24 November 2008

it happened again

So I ship off the revised totally polished campy monster-comedy to the agents, and I am working on another piece they want to see, and things are fine, and then I see a word that makes me stop, look up and choke with laughter over a really really stupid (yet brilliantly so) idea for yet another really stupid schlocky comedy monster script.

And now I can't NOT think about all these stupid scene ideas that keep popping into my brain.

Oh bother.
B (whose mind does in fact 24/7 remain a raging torrent flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives, so bite me)

16 November 2008

where did the writers go?

Anyone else notice how it seems as though a great many more blogs have dried up?

The term "blogosphere" used to refer to something relevant and interesting. Now it seems like an archaeological expression to describe a now-extinct group of tenuously connected writers and blogs. Where I used to be able to hop online and find 15 or 20 interesting screenwriting related blogs to look at, now I can count the number of actively updated such critters on the fingers of Albanian hand. IOW, maybe 6 or 7, tops.

Looking at Zoetrope (which takes an effort and a strong stomach...) I see there are now something like 50 scripts up for reads, where two years ago I remember people complaining when there for "just" 150 such options.

The Nicholl Fellowships seem to have peaked at 6400 or so entries three years back, but recent extries topped about around 5200 or so -- 20% drop in three years.

Now, surely this is not all bad news -- there was always a lot of chaff and crap mixed in with the decent writers, and losing some of the weedy undergrowth just gives more room and opportunity to those who remain (or survive) -- but it's a creepy feeling to go online and find so many sites with tumbleweeds where there used to be bustle. Emptiness where there once was excitement.

Who's still going strong out there? Give me some suggestions, people. It might be nice on occasion to see someone else still loin-girded and battle-dressed, ready willing and intent on marching triumphant through the gates at some point.

Cuz right now it's starting to feel really quiet and lonely.

13 November 2008

terrifying and brilliant

Anyone curious to get a better handle on the current and ongoing cataclysmic implosion of the major investment institutions in this (and other) countries would do well to spend 10 or 15 minutes reading The End, Michael Lewis's incredible insider's view of the spectacular rise and more spectacular collapse of the sub-prime lending industry.

Lewis, best known for the now-classic Wall Street exposé Liar's Poker, walks us through the past ten years of staggering naivete, arrogance, hubris, greed, indifference, and (ultimately) stupidity which has damaged the US economy to the tune of a half-trillion dollars.

And counting.

That’s when Eisman finally got it. Here he’d been making these side bets with Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank on the fate of the BBB tranche without fully understanding why those firms were so eager to make the bets. Now he saw. There weren’t enough Americans with shitty credit taking out loans to satisfy investors’ appetite for the end product. The firms used Eisman’s bet to synthesize more of them.

Here, then, was the difference between fantasy finance and fantasy football: When a fantasy player drafts Peyton Manning, he doesn’t create a second Peyton Manning to inflate the league’s stats. But when Eisman bought a credit-default swap, he enabled Deutsche Bank to create another bond identical in every respect but one to the original. The only difference was that there was no actual homebuyer or borrower. The only assets backing the bonds were the side bets Eisman and others made with firms like Goldman Sachs. Eisman, in effect, was paying to Goldman the interest on a subprime mortgage.

In fact, there was no mortgage at all. “They weren’t satisfied getting lots of unqualified borrowers to borrow money to buy a house they couldn’t afford,” Eisman says. “They were creating them out of whole cloth. One hundred times over! That’s why the losses are so much greater than the loans. But that’s when I realized they needed us to keep the machine running. I was like, This is allowed?”

-- Michael Lewis, on Portfolio.com

Amazing stuff.

(And props to Greber for flagging the article in the first place)

12 November 2008

old is the new new

Sometimes you stumble across a line of a song that just... fits.

Well, when you're sitting there
In your silk upholstered chair
Talking to some rich folks that you know
Well I hope you won't see me
In my ragged company
You know I could never be alone.
--"Dead Flowers," (The Rolling Stones)

Funny how things work out.

Everything which was reviled shall over time become revered.
obliquely oblique B

08 November 2008

odd thoughts upon waking

So I wake and trudge to the computer after the usual pit stop at the coffeemaker for a mug of liquid sanity.

I plop into my chair and onscreen I see what I left there last night: the final few pages of the goofy monster action-comedy which I will turn in to the agents this week. As I skim some lines, I chuckle at some of the gags, and in the quiet of the early morn before all the kids have crawled from their burrows and begun their daily routine of pot-clanging and whistle-blowing an odd little thought wanders past:

"I'm not bad at this."

Ordinarily I'd grab the lapels of such a thought, pull its shirt over its head to blind and restrain it and then pistol whip the vainglorious notion into a bloody crumpled heap in some back alley, but today... this morning... I find myself in a bizarrely tolerant mood. Instead of going all Sonny Corleone on this compliment, I sip my coffee, snork back the morning snot, and pretend to be mature and tolerant.

And I notice one of a few small Post-It notes I have arrayed around the margins of my monitor:

"Fuck it -- I'm good at this. This is fun."
-- Harvey Weinstein

I sigh a bit. Simple truths are hard to come by, and not always entirely welcomed with open arms.

05 November 2008


That's the percentage turnout of eligible voters I am seeing estimated for this 2008 election, a number which would mark the highest since Nixon-Humphrey in 1968.

So, on the one hand, "yay" -- we seem to have increased our participation tremendously.

On the other hand... 62.5%? Is that really all we can muster?

welcome to the new post

This is the new post.

It replaces the old post.

The new post is improved.

The new post is filled with good things and wonderfulness. All things are possible with the new post.

Because it is new.

And therefore better.

The new post exists in a plane above and beyond and all around and just a little bit below and to the left of all previous posts.

The new post gives Hope. And warmth. With no CFCs. With no muss, fuss, or significant threat of global thermonuclear annihilation.

All criticism of the new post is based upon fear. And lies. And non-traditional accounting methods.

The new post is both 25% peanuttier, and 100% peanut-free.

The new post creates a paradigm shift through breakthrough synergy. Magic elves might be involved in this revolutionary proprietary process. Or they might not.

The new post does not explain itself.

This is the new post.


04 November 2008

VOTE, you pathetic weasels

After all the insipid bellicose inane political dipshittery smeared 'cross the web these past few dozen months, you'd think there'd be no need to put foot to ass to remind folks to set aside the Cheezy Poofs and waddle down to the local fire station or elementary or library or wherever to help choose the next leader of the free world. But among the various points we'll see reported as part of Election 2008, we're sure to hear some depressing stat such as "51% of the eligible voters cast ballots this year," which leads me to want to deliver a friendly word of commentary to that other 49%:

"Suck it."

I'm sure there is a handful of folks for whom NOT voting is a legitimate course, some small percentage of voters whose circumstances have conspired to render them truly unable to do their civic duty and help the rest of us decide which charisma-challenged public servant will serve as the whipping boy for the 45-48% of folks who support the "wrong" candidate, but in this day and age, with Early Voting and Mail-In Voting, it seems beyond tragic to look up and see so many people still content to sit at home catching up on Tivo'd QVC highlights rather than thankfully embracing that little slice freedom bought for them by two and a half centuries of men and women standing up to secure and defend the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Even in this modern technoriffic age, money talks and bullshit walks, children, and today the time has come to let the currency of your vote do the talking which our Constitution defines and defends.

If you have voted or will vote today, then I lift a glass to you regardless of your politics or party: "one nation, indivisible."

And if you can't bring yourself to give even that tiny bit of service to your nation -- to your community, to your tribe, to your children and heirs trailing forward into perpetuity -- then to hell with you.

God Bless the United States of America.

01 November 2008

dance of the progbars

There are (apparently) two or possibly three human beings on this planet for whom the left margin progress bars of this site hold fascination and intrigue. A few times a year I will get an email from one or another of these fine (but CLEARLY entertainment starved) people, asking "So what's up? When are you gonna update those progbars!?!"

So, for those folks, as well as to publicly commit and obligate myself and thereby create a scrotum-shriveling amount of personal pressure to produce actual results, I offer this update:


QUEEN, aka "LILYA", is (in the technical sense) "out there" in Hollywood. It's been slipped to a few very specific managers and agents of a few very specific actresses, and was actually requested (!) by one actress I'm pretty sure 98% of your are familiar with (a request which prompted a rushed but small tweak to the script in order to better accommodate this actresses... "specifics," shall we say. No significant response from anyone, but neither have we drawn any "oh good GOD that was awful! Ick! IIICCCKKK!" Which, I guess, is a good thing.



It's done, trusted readers have given a thumbs up, and the title still totally kicks (I swear -- I'd think this could sell based upon the title and tagline alone, which is why I remain so protective and secretive), but the piece still is just not quite screaming in tune just yet, at least not for me. The reps slipped an early copy to a well-known prodco, and the comments back were overall extremely positive but included one odd story note which (IMO) doesn't even connect to the script, yet it seems enough to have stirred some paranoia loose in the minds of my reps, so they've held back sending it elsewhere until I get them a "new" draft.

Given the comatose business climate for newbs right now as well as the late date on the fiscal calendar, I'm in no huge rush. I've done numerous passes to improve and tighten the piece, and will likely do at least one more in the next few weeks in order to have this thing totally locked down and rocking hard for 2009 shopping.



Still do not have a title that makes me pound a tabletop and go "THAT'S IT!", and am still not 100% in love with the piece in its current form. This started as a co-written project for a specific cable TV development weasel, but the weasel disappeared, the co-writer and I drifted in different directions, and then when we negotiated a "divorce settlement" I took the piece even farther from where it had started. I still love a great many aspects and elements of this project, and it's sufficiently readable that it's been entered in a few contests -- Austin, Nicholl -- and actually fared decently in the latter, making the second round and then barely missing another advance, but in all honesty this needs at least one more serious pass before I can start to think of it as ready to show to serious players.



This is the one the agents seem interested in seeing next. The story is commercial, has not been done (well) in a long time but is the clear descendant of a legendary movie, and is far closer to my "sweet spot" than the Nicholl piece ("LILYA") which grabbed me some love in the first place. Rudely and vaguely semi-autobiographical, I currently have enough notes and ideas for at least two and a half movies of this sort, so the problem is picking the best ideas and then forging them into a single perfect blade.

The piece has been bugging the hell out of me all year, as i know it's wanted, but I've been wrestling with getting a firm and proper handle on the tone and control of the story: a pointless recollection of insane offenses and vulgarities might be amusing in a JACKASS context, but it's not a proper narrative. This past week however, I had not one but TWO rather huge breakthroughs: 1) I stumbled over a fun (and annoying!) technique to give me an extra channel in the mix (don;t ask-- I'm babbling), and 2) I found a ridiculously laughably insanely perfect title that suddenly gives the piece a real face and a real tone, even for people who know nothing BUT the title (and, as with other great titles, no I am not the hell sharing...).

I've reworked the opening scene, love what I am seeing, and have started playing with a few other scenes that were already in the can, so this one is probably the one that will (or should...) be getting the major attention and effort right now.



Of course, since I am a very bad boy, I will also be stealing time and steam for this project: a rather large and ambitious epic adventure of the sort not best worked on by un-produced nobodies. This is a period action-adventure thing spinning a fictional (and improbably) story based upon actual historical events and characters, but it has some theme and tone stuff going which gets my blood going like few projects have (aside from LILYA, which stirred a very similar emotional craving). I can see this one more clear in my mind than anything else I am thinking about writing, and I can visualize long sequences of scenes and shots and set-pieces, like I am remembering a movie I've already seen repeated times, so clearly there is something speaking to me here.

On the down side of the ledger, this would be another sprawling period piece requiring major talent support for it to ever take off, and it's tonally an odd balance right now -- somewhere in the no man's land between LAST OF THE MOHICANS and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN (lighter than the former, heavier than the latter). But oh... to perhaps see the opening and closing shots on a huge screen with Dolby Surround... glorious... GLORIOUS!


Project: "TWELVE DAYS"

Just got back a week or two ago from the Screenwriters Conference at the 2008 Austin Film Festival, and it was great as ever. Especially great, however, was the weirdly consistent note being sung by a host of disconnected producers and manager types as they all clamored first and loudest for (drumroll...) romantic comedies. The RomCom, for years now sort of an out of style beast, suddenly seems to be making one hell of a comeback in terms of popularity among producers, at least if the half dozen requests for such I received are any indication.

Apparently -- and this angle was repeated to me by at least 4 different Hollywood players -- the whole "gore-nography" craze (SAW, HOSTEL, etc.) seems to be playing itself out, or at least down, and what audiences (and therefore producers) now claim to long for is some nice light uplifting fare. Which is not totally surprising, I guess: if your home is slipping toward foreclosure and your 401 just lost 40% of its value and your son just lost his job as a mortgage securities broker and now lives with you as he works as a WalMart greeter, apparently you're more likely to enjoy a story where two people fall in love and live happily ever after than you are a story where some suburban dude is kidnapped, strapped to a table and dismembered by strangers using meat cleavers. Go figure.

So I am back on the RomCom chain gang, and trying to get this long-stagnant idea (which exists in truly awful first draft form) back to speed and headed toward some form of enjoyable readability.


And then of course there's the usual oddball assortment of other ideas and pipedreams which slow circle my mind like the Oort Cloud, but those are so remote and irrelevant for now that we'll just leave them for some other ranting update.

Bottom line: 2008 seems a washout in terms of useful selling and marketing, so it's best now to turn attention and effort to having as much firepower available to bring to bear on the start of the 2009 selling season (Mid-February). My hope -- my goal, my quest, my goddamned mission -- is to have a stack of undeniably cool and worthy scripts on the agent's desk by Valentines Day, so that I might then call and say "I am coming to town. Get me some meetings and then stand ready to ink some deals, as by God I'm taking scalps this year."


(I mean, what the hell? It beats sitting around wallowing in self pity over the holiday season, right?)