Cathal asked me for a list of scripts we should include in a presentation to the investment team he put together in Switzerland for ShadowHawk to produce our films. Sandra and I wrote separately, and we decided not to confer on our choices until after we sent our letters. Here are both of them; you’ll notice all our choices weren’t the same, but that’s the beauty of having a collaborator. These letters were both dated July 23rd.
I think each of the principals involved (myself, Sandra, Anthony) should propose the scripts we feel are strongest for presentation to your investment team. With this in mind, here are my recommendations:
FRUIT OF THE POISON TREE
Reason: this is one of our strongest, most moving dramas. It will resonate with viewers all over the world, as it has a universal theme. We have strong evidentiary material, as it is based on a true story.
DEATH OF A SHINING STAR
Reason: Relatively modest budget, and because it was to receiving funding in 2004, a lot of peripheral work was completed on the locations, costumes, music, budget, etc. Coming-of-age stories are always popular.
A GHOST AMONG US
Reason: The novel has already been published in the U.S. and with almost no publicity and limited distribution due to the small publisher involved, it received good reviews and was received well. It could be sold for European/UK publication on the strength of a film, and receive wider distribution in the U.S.
GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!
Reason: There will be funding available for development of the script and novel. The novel can be completed by the end of 2005 if the second funding installment is available for release. This is a large story which will draw viewers from all over the globe.
My last recommendation is contingent on a firm release date for the Fischer money. Frank told us in his last communication that he will have more information on Monday the 25th; if he can provide a firm release date at that time, we will include GO WEST in the investor proposal. If not, I will suggest another script for presentation.
And Sandra’s recommendations:
Re: Scripts for Presentation
I should like to recommend these four scripts for inclusion in your presentation to the ‘Investment Team’.
1. FRUIT OF THE POISON TREE. I believe it is a powerful script about a problem that interests a very large international market.
2. MURDER BY ECSTASY. This is a ‘fun’ murder mystery with some very topical issues. I haven’t noticed any lessening use of illegal drugs, nor does it seem that purchasing them is any less dangerous than it ever was. The problem is pervasive, i.e. everywhere, and the market is wide. The screenplay is set in London and should be good for the European market. Also, from very young adults on through people in their sixties, I think it is an appealing script.
3. DREAM LOVERS. Action/comedy/romance with a slight twist. I do believe it’s time for a film like this. Not too violent, comedic in nature, and with two very likeable protagonists. This one has the potential of becoming a possible series of films similar to the old ‘Thin Man’ series, or the newer ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ and ‘Ocean’s Twelve’.
4. DEATH OF A SHINING STAR. One of Debora’s best scripts. I really believe in this one. It is gripping in the intensity of the story.
If your investors have any interest in newer ‘high tech’ films such as the recent DiCaprio film, ‘The Aviator’, I would like to suggest they look at Debora’s PARADISE LOST. It’s a great irreverent look at religious traditions.
You will notice that I haven’t list GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!. I do love the story, but I am afraid that if we don’t get some payment soon, things will go awry. What I don’t want is someone else importuning us to release the script while I am working at my old haunts, i.e. ‘tech writer’. If money does not reach us by the week of August 1st either I or Tom, or both, will return to our previous day jobs, and anyone asking me to give them that script would run a serious risk. I’d probably hop a plane and murder them. At least being in prison would ensure a roof over my head. And I wouldn’t have to face housing construction rules and regulations again!
Sincerely, Sandra Brandenburg
So we started August in a good place. On the second Anthony wrote this letter to Alan McNamara, who had returned home to Limerick to visit his family:
As you are out of the office until tomorrow, I said I would update you, so you can prepare for a meeting upon your return. Cathal has spoken will all interested investors. They have stated that they want complete scripts only with a layout to include the development and production of the script, complete with final cut and distribution details for the international market. All involvement this end must be included and a complete breakdown of opening, running and buy-out fees. This matter will need to be run by Saidbh before the end of the week, and since we are going away on Friday, the matter will have to be addressed tomorrow and confirmed Friday. I have arranged a meeting for 4 pm tomorrow. Please let me know if you require any extra information.
On the 8th he wrote to Scott. Despite everything that had happened between them, they were still attempting to work together – probably because they all still wanted to work with us.
How are things developing your end? I must admit I have never heard the term ‘just that time of year for it’ in relation to getting a response. I do admit that people holiday this time of year; however, there is always someone available to deal with you. Most production companies find this time of the year best for shooting. We have just finished a major film that we have been working on since February of this year. I have taken a short break, however, I had someone to fill my shoes. We had a number of interests from investors in relation to a number of Debora and Sandra’s scripts. I want to keep you updated regarding. What is your position of involvement at this point? Who is chasing what? We are trying to put interested parties together to see if we can get an interest.
Regards, Anthony Whelan
And his response to Anthony:
As you directed, I am limited to working on three projects. Two of which I have been exploring possible development/production companies regarding: FRUIT OF THE POISON TREE and THE DANGER CLUB. To my experience anyway, both these projects have reflected narrow fields on potential interests. So, gaining a read on either one has taken time to approach and re-approach companies. But, both have good commercial value and I think will gain development setups over time. I have active communications and inquiries out on these, mostly to New York companies.
On GO WEST, I believe the fastest track for serious development will require setting up personal meetings with companies/representatives. That will take place for me once Frank secures funding and I can set up meetings.
Up until this time we didn’t know much of anything about RIVER STREET, the series pilot Scott sent to ShadowHawk. It had been written by someone back east; we hadn’t read anything about the story or even knew the name of the author, at that time. Cathal had a friend at a large Swiss company called The Pyramid Corporation who had initially had interest in RIVER STREET before Scott withdrew the pilot to give it to Brian Eustace.
Two things. Firstly I think I might finally be close to the end of my dealings with ‘Secret of the Cave’. Thank God. Secondly I have received a phone call from Cathal and Pyramid (the investment group) that had an interest in RIVER STREET are willing to talk to us about other projects. Keep you updated.
On the 22nd he sent another letter regarding procedure...he loved procedure.
Alan has suggested a number of different approaches. We now need a continuous process to ensure a more stronger effort (and he never admitted he needed an editor...) On our behalf. We must now as a group decide on script procedure. Every Wednesday I need to hold a meeting in relation to this. It is now the input of the Lost Myths Ink General Manager, Thomas Brandenburg and the Operations Business Manager, Amanda Siedentopf, that I require. Question is – should we hold a conference meeting every Wednesday, or do I just hold the meeting with one individual? Please advise.
Regards, Anthony Whelan
Two days later I got a short note from Alan. Of course, nothing would ever come of it, but it looked promising at the time.
Dear Tom and Amanda,
I have decided on MURDER BY ECSTASY for Columbia Tri-Star UK and FRUIT OF THE POISON TREE for Jerry Bruckheimer.
Thank you, Alan McNamara
The weekly conference meetings started in September, and lasted for a few months. Cathal’s meetings with his investment team continued; their main interest of our work was GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!; there as also interest from an Australian company called Beckers in co-production. Anthony wrote to Scott regarding this situation, on the 5th:
We are now in a key stage with developers, and need to assess the overall situation of your projects with us. Cathal is speaking with Pyramid and Beckers about their interest in moving on our projects. The next couple of weeks will be interesting to reach a production agreement with them. Please advise me on development situations with the projects; please list individuals per script. Should Pyramid and Beckers wish to begin development then we will need to discuss with your contacts to further an effort to their involvement on the terms we then see fit. This agreement will be by Cathal.
Regards, Anthony Whelan
On the seventh he wrote back:
Per your request:
A. THE DANGER CLUB. No current interest with any companies.
B. FRUIT OF THE POISON TREE. Last read request on June 5th from FilmJack Productions, Los Angeles. The first ten pages of the script and the synopsis were sent via pdf.doc attachment on June 6th. I will try to get current status on their overview of the material this week.
Producer Tamara Asseyev, Tamara Asseyev Productions in Santa Monica. I sent the synopsis to her via email on April 8th; she passed in May but maintains an open door to revisit the project. Renewed interest would be upon our gaining investor acking. Credits include major award winning films NORMA RAE and SILKWOOD.
C. GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! On standby for development funds to be in place in order to set-up personal meetings and air travel to established contacts/production companies in Los Angeles.
No big surprise, the remainder of that year consisted mostly of spinning wheels. By the end of the year we were ready to cut loose from both ShadowHawk and Frank Cmero, but because of the project called RIVER STREET, it would be another six months before we actually did so, and when we did, it would be a disaster. On the 4th of January Anthony wrote us his first letter of the new year.
Let me start by wishing you all the very best for the new year. In our end-of-year meeting we discussed making sure we get somewhere this year. I believe if we work hard enough and push ourselves, this will be possible. Based on this we have set up a new schedule for weekly operations. This schedule is laid out as follows:
Monday: Novels. Every Monday we will look at our novels and see how we can improve in all areas – editing, review, etc.
Tuesday: Scripts. Every Tuesday we will look at our scripts and see how we can improve areas: editing, review, rewrite, etc.
Wednesday: Production. Every Wednesday will be for productions is we have any in film, music, animation, etc.
Thursday: Operations. Every Thursday we have operations; this is where we discuss where we should send our materials and other possibilities.
Friday: Marketing/Administration. Every Friday we will look at how to find business in the market; this will consist of contacting producers, etc.
This comes into effect from Monday the 9th of January. I am determined to keep to this system and we will get results; we can’t be turned away forever. I will be talking to Cathal later today and Frank, by email.
Yours sincerely, Anthony Whelan
We knew by then that this was really just Anthony’s way of doing something...anything. Since he couldn’t seem to get ahead any other way, he reorganized things. But I went along with it; hey, we were at the place where we’d try anything. Sandra and Tom had paid me back the money they’d borrowed from me, and now I was going to have to borrow from them. We had about a month before they would have to go my route and re-negotiate their house mortgage for more money. All the years of working on this, and now I had to rely on my business partner for money to live on.
But I wrote back to him on the 7th with my first report.
Hello Mr. Anto;
Since it’s Monday, and you’ve designated Monday as novel day, I’m sending you a report.
All three of my solo novels and THE LAND OF THE WAND will be available through Ingrams, the U.K. distributor, starting the second quarter. That’s when they will be listed in the catalogue – the end of March.
I’ve asked Roxy for a permanent contact for you at the company, so you can always work with the same person. We’re waiting for the review copies of THE LAND OF THE WAND – you’ll be getting one of those.
I am currently working on three solo novels; I don’t anticipate finishing any of them in 2006 if we finish the GO WEST novel. But they are:
OFFTRACK: A psychological fantasy, which will be my longest novel to-date, about 600 pages. I’ve written 400.
THE LAST DESCENDENT, Volume Three of the Ghost Saga. I just started working on it again; I’ve written 150 pages.
A RUMOUR OF MURDER: The sequel to RUMOUR HAS A MEMORY. Sandra and I wrote the first volume together, but I’m writing this one on my own. Sandra has been working on some stuff of her own for awhile; we’re not doing anything together right now except GO WEST. I’ve written 300 pages of that one.
Sandra and I have been asked to do an online show on AOL called ‘Author Author’. When I have the date I’ll let you know. That’s all for now...I’ll send the information about Ingram’s as soon as Roxy sends it to me.
Cheery bye, Debora
The following day Cathal wrote to Frank. The GO WEST situation had deteriorated; we knew Frank wasn’t going to come through. He’d kept it going for nearly two years for some reason we couldn’t fathom, and would probably never understand.
Anthony and I have been discussing the matter of the investment. We have also discussed this matter with our solicitor, and he feels that the bank cannot hold up production for the period of time it has. This invested amount is to be used to pay Lost Myths Ink, develop GO WEST and allow ShadowHawk to produce the motion picture. Anthony wishes to establish the link of investment and movement of the funds. For this we require the following information:
Investor Name: (Who is giving the money?)
Beneficiary: (Who is the money being given to)
Purpose of Investment: (Reason for investment)
Funds Administrator (who is dealing with the transfer from your end?)
Bank: (Which bank is holding the money?)
Purpose for withholding funds: (Why bank is not releasing the money?)
This information is top priority, so please respond at once. Thank you.
Kind Regards, Cathal Byrne
Frank’s response was even too much double-speak for the Irishmen, who would turn out to be the masters of double-speak (or perhaps Frank really should have that honor...even years later, I’m not sure).
As you know, the loan is for a power station project in Slovakia. Because the power stations are going to be constructed over a period of 4-5 years I made an internal agreement with the owner of the company, who is my mate and long-term business partner, that he will lend me money for our movie project. Since the execution of the loan agreement we have experienced lot os problems and delays but despite that there is still a chance the Slovak company will proceed with the loan. If now somebody from outside tries to intervene it will lead only to one result, cancellation of the loan agreement and we will be accused of breach of contract because I have executed a confidentiality agreement. Again, it is not a loan for a movie project (we don’t even have enough information for the bank to present this as a movie loan – script, script analysis, a long form budget, casting, director and crew letters, location scouting, studio/distribution deal, bonding, etc).
The loan is coming from a private trust in Switzerland and we are talking about 100% financing. The Slovak company has virtually no assets, so if you are in the funding business you know how difficult it is to raise money under these circumstances. You can be assured all the people involved have eminent interest to proceed with the funding and there are no games to make you all miserable. To be honest, I don’t know why I have to read emails like the one from Deb. If she is so stupid and can’t recognize reality from fiction then I am just wondering why I should do business with primitive idiots like her.
The letter he is referring to wasn’t all that long, but it did address the issue of the money, and basically suggested that there really was no money, nor would there be any. That meant Frank had not only wasted two years of our time, but a lot of our money, which we could no longer afford. I still haven’t forgotten to this day that, just like a cornered animal, he attacked me personally. But I was right...
Cathal’s response was a good one, although we had already realized there was never going to be any development for GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!
I must admit you have me at a complete loss. You have on a number of occasions, requested documents from Lost Myths Ink, from Anthony and myself in relation to the development of GO WEST for the purpose of getting release of the money. You have also blamed ShadowHawk Films on at least two occasions, saying that because we didn’t respond quickly enough with your request the money was not released.
Therefore, based on this, I/we have assumed that you were building a loan in relation to GO WEST. However, if what you have stated below is true, then you would have never needed any of these documents. Yet you requested them and blamed us for lack there of, which seems clear now that there was none.
Furthermore, I would like you to clarify exactly what is going on. Because our legal department has made it clear that there are a number of legal breaches in relation to this matter. I am now acting as the Senior Executive for ShadowHawk and Lost Myths Ink. I will be in close contact with you and Mr. Thomas Brandenburg who is partnered with me on this. Please let me know where we are and what we are waiting for? Thank you.
Regards, Cathal Byrne
Chief Executive, Administration Group
We were so tired of Frank Cmero and his ridiculous promises and inane excuses. We were more than ready to move on, and that was when Scott Ferguson asked to bring RIVER STREET back to ShadowHawk. We all thought at the time that he had made a mistake removing it so he could give it to Brian Eustace; Brian wasn’t well enough to be able to handle a production of that size and complexity, unfortunately. I wish I could have worked with him in his prime. Cathal wrote the following letter to Alan McNamara on the 2nd of February.
As you will have seen from my previous mail, Scott Ferguson is offering us RIVER STREET again. As the Director of Television and Motion Picture, the decision lies with you. However, regarding Lost Myths Ink, I want a joint decision considered.
So Deb, Sandra and Tom – do you feel this project is worth the risk? We want you involved, so any decision will affect you. It will mean some less time for Lost Myths Ink projects, but should be decide to go forward, we could financially assist LMI. Please note, however, that RIVER STREET will not be offered to Pyramid, as when it was removed by Scott it was already under short consideration and some work was already done on it that has been lost. Please let me know your thoughts at the earliest convenience.
Anthony and company were clearly becoming as frantic as we were already feeling. The only way he could get his semi-annual business loan approved was to use our material as his business plan; what we didn’t know at the time was that was pretty much his only plan – getting that loan. But in January we were still hoping to pull our sadly burned chestnuts out of the bonfire, and so, apparently, was he. On the 31st he wrote me this letter:
I am waiting to hear from the contact you had at Paramount Pictures. I am also still playing phone tag with Jon Turtle (a film funding guarantor). We have just started marketing on the Web and Graphics Group. We are hoping to bring in big business as there is a strong industry for it. I am waiting to hear from Tyrone Productions regarding BOYZ, and also I am planning to present The Murder Mystery Game Show to them. I feel it could work on the grounds of a live audience. I know we are in a hard spot at the moment, but I have been pushing everyone, and I feel if we push just a little harder we will break through. Hopefully one of the above will present a solution to our hardships.