The one person who asked me for a treatment – before I even knew what a treatment was – was Chris Palmer, a prominent wildlife filmmaker. He asked me for one way back in 2016, and I’ve been on a quest to find a collaborator who writes in Hollywood screenwriter language…since I apparently don’t. Unfortunately, Chris will no longer be able to help me in any way since he will not be on this earth for much longer. That’s just the way my luck, and the the luck of the protagonist of the story I’m pitching (i.e., The Don Quixote of Fish Biologists), has gone. We both have often said, “If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all!”
Here’s a partial correspondence between Chris and I from 2016.
I would annually connect with Chris to let him know how my progress was going…or, not going. Here’s one example:
Here’s my final correspondence with Chris – other than to wish him well since I knew he had other things on his mind. But, first is his response that went with his graphic above that he drew for his grandchildren.
Sorry to let you down but I’ve just got out of hospital after surgery for prostate cancer and have to focus all my effort on combating this disease. My father died of it, too. I’ll be out of commission for at least a month as I recover from the surgery. (see drawing below for my nine grandchildren.)
I’ll feel bad about not being able to help you, Dave. I’m 73 now and am totally focused on death and dying issues. I run a death and dying group of about 100 people and serve on the board of a hospice. I no longer do any filmmaking.
Good luck to you as you pursue making this film. Don’t give up!
Very best, Chris
I sincerely hope you are well!
This will be my final attempt to convince you that there’s a story to be told here…but, I still need help telling it. And, since today is Super Bowl Sunday, there’s a similarity, or coincidence, with “my story”, and one of the players who had a prominent role in the game.
Are you a football fan? If you are, I hope the team you were rooting for today won! My story is akin to Tom Brady’s. Do you know that he was selected 199th in the 2000 NFL draft? A big part of the reason is, that he was exceedingly unimpressive during his scouting combine; something most scouts hold a lot of stock in.
Yet – look where Tom Brady ended up…the greatest quarterback of all time. Today, he won his 7th Super Bowl.
Well, the story I’m pitching, and my unorthodox way of pitching it, has been totally unimpressive to everyone so far. Am I comparing myself to Tom Brady? No, I’m no special biologist or person, per se; it’s “my story” that’s special. And, my story is the environment’s story…it’s also the story of mankind in regards to our impending calamitous future.
Basically, it’s a story about a species who named themselves “the wise ones” that goes about life like a person with attention deficit disorder – scurrying about doing many things…but none of them well!
I’ve been on a quest to find help and guidance with getting this story told, and you – and over one hundred others – are part of that story. At least you asked for a treatment; very few others ever responded back. Getting a compelling treatment finished and finding the one person who says, “Tell me more”, is what the storyline is all about.
Since you asked me for a treatment back in 2016, I’ve been diligently trying to come up with one…but, to no avail. I know I need professional help, and for the most part, I can hardly get anyone to take my money in that regard. I did finally get someone to take it, but that hasn’t panned out…at least not so far. Like all stories of my life, it’s convoluted and Altmanesque and would take several pages to explain*.
Consequently, this film I envision would be very much like one of Altman’s. It’s because of that, that I have a hard time succinctly explaining what it’s about. Altman was asked by Dick Cavett if he could explain the meaning of M*A*S*H, and Altman’s response was, “Well I can, but it’s a lie…it’s just too many things – it’s about a lot of things.”
In this instance, the film I envision is about human nature, human dysfunction, mental illness – among other things.
What’s the logline? An unorthodox, and possibly delusional, fish biologist in “bush” Alaska is determined to not only change the world…but to save it; and his relentless quest to find a Hollywood director to help him succeed.
Now this might not seem to be related to the logline or the many environmental concerns you and I share, but I’m the Vice Mayor here in Aniak. And we’re dealing with the same things everyone else in the country is – the COVID19 pandemic. And we see the same arguments over the wearing of masks, etc., and whether or not we should open things up without measures in the place to reduce the spread…and it’s infuriating.
Unfortunately, it’s the same mentality that I’ve faced over my career when it comes to saving the native cutthroat trout of Wyoming, the salmon of the Pacific Northwest, or even here in Alaska. On top of that, I have many social media friends…and, surprisingly, other real friends, who are part of the 74-million who voted for Trump in November…and still would today after all that’s gone on! So, I know what the environment is up against!
After extensive research into what a treatment is, I found out that they can be anywhere from one-page to twenty or more.
Well, here’s my best attempt to succinctly explain this vision of mine – and, unfortunately, it really doesn’t fit your Twelve Characteristics of an Effective Treatment very well. I wish that it did, but I think that Robert Altman would have had trouble adhering to them for Nashville, M*A*S*H, The Player, or even A Prairie Home Companion.
This is a story about an unknown and unassuming – possibly delusional – fish biologist living in the middle of nowhere leading a life no different than Dr. Joel Fleischman of the Emmy winning show Northern Exposure of years gone by. This biologist – known to some of his colleagues as “The Don Quixote Of Fish Biologists” – is perversely driven to make a difference in curbing the relentless onslaught of ecological stressors that Homo sapiens (i.e., “the wise ones”) inflicts on planet earth by reaching the masses in a way that gets the individual to fully contemplate their place in the environment and never see themselves – or the environment – the same way ever again.
It’s a story not unlike a Robert Altman film; in fact, it’s very much like A Prairie Home Companion, which Altman directed. Speaking of A Prairie Home Companion, this biologist’s narrative mirrors a Garrison Keillor News from Lake Wobegon yarn. However, the only difference is that the eccentric people in the biologist’s story are real…including every zany adventure and misadventure. Our biologist – and his life – is a testament to the saying that life is stranger than fiction!
However, it’s mostly about his failed attempts – including the myriad letters, e-mails and videos he’s made to influential writers, conservationists, psychiatrists, actors, and film industry personnel with hopes of recruiting their help – in his pursuit of such a noble and lofty dream and the personal antagonists he’s learned powerful life-altering lessons from.
The most powerful lesson comes from the profound words of Joseph Campbell: “We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world.”
Most things being a matter of scale, it’s a story about psychology and mental illness and the need for the human race to “get in charge of itself psychologically”, and realize that each and every individual, in some way, is part of the problem if mankind is to avert unimaginable widespread ecological and social disruption.
I know that you’re officially retired, but I’m hoping that you’ll be the person who says, “tell me more.” Why? Because I know in my heart, that if molded by the right minds, “my story” (which involves overcoming depression over relentless psychological abuse by a Forest Service supervisor/tormentor early in my career coupled with the loss of my beloved salmon of the Pacific Northwest and my knowledge of the real state of the environment) will get the most powerful environmental message out that mankind has ever heard. I know that sounds exceedingly hubristic, but please give me a chance because my efforts aren’t for me, they’re for future generations.
Thank you for your time…and your patience.