Flanek: The Kentucky Columbo

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Bud Flanek is a rumpled, amiable, deceptively low-key homicide detective on the Owensboro, Kentucky police force, the hero of three short, funny mystery movies that now have their own YouTube channel.

Nobody set out do a series of movies about the character… it was a happy accident. It began when Zev Buffman invited my friend David Breckman, the outrageously talented MONK writer-producer-director, to be a guest at the International Mystery Writers Festival at Riverpark Center in Owensboro a few years back.

David came up with the brilliant, insane idea of writing, producing, and directing a short film using primarily local talent … all during the course of the festival… which was, if memory serves, ran just four days. Amazingly, he pulled it off. The result was Murder in Kentucky, a twenty minute short starring Todd Reynolds as an unnamed homicide detective who solves a murder that happens during the rehearsal for a live-radio theater show. I loved it. But for reasons too complicated to go into, mostly technical, the movie only screened once and wasn’t seen again for several years (but don’t worry, there’s a happy ending to the tale).

20x30_Remaindered_Novel_Way_FestivalsNot long after that, Zev invited me to write & direct a short film in Owensboro. I decided to adapt my short story Remaindered, which had been published to some acclaim in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and was about a once-famous author on a miserable, last-ditch book tour that leads to murder. I cast Todd to play Bud Flanek, a homicide detective who appears late in the story. Although Flanek wasn’t intended to be the same character as the one Todd played in Murder in Kentucky, that’s what he became, main because he was the same actor playing a cop in the same town in the same wardrobe. And it helped that my cop had pretty much the same personality and attitude as David’s unnamed lawman.

Remaindered became a hit on the national film festival circuit, winning awards and rave reviews, including praise from writer-producer William Link, co-creator of Columbo, who loved Todd’s performance and christened Flanek “The Kentucky Columbo.” Wow.

So when Riverpark asked me to do another film, I knew I had to bring Todd back as Flanek. I adapted another short story of mine, Bumsicle, and recrafted it with Todd Reynolds in mind. Unlike Murder in Kentucky and Remaindered, though, Flanek was very much the center of this story, which was darker than the other two, but still had a few laughs.

Bumsicle also became a hit on the festival circuit and garnered lots of praise. After a year on the road, we brought the film back to Owensboro and screened it outdoors in a triple bill with Murder in Kentucky and Remaindered, drawing a crowd of over 500 people.

After that, we knew we had something special and decided to create a channel devoted to Flanek on YouTube. But first we had to tweak Murder in Kentucky a bit, which had poor sound (due to cheap equipment) and temp music lifted from Bonnie Raitt (due to the very hurried production schedule… did I mention it was written, produced, and shot in just four days?). So Firelight Entertainment Group in Hawesville Kentucky, with whom I shot Bumsicle and the Dead Man music videos, remastered the sound on Murder in Kentucky, and replaced the music. To tie the short into the series, I asked singer-songwriter Matt Branham, who did the score for my two films, to write & perform a new end theme song expressly about Flanek…”Nothing Fun About Murder”

..he even manages to mention Monk!

Now the Flanek channel is live with all three movies. Our hope is to whip up enough enthusiasm for the films to merit the funding of more short Flanek mysteries, perhaps even a webseries of 20 minute episodes. It’s in your hands.

So if you like the movies, please please PLEASE leave comments on our FLANEK channel, “like” our Flanek Facebook Page, and spread the word to all your friends!

“Bumsicle” Gets Some Love

405191_264384426980041_853296782_nThis has been a great week for my short film Bumsicle, which I wrote and directed in Owensboro, Kentucky last year. We were picked up by both the Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii and the Cape Fear Film Festival in North Carolina. 

So far, "Bumsicle" has been selected by half-a-dozen festivals… from Hawaii to North Carolina, from Oklahoma to Kentucky. There are still thirty festivals that we've submitted to and haven't heard from yet…but at least we're on par now with Remaindered, the short mystery that also featured Todd Reynolds as Detective Bud Flanek. Clearly I am going to have to do a third short one of these days about Flanek.

These festival picks are the result of the wonderful work done by actors Todd Reynolds, Rick Montgomery, Sadia Brimm, and Josh Loren, singer/song writer Matt Branham, producers Rachael Nunn, J. Laine Nunn, and Roxi Witt, and everyone else in our talented cast and crew. I'm so glad they they are getting some notice outside of Owensboro for their work.

UPDATE 3-21 Bumsicle has been nominated for Best Dramatic Short at the Bare Bones International Film Festivals in Oklahoma. Winners will be announced April 14.

Busy Bee Lee

2012-06-05 14.23.40smallerSorry I have been so absent around here lately… the last few weeks have been intensely busy for me. Here's a quick run-down…with pictures. 

I turned in my 15th, and final, Monk book — MR. MONK GETS EVEN  — to Penguin/Putnam on June 1st, then jetted off to Book Expo America in New York, where I got to hang out with my friends at Amazon Publishing and Brilliance Audio, talk shop with scores of authors (including fellow "Amazon" authors Blake Crouch, Vincent Zandri, Johnny Shaw, Robert Pobi, Deborah Reed, David Hewson, Robert Kroese, etc), and meet Audie-award nominees Patrick Lawlor (the voice behind my book KING CITY) and Luke Daniels (the voice behind the audio version of THE DEAD MAN, THE WALK). (That's me on the convention floor with Mike Holmes, a HGTV celeb that my wife adores)

From New York, I headed to Kentucky, to direct a DEAD MAN music video that I wrote for Amazon to go along with the terrific theme song written & performed by Matt Branham. 

And now I'll digress… on the flight, I was stuck in an aisle seat right next to the toilet…so close, I could have peed into it from my chair.If that wasn't bad enough, a morbidly fat woman sat down next to me and couldn't fit into her seat…so she had to lift up her armrest to spill her blubber onto me. I found myself sitting at an angle, tilted towards the bathroom, which a guy promptly rushed into after take-off to have a gastrointestinal explosion of historic proportions. The fat woman quickly fell asleep…and proceeded to loudly fart her way ac160 Dead Man, Tell City, Indiana, Alex Booty, Misty Sisco, Silvio Busch, Aaron Taylorross the midwest. It was hell.  I didn't know whether to put my earplugs in my nose or my ears. When we finally landed, she asked me how the flight was. I told her we lost two engines but she managed to keep us in the air. She had no idea what I was talking about, but at least I amused myself.

Okay, back to the video. We shot in and around Tell City, Indiana, and at the Hawesville, Kentucky stage of Firelight Entertainment Group, the extremely talented and industrious folks I worked with on my short film Bumsicle. Our DEAD MAN cast included Silvio Wolf Busch and Misty Sisco and we had a blast. (That's Misty and Silvio in the center, between the two monsters. You can see a lot more pictures on the Firelight site and their Facebook page)

The day after wrapping the music video I had to jump into my duties as honorary co-chair of the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro, where I played host to the legendary Firesign Theatre and authors (and now fellow Kentucky Colonels) Max Allan Collins, Barbara Collins, Robert Randisi, Christine Matthews and Libby Hellmann and moderated a panel on writing James Bond novels with Raymond Benson and Jeffrey Deaver.

IMG_1724The highlight of the Festival was a night-time, out-door screening of my Owensboro-set short films Remaindered and Bumsicle, which drew over 500 people to Riverpark Center on the banks of the Ohio River. It was fantastic…and I am so glad that the cast and crew of those films, including actors Todd Reynolds, Rick Montgomery, and Eric Altheide, were able to be there to see the enthusiastic audience response. (That's Todd on screen)

As if that wasn't a big enough thrill for me, at the annual Angie Awards ceremony that capped the Festival, my friends at Riverpark Center surprised  me with a portrait by Aaron Kizer, the incredibly talented "speed artist."  It was a wonderful gift and a great honor.

Kiser Portrait  of leeCroppedAnd all of that was just the first three weeks of June.

July has been much slower… at least in terms of travels…since I've mostly been sitting at my desk, working on my book with Janet Evanovich, who flew into L.A. last week to be a guest on The Talk, which gave us a chance to get together for a wonderful dinner.

I'm also in the midst of editing THE DEAD MAN video with Firelight's Rachael Nunn (the footage looks great!) and reading entries in the "You Can Write a DEAD MAN Novel" contest, which ends on August 1st.

In other words, don't be surprised if I don't have a lot of time to contribute to the blog…

Now You Can Finally See REMAINDERED

Last September, I wrote & directed the short film REMAINDERED in Owensboro, Kentucky with a great cast (Eric Altheide, Sebrina Siegel, Todd Reynolds and Lisa Baldwin) and a terrific crew on a $1500 budget.

Our film has played at the Beaufort International Film Festival, the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival, the Beverly Hills Shorts Festival, the Traverse City Shorts Festival, The Big Island Film Festival, and the Derby City Film Festival, where Sebrina Siegel was selected as a finalist for Best Actress. 

We also picked up some incredible reviews along the way, like these:

"REMAINDERED was such a hoot. I loved everything about it and had so much fun. More awesomeness from Lee Goldberg," Sara Gran, author of "Dope" and "Come Closer."

"This may be the only time you’ll ever hear the dictate 'Read to me' uttered quite so seductively. Telling more about Goldberg’s plot would spoil its many criminal and comic delights. […]REMAINDERED may not be a mammoth Hollywood production, but Goldberg-has invested no less attention in its crafting because of that," J. Kingston Pierce, The Rap Sheet.

"REMAINDERED is brilliant! Hilarious, suspenseful, with booksigning sequences that induce PTSD… bravo!" Barry Eisler, bestselling author of "Hard Rain."

"REMAINDERED is terrific," Ken Levine, Emmy-award winning writer/producer of "M*A*S*H" and "Cheers." 

"REMAINDERED is great facial exercise for writers.  It makes us laugh and cry at the same time," Thomas Perry, bestselling author of "The Informant"

"One of the wiliest short stories I've read in many years. Really laughed my ass off when I read it. The short film based on it is equally excellent. Lee Goldberg at his very best," Ed Gorman, author of "Trouble Man."

"REMAINDERED was so well done on some many levels," Naomi Hirahara, bestselling author of "Blood Hina."

"A most enjoyable mini-feature. Professional all the way from screenplay to actors to direction. I must say I also laughed at all the touches of wry comedy. Lee Goldberg has the goods," William Link, Emmy Award winning writer/co-creator of "Columbo" and "Murder She Wrote"

"REMAINDERED is a hoot, a low budget production with a big heart and exceptional values, a twenty minute film that keeps you holding your breath until it explodes with laughter," Paul Bishop, author of "Twice Dead" and host of the  ABC reality series "Take the Money and Run." 

"The story was great and the actors were outstanding," Joel Goldman, author of "No Way Out."

"I loved REMAINDERED!" Daniel J. Hale, co-author of "Red Card."

"Very entertaining. Hard to believe it was directed by a first-timer. And I loved the soundtrack," Matt Witten, writer/producer of "House," "Medium" and "Law & Order."

"I enjoyed REMAINDERED immensely," Hal Ackerman, author of "Stein Stoned" and co-chair of the screenwriting department of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

"One of the highlights of Bouchercon – the world mystery convention – was watching Lee Goldberg's independent film REMAINDERED. If it comes to a film festival near you, don't miss it. It rocked the house," Julie Kramer, author of "Silencing Sam."

"A marvelous script. Haven't heard that much out loud laughter from an audience in a long time," Robert S. Levinson, author of "Ask a Dead Man."

"Really well done and hilarious," Sheila Lowe, author of "Written in Blood"

"This twenty-minute film is funny, sharply observed, and very well put together. It might be a low-budget production, but it doesn't look it. The actors are having fun, and Goldberg gets the most out of every shot," Bill Crider, author of "Outrage at Blanco."

"Stinging and accomplished…the tale is as well-turned as you'd expect from a pro and it takes imaginative flight from a reality that'll be recognized by anyone who has ever faced the world over a stack of books at a signing table," Stephen Gallagher, author/writer/creator of the hit BBC TV series "The Eleventh Hour."

Now that a year has passed, and I'm preparing to shoot the sequel in Owensboro in early 2012 as a co-production with Riverpark Center and Firelight Entertainment Group, I thought it was time to finally share the film with everyone.

So here it is. I look forward to hearing what you think of the movie!

Big Island Film Fest Day 4

IMG_0372 REMAINDERED screened today and received a very enthusiastic reaction from the audience. That was nice, but I have to say we're up against some stiff competition. I've seen a lot of great shorts this week…and every single one that I saw today was very well done, particularly THIEF, about a little boy who befriends a young Saddam Hussein in 1959 and then comes face-to-face with him again in 2003. It's not going to be easy for the judges or the audience to pick a best short from among so many fine films. 

Before the screening, I spent some time on the beach. I glanced to my left and was startled to see Harlan Coben staring back at me. Alas, it was not the man himself but his enormous photo on the back of a hardcover book that a tourist was reading. I took a picture of the tourist, which I emailed to Harlan, then chatted with the guy, who was very nice. He's a salesman for a big drug company that is rewarding its best reps with an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii that also includes elaborate banquets by the beach, tons of free tours & activities, cash money for expenses, and goodie bags in their rooms each day stuffed with things like Raybans and cameras. I should have been a Viagra salesman instead of a writer. 218690_10150187709728930_542928929_6771668_5218408_o

After the screening, I drove up to Waimea to Huli Sue's Barbeque. Their ribs aren't bad but what  I really went up there for was their incredible Banana Cream pie…which may just be the best Banana Cream Pie on earth.  

Then it was back to the Fairmont Orchid, where I hunkered down to work on MONK…well, that was the intent, instead here I am writing this post.

Tomorrow is the Golden Honu Awards Brunch, a concert, and the Best of the Fest screening. In between, I'm going to try to squeeze in some more lazing around.


Big Island Film Fest Day 3

Not a whole lot to report. I spent my morning on the beach then showered, changed, and watched a few of the short films in competition in the afternoon. The screening room was actually a screening room…something I didn't expect to find at a hotel.

The short films were very uneven…one was really good, one was absolutely awful in every possible way,  one was so flat I've already forgotten it entirely and one was so heavy-handed and cliche-ridden that I was able to successfully predict, almost word-for-word, exactly what each character was going to say before they said it. 

I spent the rest of the day in the lounge, working on my next MONK book, which is due in a few short weeks. Writing is so much more pleasant with a breath-taking ocean view and a hostess bringing  you food and drinks.  

At nightfall, I dropped my computer off  in my room and went to another outdoor screening under the stars. All three films tonight were good…but the best was a feature length, black comedy from the UK called THE DRUMMOND WILL.  It was shot in black-and-white and starts off very slow…with two estranged brothers arriving in a strange village for their father's funeral… but events soon escalate into a hilarious farce with an ever-rising body count.

Tomorrow REMAINDERED screens, so I'll be spending most of the day watching short  films. I'll probably skip the night screenings to work on my book…


Big Island Film Fest Days 1 & 2

218607_10150183755917976_841607975_6730579_2120377_o I’ve been having a great time at the Big Island Film Festival  on the Big Island of Hawaii. I arrived on Wednesday night, showered, and hurried over to the Mayor’s reception, where  I chatted with some of the other film-makers, who have come from all over the U.S. and a few from overseas. Then I headed over to the Shops at  Mauna Lani for an outdoor screening of a handful of short films. You couldn’t beat the venue…watching movies under the stars with a gentle sea breeze. The films themselves were well-made but suffered from very, very predictable, by-the-numbers story-telling. 

I played hookie from the Festival during the day on Day 2. You’d have to be insane to fly all the way to paradise to stay indoors when it’s gorgeous outside. So I hung out at the beach, where the sand and pavement were so hot, you could get third degree burns if you walked barefoot. Just about eveyrone has a Kindle, which is frustrating, because I can’t tell what strangers are reading any more.

I intended to do some writing, but failed. I swam, I walked, I read, I ate, I sweated. A perfect day. After dinner, I went to the night-time screenings, held under the stars at the Fairmont Orchid Plantation House. The films this time were much better than the previous evening…particularly the short COLD SORE and the hilarious, uniquely Hawaiian feature GET A JOB…but is there a  rule somewhere that there has to be at least two zombie movies at every film festival? I have totally over-dosed on zombie movies.  IMG_0335

My plan today is to do some writing (I can feel my deadline like a physical presence in the room) out on the lanai overlooking the water, take a swim, a long walk, and then attend the evening screening again. REMAINDERED plays tomorrow…

(Click on the images for a larger  view.)

Hawaii Lee-O

I am off to Hawaii this morning to attend the Big Island Film Festival, where my short film REMAINDERED is in competition. I'm really looking forward to the trip…I haven't been back to Hawaii since I was Toastmaster at Left Coast Crime  two years ago and I absolutely love it there, which is why I have set three books on the islands — Dead Space, Diagnosis Murder: The Death Merchant, amd Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii. Who knows, maybe a  fourth book will come out of this trip. 

I'll try to report back with photos and highlights from the festival.


REMAINDERED to The Beaches

Mb_film_festival REMAINDERED has been accepted by another festival (our fifth, since the film was completed in October, for those of you who are counting). We've been selected by the 6th Annual Myrtle Beach International Film Festival, named one of the 25 best festivals MovieMaker Magazine in 2009 for independent film makers. It runs April 19-23 in Myrtle Beach.  We'll post more details as soon as we have them.

This news comes on the heels of us learning that REMAINDERED has also been selected by the Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii, May 11-15  at the Mauna Lani Resort. The Festival was picked by Moviemaker Magazine as one of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the nation and we're eager to find out for ourselves if they deserve it. 

Festival Reports

The Derby City Film Festival in Louisville was a lot of fun. We didn't win any awards, but Sebrina Siegel, one of our stars, was a finalist for Best Actress, and I was thrilled just to see her recognized for her great work.

REMAINDERED cast members Todd Reynolds and Lisa Stewart showed up (that's me with them in the photo), as did our assistant director Rachel Nunn and our graphic artist Brian Bolin (Sebrina was sent on a business trip at the last minute). It was great that they had the opportunity to finally see the film with an audience of about 100 people…and I was really glad we had the chance to get together again.

The audience seemed to really enjoy the screening of our movie. But I didn't. All I saw were the projection and sound problems. Up until that moment, I thought most of the short films that we were up against had terrible sound and strange color composition…but then I discovered it wasn't the films that were at fault, it was the lousy projection and sound system in the theatre.

That said, I saw some really terrific short films…my favorites included the Polish short documentary CHARCOAL BURNERS, Nate Morguelan's nasty little thriller K, Max Rosen's very "Monk"-ish MARBLE RYE, Matthew Maney's incredibly slick METH (which deservedly swept all the short film awards), Pardis Parker's hilarious TWO MEN, TWO COWS, TWO GUNS, and KNIFE, a remarkably accomplished five-minute film written and directed by 14-year-old Matthew Rivera. There were a lot of directors, DPs, and editors at the festival who could learn a lot from Matthew…and you can count me among them. 

I only saw one of the feature  length movies, and even though the lighting was horrendous (the DP had no clue what he was doing), the camera work was inept, the editing was clumsy, and the sound was awful (I'll give  them the benefit of the doubt on that one), the movie worked despite it all thanks to a clever script and surprisingly good actors…proving that production value, cool camera work and slick editing mean nothing if your script sucks and your actors can't act.  But if you have a strong script, and good actors, all  the rest doesn't really matter, you'll get caught up in characters anyway. 

REMAINDERED was also in competition at the Beaufort International  Film Festival in South Carolina this weekend…and although we didn't in any awards there, either, I heard from our contingent there that the film was a big crowd pleaser.

"Had a wildly successful screening of REMAINDERED at the Beaufort Int. Film Fest. Very well received, lots of laughs," tweeted PJ Starks, our DP. "Congrats to Lee, the cast & crew for making such a fun & funny short. REMAINDERED was neck & neck w/ some amazing nominees at the awards ceremony. We may not have walked away with an award, but instead with overwhelming praise and support for the film. Listening to all the kind words validates our hard work. If we can entertain at least one person we've done our job. We definitely left BIFF with a job well done."

Next up for us:  The Beverly Hills Shorts Film Festival.