29 November 2007

Nicholl Week -- Day the Second (part 2)

Wandering back to the Renaissance, I get a call from The Wife back home in Texas. She is giggling about a call I just received on the home number, a call from some LA-based... “producer.” I won’t go into any great detail about this guy as I am sure he is a warm and wonderful human being who treats animals nicely and helps little old ladies do their shopping, but he struck The Wife as such a smarmy Hollywood cliché that she claims she had to physically bite her knuckle and hold the phone away from her mouth to not be heard giggling and guffawing as this guy gave his pitch to get his hands on my script. She says she gave him my cell number and that he’d likely be calling, so stand ready. She gives me his callback number and I decide to cut him off at the pass, responding first.

I check the time and see that it’s now straight up 1 pm, the thick part of the Hollywood working lunch hour, so I figure this is as good a time as any to call and hope for a machine to pick up rather than a human.

”Hi, this is Brett. I just got word you were trying to get in touch with me regarding my script for QUEEN OF THE SKY. I’m flattered by the interest, and I know my agent would love to talk to you at your convenience. His number is ...” blah blah blah.

I never hear back from this guy for the rest of the week, but in talking to the other Finalists it becomes quickly apparent that this guy is calling everyone, and just because we are ugly evil vindictive shallow people of poor character and shabby upbringing, his calls become something of a touchstone or running joke to the rest of us as we compare the latest contacts from him. (Curiously, I was unique among the group in never hearing back from the guy, and I suppose my use of the word “agent” was enough to spook him away...)

Across Hollywood Boulevard and through the oddball assortment of characters there: tourists, homeless folks, LA bimbos, guys dressed as The Hulk or Santa Clause for no clear reason.

I wander through the shopping arcade and past the fountain-and-reflecting pool area which has been turned into a cranberry bog for some sort of commercial filming. There are two guys dressed in waders and plaid shirts, just as in the Ocean Spray commercials, knee deep in the pool which is now covered by a floating layer of cranberries. A four man camera crew works to get just the proper shot and lighting.

At the Victoria’s Secret store, a cordon of bored security guys mark a wide perimeter as a small herd of over-tall over-blonde over-hawt over-slutty 20-year-old bimbettes prance around in lingerie and 5 inch heels (as women are so prone to do). I pause to watch for a few seconds, and I make eye contact with one of the bored security guards. I give him the hands up shrug to ask ”what the fuck, dude?” and he answers with the exhausted head shake and eye roll which says “who the fuck knows, bro. Who the fuck knows.”

”Welcome to Hollywood, luv,” I think to myself as I step into the elevator and head up.


A nap, a shower, and a writing session later I hook up down in The Worst Bar In The World with Sidney (King) and Dave (Mango), two fellow Finalists also staying at the Renaissance. King and Mango both are winners of Nicholl Fellowships, so on the one hand I’d like to go all Khmer Rouge on them and leave them dead in a ditch (I have a violent vengeful fantasy life), but on the other they are really great guys and fun to hang out with, so the Killing Fields thing never really happens. We have a drink and decide to hump it on foot to the Academy offices where we Finalists are meeting as a group for the first time in order to get to know each other and to meet Greg Beal and his staff and to get the lowdown on what is expected and anticipated to happen this week, plus to get fed and get handed our per diem money.

One of the (many) advantages I seem to have over many of the other Finalists is my familiarity with this whole Nicholl thing. I’ve been lucky enough to have very good friends as Finalists for several years now, so I’ve heard their stories and talked to them over beers and plied them with pentathol to get the skinny. SO I know, for example, that part of the first night’s fun is Greg Beal rather unceremoniously walking around the room and tossing out envelopes of cash to the finalists, with the amount inside roughly tied to your expected minimum expenses during the week. And, yes, I’m just cheap and white trash enough to look forward to that moment as much as if not more than the awards photo op or the awards dinner.

Cecelia and Amy, fellow Finalists and co-authors of Amelia Erheart and the Baloney Rainbow Highway, opt for a cab to the meeting, but Mango, King and I head off cross country on foot, down Hollywood Boulevard toward Vine Street.

And friends and neighbors, if you’ve never walked down Hollywood Boulevard at or after dusk, you may have strange visions in your head of what that stroll might be like, and I am here to tell you that your visions are likely wrong. Yes, there are block after block of randomly organized brass stars set into the pavement on the “Walk of Fame,” and yes there are lots of fancy expensive cars sliding past on the boulevard, but what there ain’t is a lack of much anything you couldn’t find in the run down part of any major urban area. In other words, there is nothing “Hollywood” about Hollywood: it’s a dirty dingy and very seedy part of town where street-folks seem to live wherever they decide to lay down. We step over a half dozen prone or lounging folks dressed in greasy layers of cast-off clothing pulled from dumpsters and trashcans, pass a dozen low-rent tattoo parlors and finance companies, plus of course this is still Los Angeles so of course we also pass the obligatory three Starbucks and two location shoots in progress.

We turn right down Vine and push on into territory even less glamorous and impressive. Eventually we reach the Academy offices, located in a building that looks like it was designed and built to withstand a siege by Vandals and Ostrogoths. From the sidewalk we can look up to a wide wall of glass lit from within: a eight-foot tall golden Oscar™ statue is clearly visible, as is a six-foot tall Greg Beal™, sipping a coke and waving down at us.

We head to the front door of the building and are met by a uniformed guard at a desk, who explains we cannot enter the building through this lobby entrance but must instead of around to the freight entrance in the rear parking lot. The guard then waves another couple through the door and greets them with a cordiality very much absent in his dealings with us Nicholl schlubs.

We pad around the corner, past the Circle K and past the 8 foot cyclone fence topped by concertina wire, and through the electric gate into the parking lot where we find a ramp to a rear door. We enter, are waved into a small security office where we sign our names, describe our purpose and are handed ID tags to hang around our necks. We then get an escort down a long gray concrete hallway which surely was purchased war surplus from a NORAD missile silo, and emerge into the same front-of-the-building lobby to which we were denied entrance three minutes previous. The same security guard who was all glum and business now trots over, smiling and cheerful, and calls an elevator for us, wishing us a good evening. “And congrats on the Nicholl -- that’s huge!”

The doors slide shut as Dave and Sidney and I trade confused looks.

In the second floor board room we finally meet the entire 2007 Nicholl class as a group. Dave and Sidney and I all end up at the far end of the table, grouped together. When we all grab a beer from a bucket of iced longnecks and notice that we three are the only people in the room imbibing thusly, we shrug and clink bottles in salute.

Greg, a truly cool guy who looks like that college prof who always seem slightly more concerned and exasperated about your grades that you are, gives the welcome, explains kinda sorta what’s going on, and then has us engage in a ritual that will be repeated enough times to become a tiresome cliché over the course of the next few days: ”Let’s go around the table and do some introductions. Give your name, where you’re from, and the title of your script.” Finally, someone gets tired of looking at and smelling the buffet of catered food arrayed on the table nearby, and we all leap to pile our plates. As we sit and relax and get to know one another a little better, Greg circles the table, casually tossing out envelopes scribbled with our names. None of us wants to seem overly interested, and I start to laugh as I realize nobody wants to be seen checking their envelope to see just how much cash we are getting.

As I’ve noted before, one of the truly surprising yet cool parts of this experience is the fact that I found myself genuinely enjoying the company and conversation with every one of the other finalists. I’ve been in groups of randomly assembled writers before where there are one or two or nine whom you just want to beat with a canoe paddle, but with this group I get none of that. Maybe it’s because there is a baseline level of competence and talent required just to be at this table, or maybe it’s because we’re all equally freaked by the situation and are thus eager to claim whatever sense of community and companionship we can in this strange time, or, hell, maybe it’s the open bar, free food, and envelopes of cash making everyone just a little more friendly and accommodating. All I know is that soon it’s past 9:30 PM and Greg is starting to get that antsy ”OK, PLEASE go home now” look and tone.

Except we’re all having too much fun, and none of us is quite ready to call it a night. So, standing around in the hallway, we quickly decide to meet at The Cat & Fiddle, a popular and convenient pub over on Sunset, halfway back to our hotel. Most all of the finalists show up. Some locals—Mike and Julian—have obligations elsewhere and say their goodbyes at the Academy building, but the rest of us pile into cars and head to the Cat. Andrew Pritzker hauls me and Dave to the pub, and we find a table on the vine-draped huge patio and set up shop. The other finalists soon gather with us, and we spend a few more hours sipping beer and talking about how we got here and how weird it is to look up and see that we did get here.

I’ve tried explaining it to The Wife before: the weird sense of need that we writers sometimes get to find others like us and share some of the terror and heartbreak of this largely solitary pursuit. We spend so many hours and days and weeks alone with a keyboard and a screen, that we start to get that Omega Man sense of being the last man on Earth, so when we find ourselves in the rare company of other writers—folks who understand exactly what this feeling is like—we tend to want to suck as much from that experience as is possible. We keep tossing wood on the fire, not wanting that little gathering to end, as we know it might well be a long time before we again have such opportunity to commiserate.

The local LA contingent of our crew—Lisa Gold, Nick Sherman, Andrew Shearer, John Marlow—all peel off well before the end of the night. Andrew P is an out of towner at the Renaissance, but he has LA friends he needs to meet, so he leaves as well. Eventually, Dave and Sidney and I again find ourselves at a table in the wee hours, empty beers everywhere and replacements on the way, and then the waitress shoos us into the streets sometime around 1:30 am., whereupon we look up and see the Renaissance looming just a few blocks over. Except we’re still not entirely ready to surrender to that little death known as sleep, so we find a late-night diner on Highland and slide into a booth to burn some more of our little envelopes of cash.

More frank and honest talk among strangers as we talk about the weird mix of allure and repulsion Hollywood presents to each of us. Screenwriting is a strange business in that there’s pretty much only one place where the business really happens, and so there’s an understood requirement that, to be a real part of the business, you have to put in at least some time in Hollywood, yet at the same time a great many people chasing that dream make no bones about the fact that they detest—loathe, abhor, become sickened by the thought of—the idea of having to live in or near Hollywood. This is not to suggest that Hollywood is pure evil, or that any who tolerate or even enjoy life there are somehow wrong or weird or confused. It’s just that life there is so very very different and alien, that for many the differences are sever and numerous enough to convince you that you’d just not be happy here long term.

But we all agree that we could stomach it long enough to get paid great heaping gobs of money.

We toast our 3 am milkshakes to that plan, over-tip egregiously cuz we’re all fat-cat high-rollers living on the Academy dime, and shuffle into the night, heading back toward our over-cool hotel home for the week.

(to be continued....)

25 November 2007


"And there was much rejoicing...."
Ultra-Maroon B

Nicholl Week -- Day the Second (part 1)

Monday was cool. I slept late. And by late I mean “past 8 AM.” I woke, showered, then worked some email and did some light writing on the laptop in the room -- nothing major, but it’s an old tradition for me that when I am on any sort of writing related road trip, by God I WILL do some sort of writing every day.

After 90 or so minutes of screwing around on a keyboard, it’s time to walk the four or five blocks to meet my agent, Brant Rose, for the first time in meatspace (real world, for you non-hip folks). Now, the fact that I have any agent remains a giggle-inducing fact for me, but that this agent is one whom I have long known about and respected and admired and had numerous peers lust after unsuccessfully... well, it is yet one more amazing point in all this Nicholl-related craziness.

Brant Rose Agency is located in Crossroads Of The World, this oddly LA-ish enclave of buildings from the 1930s that is described as America’s first try at a shopping mall. Over the decades the odd little village of cottages and storefronts and Bavarian chalets has been a center for retail, for songwriters, for rock music folks, for porn producers, and now seems to be mounting a baby renaissance for agents and managers and other small-shop movie folks.

I meet Sally, the cool-talking English assistant/receptionist whom I’ve spoken to a dozen times and somehow she doesn’t look exactly as I imagined, but to be honest I have no idea what I imagined. She escorts me down the hall to the small lounge area meeting room where I plop down on a sofa and stare up at a huge vintage poster for the 1968 Jane Fonda wacko classic, BARBARELLA.

As I sit and stare up at Jane’s spectacular boobs, I nod approvingly and think "Yup, I signed with the right agent.”

A moment or two later Toochis Morin, Brant’s partner in the firm, comes in and we meet for the first time. Now, Toochis and I have played and goofed on the phone enough that we have something like a playfully flirtatious proto-friendship going already, so we immediately drop into the same old very silly bantering that we’ve already come to expect. I piss and moan and grumble about the strike, and she does her best to buoy my playfully black mood, and at some point we start drifting toward actual serious client-rep talk as she explains "well, our job is to read your stuff and get you the right meetings based off what we read.”

I take that as a perfect moment to pull a completed spec from my bag and drop it on the small coffeetable separating us. "Well, with that happy thought in mind..."


Toochis looks at the script, looks at me. I smile, as I have a vague understanding of her confusion: when brant’s office first approached me, they of course requested my Nicholl finalists script, QUEEN OF THE SKY, and when they started getting more serious/curious about taking me on, we talked about some other scripts in my bag, and they seemed to spark to some ideas and actually requested some comedy scripts (which they say were a big part of their decision to bring me on as a client), but unbeknownst to them I held back one cool idea which was already a completed script.

Why? Oh, I dunno. Mostly because I’m a goofy wingnut who likes to surprise people and keep them off-balance. This “secret script” is a goofy campy low budget creature feature comedy I came up with first as a stupid joke and then realized was a great concept for a low budget movie idea, so I’ve been quietly banging away on it for the past few months as a sort of sideline to more serious stuff. The title is great, and the tagline is absolutely killer (and no I am not publicly divulging either right now, so deal with it, sucker...). My pkan was to walk in and surprise Brant and Toochis with a great affordable commercial genre comedy that could be converted into an “easy” (heh) sale.

Toochis blinks, looks at the script, picks it up, reads the title, smiles widely. I hit her with the tagline. She looks at me with shock, then starts to howl with laughter.

”Brant! Get in here!”

Brant wraps up a call and comes in quickly, waves a greeting and takes the script from Toochis.

”Read the title, then hit him with the tagline, Brett.”

He reads, I hit, he looks up and starts laughing loudly. They look at each other and start chattering and laughing. Sally comes running into see what the fuss is about. Brant hands her the script.

"Read the title.”

She reads it aloud and smiles.

Brant points at me as a signal. I again drop the painfully sophomoric tagline. Sally looks up like someone goosed her ass. She starts to scream in laughter.

”Is it any good?” Toochis asks. I explain that it is, and that it’s somewhere between TREMORS and PREDATOR in the goofy campy scale.

Things go well from there.

We spend the next two hours talking about this new thing, which then leads me to ask ”so what made you guys offer to rep me so quickly? Other folks from our Nicholl class are having meetings but I’ve not heard anyone being offered a deal. What the hell did I do differently? I’d love to know so that maybe I can try to keep doing it.”

”You came in with a clear entrepreneurial sense of drive and purpose,” Brant explains. ”Great ideas are pretty much a dime a dozen in this town, but it’s exciting when you run into someone who can execute them and who understands how to monetize and market them. You won us over in that first conversation. You get it.” he lifts the new spec as some sort of evidence to support that claim.

”Well, OK. Whatever. So what next?”

We talk about QUEEN OF THE SKY and immediately the discussion turns to casting the lead role of Lilya. Given the WGA strike, there’s no point in even talking about sending the material to studios or producers, but it might be possible and useful to try and attract the strong support of a solid young “name” actress: if we can get some top-drawer 20-something cutie to fall in love with the piece, that might give us enough added momentum to then (eventually) snag the attention and interest of a director or producer of commercial relevance.

We brainstorm ideas for casting the lead roles, and I start to get a strange feeling when it hits me that every name I mention gets scribbled into notes, and often Brant and Toochis swap a comment or two about the reps for these actresses. It hits me that they are talking about sending my pile of pages to actual, you know, actresses. the kind who are in movies.

”Uh... you guys are seriously talking about sending my stuff to these people?”

They both look at me like I farted.

”Uh, yeah, Brett. That’s kinda what we do.”

“Oh. Cool.”

Suddenly it hits me even harder: this is all becoming freaky real.

We then go on to talk about some of the other ideas and specs I’ve mentioned and shown them, and we agree that we can and should use this strike time to go over some of these to ensure that when the white flag again gets waved to resume racing, that we are all fully ready to hit with full force and effect. We talk about how the process will eventually (hopefully) play out, and what I need to stand ready to do when the call finally comes in, and I say ”just get me in the fuckin’ room so I can make money for us all.”

Brant gets a call and says he’ll be back. Toochis and I chatter on. We touch upon the new script again, and it turns out that she and I share some goofy favorite movies in our past. Eventually I toss up my ahnds and ask ”So what do I do next? Gimme a task. A project. A chore. Something.”

”Did I give you the ‘Twenty Ideas In A Week’ assignment yet?”

I glower and shake ‘no.’

”We like all our new clients to go home and give us twenty ideas for movies within one week. We like to see them flex their creativity muscles on a timetable.”

I pull a thumbdrive from around my neck, slide it across the table.

”The Word file is titled ‘SCRIPT IDEAS.’ I think it’s up to 42 entries right now, but it’s always in flux so I might be low or high by one or two.”

Toochis looks at the drive, then shoots me a smile.

”You know how to make your agents very very happy -- you know that?”

We giggle and play around for a few more minutes, then Sally comes in and ruins the fun by reminding all that we each have various other things going at 1 pm, so we say our goodbyes and continue the giggling nonsense until I finally wander off into the midday glare, wandering down flower-draped back alleys toward the gleaming tower of my hotel just a few blocks away.

(to be continued....)

24 November 2007

Nicholl Week 2007 -- Day the First

Rather than bore the 13 people out there who seem to read this damned fool blog by waxing loquacious for 5000 words about every moment of my Nicholl week, I’ll instead make a token futile stab at brevity.

First point: if you are an aspiring screenwriter and you have not entered the Nicholl before or were not planning on entering again this coming year, smack your silly self and get something entry-ready. I do not care what you have heard or read from the so-called “experts” on sites such as Zoetrope and Triggerstreet and elsewhere, the Nicholl is not some goofy artsy-fartsy poetry contest which only wants quiet little “inspiring youth overcomes adversity to triumph quietly” stories. Sure, FINDING FORRESTER and AKEELA AND THE BEE were Nicholl winners, but in this year’s crop of ten finalists there were big FX-heavy sci-fi adventures, period romances, dark scary horror stories, and even one impossible to produce period war movie romance epic lacking a solid mae lead and sporting a third act where the main character falls off the stage entirely.

In other words, the Nicholl is about good writing and not about anything so mundane as "filmable on a budget by an indie crew.”

I arrived Sunday and was immediately impressed by the accommodations. The Renaissance Hollywood Hotel is a gorgeous and slickly modern 20-story affair in the middle of downtown Hollywood, overlooking the Kodak Theater and within easy walking distance of pretty much every Hollywood landmark you can imagine. As part of the Nicholl finalist package, I was put up for a week in the place, and every time I came back into my room I had to smile as I looked out to the Pacific gleaming in the far distance and the lights of Hollywood glittering at my feet. I also laughed every time I had the valet bring around my rental, the fire engine red Chevy compact. Wedged between obsidian black Bentleys and chrome and white Hummers, my ride would not have looked more out of place if it had been covered in pink fur.

Sunday night was cool, as good pal Shawna Benson, swung by to drag me to dinner. We would up at some really yummy Greek place over in Larchmont, then wandered back to Down a few beers at the Pig&Whistle on Hollywood Blvd. Shawna is one of dozens of insanely cool LA pals I’ve somehow made via online farting around. She’s a talented writer in her own right, and will likely have ridiculous success of her own to report in the coming months (but I’ll leave that to her to report...). We swap silly chat messages online several nights a week, and we’ve played around for two years at the Austin Film Festival, so we’re familiar and comfortable, and it’s great to have a good buddy to pal around with on my first night in town.

After our beers, we wandered around the Renaissance, laughing at the accommodations I’d blundered into, when I get a cell message alerting me that some other finalists have hooked up at a restaurant in the adjoining shopping arcade, so we hike over to look for a trio of folks who look like Nicholl Finalists.

Having a few former Nicholl finalists and fellows in my extended peer group, I’d been advised by all those folks to try and get to know your fellow finalists as well as possible as early as possible, as this will provide you with some support group in LA for this weird week of meetings and attention, plus it will let you all share intelligence and information and thereby tip each other off to possible slimeballs and scammers trying to get their hooks into your scripts and careers. For that reason, I’d set up some online discussion between the twelve finalists for the 2007 fellowships, and we already had the beginnings of some relations when we hit town.

Still, there is always that moment of potential awkwardness when first meeting peers who are on some level competitors. Yeas, the final judging for the fellowships had already been done, and we all knew who the big winners were and who the big looozers would be, so it wasn;t as dog-eat-dog as it could have been, but still... there was an undeniable element of caution and reluctance to offer too much too soon whenever a new name was added to the mix. Well, except of course by me. My natural inclination when meeting people in such settings is to come on like a fire hose, soaking pretty much everything within earshot with contempt and sarcasm and abuse and scorn. Playfully, of course, but still in a way that often leaves newcomers either rattled or downright terrified.

Shawna chuckled as she watched this dynamic unfold yet again. We met Sidney King, Dave Mango, and Lisa Gold, and I immediately liked them all but also amused myself somewhat at their expense as I did that thing where I come on as something between Hunter Thompson and Foghorn Leghorn. We all decide that California Pizza Kitchen just does not have the requisite coolness to host the conversation at hand, so we adjourn back to the hotel bar of the Renaissance. Shawna elbows me as we wander back next door: “I think you’re scaring them.”


Shawna decides to bail at 11 as she has to work the next day, so we do our goodbye hugs in the circle driveway as Bimmers and Benzes swirl around us with nary a Chevy in sight.

The Renaissance hotel bar might be the worst hotel bar I’ve ever been in. I suppose I ought not be surprised, as it likely is not intended as a destination but rather as merely a gathering point for Beautiful People then leaving for Beautiful Places where they can drink Beautiful Drinks and have Beautiful Chatter. This place is tucked off to the side of the main entrance, open air and with the ambience of the central concourse of any major airport. There’s an impressive array of bottled liquor on the long back wall behind the bar, but I notice only two beers on tap: Budweiser and some boutique hefeweizen. Now, call me a bar snob, but in my experience, the quality of a bar can pretty much always be determined by the number of different beers on tap. (More is better). Two is the worst ever showing I’ve seen in a bar, and especially for one where money flows like water.

Still, I soldiered on, and drank hefeweizen and then bottled Bass as Lisa and Sidney and Dave and I chattered and got to know each other better. I noted to myself even at this first meeting that I was somewhat surprised and disappointed to enjoy their company so much. It would have been far more convenient to find someone to appoint scapegoat for the week, the object of my unspoken derision and disgust for me having NOT won the 30-grand in fellowship money. Instead, I find that I genuinely like these people and enjoy talking with them until the cute but useless barchick tells us they’ve closed for the evening. At 12:10 am.

Worst. Bar. Ever.

(to be continued...)
“The Biggest Loozer™” B

22 November 2007

17 November 2007

back to life... back to reality

Well, the song is over.

Nicholl Week 2007 is come and gone, and I am now back home from a six-day run of funkiness in Hollywood, Topanga, Venice and Beverly Hills.

I have a ton of stuff to process and digest and contextualize and chew upon like cud as I try to make sense of it all. I saw a lot of strange things, and met a lot of great people and a load of great new friends (as hard as I tried, I could never bring myself to dislike or hate or even envy the writers of the five fellowship-winning scripts), and again came away from a week in LA with a weirdly mixed bag of thoughts and feelings.

I made a remark to someone at dinner this week: the honor of the Nicholl finals is, ultimately, irrelevant. It does not guarantee anything, nor does it deliver much anything except for one open door. It falls to the writer to step through that door into a wild new room and then make something of whatever opportunities can be found on that other side.

I'm totally exhausted in every sense of the word, and I'd do it all again right now if they'd give me the chance.

More soon. backlog of bloggery to be dealt with as I can.
back under the S in TEXAS B

09 November 2007

Petition the AMPTP

Someone set up a1 cool little page over at Petition Online where you can sign up in support of the Writers Guild in their ongoing effort to get a fair and equitable deal with the AMPTP (the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers).


We, the undersigned, fully support the strike of
the Writers Guild of America, and agree with the
WGA's stated goals of obtaining just and fair
compensation regarding revenues generated
through "new media".


The Undersigned


I signed up (#13240!) and I encourage all fans of quality movies and TV to do the same. It's not likely to do much, but anything that we can do to demonstrate the existence for strong support for the writer's side in this strike has got to be a good thing.

08 November 2007


So i was again too late to bed, and was to much enjoying my too brief slumber when I'm wakened around 4:20 am by an annoying electronic "CHIRP" which seems to repeat every minute or so.

One of the smoke alarms apparently has a battery running down, so it's doing that damned annoying thing where it beeps and chirps to remind you that there is no reason for concern.

What a great idea.

So I plod around the kitchen and find the last of the replacement 9v batteries and install it and fall back into bed and roll over hoping to grab another 90 minutes of rest when...


A different smoke alarm chirps now. I wander through the house, trying to find which one it is, and this takes a while as the damned things only beep every minute or so when they are running down, and we have EIGHT smoke alarms (one in every bedroom, one at both ends of the upstairs hallway, one in the downstairs hallway), and it takes me six tries before I find the offending chirper, and given that we now have no more batteries I have to just disconnect that one and pull the dying battery to try and silence it, and as I am doing so I hear *CHIRP* again downstairs, so I dash down the stairs and trace this newest chirping harpie (harping chirpie?) and find that I'll need the stepladder to reach this one, so at 4:45 am I am dragging in the ladder from the garage top tear this fucking thing off the wall, and literally as I disconnect the wire I hear *CHIRP* from upstairs and I check every other alarm and find none of them making that *CHIRP* even though I keep HEARING that *CHIRP* sound, and around 5:05 am I find that the *CHIRP* is coming from that FIRST alarm which is disconnected and has the battery removed, and I am wondering what kind of capacitor is in there to carry a charge like that for a half hour of repeated *CHIRP* when I hear another *CHIRP* from downstairs and by now I am 37% mad and hurl myself down the stairs again and rush to check the previously removed alarm but find the *CHIRP* again comes from a DIFFERENT alarm -- the third to join in the fun so far -- and then ANOTHER one (upstairs again), and at this point I say FUCK IT (aloud) and turn on the coffeepot and decide my suck-assed day has now officially begun.

'Thanks, God."

06 November 2007

WGA STRIKE -- Why We Fight

I continue to have "civilian" friends ask me "so why are the writers on strike?"

Here ya go:

This is a hugely important issue which affects a uniquely American industry -- "the movies." For now, it can't be easily outsourced to India or Mexico or China, and if we as viewers and fans of good movies and TV want that to remain true, we have to make sure that it's possible for an American writer to make a survivable wage creating product for this industry.

05 November 2007


wga homepage

Effective 12:01 AM on Monday 5 November, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) stands in strike of the Association of Motion Picture and television producers (AMPTP).

The majority of folks reading this blog are part of the screenwriting world, so they understand well what's going on and why, but there are many other civilians" out there who probably wonder what the hell this is all about.

Bottom line: money.

Currently, when a movie is sold in DVD form, the writers earn residuals at the rate of .0362 percent. In other words, for every DVD sold, the writers—the people who wrote the words spoken and came up with that story and the characters and the descriptions of every moment on that screen—get approximately four cents.

Four cents. The company that puts the shrink-wrap on the clamshell case makes more than the writers who created every character, line, and visual in that movie.

But it gets better: what do the studios propose to pay from now on for internet residuals?


It's hard to sustain a career on those kinds of earnings.

So there is now a strike, which means that no professional writers are allowed to work on any new TV or film projects until a new collective bargaining agreement has been signed.

If you are a screenwriter (pro or aspiring), stay informed and abreast of what's going on out in Hollywood. These next few weeks will determine the landscape of your working life for the next twenty years.

if you are just a fan of TV and movies, please do some research and see what's going on and why. this is not a case of some overcompensated Hollywood writers whining about their second million dollars for some awful movie. This is about the thousands of creative folks whose ability to have a life and career is being threatened by CEOs now paying themselves bonuses of 50 and 80 million dollars even as they claim "there's not enough money to pay you guys, too!"

Go check the websites for the major networks and the major studios and see for yourself how big a push they are putting behind direct online distribution and sales of the creative products conceived by writers, and then be sure to note all the advertising on those sites and consider if that ad space was donated to the studios, and then consider the fact that there is zero production cost in making a million copies of an episode of LOST or FANTASTIC FOUR to be sold for download at 5 or 10 or 15 bucks a pop.

I want to write movies. More than anything else in my life, that's what I want to do.

I just don't think I should be expected to do this as an act of charity.

04 November 2007

tagged: a musical meme

So Shawna tagged me with a meme from Rhys, and I'm supposed to do something somehow relating to a song or something:
So here is your assignment for today, dear readers. Find a song that inspires you to write something, whether it gives you an idea for a script or just puts you into a better frame of mind. AND/OR (don't you love choices) peek into the lyrics and find a stanza that sums up the theme of whatever script you're working on. It's quite uncanny how the two circumstances go together.

If possible, post a video of the song to really get people into the mood. (Yep, I'm aware of the irony of using Internet clips during the pissing contest. I like irony as much as bitchiness.)

Then, send the assignment (by e-mail or posting to one of their blog entries) to 5 other writers to do.

This is an odd one for me, as I dunno that I even understand what's being requested. Am I to list some song which consistently motivates me to write? or one which somehow fits my current mood? Or one that somehow fits some specific project?

Actually, there's a song that's in high rotation in my iTunes list which fits all three requirements: it always makes me smile and start bouncing in a happy "let's do some shit" sort of mood, it fits my current mood (kamikaze-like determination), and it fits a specific project I have been fiddling with in the background (an 80s-ra college comedy).

So, with all that in mind, I give you Bon and Angus and all the boys, along with surely the greatest bagpipe line in hard rockin' history:

Yeah, call me childish, but there's just something too damned irrepressibly cool about that old AC/DC song, and it nicely sums up the chase for screenwriting gold:
"Ridin' down the highway
Goin' to a show
Stop in all the byways
Playin' rock 'n' roll
Gettin' robbed
Gettin' stoned
Gettin' beat up
Broken boned
Gettin' had
Gettin' took
I tell you folks
It's harder than it looks

It's a long way... to the top... if ya wanna rock and roll!"

Fuckin ay, man.

And now, I hereby oh-ficially tag

Emily, of Whiteboard Markers
Jamie, of Please Check Your Dignity at the Door
Ryan, of Holy Embers of Dreams
Pooks, of Planet Pooks
Adam, of One Slack Martian

01 November 2007


So, I am *not* a Nicholl Fellowship winner this year. It's official-- Greg Beal called and delivered the news with typical grace and diplomacy.

Somewhere out there are five (or maybe 6-- partners screw up the headcount) writers now bouncing off the walls at having received the coolest news they're likely going to get for a week or three.

Congrats to them all.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a cat to kick....