Monday, December 10, 2018

THROWBACK BLOG # 2 A Book By Any Other Cover: on E-books and "Real" Books


ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 10, 2010




A couple of weeks ago at a Writers Guild meeting about our upcoming contract negotiations in 2011, I was catching up with some of my fellow members who I hadn’t seen since the contract negotiations and strike of 2007/2008.




Writers are not by nature tribal, it usually takes a powwow of some significance to get us to come out of our dens. I was telling them about the interesting time I was having marketing the new e-book edition of my novel, Blood is Pretty,





when one expressed, with a wince over the unclean,




that he was not sure he could ever get used to an e-reader like the Amazon Kindle or the Barnes & Noble Nook as he liked, “...to feel the heft of a real book.”




This is a sentiment I’ve heard often during these days of potential transition from ink impressed letters on paper leaves bound beneath a cover to digitally encoded and decoded letters electronically, and so magically it seems, made to appear on a screen encased in plastic. Indeed, literary legend and lion Ray Bradbury’s daughter enjoys the Kindle Amazon sent to her dad as a gift, because he refused to have anything to with as it did not, “...feel, look or smell like a book.”




Although he did like the fact that he could enlarge the type, a useful function given his failing eyesight, but that was not enough of an inducement to win him over. Although, in 1983 he both predicted that there would someday be ebooks and that they would be quite a good thing, as you can see in this CBS Sunday Morning memorial to him.





Given the fact that my basic interior design sensibility might be called “Classic Library of Classics” or “Nicely Appointed Previously Owned Tomes Establishment,” I quite understand how my Writers Guild colleague and my friend Ray Bradbury felt. As Thomas Jefferson said to John Adams in an 1815 letter, “I cannot live without books.”






The view of a large wooden bookcase filled with books in an orderly manner is as aesthetically pleasing to me—if not more so—than a stunning seascape,




a lush green forest,





a brilliant sunset or sunrise,




or even a classic Hollywood headshot of Grace Kelly.





I have no idea if this is at all an honorable feeling, it could well be just a quirk, even a fetish, albeit a harmless one, but whatever it is it has been mine for as long as I can remember. Not that I grew up in such an environment. My dad was not much of a reader, and although my mother was, she was a loyal patron of the public library, which happily kept books on shelves for her. The genesis of my love I can only assume came from watching English movies and television shows with scenes taking place in the large libraries of country manor houses lined with tall bookcases filled with beautiful leather-bound books.





Indeed, I’m quite sure this is true for as a young man I developed an irrational hate of dust jackets because they covered up the spines of books, which is what is seen when books are in bookshelves. Memories of all those wonderful leather-covered spines of books in those English movie country manor house libraries told my dying-to-be-snobbish mind that this is the only proper way to display books, despite my having few leather-bound books. Even the prosaic cloth-covered spines of the books I owned, though, seemed more proper to display that the thin paper of dust jackets which so easily tore and wore.

I relieved my books of their dust jackets and consigned them to the dustbin.






It took an attractive woman


to point out to me that I was an idiot. “The reason they are called dust jackets is that they protect the cloth binding against dust,” she informed me. “Besides they tell you something about the book and often have interesting covers.” She made her case well and I have not relieved a book of its jacket since, and have often regretted my actions when I spy a book in my bookcase that would now be well-clothed except for my youthful indiscretion. I later married that attractive woman, although not just for this bit of wisdom.





I am not prone to telling such confessional stories, but this one points out a useful fact to consider. In my love of books in bookcases—and in hand, experiencing their heft, look, feel and smell—I am treating books as objects or, possibly better said, artifacts, which, of course, they are. But a book is also the content, the information; amusement; comfort and joy; calls to action; revelations; tears and laughter that may be contained within. Which, if we were compelled to choose, is more important—the artifact or the content?


When I was a boy sitting around the dinner table, eating my vegetables, which often came from a can,





my father would often remark, “These are nowhere near as good as the wonderful fresh vegetables my mom use to make when I was a boy.” I would just as often—because I was a smart-ass—say, “You know, Dad, I’ll bet you when I’m a father in the Twenty-first Century and we’re eating our vegetable pills, I’ll be saying, ‘These are nowhere near as good as the wonderful canned vegetables my mom use to make when I was a boy.’”




I was wrong. No one that I know of eats their vegetables in a pill, and the technological innovation of the vacuum-packed can, while still being used, is not much of an object of nostalgic reflection. It is just a delivery system. It has the advantage of shelf life but not usually the advantage of its contents having a lively taste. If you want your vegetables to have lively taste, you’ll need fresh vegetables, and to get them you’ll need to become your own delivery system by growing them yourself or trust the delivery systems of a local provider.





The content of a thing is ultimately the most important.


The book, what we are now calling the traditional book, “...a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers,” has been both a more successful and less successful delivery system than the vacuum-packed can. It never alters the “taste” of its contents, but, because it is prone to wear and tear, mold and mildew, not to mention the evil of dust and the negligence of borrowers,






it does not always have a long shelf life. However, it is quite user-friendly—portable with pages not difficult to turn, easy on the eyes depending on the type size, and usually of a warm, inviting feel. You can underline and write in the margins if you so choose to desecrate it. In essence, books travel well with us. Books can be boon companions. If you are a book reader—and who reading this blog wouldn’t be—books might well figure into highlights of your personal history. That book or series of books you shared with your best childhood buddy, say those Frazzeta cover-illustrated paperbacks of the Mars novels by Edgar Rich Burroughs; that beat up copy of Siddhartha you were reading while sitting around the collage quad that attracted the attention of that long-haired blonde beauty who looked just liked Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas; that Saul Bellow novel that kept dogging you when you were in your twenties—you loved it, you hated it, you loved it, you hated it—; that rare book of short stories from her favorite author that you “scored” in finding at a used book store and gave to her, her smile back convincing you that she was indeed the love of your life; those Dr. Seuss books you read out loud to your kids, acting them out in a gloriously foolish performance; that dark, dangerous, bloody serial-killer novel you read while sitting on a warm, sunny beach somewhere during your most wonderful vacation ever; that great jazz musician’s biography you read while on a long train trip, the train providing the rhythm section. You can remember the look, the feel, the touch, the cover, the heft of all of these books and you remember them with great fondness, yet isn’t it the content that really deserves to be part of your memory? Wasn’t the delivery system—the look, the feel, the touch, the cover, the heft—really just, dare I call it, an appendix to the content?


Smells can bring on a flood of memories, but aren't they just the memories of smells? The aroma of a great meal is delightful, but it is not the aroma that will nourish you.


I do not believe in the human soul, but I do believe in the soul of books, and the soul of books is their content, not their delivery system.


E-books have become exponentially more popular in the last year or two. This seems to date from the introduction of the Amazon Kindle, which was deemed far more user-friendly, albeit in a different way than the printed book, than any previous e-reader. There are two Amazon Kindle Facebook pages that I check in with daily. Here’s what some of the users of that device have to say.


“My friend's son is serving in Afghanistan. He ordered a Kindle and loves it. Unfortunately, it got stepped on. Amazon is replacing it for free! I love doing business with companies who support our troops. Loved my Kindle before, love it even more now!”


“My Kindle is loaded with books and vacation is about to start. Woohoo!!!”


“Kindle is keeping me physically fit. I could never find a book with a font I could read while working out so often I quit early out of boredom. Thanks to the Kindle and its adjustable fonts, I can read while working out and I stay at the gym much longer now.”


“I'm exhausted from reading too much...Thanks, Kindle, now I'm a couch potato of note.”


Which was answered by this comment:


“I wish I was just a couch potato...problem is I'm finding all new ways to be a potato...park potato, lunch potato, car potato, waiting room potato, long line potato, intermission potato....the list goes on...that darn kindle is too easy to read ANYWHERE!!!! I love it!”


I don’t doubt that these enthusiastic lovers of the Kindle are right now building up wonderful memories of how it is becoming their literary best-friend, their companion for life, nor do I doubt that some of these memories will revolve around the fact that these e-readers seem to be even more user-friendly than the traditional book. Their memories will involve such attributes as carrying the complete collection of your favorite author’s works (for you can store up to 3500 books), so that if while reading one in, say, a mystery series, and the character mentions something that happened four books ago and you wanted to read that scene in that book, you can without leaving your seat, whether it be in a Starbucks, on a plane or train, at the doctor’s office, or, most conveniently, the donut seat in your bathroom. You can check a quote from Dickens or Austin or Twain or Hemingway by just doing a search instead of thumbing through your paper copy desperately trying to remember what chapter it was in, whether it came early or late in the story, or if it’s even in David Copperfield, maybe it was in Oliver Twist. You can highlight and look up the definition of a word without having to cart a dictionary around everywhere with you, and, indeed, with the Kindle, you can cart a dictionary around everywhere with you. Here is a delivery system that seems to enhance the “taste” of its contents, not diminish it.


What then is the future of the traditional book? In the short run, these Kindle owner comments seem to give a good indication:


“I have hundreds of books some signed, some old, some rare I will NEVER part with them, how can I?”


“I will never be able to stop collecting paper books...I love my kindle and my books...why should you have to choose one over the other."


“Umm gang.. You are allowed to have both mediums. Book police will not arrest you if you get one or both. It does not have to be either/or... I buy both quite a bit.”


As to the long-range future of the traditional book? I don’t know. I do, though, know that no one reads The Iliad and The Odyssey on scrolls as they did in ancient Greece and Rome,






and I know that the colonists who may well settle on the Moon and the planet Mars and the generations of explorers who may venture out of our solar system in starships will not be taking traditional books with them—they just weigh too much. However, they will be able to—in both personal e-readers and in digital libraries—take the whole of their species’ literary output if they so desire.




Indeed, if we do colonize the Moon and Mars and send people off in generational ships, we better damn well send them off with the whole of our literary output. Because if we don’t do that, what then are we really sending to the stars?


Here on Earth, traditional books may become nothing but collector's items, ancient, often beautiful artifacts of a time gone by, or newly printed and bound books, created at great expense and sold at great cost to give a feeling of those times gone by. I, as I sit in my book-lined home, or visit my favorite bookstore, find that extremely sad. The next generation though, or the generation beyond that, will most likely look back at me and wonder, Why?


As long as the content survives, as long as the thoughts, passions, intelligence and even perversions of the human mind survive, the Book, no matter what physical delivery system delivers it into a reader’s hands, will survive.

========================================================

All my books are available as ebooks and some are also available in print and audio editions. You can check them out HERE.

THROWBACK BLOG # 1 Considering the Source: Which Contributes Most to the Well-being of Society - Science or Art?



Monday, December 3, 2018

THROWBACK BLOG # 1 Considering the Source: Which Contributes Most to the Well-being of Society - Science or Art?


Originally published November 9, 2010





One of the queries in The Old Curmudgeon’s Book of Questions, my Internet series of VidBits on Strike.TV
is:


“Why do we keep asking the opinion of the man in the street? If he knew anything he wouldn’t be in the damn street!”




Recently I came across some information in a public survey that confirmed my Old Curmudgeon’s



jaundiced view of the man in the street. It was in last year’s Pew Research Center for The People & The Press survey of the public’s attitude towards science, although it was a question that encompassed artists that caught my attention.

The public was asked whether certain professions contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being.




Seventy percent of the public thought scientists did,




which was close to their opinion on members of the military (84%),






teachers (77%),




and medical doctors (69%),




whereas only thirty-one percent of the public thought artists did,






just above lawyers (23%)



and business executives (21%).




Although I was pleased to see scientists listed among those that a majority of people think contribute a lot to the well-being of society, I am skeptical whether they truly know what they are talking about. I was dismayed to see that only thirty-one percent of the public believe that artists contribute to the well-being of society despite their lives being made at least slightly better, and at least slightly more tolerable every day, because of the work of artists.


Let’s take scientists first. Although I, had I been asked, would have enthusiastically stated that I believed scientists contribute a lot to the well-being of society, I have to wonder how most of the respondents interpreted the question. Were they thinking of scientists who do pure research, who go off on quests for knowledge simply for the sake of that knowledge,



whether it is the quantum structure of the universe, the family tree of Homo sapiens, the roots of consciousness, or the origin of life? Or were they thinking of those scientists—and the technologists and engineers who follow them—who do applied science looking to apply their science to something nicely practical and potentially profitable,






from medical techniques and drugs to new sources of clean energy, to ever more powerful computers, ever more versatile cell phones, ever more realistically violent video games, not to mention E-readers that actually make you think you are reading an old-fashioned book made of paper?


I would be willing to bet it was the latter. For those are tangible items that not only everyone can see, almost everyone has arguably benefited from. But had the public been asked if the research that physicists are now doing at the CERN Large Hadron Collider,





or the data to be gather from Curiosity, the next Mars probe,





or the knowledge that has been pouring in from the Hubble Telescope,






or the discovery of strange new species at the bottom of the oceans,





if the public had been asked if any of this contributes to the well-being of society, does anyone really think the polling would have reached seventy percent? This fruit from the tree of knowledge may inspire awe and wonder, but does anyone really think it makes our days better and brighter? Well, I do because I believe that it is inherent in Homo sapiens to quest after knowledge, and if that quest isn’t heeded the well-being of all eventually suffers. I just don’t believe most of the public believes this. I may just be an effete elitist, of course, and I welcome counter-arguments, but I believe that when most people think of well-being they think of tangible benefits, things they can touch and see and assess; not benefits that are more, for lack of a better word, ethereal. Which may be why artists only polled thirty-one percent.


If I may be so bold to define Art as the self-expression of a Homo sapiens, would it then be logical to assume that many people see Art as a self-indulgence, something done essentially for the benefit of the individual artist, and not for society?




But to make such an assumption you really have to underline the capital A in Art and further assume that the public considers Art as being only that which has been defined as “High” or “Fine” or “Profound.” In this view Art is that which the artists, and some critics, may consider rarefied, but which is not really liked or understood by the masses. The masses, far from being ashamed by this, often take pride in it, making them reverse effete elitists.





My definition of Art, that it is the self-expression of a Homo sapiens, though, gives it a rather broad scope, taking in everything from the most esoteric modern composer of note-less music to that guy in the bar who can burp out the first two bars of any song you care to name.




His art may not be profound, and certainly may not contribute to the well-being of society, but it cannot be denied that it is an expression of his self. Even if we back up from the burping troubadour (and who wouldn’t want to?) my definition still assumes that artists are not just people who put cows in formaldehyde, or write music you can’t hum, novels without plots and poetry a stunningly small amount of Americans read, but also those people whose genuine and sincere expressions create works that have been both celebrated and damned as “popular art.” From the best—and we always want to discuss the best—in film, television, music, books, and theater to the finest work of architects designing buildings of stunning grace and beauty or of regional craft fair jewelry designers who make pieces that call out to you and say, “That’s me!” or “That’s my lover!” or “That’s my friend!”—such art pervades our daily lives and is often what we most enthusiastically share with others.


If it is inherent in Homo sapiens to quest for knowledge it is also inherent in Homo sapiens to express themselves, and those expressions can be in words, music, movement, stone, wood, paint or light. If it is not in our individual abilities to express ourselves well, with subtlety and finely honed craft, we still, all of us, have the desire to do so. It is wonderful when artists express, for example, stories that speak for us and to us, in essence giving them to us as our own if we want them. If cut off from that, if we could not share the expressions of artists, and share them with others, would we not become frustrated, our emotions thrown into chaos, our view of the world surrounding us squeezed into a narrow aperture letting in little light? And would not that be detrimental to our well-being?

Scientists and artists both contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being, because their work—the quest for knowledge and the expression of selves—are essential human endeavors. If those endeavors were not carried out we would be less human and our society would eventually become diminished.


If the Old Curmudgeon in me is right, that the public
atavistically known as the man in the streetplaces the contributions of scientists to the well-being of society far above that of artists because they overvalue the popular in science and take for granted the popular in art, then that is sad. If they knew the true value of both I believe the percentages would have been much closer—and both very high.


But what do I know? I’m just the Effete Elitist in the Street.

Friday, September 28, 2018

YES, THAT WILL BE FINE -- REMEMBERING GARY KURTZ 1940-2018





Gary Kurtz, comics legend Will Eisner, and me in New York, 1980



Last Monday was a day of mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I was traveling by the L.A. Metro to South Pasadena to meet with my publisher at Third Street Press to sign the contract for them to publish my next three novels, Bully for Love, The Reluctant Heterosexual, and Journey to Where. Obviously a joyful trip. On the other hand, mid-trip I heard the news of the death of Gary Kurtz, the producer of American Graffiti and the first two Star Wars films.

It did not come as a surprise. Gary’s daughter, Melissa, had emailed on September 13th to inform me—and I assume others whose lives had been touched by Gary—that he had been ill with cancer for a while and was losing the battle. But still, Gary had touched my life, and my wife Amanda’s, so profoundly that a sudden and deep sadness struck me.

I first met Gary in 1979 at the Los Angeles International Film Exposition (or Filmex, as it was known). I had produced several programs on animation for Filmex, and after I had made my introductory remarks for one of the programs—most likely for The Animator as Actor—I walked to the back of the theater and found Gary standing there watching the films. I recognized him immediately. After American Graffiti and the first Star Wars film (known then simply as Star Wars) he was already an iconic figure in filmmaking with his handsome stoic face and Quaker beard. I was thrilled. I knew that Gary was an active friend of Filmex (I believe he was on the board of advisors) so I did not find it unusual that he would be there—but he, a current, major, big deal Hollywood producer at a program of cartoons! That was unheard of in 1979.

What I didn’t know at that moment was that Gary was a huge fan of animation. And that he would in the near future have a fireproof vault at his building in Marin County north of San Francisco—a beautifully refurbished elementary school and HQ for his Kinetographics company—that would house his extensive comic book collection.

I went up and introduced myself and thanked him for coming. He accepted that thanks gracefully and I believe it was at that time that he told me that he was hoping to have Chuck Jones’s “Duck Dodgers in the 24½ Century” as a pre-feature short in front on the next year’s release of The Empire Strikes Back. Which probably gave us a few more moments of talk as I handled publicity for Chuck at that time.

I walked away from this encounter pleased and knowing that I now had a neat memory to hold onto. Little did I know that the next year Gary would become a major part of my life.

Sometime in early 1980, a fellow Filmexican (as we called ourselves) who owned an animation camera service invited me to his offices. He wanted to show me a pencil test he had shot for a young CalArts graduate. He knew that I wanted to get involved in not just promoting animation but producing it because I was frustrated that the form was mired in horrible doldrums (Disney animation was being declared all but dead and its only competitors seemed to be Care Bear features) and that it had been relegated to the wilderness of a kids-only art form. My fellow Filmexican said this pencil test featured animation that would thrill me.

I was skeptical, but he was right. It was a pencil test in the form of a movie trailer for an animated feature based on Will Eisner’s innovative, beautifully drawn comic book series, The Spirit, a sort of sophisticated superhero noir from the 1940s (if you’re interested and want to see the trailer go HERE) It was beautifully done and featured the best human character animation I had ever seen. I immediately said, “Who created this, I’ve got to meet him.”

You may not be surprised to learn that it was Brad Bird  (who years later directed The Incredibles) who conceived of and wrote the trailer and who had corralled other young CalArts animation grads to animate with him on it.

I met with Brad the next day, told him how much I love it and that I wanted to help him get it made. Brad—being Brad—said the only people he would consider showing the trailer to and working with was Francis Ford Coppola or Steven Spielberg or George Lucas or Gary Kurtz.

I told him I thought I could get him to Gary Kurtz. And, through Chuck Jones’s office, I did. We showed the trailer to Gary at the Lucasfilm Hollywood offices (known surreptitiously as The Egg Company) and he seemed to like it, although his reaction was muted, to say the least. He said to let him think about it and he would get back to us. Shortly thereafter I received a call from his assistant, the wonderful Bunny Alsup (wonderful then, still wonderful today) with a message from Gary: He was going to buy the rights to The Spirit and we would all try to get the film made.

The next six years was very much the “Gary Kurtz” period of my life. The first two years were spent negotiating the rights to The Spirit and developing the project. The second two years I joined Gary’s Kinetographics company as Director of Animation Development and his “guy” on an American/Japanese co-production that saw Amanda and me moving to Tokyo for a year. During the last two years, Gary and I partnered in a live action/animation film project based on an idea of mine.

None of these projects in development, as is often the case in filmmaking, were made. I certainly have regrets about that. But I have no regrets about the time spent with Gary. He was a unique and special man, a man whose legacy is only now being realized by some and whose potential was sadly not understood by others.

I’ve been pleased to read that a number Gary’s obituaries acknowledge his deeply important contributions to the creation, execution, and mythic storytelling that was the first two Star Wars films. Getting to know him, albeit, after his work on Star Wars, I have always believed it. For those first two films are almost universally considered superior to the third, and certainly to the years-later Lucas directed prequels. As is well-known, Gary split from Lucasfilm after The Empire Strikes Back. We had heard at the time that Lucas was upset at Gary because the film, which was directed by Irvin Kershner, had gone over budget and Lucas had to give up some rights to 20th Century Fox to make up the shortfall and that he blamed Gary for this. In later years Gary has been quoted saying that he left because he did not like that way the third film, Return of the Jedi, was being developed with more emphasis on promoting the merchandising of toys rather than deepening the storytelling of the myth. I’m sure there is truth in both reasons. What Gary told me was that as producer of Empire he felt that his job was to protect the director’s vision (Kershner’s) and not the executive producer’s (Lucas’s).

Gary understood the business of film, but it was the art of film that mattered to him.

Some of my favorite memories of Gary:

His presence in a room. Gary not only had the beard of a Quaker—he was a Quaker. He could have come from Central Casting for a remake of Friendly Persuasion with his natural stoic demeanor, upright posture, and his exuding of a Zen-like (if I can meld two religions) calm. He was not a loud, blustery, egocentric, glad-handing, backslapping Hollywood producer. Indeed, he was not a “Hollywood” anything. He was a serious yet gleeful lover of the art and potential of cinema who felt, it seemed to me, that the production was important while personalities weren’t. He had a very subtle charisma. You looked up to him. You may very well have wanted him as your guru.

And yet, he was hard to really get to know. He was at times inscrutable. At least for me. I remember that when we were scheduling our first meeting about my joining his company, he asked me to meet him at his house in the Hollywood Hills on Elusive Drive. My first thought was, never had a man lived on a more appropriate street.

Elusive Drive turned out to be a narrow dirt road that hugged a hill with a severe drop-off on the other side. It scared the shit out of me to drive it, which I immediately reported to Gary when I got to his house, saying I thought I had just been in a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. His slight smile at that seemed to indicate that he was amused.

Later, when we were in partnership, we had a pitch meeting with Alan Ladd, Jr., then the head of MGM. Laddie, as he was known, had, of course, been at 20th when the first two Star Wars films were made, so he and Gary knew each other very well. Ladd was also a quiet-spoken, laconic man, although more cowboy than Quaker, much like his dad, film star Alan Ladd. We sat down in his office and Gary and Ladd faced off each other.
“Gary,” Ladd said in simple greeting.
A beat.
“Laddie,” Gary greeted back.
A beat.
“How are you?” Ladd asked.
A beat.
“Good. And you…”
It was like watching a ping-pong game in slow motion. But the meeting was successful, Laddie bought the pitch.

Whenever you asked Gary something requiring a yes or no answer and the answer was yes, it was never just yes. Or, sure, okay, yep, it was always, “Yes, that will be fine.”  There was something very royal about it. Not arrogant royal or egocentric royal, or “It’s good to be the king” royal, just...just royal.

Gary enjoyed comedy and humor but I never saw him break out into laughter. Nary a titter, a sustained ha-ha-ha, a belly-busting guffaw. But there was often that slight smile and possibly a chuckle. Once when we were in Tokyo together he asked me how I liked living there, and I told him how much I like the city, but didn’t relish going out into the county.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because I’ve heard they only have those old toilets where you can’t sit but have to squat.”
“Well, actually, you know, squatting is the natural way to defecate.”  
“Yeah, but it makes it so hard to read.”
Gary was truly perplexed. “Why would you want to read?”
“Because there’s nothing more boring than taking a dump.”
I was, of course, trying to get a chuckle out of him. I think I at least got another wonderful slight smile.

At the beginning of the Japanese/American production we worked for the first year in Hollywood. My new salary allowed me to move into a larger apartment and to invite Amanda, eventually my wife, to join me. In setting up housekeeping we wanted to get one of those new-fangled home video cassette recorders. But which to get—Beta or VHS? I asked Gary for a recommendation. “Professional filmmakers only have Beta,” my guru told me. So we bought a Beta. A year later when living in Tokyo and Amanda and I was getting married Gary’s wedding present to us was another Beta for our Tokyo house. I can’t tell you how many films and programs we recorded or bought in Beta that we later had to throw out when VHS won the battle between the two formats. But that didn’t make Gary wrong. Beta was considered the superior format. It just didn’t have superior marketing.

Gary may well have been the Beta film producer. He was never involved in a success as great as the three he did with Lucas. He may well have been if, at the time, certain powers-that-be understood how important Gary had been to those successes. But it was Lucas’s name on the shingle. Not that Gary would have wanted his name on the shingle. When we were forming our partnership, I proposed that it be called Kurtz/Leiva Productions. He refused. He said he did not like naming production companies after people. His own company’s name, Kinetographics, was named after Thomas Edison’s kinetographic camera, which launched American film. It simply means, motion pictures. Gary’s interest was in the history, technology, and art of cinema, not in personalities, including his own. I did get him to agree to K&L Enterprises, but that’s as far as he would go.

Gary did not really fit in the new Hollywood that he helped create, inadvertently, I believe. A Hollywood that began to lust after blockbusters. Despite my thinking when I first saw him that Gary was a “major, big deal Hollywood producer,”  he really wasn’t. He was a filmmaker who helped in an essential way to shephard films that were surprisingly and outlandishly successful. All the “smart” people in Hollywood thought they were doomed to fail. But once they succeeded, these same “smart” people happily scraped the surface of what made them successes, ignoring the deeper, harder to create depth that was really the genesis of their success.

No, Gary was never really a “Hollywood” producer. But he was a filmmaker to his core whose legacy will hopefully never be forgotten.

The last time Amanda and I saw Gary was at his daughter Tiffany’s wedding years ago. He had moved to England years before that. After those six years of involvement with him, and a short time in the 90s, I rarely got to see him. And yet, he was rarely out of my thoughts.

If someone right now would say to me, Okay, look you can have one last hour in Gary’s presence, my only possible answer would be, “Yes, that will be fine.”