Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Do you need a spanking?

This works well for my kids when we travel. At home, I just put them in the dryer.

How disciplined are you?

I am, by nature, not a disciplined person. Most of us are probably not. The creative free side of our natures and the rigid disciplined side of our natures continually clash with only some of us making it out of the confrontation alive.

Writing is a combination of both of those things.

You have to be creative and you have to be able to consistently write.

I confess - when I am breaking a story - I have no idea how to be disciplined. I can't sit and beat the story out of my head onto the paper. I usually have to think - talk to friends - think and then write - talk some more - and it takes time.

The sad reality of writing is that when you are done with a script - no one cares if it took you three days or three years to write it.

They only care if it is good.

So discipline helps you write more consistently - but it had no guarantee that what you do write is any good.

But here is the dirty secret of screenwriting.

The more you write - the better you get.

I don't care if you are a lucky bastard your first time out - you second time will be better. And the third better than that.

Your ideas still might suck - but the actual writing will get stronger. You will have better dialog. Better description. Know what to leave off the page. Have a feel for story and structure.

Robert Rodriguez said that the first three scripts you write should be just for you - and then throw them out. After that, you can start writing. I remember the first three films I made. They should not be seen by anyone. Not even my own mother could sit through them.

But unless you are disciplined - you won't even make it through the first three.

How committed are you to what you are doing?

Do you have what it takes to put in the hours? Can you squeeze more time out of your day? Do you really want this? Are you willing to be hard on yourself - rewriting and rewriting - to develop your voice and come up with something that will open the next door for you?

It's easy to talk about what we want?

But what are we actually doing on a day to day basis to get what we want?

My son pulls random quotes from Transformer cartoons and repeats them all day long - not knowing what they mean. Things like -

You want a piece of me, Mon Ami? (sp)

His new favorite is:

Talk is cheap!

Whenever we say anything he doesn't like he yells it - TALK IS CHEAP!

And in this case, it is. Talk is cheap.

Only pages count. Good pages. Pages that stand out above everything and everyone else's.

If you want this - go for it. Don't stop till you get it. But stop the jibber jabber.

That means me too. There isn't enough room on the windshield for us all....

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Art Bitch

Get your ass back on the street, baby... It ain't quitting time yet...
What?!? You ain't done. Not till I said you're done.
Don't make me come over there and give you the what for...

So I started work yesterday. And yes, I sorta remember how to do it - deep in the recesses of the lizard part of my brain...And I remember why I didn't like it...But my wife really likes things like... Um... Light and water...She is so demanding...

Bill broke me in easy. We talked about what we were gonna do, we went to see X3 and then we had lunch. I told him this was no different than being a director so far... :)

I spent the rest of the day drawing and cutting out 2 foot by 2 foot foam dragons. We are building an ancient Babylonian palace... So go figure. The rest of the team comes in today. So I'll meet the other ho's and Bill will put us all out on the street...

I was dead tired last night - ready to sleep - when my brother in law called. He told me they had steak and wanted me to come by. I got to see his family and the new baby Ryan Anthony. After a bit of steak, we waxed poetically about Lost for half an hour. I told him the theme of the show was redemption and how every character needed it - and he spent 20 minutes shooting holes in my theory.

I'm still right... :)

X3 is worth the dollars. Definitely make sure you stay through the credits. Its really fun - the action is good - but the script is full of transitional scenes. Scenes that are there to get you from one place to another. Scenes where they talk about what just happened and then give you a throw away before they show you what's next. I thought there were some really groan inducing lines that I had a hard time believing would make it to a final draft of a script.

But the action was nice... Although, I really missed Nightcrawler... And they did have some really big balls about just taking people out. People you care about.

Probably my favorite moments were between Xavier and Magneto. It is really cool to have two best friends become enemies and still really care for each other - they just have different opinions on how things should work. The movie is worth it for those couple moments alone.

The new trailer for Superman was in front of this. It looks beautiful... But very very talky. No really big moments for me in the trailer. They have the plane thing - but the only thing that really stands out to me is Kevin Spacey - who looks like he is having tons of fun.

Tonight - if I can get off the streets for a second - I plan on working on my notes for the story. Got good stuff down driving here - just haven't had a second to get it into my outline. So tonight is for writing.

Much easier here when there is no TV. So I have no excuses.

Fun video of the day:

No matter how bad things get - they could always be worse....

Monday, May 29, 2006

And then this happened....

Long drive... But arrived in one piece.

Hit the road early - as you saw yesterday. Pretty uneventful drive. On the Ohio turnpike - I must have seen about 25 cops - all waiting for people... But by the time I hit Pennsylvania - I don't think anyone cared. People were driving fast!

The good news is I made it here relatively safe with no speeding tickets.

The great news is - I got a lot of work done on my story.

Being trapped in a car in your own head for 14 hours can really work!

I took my Mapquest directions - flipped them over - and wrote notes all over them. I finally feels as if I have the beginning of the story down - and exactly how the end will play out.

It is so funny how you can look at something over and over and even when you know what is going to happen - you can't make things make sense. I have been working on breaking this story for a couple weeks - but I just couldn't get it to break where I wanted it.

Not that I have solved that yet - but I have gone a long way. On Saturday - I spent a good part of the day mowing grass. Mine with a push mower - 1.5 hours - and my dad's with his riding mower - 2 hours. During that time I had a huge breakthrough.


What is the tone of the film.

Comedy is easy. You know exactly where you are going and what you need to achieve in each scene. But drama, horror, suspense - thrillers... They can be a bit more tricky. How do the characters interact and what kind of trip are you taking the audience on?

Are they supposed to be laughing here? And then the killer comes out? How are they supposed to feel as an audience? You flip things around too much and you make them uncomfortable and they won't wanna follow you anywhere.

Ever see Punch Drunk Love?

If you haven't - go get it.


But hated by many.

My wife and I had a date - unbelievable - and went to see it here in Virginia Beach when it came out. There were only 27 people in the theater on opening night. Out of those 27 - 12 walked out.

Here is the crazy thing - 2 walked out WITH ONLY 10 MINUTES LEFT.

This was Adam Sandler - but not at all an Adam Sandler movie.

When people order Steak - they damn well want steak. Heck - the box office proved it. X3 came out with horrible reviews. Yet it make a buttload of money. People want what they want. If they wanted great burgers - they wouldn't go to McDonalds - but they sure as hell know what they are getting when they go.

So finding a good and consistent tone is very important.

And taking the audience on a ride with you is as well. So don't bore them. Don't give them everything they want. But do set them up for what is coming.

I plan on attacking this story with glee during the week before my family arrives.

Didn't sleep a whole hell of a lot last night. Must be the energy drinks I pounded to get me here.

I am a little worried about my new job. I start today with my art director Bill. The art department works harder than any department on the set. I was lead man on a film once - my shortest day was 14 hours - my longest - a couple 20 hour plus days - and Blair and I slept in the truck...

Bill laughs at those hours.

The reasons I hire him is he kills himself to make the project great.

This is the same reason I fear working for him.

I start work today at 8. I reminded him that today is a holiday.

He said:

That's great! Less traffic on the roads!

Sigh. Hi Ho!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

off to work

4 am

I am off to Virginia...

Long drive today alone... but it is good for breaking story...

I'll try to update tonight if I don't fall over with fatigue...


Saturday, May 27, 2006

What have you got to show for it?

Once again we find ourselves at a crossroad.

But I am slowly leaving behind the stress and anxiety of the past and replacing it with the anxiety and uncertainty of the future...

I often find myself in a crisis of identity.

What am I really - besides a husband, father and unemployed?

Professionally - I have been a producer and director of TV and Commercials. But I left all that behind to make a movie. Yet three years later - the movie isn't made. And while I got enough attention from the script to get an agent - I am certainly not getting offers - except for open assignments.

And once you move and distance yourself from you main source of income - it takes a bit to break back in. In the meantime - I have slowly spent all of our savings - banking it on a STAR who decided at the last minute - after being attached to the film for 2 years - that now that we had a start date - he really didn't want to do it.

So I am starting over.

There are people that want to buy the script from me. My agents think it is the best thing for me to do. To sell it. If I do - it will be in the trades again and I will be in a different category - according to them. I will be one of 4-5 competing for the lower level jobs instead of one of 15-20 competing for open assignments - and those type of jobs are the ones where you have to nail it to get a shot.

My script is coming back to me this week. Mini-major is having a conference call with us on Tuesday morning - but for them - they really don't want to do much to help us unless all the stars want to cut their fees to nothing. And the stars willing to do that don't match what the foreign sales guys want - and this company is really run by foreign sales.

So I think the party there is ending. My partner is trying to broker a deal that will keep them in the picture as either a co-financing partner or a sales agent. That way we keep our clout and still have them behind us - but we shoulder more of the risk and can make offers that we want.

But this will be the week that decides that.

I am willing to go back to the basics. I had raised a million dollars to shoot this. I gave it all up when we had to start this silly game of chasing stars... But I do understand so much more of the game now - even if much of it is silly and played out of fear and insecurity. No wonder that trickles down on all of us.

So today turns a new leaf.

The movie will be what it will be.

I am heading back to VA tomorrow for at least a month? Bill - my good friend and art director is hiring me for his crew. I will be shaping foam into rock like shapes to build a palace set.

There is still the company in LA that wants to hire me to produce one of two different series. They want to get me on ICHAT next week - so we will see where that goes.

I refuse to just sell out with the script - unless it looks like there is no other option. I'll just regroup and start over. And we will see where that goes.

But I feel good. Sort of.

Like the first step before a long long fall...

But what the hell? It's been three years already... What's a couple more?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Flashback Friday

This takes me back - back to when I sang like an angel and looked the part.

See - we had a family of four boys. But someone told us to appeal to the hardcore church audience - having a girl in the family would really open up our demographic. Not that I understood that at the time.

I just knew that whichever one of us boys acted up the most - that "bad" boy got to be the one to wear the dress at the next town. Being a "bad" boy meant that you had to spend an extra ten minutes getting ready - getting your hair "done." That "bad" boy had to wear high heels. That "bad" boy had to handle the leers and stares of strange sweaty men...

And was it my fault that my hair took the curl the best? Was it my fault that I looked "foxy" in the dress? Was it my fault that I could take the solo in "What a friend..." and bring tears to the congregations eyes like no other?

Sure. After a couple years, we all wanted to be the "bad" boy.

But in the end - there could be only one "Connie" Cooper...and here you see "her" in all her photographic glory.

Whenever it gets a little crazy - I pull out that old dress - jam my body like an old ladies foot into a too tight shoe - and sing my heart out as I cry for a childhood that is long gone.

Other times - I simple put on the Cooper Family album and smoke crack - smiling at the bittersweet innocence of youth lost forever.


Spent the morning with "Mr Cooper" at the doctor's yesterday. They pulled four syringes of fluid off his knee. The pain is almost gone - and now he is just stiff. I'm heading over today to spend some time with him while Mom runs out to the store. He should be back up and around in the next day or two. Hard to see the man in pain - but thank God he is getting better.

Still slightly decompressing from the shoot. At least that is what I tell myself. Need to be writing - but instead - I am lost in my thoughts.

Mini Major said they have decided that while DOGSTAR and STAR 6 are good substitutes for STAR1 and STAR2 - they don't want to pony up any more cash. So we are in an interesting position. My other producer says she will have the cash to make a deal - but she doesn't have it yet. Two more weeks.

My agents really just want me to sell the script. They sent me another project the other day - based on characters from a comic that has never been written. Oh my goodness - it is bad. Bad like I can't describe. Bad like I can't read it without groaning and laughing out loud.

But I am sure that's what they thought about Spiderman when it first came out - so who knows....

Maybe I am not made to do "takes." Maybe I need to do originals and let the other stuff pass me by.

BTW - Wife and I watched Lost last night - Sweet Mary! That show is just getting better and better. It leveled off there in the middle of the season - but the last half was incredible.... What the hell is gonna happen next?

Well each new day is a new opportunity to get something done. So enough with the jibber jabber. I'm off to surf the internet... Peace out!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Interesting turn of events

Yesterday was the day I paid for my on the road tomfoolery.

Working non-stop and getting little to no sleep in the amazingly uncomfortable Comfort Inn came to a head as I tried to make my way back from MN to Indiana. After finally falling asleep at 1am, I woke straight up at 5 - ready to go. I ended up meeting David and we headed to the airport at 830.

Checked in fine - but found out our flight was delayed - and we waited over an hour. Then got on the plane and waited some more. By now - we both were to miss our connections in Chicago.

Once we got in - at 115 - my 130 flight had been delayed till 330 - and David had 5 minutes to catch his flight to Norfolk in another terminal. I got a call from him last night that he OJ'ed it all the way there and got on.

I was not so lucky.

Bought a book - and sat. By the time we actually got on the plane - 5:00 - I was 150 page in. By the time we actually got off the runway and in the air 6:00 - jammed like sardines in a puddlejumper that smelled like a Pakistani bus during rush hour - I was over 200.

Right before I took off - I got a call.

It was my sister saying that she was at the hospital and my dad had to take an ambulance there.

Yesterday was his birthday...Go figure.

She didn't know what was wrong - but thought it had something to do with his heart.

My Dad is a pretty healthy 63. For the last 4 months - we hit the gym at least 4-5 times a week together and get on the machines for about 40 minutes. He has been a runner most of his life - doing a bunch of marathons.

So hearing that it was his heart didn't really set right with me...But age has a way of throwing out the past and leveling the playing field. So who was to say.

As we continued to get delayed and thrown into holding patterns and finally get in the air - I was pretty numb. I had a great "happy birthday" call with my dad that morning - and I told him I loved him - but I knew this couldn't be... Could it?

Finally hit the ground and I ran to my car - and still had an hour drive to get back home. At least there wasn't any rush hour. My wife had called to tell me that it wasn't his heart -thank God - but it was his knee.

My pops had ripped up his knee in high school. He ran track and played baseball - and sometime during that time - he ripped up his ligaments and cartilage. He actually got an honorable discharge from the army cause it was getting worse. But he still went on and ran on it for years - doing all the marathons after this.

In the last year - he knew there wasn't much left to the knee - but the doctors told him - as long as he didn't have much pain - just leave it be.

Well - apparently - all the pain came yesterday. A couple decades worth. He was visiting a guy from church in the jail - and when he came home - the pain got so bad he passed out. My mom freaked - and called the ambulance. He was upstairs - so they called the fire department - and next thing you know - the house has 50 people - but they get him to the hospital.

My sister gets them to give him some morphine he is doing so bad - and then he starts getting silly. I am a smart ass - but my dad is a bigger one. By the time I get there - he is in the emergency room - his leg in a big pillow and he is talking non-stop about silly stuff - chatting up the nurse - and all.

The waiting room has about 10 people from the church - and we all get him in the car and back home. We prop him up on the couch - turn on American Idol - and have some of his birthday cake as he struggles to stay awake.

I run out and pick up the prescriptions we left at the hospital and get his medicine. Then I pack my sleeping kids in the car and come home. Try to catch the Dallas Phoenix game - but pass out.

Long day - but thank God Dad is gonna make it - even though he needs a new knee.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The day after

So the shoot went well...

We had a really insanely long day. We started at the hotel at 7:30am and didn't get back here till past 11... But it was good. We tried to cram an entire 3 days of shooting into two - and we were somewhat successful. We ended up with a bit over 8.5 hours of footage.

Surely you will be able to cut a good 3-4 minute trailer out of that...

On the fun side - I ran a camera all day. While I am not or ever will be a camera man - I still really enjoyed doing something other than just telling the cameraman what to do. I think I got some really nice stuff that can intercut with his really good stuff.

The bad side - you always need more. We were running and gunning all day - and while I feel as if we got the story - we could have used more B roll with the people to help tell the story visually.

But it was great to see David again and hang out all day. And Gregoire did a really wonderful job of lighting and keeping up with the crazy pace - as long as he had cigarettes nearby. Bob - our soundman - seemed pleasant enough - but he never quite recovered from the waitress at lunch dumping my ice tea into his lap. He was ready for the day to end.

We were filming a great couple who might want to move. And we spent some time with a crypto-astrologer. Needless to say - he was an interesting guy. He was a really nice and fun version of David Caradine in Kill Bill.

It fun to see the "reality" of reality TV in action again. I did a home improvement series a few years ago that was trying to ride the "reality" wave... Funny how people really wanted to believe that reality shows would go away... But they are here to stay.

Reality is just like any other dramatic TV show - with out the professional actors and half the crew. You are doing the same thing - except backwards. You manufacture conflict and tension on the set - and then write the show in the edit room.

Our couple here did a great job of just being natural - and it was funny to see them fall into a little routine that created tension. It was as easy as turning the camera on - giving them a little direction - and setting them in motion. I made sure to tell David that the way to report their great performances was that they were completely wooden and stoic until I applied my director magic and brought them to life...

Lazarus... Come out!

It was great to be working again at something I love with people I like. So thanks again David...

Now back to the regularly scheduled whining....

I am up and ready to go - heading back home today.

In fact - today is my dad's birthday. So happy birthday Dad. I'll be getting off a plane and heading to his house for dinner.

Even though it's only been two days away - I miss the family like crazy - so it will be good to be going home. Especially with some future money in the pocket.

Next week - it is off to Virginia and working for Bill.

Till tomorrow - try to stay one step ahead of the alligators....

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

On the Road again....

And I find love is making music with my friends...

So while there were many years of traveling back and forth to Asia that I devoted myself to one particular Northwestern Airline. I pledged my undying love - and built a mountain of frequent flier miles. Alas - that love is no more.

My 8am flight that I left the house at 530 for was delayed - then canceled. The intercom system was out at the airport - and by the time we found out what was going on - because God forbid they send someone to the gate to tell all the people waiting for the flight - everything else was sold out and booked. I finally caught a 1230 flight to Cincinnati on Delta - and then fly backwards right over Indiana to MN - where I got in at 4. I was supposed to be here at 11.

In truth - it was not near my worst flight experience. Not even close. But it was my worst this year. And so it is with great sadness that I write off Northwest - because she has been good to me over the years.


We hit the ground running yesterday - seeing as how we lost a lot of time. Mostly B-roll type stuff that had us driving all over the Twin Cities - looking for the "shots" that make the city what it is.

Today is going to be a really really rough day. I didn't do myself any favors by staying up past 1am to watch both games. I about passed out during the Dallas game - but by the power of Greyskull they pulled it out and go on the next round. If only Cleveland would have been so lucky.

Today - I pop awake at 6 my time - which means 5 here. We are going 7-late... Close to midnight I would guess... So my lack of sleep does not bode well at all for me.

Had an interesting call with the mini-major. We were supposed to be having an in depth conversation about DOGSTAR - and I thought I would be here - driving around shooting when that happened. As it was - I was in the airport in Cincinnati - with about 500,000 PA announcements going on while they were on speakerphone trying to talk to me.

So it wasn't nice. Or productive.

They hadn't really figured out DOGSTAR's foreign value - and as such - they really needed to do that. So they are working on that now.

My producer friend was sick and not able to be on the call. When I finally got her - the first time we talked all weekend - she was still trying to get the "old director" as I like to call him now - to call STAR2 and see what we can salvage.

I know in my heart that this film is a complete reboot. We are gonna be going out from square one. But I am completely at peace about it.

So today is a big day. Lots of shooting. Lots of confusion. Little to no sleep.

You smell that? Slightly sulfuric like hellfire- with just a tinge of cotton candy?

Its the smell of Production.


Monday, May 22, 2006

To Infinity and Beyond....

Off to the great white North of Minnesota today for the TLC shoot.

Wish me luck.

I'll try to drop in tonight and post on the day.

Peace out!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The "fabled" Catbird Seat

So it was a really long Saturday.

I sent out my email notifying my fellow producers of my intentions to direct the film - and my declaration was met with silence... Like - in space no one can hear you scream- silence.

Late in the day - one of the producers finally wrote back - saying if we did decide to jettison our director - I should rightfully fill his space.

Still nothing from the other producer - and she was the one who is doing the big money deal. In my heart - I believed she was crying and falling apart - wishing to heaven she had never heard those words coming out of my mouth.

This morning - I finally got an email back from her - addressed to all the producers. She said that she fully supports me as the director. She was slow to get back to me because she was sick.... (I can only guess what made her feel that way...)

So while this is great news - and by great, I mean - incredible - because this is what I have wanted all along - it is by no means a done deal.

We are at a precarious place with the mini-major. They were sold a certain bill of good - ie: a different director with two major stars signed on. Now we are coming back on a weekend where we want them to make a significant offer to DOGSTAR and telling them that not only are the two stars out and we want you to raise the budget - but surprise- we have a new director too.

So - wow - don't know if this will happen or not. We might just have to ride the horse we rode in on.

Beyond that - the director is not a bad guy. At all. In fact he is a really good guy who did a lot of previsualization on this movie. He had some great ideas. But he failed to deliver either actor. And we gave him two years to do it. And that was the only reason I stepped aside in the first place. While I feel awful for him - I also completely feel justified in kicking him to the curb.

But at what price?

Is it worth losing the studio if they will refuse to support me as the director?

There is a lot of questions that need to be answered. But I guess that just means getting on the phone today and talking them out and seeing where we land.

I will say the world looks different with the promise of a job. It really is a lot nicer knowing that I don't have to act out of complete desperation - only partial desperation.

And believe me - once I get the bird in my mouth- I ain't letting go.

PS: Great post today over at the Inside Pitch Trust me. It's worth your time.

And if you are feeling a little masochistic... Tune in tomorrow....

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Nice work today Wesley. Most likely I'll kill you in the morning.

There is always a little sunshine before the rain...

Woke up yesterday to a giant double rainbow. It was still 6 something in the am - but dear God - it was beautiful. Stood out real clear against the background - a huge dark storm cloud. But it was so nice - I got the kids outta bed and carried the two of them outside so we could all see it.

Nothing better to silence two kids than the beauty of God's nature.


Back to complaining... :)

Not really.

Two big events yesterday. Well - three... Let's call it the MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS POST.


Work is really looking better.

I fly out early Monday for MN. I meet up with an old friend of mine who is my DP/Cameraman for the shoot. He is a French Canadian guy - who also goes by the name of Greg. So when we work together - I am Greg - because my penis is smaller and I need the appearance of domination - and he goes by the French sounding Gregoire... So it never gets confusing.

Greg and I actually really enjoy working together - and there was a time when no one wanted to work with either of us - so we were on the road together for almost an entire summer. We eventually almost came to blows in a Lawyers office in Mississippi - but it was averted. By the end of the day we were friends again - but it was touch and go there for a bit.

We are shooting in MN on Monday and Tuesday. The really cool thing is that David will be there too. David - who is the director of development for the production company I have spent many years at - is producing this pilot for TLC. It is a crazy idea - but it should be a lot of fun. Besides - it is work - and my wife tells me that being able to pay our bills with more than spit and promises is a lot of fun.

She is just spoiled.

On top of that - an old buddy of mine - who was gonna be the art director for my film - is art directing a pretty big project back in Virginia. He is saving me a crew spot on his team - and even though it has been at least 12 years since I have been in the art department and I have no idea how to do anything that he needs - he is still willing to help out my family and give me a month of work.

But here is the wild card.

I got a call yesterday from a company out in LA. They are really cool - and have done a ton of stuff. They are getting ready to do a new Crime show and were looking for a producer. I really got on well with the owner - and I think I have a pretty good shot at the job... So we will see what happens with that. He was really excited - and while I have no idea when or if the movie is going - this is yet another great opportunity.


When we lost STAR1 - I called my agency immediately. They were helping us cast our other parts - and I asked them if they had any bankable stars in the 20-30 year range. They didn't - but they immediately insisted that this role is perfect for - um, let's call him DOGSTAR. She was so insistent - that she took it on herself to call DOGSTAR's Agent and tell him about the project.

When I was talking with ICM who were also helping us with names - I told them we "withdrew the offer" from STAR1 and needed to replace him. They said - I'll tell you who is perfect for this role. DOGSTAR.

Wow. Two recommendations. I like DOGSTAR. I like a lot of his films. I also know how much DOGSTAR makes and he certainly wouldn't be doing any favors for us. So in talking with the mini-major - I asked them to make an offer to DOGSTAR's people. They said they would ask if DOGSTAR would do the project as a favor - but they didn't think it was in the realm of possibility.

I was slightly disappointed in this approach. But I understood why they would think this way.

The upshot of all this is - DOGSTAR's agent had read the script. Somehow he got a copy of it somewhere and thought it would be really good for his client.

BUT - and it is a big butt -

He would cut his rate - but not by much...So mini-major needs to take the weekend to decide what they want to do. To get DOGSTAR - we have to increase the budget. So we will see how this plays out. But this is good news...

I think.

THREE: (the monster at the end of this post)

I finally played my cards with the other producers. I told them last night that if we were going to get rid of our director - unless there was some really big name coming in to do the project - I wanted the job. I explained how I had more experience than either person up for the job - and I wrote the script specifically for me to direct it in the first place.

Needless to say - my email was met with a resounding silence.

So it's good to know that my fellow producers really support me in this...

More on that later...

Now - a big shout out to all the people from around the world who stumble onto this blog for one reason or another.

Lots of people coming for stories about the World Series of Trivia.

A few people for the story of the dwarf being swallowed by the hippo...

Some I have no idea how they got here - cause their blog is in a different language...

But welcome - one and all. There will be no BLOG WALL separating our countries.

It is good to know that whining and complaining cross all cultural boundaries...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pants on Fire....

Everybody lies. Everyday. For good and bad. Get used to it.

I am probably obsessed with two things: Perception and Behavior.

I would have made a great researcher - if only I didn't have to do any of that paperwork stuff. My ideal job with be working with the Dharma Initiative on Lost - getting to set up experiments and observe people in action as they interact.

Why do people do what they do? And why is it that we go so far to cover up our sin to others? Why is the guy with the suit and tie and smile - with the boy locked in his basement - seen as a pillar of society - while the greasy guy with the broken smile seen as a hazard?

We are truly a sum of our parts and are not meant to be judged on the actions of one day - you really need to get to know the person in totality before you can pass on judgment.

But in a script it is completely different.

We need to use a simple action, a line of exposition, a visual - to set up that this person is the one we need to pull for. A save the cat moment. And once we see this person - we need to know what is his big problem. The ghost of his story. The thing he really needs to overcome to be a better person.

And we want it that simple. We need it that simple. It becomes the theme, the spine, the essence that the plot moves on.

But it is not life.

Everyday people do things that they shouldn't. That they couldn't.

Like Matt Dillion rescuing the lady in Crash.

But in scripts - we give people moments that force them to confront their actions and give them opportunity to change...

Or like in the new Pirates trailer where Johnny Depp says-

I love those moments. I love to wave at them as they pass me by.

That is truthful. But it is resonant because it is how we are. We don't change. We are who we are and while we might slightly modify our behavior... We rarely have epiphanies that set our lives on a new course or direction.

Which brings me to my topic.

Everybody lies.

On HOUSE - a great show if you haven't seen it - start watching - the basic premise that the doctor's start with is that patients lie. All of them. The only thing you can trust is that they are not telling you the truth.

I would say this holds true for all of us.

If we are placed in a situation where it is easier to lie and spare someone's feelings - most of us take the easy way out.

So how does this apply to writing?

Well - we want to simply and quickly understand a character. But we want to challenge what we know of that character - and we want to see that character grow. And while everyone says they want complex and multi-faceted characters - we usually serve up the stereotype because it is so readily understandable.

The hero.

The villain.

The sidekick.

The girl.

You see and know who they are immediately - and then we can get back to the shooting and the car chases.

And as you give information to the audience - you are also setting up expectations. When we meet this guy - and he is seemingly the hero of our story - it is really hard to turn that guy around and make him the villain in the third act. While we might follow a bad guy that gets redemption - it is hard to follow a good guy who goes bad - unless it is a cautionary tale of what happens when we make wrong decisions.

We are charged with setting up a world - and the rules of that world - and not violating it. Usually we have 10 minutes for this - and then we must stay consistent.

If we are to betray that trust - and change the parameters of the world we set up - it better do so in a very very satisfying way. And we better not betray the trust the audience has placed in us.

I have a character who tells a story.

He lies.

And we still have to like him and follow him and believe in parts of what he says.

And it is hard... Cause no one likes a liar.

Unless they are telling us what we want to hear -

Boy - Didn't I just tell you not to do that?

Sigh... Back to pimp slapping...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The truth hurts


How the heck? I get no respect...

Is it just me - or is the quality bar for good writing getting raised all the time?

TV is just ridiculous.

24 and Lost - are you kidding me? Have you been paying attention? For the love of all that is Holy - get yourself in front of the set on Mondays and Wednesdays. Talk about quality. Talk about suspense. Talk about heart-wrenching human emotion. And twists...These shows have everything you want and more. My wife and I jump up and down and yell at the TV - and freak out that there is only a week left on both shows...

Two two hour season wrap ups next week... WOW!

Out of all the advantages of being unemployed are tallied up - getting to watch TV whenever you want rates pretty high...

I've enjoyed watching these shows way way more that most films I have seen this year. And that makes me really sad. But I have a lot of hope for some of the big movies this summer.

As for today:

Regrouping. We are talking about starting over with the film. Mini-major still seems willing to stick with us - although I have no idea what they would say if I announced that I was directing. (But I have a good idea....NO!) We got a list of names that would be acceptable to make offers to that they think are equal to STAR1 - but none that I can imagine doing it for that money - except one - and I have called their production company.

Today - I talk with ICM about some of their talent and seeing if I can fill out the cast with some other heavy hitters. Also have a call with an exec at Sam Raimi's company. He is a really great guy - loved my script - and I am calling more for advice than anything else.

Had a really fun call with one of my PRODUCER's yesterday. I have explained how she is really great and a firm supporter of this film. I also said how she was a friend of the DIRECTOR that wanted me to do a take on his crazy film - and then told me I would never make it in this town...

Well here is something funny and ironic.

He loves my script. And when he found out that we might ditch the director - he told my PRODUCER friend that he would love to do it. In fact - he had 3-4 million he could bring to the project.

Isn't it ironic? Don't ya think? A little too ironic....

Naturally - as she told me the story - I stayed silent. But inside - I was smiling. She told him he better give me a call and make nice...

Whatever. He is still on my list. (Shawn knows what I mean... )


Funny business.

Well - back to the pimp slapping. I need to have something to show to Ryan tonight. Lots of lose ends - and I gotta put it all together.

Till then - I gotta get my ass to church...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What?! There's more....?


I really try to limit myself to one a day...

But come on... This is genius....

So enjoy... And.. What? Of course I'm writing dear! Just leave me be...!

Are you ready for battle?

Foul Demons of Anxiety, Demi-gods of Apathy and Dragons of Laziness - I come to meet you on the fields of War. May the ground run red with the blood of our engagement!

It's rare I give you photographic evidence of my mental state - but I figure - how better to grease the wheels of inspiration that to meet them head on - in costume - no less. And while beating my computer with a plastic sword has not really helped me to write better - I feel a heck of a lot more happy... :)

And for those who are wondering - the best way to keep the ID badge from chaffing is a little lube on the backside of the laminate.

And for those also wondering - yes. Those are my abs. 2 sits ups a day and a lot of vomiting after meals. What?!

It's OK to be jealous...

So here is the thing:

Yeah. I complain. So sue me. It's what we do. And people come on here - some I know - some I don't - thinking - hey - this guy sure bitches a lot. About the same thing. Wah wah... My movie this, my movie that...

Some have even suggested I get off my ass and write more - and yes - this is good advice.

But by way of defense - here is the thing. I never wanted to be a writer. I was a moderately successful Producer Director - even if it was in crappy TV. I have had more that 100 hours of TV on the air with my name on it. But it wasn't what I wanted. I dreamed of the brass ring of feature production. So I left all that behind and wrote a script - cause I couldn't find one that I wanted to do.

And that's where the trouble started.

My script got passed around - I got agents and managers - and now I am seen as a writer. And since that happened - I haven't made a cent... :)

So I am sorta backwards...I have to find producing and directing jobs to support my writing habit. Go figure.

Thanks to David I actually have a job next week directing a pilot for a cable channel. He called me yesterday and asked what I am doing today - cause we thought it would go quick - but now it looks like next week.

So the kids can eat something other than Vienna sausages and spam next month.

Maybe we can splurge and get some Mac and Cheese...

Today is a fun day. I get to pimp slap my idea around a bit and start putting it to paper.

If you happen to stop by David's blog - he has a great post about what a script really is. As a producer and director - you learn about everything that goes into a production. And what makes something work and come alive.

I really believe that if it is not on the page - it won't be there when you film. But man - a great director, an art director - a sound guy - the editor - the dp... That actor... Wow! They sure can make things jump up and dance. I have seen my best words come out of the mouth of a bad actor and cry at how horrible it is - and seen flat on the nose dialog come out of the mouth of a good actor and sound like Mamet...So while the page is where is starts - there are a lot of things that go into a project to make it come to life.

Here is a perfect example. This is Sorkin's new show on NBC about the behind the screen life at a Saturday Night Live type show.

All I can say is WOW. He is a great writer. But look at this cast. Listen to the way they talk. And see how this 6 minute clip sets up all the tension you would ever need for 22+episodes.

That is why he gets to get caught with crack and ecstasy in a hotel room of hookers and not skip a beat creatively - and I get to cook up spam.

Ok. Back to the grind...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

O Superman... Why?

Superman! I thought you were here to save me...

I don't know what exactly there is to say.

We got an email from the agents of STAR2.

Now granted - these ladies have always been a little old school and a little sensitive. They not only like to remind you that you are nothing - they like to step on you like a used cigarette butt while they do.

They have announced that since STAR1 is off the film - so is STAR2. He is no longer keeping our time slot open and he is no longer attached to the film. This is really no surprise - because they have taken several opportunities to tell us the same thing - over and over. But - STAR2 has always come back to say - hey - don't worry. He is attached. Don't get crazy. So I think this is posturing again.

But it does open another can of worms.

Talking with the Mini-major last week - they reiterated how much they love the script and how committed they are to the script - but the truth is that the option runs out at the end of the month - and I doubt they will want to buy the script or even option it again without any firm commitments - because a great script is not enough... And a mediocre one like mine can easily slip through the cracks.

My producer friend last night seemed much more confident that she is getting her money and will be ready to move forward on this project - but I still haven't broached that fact that I might want to direct - especially if we have lost all our talent. So that is another bridge to be crossed.

I ignored my agent last week - after my take went bad - and hadn't talked to him about the possibilities of taking the script wide again and seeing who we get to look at buying it. I talked to him last night - and I could tell he was chomping at the bit to get his hands on it.

So it gets really hard to tell what is the right thing to do.

My wife says its easy. Just take the option that gets some money.

But I remember back when I first decided to let someone else direct the film. My manager asked me - well... Do you think this is the only opportunity you will ever have to direct?

And I said - no... I sure hope not.

But now? Well - I am not so sure. I have spent three years on this project so far - and two waiting for two stars that might not pan out. And this still wasn't really a go - even with names of that caliber attached.

So maybe this is my one shot. I certainly haven't been this close before - and might not get this close again for a long time... But you never know.

Lots of tough decisions. But the biggest one looms largest...

How to pay the rent... :)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Writer's Groups Times Two

Get thee to a writer's group...

Do you tend to lock yourself away inside your house, hideout, treehouse, hovel - where ever - and not come out?

Are you like David Blaine and you put yourself in a watertight sphere and live in it for weeks at a time - you skin slowly sloughing off your body as you live in a vat of your own sweat and urine - taking nourishment only from a tube - holding your breath - hoping against hope that this is the perfect script - only to have your ass pulled out by the rescue divers who tell you you didn't make it?

And that your script sucks?

Well - get thee to a writer's group. And if you can't find one - I'd say you are a liar.

I live in a tiny tiny tiny tiny town - less than 4000 people - and I still somehow found my way into two writers groups. So they are out there are you can find them - you lazy asses.

Ryan - the only member of my main group - and I get together twice a week. He goes to my church and was the video guy. He has been writing for a while - but now is seriously pursuing his craft. We sit - talk - unload on each other - and eventually when all conversation and complaining have stopped - start to talk about writing and story. And we help each other from embarrassing ourselves by sending out anything less than mediocre - our current standard level...

But for the last three months - I have been going to another group. A writer's group - of sorts. They meet once a month at my local library. The first time I went - I took my daughter. There were 6 people there - but only two of them wrote anything. It was mostly older housewives and I was the only guy. The next time I went - The theme was Haiku - and there were 6 people - this time with 4 of them being over 65.

Tonight we meet again. The theme is something to do with your mother.

While I don't learn a lot about writing from this group - I sure do learn a lot about life.

It might be a result of growing up in Asia - or it might be that I have spent 12 years traveling around the country filming people for documentaries - but I love to listen to people's stories. Especially old people.

In Asia - as you probably know from Kill Bill or old Karate films - the elderly are actually respected. They aren't treated badly or made fun of - usually cause they can kick your ass. But from a young age - I have always been interested in perspective and story - and I loved nothing more than to sit at the feet of my grandparents and hear about when they were young - or what they were thinking about this or that.

And in Asia - in my broken Chinese - I would sit and listen and quiz people about the way things used to be. How it was when they were growing up. How the world was changing.

And the great thing about old people. They love to tell their stories. Most people don't take the time to listen - and they have so much to say. If you like to listen - there is so much wisdom to be gained - even if it is all about how and when to take a dump.

Last month - Haiku month - where only 2 of us wrote anything (another great thing about this group - no one writes! But they do come...) the only person there besides me under 65 started talking about some trouble with her daughter. I felt like I was in the Joy Luck Club...

You think you're daughter is giving you trouble... Let me tell you.....

You call that trouble? Your daughter is a Saint compared to mine...

When I kicked that little slut outta my house again...

And on and on...

The best part of this group is not the writing - it's the characters. I can just show up, make copious notes, and write my way to profit...

So again...

Get thee to a writer's group...

I'll let you know how it goes tonight...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day...

Like watching TV, playing video games, staring into space for hours on end waiting for inspiration...

Today - in honor of Mom doing all the work, I'll try to post a few clips that show how all her efforts pay off - by buying me tons of time to search the internet for worthless junk and post it here for you on Sunday's clearing house.

First: Some familiar music

Then: Something to dance to

In honor of X3 next weekend - (not safe for Blair or anyone with sensitive ears)

And lastly - what happens if you make my Mom's mad... And you don't wanna make that lady upset...

Hooray! This is what happens when Dad figures out how to imbed video in his blog!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The apple doesn't fall far...

Friday's toll is most obvious on Saturday morning...

Pouring rain yesterday...Spent the day in the car with my dad...

Life is funny and strange and the things you think matter are never the things that really do...

I was living a successful life as a Commercial and TV director on the East Coast. Moved to Indiana to raise money for an indy film - and did - and then got stranded when the STAR1 took two years to clear his schedule to make the movie - and once it cleared - he dropped out.

Go Figure.

Sometime during that waiting game - my parents moved to this town - a very tiny village now housing my entire family.

I have not lived near my family since high school. This was not because I wanted to live on the other side of the country - it just so happens that is what happened...And I did nothing to remedy it. Sure, there were the obligatory visits once a year for Thanksgiving - and they would usually come out our way once or twice to see the kids... But we were divided by 13 hours driving - and we were reduced to a call once or twice a week to update the details of our lives.

Now - we are part of each others lives. It is a really strange feeling to have that connection on a daily basis. My Dad and I go to the gym most mornings and hit the elliptical for 40 minutes - talking up a storm. And we all sit for a meal at least once during the week...

If I have learned anything - it doesn't matter how hard you try - you are formed by your parents. You might think you grew up in a vacuum... But it is just how things happen. You become your parents. Hopefully the best parts. But the more I am around them - the more I recognize myself. My reactions - my ways of handling things...

Sure there are things that you don't like about yourself that you can blame on them as well.

Some parents divorce. Some stay together for the kids. Some stay together just to annoy the other one. My parents actually still love each other - as did their parents. Go figure.

I spent about 8 hours in the car with my Dad yesterday - talking over a ton a different things - from his time in the Air Force to dragging us all over to Asia to live. It was great to see him not only as a father - but as a Man. And I really like that Man...So many of the things that others point out to me that might be considered my strengths - and believe me - my shortcomings far outweigh them - I believe came directly from this guy.

My family has really been blessed by their presence and closeness.

The only thing that really sucks - is that we have always been slightly poor. If the old fart would have chased after a career instead of trying to save the world - I could be living high on the hog, suckling at the teat of the milk and honey flow of inheritance... Instead - I gotta work for a living...


In other news - BIG AGENCY PACKAGING GUY called me yesterday. He loved the script and is going to start recommending guys to us next week.

He also told me who should take over for STAR1. It was the same guy that my agency said should do it. This guy toplines a lot of films right now - so it would be interesting if he ends up in this... But it would be a big cut from his normal salary.

Right with that - STAR6 turned down the script. He said he would be interested if we offered him 7.5 times as much - but otherwise - no thanks. So that was fun...

I'll keep you informed.

Sigh. Time to put on my makeup and get started with the weekend.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Japanese Greetings!


This is the proper response to STAR1's nonsense...

Quick movie update:

We have yet to get dropped by the mini-major. They are jumping in with us full force to try to find a replacement for STAR1 - and still make our September shooting slot.

Go figure. I wouldn't have bet on that for anything.

But they were very honest.

Greg - we really love this script. But to tell the truth - this film is falling apart. We just need to buckle down and find someone else.

So anyone with connections to a really bankable 20 something male actor who is looking for work - let me know. The trick is - although it's an incredible part where the guy is gonna get to act with 5 other great great actors - and the kid carries the entire movie on his back covering the full gamut of emotions -

He gets to do all this for the price of a favor... :)

So we still might be SOL. But you never know...


So here is something that Ryan and I argued about tonight. Two points - and I'll make the arguments for both.


I have been told twice in pitches that audiences don't like to be manipulated or misled.

I take great exception to that.

There are few things I like better than to be misled and manipulated when I am watching a film. Especially if it is done well. To be misled and manipulated poorly - well... For that there is no excuse. But when it is handled correctly - it is a great great feeling.

Did people riot in the theater when they found out Bruce Willis was dead in Sixth Sense?

Or when you first saw that Guy Pearce was killing innocents in Memento?

It was masterful manipulation. You thought one thing was true - only to find out you have to reshape everything you thought about the movie upon finding out the new information.

Now granted - maybe most people just like peanut butter and jelly... But come on - in every script ever written - we manipulate people. We tell them - this is true love - to email each other across the country and then meet at the empire state building. Every horror and thriller is built around manipulation. We are manipulated into thinking its fun to crash wedding and sleep with many girls and still be a good guy...

All film is manipulation - and all of us as audience members go along with it because we want to be entertained. And maybe I am in the minority - but I love to be misled. How can you say that we don't like that? How many freaking Law and Order and CSI shows are on the air? There is a reason that the term McGuffin is in the vocabulary.

Magic is based on misdirection... And so are movies. If you figure out who did it in the first minute of the film - why watch the rest? To prove you were right? It takes all the fun out of it.

To make the best choice means to make extreme choices. And that requires manipulation. When we write - we don't do it just for us - it is for the reader and the audience. What moves them? Makes them scream? Cry? We go for the universals - and the collective experience. The more vested we get the audience in our characters - the more we can take them to places they don't want to go.

You can have them eating out of your hand - or spitting in your face...

But to say an audience doesn't like to be manipulated or misled?

I think this is just plain old horsepucky....


In my pitch - and in the film that might go before cameras with the mini major in September - I have lead characters that have a central flaw. Each of them are set up with a mistake that they make right off the bat. And they see that they did wrong.

During the course of the film - they repeat that mistake - at least three more times - till at the end - they remedy it.

I was told that is stupid.

Here is where I take exception.

I agree - if you read those things in the script - you wanna yell at the character - you idiot. Didn't you learn anything? What is wrong with you?

But I contend that as characters - that is what we do. Our shortsightedness is what makes us who we are. As humans, we are destined to repeat the same set of mistakes over and over - until finally - at the point of exhaustion for those around us - we either learn from our mistakes - or we knowingly continue to make them.

Ryan says that the point of a script is to watch a dramatic change... And I agree. And I by no means want the audience to be yelling at the screen telling the character what an idiot they are - unless that character really is an idiot - and then it is highly appropriate - BUT I do think that we are slow learners - and by repeating patterns of behavior - we see in different ways how that affects us and how we not only need to change - but have to change.

Granted - I am the last one to say that because it is real - therefore it is ok. Because my uncle did something dumb just like this character - and he did it again and again - my character can do it too cause it is "real." Listen - there is no "real" in scripts. There is only the movie. Does it work or doesn't it? I don't care what your justification is - or what happened to your uncle - just make it come together on the page.

But I still think we continuously screw up and it fine to see that... real or not!

In both instances - there is a very very fine line that divides a really nice way to handle problems in writing and ways to create and exacerbate problems in writing.

I leave it to you to decide which is which.

But remember - right answer gets you flowers.

Wrong answer - HAI!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Call on a Higher Power

I can see this guy dragging your ass to church - but what I really want to know -

what could he possibly have to say or sing on an album?

Takes, Takes, Takes.

Any writer knows - there is really nothing harder than breaking a story. Well maybe except writing the story. And then rewriting the story. And then fixing the rewrite.

Ok. Well, maybe it isn't the hardest thing. But it is still a hard thing.

I've had this story almost a month. I really buckled down and broke a whole story for it - because that is what they want you to do - and yesterday was D-day.

The BIG PRODUCER is nothing if not a nice and gracious person. This is a guy who works at a TOP COMPANY at one of the BIGGEST STUDIOS in town. He has 3-4 pictures shooting at a time. He slotted me for the only pitch he was taking this week. All his other meetings were with projects already shooting, already prepping, or already posting.

We were supposed to get on the phone at 2:30 EST. First call, we were told we were delayed for 10 minutes. Then - we got delayed again for 40 minutes. I was told he was on the phone with the STUDIO HEAD so it was understandable - and he couldn't cut the guy off.

So I was on ice. Like calling time out when you're about to shoot a free throw. I was thinking the whole call might be delayed - or - he would only have a couple minutes before he had to go to lunch - and so we might get really rushed.

I had my story down. Spent time with Blair and Ralph going over the pitch - even pitched it to my wife and she actually stayed interested. I felt pretty good - abeit very nervous - seeing as how this would sort of solve all of my problems. Actually getting a job writing would keep me from having to get a job working...Which would be a great thing...

So we made small talk -

And I was off to the races. For 20-25 minutes - I took him through the whole movie - beat by beat. Occasionally he would ask questions - and he wrote down copious notes. I was feeling pretty good - and thought I did a good job - and the story held together nicely. Once I was done - he spent about 10 minutes asking me questions - finding holes in the story and talking about the things he liked and the things he didn't.

In the end - this was not the story he wanted.

He liked a lot of little character moments - but not the big complicated action sequences. Which is really interesting - because this guys company is all about loud bombastic action movies...

But he was nothing but gracious. His criticism of certain points stung a bit - and I explained - at first - the logic behind a few of the choices - but once I smelled the writing on the wall - I just listened and made notes.

He said he really appreciated how much work I did on the project - but it really was not the way he wanted to go. I asked if I could get another shot - and he was all for it. He said he was sure there would be other projects - but if I wanted to take another shot at this - he was all for it.

We spent another 30 minutes talking about the direction he wanted to go - and by the time I was off the phone - we had talked for an hour and a half. I don't know if he was humoring me or not - but I know that his time is money - and he wouldn't have "wasted" that much time if he didn't think it was worth it...

Or at least that's what I tell myself when I cry myself to sleep at night.

So after all that build up - I didn't get the job. But I did further a relationship. And if I keep blowing takes with this guy - eventually he is gonna feel so guilty - he will give me work... At least that's my master plan...

In a strange bit of turnabout - when I hung up the phone in utter defeat - I had an email waiting. It was from a company that was looking for writers on Mandy. Granted, they had done some really crazy looking films - but it was work.

They wrote me and asked for a script from one of my Discovery Channel shows. So I sent one off... Maybe that will open the door to more low budget TV work...

But work is work.

Another interesting day today. I conference call with the mini-major to talk about the fate of our film and if there is a future in light of STAR1 dropping out - or not.

I am praying that Mike Crain can put in a good word with the man upstairs...Or at least karate chop an angel for me...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Dog did it...

What do you mean? I've been working... I swear...

If life were like a screenplay - mine would play out something like this:

Even though he was toiling in obscurity on cable television - the young director producer was moderately successful. Living a wonderful East Coast life, traveling the world - and spending time with his wonderful family kept him happy, comfortable and satisfied.

Or did it?

One day, he decided to chuck it all - except his family - and follow his dreams. Making a feature. He left all he knew - his home, his job - and moved the family to Indiana - where he had raised a million dollars. Half of what he needed to make his film.

Going to Hollywood - he got people interested in his script. A producer passed it to a Director who passed it to a couple stars - and the movie jumped to a moderately budgeted film - picked up by a minimajor. Now they just had to wait for schedules to align...

But suddenly - it all crashes to the ground around him. He is broken. Unemployed. The stars drop out...

His one chance lies in selling a take to the BIG PRODUCER. It all comes down to one pitch. If he gets it - he is a hero. If he doesn't - he is a zero...


Thanks to Blair, Ralph and Ryan for reading over my notes and giving me comments.

This is a project that has been around for a few years - so I don't think there is any pressure from the studio to get it right - right away anyway. So unless I really have what it is that they are looking for - I most likely won't get the job.

But I do feel as if I have a really tight script with good beats and a cool story. So if they don't like it - it's not because I'm not a genius - it's because they are idiots... ;) No... It's cause it's not what they are looking for.

Wish me luck. Say a prayer. Baby needs a new pair of shoes...

And, Lord - if I get this job - I promise... No more dog porn....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I believe I can fly

I'm feeling very Tony Robbins today - and whenever I do - I pull out the wings and go for a little flight... To right the wrongs in the world.

There are a million ways to look at the world. And as I love to harp on the same things over and over - a lot depends on your perspective.

Some people like to face reality - and see their depressed miserable lives for what they are - depressed miserable lives. And others like to pretend that their depressed miserable lives are really peachy keen hunky dory. And that is what makes us to fascinating.

I like to think of Nick Cage and Holly Hunter, sitting on lawn chairs in front of their trailer in the middle of the desert in Raising Arizona. Nick has that silver thing gathering the sun under his face - and he talks in voice over about how these are the SALAD DAYS.

It can't get any better.


So there are always at least two ways to look at things. Some people might say that staying home and writing while you drive your family into bankruptcy is foolish. Others would look at this time of being with your kids and wife and hanging out on a daily basis as building a firm family foundation...

Who are we to judge?

On Saturday - after I got my breath back after being mule kicked in the nuts from the news of STAR1's departure, I sat in shock. I just kept thinking about how this project has been idling for three years because of his schedule - because of promises from his agent and manager and lawyer... And I thought - wow. I bet my life on this guy - and it's all crashing down.

So I took my dog and my son on a walk.

We walked over to where a new house is being built across the street. My son climbed the mountains of dirt while the dog and I explored the weeds. We climbed down into the pit around the foundation of the basement - and walked the narrow trough of space around the walls - getting tar all over us. My son was so happy and excited to discover pieces of broken cement and bent nails and to get out on such a beautiful day.

And all I was thinking about was - WE'RE DOOMED.

But after a bit of crying in my heart - and worry - and paranoia - I decided that I would not let this define me.

And here is my Tony Robbins moment.

In some ways we can choose who we are. I could chose to be the poor victim of a cruel and senseless "Hollywood" who happen to chose a moment to crap on me when I was at my lowest point - or I can chose that I'll be someone else.

It doesn't change the reality of the moment - I still got crapped on - but it does take the power away from their ability to make me feel bad. In truth - I had other offers for this script. In truth, one of my producers feels as if we are dropped, she will find the money and we will do it a different way. In truth, we might not get dropped at all - we might just go out to someone else.

In truth - I am not a bad person because STAR1 is an ass.

I am a bad person for a myriad of other reasons unrelated to writing and Hollywood all together... :)

So all that said - The truth is - this movie will get made. It just won't get made when I want it to get made. And I will continue to write - but I will also get a job and quit bitching about having no money.

And life will go on... And on... And on...

But I tell you what - If I nail that story tomorrow and actually get hired to write the BIG PRODUCER'S script -

Drinks are on the house...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mistake Learning, Part Two

Hungry? Before I try it - let me take my foot outta my mouth....


Thank you for the fury unleashed by everyone yesterday. It was very supportive and cathartic to read others outraged at the slow turning of the screw. But it's all good. We only invested two years in that punk... It's gonna be a very interesting week to see how this effects everything... But I doubt it makes people jump up and down. Everyone loves my script when I have talent attached. We will see what happens without talent... (of course - my entire career has been based on no talent... So it really is just a continuation...)


If you remember from two days ago - before I jumped off the building yesterday - I was asked to do a take on a really mediocre treatment written by an up and coming director. Three months later - he had finally read my script and seemed genuinely excited for me to jump in and go to work. Worse yet, one of my producers was a friend of his and said this guy is gonna be huge - so how cool is it that you guys are working together on this?

(NOTE: as my wife read part one of this story - she had a frown on her face. She doesn't think things like this need to go out on the web. A journal or diary is private and ranting and raving about real people who one day may read this could really come back and slap you in the ass.

It did give me pause... But how could I not finish the story? It's a story, after all? And besides - the point of this story is MY mistakes... And how you can learn not to be a silly little twit like me... But, for my wife - if you are one of the parties involved - I'm sure that your side of the story is very different and interesting and if you would ever like a place to publish stories about why I am a liar and an idiot - feel free to visit my wife's blog - where she has stories up every day about me: Her blog is

She would love to take a day off from her ramblings to have someone else point out my folly for the world.

Now back to the story.)

So, now - not only do I have to come up with something for the writer - the producer - who is a wonderful person - is also going to be checking in on my progress. So this becomes a little more vested.

I rack my brain on this take - rereading the treatment - researching stuff on the net - reading anything I can get my hands on... And I keep coming up empty.

One day, I am in the shower - and I get a brilliant idea. It has nothing at all to do with his story - except for the fact that it takes place in the same world. But it is golden. I don't ever have great ideas - but this one was gold, jerry... It's gold...

So I do some minor tweaks - and have a take. Very very broad strokes - but it was the kind of pitch I never do - very broad - but the strength of the piece was in its ending...A big knock out punch of an ending.

So the day comes - and I am ready. Director calls me from Europe where he is doing a big Music Video and I jump in. I am firing on all pistons. And I can tell he is really getting into it. It is a great pitch... And as I tell the story - it gets even better. He asks a couple questions - but I can tell - he knows that this is the one. This is a great story...

But by the end - he wraps up with something like this:

Greg. I love it. This is brilliant. You have done great. Now - just go back and take all the stuff from my treatment and put it in your story.

And I am like... uh...

Well. I did it this way because it is a different story. It has the same world as your story - but it is not your story. This is my story...

And he is like-

Yeah. So make it my story - with your touches.

And I'm making little gasping, coughing, whining sounds like a deflating balloon...

But this is a different story...

And he says-

Yeah. Well. Put my stuff back and call me.


Now anyone in their right mind would think: Well. Either I put the two versions together and make one thing out of it - or - I tell him that I can't do it.

And in my mind - I know there is no way I will have anything to do with meshing my genius idea with his treatment. So all I have to do is tell him I can't do it, right?

So what do I do?

I call my producer friend and ask for advice. I tell her the situation. I tell her that I love my idea - but it has nothing to do with his idea...And I want out. She encourages me and tells me that it is all good. That the idea is completely different - and all I have to do is tell him that I don't think the two ideas go together.

So it is simple, right?

Just call and tell him. Even better - email him.


I was born in - and spent my early formative years - in the Midwest. From there - I spent Junior High and High School in Asia. I did college in the Midwest - and then went to grad school in Virginia and stayed there for 15 years.


We don't believe in bad news. We don't do confrontation. We don't like to tell people the truth if it is going to be painful.

So we usually do something else.

We lie.

Or - we avoid the truth.


So I decided to create my own reality. One where the director didn't exist and I was happy to not be bothered by his existence. So I never called or wrote - I simply went on with life as if I owed him nothing.

And this is where you can learn from me. Because - no matter how much I wanted to pretend that he was not there - I am not the Scarlet Witch and I cannot undo the strings of reality to make said director disappear...

But it seemed as if the director wanted to pretend that I didn't exist either...And we went three months without talking. No calls, no emails... Nothing...But then I realized the big difference between the two of us.

While I was avoiding him - he was doing something productive: Working.

And then - a month ago - I get an email.

Greg: How is it coming?

And I go back to my happy place - la la la... There was no email. I shall pretend my happy life exists without that email. I am a genius and my wife loves me and I can last in bed for hours and hours... And I have a full head of hair... And a 6 pack.. And...


What an idiot.

All you have to do is answer. All you have to do is tell the truth. But I was in the middle of the BIG MOVIE DEAL and everything looked like we were going into pre-production any day...(WOW - hindsight is a bitch) so I continued to live in ignorant bliss - pretending that if I ignored him, he might go away...

But he didn't.

And even though - in my defense - If this project was really important - I would have been on top of that writer 24/7 - calling and writing to make sure things were coming together - not waiting three months and sending one email...

I wouldn't have let the guy ignore me if this was supposed to be my next big film.

I wouldn't have let his awkward Midwestern ways get in the way of me getting my free script...

And if I have learned anything from this - it is that you have to say what you think. It would have been easy to tell this guy - this is not the script for me. I think we are seeing this two different ways - and I don't think I will do your vision justice.

See how easy that was?

But I wanted to be nice. I wanted to stay friends... Cause he might be the next Spielberg... And instead I got him to write me this:


what´s up man. I guess you are not quite all the man MY PRODUCER talked you
up to be.

I have now waited and wasted three months and I´m going to move on.

Don´t come to Hollywood my friend--- it will not pay off in the long run.

So there you go: my first "you'll never make it in this town" email.

I'm sure it won't be my last.

But I'm still here, still swinging - and more than willing to share my folly so others can learn from my nonsense.

Interesting week coming up: We find out what the fall out will be after we lose our star, see if we will be dropped by the mini-major, and -

in my one hope for redemption -

I have a pitch with the BIG PRODUCER on Wednesday.

So lots more lessons to be learned, I am afraid...

Till then - I'm stocking up on fish assholes - cause you never know when there will be a shortage....

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Counting chickens before they hatch.....



Here it comes....

Hold your breath - cause the first step is a doozy....

I got the email yesterday.

STAR1, the lynchpin of my movie deal, says he is not doing the movie.



Tomorrow: Is there a tomorrow?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

How to Learn from My Mistakes

Did a little digging this week. Found a box full of my old high school ramblings...

Believe me - its all true. Except the "pot" references. For the record - my parents never smoked pot. Sure - we hit the crack pipe every now and then - for dessert - but what family doesn't?

That last line really sums it all up doesn't it?

I don't think we ever think we are smarter than when we graduate high school. From then on in - it is a slippery slope to ignorance and dementia...

And somewhere on that journey down the steps of stupidity - you learn a few lessons.

Let me tell you a little story so that you might not make the same mistakes as me.

Back in November - I did the LA meeting week. I made nice with numerous production companies that say they read my script and wanted me to come in for a meeting. I sat and chatted and met many fine people for stilted conversation and a bottle of water all over the glorious city of Los Angeles.

One such company said they really liked the script. The guy I met was really cool. Their offices were really sweet - with posters from a lot of my favorite films that no one else likes. We sat and met on a couch right next to a giant bookshelf full of scripts. Overflowing with scripts. You felt like this was a pretty cool place.

We talked about the script for awhile - where it was going (nowhere) and how I was doing (deluded) and then he brought up a project that he thought I would be perfect for.

This is really what you want to hear.

The idea that someone reads something of yours and thinks that you are the one to save their "other" project. You read it, fix it, and roll the Brinks truck up to your door - cause it's time to bathe in cash like Scrooge McDuck!

Anyways. He pitched me a bit of the project. Sounded sorta interesting - but putting on my best "Hollywood" face (think 1960's four year old in "it's a small world after all" ride at Disney) to feign enthusiasm - when really inside my expression is very different (think 2006 four year old in "it's a small world ride" at Disney)

So they promised to send me something right away. It was a treatment. A 60 page treatment. It already had a couple writers names on it - one was the guy I was to be working with - a Director - and the other was someone else - who, when I asked - was said to be nothing more than a "typist." Why a typists name would be put under "written by" really didn't make sense - and also worried me a bit. Was I going to be the next "typist?"

Well. I read it.

It was bad. Not like bad in a good way bad. Just bad bad. Like bad that can't be fixed by anything in my bag of tricks bad. And worse - this was the director's baby.

A bit on the director. This is a big up and comer. He has a big movie set up that a really big director was gonna do - but this guy came in and blew everyone away and so the studio saw no choice but to give him the job. He is a music video guy who has done a lot of really cool videos - but this movie was to be the one.

In some ways he reminds me of the guy from Entourage - who directed the kids first indy film.

So I told my agents that I thought the thing blows and I want to pass. They tell the company. The company actually calls back and wants to talk to me about it. I am always one to take a call - so they ask me - please don't say no till you talk with the Director. This is his baby (shudder - it's like carrying around an aborted fetus) and I really think you would be great for this - blah blah blah.


Sure - I'll talk to him. Great. We will give him your script, and as soon as he reads it - he'll call you and you guys can talk. But believe me. He knows he is not a writer and is willing TO CHANGE ANYTHING YOU WANT.

Sigh. Hindsight, my friends... Hindsight....

(And I know there are a few of you out there going - what an asshole. I would die for someone to call me and ask me to do a take for free... to get involved with the process... And least you are getting calls... But trust me - first - yes. I am an asshole. Second - you don't want this call. Third - I am no great writer - but on my worse days, I have crapped out better scripts than this.)

Fast forward to three months later.

All has been radio silence since that day. Suddenly, I am in line at school - picking my kids up - when I get a call from said director. Hey man. I really wanna talk to you about my script. Isn't it great? What do you think of it....?

Uh... First off, I haven't read the thing since I first said no. Secondly, my kids are jumping in the car - yelling... Third - who is this again?

We finally figure out what is going on - and before I tell him what I think of his script - I give him my email. I ask him - did you read my script? He goes - Oh yeah... Well, I have been really busy... But I have heard its great...

I'm thinking - why even waste the time? This is three months later. Who am I to tell him his script blows... I just say - Look. Why don't you read my script? If you like it - then call me back and we can talk about yours. If you don't - then we can just part as friends. Cool?

As a cucumber.

He calls back in two weeks. I love it man. It's great. I don't test him to see if he really read it or not - because I love the illusion that someone likes the script way way more than the reality... But then I started to tell him what I really thought of the treatment. That is needed a lot of work. 90% of the stuff I brought up as problems were his favorite parts.

This, gentle readers, is where most people would cut bait and run. But not me. No - I go where only fools fear to tread.

He asks me to go ahead and come up with what I would do to make everything work. And we agree to talk in a couple weeks.

In my mind - I was still blowing this off. But - this guy had a big movie set up. He wanted to make this his next project. He was asking me to work on it with him. Seemed like a good deal.

Then something really strange happened. One of the producers on my film calls me out of the blue. She said an old friend was at her house and they happened to be talking - and he mentioned a script that he absolutely love and it happened to be mine. She puts him on the phone.

It is the DIRECTOR. Hey - he says - how is my project coming?

Damn -the concentric circles of Hollywood Hell converge and crush the life right out of me - even in rural Indiana...

And here is where it gets tricky and ugly....

Tune in Tomorrow for part deux, entitled:

Greg goes Chinese and gets a foot up his keister....

Friday, May 05, 2006

I'll set them up, you knock them down

Another update on the latest and greatest...

We have been rejected by yet another star. I think he was classified as STAR3.

For the hint of the day as to who he is...Let's just say he can sing, dance, and is known for losing his head...

The agent also let us know that STAR4 was in a movie right now and would not be available to read the script for some time. We are still in holding for STAR5 and 6. I guess I would be really upset - if I didn't have the reality check of the fact that these parts are very small - we are going after really big names and we are offering them pennies on the dollar to what they actually make.

I guess I was hoping the combined star power of STAR1 and 2 - and the mini-major behind us would grant us some buzz... And I am sure it does - but not enough with these guys who in truth are some of the busiest character actors in the book.

The excitement of knowing that these guys are actually reading your script are quickly tempered by the speed and calculations of their rejections... A double edged sword, at best.

But I guess if you are gonna get rejected - why not get it from the best? So we will continue to send out offers. I'll push for a new one today... We will see how it goes.

All of this comes on the heels of David
writing to tell me that his cast is all locked up and he is ready to go. Bastard! They start shooting soon - and we still spin the wheels of fate - hoping our seed will find purchase in the rocky Hollywood soil.

We did get some news - After much whining and manipulating - we got the head of the mini-major to call the MAJOR AGENCY - not THE agency - but one of "the" agencies - and "they" said they were having one of their top packaging guys look at the script over the weekend and put together another list for us - because this film was "very important" to them. Ha... Well. This is interesting.

The greatest thing about the "big show" is finding out that no matter what level of filmmaking you are at - the lessons you learned at the bottom on all of your low budget bend-over-and-take-it-up-the-poop-chute-with-a-smile still apply - even in the rarefied air of Hollywood. So welcome to show biz - butt pirate!

In other news - spent the whole day gathering together all of my thoughts and notes on my take for BIG PRODUCER. After frantic calls to Blair and a late night meeting with Ryan - I feel as if I'm 85% there. Agents called today to tell me I am booked for next Wednesday - so everything is looking good. Just keep going over it - iron out the logic gaps and work on the relationships and arcs - and everything will be cool. Like I said - I feel as if I really have a good story - I just need to tell it simply and cleanly...

Last but not least - it is really great to be a part of a community. There are so many blogs out there about screenwriting now - but to be able to communicate with other writers and know that others toil away in obscurity reaching for the light as you do makes each of us feel less alone.

For some reason unbeknownst to me - I got a comment and a link from a great writer in England - let's not hold that against her, shall we? - who has been sending me all sorts of traffic from across the seas. She is doing her thing - writing away - all the while about to pop any day with a new child.

Please check out her blog at
It is well worth the visit. Drop by the comment section and tell her hi - and that I sent you.

For tomorrow:
When good intentions go bad... A lesson from the front lines of free takes...