Out of movie experience

This is not your standard review. Back in January 2001, I went to see a midnight showing of this film, thinking it was this thing I'd read about the Bill Gates assassination off of the Citizens for Truth website. As it turned out, there was another film by the same name that was completed first, a based-in-reality tale dealing with the drug culture in the same park of the title. This is an email conversation I had with the director of the other MacArthur Park.

I was just at Sundance and caught a late night screening of MacArthur Park. It was pretty good, but I got confused. The park was there, sure. There were more black people than I expected, not that I'm prejudiced or anything, but somehow I thought Bill would hang with a different crowd. And none of the people that were shot looked like him at all. I understand it has to be a re-enactment, but still I'd think Anthony Michael Hall would be available and cheap - he did alright as Gates in that TBS or USA movie not long ago. Good going on the father-son reconciliation, I liked that part.

(okay, so I did think this was going to be your film - I don't know how much you would care about having the same name with this other project - I can provide some pointers if you haven't heard of it yet)

Brian Fleming's reply:

Hi, Andrew. Very amusing.

Yes, we're familiar with the other MacArthur Park. I've talked to the producer and director of the film by phone but haven't seen it. I'd love to hear more about it if you'd care to send a more detailed message.

Both the makers of that film and the makers of our MacArthur Park are eyeing each other like wild beasts on the savannah, waiting to see who will win enough exposure to lay claim to the title.

Brian Flemming
director, MacArthur Park

And my reply giving details on what I saw:

Well, what can I say about the other 'park'?

Of course, I was disappointed it wasn't the film I was expecting, and with it being my fifth film of the day at 11:30pm, it was hard to stay awake, but I still rather liked it (I'll grant that I'm easy to please).

Obviously, where your films overlap is with the park itself, which I'm not personally familiar with, but I can tell you the half-eggshell ampitheater figures prominently, helping form makeshift shelter for several of the characters. There's a lake in there, and I'm sure of some scenes by the street, but they could have been shot anywhere. No other identifiable spot comes to mind, even though around half the movie was shot in the park - other scenes being in cars, a limo, the main character's former house, a "known" actor's house, alleys, and such.

The action centers on Cody, this older black guy who's probably been in the park longer than anybody. His son shows up, telling Cody his Mother has died and there's paperwork to take care of. Cody doesn't want to disappoint his son, and thus begins the faltering journey to free himself of crack. There's a handful of other homeless addicts with differing connections to reality we get to know among the dozen or two floating around the park. And then there's a white gang, and a plot line with them revolving around some stolen drugs. There's the down-on-his-luck actor and his hangers-on who keep getting mixed up with a few of the characters from the park while trying to get a fix. There's some violence, a good helping of sadness and some triumph in the story. We've got a few "name" people in the film, mainly in small roles - Balthazar Getty, David Faustino, Julie Delpy, Rachel Hunter...

More than anything, I think the strength of the picture is that it is based on the real experiences of the main screenwriter, Tyrone Atkins. I imagine you've heard the story about him writing 300+ pages while in jail and contacting the eventual director, Billy Wirth, who pared it down, the whole project taking some 3 or 6 years (I'm getting confused with some other film for the other number). They both were there for the Q & A afterwards, along with about 8 people from the cast. Tyrone was very well-spoken, and is continuing to help out the people in the park now that he's come to terms with his addiction. And apparently the storyline about the actor is based on someone who really did come to the park to scope out drugs, but they refused to name names - for obvious reasons.

I hope that helps. For what it's worth, I think your film concept has the marketing edge - a concept the public will be able to identify easily. The other 'Park' would seem to have a tough road ahead, as there have been plenty of drug films already, and I don't see too much to set it apart from them all. Maybe if they can work that 'based on a true story' angle, they can get some good publicity.

I do some writing, and have really come to hate titles. So I feel for you here - this one really fits both films, and anything less on either side would probably be a sacrifice.

Anyway, good luck with the film - and I will be keeping my eyes open for it. If there's anything more specific you'd like to know, I can try to answer it.


The other MacArthur Park has been finished and is now known as Nothing So Strange, showing up soon somewhere near you...

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