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.