Reporter turns screenwriter

I got to know Dave Himmelstein because he worked for one of UPI’s client newspapers, the Portland (Maine) Sunday Telegram. I didn’t know that he was doing screenplays in his spare time, and one of them won an award that got Dave some attention.  He went on to write some successful screenplays that were made into movies (“Power,” “Village of the Damned,” “Talent for the Game”). It appears he’s out of that business now and living in Massachusetts. I saw a story in the Portland newspaper about his screenwriting, called him up and did this story on him for the wire. This particular clip was in the Chicago TRIBUNE early in 1986.

By ARTHUR FREDERICK

PORTLAND, Maine (UPI) – David Himmelstein, a reporter for the local Sunday newspaper, was lounging on a South American vacation two years ago when he received a telegram that changed his life.

When he wasn’t writing stories for the Maine Sunday Telegram, Himmelstein had been fooling around with movie screenplays. His first effort told the story of a baseball scout, and he entered it in a contest sponsored by the Screenwriters Guild of America.

The telegram informed him that the script, “Talent for the Game,” had won a prize. And the prize made life suddenly easier.

Agents Himmelstein had tried to see suddenly were seeking him out.

“That prize conferred a certain instant legitimacy, and agents began calling me for a change,” Himmelstein said.

The script was optioned by Paramount Studios. It has not been filmed, but the script made the rounds and it got Himmelstein’s name known in Hollywood. (Editor’s note: I do see that a movie called “Soul of the Game” was produced for television in 1996, and his name is attached to it. May be the same one.)

power pictureIt led to another script, and finally to a movie, called “Power,” starring Richard Gere, Julie Christie and Gene Hackman.

“Power” is about the consultants who package political candidates and make them come across attractively on television. It was a natural subject for Himmelstein, once a political speechwriter.

“My sense was that the candidates were becoming virtually interchangeable, and that the real players were the guys who shaped their media campaigns,” Himmelstein said.

After five rewrites, the screenplay was ready for review by director Sidney Lumet, who directed such films as “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Network” and “The Pawnbroker.” Lumet decided “Power” would be the only film he would direct in 1985.

Himmelstein, 38, said he probably would have stayed at the newspaper if he had realized the odds against succeeding as a screenwriter.

“I had always liked movies, but I really didn’t know anything about how you go about doing it,” he said. “I did it without even knowing what the format was supposed to be. The first thing I turned out was completely wrong.

“But the positive thing was that you are cushioned in Maine by this native ingenuousness that you really wouldn’t have if you lived in New York, where every cabdriver and waiter is writing screenplays,” Himmelstein said.

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