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?


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,
(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.



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.