One Day and Counting

It’s Monday night here in Berlin…which means we are just one day away from commencement  of principal photography on FAST TRACK: NO LIMITS. Fast_track_may_28_084

The last week has been filled with (among a thousand other things) rehearsals, stunt preparation, wardrobe & make-up tests, and the transformation of a fleet of cars into strFast_track_may_28_077 eet racers. The days have been long and exhausting…but lots of fun, too. The highlight for me has been the opportunity to spend four days in rehearsal with our incredibly talented  and creative cast…led by  Erin Cahill, Andrew Walker, Alexia Barlier, and Joseph Beattie. I can’t wait to get  them in front of the camera.

But none of this would have been possible without our line producer Heiko Schmidt, who I’ve seen perform at least one production or budget-crunching miracle every day that we’ve worked together. It’s really not possible to do a job like this without a partner like Heiko watching your back and doing whatever it takes (within the budget!) to make sure that your vision makes it to the screen.Fast_track_may_28_072 

I’m also fortunate to be working with Axel Sand, a director and D.P. who immediately understood how I saw FAST TRACK and, even before we’ve started shooting, has already done so much to bring that world to life. I’m anxious to see him at work on the set.

Tonight I got home earlier than usual (around 8 pm). I grabbed a table outside a restaurant in Berlin Mitte and had a chance to take stock and reflect on the last few months. If you’d told me a year ago that I would be here in Berlin today, writing and producing an action movie, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here I am. In a few weeks, my family will be joining  me and, after the movie wraps at the end of June, we’ll be spending the rest of the summer in Europe together.

I am, without a doubt, the luckiest guy I know. The only thing that could make this better was if my family was already here with me.

(The photos are a few of our over two dozen cars in various stages of transformation. Click on the photos for larger images).

Rights Grab

The Authors Guild is warning authors about new language in contracts from Simon & Schuster that amounts to an enormous rights grab. The complete text of the Guild release follows after the jump.

Read more

Too Much Fun

Production on FAST TRACK: NO LIMITS begins in just a few days. The casting is done, the cars are here being transformed into racers, and the stunts are being tested. Now the fun really begins.

I’ve been spending most of my time the last few days rehearsing with the lead cast members, going through the script scene by scene, discussing the conflicts and finding the emotional turns together, and then working them out in performance. I’m so lucky to be working with these young actors. Besides being talented, hard-working, enthusiastic, and great looking, they are unbelievably nice. The whole crew is falling in love with them.

For me, working so closely with them is exciting on another level. In a way, they are my imaginary characters come-to-life, which is exhilirating and a little unnerving. I’m the writer, so there´s no doubt that the characters represent some aspect of my own personality, weaknesses, desires, experiences, fears, and dreams. To see those aspects of myself — who I am, who I want to be, who I desire, who I can never be, etc — reflected back at me in flesh-and-blood is one of the great things about being a screenwriter and a producer. 

Driving_day_cast_2Yesterday, we all went out to a race track outside of Berlin for driving school with our stunt coordinator, stunt drivers, and our second unit action director. It was incredible. We all got the chance to drive three BMWs 5-series and one BMW z4 on a wet track, learning how to drift around a curve, do a 180, and how to drive backwards & spin  the car forward again, among other things.  We also rode with the stunt drivers as they drifted, spun-out, and rammed one another…it was like playing bumper cars with real cars. I’ve never done anything like that…and I loved it. So did the actors and it showed in their performances today in rehearsals when we got to the car scenes. (That’s me with Joseph Beattie, Alexia Barlier, Erin Cahill and Andrew Walker after a day of stunt driving. Could my smile be any bigger?)

P5230106_3 Speaking of cars, we have three of each vehicle — a "picture car" for theP5230107  beauty shots, one with the camera rigging, and one for the big stunts. We are starting with stock production cars and then "pimping them"  inside and out for the stunts. Our cars include a 1965 Mustang, a BMW Z4, a Toyota MR2, a Toyota Supra, a Nissan ZX350, a Subaru Imprezza, a Pontiac Trans Am, and an Opel Tigra, to name a few. We´ve also recruited 50 amazing cars from the "tuning" scene in Germany for the racings and as color at the starting line. Every day I wander down to the shop to see how the cars are being transformed and to watch the stunt drivers testing them.  The shots you see here are some of the naked cars in the very, very  early stages of the work…

Tomorrow there are more rehearsals, more meetings, and on Saturday, a table-reading with the entire cast. 

The Word on The Last Word

I have been getting lots of emails about THE LAST WORD, the final DIAGNOSIS  MURDER novel. I would say that 95% of the response has been positive…the rest, well, far less so. Here’s a small sampling of some of them:

From Patrick Casey:

I finished reading "The Last
Word" last night and I must say that it is a spectacular book.  I enjoyed
how you brought back a lot of the old enemies of Mark, and giving him his
greatest challenge yet.  As I was finishing reading the last chapter of the
book at tear started to roll down, knowing that this is the end for the
characters.  The last line of the book is exactly what this series was
about.  Thank you for giving us fans a wonderful ending for this wonderful
TV show.  I hope that one day down the road you will revisit the books and
give us more of Dr. Mark Sloan and family.

From Patty Kavaitis:

I just finished it. It kept me so enthralled that
I literally could not put it down-read it at one go.  You
did not let us down, you kept the family together, and left the door
open for new adventures. Sweeney’s insidious plan was so intricate I
almost felt like pulling out pencil and paper to keep track of who did
what and who knew what–and to connect all the dots of the not so
coincidental connections…

From Betty:

If it wasn’t for Dick Van Dyke’s photo on the cover, I’d have sworn I
was reading bad fan fiction. ‘The Last Word’ lives up, or should I say
down, to its name by completely destroying the lives and careers of the
characters. I particularly hate the characters being subjected to the
state-sponsored kidnapping also known as wrongful arrest and
imprisonment; without the slightest hint of any form of redress at the
end. For me this book caused tears and a nightmare. This series could
have ended in style with *satisfactory* resolutions; including other,
positive reasons for Mark and Steve to decide it was time to quit
medicine and solving murders, respectively. And by the way, destroying
the characters means that the baddies win after all. What kind of a
message is that to send?

From TommyH:

I enjoyed The Last Word, and think you have done a great
job in taking the characters from the TV series and making them more 3
dimensional and interesting. While the TV show was entertaining, the
books blow the series out of the water, because they expand on familiar
characters/plot and make them more realistic. The books have improved
on the television series, and I just hope that The Last Word is not the
last book

From Maria:

I’ve just finished reading The Last Word.  This tied in very well
with #5 and #7.  I like the ending, which leaves you with so many possibilities
to continue the story in so many different ways, if so required/wished to do
so. Only one problem…I lost a few hours sleep in finishing reading it…>really a great read, great story and a great ‘ending’.

From William Simon:

I have to tell you (for what my opinion’s worth), you blew
me out of my chair.  You scared me at about the 3/4 mark; how the F***
was Mark going to get out of THIS jam?  Usually, I’m a little better
than average at figuring things out (a legacy from being raised on
Ellery Queen I suppose), but you took me by surprise all the way around.  My compliments, amigo.  A well done novel, a nice tribute, a fitting end
to the series.

From  Nwolynetz :

The critics were right it was tooooo dark.  I don’t think it was a
fitting end to the series, you made Dr. Sloan and his "family" and his
past exploits irrelevant. Your dimensions were way off.  I loved all of your past books but not
this one.  I have reread all of your other books more than once, but
will never reread this one.  Stop reevaluating your characters and keep
them as lovable as they once were. I have few authors I enjoy and you
have been one of them, please don’t disappoint me again.  Thanks for
giving me a chance to vent my frustration.

From Richard L. Moore:

I just finished THE LAST WORD and I do think, in my humble opinion, that it was a fitting end to the series. I enjoyed the book, couldn’t put it down as I had to keep reading to see what happened.  The ending was just great.

Footloose and Fancy Free

Friday was a big day for me… I delivered my novel MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE to my editor (and learned they’ve moved the pub date up to November) and emerged from a marathon casting  session in London with the remainder of our actors.  The cast is finally locked…and not a moment too soon. I flew back to Berlin that night,  got back to my hotel room a little after midnight, and collapsed into  bed.

Yesterday I had my first free day in weeks and I spent it outside, sight-seeing with our two of our four leads, Erin Cahill and Andrew Walker, who arrived in Berlin on Friday afternoon (our other two leads, Alexia Barlier and Joseph Beattie, arrive on Monday).  We walked all over the city. I had a great time. It felt so nice to be out in the  sun for a change,  instead of locked in my hotel room, my office, or an airplane. For the first time in a very long  time I didn’t  have  to worry about meeting any deadlines, finding actors for roles, making production changes for the budget, locating the right race cars, and all the other problems I’ve had.   It was a genuine day off.

I went to bed 1:30 in the morning and didn’t wake up today until 11. I feel like a new man…which is good, because I am going to need the energy going into the next week. My days are jam-packed with meetings and rehearsals…and I’ve already got to start thinking about my outline for MONK #6.

But today, none of that is going to be on my mind. Today I am getting out of my hotel room and exploring the city.

Thirteen Days and Counting…

We are getting down to the wire now on  FAST TRACK…the parking lot at the production office (an abandoned chocolate factory) is filling up with great cars for the races and the U.S. cast members arrive in Berlin tomorrow for a week of make-up and  hair tests, wardrobe fittings, driver training with our stunt team, and rehearsals with me and the director. The British, French and German cast come in on Monday and Tuesday (though we are flying our French actress to Stuttgart on Friday with our costumer designer for wardrobe fittings at Hugo Boss). And there are still some roles left open, so I am off to London this afternoon for a marathon of casting sessions on Friday…which is also when I will  deliver my fifth MONK novel to my editor.

Yesterday I met with a possible composer…a young man with an obvious love of American soundtrack composers like Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, and Mike Post. I liked his work and am eager to hear his samples for a possible FAST TRACK score and theme. We’re also talking to some music labels about getting some songs for the pilot. In fact, I may be meeting with an up-and-coming band today before my flight.

The weather in Berlin the last few days has been schizophrenic…beautiful and sunny in the morning, and then pouring rain in the afternoons and nights. I hope that changes when production starts on the 30th…which kicks off with the main unit portion of our action sequences.

The Verdict is In

Variety reports today that the jury has delivered their verdict in the Clive Cussler SAHARA case. They’ve awarded the author $5 million in damages and ruled that the producers have to pay him $8.5 million for the rights to the second book that they’d originally licensed to film…but that now won’t ever be shot. The jury decided that Cussler is owed the film rights back because, under the terms of his contract,  principal
photography on SAHARA did not start on time.

On the other hand, the jury also determined that Cussler falsely and intentionally miss-represented the sales figures of his books, which means the Judge could throw out the jury’s award for the additional fee for the second book. The Judge will schedule a hearing to deal with that issue.

Naturally, both sides are claiming victory.

"We’re $3.5 million ahead and Clive got his rights back," said
veteran showbiz litigator Bert Fields, who represented Cussler. Fields
added that because of the jury’s finding that Cussler intentionally
misrepresented book sales, he would not rule out an appeal.

maintained that Crusader was vindicated because of the findings of
Cussler’s intentional misconduct and the fact that the only damages
definitely awarded at this point were the $5 million to Crusader.

consider it a great victory," Putnam said. He added that the disparity
between the findings of misrepresentation and the damages would make
him consider an appeal, particularly if the court finds Cussler is owed
for the second book.

Cussler, 75, said he was pleased with the verdict but wasn’t ready to gamble again on turning one of his many books into a film.

"There won’t be another Clive Cussler film, at least not during my lifetime," he said.