29 January 2008

Deafened But Smiling

Elmer Bernstein
The Phoenix Symphony
Koss Pro 4 studio grade headphones
one volume knob rotated as far to the LOUD as God will allow
one big damned happy smile
soundtrackin' B

28 January 2008

Nicholl Week -- Day the Fifth

Thursday dawned bright and early as always in LA. The Wife and I slept in a bit (anything past 8 AM seems a royal luxury), then padded down the hallway to grab a breakfast from the concierge lounge where, per usual, we bumped into some of the other finalists. The day would be the first in this trip where I did not have wall to wall meetings and obligations, and we'd made casual arrangements to hook up with a friend and go visit Terry Rossio for lunch.

And yes, that is a shameless bit of name-dropping, but believe me when I explain that I drop Rossio's name as much for my own amused amazement as for anyone else's. The Wife had heard me refer to Terry numerous times over the course of previous years, and she'd enjoyed PIRATES and SHREK and other Rossio-penned works, but she'd never met him or been able to put any sort of face onto the odd and typically skewed tales I'd spun of the man, so she was curious to finally meet this guy.

Steve, one of my best pals in LA, agreed to come play chauffeur for the day, as he was on extended sabbatical as a script of his own worked its way through the development tubes at a major studio in LA. Steve met us out front and away we zoomed to Topanga Canyon.

Winding through the canyon, I couldn't help but notice how much the terrain and scenery reminded me of the Hill Country of Texas, my favorite place on Earth. Of course, where roadside signs in the Hill Country might advertise "BBQ" or "dozer work for hire," in Topanga they seemed more often about "fish tacos" and "custom pottery."

"California," I chuckle to myself.

Just before noon, we turn off the main drag in Topanga (the only drag in Topanga) and head up the winding trail that leads to Casa del Terry. As we get halfway up the slope, Steve and I point to a stucco-and-tile mission style home topping the hill before us. We pull around the front and park next to Terry's oddly run-down VW Eurovan.

Terry's place sits atop a breeze-swept hill, with panoramic views in three directions and a slight secondary peak just behind the main house. A smaller outbuilding lies slightly down the hillside, joined to the main house by a road and a wandering trail through the scrub brush, Stone paths and walls and low fences meander across the ten or so acres of the property, and the entire place just oozes a relaxed casual quietness which is by design as far removed from the noise and glitz and plastic-ness of Hollywood as can be easily imagined. It's exactly the sort of place Id dream of owning if I were told that I have incredible means and an absolute need to live within daily commute of Hollywood.

"OK, now this I like," The Wife announces.

We wander to the back door on the pergola-shaded porch, knock twice, and then Steve—himself a close and longtime friend of Terry's—checks the door and leads us in. Steve calls through the house.

Four or five seconds later, Terry plods around the corner: barefooted, in sweatpants, bleary-eyed, hair tousled, and looking for all the world as if our arrival wakened him from a very comfortable slumber. He rubs his eyes, stretches, and smiles.

"Oh, hi. Yeah... lunch...." He stretches harder and smiles. "Well, let me get dressed and give Rebecca the tour. Come on-- we can start with the closet..."

Steve and I chuckle, as this is vintage Terry. I have often described him as seeming eternally like a cat being disturbed from a nap in a shady spot on the floor: somehow there, but not tremendously impressed or concerned about being there.

Terry loves this house and property and it clearly shows as he leads us around, pointing out all his favorite views and favorite little nooks and crannies, talking about all the plans for the various buildings and property. It seems clear that this is not just a place to crash. This is home: his haven, his safe place in the world, and he intends to make it everything he has every dreamed of finding or having in such a place.

We check out some concrete work being done on a retaining wall near a building soon to become a fully equipped AV editing studio. We admire the new hilltop hot tub maybe from a giant wine cask. We admire the views, the breeze, the scents of lavender and sage.

Wandering back to the back porch, we find a delivery has been made: a large ("heavy") custom made ("extra heavy") wrought iron wine rack.

"Oh, great! It got here in time!" Terry says as he walks past without slowing. "Bring it in here, guys."

Steve and I look at each other and start giggling. "It's Terry's world, I grumble as we lift the damned iron monster and lug towards the door. "We're just workin' in it."

Terry directs us dumb laborers as we wrestle the hundred pound beast into a small recess in the wall adjacent to the kitchen. The fit is so tight I fear we'll need to grease the rack to squeeze it into place, but with one well-applied shove it slips in like a shell into a chamber. Terry seems pleased—apparently this rack has been a bit of an ongoing problem.

"OK, before we head to lunch, we have to do something," Terry explains. "I'm going to insist."

Turns out we have to play ping pong on his patio. Terry is a slightly competitive guy, so he loves this "friendly" chance to assert dominance over strangers. I and The Wife end up as a team, which is a joke in its own right, but made funnier by the fact that we might have a combined 15 years on us since the last time either of us picked up a ping pong paddle. We go down in short order, and I make a point of pointing out to Terry that we'd never think of showing up the host on his home table.

We head down the hill and meet at a local burger and sandwich kind of place -- the kind of place where you sit on nine-dollar plastic patio chairs and sweep away the dead leaves and dust from the outdoor tables, where there might well be as many people arriving by bike or Harley as by car. Terry's (cute/smart/fun/blonde/Harvard-degreed) girlfriend joins us for lunch, and we sit around and talk about movies and the strike and how weird a time is it is to be in Hollywood right now, even as a supposed Major Award Non-Winner.

After a relaxed lunch (where I think we all wound up swapping plates to nibble on whatever the others had left behind, be it chips or slaw or fries or free range jicama or whatever), I mumble that it might be good for us to start heading slowly back towards LA just to make sure we have no surprises or delays. After all, Thursday night is THE dinner, the main reason for coming to LA in the first place, when the Fellows pick up their certificates (and first installments of their cash awards!), and when I and the Wife get all gussied up in our finery.

It's well before 2 pm, the cocktail hour for the dinner starts at 6:30, and the dinner itself at 7:30, so we're in fine shape as we hug goodbye to Rossio and girlfriend.

We elect to head south out of Topanga, turning onto PCH near Malibu just a few minutes later. It's a gorgeous sunny day, the Pacific is annoyingly glorious, and The Wife suggests we pull over for a moment to check out the beach. We slide in to park behind a yellow Lambo convertible (welcome to Hollywood!), wander the seawall, and notice the Santa Monica boardwalk just up the coast, so decide to swing by and check that out since we have so much time.

The pier and accompanying human scenery is interesting, and we wander for a bit before deciding to walk down to Venice to grab a beer. Of course, by the time we make that mile hike, work down a brew, and then hike back to the car, it's time to head back, so we slide back onto the road, ease up to speed, round a bend, and... stop.

Dead stop. Before us stretches a line of taillights broken only by the curvature of the Earth.

We sit in silence for a moment or two before I finally chuckle. "So how bad of a problem do we rate this?"

says Steve flatly, "is bad."

What makes this bad is not only the fact that The Wife and I need to be back to the hotel in time to shower and change and then drive back across Hollywood, but Steve also has a major social engagement -- he's the president of local men's social order and they have a major induction event that same evening, an event where he will be required to swing by his home and strap on a tux and tails.

So, this is bad.

There is some horrendous traffic snarl between us and Hollywood, and all we can do for the next 2 hours is to sit and sweat. The start time for the cocktail comes, then slides into the rearview: 6:30... 6:50... 7:15... At a certain point all we can do is giggle and sigh, as complaining and whining won't do a damned bit of good.

At 7:35, we are a block away from our hotel, still mired in gridlock, so The Wife and I roll out at a red light and spring through traffic. We reach our hotel room at 7:40, sporting a day's worth of sweat, hat-head, and tourist-funk, so a shower is mandatory. Somehow we apparently fold time, as we both sprint out the front door of the hotel, fully dressed and well-gussied, some 17 minutes later. The Red Chevy POS stands waiting, we dive in, and I smile. "Hold on. We shall now violate several traffic laws."

I can tell you from personal experience that Santa Monica Boulevard is interesting at 74 MPH. I was frankly a bit surprised that we neither killed anyone nor drew the ire of the local constabularies, but God was, for once it seemed, on our side, and we slide into the breezeway of the Regent Beverly Wilshire "only" 40 minutes late.

We spring into the dining room, find everyone already seated and I note that the salad course is still in service, with entrees just starting to roll from the kitchen. I spot Joan, Greg's assistant in the Nicholl office, and she chokes, waves, and runs to me.

"THERE you are! Come on -- you're table is right over here."

We find our seats, apologize to the 8 or so people at our table, and I spin some quick and ridiculous retelling of our day as our salads and wine appear. I glance around the room and spot the other finalists. Lisa Gold shakes her head at me to say "you're an idiot!". Dave Mango's slight smile and shake of disbelief says much the same. I toast my wine glass to them and commence to socializing with my locals.

The rest of the evening goes off splendidly: apparently guests are seated at the tables of finalists based upon some scheme whereby your biggest fans sit elbow to elbow with you. At least, that's how I have to assume it works, or else there was some seriously weird juju at work. The gentleman seated to my right introduces himself and makes some small talk, then asks me if I was an entrant, and I say yes and he asks what my script was, and I tell him and he drops his mouth open and stares at me for a beat and then says "You're KIDDING me! THAT was yours? YOU wrote QUEEN OF THE SKY?"

For a moment I wonder if perhaps he intends to stab me with an unused shrimp fork—clearly there is something weird afoot.

He turns to his wife and grabs her by the arm: "Dear! Remember that script I was telling you about—the Russian pilot one? This young man wrote it!"

He then proceeds to spend the next 20 minutes of the dinner praising me to the heavens and explaining what a miraculous bit of fortune this is for him as he thinks that's his favorite script he's ever read in 8 years of reading for the Nicholls and my god it's amazing that I was able to generate such sympathy for a COMMUNIST flyer as he hates the goddamned Communists and I toast him to hating goddamned Communists and he absolutely will drink to that and he goes on and on and I look at The Wife and she's smiling and to hr left there's another slightly older couple who seems late in coming to understand that I actually wrote that script about the (goddamned) Communist flyer and then HE starts singing my praises and there's this very weird lovefest going where I am seated off to one side of the room, away from the winners of the evening, and yet I am being tongue bathed by total strangers who claim to have been deeply moved my some words I once scribbled on a page.

I gotta tell ya, people: if that feeling were available in pill form, I can see myself becoming seriously hooked on it, as it is nothing short of amazing. I glance around the room and check the other finalists, and in most cases I can see they are experiencing something of the same: strangers, industry players, people who know movies and writing and drama, all hosing us down with the sort of genuine respect and approval and validation that you never get on a regular basis. I start to get a little weirdly emotional as it finally fully starts to sink in where I am, what I've done, what this all means.

The new Fellows are introduced and step forward to receive their award certificates and the little white envelope that contains the great big check. Various industry pros—Susanna Grant, Dan Petry, etc.—introduce my friends with words and respect which would have seemed totally far-fetched a week or two previous. I see them stand at the podium and offer some fumbling words to try and convey what this means, what this feels like, and I see them take their turns posing in front of the huge Oscar statues as press photos are snapped. I smile and feel truly happy for and proud of my friends as they claim their honors. The Wife puts a hand on my knee and smiles. "You doing OK?"

I smile and shrug, and nudge my chin towards the podium where Amy and Cecilia are accepting their goodies. "I really wanted to win."

She leans over and smiles "I think you'll do OK."

Phil Alden Robinson, writer of Field of Dreams, one of my all-time favorite flicks, offers some brief fun comments as the keynote speaker, we have a few other very brief speakers, and before you know it dinner winds down and we all applaud a great evening done well. My new old goddamned Commie hating fan grabs my hand and says "Come on—I want to introduce you to someone."

I turn to try and say something to The Wife, but she just giggles and waves me away, saying "go do whatcha gotta do, man...". New old fan pulls me down front, and I wave at a few of my pal Fellows and they laugh that I again seem tangled in some goofy situation.

"Brett? I want you to meet Sid Ganis, President of the Academy."

Sid turns and smiles. "Hey, Brett. Glad to see you made it. Enjoy the evening?"

"Good to see you again, Sid. The evening was great. Thanks for all this, truly."

New old fan stares at me. "You know Sid?

I shrug. "We've met."

New old fan humphs, grabs my hand and drags me into the crowd again. He pulls me up to a large man with his back turned, and he taps on the gentleman's shoulder.

Dan Petry turns around, looks at new old fan, sees me, smiles. "Brett! What are you doing in here? I was hurrying to try and catch up to you in the bar! You gonna stick around and have a drink?"

"What do YOU think, Dan?"

Dan and I laugh, as new old fan again seems slack jawed. "Do you know EVERYBODY?" he asks.

"Not just yet."

New old fan and I wander back to the table, and we exchange business cards and I promise that I will keep him informed is this script manages to grab any success in the coming months and years. "Well, it was an real pleasure to meet you," he says. "I look forward to bragging that I met you way back when."

He leaves, and I catch The Wife giving me that look—the "don't even try making it seem like you weren't loving every minute of that" look. I shrug, give her a peck on the lips, and drag her back to the front to try and see some of my pals before they all get sucked into the night.

I manage to catch up to most of the other finalists, and I use the moment with each to forward Terry's invite to his little house party the following evening. Most seem thrilled by the possibility of meeting a writer like Rossio who is, for now, pretty much sitting on top of the moneymaking mountain for screenwriters. He is the impossible absurd fantasy that most of us are too scared to admit ever having: what if I not only sell a script, but sell several, and they become hits, and folks line up to haul truckloads of cash to my door to write yet more movies which become even bigger hits?

Things wind down and we start to ease into the Beverly Wilshire bar, but on the way I spot Phil Alden Robinson saying his goodbyes and heading to the door as well. I push over and grab some eye contact. "I just had to say 'god damn you, Phil Robinson'."

He looks at me with a moment of confusion.

"Damn you for the final four minutes of FIELD OF DREAMS, 'cuz it makes me blubber like an injured first grader to this day whenever it comes on. I can’t not watch it and I cant not cry when I do. So damn you."

Robinson laughs. "It does the same thing to me! What can I say? We got lucky and had a perfect execution to some of the best writing I've managed. It makes me cry and I wrote the goddamned thing!"

We shake hands and go our separate ways, and again I see The Wife smirking at me. "You’re actually very good at this. You now that, right?”

I smile. We head for the bar. After this day, there's drinkin' to be done.

- - -

In the crowded bar we wind up spending an hour or so hanging out with the Petry’s and most of the other finalists. I wind up with Dave Mango where we again debate the weirdness of this environment and whether or not this is really where and how we want to work. We both agree that we miss our kids, and that Hollyweird seems a truly terrifying place to try and raise kids, and we agree that neither of us would wish for that specific situation.

We polish off our various libations, shake what hands need shaking and make what hugs need making. I snap my fingers and the valet brings up the Red POS between a big mean Hammer-tricked Benz sedan and gorgeous Bentley drop top.

Yeah, I’m total fuckin’ money, baybee.

We head back to the fabo Renaissance, make the obligatory brief stop at the World’s Worst Hotel Bar, chuckle that last call comes down at 11:43, then polish off our drinks and retire to our rooms, wiped out by the day’s fun.

The Wife brushes her teeth as I stand and stare out at Hollywood, wondering if the view ever stops seeming surreal.

‘Cuz it damned sure hasn’t yet.

(to be continued...)
drifting between worlds B

23 January 2008

the new awesome post

So I spent all day working on this great new post.


Oh, I worked in some good ones for the new post.

Epic themes of love and loss and revenge and endurance and survival?

Bucket loads.

Bucket loads.

Wild analogies and weird metaphors and twisted looping turns of phrase that leave your tongue and mind in a textual Kama Sutra display?

Oh yeah, rolled those into the mix as well.

But then I got bored and decided to post this pointless update instead.

We're mired in a cold week of soul-sucking drizzle hereabouts, and all I can do is sit and stare at oily raindrops as they roll down the windows.

I have some fun new projects starting to get ramped up, and I likely could stand to adjust some progress bars and update some links, but instead I'll just sigh and grumble.

Man that was a great post I almost made. You kids woulda loved it.

18 January 2008

UPDATE: things seem trending suspiciously upwards

Greetings, pissants.

Been a weird week or so hereabouts, as all manner of odd project seems coming to a head one way or t'uther.

–– Had a good convo with the agents wherein they expressed their interest and support of a project I've been threatening to write since... oh. the final years of the Reagan administration. I had to laugh at their discussion, as it's not at all the sort of thing one would expect as a follow-up to a Nicholls-finalist drama, but then, I s'pose few expected that piece to become a finalist, so if we dismiss THAT as the truly odd event in the string then most anything else which follows then becomes slightly more sensible.

Sounds good, anyway.

I already have loads of old notes and ideas and a rough idea of the structure of this piece, but I'll need to sit down and get medieval on this thing if I hope to deliver pages this spring as is my hope and fervent desire.

-- am having entirely too much fun throwing ideas down for a truly warped project I am brainstorming with a longtime buddy. I'll not give away any details, but every time I sit and think on this one I suffer simultaneous pangs of "oh, that's just too damned childish to actually say, much less write down..." and "oh god that would be fun to see in a movie...". Overall, there are huge dollops of some classic movies thrown in there as homages, but this is also something I can;t recall having seen before. If it continues apace, I'll either be thrilled that we came up with it or ashamed that I wasted time upon it. Or maybe some combination of both.

-- the monster-advemture romp came out fairly much as I'd hope. What few trusted folks have read it have all come back with solid praise, and what comments and concerns they've voiced have all been 100% in line with what I expected, so the problems are as initially observed and well within my capabilities to be fixed without much major effort.

-- the agents also gave some more praise to the QUEEN OF THE SKY project and repeated their hopes to get some traction just as soon as this damned WGA-AMPTP thing goes away. The currently unfolding DGA accord seems potentially useful, but already in looking at the terms there it seems clear that any WGA deal will require a good deal more negotiation and compromise. Still, I hold out hope that I'll have reason and opportunity to return to LA sometime in the next few months.

-- a pair of other backburner ideas continue to intrigue me, so I'll keep them on low simmer and see if perhaps they suddenly bloom into Ideas Which Cannot Be Ignored.

Baseball sign-ups just started, karate now involves one of my kids, Cubs and Boy Scouts continue to call for time, and there's the usual smorgasbord of random assorted bullshit eating my time at every turn, so thing remain as hectic as ever round here.

But somehow it all feels slightly optimistic, which is alien and spooky.

11 January 2008

Like The Phone Call From A Long Lost Friend

My best buddy called me on the phone from his apartment three doors down and I could hear him gasping for air and laughing at the same time.

“Man, you gotta come see this.”


“Just... just come on over.”

I trotted to his place, barged in and saw him on his pizza-stained bachelor sofa, wiping tears from his eyes as he pointed at some strange image on his television: a 1960s-era Japanese monster movie was playing, and at the base of the screen were silhouetted a trio of heads, like we were in a movie theater behind these guys. As I listened in, I heard three horrendously smart-assed guys just shredding the movie, mocking and insulting the schlockfest in a manner disturbingly similar to the way I and best friend had done for years when we were bored and armed only with basic cable and a seemingly endless supply of cheap beer, halllmarks of our existence in those hazy bachelor days of the late 1980s.

And thus began my love for Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K for us hip kids).

Joel Hodgson and his robot pals on the Satellite of Love immediately became a Saturday night tradition for a few years after. Even when Joel was replaced by Mike we stayed true, and in time grew to love Mike just as much as Joel (I refuse to choose between the two, though I understand and respect that for many Mysties this is as divisive as Coke v Pepsi).

But like all good things, this too ended. Comedy Central aired the episodes for most of the late 90s, but by the turn of the century the show had slipped in the ratings and the show bounced around various timeslots and then right off the air. Sure, we had some old VHS tapes we watched and rewatched til the magneticnous (sorry to get all scientific on you kids) had been watched clean off the tapes.

And thus MST faded from my life except as a memory.

Until now.

Bouncing around the internet, I stumbled across a ref to a new project I’d not heard of:

When I clicked on the link, I found myself watching a grainy old horror movie as a crew of silhouetted characters just shredding the movie, mocking and insulting the schlockfest in a manner disturbingly familiar way.

And I smiled.

It turns out that most all of the original MST crew — Joel, Josh “Tom Servo” Weinstein”, Trace “Crow” Beaulieu, Mary Jo “Pearl” pehl, and even “TV’s Frank” Conniff — have reunited to pick up the MST cause and skewer an entire new crop of crappy movies. Thanks to the internet, instead of grainy worn out VHS taps, these new episodes will be streamed online, available for download, and available for direct purchase on DVD as standalone episodes.

And there most surely is joy in Mudville tonight.

05 January 2008

Love works best in a waltz-time song

One of my fave songs ever is "Catch The Wind" by Donovan, and one of my fave covers ever of this song is the one below, recorded live in Bora Bora by Shawn Colvin, accompanied by a breeze and a few seagulls.

When I listen to this song, I want to write the movie it ought to be a part of.

When sundown pales the sky,
I wanna hide a while, behind your smile,
And everywhere I'd look, your eyes I'd find.


Tom Cruise To The Rescue?

Rumors started going around on Friday afternoon about a huge bit of good news for writers: United Artists is poised sign a deal with the WGA, marking the first major studio to split from the pack at the AMPTP.

United Artists is now headed by one Tom Cruise, and given that this deal (if true) would be a major victory for the screenwriter's side in the WGA-AMPTP war, I'll refrain from making any Cruise jokes.

Meanwhile, Wired News is reporting that indie studio Lionsgate also appears close to inking a pact with the Guild.

Could this mark the beginning of a slew of companies breaking from the company line to start protecting their own interests? Could their greed be greater than their loyalty to their robber baron brethren? If so, then Gordon gekko is again proven right:

"Greed... is good. Greed works."

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.