The Hollywood Pitch Meeting
Like a merit badge for any self-respecting creative, I like to remind myself that I once actually lived in Los Angeles. Yes, smack dab in Hollywood. Our neighborhood was tucked against the base of the enchanted hills, a checkerboard of crack head hovels and lavish apartment buildings, filled with multi-talented hipsters, way too young to be such a deep shade of jade. I once got enthusiastic help lifting a refrigerator up the stairs of my building from a bona fide rock star, who apparently had been surreptitiously hiding in the nearby bushes. Later, acquaintances of his verified that a popular “dry goods merchant” was briskly doing business on the 15th floor and my fridge was his golden ticket thru the buildings locked doors.
Despite our inevitable exodus from LA, we have remained effectively connected. In this current age of DIY everything, I have remained determined to relinquish no power to any individual for permission, allowance or approval of what we may be forced to do to get a Feature Film actually produced. This however does not preclude us from constantly seeking allies in the spiritually vapid environs of Hollywood, USA. It is, after all where movies get made. Movies get considered or dismissed in high pressure, usually brief little gatherings called “Pitch Meetings”. Arranging a pitch meeting with a certain notable film “packager” is not an easy get.
My wife Cathie (Solebury School 81’ Columbia 90’) hooked us up thru her guerilla screenwriting circle…a ravaging hoard of relentless writers, to whom “no” always means, “we’re in”. Hollywood writing success can depend on many arbitrary factors.
Would A-list talent be interested in the role? Is your story true? Is the first page such a grabber, that the reader may actually get to page 10? Would A-list talent be interested in the role? Does something happen on page 10 compelling enough for the reader to get to page 20? Would A-list talent be interested in the role? Will the ending force folks to remember that they actually saw this movie? And perhaps most crucial, can Burger King or Dominoes Pizza agree to relinquish valuable advertising space on their cups and containers to promote that film?
So there we are, finally high in the golden towers of Universal City, where we face down with Chili Palmer’s cousin. (See Get Shorty) Without doubting my “NJ, the cradle of modern civilization” radar, we quickly exchanged Jersey shore résumé’s and I knew then, he was using an alias.
Chili opened with, “I’ve got monthly overhead here of 60 grand and the clock is ticking loud…I need a home run kid, so what are you bringing me?” Wow, I thought, this guy’s eyes just went strangely lifeless as he asked me that. “We have the film rights, Chili, to Leonard Peltier’s book, Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance, we have an excellent draft of the script and are ready to produce it into a feature.
“Leonard Peltier, the Indian guy?” he asked.
“Yes, Peltier, the Native American, dare we say, political prisoner of international note”, I stated confidently. “What else you got?” Chili snapped. “What else…Uh…well, we have a script called “The Maze” where two Native Americans kidnap a NBA superstar to ‘warrior initiate” him after he inadvertently shoots their only hope for a Native American NBA star”, “Again with the Indians? Indians-Schmindians!” Chili barked. “Nobody cares about that, I’m looking for something super hi-tech, futuristic with Time Travel…you got anything like that? “Well yes, I do!” I cheerfully countered. “Go, kid’, Chili brightened.
“We Time Travel back to the age…that Indians lived here without any white people around and we tell the story of their perhaps more harmonious and relatively contented way of life”.
Pitch meeting over.
From LA we transitioned, not so smoothly, to the sacred Black Hillsnear Custer, SD. As we set up a cross-cultural non-profit to serve Native American Reservation School’s, Cathie read Mr. Peltier’s book, My Life Is My Sun Dance, in one day.
Her passing thought was that it could make a very powerful one-man theater show. Years later, I mentioned it casually to a friend with a theater in Boulder, Co. We produced that show two years ago. “Transcendant Magic” wrote one critic. More importantly, the Peltier family and Native community, sensitive to all things Peltier, approved.
We are making this movie and Chili Palmer’s cousin will see it announced soon in the film industry’s bible, The Hollywood Reporter. I doubt he’ll remember our meeting.
Leonard Peltier is now 65 years old and he has been a US Federal Prisoner for 34 years, serving two lifetimes for a crime he was not rightly convicted of committing. (See Robert Redfords 1985 documentary, “Incident At Oglala”) Mr. Peltier’s last remainingfreedom dream is to hold the hands of his Grandchildren as he finally walks the open plains of his beloved North Dakota.
I write today from our very private “mountaintop healing retreat center”, in the foothills outside of Boulder, Co. I take many deep breaths of very clean rocky mountain air each day in gratitude and I remember where Mr. Peltier is, this and every day.
Paul Soderman was born in NYC and raised in Princeton, NJ. PHS 76′. After an inauspicious start to young adulthood, Paul survived a cataclysmic conversion experience and subsequently focused his energies in helping youth, working as a drug and alcoholism counselor for the NJ Dept. of Corrections. Wanderlust drove Paul from NJ, and while traveling throughout the American West, he simultaneously discovered an intense interest in Native American culture and a genuine talent to sing the Blues. He spent the next 15 years as a fulltime musical performer and frequent visitor to numerous Indian Reservations.
After meeting his future wife Cathie in Telluride, Co., a Theater Director from New York (Columbia 90), he became fascinated with Film. Combining an interest in all things Native American and Artistic, the Soderman’s started their Production Company, Warrior Artists producing numerous projects. With their partners at Elevate Films, they have been given the honorable opportunity and responsibility to produce the feature film PELTIER. This film is based on the book by Native American Federal prisoner, Leonard Peltier, Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance. This blog will document their various experiences producing the film. All of these stories are true. Paul currently resides in the foothills outside of Boulder , Colorado with his Wife Cathie and their beloved Golden Retriever, Auggie.