or, perhaps Olive the Woolly Blogger...

Month: July 2011

Olive is fishing for Hollywood


Right now I am trying to wrap my head around the daunting prospect of getting Olive the Woolly Bugger made into an animated movie. It’s daunting because the odds are stacked WAY against me (and Olive)—not because it isn’t a great idea, but because finding the right person who sees the incredible value in the project is going to be like finding a needle in a haystack. Or maybe it won’t be so hard to find the person, but finding ways to actually contact them and convince them to hear my idea may be the real challenge. It’s always about finding that right person who believes. The old adage that “it’s not what you know, but who you know” has never seemed more painfully true.

The first step, if one listens to conventional wisdom, is to rule out many of the big animation studios. It seems that they cultivate their ideas in-house and are not interested in outside submissions, so one should look toward an independent animation studio. Next up is to find an agent who believes in the concept and will work to get the idea in front of a suitable studio for a pitch. Then, of course, one has to convince the studio that the idea is worthy of their time and money.  No-0-0 problem…

Daunting? Yes.  Doable?  Absolutely.  Like Olive, I shall forge ahead—to persevere. However, I’m wondering if perhaps Olive might bend the rules just a bit little bit and do things a little differently.  After all, nothing about Olive has been done the traditional way to date. If I had followed traditional guidelines and listened to a particular literary consultant early on, Olive would have spent the rest of eternity as another unfulfilled dream: a crumpled piece of paper in the round file, or an antiquated Word doc buried on my computer hard drive, eventually lost to subsequent computer upgrades. But that didn’t happen. Despite the odds, Olive did things her way and succeeded.

In a previous blog entry I talked about the actors whose voices would lend themselves well to the film project. Jane Seymour as Olive, Henry Winkler as Clark, and Wilford Brimley, Lawrence Fishburne or Tom Selleck as Mr. Muddler Minnow would make for a stellar lineup of talented people who also share a passion for fly fishing. Other well known actors, who are also fly fishing folks, will round out the ensemble of supporting characters. The key element is that each of the talents assembled to participate in the film share a love of fly fishing, because these are the people that will get it. They will bring their passions to their characters.

I joked about putting the cart before the horse by selecting these voice talents without having first gotten a contract with a studio. And you’re right: I can’t very well hand-pick character talent just yet—first, I have to get an Executive Producer on board the project: someone with some familiarity with fly fishing and a passion for the environment and film making; perhaps someone with previous experience as, say, director of A River Runs Through It.

Once Robert Redford signs on, animation studios will line up for the contract. Then the voice talents I’ve recommended will fall into place. When the film is released, millions of movie-goers worldwide will flock to theaters, curious about this unique film about a woolly bugger named Olive. Audience members young and young at heart will marvel at the entertaining storyline and engaging cast of characters. Those who have a familiarity with fly fishing will be amazed at how the sport they love has been made into an animated movie, and those who previously knew nothing about fly fishing will learn a thing or two. After seeing the movie, millions of kids will put down their game consoles and ask their parents to take them fishing (and exploring, and hiking and camping). Maybe a few hundred thousand folks will seek out their local fly shop and inquire about lessons. There will be a wave of new stewards of our natural resources who will gain an appreciation for our fisheries.

I realize there will be people who’ll say this lofty goal of mine is just a silly dream that will never be fulfilled. Well, if this is just a dream, I hope I never wake up.

If you happen to read this, and you like the idea of Olive the Woolly Bugger as an animated film, please consider posting a link back to this entry. Tweet it. Shout it on Facebook and Google+. Ask others to do the same. And if you happen to know Robert Redford, Jane Seymour or Henry Winkler (or at least their agents), please feel free to pass this along to them as well. Thanks.

If you would like to participate in a grassroots campaign to Help Send Olive to Hollywood, simply copy and paste the code (provided  in the right column) into a widget. You will have my gratitude!





Casting Call


If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve been thinking about the day when Olive will be featured in her own animated movie. Naysayers may call this just a pipe dream, but luckily there have been no naysayers. And this is no pipe dream: it’s a plan. I haven’t made any critical headway on this, but I am laying the groundwork, sort of.

Putting the cart well ahead of the horse, I’ve begun to select celebrity voices to play the roles of characters from the books. Animation will be excellent, I’m sure—nothing short of other work done by Dreamworks, Pixar, etc. But it’s the voices that bring life to the characters on the big screen, so assigning voice talent is critical.

Rather than simply picking random people for the voices, I’ve decided that this very special project will require voices from people who are also passionate fly fishing folks. The movie, just like the books, are not just about fly fishing, but it is the obvious vehicle for telling the story and the messages of conservation and stewardship are important.. The good thing is that there are many qualified people to fill the roles of the characters.

Jane Seymour is emerging as a frontrunner to play the starring role of Olive. It doesn’t matter that she’s not a child—with her talents she could easily pull it off. And she strikes me as a nice person, which is absolutely necessary in order to play the main character. Ms. Seymour is a widely talented actress, from her starring role on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman to her appearance on Dancing with the Stars. Why not add a Woolly Bugger to her resume?

Olive the Woolly Bugger?

Some of the other characters are falling into place nicely as well. For example, Wilford Brimley, Lawrence Fishburne or Tom Selleck would be excellent as Mr. Muddler Minnow. This role calls for a distinguished, authoritative voice with a hint of gruffness. At the same time, the voice of Olive’s nurturing instructor must have the ability to be softened to reflect the kindness necessary in the role of the weathered old streamer. Either of these three distinguished voices would be excellent and the role of Mr. Muddler Minnow will go to whomever rises to the take first.

This Mr. Muddler Minnow?

Or this Mr. Muddler Minnow?

Or maybe this Mr. Muddler Minnow?

If the storyline follows as I intend, Clark (the steelhead fry from Olive Goes for a Wild Ride) will have a starring role in the film. Henry Winkler instantly emerged as my first choice to play the voice of Olive’s youthful companion. Mr. Winkler is clearly a passionate fly fisherman and his recently-released book, I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River, points to his love of the sport. He also has a passion for kids books, so I’m confident he will see value in this project. Many people my age first knew Mr. Winkler from his Happy Days role as “The Fonz”, and assuming he’s not too busy with other projects, he will be perfect as the kind-hearted companion to Olive. Maybe Clark can even adopt the signature expression, “Aaaaeeeyyy!” Or maybe not. I’ll leave that up to Henry.


Clark the curious steelhead fry?

I’m still working on the voice assignments for the rest of the cast, but I’ve got an impressive pool of talents to choose from, including:

Nicholas Cage, Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Harrison Ford, Jake Gyllenhaal, Woody Harrelson, Michael Keaton, Jimmy Kimmel, Liam Neeson, Tom Skerritt, John Travolta, Robin Williams (can’t you just imagine him as Stan the Stimulator!?) and likely others who’ve not yet been determined.

Gilbert the Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear, Polly the Partridge and Orange, Stan the Stimulator, Andy the Adams, Randal the Royal Coachman, Sockeyed Jack…the list goes on.

If you know of some celebrities whose voices would lend themselves well to this project, please have them contact me.  The only stipulation is that they must be avid fly angling folks, because those are the people who will bring passion to the project, just as they bring passion to the sport.

And while I’m at it, I should probably be looking for an executive producer. Mr. Redford, are you there?

A real school visit

I’ve written before of school visits I’ve done in the capacity of an author. I’ve done author visits at brick and mortar schools and done virtual author visits to online schools. Whether a physical reality or virtual experience, the presentation is largely the same, and the audience is always kids. Recently I had another opportunity to visit a local school and do something a little bit different.

Eagle Rock Multi-Age school is an alternative elementary school in the Riverview School District, and each year the school holds a week-long program known as “Young Author Week”.  I was flattered to be one of the authors invited to present at this years’ event, even after I realized that “Young Author” was not in reference to the authors themselves. The kids learn about what it is to be an author, so the “Young” designation pertains to the kids themselves. Still, I was honored to be able to participate over the course of two days.

Day One: Rather than talking about the Olive the Woolly Bugger series of books from the standpoint as an author (the writing part), I talked about creating the books from an illustrator’s angle (the drawing part). The kids seemed to get a kick out of hearing how I got the idea for the books (while mowing the lawn) and seeing how the characters in the book came to be (my hope is that kids will come to see mowing the lawn as more than just an arduous chore forced upon them by their parents). After presenting a brief slideshow in which the kids see the progresion from early pencil sketches to finished art, it was time to teach the audience how to draw Olive the Woolly Bugger.

Sweating under the lights and pressure as a classroom of eager young artists watched and waited for me to make a mistake, the lesson began as a demonstration in which I quickly drew Olive on a whiteboard. “This is how Olive looks,” I announced to the kids. The next step was to erase my masterpiece, much to the horror of my onlookers. “Now I’ll draw her step-by-step.” As I did so, the kids followed by copying each line in a systematic process of duplication until their papers all bore the likeness of Olive. The third step was to turn the kids loose to draw Olive without my guidance. As the young artists each branched out on their own, I walked around the room and admired their creative interpretations.  It was great fun to see the varying results of their individual efforts. All were excellent and enthusiastically created.

I did this demonstration in front of three different classrooms, each room filled to capacity with kids of different ages. After the workshops had concluded, we broke for lunch. Following that the kids were given an opportunity to have books and other items signed. The other items included post-it notes and body parts. Yes, it’s true–scores of eager autograph-seekers presented pens and extended arms which they requested be decorated with the signatures of the authors in attendance. One little girl asked to have her forehead signed, which I politely declined to do. As a parent myself, I may not have appreciated my kids coming home from school with the signature of some author scribed across their forehead with a Sharpie. Sound judgment won out of youthful enthusiasm in this case.

The second day of the Young Author Week presentation involved an actual physical demonstration of something pertaining to the books. Showing the kids what fly fishing is seemed an obvious choice, so we moved outside for a casting demonstration. My first thought was to have the kids stand a few paces away with an inflated balloon clenched in their teeth. I proposed to demonstrate my casting prowess by tossing a woolly bugger at them and popping the balloons*. This idea was met with less than lukewarm reception from the school staff, and my insurance policy is not that good, so I decided to eliminate the balloons and keep the kids at a safe distance while I did a casting demonstration. I also cut the hook off of the woolly bugger just for safe measure.

*For those who have their sarcasm filter turned on, I’m kidding and never actually planned the balloon-popping stunt.

Under cool, drizzly skies I showed each group of kids what various flies looked like and talked about the different fishing situations in which dry flies, nymphs and streamers are used.  Most of the kids had gone fishing before, but only a couple had ever gone fly fishing. Those who had were very eager to tell me about it. Those who hadn’t were very interested in how fly casting delivers a fly to fish in the water, or in this case to grass that held no fish. Obviously I didn’t catch any fish, so in that regard it wasn’t much different from actual fishing.  There was less than 10 minutes for each group to spend at my station, so I wasn’t able to have each of the kids try their hand at casting. Still, they got a sense of what it was all about and nobody got hurt so I’d say it was a success.

When the second day concluded, one young girl rushed up to me, stuck something in my hand and ran off.  Intended for Olive, the post-it note reads: “You Rock!”

No, Emma, YOU rock. And so do all the kids at Eagle Rock.

Thank you everyone for the opportunity to participate in Young Author Week!

Imagine the possibilities

You’re a talent scout for a major animation studio. Or perhaps you’re an executive for Dreamworks Animation, Pixar, Sony Animation, 20th Century Fox Animation (Blue Sky Studios) or Walt Disney Animation Studios. Your studio just released or is about to release the likes of Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Smurfs, Winnie The Pooh, Happy Feet Two. Life is good–audiences love these movies.

But an animation studio cannot rest on its laurels and must constantly be on the lookout for the next blockbuster hit.

Certainly the fact that there are many sequels being produced indicates that animation studios can get added mileage out of a good initial movie. Cars, Kung Fu Panda, Happy Feet and scores of other movies have all spawned sequels.  Similarly, producing a movie based on long-established characters such as Winnie the Pooh or The Smurfs offers instant recognition in the marketplace.  It’s easy to see why remakes and sequels get made: it’s easier to build on an established and successful film than to create something totally from scratch. But are sequels always as good as those that preceeded them? That’s discussed often: HERE is one such website.

This is not to say that brand new ideas aren’t being made into animated movies. Earlier this year we saw Gnomeo and Juliet, Rio, and Rango. All seemed to be at least reasonably popular given their box office ticket sales.

But what about the next great, truly unique storyline?  Where does the previously unheard of idea come from?

I’m glad you asked, and the answer is right here.

A catchy title. A unique concept. An engaging cast of characters. The framework for a storyline which can be built upon. All the elements of a good children’s story. A strong underlying message of environmental conservation and awareness that also promotes getting kids outside and exploring nature. Olive the Woolly Bugger offers all this.

So, if you’re that talent scout or studio executive, consider this food for thought. You may not have heard of Olive the Woolly Bugger, but a lot of people have. And with your vision, a lot more people will.

Tag, you’re it.

Fishing for Big Fish

When we fishing types head out to a stream or lake or other body of water with rod in hand, what is it that we are really doing? Some will say that they’re just out to enjoy the fishing, and catching is just icing on the cake. Others are less philosophical: their desire is to simply catch a fish. Others still may be more specific with their intent, admitting (openly or not) that they want to catch a big fish.

Those who fly fish know that the biggest fish rarely rise to a dry fly.  Several reasons account for this, none of which may or may not be right, but let’s speculate.  When a fish rises to the surface to take a real bug or an imitation fly, they momentarily leave themselves vulnerable to attack from raptors, among other things. There are also other critters that would also love to make a meal of a fish should the opportunity present itself. That opportunity is created when the fish leaves the relative safety of deep water and the shelter provided by a cut bank or structure (weeds, sunken logs, rocks, etc).  So it stands to reason that the fish that remain in the safety of deeper, darker waters tend to survive to feed another day.

Big fish don’t reach their esteemed position in the food chain by being reckless or chasing every tiny bug that presents itself. That’s why when we fish with dry flies we’re not often going to catch the bigg’uns. I enjoy throwing dries and catching cookie-cutter sized fish. It’s fun. It provides entertainment. It fills a certain need. And while fishing is about much more than catching fish, I’ll admit that sometimes what I really want is to be holding onto a taco-bent rod. Sometimes I want to catch that big fish. I’ve caught some nice fish, but nothing extraordinary.

Therein lies the beauty of the streamers, of which the woolly bugger is one of if not THE best overall patterns.  If the author angler presents a woolly bugger in the desired depths of the water column, they are putting their fly where the fish are. The big fish.  Streamers represent substantial meals that are high in protein. Big fish don’t waste their time chasing snacks—they want a return on their investment in energy spent to chase food. They’re selective. Big fish are eat meaters.

I’ve fished the surface and been rewarded with small fish. Don’t get me wrong—I am grateful for the opportunity and privilege to play these small fish, and I do not take them for granted. Every small fish has made me a better angler and caused me to appreciate the sport much more so than if I had landed a 48″ steelhead on my first cast. I will always seek out small streams with game little fish that provide much-needed action, but the time has come that I am admittedly hankering for something much, much bigger. Will I actually catch that big fish?  I only know for certain that I stand absolutely no chance unless I go fishing.

So fishing I am. I’ve tied on a woolly bugger, and her name is Olive. It’s time to see what she can entice out of hiding. I’m confident there’s a big fish out there, somewhere, looking for a tasty meal.

(The author may have been engaging in the use of metaphors in this article)

Olive on the Big Screen, Take Two

So far the phone hasn’t rung, yet. I anticipate that any day it will. On the other end will be Pixar, Dreamworks or perhaps another up and coming animation studio, pleading with me to let them make a feature length movie starring my favorite woolly bugger, Olive.  I wrote about my plans a while back, here.

Since then I’ve done a little research and have discovered a couple of things. First, Pixar doesn’t accept external submissions: all creative concepts come from within (I am confident they’ll make an exception for Olive). Secondly, I have learned that in order to pitch an idea to major movie studios, one must be represented by an agent. Unfortunately I don’t have an agent. Fortunately I have a friend who lives in LA and is a well-connected sort. As luck would have it, she did know someone in the agency world, and gave me the name of the company and agent. I fired off an introductory email, and waited.

After a week of deafening silence, I called the agency and introduced myself. I informed them that I had sent an inquiry email and was referred by my friend. Clearly the voice on the other end of the line had no idea who I was because my email had probably gone straight into a junk mail filter. That, and I’m a nobody so there is no reason why they would have had any idea who I am. They politely took my name and number and said they would pass it along to the agent. They did not say that I could expect to hear back. Well, I did. Unfortunately it was a voicemail on my phone- I’d missed the call. The message politely revealed to me that they weren’t accepting any new clients at this time. Apparently the talent agency profession wasn’t hit as hard by the recession as say, just about every other industry!  They did give me a glimmer of hope, however, by suggesting that I call back in a couple of months.  That was May 25th. I’ll wait until July 26th before I call–I don’t want to appear too eager.

In the meantime I’m building a strong pitch in hopes of convincing not only an agent to represent me and get Olive in front of studio execs, but a convincing case for the studio execs themselves.  I had hoped to get 12 confirmed people from Olive’s Facebook page to commit to paying the price of admission if the movie were made. I did better than that and got 21 confirmation comments (and that doesn’t include the 18 “likes” my comment received)!

With that level of enthusiastic support, an animation studio would be remiss if they didn’t produce an animated Olive the woolly bugger movie. Mind you that is not simply 21 individuals that would pay to see the movie, but rather 21 people who would likely bring family members as well. The number could skyrocket! Not to mention dvd sales! Olive plush toys…

And so, while I wait for July 26th to arrive, I’m going to continue to let my plans marinate. Play it cool. Not appear too needy. Maybe an executive from Pixar or Dreamworks will find this blog and contact me and ask me what they can do to make it happen. That would save me the cost of a phone call to the agency.