Wednesday, June 15, 2005

June 15, 2005
Today is a wake-up call. The CGII book is supposed to go to the printer in a month. We’ve got 30 days to finish and we are hanging out all over the place. Had a meeting yesterday with Meghan, Robert Ray and Gus to plan an attack, cut our losses and get it done.

Having read the book and watched the movie of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West, I came into work on Monday and commented to my production staff: "The lesson I got from watching the movie is that sometimes artists like Leone need to be reined in. If you give them too much running room, they’ll keep going and going and never finish until the whole thing collapses from overproducing and changes and changes upon changes."

To which Robert Ray said, "I’ve known this for some time, but unfortunately, in our case the artist owns the company."

Ha. Too true. Anyway, here we are in a place where I’m not a stranger, in fact, I’m a regular. Every single book I’ve produced (18, includes four comic books and the Razz) has had this problem. The only saving grace is I did voluntarily lock myself into a 128 page book. Not that I didn’t want to break out of this and add pages. Instead, I drove Gus crazy, adding and subtracting from one gunfight to another until I ran out of running room. But now, that phase is over and we need to get serious. Dan Harshberger is coming out at ten to discuss design issues. I always enjoy that.

And speaking of Once Upon a Time in the West, Jeff Hidlebrandt reminded me of his interview with Jack Elam for the Encore Westerns channel on Elam’s involvement in the making of the film. From the interview, via Jeff, here’s Jack’s take on the opening sequence:

"I get a call from Henry Fonda who I knew personally. He said, 'I'm down in Granada, Spain and we're doing a picture with Sergio Leone and there's a cameo, and they'll pay you a lot of money if you come down and do a cameo.' I'm supposed to catch the fly. Sergeio Leone says, 'there's not many flies around,' and so he went and put some honey on my face to draw flies, and it didn't work. So now it's 120 in shade at least and they break about 3:00 in the afternoon for watermelon for the crew. The crew is about 100 people and they got these several tubs of watermelons in ice, big hunks of ice and they start cutting them open over the table and there's nine hundred billion flies come right to that tent. Leone said, 'That's it! We go back to work no watermelon.' He grabs a piece of watermelon and he comes over and rubs watermelon all over my face and all over the bench beside me. I got news for you, I had six flies to choose from and within a half hour I caught that fly in my gun barrel and we did the scene."

Jeff also told me Elam related a not too pleasant story about the third actor in that opening scene. The actor was distraught that he didn't have a bigger part and ended up killing himself (I think it’s the same actor who opens The Good, The Bad And the Ugly). Elam said they still had some of the opening scenes to shoot but couldn't find any actor to wear the dead man's costume. Finally a script boy said he'd do it and they finished the sequence.

"By the way, I'm working on the next round of True West Moments. They should be on the air soon."
—Jeff Hildebrandt, Managing Producer, Encore Westerns

"I’ve learned what is reality, and what is make-believe, and that it isn’t smart to wear one’s heart upon one’s sleeve."
—Grace Easley

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