Archive for the ‘Reality’ Category

“Altar Rock” production

Monday, June 29th, 2020
The director and AD prepare to rehearse a party scene at the titular rock

The indie feature “Altar Rock” originally had a budget of around $2 million and was scheduled for a 21-day shoot in Plymouth, Massachusetts subbing for Nantucket. I was in Plymouth a week before the shoot to make last minute revisions to the script. And I was there for the first week of shooting. But the first day of shooting there were two huge semi-trailer trucks, several make-up trailers, a crew of 65, and 30 extras… for a brief scene at a bar that has no dialogue and features the main villain watching a news bulletin on the bar television. My first reaction was… there’s no way this is a $2 million film; the director might as well think he is making a $20 million film. And, sure enough, the budget eventually bloated to over $3 million and I was given a call toward the end of the production with the instruction, “We have to cut several days from the shoot,” and whatever pages of the script that might entail.

Production vehicles line the street on the first day of production

The director, Andrzej Bartowiak, who had been the cinematographer on many major films, including “Terms of Endearment,” “Falling Down,” and “Speed” had me cut the original script from 112 pages down to 88. Much of the character development portions of the script were excised, while the action sequences were expanded during the production. So a one-page fight description in the script turned into a 5-minute drag-out brawl in the film. It became obvious the director, relishing the power above previously just being the cameraman, thought he was making an action film like “Speed,” and not the more nuanced romantic thriller as originally intended. I was okay with that as long as it was a good film, which, though compromised, I think it turned out to be.

FBI agent Cantrell (James Remar) delivers some upsetting news to Tillie’s aunt
Lead romantic couple Tille (India Eisley) and Niko (KJ Apa) at Altar Rock

The other location shoot I was present for was when lead character Tillie discusses her new boyfriend with her best friend Felicity on the beach near her aunt’s house, where she is living. This went smoothly, and I was able to have the production photographer get a shot of me and Kristin with the two actresses; India Eisley and Sydney Park. Lead actor KJ Apa wasn’t present for this scene, and I didn’t get a shot with him, unfortunately.

Production resumes at a beach location with India and Sydney (on beach under umbrella
Writer with India Eisley, Sydney Park, and Exec Producer and co-writer Kristin Alexandre

The production did have to be cut short because of budgetary reasons, and I was tasked with excising several elements and pages of the script at the last moment. This was my opportunity to remove all of the cops and FBI that the director had somehow wanted to insert toward the finale that also bolstered the impression the film was a cop drama. The finale, as Kristin and I had intended, was always supposed to be showdown alone between Tillie and her new boyfriend, Niko, on the boat. Now, without a bunch of cops running around, I was able to restore that focus.

Older brother Marco (Scott Atkins) commands the boat where the finale will take place

The crux of the picture was always, who would Niko be loyal to – his brother and family blood, which required he go through with a terrorist bombing revenge act – or his new love; Tillie. The finale would find Tillie confronting him on this conflict, and ultimately discovering his true choice. If the story had developed properly, this would be all the conflict and suspense needed to make the finale powerful, even without the baggage of FBI or police running around with walkie-talkies. Ultimately, the audience will decide if we were successful in that intention.

Location board in the production office showing the title location chosen

And, hopefully, the film will make back some of the $3 million it ultimately cost.

Tille talks to Niko on her cell phone
Niko drives a cab on Nantucket and ponders his predicament
The original poster for the film before it was cast

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“Altar Rock” cast script reading

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

Just prior to the production of the independent film “Altar Rock” there is a script reading with the main cast. Okay, where is everybody? Well, no video or camera shots or selfies are allowed during this process. But this is the room where it took place and where I was sitting. Just across from me were KJ Apa and Scott Atkins, who portray brothers Niko and Marco. Next to them was Sydney Park, who played the main character’s best friend, Felicia. And immediately to my right was lead actress India Eisley portraying Tillie.

KJ Apa plays Archie Andrews in the popular CW series, “Riverdale,” and recently starred in the feature film, “I Still Believe.” His father is a maori chief in his native country, New Zealand. He was up every morning at 5 a.m. doing wind sprints up a hill to stay fit. It worked, as he displays his physique in just about every episode of “Riverdale.”

I explained to India that this script gave her the ability to play just about every emotion imaginable for an actress: intense grief at the loss of her parents; drunken despair; joyous discovery of newfound love; fear; betrayal; anger; the works. She explained that, during a read-through, she holds back and just does the reading somewhat expressionless. Well, okay, but as long as you put it out during the actual shoot. She is beautiful, as expected, and is the daughter of Olivia Hussey, who played the original Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet.” India also played opposite Chris Pines recently in the limited Noir series, “I Am the Night.”

India Eisley and KJ Apa as lead lovers, Tillie and Niko

Scott Atkins is a popular international Martial Arts film star, more known in the far East and Europe. He’s playing the older brother, Marco, from Albania, who is trying to recruit his younger brother into a terrorist act to revenge their father killed by the FBI. He learned the dialogue and read it with a style or dialect as someone using English as a second language would speak. The director suddenly wanted him to speak perfect English as if he were trained at Oxford. The executive producer (and co-writer) of the film and I were aghast at this proposal. There needed to be a foreign quality about his presentation. The executive producer spoke with Scott on the sly and he assured her that he wasn’t about to change his reading at this point, as he had practiced and learned all his lines the original way. Crisis averted.

Brothers Marco and Niko, as played by Scott Atkins and KJ Apa

Sydney Park is known for her continuing role in AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” and probably headed toward bigger and better things. Watch her star rise. She has the potty mouth in the film and wears a drop dead bikini at one point. But her Asian father was with her the entire shoot and didn’t seem to object, but it made me feel a bit awkward. Not at the reading was James Remar, who plays the investigating FBI agent in the film. Viewers know him from dozens of appearances on television in series such as Showtime’s “Dexter,” where he played the father of the title character.

Sydney Park (Felicia) poses with the writer’s son, Justin

The reading went off smoothly, and I took notes, noting how certain lines of dialogue were delivered, and if they came off awkwardly and needed to be finessed. The only other persons at the reading were the director, script supervisor, and Kristin Alexandre, the executive producer and person who first had the idea for the story based upon her fears that her own daughter could have unwittingly have dated the younger, cute, and more personable brother of the Boston Bombers (she didn’t, but it was as good a ‘what if’ as any to launch a romantic thriller feature premise on).

The classic film “Romeo and Juliet” starring India’s mother, Olivia Hussey
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“Altar Rock” pre-production meeting

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

Since the film “Altar Rock” is finally coming to a streaming service near you, I’m going to share some photos from the process of preparing the film for production.

Above is the full pre-production meeting immediately prior to the shoot in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This is where we read through the script and address all issues the various departments are responsible for as those elements appear. Costumes, props, locations, stunts, and permits are covered, usually as overseen here by the assistant director. The director is more focused on story-boarding, or blocking the action of each scene from the script, and working with the actors on their performances.

My seat was in the center of the table on the right side there, and my role was to sit back and listen to the script being read, and possibly answer any questions about intentions or specifics relevant to the production needs. If only the rest of the production and post-production went as smoothly as this meeting did. More on that next time.

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Trailer for “Altar Rock” is here!

Friday, March 8th, 2019

India Eisley and KJ Apa as Tillie and Niko.

KJ Apa plays Archie Andrews in the number one CW show, Riverdale, and India Eisley just starred in the TNT miniseries I Am the Night with co-star Chris Pine.

“Altar Rock” is in final editing stages, and here is the first trailer for the film, due to be released late this year.

James Remar as FBI Agent Cantrell.

Scott Atkins as Marco

Filming at the title location, “Altar Rock”

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“Altar Rock” finally to editing stage.

Friday, April 21st, 2017
Who knew a film could have so many more obstacles to overcome once it’s already been filmed, but the good news is that “Altar Rock” is finally being edited for a release later this summer or fall. And further good news is that co-star KJ Apa is a rapidly rising star appearing as Archie Andrews in the second season of “Riverdale,” the Number One show on the CW Network. Plus, he plays a high school student on that show, and in our movie he’s an older cab driver on Nantucket, so the delay will not affect the story.

Tillie and Niko, the romantic leads (India Eisley and KJ Apa)

James Remar as FBI agent Cantrell

Scott Adkins as Marco

Marco and Niko together

Tillie on phone to Niko

Niko driving his cab

Filming prep at the title location, “Altar Rock”

Filming a scene on the beach

Screenwriter Wayne Carter, India Eisley, Sydney Park and Exec. Producer/Co-screenwriter Kristin Alexandre

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Now in post production…

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

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Now in Production

Thursday, July 28th, 2016
“Altar Rock,” the suspense-thriller feature I co-wrote, is now in production in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Here’s the latest press release so far. This is a hugely ambitious project for an independent feature and I have my fingers crossed they can bring the production in on budget and with no major snafus. It’s a miracle any independent film can get this far these days so to be in production is already a huge achievement, but when you see the finish line close by, you just want your vision to finally cross that line. But it was thrilling to visit the production, have my son spend a week with me, and to witness the 75-man crew, cast and equipment mounting this production – to see his father’s work come to life. Proud moment.

Altar Rock cast

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Gregory Pace/BEI/Shutterstock (5689832ck) KJ Apa CW Upfront Presentation, New York, America - 19 May 2016

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Gregory Pace/BEI/Shutterstock (5689832ck)
KJ Apa
CW Upfront Presentation, New York, America – 19 May 2016

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… in pre-production

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
Altar Rock
When you haven’t submitted a blog in months, something must be going on. Fortunately, it’s all good. The suspense-thriller feature film, “Altar Rock,” I co-wrote with executive producer Kristin Alexandre is in pre-production for a shoot this Summer and I have finished revisions based on notes from director Andrzej Bartkowiak (pictured below). Below is an announcement about the film in Variety.  I may use the blog to update news on the production, so stay tuned if you are interested. Otherwise, please enjoy my archive blogs for now.


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Encounter with a small, humble and shocked comedienne

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

(UPDATE: Very sad to see Joan passed away September 4, 2014, but I stick by the re-telling of this story as I know one tough and funny broad would appreciate.)

Originally posted June 1, 2010

Dear Joan,

Remember this letter in the Los Angeles Times Calendar section for June 17, 1984:


When is NBC going to wake up and give Joan Rivers her own late night talk show? They don’t have to get rid of Johnny Carson – just put him on after David Letterman. Then Joan could have the best laughs, Johnny the last one, and we’d all be happy.

I was moved to write the letter because Johnny Carson’s show had been getting a little stale of late, and every time you had guest hosted, the energy lifted, the gossip barbs flew out like cluster bombs, and I was entertained.

And I guess my letter entertained you, because the day after it ran in the paper I got a phone call from your assistant in Las Vegas, where you were currently performing. The assistant said you saw the letter, were very grateful, and you wanted to personally invite me to attend your next nightclub show when you were in L.A.

Was I being punked? It turns out not. I got another call soon after saying I had been put on the V.I.P. guest list for your appearance at Carlos ‘n Charlie’s nightclub on Sunset Strip. Did I have any guests I wanted to bring? Well, my girlfriend, Danette, of course. We had been dating for a little more than a year, and wow, this would surely impress her.

We dressed in our finest 80’s nightclub wear; me in skinny tie and a textured jacket of multi-colors with the narrow lapels; my girlfriend with shoulder pads and the hair teased big.

When we arrived we were escorted to the front row of the club, just like the scene in Goodfellas where Ray and his main squeeze get the V.I.P. treatment. And for the next hour or so we heard you call every famous woman on the planet a ‘bitch,’ with scathing tales of venom, spite, gossip, and frankly, hilarity. Kathy Griffin owes everything in her act to you. Donald Rickles, who also knocked celebrities down to size in his act, was tame by comparison. He only called them ‘hockey pucks.’ You wielded the “B” word like a light saber. And we laughed our asses off. Or maybe we just felt compelled, since we were so conspicuous in the front row.

The show ended and, sure enough, we were invited backstage to meet you. You didn’t even wait for us to get to your dressing room. You came charging out of the room with a big smile on your face and your hand extended in generous friendship.

And that’s when it happened.

My girlfriend fired the “B” word right back at you.

“There’s the BITCH,” Danette loudly announced as you approached. I guess I forgot to mention that she was an actress, had just watched your act for an hour and a half, and probably wanted in on the fun and was playing it back to you. Don’t they say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery?

But it was something you definitely didn’t expect, and you stopped cold in your tracks like a mime hitting an invisible wall. Your smile disappeared. Your extended hand drooped faster than a granny tit from an unhooked bra. There was what seemed like an eternity of awkward silence.

But you’re a professional, and it took you only a few more moments to recover, put the hand up again and address me with gratitude.

“I read you letter in the Calendar,” you said, “And you made this old broad very happy.”

I don’t remember much past that. I’m sure you looked at Danette and shook her hand and tried to say something pleasant. But the bloom was off the rose. It was obvious at this point we weren’t going to be invited to party on any further that night with you or your entourage at the Beverly Hills Jockey Club, or go for blintzes at Cantor’s Deli, or anywhere else, for that matter.

You had been bitch-blocked. You weren’t that hot on meeting us anymore.

And for that, I’m sorry. Once you got past being playfully called a ‘bitch,’ you might have found us a fun couple. We could have had a few laughs.

But I guess you didn’t have quite the sense of humor when you were given a taste of your own medicine. What’s that they say, “You can dish it out, but you can’t take it.”

So for possibly dampening your evening, and not being welcome to hang out longer, I’m sorry.

But there’s no way I’m sorry for my girlfriend calling you a ‘Bitch.”

That was classic.

I had to marry that girl.

Twenty-six years later, we’re still together, and we recently went to a Kathy Griffin concert and listened to her call every other more famous woman a ‘bitch’ for ninety minutes.

Despite the laughs, I won’t be writing a letter to the newspapers praising her anytime soon.

And as far as bitches go, you’ll always be our “Number One.”

— A. Wayne Carter

Postscript – It’s clear now that Joan River’s offstage persona was completely different from the one she used onstage or on camera. Stories abound of her humble demeanor, generosity and support for good causes and underdogs. But it’s also understandable how anyone attending her shows or watching her on the E! channel might confuse the two. Let’s not canonize her. God knows Hollywood is full of egos that need taken down by size, but it’s also a breeding ground for insecurity and damaged and fragile psyches, and she often fired indiscriminate of the potential harm to the target. She should know. But she would no doubt be gratified to see her ‘other side’ winning the media coverage, and for that, she can truly rest in peace. 

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Encounter with a terribly shy man wearing a beret

Saturday, August 16th, 2014
robin williams

As we mourn his passing, here’s an excerpt from my book, Hollywoodaholic: Confessions of a Screenwriter about my encounter with Robin Williams. A sweet man, an incredible force-of-nature talent, and completely different persona offstage than on.

April 30, 1984

Dear John,

I haven’t worked since I last wrote you some two months back or so, but that’s not unusual. I’ve been living off my tax returns from last year and going to meetings.

Recess, which I wrote several years ago, has come to the forefront again. I asked my manager to send a copy to director Tony Richardson (The Loved One, an Oscar for Tom Jones). He’s an eccentric British director with a taste for the bizarre. Sure enough, he liked it a great deal and invited me up to his house to meet him. He has this huge, tropical-style plantation in the Hollywood Hills complete with exotic macaws, parrots and free-flying lovebirds in an adjacent outdoor aviary. He wouldn’t let me talk about any of his work, but went on raving about my script, saying it was the funniest thing he’d read in a long time. Now this came as great relief and vindication to me because, for seven years, all I’ve heard about it from the studio people and readers and such is ‘what the hell is this?” or, ‘this is too strange and will never get made.’ (The episodic plot, including adventures in the army and on an anchovy boat, narration by a character with a 10-year-old mentality, and a theme of innocence amid worldly corruption are oddly similar to a picture that would get produced ten years later called Forrest Gump.) Suddenly, here was an Academy Award-winning director erasing layers of abundantly applied doubt. He mentioned that he’d been talking to Robin Williams and would like to give it him. I left floating on air, but keeping an inward and skeptical vigil.

The next week I’m sitting outside an office waiting to go into a meeting with a story person who works for a cream-of-the-crop management firm (Woody Allen, Eddie Murphy, Williams, etc.) about something completely different, and suddenly Robin Williams walks in the back door. My first reaction is surprise, and my second is; ‘What’s that purple-covered script he’s carrying?’ People in the office get up to greet him and I’m standing there with my head twisted around trying to see the script and going, ‘could that be…?’

It was. My body shudders with a start and he’s standing right in front of me and I reach out my hand and introduce myself, ‘Hi, I’m Wayne Carter.’ He shakes my hand, looks at me oddly, looks down at the script, then looks up again and we both freak out. He goes, with revelation, ‘You wrote this script?’. I nod and we both freak out again. Meanwhile, his manager has to come out and is wondering what the hell is going on. Robin explains he was coming by to give him this script to read and consider, and here’s the author right here.

His manager freaks out. He thinks this is some sort of conspiracy. We try to explain that it’s a total coincidence and that Tony Richardson had sent the script to Robin. Robin and the manager excuse themselves and disappear into his office for some low conversation. Robin is backing away from me going, ‘this is very interesting, very interesting.’ He means the script.

I have to go to my regular meeting with one of the manager’s assistants, only now everyone in the office is abuzz with what’s happened and I am getting all sorts of attention and feel like a celebrity. I go into the meeting, explaining the coincidence again. Five minutes later, Robin’s manager joins my meeting, with interest. He’s still trying to figure out what’s going on. He listens closely and thinks aloud that what I’m pitching now (The Man Who Had the Ability to Enjoy Life) might be something for Eddie Murphy or Joe Piscopo.

Now, you might wonder (or not) how I’m handling myself through this whole shebang. Well, the answer is, I couldn’t have been cooler. And the reason is because, truthfully, I was numb with sickness. I had woken up with a sore throat, a cloudy head and the beginnings of the flu, so by the time I hit this meeting, I had backed away from my body as if it were some distant entity, and everything was coming at me through a shrouded, invisible tunnel. Hence, a total lack of nerves.

Anyway, the upshot of the thing is that it’s being talked about now between Tony, Robin, his manager and with feelers to the studio. I’m not holding my breath. My agent and I suspect his manager will try to steer Robin away from doing something this off-center, but you never know. The point is, if Robin wants to do it, and we already got Tony, THAT’S a package, in Hollywood terms. So I’m hoping, with caution. If nothing else, I had those moments; an Academy Award-winning director enthralled with my work; and that heart-stopping coincidence in the tiring life of a screenwriter when Robin Williams walked through that front door carrying nothing but one purple script, and I flinched and thought, ‘Could that be mine?’

(Ultimately the hard-ass manager did steer Williams to another project because he thought Tony Richardson -an Academy Award-Winning director, no less – wasn’t hot enough for Robin. I understand why Williams, who offstage is terribly shy and polite, needed a hard-ass manager, because you get the idea he would say yes to everything just to be a nice guy. But I still have a few sleepless nights thinking about what his appearing in my screenplay would have meant.)

P.S. – Robin Williams used to occasionally come in to the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard and go on after the last comedian of the night and just play for 90 minutes or so. You had to find out about these appearances through some inside intel, and my best friend was a stand-up comic who appeared there. So when my parents were visiting me from Maryland one time and I got the word, I dragged my poor 60 year-old father and mom to the Comedy Store and waited until 12:30 a.m. when Williams made one of his surprise no-time-limit appearances. We didn’t get out of there until after 2 a.m. and my dad was nearly catatonic, but I just had to expose my parents to the most electrifying and funniest man on the planet besides Richard Pryor (who might’ve shocked them a bit too much).

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