Posts filed under ‘The 7th Python’

Monty Python’s Dark Side

On Friday I’m going to the BFI Southbank to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I produced in 1974. I had to buy my own tickets because the BFI never bothered to inform me of the screening. I assume the reason they have left me in the cold is that the Pythons asked them not to invite me. This is quite a long story, but the short version is that after Spamalot came out, the Pythons decided that the royalties they had been paying me for 30 years was wrong and they slashed my royalties by 50%. I tried to negotiate and mediate my way out of this white collar theft but they were adamant that I had been cheating them for 30 years. After 7 years of haggling and getting nowhere I had no alternative but to take them to court, and I won the case, but at a terrible cost to my health and finances. The trial cost the Pythons £ 1.3m and they put on their 02 reunion to recoup that loss. Ever since then, they have done their best to erase me from their history. If you want to read more about the dark side of Python read my book The 7th Python which tells the sorry tale (www.the7thpython.com). The worst part of the experience for me was the fact that neither Terry Gilliam, a fellow film student when we shared a flat in NYC or National Treasure Michael Palin were willing to say to Eric Idle – let’s not do this. Why do I single out Eric? He revealed his hatred of me at the trial and called me ungrateful for trying to defend myself. Eric once put on a one man show called The Greedy Bastard Tour – this really says it all. In the book I include parts of Eric and Michael’s cross examination which is revealing of another side to them. I’m going to the screening because I’d like to view the film on a big screen again and to see Neil Innes, who is a friend. What bothers me the most is how petty this is of the Pythons, and how the BFI, our guardians of film culture, went along with this insult. After the trial I received this anonymous poem:

With a little grudge, with a little grudge
Open your purse ‘cause you’ve been defeated
With a little nudge from the trial judge
You’re worth’s slightly worse but not depleted

Sorry if it’s dumb to say
You’ve done all right in your lives
Really, is the sum you’ll pay
Worth such a fight in your lives

And though you feel rotten that he has won
Still I say don’t appeal, say that the deal is done
Is it just a grudge, just a little grudge
Hope the little nudge from the judge
Helps erase the grudge

With a little grudge, with a little grudge
Open your purse ‘cause you’ve been defeated
With a little nudge from the trial judge
You’re worth’s slightly worse but not depleted

Sorry if it’s dumb to say
You’ve done all right in your lives
Really, is the sum you’ll pay
Worth such a fight in your lives

And though you feel rotten that he has won
Still I say don’t appeal, say that the deal is done
Is it just a grudge, just a little grudge
Hope the little nudge from the judge
Helps erase the grudge

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September 17, 2019 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

The 7th Python: The Twat Stage

This week we are starting the second phase of social media publicity and marketing for my book The 7th Python. Previously we used as visuals the clever cartoon cover of the book by Owen Williams and two Gilliam-style animations that Ruth Barratt made for us. The copy was focused on letting people know about the book and its subject matter. But the book also has a sub-title: A Twat’s Tale. This is the name that Eric Idle called me, and so I took it on for the book. For this next phase we are going to use the same graphics but this time we’ve come up with some items- funny and informative – that have to do with twat, and yes, I’m afraid that both Donald Trump and Twatter do make an appearance.

Patrice Stephens is again doing our Digital Publicity with Nigel Passingham in charge of the campaign.

http://www.the7thpython.com

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April 2, 2016 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

Spot the Producer

Tonight- Thursday March 10 – at 7.45 pm Sky Arts is broadcasting Part 4 of Monty Python: Almost The Truth- The Lawyer’s Cut.  This series of 6 programmes was a history of the Python group made by the Pythons.  The Lawyer’s Cut is well named because this episode  deals largely with the making of Monty Python and The Holy Grail and the ‘cut’ that the lawyers made was to excise any mention of the Producer’s name. I am said Producer and all that remains of me is a photo of my young self which is not credited. In other words my image appears in the programme but not my name; I am like a ghost wandering through the show. See if you can spot my photo. I am to the Pythons as Trotsky was to Stalin. Like Stalin, the Pythons decided to re-write their history so as not to give me any credit for what I did for them. This came about because at the time this show was made we were in a dispute over Spamalot royalties. Their lawyers must have advised them not to give any publicity to my side of the story- hence I was airbrushed out of their history. I eventually won the case and the Pythons organised the O2 shows in 2014 to make enough money to cover their £ 1.3m legal costs. It is all documented in my new book The 7th Python: A Twat’s Tale.

This is what Terry Jones said of the series, “This is the documentary I always hoped that would be made — something so complete and so faithful to the truth that I don’t need to watch it.”

March 10, 2016 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Press Release for The 7th Python – Part 1

Here is our first Press Release for The 7th Python:

BOOK LAUNCH

THE EPIC STORY OF A FILM PRODUCER, BRITAIN’S BEST-LOVED COMEDY TROUPE, A CLASSIC COMEDY, AND HOW 40 YEARS ON THEY CLASHED IN A TRAGI-COMEDY OF BONE-BREAKING GREED, AND HEART-BREAKING DESPAIR.

STARRING MR JUSTICE NORRIS, THE LORD OF INJUSTICE, MONTY PYTHON AND MARK FORSTATER, FALSELY YCLEPT A TWAT.

LITERARY EDITORS SHOULD KNOW YCLEPT IS OLD ENGLISH FOR ‘CALLED’. SEE THE PRODUCER’S TALE DIRECTED BY GEOFFREY CHAUCER.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a comedy classic. Consistently voted in the top ten of all comedy films, it is the most profitable independent film ever made in the UK and has achieved worldwide box office success. Forty years on it is still screened.

The young man who produced the film was Mark Forstater, an American from Philadelphia who shared an apartment in New York with Terry Gilliam, before coming to England in the mid-Sixties to study at film school. Forstater liked the country so much he decided to stay and has been living and working here ever since.

The 7th Python (A Twat’s Tale) tells the story of the ups and downs in the making of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It lifts the visor off the sometimes brilliantly creative, sometimes fractious relationships between the Pythons. They were comedy icons but they were also, cue cliché, human with all too human frailties, which Forstater describes sans cliché.

Everything was fine, rosy and profitable until Eric Idle came up with the idea for Spamalot, a stage musical based on the film. Spamalot became a smash hit. As producer of the original film, Forstater was entitled to a percentage of the profits from the film and its spin-offs. But then his share of the royalties was arbitrarily slashed. Did anyone consult the ‘twat’? No, though for 30 years and more Forstater had received his agreed share.

Forstater tried to talk to the Pythons; he wrote to them; he tried to negotiate. But the mighty Python was stubborn as a goat. (Note to editors: mixed metaphors intentional.) So Forstater had to go to law which led to Eric Idle dubbing him a ‘twat’.

Forstater tells of his trials and tribulations before, during and after the trial. For seven long years, he tried to get the Pythons and their management to see reason, and for seven long years, he failed.

The final section of the book offers a lesson for those thinking of going to law. After endless writs, witness statements, witless statements, etc., the Pythons appear in court. The judge says the original agreement could have been drafted better. It ends moderately happily for Forstater – he wins – and very happily for the lawyers in that they all get their fees.

Forstater was sustained in this ordeal by his belief in the Tao. He is the author of The Spiritual Teachings of Yoga (with Jo Manuel), The Spiritual Teachings of the Tao, The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius, The Spiritual Teachings of Seneca (with Victoria Radin), The Living Wisdom Of Socrates and with Rudolf Reder I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp (Psychology News).

A must-read for Python fans and anyone interested in comedy – and human frailty.

Press Inquiries to Nigel Passingham – mob.: 07795024272, email: nigelpas@live.com

February 8, 2016 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

Unique Book Launch for The 7th Python

I don’t know if anyone has ever created an animated cover for a book before, but we may be doing something original and unique in our launch for the hardback version of my book The 7th Python.

We – editor David Cohen, publicist Nigel Passingham , webmaster Richard Cobelli , social media maven Patrice Stephens, and writer/publisher yours truly  – have been preparing a campaign to launch The 7th Python on an unsuspecting world. The centrepieces of the campaign are two animated videos of the book’s (cartoon) cover, which we plan to send to influencers and web sites in the English-speaking world with the aim of making our cover (via the animations) go viral.

The cover itself (soon to be revealed) was created by cartoonist Owen Williams. We asked Patrice Stephens how best to saturate the web with our attractive, colourful and funny cover, and she suggested putting it on all the social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on. She thought that the striking image would attract attention. Nigel Passingham then suggested that if the image caught peoples’ attention for a couple of seconds, wouldn’t an animated version keep them viewing for longer. Patrice agreed and said that we would need two versions- a 15 second version for twitter and Instagram, and a longer version for other media.

We were lucky to find a young and talented animator in Ruth Barrett, who created the two animations for us – one 15 seconds and the other 54.  Composer Helene Muddiman (Ice Age 4) arranged Sousa’s Liberty Bell March (Monty Python’s theme tune) into a jokey music score (inspired by comic Les Dawson’s piano routines), and we were ready to roll.

The challenge – not quite the 12 travails of Hercules – is to see how many people the video can reach who would then blog, busk and bitch about the book.

Oh and buying it, too.

There’s no denying it
We want you buying it.

So we hope to entice as many as poss to our Facebook page – The 7th Python – and to our website http://www.the7thpython.com.

There you’ll find info on the book and be initiated into the mysteries of buying it.

P.S. Fans of Cleese may be distressed he’s now repeating his brilliant ‘thrash the car with a branch’ routine from Fawlty Towers as an ad for Specsavers!

January 18, 2016 at 9:19 am Leave a comment

Monty Python’s Airbrush

I never thought I would share a destiny with Leon Trotsky. Even though we are both Jewish (he was born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein) there is not much we have in common. The one thing we share is that we have both been airbrushed out of History.

After Lev broke with Stalin, Stalin had his publicity department airbrush Lev out of the photos that showed Lev’s role in creating the Soviet Union, in particular his role as the leader of the Red Army. He became one of the disappeared.

A while ago I was Watching the six part TV doc series of Monty Python: Almost The Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut). When I saw Episode 4 I began to understand how Lev must have felt. This episode dealt with the making of Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and I was intrigued to see that they managed to discuss the production of the film without interviewing or even mentioning the Producer of said film – i.e. me. There is one photo in which I appear but am unidentified.

This airbrushing was done because when this series was made I was already in dispute with the Pythons over Spamalot royalties. It did not suit their case to showcase my role in setting the film up in the way they wanted, and which benefited them enormously. So they just removed me from history. ‘Almost The Truth’ says it all.

December 7, 2015 at 3:02 pm Leave a comment

Michael White and The Holy Grail

I’ve just been watching The Last Impresario on Imagine (BBC1), a film about Michael White, the theatre and film producer. Michael was the exec producer of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and he invested 50% of the budget. I liked Michael very much, and we worked well together. We eventually went on to do other things. such as a production of Woody Allen’s The Bluebird Of Unhappiness. He was incredibly helpful on the Holy Grail, because when we had a terrible preview of the film, Michael didn’t panic but helped to put up the additional money to redo the soundtrack. He was cool in the face of seeming disaster. Here is how I describe it in The 7Th Python:

The Disastrous First Screening

It was one of those evenings when Python flopped. – Terry Jones

Back in London, we worked hard to produce a cut of the film that we could show to the other Pythons and the investors.

The preview took place on October 1 1974 at the Hanover Grand Preview Theatre in central London. We had invited about 200 people, including most of the investors. This screening was one of the worst film experiences of my life.

Every screening has a certain mood that you can feel in the theatre, and the mood at the end of that screening was certainly pretty grim. People weren’t responding, they weren’t laughing the way they should have been. There was laughter at individual scenes, but no sustained build-up. The main problem was that the sound effects were too prominent. Because the comedy is quite slight, the jokes need to have a context in which they work, and if you overwhelm them with sound, they will just get drowned, which I think is what happened.

This was the first time that either of the two Terrys had ever done this kind of film sound mixing, so it’s very easy to try something which doesn’t work, and at that point it can all be thrown away, can all be redone. But someone who doesn’t know the technical side, might think looking at it, “God, this is it, and we’ve got to live with what we’re currently seeing,” which of course is not the case. A certain amount of inexperience may have led people to think it was a disaster which couldn’t be repaired.

Afterwards, there was a feeling of “This is a mess, what have we let ourselves in for?” I think there were people who probably felt the film was a lost cause. And it’s
very easy, when you’re in a position like this, to panic.

Eric Idle walked out halfway through the film; everyone else stayed to the bitter end. There was polite applause at the end. (Michael) White and (John ) Goldstone (executive producers) didn’t speak to the Pythons.

Here is how everyone remembered the event, in David Morgan’s book, Monty Python Speaks:

TERRY JONES: Terry G. had done the dub, and you know what it’s like when you’re making a film: you’ve got two or three sound editors working away for months and months building up wonderful, incredibly thick soundtracks. It started off everybody laughing at the beginning and then after a while just nothing; the whole film went through [with]
no laughter at all. And it was awful, I was sitting there saying, “It
just can’t be unfunny.”

JOHN GOLDSTONE: We’d already spent all the money by then and couldn’t quite go back to them and say, “Can you put up some more because we’d like to refinish it?” So we had to go to a bank and borrow money against personal guarantees to make up the difference.

TERRY JONES: So we went and redubbed it and as soon as anybody started talking I just took all the sound effects out, all the atmosphere, everything. I went through the entire film doing that, and that seemed to help, it was something about the soundtrack filling in all the pauses.

TERRY JONES: Neil Innes’ music sounded quaint, it didn’t have an epic
feel to it. And we’d run out of money by that time, so I went along
to De Wolfe Music Library in London and just took out piles and
piles of disks and just sat here at home trying out music to it, trying
to get something to work. So it felt like what you needed was really corny, heroic music.

NEIL INNES: The Arthurian themes were too thin with the instruments we had available- two French horns, two violins. Terry rang to say we can’t use the music because it’s just not strong enough. The 12 piece orchestra couldn’t cope with the 120 piece orchestral sound that the film required. Artistically it was a better solution to go to a library to get epic music. We would never have had the money to record that size score. I wasn’t that disappointed. I understood it. If it was my film I would have made the same choice.

We had some very heavy meetings over the next few days, a post mortem to see if we could bring this dead film back to life. Michael White was very supportive; he didn’t panic and I was glad that I had kept him involved in the production. In the end we remixed the film, bringing down the level of the sound effects to let the dialogue punch through, and added the mock heroic library music score. We knew there was a good film buried there, and if we went back and remixed it, we’d have a funny film. The next screening was very positive. Now we knew the film was very good, it was very funny, it was working well. I think everyone was very happy with it. So it was really night and day.

If the Pythons had not owned the film, the director (or directors) would probably have been replaced at that point, or at least told to stay out of the cutting room. But the structure I set up meant that even through a disaster, the two directors had the time (and we had to find the extra money) to let them correct their initial work.

Everyone benefited from the great success of the film, and thirty years is plenty of time for memories to blister and fade so that some of the Pythons seem to have had a bout of amnesia concerning who raised the money – and much else. The two Terrys, Graham and Michael all knew what my role had been, but Cleese and Idle had no involvement with the setting up of the film, so had no idea as to what I had done for them. This became a real problem when their management changed, and (their former manager) Anne Henshaw was no longer there to keep alive that memory.

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December 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

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