Thursday, 30 July 2015

My creative way to combat cellphones in theatres

A spotlight has been placed on theatre goers with cellphones.

In recent news we’ve heard of Patti LuPone snatching a rude patron’s phone in the middle of a performance at the Lincoln Centre, how another man jumped onto the stage of Hand to God to charge his phone and about someone texting throughout a performance of Hamilton on Broadway.

I often go to the theatre and am amazed at how many people check their phones during a performance. The sudden burst of light in a dark theatre is invasive, and also puts a tiny screen-sized spotlight on the face of the person who clearly ignored the announcement to please turn off all electronic devices. Or perhaps our minds have simply grown accustomed to blocking out the sound of a loud-speaker announcement, like not paying attention to a ‘price check’ at a grocery store. Why the uproar?

Let’s begin by examining why people go to live theatre. I think the greatest appeal is that it is ‘live’. It all unfolds in front of you. The actors and action are only a few feet away from the ‘real world’ and there is something special about being directly present. Why else would you spend more money than a movie ticket? Unlike a movie, this performance is unique. Every nuance, laugh, subtle gesture, ad-lib and mistake are witnessed only by this group of people. There’s a special energy in a live theatre. Actors feed off that energy. They crave the applause. They feel elated when they succeed at making an audience laugh or cry or wait in silent anticipation for something to be revealed. There is a certain satisfaction when they know they’ve drawn the audience completely into their world. Can you imagine, in one of those moments, in the middle of a carefully crafted scene, the medieval heroine moves towards a hidden danger when suddenly - -

Someone’s cell phone rings!

The illusion is shattered and the magic is gone. All the actor’s work is dashed as the audience is jarred out of the world on stage and back to a world where rude people answer their phones during a show.

Having noticed these interruptions several years ago, when I started directing theatre, I started creating pre-show scenes in the vein of the show the audience was about to see. The house lights dim, which brings the audience’s full attention to the stage, then I present my “announcement”. It’s usually done with humour so the audience willingly complies.

It all started with a stage version of 12 Angry Men (re-entitled Twelve Angry People to accommodate some updates). The character of the Guard only has three lines in the show, so I had the actor come out before the show started and address the audience, welcoming them to ‘jury selection’. While waiting for the ‘lawyers to arrive,’ the Guard went over the rules of the space, which included having no contact with the outside world.

For The Wizard of Oz, the actor who played Professor Marvel /The Wizard came out and did some magic tricks and fortune telling, before asking everyone else to turn their little magical boxes off.

For A Christmas Carol, characters from another Dickens story warned the audience that personal belongings that were in-hand might get stolen, along with their watches and handkerchiefs.

Before Les Misérables, two guards welcomed the audience to Toulon Prison, where punishment for obstinance was severe.

It’s become a bit of a personal trademark to have a creative pre-show announcement. Here are clips of some others for you to enjoy:

From a production of Singin’ In The Rain.

Since I had to create silent films and early ‘talkie’ films for the actual stage production, I took it a step further and created this silent film which explains the ‘no cellphone rule’ in a 1927 context.

The War Show is a play with music, following six Canadian soldiers through World War II.

Authentic newsreel footage from the era was projected throughout the performance, so we shot this parody of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly’s number, “For Me And My Gal”.

For the dramatic reading of the novel, “Dracula the Un-Dead” which I adapted for stage for the Toronto Book Launch with Penguin Books.

Here, our actor reads a preview of a fictitious book entitled, “Theatre of Blood”.

These bits seemed to work well, as we did not have any problems with cellphones or disruptive patrons during those performances. The only show for which I did not create a pre-show scene was The Diary of Anne Frank in 2004, because I couldn’t figure out a way of being humourous about this issue in a way that wouldn’t be perceived to be in bad taste. Unfortunately, despite the usual announcement, there was a plague of cellphones going off, often at dramatic or poignant moments. Ever since then, I have made a great effort to grasp the audience’s attention before the show begins.

Recently, I was happy to read in the New York Times article, “Theatres Struggle With Patrons’ Phone Use DuringShows” that some theatres have added a personal pre-show touch, such as The River’s understudy stepping onto the stage before the show, personally imploring the audience to turn off their devices.

Perhaps we can all squash these small-screen interruptions with a bit of personally-added entertainment. Have you been inspired? Feel free to contact me. I’m interested to hear what you create.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Jack the Ripper Identified by DNA? Not Bloody Likely!

Today several of my friends forwarded an article entitled, The Ripper Unmasked: DNA Identify Britain's Most Notorious Criminal to me and asked what my thoughts were. I have researched the Ripper murders in the past for a number of projects and at first glance my thoughts were skeptical.

After all, there have been many such claims over the years. In 1976 there was the novel Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, where Stephen Knight accuses Victorian painter Walter Sickert as the Ripper, acting as part of a Royal Conspiracy. Knight's conclusions have been disproved by many experts. Knight fudged much of his evidence, but then was too caught up in the success of the book to retract his information. Then in 1992 there were the James Maybrick (a Victorian cotton merchant) diaries that were published as The Diary of Jack the Ripper. Though the debate continues, it is believed to be a hoax. Recently in 2002, Patricia Cornwell revisited the idea of Walter Sickert as the suspect in her book Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed. The pieces of evidence that she presented had already been dismissed as hoaxes in the past. So I did not have high hopes for this latest revelation that DNA has proven the Ripper's identity.

First and foremost, let's look at the source of the new DNA evidence. Russell Edwards claims to have purchased the blood soaked shawl at an auction house in 2007, a full 119 years after the Ripper murders took place. If it is indeed real, that's quite a find that it had not been washed in over a century. (Though the photograph in the article shows an extremely well-preserved item of contrasting cloth with fold-lines in it. I would have imagined that any remnants of century-old blood would have damaged it more over time.) Still, I try to keep an open mind. Stranger things have been found. The shawl was said to be in two sections, "mostly blue and dark brown, with a delicate pattern of Michaelmas daisies – red, ochre and gold – at either end."  Describes a typical Victorian pattern so it sounded plausible from the era.

The article went on to state: "It was said to have been found next to the body of one of the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes, and soaked in her blood. There was no evidence for its provenance, although after the auction I obtained a letter from its previous owner who claimed his ancestor had been a police officer present at the murder scene and had taken it from there."

Wait! What? Here we have Russell Edwards admit plainly, "There was no evidence for its provenance" so Edwards had no proof it was authentic when he bought it. However, after he paid for it he received a letter from the shawl's previous owner "who claimed his ancestor had been a police officer present at the murder scene and had taken it from there."

Really? This is the evidence of authenticity? A simple letter in which the shawl's previous owner claims his ancestor had been an officer present at the murder scene? Red flags went up on this paragraph. In any investigation today, the chain of evidence is key. We have evidence bags and each time the evidence is handled it is signed by the investigating officer, the coroner, the lawyers, etc.
In The Ripper's time, they made hand drawings and kept notes and lists.

Well, I happen to have many of these hand drawings, notes and lists, as they appear in several publications.

Let us examine who was at the scene of the crime. Police Constable Edward Watkins discovered Catherine Eddowes' body in Mitre Square at 1:45am on September 30, 1888 and Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown, the London police surgeon who was called in to the murder scene, arrived at 2:00am. Inspector Collard arrived a few minutes later, and Detective Constables Halse, Marriott, and Outram searched the surrounding area.
Edwards claims that "Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson, asked his superiors if he could take it home to give to his wife."  However, there was no Amos Simpson at the scene of the crime.

Now let's look at what was at the crime scene. The notes taken by Police Constable Edward Watkins and Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown, who were the first to arrive, indicate that at the time of her murder Catherine Eddowes had:

Black straw bonnet trimmed in green and black velvet with black beads. Black strings, worn tied to the head.
Black cloth jacket trimmed around the collar and cuffs with imitation fur and around the pockets in black silk braid and fur. Large metal buttons.
Dark green chintz skirt, 3 flounces, brown button on waistband. 
Man's white vest, matching buttons down front.
Brown linsey bodice, black velvet collar with brown buttons down front
Grey stuff petticoat with white waistband
Very old green alpaca skirt (worn as undergarment)
Very old ragged blue skirt with red flounces, light twill lining (worn as undergarment)
White calico chemise
No drawers or stays
Pair of men's lace up boots, mohair laces. Right boot repaired with red thread
1 piece of red gauze silk worn as a neckerchief
1 large white pocket handkerchief
1 large white cotton handkerchief with red and white bird's eye border
2 unbleached calico pockets, tape strings
1 blue stripe bed ticking pocket
Brown ribbed knee stockings, darned at the feet with white cotton

2 small blue bags made of bed ticking
2 short black clay pipes
1 tin box containing tea
1 tin box containing sugar
1 tin matchbox, empty
12 pieces white rag, some slightly bloodstained
1 piece coarse linen, white
1 piece of blue and white shirting, 3 cornered
1 piece red flannel with pins and needles
6 pieces soap
1 small tooth comb
1 white handle table knife
1 metal teaspoon
1 red leather cigarette case with white metal fittings
1 ball hemp
1 piece of old white apron with repair
Several buttons and a thimble
Mustard tin containing two pawn tickets, One in the name of Emily Birrell, 52 White's Row, dated August 31, 9d for a man's flannel shirt. The other is in the name of Jane Kelly of 6 Dorset Street and dated September 28, 2S for a pair of men's boots. Both addresses are false.
Printed handbill and according to a press report- a printed card for 'Frank Carter,305,Bethnal Green Road
Portion of a pair of spectacles
1 red mitten

As you can see it is a very detailed list from the crime scene and there is no mention of any kind of shawl at all.

So I have trouble accepting any of Russell Edwards' theories, when the authenticity of his evidence is in question and does not appear to be from the very crime scene he claims.

Catherine Eddowes - Crime Scene Sketch from Scotland Yard Files

Alexander Galant was the historical researcher for the New York Times Best Seller 'Dracula the Un-Dead' (in which the Ripper murders were woven into the back story) and author of the award-winning historical thriller Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery).

Alexander has a fictional Ripper novel in the works.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Making of a Mini-Clone Dance Video from an Orphan Black Cloneclub Fan's Suggestion

It was exactly one month ago that we posted the video of our daughter Cynthia doing a parody of the 4-Clone Dance party from the season two finale of Orphan Black. I've retold the story behind it enough times that I've decided to blog about it.

Cynthia & Tatiana on the set of Orphan Black
First of all I should mention that my daughter, Cynthia Galant is fortunate to have been cast in a small role in the TV series 'Orphan Black'. If you don't know the show, I highly recommend you checking it out. It's terrific. Original, great characters, and very exciting. Tatiana Maslany plays several clones in the show and each one has a completely different look and personality. I can't say enough good things about her, the show and its cast and crew. Even if my daughter wasn't involved with the show I'd be a fan.

My daughter has played the younger version of one of the clones named Rachel and another, new clone named Charlotte. I will say nothing else in case you haven't seen the show or that episode yet.

After season two's finale aired, the cast and crew thanked the support of the fans with photos specifically for Cloneclub (the nickname for the fans of Orphan Black). Cynthia modeled hers after Tatiana's pose from last year, and gave herself the moniker 'mini-clone' when signing her name.

There were a lot of positive comments and appreciation from the fans. One sent me a message saying they'd love to see Cynthia in a webseries dressed up as a mini version of all the clones. I read it aloud to my family and we all thought that it would be fun, but from being in show business for a while, we knew that unions and copyrights would make it problematic. We didn't want to accidentally infringe on any cool ideas that the writers of Orphan Black might use in the future, either.

Now, I should mention that even though my daughter is in the show and there is another adorable little actress, Skyler Wexler, who is about the same age and plays the daughter of a clone, this show is not for kids to watch. So, as a responsible parent, my daughter has never seen a full episode. She has been shown the scenes she's in, and select clips that I thought she would enjoy (her favorite is Helena's Sugar Sugar). One of those was the 4-clone dance party in the season two finale. It was a great moment in the show where Tatiana Maslany plays four of the clones dancing together. It is amazing to watch.

When I found the 'making of Orphan Black's 4 Clone Dance Party on YouTube, I showed it to my daughter. This is a montage worth watching. Even if you've never seen an episode of the show you can marvel at the work behind making four clones played by the same actress dance together:

My daughter watched this video over and over and over and over again. She then asked me, "Can we do a video of me dancing like this?"

I looked up to ask her what she meant and saw her dancing smoothly and gracefully like Cosima, then suddenly switched to the prissy, reserved bops of Allison, then the funky shoulder sways of Sarah and then the frenetic frenzy of Helena... all within a few bars.  I laughed because I forget how good of a mimic my daughter can be. It was just too good not to share.

Cynthia Galant as Helena
I thought about that for a moment. Not only would this be a fun way for Cynthia to 'play' the grown-up clones, but also a learning experience in case she has to do blue- or green-screen work for the show.
I said, "Sure! A parody of the dance would be funny and easy to do."

Did I say 'easy'?

Well, my wife pooled the costumes together from what we had around the house, including wigs we had in storage. We only needed to buy the one wig for Helena which was an 80's Rocker Wig (ala Twisted Sister) for $12.00 at a party store. Then on one of our hottest days of the summer so far, I set up my green-screen and 1K lights in our living room. Yes, we have odd costume pieces, wigs and our own green-screen... doesn't everyone?

Since we didn't have a 'Felix' for the video, we decided to honor his character by having a couple of pieces of 'his' art as set dressing. Cynthia and my wife recreated two of the pieces together. Compare the two videos and see if you can find the two that they chose.

Cynthia Galant as Sarah (Green-screen)
We quickly decided where each clone needed to be, practiced a few times with the same music as the original (Water Prayer Rasta Mix -  Adham Shaikh) and shot it all in an afternoon. One very long afternoon. Unlike the one in the episode, I did not include any camera movements because I don't have the resources of Intelligent Creatures (the visual FX company for Orphan Black). We also didn't have any close-ups to worry about. When the shooting was complete and my daughter had changed her hair, costumes and make-up five times, she exclaimed, "Tatiana does this every week??"
Cynthia suddenly had a whole new appreciation for what Tatiana goes through and how much work the hair, make-up and costume department do to achieve the different looks.

After two days of editing on my laptop using HitFilm 2 Ultimate to composite the different layers, I uploaded it to YouTube. We had hoped to get 300 views, mostly from our friends and family and a few fans. The first to 'like' it, comment and share it was BBC America who produces Orphan Black. The second was Orphan Black itself, who also put it on their Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. By the end of the first day we had 10,000 views. We are now up to 45,000 views and counting. There have been several blogs and articles about the video and even an animated gif made by a fan comparing the two routines on Tumblr (click here to view).
We had no idea how many Cloneclub fans there were in the world until I started seeing the stats from the video. It has been viewed and shared in over 75 different countries - even places I didn't think would watch Orphan Black... like the Middle East. We think this is wonderful!

If you haven't seen it, here is Cynthia's 55-second version - The Mini-Clone Dance Parody:

The very last frame shows the 5 clones, including Rachel scowling at them. We had originally planned to do a gag near the end of the routine where Rachel disapproves of the dancing shenanigans, but Cynthia's mimicking of the dance was so good that I didn't want to interrupt it - so I cut that idea during the editing.

Here is a still of Cynthia in Rachel's costume. Those who have seen the finale of season two will get the inside joke in this photo:

Cynthia Galant as Rachel (green-screen)

It has been awesome to find so many Mini-clone tributes from Cloneclub fans (including original art). Many can be found here:

Thanks to everyone, and looking forward to season three! And if you haven't watched the show, seasons one and two are available on DVD/Blu-Ray and iTunes.

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).


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 ( Richard Zampella & Shannon Mulholland )! 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.

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.  

The second was launched by the widow of Gene Kelly who accuses Shannon Mulholland of 'forging her signature'.  

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. 

Here's a link where the lawyers representing Richard and Shannon requested to withdraw from representing them in this lawsuit. This was around the time that I started to talk to them about staging a dramatic reading.

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 design/consulting company. Richard Zampella is the owner & operator of Idylease Inn located in Newfoundland, NJ.  Idylease Inn is connected with Richard's father: Dr. Arthur Zampella. 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:

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