Archive for the Atlanta Investigations:HD Category

The Death of “Atlanta Homicide”

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD, Screenwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

As most of you know, I became involved with the start up TV show “Atlanta Homicide” (later known as “Atlanta Investigations:HD/ AI:HD”) back in December of 2007.  The premise in its origins was a crime drama set in Atlanta and like most others in this genre it attempted to balance the character stories of the principal actors with the drama of solving crime.

After working on nine episodes – five of which actually aired (on ColoursTV), one currently in post-production, and three others that seem closer to a beginning than an ending, I have decided to leave the show and have terminated my relationship with the overall project.  This is something I feel is unfortunate and I that regret must come to pass but is for the betterment of my career.

Sources inside the AI:HD camp have reported me being labeled a “Narcissistic, Ego-driven, ass*!&%” which, although probably not that far from the truth, still saddens me because of my prior commitment to the show.

From day one on the set of AI:HD I was prepared.  I stayed as long as I was needed and went above and beyond my role as simply an actor on the set.  Many times I had to re-write scripts on set so that they made sense.  I have re-written lines for people so that they flowed better and were easier to deliver.  I have bought food.  I have catered and hosted a network night when one of the producers and co-creators of the show could not be there and the other one showed up 30 minutes before the event was over.  I supplied props for myself and others.  I knew what day in the script we were shooting and usually had to educate others on what wardrobe went with what “day”, etc.  And ultimately I have waited – countless hours on the co-creators/director/cinematographer and other cast members who would show up when it was convenient for them – at times up to 3 and 4 hours late, leaving those who were on time to wait.

So why did I leave you ask?

I took this show and this project very seriously – as I do every one that I work on.  My reputation speaks volumes about who I am and my character on and off the set.  I am a professional and act as such.  I cannot say the same about many of the others involved with AI:HD.  When the co-creators and primary producers don’t treat this as an absolute priority and a professional endeavor, others will not either.   That is where I feel AI:HD is now.

Overall there is a total lack of communication and follow up.    Planning and organization are non-existent.  This has to change.  Casting is done on the fly and as a result we ended up unable to complete episodes because now “so and so” lives out of state, etc.  There are currently 3 unfinished episodes that involved me – one which we began filming in FEBRUARY!  We did not have production meetings, table reads or even call sheets, all of which I feel are critical to planning and ultimately executing a successful episode filming.

On my last day on set, our scheduled call time was 10:30 a.m.  I got a call at 10 a.m. indicating that the call time had been moved to 11:30 a.m.  Upon arriving at the studio on time, I found the parking lot completely empty – no crew, no cast, other than me!   A phone call later, I found out that the director was enroute and would be there with in 15 minutes and our producer/cinematographer would be there shortly (undefined).  At 12:15 p.m. the director showed up and shortly there after assorted background cast members began to trickle in.    At 1:05 p.m. the producer/ cinematographer finally showed up and immediately left again.   Fortunately I was out in the parking lot detailing my car, so at least I was somewhat occupying my time.   Now by 2:30 p.m. I was done with the car and getting a little impatient.  My ultimatum to the director was if we were not shooting by 3:00 p.m., I was leaving.  Everyone involved knew that I had to leave no later than 5:00 p.m.  Finally at 2:55 our producer/ cinematographer showed up.  None of the equipment was set up and we were still waiting on my partner for this episode.  It was doubtful if not impossible that we could get anything filmed prior to my 5:00 p.m. cut time.  So after several discussions I left.   I should point out at this point that I had passed on a well paid, modeling assignment to dedicate my day to filming for AI:HD.

The following day I was fortunately able to perform the second half of the shoot that I missed on Saturday (for the remaining half of the total compensation).  Afterwards, my phone began blowing up with calls from cast and crew members of AI:HD asking me to come to the studio to film.  I refused.   After the final straw of Saturday’s absolute waste of time, everything else really came into perspective.  And as such I realized that I could not commit any more time to this project unless steps were taken to address the many production downfalls (see above) that had become the norm.  To date, I still do not believe that these opportunities for improvement and paramount needs have been addressed.

To those actors and crew members still working on AI:HD, I wish them the very best.  I would not have spent the amount of time and energy I did if the show was not something I believed in.  However, it was just time for me to move on.

Now, as far as the promised compensation of copy and credit I would issue this warning to anyone associated with AI:HD as well as independent directors and producers.  When you indicate “COPY and CREDIT” as the only compensation, it is your absolute responsibility to provide that to your actors.  And actors, it is your absolute right to request, repeatedly, even if you have to demand it from your director/producer.

With AI:HD I had to write numerous emails requesting that my IMDB.com (Chris Durant on IMDB.com ) page be updated before they finally were.  That takes care of the credit portion, so how about copy?  Beg, borrow, steal and maybe with a little ardent encouragement you’ll get it.  I even went so far as to give a pack of 50 DVRs to our co-creator/director/cinematographer.  I am still waiting on two of the finished and aired episodes.

Now this brings us to the present day:

As many of you know I had written a script titled “Vendetta” for the show that delved into why my character, Detective Winslow, was who he was and why he acted the way that he did.  I already had 95% of the roles cast.  I had the bulk of the locations secured.  I had the prop list compiled with the vast majority of them being supplied by me – including visual and graphic effects.  I had a world renowned producer prepared to score the episode.  And as important to the production planning process as I feel they are, I had undated call sheets prepared so that during our preproduction meeting/table read we could plan out our shoot days based on everyone’s availability all at once.  Many of the people I had worked with in putting this together were leery to commit knowing the (not so good) reputation of AI:HD but also knowing me, they agreed to participate as a favor to me.  I guess they’re off the hook now.  I wanted to use this opportunity to showcase AI:HD to those who had heard not so good things about this production and show them where we were had come to now.   Or not!

As a result of my departure from AI:HD I am rewriting “Vendetta” into a short and also a feature length film to be shot by my newly formed production company – Twisted Window Productions.  So thanks for the inspiration.

Chris Durant ®

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“Atlanta Homicide” becomes “Atlanta Investigations:HD”

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

Atlanta Homicide – Atlanta Investigations HD

 AIHD Chris Durant & Kal CauthenAtlanta Homicide News

Atlanta Homicide is changing its series name to Atlanta Investigations HD (Homicide Division) as it prepares for Colours TV broadcast in July.

The show features stars Kal Cauthen as Detective Bryce, Chris Durant as Detective Winslow, and Angelina Cortez as Detective Wilmore.

CoLours can be found in all 50 states in the top 100 TV markets, in front of over 18 million television households. Find them on EchoStar/Dish Network channel 9407 and on local cable affiliates, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. CoLours’ technical information is Satellite Intelsat Americas 13, Transponder 6. CoLours also features an online presence. Go to our web site at www.colourstv.org for more information.

Atlanta’s “Cold Cases” get TV Treatment

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

Chris Durant, Angelina Cortez, Hattie Lemon on the set of AIHD

This article was originally printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and on AccessAtlanta.com.

CRIME/TELEVISION

Atlanta’s ‘cold cases’ get TV treatment
New cable series based on true crimes filming in Roswell


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/20/2008  

The idea is to take crimes from the streets and put a fictional spin on them to produce an Atlanta cop drama that will alter the image of this city the way the HBO series “The Wire” has reimagined Baltimore.

But there are problems on the set of “Atlanta Investigations: HD,” a shoestring production that, at this moment, is shooting an episode in an abandoned gym without air-conditioning on a boiling June afternoon that makes everyone on the set feel like something in the oven for dinner.

PHIL SKINNER / AJC
Actress Angelina Cortez gets ready for shooting scenes of ‘Atlanta Investigations: HD’, a new TV series based on real Atlanta homicide investigations.
 

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The generator powering the lights just ran out of gas. Carl Millender, the show’s creator and video camera operator, groans. “I only brought enough gas to run it [the generator] two and a half hours,” he tells the actors.

He pauses, thinks a second.

“Everybody move over by the window — we’ll shoot it there.”

If there’s an instinct vital to survival in the industry of TV on the cheap it’s knowing how to adapt. Millender, 38, the owner of Alpharetta-based StarMaxx Media, has honed that instinct in nine years of trying to survive on the margins of television production in Atlanta.

“They say we’re supposed to shoot an episode on a budget of $100,000,” he says of the show, which will begin airing on The Dish satellite network Thursday. “We’re more like $20,000.”

There’s no disguising the cut corners from viewers used to watching slick cop productions such as “CSI” or “Law & Order,” which carries an average per episode production budget of $4 million.

In early episodes of “Atlanta Investigations: HD,” the lighting, camera work and sound are patchy. And for actors — who are unpaid until the series airs — the work has been a test of mettle.

“We’ve been at both extremes shooting in this gym,” says Chris Durant, 34, who plays strictly-by-the-books Detective Stephen Winslow. “In January we were freezing. The beginning of June we’re sweating our tails off.”

Yet, says Millender, “Atlanta Investigations: HD” (the HD stands for homcide division) is about more than just making a hit show.

About 90 shows and series have been shot in Atlanta in the last 35 years, most recently Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” but “Atlanta Investigtions: HD” would be the first dramatic series set and shot in the city with Atlanta in the name.

And that’s huge, Millender says.

“Atlanta is the Mecca of the South, and the center of the music industry, but there’s no TV show ever been based here, and there’s no TV industry here. This is what we’re trying to do. And we’ve been getting a lot of help.”

And they’ve needed it. Millender and co-creator and director Hattie Lemon know their way around the TV business. And they’re doing what they can to juice the show’s appeal, such as casting celebrity guest appearances (comic Arnez J) and hiring Michael Moore — who produced music for episodes of “The Sopranos” — to write the show’s high-energy theme.

But, when it came to running even a fictional homicide division, Millender and Lemon were complete tyros.

They asked for help in a most unexpected place: The Andrew Young Foundation. Millender got in touch with former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young’s brother, Walter, an Atlanta dentist who works with the Foundation, and told him he was trying to produce a cop show in Atlanta that would help solve crimes and give the city a lot of publicity.

Within two days Walter Young arranged a meeting with local police chiefs. Over dinner at the Four Seasons restaurant, Millender bounced his ideas off Atlanta Police Chief Richard J. Pennington, DeKalb Chief Terrell Bolton and former Atlanta chief and current Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell.

Bolton, for one, told the producer Millender he should change the name of the show, which was originally titled “Atlanta Homicide,” recalls Millender. “He said that wasn’t the right image for the city.”

With Pennington’s blessing, Millender met with the head of the Atlanta Police Department’s homicide division, Lt. Keith Meadows, who watched one of the early episodes and offered advice.

“I thought it was pretty good, though you could tell it was low budget,” said Meadows, who teaches a crime scene class in the department’s Citizens Academy. “But they had a lot of unrealistic parts I told them they needed to fix.”

Meadows told Millender and Lemon, who attended this crime scene class, to clean up the language — “Homicide detectives don’t talk in the kind of slang they did” — and put coats and ties on the crime scene detectives.

“Their investigators were wearing T-shirts and bandannas,” Meadow said. “That’s a no-no. If an investigator of mine showed up like that I’d send him home.”

The show now has a full-time cop consultant and, for script ideas, a pipeline to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s “Rewards Office,” which offers money to help solve hard-to-crack crimes.

At the end of each episode, which are fictionalized versions of the real-life crimes, viewers are asked to come forward if they have evidence in the case.

“It’s a great show, good for the police and good for the city,” says Billy Johnson, a specialist in charge of extradition and rewards in the governor’s office who is also on the board of the Georgia Film, Video and Music Office.

The show is fictionalizing: gang-related drive-by shootings in Clayton County in 2005; a 2007 triple murder in Powder Springs; the case of a woman missing from LaFayette since 2007; and the case of a newborn found dead and abandoned in 2007.

All that will come to naught if the show doesn’t catch on with viewers, concedes Arthur Thomas Sr., VP of Colours TV, which is syndicating the show on The Dish satellite network. Locally, the show will air the evening of July 3 on The Dish at Channel 9407.

But the show’s appeal may be its lack of polish.

“It’s got a great cast, real stories, and a kind of gritty indie feel to it,” says Thomas. “If it’s a good story, people will accept the production values. And I think Atlanta is hungry for a show about Atlanta.”

Character Bio – Detective Stephen “Step” Winslow

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

ATLANTA INVESTIGATIONS:HD – Star Maxx Media

  
 

 

Character Bio: Detective Stephen “STEP” Winslow    

    

Name: Stephen “Step” Winslow

Age:     34

Height:   6’1”       Weight:  180lbs     Build:  Athletic

Hair:     Brown     Eyes:  Hazel

Marital Status:   Single

Religion:  Baptist

Father:   John Winslow, VP with local bank

Mother:  Carol Winslow, Retired Elementary School Teacher

Brother:  Wade Winslow, Major, United States Marine Corps, Pentagon

Education:

            High School:   Pace Academy, Atlanta, Georgia

            College:           United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD

 

Military:   United States Marine Corps, Captain, Force Recon, Bronze Star, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM

Atlanta Police Department:

·         Academy – Top of his class – 6 months

·         Patrol, Zone 2 – 18 months

·         Training Group – 24 months

·         SWAT – 36 months

·         Homicide – 6 months – current

 

Background:

Stephen “STEP” Winslow grew up in an affluent, upper middle class family in the Buckhead suburbs of Atlanta.   The youngest of two sons, Step looked up to and seemed to idolize his older brother, Wade.  The boys learned their values in a firm, yet loving household.  John (a VP with a local bank) and Carol (retired school teacher) provided excellent role models for the two boys.

 

Step attended and graduated from the prestigious Pace Academy in the heart of Buckhead.  And then followed in his brother’s footsteps and was accepted into the United States Naval Academy.  After graduating from Annapolis, Step received his commission in the United States Marine Corps.  He continued to follow Wade’s lead and joined Force Reconnaissance and served five (5) years in the Corps including a deployment to Afghanistan.

 

After being Honorably Discharged from the Marine Corps, Step returned to Atlanta and against the wishes of his parents joined the Atlanta Police Department.  Top in his academy class, Step went on to work patrol in Zone 2 for 18 months before moving into the training group where he served as a Firearms Instructor specializing in Tactical Pistol, Shotgun and Patrol rifle, Basic Weapons Handling as well as Taser and “Force on Force” training for officers and SWAT.  Still longing for the action of the Marine Corps, Step joined SWAT and served on the team for three (3) years before passing his detective’s exam and moving into his current role in Atlanta’s Homicide Division.

 

As the newest addition to the division, many of the other detectives are still feeling Step out.  A private person who seems to keep to himself off the job, Winslow is seen as a bit of a loner and is often thought of as arrogant because of his no-nonsense demeanor; a stereotype which has been further solidified by his refusal to take lip from ANYONE including his superiors who seem to look the other way at times.

 

His morals are beyond reproach and he is a “strictly by the book” officer/investigator. 

 

 

 

Low Budget Stunts are a “Pain” – Literally

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

Okay, since I first began shooting Atlanta Homicide (now known as “Atlanta Investigations:HD” – more to follow on this soon), back in January I have seen the entire process continuously improving.  I think that is one of the things that make this project so much fun to work on.  While I wasn’t necessarily there on day one, I did come in early enough to witness the evolution of where we were to where we are today.  First, the scripts are getting better and better.  We also have a much more stable cast of recurring characters now.  So, throughout each subsequent episode you can really start to feel the various relationships begin to take on a life of their own.  But I guess, more than anything else, the overall production value of the show has increased with every new day on set.

We have taken in more “on-location” shoots, more car scenes, more in-your-face scenes.  We have had several fight scenes and even a shoot out staged down at MLK park late one Saturday night.  Everything about that one was a little bizarre.  But all of these scenes have been pretty well staged and, at best, run at 50-75% full action.  

All of that changed yesterday.  I had a scene where my character and my partner were going to talk to a murder suspect at his home.  Well, as you would expect, he was not too keen on talking to us.  So…. he bolts out the side door and takes off.  I mean this kid was FLYING!  So, being the Alpha male cop that I play on TV I immediately gave chase.

The scene called for a short, but full out foot pursuit where the suspect flees his home, hops a wood fence and is pretty much tackled, kneed and cuffed by yours truly.  As we were blocking out the scene and figuring out where the exact action would take place and where the cameras would be, I happened to notice that this wood fence is about 4 foot high from the level that we were running and about 5 – 5 1/2″ down to the ground we would ultimately land on.  Piece of cake!  I mean I’m an agile, athletic young buck, right?  Who needs a stunt man for something like this?  Uh huh, right! 

After we walk through it a couple of times we decided to just go ahead and shoot it full out at 100% action.  You can’t really half jump over a fence.  With the cameras rolling – off we go!  Spotting the fuzz outside his crib my man is off like a bullet and is flat out moving before he shoots his 6’4″ frame over that fence like a gazelle with me hot on his heels.  On cue he goes down just as I am about to spring over the fence.  But hold on!  Where he landed is a little short of where I anticipated him being.  Within those miliseconds I shifted my leaping/hurling/springing action to miss landing square on him.  Instead, I slammed my knee into the top rail and then proceeded to finish out my already in motion flying-through-the-air action.  I land near enough to secure the suspect in the same rough fashion we had intended, but my knee is pretty jacked.  Take 1 being “CUT” I struggled to my feet and hobbled back to position one to do it all over again, and again, and again.  Six, seven, eight more times to cover all angels and only one more banged knee.

So here I sit, 28 hours later, my knee still bruised and swollen, thinking I had conceptualized it going a lot more smoothly than it did.    Maybe the fence was actually a little taller than I originally thought.  And what was up with the camera being there on that one take?  Not to mention that stupid branch hanging down which seemed to appear out of nowhere on another.

The upside of this little story?  Well I do think I gleaned a smidgen of humility yesterday.  Oh yeah, and I am pretty adamant about having my IMdb.com credits for this episode include “stuntman”.

Chris Durant Interview with WJXE

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD on June 18, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

This is an interview with actor Chris Durant with WJXE and The Florida Times Union’s “Jacksonville.com”. The interview was filmed during the premier of “Atlanta Investigations: HD”.

On the set of Atlanta “Investigations:HD”

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD with tags , , , , , , on June 18, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

HD\Detective Stephen Winslow