Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hanging by a fingertip

My time is almost up.

I don't wanna say this trip has been tough - cause its a lot like all the other trips... but something happens the last week where all I think about is being at home.

I watched Knocked Up over the weekened again and got all teared up. When they sang that song at the end of the film over the montage of the couple and their new baby girl - I was weeping.

I'm such a nancy.

But it's Wednesday night - and that means I only have two more days. So that's good.

But I gotta come back next month. That's bad.

And every time I leave Beijing - something cool happens. Last time, my assistant Star got married. And Nine Inch Nails and Public Enemy came. This time, Talib Kweli and Ozomalti will both play... while I'm gone.

But I might fly down to Shanghai to watch a preseason NBA game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic. Maybe.

On the movie.

More names being bandied about and more offers about to go out.

On the funny tip - the big name star who we waited two years for his schedule to clear before he finally dropped out of the film has just changed representation again.

Yup. He's now at my agency.

And the very same agents who kept telling me what a douchebag he was and how I shouldn't work with him or his agent wrote me this week telling me how we should all sit down and have a meeting and talk about the film again.

Yup. His AGENT is also at my agency.

Just a reminder that everything is a full circle in Hollywood.

The highlight of the past couple days was reading an Elmore Leonard novel. Don't know if you read him or not - but I highly recommend his books. When I get back - I'm gonna pick up as many as I can get my hands on.

And on that note - I give you this link:


Well worth stopping by. A master of dialog and structure.

From another article:

Leonard says he does not know where the story will go when he starts writing. He lets the characters lead. He's not even sure that he's starting at the beginning.
"I have no idea where it's going, I have no idea how it will end. I just start it.
"Sometimes, Chapter 1 will become Chapter 2 or 3; one time it became Chapter 10."

Leonard has one, and passed along this piece of dialogue:

She: "I think this one ends rather abruptly."

He: "Well, but, it's over."

She: "Why don't you let it coast a little?"

Leonard said, "So, I'll write three new pages and I'll cross out two."

Holding on for dear life here in Beijing... ready for the long flight home.

Two more days... :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Closer

Doesn't play well with others.

In my case - it's doesn't play well with authority figures.

I blame it all on missionary school. And my dad. Not that I don't get along with him - I get along with him fine. Too well. But watching him with authority figures makes me see how I became what I am.

When people say things like you should only get into this business because you can't do anything else - they are talking about me. Sure - I could fake my way into an organization and pretend for a couple months I was doing OK - but then one day my big mouth would open and that would be the end of it.

Why the heck do you think I'm banished to China?

I do fine as a director. Directors are supposed to be asses.

And the people who work for me generally really like me. I think. They say. As they cower in the corner like a dog that's been beat too much...

But the people above me are more than willing to save the ship from going down by tossing the offending Jonah into the belly of the whale.

Jonah in this case being me.

When I worked at Discovery - I had an argument with my exec producer in the edit suite over a cut in my show. He wanted it changed - and I told him -

"Fine. Change it. But just realize that we're changing it because you're the boss - not because the cut is better."

At which point he kicked me out the suite.

When I got hired on a certain series - I was given tapes of the show before I came in for the interview. The Exec called me in and told me he didn't think I could run the show. He had seen my reel and to be honest - he wasn't impressed.

I sat for a second - wondering why the heck he called me in for the job - and then told him it was probably for the best - since I watched the tapes of his show and thought it was a crappy show anyways - so it would save both of us time.

He yelled and me and kicked me out of his office.

(Only to call me later and offer me the series. How could I say no?)

Another executive producer who I shot a lot of commercials for took to calling me the "big middle finger" because of how I would react to his idiotic notes.

So when I'm in China and stuck with hours of time that I'm trying to avoid writing - I watch TV series.

I just finished Season One of the Closer.

Decent show. Not very realistic - but some really great characters and good writing.

Season finale is all about the lead character getting called to task for the way she treats others. There is an internal affairs complaint against her. Her Boss tells her it will all go away if she meet with the three people she offended and apologizes.

She agrees.

And proceeds to tell them she is sorry that she had to call attention to what a horrible job each of them are doing and she is sorry that she can't put up with their incompetence.

And then she walks.


The big middle finger has a new hero.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Game Time

Can you pick a winner?

I always grab a handful of reading material to take with me to China.

First - there's the 13 hour flight. Plus the 5-6 hours sitting in the airport for each trip. Then there's the three weeks alone...


Back to the game.

This trip I grabbed a couple magazines - and decided it would be fun to put up a little quiz.

Two of the magazines I brought:

Wired - a technology mag - focusing on the future and trends
Cover Story: Halo 3

XXL - a magazine about Rap culture.
Cover Story: Kanye West

Both are part of my strange life. Are they yours?

Today's game is:

Guess which Letter to the editor came from what magazine. Got it?

Here we go:

(all these are parts of actual letters. No editorializing needed.)

"You've probably already been yelled at by the fanboys with regard to your reference to Optimus Prime's deah. He in fact did not die in the 1986 movie. He was later found in space and returned during the third season of the show. Megatron, however, never returned after the movie - not as Megatron anyway; he was rebuilt as Galvatron."

"...What he needs to do is shut the f*** up and give Buck his mother******* respect and realize that he's the coldest on that whole bull**** label. I hope Buck reads that s*** and slaps the s*** outta that n****...."

"Check out the spine of the 15.07 issue. Upside down, it reads "LO.ST" where the font makes the 1 in 15.07 look like a T. Funny that one of your cover items was Google Maps. Coincidence? I think not!"

"I'm currently locked up in prison, and I got my (magazine name) last night. So when I hit the Eye Candy page with Brianna and I see the sista's body, I'm like, damn! Brianna's a** so thick and fine I wish me and her could get things poppin'."

"Nowhere in your review of walkie-talkies did you mention that higher-powered walkie-talkies require a license to use. If you want real range from a GMRS talkie, forget about all those toys you tested and buy an Icom F21GM."

"If a b**** or a hoe is down the street, you would think he would walk by and downgrade them in a rap, but yet he doesn't. The way he sees it is, just because they are there doesn't mean you have to f*** with them any worse than life is f*****' them over."

Extra Credit:

Match the letter writer's name to the magazine his letter came from:

Milton Lau
Lawrence E. Stoskopf
Bigz Lury
Haim Toeg
Cee-God Allah
Dat Dude
Tom Barlow

Good Luck kids!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Turn that frown upside down

I had such a tough day yesterday.

Just very demoralizing.

Thank God for Skype - and my lovely bride who made some time to listen to me rant and rave.

Feeling a bit better today. Helps that its Friday and I get to come home in two weeks.

And who says rap can't united the world? If this clip doesn't make you smile - your heart is black and full of ice.

Can't touch this...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fighting for Coherence

Yesterday was lost in translation.

I showed up at the post house to begin a new edit and waited around most of the day for a group from France to finish the fx on their new car commercial.

Never happened.

I left with the joy of knowing I wasn't the only one who couldn't finish a project in China in the allotted time.

Oh wait... did I say "joy?"... I meant dispair. Easily confused...

All day I had just one thing on my mind:

Who sold more CDs? Kanye or 50?

I mean a lot was at stake. It was 9-11. This is a big day in our nations history - and what better way to commemorate the lives lost then to release rap CDs?

While Kanye has tried to play it off as an exciting event - 50 has gone so far as to say that if Kanye sells more than him - he will give up the mic.

50 - brother man - where would we be without you? If you quit rapping - that means the terrorists have already won!

At least I can take solace in the fact that while we still may be a nation in grief - we can at least drink in the comfort that only sick beats, blazing mc's and mad ho's can offer.

I went out last night to an event.

What? Is this the same Greg who only leaves his apartment for work? The guy who spends every night sitting in front of the TV or computer?

Yes. I went to a reading/lecture at a local bookstore by one of the guys who runs - one of the most widely read blogs in the world. Judging from the packed house - it is obviously read in China as well.

Great guy. Read a new story he wrote for Forbes that was very William Gibson-ish. Then he went on to rail against copywrite law and why it will never work. Only by opening up information can we hope to keep up with people stealing.

He's a great speaker and a really smart guy - and he puts his money where his mouth is as he releases all of his books on the web for free and still makes money selling them in stores. But it kinda felt like being trapped in a room with a really smart guy talking about legalization of drugs... he has lots of good reasons why it would work - mostly by saying all the ways that it doesn't work to stop them.

Not sure how I feel - but I was entertained.

Even stranger - I came home and turned on the Discovery Channel and watched an episode of a show that David and I produced 3 years ago.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Red State

Back again.

I was only gone a week but it seems like a drug induced dream.

I'm never home enough to change back to normal time - but I am home enough to screw up my sleep patterns really bad. I feel as if I'm sort of walking dead - between two worlds.

I had a great time with the family - but I was dizzy for most of it. Had a lot of things I needed to do - and people I needed to talk to - but couldn't get myself together for any of it.

And before I knew it - Here I am, back in China.

Two or three silly issues with the company last week - but it seems as if they are working out.

Pulled the offer we had out on the young hot music stud after his manager sat on it for over a month. The assistant manager read the script - loved it - and recommended it to the manager. We had a cash offer on the table... and he never read it. So we pulled it.

Sent the script out to two other actors on Monday. One was the sidekick in a big summer franchise film - the other, the lead in a film that no one saw - but was quite good. We will see who responds.

My producer sent me a couple scripts last week that he is attached to. He keeps sending me stuff - and I assumed he wanted me to read them for a second opinion - so I read them as one writer to another. But then he told me that he's always looking for directors - so he wanted me to be reading them as something to consider directing.

That's a whole other ball of wax.

I hit the ground running yesterday.

Went out and bought 20+ movies here last night.

Celebrated with watching the longer, extended cut of Death Proof - the Tarantino portion of Grindhouse.

Can I say that it sucked? I can't imagine watching that at the tail end of another film. I was bored - didn't care - and couldn't believe this was the same guy who did Pulp Fiction. I remember reading an interview with him talking about how he filmed one of the greatest car chases ever done - because if he was going to do it - it better be the best.

Can I say - not. even. close?

I've about shut the book ont his guy. And that's after buying the Japanese boxed set of all his films. I love his writing. His structure. But I can't stand that film. No reason at all to see it.


Well. I guess I should go to work and see what the future holds for me.

Friday, September 07, 2007



I know that this might be silly and slightly embarrassing for an old white guy who can't dance to admit...

But I played Dance Dance Revolution last night - And WOW!

I like video games. A lot. Grew up with them and still enjoy them.

My kids love video games.

We went out to the Winona Lake Indiana version of an arcade last night.

Yeah - I've seen the machine there. Yeah - it's usually occupied by a couple of adolescent girls - monopolizing the machine all night long. Yeah - its a dollar a play - which is probably the reason why I never played it.

But my wife is a piece of work.

She determined that we should try it. And once she sets her head to something....

Anyways. She basically dragged me to the machine. After a few horrendously white moments - I actually was pretty good with it. More than that - I really like it.

If you haven't tried it - you must.

I actually broke a sweat. And at one point - I jumped too hard to the side - and fell off the machine.

I was in such a good mood that I can home and actually read pages by Ryan and wrote some of my own. And they weren't bad.

Only thing bringing me down is that its Friday - and that means that I gotta get back to China on Monday.


But maybe I can find a machine over there in China. Bet it isn't so expensive there...

Trust me on this. You gotta try it.

If you happen to see a really uncordinated old white guy on the machine... trust me... I'll be done in a minute.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Must Write...

If only I pushed a bit harder....

I know. Just keep going. Write through it. It'll come.

I need a chair like this - strapped to the keyboard - hand and foot - no choice but to crap or get off the pot...

Seemingly have no choice but to continue to push out pages.

Listened to the Creative Screenwriting Podcast the other day. The guy was talking about how he never has writers block cause he just has too many ideas...


I guess I could relate if crappy ideas count. I seem to have a million of them. And I probably have 10-20 pages of a hundred scripts that follow those crappy ideas until they die.

And then they sit there on my harddrive - mocking me... waiting to be picked up again like the squirtgun that shoots jelly on the island of lost toys.

Cause everyone knows you don't need to be that great - you just need to have that one great idea...

If only that were true.

Just gotta push through.

Just keep on puuuuuussssshhhhhing....

Ah yes.... Here it comes....

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


It must be home.

I'm always surprised when I get back to the States.

My family actually likes me. And I them.

I can sit with my wife - hanging out on dueling laptop computers or watching TV late into the night - laughing and giggling like we were back in High School - just enjoying each others goofy presense. Ask me if she can set up dinners with friends of hers who don't believe that she actually has a husband. Smile as she explains to me that all the shoes arriving at the house are coming with free shipping and a great return policy. And that most of them are actually going back...

Sure they are...

I can go out to eat with my extended family and smile - not fight. Listen to my Dad talk about his new Church - where they actually like him and want him - even though he drives an hour each way.

Sit with my son and go over his homework. Have him read a book to me about Decepticons with minimal help. Sit on the couch together and watch the Magnificent 7 - and have him tell me it's a lot like the Pixar movie Bug's Life. Rub the top of his buzzed head and tell him he looks a lot like Wentworth Miller on Prison Break.

Get on a bike and ride for an hour with my daughter. On the big roads - cause they don't believe in sidewalks or bike paths here in Indiana. Work with her on her report on Amelia Earhart - and tell her reports are like telling a story - even though she continuously corrects me and tells me this is not supposed to be in story form. Watch her read Harry Potter and smile. Asks me to turn off the fan in her room when I go up to go to bed.

To see my little sister's smile as she shows off her new ring from her fiance. She how happy she looks as she talks about her upcoming wedding.

Have my dog follow me everywhere. To the bedroom. Downstairs in the middle of the night. To the bathroom while I take a shower. And even if I go out for a few minutes - just to get the mail - she shakes her whole body with happiness when I walk back in the door.

And for me. Just to be in my house. See my friends. Sit at the table where I wrote two scripts. Listen to music while I work through the night. Play the new leaked Kayne West CD over and over - enjoying the beats. Fill scraps of paper with ideas for scripts to start and abandon.

Think about what's next.

This is where the heart is.
But there is where the work is.

I'm enjoying it while I can...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


What? Is there something wrong with a guy telling another guy that he loves him?
If that's wrong... I don't wanna be right...

Spent the day at my neices party.

My sister loves a big party. My wife's sister loves her a big party too.

I do not love big parties. In fact - I can't stand them. But it was a nice way to get to see everyone all at once in one fell swoop.

Played a lot of badmitten with my son. Watched my daughter take the rope from the pinata and try to make a zip line from the tree to the ground. She was using a horseshoe to try to slide down from a high branch.


But tonight - my closest friend Shawn and I made a run for the theater.

In our small town - there is one movie theater. Its not bad - as small town theaters go... but they don't bring a huge selection - and they don't bring in a whole lot of R rated films.

We really wanted to see Superbad - well... because we heard that it was Super Bad...

It wasn't playing here.
That means its an hour drive to Ft Wayne to the big Rave theater.

We usually try to go to the latest show because:

A: The kids are asleep by then and the wives don't yell at us as much.
B: Night here is my day.

Tonight was the last chance to see it cause Shawn heads off for Mexico city tomorrow. He wanted to go Saturday - but it was my first day back and it didn't seem like a good idea to run out on the family. Sunday he thought I was gonna call him - and I thought he was gonna call me - so neither of us called.

Today - we were both at the party - and knowing it was our last chance before he left - we had to go.

He showed up at my place at 9:45 - to get to the theater for the 10:50 show. He was a bit late - so I drove a bit fast.

We pulled up at 10:35.

We walked to the theater - which is in the middle of an outdoor mall. Don't bother asking why someone would build an upscale outdoor mall in the middle of northern Indiana. I still to this day question the logic. The point is you can't see the theater from the parking lot.

When we got there - the box office was closed. The usher was cleaning up. We were in shock.

I looked to the board - and there was the showing.

Superbad 10:50.

We immediately hit good cop/bad cop mode. (can you guess what I was?)

Hey man. What's up with the show?

What show?

Superbad. The 10:50.

Oh yeah... um... well. There is no show.

But it was in the paper. And on the internet.

Yeah... that was a misprint.

But it was in there all week. And its on your board.

Yeah. Well. There is no show tonight.

Let me talk to a manager.

So the manager ambles out.

Yeah sorry guys... we don't have that show on Monday. All these guys gotta get to school tomorrow... and when they made the schedule they never put anyone on to watch the late show. As you can see - we're already cleaning up the snack bar.

But... we drove an hour to get here.

Yeah... well - I can give you some free passes...

But its on your board....

Yeah... sorry....

Look. We don't need any snacks. We just want the movie. Can't you just start it up now... it'll be done early... and then we'll go. We won't even use the bathroom.

After a couple of seconds of blank stares - the guy said sure.

And he said we could watch it for no charge.

We got an empty theater all to ourselves. The manager himself ran the film. Asked us if we minded skipping the previews. We said not at all.

Then he offered to get us free drinks.

That's what I call customer service.

And to top it off - the movie was so funny I almost coughed out a piece of lung. It is one of the sweetest foulest movies I've seen in a while. And that I got to share it with my best friend made it all the better.

Thanks Rave Theater Manager, Ft Wayne Indiana. You made my night.