Thursday, November 30, 2006

Back to the middle kingdom

It's 3:30.

Time for me to get in the shower.

The wife and I did some Christmas shopping today and got to spend time together. Have to say it was awesome. Not something we get to do enough of, I'm afraid.

My parents had the kids and we joined them for dinner.

Came home and tried to go to bed early - but the dog didn't wanna cooperate and cried till I took her out.

Slept about an hour - but I guess I could see this as a blessing in disguise - seeing as how it's the afternoon now in China - so I'm on my way to changing over.

Gotta drive the hour to Ft Wayne to get on the plane to Chicago so I can sit in the airport for 5 hours before I get on the plane for China and take 14 hours to get to Beijing - where I get a cab for an hour to take me to the hotel where I can unpack for an hour and then meet the director for Friday night basketball... :)

Sounds fun.

It's going to snow here tonight. And in Beijing it's going to snow on Sunday.

I hate snow.

Almost as much as being trapped in a little silver tube flying 500 MPH across the globe.


Off to China my friend. Off to China....

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The nature of things

Brilliant post over at David's blog today.

Great to get that reminder.

Because really - its a sad truth. He talks about listening to the guy that wrote Little Miss Sunshine - and how most scripts just aren't quite there.

Great article on that guy here:

Article on guy who wrote Little Miss Sunshine

He wrote over 100 drafts of his story. Wow. He must really be a sucky writer to have to do it that many times... :)

If I had to place a bet - I would put my money on this. Those of us who have fallen into this profession - or the outskirts of this profession - did this because writing was something we liked. We were encouraged in school that we were good at it. We were the types who loved movies and stories and this kind of thing just came naturally to us. We could sit down the night before a paper was due and kick out a story without a lot of planning. We breezed through school with A's and B's and were pretty good at expressing ourselves on paper.

It should be easy to transition to screenwriting, right?


There are a lot of unfinished scripts hitting the market.

Interesting huh?

And convicting.

I find it much easier to start a new script than fix an old one. I don't even like to read it again once I put it down. Is it because I'm lazy and don't wanna do the work? Maybe. Possibly. But I also just love coming up with new stuff and moving on.

Either way - if someone told you that the script you were working on now would sell - but only after 6 years of daily work and 100 drafts - do you still wanna keep working on it? Do you have what it takes?

I don't know that I do.

My script that got picked up was 2.5 drafts in. It was too long and had way too many scenes. But people still wanted it. I still get calls today about it. It is still moving forward.

But is it as good as it can be?

No. Not even close.

And yet one producer who has really championed it - and has a big output deal at Paramount - told me it was better than 95% of the scripts that he reads.

Which again is no reflection on my brilliance - just more a reflection of the crap that is out there.

We all need to buckle down.

What got us by in high school- Emily excluded - is not what gets us work in the real world of Hollywood. Sure - natural talent helps - but the true test is can you take something that is Ok and make it great. That's good writing.

Put yourself to the test. See how committed you are. And go forth and write. Better and harder.

I promise I will. Right after this game of spider solitaire. And a shower. And I really should clean this room...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Flirting with disaster...

One step forward- two steps back.

This picture reminds me of a story. I was interviewing a cop for Discovery Channel in some part of the US - and I noticed that his hand was really scarred up. I asked him what the heck happened. He told me that he went fishing with a bunch of his cop buddies - and they thought they snagged a Marlin. After fighting with it for a long time - they ended up pulling up a shark. It almost bit them as they got it up - and one of the guys pulled a gun and shot it.

Once they got it on board - they were all excited and started taking pictures with it. They took a beer bottle and put it inside the sharks mouth to prop it open and kept sticking their heads and various parts in the mouth and snapping shots.

Then - when they were all done - he stuck his hand inside the dead sharks mouth to take the bottle out - and the boat shifted - the bottle slipped - and the sharks mouth slammed shut on his hand.

There's a lesson to be learned here... just not sure what it is.

Felt quite good this morning. Got up and after helping Ivy clean up and get the kids to school - I actually got some writing done. Feeling great about what I have - and I should - since I agonize over each page before I write it.

The joy of writing without an outline. You spend days thinking about what would these characters say in an elevator - on the way to the roof. They must say something and I need to show their going up... so something happens right?


But it felt good to get words out. If only I could continue.

But now I'm writing for work. Have to have the script pages out for the model shoot - which is really four little stories. Gotta get them written up so that they can be translated and so that Bill can break them down for the art department - and so that we have an idea of what we are shooting.

I have one of the four in Final Draft. Working through the others.

Met with Ryan today and went through his comedy. It's really getting good. I thought is sounded fun. I added nonsense to his great start - we'll see how it comes out. Comedy is hard. Too hard. That's why I stick to tragedy...

Speaking of tragedy - I was so happy about getting my movies on my computer - that I ended up filling the hard drive. Had to go out and get an external one today. Hard to believe how quickly 80 gigs goes - what with music and movies. Back in the day, I thought I'd never fill 4 gig. Hell - I remember buying a 15 gig drive for video editing for $1500. Now its less that a gig a buck.

Back in my day...

So it's still strange to be home. Not flying off somewhere every Monday. How nice. Although the next China trip will be a doozy - so I need to enjoy the family while I can. Changes are coming.

Till then - I continue to peek inside the shark's mouth - praying I don't get bit.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Victory is mine

I am not technically illiterate.

I usually do just fine.

I know enough to get by. As someone who spends at least 5-6 hours a day on a laptop - I am pretty proficient. I am still the guy my dad goes to to help him with his computer. I can figure it out by muddling through...

But there are things that just slide by. And I can't grasp.

And boy- does that get frustrating.

If you want to set me up for a bad day - have my wireless go out - or have some small problem with Final Draft... it doesn't take much... I can spend hours on the phone with tech support - simmering in frustration - only to have the problem solved and feel as if I just got a huge raise.

I have talked before about one of the greatest gifts ever given to man.

The ipod.

And the ipod begat the video ipod.

When you spend a minimum of two days a week on the plane - you love the ipod even more. And the video part is great too. I usually fly on Friday's - so I always itunes Battlestar Galatica and watch it the following Monday.

Try as I might, however - I was unable to figure out how to rip movies into Itunes. Sure there are programs out there that can do it for me - but I have to pay. And Homey don't play that. At least not yet.

So I began a rather fruitless search across the web from Indiana to San Francisco to China - downloading all sorts of programs and giving up again and again. I have several friends who do this effortlessly - but they all use Mac's - so its simple.

I am on the PC - and we don't do things the easy way.

Until now.

What if I were to tell you there is a nice and easy way to get your movies into Itunes - in two easy steps?

It worked for me and it can work for you...:)

If you're looking - there it is.

For me - who is heading back to China this week - now I can load up the ipod with movies and save the laptop for work... :)

I'm a happy camper today.

Except that my sister is moving - and now I have to go help her pack...:(

Oh well. Life can never be as perfect as my newly loaded ipod.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oh Kramer - we didn't know you...

Spoiler Warning: Not pretty language here.

I like to think of Kramer busting into Jerry's apartment, falling over something imaginary and then recovering with wild hand gestures.

Not like this.

How do you react to something like this?

Hopefully - not like this...

Every time I feel as if we are moving past something like racism - it comes back and slaps us in the ass. I grew up as a minority - a white guy in Asia. We weren't mistreated or looked down on or oppressed - but we were the minority.

In this age of multi-cultural ism and MTV - I find racism such a strange and outdated concept.

Kind of like suspenders.

You don't see them very much anymore - and when you do - you get a weird feeling like you just woke Rumpelstiltskin.

When we see a movie about the Holocaust - I always feel surprised - like - everyone knows what happened. Do we need to see it again? And then I watch Borat getting people to sing about throwing Jews down the well - and I think Wow! What is happening in the world? Is our memory so short?

I admit. I am naive. But what the heck? Whenever I hear this nonsense - I feel as if I'm watching a movie from the 50's. And how the heck did Kramer think that this is appropriate or funny? It's not edgy to be so stupid. It's just stupid.

He is right about one thing. It seems he is full of rage.

But what does Kramer have to be mad about? I guess success is never enough.

There's nothing funny about this - and I'm not trying to make it so. It's mostly very sad. We are not moving forward with this kinda nonsense.

And yet - each day we do similar nonsense - and I guess when we think we are exempt and better than - we do ourselves a similar disservice.

While my black heart is not full of racism - it is full of its own junk. And far be it from me to reveal my sin in a comedy club full of people with video cameras on their cell phones...

There but for the grace of God goes I... and Kramer...

God forgive us all....

Friday, November 24, 2006

Restless and adrift

Happy day after uncontrolled eating.

The day was great. Family was great. My cranberry salsa was great...

And now - free time. Haven't had this since before summer. Really not sure how to handle it. Feeling very unfocused and adrift...

And when I feel that way -

Heaven forbid that I write...

Instead I begin to "find" new bands. Or new stuff by great old bands.

Like the new cover album by Buena Vista Social Club.
New three Album set by Tom Waits.
New Brand New.
New Mute Math.
New Mewithoutyou.

Sigh. Spreading Communism across the web.

David sent me some new stuff - can't wait to break it in.

And here I am. Not going anywhere till next Thursday. Then back to China.

Got my first head shots and location pictures today. They look good. My partners are competent. More than me...

Meeting with Ryan on Monday and need at least 10 pages by then - so it's back to Final Draft. Been dreaming my characters and scenes... that's when they start to get good. Gotta take my 3 pages from the other day and re-do them to make them right.

All is good. God is in the heavens and I am a tiny sinner who loves music and procrastinating...

SO back to work. At least three more pages today.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

My turkey can beat your turkey...

Happy Thanksgiving.

Hope you are all well and good - relaxing in the warmth of your house, surrounded by those you love and who love you - eating an orgy of food.

I'm thankful for those of you who deem this site worthy of at least stopping by for a second. And yes - that includes those spammers who want to tell me about a great second job opportunity.

That I can do from my home!

I'm thankful for my wonderful family - even if I don't see them enough. And my dog. Who I adore. In a way that borders on embarrassing.

Thankful for my job. Cause it pays. And allows me to stay in the industry - even if it is a little side piece of the industry and not a very respected one at that. But it puts money in the bank and pays the mortgage - and I am not one to complain.

For my friends and colleagues... Thank you. You make this fun. As we write and read and help each other out - may we continue to press forward. Somebody has to make it - and then we can try to pull the others through the mire.

I am a very non-traditional guy. I balk at things like structure and tradition and nothing makes me shudder more than hearing that this is the way we've always done it.

But by God - at least get yourself a turkey sandwich if nothing else.

Happy Thanksgiving you all....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tying up loose ends

Yesterday went good, thanks for asking.

Second day on set. Big day. Even bigger current star comes in - and things are running late. To clarify - I am not the director for these shoots. This is a domestic product and the star is there to shill for them. I just get the 15 minute window at the end of the day where I get to direct them and teach them a bit of Chinese.

This girl - who is sweet in real life and not really any different from the image she projects - is pretty huge right now. So it was kinda cool to say that I have "directed" her - even if it was only for 15 minutes.

The best part is that the producer - our freelance guy who really knows what he's doing - came over and told me that he wants to work with me - cause he thinks I know what I'm doing.

Oh how easily they are deceived... :)

The coolest part of the day for me was talking with the sound guy.

I hang out at the monitors for most of the day - with a comdex on - listening to the takes and making sarcastic comments. The sound guy and I bond a bit - laughing at our crazy locations where we are getting critical dialog - but there is a lot of road noise and planes flying over.

I find out - at wrap - that he works on Studio 60 - a great show. And that he did West Wing for years. He is in the Sorkin family. So we talk about the show - how its working - what the future holds... It was Nice!

Once we wrap - I go to meet my old producer.

Back story:

This guy was the first one in on my film. Before anyone saw anything in it - he was there. He stayed up till 3 am one night and read the thing and called me the next day saying he wanted to make it. When he was shooting in Romania - he found a guy that got the script to two stars - both of who wanted to do the film and cut their fees. He brought us to one mini-major - who took us to a bigger mini - major - where we got green lit. We waited for the stars schedules for a year and half - got greenlit - had a start date - and then the star dropped out.

A few months later - when the star said he still wanted to make it with me - but without my producer - I said OK. My producer was on a really big Shawn Penn film that took him over a year to do. He just finished last week. I had to call him in the middle of it and tell him that I was moving forward-

Without him.

I am a pretty loyal person. And we had no contract. And we had tried for two years - while I basically bankrupted my saving to get this thing going. And it didn't.

And then I sold him out.

Now - three months later - I am done with the star. And so I met my producer last night in an little English Bar in Santa Monica. He had a pint of something. I had Lemonade and foot.

We reconnected. I asked for his forgiveness - and he - being the gentleman that he is - said he never even thought negatively about it. He was probably the smartest guy in the room - knowing that the Star would never get back around to getting his act together - he knew he could wait it out.

So he's got a new deal. And is gonna make some calls. And maybe this little film will get up and rolling again.

And if it doesn't - I don't really care. I am just glad to have moved past a black mark on my character. My soul feels better to have cleaned up my conscious. Not that I rejoice in my first decision or let myself off the hook for it - but that he has seen past it and is still a friend.

I hope I've learned another valuable Hollywood lesson.

Flying home today. Actually gonna spend a week there. I haven't been home for more than three days in four months - so this is a luxury.

Off to the plane...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Drive by...Miami Style

Wow. This really made me laugh.

Funny thing is - I have a friend who is a writer on this show. And I actually know the executive producer as well. When she used to work at the LA crime lab - I interviewed her at least three times for NEW DETECTIVES - the Discovery Channel show that CSI was stolen- I mean - based on...

But enough of that.

Here's some Monday morning advice:

Go watch Casino Royal.

I don't know how you feel about Bond films. I was never what one might call a Bond fan. I would go to the movies - but never really left that excited. I think one of the first ones I saw was For Your Eyes Only when I was a kid in Taiwan. I remember the big ski scene to open the movie - and all the sex jokes.

All I really cared about was the action and the gadgets.

As the years past - I went backwards and saw all the films - and while I can say I enjoyed them - it wasn't like I went out of my way to see them.

But this one. Wow. Best Bond Ever. If you ask me.

There is a slight miss step in the third act - where anyone who knows even a little about Bond knows what's coming - and the build up just takes too long. And for a movie that moves at lightning speed - it really doesn't want to end and stay a bit past its welcome.

But the action. And the acting. Daniel Craig is the man in my book.

The way that Martin Cambell shoots him runnning... amazing. The chase in Africa alone is worth the money for the film. And the dialog is top notch too - even if I could only understand about 2/3 of it.

John, my DP, and I saw it at Mann's Chinese - projected digitally. It's nice!

So - go see it. I'm off to Malibu - to direct my last star. I'll let you know how it goes...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A change of pace

It's Sunday - so I figure I should reserve one day a week for no complaining.

Here's something I don't talk much about on this site.

Probably because it's positive. And oh how I love to complain...

But if there is anything in my life that I love - somewhere above film, but below God and family - it's music.

Music is the most powerful medium. Nothing transports us away from where we are like music. And some of us are fanatics for it. Me for one.

When someone says that they don't really have a favorite band or that they don't really listen to a lot of music - I have no understanding for that person. I personally can never have enough music. And I can't get enough - different kinds, from different countries - anything.

A couple of you out there love it too. David makes soundtrack cd's for each of the scripts he works on. Mr Dixon leaves lyrics at the end of each of his posts. Music is like a heartbeat to some of us.

So being here in LA - I decided to rush over to the Prommenade in Santa Monica yesterday to see the new Bond film. My Hotel isn't far - but getting my car from the valet took a bit longer than I thought - so I was running late.

I parked - ended up on the 9th floor - and was hustling to the theater - when I happened to walk by Tower Music and saw that everything was on sale cause they are going out of business.

That was like a huge rock of crack.

I have been in this story 4-5 times in the last few months looking at a DVD of a live show.

By a band called Calexico.

Last year - I was producing with David a series for Discovery called Psychic Witness. It was just what it sounds like - a group of psychic's helping cops solve murders. And we had a big California trip - like 12 days of shooting - but no directors. I was doing a bit of both. I started out directing on the series - and then was brought in to help David when his new son was born - but was still directing some reinactments - and now - with the directors out on the road - I took off to do the trip.

It was a kind of crazy trip - all over Northern California. We would shoot a day - then drive 4-6 hours - shoot that night - drive some more... That kind of thing. When we first arrived - I went to a Boarders book store and bought two CD's from this band Calexico.

When I buy something - I listen to it over and over - usually till I have it memorized. And I wore out those CD's driving through the dusty wineland. I will forever have the vistas of those places in my head when I hear their music.

By the time the trip was done - I had bought three more cd's from them.

And I continue to be obsessed.

They are incredible. And so it was with great delight that I was able to pick up their only live DVD - where they are playing in London with a full Mariachi band - for only $11.

If you like music with a jazzy - Mexican - southwestern flavor - do yourself a favor and pick up any of Calexico's work. It's great writing music - and it will do your heart good.

See? No complaining.

Needless to say - I missed Bond. Met up with my DP last night for dinner - and all three shows were sold out. We are going to see it today and Mann's. Now - I gotta get my pages for Ryan...

Spring is frozen now i’m stuck in low
wrapped with wire, tapped to the heart
can’t find no poison, now i’ve got no cure

one man’s righteousness is another man’s
long haul, sentence carried out
long haul, counting the miles
to the four corners of the world

hands are scarred, heart is charred
burnt though, and ashen
trip on fence post line
sifting through the remains
one man’s close pursuit is another man’s
last chance, make it through the divide
last chance, suffer the weight or get buried by this
black heart, sweeping over the land
black heart, crawling its way
to the four corners of the world

Calexico - Black Heart - Feast of Wire.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Laid back. With my mind on my money and my money on my mind...

Flew down to LA yesterday morning.

Had a 6 am flight so I was up at 4 and racing around. Went through security in SF with that news guy McNeil? The one with really black eyes and no whites in them?

So yesterday was my first time directing a Hollywood type star.

Granted - it was only for 15 minutes - but that's better than most of my performances... ask my wife... :)

The girl - who was actually as nice as her images says - is really a TV star. She headlines her own TV series. A while back she had a few big movies as well - but she is loved all over here in the states.

She was doing stands up and interviews and beauty shots for us all day.

But for a quick little bit - she was going to do some things for the international guys. There was reps from Japan - and me - the white guy who represents China.

The Japanese guy got her to do something very stylized and specific - and then it was my turn.

Granted - we never met her earlier in the day or had even a second to introduce ourselves. And we had heard rumblings that she was very nervous about speaking another language and not at all sure she wanted to try it.

And this intro is taking place on a lit set - with everyone standing around waiting - and we are already running an hour and half late on the day.

Typically this means people are grumpy. And harried. And don't want to give you the time of day when a production like this is running out of money and control.

The star had just done 35 direct to camera stand ups off a teleprompter. She was tired - having worked 18 hours the day before so that she could free up the time to do this - and now she had to speak Chinese.

I introduced myself as they changed mags on the camera. Took a deep breath and took her through the three phrases we were trying in Chinese. Pretty simple - and getting harder...

Shei shei. ( Thank You)

Ni Hau. Wo Shr.... big American Star... (Hi. I am Big American Star.)

Gao Lun Ya Fu fey chang hao. ( This product is really incredible.)

See? Easy?

She was nervous - and said she was never so scared of the words coming out of her mouth.

The shot - set up by Chris - was incredibly beautiful. And because she was a bit nervous - she smiled and laughed a lot. The mood on the set relaxed - and for 15 minutes - she had a blast.

I got to show the group here that I know what I'm doing - and the producer came over and told me he was really impressed that I was so decisive and really improved the mood on the set.

I got my three lines and left. The star came back to the monitors for lunch - repeating her lines in Chinese - smiling the whole time.

All in all - not a bad day.

Makes up for earlier in the week, I guess. Now I have to get some writing done this weekend - and get ready for the other star on Monday. Hopefully - it will be as nice of an experience.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 16, 2006


If there's anything I've learned in the past couple years - its that nothing is what it seems.

Remember that wierd movie with Al Pacino and Colin Farrell called The Recruit? It's not that is was horribly bad or anything - it just made me crazy with the trailer where Pacino says like 10 times in the same annoying accent:

Nothing is what it seems.

So anyways - I had what was supposed to be my meeting yesterday.

Even though I have been known for being a big middle finger - I am always pretty well liked by those I work with. Its those I work for that have issues with me.

Since I've been here in August - I have had three conversations with the big guy. All three have been performance related things - none outside of that. He always seems dubious at best that what I'm doing is going to last. I think he was surprised when my budget got approved. When we talk - he always seems a bit upset.

So going into the meeting that I think is going to be about salary and benefits really turns into a talk about whether or not this will even be a job...

So there's that... :)

He sees the project at least going through June of next year - but that's because he's never heard about any other projects happening in China. The head of International has said there will be at least 4 more projects going - but I know he watches every penny and so its hard to get him to commit too much till he sees how things are going...

There is a lot going on and not a lot of communication.

So while I thought the meeting would be one thing - it turned on its head to be a beast of a different color.

Again - I guess - whatever.

The job has been good to me. I think we are going to have a lot of fun shooting in China - and there is a ton of work to be done. I am shooting with two young female American celebrities on Friday and Monday and teaching them a couple lines in Chinese. I am heading back to China after Thanksgiving for a big model shoot. We are busy looking for a big Chinese celebrity to host our show. I am making cash to help replenish the dry days of waiting for the big movie to happen.

All is good. God takes care of us. I have no complaints.

If this is for a season - it is for a good season.

But I have my eyes open now.

And trust me - no monkeys are sticking their fingers in my anus...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Blair woke me up at 6:45.


He has a 6th Sense of when I am completely jet-lagged and fall down tired and calls me then.

Before I was crossing international date lines - we would have a normal before 7AM call - since we are both early risers. I used to like to get up and write. Now - I am still trying to figure out what city I'm in.

Blair is back at work on his script. Taking out all the bad and replacing it with good. Ryan is doing the same. So is David. All three of them taking a script they wrote - all three great scripts - and fixing them.


As Borat would say: Not so much.

I'm messing around with a new idea.

Ryan has lots of theories about me - and one is that I don't re-write that much. Which is only partially true. I rewrite constantly. I rewrite the entire script every day I work on it. By the time I hit - in my case - 130 pages - its more like a third draft.

But once I finish it?

Not so much.

I need to improve on that.

But I'm sort of a never look back type of guy. I don't really like pictures. I like to remember - but not look back.

And with stories - I love them so much - I'm constantly looking for the next one.

Ryan wants me to fix my con man script. I like the idea - but I'm enjoying working on my new urban thriller.

Ah well. The life of the mind. It's great when you have one.

Rough when you don't get any sleep.

Off to work - and then to the embassy for yet another visa.

Keep your fingers to the keys, kids.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Could be wading into trouble

Heading back to SF today.

Could be wading into a river of you-know-but-don't-need-me-to-say-it.

My "official" contract ended two weeks ago and I am not subsiding on the double secret extended contract. Now we need to decide how to move forward.

This is mostly being pushed on my part.

I think for all intensive purposes the SF company would be more than happy to have me working on an extended basis - happily filing invoices each week and flying back and forth forever.

But for me and my house: we would prefer benefits.

I actually cannot remember the last time I had employer provided health care. It has to be in the last decade - but for the life of me - I can't remember. I usually don't like to be part of any company that would want me for an employee - and I know most companies feel the same way bout me.

Like a famous manager once told me - I am like a big middle finger.

And really I don't know how to change that.

So with that said - I like this company. For the most part. And I really like the people that work there. But it is a dicey situation.

I'm trying to get on salary before the holidays - and get some damn benefits. A year ago - on my way to LA to sign my contract with the mini-major that was to be doing my feature - I ate an almond and broke a piece off one of my teeth.

It is still broken over a year later.

I could possible have a broken toe. I don't think its broken. Or if it was - it has now healed back in a bad way. But I don't really know - except that when I play basketball - I usually get some intense pain from it.

So I should have it looked at.

The kids teeth keep falling out and coming back in looking like a fence that got hit by a drunk driver.


We should take care of that... But they can do some really crazy whistles - so I hate to deny the world that gift...

So it should be interesting.

And I have another China trip on the books for a couple weeks from now - for 18 days... so its a big one.

Also meeting with my old film producer in LA this weekend. He is getting off the big Sean Penn film - and I'm gonna swing by the studio to see him and talk about ways we might get the film going again. So there is that as well.

So its off to SF. And then LA. Teaching Chinese to the stars.

Go figure.

Just gotta watch where I step.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, November 13, 2006

The embargo is lifted

Welcome back, Mr Bootles.

It was a week - but now it's time to bring in the CLOWNS.

Sorry Emily.

Met with Ryan today.

We went through a lot of talk - some nonsense about Prestige being a better film than Memento - and silly talk about Superman being a good film - and then went over notes for his rewrite of how to marry your cousin - an old script of his.

I have been playing in my head.

I don't know how you come up with your ideas or how you work them - but I like to dream about them. I like to think up all the ways a scene could go - and usually - the better I see it - the better it comes out.

Ryan has a theory that I write better without a plan.

I don't like to give credence to that. It's a bit scary. And a bit sad.

But there is something to it. My script that got the most attention was written by me constantly putting my hero into worse and worse situations and then taking a couple weeks to figure out how to get him out. And then put him in another bad situation...

And the script that I'm most proud of - that hasn't gone out at all - was written by me waking up every day and trying to think of the coolest thing I could think of - and then writing it.

This new one is starting to gel.

I've got a whiz-bang open. And a killer first act. And ideas about what happens next... But not a lot. And no idea how it all plays out. But I know where it begins...

Now I'm fighting to write it. But I know once it starts coming out - it's easy to drop it when you don't know where its going. I used to say its foolish to start without having an outline.

But what is a writer if not foolish?

I'm doing my best to figure it out...

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Long break... Trying to recover from jetlag and reintegrate with the family.

Not quite feeling up to snuff.

Guess that sort of explains the break in continuity - but certainly doesn't excuse it.

Let me just say this:

If you haven't seen BORAT yet - get thee to a theater...

I was actually horse the next morning from laughing so hard. Even in the middle of nowheresville Indiana - the theater was 3/4 full - and laughing hard. There was a bit of uncomfortable shifting during the revival service - but otherwise - people here were loving it.

I do think my wife and I were the oldest people in the house though.

Best possible memory:

In the middle of the film - Shawn gets a call from his wife.

Now Shawn and his wife have a history of getting into fights on the phone. And off the phone. From the time they were married - Shawn always tries to not look at me when his wife calls cause I give him hassle and then he gets into trouble.

In the middle of the film - she calls.

Now granted - Shawn was asking for trouble by not telling her he was going. She knew he was playing poker earlier in the night - and then he came home and announced that he was going to the movie.

Guys here might say - if you told her earlier - you would be fighting earlier - so why tell? Girls would say different.

The only other part of the equation that you should know: His wife is 5 months pregnant - and their 4 year old daughter was sick.

So who's side you on now?


She calls. And Shawn tries to keep one hand over the phone and still watch the movie. But we are laughing so hard - it's just making his wife more angry. And he can't get off the phone. It goes for about 10 minutes - and finally he has to go to the lobby.

And for those of you who have seen the movie -


For those of you who haven't seen the movie:


Cause it is ridiculously hilarious.

Shawn came back after missing about 10 minutes of the film. But he can never get that back.

If you haven't seen it - GO. There is a reason its making money. It's just that funny.


Glad to be back here in the States.

For David and Emily - there actually could be something going down on that film school thing - but just not for at least 4-6 months - so we'll talk.

Spending another day here at home. Meeting with Ryan tomorrow. Both of us need to get our writing in order to catch up.

Heading out to SF for a couple days - then on to LA to work with a couple young stars - one who headlines her own TV series and one who is a singer/actress/reality show starlet. Gotta teach them a little Chinese. How silly is that?

Promise to catch up more as the week unfolds.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Give me grace...

Heading home.


Had a great night last night. Went out with my old friend Hogan - as in Hogan's heroes. Hogan was my old Chinese producer. Since we left he started a company to teach English and has a daily TV show. He has expanded it to 18 schools across the country and just sold off half of his company for huge dollars.

He is now getting ready to make Mobile phone programming.

He told me as soon as I am ready - he wants to fund a movie. He also wants to start a film school over here - and would be willing to fly potential teachers over for a free vacation. Any takers?

Then met with one of my oldest and dearest high school friends. He is one of two twins. His parents were told the reason they didn't get into NHS in high school was because I was their friend.

Both of them are pastors now. David owns a language school here in Beijing as well - but it is one that teaches Chinese to foreigners. If you need a hook up...

Looking at each other now - some 20 years past high school - its nice to look back and smile - instead of getting upset.

Where would we be without grace? From God and from each other?

There is so much nonsense out there. So many people feeding you crap.

Its good to have friends and family. Cherish them and give them room to grow and screw up - cause we all do. Every day. Its one of the only constants.

See what happens?

The longer I'm away from home - the sappier I get. I was tearing up during Sister Act 2 on HBO China last night.

Whew. Time to get on the plane.

Back to America. Back to cynicism. Back to reality.

Only three more clown free days here as well....

So I'm off to my 14 hour flight now. Back on Friday...

Till then - may the force be with you, fool!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And then that happened....

Spent the day on the set of a Chinese commercial shot by my new partners.

It was interesting to watch.

Doesn't matter the language or the culture - the problems are the same.

We met up at the Beijing film studio - the same place that Tarantino shot Kill Bill. We waited around outside for our ride - with all the other extras waiting for their shot to be discovered - just like in the old days. One guy walked around without his shirt - his chest inscribed with all manner of Chinese characters that Jade said were basically gibberish - saying that you had to stand out if you want the director to recognize you.

He stood out. And was left out as well.

We were driven to a home near the zoo that was where one of the former empress lived. It had been restored - but was still quite gaudy. I think - although I am not sure - that the commercial was for some sort of high class real estate company. There were a lot of foreigners in the spot - and when I asked where they found them -Director Hu assured me that his foreigners were much cheaper than other directors foreigners. I told him they were a lot stupider too - cause they couldn't follow even the simplest direction.

It was entertaining to watch the Chinese actor at the big table being waited on hand and foot by white European butlers and cooks. Just like God intended.

Twice Director Hu tried to rope me into the commercial - but I told him - as readers here know - I only act in pants without buttocks - and he had none - so I stayed on the sidelines.

I asked Producer Swun if we be using any of this crew for our commercial and he said:

No. Your crew will be much better.

What the heck does that mean?

Everything moved smoothly and quickly. Much better than our last shoot here. I can only hope when we return next month our shoot goes half as well.

Tonight - I hook up with my old friend and producer Hogan. He has been very successful since we left so it will be fun to see him. He used to say we treated him like a dog - and I disagree - it was more like a very naughty child.

We're going to quiz night at Bar Blu... Wish me luck!

Monday, November 06, 2006


Happy Birthday to you... And to me....

Another year older and obviously none the wiser.

Last year I was in VA producing a series with my good friend David - racing pell-mell towards crazy deadlines. My wife opened her big mouth and I had an office full of people embarrassing me.

This year - I can suffer quietly - alone in the knowledge that no one in China knows that I have silently aged another year right in front of them.

Great thing about this business - you never know where you might be a year from now.
Sucky thing about this business - you never know where you might be a year from now.

Everyday - something new. Some crazy place trying to do the impossible. Always fresh - always hard. Amazingly difficult and challenging - requiring more of you than you knew you had to give. Physically draining - mentally taxing - creatively freeing.

Paid well to dress sloppy.

What's not to like?

Who knows what lies ahead? I just pray that God continues to open doors and that I can be man enough to go where he leads.

Until then - thanks for stopping by.

And - no more clown pictures - at least for the week.


Went out to those incredible villas yesterday. Built right next to the Great Wall. Crazy. Unfortunately - only three were empty. I bought a book that has pictures of everything - and feel as if we could really do a lot of shooting there - but the deal would have to be right.

We will meet with them today to talk price.

Also sitting down with Director Hu to see where the budget is going and if I completely freaked him out. I hope I can calm him down.

Tomorrow - we go on set with him as he shoots a commercial - and then - Thursday - I gets to go home!

Peace out!

Tears of a clown.

So we didn't get to the wall yesterday.

But we're going today.

Check this out.

Great wall Commune You can cancel out of the Chinese Installation Pack.

This hopefully will look as incredible in real life as it does on the web. I just hope it won't be too far out of our budget.

And here's a fun part to the story:

It's run by the same hotel group that let us shoot in their presidential suite 7 years ago. When we set off the sprinkler system. And they couldn't get it off for 20 minutes. And we flooded the place.

I hope there is some memory wipe and they don't think we're the same people.

My Chinese partners are already nervous that we are being too ambitious... So that bodes well for me. Since I already got the budget approved back home. Hard to keep changing things...

But who knows? Maybe everything will turn out fine.

And maybe monkeys will fly outta my butt...

But at least I got to watch the Colts kick the Patriots butts live on TV. So it can't be all bad.

Off to the wall....

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Here's looking at you, Emily

Emily over at White Board Markers - one of the sites you should be checking out daily - threw down a clown gauntlet to me.

She is afraid of clowns - and as my regular readers know - I seem to enjoy plastering bad clowns all over my site. Along with pictures of animals humping.

Obviously I have issues.

But in honor of Em - I'll share another one of my favorite clown stories.

Earlier - I related the tail of how KILLJOY - the evil clown script - came to be. What I forgot to tell was the story that proceeded that story....

Once upon a time....

I directed shows for the Discovery Channel for 12 years. As such - I have an insatiable curiosity. I love to ask people questions about what they do. Nothing makes me happier than to find out about a persons life in a short amount of time - and most people love to talk about themselves - so it works out well.

For the most part.

Sometimes - you get more than you bargained for.

Like the time Shawn and I started quizzing a truck driver who was making deliveries to a restaurant. As we gathered the facts of his life - somehow it came out that he had spent time in prison. When we asked what for - we found out he was sleeping with his step-daughter. Who was 14. But - as he explained - she liked it.


Anyway. This is a clown story - so pardon the interruption.

My wife and I are at dinner in Virginia Beach. Before the kids - when it was just the two of us and we didn't know how good we had it. So we are waiting for our food - and one of those damn clowns is making the rounds. You know the ones - they come to your table - make some balloon dog - and then ask for money.

I hate this.

Usually I just try to ignore them till they go away.

But this guy was kinda cool. He was making the most unusual stuff I had ever seen. The one I remember was Barney eating Scooby Doo. It was an actual balloon dinosaur with a dog in its belly.


While I forget what he made for us - I do know that I started peppering him with questions.

One part of which went something like this:

So. Where did you learn to do this?

And he said: I don't think you wanna know.

Oh but I do.


Yes. Really.

You sure?


Well. When I was in prison - the guards would give us boxes of condoms. And I had nothing but time - so I started blowing them up. And then making stuff out of them. And it was tough - because they were lubricated - and I kept breaking out around my lips. Till they finally brought me some that weren't lubricated...

Hmmm. Well. Thanks for that... Check please!

After that - I asked no more questions.

But I know that when I told that story to Tadd - it stuck in his head - cause it was a couple weeks later that the dead clown came out of the park...

So beware the clown and his balloons... Cause you never know where they've been.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Long day today. And yes - I should be trying to sleep... But go figure.

Had a really good meeting with the production company. Tough because we have settled on a price without really knowing what we are doing - so that is already begging a lot of questions as to what is in the budget and what isn't... Which makes this kind of thing a bit difficult... But I think it can be fun...

Just kidding. It's not fun. But makes for those really great uncomfortable pauses where they realize I have big ideas they haven't budgeted for - and they know the number is already approved and we have to stick to what we've got.

Great way to enter into a productive relationship.

Director Hu took me to play basketball with him after the meeting.

As I said last time - they play on a regulation full court. Last time - we played three 40 minute periods - full court - with no subs. Tonight - we went one better and played an hour and a half straight. No breaks.

I thought I might vomit - but I held it in. Director Hu wanted to take me out to dinner - but I had to explain to him that I could not see eating right now. In fact the idea of it makes me wanna puke.

Still does.

And there is one old guy - sorta the boss - cause he bosses everyone around - and everybody just lays off him and lets him shoot. He's really good - for an old guy. And as the guest - I should follow the crowd -

But of course on one drive I pop him right in the face.

Not that hard - but hard enough for him to get really angry. He didn't try to hit me or anything - but he wasn't happy with me. After that - he called 3 seconds on me three times. And at least one of them wasn't true. But I kept my big stinking American mouth shut.

So we will see if I'm ever invited back.

Been sitting here writing the script for the shoot next month. Good idea to have a script so that you know what you're shooting. At least that's what I hear. I tried to get them to help me come up with ideas - but it was kinda a joke. Four guys in a room trying to figure out what makes a woman use cosmetic products. I kept trying to get them to go for an emotional approach - but it seemed far removed from them.

So I have to figure it out. And then make sure its Asian enough.

Cause tomorrow we're scouting locations. So I better figure out what I want.

Or at least what I need.


There's nothing so comforting as knowing that you're a failure in not one, but two cultures.

Well. Back to figuring out how skin care can solve the worlds problems.

Seacrest out.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lost in Translation

This is a problem I have.

Sometimes - I'll take something so simple and complicate it to the point of absurdity by over thinking it.

I want to get a haircut.

With all this stinking travel - I find the little things fall by the wayside. And right now - I'd make a great keyboard player in an 80's new wave band. All I'm missing is the skinny piano key leather tie.

I swear I walked over 4 miles today trying to find a place. And once I did - I refused to go in.

Right now - in Beijing - big crazy hair is the craze. A few years back, it was dying your hair red. Now - perms are hot. Big wavy crazy hair is all the rage. And the two places I found were full of guys looking like that.

I couldn't bring myself to go in.

I need a haircut - and all I usually tell the barber is: Make it shorter. But I was freaking out at the thought of leaving the shop looking like one of those guys.

In between searching for a barber - I bought a couple movies. Watched Lucky Number Slevin tonight. Didn't do well at all at the box office - and with probably a good reason. But - there is a lot of style to the film - and I love the art direction. Josh Hartnett acts better than in anything I've seen him in - and the scenes with Lucy Lui were really fun.

That said - the plot blows.

But the dialog is great.


Wrote a bit today. I keep polishing the same five pages - looking to break into the big first act. And then I spent some time writing for my shoot next month.

Tomorrow I sit with the production company again. We talk deal now - and prep for next month when we shoot the models. Director Hu wants me to bring my stuff for basketball again - so I have a promise to have a pain-filled weekend of pulsing joints and aching bones. But it's all worth it if I can hit a couple lay-ups.

Not sleeping or eating well yet. Spent most of the day with a pounding headache.

Will try to remedy this by not thinking as much. And getting a haircut.

But the little mustache stays.

Jade's birth

Here's the picture that I couldn't upload yesterday.

Makes the sad pathetic joke about my daughters third arm a little stranger....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


10 years ago.

At this point in my career - I have transitioned to the main bread winner.

I got married straight out of college and 2 weeks before I started grad school for film.

It was really important for me in those days to sit around the house and watch a lot of movies - to prepare for the welfare days to come - and so I had my new wife working two jobs.

Didn't last long. As she is prone to do - she saw through my disguise - and I started working.

Started to do well - and my short film from school started opening some doors. I came home from a shoot one night - when my wife was 4 months pregnant - and she tells me she quit her job.

Fast forward.

I'm back to directing for Discovery again.

I take a job directing for a show called the Quest. Last show we shot on film. I'm sent off to Montserrat - the island with a big ash volcano. I'm there after they have already evacuated half of the island - but before they evacuated the rest.

We shoot for a week - straight through a major hurricane - and I even tempt fate by getting a bit too close to the top of the volcano - and head home for a quick edit.

The turnaround on this is fast. After processing - we have 4 days to get the show out the door.

Tadd - the wonder writer - was working here as an editor at the time. I got him a job - and he was awesome. We jumped in and started cutting. We edited straight for 27 hours - no breaks - when I got a call.

Babe? I think my water broke.

What? It's Halloween. The baby isn't due for another 27 days. Just go back to sleep.

Back to cutting. Screen the show for the big boss.

The Boss and I have a history. I was one of his very first producers - and I'm also a smart ass. He is overbearing - so there are times we don't see eye to eye.

At one point in the show - he has me change a sequence. I don't understand his reasoning - other than I think it's bad.

We come to another point - and he has me change something else - so that it becomes more like the first thing - before he changed it.

At this point we have a big argument that culminated with him saying -

Greg, when you grow up and have a company of your own - you can do whatever you want - but for now - this is my company and we are going to do it my way.

At which point I said -

As long as you know we are doing it your way because its what you said - and not because its the right decision - that's fine by me.

At which point - both Mike - the producer - and Tadd - the editor - put their heads down and prayed we didn't have a human volcano go off in the room.

Luckily - I was saved by another call.

Baby. You need to come home.

I'm in the middle of this edit - I just have to-

You NEED to come home NOW.

So off I went.

Now - this was really early. And everything I had every heard about first pregnancies is that the baby is usually late - not early. So I assumed that this was false labor.

I went home. Took a shower. Slowly. Stalling till 9 am when my wife's GYN opened.

By the time we got there - she was refusing to speak to me. Once she was up on the table - she was already 6cm's dilated.

The baby came quick - 3 hours later. Too quickly to even get an epidural in.

And that how - ten years ago - my daughter Jade came into the world.

She is a piece of work. At three she told my wife -

I'll start doing what you say when you stop telling me what to do.

And she hasn't been easy ever since. But she sure is cool.

And I love her.

Happy birthday Jade.

I promise you if daddy makes some more money - we'll have that extra arm taken care of.