Thursday, December 21, 2006


Normally, I don’t write about personal stuff in here –- trying to keep it a writing/producing blog. But maybe I’m being too uptight about that and I should just write about things when they seem like they should be included.

Like last night.

I had to charge my iPod –- as Greg says, one of the greatest gifts to man -– and my daughter’s laptop was in the office so I plugged in there. Which got me perusing her music collection. Which got me smiling.

There’s a lot of stuff I love on there -– some of which I think I might have led her to, some of which she found on her own, some I didn’t know at all.

She came home and there I was, stealing stuff from her iTunes. She sat with me and we started talking about music.

HER: Take that Jack Johnson. It’s good music for mornings.

ME: Hey, you have Pink Floyd. Haven’t listened to that in years.

HER: The Wall’s good college music.

ME: Sure was. Is.

HER: Remember this one, when you sang it at karaoke in Maine?

ME: Holy shit, I gotta take that one. I love this 50 Cent/Queen mash-up.

HER: Yeah, which Queen song is that?

ME: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Kanye, cool. I should give you a copy of Late Registration. Didn’t I send you Pharrell’s new one?

HER: Yeah, it’s cool. Thanks.

ME: I love “Keep It Playa.”

HER: You realize how funny you sound when you say that, white man?

We both crack up. It is funny. She says she can’t believe she’s doing this with her dad. So weird. I agree.

But it says so much about us and our relationship that it makes me smile warmly even now.

I love that kid.

Way more than Kanye.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Viva Vacay

Man, am I looking forward to having next week off.

And not ‘cause I’m lazy and want to sleep late. Oh no, having a 16-month-old means sleeping late vanished as an option more than a year ago…

One, I get to spend some good time with my family, and working really puts a dent in that. Pays the mortgage, yes, but hinders the whole personal-interaction-with-family thing. With my daughter in college, time with her comes all too rarely – though she’s home now. And with my son, I usually get an hour before work, and an hour and a half after. Thankfully, my wife stays up a little later than him, so we get a little more time together. But, point is, it’ll be good to just be together.

And two, I’ve committed myself to writing a lot during the week. I feel I’m at a critical point in the Harlem rewrite – like I’m on the edge of either pushing through the problems and having them at least theoretically solved, or throwing in the towel and, sobbing, admitting it just can’t be done.

Please let it be the former.

Also, during my percolating time (including a good bike ride on Sunday and a leisurely shave this morning) I’ve had some new ideas for the suspense thriller, the horror flick and the police drama.

Oh, plus another production company asked me if I could write a 40- to 60-minute short for them and I just can’t help thinking about it and even started writing a little…

Anyway, once I don’t have to think about work-related writing for a week, I’m gonna bang some shit out. Probably not as prodigiously as Greg or Ryan, but hopefully I’ll give a good boost to my page-per-month average.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Can I Get A Witness?

So we pitch Show A to That Network and they take a pass, saying that it's not really on-brand. The Head Honcho says that what she wants is Show B.

So I get to work on Show B, thinking, well, actually, this isn't really on-brand, as described by them. But it is like another show we do for them that gets high ratings, and if that's what Honcho wants, so be it.

We then pitch Show B to them. Honcho isn't there, but her main people are. They tell us it's not really on-brand. But if we made it more like Show A, it might be more on-brand.


Does anyone remember the last couple conversations? Were there any witnesses to those meetings?

Does anyone know what the freaking brand is? And do you talk to each other?

I choose to ignore the fact they're now asking for the show they declined and instead gently remind them that, as is, it is exactly what Honcho asked for. They say they'll look into it. But I don't think they'll greenlight it. I bet Honcho forgets she even asked for it.

Of course, if I do what I want to do and point out the mixed messages and ask them to please get their shit together so I know what they really want, they’ll think I’m telling them how to do their job and I might not get that next meeting.

The many layers of swirling ineptitude make me dizzy. And not in the good way.

What does this mean to us as writers?


Well, maybe another reality check to slap you upside the head and reiterate that it's a weird world out there, especially in tv and film.

But we can't do anything about it.

Sure, I'll reversion Show B so it's more like Show A and hope they remember this time that that's what they asked for. But there's no guaranteeing they will.

That's the nature of it kids. That's what we do.

So all we can do is create good stuff and try to get it in front of the right people... then hope they know what the fuck they're doing.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Clock's Ticking

I’ve become a very efficient writer.

But it’s no fun.

With work taking up so much time, and with a family that I love hanging out with, it’s not easy finding time to write regularly.

So I’ve become efficient, using just about every free moment I can. I try to write for 20 or 30 minutes during lunch. I remind myself during the drive to and from work to actively think out whatever problem’s facing my character or story. If I have any creative energy left over, I write at night after the wife and baby have passed out.

It wasn’t always like this. It used to be more fun.

For a couple years I worked from home so I was really in control of my schedule. I could front-load a bunch of work to give myself a good window, then spend a whole day writing. Or a couple days.

Toward the end of writing Dismal, I gave myself a whole week. I’ve always wanted to be a bike mechanic. (In fact, if I ever, through some fluke, become wildly wealthy, I’m gonna open a bike shop and wrench a few days a week. Promise.) Anyway, knowing this, my generous and loving wife bought me a week’s stay at a B&B in West Virginia owned by a guy who also owns a bike shop. He said if I wanted to, I could come stay with him and he’d teach me everything I needed to know in that week.

I was so freaking excited. A week learning bike mechanic stuff, riding and writing. I packed my bike, laptop and some clothes, drove out to WV and told him I was ready for class to start as soon as he was.

He wasn’t ready that day.

Or the next.

In fact, he never got ready. Never taught me a goddamned thing. Asshole.

But, I did have a week in a beautiful place with no work, no obligations, nothing to do but write, ride my bike, drink coffee and wine, stroll about, and write.

Got a lot done that week.

But now, this new system doesn’t allow for substantial gains. It’s tough trying to hit your rhythm when you work in spurts like this.

How do people do it? I mean, the beginners, like me.

Maybe I could give up eating entirely, switch to an IV. That should free up some time.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Essay Portion Will Be Graded

With written proposals for four series and one MOW submitted to various networks as they requested, and while I await research on three more MOWs, I’ve been freed up at work after a long haul of writing to review a ton of spec pitches that have come in over the last few months.

As you can probably tell from my last post.

And then yesterday at lunch I listened to an interview with Michael Arndt, writer of Little Miss Sunshine. (Not that money’s the only thing, but interestingly, it was made for about $8 million, sold to Fox Searchlight at Sundance for $10.5 million and has taken in over $76 million. Plus, I really liked it.)

Anyway, Arndt said that Hollywood is “overflowing with B- scripts.” He said he didn’t think there were that many bad scripts floating around in Hollywood, just a lot of unfinished ones. Good point.

(Although… I know there are a lot of bad scripts out there. I’ve read some of them. [I just hope mine aren’t among them –- though secretly I fear they are…] As for the TV show pitches I get sent, a few are good, some are unfinished, but man, a lot of them are just plain bad. Like, smelly bad. Like, please leave it outside or it’ll stink up the kitchen bad.)

If a script makes it to an agent, studio, manager, someone out in Hollywood with enough clout to spread it around, even if it’s stuck in turnaround for years, there has to be some merit to it. But merit alone gets you a B-. To go further you need at least a B+. Of course, even if you have a solid A, it can float for years because of weird business decisions that have noting to do with the quality of your script.

It just keeps getting more and more unfair, huh?

Writing is hard. Everyone who writes says this. But I’m not sure everyone who writes does this. Which is to say, actually work hard. It’s really freaking difficult to take an objective look at your script, weed out the notes from your trusted readers that have merit, and then go in and fix the problems. Most writers, I think, don’t get to that last part.

I’ve written dozens of hours of primetime cable television, some that have won awards. I have one movie under my belt, done the hard way. What this has taught me is that it takes a lot of hard work. Really. Like, seriously. HARD WORK. Long hours trying and failing and trying again. Then failing again and trying once more. Thrice more. Then convincing yourself you’re a hack, and then talking yourself into trying again.

It’s not enough to say you’re struggling over a script, but in truth all you’re doing is reading it over and over, and in the end, you change 1% of it because you can’t figure out what else to do.

I’ve been handed scripts by writers who say they’ve been toiling over it forEVER, and then I read it and it's still full of typos and inconsistent slug lines. Let alone wildly obvious logic flaws. Or a totally uninspired story.

Of course, it’s still very hard for me to do this revision thing. There’s something about a written document that you’ve spent months creating that feels concrete and unchangeable. But dammit man, you have to keep plugging away. And admit that you’re flawed. And be willing to kill your babies. (See earlier post re: this terrible infanticide…)

Which is why the Harlem rewrite, though it’s been frustrating and intimidating, has been good for me. I’m forcing myself to keep a fresh mind, throw away things that won’t work no matter how much I love them or how badly I want them to work.

Because even though I have all those writing credits, I’m still very much a beginner and I have a lot to learn.

Maybe not as much as the lady who keeps calling me at work because she had the idea for almost every hit show out there before they came out… but I have a lot to learn. The good thing is, I’m willing to muscle my way past the B- mark.

Or try anyway.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dude, I Got A Great Idea

There’s no shortage of ideas.

Ideas are easy.

Give me a few hours, Arvo Part’s Alina album and a couple cups of good coffee, and I’ll come back to you with concepts for 10 TV shows, four movies and a fetching little commercial for erectile dysfunction pills.

Ideas are easy.

At work, every week I get a dozen calls, emails and written submissions about shows that are gonna be the next Survivor, or the next Borat-meets-The Ring-for-the-small-screen.

Some of them are actually good ideas.

But ideas are easy.

Developing them into something sellable, selling them, and then producing them -– now that’s hard.

And since you’re looking at our development department, only so many can go forward at one time. So choosing is important.

Many thanks to all the people who have pitched ideas -– and thanks to me for creating my own –- but apologies to all, including myself, that we can’t do them all at once.

So keep a paper trail, I tell myself and those who come pitching to me. Keep reviewing the old ideas. Be patient and persistent –- and know when to be one or the other.

Even though ideas are easy, they’re important. So keep them brewing. And make them better. Richer. Tighter. More distinct. Those are the ones that rise to the top of the pile because they’re easier to envision as productions, which is what this is all about.

A friend recently told me that he heard the job of a producer is to make a list and then do it.


Ideas are easy. Now do them.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Man In 1997

Name that big haired man.

(How do you adjust the size of the photo window? Hmm...)

So last weekend we did some pickup shots on Dismal. Now, principal was in July, when the forest and swamp are at their height of lushness. Now it's November and things are brown. Problem one.

Problem two: a wicked storm blew in on the day we had the camera. By the time we got to Ray's place it was like some supertornado special on The Weather Channel.

I refused to pack it in. Might as well try. Shoot something.

Good thing Ray has a barn.

We dressed a horse stall to be two types of backround ground: one greenish (to match a forest trail) and one brownish (to match the dirt by the bad guy's shack). Don't ask what constituted the brown in the brownish one. Let's just say it was a fragrant shoot.

Anyway, we shot tight and kept the background out of focus and damn if it didn't work.

But then last night the editor found another shot that would come before one of the pickup shots, and it does work better, but now our stand-in actor has to move slightly differently in the greenish shot.

So we're trying to put together another little pickup day this weekend. It's really just a slight expansion of an already planned pickup day. We were gonna get the camera to do a little more helicopter stuff anyway, so now we're just adding a bit more to the day.

Thankfully, everyone on the team is pretty patient.

Because patience is what we need.

Like someone needs a haircut.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Good Work, Y'all

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about the value of your work and then Greg wrote about grace at the Web of Lies, so I got to thinking all spiritual and shit.

As a Buddhist I try to follow the old dude’s Nobel Eightfold Path because I think it’s a good way to live. One of the eight principles is Right Livelihood, which suggests we should “lead a balanced life, neither extravagant nor miserly,” and make sure our “income stands in excess of expenses.” Pretty sage advice, I’d say. But also, Right Livelihood suggests our work should respect and even assist other people and the world.

When I was a teacher, I felt pretty solid with my Right Livelihood. Okay, my expenses often stood in excess of my income, but that wasn’t because of extravagant living, it was because in this country we just don’t pay the people who serve very well. Teachers, police officers, social workers, nurses? Let’s pay these self-absorbed lowlifes shit. But the guy who can hit three-pointers most of the time or the lady who knows how to get away with underpaying workers so she and her Board can make more money? Pay them zillions.

Anyway, I did feel overall that I was helping the world back then. I was trying, at least, to help some kids learn how to learn, how to be good people, how to ask questions about the world.

But now I make television programs. I made one movie and hope to make more.

And so I started questioning if I’m still making my work something that’s important. Not as easy to see. TV and movies? Hmm.

You could make the argument that art (if TV and film are art -– or more specifically, if the kind I make are…) does matter and helps the world. I might buy that.

But I think that what Buddha was also talking about was to be mindful of how you go about your work. I try to be honest, compassionate, humble and all that good stuff while doing my job. I don’t always succeed of course, but listen, the Pope wears Prada shoes and just put out a calendar of photos of him at his country estate, so come on. We’re all human.

Buddha helped define Right Livelihood by talking about what Wrong Livelihood is. He said five professions should be avoided outright: trade in weapons, human beings, meat, intoxicants and poison – so I’m glad my days as a gun-running, slave-trading, butcher/drug dealer with a knack for fatal concoctions are over.

But he said we also should not be scheming and belittling or look out only for our own gain in our work. Hey, that I can do. That I do do, when dealing with people who work with or for me, or for whom I work. I don’t want to come off as a hippie (those days are over too, thankfully, but I admit I spent my time at Dead shows) but I am always sure to conduct myself ethically. I don’t ever want to succeed by screwing other people. That would suck, really.

So, fellow writers, don’t get down on yourselves. You’re okay in what you do -– as long as you do it right.

That is, unless you still have that night job whipping up poisons for The Man. Knock that shit off.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Whole Lotta Something

It’s been a blast of content creation for me recently.

Pressure’s been heavy at work. A group of international networks contacted us and asked for proposals for two series that they think will do well overseas -– and that they think we can do well. They have a very tight schedule on the development process, but the tightness goes both ways: we didn’t have a lot of time to write up the proposals, but they promise to give us feedback within days and decide who gets the gig by the end of the month.

So, it’s been a flurry of writing for me. We’re talking full series proposals -– but I got them handed in on time Friday and we have a conference call scheduled with the execs for Wednesday. I like this quick turnaround stuff when it’s reciprocal.

The pitches are good. One a little better than the other, but both could be solid and interesting shows. We’ll see.

In addition to that, I have an act breakdown for an MOW due this Friday for another client (this time a domestic network), so the flurry continues. This one’s a great story -– one I’ve hoped to be able do for a long time, actually, so I’m really excited about it. It’s a compelling story but it’s also an important one.

I just hope that in a week I can do it justice. Tough to do a detailed outline of a two-hour story in five days, showing not only the developing drama, but also what the movie will look and feel like.

But if my work over the last decade has done anything, it’s taught me how to produce good stuff fast.

I mean, last year for one series, we did almost a year’s worth of work in 6 months. Okay, okay, I wore myself down to the nub of a man -- and had to hire Greg toward the end to help with the final push -- but we did it.

Man, that was fun, wasn’t it, Greg?

Or, fun maybe isn’t the right word.

Man, that was something, wasn’t it, Greg?

As for my own writing, I have what I think is an interesting start to the Harlem movie. It’s been a lot of deconstruction and reconstruction, and I still can’t see the whole thing yet, but the pieces are falling into place a little. Good to be diving back in.

It’s a lot of… something.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Do I Want More Cake? I Don't Know, Do I?

As of yesterday, I’m another year older.


I always think it’s odd when people freak out about getting older. I mean, sure, sometimes I pine for the days when I was 17 and physically fearless. But I like getting older. In fact, I prefer it. I’d be a really weird 17-year-old now if I were still 17 after all these years…

Plus, you should read some of the shite I wrote back then.

Let’s just say the world didn’t need another Jim Morrison writing poetry.

Anyway, a strange thing happened last week. I started writing again.

As I mentioned before, I’d been doing a lot of jotting down of ideas and such, and mostly they were about the crime thriller, but late last week I actually started writing. And on the day I fired up the laptop, I dove into the Harlem rewrite and not the crime thriller. Didn’t expect that. But then, that’s usually how it works, isn’t it?

I got in deep, fast. Thinking out plot points in the shower. Letting characters percolate while driving to work. Writing frantically during every lunch break to get it down in the limited time I had.

It’s been good.

Even though it’s been frustrating -– as writing usually is. Like last night I was trying to defend why I needed to place the movie in Harlem, and why it has to happen during the sixties. Should I move it? Make it contemporary?

Not sure. One thing’s for sure: this weekend I came to terms with the fact that I’m just trying to cram too much into it. Which was a healthful realization to have. Time to strip out even more and make a leaner, cleaner story.

Not too clean, though. I like it when a movie is as messy as life. But I do have to be more judicious with themes.

When deciding what should stay and what should go, I find myself having conversations with myself. Like out loud. In a room, alone. Like a crazy person.

But when I put myself on trial like that -– or when I put my writing on trial –- I tend to be more decisive. Maybe I can lie to myself in my head, just thinking. But I can’t lie to myself out loud.

I just hope for Greg’s sake (over at the Web of L&D) he doesn’t require this same method, or the plane ride to China is gonna be an awkward one.

“Um, sir. Could you please stop screaming? The other passengers are getting scared.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

David Has EIGHT Friends

So there.

Have you seen the video podcast Sam Has 7 Friends? Check it out -– it’s on iTunes in the TV/Film section. Also can be found at

Okay, it’s a little soap opera-y. In fact, it’s sort of a MySpace soap opera LA noir. But it’s cool. I’m hooked.

Every day, another 1 ½ minute episode is released. They began in late August and it’ll run through mid-December. It’s about this girl Sam, an aspiring actor in LA who, you guessed it, has seven friends. The filmmakers promise that on December 15th -– dun dun DUN! –- one of them will kill her.

It’s very crafty, this thing. A good concept, a good hook, good use of the emerging webisode platform. It’s shot beautifully for the most part. Also mostly very good actors. Except the guy playing Sam’s agent. He must be someone’s brother or one of the financial backers. Because he’s weak.

I bet this crew is having a blast making this. Probably costs almost nothing and it's a fresh thing. Nice. Bravo to you, whoever you are.

Anyway, check it out. At the very least you get to look at beautiful people living in LA, and you only have to invest a minute and a half every day.

End of plug. Resume wasting time at work, all of you.

Or both of you.

Or... you.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Questions' Authority

Saw The Departed on Saturday. Loved The Departed on Saturday. Still love it.

Got me thinking about questions. Because, when a movie’s over, you want the viewer to be left with questions. The good questions.

Bad questions suck.

(Wait. Have I blogged about this before? How do regular bloggers like Greg remember?)

After The Departed, I was left with both types. Though even the bad questions weren’t so bad. This is a great film after all.

Good question:

In one bar scene, the camera’s on a crane (or high sticks?) over the bar and tilts down to reveal that Jack Nicholson has just downed a shot and has a beer lined up, ready to roll. Now, this question I have is predicated on my experience in Massachusetts (where the film takes place), in the mid-‘90s -– so things might have changed since then.

But back then, I learned that you can’t order a-shot-and-a-beer and get both at the same time. Believe me, I tried. State law against one person having two drinks in front of them simultaneously. When I ordered, they’d hand me the shot, I’d do it, then they’d slap down the beer.

So on Saturday I leave the theater wondering, did William Monahan and Martin Scorsese put this in there, knowing the law, as an inside joke to cement their knowledge of all things Boston (their knowledge, by the way, is delightfully deep) by adding a little touch to further show Nicholson’s character is a king? Like, Whoa, this dude can even get a shot and a beer!

Or is this an error -– albeit a slight one -– that just shows one small detail got past them. Not that it matters, really, a detail like this, so the mistake doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the movie.

Either way, good question. The kind of question I got to talk to my wife about over sushi after the movie. This is what movies are supposed to do. Like Alabama says to Clarence in True Romance: When I see a really good movie I really like to go out and get some pie, and talk about it. Only on Saturday it was sushi. No pie. Anyway, you know what I mean: you delve in afterwards, talk about its intentions, think about its impact. Nothing too film-school-intellectual, please, but a good movie leaves you with good questions. If everything’s tied up with a neat bow, shit, I’ll pass.

But I also left with the kind of question that was not so good, because I didn’t know if it was a mistake that would take away my enjoyment.

I’m wondering: what about the envelope Leonardo DiCaprio gives Vera Farmiga? When they release the DVD are we gonna see a deleted scene where she opens it, then calls Mark Wahlberg? Because the otherwise tight storytelling fell apart there a little bit with that.

Again, not a really bad question -– like, say, the type I was left with after watching The Hulk (for example, “Why did I just watch that movie? Can I ever get those 90 minutes of my life back?”) -– so I’m not complaining too much. But a potential chink in the armor.

Why am I going on and on about this? Because we’re about to dive into the recut of Dismal -– and I want to leave the good questions in there and take care of the bad questions.

And sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Every day for a while now, during lunch, I take my little steno notebook out for a sandwich and write.

It’s been good, getting back into it on a regular basis -– even thought right now “writing” is limited to making bullet outlines and jotting down notes on scenes and bits of dialogue.

The four stories I’ve been playing around with have been:
--the Harlem rewrite
--the suspense thriller that started as a dream I had
--a twisty police drama
--a cheeky horror thing

Interestingly, the one that I find myself working on most is the one that came from the dream (as written about a few posts back). But I do keep bouncing around.

Here’s one fear I have, about the dream story: if I dreamed about it, does it mean, subconsciously, that I REMEMBER it? As in, it’s already been done and I’m accidentally plagiarizing?

Here’s another fear I have: soon, I’ll have to choose one of the four to really flesh out.

Because of work and family, I don’t have a whole lot of time to write. So it’s scary to think I might put six months into starting a script (O, to be able to spend hours a day writing and bang them out like Greg and Ryan do) only to realize I picked the wrong one to flesh out and it might have made a fun little outline but it’s a shitty 120 pages.

Because then, it’s six months later. Maybe someone has shown interest in Dismal and wants to know what else I have written. And I have nothing. Maybe the guys who showed interest in the adaptation script (if they haven’t forgotten about me already, which, actually, is most likely the case) will have totally forgotten about or lost interest in me. Because I still have nothing.

I guess there’s no easy answer. As we continue the recut of Dismal, I’ll keep working on these outlines and notes, and then, I’ll just have to suck it up. Use my gut to pick which one I think is the most viable. And then write it.


Friday, October 13, 2006

ROUSes? I Don't Think They Exist.

Strange and unexpected turn of events. As turns of events often are.

Lemme ‘splain. No, is too much. Lemme sum up.*

Over the last few months I’ve been reading a bunch of books and articles and keeping an eye on the trades, and I kept reading about this one company that is alleged to be The Shit when it comes to repping independent films. The list of movies they’ve brought to the world is impressive. Good, solid, need-to-look-more-than-first-glance movies that other people might not have seen the beauty in. They’d be perfect for us. In fact, three weeks ago, I wrote, “Try to get X Company” in my notebook.

Two days ago, an executive at X Company calls us. SHE calls US. Says she can’t tell us how, beyond that they have a “very good tracking system,” but she’s heard about our film and it sounds very interesting to her – can she have a screener?

Jeff gives her our agreed-upon standard answer to all such requests: No, I don’t think so. It’s just a rough cut and we want time to make it right before we send it out… but let me talk to my partners.

We talk, confirm this company is like the Holy Grail, and call her back -– screener on its way.

A follow-up call caught the exec out of the office, so Jeff talked to her assistant. Still won’t tell us how they heard about us, but says two very cool things.

Thing One: “Oh yeah. Dismal. Yeah, I’ve heard that come up in a couple meetings.”

Really? Hmmm.

Thing Two: “Normally, I tell people not to expect a response sooner than three weeks. Buuut, if SHE called you HERSELF, it’s probably a pet project and you might hear much sooner.”

Really? Again hmmm.

So people at X Company have been talking about us, and this exec breaks her normal routine to call us herself.

Really? Hmmm-mmm.

I keep going back and forth between “HOLY FUCKING SHIT” and “Simmer down, O’D. Nothing has happened yet.”

(Okay, I talk to myself. There. I admitted it...)

But Greg The Sage tells me this business is so full of heartaches, we should take any celebration we can get.

So tonight, when the lad goes to sleep, I’m gonna crack that swanky bottle of scotch that’s been waiting for a celebration. Maybe I’ll even rent The Princess Bride.

That’s what the * was for. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On 35-Year-Old Ass Clowns

Well the nor’easter caused a lot of flooding and thereby some travel problems, so our test audience was only 30 people. But still, it was good.

We held the screening in a classroom set up with amphitheater-style seating, projecting from a computer in the not-very-dark room. Not bad, but not the best sound or picture quality to say the least.

Overall, though, the response was that the audience felt very entertained.

They had some questions -– some silly, some thought provoking. One girl asked how the bad guy changed clothes so quickly.

Um. Well. Uh…

Most of the better questions were things we knew were weaknesses already. Some pacing issues. Some story clarification. And several good specific suggestions actually on how to attack those weaknesses.

Two comments surprised me.

One was from several college-aged kids. They thought the two men on the fishing trip were acting too immature for their age. They said that, since these guys had kids, they wouldn’t be so immature when they’re together. All of us adults in the room just paused. Thought about when we’re out with the boys. Oh, it’s immature all right. I think it was because these two kids must think that once you get to be 30 you stop thinking like a 13 year old. I guess they’ve never seen their dads out with friends. They’ll learn.

The other surprising thing was how strongly so many people felt about what happened to the dog. They want to know how, why –- they don’t want it left up to them. They want the facts. Didn’t realize people would connect so specifically with the dog.

But the best thing to come of the test screening was for the post-production team to see that we’re not finished yet.

I was getting worried, I’ll admit it.

The plan was to rush a rough cut to deliver to Sundance in time. Which we did. But then when we started talking about recutting to get the final cut done, there was some grumbling.

I was astonished.

Does anyone really think we could have put together the best possible film five weeks after the end of principal photography?

I was getting the feeling some did think that. And then, in the interest of keeping people happy, I felt others were starting to agree. Like yeah, a couple of easy tweaks and we’re done. I was worried I was about to be outvoted and the rough cut would live.


Now, after the test screening, and after our team meeting at which we discussed all the problems with the cut, it seems everyone is onboard with recutting it until it’s as good as it can be.

Which was the original plan.

But oh is it hard for people to think about changes after something becomes “real.” Funny thing, that. But no surprise. Revising –- really revising -– is always a bitch of a thing to do.

After the screening, driving to Jeff’s house for the meeting, I pulled up at a stop light next to the editor. We looked at each other. Paused. Then immediately and furiously gave each other the finger until the light turned green.

As I pulled away, the composer, in the passenger seat of my car, said, “What the hell were those kids talking about, ‘too immature for guys in their 30s’?”

So, to all of my fellow 30-something dads: pull my finger.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Testing 1, 2, 3

In a couple hours we hold our test screening of Dismal.

So far, everybody's loved it. But so far, everybody who's seen it loves us. Or likes us. Or at least knows us.

But today, the audience will be full of strangers. They don't know us. They don't know how hard we've worked for two years, what we've sacrificed, all that we were up against. They don't know we only had 18 days to shoot and a crew much smaller than normal.

There's nothing to cloud their vision, save whatever hangups they might bring in on their own. If they like it, they'll say they like it. If they hate it, they'll say that, too. Which is exactly what a test screening should be.

I'm excited. And nervous. And excited.

Here goes.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What's Up Chuck?

Went to work yesterday feeling fine, but within half an hour I got wicked nauseous. Drove home, and when I was almost back to the safety of my very own bathroom, I did some rather indelicate regurgitation. The ol’ pull over, whip the door open, blast.

Still not feeling great today, so it's two days home from work.

(Sorry about the regurgitation thing. No one wants that image planted in their head. My bad...)

Anyway, I barely wanted to get out of bed yesterday, so I did absolutely no writing. Today I’m feeling a little more mobile, so I’m gonna try. Not a lot of energy though, so it’s hard to get my mind focused and my body motivated.

First up: finish the freaking script for the Dismal trailer so Andrew can cut that bitch.

Then, finalize the feedback form for the test screening we’re doing Saturday.

And then, the more interesting stuff: work on the outlines for the next two scripts, or one of them anyway. Don’t think I have it in me to dive into the Harlem movie right now…

I might have had it in me yesterday morning, but a lot of the stuff I had in there then, isn’t in there anymore.

Okay. I’m sorry again.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Not Dreaming Of Daisy

Had one of those awesomely detailed dreams last night.

It was the opening scene for a crime thriller, complete with dialogue, movements of a ton of people, opening titles and a score.

Isn't the brain cool? I mean, even a pedestrian one like mine? Where did the backstory come from? The faces of all the people? The Massive Attack-like music? The floor plan of the club where that guy was doing that thing?

I take this as a good sign. We all remember the dream in college in which you get to the end of the semester and realize you never went to one class and have failed it. When I was teaching, I had dreams of class sessions, some inspired, some ridiculous. When I was knee-deep in producing the latest show I did and I was working 16 hours a day, my dreams often took the form of Avid editing -- start a scene, pause, rewind, recut, start over.

So now dreaming about a movie opening, maybe it means my mind is getting back to focusing on crafting a new script from the ether. Or wait. Would that take a dream about typing on an old laptop in the dark with a glass of bourbon next to me?

Anyway, this morning my son fell asleep as I drove him to daycare, which means only a 10 minute nap, so I wanted to give him a little more time to rest before toddlers started howling and throwing Elmo dolls at him. We sat in the parking lot, idling, Cannonball Adderley playing on the stereo, him conked out in the car seat, me scribbling down all the details I could remember from the dream.

Who knows. Maybe it'll be something.

If not, at least it reminded me about the weird process of creativity and made me take down some story notes...

And no, dear, Daisy Fuentes did not make an appearance. Promise.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Free Time? What Free Time?

It's there. Dismal is in the offices of the Sundance selectors. Whoever they are. So our future in Utah is no longer in our control.

Today (my anniversary by the way), Ray, Jeff and I meet to plan out the remaining work on Dismal to get ready for the next festivals we'll submit to. SXSW and Tribeca both have early December deadlines, so we hope to be finished with the fine cut by Thanksgiving.

This means a more editing to tighten up a few places, fix some problems, make the moments we haven't made yet, plus giving the various fellows the time to do the full score composition, full sound mix, full color correction, etc.

And we'll cut a good trailer, print up some one sheets and prepare a press kit for when we'll need them.

But what I think this means for me is that while there's still much work ahead, it's mainly managerial stuff, which should free up a little more time to get back to that thing we do.


It's been a while.

I mean, I've done a lot of writing for the regular job -- which has been fun and has worked out well, since we're on the verge of signing two pilots and some MOWs -- but no scripts.

My plan is first to bang out some outlines for the next two movies for 1944, then dive back into the Harlem movie. Then, as I'm working on the Harlem rewrite I can let the 1944 outlines percolate, and when I go back to fixing the 1944 outlines I can let the Harlem rewrite percolate.

Seems like that's the way it works for me. Good to have one thing to work on immediately, to distract my mind from the other thing -- which is when the good ideas come for the other thing. And vice versa.

I think most writers I know work this way.

And outsiders think we're just being lazy and unfocused.


Now let's all waste some time Googling my current favorite phrase, from Greg's Web of Lies and Deceit: rusty Chinese tongue muscles.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Park City Bound

Okay, it's actually LA bound. Turns out the Sundance submission offices are in Los Angeles.

So much for independence in the mountains.

Anyway, we finished the rough mix today and they're laying back tonight.

Tomorrow we run dubs and send it off to beat the September 25 deadline.

Very cool.

It's just a rough cut, though -- still needs some picture changes, only has temp music, sound, etc. -- so we still have lots to do before the next round of festivals.

But anyway, it's nice to have met our first goal.

That is, if the dubs work out, and if we make the FedEx deadline, and if the container doesn't get pulled off the plane, and if...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Did Anyone Get The Mailing Address For Sundance?

Early last week, we finally got the approved rough cut of Dismal locked. Or, I think we got the approved cut locked – after the last set of notes I didn’t get a chance to watch again since it had to ship out. But hopefully all the changes are made. Makes me nervous, not seeing that last cut, but I trust our editor, so I know it’s okay.

Please. Tell me it’s okay.

The movie’s hovering at about 94 minutes, which I think is perfect, and now it’s off to the composer, color timing and the sound editors.

Or it was supposed to be.

Somehow, the sound guys never got the stuff they needed.


These are some crack sound editors, so I know they’ll catch up, but it’s one of those little details that can really make a project stumble. They were supposed to have it a few days ago, and the deadline for Sundance is fast approaching.

After almost 10 years in the business, it still amazes me how complex it is, and how so much can ride on small things not being done – or being done wrong.

There was this show we did once. A crime show about a biker gang. The main enforcer of the gang was a giant martial arts master who, when he was arrested, sent a couple FBI agents to the hospital and shattered a door frame in the police station when a roundhouse kick he intended for a cop’s head missed by a hair. The guy was a monster, and I tried to relay this to casting very clearly: I need a bad ass motherfucker in the true sense of the word, someone large, with an intimidating physical presence, someone with a mean look who is very comfortable on a big Harley. A bad ass motherfucker.

What casting apparently heard was: he’s part Asian.

What they cast was a tiny little Chinese man who couldn’t have weighed more than a buck twenty, who had never been on a motorcycle, and who was frightened by the sound of grips yelling “Hot points!”

And I find this out when the crew and cast show up on location in Ohio, ready to shoot. Director calls me: "Uh. David? You know that bad ass motherfucker we talked about?"

Somehow we pulled off the show, but we obviously had to lose the idea of this character as an enforcer. Of library protocol, maybe, but certainly not of a biker gang.

Anyway, it’s the little details. You try not to obsess over them. You try not to micromanage. And you don’t want to be an ass about it, but damn if that doesn’t come back to haunt you sometimes…

Enough bitching. Gotta make sure we have that address down right.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Children's Books

Today is my son's birthday. The awesome little fella is one. His favorite book is, "What Does Baby Say?" Nice big, simple pictures of cute little kids saying things to fit their mood: "What does the hungry baby say? Ba-ba." I love reading this book -- and others like it -- to him. I love watching my wife read these books to him. Sometimes he's just not in the mood and instead wants to point at the ceiling fan or crawl after the dog. But most times he's looking intently at the illustrations, his big beautiful curious eyes moving all over the page, looking at all the little details, pointing, always pointing, at the stuff that he thinks is cool. "Duck! Duck!"

In a couple weeks it will be my daughter's birthday. The incredible young woman will be 18. She's at college now. She recently started a conversation with, "Dad, I think I'm an existentialist" and wants me to send her the collection of Hemingway short stories she accidentally left behind. She's jonesing for Hemingway and the existentialism she finds there. Cracks me up. I love talking books with her -- listening to her get excited about what she's read and what she thought about while reading it, sharing stuff I've read with her and the thoughts I had reading.

Every night of my daughter's life, until she learned to read herself, I read her a book. Now, that's what my wife and I are doing with our son.

Cheers, kids, to your books. Trust them: they won't let you down.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Whose Hat Has Your Head Been Under?

It hit me last night -- or, this morning, really -- as I drove home from an edit session at 3:45am.

Not a deer crossing I-64 in a frantic flight from Hampton Roads sprawl. No, what hit me was a thought that eased my recent bout of self-disappointment. Not that that’s a word, even hyphenated, but you get the idea and I’m too tired to whip out the thesaurus.

I’d just spent seven hours with the editor and one of the other producers, whittling down the Dismal cut so that we’re pretty close to where we want to be by the next screening with all the producers.

We needed to cut about half an hour, maybe a touch more, and so the bulk of the revision was hacking stuff out. It was a weird, splintering experience.

As a writer, I really wanted to hold on to a lot of the moments and lines and story developments in there. I mean, I spent a lot of time coming up with them, and frankly I think most of them worked pretty well -- developing character, building tension, adding depth to the story.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some places I thought, “What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that,” but overall, I thought the story worked nicely.

But we had to lose half an hour. Shit had to go.

So I reminded myself what hat was currently topping my slam-bald head. Right now, I’m a producer. I happen to be the producer who wrote the script, but still, I’m a producer. Producers have to keep the full scope of things, the Big Picture if you will, in mind always, and not get too bogged down in the art if the thing.

I mean, the thing needs some art of course, but it has to keep asses in seats, too.

So anyway, as producer, I worked with the team to get the cuts made –- sacrificing some of the subtle moments that intellectually I enjoy, but don’t get us where we need to get. My wife calls it “being willing to kill your babies.”

And they were good cuts.

(Poor little babies.)

And then, as I was weaving down the highway with fatigue, I realized I don’t need to get down on myself for not writing a lot right now. Because right now, I’m not a writer. Not primarily anyway. I’m a producer. And having the skills of a producer, well honed and exercised regularly, can only help me in the long run. The Big Picture if you will.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just exhausted. I mean, damn. A Shania Twain reference for a title?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

So Why Don't You Kill Me


That was a long break.

I'm a loser.

But you knew that.

So here's a quick update -- not that anyone's reading this anymore...

On Dismal: The rough assembly came out last week at 2 1/2 hours. It was just an assembly -- but you could see the movie within, so it was very exciting. Peed my pants. Really.

We sat and reviewed and gave notes to the editor who is busily chipping away. Sound editors and composer are all waiting with bated breath for the locked rough cut so they can work their temp magic in time to make the September 25th Sundance deadline. Which we're still on schedule to make.

After that, we all get back to work to make the fine cut, to send out to other festivals and distributors.

The editor's also hoping to have a trailer by the end of September.

So we have ins at Lions Gate and Sony, and I'm trying to get in touch with a friend of a friend with contacts at The Weinstein Company. Other suggestions? Rogue? Focus?

As for festivals, we're gonna try Austin, SXSW, Tribeca and Toronto. Suggestions?

Oh yeah. And we're shooting a day and a half of pick-ups/inserts this weekend.

And on the Harlem movie: Not a damn thing in months.

Here's the conundrum I face. I have SO MUCH SHIT TO DO just with family and my regular job. Add to that all the work left to do on Dismal and my time runs slam out. But then there's the Harlem movie that my heart is really telling me to get done now, plus there's the three other scripts I want to outline for 1944 Films, so that when someone sees and likes Dismal and asks what's next, we can tell them.


Everybody says this, but... there's just not enough time.

Wow. Not only am I a loser, but I'm a cliched one.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Family Business

We’ve begun our third and final week of shooting on Dismal. I really should have been better about documenting every day of it here, but with the shoot, plus the regular job, plus the move into the new house, well, I just didn’t.

Anyway, let me tell you a story that explains how it’s been going.

There’s a scene where Croaker knocks Bill out by the water, and Bill falls in. Now, this water is nasty, dirty, spooky swamp water, full of bugs and snakes and critters and That Which Shan’t Be Named.

Because of that, the grips had rigged a platform for Greg Lee (playing Bill) to fall onto. Easy. He falls out of frame, we foley a splash and cut to a shot of Croaker dragging a wet Bill onto the bank -– and it would have been good.

But no, Greg wants more than that. Greg wants to be real. Greg wants to take the dive.

So here’s this handsome young actor from Hollywood, who just finished up work on a nice drama in plush Hawaii, taking a faceplant into who knows what, without being asked to do so, all in the hopes of making this film as good as it can be. (Minutes later, by the way, we found a water moccasin a few feet from where he splashed in…)

This is exactly the attitude of every single person working on this thing. Make-up and wardrobe scramble to make changes from one look to another to accommodate a wish to juggle the schedule. Grips lug tons of equipment through the forest in intense heat all day long. Actors bust their ass in the heat and muck for far less money than they’re worth. PAs do every single thing asked, and a lot that’s not asked, to help out. The art department somehow creates an amazing world in the middle of nowhere with just about no money and far too few helpers. One guy, Wes, who’s not even on the show, comes in to grip for free on his day off from another project and builds a bridge through a particularly muddy area on his own time and with his own materials. The investors, who have already so graciously trusted us with their money, are sad that they weren’t able to do more to pitch in. All the other departments, including post, are doing similar stuff.

A visitor to the set said to me, after watching the cast and crew work, “That’s some family you got there.”


Thanks fam.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Yin For Your Yang

So we’re on day three of Dismal’s principal photography. Couldn’t be more excited.

We’ve got a great crew who all are committed to making this a hell of a movie. No one’s getting paid much money, either, and they’re working outside, in intense heat, with ticks and biting flies and all sorts of things. But man are those locations beautiful.

The three lead actors have really impressed me. When we were casting we relied heavily on the feelings we got from these guys. We didn’t have the time or resources to do a lot of reads with them so we had to trust our guts.

The guts have paid off.

William Gregory Lee is nailing the arrogant ignorance of Bill. Scott Miles has the everyman integrity of Matt locked up. And Richard Riehle is definitely bringing the creep with Croaker. (Go ahead, IMDB or Google them –- you know you want to. By the way, on IMDB, Scott is listed as Scott Miles (II).)

Goddamn it’s exciting to see these guys bring the script to life.

We are of course dealing with all the production headaches that come with any shoot. We had to cut some scenes that I loved because shooting them became unfeasible. I’ve had to adjust a lot of action to fit the locations and context.

And I’ve been having to be at work fulltime, so I haven’t been able to be on set much yet. This is killing me. Yes, I’m the screenwriter –- but I’m also a producer. And since I’m a producer with a ton of experience in fixing things on the fly, who happened to write the script… I really need to be there when adjustment decisions have to be made on set.

I have a few days of vacation coming to me, so I’m gonna pick the five weekdays that I think shooting is most important and be on set for them. Those, plus the three weekend days, plus stuff before and after work is going to have to be it.

Makes me understand what Greg’s going through over at the Web of Lies and Deceit, as he hears of discussions going on about his script, without him involved as a producer.


To go along with the exciting.

But everyone needs a little yin for their yang.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Crawling Through The Words

I don’t know what made me smile more: when my son crawled for the first time last Saturday, or when my wife started bawling when he did.

It was one of those perfect, real, beautiful moments that can knock you on your emotional ass. So simple, so normal –- and yet powerful beyond description.

The kind of thing that makes you glad to be alive, no matter how fucked up the Bush administration is making the world. (Oops, politics crawled in there…)

(Crawled. Get it?)

Anyway, it's the kind of thing that, if it were a scene in a movie, could either be remarkably cheesy or the moment that makes you finally believe those actors up there are real people. And once you believe that, the movie can take you anywhere (even to a hotel being blown apart by FBI SWAT and North Korean gangsters [Right Greg?]).

This is where the director and actors are much more important than the writer. The writer needs to know when, where and even if to put in that scene. But then the director and actors are in charge of making it work. Or making it fail miserably.

I think this is why I tend to over-write in my early drafts. I know I need to keep everything lean. But there’s something inside me that thinks at first that this…


DECLAN spies a toy just out of reach, plops onto his stomach and crawls to it. AMY turns to DAVID and breaks down in tears.

…as a scene might be misinterpreted as a throwaway, hackneyed nothingscene, and people reading the script might think I’m a throwaway, hackneyed nothingwriter.

So in early drafts I tend to write it out much more descriptively so anyone reading could see what I was intending.

And then Greg yells at me for being too wordy. “It’s not a novel, you fucking hack!” he screams, throwing Jell-o at me (which, sent flying by his mighty hands, nails itself to the wall).

So I trim it back.

It’s a good lesson to learn: trust the reader.

But don’t trust the North Korean gangsters.

And crawl before you walk, I guess is another good lesson.

Thanks Decs. Thanks Ames.

And thanks Greg. Though you don't have to be so cruel.

And Ryan, more Dismal news soon...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dismal. The Story Of Dismal. How Dismal Got Started.

I realize I’ve never really told the Story if Dismal here.

I might have to do it in a few installments – but I promise to keep it lean and not go into all the gory (boring?) details.

For years now I’ve been working with Ray and Jeff at a small but successful television production studio. I was producing and writing, Ray was working production in various roles, Jeff seemed to have a dozen roles in pre-production and production.

We made a lot of shows that were well received, and that was cool, but after a while you tend to feel a little bit in a rut.

One day in January 2005, Jeff and I were talking.

Jeff: How’s it going?
Me: All right. You?
Jeff: All right.

Long silence.

Jeff: I’m bored.
Me: Me too.
Jeff: Let’s make a movie. A short. You write the script, I’ll raise a few grand, we’ll make a movie, send it to Sundance. You know, make a movie.

(Jeff has a tendency to say things three times…)

Me: Good idea. Cool locations, but only a few, simple story, small cast.
Jeff: Let’s do it.
Me: Done.

The next day, Jeff called me into his office.

Jeff: Talked to Ray. He’s been thinking the same thing. He’ll direct, but he wants to do a full-length feature.
Me: Even better.
Jeff: He’s been thinking of a story for a while. He’ll have an outline Monday. Ready Monday. Man's gonna have it Monday.

On Monday, there was Ray’s outline on my desk with a note: “David, can you make this into a script?”

And so I got to work.

Right away we knew we had a good team put together. It’s a good dynamic, each of us bringing something different in terms of skill set and mind set (and complimentary yet non-overlapping psychiatric disorders), and no one bringing too much ego that THIS THING IS MINE. Hate to sound like one of those inspirational posters that feature soft-focus photos of a group of ants lifting a loaf of bread together, but we know we need each other to get this done, and we know the project is more than any one of us.

Once we had a good draft in place, we started sending it out to people in the industry we know and have worked with. Some folks with good, hands-on, real-world (if anything in Hollywood can be considered real) experience.

Scary, really.

But the response was overwhelmingly good. We got some notes, some of which were very, very helpful, some not so much. Because I’m so smart it was the helpful notes I worked into the next revision. Clever, huh?

Then there was getting the money. Jeff’s job.

First we planned to do it on weekends for $14,000. Open Water-style.

But our contacts said to go larger –- no need to kill yourself trying to make it for 14K.

So then we upped it to come in under the SAG ultra-low budget deal. $200K to get it in the can, up to $500K more deferred.

And so Jeff made a list of ten potential investors. Not long thereafter, Jeff called me.

Me: Hello?
Jeff: Didn’t get past the first one. First one gave us almost all of it. First one.

At that point we thought we should bump it up to $2 million –- it had been so easy to raise money so far (sorry, I know other independent moviemakers will hate me for saying that, but it was). Went back and forth on this a lot and finally settled on the ultra-low budget budget. For that we could make a really strong movie that could hopefully lead to bigger ones later.

The crew was fairly easy to get. A lot of talented people around here, all of them itching to do something new that’s put together well.

Casting was a little tougher, but we soon met a fantastic actor for the lead. Went to LA to meet him, knew right away he was the one. Then one by one we cast the rest. The three main dudes are from LA and North Carolina-via-LA, the rest are regional. (I think I’ll be able to name names soon, once the paperwork’s signed.)

And maybe actors always say this, but everyone was saying how excited they were about being on the project – that it was a good, tight script, that we obviously had our shit together, that they knew it was gonna turn out well.

Know what? I think it will.

More later. Later. I’ll tell the rest later.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Nailing Jell-o To The Wall

As I keep trying to figure out the new angle for the Harlem movie, I start to get a little focus on the story arc or a character's back story -- and then I start plotting out a new script entirely.

Where's the focus, David?

Is this me telling me that I should just scrap Harlem and move on? Or is it just because I'm a scatterbrained knucklehead and I just need to force myself to focus more on the one project?

When I put it up to a vote with myself, the stick-with-Harlem side usually wins by a hanging chad.

Just feels like there’s something there. Or I’m too emotionally attached to it to just drop it. Either way, I think I should keep clawing at the thing until my nails finally sink in and take hold.

It would help, then, if I would stop biting my nails.

Getting a full grasp on the whole of the new project is (to borrow a phrase my wife used in a conversation a few days ago) like nailing Jell-o to the wall.

But it feels like I need to keep trying.

Of course, that also means devoting more time to actually TRYING. Jell-o doesn’t come already nailed to the wall, after all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Honestly Offensive

Driving to work today I was listening to an interview with John Updike (thanks Joe), and he mentioned that being a good writer meant being courageous and ruthless enough to be honest.

True dat.

I find myself struggling with that a lot in my writing.

I don’t mean being truthful with real events. I’ve never been much of a liar -– what’s the use, really? And I’m certainly no Million Little Pieces fraud trying to impress the world with my memoirs.

What I mean is being honest with a character, a story.

Maybe it was my white-bread upbringing, but I think I subconsciously worry about hurting people all the time. I’ll be writing a scene, and highlight a character’s flaws, and my first instinct many times is to soften the flaw or resolve it right away.

But reality, and people, and relationships, and life, and love -– all the good stuff that’s interesting in the world and worth writing about –- it’s all dirty and messy and weird and flawed like a motherfucker.

So why hide it or sugarcoat? Am I such a dork that I worry about insulting a character? Or even a viewer/reader who might identify with the character?

Sometimes I find myself worrying that someone I love might think something is based on them and then take offense, so I pull it back. And often it is. Based on them, I mean, or on a situation we shared. But it’s just BASED on them -– the real person or event gave me the jumping-off point, and then I made it something else.

It’s like in Biloxi Blues when Eugene’s bunkmates find his journal and read it aloud. It mentions them, even by name, and he paints no one in a flattering light. He tells them it’s all bullshit, just stuff he makes up, fiction he weaves from reality threads, but they don’t believe him.

And so I tend to chicken out in first drafts. I worry my wife might think a certain character is her, or my daughter might read meaning into a situation that I don’t mean to be a reflection of or comment on our real life.

I’m getting better, though. I’m trying anyway. Often I can catch myself and stop being so damn polite. And that’s when things can get interesting.

Because good writing has to be honest, and honesty is ruthless, and life is ruthless, and good writing is life.

I mean, you've seen Six Feet Under, right? That's some unbelieveably good writing -- the best on TV in my opinion -- and fucked up as anything... like life.

By the way, sorry Mr. James Frey. Didn’t mean to offend.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Zen And The (Depressing) Art of (Not) Cycling

Went for a bike ride today.


Three things, specifically, were depressing.

1. I realized that my cycling computer's clock was the right time. This meant I did not have to change it back to adjust for the end of daylight savings time. Which means I haven't ridden between falling back and springing forward. Oh, Time, you relentless bitch with your nasty sorcery!

2. When I got home and undressed to take a shower (eww, I know -- bad image, sorry) I noticed that I no longer carried that clearly dorky (but, I’ll admit it, ego-boosting) mark of the cyclist: the cycling tan lines: sharp lines separating shocking white from not-so-white toward the bottom of the thigh and halfway up the biceps made from being out in the sun wearing those ridiculous tight poly-something shorts and jersey that mortify my daughter. I am all shocking white. Shocking, I’m not kidding.

3. Standing in the shower (I know, I know, I'm sorry -- but I'm almost finished) I had that fantastic muscles-so-drained-I-feel-so-goddamn-alive-I-could-kick-Churck-Norris’s-ass feeling. And then I couldn't remember when I last felt that.

So I need to ride more. Yes, for the health and all that, but also for my writing.

When I'm out there -- and I mean when I'm out there and get to the point that I'm no longer distracted by rednecks in pickups calling me Lance Queerstrong while they chuck half-empty cans of Bud Ice at me -- there's a meditative nature to the thing that really helps work through writing issues. Well, actually, it's not meditative like when I meditate (another thing I haven't done in embarrassingly long) because then the goal is to have no thought. But there’s something about the rhythm, the gliding, the physical exertion, the solitude that always encourages something to click in the imaginative leap department.

So I need to ride more. To write better.

Okay, set goals and then work to achieve them. Start easy, with saying once a week? Let’s see if I can pull it off.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Tubby Little Cubby

Our set producer's flying in tonight from LA, and we have a location scout tomorrow -- hopefully the close-to-final scout. We have the basic areas identified; need to specify now. Gotta get that schedule locked down. Just over a month away from principal photography on Dismal.

So we get to spend the day in the swamp. Did I tell you about the last day I spent in the swamp? Couple weekends ago my wife and I took our son for a bike ride there.

And had to stop for a bear.

Not a beer.


Pretty good sized black bear, about four feet at the shoulder I'd guess, standing in the middle of the path we were on.

That's the kind of thing we need to get on film. (Jeff tells me there's talk of jaguars out there, too.)

When we're out with the full crew, of course, we'll be lucky to see a squirrel. All those people stomping around, the lights, the ATVs -- likely the only wildlife we'll see will be mosquitoes. And ticks. And chiggers. Leeches. But we have a few days of second unit stuff scheduled before principal, so hopefully we'll get out wildlife inserts then.

By the way, the preliminary website is up:

It’s just the first of three stages the web people are doing. This one is just the basic placeholder. The next one will have more info, more links, etc. The final one will add the flash animation and sound and music. (We have the website content sketched out, but because it's still fluid, suggestions are welcome. For example, I'm still not a big fan of the main logo and have been talking to an artist about it...)

Little by little, it’s coming together.

Ready Piglet? Let’s go see Pooh.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Brokeback Rewrite

I thought I broke the story for the rewrite of the Harlem movie.

I thought I broke the story during our trip to Cedar Rapids. My brain had some downtime while we were there. No surprise really: the retirement home, while lovely, was not exactly a hotbed of buzzing energy, and Cedar Rapids itself -- well, it does have a Starbucks but not much else.

So what I'm trying to say is that I thought I broke the story.

I repeat: I THOUGHT I broke the story.

Now that I've had some time to think about it, back here in the madness of everyday life, I realize that story just doesn't hold up as is.

So I did not break the story, yet it is broken.

Maybe it means I can't think clearly when there's nothing else to think about.

Maybe now I'll go try to learn German in a weekend. Maybe then I'll figure this damn thing out.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

El Bastardo, At Your Service

So the assisted living place we stayed in while visiting grandma in Cedar Rapids didn't have web access, so you all missed out on some especially witty posts I was planning.

Ah well. Your loss.

Interesting news on Dismal. A guy who's no huge movie star but is certainly well-known to most watchers of popular American TV -– especially the female version of said watchers -– got a hold of the script and wants to be in the movie. Cool, huh? Now, the dilemma.

We don’t have a place for him.

Well, that’s not entirely true. We do have a place for him. Thing is, that role has already been cast.

No contract or anything, but over the phone the other guy was basically told he’s in.

I imagine we wouldn’t be breaking any new ground if we recast, but it is an awkward position. But the guy we originally cast is an independent filmmaker himself. So he should understand. Hell, he should even applaud us.

Right? Hello?

The original guy has some obvious chops -– but this new guy has chops, too. Plus he’s a fairly big name. And he's hot. Girls like that kind of thing.

And anyone working on an independent feature knows that, in terms of distribution, financial success and all that madness, the name on the box usually means more than any clever writing the screenwriter happens to do.

So should we recast? No hard feelings?

Are we bastards?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Musical Note

So, our movie is set, primarily, in a swamp.

Therefore an edict:

No banjos or fiddles are allowed anywhere near the score.


Road Work Ahead

Well, if you're reading this post, you've probably been reading Greg's posts (which are always more interesting anyway) so you know about the trip to Minneapolis. 'Twas a fun time, productive too, and a bit of a pain in the ass as well. But I enjoyed it, and I didn't get any raspberry iced tea in my lap or on my taquitos. Not everyone was so lucky.

As a TV development guy/producer, I don't get out on the road much, so it was good to see what it's like -- and what I've been inflicting on others for years. I am amazed at that which is called a "continental breakfast," I think I might have contracted something from the hotel room, and I'm fairly certain there is no non-chain restaurant in existence.

Oh, and the Chevy Aveo simply rocks.

But there was the exhilarating creative challenge of thinking on our feet and working together, and we ended up with good stuff. Let's just hope we sign a show from it.

Lots of work at, um, work as I continue developing a few ideas a few networks are interested in. A lot of that work is writing a treatment for a pilot -- so that's been taking a lot of my energy.

No real work on the Harlem rewrite, besides going through the script while flying to Minneapolis and striking through everything I hate. The good news: it wasn't that much. The bad news: it’s still a lot of goddamn work, because as soon as you take out one important nugget, everything changes.

Off for a long weekend to visit grandma with wife and son (daughter staying behind as friends trump family in the teenager’s game) and I’ll bring the laptop. I know I have to do some work for work. And I know I want to do some work for the script.

May I find the time and energy for both, and a good breakfast, in Cedar Rapids.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Your Script Doesn't Matter

So two good things happened with Dismal today.

One is directly script-related: we distributed the official locked white shooting script. Pretty important milestone for me. Celebrate baby steps, right? I mean, it’s no Oscar nomination, but let’s face it, that’s not a milestone I really need to occupy myself with. The locked shooting script, though? That’s all right. While by no means is the script finished, at least it’s in a good solid place. If we needed to, we could shoot tomorrow. I’d probably get queasy, cry out for my mommy and soil my underthings, but we could shoot.

There are, of course, a few bits I’m still thinking about (there always are, as every writer understands), but they’re the types of things that mean mostly dialogue changes here and there: a possible adjustment of a character’s tone in a few scenes, some professional jargon I’m unsure of, one instance of possibly shifting the placement of a scene. So blue pages – and pink, and yellow, and all the way to goldenrod (HELLO, BEAUTIFUL AND HORRIFYING GOLDENROD!) – are sure to follow, but the heavy lifting is done.

I think.

Who knows? Everything might fall apart, we might lose a couple locations or get that Movie Star the director wants to troll for. And then the heavy lifting will resume. These spaghetti biceps of mine might get more of a workout after all.

The other thing that happened is still script-related, but maybe not so apparently so: tonight we had a very productive, very eye-opening, and in some ways very terrifying post-production meeting.

We collected a pretty amazing team of experts and got them all together, with Ray (director), Jeff (executive producer) and me. Code names: Sound Guy, Editor, Engineer, DP, Visual Effects Guy and Post-house Owner. For a couple hours, we just hashed everything out, trying to solve problems before they have a chance to occur. These guys really know their shit, and they’re willing to pitch in with their knowledge and experience and artistry and skill and make this fucking movie sing.


And terrifying. As you know, there’s far more that goes into a film than most of us realize. And the more that goes into a film, the more potential for things to go haywire. Hence the terror.

But mostly, it was a great meeting.

Those of us up front on these things (writers, I mean) often forget about these fellas. But we’d be lost without them. Sure, superstar, you can write a genius goddamn screenplay, but if no one is there to shoot and post it, how’s it gonna knock anybody’s socks off?

Since I’ve been a producer for years, I have the benefit of having worked with all of these departments, and more, and that experience is invaluable. Or, I should say, the experience of screwing things up and then having guys like this help me figure out a solution and how not to screw it up next time is invaluable.

And by guys, of course, I mean people. Girls are cool, too.

I think it’s made me a better writer to have, lurking always in the back of my mind, the sense of what good sound design can do to a scene, how important lighting and framing is, what music can carry, how FX can alter the landscape (literally and figuratively) of a visual story, how a line will work if you build the edit up to it properly.

Also, since I’m no big budget Hollywood power player, being a producer has trained me to think wardrobe, art direction, casting, locations, schedule – and maybe most importantly, cast and crew morale and collective team energy.

All this -- I hope -- on my best days -- informs my writing. Or at least is a factor in it, at some subconscious level. And with writing screenplays, all this matters. Because, as I just read in a book by Alan Bennett: There are no good scripts, only good films.

That’s right, friends and neighbors. When your movie’s a big hit, and you’re the darling of Sundance, and Simon & Schuster publishes your screenplay in a snappily-packaged paperback… it doesn’t matter. Not really.

What matters is the movie that the schlub just getting off work in Toledo takes his date to.

He might only have this one date to impress that cute girl from the neighborhood with, just ONE DATE… so think it through, all of it.

Your script doesn’t matter.

Okay. Your script matters. A lot.

But a lot of other stuff matters, too.

Because, in all fairness, the Toldeo schlub’s not taking his date to cuddle up at the film section of Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

My Brother and I

Okay. So I feel like Blair, taking so long between posts. Sorry Blair, but you’re the cautionary tale I have to cite. I still love you, though.

Baby's been sick, got an offer on our house, put an offer on another house way out of our price range, traveled to DC for pitch meetings, work's in one of those ultra-busy phases, got sick myself, blah, blah, blah.

I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad, though. I'm fairly confident my legions of faithful readers were able to dig deep and find a way to occupy themselves during the last couple weeks without me.

But I really should post more regularly. It's healthy for me as a writer. That's right, O legions of faithful readers, I'm thinking I should be posting more for my sake than yours. Although you will benefit. Oh yes, you will.

When I was posting more regularly (in my short term as a blogger) I was writing more regularly. Like, the screenplay-type kind of writing. If not actually writing, at least working on the things –- planning structure, sketching out scenes, tweaking characters, spell-checking.

It's nothing new; everybody knows this: when you write regularly, you're more likely to find that one tiny gem among the vast expanse of crap that’s spread about your brain.

A couple years ago, my little brother talked me into doing Nanowrimo. Do you know this? If not, check out The basic idea is that from November 1st through November 30th, you have to write a 50,000-word novel. Now, obviously, your novel’s gonna suck. Mine sure did. The point is not to try to write a clean, elegant 50,000-word novel -- it’s only a month, after all -- but simply to bang it out.

And bang it out we did, my brother and I. One great thing was forcing myself to write every day. Kind of like what Greg and Blair did with their five-page-a-day rule. Another great thing was having my brother there to bitch to and celebrate with. Kind of like this blogosphere thing.

What we both found, my brother and I, is that as we wrote regularly, at a disciplined pace, we loosened up, it got easier to write longer, we got less intimidated by temporary writer’s block, we found ourselves strategizing about the story more when we weren’t actually writing, we had that weird thing happen when the character starts to write itself (you’ve had this happen: when you write a line of dialogue and stop and think, “Where the hell did that come from? It certainly wasn’t me.”).

My brother, right now, is trying to take that novel he wrote that year for Nanowrimo, plus another one he wrote, and revise them into a combined, cohesive story by adding a third element that ties them together. Very ambitious. Very cool.

And so I have to get off my goddamn ass and post more on this blog, and hope that helps me dive into the next rewrite of my next script, which I'm just calling the Harlem script right now.

I have to get in there and get revision dirt under my fingernails -– or I’ll end up trying more to figure out the weird story about astral projection, a runaway tractor-trailer, infidelity and abduction that came out of a dream I had after taking my wife’s codeine-laced medicine a few nights ago.

And figuring that out will take some time.

For both my brother and I.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Doin' It To You In Your Earhole

On Sunday morning we did a table read of Dismal with seven young actors from Old Dominion University. Props to Steve at ODU for putting this together. And props plus to the actors who came out to help.

I tell you what... if I can make a humble suggestion:


It's invaluable.

At least to me, it's so goddamn helpful to get the goddamn dialogue out of your goddamn head.

I mean, writers all know this: there's the story you have in your head; then there's the story you actually manage to get down on paper; and then there's the story the consumer consumes.

It's hard enough to formulate a worthwhile story in your head. Shit, I've written more bad stories in my head than all the debt dollars rung up by George Bush. Or, better said, if the bad stories in my head were tax breaks for the rich, George Bush would somehow get re-elected to a third term.

And then. And then it's even harder to get a good story down on paper. You know the drill: the long lonely nights, the self-loathing, the pained and blurry eyes, the vague taste of puke in the back of your throat. And in the end, after all that, let's all be honest: it's never as good as the one in your head -- and that either speaks to our lack of talent or our delusion regarding how good the one in our head is.

So then --- THEN there's the one that the viewer views.

Who the hell knows what that one's gonna be.

I really respect my friend Andrew. He loved Ang Lee's Hulk. I couldn't stand it.

I think my friend Mike is really smart. He thought Kingpin was brilliantly funny. I didn't even chuckle once.

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is one of my favorite movies.

'Nuff said.

Who knows?

Well, you can inch one step closer if you try to bridge the gap between the story you wrangle onto the page and the one the viewer comes away with. And a good way to do that -- on the cheap -- is to try to fake yourself out and try to act like a viewer... by having people (actors, if you can swing it, just a group of friends if you can't) read your script aloud.

The funny thing is, of course, that real filmmakers don’t need to do these silly exercises. They don't need to bribe college kids with a promise of free coffee and a free lunch. They can hire focus groups. Or run it through a complex development system.

But those of us in the real world, us peons who are shuckin’ and jivin’ trying to get movies made – we, we can use a little help.

Now I’m no one to give advice; I’m a nobody with a bunch of TV but ZERO FILMS to my credit. But from where I stand, I suggest this: once you write it with your fingers, get it in your earhole.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No Sheep Balls

If you're looking for clever imagery or a hee-larious story of Asian tomfoolery, go to
-- because this is just a boring, colorless update post.

No lamb's testicles, I promise. So you might wanna leave now. If you're into that kind of thing.

Tonight with a little pinot grigio and a little Joshua Redman, I got through the bulk of the heavy lifting on the Dismal revision. (I wish, by the way, not only that I shared Greg's worldly travels but also his ability to put text in italics.)

It feels pretty good. And it'll be really great to hear it, during the table read we have scheduled for Sunday morning. Eight actors from the local university will be reading through the script -- which will help immensely.

Really a screenplay is not a written document but an oral and aural one, so I'm forever grateful to these young'uns for taking the time to do this.

Sunday afternoon, we hold our first casting session for supporting roles. Looking forward to that, too.

Sent scripts to two Pretty Cool Mainly TV Actor Guys so they can check it out and consider playing the bad guy, Croaker. Both of whom are on my wife's two favorite shows, so either would be a hit.

Man, I'm shivering like lamb's testicles, I'm so excited.

Oops. I promised.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Revision, it seems to me, is a lot more like algebra class than English class. Or at least it seems that way to me today – or it did tonight, anyway, driving home through the rain with a small boy asleep in the back seat and Eric Reed on the CD player.

As I was driving, I was thinking about my revision of Dismal, which I'm neck deep in. (Auditions for most of the supporting roles in a week.)

That's when I thought of Mrs. Goodrich's algebra class.

I thought it was gonna be a fairly simple revision, Dismal. The bulk of the changes I want to do come in the first third of the script, not much in the last two-thirds. Easy, right?


When the story has been put together with at least a modicum of care, then even the smallest changes are gonna ripple out and affect everything. Well, not everything, but a lot. Especially in the first act. That’s when all the juicy bits have to be set up. If it’s gonna work, it has to be pretty tightly wound – so if you start fucking with it, well, get another beer, hombre, ‘cause it’s gonna be a long night.

But I was talking about algebra and English.

I recall in high school making a ridiculous (and now embarrassing) vow to my friend Jim. Borne of the arrogance of the teenaged boy, it happened like this: we were assigned to read Orwell’s 1984, and I did, and I got good grades on all the quizzes, tests and papers. At the end, I mused that I could have gotten an A without having read the book – and when Jim balked, I swore I’d never read another book during high school and still get good grades. That’ll show him.

Wow. I’m a genius, right? Impressive. What a cool decision.

(Fucking idiot.)

Anyway, it worked. I’m sad to say I didn’t read another book and I got As and Bs throughout my high school English career. Somehow, I just new the basics of stories and could weave enough of a compelling narrative myself to distract anyone with a grading pen.

(The irony? I went on to major in English education in college, got two degrees in it and taught high school English for a few years before moving into television. Like I said, I’m a fucking idiot.)

I recall in algebra class that it was a steady build of steps – at least for me. I’m sure there are those wizards out there who could skip right to complex trigonometric functions, but for me it was a slow build. First understand X + 2 = 3, therefore X = 1. Then work your way up to the Pythagorean theorem. Then your complex trigonometric functions.

I couldn’t have made such a vow to Jim in algebra class. I’d be dead in the water. I need the stepping stones. I miss Pythagoras, I flail about in the abstract darkness beyond him.

But I was talking about revision.

Once the story is laid out, revising it isn’t about your clever ability to bullshit on an essay question. It’s not just about your innate storytelling ability. It’s about your ability to understand a tightly interlocking structure and sequence – and about demonstrating your ability to unwind pieces of it to just the right point, then build a new sequence out, one that works better than before.

I hope I can pull that off. Because the Dismal revisions are tougher than I thought.

Y = MX + B indeed.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Avoidable Star

Okay. So I'm a geek and got all excited when a fairly big star's agent called us back and said he was free during our production window and we should send a script and an offer. We called everyone we knew in the business for advice and came up with a good plan.

And then the LA agent who's been advising us recommends that we steer clear of this particular fairly big star.

Now, I know it was the longest of long shots -- well, maybe not the longest... we weren't going after DeNiro or anything -- but it was exciting. Ah well.

But we have the lead role cast, and we have some good suggestions for who to go after for the juiciest role (the one for which we considered Mr. Fairly Big Star But Stay Away). We've started an extended-local talent search for supporting cast and are beseiged with headshots (like everyone says, actors want to act). The agent advisor really likes the script. All of the money's in the bank. About half the locations are chosen. We're scheduling a read-through of the script with some college kids this month.

Now I just need to get to these last revisions. It's really just the first third of the script, and a little at the end. Not a whole lot of heavy lifting, but damn if things haven't gotten busy.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Thanks All Around

Just a quick update.

So for those of you just tuning in, I've been working on "Dismal," an independent ultra-low budget feature my producing partners and I are shooting this summer.

We're fully funded, our production office is open and we've cast the lead. Feeling good about that. Gonna be fun. I'll write more about that soon.

And a round of thanks to everyone who's taken the time to read and give me feedback on the script. That means the world to me. Thank you.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Old Man And The Scene

On September 4th, 1929, Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald that included: “The good parts of a book may be only something the writer is lucky enough to overhear or it may be the wreck of his whole damn life — and one is as good as the other.”

Read that in Hemingway’s Selected Letters, 1917-1961. And damn if it ain’t hit home.

Who knows where the inspiration will come from, or when, or if you’ve earned it, or if it fell into your goddamn lap.

The cruel irony is as ol’ Hem said. You might wear yourself down to a nub of a man or woman, drinking heavily, muttering to the cat or dog or koi, bleary eyes squinting achingly into the vague glow ahead of you that might be your computer screen, might be the rising sun – all in an attempt to hone that perfect line, that ONE TRUE LINE that makes your scene positively radiate. Or you might hear that jackass automaton from accounting say the thing offhandedly while trying to hit on the new UPS girl by the smoker’s bench outside the building, her mannish brown shorts notwithstanding.

And either way counts. It’s just as valid. Don’t fool yourself into thinking something’s good just because you toiled over it. My friend Marc said Abe Lincoln wrote his Gettysburg Address in a couple minutes when he realized he was supposed to give a speech.

But then don’t fool yourself into thinking that the shit’s easy, that anything you write is good just because you LET IT FLOW. Ever read MLK’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail”? Probably the best thing ever written. That dude toiled and toiled over that. It’s goddamn perfect, every word. Plus, he was in a freaking jail cell when he wrote the first draft. That’s toil.

So it might be the wreck of your life, and it might come floating to you across the ether. Either way, grab it, and set it down. And make that fucking scene radiate.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I Need A Five-Letter Word For Compose

My friend Terry used to be a clerk for a judge in Vermont who got in trouble a few times because he would do crossword puzzles during trials.

Poor Judge Eleven Across. They just didn't understand you.

But I do, Judge. I get you. Your Honor.

I was cleaning out the garage today, totally focused on reclaiming the place from the beasts and the elements (mainly because we're trying to sell the house). I was sweating, I had a furrowed brow, I was in the Cleaning Zone. And I got some good ideas about where to take the script I'm trying to outline for work.

That's the way it works. I think it's that way with Greg, too, judging by some of his posts, so I know I'm not alone.

Here's the thing -- though you probably know this already. Some of your best writing ideas are gonna come when you're not focused on the writing at all. Maybe most of them will, actually.

Which makes for a pretty fun contradiction. Most successful writers talk about the need for structured, consistent writing sessions. I've heard this from everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Rick Bass to Mary Oliver to Stephen King. It make sense. You write regularly, at regular intervals, and it opens a sort of portal so that you're ready when the good stuff comes through.

I believe in that. So I make sure I write every day.

But I also make sure I distract myself. I follow trails of links through the Guardian, I listen to Ludacris on my iPod, I walk, I make mix CDs for friends. I clean the garage.

It's usually then, when my mind has distanced itself from analyzing (which it is wont to do), when I'm not considering how to get a character from one decision to another decision, when I'm grooving on a bassline from Ron Carter... it's usually then when I get that one nugget that makes sense. Trick is, then, to remember it until you can write it.

So my advice? Be structured in writing. But wander. Far. And remember.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sting, And The Burning Pants

So last night I write that inane post using the A-Team helmer's mantra as a theme, and this morning I check Greg's blog (which, for the record, is much more entertaining, funny and actually useful than this one [he's at]) and in his post this morning HE'S WRITING ABOUT THE GODDAMN A-TEAM. I mean, his post, as I mentioned, is actually helpful in terms of writing, inspirational even, but IT'S ALSO ABOUT THE GODDAMN A-TEAM. Greg didn't even know I had a blog when he wrote his.

It gets weirder.

I come home tonight and tell Amy about this bit of synchronicity, and I end with, "I mean, when's the last time you thought about the A-Team?"

Her answer: "Today."


Turns out today a coworker sent around a little joke e-mail about their work team with A PHOTO OF THE A-TEAM, their faces replaced with those of coworkers.

Okay. What's going on? Is the Face Man trying to tell me something? What is it Dirk Benedict? What IS IT? Speak to me son!

I love that synchronicity. (And I swear on all that is holy, if the Police come on the radio right now, I'm gonna light my pants on fire.)

Another small one happened this afternoon. I was going through some old scripts at my company, some stuff written in 1997, and I checked IMDB on one writer, thinking I recognized his name. But I didn't recognize anything on his IMDB profile -- he's worked on a ton of TV shows, but none I've really watched. And then, I get an e-mail from Creative Screenwriting magazine suggesting I buy a DVD of a talk given by this same guy.

Maybe the specifics aren't the message. Maybe it's not about Hannibal Smith and this show-runner on DVD. Maybe it's just a reminder that I need to pay attention, and things will be there.

Let it happen.

But for chrissakes don't be too passive about it.

I mean, "Message In A Bottle" didn't write itself.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Cigar With The Colonel

Remember the A-Team? That guy Colonel Hannibal Smith, with his famous tagline, "I love it when a plan comes together." Well, for all his cheese, I wanna smoke a cigar with the guy -- and sit back while BA Baracus lights another hardware store ablaze and Murdoch dances around giddily in the moonlight singing a nursery rhyme.

Because damn if sometimes shit don't come together.

I was thinking about this at work today. For the past nine years, my job has been at least loosely connected to my dream. I've been working in TV as a producer and writer, so I get paid to tell stories. They haven't always been the stories I'm dying to tell, but I've learned a hell of a lot in the trenches and a lot of it has been fun. And even the shit that hasn't been fun has been funny -- with the benefit of time.

But recently my vocation has more closely aligned with my avocation.

I'm now in charge of development at my company, and my company wants to get into film. Which is what I've always wanted to get into.

Cue the Colonel.

Today at work I was outlining the structure of a movie that I think my company could do. And I realized I was doing exactly what I want to do. Okay, maybe not EXACTLY -- since it's not the movie I've always dreamed of doing. But it's certainly something I'm passionate about, making a movie -- and it'll help me with the movies that are really emanating from my heart.

How does Greg sleep at night? He's got one script in the works and at least two more in various stages of development.

So I'll smoke a cigar with the ghost of Hannibal and lift this glass of scotch to everyone who's as much of a lucky bastard as I am.

And everyone who isn't.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

How Egocentric Is This?

So am I to believe that anyone is actually interested in reading what I have to post on this thing?

Or is it a purely masturbatory exercise?

If so, Greg says god's gonna kill a kitten. Great.

Not that I really have time to write much on this. I suppose I'll give it a try, post some stuff to make myself feel like I'm deep, then let it dissolve away into nothingness.

Ooo, that sounds so Camus.

All right. Let's go.