famous letter back in the day. Not everyone was so bold. Very few. And those who were, were often jailed or their careers and lives ruined. What the US Congress and HUAC did to Paul Robeson was a crime of extreme magnitude. I’d love to see an apology from Congress some day soon for that specifically and for their actions throughout the McCarthy Era. But I’m not exactly holding my breath.

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Day 6

Day 6
Full day in Jerusalem. A mandatory visit to Yad Vashem. A few of us noted that they’d toned down the graphic nature of the exhibition. I think to a fault. It had little impact for me and that’s not good for a Holocaust museum.

Then they rushed us off to The AnimationLab. A tres cool brand new animation studio. They’re the Pixar of Israel. They’re working on their first feature film right now “The Wild Bunch”. It’ll be in theatres 2-3 years from now. Looked cool.

The protagonist of the movie is…wait for it…a girl (no!) and WAIT FOR IT…..NOT A PRINCESS. Her name is Daisy - a rambunctious 14 year-old girl who's not a princess. I jokingly asked the producer "Who said you could create a female lead in an animated film who isn't a princess?" She’s an American who used to work at Disney so she had a good laugh. Then I thanked her for pioneering this character.

My little joke goes back to a long standing argument with me and an ex of mine. She thought I wasn’t a feminist. I did. The basis of her feelings may be multi-fold, but they first manifest when I said I like Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” more than “Beauty and The Beast”. (Now’s when the peanut gallery chimes in, ‘that doesn’t make you a feminist, David, that just makes you gay.’) In many ways I do like the story of B&B more as well (except the end. I prefer the Cocteau.), but my issue with B&B are the lyrics. I like Mermaid more because of the songs. And especially because Howard Ashman (lyricist) died from AIDS halfway through writing B&B. His amazing contribution to those songs is so palpable and those songs are so elevated compared to his successor, that whenever I hear the lyrics of Tim Rice who filled in after Alan died, it just gets me mad that Alan died so young. And watching B&B, I have a hard time not thinking about it. I actually DO like the story more. I just miss Howard and his brilliant lyrics. And that’s why I like Little Mermaid more. (That and I have a thing for redheads) And this got me kicked out of the feminist club. So it goes.
We also stopped in the Cinamatek in Jerusalem and heard about a wonderful program where they support teenager rom various enthnic groups to make short docs. We saw one about an Ethiopian muslim family. Great stuff.

Our tour through the old city was rushed, with a quick stop for hummus in the Muslim Quarter, but as usual we were exhausted by the end of the day and crawled into our beds when we got home.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My 1st attempt ever to ask a girl out:


I've been thinking about why I have such a hard time approaching not only women, but agents, fellow travelers and the like. I bring it back to one big traumatic experience and the meaning I made out of it.

You see, there was girl I had a HUGE crush on when I was 16. Well, she just saw my facebook photo and blushingly complimented me on it. (her pic is at the bottom)

Made my night.

So I asked her if I could relate the story of the time I tried to ask her out. This was the first time I'd ever asked anybody out.


I was so embarrassed to be taken to the movies by my parents I promised never to ask someone out til I was 16. Now I'd made it there. I had my license, and I called this girl Danelle.

I was 16 and scared of the phone. I could barely call my best friend Todd. What if his mom picked up? But I had a horrible crush on Danelle so I called her at work (she was the receptionist), because if I called at home and got her parents, what would I say?

After some serious psych up exercises, I dialed the rotary phone. Ring.

"Hi. Danelle? It's David."
"Oh, hi."
"Hey I was wondering if you wanted to go to a movie tonight?"
"Oh, um. This is David who?"
"...Rodwin. It's David Rodwin."
"Oh, right. Hey. Hi. Yeah. Oh, hold on, there's someone else calling in."

I begin literally hitting my head against the wall until she finally comes back.

"Hey, David. Yeah, a movie sounds great. That was Maryam. She wants to come to. So she'll bring her date and I bet Anne & Mark & Kathy want to come. We should ask Todd & Laura too. Oh! and Maryam wants to see Full Metal Jacket. Cool?"

Not Cool. Lord. 6 people sat between me and Danelle through the most unromantic film known to man.

I think to this day she had no idea I even tried to ask her out on a date.

She just told me on Facebook that it's all about timing, if I'd just asked her out at the end of her senior year, she'd have said yes. I waited to confess my infatuation with her til that summer and continued to as she went to college. Didn't go over well.

She's now married with two beautiful kids. And I'm blogging to you from The Holy Land about to get into a full size bed with my dad.

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