Memo to a sensitive film producer: Have I got an opportunity for you!

Open letter to film producer Jeffrey Lurie

3 minute read
Not to worry, Jeffrey: Fulfillment is just around the corner.
Not to worry, Jeffrey: Fulfillment is just around the corner.
Dear Jeffrey Lurie:

The news media report that you're heartbroken because, after you sank millions into the Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job, the director "inadvertently" neglected to thank you and your wife in his Academy Awards acceptance speech.

My deepest sympathies.

As someone seriously trying to crack the TV/Hollywood/screenwriting thing after a demi-hemi-semi-brilliant career as a magazine journalist, let me assure you: If you'll fund my next documentary or TV series, I'll kiss your Super Bowl ring or perform any other display of gratitude you should require.

My first documentary film, My Hometown, was created in collaboration with the Philadelphia architect Benjamin Nia after we met at a video class at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Its focus was the futile struggle to save Rindelaub's Row, four historically certified buildings that anchored a vibrant downtown block of 18th Street. We shot nine hours' worth of footage, which we edited for almost a year.

We paid for our film out of pocket. Yes, we went into debt. Yes, we used our credit cards. Yes, interest charges mounted. Yes, we both bought our own mini-DVD movie cameras so we could shoot together and independently. I also bought a tripod, dozens and dozens of mini-DVD cassettes, scores of plastic jewel-cases and blank DVDs, and a new computer for editing.

Death of a villain

That five-minute film, shot originally as a student project, eventually became a 25-minute, bona fide documentary short. It premiered in 2005 at the Roxy Theater and Drexel University, was shown at the Sedgwick, and was broadcast multiple times on regional public TV stations, and screened at a local film festival or two.

Despite our efforts to achieve wide community impact with our film, the buildings on Rindelaub's Row succumbed to the wrecking ball, engendering still another luxury high-rise condo tower for the upwardly mobile. Small comfort that the tower, known as 10 Rittenhouse, recently filed for bankruptcy protection, having sold just 41 of its 135 units, or that our film's "villain," the developer, died of a massive heart attack soon after the Inquirer's architecture critic, Inga Saffron, gave 10 Rittenhouse a decidedly mixed review.

Eventually, interest in the struggle to save 18th Street subsided, and I was ready for something new.

Our comedy-drama series

By then I had met Vincent Poole, a truly beguiling collaborator if there ever was one. Vincent, a Brooklyn-born screenwriter with a bizarre sense of humor, lived in peculiar yet picturesque circumstances that a Non-Disclosure Agreement prevents me from publicly discussing in extensive detail. Suffice it to say that these wonderfully evocative circumstances gave rise to our spectacular comedy-drama TV series, "Otters' Ridge," 20 completely scripted episodes, written so briskly that for a few years we actually snagged our own Hollywood professional manager.

After waiting endlessly for our TV series to sell— just as free-lance professional journalism was becoming less lucrative while simultaneously my debt from my documentary film costs and screenwriting studies was mounting— I accepted an outside job doing quality control interviews for a market research company.

OK, OK— I work in a call center. But I did have a Hollywood manager, at least until our contract with him expired.

The way I look at it, I'm still researching a horror movie. Maybe by the time my script is finished, you will have licked your wounds, looked around to find your next challenging new funding opportunity, and decided ours is the project for you.

Jeff, you could become the next Sidney Kimmel, and for a lot less than you've spent on the Eagles.

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