Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nick Meyer and "the era of nitpicking"

Last Thursday screenwriter Nicholas Meyer and a selection of (friendly?) journalists attended a "promotional seance" at the Magic Castle in Hollywood to get the word out about the release of Houdini on DVD and Blu-ray October 7.

BuzzFeed's Ariane Lange has posted a full and funny account of the evening: I Went To A Promotional Séance And It Was Bizarre. Lange writes that Meyer -- "a man who is exceedingly comfortable holding forth" -- did comment on the criticism that Houdini wasn't historically accurate, saying that "it was silly to think dramatized historical movies would be factually accurate." A reporter identified only as Damon concurred, saying that, "We're in the era of nitpicking."

The medium that night was Rob Zabrecky, one of the best all around working magicians today. But if I read this report right, Meyer said he was "bored" by the magic. But maybe he was making a joke. Maybe you had to be there.

Which makes me wonder; why wasn't I there? Oh yeah.



  1. I thought a séance was intended as a method to communicate with the dead, not to create attention for the promotion of a film.

    Perhaps we are in the "era of nitpicking" as Damon stated. We are also in the era of the short attention span. That means this film will quickly move on, much like the fast currents that flowed under that thick ice beneath the Belle Island Bridge.

  2. That's funny because WE thought we were in the era where the HISTORY Channel would show History!

  3. Since the facts are not evidently really relevant, I can't wait to see his next epic script being made into a History Channel movie where the Axis allies win WWII.

    1. Exactly. And Hitler becomes Queen of Sweden.

      Hey, it's poetic license! Don't be a nitpicker!

      At least we know the criticism has reached him. Funny how the reporter doesn't think facts are important in a story.

  4. Poetic license only applies to poets. It seems to be more a case of hack syndrome. Lack of respect for the audience is the fatal mistake of both magicians and writers.

  5. Really, I would love to hear from Meyer some of the whys. Not be judgmental or confrontation (but, yes, a bit nitpicky), I'd just like to know his reasoning on some of these points. The Weiss family lived in Manhattan and Houdini's house was in Harlem. Why transplant this all to Brooklyn? How is that better in his mind? Why have Mama die in 1914 when with a single keystroke it could be 1913. Why?

    And why include the whole spy element? What's the story there? This doesn't come from the book the series claims to be based on, it's only found in Kalush, so why is it here? Did they get the rights from Lionsgate and felt they needed to work it it? Certainly Meyer knew that including this would send the movie off into fantasyland and it could no longer be considered a biopic, so what was the calculation?

    I'm just curious how some of this came to be? There are times when you can tell Meyer really did his homework, and then other times when it feels like he's just writing off the top of his head. So weird.

  6. It is called the History Channel, after all.

    Where did he get the idea to take a loyal wife and treat her in such a dishonest and shabby manner? Bess deserved better. Is he a woman hater?

    Kellar advised Houdini not to do the Bullet catch. Houdini backed off. And Meyer had Houdini catch it in the mouth yet, which was probably not even part of Houdini's plan.

    Kalush should sue on the spy issue for it had to come from his book!

    He damaged his own father's "reputation" by crediting so many lies in the TV show to his own father! In the end he himself alone must take credit for the lies.

    Reminder. tomorrow night, Oct 3, 2014 the first showing on Travel Channel's "Mysteries at the Museum." With a full days shooting at the museum we hope they keep the story close to reality. I do know from ads in the trades, (Show Business) they were looking to hire actors for reenactments of what happened.

    Dick Brookz and Dorothy Dietrich
    The Houdini Museum
    Scranton, PA
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini!
    Home of the longest running "Haunted" paranormal evening.
    The longest running show of it kind in the history of magic. 9 years.

  7. I think if they didn't get the rights to Secret Life, Bill Kalush certainly has a case against them. It isn't just the spy stuff, there are dozen of things that can only be found in his book. Really, this miniseries IS the Kalush book, right down to the Bess stuff.

    But I think the presence of Lionsgate as producer means they had the rights to the book, and Meyer might have even used some scenes from an old script. That might explain why there's such an odd mix of elements. That whole awful anniversary safe(s) scene feels like it's from a different writer.

  8. "Silly to think dramatized historical movies would be factually accurate"? Excuse me? Than what's the point of even bothering to do a historical film in the first place? It sounds like he should stick to writing original screenplays and keep away from anything that even remotely smacks of having actually happened. And apparently anything to do with magic.


    1. While one has to compress time and work up dramatics that might not be entirely factual, it's absolutely possible to make a biopic that sticks largely to the facts. One isn't forced to make Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. You can make Spielberg's LINCOLN.

    2. Exactly. There are plenty of great biopics that cover a lot more ground and stay much truer to history, and they do it in half the time that they were given for this. As a dabbling screenwriter myself, I found myself thinking over-and-over, what a terrible waste of screen-time.


  9. I agree with John that it's possible Lionsgate had already obtained the rights from Sloman and Kalush to include many parts of their book into the film. If so, the authors have been remunerated for their efforts.

    It has been alleged that S & K's goal for Secret Life was to get it past the Gates of Hollywood. It would explain the novelistic style of the book and it's P.T. Barnum contents.