Monday, October 4, 2010

My Fortyfive Years in Hollywood...and How I Escaped Alive by Michael B. Druxman

Michael B. Druxman. My Fortyfive Years in Hollywood…and How I Escaped Alive. Albany, Ga.: BearManor Media, 2010.

The author is a screenwriter and director. He wrote several screenplays for Roger Corman. He was a Sociology major at the University of Washington who graduated in 1963. He did not major in Drama, which interested him, because there was a negative stigma that Drama majors were gay. In 1963, being gay meant social isolation. The actor isn’t gay but he was interested in writing for Drama.

While in college, Druxman directed university theater presentations. He had acted in high school and college and realized he was more interested in directing. A controversy over the university not allowing “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” be performed led the author and many cast members to form their own theater group.

The author worked as an extra for a day in “It Happened at the World’s Fair”. He received $10 and a box lunch. In the movie, he walked behind Elvis Presley when Kurt Russell kicks Elvis.

The author made a short movie for his signature card. While actors would work for free, they still had to be fed. There were also production costs. He hired Ted V. Mikels, a master of low budget movies, for acting, handling cinematography, and editing for under $700. John Carradine spent 15 minutes for $300 narrating the film. The film, though, could not find a place to be shown, as few theaters showed short movies.

The author got commitments from same name actors to be in a film he would make. He figured it would need a $150,000 budget. He tried to raise the money, only to discover he couldn’t raise any money.

While learning about acting, Druxman learned the importance of eye contact. He also learned that actors and directors must “serve the play”.

Druxman once appeared in a play as an emergency substitute without knowing his lines. His character stayed in a bunker while reading a hidden script.

Droxman were into publicity. Since he had no overhead, he advertised his services for $25. He had a few takers including Charles Nelson Reilly and Deanna Lund. He also offered his services as a screenwriter. Sal Mineo was his first client in asking a script from his storyline.

Druxman represented producer Stanley Rubin. When Rubin produced the movie “The President’s Analyst”, which co-starred Druxman publicity representee Pat Harrington, the CIA and FBI contacted him wishing to see the script. In postproduction, these agencies were redubbed the FBR and the CEA.

Druxman represented director Edward Dmyrtryk. Dmyrtyk for years researched the life of Christopher Columbus and planned an $8 million movie on Columbus, who was a poor scientist (which is why he accidentally found America), con artist, and liar. Most scientists then knew the world was round and that China was about 11,000 miles away from Europe. Columbus misfigured that China was 3,500 miles away. Dmyrtryk read Columbus’s journal and found many mistakes and lies. Word of this movie drew negative reactions from some Italian American organizations. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno spoke out against the movie and urged Italy to ban the movies. The movie failed to raise the money to be made.

Druxman created a campaign for a Sammy Fain song that was nominated for an Oscar. He placed ads where people could call answering machines that played the song. The song didn’t win but the campaign was noticed.

Druxman represented Steve Kanaly, who was on the TV show “Dallas”. He also represented Howard Keel, who resisted appearing on TV as he feared it would diminish his image as a movie star. When Kell was convinced to join the cast of “Dallas”, his career rebounded. Kanaly even convinced Draxman to write some episodes of “Dallas”. Draxman didn’t like the formula style of writing, yet the producers liked his scripts.

Abe Vigoda was also a client of Draxman’s. His character on “Barney Miller” attracted much press attention.

The author sold the idea of writing a biography of Paul Muni to a publisher. He researched the book and interviewed many of Muni’s associates. After that, he wrote a biography of Basil Rathbone.

Druxman learned the job of studio’s Story Department was to reject scripts. No movie had ever been produced at Columbia Pictures that came from the Story Department. The key to getting scripts produced is to get a producer sold on the script.

Druxman offers this advice based on his life experiences: “Take every reasonable opportunity that comes your way, because you never know where it leads.”

Druxman wrote a one woman play on the life of Carole Lombard. He directed Carol Lynley in presenting the play.

Producers and directors add material to scripts so, under Writer Guild rules, they can be listed as co-screenwriters and qualify for residuals. These additions often confuse the script rather than improve it.

It is hard for screenwriters older than their mid-40s to be hired. Young producers are resistant to hiring “their fathers”.

Druxman sold his screenplay “Dillinger and Capone”. He was fully paid but the movie was later made with major revisions. He sold his script “Cheyenne Warrior” which was produced. It starred Kelly Preston, Dan Haggerty, Bo Hopkins, Clint Howard, among others. It went straight to home video release yet it is one of Concorde-New Horizons three most successful movies.

Druxman was so unhappy with “Dillinger and Capone” he considered asking for his name to be removed from the screenplay credit. He learned doing so would prevent him from getting any residuals.

Roger Corman hired Druxman to write a screenplay adaptation of “Far From the Maddening Crowd”. Druxman noted this had already been done and convinced Corman to film an adaptation of the novel “The Aspern Papers”. Corman bought the script buy shelved the project. They then collaborated on “Battle Queen 2020” starring Julie Strain. Druxman was going to direct the movie in Ireland but costs required it be shot in Canada instead. Corman dealt with a Canadian company that required a Canadian director and that the script rewriter also be Canadian. Corman then had Druxman direct “The Doorway”.

Steve Kanaly gave Druxman some important advice. He advised being close the the cinematographer who will then check that no film mistakes are made. Druxman also learned the importance of editing and how it can change a film. Druxman then worked on “Raptor”.

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