INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS: ADAM SANDLER’S BACK!

Independent Spirit Awards announced this year’s nominations and apparently one of the top contenders for Best Actor is none other than…..Adam Sandler! You can read the list of nominees here, as well as some background info on the award itself and the prerequisite for nominations.

Apparently, Sandler’s performance in the film Uncut Gems is impressing and surprising all who witness it. Truth be told, I haven’t seen it (yet) and didn’t even know of it’s existence until I read the article. I read about the film some more online and found the premise quite intriguing and look forward to seeing it. Sandler plays a desperate jeweler who has to figure out how to pay off his massive gambling debt before it’s too late. Check out the trailer as it’s pretty impressive:

Why does an indie film starring Adam Sandler rate mention in this blog dedicate mostly to the life, work and legacy of Lee Marvin? via my book, Lee Marvin Point Blank? I’ll give you a hint….

The cover of my first young adult biography for the People in The News Series.

Sandler’s nomination in the Independent Spirit Awards derby allows me an opportunity to do something I rarely get to do and we all wish that we could. That would be being able to be proven right about something several years down the road as I wrote the book in 2004.
Okay, maybe that’s a little strong but when the rest of pop culture and modern film community called Sandler an annoying untalented hack who’s career would be short-lived, I was able to champion his cause, especially after viewing his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love.

Sidebars were required for the series so here’s one I thought fit the subject.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Sandler cheerleader. In fact his extremely popular comedies of the 1990s had me asking the managing editor for hazard pay after viewing all those films. Her response to my request, by the way, was to tell me I should feel lucky, as they we’re going to ask me to write about Jackass! 
Anyway, here’s the section I wrote about Punch Drunk Love. Read, enjoy, dislike, whatever. It just maybe challenge you to rethink your dislike of Sandler one more time….
– Dwayne Epstein

Opening section in the chapter dealing with Punch Drunk Love.

Punch Drunk Love continued.

 

Punch Drunk Love section with photo (!)

….And in conclusion.

 

 

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A WRITER’S START, PART 2: YOUNG ADULT NON-FICTION

I learned the key to writing young adult non-fiction was in finding an overall theme to the story, as well as in each and every chapter, all of which I put to good use in writing Lee Marvin: Point Blank. This was a concept radically different from my previous writing and editing of fiction, where the emphasis was on content and comprehension for a much lower reading level. Writing young adult non-fiction biographies for Lucent Books (which also went by Gale, Thomson, Cengage Learning, Greenhaven Press…Whew!) had wholly other challenges. For example, my first young adult non-fiction assignment was Adam Sandler.

ADAM SANDLER, published in 2004 by Lucent Books for their People in the News Series (PITN).

Not a favorite subject, that’s for sure, but in doing the research the themes began to come together. This taught me something else: ALWAYS write the introduction last, even though it’s the first thing to be read. One never knows what the overall theme is until the project is completed. For Sandler, as I wrote in the company’s catalog, the theme proved to be as follows:  “Adam Sandler has become a superstar doing what he thinks is funny, first as a class clown and nightclub comedian, and then on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ hit films and best selling albums. Playing a goofy but lovable loser, Sandler is actually a writer, actor, producer, and musician who’s loyalty to his close-knit group of coworkers has taken him to the highest lever of success.”

The Sandler bio proved successful enough to garner more assignments. Next up was a subject I was was much more enthusiastic about. In fact, I even pitched this one instead of being assigned to it and the editor agreed!  Will Ferrell was a much more fun subject, as I also described in the catalog:

My bio on Will Ferrell published by Lucent in 2005 for PITN.

“Where most comedians have overcome a tragic upbringing, Will Ferrell has gone from a relatively happy childhood to become one of America’s most popular funny people. In this first ever biography of the sought after film and TV star, discover how Ferrell has parlayed his ability to turn outrageousness and hubris into one of the most successful comedy careers in contemporary show business.”

I actually pitched several ideas to the editor on a regular basis. Some were accepted, some not, but in the mean time I asked about another series by Lucent called History Makers. They had several titles available and so, being the movie fan that I’ve always been, I agreed to write about Lawmen of the Old West which was released the same year as the Will Ferrell bio. Six real life individuals of my choosing (‘Hanging’ Judge Isaac Parker, Wyatt Earp, Frank Canton, Pat Garrett, Bat Masterson, and Bill Tilghman) were written about by yours truly within the following theme:

Lawmen of The Old West published by Lucent in 2005 for the History Makers Series.

“The western frontier was a time of immense change and extreme behavior, requiring men like Wyatt Earp, Pat Garrett, Bat Masterson and Bill Tilghman to enforce the law. They were not the icons of virtue legend has painted them, nor were they the extreme opposite as portrayed by revisionists.”

From that assignment, I was able to pitch my next project and it was accepted. In the midst of writing it, however, I was informed that the word count had been radically changed as the publisher decided to make the book’s entire design different from their previous titles. Bigger fonts and color photos meant I had to redo all that I had already written to fit this new format. I was informed that other authors had bailed on their projects and I was offered the same option. Undaunted, I redid the work, and created the following theme for the book:

Hillary Swank, in living color, for Lucent’s PITN release in 2006.

“As a lonely child growing up in a trailer park, Hilary Swank dreamed of becoming a successful actress. Her determination and talent took her from living in a car to eventually earning two Academy Awards by the time she was thirty. The amazing momentum of her career continues for the woman now considered one of the greatest actresses of her generation.”

Granted, the subject’s staying power as a movie industry force may not have lasted, but it was a great challenge to redo the work for the new design and delve into such themes as transgender issues, voting rights, and more, all based on Swank’s career choices.
I was next assigned to write about Joe McCarthy for the company’s seres called Heroes & Villains but in the midst of my research, they cancelled the series. Undaunted, and still in a political vein, I took on the challenge of writing about Congress’s first female Speaker of the House.

Nancy Pelosi, published by Lucent in 2008 for PITN.

The challenge here was deceptive in that her life was pretty straightforward but detailing the complex inner workings of Congress — with it’s rules and hierarchy — for young adults in a simplified manner, now THAT was a challenge! The result was described this way…
” Describes the life and career of Nancy Pelosi, from her childhood in Baltimore and early political career to her rise as the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives.” Talk about deceptively simple!
Anyway, I got the Pelosi assignment because of a previous project that I had done in 2007 on another nationally known female political figure. On rare occasion, a subject is updated, which is what I was asked to do for a previous book I had done…..

Both Hillary Clinton titles I did for Lucent’s PITN series, first in 2007 and then again in 2009.

Although I still had to deal with such events in Hillary Clinton’s life as the White Water scandal and Monica Lewinsky, the timing was such that I was able to avoid having to write about Benghazi, her e-mail server, and the painful presidential bid against Trump last year. In other words, it’s still a worthy read.
Practically at the same time as the Hillary Clinton revision I also wrote this…

2010’s PITN offering on Denzel Washington by Lucent Publishing.

Few things are more enjoyable to me than being able to research and write about a talented film personality, and Denzel Washington certainly filled that bill!

I would very much love to do more such work as the lives and impact of certain individuals are fascinating to me.
As you can see, my fascination casts a pretty wide net, from comedy to film to politics and more, so…..
Anybody need a freelance young adult non-fiction writer who also happens to be an award-winning (see number 33), NY Times bestselling author?
– Dwayne Epstein

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FROM ADAM SANDLER TO LEE MARVIN IN LESS THAN 10 YEARS

People In The News: Adam Sandler (2004) published by Lucent Books, and then Lee Marvin Point Blank in paperback format as published by Schaffner Press in 2014.

Adam Sandler’s impressive comeback via his Netflix projects proves that talent will win out, especially following his recent disastrous, high-profile and expensive flops. Although not a huge fan of his output, I could have predicted his comeback, even though his core audience has grown up. How do I know? Bear with me…
A possible connection between Sandler and Lee Marvin is of course anything but obvious. However, with yours truly at the helm of this blog, there becomes one. To put it another way, there would never have been 2013’s Lee Marvin Point Blank had there not been 2004’s People in the News: Adam Sandler. Hardly clarifies, now does it? Heh, heh. I shall elaborate.
I came in contact with the good folks at Lucent (alternately known as Gale, Greenhaven and god knows what all) by good fortune and discovered their People in the News series. They promptly offered me either George Bush Jr, Eminem or Adam Sandler. The choice became obvious. Thank god Sandler made Punch-Drunk Love or I never would have survived!
They also informed me of certain writing requirements for each title in the series. Chief among them was to not only write each chapter chronologically (duh!), but more importantly, emphasize an important theme within each chapter. THAT dear reader proved to be the best lesson and ongoing exercise I ever got in biographical research and writing. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank may hopefully see the chapter themes as well as the overall theme of Marvin’s life and work. It was a direct result of my writing about Sandler and later other prominent contemporary figures. I actually wish those books were still being published but alas, the likes of Wikipedia’s popularity put an end to the series. Ahh, well. Such is life.
I came up with the chapter titles based on those themes I came up with in researching Sandler’s life and work, as shown below….

Copyright page and table of contents for Adam Sandler People in the News.

I also discovered no matter how easy you might think writing the introduction might be, ALWAYS write it last. It may seem obvious but it took me some frustrating rewrites to discover that the intro is the end game, since you never know what the main theme is until the project is written. Good lesson. It also created a new respect for Sandler’s output and his resiliency. I did the same with Lee Marvin Point Blank which proved to be the theme AND title of the book. My Sandler intro below, bears this out…

Introduction to Adam Sandler People in the News and the theme therein.

It must have worked since the the editors liked it and I did write several more as a hired gun. I never received royalties so I never knew if it was selling well or was well-received. Imagine my surprise when I saw this review on Amazon on April 29, 2015: “Delivered promptly and in excellent condition. My 11-year old son wants to be a comedian, and this was the perfect book for him and he even received school credit for reading it.”
Cool, huh? I guess discovering the theme of Sandler’s work, no matter how corny or distasteful it may be to some, proved successful, after all. Yeah, Sandler’s going to be around for a while, Hopefully, I will, too.

Here’s proof that I had nothing to do with the choice of photos used or the captions that were written. I would not have chosen this photo and if I did, I surely would have mentioned that looks on Dana Carvey and especially Phil Hartman’s faces.

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