Big budget original properties are difficult to launch, and over time, Morningstone has seen some voracious budget increases. But if based on a best seller, and cross-collateralized by a superb soundtrack album, a unique high-budget property will almost certainly be considered by the powers that be. This page details what it takes to mount such a major, musical, motion picture production, and presents a brief history of the on-going development of Morningstone that led to the decision to publish a novel, evolved from the screenplay, to be titled Changeling’s Return. Morningstone first became a property in development in 1987, and some of its key players, no longer with us, were never as widely-known as their achievements, so rather than arrest the flow of this narrative, we’ve provided links to their credits for those interested in exploring Morningstone’s development in depth.
In 1986, my daughter Lisa graduated from UCLA with a Departmental Honors degree in Classical Civilization. She came to work with me, learned all the film production computer programs and how to use them to format a screenplay, break it down, scout locations, get facility, service and equipment bids, schedule, and budget feature films, and we began prepping Morningstone. Of course, being a musical, the first thing we decided we needed to do was to record all the new music and update all the old music left over from Changeling, to which end I convinced my friend David Pinto, an extraordinary keyboard master, to arrange, perform and record a demo to introduce my musical, Morningstone.
Travis Edward Pike, Otherworld Cottage,January 2019
With Lisa producing, David and Travis went to work in David's 8-track home studio, armed with Travis' acoustic guitar and David's state-of-the-art emulator keyboards and whatever else they needed to do the analog recordings. David and Travis had worked out a flat fee, and Travis paid for the 11-inch reels of 1/2 inch magnetic tape, paid the guest artists (mostly female vocalists), and they spent many long nights in the studio. David’s skills were more than up to the task, and the deal they’d struck proved to be a bargain for Travis, but with David playing 90% of the music, one track at a time, depending on the arrangement a single song might take two or more sessions to record. As for Travis, he almost never had to sing more than one song in a session, and could punch-in and overdub as many times as necessary to get the desired result. The sight-reading female vocalists David brought in were paid by the session, so they’d try to line up two or three songs per session, with David conducting and engineering. As for Lisa producing Travis' vocals, he would finish a song, and then Lisa would say if he should do it over, or punch in a section that wasn’t up to her standard. Where others might have accepted Travis' “close” performances, Lisa pressed for his best – at least, the best he had that night. They’d begun recording in mid-1987 and in 1988, when they finally had the 8-track masters, Travis took them to his brother Adam's home studio, where they mixed, sweetened and mastered the demos to play for potential investors.
David Marshall of Chapter One Financial, impressed by the story and music, was still concerned that Travis had never produced or directed a feature film, and asked for the reference letters linked below, to show to potential investors.
George Johnsen, then owner of EFX Systems High Performance Post Production wrote on November 7th, 1988, “Of the hundreds of producers that have gone through this facility over the years, there is a small circle that are both dedicated to and qualified for the making of quality movies under controlled conditions. Travis Pike is one of those.” Read the letter.
Although better known today as the photographer who took the photos of the Roswell debris in General Ramey's office on July 8th, 1947, J. Bond Johnson, Executive Producer and Chief Executive Officer of Cine-Media International, wrote on November 10th, 1988, “If I were to produce another feature film, regardless of difficulty or cost, I would seriously consider Travis as both writer and director.” Read the letter.
Betty Givens, President, Lingo tech Dubbing Services, Inc., wrote on November 15th, 1988, “Travis will make you proud and will bring in an Academy Award winning picture every time he directs.” Read the letter.
Carl Pingatore, Producer, Editor, and Production Manager, wrote on November 22, 1988, “I can say, unequivocally, that I know of no one who is more or better prepared to direct a first feature film than Travis Pike. There may be something to a point Travis raised during one of our discussions. Film and music are both media that occur in time, rather than space. A good number of our best filmmakers have musical backgrounds and it may be that something of the timing and emotional impact found in good musical composition, translates to a special overview that enables a director to build a role and provide room for a character to develop on screen. If that is true, Travis Pike is destined to be one of the finest directors ever to come out of Hollywood.” Read the letter.
Peter Anderson, at one time Supervisor of the Special Photo Effects Department at Walt Disney Studios and Director of Photography for Walt Disney Pictures, wrote on December 18th, 1988, “I have worked with such giants as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola as well as exciting newcomer, Ron Howard. Travis is second-to-none . . . That he attracts top professionals to his projects is proof of his persuasiveness and organizational abilities. Travis is one of the most talented people I have ever met in an industry full of talented people. From my first-hand experience, I enthusiastically endorse his superior ability as a writer, producer and director.” Read the letter.
For all that, and despite his best efforts, David Marshall was not able to attract enough investors to independently fund Morningstone. Travis continued to adapt and direct dubbing sessions for foreign films -- in the process becoming a trail-blazer in the use and future of digital sound, even predicting what is now, in DVD and Blu-Ray environments, multi-language discs for the home -- not so surprising if one remembers how important sound would be to a musical like Morningstone!
. . . and based largely on the credits of the professionals who endorsed Travis, Michael Strange submitted a letter of intent from the Motion Picture Bond Co., Inc.
But the promised funding package fell through, so when Travis attended the 1992 Location Expo in Santa Monica, California, he submitted his Morningstone screenplay to members of the British Film Commission and booked a two-week location scout so that he and Lisa could visit those U.K. locations and facilities that looked and sounded most attractive. All the regional commissions were enormously helpful, not only in making arrangements for location tours, but providing information on local facilities, equipment, services and availability of crews. Their visit to Birmingham and the Midlands, orchestrated by Media Development Director Mrs. Dorothy Hobson, not only included the location recce and local accommodations, but interviews in the local press!
And that led to this letter from British Film Commission Chief Executive, Andrew Patrick, thanking Travis and Lisa for their report to him and wishing them well on what was (quietly), a three-picture package!
Given that Travis Pike was the writer-director, with his location report and an on-going effort to keep the 1993 Morningstone budget accurate in spite of the continually rising prices indicated in the graphic, he managed to assemble a group of top-notch department heads, whose letters of commitment approved his shooting schedule and budget.
Peter Anderson signed on as Director of Photography.
Britt Lomond signed on as Line Producer/Production Manager.
George Costello signed on as Production Designer/Art Director
David Pinto signed as Music Supervisor
. . . Travis called Michael Strange, and Michael said with the department head commitments Travis had lined up, he was certain his company would stand by their offer to provide the Completion Bond, adjusted to reflect the new budget.
But again, the financiers couldn't get their act together and the funding effort failed.
So Travis switched gears, notified the British Film Commission, and with the cooperation of his U.K. contacts, scouted for an appropriate venue for a live show, and in 1997, raised the money for a special Bardic world premiere of his original epic narrative rhyme, Grumpuss, as a benefit for the Save the Children Fund, and staged it at Blenheim Palace!
Remember all those reference letters describing Travis' production skills? For Grumpuss, Travis not only wrote the epic rhyme, but composed all the music, produced, directed, and played the Bardic storyteller, and that 99-minute video production, intended for television and home theater release, won critical acclaim ... and a 1999 INTERCOM Silver Plaque Award for Special Achievement – Writing at the Chicago Film Festival. And we strongly suspect that the Otherworld Cottage Industries' December 2017 release of the Grumpuss 20th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD, was a factor in Otherworld Cottage winning a 2018 Global Entertainment Award for Audio Storytelling ... but that’s another story.