Sunday, February 28, 2010

I smell a con...

And not the Winkie Convention. (Though I do want to go!)

Yesterday, I checked my e-mail on my phone after getting off of work and discovered two e-mails from a company that called themselves "CineLight Productions." In so many words, they discovered my work for an Oz screenplay and had already apparently been shopping the idea around to animation studios. It seemed too good to be true.

However, before I made any quick moves, I stopped to think, and especially waited until I got home. I searched for "CineLight Productions" on Google and IMDb and turned up with no results. The e-mails I got were from a GMail account, which is notorious for being easy to set up fake e-mail accounts for. It contained no official letterheads, no official stationery, and no names to back it up.

Even more disturbingly, they e-mailed me later with a bit of screenplay asking if it was from mine (in the subject line, the e-mail only consisted of the excerpt). And, shockingly, it was from my script! And checking all the places I would have posted it, I could not find any record of my sharing it publicly, leading me to assume that this is a friend attempting to make me move forward with it (before Sam or I are really ready, and with two Oz animated features and the impending movie version of Wicked, it might not be the right time, either), as I did share my script with a few selected friends.

Another Oz fan interested in making movies told me he was contacted by the same people, and was told they needed no information about him, though they wanted him to write a script for them.

May I advise any Oz fan, if you are contacted by these people, do not respond! This is not how movies are made. Unknown writing talent is not solicited for scripts. This sounds more like a scam to get hopeful writers to turn over their work and get cheated out of any profits. If they continue, tell them to cease and desist, because even online, harassment is not to be tolerated. If they continue, then either block them or bring in legal assistance.

EDIT: In "CineLight Productions"' second e-mail they mentioned a specific studio had been interested. Upon contacting this studio, I was informed they knew nothing of the project.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Setting The Record Straight

Given some occurrences on other Oz blogs, I fear that the integrity of some Oz fans, particularly those of us who write blogs, produce videos, websites, and other media may come under question.

First off, may I remind any doubters that it is not a good idea to base your opinions of a whole fan base off of one or two examples. In any fan base, you'll find conflict. If I wind up in a conflict, I try to remain respectful, though I do have a tendency to say too much. Other times, I will try to keep it private, or, if it's been made public, I'll remain quiet. Usually, the person making an accusation against me is not being completely honest and will trip themselves up.

I'm awful at remembering dates and ages (seems to run in my family, we just celebrated my mother's birthday with a cake that read "Happy Birthday, Mom 52," when she's actually 53), so bear with me here if dates don't quite add up. About 2000, my interest in Oz came back. Having already looked up all my other interests online, Oz quickly became an often-searched topic.

I quickly came across the online texts of the Oz books, the International Wizard of Oz Club, and a number of excellent websites fans had assembled. One that I kept coming back to was Eric Gjovaag's website, which is still an excellent information source. (Anyone who hasn't read his FAQ needs to.)

After a time of looking around at Oz fan sites, I decided to attempt making one myself. The first one was a simple page that said a bit about me and what I wanted to do in the Oz community. To make it sound more official, I came up with the title "Dorothy & Ozma Productions," the label I now use for videos and podcasts. Later, I reworked it into a full-blown site with quite a bit of content. (If I'd put the site online today, it'd probably be "The Royal Website of Oz," which I'll probably name the next incarnation.)

The earliest, most advanced content I shared with Oz fans was a series of text adventures based on Baum books, as well as an original story I'd written for the game, and Disney's Return to Oz. I started adapting Baum's Oz novels, but never finished Ozma of Oz. If anyone wants to try to finish it up, I'd be happy to turn it over to them.

And get this, folks, I maintained this website without home internet access. I'd make my content, copy it to a floppy disk (later CD-R), and go to the library and upload it.

Videos took awhile to develop. We'd bought a new computer in 2001, and noting Windows Movie Maker, I was the first in the family to figure out how it worked. My first Oz video was a simple animation of Polychrome, taken from a John R. Neill illustration. Doing some alterations, I made what would be a very simple animated GIF or flash animation today, showing the Rainbow's daughter dancing.

My first Oz video with sound featured an illustration from The Emerald City of Oz. It was the color plate in which Ozma shows her friends the Nome King and his allies digging their tunnel to Oz. I used two versions, the original, and another with the Magic Picture blanked out. Using fading, I made the picture appear as Ozma says, "Let us see what they are doing now," then "Listen, I think we can hear what they are saying." And who voiced Ozma? Some kid who'd listened to Annette Funicello on a 45 vinyl played at normal speed, tried to imitate that sound, then sped it up in Windows Sound Recorder. Yep, the first Oz character I lent my voice to was Ozma.

(I am glad to say you will never see those videos, as they were lost when our computer was damaged in a power surge and it had to be wiped in order for it to be repaired.)

Over time, I figured out how to work with actual video, instead of just animated slideshows. From this eventually came The Wonders of Oz video series.

My blog was originally to be where I'd discuss my adapting Baum's Oz books into screenplays. The idea to blog came from noting Eric Gjovaag's Oz blog, noticing how interesting it was to read. Later, as I've said before on this blog, I rarely mentioned the screenwriting and changed the focus and name (but not the URL) entirely to cover many Oz topics, a move that I definitely do not regret.

Please note: I did not copycat anyone's work in creating these endeavors. Being inspired by someone's work and plagiarizing it are two very different things. I'm sure the people who inspired me are more flattered than offended that I regard them as an inspiration.

In late 2006, I got an e-mail from someone who enjoyed my website, and offered some corrections and additions. The sender's name: Sam Antony Milazzo. We've been e-mailing each other ever since, and now are very good friends. After he created a Blogger account, I immediately offered to share my blog with him.

Over time, of course the thought of marketing my Oz enthusiasm came into my head. However, I did not want to get caught up in making money that I'd put it before providing Oz content for the community. At the time I began, very few Oz fans were making content. With the advent of sites like YouTube, it's become more common. In the previous year, I did start an Amazon affiliate and a Zazzle shop. The Amazon shop was to help Oz fans find the best contemporary editions of Oz books (all of Baum's I added were either Dover or Books of Wonder), and Zazzle was a little more marketing minded. As such, I did not make my cut of the profits very high, often setting them at the minimum. When someone recently bought a shirt for dogs reading "Toto is my home dog," I only made a currently unclaimed thirty-eight cents.

As for the podcast, a couple friends of mine were working on a project when they suggested I host an audio interview with them to help promote it. I decided that if that would work, I might want to build some prominence as a podcast host. As of yet, that interview has yet to happen, and if it never does, I'm glad it sparked yet another way to share with the Oz community.

My blogs led to me being asked to review a book for the International Wizard of Oz Club's The Baum Bugle. I've volunteered to do more, and yes, you can expect to see much more in the future.

So, there we go. If anyone wants to question my motives in the Oz community, I've spoken truthfully here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another John R. Neill tribute

Hey, remember Alan Cook? The guy who did a cover of "The Wonders of Oz" song for me? The guy who's illustrating Matt Bloom's book?


Well, just look for blogs of mine mentioning Al or Alan Cook.

Anyways, I think I established he's a big fan of John R. Neill's artwork. Well, he's planning on showing some non-Oz Neill artwork on his blog. (Warning: Not an entirely family-friendly blog, though the entries I'm linking to should be all right.)

Today, he's already posted his first four entries!

John R. Neill
The color plates from The Sea Fairies
Selected illustrations from The Sea Fairies
Illustrations for a 1914 Bridal Book

And there's more coming! Keep up with this link: All of Al's blogs tagged with "John R. Neill"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Einhorn-a-thon #4

The warm reception of Paradox in Oz led to Einhorn penning another Oz book, The Living House of Oz, which was published in 2005. If you read up about Unauthorized Magic, you can guess that the titular house is the same that Buddy and his mother live in.

The story opens by elaborating on the little we learned from Unauthorized Magic about the House and its inhabitants. Buddy and his mother are very devoted to each other, though she often spends most her time working on her unlawful enchantments.

Also, some of the formerly inanimate objects are introduced. Most have personalities based on what they actually are, but the most eccentric character among them is the Earl of Habadashery, a living hat stand. When a question arises among the inhabitants of the Living House, the Earl immediately fabricates a ridiculous answer. Don't worry, though, this is not so overdone that it gets irritating. In fact, the Earl becomes endearing and actually manages to save the day at the end. (Just how you'll have to discover for yourself.)

The Living House has recently relocated outside of Tonsoria, a kingdom Einhorn mentioned in Paradox in Oz, but we only met its young girl ruler then. Coming across Brussle's Barber Shop (which Ozma visited in Paradox in Oz), Buddy finds it deserted. Princess Ayala of Tonsoria arrives and meets him, but then both are kidnapped by men in large wigs!

Looking for her son, Buddy's mother arrives in Tonsoria, consulting Sir Dye, Lady Twist, and Princess Talia, Ayala's little sister who knows more than anyone could guess. When Buddy's mother uses magic to show where Ayala and Buddy are, Glinda arrives on the scene. Upon questioning, Buddy's mother reveals her name is Mordra, and everyone sees she looks like a younger version of the Wicked Witch of the West!

For the time being, Glinda allows Mordra to help her find Buddy and Ayala, but when a mysterious beast arrives, Mordra panics and transports herself and Buddy back to the Living House. However, Glinda soon arrives and arrests Mordra and takes her to the Emerald City.

As for Buddy, the Earl, and the rest in the Living House, they can only do what they feel is right: go rescue Mordra!

On the journey, Buddy meets many interesting characters, some from Baum's books, some of Einhorn's creation. And soon, Buddy becomes an item of speculation himself, he appears to have some sort of magical powers of his own. Where did these come from, however?

And as for Mordra, what will Ozma do to ensure that her law against unauthorized magic will not be broken again? (By the way, a very humorous trial occurs in that storyline.)

The Living House of Oz is filled with humor and adventure, very different from Paradox in Oz, but we weren't asking for that book again. While I loved the brain-bending puzzles in Paradox, Living House is written in a way that you don't miss them, as they aren't really important to this plot. Einhorn proved he wasn't going to write the same story twice, and that's the most you should ask for from any author.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Unauthorised Magic in Oz (Sam's View)

For Jared's view, see this blog.

I have never read Edward Einhorn's Oz books Paradox in Oz (though at a younger age I was interested in getting that book) and The Living House of Oz, but I have seen the Puppet Performance that combines the two books into Unauthorised Magic in Oz.

I really liked this show. The way the puppeteers and "actors" played the characters (Dr Majestico with a European Professor style, Omby Amby an English soldier, etc.), and the Living House was excellent: in a solid design, the narration and how he fills in the blanks.

This was a funny show, in that the constant insistence of accomplishing the impossible: destroying an indestructible with a spell. Dr Majestico is pretty determined, and doesn't listen to the authorities of Oz (Glinda and Omby Amby), which makes them a bit tired.

The music and sound effects are also done quite well, among them Glinda's background played out by a harp, and the showing of how time is passed by quickly.

We do see the people working behind the scenes, sometimes that can be distracting, but it doesn't happen constantly and is not too much of a problem.

The only thing I'm not too fond of is how some words aren't right being said in Oz, like how Glinda is VAGUELY MGM-like even though here she is more motherly-teacher like, and Buddy having a rough voice. And I prefer her wearing white than red and/or pink, but at least she is drawn superbly by Eric Shanower.

I do hope to read Paradox in Oz someday, and even The Living House of Oz before too long, and if this under half hour dramatisation is anything to go by, it'll be worth reading with great illustrations.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Unauthorized Magic in Oz

For Sam's view, see this blog.

Einhorn adapted Unauthorized Magic as a puppet play for his Untitled Theater Company #61 during Great Small Works' Toy Theater Festival at St. Ann's Warehouse.

The story (see the previous blog for summary) follows Einhorn's short story to the dot, dialogue being almost verbatim to what was there. The only major change is that Ozma, although she is mentioned, does not appear, and her role is filled by Glinda.

Some additions are done for the puppet theatre: the story is now narrated by the Living House, dropping information the audience will need to know for the story. It works and the House manages to add more humor the story.

The puppets, designed by Eric Shanower, are wonderful! While some look like animated cutouts, it is the actors voicing them and moving them that bring them to life. And that's how it should be.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Einhorn-a-thon #3

As Hungry Tiger Press geared up to release Paradox in Oz, they printed another short story by Einhorn in Oz-Story 5, this one called Unauthorized Magic. In the editor's note, it is noted that this story is not a prequel to Paradox in Oz, but a nice chance to meet some of the characters from that book. As the story reveals, it would be set after Paradox.

Omby Amby (the Soldier With The Green Whiskers) is led by a boy named Buddy to investigate a use of unauthorized magic in the Munchkin Forest. It is Dr. Majestico, working on a challenge by Tempus: he must create an irresistible explosion to destroy an indestructible house. The paradox being that if the house isn't destroyed, the explosion wasn't irresistible. If the house is destroyed, then it wasn't indestructible. And now Omby Amby arrives to throw another factor into the paradox: in this time period, it is illegal for unauthorized magic users to use magic.

However, Dr. Majestico ignores Omby Amby and tells him that if he needs Ozma's consent to do magic, then her consent should be sought. As Omby goes to Ozma with Majestico's reply, Buddy returns to his home - a living house in which all the contents also live - and tells his mother of Dr. Majestico and Omby Amby's problems. As it turns out, Buddy's mother is a sorceress, using a spell to shield her activity from the Magic Picture and Glinda's Book of Records. If Ozma and Glinda are in the area, can she find a way to prevent them from nosing around and finding her? Can Dr. Majestico ever solve his great conundrum?

Playing with dialogue and using wordplay again, this Einhorn story is delightful. With a fun, brain-bending challenge for the readers to solve, paradoxes, parrot-oxes, and some great characters make this a great short story. Also, it turned out to be a nice bridging point in between Einhorn's first Oz novel and his second one.

Oz-Story 5 is now unavailable, so this seems to be another Oz short story for Einhorn's forthcoming book of short stories. And now, I and a few other Oz fans hope that book comes soon!