As we all know, the production company for the still-in-limbo To Appomattox miniseries project, Sony, has recently severed ties with them after years of holding the rights got absolutely nowhere. There are a good number of people following this massive Civil War project who feel they are being misled by the people in charge, but after speaking to a source close to the situation, the individual was very clear that peoples’ anger should be directed at the company who “held them hostage”, not the other way around. This was not a deflection of my questions, but a rather comprehensive explanation of all that has been going on over the last five years, and I believe it to be true—if I didn’t, I would not be writing this. It was a lot to digest, but I am of the opinion that the producers of To Appomattox and their cast and crew still have the utmost enthusiasm in the project, and that it certainly is not dead. There are a few concerns that need to be looked at, but overall, I do think they are now moving in the right direction.
Because I used to write for the To Appomattox fan site, I contributed this to their blog today to help celebrate the one-year anniversary of when we started it, which was a very exciting time. A link to the entire article, as well as Steven’s contribution, can be found at the bottom.
It’s hard to believe that it has already been one year since Steven Hancock and I started the unofficial fan blog for the To Appomattox mini-series. Just a year ago today, the two of us had hopes of pooling our resources (I was blogging about it on my site, while Steve was doing it on his Civil War Diary) to create a blog where coverage could be contained to one place. We soon approached the “father” of the project, screenwriter and executive producer Michael Frost Beckner, and told him of our idea, and he gave us his full blessings. It was truly a wonderful experience, in getting to talk to so many great people, including interviewing Beckner himself (in addition to having him contribute a ghost story for my blog’s October “Haunted History” series), as well as historians/advisers J. David Petruzzi and Cary Eberly, and the actor playing Gen. Charles F. Smith, the always-wonderful and passionate Patrick Gorman.
The producers of the To Appomattox/ Grant Vs. Lee mini-series project have asked excited viewers to concoct short video notes telling why the series is important to them and why they are looking forward to it. These videos will then be compiled and presented to the prospective network at their next meeting. This is definitely something new and creative, and a great, interactive way to get viewers involved with the production process. Several of the actors have also made videos, including Jason O’Mara and Richard Speight, but the most recent one comes from our friend Patrick Gorman, one of the most underrated character actors out there, who I have had the pleasure of meeting, and interviewing on several occasions for his work as General John Bell Hood in Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. For this series, though, he will be switching sides to play a “Yankee” general, Charles F. Smith. Patrick is also a big history buff who loves the Civil War, and explains in this short video why a mini-series of this magnitude is so important:
As you all know, I used to write for the unofficial fan blog of To Appomattox, and still wish them the best of luck in production and plan on covering it from a far on here once filming begins, but I just have to say that I am not too crazy about the name change, the mini-series now shifting over to Grant Vs. Lee. I can see why the title was changed, because the majority of television viewers in this country can probably barely pronounce the word “Appomattox” correctly, let alone know what it refers to, however, I think that the new title they have come up with is a bit too gimmicky and hokey for my liking, sounding like something the History Channel would have produced, and you all know how I feel about them and their Civil War productions. Grant Vs. Lee is definitely better for marketing, because most people (or at least I certainly hope so) know who Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant are. Even the casual reader of history and anyone who paid attention in school knows them, so I can obviously see the marketing angle they are coming from. The rumor is that ongoing network negotiations have forced the title change, and that comes as no surprise, since respectful titles and historical authenticity must go out the window for the almighty dollar. Thankfully, it is being reported that the script has gone unchanged, which, unless you want to really be fanatical, is all the matters.
Just a few moments ago, I heard back from Donald Eaton, who served as First Assistant Director for Gods and Generals, and whom I interviewed the other day. He sent me a rather large follow-up response to our interview, throwing some more information our way about what went on behind the scenes, as well as his works on some Civil War books of his own. Unbeknownst to me, he is actually an accomplished author, as well as having more than thirty years in the film and television industry. He received a Google Alert on his computer when the link to our interview went up, which prompted him to tell me, “I had no idea how extensive [your blog] was. Congratulations on your efforts and hard work”, as well as send the following message. He invited me to share it with all of you if I wanted, and I thought it was very interesting, so here it is. The rest of this article is his words, even though presented in plain text—I just did not want to italicize something that long. Please enjoy, because it is some really good stuff!
I thought we would take a tiny break on this blog from all the Copperhead coverage, and what better way to do that than by posting an interview with a crew member from Gods and Generals? Yes, friends, just when you thought we could not find one more person involved with the film that was willing to tell of their experiences, I was able to come into contact with Donald Eaton, who served as the First Assistant Director to Ron Maxwell during the production. I asked him for an interview, and he most graciously agreed. Donald has been involved in the industry since the early 1980′s, when he worked on several very popular television series, notably Hart to Hart, Paper Dolls, and Moonlighting. All told, he has lended his services to nearly fifty movies or television specials, including a Hallmark film called The Love Letter in 1998, which also involved the Civil War. Of course, the one we are most interested in is Gods and Generals.
Lincoln, To Appomattox, and Copperhead are just a few names of Civil War film or television projects being thrown around this winter, with filming either scheduled to begin or end somewhere around this coming spring and summer. However, there is another one that is flying under the radar, titled, 1863, which is something that we will be following very closely on this blog, along with Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead. Because the only information of this new project has come from this blog, I thought it would be best to actually conduct an interview with the screenwriter and producer, Justin Dombrowski, an enthusiastic and energetic Civil War buff who has been so busy lately that the “clutches of hell” would not allow for this interview to have taken place any sooner.
There may be people wondering why they should get excited about this venture, because there are no major names surrounding it as of yet, and they might not have heard of the writer. All I can say is, have faith. This project has legs and will be hitting pre-production before you know it. The very experienced actor and historian, Ed Mantell, who helped me to identify several World War II uniforms a few weeks ago, is also on hand as a co-producer. I have read the powerful script, and I will speak for most when I say it is going to come as a pleasant surprise when all is said and done. I speak to Justin on an almost daily basis, as he has filled me in on the goings-on behind trying to get a film off the ground. This has been very enlightening for me personally, because I have seen the tremendous amount of work that goes into making even a lower budget, independent film, much less a $50-million Hollywood epic. For this interview, I had the pleasure of asking Justin a multitude of questions concerning what goes into writing a screenplay, what his inspiration is, and much more in our conversation below:
Every once in a while, I will get a question or comment from someone in an email. More often than not, it is something insignificant, like asking advice or requesting information, things along those lines. But in the last week or so, I have gotten two emails that I think deserve to be read by all, because to answer a question in one is something that could interest other readers, and the second one is a very well thought out statement regarding a much-hated Civil War general, who could probably use someone coming to his defense. Below are the emails:
Having already written about the basic info surrounding Ron Maxwell’s next production, titled, Copperhead, I thought I would create a new column that would follow the progress of the production that is currently slated to begin in May. Let’s just call it “The Copperhead Chronicles” for now, which will bring you the latest information about the film, that I hope will mirror my Gods and Generals coverage, though I can’t promise anything. This next post is a small one, as it was something that I found accidentally. There is apparently a casting call open for the film, which really is not major news in itself, but because I know a few experienced actors visit this blog on occasion, I thought I would share it any way. The information can be found on About Casting:
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the moment has arrived to reveal the four award winners in From New York to San Francisco’s first annual year-end awards! I would like to thank everyone who voted, as there was a much larger turnout than I expected. Below are the winners:
Picture of the Year: “Lawrence Gets Into Trouble” (50%)
Interview of the Year: Actor Patrick Gorman (55%)
National-Level Idiot of the Year: Harold Camping (29%)
Local-Level Idiot of the Year: A Waitress in Virginia (44%)