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Archive for November, 2017

An Icon

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On Friday The Skating Club of Boston hosted Celebrating an Icon about “the life and extraordinary achievements” of Thomas J. McGinnis. Indeed, it was a night to remember.

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Celebrating an Icon. On-ice tribute to Thomas J. McGinnis.

When my friend, business partner and mentor passed away in July, many of us in the skating world and beyond were mourning in our own way. While I knew Tom’s life was filled with decades of accomplishments, he was relatively humble in what he achieved for himself while steadfastly promoting others. As the consummate coach, Tom was always imparting his knowledge and insight to those of us in his world.

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With Tenley Albright and Allyson Brooks Carling.

Shortly after the invitation to attend the event, I was asked to announce and commentate. Of course, I was happy to oblige. I heard during the weeks leading up to the event who would be attending and generally what the evening would entail. There was going to be an on-ice tribute followed by a video presentation.

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Gerry Lane, Pat Severance, Allyson Brooks Carling, Roger Collard, Diane Boucas Johnson and Lyn Benson.

When I was practicing the script during the day, it was impossible to not be filled with emotion. I took a break and went into some of my archives and looked at old issues of the magazine that we used to publish. Seeing Tom’s name on the masthead and looking at select pictures of us at events I remember stopping to reflect on what those years were like. Tom loved the glamour of the sport, the stars that it created. Throughout our years of publication, I always strived to create a sense of glamour, particularly with the events we produced. He loved the reception we had in New York City when the magazine named The 25 Most Influential Names in Figure Skating.

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With Tom and Lois at The 25 Most Influential names in Figure Skating. 2002. New York City. We produced this star-studded event in a theater.

But it was Friday night that brought us all home to celebrate Tom’s life and to share our memories. The skating world is like a family of many relatives, close and distant. But Friday marked a family reunion, one that Tom would have loved.

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Sheryl Franks and Beth-Anne Duxbury.

I know it was hard for many of us to keep our emotions in check on Friday. For me, there was a moment during the commentary when I almost lost it. The final performance was by coach Stephanie Cooke who was once a student of Tom’s. Before her performance she asked that I read her tribute to Tom. I didn’t make eye contact with her until the passage, “I hope to make him very proud.” When we looked at each other the emotion of the moment caught us both. I said to myself OMG she has to skate and I need to talk…get it together! I swear in that moment, I heard Tom say “breathe.” Of course I took his direction!

After the on-ice tribute we retreated upstairs to a video presentation (click this link to watch on YouTube). After the video many offered their personal stories of Tom throughout the years. They were all different, interesting and came from the heart. They painted a picture of someone who was larger than life. We were all proud to be part of his canvas.

The takeaway from the evening was obvious. All of us are now imparting Tom’s coaching and words of wisdom to others, as it should be. Tom left this world a better place, and we are all better off for knowing him.

My thanks to The Skating Club of Boston for producing Celebrating an Icon.

Thomas J. McGinnis

Tom McGinnis poster

The stars sign for THE star.

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Original Stock

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This opening shot in First World was created by the director for another program. As he owned the footage, he used it for this scene.

Writing an original story is by no means an easy process. There are times when I think and rethink various elements to make sure they flow. Does this transition from that transition make sense? Am I carrying the story forward and adding something with each moment? Even though I’m writing fiction, I always ask myself would people act and respond this way in “real life”?

But at one point it starts to click. For this story it happened around page twenty. While I have the general outline for act one, two and three (Yes, I believe in the three act structure), it’s the journey these characters take that will make the story what it is.

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This shot of the FBI in Washington, D.C. for Serpentine has also been seen in Madam Secretary.

But one thing that is easy, is creating worlds that are larger than they appear or you have the budget for.  With every film I’ve produced (and some commercials), I always use stock footage. From the White House in First World, to Reincar Scientific in Justice Is Mind to the FBI in Serpentine, it’s a simple purchase from one of the stock footage houses.

Most stock footage is very affordable. However, there are times when it can get pricey. Case in point was footage from the Nuremberg Trials after World War II in Justice Is Mind. In addition to the footage, I also had to obtain it at a certain aspect ratio.  But in today’s modern world of filmmaking, it’s amazing what’s available if you just look for it.

As this story largely takes place in one room, it will be stock footage that takes us out of the scene to illustrate certain moments of the story.  Why ask the Department of Defense if you can film a B-2 taking off from Whiteman Air Force Base if you can just acquire the footage for $79.

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In Justice Is Mind one of the characters is leaving Germany for the United States.

I remember after Justice Is Mind was released, I was asked by someone in the industry if I went to Logan International Airport in Boston to film planes taking off.  I remember jokingly responding that it was a real pain in the ass to get over all the fences and position myself with a cameraman at the end of the runway. I think they thought I was serious. Oh well.

As I dove back further in the First World story and archives, I came across a time in 2008 when certain funding commitments were imminent for the production of the film (it was going to be part of a slate of films with a particular producer). But then the global recession took hold and literally decimated the film industry (particularly on the independent side).  At the time it was disappointing, but everything happens for a reason.

It’s interesting how one is turned to a particular story. When the idea came to me during my moments at the Naval Justice School about developing a story in a one location environment, something drew me back to First World. Was it the military aspects of that story? The fact that I’ve already created these characters? Who knows, the one thing I never ask myself is why. I just write.

Next scene.

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Although Reincar Scientific is a fictional company, this building actually exists in Berlin, Germany.