Sunday, April 30, 2006

Getting away with it.

Ok Class - What's wrong with this picture?

It's like the guy who put the car up his butt in the Jackass movie. Remember the advice the Doctor gave him?

Doctor - Who knows about this?
Guy with car in butt - I don't know... My friend...
Doctor - No. Tell no one. Even one guy is too much.

With murder - if you got the ball to do it - even one guy is too much. And four is definitely waaaaay out. Trust me. Unless you kill the other three and have a whole lot of self control - you are screwed.


To reiterate some of the genius that I repeat here on a daily basis - stop for a second and go to and read the top post. Heck - read all the posts there, cause that guy knows what the heck he is talking about. And it sure explains it in a more eloquent way than my ramblings...


When you are a writer - you spend a lot of time imagining things out. Sometimes you spend a lot of time wrapping your head around things that you really would never want in your head.

I spent 15 years doing crime shows for the Discovery Channel. For some shows, I would do three murders a show -others -just one. I have recreated and interviewed people for in excess of 150-200 murders. I have seen the real crime scene pictures - I have spent countless hours on and off the clock with homicide detectives in almost ever state and province, and I have sat and listened to victims recount the horror of the effects of murder on their families.

In the first couple years of doing this, I was but a wee lad of 23- straight off the mission fields of Asia... and I remember going to bed at night with the images of these pictures burned into my mind... somehow being unable to escape those horrors. But somehow during the intervening years, I began, not only to accept what I saw as the way life was but to think and plot like a cop ... wondering, if it was me that came upon that crime scene... what would the evidence tell me ... and how would I go about trying to solve that case….

I was interfacing with the best police minds both in the field and in the lab. With the FBI, the ATF, the RCMP… and one of my favorite questions was:

How do you commit the perfect murder?

And they would always tell me:

You think I would tell you? I might need that one day :)

After a while , in my travels , the police would pull out some of the cases they haven't solved or talk about tricky cases ... and now, because you felt like one of the team ... you might tell them about a case you did on the show that is sorta close and did they maybe try this? And they would say - no-… hey, that's worth a shot. And you start to feel like maybe you really know this stuff…. And then , something snaps you back to reality , like:

A cop in San Diego who works the cold cases. He asked me how many years I had been on the show. I told him 8. Then you should figure this out, he says. He throws down a bunch of pictures on the table. This is all I had to solve the murder. It went down as an accident ... but the family kept telling me it was murder. And this was all the evidence I had ... cause it took place 13 years ago.

He laid out the pictures. I stared and stared... not expecting to get called on the carpet. And then I saw why these guys are so brilliant. He methodically laid out what he did ... and what he saw ...and what he tried and how he explained what he saw ... and that bastard used these old pictures to get a guy arrested and thrown in prison 13 years after a murder took place ... and he never even set foot on the scene.

He knows how to play the "What if...…?" game.

For the last two weeks, I have been living inside the head of a killer. I have been trying to figure out why he would want to kill a public figure. Finally I realized I was asking the wrong questions. Now I have to figure everything out again. Rebuilding everything from the ground up in time to pitch this week.

We will see how I do.

But... for all you would be killers out there ... if there is anything I have learned in all my years that undoes all your preparation, all your genius, all your hard blood stained work ... it is this:

Keep your freaking mouth shut. And you might have a chance....

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Money money money!

Like taking candy from a baby....



Three years ago.

Hard to say what was the true reality - that I quit or I was let go - you say tomato I say tomato...But either way - it was decided that I would part ways with Discovery for a season.

I brushed off 40 pages of a script I started and abandoned - and went to work with a friend and slayed the dragon. Three drafts later - Script done. But almost broke.

Took off to Connecticut to produce and direct a home improvement show. That lasted a very very short time. And at this point - I decided to make a break.

I knew this script could be the one. Sure it was edgy offensive and dark - but at the right price - it could break out. So I bought some dubious business plan software and put together an investment memo on the project. With my partner Shawn - we budgeted out the film for 2 million dollars. I met with a lawyer who made me put all sorts of disclaimers all over the thing.

Things like:

Abandon hope, all ye who invest here.
If you wanna put money in film, I have a bridge to sell you.
If you still wanna invest - please provide statement of sanity from doctor.

So we had the script, the budget, and the memo. We were ready to go.

And it was then I learned the first rule of raising money.

YOU MUST ASK PEOPLE....Wait for it... Here it comes.... WHO HAVE MONEY

Wow. Seems simple now. And not just people with money. But people who have a lot of money. Money that they don't care if they throw it at really crazy things - like movies.

My sister was married to a guy from a very little town in Indiana. Now this town - has way more than its share of filthy rich people. Her husband runs a restaurant in said town and knows these guys. He offered them a free meal to sit with his brother in law and listen to his crazy schemes.

So Shawn and I headed to Indiana. And our pitch went something like this:

This is our movie. You will not like this movie. You would probably never ever go to see this movie. This movie has stuff in it that would make you angry. That would gross you out. That probably should never be filmed. But... there is an audience out there for this stuff. And there is a one in a million chance that this might find that audience. I can't promise you that we will get in theaters. I can't promise you we will even get into blockbuster - but I can promise at the very least - you will - and the end of the day - have a DVD that you can put in your machine and tell your friends to gather round and see how you wasted a ton of cash on a crappy film.

See? I can already feel you pulling out your wallets in response to that brilliant pitch.


While you may be laughing - thinking what idiots we are - I'm telling you. This is gold, Jerry... Gold!

We raised a million dollars this way.

Who's laughing now, monkey boy?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Friday Friday....

I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today....

I can't believe another work week has passed. Can you feel the anxiety in the air? No? Well...Trust me, it's there. I am so happy I get to spend another weekend telling people we should know something more next week...

Some quick notes of updates:

Movie is still moving forward. We are getting ready to go out to STAR5 and STAR6 with offers - BUT STAR2's agent was being a real mean bastard person who made me want to go home and bite my pillow...We kept hoping that mini-major would use some of their weight to stand up to said agent and her agency - but they did not seem as if they wanted to. So - I wrote a little letter to them explaining how I had heard things worked at other companies and was really unsure as to why this wasn't happening at their company - because they were very respected and had BIGGEST STAR ever as the head of their company - so why would they let a little agent at a little agency push them around?

Well. Now I had gone and done it.

After radio silence for a day - I got a note back saying they - meaning the VP and the biz affairs guy - were going in for a meeting with the big cheese. Later we heard that the big cheese would be calling said agency and we would be kept in the loop as to the results of that call.

So there you go.

Either the agency will give us positive news - or everyone will be really pissed. So go figure...It's all good for us either way. All action is good action at this point.

But - in keeping with a web of lies tradition - we usually get encouraging news on Friday - we rejoice through the weekend - and then follow it up with a week of silence...Where we grind back to square one... But who knows - We should know something next week...


Pitched my take on the Japanese story to the producer on the phone yesterday. She didn't really seem that excited at first - but hard to read someone without seeing their reactions in person. The more we talked - the more she warmed to it. We have an assignment to watch a movie over the weekend... So I dropped it in my queue with the hope it will arrive - cause you can't get jack in Indiana unless its King Kong...

I think I have a break on my BIG PRODUCER's STORY.

I came up with lots of clever ideas - but they were all in service of a faulty concept. What we might call gilding the lily- or shining the turd. But I think I have found a way around the issue - which can make for a really cool - dynamic story... Or - as cool and dynamic as a grantedly bad idea can be in the first place...I'm sure I will have a few of you on the phone today - pitching away to see what you think... And see if I have completely lost my mind - or if it is really a decent idea...But right now I have that "just woke up with brilliance on my mind cause I solved my script problem MacGyver style" type feeling - and I want to enjoy it for a second.

Yeah. Wow. That was nice.

Ok. You're right. The idea sucked.

Anyone see where those Ninja's got to?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I've noticed a trend in how I work. And it might not be so different from many of you.

It seems to me that whenever I sit down to break a story - I find that no matter how hard I focus on that story - from waking up to going to bed that night - thinking it through - what happens, what is going on - who is involved - I find that I always do better coming up with stuff for the ideas on the back burner.

Inevitably - whatever I am most pressed with - whichever deadline is looming largest - I find myself almost paralyzed with brain freeze as if I have just sucked hard on the creative slurpy of inspiration and I become locked in ignorance.

But in the middle of that state of suspended animation - I suddenly realize how to solve all the problems of the other stories I have floating around in my skull. The ones I am not supposed to be thinking about or even dealing with. Those ideas suddenly jump to the forefront and come to life - fully realized movies - playing out like a summer blockbuster - with lines around the block.

It also seems that I have another one of DAVID's algebra equations - the more likely the idea is to pay me, the less likely I am to break the story. Or the inverse - the less likely the idea is to ever make money - the more brilliant stories I can come up with.

One simple solution to this problem: Have some really bad stupid Idea that I try to trick my brain into thinking is the one that I have no choice but to work on at all times - so that the really good ideas can come for the ones I really need work on. The problem is deciding which of my "takes" is the stupid one - because most of them seem that way.

An even simpler solution: Therapy.

I have at least four takes that I am supposed to be working on. And at the same time - I am trying to go back and finish the next draft of my last script. All the while I am in the middle of trying to "produce" this movie with the mini-major. And we have slowly depleted all financial resources... So I do find it hard to manage anxiety and concentrate on creativity. In high school, grad school and college - these were the times you could dig way down - find that one thing and perform - but its a little harder to do that over 120 pages.

One producer - a really nice lady who did one of the great serial killer movies - called me again yesterday. She called two weeks ago - asking where I was with the story. She had given me something back in November. It was a mess. I developed it into a really complex and interesting mess - and the studio agreed with me. It was still a mess. The producer came back to me and asked me to try again. But with everything else going on - I haven't even thought about it. So I'm screwing the pooch on that one.

My agents are pressing me for my take on the BIG PRODUCER'S script. It's coming - but this is the one I am working on - so everything else is doing better.

I am supposed to have a conference call with the other producers today on the JAPANESE story. They went off on a long search for the true life rights to the story I found - and finally came up with an author that is just starting to write a book about the case. But he is a couple years away from getting it done - so we talk about where to go from here.

I was pitching my BIG PRODUCER idea to Shawn last night - and somehow got around to talking about my JAPANESE idea - and it just came to life. I really think there is some great stuff there - so hopefully they will too. It will be interesting to see.

I saw this really great French film (can't believe I used those two words in a sentence next to each other "great" and "French") called the Beat that My Heart Skipped. It is a really fascinating film. But it is essentially about a Parisian thug who studied piano as a kid. He has a chance meeting with a famous manager of pianists who remembers him and wants to give him an audition. He is so excited - and goes to a Chinese lady to get him ready. He approached the piano like an animal - and she has to mold his talent to get him ready...

She had him do all these relaxing exercises... And I think that's what I need. Yoga - more exercise... Something. Otherwise it will be booze and pills.

I just need to get outside my head - so that I can go inside my head... oooohhh... Now I get it....

Sigh. Cause the truth is - if I can clear out all the crap inside my brain - I think the lost dog of inspiration that I'm looking for has been up my ass all along.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

One night in Bangkok...

Every story has been told. There is nothing new. But if you know people's expectations – you can subvert them. If everyone sees what is coming – and you have set things up right – you can still throw in surprise by leading an audience by the hand to the water – and then blow up the lake…

But hopefully you still are giving them something satisfying. Not making them go away mad.

So we saw it coming all week…

It became inevitable. There really was no avoiding it. It became like a date with destiny.

The guy that brought us over – the American guy – all he did was talk about girls. Sleeping with girls, getting girls, finding girls… Ok…it doesn’t sound that unlike most men – but the thing with this guy was – he liked young girls… Nuff said.

He told us a story about the time he went to Cambodia and spent a week in his hotel with this girl he met. After three days – she told him she was 14… and so after TWO MORE days – he sent her home with some extra money because HE FELT BAD…

Anyway – this was the type. And it is very prevalent over in those parts. In fact – it seems to be encouraged on certain levels. Needless to say – we did not come for that – and at least two of us had wives at home – and we were supposed to be upstanding moral young men… Ok… not that young… and – not that moral I guess…

So after a week of him and Sobun trying in vain to introduce us to girls everywhere we went – we were told we were being treated to something special…we were going to an exclusive Japanese whorehouse.

Apparently there are different places for different races. Thai places, American places and Japanese places. According to our host – the Japanese places were the most exclusive.

The night of the excursion – Shawn and I made a pact. We would go. We would be nice. But we would not partake. And as the leaders of our little group – since we weren’t gonna get any – we were sure as hell gonna make sure that no one was gonna get any either.

We went to out compatriots and explained – no matter how tempted, no matter how much they may have dreamed about it – fantasized about it – wanted it… they were not gonna get it. We would not let them. And we got them both to say – out loud – that they agreed.

So we went. Everyone dressed up cause we had a really nice formal dinner first…then it was off to the brothels!

It wasn’t like the movies…

It was a reasonably nice place. Clean. We were some of the only people there. It happened so fast – that at first I was really unaware what was happening. We walked in and we were ushered into the main room. Once we were inside – a parade of at least 50 or 60 different girls came out – all in the same dress – looking almost exactly the same – and they all had a big number clipped to their dresses.

You were supposed to pick your number.

I was confused and disoriented – and not at all happy about the way things were going – mostly thinking about my wife and kids at home and wondering how the hell I would explain something so surreal to them…

And before I knew it – everyone had chosen a girl. I heard Shawn call out a number – and said – it’s my birthday… and I looked at him like – what?!? Don’t celebrate it… but he actually called out his birth day… the number… without looking at the girls…

So I was left alone – with a group of girls staring at me. And I froze. If only this was high school… so I did what I probably would have done then – I walked away. Everyone was waiting in a little lounge area next door where there was one big couch that filled the corner…

As soon as I sat down – Sobun said to me – Hey, Greg! Where’s your girl? I told him I couldn’t pick. But, lucky me… He had two. So he sent one over…

So there we all are, with our girls – and they bring out drinks and snacks… and it just gets really uncomfortable. I am leaning up in my seat as far forward as I can – talking to Shawn. Bill just keeps giggling… and only our writer is enjoying himself at all. He keeps trying to make conversation with his girl.

And here is the thing. These girls are really smart. They are Thai – but they not only speak fluent Japanese – they speak fluent English…! With those kind of skills, you would think that they could do really well for themselves – but here they were…doing really well for themselves.

After a really strange and sweaty half hour – it was time to go. Sobun explained that everything was taken care of – and we could take the girls back to the Hotel with us. We all sort of laughed and tried to blow it off… so he got personal with us.

Sobun: Greg. Do you want to take her home?
Greg: Sobun. Thank you. But my wife would kill me…

Sobun: Shawn. What bout you?
Shawn: My wife too. It would be a big mistake….
Sobun: Big? You talk bout me?

Sobun: Bill?
Bill: No. I’m a Christian. I’d love to take her back – but I can’t.

Sobun turns to Writer – still engaged in lively conversation with his girl.

Sobun: Ok. How bout you, Writer? (Writer’s name is changed to protect the not-so-innocent…)
Writer: Sure. Why not.

The rest of us turn to Writer – our collective mouths agape.

And before we could even protest – or kick his ass – Sobun and the Writer were off in a cab – leaving the rest of us in the street.

Let him who is without sin…

So all of us left out gather back at the hotel. We decide we need to bug the Writer and not let him do something foolish – like catch multiple diseases… So we call his room. Repeatedly. But we get no answers.

We decide to call it a night. A long crazy night.

The funny end to the story is – The Writer – in typical writer fashion – didn’t consummate the act. Or so he says. He sat in his room talking with the girl for an hour - then got her number and let her go with a wad of his cash. He told us the next day he felt really sorry for her – and when he got back to the states – he was gonna start sending her money every month…

For perspective – one night of pay for this girl was twice the average monthly wage in Bangkok.

In the end we talked some sense into him – but not much… he is a writer… and if there was ever a more hard-headed stubborn lot – it is us…

So while I teased the story for a couple days – and I lead you to the water – I wouldn’t say I blew up the lake… there was a nice surprise in it – but I would say it can hardly be called satisfying for anyone…

Except for the writer… and I think you know what I'm talking about....

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

On the Mend...

Ugh... I hate being sick...

Don't know what I had - some sort of 24 hour strand of ebola. Lots of blood out of all openings in the body...Pain everywhere...And lots to clean up. But today - even though it is grey and cloudy - the sun of returning health has come out - and I am feeling towards the better...Here's hoping it continues and I am back to my ever whiney self in no time.

There is something about going through a really bad patch and making it to the other side. Yesterday - when I was moaning and groaning about my bleeding eyes - I thought it was almost over. Today - suddenly I feel like Snow White - singing with the birds as they alight on my shoulder.

I can remember how excited I was to go to China the first couple times for Discovery - and after spending two weeks traveling by myself - how happy I was to come back and kiss the ground of good old American soil.

When I was flying back and forth to Virginia for weeks at a time - I was going crazy for missing my family - and when I got here, there was no better feeling than seeing the kids run across the yard screaming "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy....

What did you bring me?"

Writing is much of the same.

When you are in the middle of your script - I think there is no time worse than the second act - no time greater than the third act. It is easy to start - hard to maintain - nice to limp to the finish.

There is no quantifiable way to know if what you do is good or not. Your peers can tell you what they think, your agents can tell you what they think - but truthfully - it seems the only way Hollywood thinks something is good is if A) They paid for you to write it... And even if they think its good - they pay someone to rewrite you... Or B) a STAR attaches himself to your script.

A caveat to that is when you have already written a hit. Charlie Kauffman can write crazier and crazier scripts - because he has been declared a genius - rightfully so - but he won't have to worry about his next meal again. It has to be good - he wrote Being John Malkovitch...

So one of the really scary truths of this business is:

Your first script has to be better than Charlie Kauffman's next script.

For someone to take a chance on a complete unknown - with no proven track record (and that includes 15 years in TV - because for some reason that doesn't count) - your material has to be superior. It has to pass through all the channels and make its way to the top. Because everyone out there has a red pen and a million reasons why your script is gonna suck...

Charlie has already made it. But you (me) have not. So it's gotta be better - stronger - faster...

Sobering thought.

I heard this quote from Robert Zemekis:

"If it were easy to get in the club (making it in Hollywood) then everyone would be in the club. But once you're in the club - no one can kick you out."

It's like getting into a fraternity. Hollywood's way of hazing is to hold out the promise of the big payday and future paydays - but, unless you are a genius - and even Charlie Kauffman toiled in obscurity for years - you are gonna have to pay for entrance to the club with blood sweat and tears. (exceptions being son or daughter of studio head or big actor)

So - in the end - we keep writing. Because we hope and pray that something, someday will stick. The great thing about scriptwriting is that each time you do it - you get better. It is a strict discipline that forces you to mold yourself to its forms - and if you bring some creativity and originality to its shape - you are well on your way.

And if there is any comfort - most scripts are crap. So while everyone tells you to be excellent - the truth is like the old saying - you don't have to be faster than the bear - you just have to be faster than the slowest camper.

And that is a goal I can relate to: I don't have to be excellent - I just have to be better than 90% of the crap that idiots are flooding the system with.

So there you go. See? I must be feeling better - cause I'm back to my old self-righteous, self deluded, whining self... :)

Tomorrow: deep into Thailand's red light district....

Monday, April 24, 2006

What doesn't kill us....

This, my friends, is the Dorian....

Been trying to post all morning - but Blogger isn't cooperating... and I'm sick... so stand back while you read - and make sure to wash you hands when you're done...

There are many things that come to mind when my thoughts drift back to Thailand...

And today I will share three:


As you may recall - we were in Thailand on the behalf of a Japanese millionaire who couldn't speak English, was in excess of 60 years old, crazy and bald - who wanted to be a movies star in America. He thought he could be in a film with Tommy Lee Jones, no less.

I'm not sure who was really more deluded - him, thinking that was possible - him, thinking that we could make this possible - or us, thinking we could convince him that it was impossible.

Yes, he was rich. Yes, he was odd. But TLJ doesn't do vanity projects that I am aware of. We did try to convince him to do a very low budget 3 million dollar film that could introduce him to Western audiences in sort of an ensemble cast. We came up with the craziest - and if you know me - I am a pioneer of crazy - story that ever has been put to paper. We had him playing sort of a modern day Man with No Name - a Samurai - who wanders town to town - as sort of an angel of death. We thought he could pull this off because it required little to no dialog...

Don't worry - he didn't buy it either...

But while we were there - we ate like kings. Every night - it was the best Bangkok had to offer. Steaks. Traditional food. Anything we wanted.

But the meal that stood out to me was the Seafood Grocery.

You walk in - and they give you a shopping cart. You proceed through the store - passing all manner of sealife - swimming happily in tanks. And as you pass - you point. And the workers dig their hands inside and grab whatever slippery critter you like. At the end of the line - you pay. They cook. You eat.

The two things that really stand out to me there was the eel - very bony... But delicious - and the shark.

There was a 10-12 pound tiger shark swimming around - and they just grabbed it. Pulled it and cooked the sucker. It was really something. Don't remember as much about the taste as I do seeing that thing pulled out of the tank and killed.

Out of the four of us - Shawn, Bill, and I - had already racked up a million miles in the disgusting diner club. We did a mini-series in China and the whole time we were there we made it a point at most meals to order the most disgusting thing we could find on the menu and at least try it. We had dog, camel, donkey, scorpion, and lamb testicles.

But thankfully - we never had to watch our dinner get killed and served to us. That was reserved for Thailand alone...


I have traveled extensively all throughout Asia. I grew up in Taiwan, have been through China, Japan, Korea, Singapore - etc. And in all my travels - with the exception of Singapore - Thailand is one of the most orderly places I have come across.

In a lot of these countries - there is a feeling of organized chaos - and as long as you are keyed into it - you do fine. But Thailand is different. For some reason, the place just appears very orderly. My thoughts were that it could have something to do with the government.

Thailand is a monarchy. There is a king. While we were there, we were regaled with many tales about the king. What a nice guy he is - how he shows up at every college graduation in the country and hands out the diplomas. I'm sure he is great.

But here is a strange thing.

We were warned that there is one thing you can never do in Thailand. It's fine to go to shows and see young ladies shoot ping pong balls out of their vaginas - its fine to be some depraved European tourist sneaking around with 9 year old boys -




to say anything negative about the King.

This poses a great problem.

We are American. We like to say whatever we want. On top of that, we are smart asses who think we are funny. Telling us we can't say anything about the King is like putting Adam and Eve in the garden and saying don't eat the apple.

Where ever we were, regardless of the circumstances - we would find things escalating to a point where someone was about to make some crack - and we would get the raised eyebrow of our host.

While for the most part - we were able to stop ourselves - sort of like not cursing in front of your parents - as soon as we hit the plane and we got in the air -

We trashed the king for two hours.


I am a big fan of trying new things.

When we first walked around Bangkok - there were all sort of food and fruits that I had never seen before.

But none - anywhere - were like the Dorian.

You can see it in the picture up top. It looks like some kind of radioactive pine cone. But the truth is, the looks aren't the problem.

If you have ever gone into the bathroom at the border of Mexico and America - and a group of senior citizen tourist have all just left - being simultaneously sick - and the stench is so bad you have to hold your breath - that is the smell of Dorian.

A Pakistani bus at noon - Dorian.

Earwax mixed with singed human hair - Dorian light.

There are few things in the world that smell that way - and thinking about it now - I actually just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

But I knew I had to try it. And more than that - I had to get other to try it as well.

On our last day I bought one. The fleshy part of the fruit is a bit like pudding - and the taste is actually pretty good... But the smell...

After a bit of mockery - and the threat of calling the King - the others finally tasted it. And while no one can really say that they enjoyed it - it's definitely something that we will never forget.

Later this week - a little trip to what King likes to call a "house of ill repute."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Here's looking at you, Shawn....

There is something so brilliant about how everything can suddenly work together in a Rube Goldberg-like way to make even the craziest accident seem like a Scooby Doo plan to catch the ghost.

It is not enough to have a dwarf hitting the trampoline. It is not enough to have him hit it sideways. It is not enough to have a hippo in the next act. Not enough to have him tired from his long night of worry and anxiety over his fear of tight rope walking. Not enough even that the dwarf has the misfortune to fly into the hippo's mouth.

It's that all those things happened - AND it triggers the hippo's gag reflex at the same time.

And if I was to use David's algebra analogy - with my basic math understanding - it becomes an escalating series of set ups that culminate in one giant pay off. And that - my friends - is good writing. Seeing the trampoline, the dwarf and the hippo would never in a million years make you work out that the dwarf would end up in the hippo's belly. But - through a carefully constructed world of coincidence - that is exactly where we end up going...IN BANGKOK no less!

And speaking of Bangkok...

A few years ago - I found myself in that fair city.

A friend of ours free-lanced at an Industrial Video company as an art director. One night, he was talking with the janitor - who, as fate would have it - had a son who lived in Thailand. He was working with a Japanese millionaire who wanted to make a movie. In a series of coincidences not unlike above article - I was soon on a plane with said art director, a writer, and my partner in crime Shawn.

Before going any further - let me say this. Thailand is a beautiful and dangerous place.

We were supposed to be in the country for one week - at the request of this Japanese guy named Sobun. Sobun wanted not only to make a movie - he wanted to star in it. Sobun looked at least 60 something - and Asians don't age - so, technically - he might have been closer to 307. He was bald, could barely speak English, and wanted us to get Tommy Lee Jones to star in a movie with him.

One of his favorite past-times, besides sleeping with 18 year olds - who he called his "daughters" - was to tell really bad junior high school jokes...


Me: Three months? Wow. That's a long time to film-

Sobun: LONG? Hey... You talk bout me?

Shawn: Sobun you have to understand... Tommy Lee Jones is a big actor-

Sobun: BIG? You talk about me?

Sobun was the head of a really big Asian cosmetics company. All of his employees were girls. We would sit in a meeting and he would watch the girls as they passed by his office. He would find one that struck his fancy and call her in. Make her kneel down by his feet and he would pat her hair. Then he would show us her teeth.

Sobun: Do you like her?

Us: Yes. She is very nice.

Sobun: Do you think she is pretty?

Us: Yes. She is very pretty.

Sobun: Do you want her? You can have her....

Some of Us: Sobun. We are married. Why is that so hard to under-

Sobun: HARD? You talk bout me?

Thailand was a wonderful experience... Full of many stories...Ones that shall continue in a few more posts... But - seeing as how this is Sunday - and I am sure everyone is wondering what happened to that hippo....

I leave you with this....

Saturday, April 22, 2006

No one knows anything....

"Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound."
William Goldman quote

Wow! And this from the master. If you have never read William Goldman's books - pick them up now. Adventures in the screen trade and Hello! He lied... are two great reads. And this from the guy who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the Princess Bride.

I have a friend. Great guy. He lived in Virginia when we lived there - he was a great musician. When I produced my first Discovery Channel series - he did the music. When I started doing commercials - I had him do the score. He was awesome. We were both little more than kids. He grew up and moved to LA with a big music deal with Sony.

He calls me and says - Greg. You gotta move out here. These people are idiots!

And that's the thing. No one knows anything.

There is always someone telling you something about something. There is a cottage industry that has sprung up around struggling screenwriters. Everyone has their hands out - and everyone is trying to get a break. Everyone has their piece of advice - but the truth is - no one makes it the same way. Just like a good script - every story has originality.

One of the first times I went to LA to color correct a commercial - I went to a meeting with my now manager that was a talk given by the writers of the upcoming BATMAN movie. They said the only way to make it out here is to be so excellent - that Hollywood can't ignore you. At the time I thought they were really arrogant - because they were really saying - like me... we were so excellent - that is why we made it.. And then I thought they might be right...But the truth is, I know better.

Right now, there are probably a 100 guitarists hiding in their closets that are better on any given day than the best guitarist out there. They will never leave their house, their tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, and their little safety bubble - because that is their thing. Their talent may be undisputed, their excellence unquestioned - but they have plenty of other reasons why they won't ever be heard.

When I got out of Grad School - I had a little 30 minute film I did. Like most student films - it doesn't hold up well over the years. It was cheap - like $6000 - but I won about 15 awards with it - and it played all over the world. But - I didn't get hired to direct anything for 2 years. I thought I was "excellent" -delusion starts at home, trust me - and someone had to think I was excellent - cause no one else did... - but that really didn't matter. I was untested.

I have run many auditions over the years. If there is a group of people more insecure than screenwriters - it has to be actors. While we at least get to control what people do and say on paper - they get no control. Everything is spelled out for them - and then the director tells them how to do it - and why what they are doing is wrong. Everything about their craft is to be scrutinized by others and judged. Well - maybe we have more in common than I thought...

As an actor comes in - they are trying to get a part. And - if logic had any bearing on what happens - the best actor would always win. But the truth is - that rarely happens. A new face. A pretty face. A taller face. A different color face. Little things that have little or nothing to do with talent creep in. And then you look at experience...

My manager - who works for a really big PRODUCER/DIRECTOR - tells me that scripts get bought all the time for the idea - even if the script sucks. I have a really good friend - let's call him RYAN - who is a good writer - but his last idea is so limiting - SMALL - that it is destined to be someone's first film - but not a script that will sell to any place that will get him noticed. Everyone tells you to be excellent - but if an idea can sell a bad script - what does excellence have to do with that?

Take my newest take. I have said already that the company bought this script 5 years ago and have gone through 3 writers and at least 10 rewrites. And the best they came up with was to bastardize 3 or four other films and copy a sequence from Silence of the Lambs verbatim... And this is a script that was bought! Now they give it to me and tell me to throw everything out - but the characters and the idea.

All that money - thrown on the table - and for what? Not excellence - the idea...


I leave you with this. There is no "one way" in.

My script that opened all these doors - got me a manager and an agent - attached two big stars - didn't make it past the first round of the Virginia Governors Screenwriting contest. They stopped reading it after 10 pages and offered me some formatting advice.

Everything that you do - you do for yourself and your career. I look at every book I read or buy - I can learn one thing. Every film I watch - I can learn one thing. Every time I do something else in the business - from producing and directing - to being a PA or an assistant - I can learn one thing. Every person I meet in the industry - I can learn one thing. Everytime I go to the coffee shop and sit to write - I can get one more thing done.

So does that mean you have to move to LA? No. But it helps. Does that mean you have to have the perfect script? No. But it helps. Does that mean you should sleep your way to the top? No. But it helps. Especially if you're pretty...

This is a business where if your dad is a star - you can be a star. If you dad is a director - you can be a director..The doors open. Hell - Tori Spelling can talk about how her dad never helped her all she wants - but we all know the truth.

It is a process. For some of us - it is very very long. For some - its a home run first time at the plate. There is no rhyme or reason - just like life. You just put your head down - and try any way you can with the gifts, contacts and experience that you have to do what you do...

And if you give up early? Well... in theory - that just opens up one more slot for the rest of us... :)

But if you are willing to keep going, to give it your all...

Then come on out...Trust me...The ice can hold all of us.....

Friday, April 21, 2006

The wonderful "what if's..."

All day we play the "what if."

If you are a writer, that is what you do. If you are me - on the days you can balance your anxiety - and I swear - no more whining posts this week...(Even I can make it another two days...) you spend a lot of your time thinking.

What if...

My Favorite thinking places: In the car, driving anywhere - mind going far away. In the shower - scalding hot water - mind wandering while being completely relaxed. (sorry about placing that image in your head...) In bed - as I go to sleep - and first thing when I wake up in the morning. When I am at peace and relaxed - I can actually be creative...

The biggest trick of the What if is to find something new.

There is nothing new under the sun. But there are interesting and dramatic ways to build a scene. And finding the most dramatic and conflict filled way is the structural building block to start with. There is only one Charlie Kauffman. And there is only one you. Just because a story has been told before - doesn't mean it has been told by you. I have watched three bodyguard films in the last week - and they all have very similar elements. Some - because they work. Some - because they are lazy. I like to start by throwing out the main elements that people have seen and try to come up with alternatives....

But - as I always say to Blair - the reason why they are called cliche is because time and time again they work. How do you end a bodyguard movie without the bodyguard jumping in front of someone and sacrificing himself? It is the nature of what he does and you have almost no choice but to take the story to that point. And is it really any kind of story to not have him do it?

So the trick is to try to usurp the expectation while maintaining the expectation.

Each piece of the puzzle is built from a given set of problems. At first it looks too big to begin - the world of choice in front of you is almost crippling. But like a sculptor - you slowly begin chipping away at the building blocks - narrowing the choices down - putting into play set up and pay off - problem and solution - everything having its place - and the puzzle starts to take shape.

Each and every choice of a screenplay has to have purpose and meaning. And then it needs to resonate. Scott the Reader at Alligators on a Helicopter said that there are really two kinds of movies: Ones that want to be good and ones that want to be cool. Know which kind you write and find ways to tell those stories.

Eventually you will have a story. Then you start to write it and it will all change. And then you rewrite it because you see you made really bad choices. Then you see a movie that has the exact same scene you have - and you throw it out. Then your agent reads it and tells you it doesn't work... (whoops... Bordering on whining...)

The cool thing about this - it is the life of the mind. Sure - its hard. Sure - it takes a lot of time. But it is like the guy sitting up in his room making wee figures of the people that pass on the street. We have entire collection of Star Wars figures. We can make them do whatever we want. They talk really smart. They are funny. They get the girl. The bad guy loses. They reach deep within their heart and act when all the rest of us stand still. They do what we wish we could do.

In essence - you get to use your God-given creativity to play God.

When I watch my son pick up his myriad of Transformers and start to play - he doesn't look angry. He doesn't seem disgusted. He doesn't need to clean his room or get something to eat or look up a hundred things on the Internet. He just starts to play - talking out loud and smashing them together with joy. And he saw that it was good.

Yes. It is work. Yes. It is hard. But yes. There should be joy.

Go forth. Create.

And on the seventh day - you rewrite.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Brother... Can you spare....

Hey... No worries... I got a job! And I get to combine my two favorite things:

Begging and being naked!

Perspective is a wonderful thing.

To have these problems is a wonderful thing.

To be in this situation is a wonderful thing.

As long as I can keep up with my E-meter readings, I can keep the evil thetans from filling me with evil depressing thoughts.

As long as the voices in my head keep me from killing anyone else - I will be fine.

As long as I stop hanging out with Whitney and put the pipe down - I can be a better person.

As long as I keep that look of panic and desperation out of my eyes, I can still make green - cause no one likes a desperate trick.

As long as I keep my friend from taking a dump in the back of the coffee shop - I can still steal internet and make posts.


The business is tough. The finish line keeps moving. You think you are almost all the way there - and you come around a corner to see it is still a long ways off. I've got it all on the line here. Everything is in play.

I am all in.

But it still isn't enough. Coming from the commercial world and the TV world - you learn that with a little money and a strong force of will - you can really accomplish a lot. At least on my lowly level.

But here - in the thin air the big boys play in - those things are in short supply. No one wants to be the guy that makes things happen... They want to wait for the planets to align in the most fortuitous way possible - and they have no problem holding out until they do. To force someone's hand or even call their bluff are seen as an affront.

I really don't belong here.

Man - I really wish I was one of those people who were able to compartmentalize everything. So that I could just put this film out of my mind and work on the other projects while I wait for this one to "put itself together..." But I don't think it works like that. Not for me. Instead I love any opportunity to apply all my worry and anxiety to one thing and one thing only.

But thank God for friends. Shawn tried to sympathize. Ralph lent an ear. Ace got kicked off American Idol... So there really is a God.

Well... Got go. Here comes another car - and a naked guy with a laptop is not nearly as pathetic as a naked guy without a laptop....

Time to shake the money-maker....

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Just take one a day - everyday...

I have some good news and some bad news.
What's the bad news?
The DNA results are back. It's your blood at the crime scene. I afraid you're going to jail.
What's the good news?
Your cholesteral is way down....

Things are good and bad. Every day. We are in such a weird place with this movie. We have our stars not because I am such a genius writer - we have them because our director has a really good relationship with them. As such - they are doing this film sort of in the favor category... and this means that their agents and managers are not at all happy about this and have no trouble breaking our balls about it on a daily basis.

So yesterday - while offers went out to INCREDIBLE CHARACTER ACTORS 1-4 for small parts in the film - STAR2's agent sent us a letter saying - effectively - you better be filling this film with stars, and don't be telling them that my client is attached - cause he sure as hell isn't. And while he does have those dates open - he might not for long. And even if you do get other stars - don't expect my star to sign on anytime before the end of July... so screw you...

Or something to that extent. And no, she really wasn't that nice.

Now, I don't believe that Star2 is anything but committed. He was the one who gave us the dates and said that he wants to do it. But that doesn't mean that his agent is happy about it. Couple that with the fact that she represents our two top choices for INCREDIBLE CHARACTER ACTORS 1-2 as well - and my smile sort of turns upside down.

There are many lessons here. One is -you get what you pay for. If we were able to pay the asking price of these actors - I don't think we would ever have any issues. But we aren't. This is a "low" budget film - so you have to ask for favors. And favors go over as well as a crap sandwhich.

Couple that with an all afternoon fight about where we would shoot if we ever get a chance to shoot. The mini-major is really pointing us to one specific area - New Mexico. And while I thank GOD it's not Canada... I wrote the film to take place in the South. Not the South West. But it can work. It's just not optimal.

My two producing partners on this are amazing - but they are most likely going to be leaving me holding the bag with whoever we bring in as a line producer. One is in Alaska shooting with Sean Penn - and the other is about to close a deal for her own company. That leaves me, the new line guy, and STAR1's brother... ugh...

So while the good - offers go out to four great guys - is really good, the bad - agent reaming us out - is never far behind. It is a really emotionally numbing roller coaster that defines the one step closer, two steps back type of thing. And spread this over three years - and it really starts to play games with your delicate constitution.

My good friend David also received some bad news yesterday about his adaption. Check out the Just another Knucklehead blog on the links. Hard blow for him - but he is gonna bounce back. Some of the best things in his script were things he put there - and his new version will kick ass.

On the good side -

I had my initial call with BIG PRODUCER last night. It was a quick one - but very nice. I found out this script had been bought by their company five years ago. They had the initial writer do two or three drafts - brought in another set of writers who did two or three drafts - and now they are ready to try something else. He said it feels as if they are trying to fix a broken car.

He mentioned the direction that his boss BIGGEST PRODUCER was thinking for the bad guy - and - lo and behold - I interrupted and told him that that was my idea too... and told him how I would go about changing some of the things - including the stupidity of the lead character... he agreed with everything and was really excited...

And then the other shoe dropped.

"I love where you are going with this. I want you to take this and just throw it out. We like the characters and the situation - but just get rid of this and make it your own. Make it contemporary. Just start from page one and build it back up."

Last time I pitched this guy - that was what I did... and while I'm sure I overplotted the hell out of it - I did make it something completely new - and in doing so - I lost what they like about the original in the first place... so that was that.

I did get the nice ender - well Greg - we really hope this works out. You're a really smart guy and we want to find something to work on with you. We hope this is it.

I can't be sure if he was honest - or doing the jerk off motion as he said that in his office...

Anyways - the cool thing is that I get to come up with an entire story now. The bad thing is - I get to come up with an entire story now. For free. Again....

Time for another one of those pills... :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Big Poop Shoot

I have been asked to do takes. I'll get a script or a film or a short story - and asked how I would make it a movie. Now granted - all anyone has ever seen from me is my script that is soon to be in production (I think...Hope...Pray...) and they know nothing of my work habits, my approach or anything.

All they know is my script.

There is this strange thinking that some sort of lightning can strike twice. That someone who writes one thing well might have some sort of secret alchemy magic that allows them to write another thing well. And they think it can cross all sorts of boundaries.

In commercials - ad agencies only want a certain kind of director. There is the car guy, the funny guy, even the meat guy... I was known as the explosions guy... But they don't want the meat guy doing the car guy's spots... The meat guy had to stick to the meat...For an occupation that thrives on "out of the box" (how gay is that expression...?) their thinking was anything but that...

I figured that it would be very much the same for scriptwriting. I came into the game with a suspense/thriller and figured that is where I would get attention. But people are funny. They would talk to me and then say stuff like - I wanna find a kid's film for you. Strange - seeing as how the kids in my film were victims of a pedophile... I wonder what made you think I would be perfect for your Little Sally and Fuzzy Bears adaptation?

There was a run when I started of three projects that all somehow had anal rape in them. While not necessarily being a fan of anal rape myself - I like to think I'm somewhat open minded. I figured - hey - how many writers can say they have a specialty? And while it might not be as "cool" as the "meat guy," it would be nice to have a niche...At least you know - as long as there is anal rape - you will always have work. It could be my signature...

But its tough to be pigeon holed. You begin to long for diversity. How many prison showers scenes can you write? There is only so many variations on "drop the soap" and "whoops"...

Kinda like the beginning of Tootsie - where Dustin Hoffman tries to tell the casting director - I can be taller. I can be shorter... Tell me what it is and I can be it

But since then, I have been thrown a few other bones. Horror script. Action script. Chinese novel. Sci Fi thin. But haven't got any of them.

That's the great thing. Now - not only can I be rejected in one genre - I can expand it to others. I can experience the full gamut of pain and rejection across the board.

The nice thing is you get to see a lot of stories. Things that people have bought. Things that others have sold. And you can compare. It's never apples to apples. And that is a great thing about this business... Your script is not up against mine - there are a million people not sure what they are looking for - all trying to catch lightning in a bottle - and they hope that yours is the one that strikes for them.

I read these scripts - and I usually feel the same way. 40 pages in - I think - wow... What could I do with this. Its great. I can't write like that. They are so smart - witty - funny - scary... Whatever...

And then - I finish. And I have the same feeling most movie goers have. Wow. That didn't pay off. What did that have to do with anything? Why wasn't that set up better... And you see what you can bring to the table. And you start to break it down to see how you would go about putting it back together again... And in my case - you go out and watch all the movies that did it better and try to find a way to make this one different and appealing. And find how to take that magic from the first 40 and sustain it.

You bring yourself to the process. Your life - your experiences - your "take." Cause there is only one you. No matter how you try to hide from it, you are all you've got....Dig down and try to find the way that you can make this thing uniquely yours....

And... If you are me...

You find somehow, somewhere to squeeze in a little anal rape...

Cause what film isn't complete without a shower scene?

And everybody needs a calling card...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Devil Inside

Three philosophical posts in a row... Kinda scary because if you know me at all - that kinda depth just isn't there... Scratch the surface and you're lucky to get deeper than a puddle.

So in that light - let's go back to writing, whining and my problems...

See? Aren't we all a bit more comfortable now?

Here's the new one:

Tomorrow I have a phone conference - which is what I do since I am in Indiana - with a BIG PRODUCER and a BIG COMPANY. BIG COMPANY produced all the big action films of the 80's and a little bit of the 90's... Tomorrow is just a "Hey this is what we have and this is kinda what we think we want - but please for the love of God don't give us BLANK because that is definitely not the direction we want to go..." To be fair - I have talked with this guy on the phone before - in a Van in Virginia on my rapidly dying cell phone - while he was on the set of a BIG MOVIE in Baltimore with Nicole Kidman...And I guess I did well enough that I got to come to the office to make a pitch for three underlings... But not well enough there to get the job...

So I read the script. Ryan read the script. And Ryan starts out by telling me that he has figured out the problem - the script can't decide if it wants to be an action movie or a romantic comedy. I tell Ryan - that is the formula that this company invented. They do action and comedy and mix the two.

Now granted - Ryan missed out on the classics of 80's cinema - the Beverly Hills Cops, the Lethal Weapons, the Die Hards - any movie that was done so well the first time - that it necessitated at least one sequel.

But to be fair - once I steered Ryan away from that - he did have a brilliant analysis of the script and gave me a great way in for the problem they really want addressed.

The Bad Guy.

The bad guy is an interesting part of most scripts. And it's funny to watch movies and think about things from his point of view. In working with this script - I watched two films this weekend. One I had seen - In the line of fire - (brilliant - go see it if you haven't - and only a homeschooler like Ryan has an excuse as to why he should not have seen it - oh and the fact he was like 6 when it came out) and one I had not seen - The Bodyguard -(hmmmm. Now I know why I had not seen it. To be fair - it was nice to see a young Whitney before crack - but her acting really wanted to make me pick up the pipe again...)

It was interesting to see what the motivation for the Bad Guys was. In one - he is sick of his country and feels as if he has been written off - so he decides to kill the president. In the other - the bad guy is just hired to kill the singer.

When everything in your script comes down to the motivations of the bad guy - they had better be good. Blowing up the moon good. Getting "one million dollars" good.

And if they can't be good - let them at least be logical.

It's funny to me that we can't have a really bad guy - no explanation necessary - anymore. It's not enough to have a scar, sit in a wheelchair and stroke the white cat. We have to know WHY. What happened in your childhood? Who made you this way? Whose fault is it that this is what you have become? Because, heaven knows - you were a good person like the rest of us before that...

In working with Cops for 15 years - I learned way more about crime and murder and everything than I would ever want to. And while a lot of murders are crimes of passion - it is the ones that are planned out that catch our interest. If you siphon off the majority of those that are just ass backwards planned - you are left with really a tiny tiny microscope sized piece of murders - and yet that is what 90% of our films are about.

The film that I sold to the mini major: I set out to do a typical criminal - like the ones I had seen for years. They were stupid. Careless. Forgetful. Rushed. Disorganized. And if they were at all interesting, it was because they shared one trait:

They were lucky.

But lucky - it's really not that dramatically interesting. No one really fears a lucky criminal. He just isn't that scary. Unless you run a casino....

Truth is: We want to be able to draw the lines. We want to see who our Bad Guy is, and figure out where he is going. We want to see how he is caught. We want to see if we are smarter than the cops and can get there first. And we want to be scared - that he might get away with it. That he might catch the girl first. That he might not be stopped.

So we come up with smart villains. And motivated villains. And crazy and lucky just don't cut it anymore.

So where do we go to find these guys?

Just look no further than your own black heart. That's where I go to the well....

I think we all have a depth of depravity that we are afraid to mine. If we were left alone unfettered with out personal beliefs and morals and fear of getting caught - we would be dangerous.

How many times have you stood in a bank and thought about how you would take it down? How many times have you listened to your boss rant and rave and chew you out while you fantasized about sticking a letter opener in his eye? And for the kids: I'll stop there... But you have the idea.

A writer was once asked, How do you write such wonderful Women characters? He said - I write them as a man then remove reason and logic. To get your villain - write a hero - then remove morals and self control.

The best stories have the good guy and the bad guy wanting the same thing. They both just go about getting it in different ways. One is trying to uphold the conventions of society and one wants to usurp them.

While lucky foolish or in the moment probably covers a lot of criminal acts - plotting planning and thoughtful makes for better movies...

Because in the end - someone who thinks logically and acts methodically can be caught. While lucky and crazy run free...

So now - I have to some how decide how a smart and motivated criminal would want to be as foolish as to apply his genius to the stupid job of wanting to kill an NBA star... And make him interesting and believable to the audience.

I guess his daddy spanked him too much when he was a boy...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

"But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away..."

Without meaning to denigrate what is the Greatest Story of all time - How is that for an ending? Next time you think about structure - about Syd Field and Robert McKee and all the other gurus - think back to the Bible.

An unlikely hero born into a time of unrest and cultural crisis. Rising up from obscurity - He steps forward - telling people who he is and where he came from. Rejected by everyone but the commoners. He turns his back on the leaders of his day - preferring to spend time with the poor, helpless and sick. He turns upside the conventions of his day.

Conflict rises - every day brings him closer to his last - and he tells everyone about this but they don't listen. Betrayed by one of his own - he is crucified.

But then... Well. You know the rest. His story is still the most impactful one told today.

The greatest story. The perfect structure. The most awesome ending.

Happy Easter! May we radiate today with joy and love for all - as we are all sinners in need of a savior...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Don't touch my peaches...

vengeance is a dish best not served at all.

A series of stories.

Number 1:

In the Big Picture - Christopher Guest's first film - before all the improv genius of Waiting for Guffman or Best in Show - Kevin Bacon plays a young film school grad who wins the Student Academy Award. He falls on hard times - and has to take a job in a restaurant. At the interview - the owner is reading his resume...

"Ah. I see here you're a director. Our busboy Jimmy is also a director...."

Number 2:

A camera man friend of ours is off to the mall with a manager from his company. They are getting ready to go inside - and this is when I used to live in the South - the manager says-

"Better lock your doors. The Blacks'll steal your stereo..."

And which point the camera man replies-

"When you say Blacks... You mean Black like my wife?"

Number 3:

Shawn and I are in China. We are doing a mini-series for Chinese TV. We are stuck in the middle of production - a three month gig away from our families and all we hold dear - and things could not be going any worse. We are slowly being ground down to dust by the bureaucracy and nonsense of our Chinese partners. Shawn has been fighting with the Chinese producer - and eventually - I challenge the Production Manager to a fist fight outside.

Needless to say - things are not going so well.

We are in the middle of an all night shoot. We have just finished up the first half of the day and are getting ready for our 2 am lunch break. Shawn gets the brilliant idea of buying a couple beers to take to the producer and the PM. As we get in the elevator to ride up to the lunchroom - Shawn decides that he wants to put his "junk" inside the drinks.

While I am totally against this idea in everyday life - at the time, it really did seems like a genius move.

I guess you had to be there...

Cooler heads did prevail - and he didn't. But Shawn was suffering from a tuberculosis type cough - and he decided instead to hack and cough into each beer.

Let him who is without sin....

We walked into the lunchroom and went to present the glowing mugs to our favorite people - at which time, they told us they don't drink -

and handed the beers off to the lead of the show and to our best friend and Chinese counterpart Hogan. Both men promptly downed the drinks and both men promptly got desperately sick and almost halted production.

So what's the take home?

I have a friend who keeps a list of those who have wronged him. And he is like the Chinese - he has a very loooooong memory. Even if it takes years - he plots and plans. And then he strikes when no one knows he was even there.

Getting bitter and grumpy is the easy thing. Hell - we are writers - it's what we do. There are going to be so many undeserving people getting breaks. The producers mistress - the directors cousin... They don't know what they are doing and suddenly, they are a star. At the same time - there are so many people far more talented who are suffering in obscurity - and will never get the chances you have. Instead of bitching - be humbled. Every time a complaint comes out of my mouth - I try to think of the far more talented writers that I that I am getting a leg up on - not though talent of my own - but more through luck and persistence.

The very scary thing - is that Hollywood is an insular place. The assistant you meet today is tomorrows executive. And today's executive is tomorrows Starbuck's employee of the month. Top to Bottom and back to top.

There are going to be really rude people. People who say things and do things that break your heart. The very nature of this business is that people are insecure and they project that insecurity onto you. And as writers - we tend to place our own worth in the projects we write. It's very hard to separate ourselves from what we do.

But if we go back to my favorite analogy of the week:

This is a marathon. (Sorry Blair...) Those who pass you on the first mile - you will see again at mile 8. And everyone who has something to say today - might not be there tomorrow. You have to worry about you. Not the haters trying to bring you down - and not the ass kissers who want to ride you to the finish.

We compete to finish. We write to write some more. And letting others bring you down only wastes your time. It's hard to try to remain above it all - and you can insulate yourself so much that you don't enjoy the trip - and so competitive that you don't take time to help out those around you. It can be hard to remember that my con film isn't competing with your black jazz additct film or your southern magnolia or your man locked in a room with a computer movie... It's just not that one to one...

It gets easy to be caught up in the nonsense. To come up with reasons why that guy said that or did that. Bit it is a big waste of time and energy. I have too much to do myself - just trying to crank out my pages and keep focused.

But I swear - If that bastard thinks he can talk to me like that one more time and get away with it?

I'm gonna freaking steal his peaches!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Kick ass and take names

Chuck Norris doesn't sleep... He waits.

How bad do you want it?

My wife and I got married as kids. I was 21 - my wife was 14. But trust me - she was really mature for her age - if you know what I mean...I had just finished college - and we got married 2 weeks before I started grad school. I thought marriage can't be that tough - after all - you are choosing to be together...

But it was hard. And no matter what someone tells you - it doesn't matter till you do it yourself. I have no regrets about that day at all - except that in a few weeks my wife will finally be 21 - and she really wants to get drunk...Then who will drive me home?

I remember when I first met my wife. She said that she had heard that men could now carry children - and she was really excited cause there was no way she wanted to do it. Once we got married - we waited seven years - but eventually we - and by we, I mean she- popped out two wonderful kids.

Everyone tells you how it would be. Books, TV, friends and family. But we had no idea. No idea at all. Sure its great. Yes, its wonderful and fun. But it is very very hard as well.

Somewhere in our entitlement driven lives - we actually start to think that we deserve something. At least a shot. That we have talent. That we should be able to use it. Sigh... Young naive grasshopper.

When I took off for Indiana - hitting the road to come here with Shawn to raise a couple million dollars - I knew it was crazy - but I also thought we could do it. If we just met the right people - told them our story - we could find a couple people crazy enough to buy into our vision. (David is in the middle of this now - having just raised his money and getting ready to start shooting)

That was almost three years ago.

You hear of people who just write a script and suddenly they are millionaires and everyone wants to work with them. You think... That could be me! As soon as I finish this script - I'll hit the jackpot when people see how brilliant I am.

Then you hear about the guy who writes and writes and writes - and finally - 10 years in - sells that first idea - or he sells it - and 10 years later, it finally hits the screen. And you think - poor slub. Thank God that's not me.

Well. Each day in is a reality check.

I wish that I knew how to hedge my bets.

I packed the family up and moved. I quit my job. I pored all we had into doing this - depleting our meager saving and spending all my time trying to make this happen. All I wanted at the end of the day was to not look like a complete idiot.

A bit of a dork, maybe. A moron, possibly. But just not a complete idiot.

And here we are. Getting closer. Looking like we might actually go.

So it looks like it might actually be a bet that pays off... (sure - I could be writing my suicide post in a couple days - but for now the future seems bright...)

But if I was really truthful - and I could have had the me from now - send back from the future a note that said - be careful - it's gonna take three years to get this thing going. Three years from the day you start.

I don't know if I would have done it.

We literally are down to fumes. It has cost us a lot. On the other side - I have great contacts. Agents. A great manager. Wonderful friends. I spent two years at home almost everyday with my child bride and our cool kids. The only downside being everyone asking - how's the movie coming? And not knowing the right way to respond.

My point is this - I think - We all wanna think we can win the lottery. But we are more like shoemakers. Each pair gets a little better. And the more we make - the more skilled we become. It is not a sprint. It is a marathon. And while almost everyone that comes here is already involved in the business in some way - it doesn't make it easier.

But if we really count the cost - we might give up before it's even started.

At the same time - for anyone who knows me - if a complete fool like me can make it -there is so much hope for all of you. So I guess I am an object lesson in paradox.

So for today - time to put on my Chuck Norris Jeans... Cause we just got word from Star1 that his offer looks great and is on its way to the lawyers...

Chuck Norris doesn't believe in global warming. He just woke up cold and turned the sun up....

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The anti-climactic climax

Ok, Ok... one more chapter - and then it's lights out.
(pic courtesy of T-Ho...)

So we last left our intreped game show contestant wanna-bes at the brink of disaster. We had missed our time slot - thanks to Shawn's hyperactive bladder and were now hoping that somehow - a group would not show up for the next hours auditions. Which, by the way, was the last hour of the night. They were shutting down after that.

So we had one shot. One shot to come in and show off our brilliance.

Now granted. If you wanted to audtion, you had to fill in an online form. Then, if you were accepted, you had to fill in a three page questionaire - for each person on your team. Then you had to be picked from all the applicants to come to an audition. And give up part of your Saturday. And go to Chicago - which was the only place in the mid-west that they were stopping by.

If you had gone through all this trouble to do all of these things - what is the likelyhood that you would miss your audtion?


We left and walked around the block a few times - cursing Shawn and our luck. We couldn't believe that two minutes doomed us the way that it did. But then again - at least we didn't pay $400 to fly out here for this humiliation...

We arrive back at the hotel and decide to wait outside the room. The helpful girls actually show us to a holding room next door to where the audtions are being held. We go in there, cursing our luck - but excited to think that we still have a chance - because we are the only ones here.

Now here is where things get crazy.

During the next thirty minutes - people start to come in. One team. Two teams. Five teams. The room is starting to fill up. We make jokes to each other to cover the growing dread that we might not make it inside. We console ourselves that we are the only "camera ready" team in this hall of geeks...

And in the middle of the rising anxiety - Shawn gets a call from his wife. Shawn and his wife are famous for phone fights. A simple misunderstanding can lead to an evening of continual grief. Any married man can relate that the wrong word at the wrong time can cause infinite sadness for the rest of your life...

Well - as the room became more and more crowded - Shawn's wife called - wanting to know how we did - because our auditions should have been way over by now. But Shawn - not wanting to broadcast the fact that we missed our slot in a room full of competition - tried to be discrete and tell her that he would tell her about it later. But the more elusive he tried to be, the more she pressed - and soon -

Shawn was in the corner with his head burried in his hands - trying to dig his way out of a crapstorm.

In the mean time - Blair and I watch as the room fills with over 25 teams - we are now past 75 people in there. And remember - only 3 teams go FROM THE ENTIRE DAY - they have done over 10 sessions like this...

Our hopes and dreams slowly begin to diminish...

Suddenly - the girl appears and tells us to go into the audition room. Shawn extricates himself from his call - looking like he just got mule kicked in the groin. He weakly smiles - trying to assure us that he is OK.

We are in the corner of the room furthest from the door - and I try to get us to sneak in with the crowd so they can't stop us from at least getting in the room. There are so many people - we are sure that everyone is here and there is no slot for us. When we get to the door - the girl is talking to someone else and we walk right in...


But in truth - our humiliation was far from over.

We sat at a table with the other 75 people and we were given an envelope that had the test in it. We were told there were 50 questions and we had 15 minutes to answer them. While we were nervous - we figured the worst part was over... but if you looked around the room and were searching for people that looked like trivia was their lives - you would have found a bunch of them there. These guys looked like this was the first time they had seen daylight in a long time.

For a brief shining second - we feel a glimmer of hope.

Till we see the test.

We open our envelopes - and remember - everyone on the team must pass. It turns out the test is 50 questions - not true and false - not multiple choice - not a mix of different things - it is all questions - with nothing but blanks for the answers. No help. No hints. Just questions and 50 blanks.

I look at the first question. What is the name of the character that Tom Clancy created that has been played by Alec Balwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck? Not a tough one - but for some reason - my mind goes blank. And I read the freaking books.

Ok. Just move on to the next one.

What is the name of Alf's home planet. Crap....

I move through the test - looking for some sort of respite from the onslaught of my ignorance. It gets worse before it gets better. What is the name of the bar frequented by the denizens of Three's Company? On Magnum P.I., what are the names of Robin Masters Dobermans? What is the name of the drummer in Hanson? What was the name of the wrestler Rocky fought in Rocky III played by Hulk Hogan?

Granted - there are a bunch that I could get with minimal work - and I finally remembered Jack Ryan. At one point - I decided to cheat and look at Shawn's test to see what planet Alf came from - but he wrote something so obviously a guess -something like IPLAK - that if I used that - they would know we were cheating...

In the end - I figured I was about 30-35 out of 50. Blair figure he was somewhere around 30ish... Shawn thought he did the best - until we started talking about answers... and then he said "whoops" a lot.

In the end - our collective ignorance brought us down. There were just three teams from our audition that went on to the interview round - and 22 that went home knowing that they actually had a semblance of a life.

All in all - it was a really interesting, fun and ultimately humiliating experience.

But at least I didn't have to pay $400 to fly there for it...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The other side of the grass

Looks so nice over there in that big warm bed....

I think it's amazing to have a slight amount of success in the business - but still not be able to afford even a small rock of crack. And I thought this was the place to sleep your way to the top!

We are pushing forward with the film. The offers are officially out to our two big stars. Star2's manager who we were having a tricky time with - surprised us all last week when she stepped up and told us we were basically there and ready to go. But this week, she is back to her crazy tricks...

Although - this time, it could really work in our favor. She had always told us that Star 2 would only come on once he saw the other names that were gonna be in the film. When she was told the names we would be going after by our mini-major - she was really happy.

But mini-major was not planning on making any more offers till they had Star 1 and Star 2 signed. But now - because of the manager - we are going to have to find out who is available off of our cast list - and go out with more offers. So while this is a tricky moment with Star 2 - and by no means does it mean anything bad with him or his camp, I'm sure he is still in the film - it is great for us, because now we are gonna have to get the rest of the cast locked up. And the more people that come on board - the more momentum you have and the more everyone gets excited -

and the more chance that there is no way anyone is gonna pull out.

So things actually are good... Its really weird - because in this business - no one really believes anything is going to happen until the check has been cashed. But I am starting to feel from those around me that they are starting to get excited. And that starts to get me excited.

Hard to believe this might actually happen.

In other news - I got sent a new action script from REALLY BIG COMPANY. My agents wrangled me a meeting with BIG PRODUCER who is doing really big films. This script was written by one guy - had revisions by two others - and they are still having trouble with it.

So who do they call?

Well - probably a bunch of people. But after my wonderful agents bend, break, kidnap and maim certain family members - they also decide to call me.

The problem with the script - and believe me - there are problems - is the bad guy. His motivations, his actions - and just really him in general. There are other problems - but there is also an incredible amount of good things as well. The script and dialog are good. When you read it - it just stands up as very professional - and makes you wonder why you call yourself a writer...

But they still didn't get it right... HA! So we will see if I can think like a bad guy and figure out what my big elaborate plan would be to save the script. And if they think I might give them something useful.

Or if I am just another idiot throwing two cents.

(Don't answer that...)

Till then - I'll be the big dog in a little basket - dreaming of being the comfortable basket.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

So for all you story fans:

Here’s part two of the great Trivia debacle. This time – typed in Word, so there can be no chance of losing anything. Not that there is anything that great to be lost – but I refuse to type this a third time –and the build up is beginning to overpower the story….

The World Series of Trivia is to be broadcast on VH1. As seen from our applications – it was to be a team sport. Our team – Team Killjoy – named, incidentally after a script that was written years ago about a group of really bad clowns – consisted of Shawn, Blair and I.

If you broke us down to our individual pokemon powers, I’d say that Blair’s specialty was 70’s music and obscure movies, my thing was TV and Movies and Shawn’s was sports and general knowledge. Too bad there was no sports or general knowledge on the test.

If anything – I think Shawn and I were afraid for Blair – because the thing about this test is that everyone on the team had to pass it. If one person fails – the whole team fails.

We were scheduled for a 5:00 time slot on Saturday in Chicago. Chicago is about 2.5 hours away for Shawn and I – and Blair is in Virginia. At the time we applied – Blair planned on driving his family out and staying a week.

Blair’s kids are home schooled – so they will grow up socially retarded. Whoops. I mean – Blair’s kids are home schooled – so they can take off school whenever they want. SO it was to be a whole family trip.

But Blair also works for NASA doing a children’s TV show about science – and it just so happens that the auditions were going to take place in the middle of a very crowded week for him. He was shooting in Seattle till Friday night – had to fly to Chicago on Saturday – fly out Sunday – to be back in Virginia to interview Bruce Hornsby on Monday.

The first stage of the audition was Saturday. This was to be the test – and if everyone passed the test – than an interview. Out of all the auditioners – 8 teams would be chosen to proceed to Sunday – where there would be a fake version of the game played – and then three teams would be chosen to go to the real game.

At this point – we all felt fairly confident that we would at least make it to Sunday. How hard could the test be? They had to make it easy enough that they could get cool people through so that they could pick the most interesting ones to be on the show… or so we thought. We were confident enough in this that no on really thought twice when Blair had to throw down $400 to buy a ticket to come to Chicago from Seattle at the last minute…

No one really studied. Why start now? It didn’t help in high school, college or grad school… But on the day of the big game – I did scrape the dust of the top of my trivia pursuit pop culture edition game and pull the cards out of the box. All the way to Chicago – I quizzed Shawn. We were doing Ok. Bout 50-50.

We picked Blair up at the airport – and had time to go get some pizza at the best pizza place in the world. While we ate – we went over the cards some more. Surprisingly – Blair was holding his own – despite the fact that he wasn’t showing a huge amount of confidence. He didn’t want to be the guy that pulled the rest of the team down. We didn’t want him to be that guy either… especially since he paid $400 for the privilege of getting mocked.

We finished eating – felt loose… walked around the block a couple times – and finally headed into the hotel.

Since we had a firm audition time – we assumed that they would be taking one team at a time and giving them the test – then seeing if they should be interviewed. But as we walked in through the lobby – we saw we might be mistaken.

While it was in no way like the American Idol auditions – it was crazy. At least 10 other teams were there – all cramming trivia into their heads from notes, book and cards. We started to get that weird little feeling in the bottom of our stomachs – like… wow… I’m glad I didn’t pay $400 to come here…

We found a couch I the corner and sat down. Probably would have been a great idea to cram a bit more knowledge – but instead – we decided it would be a perfect time to watch some clips from 40 year old Virgin on Blair’s computer.

We laughed to ourselves for 10 minutes – when suddenly – Shawn announces that our slot is in two minutes. We quickly pack and get ready – when Shawn announces again – I have to go to the bathroom.

Blair and I stand impatiently waiting while Shawn goes tinkle. Again.

We finally get in an elevator that goes down before it will go up – and we make it to the third floor. We walk up and see the two girls that must be there to check us in.

She says- Are you here for the auditions?

We say – Yup.

What time?


OH. Wow. You just missed it. They are already in there.

Blair looks at his watch. It’s only 5:02!

Yeah. Well. Sorry. If you want you can hang out till the next group and if someone doesn’t show up – you can go in their place….

Blair and I both turn and look at Shawn – accusingly.

Ok. We’ll be back….

Did we come all this way to not make it in to even take the test?

I leave you with this quote from Blair:

I don’t care what happens – if we don’t make it in – we just better tell everyone that we did and didn’t make it. Cause I won’t be able to tell everyone that we missed our big chance cause Shawn had to take a piss….


Monday, April 10, 2006

Damn you blogger

Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

I just spent an hour on a post about the game show and our hilarious hijinx on the way there. Typed up the entire story. Only to see Blogger freeze and delete the whole damn thing...


Not very happy - and don't really want to repeat what was a really long and drawn out - but riotously funny - story about the journey to the world series of pop culture...

So instead - here is some Monday Ramblings.

After my agents promised to send me a script last week - I finally wrote them Saturday to ask if there was a problem getting it to me. They said I should have had it long ago... Turns out one of the guys there sent it to the wrong address. Or so they said... Someone went back to the office last night and emailed it out to me.

Its for a big company. Crazy idea - but the nice thing is that the big problem they have with it is the bad guy. They think his plan needs some work and that he really needs a character pass. If there is anything I am good at - it is bad guys. Probably because I can relate so much. Its really easy to write bad guys if you are at all honest about your own nature. I always just think about what I would do if I thought I could get away with it and didn't care about repercussions. And when it comes to plans - I am a damn Rube Goldberg... I can overplot a crazy plan like the Riddler...

I am reading an incredible book - which if you haven't read it - pick it up. Freakonomics. Really amazing stuff. Asks a lot of interesting questions and follows them up with really fascinating answers. Like what really makes a good parent. How do you make your kids smart. Why did the crime rate go down in the 90s? What do the kkk and real estate agents have in common....? It is really fun - and informative - even if you don't like the answers. But one of the things that he states upfront is that the way humans talk and the way they act are totally different...

Still waiting for word on the Japanese project. The idea I sent to the producers that they went nuts over is currently being written as a book. The author of the book has a proposal - that we want to see - but we are going through his agent. We should have something later this week.

Offers go out to the main two actors this week. I thought they had gone out - but they should be going out today. There was a few more questions that needed answering - stuff about perqs and back end percentages - and the whole star package... Wow. Must be really nice... Good for them....

In looking at the schedule for the film - I noticed that one whole story was cut out in its entirety. I know the script as it stands is a bit long - 126 pages - and I know that I write action a lot shorter than it would play on the screen - so there will have to be cuts.

Last week - we heard from Star Two's manager and she told us that when Star 2 was talking with the Director - he was told there was a new version of the script. So mini major wanted me to send the new version to them. Me being completely in the dark about it - tried to stay calm. I wrote to Director and asked him... Hmmm... If there is a new version of the script - I sure would love to see it...

And the backstory to that is - Last year - Director and I were supposed to work on cutting it down a bit and going over any changes that he might want. Now I am in a better position than a lot of writers - in that I am also a producer on the project - so I get a bit more say in what happens. I also still own the script... So no one is gonna get a bigger say for now than me... Anyway - the director just went ahead and rewrote the entire thing - just shortening and changing things as he saw fit - including dialog...

It was really not good. And we had a bit of a tiff over it. But cooler heads prevailed and we just put that version of the script behind us. Till now - when they said he had a new script. Well. Director wrote me back, insisting that there was no new version - other than the changes that we had both talked about... So we should be on the same page.

He is supposed to call me today so that we can talk about what those changes are and how we can incorporate the Star's ideas into the script as well. Should get real interesting real fast.

In the mean time - after a great 40 page start on the new version of my last script that I was never really convinced needed a new version - I am stuck. I set out to make a few changes - ended up completely rewriting everything - and now realize that I need to really make some important choices and get some more stuff down on paper...

But I also realize that too much of my time has been thinking about the movie going and its hard with a little brain like mine to cram so much stuff inside...

Really need to sit down and read the script for the movie again. While I know it like the back of my hand - I have purposely not read it for over a year. I want to come to it fresh - hopefully finding ways to make it better - instead of being emotional as the babies get killed.

Shaping up to be another interesting week. Offers go out. Still gotta write. Gotta stretch the savings. Try to keep everyone happy and not go nuts...

Tomorrow will bring part two of the trivia story...

So stay tuned....