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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Airplane Bloggin'- Easy Come, Easy Go

So finally on the way back to Los Angeles, and of course, en route, doing a little airplane blogging.

We wrapped production on Monday, with a bang. Or an explosion. I cannot really be more specific in this forum, but lets just say that it was enlightening. We were all fired up about the day’s filming. Know what I mean?

And now, I’m on the late night United flight back to Los Angeles, direct, coach. Bumpy as hell, the whole ride. I am sitting in an aisle seat, and there is an empty middle seat. In the window seat, I lie to you not, is a mountain of a guy. Wearing overalls. He is a veritable parade of bodily noises, mouth and otherwise. His name would probably be Bubba (in fact, our transportation captain on the movie was named Big Bubba, a short and impressively globular white dude with the strongest Cajun accent you can image, and a very surprising sensitivity to being liked and appreciated, especially in regard to his extensive collection of automatic weapons), but that would be an understatement. He looks like the guy who lost the hot dog eating contest to Larry Finkelstein in the movie, Meatballs, except that guy would be my neighbor’s younger, smaller brother.

Having not been home in a while, I am definitely excited about seeing friends, getting to work on projects somewhat neglected for a period of time, and most of all, waking up in my own space. Getting back to the gym will be nice too. Cooking and eating home cooked meals will be excellent. I think the weather hasn’t been great in LA for the past few weeks, but no matter, home is home. And I guess I have to admit, at least based on the amount of time in spent in LA relative to NY, LA is as much or more home than NY these days.

Got bunches of pics to upload to facebook, maybe I’ll post some here as well. We had a great crew for the most part on Sinners, and what I’ve seen of the movie really looks terrific. The shoot had its challenges, mostly due to a few very tough talent issues (some resolved) and location and permit problems. But the crew and even the producers pulled together and resolved to fight through it to make the best movie possible, even given the limitations.

And that is just how is should be.

We’ll be shooting a week or so in Los Angeles to finish off production. It will actually be the first time I’ll have shot a movie in LA (Slaughter was fully prepped in LA, but of course, never shot), so that will be an interesting experience.

Happy to be home.


I was done. But Bubba just spoke to me. Asked me to move so he could get out “to go to take a piss.” Literally. First words out of him. Then he chuckled and asked which was was the “head.” Ah, the colorful sorts you encounter in traveling to and from Louisiana.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Home Stretch

Some tidbits from the shoot in New Orleans…

Filming has gone well and we’re entering our final week of filming (seven days straight because of some actor-related schedule snafus) here in New Orleans. We started filming in the French Quarter today, with a call time at 1AM, meaning hotel pick-up at 12:15. Brutal was not the word, by the time it was nine or ten AM. We wrapped by around 11:30, and despite absolute exhaustion, since we were at St. Peter and Bourbon, I had two Newcastle drafts with Mark (another producer) and Will (the director) before heading back to the hotel for around five hours of sleep.

We’ll be heading down to the worst neighborhood in New Orleans, perhaps one of the worst in the country, tomorrow, down to the lower Ninth Ward. It’s the area most ravaged by Katrina, and we’ll be shooting there over the next four days. We’re doing lots of shootouts, and its my understanding that gunfire is not an unknown sound in this neighborhood. Its definitely going to be interesting.

In finding that location, I headed down to the lower Ninth with Leon, one of the exec producers. Among my duties in New Orleans outside of general producing was to focus on locations. I took Leon with me around to a number of location candidates because he had his car here and because he, well, he is strapped. With a permit of course. I knew what this neighborhood was so having a partner with an HK 45 caliber in his pocket was a bonus, an indispensable one.

When we got out to the house that is ultimately serving as our location, it had been boarded up tight. After checking with our location contact, a rep for a government contractor who knocks down these blighted houses, we got the go-ahead and Leon kicked in the back door. He wouldn’t walk through the house though, so I walked through this flooded-out blighted former rowhouse and kicked out the front door, knocking off the padlock. How many lawyers do that? We had some company, some unfriendly company across the street. My guess is that they thought we were cops, given that we were both, well, white, and kicking in doors, and videotaping the premises. They weren’t too happy to see us, and I hope they wont be around for the filming, but I imagine with our machine gun fire and exploding house, we’ll be attracting a fair amount of attention.

We’ve been splitting rooms in production here at the hotel, and I’ve been with actors until the past few days, and now a firearms specialist, a very nice guy who was a former KGB and Russian Special Forces soldier. His knowledge base when it comes to weapons and gunshots and that kind of stuff is broad and real and maybea little scary. But he’s a good roommate. Even though he’s toying with a gravity knife as I am writing. Yeah, seriously. You should see his home movies. Yeah, seriously again.

That’s kind of it for now. I haven’t been home since early December and I am looking forward to getting back to LA and my room and the gym and friends and warm weather.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Rosenblatt Story was embellished

I am sure many of you have seen this in one of the 1000 newspapers in which its been published. This story is a project of mine for the last five years or so. This NYT article is probably one of the more balanced on the topic i"ve seen.

Let it be known that we are still going forward with the movie, which depicts the "apple" as a dream sequence, unclear about whether it really happened. It remains, in many peoples' minds, a wonderful story of survival, a personal "life is beatiful" created in reality by Mr. Rosenblatt.

Further, a book publication, most likely a novelization of the screenplay, is forthcoming.

I do want to point out that I feel that comparisons to Madoff, a swindler of other peoples money (billions of it), whose behavior has led to desperation and suicide, and to James Frey, who wrote the completely fabricated A Million Little Pieces, about his purported drug addiction, are out of turn. Herman didnt hurt anyone with his story, except perhaps himself. And he didn't fabricate his personality or existence. He is a confirmed Holocaust survivor, and as a child lived through and endured the most difficult circumstances possible. That this had an effect on his choices and how he chose to deal with reality is axiomatic. We cannot imagine his brain, not having walked in his shoes, and not having seen what he has seen. I thank God I haven't had to endure what Herman Rosenblatt endured in the first years of hit life.


A man whose memoir about his experience during the Holocaust was to have been published in February has admitted that his story was embellished, and on Saturday evening his publisher canceled the release of the book.
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Times Topics: Literary Fraud

A bound proof of “Angel at the Fence” circulated in advance of the publication date.

And once again a New York publisher and Oprah Winfrey were among those fooled by a too-good-to-be-true story.

This time, it was the tale of Herman Rosenblat, who said he first met his wife while he was a child imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and she, disguised as a Christian farm girl, tossed apples over the camp’s fence to him. He said they met again on a blind date 12 years after the end of war in Coney Island and married. The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary this year.

Ms. Winfrey, who hosted Mr. Rosenblat and his wife, Roma Radzicki Rosenblat, on her show twice, called their romance “the single greatest love story” she had encountered in her 22 years on the show. On Saturday night, after learning from Mr. Rosenblat’s agent that the author had confessed that the story was fabricated, Berkley Books, a unit of Penguin Group that was planning to publish “Angel at the Fence,” Mr. Rosenblat’s memoir of surviving in a sub-camp of Buchenwald with the help of his future wife, canceled the book and demanded that Mr. Rosenblat return his advance.

Harris Salomon, who is producing a movie based on the story, said he would go ahead with the film, but as a work of fiction, adding that Mr. Rosenblat had agreed to donate all earnings from the film to Holocaust survivor charities.

Berkley’s decision came in the same year that another unit of Penguin, Riverhead Books, was duped by Margaret Seltzer, the author of “Love and Consequences,” her fabricated gang memoir about her life as a white girl taken into an African-American foster home in South Central Los Angeles. She had in fact been raised by her biological family in a well-to-do section of the San Fernando Valley. It also followed the revelations, nearly three years ago, that James Frey, the Oprah Winfrey-annointed author “A Million Little Pieces,” had exaggerated details of his memoir of drug addiction.

This latest literary hoax is likely to trigger yet more questions as to why the publishing industry has such a poor track record of fact-checking.

In the latest instance, no one at Berkley questioned the central truth of Mr. Rosenblat’s story until last week, said Andrea Hurst, his agent. Neither Leslie Gelbman, president and publisher of Berkley, nor Natalee Rosenstein, Mr. Rosenblat’s editor at Berkley, returned calls or e-mail messages seeking comment. Craig Burke, director of publicity for Berkley, declined to elaborate beyond the company’s brief statement announcing the cancellation of the book. In an e-mail message, a spokesman for Ms. Winfrey also declined to comment.

After several scholars and family members attacked Mr. Rosenblat’s story in articles last week in The New Republic, Mr. Rosenblat confessed on Saturday to Ms. Hurst and Mr. Salomon that he had concocted the core of his tale. Ms. Hurst said that in an emotional telephone call with herself and Mr. Salomon, Mr. Rosenblat said his wife had never tossed him apples over the fence.

In a statement released through his agent, Mr. Rosenblat wrote that he had once been shot during a robbery and that while he was recovering in the hospital, “my mother came to me in a dream and said that I must tell my story so that my grandchildren would know of our survival from the Holocaust.”

He said that after the incident he began to write. “I wanted to bring happiness to people, to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people,” he wrote in the statement. “I brought good feelings to a lot of people and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world. In my dreams, Roma will always throw me an apple, but I now know it is only a dream.”

According to Ms. Hurst, who represents other inspirational writers including Bernie Siegel, author of “Love, Medicine & Miracles,” Mr. Rosenblat first concocted his story in the mid 1990s as an entry to a newspaper contest soliciting the “best love stories.” In 1996, he appeared on Ms. Winfrey’s show with his wife and repeated the fabricated story. From there, it snowballed, with versions appearing in magazines, a volume of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, and a children’s book, “Angel Girl,” by Laurie Friedman, released in September by an imprint of Lerner Publishing. Mr. and Mrs. Rosenblat, who now live in North Miami Beach, appeared on CBS’s “Early Show” in October.

As media coverage of Mr. Rosenblat’s story spread, scholars and others began to question the veracity of the romance throughout the blogosphere, pointing out that, among other things, the layout of the camp would have prevented the pair from meeting at a fence.
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Times Topics: Literary Fraud

In a telephone interview in November, Mr. Rosenblat defended his story against such doubts. He said that his section of Schlieben, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, was not well guarded and that he could stand between a barracks and the six-to-eight-foot fence out of sight of guards. Roma was able to approach him because there were woods that would have concealed her.

In recounting the stunning “reunion” with Ms. Radzicki 12 years later as survivors living in New York, Mr. Rosenblat said Ms. Radzicki told him she had saved a boy by hurling apples over a fence to him.

“Did he have rags on his feet instead of shoes?” Mr. Rosenblat said he asked her.

She said yes and he told her, “That boy was me.”

In a telephone interview Sunday, Ms. Hurst, who sold the book to Berkley for less than $50,000, said she always believed the essential truth of Mr. Rosenblat’s tale until last week. “I believed the teller,” Ms. Hurst said. “He was in so many magazines and books and on ‘Oprah.’ It did not seem like it would not be true.” On Sunday, Ms. Hurst said that she was reviewing her legal options because “I’ve yet to see what kind of repercussions could come from this, and I was lied to.”

Ms. Hurst said that Mr. Rosenblat did provide some documentation, including a 1946 letter from a warden with the Jewish Children’s Community Committee for the Care of Children From the Camps that said Mr. Rosenblat had attended a technical school in London. Evidence of an organization with that name did not appear in Internet searches on Sunday.

Susanna Margolis, a New York-based ghost writer who polished Mr. Rosenblat’s manuscript, said she was surprised by his description of his first blind date with Ms. Radzicki. “I thought that was far-fetched.” she said. “But if somebody comes to you, as an agent and a publisher, and says, ‘This is my story,’ how do you check it other than to say, ‘Did this happen?’ ”

That so many would get taken in by Mr. Rosenblat’s inauthentic love story seems incredible given the number of fake memoirs that have come to light in the last few years. The Holocaust in particular has been fertile territory for fabricated personal histories: earlier this year, Misha Defonseca confessed that her memoir, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years,” about her childhood spent running from the Nazis and living with wolves, was not true.

A decade ago, a Swiss historian debunked Binjamin Wilkomirski’s 1996 memoir, “Fragments,” which described how he survived as a Latvian Jewish orphan in a Nazi concentration camp. It turns out the book was written by Bruno Doessekker, a Swiss man who spent the war in relative comfort in Switzerland. Mr. Rosenblat, at least, appears to have told the truth about being a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps.

The primary sleuth in unmasking his fabrication of the apple story was Kenneth Waltzer, director of Jewish studies at Michigan State University. He has been working on a book on how 904 boys — including the Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel — were saved from death by an underground rescue operation inside Buchenwald, and has interviewed hundreds of survivors, including boys from the ghetto at Piotrkow in Poland who were taken with the young Herman Rosenblat to the camp.

When Dr. Waltzer asked other survivors who were with Mr. Rosenblat about the tossed apple story, they said the story couldn’t possibly be true.

In his research of maps drawn by ex-prisoners, Dr. Waltzer learned that the section of Schlieben where Mr. Rosenblat was housed had fences facing other sections of the camp and only one fence — on the south — facing the outside world. That fence was adjacent to the camp’s SS barracks and the SS men there would have been able to spot a boy regularly speaking to a girl on the other side of the fence, Dr. Waltzer said. Moreover, the fence was electrified and civilians outside the camp were forbidden to walk along the road that bordered the fence.

Dr. Waltzer also learned from online documentation that Ms. Radzicki, her parents and two sisters were hidden as Christians at a farm not outside Schlieben but 210 miles away near Breslau.

Holocaust survivors and scholars are fiercely on guard against any fabrication of memories because they taint the truth of the Holocaust and raise doubts about the millions who were killed or brutalized.

“There’s no need to embellish, no need to aggrandize,” said Deborah E. Lipstadt, the Dorot professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University. “The facts are horrible, and when you’re teaching about horrible stuff you just have to lay out the facts.”

Airplane Bloggin’: Back to NOLA

Sitting in the Admiral’s lounge for American airlines in Miami International Airport, I cannot help to feel more like a yeoman. No wireless access. No complimentary beverages other than coffee and water, and if you want a complimentary meal, I guess one can subside on three or four of the mini-muffins they have displayed under the glass cases. They do seem to have a full cash bar, but that’s not really the point of these airline clubs, is it? I thought the point was, when you’re encountering the ordeal that airports are in the modern age, it was a little oasis, with free lubrication. I don’t pay for the club, I get in by virtue of a platinum amex, but still, its just one more thing that’s been taken away, put on a paying basis. Its like the girl who used to lay you for the hell of it, the friend with benefits, who know wants girlfriend status. It’s a poor analogy, but forgive me, its early and I am still a bit groggy, a situation not aided by the weak-ass coffee here. Only thirty minutes from my flight, guess I should mosey (mosey?) to my gate…

Well, its hours later and I am in my hotel room in New Orleans. I think I am the first one back in the city from the production.

Miami…Miami. Was great. It was terrific to have that time with my parents, as its not often that I get to see them for an extended period of time. A bump here and there, to be sure, but all in all a great and relaxing trip. Dave Newman came down and despite the cramped quarters (we had to split a room, and David bought his version of an air mattress, which was a pool flotation device, only Newman) to sleep on. And with Ryan and Ricky in Miami, for the most part, the nightlife was kicking. New Years Eve itself was probably the weak link in the nightlife chain, a rookie night as I’ve always called it. But hitting the other spots, from the places at the Fontainbleau (Liv, and the outdoor portion of Blade by the Pool), the Mondrian (with Jen Styles, an LA friend), Mokia, Rokbar and all the rest. Oh, and the Shore Club, at Skybar which was lowkey (yeah yeah) and fun and non-pretentious somehow.

We hit the beach almost every day (except for the days spent at the Fontainbleau pool). The beach was a scene of course, crawling with paparazzi and the occasional celebrity. I actually ran into AnnaLynne McCord, who was an actress who was attached to Slaughter when it was supposed to enter production. You might know her better from 90210 (the new one) or from playing the teen seductress of Dylan Walsh on Nip/Tuck. In any event, despite our shared trials and tribulations she was very nice and gave me a New Year’s hug and kiss despite being clad in a very small bikini, which is something I really hope some reaching paparazzi got on camera.

I also had Mickey Rourke shake my hand and inadvertently spit on me. I hope it was inadvertent. Especiallybecause I bought him a shot of Jagermeister afterwards. He drank it like it was a shot of apple juice. We didn’t hug afterwards.

It was a bit of a whirlwind, ending up with Newman and I at Mokia the last night he was in town (he left the third, me the fourth) til 5 Am , me basically watching him people watching. He had an 8AM pickup for the airport, and was gone when I woke up hours later. I basically spent much of my last day first waiting for confirmation that I was leaving the next day (today), sleeping, packing and sleeping (lots of sleeping).

And now its back to work in New Orleans. Did some location scouting today, mostly in the ninth ward, and hit up the famous Port Of Call for Burgers and Monsoons, and to see Miami lose to Ravens, unfortunately. Like the Dolphins’ season, it wasn’t a perfect vacation, but it was pretty darn good.