01 January 2008

2007 -- The Year That Was

Jeezmachrist. Are we done with ’07 already?

Things have been hectic ‘round these parts for years — since right around the time the second or maybe third kid appeared on the scene — but this year... this one was something out of a bad sci-fi movie, one where a time warp shoves everything into super-hyper-mega-overdrive and months last only two weeks each.

I used my own blog as a sort of journal to help me remember all that’s come down the pipe, and I was stunned to realize how quickly things have blown by this year.

I guess time flies when you’re hanging on for dear life.

Some highlights:


• I bought the wrong toilet paper

• I committed myself to completing three screenplays and to getting some traction on QUEEN OF THE SKY, the bio-drama about Soviet aviatrix Lilya Litvyak. For various reasons relating to more good fortune than I could have imagined relating to the second goal, I fell a tiny bit short on that first goal, But on the whole, I can live with that.


• As manager of my #2 son’s 9-year old Little League Baseball team (“the Brewers”) I drafted the best team I likely will ever see. I had one of the deepest pitching staffs in the league, more left-handed bats than righties, and three starter-grade catchers. We ended the season eliminated in the first round of the playoffs when our opponent’s #4 pitcher threw the game of his life, hurling three shutout innings despite having never logged a win all season long. You win some, you lose some.


• I made the first of three trips to Hollywood. This LA trip started with an overnighter to Austin (to catch both All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (produced by buddy Keith Calder) and Black Sheep (written and directed by buddy Jonathan King), which means I was of course obligated to imbibe a bit at pre-screening bar sessions and then at parties between the two screenings and then of course at the after party, so I arrived at my motel room well-blitzed at 3 am, which means I was still rattling badly when I woke at 7 am to make the drive back to Houston in time to catch a flight to LAX, and I had a beer en route there just to avoid coming off that wave, which means I hit Hollywood on the tail end of a 24-hour drunk, and went straight to a party and started drinking.

• As part of that LA trip, I had a great meeting at Paramount, hung with friends, did lunch dates with three different producers, and enjoyed myself tremendously, wondering when I’d have a chance to get back. Little did I know...


• lost (as in “the computer ate”) a very well detailed and almost complete outline to a new monster-comedy project I’d been scrambling to ready for contest season. The loss set be back a few weeks, and put me at serious risk for not having this new project ready for Nicholl deadline.

• started outlining seriously on a large epic historical piece with potential four-quadrant appeal. One of my best and most trusted pro peers laughed at me and called this project a fool’s errand, the sort of thing likely to suck a lot of time and energy on a lost cause, as in his professional and very knowledgeable opinion this particular form is fatally flawed from the outset. This advice of course only made me more eager and excited to work on the project.


• missed the Nicholl deadline for the new monster-com and had decided that I’d just not enter anything, but then, with literally one hour to spare before the postal deadline, I decided to toss in another copy of QUEEN OF THE SKY, the war drama that had been dinked in the first round in the two previous runs at Nicholl glory. ”There’s 30 bucks pissed down a hole...” I said to myself as I dropped the entry into the postal chute. And again, somewhere Dame Irony snickers....

• missed the Robert Earl Keen Texas Uprising Music Festival for the first time ever. Little league tournament action coupled with the dance recital of #1 son conspired to eat my Memorial Day weekend availability, so in the festival’s eighth year, I was a no-show for the first time ever, and yes I am still bummed.


• Grand Cayman, baybee. The inlaws finally made good on a decade-long threat to send the entire famn damily on a fancy vacation, so we wound up spending a week in a beachfront condo on the sands of Seven Mile Beach. Great weather, great food, great beach, great snorkeling, and a fantastic time, all on the in-laws dime as Grandma sat on the beach and smiled and laughed and soaked it up.

• returned from Cayman just in time to get seriously into summer tournament baseball with the team I helped co-found. Again, we had more talent than ever before, but the chemistry just wasn’t there, plus I think I missed too much practice time due to travel demands, so I was unable to help smooth out some weird interpersonal issues which contributed to that chemistry issue. We had fun, but not nearly so much fun as the year before, and we never performed as well as we’d expected to based upon the talent in the dugout. Again, you win some and you lose some.


• Received notice I’d advanced to the Quarterfinals of the 2007 Nicholl Fellowships competition.

Spent a week on Catalina Island for Boy Scout summer camp, then slid over to Hollywood on the return leg of the trip. As part of the trip I met with some potential partners in an internet project, and then led them in a meeting with a producer excited by the prospects for that project.


• Youth football (aka, “the great suck”) started. I thought I was being smart by refusing to be head coach, saying that I’d setp back and let someone else take the hit for a change. As the season progressed, however, I hated this decision more and more with each passing week, as I found myself (and my family) victimized by crappy management, poor planning, hideously inept communication, painfully immature interpersonal fiascos, and a near-comical series of juvenile temper tantrums and power grabs by the gentlemen who were tasked with running things. It was so bad that we seriously considered just dropping out of the league before the mid-point of the season, but I refused to start teaching my son that the proper response is to give up and run away. I’m still not sure if that was the right move.

• I got word that I was a Nicholl semifinalist

• the family and a few other families all went on our annual “Tubin’ down the Blanco” river trip, which turned out to be a nice low-key ending to one crazy hectic summer.


• decided to use the “soon to disappear” heat and notoriety of being an accidental Nicholl semifinalist to try and market QUEEN OF THE SKY my own self, and actually met with decent results, getting the script in to a few name actresses, as well as a cool management company.

• looked up and realized that it was already time again to start prepping for my annual pilgrimage to the Austin Film Festival, which always seems to be a million years away until suddenly it’s right on top of us all, back again far sooner than seems possible. One of the weird things about getting older is the way the years start to fly by.

• was totally impressed with the way my kids handled their obligations and responsibilities. Oldest son remains a totally squirrelly punk of a 13 year old, but he also is among the most dependable and decent kids his age I’ve ever met. #2 son blew me away with his maturity and leadership as the ONLY quarterback on his team (the coaching staff refused to help me as I tried to teach some other kids how to play the position, leaving my son as the only player to take any snaps at that position all year). #3 son, meanwhile, stunned me with his interest in and dedication to Cub Scouting, learning ALL his required promises and oaths and mottos and such in just two days time, and the volunteering to lead their first den meeting “cuz I know how to do all this stuff!” Daughter meanwhile, the youngest of the brood, started kindergarten and showed no timidity or reticence at all, hitting the ground running and loving every aspect of the daily school grind. Sometimes I guess the lessons and work actually work out as intended, but I’m quite content to chalk it all up to blind stupid luck.


• In probably the biggest and most unexpected twist of 2007, I was named a Finalist in the 2007 Nicholl competition. That still seems something of a werid dream rather than an actual memory, but it’s a happy dream and I’m glad to have dreamt it.

• Due mainly to that Nicholl news, this year’s Austin Film Festival experience was... well... surreal. I never did have a chance to blog about the AFF this year, and I dunno that I ever will have the time and energy now, but it was a completely freaky yet wonderful experience to be fielding literally hundreds of calls and emails from interested producers and prodcos and managers and agents and lawyers and such even as you are stumbling around ina huge screenwriting festival trying to “network” in order to possibly... make contact with the very producers and prodcos and managers and agents and lawyers who are contacting you.

• A very close second place to “Nicholl” in the Biggest Weirdest News Of The Year was when I found myself >offered representation the Brant Rose Agency as a direct result of the Nicholl finalist thing.

• found myself in the very odd position of granting an interview to my old hometown newspaper

• realized with some chagrin that the looming WGA strike would likely fuck me royally in my all-expense paid trip to LA for Nicholl’s Week (and was soon proven painfully right)


• the aforementioned WGA strike came to pass, and it was as bad as advertised

• got word that I was dinked in the Finals of the Nicholls. IOW, “no cash award.” Oh well.
Dinked in the finals

• spent a week building some insanely cool stage pieces for the 4th grade musical, “GO WEST”, including a locomotive, a steamboat, a covered wagon, a caboose, a waterwheel, a mountain range, a setting sun, and some clouds. I had a half dozen housewives content to take orders and do whatever I told them even though they initially could not figure out at all what my plans were, but when it all came together... well, even I was impressed, and I’m never impressed.

traveled to Hollywood for the big Nicholls Week Trip, and that turned out to be such a cool week that it’s ballooned into a still-running series of posts herebouts:
First Day
Second Day morning
Second Day afternoon
Third Day
Fourth Day
(more to come...)

• I battled with smoke detector batteries

• at #2 son’s final youth football game, I was threatened with an ass-kicking twice in the spane of about 12 minutes, the first time from a fellow coach on my team who was furiously angry that I substituted for his son in the closing minutes of a 21-point loss when his sonrefused to run any more plays and decided to instead stand there hands on his hips in the backfield and not run any play called. After the game,I went to congratulate the winning coach in the parking lot, and he started screaming at me claiming that I’d been talking about him behind his back. To this day neither I nor anyone I’ve spoken to has even the slightest clue what the hell he was talking about.

• In the annual A&M vs UT football game (aka, “the texas game”), the Aggies won, and (just as importantly), the ‘horns lost.


• got a full archive of (almost) all the scripts on this year’s Black List. Of those I’ve so far read, none has blown me away to the point that I find myself saying ”I can never compete with this sort of talent!” Instead, I find myself thinking that I can and will and already do do work at least this good, if not much better. Yeah, I have an ego. Bite me.

• despite the best efforts of my relatives and fellow humans, I again somehow managed to get into the Christmas Spirit

• saw Juno, the feature debut of screenwriter/blogger Diablo Cody, and loved it totally and truly. Wizard.

• did some work on my monster comedy, my historical epic, developed a cool family holiday movie idea, and started an outline on a potentially hilarious new idea co-thunk up with a longtime writer friend. Hopefully, all of these will be completed and eradable by the mid-point of 2008.

• I composed the blog entry you are now reading (a project which turned out to be a far bigger pain in the ass chore than it seemed to be when I started...)


On the whole, 2007 turned out to be one hellaciously wild and wooly ride for me. I made more headway in the screenwriting than I probably expected to, but then found that progress stopped as suddenly as if I’d hit a wall when the strike slammed the gate closed on ALL business.

I have some trivial heat in the biz.

I have some cool properties tidied up and ready to read, and a lot of cool material almost ready in the wings.

I have an agent (and I have the same stupid grin when saying that now as the first time back in October).

I have a stupidly supportive wife and kids, and a crew of friends I would die for.

And I have a Viking helmet, which is always cool.

Happy 2008, you weasels.

Now rise, sally forth, and kick ass.


Anonymous said...

An appalling number of things done. To even more to accomplish this year. ;-]

Stephen said...

great year -- congrats!


--when you "tossed in another copy of QUEEN" was it significantly different from any previous drafts you submitted?

--what might I pay, barter, trade or otherwise offer for a copy of that Blacklist archive??


aggiebrett said...

The draft of QUEEN which made the finals this year is, to the best of my knowledge, surely 98+% identical to the drafts entered the two previous years (which were dinked in the first round). I know I did not consciously sit and make changes in order to do better in the Nicholl-- both "repeat" entries were last minute moves made when other scripts were not ready come deadline day.

What does this prove? Not a lot. All contests (and all reads anywhere) are basically a crap shoot. If your pages land on the right desk, the stars align for you. If they land on the wrong desk, you never existed. I'm twisted enough to smile and use that as motivation-- one of the biggest parts of success seems "not giving up."

As for the other questions...