Once upon a time
we tried to sell our movie in Hollywood...
real as it gets," we said.
a lie more like a variation of the truth. But it is what we knew we had
to say if we wanted Happy Cole (A Mr. Big in Hollywood - not his real
name) to watch our movie.
Cole, of Cole
Public Relations, was the publicity mastermind behind Spike Lee’s films,
plus Forrest Gump but more importantly he was the man behind - The
Blair Witch Project.
We knew that Cole
was the ideal promoter for our film: a dark mockumentary called "They
Shoot Movies, Don’t They? – The Making of Mirage" about a filmmaker
willing to give up everything – including his life – to get his film
I co-wrote "They
Shoot Movies, Don’t They?" with Frank Gallagher, and I portrayed
the main character Tom Paulson, whose suicide is implied, but not actually
shown, in the movie’s conclusion. Initially, Frank and I sent more than
80 copies of the film to publicists and distributors in Hollywood and
Nearly 40 companies
responded. They liked it! But each time we revealed that it was just
a movie, interest in the film diminished. They liked it as a documentary
but were not interested in it as a movie. We never got beyond the phone
calls when we told the companies that it wasn’t real.
So we decided
to send out 20 final copies of "They Shoot Movies..." But this
time, we changed our strategy.
sent out the tapes with made up press clippings... and an obituary on
Tom Paulson. We were intentionally vague about whether it was a true documentary
or fiction. Based on the clippings and the movie itself, people could
believe what they wanted.
The tapes shipped
on a Friday. And it didn’t take long for the phone to start ringing. The
following Tuesday, the call that we were hoping for had come: Happy Cole
And when Hanna
Burgoff from the firm asked if the film was real, I responded the only
way I knew would guarantee us some face time with Cole. I told Burgoff
that the film was "as real as it gets."
Before the meeting
was even scheduled, Burgoff wanted three additional copies of the film
to ship to some of the firm’s contacts in New York. She wanted a copy
to send to the Cannes Film Fest in the documentary category.
So, we sent the
tapes. And Frank, Adele and I worked out a strategy for the potentially
life changing meeting.
Thu Aug 24 1:12 AM US/Eastern 2000
i am surprised this movie was shown, although I support ifc's
right to show it. i am opposed to government censorship of any kind,
but i do believe with the right to show this film comes a responsibility
to anticipate predictable, undesirable outcomes. this film encourages
others who may confuse fame with notariety to follow this directors'
example: ifc may then have blood on their hands. – george heath
We were afraid
that if we told them that the movie was not really a documentary, it might
go south like the others and then they wouldn’t be interested. But we
figured, hey, when we tell Happy Cole the truth he’ll get it, he’s going
to love it even more because after all he’s the ‘Blair Witch’ guy!!!
To lend even more
reality to the film, we agreed that Frank alone would attend the initial
meeting with Cole. After all I was dead.
At the offices
of Cole & White, practically every staff member greeted Frank. "They
were shaking my hand, giving me business cards, I had six business cards
stacked up in front of me" said Frank. "I knew everyone there
had seen it. Cole gushed over the film. He really got it. He thanked me
and kept going on and on about how scenes were shot, the metaphors we
had built in, and all the things we were hoping people would get, he got.
He talked about body language in this scene. He talked about wall sconces
in that scene. He was in love with it!!"
Cole went on for
more than an hour and a half about the film and told Frank that he already
had people who were interested. Frank said, "I realized that he had
been pitching and marketing our film before we even sat down face to face,
he had already invested a fair amount of energy and a lot of emotion,
too ." Frank went on, "He even told me he could get money for
it. But because he was going on and on about camera angles and metaphors,
I was still uncertain whether Cole knew if the movie was not real or not."
The Making of Mirage
Thu Aug 24 1:35 AM US/Eastern 2000
You've got to be kidding me. NO ONE had a clue as to how alienated
Tom was becoming? Frankly, I'm pissed off and appalled at the lengths
Mr. Gallagher felt he had to go. By deciding to keep the cameras
rolling at the same time he must have undeniably been viewing (as
I had) the deterioration of Tom's emotional constitution (from unconfident
to fragile to unstable) without thinking to intervene (either on
or off camera) makes me wonder "how amazing did he think the appeal
of this documentary would be?" But, I don't even mean to single
out the director. I'm sure any one of the people following Tom around
until his last day in Vegas could have seen that something in his
demeanor had darkened dramatically. The last vestiges of a dying
civilization were not being captured on film here... no, only a
twenty-seven year old man attempting to make a movie (good, bad
or ugly), and now he's dead? The truth is stranger than fiction
and much more horrifying. – M Rosenblum
Then the answer came,
Frank realized he had the "fish hooked" when Cole asked how
Adele, Tom’s girlfriend in the film, was handling everything. Meaning,
how did she handle the death?
"He began going
into his own personal life, into his history, into his family history,"
Frank said. "Under the circumstances, I began to get real uncomfortable
with the direction of the conversation."
With that Frank decided
to tell the truth and was now just waiting for that right moment. "But
it would be OK, after all this is the Blair Witch guy, he’ll get
It wasn’t long before
the moment of truth came.
Heather Burgoff began
asking more detailed questions about the film. She asked Frank about
rights and licenses to the film Mirage, which of course is the non-existent
movie that Tom Paulson was trying to make and sell in our mocumentary.
Frank said, "I did all right with all her questions until she asked
when Tom and I had first met. It was such a basic question, but one
we did not cover in our preparation for the meeting, and I had to really
think about the timing of it and how that worked with the movie and
wasn’t coming together and I could feel myself turning red," said
Frank. "I could feel my face getting redder and redder and then
I just said that’s it, 'You know what, I can’t do this anymore.
They Shoot Movies...
Thu Dec 21 1:29 AM US/Eastern 2000
Great movie! I've never written in praising a movie before, but
this one just really hit me...the reality of it!!! Borderline genius;
the interplay between the two movies that were actually trying to
go on at the same time. I'll be going on to theyshootmovies.com
after this to see what else there is! Wicked!! – James Elliott
"What do you
mean it’s not real?" asked Cole.
"It’s a movie,
we wrote it," replied Frank.
Cole was incredulous.
"There’s no Tom
Paulson?" said Cole.
"No Tom Paulson."
Then simmering, "And
to go through the entire cast list, according to Frank. "I was stunned.
I’ve never seen anybody deflate like that, he literally shrunk into his
chair, and I could tell he was going over everything he had done with
the movie that week, who he had told, who he had sent it to..."
It was clear that the meeting we had set our sights on was ending. Badly.
frank gallagher is a genius
Sun Dec 24 3:40 AM US/Eastern 2000
They Shoot Movies is absolutely phenomonal. The talented actors
(so convincing, so perfected), that had people sitting on the edge
of their seats, sincerely rooting for "Paulson." The way director
Frank Gallagher approached this project is absolutely mezmorizing;
the long-lost art of story-telling is evident from beginning 'til
end–-the sign of a true genius! Multi-faceted, emotionally developed
and layered... it almost makes you wonder if "Paulson/Hollywood"
are metaphors for things that most of us don't want to take the
time to ponder (but unknowingly ended up there). Allegory or not,
this is probably the best thing that has been put on our plates
in a long, long–-LONG time, and we have to hail the genius behind
it! Thank you! – Jeff Lampton
said, ‘Get out’ and I felt an odd sense of power. I could have crushed
him with a few carefully selected words but I thought better of it, I
just slid the business cards away and said ‘I guess I won’t be needing
these?’ He wouldn’t shake my hand. So I slinked out of his office into
the silence of the hallway. Doors closed all around as the once noisy
office was engulfed by silence."
Frank left Cole’s
office and wasted no time in calling me and implementing "plan B."
Plan B was as follows, "upon learning the truth, should Happy
go south on us we were to send him a nice bottle of wine and some flowers
with a note showing our remorse at allowing him to be deceived."
With Plan B in
effect and figuring we had nothing more to lose, I decided to call Cole.
promoting this film, I’ve put some serious work into this and you lied
to us," said Cole. "...now come over here and pick up these
flowers and this damn wine... this is insulting!! And while your at it
bring me $2,500 for all the work I did."
a minute," I said "Just an hour ago, you were really touched
by this movie. You were touched by Tom’s (my character’s) plight. Doesn’t
that matter anymore? Look at it this way Happy. I’m alive!! Doesn’t that
give a damn if your alive or not," Cole snapped back "I’m trying
to run a business here!! And you lied to me!"
a minute Happy. I didn’t lie," I said.
|I watched your film here in my apartment from 4:15 am to 6:00 am
EST today. This movie should have never been shown. It is a major
disrespect to Tom Paulson and to his family and friends. There is
a line that should not be crossed... you have crossed it. – William
you did. In the beginning you said it was real!!" replied Cole.
"No I didn’t.
‘It’s as real as it gets’, that’s what I said. Come on Happy! Aren’t you
the ‘Blair Witch guy, isn’t this Hollywood?" I said. "Isn’t
this what Hollywood is all about?"
It was flying
fast and furious as Cole retorted, "We never lied with the Blair
Witch. We never lied. Look at the poster!! Four words!! It says ‘Once
Upon a Time!!’"
So we didn’t say,
"Once upon a time?!
So sue us!
|How much should we really trust our
TV? And does the TV really owe us the Truth?
Fortunately for us,
the story of "They Shoot Movies" doesn’t end with Cole &
In 2000, Bravo
purchased the rights to "They Shoot Movies" and aired it on
the Independent Film Channel. We were shocked at the response. What’s
interesting is that the people who realized it was a mockumentary, gave
it the most positive comments.