Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No Sheep Balls

If you're looking for clever imagery or a hee-larious story of Asian tomfoolery, go to webofliesanddeceit.blogspot.com
-- 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 webofliesanddeceit.blogspot.com]) 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.