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in development
Sleepwalker Sweet Home Chicago American Pharaoh Caveman Robot   
A feature length screenplay by David Eyre and Douglas Snider
GENRE: Thriller

The year is 1969. Top-secret U.S. intelligence agencies -- faced with widespread anti-government uprisings on America's college campuses -- set out to recruit patriotic students to infiltrate and spy on the campus anti-war activists. These informants' tuition and expenses will be secretly paid for by the U.S. taxpayers. When first approached, 18-year-old Forest Service smoke-jumper David O'Brien is seduced by the offer of a free college education.

Concurrently, a paranoid U.S. government - in full Cold War, Viet Nam era mode - has begun to secretly conduct mind-altering experiments on its soldiers - and appallingly - sometimes on groups of unsuspecting, ordinary citizens. In just such a program, David and his on-campus spying operation cohorts are unwittingly made into clandestine government research guinea pigs.

Thirty years pass. In present day, the residual effects of these covert programs go horribly awry. David suddenly finds himself at the center of a deadly maelstrom. The former co-members of his college era spy program are - one by one - being brutally murdered. David must discover why, before he becomes the next unfortunate casualty. David seeks out Jessica, an original member of the program and the first woman he ever loved; and Randy, a solid, resourceful friend from his old smoke-jumping days. With their help, David hunts for the killer - all the while, he too is being hunted.

SLEEPWALKER is a taut thriller, a cleverly twisted contemporary "Manchurian Candidate," guaranteed to keep audiences at the edge of their seat until its fast-paced, dramatic conclusion.


A feature length screenplay by Terry Schwartz, Robert Birnberg and Dan Halperin

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It's 1959. Four teenage boys just out of high school want to avoid the bleak future that surely awaits in their changing blue collar Chicago neighborhood. Our hero, Dave Lujak, is expected to inherit his family's funeral parlor, but he screams "I'm a musician, not a mortician." Dave rallies his three best friends, Deejo, Ziggy and Pepper into forming the greatest blues band, ever.

Dave tells them that if they can convince the nuns to let them perform at the church fair at the end of the summer, fame and fortune are surely just around the comer. But this is no simple task. Everyone and everything in the neighborhood conspire against them - parents; girls; the neighborhood bully Arms and his gang of toughs; and Frank Kazursky, the local butcher and weekend polka band leader. Frank is determined to prevent the boys from stealing the musical spotlight that he and his Polka Dots have enjoyed at the church fair for years and years. And he's not beyond ruthless tactics, he's a butcher.

Moreover, the boys have their own problems. Ziggy, the bass player, has recurring nightmares that an atomic bomb will drop on Chicago the night the White Sox win the pennant; Pepper, the drummer, must defend his mother from his father's increasingly abusive drunken attacks; and Deejo, the lead guitarist, is being pressured to join his father working on a factory assembly line; and Dave's parents expect him to start mortuary college in the fall. The band's success is the only thing that can help Dave and his friends escape their fate of certain lifelong misery. Along with the grim changes going on in their neighborhood as Chicago faces urban renewal, and toss in plenty of girl trouble for each of the boys - it's an adolescent nightmare.

As the summer comes to a close, and his friends, neighborhood and dreams crumble around him, Dave strives with all his might to keep the band together and "kill" on stage at the church fair.

While full of humor, in the tradition of coming-of-age classics like "Stand by Me" and "Diner," "Sweet Home Chicago" is a heartfelt homage to adolescent friendship...and to the best summer, ever.

"Sweet Home Chicago" is based on the award winning short story "Blight" by world-renowned Chicago author, Stuart Dybek.


Reprinted with permission from Produced By - the official magazine of the
Producer's Guild of America (PGA) - Spring 2007

There’s a scene in most Westerns and war movies where before leading a posse or squad into battle, the sheriff or sergeant picks up a stick from the ground and sketches the plan of attack in the sand. Stick and sand are a pretty crude medium of communication and one can imagine the various misinterpretations that might serve as the basis of a riotous set piece in a Mel Brooks comedy.

Stick and sand, light and sound, ours too is a business of communication. Our mission — to convey our vision to an audience in the most attractive and compelling fashion using the best of our intelligence and creativity — while keeping on schedule and within a budget. It stands to reason that in order to attain our goal we must first convey our plans and ideas effectively to those with whom we collaborate — our posse, our unit — or alternately, our fellow producers, production managers, directors, actors, cinematographers, designers and all their respective teams. And we must communicate up the chain as well, to studio execs and financiers.

Words are wonderful things, but they can often fail us (as they are me at this moment) and that’s where a picture can help us express ourselves more clearly. So when necessary, we pick up a stick to draw a picture in the sand. But what if now that picture in the sand could move and play out the whole chase or battle? Easily and inexpensively?

Most film or video productions today utilize some form of storyboarding to pre-visualize their story. Some directors come from an art background and are very talented at creating highly-detailed, easy-to-comprehend drawings. These storyboards can tell the actor where to stand or move, indicate where the DP is to place the camera and lights, and show the production designer what the set looks like and what props are required. For years I, like many others, did my best with simple stick figures. When I could afford it, I hired a storyboard artist to do higher-quality drawings for me.

But today, technology proves this method to be as antiquated as the old stick in the sand. Software like the newly-released Antics allows a script to be pre-visualized — not only in three dimensions, but in real time — with characters that walk and talk, and cameras that move, in sets and environments of the users’ own design. This type of 3D animation transcends language, breaks through the box of two-dimensional, single-frame drawings and allows the artist to present the image of their mind’s eye for all to see.

If a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, then a moving picture must be worth a million. Alastair Woolley, managing director of the software company Antics Technologies, says the company strongly believes that a sizable market exists for a product that can enable the average computer-literate person to generate 3D–animated scenes using a desktop application — be it a film director planning a film shoot or a lawyer reconstructing a crime scene in court.

The simultaneous increase in power and decrease in price of desktop computers means that consumers might have the capability to work with a 3D application. Although user-generated content (UGC) is still in its infancy, consumers desire wider means to express themselves creatively in their blogs, pictures and home videos, and are seeking more (and more sophisticated) tools to do so. The time seemed right for the animation market to extend itself beyond the boundaries of traditional animation as we’ve grown to know it.

Antics Technologies, based in Cambridge,England — often referred to as Silicon Fen(Cambridge is situated on the edge of a formerly marshy area of England known as the Fenlands) — set about developing a user-friendly animation software program. The first step, says Woolley, was to blend just the right mix of highly-experienced engineers from the fields of 3D design, video games and mathematics. Various large corporations with more resources than Antics had tried to develop a similar system for many years but had failed. An early prototype was produced as proof of concept, but it had many features that were difficult to use and it had no timeline. Yet based on this early product and a lot of market feedback, the team continued to develop its idea, which has reached fruition in the recentlyreleased version of Antics.

The key challenges along the way, according to Woolley, were making the sets and characters generic enough to be applicable to nearly every user (with a near-infinite quantity of changing sets, locations,props and characters), writing software that runs in real time, a program that could work on a standard consumer PC, and lastly, ensuring that the interface was intuitive and easy to use.

In the past, traditional animation was far too time-consuming, expensive and could only be done by highly-skilled professionals. Antics’ engineers created a radical new approach: embedding intelligence within the characters and props themselves, producing animation via simple “point and click” commands where characters can interact with each other and with props — each having a large range of predefined actions. For example: you want to animate a character moving across the street and getting into a car — in Antics you only have to select the character and click on the car. Done. And you can vary the speed or path the character takes. Simple as that.

“If you have a scene set in a lounge where a character has been scripted to sit on a particular chair,” says Antics’ L.A.rep Brad Kolacinski, “Simply point and click on the chair and the character will walk across the room and sit in the chair.Then imagine you want the same character to sit on the same chair, but the chair is no longer in the lounge but now in a bedroom on the second floor. In Antics you click on the chair, move it from the lounge to the second floor, and then simply replay the take from the timeline.” Kolacinski boasts, “The character automatically knows where the chair is, navigates his way up the stairs, around other props, opening any doors that might be between the two, and then sits in the chair. The timeline automatically takes into account this new and more complex sequence of events.”

This degree of flexibility requires a range of advanced techniques including dynamic path planning, room bridging and sophisticated animation re-targeting. Antics allows you to direct the action and view the results through different cameras, lenses, angles and camera moves — pan, track,dolly or a crane shot. And if you wish, you can adjust the timing and composition as often as you need until it’s the way you want it.

To see if the program lived up to its billing, I decided to conduct a “road test.” I’m currently developing a featurefilm project called Sweet Home Chicago, a coming-of-age buddy picture in the vein of Diner or American Graffiti. I decided to shoot a ten-minute promo in order to convince investors and key talent of the project’s merits and present my vision for the project. Yet flying cast and crew to Chicago (or even setting up an L.A. shoot) was cost-prohibitive. So I chose to do it in Antics.

Using the Antics’ library, I was able to create an exterior location in the industrial portion of Chicago’s south side. Because Sweet Home Chicago is set in 1959, careful attention to detail was required — buildings, cars, characters and props had to be accurate. Fire escapes, dilapidated buildings complete with boarded-up windows, overgrown shrubs, rubble piles and chain-link fences were dragged and dropped into the scene to bring my vision to life. (Since I started this project, Antics has incorporated the amazing Google Earth program, allowing virtually any exterior location to be extrapolated on screen!)

I additionally commissioned Antics to create custom 3D characters based on several well-known actors I had in mind for the leads. These actors’ faces were actually mapped onto the character avatars and lip-sync-enabled so they could actually say their lines. The characters were configured to pick up and hold their relevant instruments (guitar, drumsticks, and saxophone) in real time at the click of a mouse. We used a pre-recorded sound mix as a reference. Each take was output as an .avi, full-frames uncompressed, 24 fps, 640 x 320. These takes were then stitched together in Adobe Premiere, syncing to the sound mix.

As I watched my movie’s world come to life in Antics, I was able to create more detail and nuance. And as I downloaded ideas from my mind onto the pre-viz screen, valuable brain disc space opened up.

Antics’ developers wanted to make sure that users were only limited by their own imaginations, not by their knowledge of sophisticated software or by time constraints. Now, via Antics, animation can be used in wide variety of situations, for example, pitching and fundraising. Fred Medina, VP Sales and Business Development at Antics, says that a number of users have reported that Antics paid for itself immediately by significantly reducing time on location, allowing the director and to crew know exactly what is to be achieved and what equipment and props are needed before even getting on set. In some instances, problems could be solved in pre-viz before they added up to serious costs during production.

Antics can play back on a monitor on-set during production — so much of what would have to be explained to keys — DP, art department and so on — will already be on the pre-viz screen, saving time and money. Moreover, doing a pre-viz with the editor could help make sure there’s ample scene coverage, that eye lines are correct and that a scene will cut together seamlessly. All this can be worked out in advance before a frame of film or tape is shot.

Current work in development at Antics will further boost flexibility by opening it up to a wide range of file formats both for input and output, increasing Antics’ ability to fit seamlessly into the production workflow of films, TV shows and commercials. According to Woolley, Antics is currently investigating arange of possibilities for expanding its ability to bring in content from external sources as well as, for example, enabling users to create their own characters and their own smart props. Antics’ designers hope to have their product eventually running on a host of other intelligent devices.

Antics 3D pre-viz runs on a standard desktop PC and costs around the price of industry-standard-photograph-editing software. At that price, this new category of software will enable ideas for countless creative projects to attract funding — even if they have a very modest initial budget. With Antics, the art of pre-visualization is nearly as simple as that old stick in the sand, yet the details are Gone With the Wind.

Soon you can see PGA member Dan Halperin’s
results at or He can be
reached via e-mail at

Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Fight for Chicago and the Nation
Book for Cable Biopic by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor

Book Description

"This is Chicago, this is America." With those words, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley famously defended his brutal crackdown on protestors at the 1968 Democratic convention. Profoundly divided racially, economically and socially, Chicago was indeed a microcosm of America, and for more than two decades Daley ruled it with an iron fist. The last of the big city bosses, Daley ran an unbeatable political machine that controlled over one million votes. From 1955 until his death in 1976, every decision of any importance - from distributing patronage jobs to picking Congressional candidates - went through his office. He was a major player in national politics as well. Kennedy and Johnson owed their presidencies to his control of the Illinois vote, and he made sure they never forgot it. In a city legendary for its corruption and backroom politics, Daley's power was unrivaled. Daley transformed Chicago - then a dying city - into a modern metropolis of skyscrapers, freeways and a thriving downtown. But he also made Chicago America's most segregated city. A man of profound prejudices and a deep authoritarian streak, he constructed the nation's largest and worst ghettoes, sidestepped national civil rights laws, and successfully thwarted Martin Luther King's campaign to desegregate Northern cities. A quarter-century after his death, Daley's outsize presence continues to influence American urban life, and a reassessment of his career is long overdue. Now, veteran journalists Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor present the definitive biography of Richard J. Daley, drawn from newly uncovered material and dozens of interviews with his contemporaries. In today's era of poll-tested, polished politicians, Daley's rough-and-tumble story is remarkable. From the working-class Irish neighborhood of his childhood, to his steady rise through Chicago's corrupt political hierarchy, to his role as national powerbroker, American Pharaoh is a riveting account of the life and times of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century domestic politics. In the tradition of Robert Caro's classic The Power Broker, this is a compelling life story of a towering individual whose complex legacy is still with us today."

Editorial Reviews

You might say it took a village to raise this child. Richard Daley and Chicago are inseparable, and it's impossible to discuss one without at least mentioning the other. Consequently, American Pharaoh includes far more material than your average biography; this is as much the story of the city as it is of the man. Covering the years between 1902 and 1976 (that is, between Daley's birth and death), authors Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor show us a life that in some ways symbolizes the American dream: a boy from a poor neighborhood grows up to wield unimaginable power, yet never forgets his roots. But Daley's was a complicated legacy. While filling Chicago with modern architecture and affecting national politics, he was also held responsible for the segregation and police brutality that tore the city apart during thee late '60s and early '70s. Throughout the book, Cohen and Taylor remind readers that Daley's real influence came from the powerful political machine he created. When he didn't like guidelines from national agencies, for example, he went directly to the presidents he helped get elected. When he got bad local press, people lost their jobs and his neighbors marched in his support. When Martin Luther King Jr. came to town, he was greeted by a handpicked organization of African American leaders with strong ties to Daley's machine. It's startling to remember that this was simply a local office; the mayor's loyalties and prejudices affected the entire country. American Pharaoh shows politics at its deepest level, and each chapter brings new insights into a complex man and the system he created in order to rule the city that mad him. - Jill Lightner

The New York Times Book Review, Alan Ehrenhalt

"…a splendid, serious treatment of Daley's life, the first full-length biography of one of the most fascinating and enigmatic characters of modern American political history."

San Francisco Chronicle, 7/16/00-7/22/00

"…never lets us forget the grander drama of Daley's public life…a fine biography [that] speaks to out time as well as to memory."

Publishers Weekly, 5/1/00

"Penetrating, non-sensationalistic and exhaustive, this is an impressive and important biography."

Business Week, 5/29/00

"…meticulously researched…likely the definitive biography…compelling…"

From Booklist

The legendary Richard J. Daley epitomized the political boss. Over his 20 years as mayor of Chicago and undisputed head of the Democratic machine, Daley reigned supreme. He is credited with providing the margin of victory in the election of J. F. Kennedy. Yet, his worldview was that all politics was local. Daley managed to institutionalize the cross-ethnic neighborhood political machine and find consensus along class lines against "perceived threats" from outsiders. He secured this partnership during his reign by emphasizing the redevelopment of Chicago's central business area, the Loop, and securing financing to expand O'Hare airport at a time when other Midwestern cities were earning a reputation as the "rust belt." But a successful balancing, if not merging, of interests could only be secured by subrogating the interests of black Chicagoans. Ethnic whites saw open housing as a threat to the tranquility of their neighborhoods, and downtown businesspeople saw the expanding black community's proximity to the Loop a threat to redevelopment. Thus, Daley used urban renewal to wipe out housing where blacks lived in problem areas. The success of Daley's balancing act laid the foundation for the current and monumental problems Chicago is facing under Daley the Younger, Richard M., the current mayor. The success of the American pharaoh may have provided the defining dilemma for his son and all who dare to follow the path of the political leadership in Chicago. This work delineates well the career of the kid from Hardscrabble, and it will surely extend his urban legend. - Vernon Ford

Kirkus, 4/15/00

"A monumental biography of Chicago's six-term mayor that elevates the coarse and cunning political boss to the status of American icon…breathlessly engrossing…"

Studs Terkel, author of Working and My American Century

"This is a myth-shattering portrait of Mayor Daley the elder. In its revelatory detail, it offers us a canny politician, not especially original or colorful, whose staying power enabled him to outlast all competition. It is an eye-opening work that entrails the reader from Page 1."

Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here and The Other Side of the River

"American Pharaoh is biography at its absolute best. In the spirit of Robert Caro's The Power Broker, this is a story of more than just a man. It is a tale of tumultuous time, of the corruptibility of power, and of the strengths and frailties of our democracy. Best of all, Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor, who have done an extraordinary job of reporting, know how to spin a good yam. I read this book on airplanes. I read it late a night. I read it when I should have been working. In short, it held me spellbound."

Douglas Brinkley, Director of the Eisenhower Center and Professor of History, University of New Orleans

"American Pharaoh is a grand, sweeping profile of Chicago's Richard J. Daley, perhaps the most powerful and irascible mayor in American history. This is political biography at its absolute finest: sprightly prose, dramatic flare, definitive insights, careful research, colorful anecdotes, and a balanced interpretation. Daley leaps off these pages as if he were still alive."

William Julius Wilson, author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor

"I have read a lot of biographies, but none more compelling than Cohen and Taylor's brilliant portrait of Mayor Richard J. Daley. American Pharaoh is a tour de force. It is rich in detail, not only in the systematic chronicling of Daley and his activities, but also in the interesting discussions of the historical, social, and cultural factors that provide the broader context for understanding his incredible rise to power."

ALA Booklist, 4/1/00

"…this work delineates well the career of the kid from Hardscrabble, and it will surely extend his urban legend…"

Kirkus, 4/15/00

"…monumental…a breathlessly engrossing history of a classic urban political machine and the powerbroker who ran it his way."

Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent

"American Pharaoh is a unique gem. It is an enthralling narrative, a true page-turner, and also a needed work of history. It is the first serious biography of Richard J. Daley, the enormously complicated man who ruled Chicago for decades, and who, no matter how viewed, indelibly shaped not only one city, but the American political scene and national urban life."

Douglas Brinkley, Director of the Eisenhower Center and Professor of History, University of New Orleans

"American Pharaoh is a grand, sweeping profile of Chicago's Richard J. Daley, perhaps the most powerful and irascible mayor in American history. This is political biography at its absolute finest: sprightly prose, dramatic flare, definitive insights, careful research, colorful anecdotes, and a balanced interpretation. Daley leaps off these pages as if he were still alive."

Chicago Tribune, 5/19/00

"…even handed, non-judgmental…precise and insightful…the best full-scale study of the mayor…"

About the Authors

Adam Cohen is a senior write for the Nation section of Time, where he covers law and politics. He has also written for Chicago Magazine, Chicago Tribune and The Harvard Law Review. He lives in New York. Elizabeth Taylor was Correspondent with Time in New York and Chicago for more than a decade. She is now Literary Editor and Sunday Magazine Editor of the Chicago Tribune. She Lives in Chicago.

Caveman Robot
Greetings from Jason Robert Bell.

You, dear friend, are now holding the mighty future in your puny human hands! This is it! We have mapped out the entire epic saga of high adventure for everyone’s favorite clockwork primitive, Caveman Robot. This book is a declaration of intent for the animated series we are going to make. Caveman Robot has gone through many incarnations since we created him in 1995. With the help of some very talented and devoted friends, we have been able to create ‘zines, comics, large-scale paintings, sculptures, public appearances, dolls, trading cards, music, animation shorts, and most recently an independent, full-length multi-media musical theater production. Now we are ready to take over the world, and you can help!

            Caveman Robot: Behold the Dodecatron! will be a primetime adult-smart and kid-friendly television series of over-the-top, two-fisted tales presented in a manner bordering on the absurd that will keep people permanently glued to their television sets, no bathroom breaks! We see this series as a new and exciting beacon of hope to rival the highest levels of mortal endeavor in an otherwise bleak soulless wasteland that is contemporary culture. This book of original concept art created by Joe Infurnari and Jason Robert Bell, is only a tiny glimmer of what we will do. The show will be a visual smorgasbord and a portal to a rich, fantastic world! Simply stated, we will create the greatest cartoon of all time.
            Imagine if Jack Kirby, H.G. Wells, Joseph Campbell, Pablo Picasso, and Ray Harryhausen, collaborated to create an animated series. Caveman Robot: Behold the Dodecatron! Would kick that cartoon’s butt! We will give back to audiences a true sense of ‘awe’ that only the power of the imagery, the breadth of the stories, their laughs, their tears and everything in between can bring. Jeff Lewonczyk, Jason, Joe, Britton Walters, and Jonathan Latiano have honed these first twelve tales into razor sharp fictional perfection. In their current state, they are the pinnacle of Western Civilization!
            The goal of Caveman Robot is to make a cartoon with real staying power; creating a detailed and complex universe where anything can and often does happen. 
            The title character, Caveman Robot, is a monstrous yet noble mechanical man with the mind and manners of a Neanderthal. The series takes place in the present day in the amazing ‘comic book’ city of Monumenta but the audience will be privy to adventures at the dawn of time and at the end of the universe as well. We have painstakingly developed for our hero, an elaborate environment populated by a vast assortment of hilarious friends and dynamic enemies. Viewers will meet The Dog that Thinks He is Steve Allen, and thrill at the machinations of foes such as Ape Lincoln, the evil President from the dimension of Apemeria. Besides insane villains and monstrous threats, Caveman Robot must also deal with his oldest friend and disapproving mentor, Dr. John Zarathustra, D.D.S. as well as a de-facto sidekick, Loser Pete. Pete Malfortuna is just a normal kid trying to make his mark in this crazy world in spite of a staggering streak of super bad luck that shows no sign of letting up. Zarathustra, on the other hand, is no longer the ‘Master of Monumenta’ but a stubborn super-adventurer in his twilight years that refuses to accept his imminent retirement. 
            Caveman Robot lives with brilliant and kooky Professor Tuttlewell and his young spitfire niece, Megan. Caveman Robot is both their ward and protector; the Tuttlewells help their beloved ‘Cavey’ to adapt to the frustrations of modern living and Caveman Robot is always there to assist them in their experiments and exploits. It’s no secret that Megan thrives on adventure and thrills but her fiery spirit also burns with an intense crush on our awkward and completely oblivious hero!
            Where does Caveman Robot come from? How did ‘The Robot that Time Forgot’ come to be? No one really knows the whole story; not even himself. He, like all great heroes, is an orphan seeking who and what he is. In these first twelve episodes, the answers to these mysteries will be revelations beyond your wildest dreams and everyone will bear witness! BEHOLD THE DODECATRON!

Caveman Robot © Jason Robert Bell and Shoshanna Weinberger

To see more, click here.

Click here to see the Opening Animation to Caveman Robot

Click here to see a short Caveman Robot Music Video