Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Ten Most Popular Blogs

I've been writing this blog for quite a few years.  I decided to take a look and see what people were actually reading.  Here's the ten most popular entries, in terms of views:

1).  "Hidden Secrets" Revealed, Part 4, Production
2).  "Betrayed," or, I Was A Screenwriter For The FBI
3).  "Holyman Undercover," Part 1, Pre-Production
4),  "21 Eyes" - Now About That Nude Scene....
5).  "21 Eyes," a History, Part 1
6).  "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God" released
7).  "Sarah's Choice," Part One, "In The Blink Of An Eye"
8),  "The Encounter: Paradise Lost" trailer
9).  RIP Darren Rydstrom
10).  "The Company Man" premieres

From the list, it is easy to see that my blogs about the making of my movies remain the most popular ones.  I still have plenty of movies to write about.  I have already begun writing the blogs about the making of "The Encounter," which is perhaps the most popular film I have worked on.  I plan to be as truthful as possible, as always, letting the chips fall where they may.

Right now, my "Hidden Secrets" blog remains the most popular, but the much more recent blog about my film "Betrayed" is quickly gaining on it.  Of late, my blogs concerning the films I wrote for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counter Intelligence Division, tend to be getting the most hits.  I was surprised that my blogs about "Holyman Undercover" and "21 Eyes" got more hits than the blogs about "Sarah's Choice," since "Sarah's Choice" is a much more popular film by any standard.   I was also surprised to see that my recent blog about the release of my book ranking so highly.  I was also particularly happy to see that my blog about the late cinematographer Darren Rydstrom is getting a lot of hits.  He was a great guy who deserves to be remembered -- even if my words fail to do him justice.

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

RIP Director Joseph Sargent

Director Joseph Sargent died.  Sadly, he's never been counted among the greats.  They don't talk about him in film school, but he was a solid but underrated professional who directed one of my favorite heist films of all time:  "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three."  I can't tell you how many times I have watched that film.  Why it is so much better than the remake would be a great blog in and of itself.

The great screenwriter William Goldman once wrote a fabulous book called "Adventures in the Screen Trade."  If I were writing a book about my experiences in the film business, I would call it "Near Adventures in the Screen Trade."  And Joseph Sargent would figure in it.  I nearly had an adventure with him.

Back in the 1990s, a Washington D.C.-based producer friend named Carol Flaisher read my script "Then The Judgement."  She wanted to make it.  She sent it to another producer, whose name sadly eludes me at the moment, who had recently been the head of production for Morgan Creek back when they were really hot.  I don't if he ever wanted to make "Then The Judgement," but the script made him want to talk to me.  I met with him in Hollywood at Raleigh Studios where he offered me the opportunity to write a girl and her dog movie built around a seeing eye dog charity he supported.  It was my first writing assignment.  Sadly, I would have to do it for spec, i.e., no upfront money.  Now, at the time, I actually had an agent, but I never told him about the assignment because I didn't think he would let me do it for free and I didn't want to take the chance on losing the opportunity.  (Sucker!)

The producer dangled another enticement in front of me to get me to write the dog movie.  He said he was developing a series for Showtime about the stories behind various items left at the Vietnam Memorial.  He said it was going to be a writer showcase.  If I wrote the dog movie, I could write one of the episodes of the Showtime series.  Once again, however, I would have the write the episode on spec.  (Yeah, I know what you're thinking:  He was dangling a free job in front of me to get me to write another free job!)

Being young and inexperienced, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.   I was really quite pleased with both of the scripts.  If I had clear rights to the girl and her dog script, I bet I could easily sell it today.  I was also quite proud of the Vietnam script.  I interviewed a number of Vietnam veterans, including my late uncle Doug Sartor, about their experiences.  I wanted to know not only how they felt about being in combat in Vietnam, but I also wanted to know the sights, sounds, smells and tastes -- the entire visceral experience.

The producer never seemed really happy with the dog script and didn't pursue it.  The Showtime series never happened.   However, Showtime did produce an omnibus film on the subject called "The Wall" directed by the late Joseph Sargent.  They didn't use my segment, but I wasn't the only one left out in the cold.  They didn't use some of the other scripts I had read either.  (One of them was written by a writer also represented by my agent.  Don't work for free!)    Not only that, neither of the producers I worked with got credit on the project either....

That's Hollywood.

Had the series happened and my episode was produced, my career and life would have been totally different.  Since I am happy with my life as it turned out, I glad it didn't happen!  Still, I would have liked to have worked with Joseph Sargent.

Rest in Peace.

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lee Bonner on Maryland Public Television

Since I went back into the vault with my appearance on a live morning news show in Milwaukee supporting my film 21 Eyes (then called Replay), I thought it was only fair to show this clip of director Lee Bonner being interviewed on Maryland Public Television by Rhea Feikin.   (Seeing Rhea always reminds of her late husband Colgate Salisbury, who was the dean of voice overs in the Baltimore/Washington area.  I had many memorable sessions with him back when I was but a boy advertiser.  He was always a pleasure to work with.)

Aside from being an award-winning commercial and episodic television director, whose credits include Homicide:  Life on the Streets and The Practice,  Lee was once the bass player and chief songwriter of the RCA recording artists The Lafayettes.  They were a very popular regional band who never really scored nationally in the United States.  Their records did better in Europe, where they topped the charts in some countries.  I was always delighted when I saw recording artists like Robert Plant, Marshall Crenshaw and Brian Eno mention the influence the group had on them.  However, I was truly impressed when I read the following passage on page 668 of Mark Lewisohn's new Beatle biography "The Beatles:  All These Years.  Vol. 1.  Tune In. "

"The Beatles' intense drive to stay one step ahead of every rival (and they were already at least fifty clear) was taken to extremes by Paul in July/August 1962 when sleuthing songs unknown or unconsidered by others.  A good find was "Nobody But You," a B-side by a group from Towson, Maryland, called the Lafayettes.  Beyond a mawkish introduction, this was a strong call-and-response number in the style of Kansas City. "

The freaking Beatles covered one of Lee's songs.

Way to go, Lee!

Below is the original version.  Sadly, no recording of the Beatles' cover is known to exist:

Here's the A-side, Life's Too Short, with facts about the recording:

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Yours Truly Interviewed on WISN, Milwaukee

I recently went through some old tapes and discovered this clip.  I managed to do a couple of live television interviews when my first film "21 Eyes," then called "Replay," was on the film festival circuit.  Here's an interview I did on a morning show in Milwaukee.

There were hundreds of films in the Milwaukee International Film Festival.  Why did WISN decide to interview me?  Easy.  We made ourselves available.  Whenever we got an invitation to a film festival, we personally sent media kits to the newspapers and television stations in the market to introduce ourselves.  Always do that.  Never expect a film festival to specifically promote your film.

What's funny here is the confusion the film clip causes at the station.  "21 Eyes" has an odd perspective.  The audience only sees what two voice over detectives, who are watching security camera footage, see on a monitor.  When the detectives switch tapes in the film, the screen goes blue.  The tech folks back at the station obviously didn't realize that.  When the image on the screen goes blue, they think it is a mistake and instinctively start switching around.

Oh well.

Yours truly with producer David Butler
BTW, the Milwaukee International Film Festival was one of the best ones I attended.  Milwaukee is a great film town!

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday eBook Sale at TouchPoint Press

My publisher, TouchPoint Press, has all of their eBooks at 80% off from 12/18-to-12/24.  This is a perfect opportunity to pick up my memoir "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God" and other great titles.  Use the promo code SANTA when checking out.

Here's the link:  TouchPoint Press Bookstore

Read what people are saying about my book here:  Amazon User Reviews

Monday, December 15, 2014

Writer Tip #11: Start Living Your Life Now!

My lovely wife and I out living our lives
I talk to a lot of budding screenwriters and filmmakers on the internet.  The underlying feeling I get in most of these conversations is that they are living primarily in the future.  That they feel that their lives won't really begin until they sell that script or make that movie.

Having a dream is a good thing.  Having a goal is a good thing.  Working toward either of them is even better.  But I have some advice for you.

Start living your life now.

Even if your wildest dreams come true and a major studio makes or picks up your film and it generates a billion dollars in worldwide box office, you will never be able to buy back the time you are living now.  Some people believe their talent is their most valuable commodity.  It isn't.  Time is always your most valuable commodity.  Take full advantage of it.  Each hour is equally valuable -- whether you spend it now in a grubby apartment or later in a Hollywood mansion.

Plus, there's no guarantee you will eventually succeed at your goal.  Or even live another day. Never forget that.

Here's another fact.

Making an independent film generally doesn't change your life.

Will it be fun?  Yes.  There is a thrill to being on the set.  It is fun working with actors you've admired for years.  Fewer things are more exciting than finally seeing your film on the big screen for the first time, but after all of the fuss and festivals and slaps on the back, one morning you're going to wake up and discover that you are still the same person who were before you made the film.  If you weren't happy with who you were before you made the film, you probably won't be happy with who you are afterwards.

So learn to be happy now.  Enjoy your life as you live it.  Be present.  Let "success" in the movie business be a bonus to a life well lived, not the all-encompassing goal.  Otherwise you will be disappointed.

Other Tips:

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Friday, December 12, 2014

FD Automatic Video "Red Shoes"

I have had the good fortune to work with quite a few of the local rock'n'roll legends of my youth.   One of those legends was Face Dancer.  Capitol records released their album "This World" in 1979 and their single "Red Shoes" was on the radio constantly in Baltimore.  It is a lively and memorable tune.

I never saw the band itself during its prime, but I frequently enjoyed one of its offshoots, Growing Up Different, during the 1980s.  Recently, the band attempted to regroup and I had to good fortune to watch four of its original members, Scott McGinn, Jeff Adams, David Utter and Billy Trainor rehearse.  Sadly, the original singer, Carey Kress passed away but he was ably replaced by Steve Hancock.  The group certainly displayed the old magic, but the reunion ultimately didn't pan out.  Scott McGinn and Steve Hancock decided to continue the Face Dancer legacy and FD Automatic was born.

For their first release, Scott and Steve decided to remake the classic Face Dancer song "Red Shoes."  They recorded the remake in Ross Hancock's studio.  Scott played the bass, with a pick I must add.  (An important detail to me since I am learning the instrument myself.)  Buffalo Lee Jordan played drums.  Aaron White and Robert Fiester played guitars.  Steve sang, obviously.  I attended the session with Timothy Ratajczak.  We were invited to participate in the backing vocals.  Fortunately for the sake of the recording, we had to leave before they recorded those vocals.  Personally, I like the new recording better than the original.  It has a rawer more enthusiastic sound.  There was only one thing it needed:  A video!

Yours truly, Teri McGinn, Scott McGinn, Timothy Ratajczak
The making of the video was a reunion in and of itself.  My fellow Towson alumni, and co-writer on so many films, Timothy Ratajczak was slated to direct.  He asked me if I was willing to edit.  I said yes.  Then he asked another one of our Towson alumni David Butler to shoot the film.   David usually works as a director but he was happy to get behind the camera to work on the video.  It was a fabulous Towson State reunion.

The video was shot in one day against green screen using a Red camera.  Then it was my turn.  Tim and I edited the video over a couple of weekends.  I must confess that I learned quite a bit about After Effects during this edit!  In the end, David jumped back in do the final visual effects, color correction and mastering.

Here's the video:

The project was a pleasure to work on from the beginning to the end.

Download the album on iTunes Here:  FD Automatic
Or Amazon here:  FD Automatic
Or CDBaby here:  FD Automatic

And, as always, be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Some other fun videos I edited:
Crack The Sky: Mr. President
Greg Kihn: Horror Show
Nils Lofgren: Alone

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Open My Eyes" premieres in Florida

My film "Open My Eyes" premiered in Florida last night.  Neither I, or my co-writer Timothy Ratajczak, were able to attend the screening.  However, from what I have heard and seen on social media, it seems like a great time was had by all.

The faith-based feature film was directed by Gabriel Alfonzo and stars Dominick LaBanca, Jeannie Garcia,  Sharon Oliphant and  Heloisa Alves.   I want to applaud the talented cast and crew for all of their great work and I look forward to announcing news regarding it's release and distribution in the very near future.  I, for one, can't wait to get a copy.  I saw a rough cut of the film, but I haven't seen the final, color-corrected version yet.

Here's the teaser trailer:

Check out the film, and also check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It makes a great Christmas gift -- all year 'round!

The Catholic Review recognizes "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God"

I was raised Catholic and my mother was a subscriber to the Baltimore Catholic Review.  I always read the movie and music reviews.  (Although I must confess that I often sought out the films that they condemned.  Sorry.)  Therefore I was quite flattered when they recently gave my book a nice blurb last week in the numbers and names section.


Glad the Catholics are stepping up.  Now where are the Protestants?

You can buy the book here:  The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God

Writer Tip #10: Make It Real

Ernest Hemingway on safari in 1934.
The old adage goes:  "Write what you know."

That's true.  When I am approached by a budding writer who works as a policeman during the day, I advise him/her to write a police thriller.  When I am approached by a budding writer who works as a doctor during the day, I recommend that he/she write a medical film.  Not only will their specialized expertise enhance their story, it will make it easier to sell.  If you don't have any previous credits or awards to tout, your personal experience on the subject matter will give you credibility in the eyes of producers or publishers.

However, you shouldn't take "write what you know" too literally.

You have got to admire a writer like Ernest Hemingway.  He was a man's man who lived a big, exciting life.  He went to war.  He went big game hunting.  He ran with the bulls.  And he wrote about it.  Writing about what he knew didn't limit him.  However, sadly, most of us writers don't live those kinds of lives.  Our lives are boring.  No one wants to spend ten dollars to see our stories.  After all, if you are good writer, you spend most of your time staring at a flashing cursor on a computer screen.  Therefore, we have to rely on our imaginations.  And that's a good thing.  It would be a boring world if only policeman or criminals could write crime films.  Or only astronauts could write sci-fi films.  However, you still have to make it real.  You have to make it personal.

This is particularly true if you write on assignment.  Oftentimes, I have been asked to write projects outside the realm of both my experience and interest.  I have found that the key to making such a story interesting to both myself and my audience is making it emotionally true.  In a sense, I put myself through the same kind of emotional preparation that an actor goes through upon receiving a role.  Even if the story is outside of my personal experience, I always find something emotionally true to me to lash onto to make the project real to me.

None of my films are autobiographical, however, if you were to read my memoir "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God" and watch my movies, you would see definite parallels between my life and my movies.  Considering how guarded I was emotionally prior to my near death experience,  I am shocked about how much of myself I reveal in some of my movies.  For example, In addition to writing "The Encounter," I also edited the film.  I remember sitting stunned after Jaci Velasquez gives her monologue about her suicide attempt.  The events she described were based on an incident in my own life which I never discussed with anyone -- changed to suit the character and circumstances of the film.  Strangely, I didn't find it too self-revelatory when I wrote the scene on paper, which would only be seen by a couple dozen people. but it was another thing entirely to see it performed for the world to see.

Do I regret it?  No.  In some ways "The Encounter" is my most successful film in the way it engages the audience.  In fact, based on audience reactions -- both observed and read --  I have discovered that the more emotionally personal the script is to me, the more emotionally involved the audience becomes.  That fact encouraged me to believe my memoir would find an appreciative audience if I wrote it.  And it has.  It hasn't been a bestseller -- so far -- but it seems to have deeply touched many people who have read it.

As a screenwriter, you will find yourself in a particularly good place if the script also resonants deeply with an actor.   That was the case with part one and part two of the "Revelation Road" films (they were actually one film and broken in half in post.)  Brian Bosworth really found some life-changing emotional truth in his role.  His performance, which I believe is his best as an actor, is the locomotive that powers the film.

Here is Brian discussing the film and its implications in his life:

When you write, make it more than just words.  More than just a story.

Make it real.

Other Tips:

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.