22 March 2007

A Small Hollywood Adventure: Day 5 (LAX)

Wednesday I wake earlier than I’d expected, so I plod down to the “continental breakfast”, grab some coffee, yogurt, and a muffin, and come back to the room not long past sunrise to go over some more notes, add some thoughts and reflections to the commentary about the meetings and what was said and suggested, and also jot some outline notes for one of the projects I hope to bang out for the Paramount guy.

My flight isn’t scheduled to leave til mid-afternoon, but knowing the way LA traffic can snarl, I’m reluctant to try and schedule very much that last morning for fear that I’ll find myself screaming in a mad dash to get the rental car returned, shuttled to the airport, and checked in at LAX. I try to scare up a coffee date with a few different LA pals, but the half I can get in touch with are swamped at work, and the other half all seem MIA, out of town on personal or professional business.

Of course, that’s when I get in touch with Mr. Big Time Writer Pal via phone, and he groans when it becomes clear that I’ll not be able to hook up for a face to face on this trip—he now lives out in the hills an hour away from Hollywood, so a trek there would likely not be worth the time to get there given the crunch it would leave me in for the departure flight. We chat for ten or so minutes as he wants the details of the meetings, how it went, what good news if any I got. He seems happy enough and says “so, when do you come back?”

“Well, as soon as there’s undeniable reason, or this summer, whichever comes first.”

“Excellent. Well, let’s find a way to work it out when you come back.”


At that point I decide it’s too cool a day to spend it sitting in the hotel room, so I load up, check out, and head back through Hollywood to Larchmont Village, a cool little shopping district lined with cafes and coffeeshops. I throw the rental into a lot, find a window table at Peet’s Coffee, and set up to scribble notes and ideas.

I have to smile as I check my neighbors: to my right a middle-aged woman has a printed screenplay and is marking it up madly. To my left a guy on a cool white Powerbook G4 works on the summary to a new writing project. Through the window in front of me I can see over the shoulder of another guy in a silver MacBook Pro has Movie Magic open and is hammering away at a treatment for what I can clearly see titled “UNTITLED COLD FUSION PROJECT”.

LA, baybee.

I scribble ideas for the two Paramount projects, and I hear snippets of conversations from other tables: “… agent loved the new pages…” “ have a deadline tonight, so I need to get this treatment done…” “…yeah, her COLD CASE script aired last night—it was OK…”.

Suddenly I am reminded that all the whiny fuckers back home sitting at their keyboards lamenting the difficulty of getting something read or produced in H’wood really have little clue about the quantity and quality of the competition already on the ground locally out here. Ever third person you encounter seems either a writer or connected to one somehow, and everywhere there is the manic slightly desperate electric crackle of People Chasing The Dream.

On the one hand it’s humbling to consider just how many damned scripts and ideas are splashing against the cliffs of Island Hollywood, but on the other, I have to smile and take some comfort in the fact that I’m here, now, rolling thee same dice these guys are, and there’s nothing I’ve yet seen that makes me think I am any less likely or less qualified to claim some lucky break than is anyone else I encounter in this chase.

“Survival is victory. Let the other guy quit, and let tireless endurance be your strength…”

I spend a little more than an hour writing and watching, and then I decide to start wandering south toward LAX. Down to Wilshire. Over to La Cienega. Down past the 405 to drop off the rental, then a quick shuttle bus ride to LAX and the counter for Continental. Somehow I catch every light, and encounter none of the traffic I expect, and I wind up at LAX almost a full hour ahead of my anticipated ETA. When I check in I find my flight delayed by an hour, meaning I now have a three hour wait in the terminal.

I hear from one or two LA friends saying sayonara and wishing me well. It’s good to hear their voices, as these are friends whom I love dearly but get to see maybe twice a year—when I travel to LA or they come to Austin for the screenwriter’s conference. We stay in touch online via email and chat, but somehow that often only makes the dull ache of missing them that much worse: to know that they are that close, and that far.

When I try to explain these odd feelings to my wife or my other ‘real world” friends, I’m not sure they truly understand what I mean, what this feeling is. I have other friends that I seldom see—old college roommates, former neighbors, relatives—but those are not people who are fighting this same odd dragons. Writing and screenwriting most especially—is often a lonely business.

Freelancing locally is one thing, but at least there the clients and the peers are within sight and understanding. In screenwriting, if you’re not in LA, you’re largely out of mind for many purposes and events. Swinging through LA for 3 or 4 days is both exhilarating and depressing, as I am momentarily am riding the beast itself, part off the same whirlwind of possibility, but I also have to live with the understanding that at the end of these cool wild exciting days, there is that moment when I will wake up, and I will be back in the real world, where Hollywood—that oddly surreal world where everyone is playing that same game, where everyone totes around an Apple laptop and understands what it means to wrestle with second act difficulties, and every cafĂ© might put you next to Quentin Tarantino or some other movie make believe character.

Here it the entire world believes in the same impossible magic every hour of every day. Here the sky remains eternally blue, and every jasmine breeze hints of dreams half a hair's breadth from turning real.

”Continental flight 594 offering non-stop service to Houston now boarding at gate 23A...”

And once again the clock strikes midnight, and Cinderella heads for home.
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somewhere ‘tween Hollywood and H-town B

19 March 2007

A Small Hollywood Adventure: Day 4 (Hollywood, pt 2)

Tuesday… just another beautiful day in Hollywood.

I spent the morning making some calls, doing some writing, organizing some notes from the weekend so far, then at 11:30 I met a producer friend who’s now opened his own production company after working for a few years as an assistant with a respected indie producer. This guy is young, smart, eager, and (like pretty much everyone else in Hollywood) looking for financing.

That’s one of the aspects that seems lost when you frequent the discussion boards dedicated to screenwriting. There you’d believe that the problem in Hollywood is some tragic shortage of Good Ideas, when the truth is there are a tremendous number of great ideas circulating at any given moment in Hollywood. What’s in short supply is the capital—both financial and emotional—to get it made.

Again, I remain impressed that pretty much every Hollywood player I’ve yet encountered over the course of the last three or four years push to get into the game has been very smart and very eager to make good product, but the game is stacked in such a way that it’s ridiculously difficult to get any movie made, and it’s just short of impossible to get a good movie made. The odds of a great movie are so slim, so tight, that I’m pretty sure a mathematical proof could be offered to prove the feat downright impossible.

The producer and I talk about his bizarre yet not especially rare difficulties of independent producers: developing relationships which translate into forward progress, finding material worth committing to, securing adequate financing, etc. He goes on to give a few vague specific details about the way financing can seem to be there, then suddenly evaporate and disappear instantly. I ask about current projects he’s looking at, and he mentions a few that seem interesting, including one where he says he loves the story and the characters, but think the dialog and writing could use a little sprucing up—an injection of sharper more smart-alecky humor. I just smile, stare into the distance and rub my chin, thoughtfully.

“It’s a shame that there’s not some guy… maybe some pudgy pissy Texan whom you met in Austin… who might have some abilities in this specific area....”

He rubs his chin and stares into the same vague distance.

“Yeah... but where would I find such a guy....”

Seriousness then returns to the conversation like swallows to Capistrano. He mentions some cool possibilities lingering just around the potential bend, things which might start to fall into place as early as his next meeting. Some of these possibilities seem potentially interesting and useful for yours truly. We both try to act as though we're not excited by the possibilities, and we're both sure that we've done a better job than the other guy at the table.

He also repeats some very kind things about a script he read from me some months back, one which is (for budgetary reasons) far beyond his capabilities and usefulness for now. We talk about various market forces and trends which might be helping this script’s cause (eventually), as well as some possible ways to make the piece slightly more bankable and commercially viable.

He’s a great guy and has been a loyal and supportive fan of my writing since we met a year ago, and I can only hope and pray that he does find the financing he needs, as there seems clear potential for such a development to have trickle-down benefits for your intrepid narrator.

From there I scoot down to Wilshire to do lunch with another young producer friend. We talk about the strengths and weaknesses of movies we’ve seen recently, and we also talk about what sorts of projects seem most lacking in the market, and what sorts of things writers might best put their efforts into. This was not so much about pitching as it was developing a better rapport with this producer, a guy I deeply respect and admire.

I honestly have no idea if I have anything in my near-term inventory which might interest him, as he seems to like various genres of movies I’m less thrilled by, but “one cannot have too many friends,” especially in Hollywood, a business built almost entirely upon relationships. I know if I ever came up with an idea in his “sweet spot” that he’d be perfectly open to giving me a read, and I also know that this guy is a very sharp cookie whose career is very much on the upswing, so again, my task at this point is to maintain at least the appearance of competence and intelligence.

Shaddup.

Toodling back across Hollywood, I touch base with Deb, another good friend self-producing her own script, and she says “come on by!” So I swing back to the Valley and stop off at her house where she’s prepping to have auditions for the teenaged leads for her movie. She insists that I hang around, so I make a few calls while she starts the auditions, and I wind up watching the last few girls run their lines.

It’s an interesting process, as I am amazed at the odd take some of the girls have for what appears to be the obvious emotional core of the various scenes. Lines that seem like they should be loud and ragged come out as whispered and halting, while lines that might carry more impact if delivered slowly and haltingly come out rushed and blurry. I ain’t no actor, but I ain’t no doorknob, neither, so these performance choices are something interesting to behold.

Some of the girls have their moms with them, while others (the older ones trying to “play” young for the role) come unescorted. As a parent, I am half-amazed at how it works: young girls walking into some stranger’s house in a neighborhood in an semi-suburban LA neighborhood, eager to read lines from a script from a writer they’ve never heard of for a movie which as yet has no financing or studio support. It all sounds like the set-up for either a bad horror movie or an even worse porno movie.

After the last of the auditions, we decide to roll back into Hollywood and grab some dinner at Lucy’s, a really cool old-school Mexican restaurant on Melrose just across from the front gates of Paramount. Good pal Steve Barr had said he’d hook up with me late at night for a last chance beer, so he shows up around 9:30, moments before Quentin Tarantino wanders in (wearing a new GRINDHOUSE promo t-shirt in a lovely bit quaint self-promotion). Tarantino sits two tables away to our side (he ate a chicken taco and a coke, for those scoring at home…), while Steve and Deb and I talked about movies and screenwriting and the rules of zombies and the way some people never seem to wrap their minds about the level and sort of work required to actually make a serious go of screenwriting.

I've said it before: one of the toughest parts of trying to break in to Hollywood from afar is the near-overwhelming sense of isolation and loneliness to that quest. For those of us compelled to fight the fight from such far-flung foxholes as Houston anbd Atlanta and Orlando and London, it can be a painful thing to again confront the notion that there are worlds out there where almost everyone understands what you are chasing. In Hollywood I can go for a plate of enchiladas and a beer at some cool unpretentious mexican dive, and in walks Quentin fuckin Tarantino as we oh-so-casually talk about our meetings at Paramount and the latest from our lawyers and how our auditions went and who just took our latest reqrite for a read. Suddenly that Impossible Dream seems a lot less impossible, and a lot less dream like. here, it's possible, and it's real, and it's the thing that normal people talk about in normal conversation.

Back in the real world of hearth and home and kids and cats and lawn care and such, such talk is like spinning fairy tales to children: people are interested to the extent they can comprehend and are willing to suspend their naive ignorant disbelief, but for them Hollywood—as both a physical place and a euphemism for an actual working career—might as well be Never Never Land or some mystical fantasy kingdom from tale involving knights and dragons and wizards. I'm not sure my friends in LA fully understand just how painful it is to have only brief taunting tastes of this alternative reality where people actually do talk about the movies not solely as entertainment but as an actual vocation, where this quest seems less quaintly quixotic.

After too few hours of beer-fueled chatter, we say goodbye to Steve and head back to Deb’s house to retrieve my car. There I check e-mail and find that Mr. Bigtime Pro Writer Buddy finally deigned to respond to my emails about being in town, and at 10:30 that last evening in LA he’d finally emailed his cell number, but by the time I see this info it’s just after midnight and I can’t bring myself to actually call at that hour (call me old-fashioned, but I’d prefer my first call to the guy not to interrupt anything he’d prefer not be interrupted…), so I hug Deb and head back down the Hollywood Freeway to my cool little room, open the door and find that same jasmine-scented fragrance drifting through my open window.

”Where have ya been, baby?” the scent of Hollywood whispers. “I’ve missed you....”

Reluctant to collapse into bed just yet and let this sensation pass, I instead sit at the window and write for another two hours as the curtains sway on the cinnamon breeze....
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B

16 March 2007

A Small Hollywood Adventure: Day 2-3 (Hollywood)

SUNDAY

I manage three beautiful hours of inebriated slumber before I have to wake and leave. Remember, kids: at dawn I’m passed out in Austin, and my flight for LAX leaves from Houston sometime just past noon, so I shower, shave, pack up and leave as Ronson sleeps soundly and peacefully.

Bastard.

I’m not so much “hung over” as “still lit” from the night before, so the drive east to Houston is hazy and vague in my memory. I stop twice to wander around convenience stores and suck back truly awful coffee. Still, I make good time, suffer no accidents, and slide into the economy lot at Bush Intercontinental right on time. I check in, grab a Starbucks (thank god), then use the half hour of slack time to call The Wife and a few friends as I stand, bleary eyed yett giddy, waiting to board.

The flight seems over in an instant, as I sleep nearly the entire way. I turn on my phone as we sit on the tarmac, waiting to hook up with the jetway at LAX, and suddenly “ping ping ping” I have voicemails piling in. NINE voicemails, almost all from LA people wanting to know if I am in fact in town.

I grab my luggage which seems among the first pieces off the plane, hop onto the waiting shuttle idling outside the door, walk right up to the Enterprise rental counter and get upgraded to a mid-size at no extra charge. I crank the tunes, drop the shades and roll up La Cienega towards Hollywood.

Cuz I’m MONEY, baybee.

I call Joe Conway and we laugh that he’s in Austin, looking for anyone to talk to, while I’m in LA hooking up with producers and directors and starlets oh my. We agree that it must be some sort of FREAKY FRIDAY life-switching thing at work.

I’m talking to Warren “The Screenwriting Life” Leonard when I sail right past the almost hidden entrance to my hotel—it’s not entirely like the entrance to the Batcave on the old Adam West TV show. I check in, find my surprisingly nice and surprisingly large room, and take surprisingly nice nap for an hour before it’s time to get cleaned up for the first of my scheduled LA events: the “Martellopalooza” party for Big Bill Martell, who is celebrating the DVD release of his 19th and 20th features.

There I hook up with several of my LA writer pals—Martell, Steve Barr, Susan Bays, Danny Grossman, Tiny Joey Jingleheimer Schmidt Anderson and others I know from online chatter. I finally meet longtime e-pal Karen Sperling, who somehow has finagled her way into NYC gallery showing for her artwork and thus is far too talented for this room. Karen smiles, shakes my hand, and says "you seem... quieter than I expected based upon your online persona."

"That's because my online persona is not usually sleep-deprived, alcohol-saturated, and jet-lagged. I'll be up to speed in a beer or two."

We laugh through Bill’s abusive color commentary on his new features as they roll on the big screen TV at Lola’s Restaurant. I have a beer, eat some brie, have some more beer, then order a burger.

I wander around and chat with my pals, but dammit I somehow still wind up locked in conversation with a gorgeous young woman (this one blonde)—Elizabeth Hoffman, originally from Dallas but now an LA gal with a USC diploma and a minor acting credits to her name. She’s there cuz she’s been in a few of the SoCal film groups shorts, and cuz LA is a town where it never hurts to mix and mingle with people who might be going somewhere.

At one point I look up and notice one of my buddies (a female) smirking playfully at me as I make time with Miss Blonde Thang. I just shrug and smile. “So sue me—I love talking to gorgeous women. It’s fun.”

We hang out til 11 pm or so, but since it’s a SUNDAY night and some people have jobs to go to that next day (apparently they lack both the testicular fortitude and gritty frontier spirit to push on in the stark absence of rest and sleep…), we end the night at a reasonable hour, and I am in bed before midnight for the first time in weeks.

The curtains slow dance in a slight breeze, and that odd scent whispers to me as I fade away to the sounds of Hollywood.

-=-=-

MONDAY

I sleep in the next day, rising around 8:30 and feeling more than a little refreshed. I check messages, make some calls, and agree to meet pals Susan over at Larchmont Village for coffee and whatever. Again I love this hotel’s location, as I get to my Hollywood destination in under 15 minutes, grab a coffee and then sit outside to watch the weirdly pretty LA people wander past. 80% off the men here seem to cut their own hair (or, more likely, overpay badly for a cut they could duplicate at home), resorting to the all-over #1 clipper cut popularized by Jean-Luc Picard.

Suz and I have some fun convo, and then she has to get to work, so I call up pal Deb Cheshire and say “amuse me for an hour, OK?” She says “well, let me put on some clothes first,” and then I say something rude, and she responds with more rudeness, and this is how it goes, so I drive over to her place and we sit around talking movies and producers and laughing as I say awful things about nice people and nice things about awful people and then it’s time for me to leave.

I swing by the Batcave Motel, freshen up, grab a clean cool shirt, and ten til 3 I’m pulling through the front gates of Paramount and giggling: “I am driving through the gates of Paramount for a meeting.”

I’ve seen other studio and production complexes, but Paramount just seems like what a studio entrance is supposed to look like, likely because these same damned gates have been featured in movies from the silent era through the Bob Hope years and then through the Beverly Hillbillies and on to the present: somehow they just LOOK like the Hollywood you imagine.

I bebop around the small city off tan buildings and palm trees and brick-paved walkways and find my way back to the corner where MTV Films is sequestered and walk in to meet with Luke Ryan, VP of Production for MTV Films. I've had some email relations with Ryan since well before his move to MTV, still the hows and whys of this meeting still baffle me a bit, prompting me to ask “so explain—exactly why the hell ARE you seeing me?”

Ryan and I have a very cool and interesting hour long session, and we discuss the sorts of things he’s most interested in seeing in script form, and we toss back and forth some very ragged ideas about some of them, and given that he laughed when appropriate and never once faked a heart attack or threw a stapler at me or whistled for security, I come away with the impression that perhaps he didn’t totally hate and despise me, which is a nice thing. He says “you do have all my contact info, right?” and I say “likely, but if you have a card I’d be happier to have it than to find later that I need it.”

“I’ll be in touch,” I say. “Excellent,” he says. “I’m looking forward to it.”

As I stop at the security checkpoint on my way out, the young uniformed guy checks me off his day-pass list, and smiles. "Good meeting?"

"Yeah," I smile back. "Good meeting." Realistically, there was no chance that I was going to enter Paramount's gates a stranger and leave with a paying gig under my arm, so I managed to accomplish all I had a hope to accomplish: I met the guy, we connected, I made him laugh, we found some common ground, and we had a good anjoyable never-dragging hour-long discussion about what I might do to help him make more movies and more money, and at the end he made it clear that we could and would continue talking in the future. I remember one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, and I smile: in THE RIGHT STUFF, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn) sits on the launchpad and utters what I've heard called "The Test Pilot's Prayer:"

"Dear Lord, please don't let me fuck up."

Amen.

While toodling back through Hollywood I’m back to working the cellphone, and I manage to firm up another pair of meetings for Tuesday, so suddenly the trip is starting feel like an actual working trip rather than just some frivolous waste of money exercise in pretend.

Monday evening is a bit odd—everyone in LA whom I’d be interested in hanging out with is occupied elsewhere, and I can’t quite bring myself to just sitting in my room, so I go for a drive and wind up remembering how good a good rock station can be (Houston radio sucks, while LA gets the legendary KROQ 24/7, and life remains unfair).

I toy with the idea of going to see “300,” but I can’t find a theater where it’s showing at a time which makes sense, so I just drive around Hollywood and then over the hill on Mulholland and around Universal City and back up Cahuenga and I grab a burger from some little mom and pop place where I sit alone and marvel how some place can at once seem so familiar and welcoming yet at the same time so damned alien.

A mom comes in with her son dressed in a Cub Scout uniform, and I think of my own sons back home and suddenly feel a pang of homesickness, and I wonder what will happen if one day one of these odd trips to LA blows up into something real: an assignment, an option, a sale, a career. For now this place remains interesting and exciting and exotic, but if ever it became “home”—even if only temporarily—how would I survive that change? Would I even want to try? It's a strange dichotomy: while here, I feel at home, but this place is nothing like home, and I can’t really imagine what life for my family might be if we were compelled by finances and circumstance to relocate.

It’s the one aspect of the whole Hollywood Question which remains unpleasant and not at all fun to consider. The rest is pretty damned interesting and attractive.

Back in my hotel room I sit at the desk with the window open, and that weird jasmine scented breeze keeps teasing me, and once again that gorgeous woman touches with a smile and leaves me to wonder about all those things which might be....
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B

15 March 2007

A Small Hollywood Adventure: Day 1 (Austin)

PROLOGUE

There’s something fundamentally odd about Hollywood: a faint stink of impossibly perfect non-reality wherever you turn. The cars are all fancier, the sky is always clear, the temperature is always 70 degrees—surely somewhere there sits a giant thermostat where the Lord of Hollywood adjusts things to keep them ever always just-so.

The hills are hillier. The rock station kicks the living hell out of the station back home. Even the bums seem bummier, as if they are the best applicants at some sort of “Central Bum Casting” where the finest bums come to strut their stuff.

I found a pretty cool hotel—cheap, but still clean, new, safe, quiet, and impossibly well-situated. Three blocks south of me sits the El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, while a block the other way sits the Hollywood Bowl, and beyond that the easiest on-ramp in LA to the 101 Hollywood Freeway, giving easy access to Pasadena or the Valley.

The hotel is nothing the least bit fancy, yet even here there is a weirdly non-real bent to things: the courtyard and surrounding hillsides are covered by some sort of tree which fills the air with a bizarre scent that seems equal parts wisteria and cinnamon.

I’ve never smelled anything quite like it, yet I step out of my tras-fabo Kia rental sedan every day after meetings and again struck by this smell. That same happy chill/rush you get when a gorgeous woman “accidentally” brushes your am and looks back with a sly smile… that noticed-to-none-but-you wink that hints of great things available for the asking… my nose gets to experience every damned day.

What sort of town does this to a person?

-=-=-=-

SATURDAY

Saturday I awoke bright and early, packed my bags and drove west to Austin. At noon I hooked up with several film pals all at once: Jonathan King, a Kiwi filmmaker in Austin to host the US premiere of his new comedy-horror movie BLACK SHEEP, producer Keith Calder in town to oversee the TX premiere of his new teen thriller ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, and writer Ronson Page whom I’ve known for years through online association and mutual friends.

We walk the five or six blocks over to Stubb’s BBQ to eat some burnt cow, and we laugh at the odd way things bring people together these days. I know Jonathan only through a very cool little online “club” of writers and producers. We’ve swapped comments and thoughts to each other (and other folks) on this discussion list for years, and I remember when he started talking about this idea for a “killer sheep” horror movie script. Now, a few years later, it’s a gorgeous reality, with FX from the WETA group of LOTR and KING KONG fame.

Calder, meanwhile, is also part of that group, and I am taken back to that afternoon a year and a half ago when, while at the Austin Film Festival, Keith mentioned that he was filming a little movie in Bastrop, a small town maybe 30 miles east of Austin. Now, 18 months later, here we are as he hosts a premiere for the movie.

Ronson, meanwhile, is another member of that group, and we’ve swapped mail and comments and insults for almost three years now, since just after he was a Nichol fellowship finalist. Since then he’s had two kids, and optioned two scripts, and will likely have me back in Austin within the next year or two to see one of HIS damned movies.

Lunch is great—Keith shows off a teaser from an incredible-looking new CG animation project his company is working on, while Jonathan regales with tales of audiences in Europe responding to his odd little New Zealander movie. King has to scoot for an appoint, but the rest of us decide to go find a place to kick back and chat, so we wind up slouched in the deliciously well-broken in leather sofas of the Driskill Hotel Bar, the HQ for the Austin Film Festival every year.

I can hardly count (or remember—same difference) the hours or beers I’ve enjoyed there over the past few years, but this afternoon was a tiny bit odd as suddenly we were the only people there. Instead of wall to wall bustle of writers and networking, it’s just our small group of 5 or 6 folks. We have a few beers, meet Brian Udovich, a co-producer on Mandy Lane, and then discover that Keith managed to score us comp passes to his movie.

With 90 minutes til showtime, Ronson and I decide it’s a good time to go find the EconoDump fleabag we’re sharing later that night, so off we go, and then we’re right back into Austin to start the night’s fun. We head to the Alamo Drafthouse South, one of several Alamo Drafthouse theaters, an idea so damned cool that it boggles the mind that they haven’t copied it everywhere. Instead of a normal theater, every alternate row of seats has been removed and replaced with a small bar-like table stocked with menus and notepads. You sit, order some grub and choose from the 30 or 40 beers they offer, and then sit back to watch a movie as you are served quietly during the flick. It’s a painfully civilized way to enjoy a movie.

Hanging around out front at the Alamo I see Joe Conway, a stupidly nice and stupidly talented writer from Austin now living and working in LA, except now he’s in Austin for the SXSW film festival (the reason for all this action). Joe and I had talked earlier in the week when I knew I was coming to LA, and we were bummed to find he’d be out of town. Til we figured out that he’d be in Austin. As would I. So here we are, and in another of those oddly incestuous arrangements which suggest that the world is in fact only 100 actual individual people, Joe has told me that he’s been trying to meet up with this producer named “Keith Calder.” I laugh and say “I’m there with Keith— I’ll hook you up, man.”

Joe laughs.

“I’M the produced writer, I’M the guy living and working in LA, yet YOU are the guy who seems to know everybody. How does that work?”

“I’m just a people person, man.”


Oh, how we laughed.

As it works out I am unable to hook Joe with Keith, as Keith is running around getting his movie set up to run, while the house is packed and Joe can’t get a seat for himself and his buddy, we say “we’ll hook up later.”

Of course, after MANDY LANE (very cool looking movie--- very impressive piece of producing) I am (ahem)) “marooned” at a cast and crew party where I spend an hour having a very fun conversation with Marissa, the painfully cute 19 year old girlfriend of one of the MANDY LANE stars (Michael Welch — "Emmet"). Marissa, as it turns out, is an assistant to an agent at Innovative Artists, and she also happens top be a dead ringer for the dark haired Meg Ryan from JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO, so of course I will listen to anything she has to say so long as she keeps smiling and keeps twinkling those eyes.

[Sigh.]

Lord, but I do love women.

[NOTE—I am extremely and happily married, and I have zero interest in any sort of dalliance or extra-curricular nonsense with any of these women, and I’m 99.999% sure that The Wife knows and understands this, so please don’t think that when I talk of other women in glowing terms that I am suggesting any desire or interest to engage in any sort of stupid behavior. I just like women. A lot.]

After this part we wander Stub’s again, this time late at night when they become a rocking music venue, and we laugh that Snow Patrol, of #1 hit “Chasing Cars” fame, is jamming out their signature hit. Ahhh… Austin.

We wander with Keith over to The Whiskey Bar on 4th Street where King’s distribution company is hosting a pre-show party. Posters for Black Sheep cover the walls, and that weird mish-mash of beautiful LA folks rubs elbows with the more raucous Austin contingent (it’s not just a simple clichĂ©—Texas people really are louder and brasher than their snotty West Coast counterparts.)

We’re talking about the movie when I look back and notice actor Paul Rudd standing behind me, admiring a poster. Rudd is wearing a well-aged BOSTON concert T, so I ask “I have to know—is that just odd synchronicity or do you have enough snap to wear that for Brad?” (note--- Boston front man Brad Delp had just passed away the day before). He smiles and shakes my hand. "It's totally for Brad, man.” There I am chatting with Paul Rudd for a few minutes about the great voice of Brad Delp, about how many times we’ve both worn through the grooves on that first Boston release, and when Rudd asks “are you here for the movie?” I say “Well, sorta—I’m a writer pal of the director, so I’m here for him.”

Around then it’s time to head on over and get in line for BLACK SHEEP, but of course since we (Ronson and I) are on the director’s guest list, we get slipped in first. We manage to talk the doorman into letting our pal Keith Calder slide in with us, cuz yeah we have that kind of heavy-swinging pull in the movie biz.

Ahem.

BLACK SHEEP totally kicks ass—the packed theater (downtown Alamo Drafthouse) is raucous and laughing and cheering and screaming, and Calder even picks up the tab for my beer and fish tacos cuz he’s just that kind of guy. Jonathan charms the room with a quick Q&A session afterwards, we all cheer again, and then we wander back across Austin to find the garage where my car is stashed.

Along the way, we cross paths with Jonathan one last time, and he walks with us and seems genuinely high at the reception he’s getting. It’s a joyous thing to see someone fully in their moment of bliss, when their dreams are actually totally really coming true, and I come away from the odd little three block chat more hungry than ever to have that kind of feeling for myself: to be able to look on a screen and see that some odd imaginings of my own invention have been made real into movie light and shadow by a team of magicians and an army of financially connected strangers.

Ronson and I get in, laugh again at the coolness of it all, and then fade to sleep somewhere around 4 AM, giggling about obscenely oversized bowel movements and the legal ramifications of such in a Hyatt brand hotel. My alarm is set to wake me in three hours.

It’s been one day, and I feel like it’s been a week already.

Hang on, my pretties—it looks like another bumpy ride....
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B

10 March 2007

gone to LA, man

I had a much longer and cooler post about this, but the inter-web monsters reared up and ate it, so this will have to do.

I leave in about a half hour for Austin (SXSW Film Fest, where I have two different pals both premiering features), then back tomorrow morning, fly to LA, part in Hollywood Sunday night (MARTELLAPALOOZA!), then do a few days worth of meetings, including a Monday afternoon stop at Paramount.

I just love saying that.

If anything blogworthy comes out of this long strange trip, you can probably count on seeing details here after I get back late late Wednesday.

Til then, enjoy this holiday from the obligatioon to hang on my every word. The Big Bad B will return soon enough, twice as loud and geeked to the gills, no doubt.

Sayonara, suckers....
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B

02 March 2007

March 2, 1836



The Unanimous
Declaration of Independence
made by the
Delegates of the People of Texas
in General Convention
at the town of Washington
on the 2nd day of March 1836.


"When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.

When the Federal Republican Constitution of their country, which they have sworn to support, no longer has a substantial existence, and the whole nature of their government has been forcibly changed, without their consent, from a restricted federative republic, composed of sovereign states, to a consolidated central military despotism, in which every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the everready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants.

...

The necessity of self-preservation, therefore, now decrees our eternal political separation.

We, therefore, the delegates with plenary powers of the people of Texas, in solemn convention assembled, appealing to a candid world for the necessities of our condition, do hereby resolve and declare, that our political connection with the Mexican nation has forever ended, and that the people of Texas do now constitute a free, Sovereign, and independent republic, and are fully invested with all the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations; and, conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations."







Happy Texas Independence Day, y'all.
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damned proud B