Halmi splits time between air, ground for pix

GOOD MORNING: “It’s safer to fly now more than ever” — these words from a filmmaker who spends as much time in the air as on the ground shooting — movies, that is. He is, of course, Robert Halmi who winds his stay at Mipcom today in Cannes and is off to London to look at projects in post-production and then to the U.S. to start a unique project — even for him. It’s “The Dream Keeper,” about the Native Americans’ mythology. “I’ve done mythology all over the world, but this is the first one in the U.S. It’s about the ignored cultures of the American Indian and it will be cast only with Native Americans,” he said. Steve Baron (“Merlin”) will direct. The ever-energetic Halmi added that he is “doubling my budgets” on future projects. He’ll have to go far to top his “Dynotopia,” the six-hour Marco Brambilla-directed mini for ABC ($85 million) which he preem-partied at Cannes with a show including the “birth” of a baby dino. He showed seven minutes of the “Dream Keeper” films based on James Gurney’s best-selling book about the pacific inter-relations between dinos and humans — and no devouring of ’em, “They don’t eat meat, remember?” reminded Halmi. I, too, saw the tape and the footage is fantastic, confirming Halmi’s promise of “four times the CGI of ‘Jurassic Park’.” The series starts airing April 28 and will be accompanied by a giant campaign including merchandising, the book and a giant appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Yes, he says the parade will take place.) Hallmark Entertainment will also release the “Dynotopia” video at a future date. Meanwhile, in Cannes, he says “Everyone (overseas) bought the mini” and he plans a 22-episode series of hourlongs to follow — he hopes also for ABC. He has completed “Snow White,” “The King Of Texas,” “Prince Charming” and “The Snow Queen,” which will be his next four-hour mini for Hallmark Entertainment. And Terry Jones’ “History of he World,” a 22-one hour series is also aimed for the Hallmark Channel which, he says, “is growing every day.”

“SINATRALAND” IS COMING to the screen. The film version of Sam Kashner’s funny and poignant novel about Finkie Finkelstein (also of New Jersey), who has spent his life writing letters to Frank Sinatra — who has never written back — will be produced by Britt Allcroft debuting her new production company. Allcroft, y’know, is the genius behind “Thomas the Tank Engine” and all his friends — on small screen, bigscreen, toy stores around the world. “Sinatraland” is headed for the bigscreen next year as “a grownup story for the young at heart.” Allcroft tells me she has shared some of the emotions of Finkie Finkelstein. She told me, “I wrote to Frank Sinatra many years ago — and he answered me!” She framed the letter in which Sinatra told of his love for model trains. Allcroft said Sinatra’s presence will be felt in the script, which is being written by Kashner. And she hopes to get an OK for the use of some classic Sinatra footage. “In me, he has a fan,” she adds. “I put my money where my heart is.” She hopes the Sinatra family will give an OK. I, too, am waiting for their response … Tina Sinatra was not familiar with the book — or the film project. As for her plans for the remake of “The Manchurian Candidate,” she said, in view of the times, “I doubt if I’ll be going forward with it” … And talking books: Screenwriter and recent grandfather Saul Turteltaub holds a book signing for his “The Grandfather Thing” at Dutton’s in Brentwood, Nov. 4. If you’ve ever been (or hope to be) a grandfather (or grandmother), this “Thing” is for you … Mel Brooks is back in LA. His (and Tom Meehan’s) coffee-table book about “The Producers” — “How We Did It” will be out Dec. 3. He told me that the sale of the show’s house seats is being contributed to the Fireman’s Fund. Brooks said 15 of 21 firefighters from the nearby 48th Street fire house perished in the WTC collapse.

SEEING — AND HEARING is believing. The Center for the Partially Sighted’s Hope in Sight gala honored Joni and Jody Berry Wednesday at the Regent Beverly Wilshire where the show stopper was the (sightless) Dianne Schuur. John Byner and Jack Carter, respectively, did comedic takeoffs on honorees Joni and Jody. And Don Knotts, who had recovered from eye surgery, also tickled the crowd. It was left to Maxine and Gary Smith to make the serious remarks praising the multi-charitable honorees. Among those on hand was a hefty representation of SHARE for which Joni has worked tirele$$ly. Next SHARE Boomtown Show is May 18, and shifting back to the Santa Monica Civic auditorium … The Hope in Sight evening raised $170,000 for the Center for the Partially Sighted. Gary Smith produced … Sad to report that personal manager Seymur Heller, 87, died Monday of natural causes at home. He’d been in the biz over 60 years. He represented Liberace from 1950 until his death in 1987. Other clients included Lawrence Welk, Tex Benecke, Frankie Laine, Skitch Henderson, Chita Rivera, Debbie Reynolds, Mel Torme, Margaret Whiting, the Andrews Sisters, the Treniers and Regis Philbin. He’s survived by wife of 50 years, Billie, sons Bruce and David and daughter Elizabeth (Mrs. John) Manulis. At services, 1 p.m. Sunday (14) at Hillside, Corky Hale will play (piano) “I’ll Be Seeing You” which was Liberace’s theme — she played it (on the harp) for Lee at his first show at the Music Hall theater on Wilshire from 1952 on through the SRO days in Vegas, London, etc.

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