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?)


Julie O'Hora said...

You go, girl! (Btw, you left "scrotum-shriveling" out of the tags. You're welcome.)

marcoguarda said...

The first who sells something pays the others a bucket of -- beer!