Okay, here’s the truth…

So I have been lying to you.

Want to get it out there, right from the beginning of this post. It’s not a huge hypocritical event, like Eliot Spitzer simultaneously prosecuting hookers while spending time with hookers, but it is a lie nonetheless. So here goes:

In the past few weeks I have not done a single revision to the script.

Spitzer

I’ve claimed in previous posts that “I’m going over my script” and “I’m back in. Ready to work. Opening the file.” Lies.

Wait, don’t click off this page! I can explain! Really! Don’t go!

I have the best excuse in the world for not working on this script:

Because I’m working on other scripts. Two, to be precise. It’s time to be open about my writing habit…I’ve been seeing other scripts.

I have found out over the years that I can work on two scripts simultaneously, as long as I separate the time between them. I have often worked on a script in the morning, then after a lengthy break of working out, lunch, meetings (or sitting on the couch watching the new season of Arrested Development) I can sit down on an entirely different project without mixing the broths. Once I figured that out, I was able to make it a good habit: one script in the morning, another in the afternoon and evening. And I have two very good reasons why these two scripts are taking precedence:

1. Money. Yep, that’s right. Someone is paying me to write a script. And as anyone in this business (umm…any business) knows, a money job takes priority over a non-money job. The contract has been signed, days have been spent working on the outline, and script writing begins very soon. There is a timetable, a great story, and momentum. And, lest you already forgot the beginning of this paragraph, money.

2. A deadline. I am a new member of The Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit, and I have received a date for a reading of one of my new plays: July 15th. I have a director. She is assembling a cast. And I have a deadline: by June 15th revisions need to be finished. While I will likely continue to revise up until the reading, at the very least I need to give the director and actors a script that I am confident to present, and I’m almost there.

This post isn’t a complaint about working. It’s not a humblebrag. It’s just me telling the world that I have been lying about working on the reason for this blog’s existence, and I will need a few more weeks off before I can jump in.

I will not be taking a hiatus from this blog. Forward progression continues, as my writing constantly gets better the more I do, so this particular project will improve as well, right? At least, that’s what I believe. So keep coming back here, and I’ll keep updating.

And hopefully, but the third week of June, I’ll be an honest man again.

Until then, consider this a working vacation.

Spitzer 2

Risky Business

As I’m going over my script, many negative thoughts race through my head. Actually, to be more precise, the positive thoughts race through my head. The negative thoughts saunter in, crack their knuckles, cross their arms, and stare at me for hours on end before ambling off. Most of my negative feedback can be categorized by one question: is it worth it? Will making this film fulfill some purpose in the world, however small, or will it be a grand waste of time?

Then, back to back to back, this past weekend I witnessed three examples, in three different mediums, of those who took a risk, put themselves out there, damning the consequences.

Unknown

First I shelled out the bucks to see The Great Gatsby in 3-D. This movie has been polarizing, as is nearly everything by Baz Luhrman. People love his stuff and go on opening day to all his movies. People hate his stuff and will refuse to see anything of his anymore. I’m sort of in the middle, as I enjoyed Strictly Ballroom, loved Romeo and Juliet, and was initially meh about Moulin Rouge, but like it more with each subsequent viewing. Like 99% of the moviegoing public, I did not see Australia, and can live a long happy life without ever seeing it. The Great Gatsby, however, left me feeling meh. The 3-D was a wasted experience and totally unnecessary. The acting was generally good, and while the first 75 minutes was great, the second 75 minutes could have been cut in half. But what is important here is not what I thought of the movie, but the fact that Baz Luhrmann made it. He took a widely regarded unfilmable classic tome and made it watchable. He did it, regardless of the naysayers who probably screamed about leaving that classic alone. And I admire him for doing it. Love it or hate it, it exists, and there is nothing we can do to take that away.

Nicole Erb and Bo Foxworth, both excellent.

Nicole Erb and Bo Foxworth, both excellent.

The next day I went to see The Crucible at Antaeus Theater Company, a North Hollywood theater group that specializes in the classics. I don’t normally seek out the classics when I seek entertainment, let alone a nearly three hour drama about witch hunting, but we have friends involved with the company so it’s always good to support. And boy, was it worth it. The co-directors took a huge risk by directing most of the blocking out to the audience, as if we are looking at a split screen. For most of the play (except for a few organic “truthful” moments between characters) the actors did not directly interact with each other. A bold and risky choice, which was very effective.

Drugs!

Drugs!

Later that night I watched Mad Men. I have been a fan of this show, and when the writing, acting, shooting and design are in sync and firing on all cylinders, there is little else in the creative world that can match it. This particular episode was dazzling, beginning with all the creatives at the ad agency taking speed to cram in more work during their weekend into a drug fueled explosion of creativity, and the show itself kept pace. It’s very difficult to create a film or show that successfully replicates for the viewer what it is like to be on drugs, but this show succeeded. So I imagine; I have never been on speed. But regardless, it FELT like I was on speed, so it succeeded. A drug-fueled hour of television is risky business on television, even in the cozy and more forgiving confines of cable. However, the series would have been successful without this episode, which while not feeling necessary, certainly enhanced the plot, arc and drive of the season. A risk paying off.

All three of these productions, in different mediums, took huge risks. For the most part, these risks paid off. When thinking about my little script and microbudget production, I need to stop worrying about the consequences of risks and just take them.

You Crazy Dancing Helicopter

This week Catia and I went to dinner with our friend James. It was one of his last nights in town for a few months, so for his last supper, so to speak, he picked the venerable institution, The Musso and Frank Grill.

Musso and Frank’s has a rich history. I am quickly learning that anything over a few decades old in Hollywood is considered a classic, so to dine at Hollywood’s oldest eatery, around since 1919, is the SoCal equivalent of walking the Colosseum in Rome. And it does have a rich history: Orson Welles regularly held court here, as did F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Bukowski (although presumably not at the same time…that would have been a perfect storm of neuroses and alcoholism). Alas, while still an institution, the place has faded a bit (but the prices are VERY contemporary). I’m sure in its heyday it was packed, but on a weeknight the place sort of looked like the bar in The Shining. No starlets or writers holding court, but there were a couple of reality stars tossing back martinis and shrimp cocktail:

When he was 36, she was a fetus!

When he was 36, she was a fetus!

Over the meal James was mentioning reading a script recently, and how he was bored from the beginning, which got me thinking about my own script. Is it interesting? Does it jump out at you from the beginning? There needs to be set up, sure, but all good writing captivates you from page one and never lets up. But there is a fine line: this does not give permission to throw in bells and whistles on every page. Constant overstimulation is a bad thing…unless you are the gentleman in the above picture, presumably.

Keep it interesting. And not just to me.

While we were wrapping up our meal, and the reality stars were giggling themselves out the back door (they really did seem very much in love), I noticed the only other active table. Two gentlemen at a four top, having a very heated conversation.

And they were deaf.

Hands flying. Faces expressive. And not something you see every day (unless you are actively involved in the deaf community of course).

I have two supporting characters, both imposing figures, who have a few scenes together. Their relationship needs to be dynamic in some way. What if one of them was deaf? There is no reason not to make it happen. Do I know sign? My signing knowledge is limited to “you crazy dancing helicopter” but that’s not important. Write it, and someone can help me make it happen down the road.

Keep it interesting. Life should occasionally have some crazy dancing helicopters.

And maybe I can cast that couple in the roles.

The Verdict is in…

I sat down to read the script for the first time in nearly two months. For the past few weeks my practical side was preparing me for mediocrity, while my ego was preparing the Oscar speech. Unfortunately, the pragmatism whispered by the practical side was drowned out by the cacophonous marching band of my ego, and all rational thinking had been thrown out the window. I started to read, readying myself for the best screenplay this side of Chinatown.

Well, it ain’t no Chinatown. It ain’t even Big Trouble in Little China. It’s nothing if not Nothing But Trouble.

They all know your script is in trouble

They all know your script is in trouble

The problems starting hitting me almost from the beginning. The story alternates between moving at a glacial pace to leapfrogging over important facts. Two different characters sound exactly the same, and could very well be the same character. The arc of my lead character at times was a horizontal line. The ending was so abrupt it was if I ran out of time at the computer lab in college.

It’s bad. The worst script I have ever read. The worst script  ever written. If I succeeded in anything, it was making Joe Esterhaus look like Arthur Miller, and Ed Wood look like William Shakespeare. I have elevated everyone else in the pond by sinking like a stone.

Okay. Breathe. Is it truly that terrible? Focus on something good, man.

Okay. Well. Some of the plot twists took me by surprise, and I wrote them. The story is still original and compelling. The ending sucks but mostly because I gave myself a deadline and didn’t finish it properly, and only a few (admittedly large) tweaks will fix that up. Also, there are some  jokes, and they aren’t terrible.

So is it a terrible script? Or is it a great script?

Neither, of course.

But of more importance, at this stage of the game it’s still MY script. I’m not sharing it with anyone, not even my trusted close confidants who are the first to read my scripts.

In short: I’m exactly where I am supposed to be.

Just make it less sucky.

I’m Back In

It has been over a month since I finished my script. It’s time to return to the surface.

For SCUBA divers, this means it's time.

For SCUBA divers, it’s time to surface. For basketball players, a technical foul. Or a time out. You know what, let’s stick with the first meaning.

To be more precise, it has been been six weeks and four days since I last typed a word of it, or even read a word of it. In fact, right now it took me a few minutes to find the script on my hard drive since I couldn’t remember the title or the folder it was in. In case you are wondering, the document is called “New Script” and the folder is called “New Film Project.” It’s not like there was a flashing neon sign above the door, or anything.

I have clearly put some distance between writing and rewriting. That’s what I wanted, and I was happy to get some perspective. Worked on some other projects, saw shows and readings by other writers, flew across the country, and even (gasp) wasted time doing nothing.

But now I’m back in. Ready to work. Opening the file. Here goes…