Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reader Mail

Love me my reader mail. Especially when it's all about me.

Reader TytianaCS asks:

1. How do you turn a work of yours into a manuscript?

I honestly don't know the answer to this because I've never written prose. Well, I have but it's astonishingly awful and there was never any desire on my part to show it to anyone. There are a lot of websites that should be able to help you with this, and an extension course at a university could be of enormous benefit. It's not only a way to learn the next step, but also to make some contacts and meet other people. Writers need to be able to commiserate. It's a lonely profession.

I love going to classes. I wish I could afford to go back. I wish I could go back to high school and not waste four years of a free education ditching class to drink beer and smoke cigarettes behind the Kickapoo Food Mart... Actually, that's bull shit; I'd do it again. Hell, I'd do it this afternoon if my wife would let me.
2. How do you motivate yourself to stay constant with writing that one particular piece? I've started many projects but hardly ever finish them.

If you're not having fun writing it, it's probably not going to turn out all that well. I have two scripts that died on page 40 and one that died on page 10. I started them for the wrong reasons -- usually because I thought they'd be commercial -- and couldn't finish them because commercial or not, I didn't like them.

Just last year I tossed aside a clever concept in favor of this little romantic comedy. I grinded through the clever one for six months and couldn't get past page 40. The romantic comedy was a lot of fun to write and if I can it's the film I'd love to direct next. But guess which one would be more attractive to the money people?

I think I've completed 8 or 9 scripts by now and those have been stories I just wanted to tell. Some are pretty bad, most aren't commercial, but they were all fun to write and I had to get them out of my system.

What may help is telling you that no matter how much energy I have towards a script the first draft is always difficult. Getting those hundred pages down is the worst. That's the real work. But once I trudge through that and the re-writing and polishing begins I'm a pig in mud. I could finesse a script forever.

You just have to have the discipline to get that story down the first time so you have it. From there you just tweak away. But that's me. I know a lot of writers who love that first draft but hate the rewriting.

Another thing that helps is a muse. Think of someone you want to impress. Think of someone you can't wait to show your story to. Write for that person. Who do you want to dazzle? I always write to impress my pretty wife. Some I've written towards a producer friend of mine. A couple for a director I know. The last couple have been with some of the actors I've stayed close to in the hopes we can do something again. That's what you call a muse. In other words: Your Inspiration.

And again I would encourage you to take a night course. There are classes all about completing whatever it is you're working on; courses designed specifically towards the goal of getting it done.
3. Where would I be able to send my finished manuscript and know that it will be read over and not tossed aside? I don't expect them to be read, page for page or thoroughly but I would like for them to be considered.

First off, when you finish something I'd be happy to read it. Prose is not my field -- I don't even read fiction -- but just so know even if it's On The Road-quality I wouldn't know what to do with it. But I could at least give you an opinion. And it would be an honest one.

Whatever kind of story you're writing, look for who publishes them, look for who manages the writers who are getting published, find out their submission policies (usually a query letter that asks for a short description of your story), and follow them.

When I first came out here I called every agency on the agency list and as soon as someone picked up the phone, I said, "Hi, I have a script about a serial killer who discovers people worst fear of dying and makes it come true. I was wondering if you might be interested in taking a look at it?" Out of a hundred-plus phone calls and I got around fifteen reads. Which was very exciting. The mistake I made was that at the time the script was a piece of shit and I did myself more harm than good and am probably still on every big agencies Hack-Writer-Do-Not-Read-List.

The way to not get tossed aside is to grab them on page one and never let go. It's as simple as that. That's the key to storytelling. You want the Reader turning pages to find out what happens next. Stephen King and John Grisham are solid-but-not-great writers but they're amazing storytellers. James Patterson is the worst writer in the world but he can tell a whale of a story. Story is King.

I'm always reading a couple of books at a time but stick with biographies and non-fiction. But it's still always about the story. Real life is infinitely more interesting than anything anyone can make up. Story. Story. Story.

Hope I've been helpful. And thank you for inquiring about my health. To be honest with you, if narcotics involved in the cure I kinda like being sick.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


We had our first official screening last night. The picture still needs color correcting and the sound in the theatre was pretty bad, but it was the first screening of the final cut with the completed sound mix for about ninety people. It was a hastily put together screening but a lot of the cast and crew were able to make it.

The screening went very well. I was more nervous about having to address the theatre beforehand than I was about the reaction to the film. I always get very nervous in front of a crowd. I don't remember what I said but have little doubt I was charming.

Everyone said they liked the movie but they've said that before at our test screenings when it wasn't true. You can tell what people really think of the film by the energy in the lobby afterwards. It doesn't matter how complimentary people are, if the lobby is funereal and people talking in hushed tones clam up as you, The Failure, walk by, it's a bomb. But the mood last night was very upbeat and even elated.

And I could tell the movie was playing well. I can't really articulate where the instinct comes from to know how it's playing, I just measure the pints of flop sweat that run down my back. Last night there was none. It was just fun. You could tell everyone was into the story and it got a lot of laughs. It did take about ten minutes for the film to gel, but after that it was fine.

There are two jokes in the movie my wonderful producers were sure would flop. Well, one killed. It got the biggest laugh of the night. The other layed there like a turtle dying in the sun. So, we traded "told ya so's"

Most surprising was the reaction from the 10 to 14 crowd. A number of younger kids were really enthused by it. That they were able to follow the story is quite a credit to the structure we created, and that the story would appeal to kids that age wasn't ever something I considered. It's a small sample that means little, but when I saw parents bringing young kids I groaned at the thought of the restless sounds they would create. But there was none of that.

Here's a little irony for you: The screening was at the AFI building in Hollywood. Two years ago when it was just me and The Hot Little Script Supervisor trying to make this movie one of the first things I did was go to the AFI to post a notice for a cinematographer. And last night there we were screening that insane pipe dream in the exact same building.

Not everyone was there, so we'll have other screenings after the film is finished finished, but so far so good. I don't know how in the hell you sell an oddball little film like this, but for now the people that matter most seem to feel it was worth the effort. And to be honest, that's all I really care about. Anything after is gravy. If I wanted to get rich I'd be a porn star.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


The new Pirates movie stinks. I was first in line Friday at 8:30 am and as excited as a kid who found dad's Playboys. But it was a mess. And I've been too bitterly disappointed to say anything until now.

Happy 100th Duke!

Every year the Harris Poll asks Americans who there favorite movie star is, and John Wayne is the only actor ever to make that list pothumously. Even more astounding is that he's made it every year since. This year he was number three (!) beating out George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp, Mad Mel, Harrison Ford, Clint, and Will Smith. Truly an extrordinary achievement no one will ever come close to equaling.

John Wayne's been my favorite actor for decades. I was lucky enough to have been alive when he was still making films and went to see a few. Even near-seventy he held the screen like no other. I consider The Searchers to be the greatest film ever made and Wayne's performance to be the greatest ever committed to film. Both Spielberg and Scorsese make it a point to screen The Searchers before beginning one of their own. And no wonder, it is a masterpiece of storytelling, theme, and performance.

I had the opportunity a few years ago to go to Monument Valley where Wayne and John Ford made their greatest pictures together. The Navajo Indians own the valley and adore these two men. They've named places of honor for both and remain grateful to this day for their friendship and respect. It's quite a thing to see pictures of John Ford and John Wayne in places of honor in American Indian owned businesses and homes.
There's a shot of Wayne in Beautiful Loser. A great shot of him and Gail Russell from Angel and the Badman. Had to have the Duke in the movie. Had to.

Happy Memorial Day

Should any of my six readers have family members or have themselves served or are serving in the armed forces to protect this grand country of ours, thank you for your service and sacrifice. It is unimaginable the horrors we and the world would be facing without the brave volunteers who make up the United States Military.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New Medicine

This new cough medicine is fantastic. I feel great. My throats still hurts and I'm still coughing, but I feel great. Curious as to why, I looked at the bottle, and discovered I have enough codeine in me to kill Courtney Love.

And that is how you spell "codeine." I looked it up. It appears as though the "'i' before 'e' except after 'c'" rule can mean even if the 'c' is a few letters down. Who knew?

Anyway, I'm stoned.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hope For Ugly, Jobless, Uncharasmatic Men

It's in The Sun, so it's gotta be true (plus they put a "u" in humor, so you know it's important):
In a recent study, sociologist Diane Felmee found only a third of women said looks were the first thing that attracted them to a man. Most preferred a sense of humour or financial and career success.
Yes, I know I'm 0 for 3, but the article's not done...
Researchers at Newcastle University also believe ugly men exist as a way of repairing our gene pool. Women would rather date men with good genes, who can fight disease easily, than a classically beautiful man.
Did I mention my bronchitis is just about cleared up?

Pirates Friday!

Pirates III on friday. Loved the first one. Liked the second one. And they're paying me to go. Got a free popcorn coupon too. *tee hee* Taking the wife. She took the day off. We were gonna go on a trip this long weekend but then looked at the check book. And I thought I had lung cancer.

What's worrying me about Pirates III is that they have to go and find Jack Sparrow. I heard it takes an hour. Johnny Depp is the whole movie. That's gonna be a long hour. Didn't anyone on that film see Jedi? There's a reason they unfroze Han Solo right away.
I'm going to the 8:30 am show. It should be empty, so I can remove my clothes.

The Alarmist Part II

Remember that post about being an alarmist? Here's what happened:

I had the bronchitis. Went to the doctor. Got medicine. Took medicine. Cough wouldn't go away. Googled cough. Discovered I had lung cancer. Refused to go to the doctor to avoid lung cancer being confirmed. Wife forced me to go to doctor today. Doctor says I have upper respiratory infection.

Here's my question: Why the hell didn't Google tell me that? Nowhere in any of the eight sites in which my trembling fingers input my symptoms did a single one say upper respiratory infection. No. Where. Not. A. One. I picture the Google boys chuckling as they sit in their evil lair that tracks everything as I enter, "dry cough."

I said, "No, doc, it's cancer. Get it out."

He laughed at me. And the Chinese never laugh.

See, here's the other problem: I think life should be a movie. And I like to think of my life as a movie, with me as its star. Its hunky, nimble, wily star. But in the movies those who cough are doomed. Name me a movie where a character coughed who didn't eventually die. So, naturally when I cough, I figure I got me about 87 minutes to live.

The good news in all my Googling is that I did discover that after you've stopped smoking for 15 years your chances of getting lung cancer are the same as if you never smoked. I think I quit around 1992 or 1993. At least I quit smoking regularly. You know, a pack a day. I did sneak them after I supposedly quit. Had to. My wife was worried about my health (I had a job then). I only snuck a couple a day though, the mouth wash made me nauseous. I smoked Newports. Newpies. The only white man in Milwaukee who did. Great cigarette. You kids thinking about smoking? Try you some Newps. I don't know why I'm going on. Most of you probably stopped reading in disgust when you hit the Chinese joke.

BL Screening

The reason tomorrow's screening was cancelled is because we lost the film. I had it last, but gave it to Steven. Steven says he never got it but he said that about my blowdryer and we found that on top of his fridge.

Yes, Steven looked on top of his fridge, but it's not there. Rest assure we'll find it. Hopefully by Tuesday.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Shrek The Third

Everyone's slamming the movie but I really enjoyed it. It was funny, fast paced, imaginative, had very little Orlando Bloom, and did I mention it had very little Orlando Bloom? It was a major improvement over 2.
I can't tell you if kids will like it because I went to a 9:30 am show and was pretty much alone. Which I like because it allows me to remove my clothes.


I love Fridays. I don't have a job and I love Fridays. Imagine what it's like to be me. Imagine what it's like to not have to work but still get that it's-Friday thrill.

It's like Heaven. With TV.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Alarmist

Woody Allen once described himself as an alarmist instead of a hypochondriac, explaining that an alarmist doesn't always think he's sick, but when he is it's fatal. That's me. And the internet doesn't help. If you go to those Web MD-type sites no matter what symptom you type in it comes up cancer:

Tummy ache: Stomach Cancer.

Ear ache: Brain Cancer.

Stubbed toe: Caused by dizziness due to malignant tumors in the lungs.

Well, that's not 100% true. Once I typed in my symptoms and it didn't say cancer. But I never did find the jellyfish that stung me.

Bl News

There's some rumblings. Not all I can share right now. (No, nothing about distribution... Yet.) But there's momentum and focus and a website coming soon.

I must say that after watching the film at the conclusion of the sound mix, I'm quite proud of it. It's a lovely little well-paced story with excellent performances, a strong ending, and a number of effective moments. It's eccentric, for sure, but that makes it unique; probably less attractive to mass audiences, but it will find a niche.

Know I wouldn't say I was proud of the film if it weren't true. I haven't said I was proud of it in the past. Because I wasn't. And while the sound elements (especially the score) were great additions they weren't going to make the story better. What made the difference there was a round of editorial changes we made a few months ago. Other than to work on the film, I hadn't watched the film since those changes and didn't expect them to have the effect they did. Imagine my surprise at suddenly having a film I was proud to have been a part of as opposed to the one I was feverishly working on for a year hoping to make it suck less.

It's the story I wanted to tell, the themes I wanted to explore, and the emotions I wanted to create. It's not a perfect or great film -- and the mistakes are mine -- but I look forward to people seeing it and whatever success it has completely going to my head; up to and including cocaine and adultery.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"How It's Made"

Have you ever seen that show on the Discovery Channel called "How It's Made?" It's this little half hour program that picks four of the most banal objects it can find and shows you how they're made from raw material to out-the-door. In these little 6 minute segments it will take you inside the making of rubber gloves, tooth picks, firemen jackets... Whatever. And it's absolutely fascinating.

It also reaffirms my faith in mankind. (I know, I know, I'm supposed to say "humankind" but I've had a couple beers and am feeling reckless) I mean, we really are an amazing and complex species. When you watch the ingenuity that goes into creating radiator hoses and soda bottles you just have to sit back in awe at what we're able to do when we set our minds to it.

I once saw a two hour documentary beside itself that a cute little dolphin knew a few pieces of sign language. Sign language? Whip-de-friggin-do. Let's fry that little useless sucker up so we have something to eat while we watch the miracle of man mass-producing thumb tacks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

28 Weeks Later

28 Weeks Later is a terrific horror film I highly recommend. For the last hour I completely forgot I was supposed to review it, stopped taking notes, and just hung on to the arm rests. I liked it better than the original and that hasn't happened with a sequel in a long time. Though Mannequin 2: On The Move was a close call.

For a well-reviewed horror sequel, 28 Weeks Later didn't do very well at the box office, but I think the critics actually hurt the film. A lot of them tried to turn the movie into an allegory about the Iraq War. Polemics don't do well at the box office. No one wants to pay ten bucks to see reality and since all of what Hollywood pumps out is liberal, that automatically alienates 50% of the audience. No, the critics did this film no favors.

But I didn't see the allegory. If there is an allusion to Iraq it's a decidedly illiberal one saying half measure won't work and are only making things worse. It will require relentless brutality to end this threat. A lot of critics also said the film makes the American military look trigger-happy. What I saw was a military not trigger-happy enough. The restrained rules of engagement are what cause the chaos.

Bottom line: I don't think the film's about anything other than trying to scare the pants off the audience. Which it does.

Another reason to see it is Imogen Poots (pictured here) who plays Robert Carlyle's daughter. This girl's gonna be a star. Remarkable talent with a strong screen presense and unique beauty.

Star Meter

My Star Meter on IMDB Pro just shot up 29% to 85,315.

That means I'm the 85,315th most powerful person in Hollywood right now. So, don't fuck with me.

"I Get It!"

I don't watch television. At least not prime time network television. I do like those true crime shows on A&E, Discovery, and Court TV, but other than that television bores me. I used to watch some television. But after Seinfeld and Married With Children were cancelled that was it. Probably the last one hour drama I watched was the original Law & Order, but I gave up on that years ago.

However, I do watch The Sopranos. For me The Sopranos is the Holy Grail of writing. A lot of people grouse about bad episodes or slow seasons but I have found it consistently brilliant. I see two and three new movies a week and the only one that's come close to The Sopranos in the writing department this entire year was The Lives Of Others. That's how great I think this show is. How superior.

Now that we're down to the final episodes it's been fascinating to watch how unfinal they've been. How for the last six episodes things have been happening like they did in every prior season with no sense of momentum towards any kind of conclusion. But that's the brilliance of the program; real life seldom feels like a third act -- it just doesn't work that way.


Last night Tony killed Christopher. What a perfectly Sopranos moment because we all saw what the tree had done to that child's car seat, and once again we somewhat empathized with evil.

After the murder, Tony finds himself shockingly relieved Christopher's gone and eager to get others to share his relief by expressing his indignation over the car seat. Unsuccessful and needing to think through his lack of grief, Tony heads for Vegas and lives vicariously through Christopher: He takes drugs and hooks up with one of Christopher's girls. Along the way his luck turns around and he wins at gambling again. Later, under the influence of peyote he sees the lighthouse he saw in his hallucinations of Hell when he was in a coma after being shot and proclaims, "I get it!" And now everyone's trying to figure out what that means. Here's what I think.

This show is and always has been about Tony Soprano's desire to find happiness. The conflict keeping him from happiness has always been between the good in him and the evil necessities of the job. For a few seasons we hoped he might choose good. We hoped he might take that bundle of cash and fly off with his family like those ducks he so desperately envied for the simpleness of their existence. But more and more Tony's gone the other way. He's chose evil to retain his status and lifestyle. He's murdered friends and relentlessly cheated on his wife.

Tony's surprised lack of grief and palpable relief at murdering Christopher taught him something and that's what he "got." He figured out that the conflict between good and evil has been the source of his unhappiness. And now he understands that choosing one over the other will end this conflict.

Think about it: He killed a young man who was like his son only to discover it removed a thorn in his side and a pain in his ass. And now he's in Sin City, high on drugs, and committing adultery with a woman of unreal beauty. He enters a casino, sees the Devil grinning at him and has a miraculous winning streak. And guess what? He's happy. Life is good.

And, so, he gets it. He gets that what's made him unhappy wasn't the adultery, but being conflicted over it. He gets that what made him unhappy wasn't murdering Christopher, but trying to deal with him. For six years we've watched a man struggle to find happiness and I think this means he's found it. It lies in completely letting himself go. He's learned that his conscience will now allow him to do what's necessary to remove the conflicts.

The song playing before Tony killed Christopher was "Comfortably Numb." Tony's finally achived that. In the soul of a sociopath.

Monday, May 14, 2007

This is Frustrating...

I don't have a lot of contacts in the industry. Certainly, not enough to always be sure a script of mine gets in the right hands. I've written a lot of bad scripts that shouldn't go anywhere but what's frustrating is that I wrote a good one a few years ago that just needed the right buyer.

Logline is king out here. If you have a good concept like Ghostbusters or Spider-Man or Saw you'll sell the script. Even if it's not good, the concept is good enough someone will still buy it and then have it rewritten. But you have to have access to the right people to pitch it to and I don't know anyone who makes horror films.

A few years ago I came up with a terrific concept for a horror/thriller: A movie about a killer who makes the worst fears of his victims come true. I mean, that's a money concept. It's intriguing, scary, and in a single sentence you know what the movie's about and want to see it. (Assuming horror is your bag) Now, it's been a while since I've looked at the script, but I remember it as being pretty good. Not perfect, but a rewrite away. Good enough I've been waiting to meet someone who could help as my circle of contacts increase. Well, today I ran across... This.

And all I can say is, shit... Shit. Shit. Shit.

And I knew this could happen. It was too juicy of an idea for it not to get used. I was just hoping it would be by me. And my plot is NOTHING like that one which sounds like Basic Instinct Without Hot Lesbians. But the concept is gone. Shit.

UPDATE: Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Got Me A Job

Finally got a job. Actually I've had it for a few months now but wanted to be sure it was permanent before making any announcements. I'm a paid movie reviewer for a local publication. I'm actually given money to go to the movies. Can you believe that? They pay my ticket, gas, parking, and a nice fee for each review.

Better yet, I'm starting to get early screeners in the mail. Soon, I won't have to leave the house at all. Ever. And if I ever get fired I'll make a fortune on the bootlegs.

When I was a moody unemployed teenager -- as opposed to the moody recently unemployed middle-aged balding guy I am now -- my Dad once asked what I wanted to do for a living. I answered, "Watch TV." And ever since at every Thanksgiving he's repeated that story faithfully to torture me. Well, guess what...?

13 Years Later

I've given it some serious thought. I think OJ did it.

More Wild IMDB Recommendations

I don't know what crazy criteria they use to recommend movies for those interested in Beautiful Loser, but here are the latest ones from IMDB -- all of which I've seen:
Bend It Like Beckham: A soccer film set in not-America. It's a good film, but...?

Something's Gotta Give: Romantic comedy between the 60+ Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Am I missing something?

The Girl Next Door: An amusing 80's style teen comedy and near-remake of Risky Business that gave me the excuse to post that photo.

While I'm happy to see the IMDB's BL recommendations move up to less obscure and more popular titles, they're still wildly off the mark. Here are some I think hit closer when it comes to theme, tone, style, and story:

Chilly Scenes of Winter: When Turner Classic Movie host Robert Osbourne was asked to screen one obscure film he felt had never gotten its due, he chose this one. I've been in love with it for twenty-five years, seen it a hundred times, will see it a hundred more.

The Pledge: Sean Penn's masterpiece starring Jack Nicholson about a man who loses his soul trying to do a good deed; trying to keep a promise to a grieving mother. Thematically, it's one of the most unique films I've ever seen.

Annie Hall: Everyone steals from Annie Hall. And anyone who says they don't is either a fool or a liar.

Maximum Overdrive: A Stephen King thriller about trucks that come to life and try to kill people trapped in a diner. Kidding-- Not about the movie, about recommending it.

The Big Chill: An obvious generic choice but I'm running out of ideas and my Hot Pockets are done.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

New Script Starts Today

I was sicker than I thought Monday. Today I feel much better. About 85%. Unfortunately The Hot Little Script Supervisor caught it Monday night and as I write this is is next to me on the couch in a Nyquil-coma.

And so now that I'm feeling better and have completed my previous script it's time to embark on a new one. We have a development person at Disney eager to help us. She presented the pitch to her boss and he loved it but because of the tricky concept, he's not willing to take a chance paying an unproven writer. He did say he'd buy it if Harold Ramis pitched it. I think that's a compliment.

But that's how it goes. Four years, two optioned scripts, a movie in the can that doesn't suck, and you still gotta prove yourself. Tenacity is just as key out here as talent. Discouragement -- even when justified -- is of no use.

So, I start a new spec today. But better to do it with people interested at a studio than not, right? And I love starting a new script. Love that blank page and blinking cursor, because that world is mine to do whatever I want with.
Thank you all for the nice get well comments and emails. It was appreciated.