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.

On the Fast Track

The big presentation at the network in Munich went very well. My department heads all did a great job presenting their parts of the FAST TRACK world and the network loved what they saw. Now it’s up to us to deliver on what we’ve promised. Immediately after the meeting, my line producer Heiko Schmidt and I took an Air Berlin flight to Paris. We ended up not being seated together. I got stuck in a very cramped middle seat. I tried working on my MONK book on the flight but I couldn’t get comfortable and I couldn’t focus. The guys on either side of me were ogling the centerfolds in their German editions of Playboy. I still haven’t gotten used to the stewardesses handing out Playboys to the passengers. Everywhere you look its boobs and crotches.

Paris was another adventure. We arrived in the late evening. Our hotel was a dump (don’t believe the pictures you see on the web)…I’ve never stayed someplace where you get a bottle opener attached to your room key. But it was only one night and the hotel was around-the-corner from our casting agent…so we decided to live with it. We went out to dinner and my French got a work-out. I even chatted with the couple at the next table. Afterwards, Heiko and I did th

Style and Substance

Tomorrow I am off to Munich with my line producer and department heads to make a big presentation to the network on the look, feel, and cast of FAST TRACK. I am really looking forward to showing them everything we have in mind so they will be as energized and enthusiastic as we are.  I’m also eager to get the network approval on our American actors so we can get them on planes to Germany next week. I will also be meeting with the network’s marketing, public relations, and merchandising people to talk about those aspects of the show as well. Then it’s off to Paris on a late afternoon flight to make a  casting session on Thursday for one of our remaining, principal roles…and then I go to London on Thursday night for a casting session on Friday…and then it’s back to Berlin for one, final casting session on Saturday for the remaining, supporting parts. We start shooting on May 30th.

I’ve been here for a week now and I am still exhausted. The problem with the long hours and all this jetting around is that I can’t seem to get my jet lag under control…so I’ve given up. I’ve accepted that I will be going to bed at 10 and waking up at 5. The nice thing is that I am getting a lot of writing done between 5 and 8 am on the MONK book…

Mr. Meeting

I arrived in Berlin on Monday night and spent much of Tuesday, a holiday here, working on my MONK book and taking naps. Victoria Beckham was on my Sunday night  British Airways flight from L.A. to London…she was  looking for homes in Southern California in the $40 million range, or so the stewardesses told me. I was standing behind her on the way out of the plane. She has two of the fakest, hardest-looking breasts I have ever seen…not that I spend my time leering at boobs all day. But hers stood out. Literally. I could have hung my jacket on her nipples. Apparently the media noticed, too.

Yesterday was  the first day at work…I arrived  at 8:30 am and didn’t leave the office until almost 11 . The day was packed with meetings. My line producer, business affairs exec and I were on the phone to L.A. at 9 pm  to negotiate with agents for some of our lead cast (I almost fell asleep twice during the day, thank God for Diet Coke). I have more meetings today, casting on Friday, and then the weekend will be spent in my room working on production rewrite of the script (to incorporate changes  for the budget, locations, shooting schedule, etc.)  and my MONK book. On Monday, more casting and, at the end of the week, a trip to Munich with my department heads to make a presentation to the network on the look/feel of the show. And then on to Paris for more casting for one particular role.

My Bags Are Packed, I’m Ready to Go…

I am off today for Berlin, where I will be staying until FAST TRACK is finished, which will be some time in mid-July. It’s going  to be a busy and exciting time…and I will try to share it with you whenever I can.

We have offers going out to some American actors on Monday and casting for the other principal parts continues in Germany, France and the U.K. over the next week or so. And, of course, there’s all the prep work that’s still on-going to make our May 23 start date.

In the midst of all of that, I have to finish my fifth MONK novel, MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE, and come up with the plot for MONK #6 (don’t be surprised if it ends up being MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY) and teach another Writers Room course for Action Concept & MediaXChange in charming Lohr. At least all of that activity will keep me so busy that the weeks without my family will pass quickly. My family is joining me in mid-June and after the movie wraps, we will probably go to France for a couple of weeks to visit my in-laws.

So consider this my last state-side post for a while…

I Love L.A.

I am back in Los Angeles for three days of casting on FAST TRACK…and to get my life in order before returning to Berlin again next week for most of the summer (shooting starts May 23). So, naturally, I am hammered by jet-lag. I went to bed last night at 9 and woke up at 3 this morning…though I am not worrying much about my odd hours. In fact, I can probably keep these hours until I leave without causing any real problems in my life and it gives me time to work on my next MONK book without much distraction. Plus I can keep in touch with the production team in Germany.

Being a TV geek, I am busily downloading shows from my Tivo onto my iPod to watch on my flight to Germany and in my free time there (did I tell you that I got my iPod back?). While I am away, I’m going to miss the finales of HEROES, BOSTON LEGAL, LAW & ORDER SVU and THE SOPRANOS…but they will be waiting for me at home when I return in August.

Scissor Skills

I’m not an expert in fashion or style, so I don’t always have the words to express how I see the look of the characters  in FAST TRACK. So over the Easter Weekend, I spent about 150 euros on magazines, bought some glue and construction paper, and started cutting out pictures with my daughter of fashions and styles I liked. Together we made up "style boards"  for each of the characters.  I also bought some architecture and automotive books and magazines to create style boards for the look of the cars and the "world."  It was  a lot of fun for us both and, when we were done, I must have had fifty boards.  I brought the boards into a day-long concept meeting with the director, line producer, production designer, and costumer designer. As it turns out, I must have done a pretty good job beforehand of explaining how I see the movie because the boards and examples they brought in closely matched what my daughter and I had come up with over the weekend. Even so, we filled the walls of  my office with their boards and mine and spent hours picking and choosing and refining the looks until we all agreed on what we were going for and what our color palette would be. We also watched clips of American and German films to refine what the style, lighting, and look of our film/pilot will be and that we want to convey to our director of photography…once we find him.

Tomorrow, I begin two days of casting for the German actors and then return to L.A. for three more days of casting to find our American actors. And then I have to quickly prepare and organize my life for living in Europe for the next three months more-or-less as I oversee pre-production, production and post-production of the movie.

Checkpoint Charlie

It’s the Easter holiday here in Germany, so I finally had a day to sleep-in, relax, and get settled. Since the moment I stepped off the plane last week, I have been on-the-go non-stop, going from one meeting to another and, in some cases, one corner of Germany to another. Today is the first time I’ve actually felt "grounded," if you know what I mean. And best of all, my family is arriving tonight to join me for a week. I’m staying on Friedrichstrasse, sort of the Rodeo Drive of Berlin, and I if I lean just a bit this way and that, I can see Checkpoint Charlie and the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz from my balcony.

The pre-production experience for me on FAST TRACK has been exciting, familiar and in many ways, brand new. It’s my job as the writer & executive producer to relay my vision of the characters, the look, the sound, and the "feel" of the pilot (and subsequent series, if we are lucky) to all the people working on the show…from the production designer to the stunt drivers.  That’s always a challenge but it’s even harder here, where the culture,  language and ways of making TV shows are different. Not only that, our points-of-reference (other TV shows and movies, for instance) are different, too. It’s a new experience for all of us on the show, but I’m working with some incredibly bright and creative people. I think they are beginning to see the show the way I do. They are also enthusiastically embracing a different approach to film-making, a "hybrid" of the American & German producing methods that we’ve created (I’ll go into that another time…there’s probably enough material there for a book!). It’s very exciting for me and, from what I can feel talking to them and just walking down the halls of the production office, it is for them, too.

Yesterday I spent five hours with our German casting director, looking at dozens and dozens of showreels to pick the actors we’d like to come in next week for auditions. The clips on the reels are all in German, so I am having to judge the actors based on emotions, expression, body language, charisma etc. I have to judge  if they are conveying character  through every tool BUT language, since I can’t understand a word they are saying.  I have to guess the context & story of the scene and try to judge how good…or bad…a job the actors are doing (although the reels are all in German, the actors we are inviting in all speak English).  And, of course, their credits mean nothing to me, too….they are all German TV shows and movies. It was another new experience…one of many that I have each day, which is what makes this project so special for me.


Sleepy in Berlin

Sorry I’ve been absent lately — I have been overwhelmed with preproduction work on FAST TRACK and jetting around Germany and haven’t had time for  blog posts. I’m still wrestling with jet-lag and  in my stupor managed to lose my beloved video iPod on a flight between Cologne and Berlin. I’m sure there’s a airplane janitor out there enjoying episodes of ROME, HEROES, MONK, and a hundred main title sequences….

My family is joining me here on Friday and I’m looking forward to some time off over the Easter Weekend…