31 March 2006

tales of woe and degradation (chapter 213)

[FILE UNDER: “pointless self-absorption,” or “much ado about nothing”]

Something weird is in the water this week, it seems. One friend gets a manager and an option and an assignment and small but not irrelevant bucket of cash. Another friend gets an option and an assignment and surely the promise of a similar non-irrelevant cash-bucket. Another pal emerges from a great face-to-face with the nagging sense that this is the start of a working relationship where (wait for it...) the non-irrelevant bucket again makes its appearance onstage. Other friends are having graphic novels premiere, or are claiming awards for comics which just premiered, or are showing early test shots of the FX the boys at WETA are cranking out for their directorial debut, or are talking about wrap parties for final episodes of major trilogies.

And now, dammit, the Good Luck Fairy has sprinkled Yippee Dust on my oversized head.

Because word has come down that I am a major award winner.

Scr(i)pt Magazine and Final Draft co-sponsor the big Scriptwriters Showcase in a week or so out at Universal Studios. The event is a cool gathering of screenwriting talents and celebs, and features all sorts of great learning and networking opportunities. Tickets to the event normally cost 149 bucks a piece—steep but worth it, given the quality and quantity of top-drawer talent you’ll have access to.

One of the panelists at the event will be Warren Hsu Leonard, aspriring screenwriter and chief bottle washer and content-spewer at the cool blog The Screenwriting Life. As a panelist, Warren had some comp passes to the event, so he came up with a goofy idea to have a 24-hour contest to see who could come up with the “best” (worst) logline for a fictitious movie, with the stipulation that the logline had to include seven specific oddball words:

Well, seeing as how Your Intrepid Narrator has eleventeen go-zillion other more pressing concerns on his plate, of course I set myself to coming up with a logline (I’d be the World Champion Procrastinator if only I could get myself to focus on the task of claiming that title...). It came together pretty quick, so I flung it against Warren’s virtual wall:
“STICKY SNOW — (action-romance) When a surprise mid-August blizzard traps world-weary barcalounger repairman Bosco Yammer in a remote Montana fishing lodge with beautiful young teddy bear heiress Plushy Galore, the unlikely couple struggles to overcome personal differences, a lack of seasonally appropriate clothing, and a sleeper cell of mucilaginous Quebecois “bush pirates” trafficking in stolen ornamental shrubbery.”

Then (yay for me) Warren selected it as one of the five finalists to go into the public voting to choose the winner.

Now, hard as this is to believe, I have friends.

No, really—I’m serious. I have great friends. I have friends so great, in fact, that even a complete ass-tacular moron such as myself still rates support and at least a monthly demonstration of some functional equivalent of respect. So when I mentioned to a group of friends—fellow writers and artists and morons—that my bad logline made the finals of the contest, saying “you guys oughta go see the fun and vote for someone,” apparently many of them did just that. Suddenly my vote tally explodified, and I ran roughshod over my pathetic rivals like some great big rumbling roughshod over-running thing. We’re talking a mandate of Stalinesque proportion. When the smoke had cleared and the steaming gore hosed from the voting booths, I’d claimed almost 50% of the ballots in the 5-way race.

Meaning I’d won a free pass to the aforementioned Seriously Waycool LA Event.

Now, anyone who’s read this far likely has done so just to see the inevitable other shoe drop (or else is completing some sort of court-ordered community service/masochistic reading exercise), as Good News in my universe most always arrives wrapped ‘round a well-thrown fast-flying rock.

This conference is April 7–9.

My son’s Cub Scout pack has their Spring Campout April 7–9.

And guess who is the Camping Coordinator, in charge of making sure the weenies get cooked and the campfires get put out and the nice people at Lake Somerville State Park get their money and whatever apologies are due?

That’s right—the recently crowned Champion Logline Writer.

So I wave at Warren and say “Cool, but I can’t go,” and now the #2 vote-grabber gets the glory while I get a copy of Warren’s book and/or a box of pushpins. And come next Saturday night, as my duly-crushed rival is sipping my watered well-drink cocktails and schmoozing with my hip industry contacts and horking down my niblet-sized cuts of the finest meats at the spectacular gherkin and saltine buffet line, I’ll be a metaphorical million miles away, scrubbing scorched chili from the bottom of an army-surplus pot beneath the magnesium glare of an overhead Coleman lantern.

Which actually suits me better, truth be told. Some folks fit right in with beautiful people and casual convo and terrazzo floors and light jazz on the overhead. Me, I’m content again to be like Maximus in GLADIATOR, denied his rightful glory and forced to toil in abject dumpth for the bemusement of self-anointed gods, but goddammit I’ll still have my honor, my pride, my dignity.

And, if Warren can be trusted, maybe some pushpins in the mail.

”What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

Damned straight, else I’m screwed again (naturally).


30 March 2006

on the whole, it's been a weird damned week

It's funny how the oddest little thing can become so significant at the oddest moment. An off-the-cuff remark from someone can be exactly what you needed to hear to brighten an otherwise gloomy crapfest of a day, and then someone's poorly phrased remark in e-mail can be enough to set you off down a homicidal raging road for an hour or two until the experiemental meds kick in and all the colors rotate back to their proper place in the spectrum.

Last week I built some rhythm on the RomCom (note to self-- as we enter the homestretch of the first draft, we're getting to the point where a TITLE might be a good idea...). I had a nice run of days where things were quiet hereabouts, so I turned off the phone, cued some mood music, and kicked ass. Something like 14 pages done in four days. No, that's not Paul Schrader writing TAXI DRIVER during a commercial break of MANNIX (whatever), but for a civilian with a life, a wife, four kids, and a double ass-load of duties and obligations elsewhere, I was pretty proud.

This week was the great equalization. Where last week words were falling from the sky, this week it seemed the sky was all that was willing to fall on me. Wrestling with all sorts of non-writing-related stuff sucked all the wind from my sails, and I was floundering hugely. I went more than five days without even OPENING the romcom script document.

And still the dates fell from the calendar. May 1-- Nicholls deadline-- now looms like the light of an oncoming train, and here I sit still putting in survey markers to lay out the possible path out of the Second Act Wilderness.

Earlier today I was fit to be tied, I was so frustrated. A Cub Scout project had mushroomed into a monster timesuck, another kid-related thing was threatening to do the same, we've had dentist appointments and rained out baseball games and this and that, and I was ready to start breaking stuff by mid-morning. I think I was starting to teeter dangerously close to some sort of real breakdown.

And then I get an email. I won’t bore with (many) specific details, but it was a totally unprompted note of support from a parent in one of the kid-related activities that I've been killing myself to perform.

"We just wanted to let you know how thrilled we are to know that you're in charge of (our son’s activity)."

Suddenly, the Suck lessened a little.

An hour later, another parent stopped by to drop off some paperwork-- totally unrelated and unknown to the previous e-mailer-- and that parent gave me another oddly well-timed pat on the back. Again, the Suck lessened.

Meanwhile, at least three friends in the extended scribosphere managed to report some sort of Major Good News this week-- managers, options, assignments, meetings, something-- and in every case, when I caught them and tried to give them congrats, they asked me about my stuff and wished me well. "Hang in there. You'll get where you're headed."

And then, oddest of the odd, The Wife came in, saw my mood this afternoon, and said 'OK, kids-- everyone outside. Dad needs to write." And she kept the monkeys off me for a full two hours. Hell, she even cooked dinner.

Let me repeat that, because I am reasonably sure that none of you truly appreciates the shattering significance of what I just said: The Wife cooked dinner.

This just does not happen. It's not that she's a bad wife (hell, she has lasted with me for fourteen years, which oughta get her a matched set of Nobels at the minimum), but cooking is not her thing, man. So when she volunteers to take that bullet, I know two things:

1) I must REALLY look pathetic and hang-dog


2) I had damned sure better do something with the gift of time she is giving me.

So again I cued some music, picked a random point in the unfinished portion of the script, and started banging keys.

90 minutes later, I'd added 9 new pages, including a nice emotional romantic set-up which dovetails right into two other scenes I'd written before but which never seemed to connect to the stuff I had in the first two acts. Suddenly, I see the first clear path from beginning to end of this story, and all I have to do is clean it up, dress it up, edit and punch up the jokes, proofcheck 3 times, sacrifice one perfect ram to the great god of screenwriting, and then hope it all comes together in time to stuff an envelope and send it toward one Mr. Greg Beal before May 1.

Weird. I have the funny feeling that I just might make it work now.

28 March 2006

meme: four movies I'd love to re-write

Tom, a relative newcomer to the great blubberring Scribosphere of screenwriters and wannabee screenwriters, posed a cool meme-list over at his site, The One Year Push: Four Films I'd Like To Rewrite For Whatever Reason. I posted my list there, but felt a need to go into typically longwinded detail about the whys and wherefores of the titles listed, so here we go:


Likely as close as I've ever come to demanding my money back for a movie. yeah, yeah-- some folks claim to like this turdfest, but I rate it as one of the dumbest bonehead gaffes in memory. For chrissakes, they are given one of the most enduring and romantic legends in all of storytelling, assemble a cast of folks who have all proven elsewhere that they can be great onscreen, and then... they turn it into some ugly whacked out action fest where rape is played for laugh, where racism is introduced as a sub-plot (huh?), and where Costner seems trapped in no man's land between Errol Flynn and Jeff Spicoli. Wretched.

This one stings me to mention, 'cuz i *like* credited writer John Lee Hancock. He's done some great movies and has always always always come across as a truly stand-up decent guy in every story I've ever heard from anyone who's had any dealings with him. The casting in the flick was perfect (Spacey? Cusack? Eastwood at the helm? Rock on.) But for my money this adaptation of John Berendt's bestseller just stinks, IMO. I loved Berendt's book and was among the first in line when the movie came out, yet mere minutes into the movie I already had that queasy "oh shit-- they totally missed it" feeling. Where Berendt described the quaint kooky otherworldliness of Savannah GA with a gentle loving familiarity, the movie reduced it to freak show goofiness. I still sigh in regret every time I glance up at my bookshelf and notice the spine of the book.

[3] WILD WILD WEST (1999)
Again, one that broke my heart on several levels. As a kid, WWW was my favorite show. Period. I watched it EVERY day in syndicated re-runs. I doodled ways to re-create all the cool gadgets Jim and Artie used. I daydreamed about traveling around in a tricked out Pullman car. I wore my Dingo boots (with cut-offs, natch') as a 6 year old pedaling around in my red plastic Krazy Kar. For years I wondered "when will THAT be a movie?" and then, I see that it's under production. Then I read that Maddock & Wilson-- the TREMORS guys!-- are the screenwriters, and I smile hugely, 'cuz I KNOW this is going to be great. Kevin Kline as Artemus Gordon? GREAT! Will "Fresh Prince" Smith as Jim West? GREA-- wait a minute. Will SMITH? Now, I'm not arguing the race thing-- I love Will Smith and think he can do ANYTHING he wants-- but as soon as I saw that bit of stunt casting, I knew in my heart that the race thing was going to be played for laughs, and that just totally screwed the project in my mind. West was never a buffoon or a clown. West was a cross between James Bond and The Man With No Name. Yet with Will Smith I knew we were going to see basically "MEN IN BLACK on horses." And that's what we got. This was a huge huge flop-- the sort of thing that ordinarily sinks careers-- yet Smith emerged relatively unscathed. He's that cool and likable. It's a damned shame that the script didn't give him a chance to DO something besides play the smiling goofing Will Smith Character once again. They didn't need to ruin the WILD WILD WEST franchise just for THAT.

I adore the original CFTBL. For twenty years now, the poster from teh flick has hung over my desk so that it leers down at me as I write. For my money, it ranks as the ultimate cheesy monster movie. It's got some great location shooting, some tremendously under-appreciated cinematography (watch CREATURE and then watch JAWS and see if you don't chuckle at some shots Spielberg clearly (ahem) "borrowed"), and one of the truly iconic movie monsters. Arch 1950's dialog, busty babes in distress, dorky-tough middle-aged white guy hero with chinos hitched up round his navel... it's got it all. I've always been a bit leery that it's only a matter of time until someone summons the stones to try and improve on this Mona Lisa of monster-dom, and now I see that Gary Ross (w/ direct Breck Eisner...) are developing a remake. Now, Ross has done some movies I like, and I have NO idea if they'll do a great or a god-awful job on this project, but damn I wish I could be a part of the team, if only to protect and preserve all the goofy glory that I cherish from the 1954 Jack Arnold original. Peter Jackson had KONG-- I have THE CREATURE. If they trash this baby... I shall be very put out.


Tom has a cool site and deserves some love, if you haven't visited already. Pop on over and see what I mean.

22 March 2006

self-involvement as defiance

Just to continue the completely unappreciated roll I've been of late—FOUR new thrilling blog posts in FOUR days—I figured I'd bore both my readers with yet one more scintillating puddle of dumpth.

Today was an odd day. For the first time in a long long time, I was allowed to sit and write. And I don't mean the pointless "drooling on chat boards" kind of writing which has all the lasting relevance of a fart in a stiff breeze, but actual By God working-from-an-outline, head-down, dander-up focused intentional effort designed to create words you can one day show to your grandkids and say "See? I wasn't always a toothless bitter old fuck!"

And a good day of writing it was. When the dust settled in mid-afternoon (alas, I have found over the years that my peak hours of serious creative usefulness seem to fall between 9 AM and 2 PM), I'd managed TEN new pages on the rom-com spec. I'm now boasting 79 pages in the can, with maybe 25 more to go before I start getting really really concerned that I really ought to be stopping now... but that's another concern for another day. Today I feel stoked to have done a decent job, if I do say myself (and I do, so bite me), banging out three or four scenes which all have some spark and sizzle and charm and wit and rhythm to them. Additionally, I managed a good hour of staring into space and visualizing some major beats on two other projects in my brain which are now starting to gel into visible understandable approachable ideas of actual potential value.

So "yay, me."

I still doubt I'll come close to making the best-case scenario results I'd once hoped to achieve by May 1 of this year—the hope at one point was to have one new spec ready to show, last year's drama polished to a high sheen, and a new project roughed into outline/first assembly form. Right now I'm starting to feel a little better that the romcom spec will at least be completed by May 1, and there's still a slim chance for the drama polish. The third project... well, that's now looking like my focus for June, along with a possible partnering gig, and maybe some overdue attention on one of a pair of goofy comedy concepts I still love after three or four years of squishing them around in my head like Play•Doh.

I'm sure I could force out come complaints if I needed to—so long as there are people, there will be reasons to piss and moan—but overall... not a bad day.

And I'm not entirely sure what to make of that on a Wednesday.

21 March 2006

rolling a turkey

Three new posts in three days—I envy the excitement my readers (both of you) must feel.

I had a rare and much-enjoyed Good Day Of Writing today, managing to pound enough new words to push the page count to 69 and counting on the new Rom Com spec. I am refusing to look back and previous day's efforts, opting instead to keep wading forward—mainly out of fear that the work has been utter and absolute crap, but if such is the case, who's gonna know anyway?

Nicholls deadline is something like 42 days away, so all I have to do is average one Major Award Winning Page per day over that span and VIOLA I'll have a solid script to fling against their side alley.

Hopefully things will start to improve a bit in terms of writing time: a few nagging taskls and distractions are starting to fall off the task sheet, and what nagging assignments are left should not normally compete directly for my writing time, but as always, we shall see....


Meanwhile, weird scenes abound 'round the scribosphere. One very good friend just stunned close observers by landing pro management rather suddenly this week. It's both exciting and mildly depressing to watch. On the one hand I am truly deeply thrilled for my friend, but on the other of course there is that nagging sense of "dammit I want that, too!" Jealousy is an ugly feeling to 'fess to, even if only privately (and yes, the irony of using the word "privately" to describe posting on the open internet is duly noted).

Another good friend is making noise trying to talk me into partnering on an interesting script project. I'm still nipple-deep in stuff I need to complete ASAP, but if I can get past this current passel of hurdles I'd likely be very interested in this partner project for a variety of reasons, most prominently the fact that it sounds like a fun premise with solid commercial appeal. "Money talks," and I'm ready and eager to demonstrate my listening abilities.

And then last night I got tipped to tune in to Letterman just in time to see Diablo Cody make her TV talk show debut, an event which should give warm fuzzy motivation to every aspiring wannabee wordslinger out there. For those not hip to the whole wild Diablo Cody story, she somehow went from ad copywriter to stripper to blogger to book author to screenwriter deal in what appears in hindsight to be a perfectly sensible logical rapid progression. (News flash-- for anyone hoping to duplicate her career arc, it also helps to have wicked writing chops and bigger balls than a PBA equipment supplier.)

Stuff is happening all over, and people—people I know and interact with—are breaking through to real success and professional standing. It's exciting, motivating, and somehow a little nerve-wracking, possibly because it serves as proof that this crazy dream is perhaps not so absolutely farfetched and unattainable after all.

"Find a way, make a way."

Damned straight, skippy.
tickled pink yet enviously green B

20 March 2006

the brevity ended all too quickly

You had your chance. I posted a small entry, yet there was no tsunami of cheering, no avalanche of encouragement, no mudslide of support, no overflowing ditch of praise, no leaky faucet of appreciation.

So we now return to our more normal long-winded format.

Let that stand as a lesson to you all.



ROM-COM: I've made some recent headway to bring me to 64 pages completed. I still lack a title, and I know full well that a goodly hunk of what pages I have will need to be replaced or destroyed, but hey-- progress is progress, even when it's not especially progressive. We'll see how much time I actually am allowed this week, as The Wife will be around the house tomorrow (she just ended a three-night shift, so she'll now be all itchy and motivated to "get things done," and said things are always HER things rather than MY things, which means I'll be exected to act committed to whatever task she now labels as our Top Priority. This might seem unfairly hostile, but then, I'm both unfair and hostile, so I'm not sure why this sensation should stand as a surprise to anyone.

LILYA: notes scribbled all over margins of the last print copy, and I hope to make a quick run through that script in the next week to make sure the planned mods and tweaks all make sense and have the intended effect of clarifying some motives and such. Hopefully (knock knock) it will be a smooth easy painless process which yields a tighter smoother ore satisfying read. And hopefully I'll win the Powerball drawing and get a fully-functioning anatomically-correct Halle Berry sex-bot for Christmas. Yeah, right.

WESTERN HYBRID PROJCT: it still sits there on teh back burner of my mental EZ-bake over, so who knows when i'll actually have full clearance to chase after this, but I am intrigued by the possibilities there. A cool and serious young director guy wants to see if we can develop this idea into an actual shootable low-budget feature for possible use in teh fall, but I need to geta much firmer grip on teh basic story outline, and then scribble it down on paper (or screen) and then work it out with the director guy, and then... something else, I'm sure.

POSSIBLE NEW CO-WRITING PROJECT: am talking with a cool and semi-established writer to brainstorm an idea she suggested as a possible co-writing project. A dark but funny rom-com thing, it intrigues me, both for story possibilities as well as for the creative opportunities of working with this writer. It *seems* like a cool idea—cool premise, cool characters, cool story, cool setting, cool working partner, possibly very cool rewards if it all comes to fruition— but it's another iron to add to the already well-used fire, so I just hope it works out.

MAGAZINE COLUMN: Need to get busy developing some ideas for a weird column I sorta fell into/created for myself with a local lifestyle magazine. Again, if it all blossoms like it could and like I hope, it will be a cool deal. but if it instead turns into yet one more frustrating timesuck with no upside... well, blogs need topics, too.

In short (ha!), tons of words are due to tons of projects, several of these projects hold the faint glimmer of being The Break which magically transforms me from Bitter Underpaid Writer to Bitter Overpaid Writer, and I know th at all three of you out there reading this hold that hope near and dear to your tiny black three-chambered hearts.


writing like a really hard-writing thing B

19 March 2006

we're number three! we're number three!

From the Department of Own Horn Tooting: This blog is now the #3 rated return for a Google search using the terms [quote]"sudden sinus drainage"[endquote].

So we got dat goin fer us.
proud (very proud) B

13 March 2006

a dangerous game

So let’s imagine that you’ve made the leap to calling yourself “a writer.” By that I mean that you have now confessed fully and freely—both to yourself and the world at large—your intent to find some actual tangible financial success as a slinger of words. At this point it seems obvious to presume that you have placed some value upon both your creative time and your creative output.

At least, one would normally think this was obvious.

But what then to make of the all-too-common scenario of the struggling yet “serious” writer who pisses away great heaping gobs of time on pointless pursuits? Who fritters away creative juice by slumming on chat boards and blog sites.

Like here and now.

[Irony remains, alas, a bitch.]

I am a writer. I have been paid to write for many tears. I get paid to write even today. I hope and intend and expect to enjoy a great deal more (and greater) success from my writing in the coming years. Yet here I sit, trying to delude myself into rationalizing the decision to piss away an opportunity for creative progress in favor of toiling away on a blog post to be read by (optimistic estimate) 8 or 9 people. For free.

Screenwriting contest season looms larger and larger on the horizon, yet rather than wrestle the half-formed romantic-comedy out of my brain and onto the page, rather than fine tune the character motivation elements of my war drama, rather than work a final final completed draft of my co-written adventure (one that would allow me and the co-writer to co-exist on co-acceptable terms), I play the dangerously self-indulgent game of whining about that sad kind of person who wastes time with whiny blogsites.

How very “meta” of me.

Maybe I’ll hop onto a chat site and spend 10 or 90 minutes carping about the addictive waste of time which chat sites represent.

Or perhaps I’ll send a self-indulgent longwinded ranting essay to some pal via email, one in which I piss and moan about people who spend so much time pissing and moaning in longwinded emails rather than actually making useful progress on any front, on any project.

A lot of us writers have a bad problem with these seductive alluring waste of time distractions: blogs, chat, email, webrings. Every year some new cool distraction gets added to the mix, making it even a little bit harder to stay focused on filling the one blank page most in need of filling: the unfinished project sitting there on on the front porch of our minds. This, my pretties, is a problem, as that story—that script, that essay, that play, that novel—is not going to finish itself, nor is it going to proof, polish, pimp, market and sell itself. That is a task which falls upon the shoulders of the writer, but far too easily these days the writer is distracted by pretty lights and the siren song of self-absorbed navel-gazing.

“Admitting that you have a problem is the first step in overcoming a problem.” You hear that a lot. What you don’t hear is what the second step is supposed to be.

For a writer, I’m guessing it’s got to be something like “just shut up and write, dummy.”

Physician, heal thyself.
fighting to maintain B

01 March 2006

glacial in the springtime

It's now March 1, and I discover that a realization of this fact has motivated me in a "oh my God, time keeps on slipping...slipping...slipping" sort of way. I've been making progress on a number of fronts, but at such a slow pace that in purely personal terms it seems more a defeat than a victory.

I should be doing more, completing more, accomplishing more.

Nicholls deadline is now only two damned months away, and the Austin contest deadline looms a mere two weeks beyond that, so I had better get my act together and start kicking copius ass if I hope to meet my pre-season goal of having TWO pieces ready for contest runs this year. I managed another 5 pages today on the initial draft of the still untitled rom-com, and I continue to mentally fiddle with tweaks and twiddles to LILYA, my odd war drama (odd in the sense that I'm not normally a war drama kind of writer).

And of course I look up and find that I am nipple-deep in other extraneous obligations and endeavors which all conspire to drag focus away from screenwriting yet which cannot be ignored or dismissed.

In truth, I think I like a faint whiff of impending possible doom, as it makes me focus a bit more, stay a little more heads-up with regard to all the crap I am always trying to juggle. When no deadlines loom, there's no overriding reason to care. But when the lip of the abyss starts to appear as an ever-approaching dark line across the horizon... well then, my pretties, GAME ON.
loin-girding B