I have more than 35 years of creative and technical skills making up an artistic background of experience in associations generated working with some of the most respected talents in American film, television and music.
These influences contributed greatly to my success in developing original documentaries, short comedy and dramatic feature films as well as television programs noted for social impact.
A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in the mid-1970s, I initiated a career with a cross-country film production to document the subject of the newly emerging solar energy industry. Soon, that effort developed further when I involved 3 time Emmy Award winning director Victor M. Summa from Chicago’s PBS affiliate WTTW in directing the documentary.
For producer of the documentary, I was able to invite Washington D.C. based writer-producer David Prowitt who was internationally recognized for his 12 part BBC series The Weather Machine, a program that identified the first signs of shifts in global weather. At the time I met Mr. Prowitt, he was producing Cosmos, the PBS series he originated with Carl Sagan.
Following five years of filming and videotaping solar projects, the production attracted the attention of Robert Redford who offered to participate in the project if he approved of it. Jazz artist Chick Corea agreed to create original music. The resulting program was titled Sundance and it aired on PBS in May of 1981.
In 1978, Mr. Wold was asked to perform as Director of Photography on a foriegn language feature film titled Dream Shores which was being developed for shooting in Montreal, Canada by a professor of English literature at McGill University. The project was to become my first work in 35mm film. I also contributed to the film’s story writing, a tale that traced the first nine months of a newlywed couple’s hardships in marriage after coming to America to start life anew.
Due to extreme problems with the Canadian government’s exclusion of American technical talent in films being produced there, at Mr. Wold’s urging, the producers were persuaded to shoot the film with standard 35mm equipment rented there. Panavision’s Panaflex camera system was also used because those cameras were available in Montreal. This allowed them to capture and present the finished motion picture in a wider screen format. Dream Shores was never completed because they ran out of funds during post-production.
Back at home in Chicago, I found work in the summer on the four month production of The Blues Brothers. I worked with others who were also assigned what is called ‘vendor’ work on the task of purchasing dozens of used cars employed as background props for scenes or in the record-breaking 50 or so car wreck gags filmed for the mayhem featured in that comedy.
The purchased cars were turned over to Teamsters for painting, driving to locations or parking them on the streets where they might be damaged in scenes.
As luck would have it, Blues Bros. was followed with an offer to do the principal photography of another foreign language film in Kerala, India in very early 1979. I filmed the production Heavanbound with 35mm Arriflex sound camera equipment. This film also explored a romantic adventure in which a twenty-five year old woman let go from her job in a textile factory finds love at sea after meeting a young fisherman.
He later also became involved in casting duties for an award-winning ABC Movie-of-the-Week script In This Fallen City. I worked for producer Bernie Brillstien to find and supervise school-aged children for background scenes.
The film was re-named by ABC Studios to a more pleasant title, A Night Of Darkness, before being broadcast as a movie of the week
This casting assignment led to further incidental casting work on the Richard Gere/Kim Basinger film No Mercy. I worked for Serena Hausman to cast key, non-speaking bad guy roles for scenes to be filmed in Chicago and, later, on location in North Carolina. A friend of mine and I checked out martial arts professionals sparring at a Chicago self defense school and chose a few of them as candidates to cast the mercenary roles. They were not used since the main casting producer had already found what he wanted in NYC.
In the 1980s, I produced a variety of corporate films and video promotional shorts for clients such as Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis and on passive solar enegy architechtural design for The University of Illinois architecture school. At the same time, I was contracted by New York City based producers to write original screen treatments.
I first drafted an initial story for a dramatic film with the working title Disappear! in 1992 as an action-adventure tale set in the South Pacific. The story traced the theft of a submarine filled with gold late in WWII and the continuation of the story in present day with an action filled adventurer to recover it. That first draft of the screenplay got to Chicago-based Director of Photography William Birch, best known for his work on Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Blues Brothers and a good number of other Chicago backgrounded movies like Code of Silence and Above the Law.
Mr. Birch had worked with seasoned unit production manager and producer John G. Wilson of Studio City, California on a number of the Chicago films and he forwarded the screen treatment for Disappear! to Mr. Wilson who agreed the concept offered the basis for an unusually good action movie.
Mr. Birch made the match between myself and Wilson and the three of them joined forces in an ongoing story, talent and financial development effort.
Wilson based his hunch on the screen value of my story on his experience in managing a good number of studio financed, action productions that became Hollywood hits, including Clint Eastwood’s early San Francisco themed features Magnum Force, The Enforcer and on through to one of the most esteemed westerns ever made The Outlaw Josey Wales. John had also managed other classics such as Blue Thunder, Ghostbusters and the underappreciated 1941. He appeciated my ability for set design and writing and basically took me on as a protégé to learn how to budget a film start to finish using the standard 60 page cost figuring department system.
Rather than initially seeking financial support in Hollywood, initial funding development for Disappear! remained engaged in Chicago’s corridor at my encouragement. Birch, Wilson and Wold formed an independent feature film production company tagged Cinema Equinox Pictures to organize support from local and international sources.
The budget for Disappear! was set at just over six million dollars.
On the basis of the first drafts for the feature, through sheer luck, I was able to find free-agent actor Richard Harris living at a hotel in NYC and sent him the script. He liked it enough to commit to play a key role for the film, an older Irish character. Through other channels, I brought in television writer and director Robert Collins [Police Woman] to direct the production.
Through Mr. Wilson’s contacts, planning for the technical arrangements of the production in the Philippine Islands were entrusted to Jun Jubon who had safely overseen the difficult filming of action scenes for Apocalypse Now and Missing in Action.
Gino Contemesa, the sound recordist who had won an Academy award for his work on ET, The Extraterrestrial was secured to do the sound work on the film.
The founding of Cinema Equinox Pictures made news within Chicago’s modest feature length talent pool and other talented aspirants from local circles [and a few other national sources] which submitted scripts and lesser developed productions to myself or Mr. Wilson for funding consideration.
After considering a few dozen primarily Midwestern themed scripts, Cinema Equinox added four other feature film productions, two of them comedies and two dramas, to the planning roster.
As well, a television special that would capture the opening ceremonies of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio was put into planning.
Funding issues were taken to well-placed principal financial consultants at the Arthur Anderson firm in Chicago. The scenarios for profit from the rapidly expanding market for independent films were successfully promoted to private trust fund managers, one of whom found us $3M for production, funding that could be matched or mixed as an IPO in 1995.
Operations continued after Cinema Equinox Pictures opened offices in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles and an active apprenticeship commenced as Mr. Wilson led me through the nuances of experience in film budgeting and motion picture unit production management. The five projects we developed further had production requirements that ranged from 4 million to 7 million dollars.
Mr. Wold developed the specific skills needed to determine the rates of production insurance, pay scales of that era, overtime and benefit costs for each area of the IATSE union guild crafts involved in feature and television production. He also developed similar knowledge with regard to determining Directors Guild of America rates and long-term producer responsibilities. Mr. Wold interacted with Richard Soames, a principal executive at the film production insurance firm Film Finances, Inc. and acquired experience with negotiating insurance issues and related bonding matters.
Through my entertainment lawyer in Chicago, Jay Ross, who was the Grammy Award Midwestern president, I gained representation at Warner Brothers Film Division. Warners liked Disappear! with Richard Harris and the production was okayed through two of the three steps required for a green light and funding. It took two years for the production to rise to the point of being finally green lighted. Warners would only fund it if the production were moved from the Philippines to a tropical American setting such as Hawaii or the Virgin Islands due to the unsettled political situation in the Phillipines.
Rob further developed contacts at Paramount Pictures and Touchstone Pictures. He was also introduced to film development executives at Showtime who he maintained contact with regarding prospects of producing the Native American feature film The Deer Hunter which Cinema Equinox had in development as an original motion picture. Showtime’s production division agreed to fund the production to be filmed on location on the Okanagan Native American Reservation in Northeastern Washington State for $4M. The process for filming by Showtimes standards required a lead time spanning at least two years. I got into negotiations with the agent for The Last Of The Mohicans actor Wes Studi to direct and act in the film, however his price for performing both tasks was $2.5M and the $4M budget limit by Showtime would not allow an increase to accomodate Mr. Studi’s price.
Currently, I’m writing a novel Lightning on the Moon, a suspense thriller based on actual investigations, his own included, into a series of cover-ups at NASA and other government agencies involving the Apollo Moon program and the Moon itself. Principal characters follow a trail of scientific evidence attempting to resolve the mystery and find themselves at the heart of what may be the most intriguing puzzle confronting humanity.