Friday, October 30, 2009

London 16C: Day 13 & 14 - Drinks & Airplanes (heading home)

So the alarm goes off at 5:30 AM, I shower and shave and zip up my suitcases and do a final room check (still not spotting that USB drive) and carry my luggage down the stairs (no lift) to the lobby and check out, and go stand in front of the hotel... at about 6:15. Damn - a prompt man is a lonely man!

The taxi arrives on time at 6:30 - actually a shuttle van - and the driver (a woman) tosses my suitcases in back, and we go to pick up the filmmakers. Except, it’s on the other side of London. We get to their hotel, and no one is standing out from, no one is in the lobby... no one seems ready to go to the airport. The driver calls dispatch to make sure she has the right address - she does - and makes sure she has the name correct. It’s two Japanese people - last name, Japanese, is not easy for the driver to pronounce. The driver sounds like she’s from Russia or Eastern Europe. She goes into the hotel, to the front desk, and asks where these people are. I am sitting in the shuttle van this whole time. Driver comes back - tells me the desk called up to the Japanese women’s room and they were getting ready to come down. We wait. We wait some more. We wait even longer. The driver is thinking about just leaving - I have a plane to catch. That’s when the two Japanese women with a whole cargo hold of luggage come out of the elevator. The bellman is pushing the overloaded cart, and he does not look happy. When he gets to the shuttle, he tells the Japanese women that he can’t unload the cart because he has a bad back. I’m thinking this guy’s a dick... but the Japanese women do nothing - they don’t even tough their small bags. The driver starts grabbing bags and putting them in the shuttle van. There are huge *boxes*, there are massive trunks that seem really heavy. She stacks them all in the van. The bellman gets no tip for loading up the cart. The two Japanese women get in the van, the driver races to the airport... and the women are putting on make up... then they crank the heater up to Hell and take a nap, while I’m sweating like crazy and nowhere near the heater controls.

Guess what? Their flight left before mine. So they were *really* not ready.

The driver gets them to their terminal, and unloads all of their stuff, including the heavy trunks... and the women want to know how their trunks and luggage will get from the curb to inside the airport. The driver points to some carts (free to use at Heathrow) and I think gets stiffed on a tip, then gets back in the van and takes me to my terminal. I tip her, give her a little extra to make up for the women, then drag my luggage into the airport where it costs more per bag to get them home than it did to bring them here.

In the waiting area for my flight, there’s a cute women near my age who is reading the Samuel French edition of THE CHILDREN’S HOUR. I want to strike up a conversation with her - I played Joe Cardin (male lead) in a community theater production while in high school - and it’s written by Hellman, who was Dash Hammett’s girlfriend. I could probably talk for hours about the play... but I say nothing. I’m tired and maybe still drunk and am afraid I’ll say something stupid. I’m never gonna find a girlfriend this way!

Several hours of absolute torture later - I am too tall for airplane seats - we land in New York where I have to go through customs, then recheck my luggage... then take this crazy shuttle bus to another terminal to catch the plane to LA - the bus driving too close to a runway where planes are landing for my taste. Kill time, they board the plane... and I find that I have the absolute worst seat on the plane - 22A - a window seat where there is no window. In fact there’s something in the wall, there, and instead on the indent between “ribs” it’s flat - meaning less headroom and less shoulder room. Probably not a problem unless you’re 6'4" tall - the most cramped seat I’ve ever been in - and my knees were mashed against the seat in front of me. Seriously - airlines need to tell you the maximum height for their seats, and have emergency exit and bulkhead seating prioritized for people who are too tall for their seats. Someone knows the maximum height number - let’s get that in print somewhere.

They close the plane door, and I realize I only have to be in this cramped position from New York to Los Angeles... when the plane loses all power. Something is wrong, and we haven’t even left the gate. Pilot comes on, says it’s a minor mechanical problem and a mechanic is on his way to fix it, so we’ll all just stay on the plane. Great - I don’t have a window and if the person in front of me leans back in their seat my kneecaps will snap off. It takes forever fo the mechanic to fix whatever is wrong. And we’re still on the plane, at the gate. Eventually it’s fixed. The plane takes off, and by they time we make it to Los Angeles and I take my shuttle home (I bought a round trip and had to make sure I knew where the receipt was the whole time I was in London and make sure I didn’t accidentally throw it away along with the receipt for those socks and British underpants) - and it’s *pouring rain* in Los Angeles - worse weather than in London - tip the driver and drag my luggage into my apartment, I have been traveling for almost 24 hours! Okay, sitting on an unmoving plane isn’t exactly “traveling”, but that took up a chunk of time. My refrigerator is empty. I walk to the store, buy some food, eat a frozen dinner, and go to sleep.

I have no idea how long I will sleep, but I’m hopping a plane to Hong Kong in 6 days, and Screenwriter’s Expo is in there somewhere. Of course, those are other adventures.

- Bill

London 16B: Day 13 & 14 - Drinks & Airplanes (drinks)

The thing I always forget about the Holborn station is that there are two exits on different streets. It’s not as bad as, say, Leicester Square where the exits are spread out on opposite sides of Charing Cross Road - no way to keep an eye on all of the exits there! But it’s a small problem. I stand at the main exit, figuring I not only have the best chance of being seen by someone leaving, but if someone exits on the other side and doesn’t see me they might check the main exit area. I don’t know who I missed, but I found most of the London regulars from past Drink With Bill nights, including the amazing English Dave... dressed in a suit! I almost didn’t recognize him!

I know English Dave from the Done Deal message boards, where he is witty and profane and combative and hysterical. He’s a TV writer in the UK, and he is constantly having run ins with idiot producers. Dave is a real character online, and when I first met him many Raindances ago, he lived up to his online persona. Somewhere back in the past on this blog, or maybe on my website messageboards that were kind of a blog before this, I have a story about one of the Drink With Bill nights where Dave shows up in a Hawaiian shirt and short pants - in London - and we drink until the pub closes at 11pm. Dave is a member of a club, so we can continue drinking... All we have to do is walk (or stagger) across central London to his club. We do this, and it seems like a long walk, even though I have since passed his club a few times sober and it’s really not that far from the Holborn Tube Station (at least by London walking standards). Well, we trek all the way to his club, where Dave tells the man at the door that he’s a member and pulls out his membership card and wants to bring all of the rest of us in as guests... and the guy at the door mentions to English Dave that there is a dress code, and loud Hawaiian shirts and short pants are not allowed. So we all staggered away, back to our various homes and hotels. So, the idea of Dave in a *suit* - what happened?

The other reason why it was great to see English Dave is because he seems to have disappeared. He left the Done Deal message boards in a huff years ago - some dope took was offended by something he said and started a flame war. Um, Dave is *funny* when he’s mean. You just have to laugh at that stuff, not get angry. Dave has a blog, it’s listed over there –> And that’s how I know that he got divorced, quit TV, got remarried, and wrote a novel... but his last blog entry was months ago. Was he still alive?

Yes, and a novelist and working as a consultant in a suit and tie for a while as the novel makes its way to market. As always, he told great stories. Paul & Wolfy talked about their script - the one they pitched at Live Ammunition Pitching Panel - and both wondered why I’m not doing classes to rooms filled with hundreds of people like McKee. The strange thing about Raindance this year is the number of people who have taken some class by me in the past who either have a film here or have come up after one of the free classes to tell me that they optioned or sold a script and some class I did in the past helped them. Maybe I’m selling myself short? The problem has always been - I don’t really want to be a teacher, I just want to write scripts. But maybe I need to find a way to really make both work. Right now the teaching this is completely half-assed. I haven’t done a class in Los Angeles for 3 years. I haven’t done the 2 day class for over 2 years *anywhere* - London was my return to teaching. These other guys teach for a living - I don’t want to do that. But what if I figured out a way to do 4 classes a year? That’s not much, still gives me time to write. Maybe come up with an online class like Max Adams has for people who can’t make it to a live class? I never really think about the classes until people start telling me how much they got out of one. Or I see some success stories with movies or books or working on some TV show.

Anyway, many Guineii were consumed and those damned people would not let me buy a round. That’s unfair! I’m getting smoke blown up my butt and getting drunk on their dime! Close to last call, a woman comes over to our table and tells us that we need to come with her immediately. I wonder if we’ve been too loud, but English Dave figures it out and starts making fun of this woman who is trying to kick us out! That’s when her drunken boyfriend comes over to fetch her - she’s just some drunk woman, not an employee of the pub.

Eventually it’s last call and an actual employee of the pub comes to tell us when we’ve finished our drinks it’s time to go. No staggering to Dave’s club tonight - even though he easily makes the dress code - he has a family to head home to. And it’s Monday night - tomorrow everyone has to go to work... and at 6:30 AM I have to be standing in front of the hotel for my taxi pick up.

Great to see all of the London folks and meet the new people, but now it’s time to stagger back to the hotel and finish packing.

At the hotel, I do the final bit of packing (except for the things I will need for tomorrow)... but what I don’t know then that I have since learned - a portable USB drive that had some materials for one of the 5 free classes that I’d had Elliot print out for me was on the desk with some other things. When I grabbed those things, I knocked the USB drive onto the floor... where it blended with the carpet. Didn’t notice this until after I returned and looked all over the place for it. Nothing critical on it, but a couple of things from an old computer I will now have to unbury from the closet-of-doom and fire up to download those items. Even though I have been back a couple of weeks, now, I still haven’t done that - lost of work for a couple of items. Problem is, I’m afraid I will forget about it and later panic when I can’t find those items on my current computer. Eventually I would figure it out, but when I really need something and it isn’t there, I tend to panic first and think much much later.

I'm tired and drunk and the alarm clock is going to go off a few hours drom now... I get some sleep!

- Bill

London 16A: Day 13 & 14 - Drinks & Airplanes (settling for less)

The morning after... and I feel fine. I go to the British Museum Starbucks to check my e-mail and get the blood-caffeine level up to Level Orange, then walk down to the Raindance office to talk to Elliot. Kind of dreading it. As much as I talk about conflict in scripts, I *hate* conflict in real life. I’d rather just avoid it. When I get to the office, I cool my heels for a while waiting for Elliot to finish what he’s doing, then he insist on taking me to a local café. Great - a public place. This is not looking good.

At the coffee shop, we have this innocuous conversation that seems to waltz around what he thinks he owes me and what I think he owes me. We talk about how much he wants me to come back next year and I mention how small the class is and how it would be nice to have some advertizing... or at least for them to tell me there will be no advertizing so that I can take care of that myself. I also mention that I think the 5 (FIVE!) Free classes undercut the weekend class - when a waiter serves you 5 trays of free hors d’oeuvres, then asks what you’d like to order for dinner, you probably have already had enough to eat. I bring up all of my problems politely... even timidly... trying not to create much conflict. Elliot says that preparing for the film festival, and all of the problems along the way this year (sponsors dropping out, cinema chains dropping out, etc) turned my class into less than a footnote - and he apologized for that. He wants me to come back next year at some time other than the fest to do my class... and we talk about some ways to insure a larger turn out. We also talk about some sort of deal where I would license my CDs for him to sell in the UK and give me a royalty. Seems he’s already done a test run and sold them., and he owes me $100. We leave the café so that he can show me a place that manufactures CDs for bands - and I keep thinking I haven’t pushed hard enough and we haven’t discussed payment at all.

We look at the CD stuff, swell, and I hint that I’d like to look over the numbers and see what is owed me. And Elliot says, “Of course” and we go back to the office... where we began. I am now ready to push hard to get my money - to argue and fight... but Elliot doesn’t need to be pushed. He apologizes again for the small turnout, and has one of the staff run up the numbers (without me seeing them).

Now, Elliot has told me that a majority of the class came in at half off - the made that deal to film fest pass holders... and just about anyone who would ask. I have done the math for 50% of the class price times the number of students... and I need most of that just to end up with *half* of what they usually pay me. And that’s my number - half of what they usually pay me. Usually there are 50 people in the class, this time... um, less than a third of that. So I may have to fight for my number, because it may leave them with nothing. The staff member totals what they’ve been paid, subtracts taxes, subtracts the room rate, and gives the page to Elliot... who says my exact number. Plus the $100 for the CDs they made and sold. I say, “Deal” and they pay me. Oh, and I find the envelope from the CD sales - $40 - and note that there are about 6 CDs left, and I say they can keep ‘em and sell ‘em.

We talk some more about the CD thing and ways to increase the class size and then I thank Elliot and the entire Raindance staff for a great festival and for helping me sell the CDs and have a great time at the fest. In all honesty, had the deal been teach 5 free classes and get to attend the film festival, I would have been happy. I had a great time and got to see a whole bunch of movies for free.

On the way out, I notice the piece of paper with the numbers... and realized Elliot had split the profits with me! Most people had paid full price, and even with the poor turn out, Raindance had made money off the class! Real, tangible money!

So, the Elliot part of this story had a happy ending. Not a great ending, because I only got paid half of what I usually get, but Elliot paid me what he agreed to pay me without any real problem. I think in retrospect, all of the evasiveness was due to him feeling bad that my class had fallen through the cracks while planning the film festival.

Before I leave they mention that they have a taxi that will take me to the airport tomorrow morning - it’s picking up a film maker and I’m on the way, so I have a free trip to the airport and don’t have to get up early and take the tube... except in order to pick up the filmmaker and to allow for traffic, the taxi will pick me up at 6:30am. Swell.

Because by now it’s close to dinner time, and I’m near that great fish & chips place on Poland Street, I decide to go there again. Once more, great food and great service. Not some little pieces of fish, this was like a huge whole fish! A giant serving of fries. And the homemade tartar sauce was great a second time. Once I’d finished dinner I had to get to a Starbucks to check e-mail and put up a blog entry. Mostly to check e-mail, because some stranger might be coming tonioght and have questions. Though I did a search on pubs near Holborn Tube Station and found one that got great marks that we had not been to in the past, and listed it on the blog, I had also mentioned in that blog entry that I would add more details later... and never got around to it. Though the meeting location and drinking location and time were not going to change, someone might e-mail to ask if it was still on. I needed to answer e-mails...

Except after buying my coffee (no milk!) I discovered the BT Online at this Starbucks was not working. Hey, there’s a Starbucks every other block in London, so I carried my drink to the next Starbucks. BT Online also not working here. After trying a half dozen Starbucks, it was obvious that the system was down... and obvious that I had better run back to the hotel to do a quick packing job before I jogged over to the Holborn Tube Station to drink with friends and strangers.

In my hotel room I do a quick pack - but run out of time and some things will have to be packed when I come back that night. Off to Holborn.

- Bill

Thursday, October 29, 2009

London 15C: Day 11 & 12 - Class & I find a Girlfriend (Party)

There are so many people crowded to get into the club for the closing night party - hundreds of them - that Suzanne suggests we get a coffee while waiting for the line to die down. Next door to the club - a late night donut shop! A strange thing in London. In the USA we have donut shops all over (some sections of the Valley seem to have a donut store in a strip mall on every single block!), but other parts of the world have no donuts at all. Donuts are an American invention - a relic of the Great Depression. Deep fried dough was about the cheapest thing you could eat. Odd that even after the depression was over, people had developed a taste for them and they stuck around... though very few people during this financial downturn can afford a dozen Krispy Kremes.

We drink coffee and I eat *two* donuts, trying to absorb some of that wine before adding beer to it. The huge heavy bag is dragging me down, but I’m stuck with it. The donuts are dry - yesterday’s donuts, or maybe donuts made at 6am that day. They donuts are like me - should have been retired hours ago.

After we’re finished with our coffees, there is no line outside the club, so we show our ticket stubs and go in... where the crowd is. As usual, music turned up to ear-bleed, so many people packed into the room that you can’t turn around without hitting someone (and the heavy bag clips a bunch of people) and the line for drinks at the bar? Well, imagine those hundreds of people waiting for drinks! Janet and Suzanne and I split up and stand in different lines... and the race is on! I don’t think I win. But I do get some pilsner. This club is decorated Middle Eastern, so I guess they don’t serve Guiness. After we get our drinks we yell over the music to each other and I say hello to some of the Raindance staff people and some of the film makers and audience members I’d come to know. There is no place to sit - so we stand. As we get to the bottoms of our drinks, we discover that out ticket stubs *also* get us a free drink - from sponsor Absolute Vodka - Vodka mixed with... something. Hell, it’s free so we all stand in line again and snag another drink. I think they were supposed to take our tickets to prevent us from getting a second free drink, but they don’t do this - all of us still have our tickets. Though, I wouldn’t discover that until an hour later...

Because after getting my drink, I lost Janet and Suzanne in the crowded night club.

This really isn’t a problem - it’s a *party* - so I try to mingle as I casually wander through various sections of the club looking for them. A bunch of people come up to tell me how funny the steel cage match joke was (I could not tell if they’d been drinking before the awards ceremony) and most asked if I was an actor, because I had a good voice. Conversation after conversation... and then I find myself talking to the producer of REDLANDS and wondering if she had read my review and was about to poison my drink... but we just talked - I congratulated them on winning Best Debut Feature, and then said I had to split to find my friends (before she could ask me what I thought of her film, which I did not like). I finally found Janet and Suzanne, and they had found a place to sit. Just one place, so we took turns. We all had our tickets, and wondered if we could get another free drink - the bar line was only a couple of people.

One more free drink, but they took our tickets this time. Probably for the best, because Absolute was the sponsor, not whatever they were mixing it with, and the drinks were *strong*. I was glad I had those two stale donuts. After drinking most of the second drink, I’m floating. Janet and Suzanne skip to the loo, and I notice the Tall American Girl in the corner with a group of Raindance people, and wander over to say hello.

Though she was polite, for some reason she was not interested in a fat drunk guy probably twice her age who was hitting on her with zero subtlety. I wonder why? After saying goodbye, I went back to where Janet and Suzanne were standing and realized I’d made a complete ass of myself. I’m sure I wasn’t the first fat old drunk creep that hit on the Tall American Girl, but it was depressing as hell to think that I was the last. (Wait... is that some other guy talking to her now... hey, I *wasn’t* the last!) Janet suggested I try computer dating - but that’s not really the solution. I must actually find the time in my schedule to get out and find some woman to take to London next time I’m here. Every time I do something cool like this, I’m doing it alone. I need to fix that. And not with an escort who does nothing but talk about investment strategies.

Janet and Suzanne left, I talked to some of the filmmakers for a little while longer, then realized I needed to stagger back to the hotel and stagger up the stairs and get some sleep. Tomorrow would be my last day in London, and I had to settle accounts with Elliot and then head over to Holborn Tube Station to meet friends and total strangers for Drink With Bill In London Night. Great... I’m going to have to make my deal with Elliot hung over.

- Bill

London 15B: Day 11 & 12 - Class & I find a Girlfriend (Girlfriend)

After racing across town and over-shooting the restaurant by a block, I get there just in time, Suzanne and Janet are drinking wine so I order a large glass to dial down the caffeine... This is my first meal of the day, and the glass of Bordeaux I drink before we are served hits me hard. Great, I’m an easy drunk. So I order another glass to go with my meal.

I mention to Janet and Suzanne my fears that once Elliot has subtracted all of the expenses that I will go home with empty pockets. I brought a bag of CDs to sell, and that’s what I’ve been paying for meals and coffee and everything else with. I only brought a small bag of CDs because I was afraid of my bag being deemed “heavy” and the airline charges me not only for the bag, but an overweight fee as well. So I brought half of the CDs I usually bring - not knowing that they would not give me any per diem money - they always have in the past. London is not a cheap place to eat and drink. Though they are covering my hotel room, I have to pay for any phone calls, room service, and leave a tip for the maids who insisted on bringing me new towels every day, or a three page letter explaining where I could get towels if I needed them. Now, Raindance has been great about the CDs - I’ve been leaving them with an envelope for money at the T shirt & Poster table at the Raindance Café Bombshelter, and they have been selling them for me. I’ve taken no inventory, and take the money every night (so that I can buy coffee in the morning), so I’m just trusting them. The Raindance Café Bombshelter closed - with a handful of CDs and my money envelope being carted back to the Raindance Office (I hope) - but most of the CDs have sold, and my wallet is not brimming with cash. *Starbucks* wallets may be brimming with cash, though. I have what translates to maybe $300 left in my wallet after I pay the restaurant bill and take out the rest of my expenses for the stay - and would hate to think that’s all I will make after teaching 5 free classes and talking for 2 full days for the weekend class.

Janet has sent me all of the mailing list stuff she gets as a member of numerous film and writing groups - and none are promoting the 2 day class (though all have stuff about the 5 free classes). I discuss my plan of action - the 5 classes were part of the film festival. My airfare and hotel? Part of the film festival. That will not count against the weekend class. The only expense for the weekend class is that dungeon room. Janet and Suzanne think that sounds fair, and both tell me not to back down.

After the food comes, we eat and talk and laugh and then it’s time to go to the big closing night movie...


Before the movie starts, Elliot grabs me and asks if I would like to hand out the Best Foreign Film Award. Well, sure - wish I’d known, I would have dressed for it. He looks at my cinema tickets - I’m in the wrong cinema. The closing night film is playing on three screens, and Janet, Suzanne, and I are in one of the small cinemas. Elliot says he’ll trying to get me a ticket for the big cinema - where the awards will be. I say - hey, we need *three* tickets. I expect that will be the end of that, and someone else will hand out the BFFA - but one of the Raindance staff grabs me in the lobby and swaps out three tickets for three tickets in the main cinema. I jog up stairs to the men’s room to comb my hair and make sure I don’t have food on my face. I’m also feeling the wine a little... swell, I’m handing out awards hammered!

Our three seats are in the front row, and we watch close up as people collect their awards, then Elliot announces me, and I jump up to read the nominees, give the big dramatic pause, then announce the winner.

Except, when I open the envelope there are *two winners* - a tie! I announce both, then mention that both film makers will battle to the death in a steel cage match to see who goes home with the actual award. Gets a big laugh (everyone else must have had wine with their dinner, too) and 25 CARATS was not there, but an actor from MY SUICIDE is - in a mask - and races up to accept their half of the award. After all of the awards have been handed out, the movie begins...

MOVIE: THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE - USA - No, Soderbergh was not in attendance. Too bad, because that would have made it a much better evening. The film is non-chron, jumping all over the place... but the story just goes no place. It’s one of Soderbergh’s pocket change experimental films, and there isn’t a story to be seen. Escort (read: high class hooker) lives with a guy who is a personal trainer. He accepts her job, as long as it’s just sex. But when she develops feelings for a client (with no scenes to demonstrate this, by the way) the personal trainer guy gets jealous and leaves. Wow! That almost sounds like a plot! It’s that writer thing again - you try to make sense of nonsense and turn it into a story. Mostly, the film is a bunch of unrelated scenes with the same characters - often talking about the stock market crash and how their investments sure took a hit! When Soderbergh throws chronology out the window in a well plotted script like THE LIMEY is works really well, because we have that revenge plot to hold on to. We can sort the scenes by the plot and it all makes sense and is interesting. With something like GIRLFRIEND that has no plot, the non-chron thing becomes confusing... except it really isn’t confusing, because that would require that you *cared* about the story and characters, and here we don’t give a damn about any of them. Imagine making the life of a hooker boring! Lesson: Balance again - if the story is soft and not focused, the way you tell the story has to be strong and focused. You can’t have a fuzzy story and a fuzzy way of telling it, or you end up with nothing but fuzz. Opening night movie HUMPDAY was a million times better than GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE.

After the film, there’s a party down the street. *Not* at TYGER TYGER this time. They tell us our ticket stub is our ticket in. Okay - imagine three sold out cinemas walking down the sidewalk to the same place at the same time. Hundreds of people!

TO BE CONTINUED (in about 2 hours)

- Bill

London 15A: Day 11 & 12 - Class & I find a Girlfriend (Class)

Alarm. Wake. Shower and shave. Grab bag. Down stairs. The Starbucks isn’t open, but the Costa is. I cut across to Charring Cross Road and walk past bookstores - one with a recently broken front window, to the Charring Cross Train Station on the other side of Central London. I thought about taking a cab at one point, but I need to get the blood flowing, so it’s better to walk. I’ve allowed myself plenty of time... which is both a good and bad thing. I get to Charring Cross Station early - but can not find the side street the class is on. I keep walking around the station - looking at the buildings with storefronts that might have a theater or some other large room for classes. Nothing.

I stop to buy another coffee at a little place that tries to entice me with a full English breakfast, but I don’t have time. I have to find this classroom space. I try walking around the station again. There’s an alleyway that leads to a residential street. There is zero chance that I am teaching this class in someone’s living room, but I go down the alley to the residential street, thinking there might be offices and such *behind* the train station. But this residential street ends up the street I’m looking for... and there’s a little folding sign that says Raindance in front of one of the apartment buildings. I check the address, it’s correct. Okay, this should be interesting... but now I’m way early. I go back for a second cup of coffee - but no English breakfast... that would make me sleepy.

I go back to the apartment building a half hour before the class, go to the indicated side door, open it... to reveal a very narrow spiral staircase going down down down into hell. Oh, and it smells like piss. At the bottom of the horror movie staircase is a basement that smells less like piss, and that’s where I’m holding t he class. It’s a “rehearsal space” - so there’s an upright piano, some props, and a rack of costumes. Wow! I can play dress up! But I can’t show clips, because there is no DVD player or monitor.

Okay, this is partially my fault. Though I requested this stuff in a couple of e-mails, Elliot sent me an e-mail yesterday asking if I still needed the equipment, and because I am developing a lousy attitude about this class, I ignored it. How many times do I have to request equipment? Problem is - I really should have confirmed it. Though all kinds of things are making me angry about this class - no brochures, no posts to UK screenwriting groups, Elliot continuing to tell me how broke they are - when Elliot is trying to be helpful and double checking things I’m being a dismissive asshole. And I’m *still* being an asshole, because I snap at the Raindance folks who have volunteered to help run the class in exchange for sitting in, that there’s no damned DVD player. They get on the phone (which requires climbing the dungeon steps to get a signal) and call Elliot, and he rushes over with all of the equipment. And still being an asshole, I do noth thank him. You see, I *expected* the equipment to be there waiting for me.

This is the smallest class I have ever taught. After 5 classes of 140-200 people, standing room only, I hand out my 15 syllabuses and start talking. You might think that a smaller class is less work than a larger class, but it’s really much more work. Instead of being part of a large group, people become individuals - and everyone wants individual attention. They ask about the specifics of their script, they interrupt more. This is not anything against the students - it’s the nature of a small class. All of the questions were good ones, and it was a lively and interactive class. But I couldn’t just run on automatic, I had to think on my feet and *work*. A larger class where I would have made more money would have been less work. Funny how it works out like that. Bob McKee can do a completely automatic lecture to 300 people at $600 a head and you can’t ask questions or make eye contact or even pee unless it’s an assigned break... but I have a room with just over a dozen people and I have to *work*.

The class goes great, lots of smart people, and Saturday night instead of going to see movies, I sit in a Starbucks and burn a stack of CDs with the other class materials and a bunch of screenplays on PDF. Sunday morning I sleep later, always a mistake, and have to race to get to class. Less time quaffing coffee means it takes me a while to rev up, but I get the rhythm and the day zooms by. Sunday has a couple of longer clips designed to give my voice a rest, but the clips are really good - the first ten minutes of GODFATHER PART 2 and a ten minute cartoon from FANTASIA 2000.

Saturday I went more than an hour over time to cover all of the material and answer all of the questions, but Sunday I have to leave when the class is over because it is closing night of the festival - and I’ve snagged a ticket for Janet’s friend Suzanne (Janet has a ticket) and the three of us are going to have dinner together before the movie and party. One of the Raindance staff (Rory - great guy) comes in close to the end of the class to tell me that Janet e-mail me a slightly incorrect location for the restaurant, and gives me the actual location. So class ends... and I still end up talking for almost half an hour while trying to pack up and leave. There are always people who have last minute questions, and know this is the last chance they have to ask me (except, or course, e-mail - send me your questions!). So I end up *racing* from Charring Cross Station to the restaurant location, overshoot by a block, and have to double back. Pisser is - I have this bag with my 20 lb book of class materials on my shoulder for the rest of the night.

TO BE CONTINUED (in about 2 hours)

- Bill

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

London Interlude 5: This Is Great Cinematography!

I mentioned in my review of MOTHS that it was the best shot film I saw at Raindance, and just stumbled on the trailer on YouTube.

The cinematographer is Maura Morales Bergmann - when I first posted this, and first posted the review, I neglected to give her credit. I included this film in an article for the January 2010 issue of Script Magazine, and *did* credit her in the article.

(I'm running this again, because I did not finish the next "chapter" and need something to run today.)

- Bill

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

London 14B: Day 10 - Dinner Party

So I climb the stairs down to the cinema, still not knowing where my class is tomorrow morning and wondering if I can stay awake (after 4 hours of sleep) for two movies made by people who have taken classes I taught. The more I think about it, the more I worry that if I stay for DEADLINE I won’t be able to jog over to the Raindance Café Bombshelter and find the staff member who knows where my class is. So, I decide to skip DEADLINE - sorry! Maybe I’ll catch the movie at a festival in the USA.

MOVIE: THE DINNER PARTY - Australia - Based on a true story about a group of 20 somethings who attend a dinner party in Australia... which ends in murder. While I was writing up this entry the writer-director (Scott Murden) e-mailed me to say that he was enjoying the blog entries about Raindance and looking forward to reading what I had to say about his film... and to be honest. Though I didn’t say this in my reply - I am usually too damned honest. Has he read any of the stories or reviews of films made by friends of mine? So, Scott, fasten your seat belt. What I’ve decided to do, is not just to say what I liked and disliked about DINNER PARTY, but to try to find some writing lessons in there while I’m at it.

I know from the post film Q&A that it was a true indie film - made on a low budget. Not a Hollywood low budget - a real live we-have-no-money low budget. That is one of the great things about the Raindance festival - they actually focus on independent films, not some movie star multi-million pet project from a studio indie label. Also, I know that the financing fell out at one point... and they made the movie anyway. So it’s an accomplishment that this film exists - the 35mm mumblecore films and that feature length Obsession commercial had money for things like lights and lenses, this film probably had to be creative just to get images on tape (or card or hard drive or whatever).

The story concept was a smart move for an indie film - most of the story takes place in a single house, but instead of some crazed maniac chopping off teenager’s heads, the film is about an unstable young woman who plans on inviting all of her friends over for a dinner party, with a murder-suicide as desert. Only problem is - her boyfriend isn’t in on it. He’s going to be murdered and doesn’t know it. Great dramatic premise for a central location story.

The movie opens with police arresting or interrogating dinner party guests and the hostess, Angela (Laura Cox). Though this has nothing to do with writing - I remember some ragged cinematography and shot choice and editing in the beginning of the film (and there may have been some later, as well) - one thing to remember if you are making your own movie with very little movie is that you can’t do too much planning. You can always change things if you need to, but having shot lists and story boards and a real idea of what the shots and look of your film is going to help when you find yourself needing to shoot a page and a half in an hour because you are losing light or something. You can plan your shots at your leisure before filming or when you have a whole cast and crew waiting on you and the equipment is due back in a few hours. Knowing what the shot is, why you are using this lens and this angle and this camera move (and what this shot will make the audience feel) is critical - especially for the opening scenes. There was some really good camera work later in the film - especially the Angela-Joel in the trees stuff - but that was at the end of the movie. Just as the first ten pages of your script need to be as smooth and professional and typo-free as possible, the first ten minutes of your film need to impress the heck out of the audience (which includes film buyers and film distribs). First impressions. If the first ten minutes looks like it cost millions, we’ll cut you all kinds of slack later on.

After the police, we flash back to the events leading up to the dinner party and the dinner party itself. Somewhere a decision was made to remove “audience superiority”, and I think that was a mistake. All of the characters go to the dinner party knowing that Angela is going to kill her boyfriend and then herself. Audience superiority is when the audience knows something that the characters do not, and it’s a great suspense building tool. If we see a character put poison in a glass on wine, and then set the glass in front of our hero, the audience will be screaming at the screen every time the hero picks up the glass to take a sip - the audience knows something the character does not. Here we have a mix of dinner party guests, and all of them know what’s going to happen next. It might have been better if only one of them had known and the others slowly discover what’s about to happen - because it gives the characters something to accomplish and creates some suspense... will they figure it out in time and put a stop to it? Always be thinking about the viewer’s emotions in your script - not only what are they supposed to be feeling in this scene, but how is this scene *creating* those emotions in the viewer? We don’t want the audience to just watch the film, we want them to *experience* the film.

I probably have a half dozen very different script tips that call screenwriting a Balancing Act - and for everything we take away, we must add something... and vice versa. The great thing about the concept is that the story can mostly take place in the house at the dinner party - but that means we have taken away all of those locations and cut out of that house... we are stuck there. Which means the things we have in the house have to be stronger to keep the balance. When I was writing VICTIM OF DIRECTOR (which was called IMPLICATED back then), I knew that keeping most of the story in the murder victim’s house meant I had to ramp up everything else: there needed to be more plot twists and more suspense and more big character moments and in the case of that story - more nekkid scenes - than in some story where excitement and variety could come from changing locations at the end of every scene. Having DINNER PARTY mostly take place in one house... and in the dining room of that house... puts all kinds of pressure on the other elements in the story.

The six main characters (with one exception) may have enough character for a story where all kinds of exciting things are happening, but when much of the film is just people sitting around a table having a dinner conversation, they needed to be more clearly defined and more distinct. Each really needed a very different point of view, and different vocabularies and attitudes and even looks. The stand out character is Freddy (Kai Harris), who gets all of the great lines and has an active role in the story - he knows what is going on and makes some effort to confront Angela and stop her from killing Joel. But even this character could have used a little work. If *all* of the characters had been at his level, the film would have worked better.

One of the reasons why his character stands out is because he gets some good dramatic scenes with Angela about the murder-suicide plan. Even though the rest of the dinner party guests know about the murder-suicide, they barely discuss it. No one seems to have any strong opinions about it except Freddy. That’s a problem - if a movie is *about* a murder-suicide plan, it needs to be *about* the murder-suicide plan. Much of the dinner conversation was normal, kind of boring, dinner table conversation. As if they all accepted that the night would end with two of the dinner party dead - no big deal. If you told me that the film was mostly improvised, that would make sense - it had that small talk feel of an improvised film. Instead, this should have been a debate about murder-suicide... and a *veiled* debate because the killer and victim are sitting at the table. That would have given the film more drama and more conflict and really made it *about* murder-suicides. Each character should have been given a character-specific opinion and have them hash it out as they eat. Argue. Get in each other’s faces. With only a handful of characters, each could have had a different and very strong opinion on the subject. “Do you have the right to kill someone just because you want to die?” “Hey, when my aunt died, she had her dog buried with her... they had to put the dog to sleep first.” “None of this is any of our business - people control their own lives and we shouldn’t interfere.” “Suicide is a sin - only God should decide when we die.” “So that drunk on the road is God doing his work?” “What if someone is in extreme pain?” “Like in the hospital? You could pull the plug on someone you love?” “What if it’s not physical pain, what if it’s emotional pain?” “All broken hearts heal eventually.” “Not all.” And about a million other things that can turn into big dramatic discussions on the subject of murder-suicide.

Another aspect of this is the characters relationships with each other. If you are inviting people to your suicide, you aren’t inviting a bunch of total stranger or casual acquaintances - these people are your closest friends... Yet, we didn’t get the feeling that they were close friends. Though Freddy brings his roommate Matt (Sam Lyndon), these guys seem more like people who live together because one of them answered an ad on Craigs List. And Freddy is so antagonistic to Angela you wonder why she allowed him to be invited. I wanted more exploration of the relationships and how that connected to the murder-suicide desert.

And what about the guest’s responsibility? Though Matt goes to the party to try to stop the murder, once he gets there he talks and eats. Only Freddy, who starts out thinking he’ll just watch two people die, ends up thinking he has any responsibility for what happens (though other characters later discuss it when the party is over). That’s another subject that could have been hashed out in nice dramatic scenes around the table. Really hashed out, not just brought up and abandoned. Though some of this is in the film, it isn’t strong enough for the single location scenario. It needed to be big enough to balance out being unable to cut to another location. The film’s great scenes take place in the bathroom, where Freddy confronts Angela about some hot shots of heroin designed to cause an OD, and the later discovery of the needles by another character. The rest of the film needed to be at that level... that was great stuff!

There’s another great scene near the refrigerator - also a conflict scene. I think when it comes down to it, without the ability to cut away to some other location or character, the story needed more juicy conflict to keep it going.

The film this most reminded me of was RIVER’S EDGE, also based on a true story, about a group of high school kids who discover their friend murdered his girlfriend and do nothing about it. But that film really focused on whether they *should* do something about it, and some kids were just apathetic while others were afraid of the authorities and some didn’t want to rat out a friend... and the relationships of the kids disintegrates... until one realizes that he must turn his friend in. Oddly, there’s a character named “Sky” in DINNER PARTY and Ione Skye played the female lead in RIVER’S EDGE (unless you count the blow up doll).

One of the issues with characters that are a little sketchy is that it opens the door for some one-note performances, and Angela is a complete bitch 24/7. Aside from an over-all character problem, this creates an interesting story problem: why the hell did Joel hook up with her in the first place? Though there’s some footage at the end of the two in love, and some footage up front of them meeting, there is nothing here that would make me believe Joel would want to move in with this bitch... and that makes me question the reality of the story, and also think that Joel is an idiot who maybe deserves to be killed. I’m not sure that was what they had in mind. The Angela character needs to be *attractive* and interesting and someone you would want to move in with... someone you would want to die with. That’s not a bitch, that’s a seductive and manipulative person. Someone who is dangerous because they can lure you into doing things you don’t want to do. The meeting scene is in a bar where the two dance - but there isn’t much in the way of conversation between the two. Nothing that would show us why these two are meant for each other (or, at least, why Joel would think she’s the one to hook up with in a bar filled with women to dance with). I wanted to see (and hear) the attractive side of Angela - and have that be a part of her character throughout the film.

An important thing with any script in any genre is that the characters be well rounded. You should know why your protagonist is *wrong* and why your antagonist is *right*. Here, we only see why Angela is wrong - completely wrong - and that makes us question why Joel hooked up with her in the first place. We really need to see how wonderful Angela is, and how she can charm anyone into doing anything. That would allow Joel to fall in love with her, her friend to help her buy the hot shots of heroin, and her to be the perfect hostess even when everyone knows her plan is to murder Joel and then maybe kill herself. Funny how these murder suicide pacts usually end with the murder and never get around to the suicide.

As the party winds down, and Joel slumps over in his chair and needs to be helped upstairs, the guests leave to their apartments to discuss what they could have done and should have done... while one character calls the police. Like in RIVER’S EDGE, one of the characters realizes they can’t just be bystanders to a murder, they must do something. And that leads us back to the opening arrests and that flashback of Angela and Joel in happier times. THE DINNER PARTY has a great idea and some great scenes with Freddy, but I wish the other characters had been as fleshed out as Freddy’s character and that there was more debate about the murder-suicide. As a first film made for very little money, it shows promise, and it *was* selected as one of the five films in the Best First Feature category. I hope this leads to some more films from Scott with bigger budgets.

AFTER THE FILM: I am dead tired and worried about finding my class the next morning, and walk out of the cinema like a zombie. I say goodnight to Janet and walk to the Raindance Café Bombshelter, where I find the staff member who knows where my class is! As she’s about to leave! She draws me a map, and it’s near Charring Cross Station, which is a longish walk. I thank her and head back to my hotel to try to get 8 hours of sleep before the class... but remember I have to burn CDs for the class. Hell, I’ll skip movies and do that tomorrow night. I need the sleep!

- Bill

Monday, October 26, 2009

London 14: Day 10 - Where Am I Going?

There is not enough coffee in the world for today.

My big two day class starts tomorrow, and I have had no sleep and too much beer and am a complete mess... and still don’t know exactly where the class is being held. All of the students know, but not me. No one has told me. Every time I ask, I get one of those general answers: “Somewhere off Charring Cross Road” - which is like saying it’s somewhere off Wilshire Blvd - covers a lot of ground. Though I can walk to Charring Cross Road from my hotel, and have grabbed a coffee in the Starbucks on the north end of Charring Cross Road, well, there’s a lot more of that road where the class might be, and no one has given me an address, let alone directions.

Because trudging up and down the hotel stairs is a pain in the ass, I get some room service coffee and sit at the nice big desk looking over my class materials. I am not Robert McKee or John Truby or any of those other guru types - I don’t teach classes for a living. The last time I taught the class was three years ago... and I’ve come up with this crazy new “Thematic” idea and haven’t really incorporated it into the class. The one thing I *have* done is watched GHOST a half dozen times and taken all kinds of notes. The original plan was to turn those notes into the Thematic part of the class on the plane, but that didn’t happen... then to do it in my spare time before the weekend class, but with 5 (FIVE!) Free classes I didn’t really have any spare time. So here I am, day before the class, no sleep and probably still drunk, transferring my notes on GHOST onto the pages that will make up the new addition to the class. And it’s all coming together despite having limited brain power.

This whole Thematic thing began with someone’s typo on a message board. They meant to write “theme” but their fingers just kept going and typed “thematic”. My fingers do that often - it’s the curse of too much typing, your fingers finish a word even if that wasn’t the word you were trying to type. I’ll bet there are over a hundred places on this blog where I typed “and” when all I wanted to type was “an”. Anyway - their sentence made no sense at all with the word “thematic”, but I began thinking about that word... and thinking about theme in screenplays, and how I believe that theme influences everything in a script from characters to dialogue.... and I wondered if you could make a brainstorming tool based around theme that could help you flesh out a story idea. If you’ve read my Zombie Article it explores that idea. So I came up with form/chart thingie that started with character or concept and then found the theme and then used that theme to come up with many of the other things you need to develop your screenplay. Characters, scenes, dialogue, actions, etc - all from the theme. Kind of a cool idea, and basically the way I work (consciously now, subconsciously when I first began writing).

Though this is a really cool tool, it also *sounds cool*, and one of the things that all of those guru guys have is some sort of gimmick that makes their screenwriting method sound cool and maybe even easy. Gotta tell you - screenwriting is *not* easy. But one of the big issues I have at Raindance when they are making up brochures (when they do that - not this year) is that my class has no “hook”. It’s just a bunch of tools and techniques that I use that work. Boring. So once I came up with this, I thought it was the answer to my “hook problem” - it’s still just a technique, but it sounds cool. Thematic! Because I’m really good at shooting myself in the foot and kind of hate the whole guru thing, I came up with this semi-parody of a guru sales pitch for the Thematic - not a machine! - and put it in my class description.

But now, here I am trying to take these notes on GHOST and reverse-engineering the film so that I can use it as an example for the class tomorrow... and it fits perfectly. I go over the rest of the class, look at the *menu* of my clip reel again (but don’t have time to watch the clips) and once everything is organized, I put it in my Script Secrets messenger bag, and put the bag by the front door so that I’ll know where it is when that alarm rings tomorrow morning.

The coffee is gone, but I’m awake enough to greet the world, so I gather up my stuff and leave...

One of the things I pack in my backpack are the originals for the class workbook. Usually when I do the class I give everyone a 120 page workbook, but the problem this time around is that I have the smallest class I have ever taught in my life, and I’m afraid if I give Elliot the workbook to make copies, he may find someway to charge me extra for it. The more expense stuff I give them, the more they'll cut off my split, and with so few students I have to be careful. The only thing I want him to be able to charge off on the class is the room. Look, if I come away from these two weeks with a trip to London and an all access pass to the film festival, that's great - I'll be happy. But the weekend class is a lot of hard work, and it would be nice to get paid for it. I'm afraid once the expenses are added up there will be nothing left, and that means I need to control as many of those expenses as possible. So I’ve decided to just print the syllabus, the thematic pages, and the “home work assignments” and give them the rest of the stuff as pdfs on a disk. I have brought a bunch of blank disks in paper sleeves with the web address on them just in case - and had planned to put some script pdfs on them for the class. Now it’s close to 500 script pdfs *and* the class materials in pdf form. But I still have to burn these.

I grab a coffee at the British Museum Starbucks, joke with the German guy, and look for a copy place. I find one not far away, and make 15 copies of the syllabus and thematic and homework stuff - pay for it out of pocket. It’s 30 pages, and easily fills a paper box. The paper box goes in my backpack...

Oh, I should mention that I also have two bottles of wine in my backpack. When I was on the pitching panel they gave all of us a Raindance messenger bag with some goodies inside - including 2 bottles of wine. Though, unlike Dracula, I *do* drink wine, I had no idea how I was going to get it home with me. It would have to be carry on, and that just seemed like a hassle. So I asked Janet if she wanted two bottles of wine, and now my backpack is filled with 450 sheets of paper (stapled) and 2 bottles of wine, plus the laptop and all of the other crap I lug around with me every day (notes on some script I’m in the middle of - did I really think I’d have time to work on it in London?). I walk cross town to the cinema - stopping at the Café first to see if anyone knows where my class is tomorrow... nobody knows. Swell! I stop at the office and ask, and get the Charring Cross Road answer... but they tell me which staff member actually knows all of the details. All I have to do is find her. So, I go to the cinema to unload the wine on Janet and see some movies.

Janet has brought along a friend, a cute woman named Suzanne, and we all go see..

MOVIE: THE INVESTIGATOR - from Hungary - So, I’m half asleep... and this film keeps me awake. A really creepy thriller with a dozen big twists, the story opens with a businesswoman going to her office where we see pictures of her family on her desk. As she prepares to leave, she tries closing the window, but part of the shade is in the way. She climbs onto her desk to free the shade... and falls out the window to the street a dozen stories below. The next time we see her she’s on a slab being cut open by the Medical Examiner, Tibi, our protagonist. Tibi sees dead people - every day at work. He’s quiet, reserved... lonely. He goes to the same cafe every night for dinner - a creature of habit. The pretty waitress flirts with him, but that’s her job... except this night, she asks him out to the movies. She’s lonely, too - and knows that Tibi is a good man with an off-putting occupation. Tibi’s mother is dying of cancer, and because of her age the HMO isn’t paying for the available treatment. He’d have to pay out of pocket... but he doesn’t have the money.

Then he gets a phone call from a stranger who calls himself The Cyclops, and quicker than you can say Tom Ripley, Cyclops offers him a chance to make enough money to pay for his mother’s treatment... by murdering a stranger. Tibi is used to dead people, right? Shouldn’t be a problem for him. Tibi takes the job...but killing someone is not the same as cutting them open when they are already dead. The night he’s supposed to kill the guy he has already set up his second date with the waitress, and bought movie tickets in advance. He makes an excuse and goes to kill this stranger... Suspense builds while Tibi follows the victim, working up the nerve to kill him. The day after the murder he goes out with the waitress, same movie, same time, different day... and gives her the ticket stubs for the night of the murder.

He’ll need that alibi, because a pair of detectives come to question him... you see, the stranger he killed was actually his long lost brother. When he was a child he had a brother and sister, but the family was poor and farmed out the kids to relatives... and Tibi’s family moved when he was an infant and he never knew his brother and sister. Now, he has murdered his own brother. Tibi must find out who is behind all of this and why it is happening, as the detectives close in and his new girlfriend wonders what’s happening... but what if the waitress/girlfriend is part of the scheme? Every time you think you know what’s going on, there’s a great twist that changes everything.

One of the great things about this film are the cool “devices” - the brochure for the clinic Tibi wants to take his mother to *comes alive* and the doctors and nurses in the photos tell about the treatments. Instead of having that VO of the person writing a letter while the character is reading it, the letter writer is *there* - standing on a giant letter - walking towards Tibi and talking to him. These devices are interesting and different and turn exposition into something dramatic and visual and magic. The actors are all great, with gentle giant Tibi coming off sympathetic despite being a man of few words who kills his own brother. Lots of twists and suspense, and some swift graphic violence... plus some humor to keep it all from being too dark.

I’ve had pretty good luck with genre films at the festival - this Hungarian film could easily find an audience among thriller and crime film fans in the USA.

LOBBY: Next up is DINNER PARTY, one of two films playing tonight from people who have taken my classes in the past. The other is called DEADLINE and keeps being removed from the Big Board then returning - the showing gets cancelled every day then goes back on the schedule the next day. I have no idea what’s going on with that film, but it may or may not be on after DINNER PARTY. I’m not sure I’ll be awake for DEADLINE, though, as having only 4 hours of sleep is catching up with me and I have a class to teach tomorrow morning - and I still have no idea where that class is.

In the lobby, the writer-director of THE DINNER PARTY is being interviewed by a magazine reporter, and when he sees me, starts telling the reporter about taking my class and now I really do have to see his movie.

When I go upstairs to get my ticket for THE DINNER PARTY I run into some Raindance people and ask where my class is, and get the same Charring Cross answer - which doesn't help me. I hope I find out where it is before the class begins...

The pisser is that DINNER PARTY is *not* marked in my big fat movie program, a film called CRY OF THE OWL is... starring Paddy Considine (who I met at a previous Raindance) and Julia Styles, and based on a Patricia Highsmith novel (she wrote the Tom Ripley novels and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and is one of those great, creepy thriller novels). This is a great book (about a normal man who becomes the center of several murder investigations) and I really wanted to see it, but instead went downstairs and into the cinema to see THE DINNER PARTY... but we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

- Bill

Friday, October 23, 2009

LONDON 13: Day 9 - That Was A Big Mistake

So, pubs in the UK close at 11pm. Now, you may think that’s early, but people here *drink*. That makes it sound like a nation of drunks, and it’s not - but it’s common to go to a pub for lunch and have a pint or two. And with all of the tourist kids and young people, London is kind of like a college town - filled with people who *do* drink to excess. I was walking down the street near Russell Square and saw a guy stagger from a pub, vomit all over himself, then slip in the vomit and land on his face. So closing at 11pm is a good idea. Also, the tube closes early, and that gives people enough time to stagger to the nearest subway station and get home.

But closing at 11pm throws a crimp into one’s post-cinema drinking... but there’s a loophole in the drinking laws - clubs are allowed to serve drinks late (I don’t know the actual rules, but I think Phoenix Club stops serving at 2am, and doesn’t kick you out until you’ve finished your drinks - which might be as late as 3am). Raindance made a deal with the Phoenix Club to give temp membership to anyone with a festival badge... making it the place to drink after the movies. I had yet to go there, because I had classes at noon and was jet lagged and out of it getting to bed after the movies. But the guys from POPATOPLIS had been going every single night (networking)_and I figured I’d go have a Guiness with them. Also, the Phoenix was actually on my way back to the hotel, so I could pop in for a quick drink on my way back.

Yeah. Right.

So the Phoenix is a bar in the basement of the Phoenix Theatre, you climb down a couple of flights of stairs and there’s this big noisy room filled with headshots with showtunes cranked to near ear-bleed. I actually liked the place - kind of reminded me of Residuals on a Saturday night. Anyway, it took forever to get my Guiness, and then I wandered around until I found the Raindance group in a big room in back... and this crazy Irish dude runs up and yells, “Bill Martell! You finally made it!” and I have no idea who this guy is. Ends up, he took some of the 5 (FIVE!) Free classes and made the short film about the two boys who find the monsters in the house basement I had seen earlier in the day. So I hang out with him and his friends, all fans on the website (and all probably reading this right now) and we shout over the showtunes, and then they buy me a drink or two or maybe even three... and I feel like I’m not doing my part and buying a round - these guys are struggling filmmakers, I’m a guy with a big 1980s remake that appears to be stalled out... I can afford to buy a couple of rounds! Anyway, I talk to other Raindance people, and talk to some hot woman who was at the shorts who I thought was an actress, but she never showed up in any of the shorts, and she was *insulted* that I thought she was an actress (she was dressed in a vest and shirt and hot pants) because she’s a *producer* (but didn’t say which, if any, of the shorts she produced - which was odd, because everyone was there networking and talking about their movies). Um, so Bill did not score. I talked to a bunch of people - well, screamed over the showtunes at them - and drank many Guiness (or Guineii) but only bought one. Everyone was buying me drinks! And I was drinking them! The POPATOPOLIS folks left early - wimps - and so did many other people... including the producer in hot pants.

At 2am they called last call - no more drinks served, but you could stay and finish whatever you ordered - but I told everyone I needed to get back to the hotel. Though I had no free class to teach tomorrow, I had movies to see. I said goodbye to the crazy Irish guy and trudged up the stairs to the cool night air... where a group of Raindance people were standing around smoking. And I stopped and talked to them. There were these two young guys who were in almost every screening that I was in, and they are rabid film fans and want to make movies, and we talked movies for about an hour... and at somewhere near 3am I staggered back to the hotel.

Now, here’s the thing - the last time I was at Raindance on the jury and staying in the Lancaster, I had a similar night of drinking... with the cute producer of BRIDE AND PREJUDICE... and staggered back to find the big outer doors of the hotel locked and bolted for the night. They close up at midnight. Hey, the pubs close at 11pm, who would be staggering in at 3am? Well, I would. How do I get in? That previous time I got back to the hotel just before 6am, and at 6am they unlocked the big outer doors. I was out so late that I was early. But this time - 3am - do I wait until 6am? Too tired for that. Too drunk for that. I ring the night bell and wait... and wait... and wait. Somewhere, there’s a night desk guy whose nap I’ve interrupted. He’s probably putting on his trousers. Eventually he unbolts the door and lets me in, and I stagger up the stairs, enter my room, take off my clothes and fall into bed... I can sleep late and miss the first movie tomorrow...

Except, a few hours later the door lock for the room next door breaks, and after a bunch of slamming on the door, they actually *break down the door* to get into the room. Then, a work crew comes to install a new door. So, after maybe four hours of sleep, I ain’t getting back to sleep at all. Hammering, drilling, work crew guys joking... I’m awake. I shower and shave and stagger downstairs looking for coffee - preferably an IV drip (no milk!).


- Bill

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm Sorry! (my movies attack the UK again)

After having a great time in London, where everyone welcomed me with open arms and bought me drinks and treated me well... I am unleashing the terror that is CRASH DIVE on the UK almost every single day on Movie 4 Men! And this is a direct assault - M4M rather than M4M2. I am so sorry!

10/25 - 10:15 - Crash Dive - The crew of a nuclear submarine rescues supposed victims of a boat disaster, but the victims turn out to be terrorists intent on capturing nuclear weapons aboard the sub.

10/26 - 20:10 - Crash Dive - The crew of a nuclear submarine rescues supposed victims of a boat disaster, but the victims turn out to be terrorists intent on capturing nuclear weapons aboard the sub.

10/27 - 13:15 - Crash Dive - The crew of a nuclear submarine rescues supposed victims of a boat disaster, but the victims turn out to be terrorists intent on capturing nuclear weapons aboard the sub.

10/29 - 18:20 - Steel Sharks - When a United States submarine is seized by terrorists, a rescue attempt by Elite Navy Seals goes awry. The submarine crew wages a silent war beneath the waves in this tense undersea thriller.

- Bill

LONDON 12: Day 9 - Large Breasts Are Best

I have no idea why coffee shop people remember me. This is my third time stopping at the Starbucks across from the British Museum (mummies!) and the guy behind the counter is joking with me. He has a German accent and a British accent, and I *can* understand what he is saying. He also speaks clearly, and that helps. I have a pretty good ear (ask me to do voices next time you see me) but when someone has *three* accents, one on top of another, I have trouble understanding what they are saying. Also, if they have two accents and mumble. When you are in a cultural hub like London, there are people from all over the world... and often people who are from several different places. Add up all of those accents and I often have no idea what the person is saying. I remember one time when I was here there was a Café Nero employee with one accent too many and they might as well have been speaking in their native language.

But this guy is easy to understand (and I’ve made sure I enunciate, so that everyone can understand my American accent) and I get my mocha and head downstairs for my free wifi to check e-mail and post blog updates before heading to my lunchtime class - Structural Freaks.

I get to the Raindance Café (the block-long basement) where I was drinking beer only a few hours ago, set up my materials on the stage and look around for the cute tall American girl (probably half my age) who has been videotaping these things (after a suggestion from a blog reader - thanks), but she isn’t there this morning. No equipment, either. So this one won’t end up on YouTube cut into 5 minute segments... and I won’t be able to flirt with the cute tall girl. This is the last of the 5 (FIVE!) Free classes... and like the others it is standing room only. There are probably close to 200 people here. It seems like every day there are more. One reason for that is that the free classes are getting a plug in the Shooting People daily newsletter, another is word of mouth. I’m sure the *main* reason is the price.

The class goes well - lots of questions and interaction - and afterwards I have people who want to hang around and ask questions - but I have some movies to see! I feel like a complete slacker because I have seen so few films this year - usually I’m seeing movies all day - but the combination of lost luggage and jet lag and these 5 (FIVE!) Free classes and the movies playing on 3 screens (with no late night or morning screenings) means I have fewer hours to watch movies. Today kicks off with a series of creepy short films I marked in my program...


ROAR: One of the creepiest films I’ve ever seen! Woman goes to one of those places that makes spare keys, young guy behind the counter (with *huge* ears) tries to flirt with her a little about why she needs the extra key, and she shoots him down. We feel sorry for the guy... until he enters an apartment, plays the answering machine message - a friend’s consolation for the end of a relationship - then grabs a drink from the fridge and pokes around... and we realize it’s *her* apartment! He has made himself a key! After touching all of her things (creepy!) she comes home. He grabs her, murders her, cleans up afterwards, and leaves. Back to the key shop, as another woman enters... and he turns and smiles. Running time: 16 minutes. Scare time: 16 minutes!

INFIDEL: Pardon the flash forward, but this film won the Best Short Award... A suburban British couple go to a co-worker’s house for dinner for the first time - another typical suburban couple. Dinner is great, the two couples get along well, and after dinner the host’s wife suggest the host show the visiting guy his stereo system. They go into the host’s den, where he has an elaborate stereo complete with turntable. He puts on a record and demonstrates how the stereo is set up to play in every room - including the bathroom - and you can control which rooms hear the album and which do not from this control center... The strange thing is that the record the host is playing is of Hitler’s greatest speeches! As the shocked guest asks the host why this particular record, the host becomes angry - this is *Hitler*, the greatest man to ever live! The guest becomes more and more uncomfortable as the evening goes on. And, there’s a nice little twist end when the guest goes home. Though this wasn’t my favorite short at Raindance, it was provocative and funny in that uncomfortable way.

SCREAMING SKULL: Um, I did not like this one, even though it was interesting to watch. Though computers may have been involved, it looked like a stop motion collage of photographs of a man entering a really creepy country estate haunted by a screaming skull, which I don’t remember actually screaming in the short. Eventually some stop motion stuff happens and no matter what the man does, he can not get rid of the skull. The skull ends up getting rid of him, the end. Had a distinctive look, but not much story, and what story it had was difficult to follow. Seemed as if it was trying to get mostly on mood (which it had plenty of) but mood is not a replacement for a coherent story. And I say that as a fan of REPULSION and THE TENANT.

JERICHO: This was a fun one! A depressed man who wants to kill himself discovers all of his childhood stuffed animals, and they basically kidnap him and force him to have fun. The great thing is - this guy is on the edge of insanity to begin with, so you wonder if this is all in his mind or not. The film goes *outdoors* with the living stuffed animals - including a massive stuffed ape. The animals dance and play with him... and no one seems to notice. I laughed all the way through - and then realized I was probably laughing at a man with a serious mental illness. Oh, well... he was laughing, too.

WAKE: You know, I don’t remember a thing about this film! I think it may have taken place in a hospital where a man wakes up after an accident, but I’m not sure. Strange, because the other films I remember vividly.

WHERE THE MONSTERS GO: You know that creepy old house at the end of the street that your friends used to dare you to run up to and touch the door? We had one in our neighborhood. This film is about two boys who dare each other to go through a vent into the basement of a house like that. They get inside... and there *are* monsters down there! And both boys are probably eaten. Then we see the caretaker finding all of the items the boys have dropped on the ground before entering the basement and destroying them... everything except a candy bar wrapper that blows away in the wind. Haunting and spooky and filled with authentic childhood memories.

MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME: Okay, this film was most like a Roman Polanski movie of any at the fest... A guy has a party at his apartment, lots of people. Eventually it thins out to three guests, and he doesn’t seem to know them. He tells them it’s late, he has to go to work the next morning, so if they make sure the door is locked when they leave they are free to finish their drinks and conversations. Next morning - they are *still there*! As the film goes on, days pass and they *will not leave*. He calls all of his friends trying to figure out who they are and who they came with... and nobody knows them! They are party crashers who have now become roommates. Two men and a woman. He tries being polite. He tries hinting. He tries just telling them it’s time to go - but they don’t seem to get it (or pretend not to get it). They get into arguments, they roughhouse in his apartment at all hours keeping him awake. Finally he just explodes with rage and tells them to get out - and they get offended and leave. Probably crashing someone else’s party.

Next up is the potentially sexy British film... about a screenwriter. Um, as a screenwriter, there isn’t much sexy about my life. But here’s the thing that gets me - a large number of films at the festival were about screenwriters or directors or actors, and that strikes me as lazy and completely unimaginative. As a screenwriter, I do not want to watch screenwriters on screen. Sure, there are some great movies about screenwriters like SUNSET BLVD and IN A LONELY PLACE and BAD & THE BEAUTIFUL and BARTON FINK, but for the most part screenwriters are boring people living boring lives. One of the things we did in the idea generation class was to look at interesting occupations we could take an audience into. A movie like HURT LOCKER is fascinating because we get to live in the world of bomb disposal experts for a couple of hours. In the class we tried to find some interesting and unusual jobs (I once dated a woman who was a professional horse masturbator) - and think of all of those films like TOP GUN that bring us into an interesting world through the occupation of the protagonist. Part of our job as screenwriters is to find that interesting world and fascinating job. And “screenwriter” is not it. Booooooooring! So, I was worried about this film just by the synopsis in the program... but that synopsis also said sexy and provocative, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

Before the film, a short by one of those “You have to see my film!” people, called LUCKY QUID... and it was brilliant. A nice little song/poem about a homeless kid who finds a lucky gold coin on the street. Spend it on candy? He’d love to do that! Spend it to look up a hooker’s skirt? Spend it on food? On a blanket? No - he does the smart thing and buys a brush and cleaning supplies and begins his own business, and the money comes rolling in... and soon he is an old man, still homeless, but happy... and able to afford more candy than you can imagine! The candy is the punchline - and this short is fast and funny and seems like a whole life in a few minutes of screen time.

DESIRE: as opposed to the feature, that seemed like it was taking most of my life for the first ten minutes! Arty, pretentious, heavy voice over narration... and we get to *watch this guy write*! Story has a new nanny almost magically appearing in his home, and teasing us with shots of him caressing her - fantasy sequence? Flash forward? I actually didn’t stick around long enough to find out, as Janet looked at me from a couple of seats over to gauge my boredom, and whispered that maybe we should grab dinner before POPATOPOLIS. I was already heading to the door...

DINNER: So, the question was - what should we eat? We had already had Chinese food once (Chinatown being a short walk from the cinema), but I said I hadn’t had any pub food... and Janet knew of a new fish & chips place that was either on Poland Street (where the Raindance Café Basement Dungeon was) or a street over. We went there... and it was *excellent*. Absolutely massive portions, and delicious. I ordered the homemade tartar sauce (fresh from someone’s teeth) and it was amazing. Had a beer, I think a London Pride, not sure right now. It was a really good meal. The waitress was cute and attentive and the food came fairly fast. I liked the place, and decided to try to get back there if I had the chance.

After dinner we walked back down to the cinemas to see POPATOPOLIS...

POPATOPLIS: Okay, I think I mentioned that director Jim Wynorski screwed up my VICTIM OF DIRECTOR... er, I mean DESIRE, movie. The script was SEA OF LOVE meets STAKE OUT, about an SEC investigator tracking down a CEO who embezzled $72 million from his company, and then gets murdered about ten minutes into the film and the money has vanished. Did the CEO’s trophy wife do it? Our hero does some “undercover” investigating and finds all kinds of clues... while trying not to get caught sleeping with the #1 suspect by his Homicide Detective stake out partner. The film was produced by the guy who produced last year’s PUSH, with MGM releasing in the USA. Well, releasing on video by the time the film was finished. Anyway, it’s a mess. And POPATOPOLIS is a documentary on the director... as he attempts to shoot an entire feature film in 3 days. You read that right! THREE DAYS!

The film is a hoot - Jim is a character, he yells at everyone, he swears like crazy, he has all of these funny pet phrases that he says again and again... and he wants to make this silly T&A film called WITCHES OF BREASTWICK in 3 days in a remote mountain cabin, seemingly for no money... starring a bunch of *very* top heavy women. Um, you wonder how some of these women stand upright. Though I am a “breast man” and when I hear the phrase “more than a mouthful is a waste” I usually say that I have a very big mouth (I know - too much information), but Jim seems to be interested in freaks of nature. Women with breasts that Godzilla would think is more than a mouthful. You are probably thinking of really big breasts right now - but *double* whatever you are thinking and you still may be a cup size smaller than all of these women. These gals are structural freaks!

You may not know how impossible it is to shoot a movie in 3 days, so let me explain that a studio film will shoot for a few *months* and when I first got into the biz a movie of the week usually shot for 4 weeks, then they began to go to 3 weeks... and my super cheapo super-fast Roger Corman movie about robot hookers from outer space shot in an impossible 9 days... so this is a third of *that* impossible schedule! Usually with fewer days of shooting, you have a larger crew - but Jim has *2* crew members total - a cameraman and a soundman. Usually on a film, there are 2 guys doing sound: one checking the recording levels and one with the boom mike (holding it just off camera over the actor’s heads). Here - one guy has to do both. Also, one guy has to hold the camera, change the focus as people move, and slate the shot (though - not much of that). No costumer, no costumes - the actors bring their own clothes and do their own make up... and later discover they should have brought their own food, since there isn’t any. After buying food, the stars have to cook their own meals! Talk about a powderkeg waiting for someone to drop a match!

And Jim is that match! After a while you get used to Jim, and just understand that he’s got an abrasive personality. Jim is Jim. He’s really a nice guy. The first or second time I went to AFM, he gave me a ride to his screening of SWAMP THING 2 so I wouldn’t have to lose my parking space and then pay for parking at the cinema. He didn’t even know me. So, he’s a nice guy - who screams at everyone. Watching him make his movie in 3 days, you couldn’t help but think of Ed Wood (played by Johnny Depp) saying “Perfect!” after a not-so-perfect shot.

When you do a nude scene in a movie, you are not actually nude. Women wear a patch - thong sized - over their private parts, and men wear a sock-like thing over their private parts. Neither has straps, so it appears as if they are nude from almost every angle. Though something like the "sock" and the "patch" may seem weird to you, they are a normal part of filming nude scenes - every time you see someone naked on camera in a movie they are wearing one of these things. They sell them in costume and prop and equipment stores. The production company buys several of these, as they are not exactly reusable. Jim didn’t buy any for this 3 day film. So, there’s a scene where an actor asks where “the sock” is, Jim says “take off a sock and use it”, and the slightly confused actor takes a sock off his foot and puts it on his other part... and then the actress gets grossed out because it was on his stinky foot. And we are even more grossed out... but laugh.

The film is really funny, and Jim is a good sport for allowing the on set tensions (which blow up real good) to be shown on film. But it’s Jim’s mom who steals the show - she’s this sweet little old lady who doesn’t like swearing or nudity or sex on screen... and Jim has done everything possible to make sure that his mom doesn’t see any of his films. She wants Jim to meet a nice girl and settle down... and then we see Jim on set with these unbelievable top heavy actresses disrobing for a scene and it’s just funny. Film has great interviews with everyone from Roger Corman (who gave Jim his start writing publicity materials), to Andy Sidaris who made a living making T&A action films, to my friend Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain who talks about Jim and how the B movie business has changed over the years - from a place where a guy like James Cameron could get a start making a film like PIRANHA 2 before moving on to bigger and better things, to where it is now - movies made in 3 days with no money or made by amateurs in their backyard on video. When she was doing B films (including VICTIM OF DIRECTOR) they were shot on 35mm film with a real crew and TV stars or supporting actors from A movies and there were either studios involved in the distribution or some indie distrib that might get the film a limited theatrical run somewhere. All of that is gone, now, since the middle fell out of the indie genre business. Julie is smart and beautiful and quit the business before the business quit her. She also went to high school with my sister, and we had many of the same teachers. Small world.

POPATOPOLIS is a fun documentary about a fringe filmmaker who has made some films you’ve probably seen. If not - check out SWAMP THING 2 and CHOPPING MALL and 976 EVIL 2 (for my favorite mash-up: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE - every time you hear a bell, another zombie rises from hell). The POPATOPOLIS crew was there in London, answered questions after the film, and terrorized the population with their little robot.

After the film, we all went to the Phoenix Club for some drinks... which was a mistake.

- Bill

Popatopolis "Killbot" invades London:

Chopping Mall trailer:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Down Terrace Trailer

Blacker than black comedy I saw at Raindance, made on a shoestring.

- Bill

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vacation Trailer

This is *not* National Lampoon...

The Japanese film I saw at Raindance and liked, already reviewed.

More of the Raindance adventure to come...

- Bill

Sunday, October 18, 2009

25 Carats Trailer

This was my favorite film at Raindance, and (co)winner of the Best Foreign Film Award (which I ended up presenting)...

Crime film, reminds you a little of LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, but really focuses on parent/child relationships.

- Bill (still jet-lagged)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Note: I Will Be At Expo Saturday

I'm not teaching classes at Expo this year - so jet lagged I can barely think - but will probably wander around on Saturday afternoon with a bag of CDs in case anyone wants to buy one. To think I actually considered doing classes this year! These 6 days between trips is mostly recovering and packaging orders.

More from the London adventure is on its way... I'm just working on an article for Script right now so that I can turn it in before I fly to Hong Kong.

Bonus YouTube video for boys and naughty girls...
How To Put On A Bra

- Bill (where am I?)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Los Angeles Interlude: Humanzee

Okay, more reviews and London adventure to come... but I'm so out of it right now from jet lag and lack of sleep it may take a few days.

Meanwhile - Sick and twisted genius James Gunn (SLITHER) has a new web sitcom that just debuted on his site (on that list over there -->) called HUMANZEE. About a man who sends his sperm sample to a lab where it fertilyzes a chimpanzee egg and is returned as his new son, Humanzee. Each episode deals with the valuable life lessons he learns raising his new son.

Um, not safe for work, not safe for children or pets, not safe for people with previous medical conditions... it's just not safe. You probably should not watch it.

- Bill

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Los Angeles Interlude - Brown List

Who are the most hated executives in Hollywood?

The Brown List

Also lists most liked executives.

- Bill

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LONDON 11: Day 8 - Scenes & Janitors

The day begins with my (free) Scene Class, and it is packed. My Italian friend is in the back of the room and I wave at him. This was the class that they switched at the last minute - and it ended up being a segment of the weekend class that isn’t part of this version of the weekend class - so I have plenty of material and am fully prepared. That is good, because every day is different as far as sleep and jet lag are concerned. Some nights I have no trouble sleeping, others I sleep for an hour then wake up... my body thinking it is whatever time it is in Los Angeles. But I am usually pretty clear headed even when I am sleepy - and today is a day when my eyelids want to close, but I still make it through my class... and even use MOTHS as an example of a story that may take place mostly at one location, but still contains many scenes.

I have decided not to stress over the weekend class - whatever happens happens. I suspect it will be a small class this time, but how can worrying about it change that?
I’m at a film festival, watching films, and I want to have a good time.

My legs are tired, and I realize it’s because I have walked *everywhere* since I have been in London - no taxis, no tube, no buses... I’ve walked from one side of town to the other and back every day... and sometimes a couple of times a day, as I usually return to my hotel with my class materials and drop them off before heading back to the cinema to the screenings. Another reason for my sore legs - no lift at my hotel so I am *constantly* climbing stairs, and the cinema is down 2 flights of stairs (they have a lift, but I never use it). I’m getting a great workout every day, and not eating very much. Usually just a sandwich every day from the EAT across from the cinema.

I race to the cinema to meet Janet and see...

MOVIE: PHILOSOPHER KINGS - an interesting sounding documentary about university janitors in the United States. I’m thinking this is going to be the real life version of GOOD WILL HUNTING, but the film is all hook and no delivery. They interview a handful of janitors, and even though some are interesting and likeable, none are philosophers or geniuses. And, once introduced as janitors, they never really show them doing their job! One guy at UC Berkeley keeps getting sent to restrooms... which are clean and in order and do not need him to do anything! If you are doing a movie about janitors, I want to see some moping and toilet unclogging and janitorial duties!

The film focuses on their personal lives - a man from Haiti who uses whatever spare money he earns to do basic improvements in the village he came from - bringing safe drinking water down from the mountain using pipes, etc. A one armed man with children. A woman from the south whose mother went into a coma and she had to take care of as a child. An art student drop out who cleans up an art college... and a sweet Viet Nam Vet who works at a Christian College and has had every job you can imagine before he became a janitor (Rodeo Clown? Check!) Though their lives are interesting, the film doesn’t focus on the janitor side (they could be anyone) and none is a genius or philosopher or seems particularly wise. This is just a group of regular people with regular people problems. Not a bad film, but not exactly what was advertised.

The new edition to Raindance is the Café - where I am teaching my classes - which has a party going on throughout the festival. There are some evening events there, but mostly there is a Meet The Film Makers Party there every night. I have yet to attend one of these, but I decide to drop by tonight and see what it’s like. The problem ends up being that they have a DJ who has cranked the music to “Ear Bleed” and no one in the café can hear each other... so there is a group of people standing on the street outside the café talking and very few people inside.

The other problem is a Raindance screw up - the plan was to sell drinks and food, but they neglected to secure a license. That means they can *give away* beers and glasses of wine and sandwiches and fresh fruit, but can not *sell* it. So they have a donation box... and Elliot is *constantly* telling people to donate. Every time he speaks he encourages people to put money in the box. I put a fiver in the box and grab a beer (worth about half that) and walk around talking to people... er, shouting over the extra-loud music to people... and have a couple of conversations with film makers who have taken my class in the past and want me to see their movies.

I also talk to the director of POPATOPOLIS - a documentary about sleazy director Jim Wynorski (whom I hate) who directed my VICTIM OR DESIRE movie (which I call VICTIM OF DIRECTOR). They have a little remote control robot that has been terrorizing London (and the film fest) and their film is showing tomorrow. The director and his editor are funny people and we talk about working with Jim and just working in Hollywood. I plan on having lunch or dinner or something with them when I return to LA - well, if their movie is good.

The strange thing about festival films is that many of them are overly arty (like the Italian film that was *not* made by my Italian friend) or ragged and indie or just too strange. A film like that can play at a festival and even win a festival, but has almost no chance of doing anything in the real world. Rebelling against the focus ring is great for fests, but most people kind of like their films to be in focus. So I’ve seen a mix of weird films and really good small films that really deserve a release of some sort in the United States.

After I’ve finished my $10 beer, I walk across London to my hotel, climb the stairs, and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow I have another class, and some films (including POPATOPOLIS and a film about a screenwriter that is supposed to be arty and maybe filled with female nudity).

- Bill
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