The Identity War – Round 1

“Who am I anyway? Am I my resume” is the lyric from A Chorus Line known to anyone who ever set foot within 500 yards of their high school theater. In show business, we most certainly are our resumes. In this brave new world, your resume in show business is available to all in one location: the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). If you have worked in television, film or internet, you know that your gig isn’t really official until it shows up on IMDB (theater people have the Internet Broadway Database). The site is the great equalizer; you could be a millionaire A-list actor or you could be an unpaid production assistant, as long as your project makes it to the screen somehow, it’s official.

So shiny...so beautiful...

So shiny…so beautiful…

My first IMDB credits were for production assistant work on independent movies in New York in the last millenia. I was proud to officially make my mark, albeit a small one, in the business, and looked forward to the day when I would get more “legitimate” credits for writing and directing. As time went by, more Alex Goldbergs showed up in the entertainment business, but I retained the coveted title of “Alex Goldberg (I).” That’s right, I am the trail blazer for one of the most common Jewish names out there.

As time went on and I started earning more legitimate credits, the listings for Alex Goldbergs got more complicated. Years go by, and Alex Goldberg (I) is a mess. My production assistant credits are still there. My directing credit is there. However, there are now eight Alex Goldbergs, and the credits are all over the place. I have credits as three different Alex Goldbergs, and if you are to believe everything you read about Alex Goldberg (I), I’ve acted in multiple telenovelas (not true, but I wish), produced, wrote and directed a documentary about stem cell research during the Bush administration (not true, but admirable) and was even the accountant on a feature film (definitely not true).

Fun game: find me in this cast photo!

Fun game: find me in this cast photo!

I’ve made half-assed attempts to clear my name and get to the truth, but it never amounted to anything. I’ve reached the last straw, the breaking point. Recently, a movie that I co-wrote, Fade to White, was completed and I was told by the producers that credits would go up on IMDB soon. I asked them to make sure that the correct Alex Goldberg was credited. After a week, the movie was up… and linked to Alex Goldberg (IX). His very first credit! Congrats dude, whoever you are.

That’s it. I mean, I shouldn’t take this too seriously, my career isn’t an internet profile, and I should always focus on my work and not sweat the small stuff. However, this database is a networking tool, and I should not sabotage any career opportunities with a misrepresentation of my career. It’s time to go to war. A persistent attack to clear my name and get to the truth. If I want to accomplish anything, I need to command my focus and remain diligent, disciplined and never give up.

The war begins.

Day 1 (September 12, 2014). This could be a brief battle, if there was a phone number. If I could talk to someone for 10 minutes, everything would be straightened out. But, if I want to go to war with one of the minions of the cyberworld, I’ll have to play by their rules. First thing in the morning, after breakfast and caffeine, I sit down at the computer and attack. I get past their first defense move, which is that changes cannot be made without a user account. I already have one, so I log in. Next, they won’t let me upload my photo without an IMDB Pro account, which is for industry professionals a.k.a. those willing to shell out hundreds of dollars a year for a subscription. Fortunately, my wife is an industry professional with those credentials, and I log in with her ID and password. Take that, IMDB. But now they won’t let me upload a picture from my computer, only from a website. What? How do I get around this. I can’t figure out… uh… retreat!

An hour later I return reinforcements. My wife sits with me and we find my image linked on a website. We also put in requests for the Fade to White writing credit change, a link to my manager, and a few other credit changes. IMDB accepts our suggestions (pending further review, of course) and say that acceptance, if it happens, will take 2-14 days. Now we wait. First day battle victor: inconclusive.

Day 3. Reinforcements are coming to my aid! The intrepid Elizabeth Lucas, director of Fade to White, says she will attempt to fix my credit on this movie. She also suggested that she also try and correct all my errors, with the thinking that if we both attack, the masterminds at IMDB will take my requests more seriously. That could be true, or the multiple attempts will confuse them and they will ignore all change requests. I’m leaning towards the all in attack. Godspeed, Elizabeth.

Day 4. Victory! A small victory, but a change nonetheless. The Fade to White credit has been moved to the correct page! Whether it was Elizabeth, or me, or both of us, the credit is now where it should be, and Alex Goldberg (IX) no longer exists. Fueled by this, I pressed on and made the rest of the corrections, dropping the various acting, directing, producing and miscellaneous credits that are not mine. Here’s hoping it all works. Still, we are still 3 days out from submission, and no changes to the photo or anything else.

Day 6. Another victory. There is a link to my manager’s info (only IMDB Pro members get to see that, which is standard). However, everything else is still up in the air, as I am still an amalgam of a bunch of different people. I want to be me!

Day 7. When this all began, the actor section was a mess. There were four credits, of which only one (Today Will Be Yesterday Tomorrow, which I also directed) was correct. The other three were erroneous. Two of those three were Spanish language TV shows. Now, one of those telenovela credits have been removed! Don’t know why only one. I guess IMDB is EXTREMELY deliberate. Also, there’s no movement on the acting credit for Alex Goldberg (VIII) which is actually mine. Baby steps. Onward and upward.

Day 11. All quiet on the cyber front. No other changes. IMDB states that changes could take anywhere from 2-14 days. This is day 11, so I should be patient for a few more days… but I have doubts. They say it is always darkest before the dawn, but I believe it’s darkest when you are in a cave and the batteries on your light go out. Later that day, I check back in and there is progress. The documentary film that I did not write, direct or produce is no longer on my page. In fact, for the first time, all the writing credits attributed to me are, in fact, mine. Small steps.

Day 18. Well, the 14 day deadline has passed without any further changes. To date, here is my IMDB page. The defeats outweigh the victories so far. Sure, my writing credits are now 100% mine, but there is still no picture, they still think I’m an accountant, and only half of my telenovela acting credits (?) have disappeared. I knew this would be a difficult struggle, so for round two I’ll have to up the ammo and strategize harder. I will purge the enemy of error, and take back my identity! But it might take a while.

So there’s that…

In my last post, I wrote about burying the lede, and in fact buried a big lede in the end of that story: I’m going to become a father. No one responded, which means one of four things:

1) No one noticed.

2) All those who noticed already knew the news, so why comment.

3)The internet is broken.

4) No one reads this blog anymore.

Ah whatever, I’m not going to harp on this issue. “Take your impending fatherhood and shove it up your butt, Alex. And get back to what this blog is about.”

Precisely.

This blog is about making an independent movie, Closure. Since this blog began (over a year ago) I have come up with the concept, written a first draft of the script, and had a table reading. All of this in my spare time, between jobs and other projects (hear that? It’s my own horn a’tootin’.)  Now, more than ever, with a big “project” starting soon, I have to remain focused.

But I do have time. After all, my muse, the lead actress in this movie, my wife, is currently…how shall I put this delicately…PREGNANT…and it is not the time for her to be starring in this particular movie.  But that doesn’t let me off the hook from continuing to work on it.

So I haven’t! These past few weeks I’ve budgeted my time well, and done revisions on the first 35 pages. Then, the script is starting to veer off down a different avenue, and that will take more work. But I know where it’s going (somewhat) and I’m ready to do the work.

But there’s the baby coming and much furniture to assemble…and there are a few trips…and there is a LOT of work coming down the pike (more on that in a later post)…and I’m just not finding the hours to make progress.

So I’m making time.

I’m making damn sure that THIS baby gets some attention each week, before THAT baby comes along and gets (deservedly) more attention.

It’s all about scheduling and prioritizing.

And so far it’s working…

…but I’m going to put away my tootin’ horn until I finish the second draft.

 

Burying the Lede

“Burying the lede” is a newspaper phrase that has been around as long as there’s been an evening edition. When one buries the lede, they are not discussing what the story is really about right away, but rather dropping it somewhere deeper in the story.  For example: “The pace of the production of Our American Cousin moved along briskly, except when it was slightly delayed by the assassination of President Lincoln. ”

This is a common mistake in writing, be it journalism or screenwriting. Sometimes I’ll finish a script and someone will read it and point out that what was most interesting, what the story should really be about, is not the main focus. Some times those people are right, and I’ll go back and retool the story. And if what they point out is not what should be the most interesting aspect of my story, that’s a sign that I have to go in and make changes to make sure the story I want to tell is clear and exciting.

This happens in life as well. We have goals for ourselves. Projects we want to finish, or start. Ideas we want to bring to fruition. But, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Of course, I bring this up because this blog, which I generally update once or twice a week, has been neglected for well over a month now. And this blog has been neglected for the simple reason that there is no progress on the script Closure to report.

I have legitimate excuses: I have other writing jobs. My wife and I recently moved over the hill into the valley…yep, THAT valley. Stuff needs to be unpacked. IKEA furniture needs to be assembled.  Extra screws and bolts need to be thrown away and never discussed.

But the script has been nagging me in the back of my brain. There was one major issue that was haunting me, and this issue affects nearly everything in the script. Every now and then it would pop back into my head, taunting me. I can’t figure out the problem. Therefore: I am a terrible writer. Might as well do something else for the rest of the week.

But then, as I walked around the neighborhood one day (I’m enjoying walking through the ‘hood until the valley turns into one giant frying pan, which it will likely do in a few months) the solution came to me. Clear as day. Eureka! Now the hard part: making the solution work, and making the script work around it. And, of course, making the time to do it.

So I could beat myself up about straying from target. But I won’t. I won’t let it scare me that I am about to become a father for the first time and with that comes a whole new world of responsibility and potential  loss of writing time. Even though our baby boy is due in August, I’ll try not to bury the lede and stay focused on what I am supposed to be doing with my work.

Oops.

Ah, shit.

And the comedy Oscar goes to…

We are reaching the pinnacle of award season; The Academy Awards are the summit and the rest of the hill is littered with Globes, SAG Awards and regret. If there are any guarantees each year with the Oscars it is that comedy will largely be overlooked. In our culture, comedy is viewed as a lesser art to drama. Actors rarely get recognized in award season for comedic efforts and if they are, it’s usually for comic relief in a drama (like Jonah Hill in Moneyball, for example).

While my writing spans comedy and drama, my instincts are to always find the funny in a situation, and good comedy can make good drama even stronger and more poignant. I’d like to dedicate the rest of today’s column to some talented men and women and what I believe are incredible, Oscar-worthy performances. If I had my way they would be nominees. Keep in mind this list includes only a fraction of performances I believe are worthy. However, the following names are definitely very influential in shaping my art and comic sensibility.

Best Actress, Diane Keaton, Sleeper (1973)

Diane  Keaton

Of course, Diane Keaton has been widely praised for her comic acting. I mean, she actually WON an Oscar for comedy (Best Actress in Annie Hall, lest you heathens forget). She has been nominated a number of other times for comedy and drama. Like many of Woody Allen’s early movies, Sleeper is a broad comedy which deftly dances between slapstick and political highbrow humor. Not many actors are capable of handling both the gravity of Chekhovian comedy along with the fast paced antics of a Marx Brothers movie, but she does it very well. Plus, her impression of Marlon Brando in Streetcar is pitch-perfect and hilarious. She plays Luna Schlosser, a socialite and sublimely shitty poet in the year 2173 who is pampered, upper class, and oblivious to the totalitarian state she lives in. After she is kidnapped and dragged from her comfortable home, she falls in with revolutionaries and embraces the life without fully understanding the politics.

Favorite moment: New rebel Luna proudly sings her truly godawful song of rebellion: “Rebels are WEEE…born to be FREEEE…just like the FISH in the SEA…” And that Brando impression.

Best Actor: Steve Martin, The Jerk (1979)

I have a soft spot for The Jerk, and not just because it was the first R-rated movie I saw. As a kid I found Steve Martin’s idiot character Navin hilarious. Plus, his dog (and this is spoiler to people who have only seen this movie on network or basic cable) is named “Shithead!” As I got older I find it a subversively masterful performance. In any other hands, the white man who was born the son of a black sharecropper would be insulting or, at best, a political statement. Race barely comes into play in this script, other than when told that he was adopted, Navin screams “you mean I’m gonna STAY this color?” It’s just an element that objectively colors his world. And what a fantastical, oddball world that has not existed before or since. A perfect universe of bizarre kooks, with Steve Martin at the center of the orbit.

Steve Martin

Favorite line: Navin gently speaks to his new love Marie, as she sleeps: “I know we’ve only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it.”

Best Actress: Ellen Greene, Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Ellen Green was primarily a theater actress with few movie credits when she starred in the off-Broadway production of the the musical Little Shop of Horrors. As it can be in Hollywood, when the film was greenlit they didn’t offer the part to her because she wasn’t famous enough. Fortunately, after Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and Barbra Streisand turned it down, she was given a chance.  She elevates the role of Audrey, that of a typical 50s era battered girlfriend who is just wanting to live “somewhere that’s green.” Her relationship with Rick Moranis’ Seymour is sweet, tender and the opposite of her abusive relationship with Steve Martin’s Dentist. What really earns her a spot on my list is her vocal prowess, and how she uses the wide range of her singing voice to maximum comic effect. In “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour” her voice seamlessly transitions from baby doll girlie voice to full-bodied soul belter. It’s unexpected and hilarious, telling us that with a little love and respect, we can all grow up from a sheltered child to a sensual and passionate adult in an instant.

Ellen Greene

Favorite line: Not really a line, but when Audrey hears that the plant is named after her, she emits a barely audible squeak of pleasure.

Best Supporting Actor: John Amos, Coming to America (1988)

John-Amos

If  the Oscars truly honored comedy the same way they honored drama, Coming to America would be up for many awards (it was actually nominated for two Oscars, Best Costume Design and Best Makeup). Traditionally, Eddie Murphy would be up for Best Actor, and Arsenio Hall would be up for Supporting. But, these are my awards and this is my blog, so I can honor whomever I want. John Amos has had a varied career playing drama and comedy, but in Coming to America he plays Cleo McDowell, an up-from-your-bootstraps father who worked hard, opened his own small business, became very successful, and will be damn sure that his daughter marries well. It’s a blueprint for a cliche stock character, but John Amos makes him hilarious, tough, and even sympathetic. All he wants is for his daughter to marry the wealthy asshole Darryl and stay away from poor immigrant Hakim. Cleo McDowell maintains high status throughout the movie…until the end, when he discovers Hakim’s true identity. Instantly his perma-scowl turns into an enormous shit-eating grin. His fall from grace is especially rewarding as he more than earned his hubris. We delight in watching him fail, mostly because he is such a delightful foil. The grande finale plays out like a classic farce, complete with slamming doors, deception, and hidden intentions. Cleo needs to keep Hakim and his daughter in the house, and will stop at nothing to make sure his daughter marries her true love (now that he is rich).  As it unravels, it is a joy to watch, and a textbook lesson in playing the status in comedy.

Favorite moment (outside of the big finale, of course): Hakim tries to get in good with Cleo by discussing football even though he has no grasp of the game. Cleo deadpans: “Son, if you want to keep working here, stay off the drugs.”

Best Supporting Actress: Glenne Headley, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

If you’ve seen this movie, then you are aware of the masterful comedic battle royale between American Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) and Frenchman Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) as they vie to be the best con artist in a small, seaside French town. But, it’s Glenne Headley as Janet Colgate, the “Soap Queen” from America that elevates the game. Like Ellen Greene in Little Shop and probably most movies in the world, Headley was not the first choice for the role. Imagine if Sean Young had taken the part! Steve Martin carries the lion’s share of the comedy in this movie; his performance is delightful, and Michael Caine certainly holds his own. As much as comedy is underrated, the role of straight man to the comic foil (or foils, in this movie) is woefully under appreciated. Not many people can pull it off. Enter Janet Colgate.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

She is the perfect foil: innocent and lovely, and she makes up for her lack of intelligence with the biggest heart on the Mediterranean.  To go into too much detail about her character would reveal too much about the plot, which continually twists, turns and reinvents itself. Janet Colgate does not enter the movie until nearly halfway through, but once she does she deftly plays the ping pong ball between the two con artists, a continual yet hilarious straight man. And she makes you root for her all the while.

Best moment: The final scene. She gets to deliver her own laughs…and gets to use three different accents.

Best Actor: Bill Murray, Groundhog Day (1993)

One of my all time favorite films. It’s probably on your short list as well. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric bored Pittsburgh weatherman who somehow is forced to relieve the same day, Groundhogs Day, in Punxsutawney. Trapped in a snow globe of a small town, he tries to figure out how to get out of the rut and along the way, becomes as powerful as a god and discovers enlightenment and love. A complicated philosophical movie which requires a juggernaut performance, and Bill Murray gives it. He showcases a wide range of emotions, and is the deepest shallow character you will ever see. And he’s hilarious.  Tom Hanks won the Oscar for Philadelphia that year giving a nuanced, deep performance that was emotionally taxing…and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day did the same.

groundhog-day

Favorite line: “I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank piña coladas. At sunset, we made love like sea otters. THAT was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get THAT day over, and over, and over?”

Best Supporting Actress: Ellen DeGeneres, Finding Nemo (2003)

When acting in animated movies, it’s all about the voice. Sure, the animators may base some of the character on the physicality of the actor, but at the end of the day it’s an actor, alone in a padded black box, with a microphone. Not the most organic method of acting. Ellen DeGeneres is fine actor. She has certainly found her niche as a talk show host, but we forget that for years she had a decent career, but never really shone as an actor…until Finding Nemo. Her performance as Dory, a Pacific Regal Blue Tang with short-term memory loss, is RELENTLESS. She is all energy, positivity, and simultaneously an annoyance and savior to Albert Brooks’ nebbishy Marlin. The amount of dialogue rattled off in quick time, combined with the complete and constant change in direction (she has a REAL short-term memory) is staggering to comprehend, and takes multiple viewings to really appreciate what she does. Many people have great comic timing. Many people are extremely smart. Ellen DeGeneres is both.

Finding-Nemo

Favorite scene: when Dory believes she can speak whale.

Best Actress: Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids (2011)

It is very difficult to create a likeable asshole. It fails often (see most Jim Belushi and Charlie Sheen roles), but when it hits, it’s magical. The three leads of the Larry Sanders show are self-serving assholes, but they are so well written and acted that you root for them always. You root for them to fail and you root for them to succeed. Same goes for the four women in Girls; all are entitled, selfish assholes, but I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Kristen Wiig knew what she was getting into with self-absorbed and miserable Annie Walker; after all, she co-wrote the script (which was nominated for an Oscar, as well as best supporting actress for Melissa McCarthy). Annie, jealous of her best friend’s engagement and new life, slides bitterly down a hole of despair, anguish, and depression…and it’s hilarious. She pushes the envelope of likability so far that one of my friends turned off the movie because she hated Annie so much. It’s bold and not easy to pull off, but because Kristen Wiig is so capable at expressing herself through these horrible comic moments, we continue to root for her and her happy ending.

Best scene: I could watch the airplane meltdown and the bridal shower meltdown on loop for hours.

Kristen Wiig

Lifetime achievement award: Christopher Guest

guest

There are many brilliant comedic performers who have created excellent characters in movie after movie, and Christopher Guest should be recognized for his entire canon of films. He completely loses himself in each character, and continually portrays wildly different yet extremely detailed personas. And in my world, the Lifetime Achievement Oscar isn’t a consolation prize, it’s truly an award for a lifetime of excellent work…so far. Keep making movies, please.

So that wraps up my Oscar comedy awards. I omitted a ton of people just to keep this as short as it is; who are some of your favorites?

And best of luck to all the nominees in the serious Oscars on Sunday.

250 miles in the snow each way, every day…

So a few nights ago, after a full day of working, writing, networking, what have you, I needed to relax. Not enough time or energy to watch a movie. Caught up on TV shows. Too tired to read a book. Too late to go out. Network TV in reruns.

Basically, I’m justifying watching male figure skating at the Olympics.

I love the Olympics. Winter, summer, if they had them in the spring and the fall I’d love them as well. Some of it bores me (Ice Dancing) and some inexplicably keeps me mesmerized (Curling! Curling! Curling!) but I always marvel at people at the top of their game. Same goes in the arts. In any field. If you are excellent at what you do, I will be impressed.

Male figure skating did not go well for everyone that night: Jeremy Abbott placed ninth at the Vancouver 2010 games, and this year had something to prove. Unfortunately, a few seconds into his routine, this happens:

http://espn.go.com/olympics/winter/2014/figureskating/story/_/id/10451479/2014-sochi-olympics-team-usa-fall-short-program-jeremy-abbott-presses-on

I mean, the dude went DOWN. HARD. Hits his hip, slides into the wall face down, and just lays there. The music plays on.

Years of training, over in a second.

There is nothing he can do to overcome this. No routine, short of actually flying or shooting Vladimir Putin with lasers from his eyes, will get him a medal. It’s over.

But he gets up. He skates on. He has nothing to prove. He just has to finish.

There are plenty of stories like this in the Olympics, and in every sport, and in life. Against literally impossible odds, great athletes still have a desire to finish.

We all should be that way.

It’s far too easy as a writer to give up, to move on to something else, to quit. There is life out there. There are other things to do. Hey, it’s 9pm and I want to stop and sit in front of the TV. Well, I can do that, or I can keep plugging away. We writers and artists can take a lesson from those kids that go to the slopes or the rink seven days a week, multiple hours a day, in a quest to make themselves better than everyone else. In my business it is very easy to blame others, circumstance, the fickle nature of the arts, for why we are not more successful. When I feel that way, I just need to put my head down and go back to work. Because hard work, real hard work not talking about hard work, will get you rewarded.

No one casually makes an Olympic team. A good lesson for all of us trying to make it in any competitive field.

Another lesson learned from the Olympics: if an athlete can fall on his ass in front of a worldwide audience and his peers, then I can continue to fall on my ass with my work as well. Keep pushing the envelope and risking new things.

Go U.S.A.! Go every athlete. Keep inspiring me.

Now nobody talk to me until after the Curling finals.

And even more distractions

Still chugging along on revisions to Closure. And by chugging along, I mean the engine on this jalopy shuddered as I barely pulled it over to the side of the road in time. I got some good editing done,  and started writing an outline for the new second and third acts, when I entered Distraction Land. It’s a beautiful place, Distraction Land. There is much to do and so much time to do it in. It’s like a turducken of locales, as if Las Vegas was stuffed inside New York City, which was then stuffed inside Hawaii. I could live here forever! It would be so much fun to wake up at 70 and say “wow, I didn’t accomplish anything, but I had a lot of fun. A LOT of fun.”

distraction

But that wouldn’t be a good idea.  I have a friend who is living this life. He is in his 40s. He worked for years at a company in which he had an ownership stake. The company was sold. So…he sort of retired. IN HIS 40s! Now he travels, goes to events, and does whatever the hell he wants. Because he can.

But I can’t do that. And not just because I don’t have the money. I have the burning desire to write, and while I’ve ignored it for large chunks of my life, it’s been there almost my entire life. I wrote my first play when I was in third grade:

It’s called August: Osage County.

But seriously, I was pretty proud of my 2-page masterpiece. And I am writing now more than ever, for both jobs that pay and jobs that do not pay (yet).

But there will always be distractions. Some are good and healthy, others are just distractions. I’m not going to beat myself up over it, but by assessing how I am spending my time, I can budget my time better. So why haven’t I been working on Closure in over a week?

* Was hired to revise and punch up a screenplay (good distraction)
* Watched the super bowl with friends (once a year distraction)
* Went to a concert (fun distraction)
* Watched a few of the Oscar nominated documentaries on Netflix (bad distraction…I should prioritize)
* Started a new script collaboration (good distraction, but find the balance)
* Binge watched Family Feud on GSN (BAD distraction, don’t judge me)
* Writing this blog entry (necessary distraction)

Time to leave the cozy confines of Distraction Land. Today I have cleared my calendar. Nothing, not even exciting Olympic coverage, will take me away from doing some solid work on the script. It’s back to work.

What the internet thinks of me…Part II

Yesterday I posted part one of a countdown of the most popular internet searches that lead to my website. To recap:

10. Lying Naked
9. The Adventures of Rick Brickman
8. Rosebud Baker
7. Alex Goldberg Seattle
6. Couch

It’s time for the top five. And it’s going to get awkward.

5. Alex Oldberg
# of searches 131 (4.9% of total searches)
Fun variations: um…see below.

Okay, at first this looks like a typo; someone must have left off the G to my name. But 131 different people? There must be an Alex Oldberg. And there is…and he’s in show business! Not something as paltry as Hollywood. No, Alex Oldberg works in a bigger market. Bigger than Bollywood, even! Alex Oldberg is a director in the highest grossing film market in the world:

Porn.

And not just any porn. Not the family friendly porn the average normal perv checks out. No, Alex Oldberg is what one would call a genre director. What genre, you may ask? Well I’ll tell you, but if you are the squeamish type, then skip ahead to #4. I won’t hold it against you. You gone? Fine. For the rest of you pervs, here are a few titles from the Alex Oldberg canon:

Yellow Pee 1
An American Scatgirl in Europe

I can admire the title of the second film. Also, I admire the ambition to add a “1” after the title of the first film, just assuming that he will get funding for any sequels (spoiler: he did). But that’s it. I almost ALMOST feel bad for the 131 people who went to my website and were very disappointed.

4. Zero Gravity Management
# of searches 157 (5.9% of total searches)
Fun variations: damon lane zero gravity

Well, this one makes sense. Damon Lane is my manager. He works at Zero Gravity Management. Here’s an example of my website serving it’s purpose. This reminds me, I need to call Damon and see if he can package me with Alex Oldberg and set up a studio meeting.

3. Grease
# of searches 198 (7.5% of total searches)
Fun variations: Grease 3, theresa grease 3, fearsome grease

Once upon a time I was in a sketch comedy group, called FEARSOME. We were very funny. One of our most popular shows was a 45-minute musical called Grease 3: Threase. It is the unauthorized sequel to Grease 2, set modern day, and about a burka-clad exchange student who tries to fit in amongst the T-Boners and Pink Labias. I played “Daddy,” a Vietnam vet who still hasn’t been able to finish high school after 30+ years.

Grease 3 - Threase

Alas, this wonderful show was a swan song for FEARSOME, as we soon parted ways. Some of us moved to Los Angeles. Some stayed in New York. One went to Denver. One to China! But, judging by the number of people who searched this term, I believe the end of the Grease Trilogy is long overdue. Hollywood, we are ready! Let’s reunite, gang!

Also, I have no idea who Theresa Grease is. If you find out, let me know.

2. Alex Goldberg
# of searches 650 (24.5% of total searches)
Fun variations:alex goldberg playwright, alex goldberg films, alex goldberg improv

Finally, it’s all about me! Me, me, me. This is MY blog entry about MY website. 650 people searched for me! I’m number 2. Wait, what? There is something out there more popular than me that is drawing traffic to my website?

1. Hot Tub
# of searches 668 (24.1% of total searches)
Fun variations: hot tub wife, group hot tub, elderly in hot tub, hot tub group bi-bisexual gay, my gf in a hot tub, hot tub naked with friends, hot tub kurt and kristen

I am a writer of plays, film, comedy, and TV. I have never written about a hot tub. So why is this search number 1? Why did nearly 700 people come to my website by searching some variation of hot tub?

Well, it could be because of Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal. They are the extremely funny and talented comedy duo who for years have hosted their show Hot Tub with Kurt & Kristen. Anybody who is anyone in the comedy world has appeared on this show. Including me…with my sketch group FEARSOME. So that could be the reason.

Or, it could be this photo:

Rub a dub dub...

Rub a dub dub…

Yep, that’s me, along with some of my FEARSOME compadres, in one of the world’s largest hot tubs in the Hollywood Hills. Seriously, that thing is huge. And since this photo is somewhere on my website I guess the people needed to see it.

So there you have it, folks. Most people come to my website for sex, nudity, and one of my old comedy groups from New York. Nothing on this list about my latest projects…yet. I’ll let you know when that Scarlett Johansson naked play is finished.

What the internet thinks of me…Part I

I recently spent time cleaning up my website, and while there I wasted time by analyzing my statistics. One of the most interesting stat categories is “Search Engine Terms,” which details what people search for on the internet that leads them to click a link to my website. I thought I knew what “the people” would search to get to me, but boy was I wrong.

I made a list of the most popular search engine terms, and it is not what I expected. Only one of my plays even made the top ten search term list. My wife, Catia Ojeda, with whom I have collaborated with on a number of projects, not to mention that she is my wife and soulmate and love of my life, didn’t crack the top ten (she came in at #13).  Most most frequent collaborators ranked even lower on the list, or didn’t even rank at all.  In fact, “Alex Goldberg” isn’t even the most popular search engine term on the list!

What I did learn is that most people who stumbled on my website from an internet search are dirty, depraved people. And I am going to tell you all about them. Here are the top ten most popular search engine terms to connect to my website:

10. Lying Naked
# of searches 37 (1.4% of total searches)
Fun variations: “lying naked” goldberg, lying naked gene frankel

Lying Naked, my only play to crack the top ten, is a one-act play about a couple and the lies they choose not to share. The short version was performed in New York City (at the Gene Frankel theater) and in Newburgh, NY, and has since been published and turned into a full-length play. Not my most popular play, but certainly my most search-worthy title. I’ve learned my lesson: my next script will be called Scarlett Johansson’s Sexy Naked Fuckfest.

9. The Adventures of Rick Brickman
# of searches 52 (2.0% of total searches)

This is a TV pilot that I co-wrote with Michael Pace about a small-town plumber who has the ability to deal with the supernatural powers that are invading his town, or, as we liked to call it, “the buffer vampire slayer.” The script placed well in a variety of competitions ranging from the PAGE Awards to the New York Television Festival comedy pilot script competition. The script led to producer contacts, but while the script was generally very well received, it hasn’t gone anywhere…at least, not yet! This is the only other script of mine to make it to the top ten…it gets more interesting and weirder from here.

8. Rosebud Baker
# of searches 54 (2.0% of total searches)
Fun variations: rosebud baker lying naked nudity, and five other searches with her name and “naked” or “nudity.”

Rosebud Baker is the only one I personally know to make the top ten. She is a talented actress who read Lying Naked and thought the role would be right for her. She shepherded it through her theater company, starred in a stage reading version, and then got her company to stage it in Planet Connection Festivity, where it received excellent reviews, audience support, and won a number of festival awards. Rosebud herself won Outstanding Actress in a One-Act Play. A few years later Rosebud’s exposure increased when she appeared on the Sundance reality show Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, which probably explains why so many people searched her. It’s seems odd that many people who watched the show (about the relationship between women and their gay best friends) were searching for her naked, as I don’t know if that particular search is appealing to the show’s target audience. Ironically, she and her co-star did appear naked in Lying Naked, but no videotapes exist. Sorry internet, if you want to see naked actors and actresses, get thee to a theater!

7. Alex Goldberg Seattle
# of searches 59 (2.2% of total searches)

I’m certainly not the only Alex Goldberg in the world. A quick internet search shows that there are many of us, but this is the one that shows up most often in traffic to my site. This Alex Goldberg was a filmmaker from Seattle who suffered from heart and lung diseases, became an activist for stem cell research, and died far too young at the age of 27. A few years after his death I received an email from his mother, who saw my website and wrote me, telling me a little about her son. I wrote back, expressing my condolences, and mentioned that he sounded like a wonderful man. I told her I would be happy to continue our correspondence, but she never replied. I hope she is doing okay.

6. Couch
# of searches 75 (2.8% of total searches)
Fun variations: sad couch, best craigslist ad ever, best couches of 2009

Once upon a time I had a nasty, crappy couch. Inside the couch was an even nastier flimsy mattress on top of a painful and jagged metal bed frame. It wasn’t always nasty and crappy, but it was decades old. It was pretty tattered when I dragged it up five flights to my NYC apartment, where it lived out it’s days gradually getting shoddier until my now wife moved in and brought along a much nicer couch. So I had to get rid of it, but I didn’t want to drag it down the stairs myself and abandon it on the street. I also knew it wouldn’t sell. Instead, I created a funny ad on Craigslist offering to give away the couch and $10 with a catch. Here is the ad in it’s entirety:

Free sofabed…and $10 cash! (Upper West Side)

Reply to: sale-aj9ug-1078937215@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
Date: 2009-03-17, 11:40AM EDT

I need to get rid of my sofabed. I know, you want a sofa badly and are willing to pay any price…and look, here’s a free one! And not only that, I will pay you $10 to come pick it up! That’s right, ten whole dollars…that’s almost one free movie ticket, and a free sofa! What a deal, right? Wrong. Before you race to reply, spilling your coffee on your keyboard in hopes of becoming the first in line to get this treasure (and the cash) let me try and convince you why you don’t want this sofa:
1. The upholstery is worn a bit. Generally it’s pretty good, however…
2. The cushions are almost all ripped. Don’t even think about flipping them to hide the rips, I did that years ago. Now there are rips on both sides.

3. It may be the most uncomfortable bed in the history of sofabeds. All night your guest will think about that bar rigidly set in the middle of their back. The last few people with the honor of sleeping on that couch quickly elected to fold it back up and sleep on the cushions. Which partially explains #1 and 2.

4. The sofabed is 20 years old. That’s a lot of ass.

5. This sofabed was originally used by my family in Virginia. If you still hold a grudge from The Civil War, this is not the item of furniture for you.

6. You would be responsible for moving it. It will take two strong people, at least. Maybe 3.

Don’t care, and are still interested? How about this:

7. Oh, I live in a fourth floor….walkup. Yeah, so there’s that.

Still interested in the sofa? Then by all means, send me an email. Oh, and the $10 is payable once the sofabed is safely in your vehicle. What am I, an idiot? I’m not shelling out $10 for you to abandon that couch.

Oh, and it needs to move by March 27th. Thanks.

Well, the ad went viral, in a Craigslisty way, and got a bunch of funny responses. My couch was famous! I’m  not sure why this couch is so popular on internet searches, but the web is world wide, and quite mysterious.

Tomorrow we’ll count down the top five, and on the way to number one we go to dark and dirty, dirty places. Stay tuned!

Diving back in…

I recently completed a draft of a brand new play. While I am prepping to stage a reading of the first act at The Actors Studio, I now have time to get back into the script Closure. You know, the reason I am writing this blog. So now that the play draft is complete, the dishes are done, the floors vacuumed, the junk mail opened, the DVR emptied…

You get the point. It’s a cliche that a writer’s room is immaculate before we sit down to write, as if we’d rather do anything than write. And part of that is true, the act of sitting down and beginning a new draft is not very different from starting a project from scratch. Especially this project. After the table read and feedback months ago, I had a good idea of how I wanted to proceed. Then I sat down for drinks with a trusted writer friend who offered his thoughts on the script. While generally positive, he felt that I didn’t go far enough with one aspect of the plot. He suggested a shocking plot twist, and this suggestion was a eureka moment. The lead character would certainly act in the way he was describing, it was consistent in that regard. I became excited about the story again, and was salivating at the thought of diving back in and taking this script to a whole new level. There was only problem: this twist happens 30 minutes into the script. Which will then change everything after this point.

So it’s almost like writing a brand new script.

And this is why, in the month since this revelatory meeting, I have avoided work on this script. Radically rewriting the second and third act of the script will take a lot of work. Entire scenes and characters may be cut. I will also need to outline the second and third act, and I usually do not enjoy the outlining process. But it’s exciting, and it will make it a better film. It takes hard work at every step, I guess.

So recently I dove back in, and while I was working I did not find it tedious. In fact, when I stepped away from work for dinner I was still thinking about it, and eager to sit back down again. This is a good sign.

So it may take a while. I’m giving myself a deadline of February 17th, a month from now, to finish the next draft, and that includes the outline. So here we go…

Diving

This year I plan to…

I keep a daily journal. Well, I aim for a daily journal, but it’s more like a twice a week journal. My journal is private, which is not to be confused with this public blog for you beautiful people. My journal is a computer document, rather than ye olde handywritten type. (Back in ye olde days they used to grade you on handwriting in school. I never received a better grade than a C. Choosing not to hand write things anymore is me thumbing my nose at that aspect of my education.)  On the morning of January 1st, I sat down to start a fresh new journal document. As I entered the date on the top of page one I had a nagging feeling that I had been down this road before. So I looked back…and here is what I found from day one of previous years:

2009:  “This is definitely a great start to the year.  I’m looking for more pleasure and more success, and will work hard to achieve both.”

2010: “It’s a new year.  There is much to do…so much to do, and happy to be busy.”

2011: “This is the year, not only of hard work, but of hard work paying off.”

2012: “Going to be busy, and that’s how we like it.”

2013: “The big bad year starts now.  A lot of good can happen if we’re open to it, and we work for it.”

I learned a few things. One, I plagiarize myself frequently. Two…I’m boring! Work, work, work, get stuff done. Now, there is one noticeable change, as the “I” became a “we,” which is natural when you get married and frequently work with your spouse. Still, is that all I’m about? Writing about sitting down to work? Do I really need to spend time reminding myself to work hard? Sometimes, sure. So maybe I should stop talking about working and just work. And if on certain days I don’t work, don’t beat myself up about it.

I backed away from the computer, not writing a journal entry on the 1st (I waited until the 2nd). Instead, I spent the start of the new year on the couch with my wife. We watched two movies (Captain Phillips and Side Effects, both very good) and then later that afternoon had some beers with friends, then went to bed. Sure, I worked extra hours the next day. Sure I have a lot to do, and I’m excited to do it all. But you know what? I slept very well that night.

Here’s hoping this year that no matter how you spend your days, you sleep well every night.