Monday, October 27, 2008

Full Circle: Maitreya’s Circuitous Seat

I’ve been working part time on filming Stardance for four years. Originally I conceived Stardance as a short film. (For details, go to the June 19th blog.) When I started I was working alone, and thought I had a reasonable chance of raising enough financing for a 10 minute short.

That meant I’d have to re-imagine the story. The Stardance novella had too much story for a film that short. I needed just a thimble-full of story to frame the zero-gravity dance which was the heart of the film I was now imagining.

Here’s an excerpt from a February blog, "Holding Up Visions," about the first script: .
"When I began work on the original short film script, I named the protagonist, Treya. She is named after Maitreya, the Future Buddha of all-encompassing love -- the fifth and last of the earthly Buddhas. I feel we need to aspire to do all we can to bring the Future Buddha of Love here now. Our world can't wait several thousands of years. Iconographically Maitreya is depicted on a raised seat with her feet resting on the ground in a state of readiness -- ready to appear in the world to give us whatever is needed."

So I spent a lot of time and donated money creating a team, writing several drafts of the screenplay, setting up the website, doing photo shoots for posters and a brochure, and a lot more, all based on a 10-minute film featuring a new character, Treya Anderson.

Then on 07/07/07 I brought all that to the Heinlein Centennial Gala and made my pitch—and two remarkable things happened: first, Peter Diamandis gave me two free tickets to experience zero gravity aboard his Zero-G Corp’s 727, and second, Jim Sposto came aboard as producer/co-director.

One of Jim’s first achievements was to convince me we could find sufficient financing for a 44-minute film in IMAX-sized large-screen format. That would obviously allow for more and better dance, and some real story—though it still would not be long enough for even a compressed version of the original novella. So Jim and I invested a lot of time and energy and money retrofitting the project for longer length. We created a new website, a sponsor’s kit and other publicity material, and several more outlines and treatments.

Then, last month, Jim and I both attended the Giant Screen Cinema Association Conference in New York…..and Everything Changed yet again.

If you read the blog entry immediately preceding this one (below), "Change: the only constant," you’ll better understand what I mean by that. Basically, the whole large-screen-format industry is in free fall. This is the worst time in history to try and interest it in a 44-minute offbeat film with a story.

It took me nearly a month to fully realize what an incredible blessing in disguise that is.

If we’re not going to be able to make a 44-minute film, and we don’t want to go back to 10 minutes, the logical next step is to go up to a feature length film.

There is no need to reinvent Stardance a third time. Not at feature length. It’s already done. Spider and I got it right the first time. We won a Hugo and Nebula doing it.

Treya Anderson was originally created as a shorthand substitute for Shara Drummond, because Shara wouldn’t fit into ten minutes. Or 44. But that problem is now gone. We can have Shara, AND Charlie.

Movie industry people will love the fact that the public demanded, and bought, three books’ worth of sequels. It’s a franchise. They’ll also love that it was voted Best Radio Play in Australia.

All we’ll need to do is set the story 20 years from now, and most of it still works. And we can come up with fixes for things that don’t work.

Believe me, there’ll be plenty of hard work for us to do as writers, turning it into a workable screenplay. But the story part is solid, with character arcs already worked out and developed. And a novella is the perfect length for adapting to a feature film.

And the weirdest part is, none of the last four years was wasted work. This version of Stardance will, I think, be even better than the first, because it will be informed by the visions of Treya, engaged in Maitreya’s Mission—accelerating our evolution with a picture of a new, enlightened paradigm of humanity.

All I can say is, what a long strange trip it’s been, and still is.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Change: the only constant

Where to begin…

The latest issue of the LF Examiner – The Independent Journal Of The Large Format Motion Picture Industry just arrived. Here’s the top headline: GELFORD: IMAX IS NOT “GIANT SCREEN”

Gelford is Richard Gelford, co-CEO of IMAX Corp.   On the first day of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) conference Jim and I attended last month (see our last 2 blog entries below), Mr. Gelford stunned the GSCA with the news that IMAX is reversing 4 decades of company branding.   Of the IMAX experience he said, “we don’t think of it as giant screen.” Rather, he said, “it is the best immersive experience on the planet.”  Mr. Gelford’s announcement coincided with the rollout of the IMAX company’s new digital projection system, intended to be retrofitted into 35mm multiplex theaters.  IMAX is going digital with Hollywood movies in Multiplex theaters.

The news was not well-received by most of the GSCA operators of  IMAX large screen film-based theaters. They contend that the “wow factor” is gone when viewing a film in an ordinary multiplex house that has been modified slightly. The screens are only a fraction of the size of the “real” IMAX theater screen.

The changes the giant-screen association is going through as a result of the new IMAX branding are unlike anything the industry has seen in the last 25 years.

The transitional fallout from this digital revolution will be on-going for several years. The GSCA is in an “identity crisis” brought on by outside forces, leaving them very unclear on their market segment. They claim that, “if we’re confused, our audiences are very confused.”

I can tell you that this conference experience left me very confused. For the last month I’ve been trying to figure out what the implications of this change mean for Stardance. That’s why I haven’t written a new blog entry. Jim and I both needed time.

Earlier this week I made a decision. I sent Jim a long email laying out my reasons for deciding to switch from making a 44 minute IMAX to a full-length feature film. The events at the GSCA conference forced me to re-access our plans. A few days ago, Jim concurred with my decision. The result is we’ve agreed to forgo the Giant Screen.

My next entry will explain in more detail the effect our decision will have on our film.

In closing, I again want to thank all of you for your ongoing interest and support. Stardance lives!

Warm, grateful smiles,