Monday, July 03, 2017

Surreal July

My Life 11 Years Ago...

I’m in Las Vegas on "vacation" for two weeks. When you’re a self employed screenwriter who is behind deadline on a script, "vacation" means you wake up in some hotel room, find a place to write your pages for the day, and if you manage to finish your day’s work... you’re in Vegas, baby!

The whole Vegas thing began years ago with the Las Vegas Screenwriting Conference. The guy who ran the Cripple Creek Film Festival realized he could do a similar event in Las Vegas and get a lot more people to come. So he asked myself and a bunch of others if we’d like to be on panels in Vegas... and we all said yes. They were buying my airplane ticket and putting me up at a hotel on the strip (usually Treasure Island) and paying me to sit on a panel with Shane Black and a bunch of other name screenwriters. But the guy always seemed to screw it up - he’d buy the plane ticket at the last minute and have to FedEx them to us. You can fly LA to Vegas for next to nothing on Southwest if you buy your ticket 21 days ahead of time. When you buy the tickets 2 days ahead of time, you pay a bundle. But I would have him give me an extra week in Vegas before my return flight, and just stick around and have a vacation. The Video Software Dealers convention takes place in mid-July, and I’d usually hang around for that.

By the time the Las Vegas Conference crashed and burned last year (he always lost money because he’d make deals at the last minute and forget to publicize the event), doing a couple of weeks in Vegas in July was kind of a tradition. I had friends who came for VSDA, and we’d hang out and have dinner... then I’d stick around for a while and write in a different city. Also, my friend John Hill lives here - he wrote QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER and some other movies and ran LA LAW and QUANTUM LEAP TV shows. Always good to see John.

Yesterday I’m walking back to my hotel from a local Starbucks after finishing my 5 pages and notice a bunch of grip trucks and cables in front of my hotel. When I get to the entrance, there is Curtis Hanson talking to Drew Barrymore. I kind of nod to Curtis (we talked for about 30 seconds at a screening of his first produced script when American Cinematique was at Raleigh Studios), and walk in, wondering if it’s some sort of heat related vision... but it’s not. They’re filming a movie outside my hotel. Even in Vegas, I’m having a surreal Hollywood experience.

I am a working screenwriter, not a famous one... and not even a well paid one. I earn a living writing screenplays - quit the day job working in a warehouse about 17 years ago and haven't punched a time clock since. But I still kind of think of myself as a guy who does shipping and receiving and drives forklift. I hate valet parking. I’d rather eat at Sizzler than some overpriced place where you need a microscope to see the portions. I street park. I go to a barber shop and pay $10 for a haircut. I know a little about wine, but mostly drink beer. I buy my shoes on sale at Big 5. The shirt I’m wearing came from Sears. I am a normal guy. If you’ve met me, you know that I’m down to Earth. I’m the guy who helps you move.

On July 1st I went to my friend Darin’s 4th Of July Barbeque. That time I saw Curtis Hanson at Cinemateque? Darin was sitting behind me. He’s great guy who is part of he Thursday night gang - a bunch of genre writers, directors, actors, stunt guys, make up guys, FX guys who usually go to Residuals Bar. Most of these guys I met at Fangoria Conventions and American Film Markets. Someday I’ll do an entry on them, but this is about July. This very month. And all of these folks who usually drink at Residuals on Thursday were drinking in Darin’s back yard on Saturday... and eating a pile of food that Darin provided. Oh, yeah, and we were congratulating Darin.

Darin’s film, WAIST DEEP, was #5 over the weekend.

One of my friends has a film in the TOP FIVE in JULY (big summer movies including CLICK and SUPERMAN RETURNS). Weird!

Despite having film in the top 5, Darin is a regular guy - down to Earth, making the rounds at his barbeque to thank everyone for coming and eating his free food and drinking his free drinks... and making sure that everyone has a drink. He’s a great host, and a guy you can talk to.

Seven days later on July 8th, the Saturday before flying to Vegas, I’m in a Cocos restaurant in Newport Beach having a meal that’s half dinner, half lunch (linner? dunch?) With some friends from the Wordplay website - all of the old timers who have been on the boards since it was over at AOL as part of Follywood. After dinner we’re going to go see a movie at the cinema across the street... PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST, which was written by my friends Terry & Ted (see my interview with them in the new issue of Scr(i)pt Magazine).

After dunch, Terry reads a bunch of excerpts from bad reviews that focus on how inept the script for the films was (while always saying the cast saves the film with sparkling characterization). The reviews were funny because one would say "too simple" and the next would say "too confusing". One would say "too much action" and the next would say "bogs down in talk". All of the bad reviews contradicted each other! Everyone is laughing at the reviews, and having a good time. Both Ted and Terry have been making sure that they have a real conversation with everyone. These are their friends. Oh, and they pick up the check. (Thanks!)

Then we went to the cinema - where we sat in a completely sold out house filled with kids & parents (many dressed as pirates - the kids, too) and laughed and cheered and just has a great time. We stayed for the post-credits plot twist (concerning the dog) then went to a bar next door and talked about the movie. Always great to find out the behind the scenes stuff - and Ted & I had an interesting conversation about the anti-establishment elements of the film. It’s about pirates who break laws! There’s a great line in the film when Elizabeth (Keira) tells her father that any fair trial that Will Turner receives will end in a hanging - he’s guilty of the changes. He broke the law, as did she. Edgy suff for a major studio release. Another couple of normal guys who just happened to have written a huge string of hit movies like ALADIN, MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK, and the PIRATES movies.

Ted & Terry’s film, DEAD MAN’S CHEST, was #1 over the weekend. It broke all kinds of records, too. And the exit polls from Cinemascore have 97% of the audience giving it a positive review.

And WAIST DEEP was still #8 - two of the films in the top 10 were written by friends of mine. Isn’t that just weird?

And this past weekend, DEAD MAN’S CHEST stayed at #1 despite a bunch of new summer movies opening.

Today, the grip trucks are gone, along with Curtis Hanson and Drew Barrymore.

I’ve seen both WAIST DEEP and PIRATES for a second time since I’ve been in Vegas, and it’s just weird that I know the writers of both. I can’t imagine how surreal it must be to have written a movie in the top 5... but I would like to experience that sometime.

- Bill

10 comments:

Jeff O'Brien said...

Great article Bill. I´m in Puerto Vallarta. The cybercafes have food and drink, are air conditioned, a few staffed by beautiful women - and cost a buck and hour. I´m working on my tan and my script here.

deepstructure said...

excellent post, bill. my high-school friend directed a movie that was number one during the summer in 04. it can be a bit surreal.

btw, are you friends with any of the socal film group folks? i know they originated from there. i was briefly a member of the group.

deepstructure said...

whoops - originated from wordplay i mean.

Brett said...

Hang in there, Werner-- I bet the LifeTime Horror Project will be your golden ticket.

;-)
.
.
.
B (disappointed about your AFF conflict, but hey)

Laura Reyna said...

Y'know, i had a cat named Rainer. He got his head bashed by a car (we think) & had to be put to sleep.

Fassbinder would be a good name for a character. A Cold War spy thing.

"Your contact is code named, Fassbinderrrr."

...or a mysterious Harry Lime char we never see ...

'scuse me, i gotta go take another handful of reds.
:-/

deepstructure said...

it occurred to me...why wouldn't someone who had a movie in the top 5 be a normal person? it's sad that its so often not the case that now it's worthy of note.

Jeff O'Brien said...

I've been a huge ass in not getting all my links back up on my page since I reformatted the site and wiped them all out! I get a lot of hits on my site from this one and I'll do it ASAP...

Mea Culpa :-(

Lucy said...

"I can’t imagine how surreal it must be to have written a movie in the top 5... but I would like to experience that sometime"

Argh. If YOU can't imagine it, then what hope does a wee girl from the deepest darkest depths of the westcountry in the UK have?!

Great post as usual.

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