25 September 2007

Looks like it's going to be one of those weeks...

It's not that I like to complain (though I do like it), but why does this week already feel like one of those where (assuming I survive at all) I'll emerge on teh far side, look back, and just shake my head and be glad to be past that sucky run of days.

Last week was nice. I could stand another week like last week. Phone calls to managers and agents and producer types all went better than expected. QUEEN OF THE SKY (aka "LILYA") managed to get in to be read by a nice handful of people, any of whom could be the spark that lights the fuse to potentially send this rocket into the sky.

Projects pitched to possible allies and producers all were met with warm eager receptions.

Impossible schedule obligations and permutations were met head on and overcome with grace and aplomb.

My first turn at CubMaster went off smoothly and efficiently (and the kids all had a great time handling boas and milk snakes from "The Snake Man").

My son's football fourth grade football team won its game 41-0.

It was a good week.

But this is this week, and this week I get handed less enjoyable stuff to deal with. I'll not go into inane detail, but in the opast week we've had a dishwasher go out, a tire go bad, three toilets back up, a cat get locked in a closet and try to tunnel her way out through the carpet (and make it only so far as the slab), and now I find that my dog—an adopted pound puppy—requires reconstructive knee surgery costing an estimated three thousand dollars.

(The vet was not at all amused by my response: "Doc, the dog only cost me 30 bucks NEW!")

On the bright side, I'm still not yet dinked from the Nicholl, my kids still rock, my wife remains the most tolerant annd forgiving human not boasting sainthood, and beer remains good and good for you.

We'll take what blessings we can rationalize, sometimes.

18 September 2007

poetry is just clarity in textual form

She plays castanets—
She works without a net...
...I like her better when she walks away.

She turns me on like a pickup truck...
...I like her better when she walks away.

I like the sun shining through her dress...
...I like her better when she walks away.

I like her hair in a tangled mess...
...I like her better when she walks away...

(taken from "Castanets," written by Alejandro Escovedo, performed (and damned well, thank you) by Reckless Kelly on the CD Reckless Kelly Was Here)
dovetonsils B

14 September 2007

i did a weird thing

I wasn't going to take part, but when a goofy idea popped into my head this week, I decided I'd go ahead and crank out a short (8 pages) to send in as part of an oddball little contest/effort/thing being run by some other aspiring writers and producers and directors and such over in "The Artful Forums" of Craig Mazin's little online treefort.

It's an absolutely ridiculous thing, and plays more like an odd skit than a real movie, but hey -- fun is fun, and writing is writing, and if this damned thing gets picked and produced and burned onto a DVD, I'll at least be able to say "hey-- SOMEBODY out there likes me. Kinda. A little."


11 September 2007

by the mass, our hearts are in the trim

Things continue apace 'round the old hacienda. The Wife and I found four unclaimed minutes the other night and sat down together to compare and triple-check the schedules and day-planners which both steer and document the sordid slow-motion car wrecks known as our respective lives, and as we worked through the final week of October we both looked up with surprise and alarm.

"We seem to have nothing happening on Friday, October 26."

We blinked at each other, then again checked the schedules.

"That has to be a screw-up. We've must've forgotten something."

As it turns out, it's an actual hole in the schedule, an event so rare and bizarre these days that it hits us like a solar eclipse must have hit the earliest cavemen to look up to the sky with any awareness. This shit just does not happen in our lives: our daily schedule for the next run of months always looks like the flight log for O'Hare Airport.

Last night, for example, I had to get my daughter to her dance class from 4:30-5:30, The Wife woke (she worked the night shift that evening before) showered and met me at the dance class at 5 pm so that I could then get home in time to eat and feed the rest of the crew and then get to my 6 pm Leadership Meeting for Cub Scouts. The Wife brought the daughter home from dance, made sure eldest son was packed and ready to be picked up for Boy Scouts starting at 7 pm, and the The Wife left for work as the neighborhood teen babysitter chick came over to watch TV with my younger ones. I got home at 8:30, checked homework and bathing, got the younger crew in bed as son returned from Scouts, then I helped him with homework and got him into bed, then I dove into the 28 emails which had arrived since I had walked away from the computer that afternoon, plus tried to prep for a conference call from LA coming in at midnight local time. Took the call, scribbled notes, and then researched some producer leads and contacts til 1:30 am when it was time to call it a day.

That's what passes for a "slow Monday" 'round here these days. Most days we have more kid activities running in those evening hours. Example-- tonight I have three overlapping events (two different kids at two different locations for football practice while I am at a Little League board meeting, electing new officers).

Now, some people like to sit on their asses and judge from afar, saying "well, you need to learn to say 'no' sometime." I understand what they mean, but I also understand what I mean when I say fuck that in response. In my mind, laziness is as much a learned (and reinforced habit) as it is anything, and it becomes a lot easier to do the allegedly impossible at precisely the moment you fully and totally commit to just doing it.

By any rational measure, "screenwriting" as a career goal is an almost impossible task. The odds are long, the best opportunities few and often camouflaged, and the encouragement rare and fleeting. At any given moment one could do an objective analysis and legitimately decide that the entire pursuit is pointless and doomed. In fact, the entire situation is so hopeless that only the truly demented have the stomach to endure the trek.

Which is precisely why I launch myself into impossible duties and insane loads of activities. That screwy intensity — that relentless ferocious dedication to doing that glorious thing which everyone else was too damned frightened or lazy even to dream — is the only way I've found to making the impossible come true.


Here's to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They're not fond of rules,
And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them, disagree with them,
glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can't do
is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They push the human race forward.

And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world

are the ones who do.


Raising a child so that he grows into a good man is, in our modern world, a sadly quixotic endeavor if you remain content only to sit back listening to the naysayers and stick to the smooth well-marked trails. To actually teach those lessons which matter — lessons about honor and respect and duty and courage and dedication and charity and commitment and dignity and hope and love — requires a sustained level of total commitment to purpose which too often is demeaned and dismissed out of hand as "impossible."

Nothing is impossible until you refuse to try.
rah rah B

02 September 2007

AFF 2007: once more into the breach

Time is a funny thing.

For long stretches it can drag by so slowly that it sometimes even seems running backwards, and then you look up and realize that great honking gobs of the stuff have surged by without you paying the slightest heed.

September is upon us, dear friends, and that means I am suddenly in countdown mode for that annual pilgrimage to the Driskill Hotel for that annual pagan celebration of loquacious non-sobriety known as The Screenwriting Conference at The Austin Film Festival.

Any even casual readers of this blog likely understand the feelings I hold for this event: it is, in my non-humble and totally biased point of view, simply the finest networking event of its kind anywhere. Dozens of A-list screenwriters and producers and agents and managers (as well as a some number of well-dressed slimeballs and braying ass-hats) gather in Austin annually in October to open The Austin Film Festival, a week-long celebration of moviemaking and movie watching.

What makes this AFF event so special—so valuable to aspiring screenwriters—is that this is one of the very few such events which is focused specifically on the craft and business of screenwriting. There are plenty of film festivals—every even medium sized town seems to have one these days—but the AFF event caters to the specific and twisted interests of us folks who consider a day spent staring at arcanely formatted 12-point Courier "a good thing."

Panels where we get to listen as big-name pros offer advice and insight and encouragement and gentle remonstrance for lapses in taste, judgment, and dedication... the rare and thrilling experience of briefly being part of a community of peers rather than the most isolated and ill-understood outcast in the neighborhood... the opportunity to network and socialize with talented folks whom you recognize as names in the credits of your favorite movies... and (among my favorites) beer, beer, glorious wonderful heavenly beer.

Do not underestimate the importance of this last element. There are, as I said, any number of other festivals out there, but there is something about the vibe in Austin that helps create an environment where these reclusive writers not only willingly gather, but congregate and socialize for extended period. For four bizarre wonderful days, the Driskill Hotel Lounge becomes the communal living room for the oddest gathering, with non-name newbies sitting around and having a beer and a normal conversation with some guy who penned the #5 biggest box office success of all time. A housewife with three kids back in Biloxi laughing and talking "theme" with a twice-honored Oscar nominee. A struggling writer from small-town nowhere chatting intensely with the legendary writer behind at least three of his all-time favorite movies.

For the four days of the conference, "Hollywood" suddenly no longer seems some mystical distant Neverland existing only in dreams and fantasies. Instead, it's a real place of real people—people with names and voices and faces and senses of humor and personalities.

And phone numbers. And email addresses. And cellphone numbers.

When done well and properly, a trip to the AFF Conference can be every bit as rewarding in terms of networking and professional development as might be three months of time spent pounding the pavement in Hollywood. In fact, loads of aspiring writers from Hollywood come to Austin for this event as they understand that a "nobody" (and I use that term with absolute respect, as it self-applies) can never hope to get even 1/50th the access in Hollywood as they might rate in Austin. At the festival, everyone is relaxed and glad to help and listen and socialize, and suddenly almost all the normal walls and restrictions to access are taken down.

But even beyond that, The Austin Film Festival is a sort of reunion—a "gathering of the tribes," as I call it—as friends and peers gather for that four days a year where they can all be in one physical place, sharing one physical existence. I have friends—and I mean dear friends, ones I rate among my best—whom I see only during these magical four days. Whose total days of shared time together we can measure as multiples of four days represented by this annual event. We meet at the Driskill, we smile, we hug and shake hands and laugh at all that has transpired since the last time we so-gathered, and then we rush to squeeze a year's worth of friendship into those next 96 hours before it's time once again to take flight and migrate back to wherever our "Normal Lives" run their course and we are forced to try and make do with friendship by email and online wave at a distance.

Few like to talk about it, but working to screenwriting success is often a lonely and soul-crushing pursuit, as we spend our nights chasing a goal which none of our real life friends, neighbors, and peers can even believe, much less understand. If we told these people that we were secret agents or treasure hunters or wizards I doubt they'd be much more befuddled by our work. We spend the year as the slightly odd guy who acts overly excited when he says "oh, I finished a rewrite today!" We're the spouses who have to make do with a politely indulgent and distracted "that's nice dear" when we announce with pride that we "wrote three really good pages today!" We're the odd birds who clock the seasons by such odd calendar landmarks as "deadline for the Nicholl Fellowships submission" and "hiring season for TV" and "Oscar nominations."

But for those four days in Austin... for that span of days we are not unusual. We are not alone. We are neither dreamers nor eccentrics nor quaintly a-social recluses burdened by caffeine burn and bloodshot eyes and writer's cramp and hearts made tired and heavy by too many dreams delayed or denied by circumstance and geography.

Instead, we are briefly, simply, and wonderfully with our kind.

Make what preparations are right and proper, brothers and sisters, and stand ready to sound the advance.

The time grows near.
Austin-tacious B