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    William Goldman - Nobody Knows Anything Except Him

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    This profile was part of a Plotpoints Podcast on July 12, 2017 (LINK TO PODCAST)

    I’m not sure that any podcast that purports to cover scriptwriting can neglect to mention a true genius and legend of the craft. Writer Aaron Sorkin has said of him, “He taught me everything I know and about a tenth of what he knows.”

    Who is this genius?

    William Goldman.

    As if his name was somehow indicative of his potential for fame, in the 60's, 70's and 80's Goldman was the A-list writer who delivered box office gold.

    Movies like:

    1987 The Princess Bride (book) / (screenplay) 1986 Heat (novel) / (screenplay) 1979 Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (characters) 1979 Mr. Horn (TV Movie) 1978 Magic (novel) / (screenplay) 1977 A Bridge Too Far (screenplay) 1976 Marathon Man (from: his novel) / (screenplay) 1976 All the President's Men (screenplay) 1975 The Great Waldo Pepper (screenplay) 1975 The Stepford Wives (screenplay) 1973 Papillon (contributing writer - uncredited) 1972 The Hot Rock (screenplay) 1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (written by)

    Many of his most successful films were based on books he had written which were also successes. The Midas Touch was more than a phrase for Goldman.  Not only was he writing scripts that would star A-list actors and win numerous awards, he was also the most sought-after script doctor in the business.

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    Copyright

    © 2017

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    Mel Brooks - Funny Man

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    If you’re too young to know Mel Brooks from his heyday, you certainly can still see many reflections of his work today.

    The film “The Producers” starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder has been made into a Broadway hit that is still playing. The original production starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, has run for 2,502 performances and counting, and has won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards.

    It was also remade into a 2005 movie starring Lane and Broderick.

    Brooks’ “Get Smart” series, which he co-created with writer Buck Henry, was recently made into a movie starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway as agents 86 and 99. The same silly, hilarious bits that infused the late 60's comedy and made it a TV hit were in abundance in the movie version.

    More recently, there’s been talk of remaking "Robin Hood, Men In Tights," "Blazing Saddles" (which I’d love to see how or if they could,) and "Young Frankenstein."

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    Harlan Ellison

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    You can be forgiven for not knowing Harlan Ellison’s name. In the last few years he’s been pretty quiet because of a stroke which eventually took his life in late June. But if you’ve never experienced an Ellison story the good news is his work is all over the multi-media landscape and his books and short stories are still at the top of everyone’s lists. He’s dead simple to find on Amazon because his work, thematically, is still as relevant as when it first exploded on the world in the late 60's.

    I remember the first time I read a Harlan Ellison story. The writing was so strong, so brutal, so impactful that the last line hit me with a force that my adolescent brain couldn’t process. I remember sitting there and actually feeling sick to my stomach. I felt as if the world, as I knew it, had ended.

    And it had.

    I’d taken that step from the scifi fanboy of rockets, ray guns and Dandelion Wine, to aliens, humans - and machines - who existed for nefarious reasons that had nothing to do with our silly human values.

    The line? The one that knocked me silly...?

    I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.

    That was also the title of the short story first published in 1967.

    "I Have No Mouth and Must Scream" is an allegory for Hell where people are endlessly tormented by an all-powerful sentient supercomputer.

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    Kristen D'Alessio, Alex and the List

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    On July 18th, at C3 Vape and Coffee, OC Film and Television and OC Screenwriters held our 3rd Wednesday networking event. 

    Kristen D'Alessio (IMDB) was our guest to speak on the process of taking a concept from script to screen and beyond.  The first words that come to mind when I think of Kristen D'Alessio are forms of the word grace.  Graceful, gracious, and graced. 

    Kristen was so knowledgeable about the process of filmmaking and shared that information without reservation. No question was rebuffed, no avenue unexplored as she dazzled the group at C3.

    The consistent message that I head from Kristen is this is not for the faint of heart.  Coming from an acting background, she and Harris Goldberg (IMDB) wrote, produced, directed, and distributed the film, sharing those tasks together and separately for two years and counting!

    "Alex and the List" is probably considered an indie film but it has a high concept worthy of any studio film:  Alex (Patrick Fugit) is getting married and his fiance (Jennifer Morrison) has a list of things she wants him to change about himself before they say I do. 

    Fugit is confused and upset but his gal pal (Karen Gillan) tells him that every girl has a list - Morrison's character just wrote them down. 

    The vagaries of love and expectations are explored.  Hilarity and shrewd observations of humanity occur as each player explores what it means to be in love - or think they are.

    Kristen covered the entire process from concept to completion, something that, as producer, she's still not fully done with yet as she continues to negotiate foreign territories for distribution. 

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    The Gallows Event on June 02

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    It was a bit of a nervous moment when filmmakers Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing arrived from Fresno and the banquet room was still only half-filled.  However, faith in the OC film community was restored when the tables filled with enthusiastic attendees hungry to hear the remarkable story of how the horror film, The Gallows, got made, distributed and then rocketed Chris and Travis to genre film fame.

    Short version: 

    • Unemployed Travis meets film student Chris after Travis had won the TV show "Wipeout." 
    • They come up with a plan to make a low budget, found-footage film like "Paranormal Activity" with neither having much actual film experience.
    • They raise enough money, shoot the film, and it gets picked up a management company that then gets Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema involved.
    • Reshoots ("sweetening") happen with Kathy Lee Gifford's daughter Cassidy Gifford because the original actress was unavailable.
    • Movie released.
    • On a budget of approx. 100k + 200k sweetening, the film earns 43 million dollars worldwide.
    • Blumhouse pictures, the number one horror production company, makes Tremendum Pictures (Travis and Chris's prodco) a part of their production house.
    • Chris and Travis field offers from everyone on the planet.

    It's a Hollywood dream come true.

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    NBFF 2018 Red Carpet with Rudy Garcia






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    Rudy Garcia is an OCSWA board member and an amazing success story.  One day we'll interview him and detail his journey but for now we'll satisfy ourselves with the great red carpet interviews he did at the 2018 Newport Beach Film Festival!

    Janice Arrington, the OC film commissioner and friend of the Orange County Screenwriters Association (even if she can't remember our name 😀), is one of the interviews in this playlist.  Janice, good to see you!  You look fabulous!

    Great job RUDY.  Thanks for traveling down south the help us out.  RUDY'S WEBSITE

    NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL 2018 RED CARPETWITH KGET's RUDY GARCIA      Our (new) YouTube Channel is HERE
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    NBFF Closing Night

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    The Newport Film Festival is over!  And the highlight happened an hour before it even began. (For me, anyway)

    Here’s the story:

    Before the first red carpet, I killed some time at Flemming’s happy hour where I chanced upon Dawn Bierschwal, the lead producer of “Better Start Running,” one of the bigger features this year, mainly due to the cast including Jeremy Irons and Maria Bello.

    “So what’s your favorite story,” I asked. (Making a movie always means you have stories to tell.)

    “Oh, definitely the fight over the fuck,” she said.

    I recognized immediately that she cut her movie for a PG rating, and that meant some compromises. Let me explain (in case you’re not following):

    Movies are more marketable when you produce them with a PG-13 rating (or lower) because the market is bigger.  It isn’t “restricted” by an arbitrary age requirement that leaves the bulk of your potential audience outside the door.

    And if the word “fuck” is spoken more than once in your film, it gets an R rating.

    Bottom line: You get only one fuck. If you use the word “fuck” twice, you’re screwed.

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    What Is Science Fiction

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    On a recent podcast (plotpoints.com) our new co-host Jeff Lyons was tasked to create a top ten list of science fiction films.  These were his choices, not necessarily by any measure of performance or popularity.  In other words, they were films he deemed worthy of a top ten list.  He did not put them in any order.

    His first step was to try to define a genre that has constantly defied definition.

    Or has it?

    Many say science fiction is about extrapolated science (in any form) impacting the lives of people and civilizations.  So "Star Wars" "Ready Player One" even "Downsizing" and "Lost In Space" would fit.  But sociological extrapolations of future events or alternate realities or worlds also can be science fiction like "Handmaids Tale."

    Some definitions are rather narrow.

    Someone who is off-times quoted is Darko Savin, a essayist and academic: Science fiction is "a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author's empirical environment.

    My hero, Rod Serling, is a bit slippier:  Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible

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    Newport Beach Film Festival 2018 - Seminars

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    The Newport Beach Film Festival is not just about watching movies!

    It’s also a chance to network with filmmakers and industry pros. You can do this at QA’s after world premieres, at nightly parties, and at FREE seminars this Saturday and Sunday at the Newport Civic Center.

    Access to working people in the industry is limited in Orange County. Your only regular options are the events we sponsor here at OC Screenwriters.

    So don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity!

    The NBFF’s FREE seminars are a great way to shake hands and chat with working writers, directors, editors, musicians, animators, and other industry pros.

    This year, the panel titles are:

    Cinematography Master ClassBuilding a career in AnimationHeroes of the Editing RoomDiversity in Film and TV Musicand….Screenwriting Seminar

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    The Newport Beach Film Festival 2018 - Riki Kuchek

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    Every wonder how the Newport Beach Film Festival is put together?  Writer/producer Joe Becker (joebeckerfilms.com) interviews programming director Riki Kuchek to find out.

    The Newport Beach Film Festival bills itself as the biggest social event in Orange County.  And they might just be right!  Each year over fifty-five thousand people attend a screening or buy a ticket to one of their nightly parties during the eight day event in late April of each year.

    The festival began in 1999, and now, nineteen years later, NBFF is bigger and -- few would deny -- better than ever before.  Over three hundred films are screened in multiple south OC locations, principally the Lido theater and the Triangle Square theater complex on Newport Boulevard.

    I chatted recently with Programming Director Riki Kuchek, and what she had to say is of great interest to screenwriters and filmmakers here in the OC and worldwide:

     WHAT CRITERIA DO YOU USE TO VET FILMS?

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    The Empty Space

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    Screenwriting, any writing, is such a solitary occupation.  It suits me.  I'm always comfortable alone and inside my head.  Or perhaps I've just become more solitary as a result of my 25-year span sitting behind a desk by myself.  I'm Italian and gregarious by nature (and nurture) but there's a lot of me that likes being alone with a computer, book, script, or TV/movie.  I always thought I could be the erstwhile caretaker on the old scifi film "Silent Running" or the Sam Rockwell character on the film "Moon."

    The solitary nature of writing has tendrils into other aspects of the lifestyle.  No one, perhaps even another writer, can quite understand the internal nature of who you are.  Of course, that's true of most of us anyway but writers face a unique doubling down of that truth.  Unless you've "made it" most of your work goes unrecognized and unrewarded except for a few friends or an attaboy you might give yourself when you type FADE OUT or THE END (do novelists still type THE END?)  Perhaps you're like the hilarious character in "Romancing The Stone" who cracks a mini-bottle of booze and feeds your cat its food in a champagne glass when you've finished your latest project.

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    Where No One Has Gone Before

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    plotpoints podcastThis article by Mark Sevi was first featured on the PLOTPOINTS PODCAST with Mark Sevi, Mary Claire Anderson and Toby Wallwork.  Available on iTUNES.

    Today I’d like to focus on not a writer, or specific film but a franchise that spans both television and film.  That has engendered parodies.  Massive merchandising.  Conventions.  And continues to re-invent itself for over 50 years.

    Star Trek.

    start trek originalThe latest version premieres Sunday night on CBS Television and then goes to CBS streaming which is a pay service.  Whether or not that business model proves to be successful is yet to be seen but there is no doubt that there is a massive amount of anticipation for the newest entry into a universe conceived by master story teller Gene Roddenberry.

    Roddenberry, a successful TV writer had written dozens of episodic TV scripts for series as varied as Highway Patrol, Mr. District Attorney, I Led Three Lives, West Side, Boots and Saddles, and others.  He has over 105 credits as a writer.

    Frustrated at what he perceived were the limitations of what could be done on the network on issues like bi-racial relationships, political commentary, and hot button topics of the day including the highly charged Vietnam War, in 1964 Roddenberry put his interracial crew of explorers in outer space seeking new worlds of creative  freedom.

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    Woody Allen - Seriously Funny

    This is basically a transcript of a podcast segment (www.plotpoints.com) done about great writers we admire. 

    PODCAST RSS LINK / iTunes Link

    woodyimagesImagine you're a genius.

    You start life as a boy named Allan Stewart Konigsberg.  At the age of 15, in 1950, you begin writing jokes and you never stop.  You change your name to Woody Allen.  By the time you're 27 you've written thousands of jokes and gags.  According to some sources 20,000 in 1962 alone for the top comedians of the time.  You also work for the Tonight Show and Candid Camera, with Larry Gelbart, Dick Cavett, Syd Caser - on and on with the best and brightest of that era.  Because you're a genius at what makes people laugh.

    And also because you work your ass off.

    Dick Cavett said of Allen: "He can go to a typewriter after breakfast and sit there until the sun sets only interrupting work for coffee and a brief walk, and then spends the whole evening working.  15 to 18 hours at a time."

    Given Woody Allen's work ethic, his incredible, seemingly natural wit, and his drive for perfection, the rest, as they say, is history.

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    Rod Serling: Tortured Genius

    This is basically a transcript of a podcast segment (www.plotpoints.com) done about great writers we admire. 

    PODCAST RSS LINK / iTunes Link

    Rod Serling photo portrait 1959

     So goes one of the most iconic monologues in television history by TV pioneer Rod Serling who wrote, directed, produced and acted in the series, The Twilight Zone.

    A small anecdote that came out of my research is that Rod Serling initially had it as sixth dimension until a producer asked him what happened to the fifth one.

    Among the resources I tapped for this article was the American Masters documentary called "Submitted for your Approval."

    It opens in an operating theater - tense moments ala The Twilight Zone.  Black and white.  Men and women in masks in tight shots.  Eyes darting...

    Actress Lee Grant's voice says:

    Submitted for your approval.  The man in cardiac crises is Mr. Rod Serling: writer, producer and agent provocateur of a certain electronic medium he helped to create and which, by way of thanks, kindly ushered him out the door.  But that is of no particular concern of his at the moment because this is Tuesday, June 28th 1975 and thanks to a million cigarettes and a heart with its own a flair for the dramatic Mr. Serling is on the cutting edge of infinity. Mr. Rod Serling who once remarked that he'd like to be remembered as a writer is about to get his wish.  During a short stay in a small town called yesterday - found on any map...in The Twilight Zone.
        American Masters Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval

    The American Masters documentary starts with that excellent voice over and rolls into a sometimes harsh but always contemplative examination of a true writer's writer.  Someone who was as tortured by his work as much he was celebrated for it.  Who loved success but hated the hypocrisy he knew he participated in as part of that success.

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    AutFest Film Festival - 2017

    autfest logoI never thought I’d see the day when I would attend a film festival dedicated to showcasing films about autism. On April 22-23, The Autism Society of America launched it’s first AutFest Film Festival in the City of Orange in honor of Autism Awareness Month. Themed “Spectrum to Screen” festival organizer Matt Asner, son of the legendary Ed Asner, both parents of children in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD), reached into his network of entertainment and industry professionals to grace this inaugural event.

    The guest list did not disappoint with Hollywood heavyweights, including The Accountant’s Ben Affleck, and Peter Doctor and Jonas Rivera, the Oscar-winning creative talents behind Pixar’s Inside Out.

    There is a whole body of creative work about autism that the entertainment industry has capitalized ed asner ben affleck photo greg dohertyon that can inform, misinform, entertain, and profit from. There are hits and misses, mainly in the portrayal and content of what autism is. Film can inspire and visual stories can influence policy and opinions.  In this regard, there is nothing that peaks my interest more than this platform to promote the workforce development of persons with ASD.  What got me excited about AutFest is that it encourages and brings together individuals with autism and industry personnel to network and explore potential partnerships.

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    Monsterpalooza, Pasadena, 2017

    be7120f0aaIn case the title isn't descriptive enough, Monsterpalooza is a fan-based convention of all things horror.  It's not as big as ComicCon, the big daddy of fan-driven conventions, or even Wondercon (just recently passed) but the convention is growing and might someday challenge even the bigs.

    monsterpalooza 0002tIn most ways, it resembles those other conventions:  lines to get in (later in the day though,) busy, happy crowds of people of all ages, cosplay, t-shirts shouting out big love to both popular and arcane IPs (intellectual properties) but the levels are all definitely lowered somewhat.  After all, MP has only been around since 2009 and it's still a youngin' compared to the others which have been around for decades-plus. 

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    CinemaCon 2017

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    In a series of articles from the floor and back rooms of CinemaCon, our intrepid reporter, Lorenzo Porricelli (board member and co-founder of OC Screenwriters) tells us "off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush" what's happening in Las Vegas!

    CinemaCon, Las Vegas, (March 28, 2017) 

    For those who don't know, CinemaCon is a yearly event for studios to display their upcoming movies to The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), a trade organization based in the United States whose members are the owners of movie theaters. Major theater chains are members, as are many independent operators.

    This year, Sony Pictures kicked off CinemaCon2017 with a huge bang, stunning the packed audience at Caesar’s Palace Coliseum with a preview of upcoming films from Sony that had audiences grabbing their seats during the absolute best car chase ever done on film in Baby Driver with Ansel Elgort; cringing in fear for an absolutely terrifying horror movie appropriately named, Cadaver; and laughing so hard tears flooded the aisles for the remake of Jumanji, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jack Black, a film that’s sure to take the box office at Christmas; Spiderman gets a reboot with a twist, its  Peter Parker during his teen years in high school, called Spiderman: Homecoming, with Tom Holland as Parker and the film includes Ironman as his mentor; Sony also showed their animation prowess with films as diverse as Smurfs to Emojis, a new concept that also had the audience roaring with laughter; an audience favorite was Rough Night, with Scarlett Johansen, a raucous comedy about a girl’s night out that goes crazy, absolutely crazy and destroys any similar guy movie.

    Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series is a new franchise Sony is launching this summer, and the first glimpses were horrifying, and the series should be a big winner.

    Sony also had all the film’s stars appearing: with Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and Jack Black adlibbing their own version of scenes from Jumanji on the stage, and Dwayne Johnson did an homage to Robin Williams that didn’t leave a dry eye among the crowd of 5,000.

    Tom Holland (Spiderman) talked about what it was like to work with Robert Downey and how the character he played was shaped with Downey’s influence.

    Ansel Elgort, the driver in the most outrageous car chase ever done on screen, and the director, spoke of what it was like being strapped to a car going 80 mph, the director with a camera in hand, and when you see the wild chase, you will know the results of hard work paid off.

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    Passengers is Great Science Fiction - Even Without Aliens

     passengers 1For years I've been railing against the general perception of science fiction in Hollywood.  Without spaceships, aliens and laser beams it isn't scifi, the consensus thinking goes.  As a lifetime reader and 20+ year writer of scifi I know better. 

    I've been the victim of pseudo scifi thinking from producers and film execs.  Two or three of my films and/or scripts have fallen to the thinking that something "alienish" has to happen to grab and entrance people.  "How about a shapeshifter character?"  "We need more alienish shit, Mark." "Three more heads need to explode." This in a film where no heads exploded.  "But it's not sicifi - it's horror!" Uh...

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    Creating Entire Worlds with My Hands

    b2ap3 thumbnail Screen Shot 2017 03 21 at 6.46.42 PMSome of my fondest memories of my father were of seeing him working in his art studio in our home.  My father was an architect by trade but his passion laid in comic book art and cartooning.  I remember seeing him come home from work and creating his own comic books based on Asian mythology.  I remember how masterfully he told the story of the dragon that married an angel and had fifty boys and fifty girls that would eventually become mankind.  The seamlessness of the storytelling was only matched by my father’s vibrant ink and water colored art on the 11x17 Bristol board. 

    Those sessions watching my father create entire worlds gave me many gifts.  They gave me lifelong memories of my father that I hold onto dearly to this day even though I have lived more years with him gone than with him alive since he passed away when I was only six-years-old.  It was through my father’s love of sequential art and graphic storytelling that I would fall in love with Marvel Comics in the 1980s.  Most importantly, these sessions watching my father work also showed me that I too had the ability to create entire worlds with my own hands. 

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    Devil's Knot - No One Is Untouched by Violence

    This is a series of occasional articles on my experiences writing "Devil's Knot."

    banner3 index2As writers we need to always remember that any movie based on a true story has real people's lives behind it.  Everyone surely knows and understands that.  It's hard, though, to embrace that thought wholly when you're trying to fulfill  story obligations and decisions, and when the story you are trying to tell is as complex as "Devil's Knot."  This is a lesson I took from my work on my script for "Devil's Knot."  It took me a while to fully "get it" but I did.  I carry that lesson with me now and for always.

    dkIf you don't know, "Devil's Knot" is a non-fiction book by journalist Mara Leveritt that explores the truths and falsehoods behind the accusations of murder in Arkansas in 1993.  It was made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth in 2005.  Witherspoon played one of the mothers of one of the victims and Firth played a private investigator.

    The background: In 1993, after a horrifying discovery that three eight-year-old boys were brutally killed, three teenage boys, Jessie Misskelley (16), Jason Baldwin (17) and Damien Echols (18) were then railroaded by a court and community panicked and hungry for closure. 

    What happened was terrible and frightening by anyone's standards.  The mind boggles at how anyone can torture, mutilate and kill three eight-year-old innocents.  Anyone responsible for that just doesn't seem human.  The term demonic did and does easily come to mind and was used frequently by the residents of that area at the time.

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