26 April 2008

shadows in the mist... shapes in the gloom

Or, in a happier vein, "some vague hint of progress and improvement."

The two pieces The Agents have are... out there. QUEEN OF THE SKY (aka "Lilya", aka "The Nicholl script") continues to quietly bounce (or perhaps "roll around" is a more accurate description) various prodcos and managers of actresses out there in the Wood of Holly. No, there's been no huge single bit of positive news, but neither have we heard from, say, Scarlett's people "don't do this to us again... ever. Seriously", and in a time where good news seems in such short supply, any non-kick to the face is a triple smiley face Red Letter Day! Dear diary....

Meanwhile and anywhooo... the OTHER spec -- the one with the asskickingly cool title (so asskicking cool, in fact, that you sad loathsome ingrates simply do not rate) is now moving through the dimly lit poorly carpeted hallways of trivial power. The Agents seem somewhat excited by a week of personal contacts lined up this weekend at FANGORIA Magazine's "Weekend of Horror" convention-o-rama thing. This second spec, which is about as far removed from Lilya as can be imagined (and creates an amusing if annoying conundrum for The Agents, as they are not entirely sure if they are better to pitch me as a drama writer who will slum in shlocky smartass campy fun horror, or a shlocky smartass writer who will slum in hoity-toity drama) seems a perfect fit for the smirking sort of that FANGORIA world. The Agents cackled madly when I plopped this spec onto their desk with a wet SPLAT (always a good sign), and they have maintained that it should be "an easy sell" (their words, and I intend to hold them to it under pain of ... well, pain), so "we shall see." And yes, this paragraph was almost as confusing to write as it now is to read. Yeesh.

Lordy -- weren't we just here? It hardly seems a full year ago that I was sighing with self-aware annoyance at the futility of funding some other writer's eventual winnings by entering my own piles of pages in various contests which come on now let's be honest there is NO way I'll do well in. After the weirdness of last year (either you know already, or you don't care, in either case why bother describing?), I'm torn between skipping contest entries entirely, but then that bugs me as a rather pompous and self-adoring thing to do ("OOoooooo... look at MEEEEE.... so fancypantsed that I don't NEEEEEEEEEED to enter contests like the rest of you sad little people....", so then I start thinking about entering if only to make my inner voice shut the hell up (never works), which of course THEN leads to the Other Inner Voice (the sometimes but seldom Reasonable One) pointing out "Uhh... but we don't really HAVE anything new to enter... all of the incomplete stuff is still incomplete, and what is completed didn't win LAST year...."

That Other Voice can be a real pain in the ass, sometimes, so the rest of us drag him out bag and get medieval on his ass with a few sacks of doorknobs. He don't sound so smart blubbering through shattered teeth, now do he? (spit)

But even after the fun of an Olde Schoole Beatdowne, that still leaves us with the matter of "Is We Is Or Is We Ain't A Contest-ing This Year?" I have that itchy feeling (shaddup) that I'll do The Usual and act like I am not going to enter and then cave like a great big caving thing at the last second and run in a panic to get something or things dropped into the mail slot with 8 minutes to go. WHAT that might wind up being... who knows.

Thanks to various Strikes and Labor Disputes and Total Lack Of Interest By The Industry, I've so far not yet made good on my hellish threat to return to Capistrano adjacent to shit all over the faux-marble monuments of the movie biz. IOW, I ain't been back to Cali since the last time. But I will go back, and I want to go back, but I want this next trip to finally be THE Trip: the one where I go out a nobody and come back still a nobody but a nobody with something like money or the imminent promise of such.

I'd been thinking about going back months ago in February, but the WGA-AMPTP love-in (ahem) scuttled that, and then the ensuing post-coital cuddling (ahem) scuttled March, and then my own self made Hell Of A Schedule had the entire month of April doing the Chain Gun Dance, and now May will be tossed into the crapper as I have wall-to-wall schedule obligations written in permanent ink, and then June seems sunk due to TV Staffing Season horking down all the time and energy of the reps, and early July is right out as I have all sorts of crap paid for, so now mid/late July looms as the most likely window of opportunity for D-Day. Lock your neighbors, warn the pets, etc etc etc.

I don't EVEN wanna talk about that. Shit.

Shit shit shit shit.

In an uncharacteristically welcome development, suddenly Progress Is Being Made on some of the new projects. The College Thing is matriculating down the field, with 29 pages in the book and more coming quickly. It's likely a lot of warm air and superfluous nonsense, but hey -- if you've read this far in this blog and don't known that's the way the cookie crumbles, then there's no helping you.

The Historical Epic Thing is still very much wedged in my mind, and despite tons of advice from Very Smart People who insist that this is a fool's errand, a cause most well and truly lost, I will finish this thing, will get it out there, and will see it made, one way or another. I love long sweeping moments of this tale far FAR too much to surrender this dream to the half-knowing paranoia of others.

The Christmas Thing simmers in the back-most reaches of my brain, and I have all sorts of very cool ideas I want to roll into the mix there, but that project is definitely #3 at best in the pecking order of Stuff To Write.

And then there's the Odd Bio-Pic Idea, suggested by The Agents as a great transitional or connecting piece between the serious bio-drama of LILYA and the not at all serious loopiness of the Monster Movie. I have a character who appeared to me in a slap-the-forehead V8 Moment of obviousness ("DUH!"), and he's not had any bio-pics of him, and he's insanely interesting and cinematic and the movie could be as cool as anything I've ever imagined... but first I have to write it, and that means first I have to figure it out, and that means first I have to clear the desk of enough space in which to work.

So I guess I'll go do the dishes and get started.

And so it goes.


22 April 2008

my calendar seems to be running fast...

It's late APRIL?

When the hell did this happen?

Criminy. It seems maybe two months ago that I was in Austin, giggling like a madman, and then next I was in LA, still giggling, then there's a vague memory of Christmas, some fuzzy recollection of a major strike, little league season started, and now it's suddenly 10 days til Nicholl deadline (more on that in a sec) and only six months til AFF '08.

And I feel like nothing substantial has happened on the writing front since... July?

This can't be good. And in point of fact I know for certain it's not even accurate -- I have been working on a variety of writing projects, and I was feeling happy about some progress as recently as just last week. But the sensation is real and accurate: these last 8 months or so have blown by at hurricane speed, and I'm suddenly starting to feel that not entirely useless itch of desperation -- the need to do something... accomplish something... claim something...

Like Auda Abu-Thai, "I must find something honorable..."

Tick tock, my pretties. Tick tock.


MEANWHILE... I am stunned to look up and realize that again the Nicholl deadline looms large and again I have no friggin clue how I might get the new thing done in time to be useful as an entry. There are those who claim to write scripts in 2 or 3 weeks, but (and I say this with all the respect I can feign halfheartedly) "I cannot fathom this." I accept that it is possible to put down enough words to fill pages such that the result looks (at a slight distance) like a script, but I cannot for the life of me accept that many people routinely sit down and crank out anything read-worthy in 14 or 21 days.

[And, please -- spare me any personal testimony of the time you claim you did this, as I really don't care and probably don;t believe you anyway.]

Part of me figures I'll just repeat my stunt from last year and defy the Nicholl folks to repeat THEIR errors and again bump me down the trail of advancement. If they dink me first round, I'll giggle and say 'TOLD ya so...!" " and feel vindicated in my amateurosity. If the cookie crumbles the other way, I'll (again) happily take whatever goodies they foolishly send me way.


21 April 2008

All Hail The Mighty State

April 21, 1836 -- The Battle of San Jacinto

(The way-cool watercolor rendition of "The de Zavala Flag" -- the first flag of the Republic of Texas -- is by the every talented Texas artist Don Breeden. Breeden lives in Brownsville, Texas and has a gorgeous website where he offers prints of his work. If I ever make a pile of money on writing, I'll spend some with Don.)

15 April 2008

missile annie

The current of hit parade of Things I Know I Need To Do But Can't Yet Really Get Tremendously Excited About Actually Doing:

-- redesign this blog to take better advantage of the damned three-column layout it took me three years to find in the first place

-- clean the office. If you loaded the contents of a cluttered home office into the back of a dump truck and then poured those contents through a window into a slightly smaller office, you might start to approximate my current work environment.

-- paint and install a set of bi-fold closet doors into my daughter's bedroom

-- haul away the huge slab doors removed from my daughters bedroom and now leaning against the wall in the dining room

-- write the THREE overdue post-game reports for my Minor 10s little league team.

-- mow the yard and weed the beds. I might well have pockets of Japanese in there who do not know that Gilligan's Island has been off the air for decades.

-- Dust. Most rooms in our house have enough dust that if we were of a mind to we could easily recreate Neal Armstrong's footprint on any horizontal surface, including the dog's ass.

-- plan my castle onslaught

-- prep the agenda for this weekend's Spring Campout for my Cub Scouts pack (yes-- in a weirdly amusing twist, I am the CubMaster for a Pack of something like 83 boys, and the parents there all think I am the goofy and loud-voiced Nice Guy who is so great with kids. If ever they tracked onto my blog or found various other online haunts of mine I'd likely get concerned stares at best and restraining orders in any normal likelihood.)

-- clean the kitchen (which seems ironic, since I can hardly remember the last three times the room has actually been used for food prep... life has been so hectic that most all local drivethru windows now just hand us a bag when we approach-- "we saw you coming. Here's your regular order."

-- WRITE. I have at least FIVE scripts in various stages of development on my desk, including two COMPLETED scripts which have been sitting there patiently waiting that day when I might give a crap again and start the much-needed Page One Rewrites they require and deserve.

-- Haircut. I'm now entering that "week past when a haircut was really needed" and the old 'do is starting to hyper-inflate like the Universe some 1.2 milliseconds after the Big Bang. CERN called and wants to measure the Higgs particles swirling in my scalp. And trust me-- that was a funny particle physics joke.

-- Relax. I can feel myself starting to get over-tight from having run at full max throttle for an extended period. On the one hand, you get used to every day being another GO GO GO proposition, but on the other you can become so goal-focused that you lose sight of the larger campaign. WHY are we charging hard every day? What's the POINT in achieving these goals with homicidal fury and clear intent? Progress without purpose can become mere motion. There must be a context to all things, and in the absence of such all action can decay into mere activity. As I am not a fan of mere activity, this is a point of concern, and this last item thus becomes one of the only ones which truly concerns me right now. Time to throttle down for maybe an hour and take accurate starshots to see where the hell we are relative to where the hell we were hoping to be, and then make course corrections as needed.

Alternatively, a two-day drunk would pretty feel good, too.

10 April 2008

stale links

I am prone to laziness when it comes to matters of housekeeping and general tidiness.

My focus tends to be pragmatic -- often I am consumed by the major issues or goals at hand, and anything that helps deliver progress toward those goals deserves attention and thought, while anything which doesn't, doesn't. So while having a Martha Stewart style clean orderly kitchen might look pretty and wow the neighbors if ever they swing by to borrow a cup of frozen who gives a shit, at the end of the day having some random clutter on the counter in my kitchen doesn't much change or improve my ability to write a screenplay well, or to coach a youth sports team well, or teach my kids to focus their attention and effort on their studies and personal goals and interests, or any of the other things which *do* matter to me.

Add to that list of shruggables the matter of "Maintaining and Upgrading the Sidebar Links on my Blog."

Yes, in a perfect world, my blog would be a gleaming perfect portal to everything of relevance and value to any right-thinking human being (as it is, of course), but in the actual world I can admit with no shame or concern that the links on the right are... perhaps not so up to date. There are sites listed which no longer exist, their hosts having long ago shuttered the accounts and turned their time towards goldfish repair or gladiola cookery or whatever. There are other sites which have gone largely silent -- still there in the technical sense but now of so little value and relevance that if/when they do finally go totally dark, few folks will likely notice. There are sites which once seemed intriguing but which now seem far less intriguing and link-worthy (and while that seems a harsh thing to say, I defy anyone to dispute the thesis). And there are lots of cool sites which I probably ought to link but which I do not.

And it's not like I have so much extra time laying around in piles that I can just devote an hour or two to buffing the blob (which sounds somehow pornographic...). I have far more important things to do than fix my blog.

Such as... "blogging about not having time to fix my blog."

Irony: it's not just a word -- it's what we do.™

01 April 2008

the magic

I ain't no expert, but I ain't no doorknob neither, and it seems increasingly clear to me that there are two critical Truths to this whole screenwriting thing:

1) it's not really that complicated until and unless some babbling morons shows up and works double damned hard to make it seem so


2) there is some odd element to the process which for lack of a better word I'll just call "Magic" and then leave others to argue about.

I do NOT mean magic in the rabbit-out-of-the-hat kind, nor of the actual conjuring impossible bits of metaphysical weirdness, but magic of the sort that is the spark of inspiration and creativity—that thing that tells one artist to paint the sunset in THIS manner and another artist of equal experience and technical ability will paint that same sunset THAT way.

We are all each of us the flickering momentary quantum result of every thought and experience which has led to this moment. We bring an infinitely weird and varied pile of memories and impressions and fears and dreams to every issue, and when you tell the psyche to sit still and create an Entire New World out of sheer thought and imagination, the results are going to show wild variations, and some of these variations are going to be critically important to making one particular vision of this potential world somehow more alive, more fascinating, more deserving of our thought and attention as audience members.

There are any number of paintings of Christ's last supper with The Disciples, including great many by undeniably talented artists and craftsmen, yet when we speak of "The Last Supper" it almost always refers to a specific singular imagination of this moment: the one which Da Vinci's peculiar and specific genius gave us.

We can sit around and argue and theorize the whys and wherefores of his specific genius, or we can just as effectively wrap them all into a bundle and label it "Magic" (or choose your own damned word) and wind up with much the same results when we try to sort out how and why inspiration works the way it does.

The trick—such as it is—is to develop the skill of putting yourself in whatever specific mindset it takes for you to enjoy maximum possibility of that divine spark finding your brain and then catching that spark in words, or pictures, or dance, or seafood cooking, or stainless steel welding, or whatever.

The Magic is not what's rare. What's rare is the awareness to recognize it and the willingness to improve our skills at receiving it and channeling it into some durable medium where anyone else—"the audience"—can share in our little glimpse of the magic that surrounds us.

If you can do that—if you can recognize where your Magic is strong and where it needs work and then set yourself down a dedicated path to improving what can be improved and finding ways to overcome and circumvent what weaknesses you are truly incapable of improving—then you have a fighting chance so long as you refuse to quit.


Meanwhile, shut up and write. Product is the point.