Interview and translation courtesy Rocky-Beach.com (click for interview in German)
December 26, 2003
Q: Who is Ronald Kruschak? Can you give us some information on what you’ve done so far in your career?
A: Age: 40, from Hamburg, I studied German studies, American studies, political science, pedagogy in Goettingen, Germany and London, Great Britain. Additionally, script and scenario/dramaturgy/direction at UCLA. I worked as a film journalist for the “Milchstrassenverlag” (A German publisher) for several years, later on I worked for two years in the fiction-department of “Spiegel TV” (a German TV telecast), and then as producer at “Aspekt Telefim” who I produced several TV series for. Finally, I came to “Studio Hamburg”, specifically to the department of “movies for children”. There, I worked as co-producer, producer, and co-writer in several German movies. Now I’m the head of their international department and in charge of various international cinema projects.
Q: When exactly did you decide to go for the Three Investigators film rights? Has this been a long process?
A: The first time I considered this idea, I think it was about four years ago. The response I received was - “Don’t even think about it, some American companies are close to an acquisition of these rights.” After not having heard anything about a screen adaptation at all, I tried it another time one year ago. Both Kosmos (The German publisher) and Random House forwarded me to Elizabeth Arthur. At this time the film rights for America were about to expire. I really didn’t think I'd have any chance at all, but I had a very nice talk with Elizabeth Arthur. In October 2003, we signed the contract with her and Andrew Arthur, her brother.
Q: Were you aware of the fact that there were other competitors trying to acquire the rights?
A: During the first two weeks of our negotiations about ten other companies from Germany contacted Elizabeth Arthur.
Q: Do you know the Three Investigators series from your childhood? Which place did the 3I have among other series?
A: I’ve loved this series. Any time a new book was about to be released, I headed for the bookstore in order to find out if it was available. On trips organized by our school and church we read the stories aloud and tried to figure out what would happen at the end of the story. I also used to collect them. Just recently, I’ve taken some of them out of a box in the attic. I’ve loved films, I’ve loved Hitchcock, and I studied film in LA. It seems like these things had a great influence on me. I’ve never read any other series for children. I’ve loved the exotic feeling of California, Hollywood, and the movie world. The series had no competition, also because of the great suspense in the books.
Q: We know that the situation concerning the rights of the Three Investigators is quite complex. So which explicit rights do you own on the stories you’ve acquired?
A: Well, since we work together with the Arthur heirs we own the rights on the ten stories written by their father and all of the other rights which come along with that. They want their father to be honored first of all, of course. We’ll try to get the other rights as well, especially the rights of the American books.
Q: Were you interested in acquiring the rights of the books written by the other authors ( especially William Arden, M.V. Carey, Nick West) or was this a “mission impossible”?
A: Concerning the other episodes, the legal rights situation has still remained uncertain. We will try anything to solve this problem.
Q: You have the right to create new stories - are they supposed to be based on the first ten stories? Does this mean that anything William Arden and M.V. Carey came up with has to be totally neglected?
A: It depends on whether we will be able to purchase the remaining rights within the coming months. As I mentioned before, we are interested especially in the American books, which were also part of my childhood. But yes, we do have the right to create new stories.
Q: In case you’re indeed going to create new stories, have you thought of the idea to include the current German author or one of the former Three Investigators authors - like William Arden - in your considerations?
A: I haven’t contacted William Arden yet. I’d love to meet him, but it’s too early for that at the moment.
Q: For which text version do you have the rights - the newer revised texts with Hector Sebastian / Reginald Clarke, or the original texts including Alfred Hitchcock?
A: The original texts.
Q: Who is going to write the script for “The Secret of Skeleton Island”?
A: David Howard, who is the Chair of writing for screen and television (part of the School of Cinema and Television) at the University of Southern California and a lecturer of various courses at European colleges. He was successful with “My Friend Joe” some years ago.
Q: Are you going to stick strictly with the plot of the original story, or do you dare to develop a revised version?
A: Right now we’re very busy with the adaptation of the book. We will keep many things, however, we have to shift the story into the present. There are also some weak parts in the book which we will try to improve and modernize without losing the tone, the sense and the general structure. Any changes are worked out with the heirs! By the way, David Howard is a resident of Santa Monica, so he's pretty close to Rocky Beach. We think that Robert Arthur had the Pacific Palisades or some other specific part of Malibu in mind when referring to Rocky Beach.
Q: We’ve heard that Australia is going to be one country where the shooting will take place. Do you plan to transfer the location of the American east coast to Down Under?
A: Where the actual shooting takes place hasn’t been decided yet. At the moment we are taking several options into consideration - Australia, South Africa, Malta, and the American east coast. We have to decide wisely due to logistic and financial reasons. However, credibility is also an important aspect. The three boys will of course stay in America, we just might shoot the film somewhere else. But as I said - it’s too early to be more specific.
Q: With "The Secret of Skeleton Island", you chose the sixth book in the series to film. This book doesn’t actually take place in Rocky Beach or anywhere near Rocky Beach - it takes place outside of the state of California. What stands behind this idea?
A: No, there will be scenes in Rocky Beach. However, the plot of this story provides the best basis to compete internationally with other movies for children and/or families. It includes elements of suspense, action, and danger. Additionally, there is a great mystery and a social theme (prejudices against other people, for instance, immigrants). We’ll introduce the world of the Three Investigators. It would be a foolish move to leave out both the Headquarters and the Rolls-Royce. You have to remember - the film must also be a hit for people who have forgotten the 3I already or who don’t know them at all. So I had to think hard which of the ten plots would best fit in the theatre, and which ones would be better for TV.
Q: In which decade do the Three Investigators live in your film?
A: All American film companies have tried to accomplish an adaptation in the 60s, but all publishers have refused this approach. Our films will take place in the present. Just to let you know - some American companies wanted to change the appearance of the boys.
Q: In "Skeleton Island" the Three Investigators are sent on their trip by Hector Sebastian / Alfred Hitchcock. Is there someone in the movies who takes the function of HS or AH? Are you interested in additional rights for the character of Alfred Hitchcock, who could be used in the films or maybe only shown on the film posters in order to achieve more attraction?
A: Probably not. Hitchcock must leave. It would be kind of silly to make the master of mystery rise from the dead 23 years after his death, don’t you think? Yes, there will be a mentor, but not always. It fits perfectly to introduce him in Skeleton Island. However, in the future the Three Investigators will get their cases from anywhere.
Q: Can you tell us more about the production of a movie for theatres and a TV series at the same time? Are you going to work with the same teams? Is there anything certain about the actors, or are you planning a casting call? Is the team going to consist of members from different countries?
A: I can’t give you any answers concerning the team. Currently we’re quite busy with the development of the script, the financial issues, and the search for a director.
Q: How old are the Three Investigators in the film?
A: The boys are supposed to be at an age somewhere between 11 and 13. However, we have to consider the terms of working conditions for children - and our duty as supervisors.
Q: Will you adapt the same book for both movie and TV screenplays? Or do you
plan to use other original, maybe even new stories for the TV series?
A: The latter is correct. If everything goes well, there will be several movies. First, we will use all ten original stories, and then we’ll have to focus on the other American episodes or use stories created on our own. Maybe we’ll make use of both ideas.
Q: You’re aiming for which age group?
A: From 0 to 100 years. No, I’m just kidding - from 6 to 60 years. Children with parents or grandparents, and additionally, the grown-up fans.
Q: Can you give us some information on the cooperation between you and the TV channel you’re going to work with?
A: Again, we’re in the middle of negotiations, but the interest is strong. Cooperation with a TV channel needs to be very close because of content. I have some experience in this area from my former work with German TV projects.
Q: What are your plans as to the merchandising of the series?
A: We haven’t even started to talk about the merchandising of this series. However, I've really enjoyed reading the postings on the forums at rocky-beach.com. It’s interesting how producers get labeled as jerks with nothing in mind except for the commercial abuse of the Three Investigators series. Well, as I mentioned before, we will work closely with the Arthur heirs. There won’t be any “unauthorized” actions without their approval. Personally, I’d like to see figures of the Three Investigators, the salvage yard, the Rolls-Royce…and computer games.
Q: In the USA the series ended many years ago. Today, there aren’t many fans left there who are still very much into the 3I. However, the American fans that the Rocky-Beach team keeps in touch with seem to be very enthusiastic about your project. They hope that the film project will cause a revival of the series. Do you have an American partner who can help you with access into theatres in the United States, and additionally, to boost the book series over there?
A: Exactly, that’s our plan. That’s what we’ve planned from the beginning. In fact, we do negotiate with some well-known companies in the United States. The Arthur heirs expressed quite clearly that they are very much interested in making the Three Investigators known worldwide, and thus, creating the possibility to enter into new contracts for the book series all over the world (including America!).