26 October 2007

Top 10 Things For Screenwriters To Do During the Looming WGA Strike

10. Picket at a place with good coffee, shaded patio, free wifi access, and validated parking.

9. Put finishing touches on that big-screen ALF spec

8. Go shopping for new sweatpants and ironic t-shirts

7. Order the assistant to polish the heads of your Acco #5s

6. Meet for a 2:30 coffee date with writer friends and commiserate that your managers just don't work hard enough

5. Clean your trackballs

4. Answer reader mail on your website, www.jessicabieldiscussesplatowhilenaked.com

3. Hang out at the Apple Store and look cool with the other short fat bald white guys

2. Memorize the menu at Pollo Loco in prep for the big job interview

and the number one thing for screenwriters to do during the looming WGA strike...

1. HALO and porn
home office B

25 October 2007


The Brant Rose Agency?

[Barney Fife sniff] Yup, yup... they're my new agents.

O frabjous day!
Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

Yeah, I'll most definitely make more noise on this topic soon and often.
B (chortling)


22 October 2007

what a revolting development

I'll not not be so arrogant to say those who know me will understand what I mean here, but I could. And maybe should.

A few weeks ago when I first got word about the Nicholl nonsense, I had... "a relative" ask me "so, do you have a press release ready?"

'Press release? Nah, the Nicholl people handle all the press. It's covered," I explained.

"No, not the official release—the one about you personally. Specifically."

Here's the thing: at that moment I realized i don't want this to be about me personally, specifically.

For reasons I'll not bore by going into, I've always been very uncomfortable with direct personal praise and attention. Praise my work, my achievements, but don;t praise me personally, as that's just an ego thing and I hate that feeling of "oh, I'm so fantastic and wonderful!

Cuz I'm not. I'm a mess, with more crap in my brain than most folks would believe, and a lifetime of odd mistakes and missteps that is more tangled and mangled than the Basra-Baghdad Highway in the final week of Gulf War I.

But this relative didn't share my opinion on this matter, so they took it upon themselves to FWD some news of the Nicholl Finalist thing to the local newspaper in the small town where I grew up and went to school. While I was away at the Austin Film festival last week, I get a phone message from a reporter in that town—they wanted to do a story, "local boy makes good," etc.

I ducked the call. Did not return it. Ignored it. It's not something I asked for, wanted, or care about, I reasoned, so why bother working to make it happen?

The reporter has called a few more times since then, apparently eager to get a story, and today she caught me on the phone. She seemed first surprised and then confused that I was reluctant to play along—"don;t you know how cool this is for the town?"

"No not really," I answered, honestly if not charmingly. "To me it's a non-story about a guy who lived in town 25 years ago and has never really looked back with any special fondness for that time."

The reporter argued that the story was important to help show our high school kids that dreams can come true—that nothing is impossible, to which I responded that it was never my dream to be a Nicholl Finalist, and that until I option or sell a screenplay, I've not really achieved that dream, so what's the point here?

The debate went on for a minute or two before I finally said to hell with it and said "send me the questions and I'll see which, if any, I can force myself to address. And understand that I reserve the right to ignore that questionnaire utterly and completely."

She seemed to accept that so I have a press interview looming.

As I said—a revolting development.
I vant to be alone B

19 October 2007

the new stuff is coming soon

I promise.

But for now I am scrambling to get caught up on hundreds of emails and calls from various folks, all contacts stemming from the ongoing Nicholl Fellowships Nonsense. I keep hoping that I'll soon have some truly amazing news to report, but for now it all remains just a great heaving pile of encouraging and interesting news.

Might be's... maybe's ...

Also, I have a great many thoughts on the Austin Film Festival, but who knows if/when I'll have clear chance to address those notions.


09 October 2007

You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas

[For those who don't know, that's a line from Davy Crockett offered as a response to his district when he lost his bid for election to Congress in Tennessee. And yes, we here in Texas do dearly love that line.]

It's been a weird weird couple of weeks round the old hovel. So weird in fact that I've scarcely made mention of the looming Austin Film Festival. It's Tuesday morning, and tomorrow is Arrival Day, that day before the first panel of the fest, the day upon which many of the pilgrims start to trickle into the Driskill Hotel Bar and start to look for familiar faces.

Ordinarily I'd be nipple-deep in prep for the affair, in both the logistical and psychic senses: getting my mind into the proper frame to network like a beast, to run without sleep for days at a stretch, to endure the rigors of too much beer and too little food and too much fun and not nearly enough time. But this is not a normal year. Where normally I go to Austin hoping and praying to score some great new contacts and connections—people with whom I might possibly maybe spark the beginnings of a professional-personal relationship which might in time lead to some useful access for my writing output—this year...well, things are just different.

The totally unexpected Nicholls Finalist news has created this whacky situation where I am fielding (and sometimes fending off) loads of contacts from Hollywood folks somewhat desperately trying to get to ME, which feels kinda like the antelope waking to find that the lions and hyenas are fleeing in terror from him one surprising Thursday.

"Huh," Mr. Antelope might say. "Now ain't THAT peculiar..."

Well, yeah. Yeah it is.

I've been so busy with these Nicholls contacts—and prepping the seven-pound pile of supporting documents like letters and resumes and such required by the fine folks over at Nicholls World HQ—plus the usual two scoops of bullshit which passes for my "normal" life) that I've barely had time to look up.

This is not meant to seem like a complaint. It isn't. This whole episode has been bizarrely humbling and sobering, as I still have a hard time believing absolutely that it's not a very complicated and very cold-blooded joke, but it's also already been great fun, as I get to look at the Caller ID and see incoming calls from big name agencies and big name studios and big name pizza chains ("ok... how do I get to your house...?").

But tomorrow is AUSTIN, and I've not begin to prep or pack. The laptop needs loading. Bookmarks need transfer to the laptop's browser. Important addresses need to be backed up. Scripts need to be archived to CD, transferred to the laptop. Profiles need to be studied, credits memorized, faces committed to memory. Documents, schedules, and confirmations printed and stowed for travel. Phone numbers checked into cellphone memory.

It feels like it's the day before Christmas and I only just now started my shopping.

So much to do. So little time.
mad scrambling B

08 October 2007

talking about talking about talking about me

One of the odd developments in this still-unfolding Nicholls Fellowship thing is the weird pile of supporting docs and information the Academy (and yes I was grinning as I typed the words "the Academy") wants from all us Finalists:
• personal letter (3 pages or less) telling something about yourself and your writing inspirations and aspirations

• a resumé (and given that I've been self-employed and/or SAHD for something like 17 years now, I gave that useless document all the respect and seriousness it deserves, which is to say "just slightly less than none")

• a list of non-journalism writing and/or film credits (I listed some writing stuff, but the bulk of my writing these past 17 years was contract copywriting and way too boring to rate specific itemized mention)

• a list of completed screenplays (which looked more impressive than I expected)

• a short one paragraph or perhaps half-page bio statement

Right now, I have all but that damned bio completed, and that one is driving me nuts. Every time I try to start, I am overwhelmed by the sound of Steve Martin's voice in the opening to THE JERK—"I was born the son of poor black sharecroppers..."—and then I get bored and go eat a handful of CheezIts and stare at the backyard.

I am perfectly fine to talk about myself... but only on my own terms. So long as I am allowed to make light of things and make the tragic seem laughable and the laughable seem tragic and the triumphant seem moronic and vice versa, and so long as I know that the audience is understanding the ridiculous joke of it all, then all is well and I can have fun.

But ask me to stand up straight and seem serious about a subject so totally undeserving of such stick-up-the-butt seriousness—me thinking seriously about me and then seriously reflecting upon that seriousness seriously—and my first and deepest instinct is to drop trou and behave badly.

Time for more CheezIts.
bored by serious discussion of serious self-reflection B

01 October 2007

Damn you, Greg Beal

[written late on a Thursday, 28 Sept 2007, but not posted at that time for reasons which will likely become clear enough as you read]

It had been an altogether typical Thursday: the kids had come home from school, we'd all scurried to get snacked and hydrated in prep for the crazy Thursday schedule where Child #1 has dance rehearsal from 5-8, while Child #2 has 4th grade tackle football practice from 5:30-8 (where I assist as QB coach and Special Teams Coordinator), while Child #3 has first grade flag football practice from 6:30–7:30, while child #4 has also still to be accounted for. The Wife hauled #3 kid to flag practice, I'd headed off to tackle practice with #2, and then The Wife had run #1 to dance with #4 riding shotgun, then back to watch the last half of #3's practice. She had #3 and #4 in the tub when I got home with #2 around 8:10 pm, and I was trying to get him geared down and into the shower as The Wife wrestled the two younger kids out of their bubble bath. #1 son had just been dropped off by his carpool ride home, and I was heading back upstairs when the phone rang.

I checked caller ID, and paused for a moment: "Acad of Mot Pic..." calling from the 310 area code.

"Huh," I think, and answer.

"Brett? Hey, Greg Beal here."

Most folks know Greg simply as "that name on the bottom of all those yearly 'dink' letters from the Nicholl fellowships," the hugely prestigious screenwriting competition run by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (aka, "the Oscars people"), but I recognize Greg's voice as he and I have played around together a few times annually for the last few years at the Austin Film Festival.

"Hey, Mr. Beal, wassup?"

"Well, I guess you know why I am calling."

[Let's pause for a moment as I make one thing perfectly clear: I most absolutely did not know why he was calling. Yes, I knew that this was right around the time when Nicholl finalists would be notified, and I knew that the 2007 final dink letters were going out to the semi-finalists who did not make the final round of 10, and I knew just as surely that my entry—QUEEN OF THE SKY— would be drawing its own little dink letter any day now. I knew this roughly as surely as I knew the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. I had been stunned to advance to the semi-final round and had spent the ensuing few weeks using that happy oversight on the part of the Nicholl folks to help flog my script to anyone in Hollywood who might seem willing to be impressed, and I knew that this added leverage was a ticking clock, and that midnight would soon chime and both I and my little pile of pages would soon revert to pumpkin status.

My point is simply this: I was not going to advance. I knew this. So Greg Beal calling me must surely be related to something else. Perhaps he wanted to say "hey, congrats on a good showing, pal," or "can you give me a lift from the Austin airport in a few weeks."]

"No, Greg, I'm not at all sure I do."

"Oh. Well, you know that little screenwriting contest I am involved with? You know how we have ten finalists that we announce around October 1 every year? Well, you're one of them."

There's a very uncharacteristic two or three second silence from my end of the line.

"Ya know, Greg, it's not very cool to call me and fuck around like this," I say, and he chuckles even though (again, deadly serious) i was not joking. The idea that he was calling to tell me this—and that it might be the truth—was at that moment totally inconceivable.

"No, I am very happy to inform you that you and your script are one of this year's finalist for the Nicholl Fellowships."

There then followed another pause, and then Greg chuckled. "And I have to tell you that it amuses me to no end to finally hear you incapable of making any sort of smart-assed comment."

Uh... yeah. Well... OK...

Again he chuckles.

Now, by this time The Wife is wondering where the hell I've disappeared to, as she was expecting and needing my help in getting kids out of the tubs and into clothes and headed towards bed. "What are you doing down there?" she yells from the daughter's bedroom.

"Uh... hang on... it's... uh.. hang on..."

The woman clearly knows me well enough to notice something weird in my voice, so she trots down the stairs and peeks around the corner and mouths "is everything OK?"

I wave off her concern, mouth "yeah, I'm fine" and give her an OK sign with my fingers, but as I listen to Greg try and give me some details, all I hear is a sound like rushing water barely covering the sound of my own heart thumping somewhere in the back of my throat.

I think I voice some sort of acknowledgment and understanding of whatever Greg is trying to tell me about the timing of announcements and events that will now flow from this news, and I recall him chuckling and saying "but don't worry—we've learned to repeat all of this in an email as these phone calls tend to be remembered as a weird blurry rush..."

"Uh... yeah... OK. Uh-huh..."

He laughed again. He seemed to be finding this call very amusing.

"Oh, and by the way, I need you to not say anything about this to anyone until all the letters have been sent out and we've made the formal announcement on Monday."

"Monday? I have to sit here and not tell anyone about this til MONDAY!?! You... bastard!"

"Well, you can tell your wife—I heard her yelling to you when we started this call. But don't post anything about it online or tell any of your online writing friends. We want all the new to come from our office on this announcement."

K, fine Whatever.

We blabber for another minute or two—he even asks me a few odd questions relating to the story in my script— and then he again says "again, congratulations, Brett. very well done."

And then we hang up.

And I sit there looking at my screen and I see the bookmarks to a dozen discussion boards and chat rooms and mailing lists where this silly damned contest is one of the common points of discussion and interest, and I realize that it's a week until Christmas and some crazy uncle has just come in unannounced and left a really huge heavy gift for me under the tree, and all I can do for the next week is stare at it and go mad.

I'm sitting here, my hands under my legs (probably a subconscious effort to keep my fingers from "accidentally" typing some sort of news to someone somewhere) and I'm rocking like Rain Man and grinning and feeling my pulse race, and wondering "oh sweet Jesus what have I got myself into now...", and I can't say a word to anyone.

So, damn you, Greg Beal.

And I will hug you when I see you in Austin.
confused but not entirely displeased B