Chasing Endorsements

As promotion ramps up for the release of CHASING NORTH STAR, I am in the midst of sending out requests to established authors and high-profile people in the community and beyond for endorsements (AKA blurbs) which will appear on the book jacket of my novel. This is a humbling endeavor because what you’re asking for is a HUGE favor.   

Today, I received an email reply from the author of ORPHAN TRAIN, Christina Baker Kline. While still a rejection, she couldn’t have been more kind…

But wait… Is that a blurb hidden in that email message?

Yep, that’s an endorsement if I ever saw one.  

Heidi McCrary - Author of CHASING NORTH STAR
Release Date: September 29, 2020
To be available at local bookstores and everywhere books are sold

Placing a Red Bow on Downton Abbey

Why Some Stories Don’t Need a Reboot

“So,” I said, turning to my friend as the credits rolled up the movie screen. “Did you like it?”

Lady Mary cThe “it” I was referring to, was the movie adaptation of Downton Abbey, the British TV series broadcast as part of PBS Masterpiece Theatre. The series ran for six years, following the lives of an aristocratic family and their domestic servants. It was standard Masterpiece fare, character-driven and rich in visuals and dialogue along with being a guilty pleasure. Think, The Crown meets The Young & the Restless.

My friend’s reply was typical Lady Mary. “It wasn’t great, but good enough. It felt like a longer version of one more episode.” My friend and I were a good dichotomy for the typical target audience for Downton Abbey. While she was a loyal royal watcher from the beginning, I came along late in the game, with a hard-binge of six seasons on Amazon Prime. Knowing its audience, the movie trailer didn’t pretend to market itself as a vehicle for anyone who wasn’t already a fan of the TV series.

But should Good enough be an acceptable review? Why is it that movies seldom capture the essence of that unique story that catches fire with readers and viewers? Too often, the magic of a carefully drawn-out story just doesn’t lend itself to the 2-hour adaptation on the movie screen.

Let’s look at another story that caught fire several years ago, when journalist, Jeanette Walls wrote of her life, in the memoir, The Glass Castle. This book spent over 260 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and it’s hard to find a book club that didn’t devour this classic, or a reader who didn’t bond with the story on some level. Yet, when the movie version of The Glass Castle finally debuted, starring a strong cast consisting of Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, the story fell flat, perhaps suffering from having to leave too much heart on the editing floor.

Sometimes, we should leave the best stories in their original packaging. It is a rare instance when the written word transfers so eloquently to the movie screen. To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind. But more often, the result resembles my feelings when turning off the TV after viewing El Camino on Netflix, a movie picking up immediately after the last scene in the incredibly rewarding last episode of Breaking Bad. While it was nice to see Jessie, our anti-hero again, did we need to revisit what was already the best ending ever for any TV series?

And yet, it can certainly be argued that the best movies come from successful screenplays. Local author, Bonnie Jo Campbell has been touring the country as the film adaptation of her novel, Once Upon a River makes an appearance at many film festivals. We can only hope it pays a visit soon to our area.

Here’s a thought… maybe some endings are best left alone, even if it was nice catching up with the Crawleys and the downstairs staff in Downton Abbey. I wonder what the gang from Mad Men has been up to?

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Women’s LifeStyle.
Look for her debut novel, Chasing North Star in September 2020. Follow Heidi at https://heidimccrary.net/ and https://www.facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

Me and Ed

The story of being a movie extra

A few years back, a movie was filmed in West Michigan. Produced by our famous Holland son, Hopwood Depree, this independent film stars Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly along with Amy Madigan and Julia Robert’s niece, Emma Roberts. The movie also starred a town-full of local folks known in the biz as extras.

Lester CohenHow cool would that be, I thought as I read the open casting call for extras for “Virginia” by TicTock Studios. Who wouldn’t want to be an extra in a film, starring Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly?  All it takes is one day of work so how hard can it be? Soon after, I received the confirmation email…

YOUR CALL TIME FOR “VIRGINIA” ON MONDAY IS 6AM. PLEASE BE SURE TO BRING YOUR WARDROBE WITH YOU WHICH INCLUDES A PANTS SUIT IN SUMMER WEIGHT FABRIC, 3 BLOUSE OPTIONS, AND APPROPRIATE SHOES. YOU WILL BE PLAYING A TV FIELD REPORTER. 

Monday, 4:01am

Rising before sunrise, I pick up the instruction sheet one last time, and read it.

NO BLACK, NO WHITE, NO YELLOW, NO RED. NO LOGOS, NO HIGH CONTRAST STRIPES SEASON IS SPRING/SUMMER. LOCATION IS A BEACH COMMUNITY.           

If I’m correct, this leaves me with the vibrant colors of blue, brown and grey. Going through my closet, which consists of different shades of black, I choose a navy linen suit jacket which is perfect for a beautiful summer day. Never mind that its October in Michigan and the forecast is rain with a high of 42°.

Navy blue…my summer black. OK, I’ll admit it…I’m geeked.

5:52am

Arriving in South Haven, I find a huge white tent set up on the beach, with a banner that hangs over the entrance that reads, Virginia. Walking in, I’m greeted by a blast of heat blowing in from a generator. Finding a seat among the many rows of folding chairs, I wait for my first instructions. The tent contains a mix of crew members, volunteers and extras, and everyone is chatting, leaving me with the feeling that everyone but me has been through this before. A woman enters, followed by her entourage, and talking stops as we watch her set up the wardrobe area. One by one, we are inspected for wardrobe approval.

“Too black,” she says without hesitation. And with that, I’m whisked into a makeshift dressing room and fitted with my third-choice selection. Once dressed, I’m paired with two gentlemen, and the newly formed News Crew is shuttled off to Hair and Makeup, making the three of us realize we’ve been elevated in status to being officially, Extras. There are those who serve as Background or BG for short. They generally are part of a larger crowd, and meant to blend into the background – hence the name. And then there are Extras, the lucky ones who require hair and makeup and might have a small speaking role. We fall somewhere in between.

DO NOT BOTHER THE STARS. YOU ARE HERE UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THIS CASTING COMPANY AND YOU ARE TO BEHAVE IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER.  YOU ARE HERE TO WORK.

8:58am

With my hair now firmly cemented in hairspray, we are shuttled off to yet another tent where we are told to relax and be patient. The temperature outside is in the 40s, so we’re treated with another generator throwing a great amount of heat our way. What we don’t have is food. Seeing how we are the equivalent of cattle on a farm, food will come when the farmhands get around to it. Our tent is bulging with the Saugatuck High School Band, which is also in the movie, with the kids only being scolded occasionally for their loud voices.

And we wait…

12:38pm

News Crew, follow the band!” a crew member yells, and with that, we’re off in another vehicle, riding between the drums and tuba.

We’re driven to North Beach where the beach has been transformed into an ocean-side boardwalk – complete with carnival rides and food vendors. Bleachers are set up and we’re instructed to stand to the side and wait for our cue. I spot Ed Harris sitting in the front row of the bleachers and I take in the workings of the movie set – with cameras rolling on tracks and lights serving as the sun which unfortunately has taken a break today. Hopwood is sitting in the traditional director’s chair, but only stays a moment before jumping off and diving into his work.

And we watch…

“It’s a wrap!” the director finally yells after several hours, and I look at my News Crew. We don’t have to be concerned about winding up on the cutting room floor because it appears that we will not be used.

There is no explanation from the crew other than, “Thank you everyone…We are done for the day! It’s hard not to feel the sting of a broken dream. I tell myself that this was all just for fun and not really important – but the reality is that like many of the others here today, I got sucked into the magical world of moviemaking. How can “Virginia” go on without the News Crew?  Apparently quite easily.

Wednesday, 2:40 pm

Two days have passed, and I’m back to my normal world of a career that pays, overlapping with hustling kids to soccer games and making spaghetti dinners. So when the phone rings and I hear my “Virginia” contact on the other end, it surprises me. “Would you be available tomorrow? You’ll be playing a Mormon leaving church.” Not exactly the sexy label of Field Reporter but just as a soldier is always prepared, I find that I owe it to myself to try it one more time. After all…Hollywood is calling me back.

“I would love to,” I find myself replying. And with that, it’s a repeat of what I can’t wear and a reminder not to feed the stars.

Thursday, 10:38am   

Wearing a simple but elegant Talbot’s dress, I am glad that I dragged a friend with me today. She is more vivacious than me and I smile at the likelihood that she will shine on camera, leaving me, once again, on the sidelines. Per our instructions, my friend and I arrive at our location in Saugatuck and wait for our next instructions.  

And we wait…

1:15pm

Finally, we’re loaded into a bus and driven to Douglas.  It’s a windy day and the trees are bare, with leaves blowing around in typical October fashion. We walk up to our church which sits on a street corner and is surrounded on a beautiful green lawn, without a brown leaf in sight. Our Mormon church is actually a liberal church and we are escorted to the back room. I’m just happy to be riding out my time today indoors – definitely a step up from the tents of the other day.

Soon after, a crew member enters, and we’re escorted to the front of the church and I’m paired with my husband while my friend is grouped with her instant family. Removing my jacket, I stand outside with my husband, shivering as we wait for our next instructions. Amy Madigan is standing in front of us talking to a crew member, and Ed walks past her, proceeding up the steps, passing within inches from me. I look behind me to see my friend smiling broadly at me. I’m in a scene with Ed Harris.

My scene is with Ed Harris!

I cross my arms, trying to warm myself in my lovely short-sleeve spring dress. Suddenly, I feel a jacket being placed over my shoulders, and I turn to see Ed Harris, ever the gentleman. I lift the collar and put it to my nose…nice cologne. It’s quite windy out but the day has suddenly turned sunny and magical for me, and I don’t believe this story can be any better scripted. A crew member comes up to me and suggests that she can get me a jacket, only to be interrupted by Ed, who says, “Just let her keep it on…I’m fine.” When the time comes for him to remove his jacket, he does so with a rub on my back and a, “Are you going to be warm enough?”

“I’ll be great,” I reply. My friend and I exchange smiles and we listen for our cues…

“Background…Action!”

When $10 is Priceless

There’s something about the Petoskey stone. As the artist sat behind the booth, I reached for the earrings, wanting a closer look. And that’s when my phone rang.

“Hey Tyler!” I said, still looking at the earrings. “What’s up?” As my son and I chatted, I turned the earrings over in my hand. “So, I’m looking at these Petoskey stone earrings,” I said, wanting to share my find with him. “And I can’t believe they’re only $10.”

Photo“Hang on, Mom,” my son said. “Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.”

As I stood, waiting, I set the earrings back onto the display, thinking that, even at that wonderful price, I really didn’t need another pair of earrings.

Not long after, my son came back on the line. “You there, Mom?”

“I’m here.”

“Look at your phone. Do you see it?”

Pulling the phone away from my ear, I look at the dark screen. Suddenly, it lights up, displaying a notice from the app, Venmo – which basically serves as a virtual wallet. A notice appears, letting me know that my son dropped $10 into my account.

“Now, go buy those earrings, Mom.”

That’s my boy. And I can’t help but think this would be the perfect Venmo commercial.