Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Think This Is My Favorite One



But they're almost all great.

I trust you all are watching these, and reading UnitedHollywood, and keeping the faith.

It's important.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Details, Details, Details

The Gimp asked about deliverables, and maybe other indy filmmakers might have the same question, so here’s the quick rundown.

Deliverables are basically your last hurdle as a producer. And they’re a big’un.

They’re the final stuff you need to deliver to the distributor to make everything all legal-like and to allow for the physical production of film prints, DVDs, artwork, marketing, etc.

Film companies have big staffs (heh, heh, he said big staff) that do nothing but create, compile and deliver deliverables, but you as an independent producer have to buckle down and do it yourself.

And it sucks.

Here’s some of the stuff you have to give them, excerpted from our agreement:

.40 production still photos on a CD or 35mm color slides
·Still and likeness approvals
·Full credit crawl
·List of names and/or likenesses that must appear in art
·List of names that must appear above title
·Approved billing block
·All logos which are required to appear on the art
·Synopsis
·D5 High Def 24p tape of the feature with eight audio track assignments
·Downconverted digital masters both NTSC and PAL
·NTSC DVcam and Digi-Beta tapes of the feature with Dialog and Effects only
·CD of the licensed music, with the songs in their entirety.
·20-30 DVD screeners, with continuous visible time code over picture
·Feature and Trailer Continuity Dialogue List
·Music Cue Sheet, Composer Agreement and all Music Licenses
·Screenplay and Motion Picture Copyright Certificates
·Certificates of Origin – 10 original documents notarized
·E&O Insurance Certificate
·Copyright Report
·Press Kit (consisting of press clippings, advertising materials, actor, director, producer bios, etc.)

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? And there's more where that came from...

Mmm. Sure is fun.

Friday, November 30, 2007

And The Strike Slogs On

I haven’t really done any writing since the strike started.

I’d like to say it’s in solidarity with the WGA. And maybe it is, subconsciously. But it could also be that I’ve been lazy.

I’m totally behind the WGA though, so I am in solidarity with them, actually. In fact, I’d like to hear someone really explain why the writers should not get these very reasonable shares in profits. Explain it to me, with a straight face, and swear on your mama that you believe it in your heart, and I’ll buy you a Camaro.

You deserve a Camaro.

So, since I’m not working on the action script, what else can I tell you?

Um, my dad hasn’t hit any more deer.

Thanksgiving was good -– had the turkey in the smoker all damn day and man was it tasty.

Oh, we’re just about wrapped up in the distribution deal for Dismal. Now comes the pain in the ass that is deliverables. Great. Can't wait.

And at work, we’re shipping the rough cut of our new pilot to History Channel tomorrow for Monday delivery. It’s really good -– I hope they like it.

‘Cause I’d like to keep receiving a paycheck.

And now that I’m comfortable with it, I’m compiling a list of Industry Contacts to send The D Line to. Will likely do that after the strike ends, so as not to appear a scab.

I'm no scab.

And hey, you indy filmmakers out there, Moby is offering free music for use in non-commercial films and shorts. Check out: http://www.mobygratis.com/film-music.html

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

El Jefe



Saw Springsteen Sunday night in DC.

Holy shit.

What a storyteller. I mean, yes, obviously, he can write great lyrics and tell stories that way. But he’s also a master at using the songs to weave a larger tale.

His song choice, the way he arranges, reinvents and plays them live, his pacing, knowing when to be serious with a subtext-laden blues, when to just have fun with balls-out guitar rock, how to make 30,000 people laugh or scream or cheer all at once –- everything comes together in one great story you can’t put down.

Throughout the night he threw some lovely jabs at the Bush administration and the way they’re pretty much fucking up everything they touch. Then when he played "The Promised Land," dedicating it to a young soldier sitting in a wheelchair stage left… it totally changed the meaning of the song compared to what it meant to me when I was a kid.

I won’t go into a song-by-song breakdown. I could, but I won't. But listen. Even if you don’t love Springsteen’s music, you should go see him on this tour. You will not be disappointed.

And if you’re like me (the first album I ever bought was Born To Run, purchased at Cap’n Bullfrogs in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont when I was 10 years old -– and I’ve been a constant fan since) you must go see him on this tour.

The six-song encore was worth the price of admission itself: six back-to-back, knock-down, drag-out, rollicking songs that just blistered from beginning to end: "Girls in their Summer Clothes," "Growin' Up," "Kitty's Back," "Born to Run," "Dancing in the Dark" and "American Land."

Whew. I’m still exhausted from it.

Actually, come to think of it, that "Kitty’s Back" alone was worth the admission price.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Whoa. Two Posts In One Day.

Saw this on the Kung Fu Monkey.

Perfect.

Deer, Old Dad

I like to take note of little events in real life which, if I saw in a movie, would usually make me chuckle and think, That wouldn’t really happen…

Because these things do happen. Greg and Emily post about them all the time.

And they’re good to keep in mind, as a writer.

Like the other day when my dad hit a deer.

I grew up in Vermont and my parents, my sister and her family and my little brother and his family still live there. There are a lot of deer in Vermont. And they haven’t quite figured out the whole moving vehicle thing yet, as a species.

My mom is down here with us this week and so my dad, being a man, decided to go over to my brother’s house for dinner, I’m guessing largely so that he wouldn’t have to thaw out another frozen meal my mom no doubt stocked the freezer with. So much work to thaw after all.

So he’s flying up County Road –- yes it’s called that –- in his pickup in the darkness of a countryside evening (sounds like a Garth Brooks song, don’t it?) and a deer bursts from the side of the road and he slams into it.

Now this can be very dangerous. Not as dangerous as moose, but dangerous. Moose, man, those things kill people all the time. They’re super tall, with skinny legs and they’re wicked heavy –- so if you hit them, their little legs snap and their huge body crashes through your windshield... and you’re dead.

This happened to the father of one of my mom’s students a couple years ago. It happens a lot.

Deer can screw you up too, if they come through the windshield -- and even if they don’t they can cause a wreck that can screw you up.

Sorry, one more aside, then back to the story. In high school up there I worked in a car wash. Worst. Job. Ever. Washing cars in Vermont in the winter, when car washes in Vermont are busiest because people wanna get all the road salt off their cars. My clothes would literally freeze.

Holy shit, these tangents are killing me. But what I was saying about the car wash is that a lot of people had these deer whistles attached to their side mirrors. They were designed to blow a high pitch whistle when the car was moving and there was air flowing through them, the thought being the whistle would ward off deer.

Two things: I bet it didn’t work, and they almost never survived the trip through the car wash anyway. God knows how many of those damn things I cleaned up from the bay while smoking pot with my best friend Jim during breaks.

(Maybe not the worst job ever, come to think of it…)

Back to my dad.

So he hits the deer on the passenger front side -– big bam, scared old man, much more scared deer. Dad stops, the deer’s gone.

Exhale. Continue drive up County Road to Patrick’s house.

There, he checks his truck, sees lots of damage, grabs Patrick and goes back to see if the deer is there, see if they can help it.

Aren’t they sweet?

No sign of the deer, so Dad calls the State Police, as you’re supposed to do. This is where, to me, it gets funny.

The dispatcher takes Dad’s info, then says she’ll report it to animal control. She then asks, “If we find the deer and it’s freshly dead, do you want us to bring it to you?”

So: kill a deer with your car in Vermont… get meat for the winter!

Dad declined, by the way.

Okay, it probably wasn’t worth all that reading of meandering prose, but it does tell me that suspension of disbelief needn’t be that difficult. The world’s a funny place…

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Getting Closer

Quick update on Dismal.

Our attorney, working with EP Jeff, has decided which of the five distribution offers is the best, and they’re calling that company today.

We did some negotiating with that company before the entertainment lawyer stepped in –- having a brain and a bit of experience, it was easy to spot the crappy portions in the deal, and the distributor struck those down quickly upon request. So I think we’ve already negotiated it to as good a deal as we can expect, and I’m hoping the paperwork will happen quickly so they can start selling this thing. It should go fast -– our attorney is an LA guy with plenty of clients way bigger than us so they shouldn’t screw around with him much.

So… hopefully you’ll be able to buy, rent, on-demand and otherwise watch it soon.

And, to you true indies out there, take this simple piece of advice: don’t sign the first distribution deal you get, no matter how excited you are. The first draft of any deal offered is not going to be in your best interest -– that’s a simple fact. The distribution company will always try to make the terms best for them at first -– that way if you sign it, they make out better. I can't even fault them for that. But there’s always room for negotiating.

Do a little homework, talk to some people who have struck out on the path before you, then respectfully point out where you’d be screwed. If they like the product, and if you’re not asking for ridiculous stuff yourself, they’ll compromise. They all did with us.

Monday, October 29, 2007

What A Birthday Present



Thanks boys.

Now I can go back to writing.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thanks Jehovah

Ohhhhh. So that's what they meant. All suffering soon to end.

The Red Sox won -- and I had my laptop with me, you know, on my lap, while I watched the game.

So my Sox stay alive and I also did some writing. Not a whole lot of writing, mind you, but some writing.

Whew. On both fronts.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

All Suffering SOON TO END!

Playoff baseball is bad for my writing.

The Red Sox being down 3-1 in the ALCS is bad for my everything.

But, I was accosted by a disarmingly sweet Jehovah’s Witness at the gas station this morning and handed a small booklet entitled “All Suffering SOON TO END!”

Might this mean the Sox are going to win tomorrow night, and the two games thereafter, then sweep the Rockies in the World Series?

Or, does it mean the Sox lose tomorrow and are eliminated, which signals the end of playoff baseball –- or at least the need to watch every second of it -– for a die hard Sox fan… so I can write again at night?

Which suffering is it, Ms. Witness? Sox keep going and win the series but I still don’t get to write for a while? Or Sox get knocked out and I go back to writing?

By the way, the booklet mentions that soon God will remove wickedness from the earth and this planet will become the paradise it once was. The part about this that concerns me is that the booklet also declares that all the dead people will be brought back to life to enjoy the new paradise.

We’ve seen the movies, so we know how it ends when the dead are brought back to life.

Plus, think of the traffic jams…

(Shit. It just occurred to me. Maybe I'm part of the wickedness that will soon be removed. Guess that solves my traffic worries anyway.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Riding The Rationalization Horse Now

I’ve fallen off the write-every-day horse.

But wait, not really.

My job developing TV series requires me to write every day, a lot of the time all day every day.

Brainstorming new concepts, honing those concepts into structured series, researching. Creating storylines, writing crisply, designing dramatic verbal pitches. Always keeping in mind brands and formats, marketability and resonance to specific demographics. Revising, revising, revising. Throwing out ideas that end up going nowhere and starting over.

But I’m rationalizing, aren’t I?

This isn’t screenwriting.

It’s good training for screenwriting, to be sure. But it’s not screenwriting.

Gotta get back on the horse.

I have nine pages on the new action script. It’s a good beginning, but I was thinking this morning that instead of continuing with the story, I want to stop and do some thorough character sketching.

I’ve never done this in preparing for a script, but for this one to work, my two main characters need to be razor-sharp. My fear is that they could end up being too much alike and/or too hackneyed. So I’m gonna sketch them out before the plot thickens.

Saddle up.

By the way, I had a great pitch meeting with a cool cable channel on Wednesday. They loved the series concept. Two good signs: after my first couple sentences, the VP says, “What a great title -– I like it already.” And then, midway into my pitch, as I told a spooky story that could be part of the show, she says, “Ooh, I’ve got goosebumps!”

We have a little follow-up work to do, which we can do quickly -– but the decision to greenlight or not is gonna have to wait until the first of the year because they’re operating under strict commissioning parameters that have their hands tied until then.

Curses.

I just hope their brand doesn’t morph again by January…

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Does That Count?

I’ve kept up the write-everyday thing, but only if you count writing as opening up the script, fixing a spelling error, re-titling it again, thinking about it for a few minutes and then saving and closing it again.

Do you count that as writing?

I do.

On the new script I have only four pages. But they’re okay. Today in the shower I outlined the next scene but haven’t had time today to actually write it.

This script is a departure for me –- an action script. Which is probably why it’s exciting.

I’ve sketched out an idea of the arc of the first two acts but I don’t know how it ends. I’m not too worried, though, as even having an idea about two acts is more than I usually plan in advance. I tend to like having the story unfold as I develop the characters. Let them do a little storytelling. They usually do alright

Well, back to work -– prepping for a pitch meeting at a cable channel next Wednesday and we gotta have our shit together. Gotta get some more series signed, to keep the workplace going, to get more paychecks, to keep the power on in the house, so I can finish this action script…

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fresh Start

Ohhh, last week was one of those weeks at work, alright.

One of those weeks where everything’s wrong. Where throughout each day, you find yourself asking yourself, “Why am I doing all this again? And for what?” Where the F word is strewn about with wild abandon.

But then Friday afternoon I wrapped up the draft of D Line and sent it off to some trusted readers who’d requested it.

Then a bit later Friday afternoon I resolved most of the stuff that had been driving me ape shit at work.

Friday night the Red Sox took the AL East title.

Saturday morning I went for a good 35-mile bike ride and did a few sprints with a couple guys who are stronger than me so I ended up totally blasted and delighted.

Saturday afternoon I played soccer, baseball and just-play-with-a-ball with my son in a sunny field until we were both giddy.

Saturday night my wife and I took turns staying up literally all night with the baby whose tummy was in turmoil (which was exhausting but actually makes you love the little critters even more and so in a way made me happy).

Sunday afternoon we picked out pumpkins and other fall plants and the boy and I did some gardening until dinner.

And this morning I brought with me to work the pages of notes I have for the next script, which I’m going to start today during lunch.

That's right kids. A new script. Something I haven't faced in a long time.

But after this weekend, I'm a new man.

And so, now, this week, it’s gonna be one of those weeks.

One of those weeks where everything works out right.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Not Yet

Yesterday was my first daughter’s 19th birthday. Which means she’s now older than I was when she was born.

We’re a lot a like –- just today on the phone we realized we had both found and fell in love with the band Eels recently. And when I asked her yesterday how it felt to be 19, she launched into a hilariously deadpan musing on sudden enlightenment. Sounded exactly like some wiseass thing I’m sure I said to my own father once.

But I was thinking, if she followed in my footsteps too closely, I’d be a grandfather right now.

Wow.

A grandpa with a one-month old baby himself.

Funny world. Glad I’m in it. I love it.

(And glad I'm not a grandpa yet. Please let me get more grey first...)

In terms of writing, I’ve been inspired by Scott the Reader’s write-every-day self challenge. I haven’t done at least an hour a day like he has, but I've done some non-work-related writing four days in a row now. Of course, he’s at like 36 or something…

In terms of other people’s writing, I rewatched part of Rushmore a few days ago. I really love the scene where Blume goes to see Miss Cross at her house and she offers him a carrot. It’s a great scene about the beginning of a love affair. Little is said overtly, but so much comes across in terms of attraction, curiosity, nervousness. Love.

I found the scene online and read it. Not much is given away in action lines, either. A fine example of trusting the reader, the director, the actors to get the scene.

Which I know is a risk.

Because what if they don’t get it?

But then, should they be reading it if they don’t?

Bravo Messrs. Anderson and Wilson.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Clever Little Bastard

Michael Davis was pretty smart in making sure he got the directing gig and not just the script option for his Shoot 'Em Up.

I tried to upload his animations into this blog but it didn't work.

So two things:

1. How do I do that? I hit the ADD VIDEO button, then chose the file and clicked upload, but all it did was put a blank box in the body of the post. Like this:

video

2. If you're interested, check them out at the Creatve Screenwriting podcast on iTunes. To convince New Line he should direct his own script, he made animated storyboards of some of the action scenes. 17,000 drawings or something. Smart use of his time, I say.

By the way, his interview is interesting, too. After writing 35 screenplays and directing five movies, he almost left the business to be a teacher because he was frustrated he wasn't "making it."

35 screenplays. Five films directed. Worked for years in LA.

Important cautionary tale for us specsters. It's a long and brutal road ahead of us.

First one who makes it, send up a flare.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rubber Duckie, You're The One... (But Do You Sometimes Hate Water?)

I realized this weekend that my wife has made me a little girly.

Which bugged me and my testosterone a little.

But then I thanked her for making me a better writer.

Now, I’ve never been mister macho, grunting my way through conversations unless they’re about sports or porn, slapping waitresses on the ass, wanting to beat up people to amuse my friends. But I am a fairly normal guy.

And recently, I’ve become a little more girly.

To wit:

A) I sometimes like to take a bath instead of a shower. Actually, this is when I realized this whole thing this weekend -– as I was taking a bath. I’ve always been a shower guy. Seems more practical. I always wondered how you can really rinse off when you’re in the bath. But my wife comes from a long line of bath-takers. So I tried it. Now I kinda like baths. Maybe I should try to save manly face by saying it makes me feel like I’m in Unforgiven, soaking my weary bones after riding with the other cowboys all day. Wait, that still sounds girly. How about I feel like I’m in Deadwood. With whores all around. Relaxing after killing a Pinkerton who looked at me sideways. Another whiskey Dan, you cocksucker!

B) I sometimes refer to things as being cute. Been doing that more and more, actually, with the arrival of the baby girl. Who is cute, after all. And all the little clothes and blankets that come with her. Also cute. So far I haven’t pulled out the, “Awwwww” that a lot of women preface “cute” with, but I’m on that road. So don’t be surprised if, when you show me a photo of your new hybrid car, I turn my head to the side, furrow my brow and exclaim, “Awwww, it’s so cuuute!”

Why do I bring this up in a blog about writing?

I’m getting to that.

A couple days ago Bob Edwards interviewed Joyce Johnson, one of Jack Kerouac’s girlfriends, about her new book Minor Characters. (I read her Door Wide Open, which is a collection of letters between the two of them, with commentary by her –- very nice.) Anyway, she read an excerpt about watching Jack watch a cat eat its food. He crouched at a distance, taking in every move of the cat as it ate.

Simple enough -- a lot of people might not have noticed him doing this. But she did -- she knew the importance.

He did this, I’m thinking, because he wanted to be able to write right about cats when it was time to write about cats. Or that cat in particular, maybe. But he was studying it. Carefully. How does a cat eat, really?

So in the bath I was thinking about character. And how, if I wrote me, I might not think to write me taking a bath. Because I’m big man tough growl. But I like a bath now and again.

I think about the characters in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In The Sopranos. Even in The Last Kiss (one that surprised me).

Those writers made good, solid, consistent characters, like you’re supposed to –- but they made them real by making them realistic. Not too predictable. Varied. Rich. Screwed up.

My guess is those writers have spent a lot of time watching the real characters all around them. And remembering that when they wrote.

It’s a good reminder, as I go through these next revisions on D Line –- to, yes, make the characters distinct from one another and consistent within themselves… but also a little inconsistent.

MLK was a model of love… and had fidelity issues. Johnny Cash was a genius… and an asshole of a drug addict. Hell, I bet George Bush even loves his kids.

No one is always one thing. So let’s not write them so.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Grrrr. Then, Ahhhh.

Grrrr.

Starting tomorrow, it will be illegal to reincarnate in Tibet without the permission of the Chinese government.

I would be laughing hysterically right now if I weren’t so pissed off.

The superficial silliness of this new law belies more evil intent by the Chinese government. With this law in place, when HH the Dalai Lama dies and reincarnates, the Chinese government will be able to legally imprison the new Dalai Lama –- if he chooses to reincarnate in his homeland.

This way they’ll be able to do what they did with the last Panchen Lama -– whom they kidnapped and imprisoned when he was six years old in 1995. They then of course named their own Panchen Lama. Who, interestingly, seems to be very complimentary about the Chinese government’s handling of Tibet.

Fucking makes me go fucknuts.

Hey Greg, you have some pull over there. Can you talk to these people please?


Okay, let’s end with good stuff. HHDL would like that.


Today is my son’s second birthday and my father’s 69th birthday. We’re gonna have a kickass pizza-and-waterslide party tomorrow. Wanna come?

Recently, as I write, I’ve been mainly listening to two stations on iTunes radio: Ambient Popsicle from Groovera and Secret Agent on SomaFM. Check ‘em out.

But right now I’m listening to Art Pepper’s The Trip record. Great simple-and-beautiful jazz.

Currently reading Right Livelihoods by Rick Moody. Though it sounds Buddhist, it’s not. It’s a collection of three novellas and the first one is fantastic –- quietly funny and loopy about a retired guy who lives on a posh island and believes he’s uncovered an international plot to take over the island… though he’s not about to let that get in the way of his drinking or his dancing with driftwood sticks on the beach. Love it.

(If I were good at making links, I’d do so to make it easier for you to find these things. But I’m not. Sorry.)

Teen daughter comes home tonight. Baby daughter slept curled on my chest like a walnut half for two hours last night.

Feeling better. Ahhhh...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thank You, Mr. Booker

This happens just about every time I'm at some gathering where small talk is required.

STRANGER: So what do you do?

ME: In what circumstance?

STRANGER: For a living.

ME: Oh, I'm director of development for an independent television production company.

STRANGER: Cool! So you make TV?

ME: Well, I used to be a producer, so I used to actually make the shows, but now I'm in charge of development.

STRANGER: Cool! How does that work?

ME: I'm sorry, I think my ankles are on fire. Excuse me.

But now, I have a quick and easy summary I can reference to help explain what my professional life is. Thank you, Mr. Charlie Booker, for this helpful primer:

Monday, August 27, 2007

No Lifeguard On Duty



I dove into D Line revisions on Saturday night.

Into the shallow end.

Ouch.

I started at 9. The boy was asleep, the girl was nestled with Mom and Nana as they watched Take The Lead.

It was a perfect set up for me. I had the notes of some trusted readers. I had my own notes as to what I wanted to do, having gone through the entire script several times. I had free time. I had Charles Lloyd’s Hyperion With Higgins playing. It was quiet. Dark.

I started nodding off at the keyboard around 9:30.

Bonk.

Ouch.

Thankfully my son is a wunderkind and pulled me out (though I outweigh him by 165 pounds), performed CPR, expelling all the water from my lungs, and then crawled back into his bed with his stuffed octopus.

But the baby slept pretty well last night, so I’m not particularly exhausted now. Went for a long bike ride yesterday afternoon. That always helps with energy and ideas. Maybe I’ll take the boy out for a run in the jogging stroller after work.

And then… then I dive back in. Trying not to knock myself out this time.


PS: Thanks for all the kind words about the wee one!

PPS: Realized I should do a Dismal update. We have written offers from three distributors/sales agents and a verbal one from a fourth. Once that fourth set of paperwork comes in, we'll go over all of them, hem and haw, decide, question our decision, undecide, argue, have a couple drinks, stare at the wall, then decide and sign. So hopefully in a few weeks I'll be able to announce the distribution deal we went with and you all can start buying multiple copies of this film, or start pestering your local theater owner to run it if the deal includes domestic theatrical...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

She's Here



Born Monday at 11:21am. 7 lbs, 14 oz.

Mainly purple for the first few minutes.

Perfectly healthy and wonderfully beautiful.

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.

While Greg’s important post at the Web of Lies a few days ago reminds me how depressing the world can be, this wee lass reminds me how fantastic it can be.

Last post I mourn the loss of a young and gifted artist named Ringo. This one I celebrate the arrival of this lovely girl.

A little yin for your yang, people.

Am I happy, or in misery?

As for writing, just before she was born I finished my first pass at full revision notes on the hard copy of the D Line script. Next up is tracing each character’s arc to look for weaknesses, then making the changes to the script itself.

Last night I was soothing the baby girl at 3am when the toddler boy cried out from his room. Went in to check on him, babe in arms, and found he had terrible diarrhea, spilling out onto his PJs, his mattress.

Purple haze all in my mind, don’t know if it’s day or night.

Gonna be like this for a while.

But I’m gonna do my best to finish up this script soon.

Baby’s doing well. Teenage daughter says she might come home from college for the weekend.

Whatever it is that girl -– by which I think Jimi means “those girls, that boy” -- put a spell on me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ringo



Mike Wieringo, one of my roommates my freshman year of college, passed away last Sunday, apparently of a heart attack. He was 44 years old.

Mike was a fantastic guy –- wildly talented with his comic book art, very funny in a dry, self-deprecating way… and the only person I’ve ever known to fall asleep standing up at a party. You should see the praise the people in the comic world are writing about him –- Google him, you’ll see how respected he was.

Toward the end of our year together, I screwed up one night and was an inconsiderate roommate –- loud and stupid. Rightfully, Mike got pissed -– and there was some tension as we parted ways.

Over the years I kept up with his career from afar –- seeing his work in some comics (I’m admittedly not a huge comic fan, but I do maintain a subscription to Iron Man, the comic I loved as a kid) and checking in on his website (www.mikewieringo.com) now and again to see his daily blogs and sketches. I kept telling myself I should write to him, to reconnect, but I never did.

I got back in touch with his brother Matt -– another roommate, and another talented artist and hilarious mofo, with an encyclopedic knowledge of film -– a couple years ago… but never did with Mike.

Wherever he is I hope Mike knows I always thought he was cool as shit and that I’m sorry I was an ass.

Last night, thinking of Mike, I wrote to my high school biology teacher to thank her for being such a great teacher and role model -– someone from whose bag of tricks I stole almost every day I taught. This was something I’ve been meaning to do for years.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Totally Boring

Some preliminary progress in terms of the D Line rewrite. But only a little bit, and in fits and starts. Haven’t been able to devote any real, consistent time to it.

But the nursery’s looking good, and we’re ready for the baby, whenever she decides to join us.

At this stage what I’ve been doing is compiling the notes that I got –- the ones I agree with I mean -– and then going through a hard copy of the script and writing my own notes about what I want to change, add, delete, rework. Sometimes my notes are specific, with the action and dialogue I want, and sometimes they’re fairly vague placeholder stuff like “Add scene where Michael fails to help Moses.” And sometimes it’s a mix.

But so far, I haven’t come upon any insurmountable problems, so that feels good.

I need to finish that step, and then I want to go through each of the major characters’ story arcs, tracking just their scenes, to make sure they’re all sound, noting on the hard copy wherever there are problems. Then I’ll dive in and actually make all the changes.

And, judging how things normally go with a newborn, that’ll probably be Fall of ’08.

But I did finally read and write notes on Ryan’s comedy script -– though I still owe Jeff the same on his horror/thriller. Sorry Jeff.

By the way, Ryan had a script he wrote for a short optioned, so that’s very cool. It’s always nice to have validation, so I bet he’s psyched –- even though he’s playing so cool he’s not even blogging about it.

I've been cheating a little. I told myself to focus just on the D Line rewrite, to get through it so I can move on, but I keep finding myself jotting down setups and dialogue for this action-suspense thing I've had in my head for a few months...

Toldja. Totally boring post. But hey, I posted.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tagalicious

Got tagged by Greg. Wrote a song about it, like to hear it, here it go:

1. My first year trying to be a writer I made about $14,000. And a good chunk of that was for the part-time work I did at a preschool program at a rec center. It’s a tough business, writing. That year, my daughter and I didn’t have enough money to buy good ornaments for the Christmas tree (we lost a box of them, I think in a move, and had to replace them) so we made them. Out of things like milk jugs, toilet paper rolls and Star Wars figures. Those are still my favorite Christmas tree ornaments.


2. This is my dream possession:



Everyone knows that when you have kids you don’t have much money, space or time to buy a lot of things for yourself. This actually works out okay for me, because I’m not that into things. Thankfully, my wife is not shy about telling me when it’s time to buy a new pair of Levis. But this bike, man I’m aching to buy it. Tricked out, it’s only about six grand. That’s not so much, right? Right?


3. I can sleep pretty much anywhere at any time. If I’m tired and there’s nothing else I need to do and nothing else stopping me, I can take a nap anywhere.


4. I have a little bit of an OCD thing in that if I have to mail a bunch of letters, I’ll count them a few times in between putting on the stamps and putting them in the mailbox. This has become much less of an issue in the age of online banking. So thanks, Bank of America. Oh, also, I often do a countdown from 10 when doing a task with a definite ending –- like filling a glass with water –- pacing it so I start with 10 and hit 1 at the end. It’s kinda like I find the 10-beat rhythm of it. Weird, right? I don’t get it myself. I bet only my brother thinks it's cool, but he's a drummer and loves anything about rhythm.


5. Sometimes I think about becoming a physicist or a biologist – can’t decide which.


6. I think it’s shameful that I'm not bilingual. I mean, I can get by in rudimentary French, and I muscled through trips to Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica, but it’s terrible how monolingual I am. Arrogant American bastard. I so want and need to learn Spanish. Gotta get on that.


7. I am absolutely and utterly bewildered by this Bush-Cheney administration.


8. I donate to charity often, as requests come up, but for 15 years I’ve also been sending monthly donations to these people: http://www.splcenter.org/. My wife is friends with some of these people: http://www.mvpsacramento.com/ and now we also give monthly donations to them. But still, I don’t do enough for the world. There are so many people out there who have it off so much worse than me -– so much that we’re not even in the same game. I know this, so why don’t I do more? Actually, I should get on that before I go learn Spanish.


9. My junior year of high school, I got third place in the two-mile at the state champion track and field meet. Hey, you take your glory where you can find it. I was determined to win the next year, but then I blew my knee out training for cross country my senior year and so did not compete in track that year. Or ever again. So much for glory. Now I think back to when I could run two miles in less than 10 minutes and I weep. Openly.


10. I am neither smarter than, nor a better writer than, our friend Greg at the Web of Lies and Deceit. (See his tag post.)


Now, in terms of tagging others, I’ll just do Jeff of Gimpdom 149. He's new to the fold and we'll welcome him this way (plus I think most of the others have already been tagged…).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Inspiracion Mexicana

Yesterday at lunch I listened to the Creative Screenwriting podcast of their interview and Q&A with Guillermo Arriaga.

I really love his movies, or the ones I’ve seen at least: Amores Perros, 21 Grams, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Babel. All very complex, very smart, very stylish. I love the way he leaves a lot for the viewer to do, not answering every question, how he interweaves storylines so powerfully, how the characters in his films are fantastically fucked up and authentic.

A few times I’ve been a little confused by some of the connections between his multiple plotlines. Like Chieko, the Japanese girl in Babel. She was absolutely brilliant -– both as a written character and as played by Rinko Kikuchi –- but the connection to the other stories felt a bit forced. Her father gave the Moroccan guy the gun? A little too tangential, compared to the rest?

(Of course, who am I to judge, right? At lease Arriaga has some freaking movies in the theaters…)

But anyway, he’s one of my favorite screenwriters so I was glad to listen to him talk -– he spoke mainly about Babel, but also about his process in general. And to tell you the truth, it sounded a lot like my process. And he's so honest and unapologetic.

In fact, he was downright inspirational.

I decided that I’d go home and plow right into D Line, feeling validated that the way I write, and the type of stories I create, might just work. Especially this script.

I was so pumped up that after I finished dinner, gave the boy a bath and tucked him in bed…

…I put together a bookcase for the boy's room and worked with my wife getting the nursery ready for the baby.

Sorry Guillermo, mi companero, I failed you.

But tonight! Tonight I write!

Right?

(And I'm a jerk, Ryan and Jeff, for not having gotten to your scripts yet. But tonight! Tonight I read! Maybe?)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Confessions

I’ve been a bad writer.

I got helpful notes on D Line and have done zero revisions.

I promised Ryan I’d give him notes on his rom com. Haven’t read it.

Another friend just gave me a script to give notes on. Haven’t even looked at it.

I have four very loose outlines for the next script and I keep waffling as to which one I should jump on first.

I used hung instead of hanged when writing about a death by hanging. (Sorry Emily and any other English teachers out there.)

Please forgive me.

What I need is focus.

You want focus?

Here's focus:



Did you watch this in 2003? One of my favorite moments in cycling. Flying down a mountain, Beloki falls when his tire ruptures, Armstrong avoids him by turning off the road -- and has the presence of mind to keep going through the field, on those wee tires, at that speed... then sees the ditch by the road in time to stop, hop off and carry his bike across... then gets back on -- without causing another crash -- and keeps going to finish the stage.

Now that's focus.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Time To Write

By now I’ve gotten a few sets of notes on D Line and, accordingly, I’ve decided to quit writing forever.

Kidding.

Not all the notes intersect or overlap, but there are a few key areas that everyone seems to agree on. This is good, since they are mainly the things I was having doubts about.

And so far, no one has told me to quit writing forever.

Addressing most of the notes shouldn’t be too difficult -– though finding the time to really focus on and address the notes continues to be a problem. You see all these movies about writers who are blocked and how hard that is -– they spend hours staring at their Underwoods of MacBooks, smoking cigarettes and watching the wind move the leaves in the trees outside the window, waiting, waiting, waiting for inspiration to kick in so they can create.

What a great problem to have: all the time in the world to write, but no ideas.

(Though I’ll pass on the cigarettes. Substitute coffee or something. Or sometimes, a good cigar.)

Anyway, you call that angst? Are you kidding me?

Try getting up at 5:45am, less than six hours after you went to bed, because the wee boy is screaming ‘cause his left eye is crusted shut and that’s just pissing him off to no end. Go to work, not realizing you still have chunks of pineapple on your shoulder, where the lad threw them while you were distracted assuring the wife she’s still beautiful, and even more so, at eight months pregnant. Spend a few hours in meetings discussing the four or five projects that need your attention immediately, then break speed limits to get to a lunch with the guys who want to make more movies, but dammit get back in an hour because those projects at work aren’t gonna develop themselves. As you drive home that night, listen to Miles Davis, because it helps, and try to spend the 20 minutes in the car brainstorming how you’re gonna fix those script problems. But then forget those brainstormed solutions because it’s dinnertime with the family -– chat with the wife, riff on Star Wars quotes with the teen, bathe the toddler. When 10pm rolls around and everyone else is in bed (wife and son) or out with friends (daughter), sit down to write.

And then get some good work done before you pass out.

I think most of the people who read this feel me -- we're all working other jobs while we try to hone our skills and bang out some good scripts. So yea for us!

I’m gonna push on through the D Line revisions, because I’m itching to start on a new script.

Oh, I have ideas all right. Just give me the time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lovely Kids


My second daughter, in utero and gorgeous already.





My son, nearly two and a perfect mix of cool and cute.





My first daughter, almost 19 and beautiful in every way.


Overall, I'm one lucky bastard.

(By the way, the last two pics were taken on my phone, so excuse the bad quality.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Well Said Sir

"I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting or adding to what is there." --David Chase

And so it's over. Perhaps the most revolutionary show in decades, and second in storytelling only to Six Feet Under, in my opinion... The Sopranos has ended.

Talk about well-earned pay for writers, producers, actors, directors, editors. All of them top notch.

And the ending was exactly fitting. And as Chase says, he needn't tell us why.

Cheers all around.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dome Dash

We spent five days in central Washington state over the Memorial Day weekend, at the two geodesic domes my in-laws live in. Beautiful, rural, windswept valley. Great weather. Plus geodesic domes.

Spent a lot of uninterrupted time with wife and son (daughter stayed in VA to work, saving for a new car), went for some good runs, drove an electric car… and got a lot of good (and overdue) work done on D Line.

In fact, I feel like it’s at the readable draft stage, so I’ve sent it to a few companeros for feedback.

Dear Companeros,

If you’re reading this, and if you’re reading
D Line, please do not be kind. If it stinks, tell me it stinks. Cruel but fair is what I need.

And if it’s brilliant, tell me it’s "kinda okay." Don’t want me getting big in the head or nothin’.

Thanks.


At work, we’re gearing up to pitch a couple new series to Discovery Channel, either tomorrow or Tuesday, depending on when a few people up there are free.

And we’re a few pieces of paperwork away from having a four-part pilot/miniseries, in the hopes of it turning into a full series, on History Channel.

Overall, things are looking pretty good.

Monday, May 14, 2007

What A Candyass

I am.

Really.

There I am complaining about not having time to write. Poor me. Whining to beat any number of bands. Like a nancyboy.

So then Friday night rolls around. Son goes to sleep at 7:30. Wife goes to sleep at 8. Daughter's out with friends.

Perfect time to write. Right? Bang out a lot of those revisions to D Line I’ve been planning. Git ‘er dun.

But nooooo.

Instead, I recall that the Red Sox are playing the Orioles, and since MASN carries all Orioles games, I realize I have a rare opportunity to watch my beloved Sox.

So I do. Instead of writing.

And they lose.

How's that for fitting metaphor?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Busted Ankle, Finish Line In Sight

Okay, this is maddening.

I feel like I’m maybe 10-15 hours away from having a good, solid second draft of D Line.

But I just can’t find the time.

But I need to find the time.

Because I’m close. And I want to send it out into the world for feedback.

I wonder if I can talk my wife into letting me lock myself into a hotel room for a day and a night, have the management take out the TV and phone, leave my cell phone in the car, bring some good food, good coffee and good spirits… and just blast through it.

Prolly shouldn’t try. Wife’s pregnant, son’s been sick, daughter’s home from college. Now’s not the time to shirk the family responsibilities…


By the way, as for a Dismal update, we're negotiating with the foreign distributor/sales agent I mentioned. They've been good about revising to meet our needs. Looks like the deal is a fair one, so the question becomes, If this is a good, standard deal, is this the company we want to go with, or should we look for this deal with someone with bigger guns?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

We have an international distributor who is making an offer on Dismal. At first glance, they appear to be a good company and the offer seems fair, and fairly standard, in the broad strokes we’ve discussed so far.

I like that they limit their titles per year so that they can really push them –- I’d hate to be one of 100 films being repped at a booth in Cannes. They’ve distributed some films that have made some money -– no huge hits, but their model seems to be selling smaller films that don’t take as long to become profitable.

Like ours.

Plus they appear to be decent people. Though we are, to be sure, checking references…

They want to bring Dismal to Cannes… which is great but would mean making a quick decision, since it’s only a couple weeks away. I’m not a big fan of that for obvious reasons.

But it’s not like they’re saying, “Sign now so we can bring it to Cannes or the deal’s off.” So we might just pass on this first film market, to give us more time to check out some other offers and carefully review the terms of the contract.

It’s an exciting position to be in –- someone already wants to buy our film –- but it’s also an awkward one. Everyone agrees a filmmaker shouldn’t jump on the first offer -– be patient, give it time. Fair enough. But what if, on the odd chance, the first offer happens to be the best one? Or as good as any other?

Tricky.

Anyway, they’re gonna draft a contract and we’ll review it with out attorneys and we’ll see what happens. We also have screeners making their way to Lionsgate, Sony, New Line and a few others through some contacts, and several other distributors (both domestic and foreign) have been calling to get more information, so maybe there will be more news soon…

To complicate things further.

But, of course, I’d rather have this kind of complication than the opposite -– not having any offers, ever, and having to face the investors. Now that’s an awkward position.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

You Lose, Cho

Haven’t blogged in a while.

First, I was hit with the worst flu I think I’ve ever had. I mean, a week of literally not being able to do much beyond sit up in bed every now and again to make sure I didn’t get bedsores like an old woman with a broken hip.

That was the easy part.

Because then, April 16th rolled around. And my daughter goes to Virginia Tech.

She’s safe, thank anything and everything that can be thanked, but it’s obviously been rough. She’s handling it pretty well, though she’s certainly reeling still. But she’s a person who really has her shit together, so I know she’ll be alright in the end.

As the stories came out, it got more and more difficult for me. As I was telling my family recently, I read about these kids who were killed and I saw that they are all exactly like my daughter. They are her. She is them. The things written about them -- great kids, hard workers, good friends, big futures, smiles that stay with you -- that's my little girl. And she was doing exactly what they were doing, at exactly the same time, just a few buildings away. I try to suppress them, but these thoughts of what-if keep coming and it's horrifying. She was so close.

And then the media (who drove my daughter and her friends to additional tears, by the way, invading their grief in a mad scramble to break some new element of the story) started playing the message of the gunman.

I quickly stopped watching.

Because I will not give that piece of shit what he wants. I will not receive his message. I will not ingest his manifesto. I’m not interested in his story or what drove him. I do not care what his intent was. And I definitely will not accept his reasoning.

So fuck you, Cho. And I mean that sincerely. You are nothing. You don’t win. You don’t matter.

What you did matters, to the people killed and those they left behind and to your own family, for whom I feel great pity. But you, you don’t even get contempt. You’re already out of the picture. No legacy. Nothing.

And, by the way, since this is a writing blog, allow me to note that you were a shitty writer.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Healthy Young Infant For Sale

I spent the whole of Sunday locked in a dark room with five other guys.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that….

See, we spent the day with the sound editors doing the final mix review. I know I’ve posted about this before, but I love sound design and sound editing -– because of its furtive nature. It improves the film experience in a remarkable way -– yet done properly the viewer shouldn’t think about it at all. Love that.

Maybe a few people might bring it up when thinking back on the movie at the bar over a couple beers with other filmsters, but not while they’re watching.

Anyway, it was an excellent day. The editors and composer did a great job and we were mainly unanimous in the notes we had for additional tweaks, which the boys are working on now. Since this is one of the last steps in the process it made it extra-excellent. Excellenter, even.

Composer Len is sending me his score on CD, and maybe I can figure out how to post some of his cues on here for you to listen to -– ‘cause they’re pretty fucking cool.

From here on, we have some spot checking on a few sound tweaks and visual effects, then finishing and dubbing -– and we take Dismal out into the world, looking for distribution.

Our baby, up for sale.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Two Steps Back... But In A Good Way

It’s David, late to the party one more time.

I read all kinds of posts and articles and books and such about the almighty Index Card. I suppose it’s always made sense to me, something that obviously would be helpful in revision. I mean, no duh.

But I’d never really done it before.

Well, I popped my cherry.

Last week, I asked my dear Movie Magic Screenwriter to please print out my latest draft of D Line as index cards. And my dear faithful Movie Magic Screenwriter complied, snappily. How nice.

Friday night I cut out the cards, laid them out on my dining room table, poured a neat glass of Bushmills Black Bush, slipped the iPod earbuds into my ears and took two steps back.

And POW –- perspective.

No wonder all these people were recommending it. It really helps.

Really.

No kidding. It’s not just an OCD, Type-A, control freak thing.

So much easier to isolate the story arcs of individual characters, one at a time, to really trace where they’re going, at what pace, why. So much better to see the overall structure and to spot the holes in logic and plot. So much easier to see how reorganizing scenes would work or not work.

I worked for two nights like this, making notes on the cards of revisions that needed to be made. Then we had a dinner party on Sunday.

So now the cards are back in a pile, secured by a couple of rubber bands, snugly tucked away in my bag.

And now I know why all those people recommend attaching the almighty Index Cards to the inimitable Cork Board.

Dining room table: bad idea.

Yet again, David’s late to the party…

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hey, Is That Where Google Got Its Name?

Been working on developing a pilot for a new history/anthropology show for a few days straight now and my brain’s starting to get googly.

As I’ve posted about before, this is where the creation of a TV show gets difficult: when you need to create a verbal pitch and written documents that quickly and clearly illustrate that it’s not just a cool idea, but a compelling, fresh television show that’s easy to visualize from start to finish -– and will last multiple seasons, constantly building ratings and staying relevant and on-brand, in an increasingly fickle world. Oh, and be producible for essentially no money. And we can start yesterday, if you just sign here.

Which is very wiggly work. It, like any good storytelling, is taking something as ephemeral and formless as an idea and turning it into something that exists without you. And I mean without you. Tricky. Lots of mind-wrangling and idea-surfing. Grinding your skateboard of creativity on the handrail of the staircase connecting thought to reality. (As if that staircase exists, says Buddha, chuckling…)

I don’t know what any of that means. But you can see, after you work on it for a while, your brain gets googly.

Great googly moogly even.

So I’m taking a break. Focus on something else for a moment. Allow a fresh perspective to creep in. Free your mind and all that.

So I’ll spend a couple minutes telling you about a little forum we had last night.

In conjunction with the ONFilm festival sponsored by Old Dominion University, the Hampton Roads Film Office set up a panel of independent filmmakers in the area to talk after a showing of Oscar-nominated shorts at the coolest arthouse theater in the area, the Naro (www.narocinema.com).

There were five of us who spoke and took questions about all aspects of making indy movies. It was great to get together with like-minded folks who are navigating some of the same waters, share ideas, horror stories, failures and successes.

In fact, afterwards I proposed doing so on a regular basis. My wife is in a book club and a women investors club. I have friends who are in writer’s groups. AA seems to help an awful lot of people.

There’s no doubting the importance of community, and this is true in the independent film world, too. While reading the blogs of writers and producers is helpful, think how much better it would be if everyone were in the same room.

Which would be easy to do in LA or New York.

But I think we can pull it off in VA, too.

I’ll let you know if it happens, and if it works.

Back to work, googly or no…

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pa(ren)thetic(al)

Len and I finished spotting Dismal last night, and he’s plugging away at the rest of the score. Thankfully, he had done a lot of great work on the rough cut (most of which we were able to keep or just tweak a little) so it’s not a total do-over.

Also plugging away are our fine sound editors, Larry and Cret. We’re planning to do a review of the mix (with music) on April 1st (and that’s no joke). Then little fixes and problem-solving as needed, and we’re off by the second week of April.

And the update on D Line: tonight I start a (restructure) rewrite. It’s a complex story, with multiple characters, and it jumps around a lot. Which was intentional, because I wanted it to have a jazzy feel, as it’s a piece in which jazz plays a central role… but I have to take into account that jazz structures (musically or story-wise) are hard to swallow by non-jazz fans, so I think I need to take it (a tad) more toward the traditional.

Not entirely so, but making it a little cleaner, in a classic story sense. It still has to maintain some of its jazzy qualities, though, or it just won’t (work).

So here I go.

(Which means, Greg, if you haven’t started reading that draft I sent you –- and with your wife in town and your remarkably busy work schedule I imagine you haven’t –- then don’t. Wait for the new one.)

(Oh, and also, Ryan, I got your script and promise to get back to you soon…)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spot On

Spent three hours on the phone last night with Len, the composer of Dismal, spotting the movie.

This is some of the producing work that I absolutely love. The creative interaction with the creative people who make the movie really shine.

For those of you who don't know what spotting is, it's not when you get a little, um, flow unexpectedly. I mean it is that, but in the film world, it's when you go through the movie scene-by-scene, talking about tone, intention, feeling, etc., deciding where music begins, where it ends, what it sounds like -- and probably most importantly, where there should be no music at all.

(A little advice for the beginner: if your composer creates a wall-to-wall score, find a new composer.)

Ideally, of course, this spotting session should happen with you and the composer in the same room. If possible, every creative decision should be made with people looking at each other. Communication’s always best that way -– as is bitch-slapping. But with Dismal, we have no real money to fly around meeting people all the time, I have a full-time job (hence starting at 8pm) and the composer's in Pennsylvania while I'm in Virginia. So we did it over the phone, each with timecoded DVDs running.

Making it all the more interesting is that Len’s a great composer, very creative but also practical, and we really understand each other. I can’t say enough about the value of hiring the right team.

Anyway, this, as I said, is one of the fun parts of producing. And it's one of the parts that most people don't know about. Which is maybe why I like it so much. Do it right, and it enhances the film dramatically but the viewer doesn’t really notice it. It’s stealth creativity. Ninja style.

Same thing with sound design and editing -- I love sitting with the sound guys and working through all the ways to amplify the quality of the film -- little sounds here or there, silence when it should be silence, snapping twigs, sound effects, foley, ADR, all that great background stuff that can really make or break a film.

In fact, if I had to change positions in the film and TV world, I think I’d switch to sound design. Love that shit.

By the way, in the three hours spent last night, we got through roughly half of the movie, so we finish tonight. Looking forward to it. Because over the phone, Len can’t bitch-slap me.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Uncle Walt Says Lay Off

I’m quoting from memory here, so don’t hold me to it, but in one of his many fantastic poems Walt Whitman wrote something like, “Better than to tell the best is to leave the best untold.”

This is kinda what’s occupying my writing thoughts lately.

I tried, as I was writing D Line (formerly known as “the Harlem rewrite”), to keep a strong filter up to snag any dialogue or action lines that were too heavy-handed. You don’t want to hand the reader everything -– and by reader, I really mean the director or actors who might ultimately get behind the script and want to work on it. But in day-to-day America, it seems people want everything handed to them, so you end up being inadvertently trained to give them everything.

I know the first couple scripts I wrote were way too heavy-handed –- telling everything.

But the moves I like best are the ones during which I have to do a little work. No easy answers. Lots of unsolved problems. Not too much unchecked, uninspired, way-too-easy redemption. I like the ones where you have questions running through your mind during the credits, and not just about why they needed that many stuntmen.

I was thinking about this last night, while watching The Illusionist –- which was okay, but it handed me everything. I like to do a little concluding of my own, a little critical thinking. And so naturally, I’m trying to write such a script.

But where to draw the line can be tricky. To be sure, subtlety and careful open-endedness can be easily misconstrued as idiocy and lack of clarity.

As I go back and reread D Line, making notes for the next draft, I wonder if I hit the balance. This is not just an artistic question –- though I hope for my soul's sake it's mainly so -– but a practical one, too.

If I’m going to use this script to try to break into Hollywood, get an agent, maybe a manger, try to sell it and work my ass off to help shepherd it into theaters, do I have to dumb things down a little? Spell things out? Hit a more conservative structure? Do people who have to read hundreds of scripts want to do a little work for a story?

I suppose the answer’s obvious, if I’m just trying to get into theaters. Then, the answer would be, yes, dumb it down, write the Robert McKee tripe in which the cookie cutter is clearly visible and the marketability shines through like a great glowing Golden Arches, and hope you hit the blockbuster fever-of-the-day at the right time.

But I also want to write movies that I’m proud of. Oh, I know. I’m naïve. Okay, in some ways, yes I am. But it’s true: I want to at least start by trying to write honest scripts about honest people with honestly messy lives.

If, after multiple failures, I end up jaded and writing thin plastic schlock to get a paycheck, okay. Fine. Ain’t too proud to beg.

But first I want to try not to tell the best, but to leave the best untold -– so that someone sitting in the theater will be able to find it on their own terms.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dismal Trailer

Official DiSmAl trailer 1

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It loses a lot of quality being compressed to fit on MySpace, and then transferred here, so it doesn't look as beautiful as the full HD version does... but you get the idea anyway.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dismal Poster



Here's our poster. Whatcha think?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pants On Fire

'Member when I said we had picture lock on Dismal? 'Member that?

Um.

I lied.

When our DP reviewed the whole thing this week he found a bunch of stuff that our second camera shot that isn't going to work once we up-res to HD and project on the large screen.

So we have to cut the shots.

All of them.

Which means finding time with the editor to recut.

And having the sound editors skip those parts.

And telling the composer his pacing's all off now.

Ah, but it's not really lying to you. We did have picture lock. Honest. This is just the way things go. No matter how finished you think you are, no matter how well you think you've planned, something's going to screw up. And all you can do is try to fix it.

Which we will. We'll still have our final-final by the first week in April. It'll just be a little hairier go now. But dammit we're all dedicated to making this the best thing it can be. And it will be.

Just a week later than we thought.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Skewed Perspective

Man I should be better at posting to this regularly. Just so busy. But I just finished my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in record time so I have a few minutes for a quick update.

We have picture lock on Dismal. Whew. It's a very good, solid movie, entertaining throughout -- and now it's gonna get better as the sound editors and composer get to work. All that, plus onlining and color timing should be finished by the end of March.

Which means by April we can do a cast and crew (and friend) screening and start hitting the sell hard: getting back in touch to the distributors who've called us, contacting other distributors, maybe renting theaters in LA and New York to screen for distributors. And we're continuing with the film festival circuit.

Speaking of that, someone on the team was expressing some worry, saying that so far, it's been nothing but rejections, so he's worried we'll end up with a very expensive coaster.

Huh?

We didn't make it into two film festivals. Two.

Is that something to worry about? Does that mean we're doomed? Hell no. I heard that, in its first round of pitching, American Idol got turned down at every network and all the major cable channels. There are tons of stories of now-classic movies, books and people who at first were rejected a hundred times. A thousand.

Please people. This is the film industry. While it's true that only 13 days passed between the start of writing on Basic Instinct and its being sold for $3 million, usually, it's a long, slow, cruel business.

So let's stick to it, shall we?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Grrrrrrr

Okay. I’m pissed. And it takes a lot to get me pissed.

The company I work for is experiencing a difficult lean time. It happens sometimes in the TV business, when a gap appears between show contracts. Production companies accordion up and down with staff levels all the time. We’ve been fortunate that in almost 15 years we’ve had very little down time, and few hiatuses. Hiati?

Anyway, we could be looking at a hiatus soon. Just went through a round of painful layoffs -– some very good, skilled people had to go, people whom I hope we can rehire soon once we get some more series up an running. All of us are worried.

But word’s starting to creep around the small-minded gossip grapevine that this is largely my fault. Since I’m in charge of development, it must be that I’m just not doing my job.

They’re not, of course, considering the 25 projects I have on the development grid, or the seven projects that various networks have expressed great interest in and could go forward at any second. They’re not looking at the corporate trouble way beyond me that our company’s going through that’s contributing to the lean times. They’re not realizing our main client is going through a massive upper-level restructuring and have instituted a freeze on new programming. They’re not considering that selling shows isn’t just saying, “Hey, I got this great idea” and then boom, you’ve got a contract for 13 hours. This is hard work, and it takes time.

One of the theories I’ve heard about is that last year I wasn’t doing much for the company because I was working on Dismal all day. Another good one: the professional conference I went to last week? Oh, all I did there was try to sell Dismal.

This is where I get pissed.

First of all, I wrote the script before I took my current position, while I was freelance writing from home. Secondly, when Dismal moved beyond a let’s-shoot-on-weekends-with-friends project and into a full feature, I had many talks with my employers, outlining how I would manage both projects and keep them separate. We came to a clear agreement and I kept to it.

Since then I have worked my balls off to do as much as or more for this company in terms of development than anyone has, ever -– and to make sure I do the work on Dismal I’m responsible for on my lunch breaks or after I go home nights or on weekends.

And as for that conference? It was a FACTUAL ENTERTAINMENT conference for TELEVISION. Factual. As in, not drama. And television. As in, not movies. There was literally no one there to talk Dismal with even if I wanted to.

Simple bastards. I mean, I understand people are frustrated, but shit, know the facts before you go slinging someone’s professional reputation in the mud.

I know I shouldn’t care. People do this gossip shit all the time. Just let it slide off, lad. But it’s hard to let it slide off -– because A) I actually have feelings, and this hurts, and B) once people start saying things often enough, they cease to sound like gossip and start to sound like fact. And like I said, this is my professional reputation.

GRRRRRRRR.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

They Want The Boob

On Dismal we're one scene away from picture lock. And what a scene it is.

Or so I hear.

Turns out that all the foreign distributors who have contacted us have asked these questions:

1. Are there any stars?

2. How long is it?

3. Do you have a good poster?

4. Are there boobs?

Huh?

You heard me: are there any boobs. Seems that for an American thriller to sell well and easily in worldwide territories, there must be breasts. And nipples.

Now, I'm certainly not against breasts. In truth, I happen to love them. Wonderful elements of a wondrous sex.

But at first glance it seemed too weird to try to put breasts into a movie based primarily in a swamp.

It was actually one of our sound editors who had the idea. In the original story, as the hero is held captive at the bad guy’s shack, he has a flashback of him trying to pick a girl up in a bar –- reminding him that he’s been a shitty husband and father, and providing the impetus to try to escape and get back to his family to make things right.

Well, our man Cret says, “Why not play that scene in a go-go bar?”

Turns out we had No. Problem. At all. Getting the camera and crew together for a reshoot in a titty bar. To say nothing of extras.

Surprised? Me neither.

So we shot it -– but I had to leave before the clothes were shed, and I haven’t seen the scene cut together. Which explains the “so I hear” from the top of the post.

But we’re VERY CLOSE to being finished editing picture, and then it’s on to sound and music… and THEN… hellllllooooo nurse.

So, breasts notwithstanding, it's very good news. Soon, we're in the business of selling. We've gotten a lot of calls from studios and agents and distributors asking to see a screener -- and we've been politely declining, waiting until we have a good solid cut together. Which should be by March 1st. So, soon, we don't have to decline anymore...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Step One

Last night, at a little before 11:00, about two inches down on page 93 of the Harlem script, I typed FADE OUT.

So there. The first full pass is finished.

Now the real work begins.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Corner(s)

Ah, I feel like I turned a corner last night on the Harlem script. I feel like I’m really close.

For a while I could see some brick walls looming ahead, and last night I figured out a way over at least some of them.

I guess I'm mixing my metaphors a little. So, for continuity, let's say I figured out how to turn a few corners and walk around some of the walls.

Of course, getting around these walls only leads me to the next set of walls that I'll need to traverse in order to wrap up the script. Still, I’m thinking over the next couple weeks I might have a complete first draft. I really need to because it’s time to start working on new stuff.

Dismal update:

We’ve submitted to SXSW and Tribeca, and Seattle’s due February 1st. Those are all the rough cut, which is a bummer. But I think the ones thereafter will be the better, cleaner cut.

Speaking of which, the editor thinks he’s gonna be finished with the latest round of changes Friday night. Hopefully he was able to address all of our concerns and we can lock picture soon. Then, probably three or four weeks after that, depending on people’s schedules, we should have our “final” cut.

Because, as I said, it’s time to start working on new stuff.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How MacIver Writes

“Steal a march on the random images that invade you, by choosing and filling the mind with the pictures you will attend to; drive them together with strong connections into a story you can’t take your mind off. Teller of tales, do not wait to be possessed; start building a seamless construction, impregnable to daydreams. When you go to bed, of course, you’ll have to take whatever dreams are sent, and maybe some will be of use.”

I just finished Rules for Old Men Waiting, by Peter Pouncey. It’s about an old man, MacIver, who realizes that now that his beloved wife is gone, he will be too. And soon. So he decides that before he dies, he will write one, whole story.

That’s a good goal to have, I think, as you face your death. He had no one to say goodbye to. So he wrote.

It was a good story he wrote. And in a way it saved him.

And this advice to himself, excerpted above, well, that’s good advice for all of us. One more vote for the discipline of writing. Give your mind the structure. Create a rhythm for the creativity and entice it out of its coy little shell.

Thanks, Mr. Pouncey. Writing just might save us.

Or drive us mad.

Friday, January 12, 2007

An Open Letter To The Artists

Dear Subway® Sandwich Artist,

I work very hard to tell compelling stories in screenplays, and so far, I’ve made very little money at it. So I feel you. I understand your plight. Truly.

You have to stand there on your feet all day behind the sneeze-guard plexiglass, asking people what type of bread, what meat and cheese, which of the seemingly endless combinations of fixins they’d like on their footlong.

And I’ve seen your customer base. They’re base all right. Rude, condescending, downright smarmy if you look cute in that black visor. They bark orders at you, getting frustrated when you can’t read their noncommittal little minds. My God, they ask what kind of bread you have when it’s right there on the placard!

Let's not even talk about those middle-aged trophy wives and the ridiculous demands they have for their wraps.

Again, I get it. I am your witness.

Substitute executive producer for customer, and tension and humor for Genoa salami and jalapeños, and we are the same.

We’re brethren.

So it is with nothing but love that I point this out.

In his recent book The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood, Joe Eszterhas suggests, “Don’t ever refer to yourself as an artist.”

Sage advice indeed.

As I said, I understand how difficult your job can be. But -– and again, take this as a non-judgmental, open-hearted suggestion on how you might improve your important work –- to my way of thinking, a true artist could get it right -– or at least make an actual, discernable effort -– when I ask for “just a little mustard and just a little mayonnaise.” And yet, Sandwich Artist, no matter how slowly I speak, no matter the eye contact I hold, no matter the emphasis I put on my request (a request an informal poll of 23 eaters of sandwiches assures me is a reasonable one), you still positively swaddle my goddamn sandwich in mustard and mayo.

And I think it hurts so much because I know you’re an artist. Or at least claim to be.

So please, brother or sister, I ask this of you: either take care with the condiments of your craft, as an artist would, or call yourself a sandwich maker.

In Solidarity,
David
(Or, as you might remember me: six-inch wheat, turkey and pepper jack, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, cucumbers, green peppers, jalapeños, just a little mustard, just a little mayonnaise)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Say Hello To My Underpaid, Overworked Friend

In Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics –- which I heartily recommend to everyone by the way –- he includes a fascinating bit about drug gangs. Turns out that the average foot soldier in a major Chicago street gang that this economist studied made a little over $3 an hour. And they were the ones most likely to get shot by customers or other dealers, or to be asked to go kill someone for their superiors, or to be arrested by 5-0.

(“5-0.” See my street cred? It’s just dripping off me…)

So, less than minimum wage, with the threat of death or prison always present.

Why?

Apprenticeship.

They know that they have to put in the time at the bottom, and work hard, and impress everyone, and survive, if they’re ever gonna make it to the level of Tony Montana so they can shove their face into a mountain of cocaine and scream out, “The world is mine!”

Not unlike the TV and film industry, eh?

A coworker recently mentioned she was feeling a little frustrated with where she is in the business and asked how I moved up. My answer: I did some time in the television equivalent of slinging rock on a trash-strewn street corner without making enough money to buy new Nikes.

(Thankfully, my brother works for Nike so I get a wicked good discount…)

But that’s what you have to do.

The good thing is, nobody asks you to shoot anyone else, and nobody wants to shoot you. Stab you in the back, yes, but not actually kill you.

Now, I’m not saying I’m a tough guy martyr, poor me, look what I had to go through in my life. Believe me, I understand how much more difficult my life could have been –- I definitely lucked out when I was born a healthy white male in middle class America to parents who cared fully.

I’m just saying you have to suffer a little.

Well, not everyone has to. There are those who are so brilliantly gifted that they immediately rise to the top. But there’s not many of them.

Most of us have to suffer a little.

At 37, I’ve managed to make a pretty good life for my family and me –- with, of course, the support of my most excellent wife, who is quite successful in her own field. We’re happy, which is most important, but we also have the benefit of being fairly comfortable, financially, due in part to my work in the television industry. My mom says I’m a success. Not a whopper, but it’s been a good ride.

Moms are cool.

Now I find myself going back to the corner with crack in my hand –- or, as they say in Greg’s new favorite show, pandemic in my hand. But this time trying to make it in the gang called Film.

Let’s hope Paramount doesn’t send some roughnecks on a drive-by.

And by the way, don’t do cocaine, even if you make it to the top. Cocaine is bad for business.

Just ask Tony Montana.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sick Day

Home today with the sick laddie. He threw up Tuesday night and has had a low grade fever ever since.

It's terrible when your kids are sick. Especially when they're this young and can't understand what's happening to their little bodies. The lad's ALWAYS on, always running and climbing and throwing himself at the world.

Except when he's sick.

Today he's kinda listless, just wants to sit around. Which he never does. So we went for a long walk with the stroller and the dog. We watched a little Noggin (big stuff for a kid who never watches TV). And he's taken a couple naps.

It's so sad seeing him this way, because I know it's not him normally, so I know he must feel really, really shitty.

But I realize it's easier when he's sick. And better for my writing.

I admit it: I've been writing while he naps.

And enjoying it.

I feel so guilty.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

This Is The End, Magical Friend

Do you need to know how it ends?

If you stroll the screenwriting blogosphere, you know there are all sorts of answers to this, all very well and passionately argued and all very contradictory.

There are those who say you’re foolish not to outline the entire arc of each character from start to finish, so you know the whole big picture before you begin. All kinds of stuff about index cards and cork boards and timelines and beat sheets.

There are those who say you need to have a pretty good idea of where the story is going or what the characters are gonna do so there’s a framework in which the people can play around.

And then there are those who say you just have to send the characters off and let them find the story themselves. Hippies.

And of course a million variations of these three.

I think I’ve tried them all, sort of, and I’m not sure which works best for me. I think it works best for me if I have a pretty good idea of what I want to happen, but not outline too strictly in the beginning. This way, I have a sense of direction, but there’s enough wiggle room to allow for some magic to happen.

If Magic decides to show up of course.

Yet with this rewrite I’m working on, I find myself worried because I don’t really know what’s gonna happen with one of the main characters. Normally I don’t worry about this. So why now? No idea.

Sometimes I think this character just needs to grow a little in the ensuing pages and take over from me (I know this is sounding pretty flighty, but I’m guessing any writers who happen to be reading know what I mean) and figure it out himself. But sometimes I worry he's endingless because he doesn’t matter and isn’t authentic.

Anyway, I’ll let you know. I’m about 40 pages in, and I think it’s going okay. We’ll see.

Magic, my dear, your presence is requested.