Friday, 4 April 2014

The Importance of a Dress Rehearsal... Learned the Hard Way



It was 1984 and Michael Jackson was on the top of the charts. The many songs from his 'Thriller' album inspired almost every kid in my high school to attempt some sort of breakdancing. I had even mastered some moves, including MJ's signature 'moonwalk'.

For a noon-hour event, my high school had decided to have a Michael Jackson / Breakdancing Competition. My best friend, Kirk, and I decided to sign up to perform our version of 'Thriller'. We knew most of the zombie dance moves from the infamous 1983 music video but we planned to add some extras to it. We had a great zombie mask for Kirk to wear, and he could do the worm, some spins, and his favourite move - flipping from flat on his back on the floor, onto his feet. While he was doing all that, I was going to do some leaps and spins over him. I was already starting to dabble in make-up effects and special FX like stage blood, so I used medical adhesive tape to create the cat's eyes that Michael Jackson revealed at the end of his video and rigged a blood effect for the end of our number. We practiced the routine several times and it was going to be spectacular. We did not, however, practice with the costumes, mask, blood or with the cat's eyes on.


The big day came and pretty much the entire school turned up to the auditorium to watch the contest. Kirk and I were second on the list to perform. The first to perform was a five-man breakdancing team. They were amazing! They set the bar high with their incredible spins and acrobatic moves. They could pop and move in perfect rhythm to the synthesized music. Kirk turned to me and said, "We're following that?"

Suddenly I felt panic but since I was wearing cat's eyes hidden behind dark shades, Kirk didn't see the look of fear in my eyes. I wanted to run but before I could say anything, our names were announced. The show must go on, I said to myself. We took our positions in the centre of the gymnasium and the opening chord of 'Thriller' began.  

It started out well. We did the dance moves in sync but, as you can guess from having no dress rehearsal, things soon began to fall apart. I did not realize until that moment that the cat's eyes allowed no peripheral vision. Kirk was having problems of his own as he was sweating in his mask and it had apparently spun around so the face was at the back of his head. So we were both performing almost-blind. I'm still not sure how or why it happened, but we soon slammed headlong into each other and fell on our asses. The whole gymnasium of high school students erupted into laughter. I wanted to crawl away and hide but I saw the silhouette of Kirk doing some of his floor moves so I got back onto my feet and went to do one of my leaps over him. Unfortunately I couldn't see him very well and tripped over him and landed on my face. I tried to get up but was suddenly sliding. The blood pack that we had for our grand finale had exploded prematurely and I was slipping in the pool of fake blood.

Kirk was trying to leap to his feet but his long zombie coat was caught under his foot and he landed on his butt again. I tried to help him up but I slipped and pretty much landed on top of him.

The music continued and so did we, hoping to reach the end of our act in one piece. The three-minute edit of the song seemed to last for three hours. Finally it was over. I couldn't see very well but I could hear the whole room laughing at us. We felt terrible. We had practiced a bow but we just took off, mortified. I followed the sound of Kirk's boots out of the room.

In a nearby hallway of the school, we stopped. As we peeled off our costumes and make-up we discussed what other high schools we could possibly transfer to, because we knew we could never show our faces at this school again. We were so embarrassed we did not watch the other routines, nor were we there when they announced the winners. Imagine our shock when we learned we had won First Place!

For the rest of the day, people kept coming up to us and complimenting us on our terrific 'comedy routine'. Several people remarked how our 'prat falls' looked so real. Neither Kirk or I admitted the truth. We smiled and nodded.

There were two lessons that I learned that day that I have carried with me as an actor and later directing theatre: First, of course, is the importance of dress rehearsal. Secondly, if you mess up during a live performance... keep going! The audience will likely never know anything went wrong.






Thursday, 6 March 2014

Toronto Trivia - History Behind the Yellow & Blue Street Signs

Toronto celebrates its 180th Birthday and to commemorate it, I thought I'd share a piece of historical trivia.

Some Torontonians may recall seeing many street signs like the one pictured below. The history behind their design goes back to the early days of Toronto, before the invention of the automobile. 

From the very beginning when Toronto was still called 'York' the streets were in a grid running north/south and east/west. 

As anyone coming up from the subway can tell you, it's easy to get turned around at an intersection and it can take a few moments to figure out which direction you're facing. I remember when I first moved to Toronto how catching a glimpse of the CN Tower would tip me off to the fact that I was going the wrong way.

In the 1800s they didn't have the CN Tower (or any other tall buildings) as markers, so the people of Toronto came up with the idea of painting two different colours on their street signs:

Yellow signs:  For the streets running east / west. Yellow like the sun which travels east to west. 

Blue signs: For the streets running north / south.  Blue representing water, like the Toronto harbour where merchants and farmers went to do business.

Since 1967, the major intersections like Yonge/Bloor, Jarvis/King, Eglinton/Mt. Pleasant, etc, continued the colour scheme in illuminated signs that could be seen better on winter nights.

Unfortunately, LED lights didn't exist yet so incandescent bulbs were used. The bulbs had to be replaced often and were subject to short circuit with weather.  During the late 1990's, unaware of its historical significance, the City of Toronto began to phase out these illuminated signs. 

The only one left is the one pictured above at Bay & Queen. 





Alexander Galant is the author & historical researcher of Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery)







Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Making Washable Fake Stage Blood FX

Recently I was directing a stage production of "You'll Get Used to It! The War Show" by Peter Colley (a play with music set in World War II) and I wanted to have authentic looking blood for some of the death scenes. The staff at the theatre were concerned with blood staining the stage, and the costumers were protective of the authentic wool WWII uniforms that the actors were wearing.

Fortunately, I used to be a Special Effects artist in my youth and used to make my own blood, blood capsules and other fun prosthetics for stage and film.

So just before we moved into the theatre I spent (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend making washable stage blood. My eight-year-old daughter wanted to help and was my assistant during the process.

The best part of this fake blood is that it is washable from clothes and skin, and is completely edible (which works great for blood capsules).

INGREDIENTS:

Corn Syrup  - (500ml) 2 cups, 2 tbsp (clear is better for this effect)
Chocolate Syrup - 1/2 cup
Hot Water - 1/3 cup
Cold Water - 1/8 cup
Corn Starch - 1/2 tbsp (heaping)
Coffee Mate - 1 tbsp (heaping) (Yes, CoffeeMate - This is the ingredient that makes the blood washable)
Red Food Colouring - 1 tsp
Yellow Food Colouring  - 1/3 tsp or a drop *

* Note: Make sure your actor is not allergic to corn, MSG, Red #2 or Yellow #5.

Pour the corn syrup and chocolate syrup into a pot and start to heat on medium setting.


While that's heating, use 1/8 cup of cold water to dissolve the corn starch in a small bowl.

In another bowl use the 1/3 cup hot water to dissolve the Coffee Mate. Once the Coffee Mate is dissolved add in the food colouring.

Mix the food colouring into the Coffee Mate:

Add both the dissolved corn starch and the coloured Coffee Mate mix to the pot:

Bring to a slow boil. It does not need to cook very long, but the high heat combines the ingredients far better than no heat at all:

The result is pretty remarkable. Anyone who has ever used food colouring knows how badly it stains. Here I put a drop of the newly made fake blood on my hand (on left in center of palm) as well as a drop of food colouring on its own (on right - near by fingers):

Then simply wiped both off with a paper towel. As you can see the food colouring stained my hand but there is no trace of the fake blood:

During the run of the show, any of the blood that dripped on the costume was cleaned off with a Baby Wipe.

This recipe can be doubled or reduced according to needs. 

This fake blood also tastes good on an ice cream sundae!

Blood Capsules

For the show, we also had one of the characters cough up blood after being shot. Since we had edible fake blood we made our own blood capsules for the actor to use in his mouth. 

First I purchased a small quantity of empty capsules from a local pharmacy:

Using an eye dropper we carefully put our fake blood into the larger side of the empty capsule:

Then capped it with the small side of the capsule:

The capsule is now ready to be used. It will not dissolve the capsule, but the capsule will melt within a minute of being put in the mouth, so be aware of the need to block a way of putting it in the mouth within that timeframe. It will last longer if the capsule was made recently, as opposed to a few days earlier, but not much. You can experiment to see what works best for your production. 

Tasty and won't stain. (Ice cream optional)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

I Was Duped by MODA Entertainment! Don't Let It Happen to You.


In 2010, all of my dreams were about to come true.

I was going to have one of my plays presented at the Lincoln Center in New York, I was going to direct my first feature film, there were investors willing to finance several projects over the next five years and we started by optioning the film rights to one of my favorite Broadway musicals. The problem was that none of it was real. Everything was an elaborate scheme by Richard Zampella and Shannon Mulholland, of New York, to con me out of a great deal of money.

Anyone who is familiar with Les Misérables would know the characters of the Thénardiers: The husband and wife con artist team that robs you blind while they seem to offer hospitality. Such was the case with Richard Zampella and Shannon Mulholland, owners of MODA Entertainment.
And they got me good.
Myself & my daughter with Richard Zampella and Shannon Mulholland
It started out very well. I was first introduced to Shannon by my literary manager at the time, in LA. He had used MODA Entertainment for Licencing and Merchandising of other projects and wanted them on board a project I was working on at the time. I had done a quick Google search on MODA, Richard and Shannon and read about all their great accomplishments with Classic Hollywood Icons and such.

Invoice from MODA for Lincoln Center deposit
(Links to documents available upon request)
Around that time I was staging an elaborate one-night Dracula production in my home town of Toronto just before Hallowe'en. Richard and Shannon drove up from their office in Manhattan to assist me. They helped with last minute leg work and publicity.The show was sold out and a tremendous success. The next day we traveled back to New York and Richard told me that they had invited some investors who were impressed with what I had accomplished with limited resources. We began to discuss remounting my production at the Lincoln Centre with Frank Langella (who had played Dracula in 1979 both on stage and screen) as the vampire hunter Van Helsing. I had seen on the MODA website that they had worked with Frank Langella when he narrated a documentary about Gary Cooper for them. We were going to make this a joint production with my company and MODA, and we split the cost of putting a deposit down at the Lincoln Centre. Having done many events at the Lincoln Center, Shannon took care of the paperwork. As an added bonus,one of the co-founders of MODA Entertainment, Donna Lee, was now working as Morgan Freeman's publicist and had secured him to make a cameo appearance. I was over the moon.

Wire Transfer to MODA for Lincoln Center
(Links to documents available upon request)
They further assisted me by introducing me to a terrific literary agent from the well established Writers House in New York and that agent tried to straighten out a mess that I had with a former writing partner and the credit that I did not receive on a published novel. Next, Shannon introduced me to Roger Merr, a lawyer who was going to assist me on an intellectual property issue I was also having with my former writing partner. I was told that Roger Merr had worked for Ted Turner and thus very experienced in Entertainment Law. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet Roger Merr face-to-face during that trip as he got stuck in traffic and I had to fly back to Toronto. We did however, e-mail and Skype-text with other investors after that, who offered to foot the legal bill.

In a short amount of time,with their encouragement, connections and legal expertise, I was soon working on
Shannon's promise of the return of my money.
several other joint ventures with MODA Entertainment, including my first feature film (they already had a good script) and we negotiated the film rights to 'Jekyll & Hyde the Musical' through another entertainment lawyer based out of LA: Miles Feldman of Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor LLP. A quick Google search verified they are one of the largest entertainment law firms in Los Angeles with an impressive list of clientele. MODA and I split the costs of securing the rights.

Confirmation of wire transfer for Lawyer
for the  Jekyll & Hyde film rights
Shannon's investors were also going to back another deal where I was going to option the film rights of a graphic novel by my friend and colleague Tony Lee. Roger Merr advised me on how to set up an LLC in the United States and Shannon set up the bank account in Manhattan for the investors to wire the money to, rather than going across the Canadian border.

Shannon even set up a publishing deal for my wife's picture book with DK Publishing. Shannon had all kinds of paperwork for us to sign the next time we were in New York. Shannon and Donna Lee later e-mailed me to tell me that their good friend Morgan Freeman had lunch with Kristin Chenoweth to arrange a surprise for my five-year-old daughter who idolizes Miss Chenoweth: She was going to be doing an audio recording of the picture book and wanted to meet my daughter. Needless to say that both my wife and little girl were beyond thrilled. Other projects for my wife popped up, and she provided them with much artwork on spec.
Shannon Mulholland with my daughter.

Success at last! This was all fantastic! Everything was coming together exactly the way I had hoped. But doubts would creep in,and the voice in my head said something wasn't right. I reasoned that they had been so helpful. How could I doubt them?

Then, it began to fall apart.

Little things started to emerge, and chip away at the bubble they had created for me. Any time I was going to meet Roger Merr face to face something would come up. The investors were now covering all the costs of the show at the Lincoln Center and I was supposed to get my$10,000 deposit back but it never arrived. Then the performance date got pushed back a year. I went to NYC because I had two short films in a film festival there. While I was there, Shannon gave me a check from her Wachovia account (the same bank for my LLC) but told me not to cash it right away as her Shareholders had frozen her account. That was odd.

After months of only communicating by e-mail or text Skype, we were supposed to have dinner with all the investors at a restaurant in New York but due to some kind of crisis, Roger Merr cancelled the dinner at the last minute. He was going to meet with me at a restaurant near my hotel to explain. He never showed up because another of his clients had suddenly died and he had to take care of the estate. I tried to arrange another time to meet with Roger and even offered him to call me collect as he supposedly didn't want any record of calling me on his lawfirm's phone bill.

Roger Merr's refusal to give me a phone number.
So, what lawfirm was this? I couldn't find any listing for Roger Merr anywhere. And he didn’t call me collect. We never, ever spoke on the phone. I looked at all the investors' gmail addresses and began to wonder why there were so many near-misses in meeting any of them in person as well.

It occurred to me that neither I, nor my wife, had actually seen or signed any of the recent paperwork. It was supposedly sitting in their downtown office which was now difficult for them to get to, since they were starting a side business in Point Lookout. We hadn’t ever been to MODA’s downtown office, as all our meetings were informal, at restaurants and other venues.

We twice tried to send a courier to pick up the documents on our behalf, which failed both times. We had also never been paid for,or paid back for, anything.

Not too long after that, I heard that Miles Feldman had left Liner Grode Stein, et al, to venture out on his own, so I reached out to him to inquire whether the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’paperwork was following him or staying with the old firm. He e-mailed me back saying he knew nothing of the project. When I forwarded him the above e-mail (with his letterhead that MODA had sent to me), he responded that it was 'a forgery.'
* Miles Feldman's response the e-mail from MODA that I forwarded to him.
A FORGERY!?

Lincoln Center confirming MODA never booked.
I immediately contacted the Lincoln Center. They confirmed my worst fears, in writing, there was no booking by MODA Entertainment for our Dracula show. Before cashing the check that Shannon gave me, I contacted the bank and found out that she had *closed the account* a week before she gave me the check.

I then insisted that Richard, Shannon and MODA return all monies from investments, deposits and loans owed to me, which by now had totaled approx $50,000. Shannon was suddenly too ill to return my calls. Donna Lee chastised me for putting a great deal of stress upon her.

Suddenly, I was alerted that one of the investors, George Levy, was rushed to the hospital on Mar 7, 2011. 
 * Note the date George Levy was rushed to the hospital.

Note the Date of Death.
I was later sent George Levy's obituary which listed his death as (March 6) the day *before* he was supposedly rushed to the hospital.

Roger Merr stopped responding to me entirely, which wasn’t a surprise. I now have written confirmation from the American Bar Association that there is *no Roger Merr* licensed to practice law in Georgia (Turner Broadcasting home state) or New York or any other state.

We received confirmation directly from DK Publishing that there was *never a deal* for my wife's book. Furthermore, Donna Lee hadn't actually been working with Morgan Freeman for a while, nor was he in New York at the time he was supposedly having lunch with Kristin Chenoweth. When contacted directly via her other work’s office, Donna Lee didn’t respond to our messages at all.

MODA’s 'downtown Manhattan office'was a rentable conference room address, not an office space at all.

It was all a façade. All of it.

If one was to Google: "lawsuits" along with "Shannon Mulholland, Richard Zampellaand/or MODA Entertainment" you will find more than the happy, successful websites and news releases they generated themselves to make a lovely internet presence for me to find.

The first is a lawsuit filed by the famous actress Celeste Holm who was "duped" by ShannonMulholland and Richard Zampella.http://www.courthousenews.com/2009/03/09/Actress_Accuses_MODA_of_Telling_Whoppers.htm

The second was launched by the widow of Gene Kelly who accuses Shannon Mulholland of 'forging hersignature'.   http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/04/12/26326.htm

Lastly, a lawsuit started by the son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who had worked for Shannon and Richard. He was planning on exposing their business practices and claimed that "Zampella threatened to assault him" if he did so. http://www.courthousenews.com/2008/11/20/Bogart_&_Bacall_s_Son_Sues_Entertainment_Co.htm

I wish I had found this information before I was involved with them. Richard and Shannon duped me for$51,835 USD; and they knew my wife and I had a second child on the way. 

I believe they used my money to start up an ice cream shop in Point Lookout called Skipperdees. Richard and Shannon have since started other companies including one that does graphics/webdesign and 'branding' called Trans Multimedia. (The contact page states the same phone number as the ice cream shop.) They also have a restaurant consulting company. And finally, Richard Zampella and Shannon Mulholland are listed on the board of directors of the Point Lookout Chamber of Commerce.

After laying low for the last couple of years, I can't help but wonder why there is suddenly a new increase in internet presence by Richard Zampella.

So I’m putting this information out there, for any hapless hopeful like me, who might need to know this information before jumping into any expensive adventures with these folks.

If it is you, dear reader,please search the links I've posted. Please heed the facts in this posting.

Do NOT under any circumstances give these people any money. Their word means nothing. Their documents should be examined closely by a real lawyer that you hire yourself.

I've learned a lot from my experience: Don't take them, or anyone else making these kinds of promises to you, at face value.

Do your research. Dig deep.Then dig deeper.




(Any of the above mentioned documents are available upon request and many, many more including the empty promises of return payments, copies of wire transfers, agreements for projects that never existed.)




Monday, 6 May 2013

Do You Remember Your First?

Do you remember your first? Not your first kiss, or first love but the first novel that you ever read. The first one to capture your imagination. The first one that you just couldn’t put down,  and then when you reached the end, you were sorry it was over. Do you remember your first?
For myself, it was...

(Read the rest on Jen Blood's blog:   http://jenblood.net/2013/05/fan-favorites-do-you-remember-your-first/)


-----
Alexander Galant is the author of the historical thriller novel Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery)

Thursday, 14 March 2013

My novel is IndieReader Approved

IndieReader.com, one of the world’s top websites for independent published books, has awarded DEPTH OF DECEPTION (A Titanic Murder Mystery) a five star review and the highly regarded Indie Reader Approved badge, recognizing the book as a quality indie title.

"Alexander Galant makes the past come alive in this spellbinding mystery."

See the full review here:
http://indiereader.com/2013/03/depth-of-deception-a-titanic-murder-mystery/

You can find the links to buy DEPTH OF DECEPTION here:  http://www.depthofdeception.com/

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Depth-Deception-Titanic-Murder-Mystery/dp/0987983512

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Chapter 3 of UN-DEAD (Excerpt)

Two individuals in forest near where the Demitry crashed on the shores of Staten Island. They are attacked by some unseen animal.



A multimedia clip used in UN-DEAD (A Modern-Day Dracula Sequel).
A continuing on-line novelization told in the same epistolary style as the original 1897 novel Dracula, but with a new technological twist.   http://www.undead-series.com