In Memoriam - Robert Wise
From 1993 to 1997, Ken Tipton went through dozens of producers trying to get HEART of the BEHOLDER made. Finally, HBO took an interest until a change in management caused the project to be dropped. Discouraged with the lack of movement Ken contacted Wendy Kaminer who was the current President of the National Coalition Against Censorship (www.NCAC.org). Ken had been a member of the NCAC for many years so he asked Wendy if there were any other NCAC members who worked in Hollywood from whom he could get a referral for mentorship. Wendy did some research and came back with the name of one of their Advisory Board members named Robert Wise. With a referral from Wendy, Ken sent a fax to Robert Wise, the Oscar-winning Director for movies such as “The Sound of Music”, “West Side Story”, “The Haunting”, “The Sand Pebbles" and even “Star Trek — The Movie”. Mr. Wise invited Ken to his Beverly Hills office and a mentorship began.
Mr. Wise was over eighty at this time and just being in his presence was an absolute honor for Ken. Mr. Wise advised Ken to write and direct the movie himself. Ken didn't have much experience in writing a screenplay but he tried his best. Over time Mr. Wise would critique Ken's work with the constant reminder that “the story is in the re-writes”. The script that was finally shot was rewrite number #246.
Ken continued working on the screenplay and would periodically send it for review to two individuals who were involved with the original story back in St. Louis: retired St. Louis Post-Dispatch Entertainment reporter Joe Pollack and retired TV reporter Herb Humphries. Herb was the actual reporter who setup the prostitution sting in St. Louis that brought down the corrupt City Prosecutor.
Once the screenplay was finished it started getting coverage at top talent agencies but they only wanted the screenplay and not Ken as the Director. They would offer a small writing fee for the screenplay but Ken followed Mr. Wise's advice and turned down the offers. Mr. Wise knew the story was well written and if someone else made the movie and screwed it up, it would rip Ken's guts out. It would also do nothing for Ken's career unless he directed it.
Things back in St. Louis were very hard for Ken's ex-wife and their children so Ken again asked Mr. Wise for advice. Mr. Wise said that this situation reminded him of his old friend named Orson Welles. In the 1930's Orson was a star on radio which was the largest mass medium at the time. TV had not been invented yet and movies were still growing. Orson wanted desperately to make movies but the powers that be thought of him as only a radio person and not talented or creative enough to make it in the movies. So Orson decided to create a publicity stunt to prove them wrong.
In 1938 Orson ran the radio show called the Mercury Theater and he scared the entire country by performing his own adaptation of the H. G. Wells classic "War of the Worlds". Even though it was announced on the air that this was not a real broadcast, millions believed it was true that Martians were invading. It became the biggest story of its time and Orson got his shot to make what is considered to be the one of the best movies ever made - "Citizen Kane". Mr. Wise knew so much about this because he was the editor on "Citizen Kane" and Ken took his advice extremely seriously.
NOTE: There is no doubt in Ken's mind that his movie was finally made due to the support and mentorship of Robert Wise. Sadly, HEART of the BEHOLDER won its third Best Feature Film award a few days after the death of Mr. Wise. He will be fondly missed.
Taking Mr. Wise's advice to design a publicity stunt to bring attention to his movie project, Ken first decided to use the Internet because it was the newest form of mass communication and it reached the entire world. The hardest part was coming up with an idea that would be instantly popular and controversial so the content would spread quickly because of reactions to it. Invaders from space had already been done and there isn't much else that can get millions of people talking - except sex.
Yes sex, the bane of conservatives and the delight of liberals. After all, this was 1998 and the Monica Lewinsky / President Clinton sex scandal was going absolutely bananas. Every possible sexual allegation and innuendo was being dissected daily in every form of media. Ken knew if he could come up with some original sexual Internet soap opera then the conservatives would fire up their email lists and the liberals would rise to defend it which would create its own publicity. But try as he could, no plausible story idea would come to him. But that was about to change and become the world's largest publicity stunt ever.
Click Here to go to the In Memoriam section for Michelle Parma for more information.