Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Tuesday Sandwich

Movies 4 Men Channel 2, Tuesday....

18:45 High Risk
4 poor Americans conduct a commando raid & rob a Columbian drug baron but then have a problem escaping. James Brolin, James Coburn, Lindsay Wagner & Anthony Quinn star. 1981.

20:30 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. 1997.

22:15 Martial Law 2: Undercover
An undercover cop teams up with a martial-arts expert to stop a gang of drug smugglers and car thieves. Starring David Caradine, Chad McQueen and Cynthia Rothrock, 1990.

-- Now that's more like it! Between Lindsay Wagner and Cynthia Rothrock!

Kind of cool that they keep showing my movies in the 8pm slot. All of this stuff I wrote for HBO World Premieres a decade ago is still out there in circulation.

I was in the 99 Cents Only store a couple of days ago, flipping through their DVD bins, and found a movie made by my friend Paul Kyriazi - OMEGA COP - it's kind of DIRTY HARRY meets OMEGA MAN (as Steve Buscemi says: "No two movies should ever meet!") - and made for pocket change in Stockton, CA.

Paul went from making samurai and kung fu movies in the Concord/Walnut Creek area of the East Bay, to being a director for hire on a bunch of martial arts guy's movies all over the USA.

OMEGA was produced by this guy in Stockton who thought he was the next Chuck Norris, and when no studios or casting directors seemed to think that, he put his money where his mouth was and began making films starring himself... many of which were directed by my friend Paul.

The problem with all of these movies was that the guy in charge was the karate bum, who usually knew little about story and character and, well, acting. They'd scrape together enough money to make a movie, and Paul would get stuck trying to put together something that made sense.

The good thing (I guess) is that Paul basically criss-crossed the USA making these movies for a bunch of different kung fu guys. Then he retired to live with his wife and raise their daughter... and write all kinds of audio books that you can hear my voice in (the same "Teamster #2" roles I play in my movies, I play on Paul's audio books). Paul's movies, like mine, live on.

A few years ago I was clicking through channels and landed on a station showing my NIGHT HUNTER movie... a Spanish language station! It was funny to watch the movie in Spanish, all of my dialogue... though I didn't understand a word of it. I think the dubbing actually improved the acting in places. Strange to think of people watching one of my movies in Spanish or German or Chinese. Strange to think that someone in England will be watching CRASH DIVE tonight.

We write something, and then lose track of it. On to the next thing. Then you're flipping channels or walking through a video store or digging through the bin at the 99 Cents store and there it is... that movie you created a decade ago. That story you struggled with. That act 2 you couldn't crack for days. That scene that never worked, but they filmed it anyway. That part of *you* that you shared with strangers. Is it really your movie anymore?

- Bill


Yesterday’s Lunch: No lunch, but I had a Ceasar Salad.
Movies & DVDs: Nothing. I'm battling a killer head cold and spent most of last night coughing and blowing my nose... and I *should* have put some DVD into the machine, but instead I just kept trying to sleep. If I go through the same thing tonight I'll just give up and watch something - I have a huge stack of new DVDs.
Pages: Nothing, and it pisses me off. I need to be writing 5 a day on SLEEPER and instead I'm blowing my nose. I did a bunch of research on the script, though, which is something. And I puttered around on some articles that are due in a couple of days. But I need to get up to speed on the script - if I can get into that 5 page groove I'll have a new spec first draft... Sometimes that damned blank page can be threatening.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sandwich Job

Today on England's Movies 4 Men network...

18:00 Tunes of Glory
A new tough commanding officer of a British regiment confronts his predecessor in this Oscar nominated movie. Alec Guinness, John Mills & Susannah York star. 1960.

20:15 Black Thunder
When the world's most powerful stealth jet fighter falls into enemy hands, only one man can get it back. Starring Michael Dudikoff.

22:00 The Glasshouse
Alan Alda is a mild man thrown into the toughest prison ruled by a ruthless gang leader. This award winning influential movie was written by In Cold Blood writer Truman Capote.

- - - So, my flick is sandwiched between an Oscar nominee and one of the best TV movies ever made (written by Capote) about the brutality of prison. I'm pretty sure someone got an Emmy on that film. Man, what the hell is BLACK THUNDER doing between those films!

- Bill

Script Tips on BLACK THUNDER:
* Tip 1 - Theme
* Tip 2 - Story Keys


Yesterday’s Lunch: Blueberry Muffin.

Movies: THE SIMPSONS... I laughed many times. They managed to parody big stupid summer movies... and still have more real emotional moments than TRANSFORMERS had... and then, just when you're feeling the emotions, they break the mood with some cynical smart ass line or event. You know, it's the Simpsons.

Without spoiling - there's a gag in the film that's funny... but it's not the gag. It's the set up for the real gag. I thought that was clever - to disguise the set up as the punchline.

They also had a great gag used a few times in the movie where Homer is in *big trouble* and looks around for a solution, and we see two or three items. One item will get Homer out of the trouble, but in a strange way. We imagine how he will use the item, how it will backfire, how much collateral damage it will cause, and after we have imagined all of this... Homer reaches for an item that has zero chance of solving his problem, but uses it anyway.

You can argue whether it's better or worse than the TV show, or whether it should just have been a 3 part TV episode, or whatever. I had a good time, and the movie really was more genuine than TRANSFORMERS and more clever than anything else out there. I think the reason why it made so much money over the weekend is because it was the safe bet - even the worst episode of THE SIMPSONS was still pretty funny.

DVD: Last night I watched an old thriller, PANIC IN THE STREETS with Richard Widmark as a CDC doctor. A guy is murdered... but he would have died anyway because he had the plague. The plague! Now it's a race-against-time search for the killer (Jack Palance)... who also has the plague and is spreading it with every person he touches. Doctor Widmark and Detective Paul Douglas have 48 hours to find Palance before creates a city-wide epidemic.

There are chase scenes and shoot outs and fight scenes and a plane chasing a plague ship and... well, it's danged exciting. It's a thriller. But it also really gets into police vs. doctors vs. city politics vs. freedom of the press vs. the public good. Because this crisis - the killer roaming the streets with the plague - requires all kinds of difficult decisions - and as they argue in a speeding car whether they should kill this guy (because he's a menace to society) or make sure they don't kill him (because they need to know everyone he came into contact with) we get to examine the way society works - and why our version may not work.

We get to look at what's right, what's wrong, what works and what doesn't work. Should they give the press the story to possibly save lives... even though that will force the killer underground and they won't capture him in time? Is freedom of the press more important than capturing a criminal? The film really digs into issues.

It also digs into character - Widmark is a low paid government doctor who hides in his work, causing problems with his wife Barbara BelGeddes and their kid. There are some great family issues going on during the crisis, including Widmark's decision *not* to get his family out of town as they get closer and closer to the crisis point. (Some of the detectives gets their families out of the danger zone).

Plus a great pair of scenes between Widmark and Douglas, where Douglas completely takes responsibility for something Widmark did - to the point of endangering his future. Because it's what Widmark wanted, he doesn't notice the sacrifice. Later, when he realizes what Douglas has done, he kicks himself a bit... then later makes everything right by taking responsibility for something Douglas has done - that could really screw up Widmark's future. (They do something similar in THE SIMPSONS MOVIE, with Marge making a big sacrifice for Homer, then later Homer must decide to do the same thing for Marge... and guess what he does?)

This is a really well written thriller, and when Widmark explains to the cops how Palance could hop a plane and spread the plague nation-wide within a day, it's really frightening. That's what could happen in the mid-40s... imagine what could happen today?

Pages: Actually pumped out a great little scene for COWBOY NIGHTS, which I had already set aside... my subconscious was still working, I guess. Also did a scene for SLEEPER... but I'm way behind on the script. On the plus side, I finished the Naked Screenwriting Class CDs - burned a few sets, labeled them, burned the bonus CD and labeled it. The class is now 9 CDs, plus the workbook... but I want to make it 10 disks, just to keep it even. So I've been looking for some classic film on DVD to include. Because it's a bonus disk, it can't really be anything that costs much, so I was looking into something like Hitchcock's THE 39 STEPS or THE LADY VANISHES which often pop up in low cost DVD versions. Searched a few retailers, found nothing. Looked online - found both titles for sale by the *pallet*. Um, don't need that many. Search continues tomorrow.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Flash Mob #1

"Oh, these aren't my pants... I'm wearing someody else's pants... some stramger's pants... so the cocaine can't be mine, officer."

Speaking of Lindsay Lohan, every once in a while I catch the late night rerun of Entertainment Tonight... and it’s amazing how much that show has changed over the years. When it was first launched, it was a show about movies and TV. They took you behind the scenes on films and interviewed directors and stars and every once in a while (probably by accident) the writers. The show was kind of like the extras on a DVD.

Now, it’s all about celebrity. There will be more coverage of Paris Hilton who is famous... why? Than of whatever movies are in production or about to be released. And it’s not just Entertainment Tonight, it’s *everyplace*. Try watching CNN’s Entertainment Show - it’s never about movies, it’s never entertainment news, it’s all about celebrities.

When Premiere Magazine folded, they began sending me, I think, People Magazine. I tried reading it, and now I just throw them away.

When any business gets a letter from a client, they take it seriously... because it represents dozens of other people that didn’t take the time to write. So... do you want to screw around with People Magazine?

All you have to do is take the time to write a letter to the editor saying that you are tired of reading stories about David Beckham and his wife Victoria, stories about Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.... and would like to read more stories about the people who come up with the stories and dialogue for movies.... or more stories about modern poets... or more stories about (you favorite novelist). Use your own words, and whatever "celebrity" you never want to hear another word about. If you e-mail, it won’t cost you a cent.

Letters To The Editor: People
Time & Life Building
Rockefeller Center
New York, NY 10020

FAX: 212-522-0794

E-MAIL: editor@people.com

And, if you have a blog or website or mailing list and want to spread this to your friends, cool.

Interesting to see what (if anything) happens. Even if it just causes them to worry for a couple of minutes... or consider spending more pages on writers or poets or people who matter... that’s cool.

- Bill

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Write Now!

It’s impossible to have a birthday without contemplating your life so far - looking at your accomplishments as well as your mistakes. Analyzing just where you may have gone wrong and making plans to correct past mistakes in the future. Examining your life.

Here’s where I’ve gone wrong:

There were times when I came up with great ideas, jotted them down on note cards... and never did anything about them. Frequently, I was waiting for some other great idea to come along and complete the first, or I was waiting for inspiration, or I was waiting for... I don’t know what. I didn’t write the script.

That is a mistake.

Though I like to know my story before I write it, many times I *have* known my story but found some stupid excuse to put off writing it. Now, I have some nice jotted notes on cards, or maybe a nice treatment, or maybe just a notion waiting to be formed into a concept so that it can eventually become an idea.

But what I don’t have is a script I can sell... and every day that passes is one less day I have. Morbid, maybe, but true. You may be 20 years old right now, but in the blink of an eye you’ll be thirty (that’s what it seemed like to me - a decade seemed to fly by!) - blink again, and you’re suddenly 40. That’s old. Blink again and... oh, crap, your life is over! Where did all that time go?

So write *now* - don’t put it off until you are in the mood. We come up with a million excuses *not* to do something, but we need to focus on just doing it anyway. Because you can’t just hit the rewind button on a day and do it over... and those days fly by. Thank God It’s Friday! The weekend is here! But that also means another week has passed... and maybe you didn’t really get anything accomplished in that week.

I have had weeks speed by where all I did was go online and argue screenwriting with people. What a waste of time! What a waste of *life*! I should have been writing!

I’m not saying that it’s easy to work on your screenplay - it is *work*. It’s more fun for me to go online and argue. More fun for me to *think* about writing my script than to actually write it. More fun for me to *imagine* a sale than to go out there and do the work that results in a sale.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about getting older...

When I was in my 20s, I could work my day job, get in some writing on a script, drink all night, go to class the next morning, then go back to the day job for another 8 hours. Sleep? Who needed it? I could live on a couple of hours and still have all kinds of energy.

But with every blink, every year, every decade... I needed more sleep to function. And even with 8 hours of sleep, not as much energy as I used to have. Now, I have good days and bad days. On a good day I’m working at 100% steam - I can’t wait to get to work on whatever I’m doing. On a bad day, I wake up dumb as a board and stumble around... maybe getting something done (if I’m on deadline I *have* to get something done) and maybe just going to all of the crazy websites my friend Jim sends me... or arguing about screenwriting on messageboards.

When I’m on deadline, I force myself to write on a bad day, and I have all kinds of little tricks to squeeze out the pages when I don’t feel like it. But when I’m working on a spec? Heck! I just waste time.

Precious time.

Time when I really should be working.

Time when I actually *could* be working, even though I don’t feel like it.

When I was working at my day job and I didn’t feel like working, I couldn’t really call in “uninspired” - I had to go punch the time clock and put in my 8 hours. And a couple of blinks ago I could do that with writing - though I didn’t always actually write every day that I could have...

And that’s where I made a huge mistake. Now, I wish I had those days back. Now, I wish I could ump into Doc Brown’s stainless steel time machine and go back to those days where I goofed off... and write something. In fact, I wish I could go back to last week and write something. The plan was to knock out the COWBOY NIGHTS rewrite - 10 pages a day for a week and a half. I can do that. I even did that recently. But *that* rewrite involved a producer with a carrot, and there is no producer anywhere in the world waiting to read COWBOY. No carrot. No stick. No reason to actually do the rewrite... except that it needs to be done. I managed to rip through the new opening sequence in a day - a great start... then jet lag caught up with me and I had a couple of brain dead days. Now, this is a rewrite - I probably could have struggled through my 10 pages a day if I’d really wanted to. But instead I played hooky. Now those days are gone forever, and I reach my self imposed deadline with the script half rewritten.

So, COWBOY becomes a “spare timer” and I jump into my new spec this week.


No matter what I do, time just keeps on ticking into the future.

But here’s what I know is true: Those markers in time - birthdays, New Year’s Day, whatever - are not just a time to contemplate your life and figure out what you should have done... they are also a chance to begin again. You may break every New Year’s Resolution by the end of January... but why not make February 1st your chance to begin again? And if you find your life is a series of great weeks winding down to complete goof off weeks - well, at least you have some productive weeks (or days, or hours) in there. Begin again. Every Monday is a chance to start again. If you peter out before Friday, there’s always another Monday coming up. Another chance to start again.

So, my advice to all of you is to WRITE NOW. Don’t put it off. Do it while you are young... and if you aren’t young, do it while you aren’t dead. If you screw up, start again.

Hey, I’m not 20 anymore. If I party all night... I suffer... maybe even for a couple of days! I’m *old*! But I’m starting a new spec script. And today is the first day of... well, my week. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll have to start from scratch next week... but I can do that.

- Bill


Yesterday’s Lunch: Slice of Starbuck's Zucchini Loaf.
Movies: On my *birthday* got outvoted and was forced to see CHUCK & LARRY. I'm actually planning a blog entry on it, because it was so... bland.
DVD: Bought some DVDs for my birthday, and one was NAKED JUNGLE. One of my favorite movies when I was a kid, saw it on CPM Theater on Sunday afternoon on Sacramento channel 3. I'd also heard the old ESCAPE RADIO THEATER version - when I was a kid one of the San Francisco stations (KSFO) played old radio shows at night (when everyone else was watching TV). I used to record the shows, and had a huge collection of cassettes of radio shows. The radio version was 30 minutes long (including commercials) and the movie is around 95 minutes. The big problem is with how they expanded a 30 minute story into 95 minutes - they open with a 60 minute indoor romantic drama about rugged Chuck Heston's mail order bride Eleanor Parker and his problems with her having been married before (he wants a virgin). 60 minutes of soap opera crap shot on a soundstage... then, when he starts to warm up to her and realize that a piano does sound better if it's been played before, we get the action- jungle story. The one we paid to see. And they rush it! Because the radio drama had commercial breaks, the structure was: hero tries to solve problem, fails... commercial break, repeate two more times. The movie just had him do almost everything at once. So instead of a trio of "how the hell is he going to get out of this alive?" moments, we get one. Why the hell didn't they *integrate* the jugle adventure and soap opera plots? Alternate between exciting jungle adventure and relationship drama? That would have been more exciting - and one plot would have *added* to the other pot. I guess when you're a kid watching this on TV, you forget the boring part and just remember that last 30 minutes of jungle adventure stuff. Someone should remake this sucker and do it right.
Pages: Did 6 pages on COWBOY NIGHTS, then set it aside. Half rewritten, but if someone wants to read it, I can bang out the rest in a couple of days. The heavy lifting is over, and it's mostly just cleaning up and improving what's there. Prep work on the new spec for the rest of today.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm Officially Older

I’ve been working on a post about sequels, but that is going to have to run later...

Because today (Friday) is my birthday.

For over a decade I’ve been spending two weeks that include my birthday in Las Vegas. This began as kind of an accident with a few road trips, but when Las Vegas Screenwriting Conference came along in mid-July it became my locked in stone plan. The Conference is long gone, but I still spend 2 weeks at the end of July in Vegas... usually hanging out with friends at the VSDA (video biz trade show). My birthday is a low key day - I’m not really one for celebration - but in Vegas you can splurge on a meal and maybe a show and just have a good time.

This year I am not in Vegas.

Due to last minute scheduling with the London class, by the time I got ready to book my regular hotel (which I’ve been staying at so many years I constantly get comped) they were full... probably VSDA convention spill over. Pisser. I could either phone around for another hotel, or spend my birthday in Los Angeles this year.

So, here I am. I’ll be in Vegas next month (hey, I still need a vacation).

The original Vegas-centric plan for this year was much grander than the Los Angeles version will end up - but my plan is to hang out with friends, eat my weight in barbeque, drink a few beers, and see some movie...

And here’s where we get back to screenwriting momentarily, because I have zero desire to see CHUCK & LARRY even though (like every heterosexual male) I have a thing for Jessica Biel and I’ve bumped into Kevin James a few times at the movies. It just looks like forced humor. HAIRSPRAY? Not even on my list - the minute John Waters movies stopped featuring people eating dog poop, I was no longer interested in them. NO RESERVATIONS? Looks like a generic rom-com... I can’t see what makes this story special in any way. No high concept - in fact, no *concept* - she’s a bossy chef, he’s a cute chef! Oh, and there’s Abby Breslin throw in for the cute factor. HARRY POTTER? I’ve seen all the Potter films so far, and I still think the Potter in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is more interesting. The thing about the POTTER films is that they are mostly high school dramas with some wizard stuff and at least one magical creature thrown in. They seem to be short of magical moments. That leaves SUNSHINE - the movie about the first astronauts to land on the sun... they go at night so they aren’t burned to a crisp.

Where are the mid-summer movies? Okay - you’re probably thinking those are all mid-summer movies, and not bad ones. But I want to see a movie for older kids and adults where stuff blows up. TRANSFORMERS was a younger kids film, and just didn’t do it for me.

Yes, I’m getting grumpy in my old age.

So, it’s all up to Danny Boyle and company to make my birthday film a success.

Yes, I’m 40 again....

- Bill

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Writer's Life For Me.... July

Many other writing blogs have all of those neat project progress bars - I’m afraid to do that because some of the bars would show no progress at all... possibly for years. Others would show very little progress... and the suddenly be finished and disappear.

Over the Christmas Holidays I had planned on editing this stack of recordings from the second time I taught my 2 day class in London. I didn’t get around to doing that - I worked on a script instead. But after returning from London, I thought I should get around to finally editing them. I’m jet lagged and needed a "stupid job" to do after I catalogued the Indie Articles and realized that I would now need to go through each of those articles and compare it to the others to find the best version and the best pieces of each version. That’s just too much stupid work.

The big problem with these class recordings is that they were made back in 2001, a month after 9/11, after I had spent 2 weeks on the Raindance Film Fest jury. That’s 2 weeks of watching movies from 10am to 11pm... and if there was a midnight show, 2am. Oh, and parties and drinking was involved. One of the main cinemas had a bar, and I would often bump into someone and have a beer with them between movies. By the end of the festival I was exhausted and developed a chest cold... but there was a big closing night party on Friday, and I showed up to hang out with whatever other jury members showed up, plus film makers and actors. The next morning, I started my 2 day class at 9am... and that meant I was up at around 7 or 7:30am (to shower, coffee, and take that brisk walk across London to the venue). So much of my editing is removing big meaty coughs and places where I lost my train of thought and said "Um" about three times in a row. Much more editing than the pro recorded classes on CD now.

So I’m editing a section yesterday where I’d mentioned going on a series of studio meetings after a script went out wide, and someone asked me what you get paid for that. "Well, nothing."

A big portion of a writer’s job is looking for work. You have meetings with producers, and many either give you a book or magazine article to read and "pitch your take" on. You generate new material so that producers have something to read and have meetings with you about. You may have some producer who sends you out to watch a bunch of films in a studio’s library and come up with sequel ideas. At the end of the day, most of this stuff is pointless - a whole lotta work and not a dollar to show for it. In fact, you *spend money* doing this stuff - driving all over town with gas at close to $4 and parking in Century City for a meeting with some producer who doesn’t validate. You can go broke trying to make a buck in this town!

You don’t get paid for any of this, just as you don’t get paid for filling out job applications and going on job interviews. That’s what this is. But when you are a writer and you finally get a job? Well, don’t expect to spend 20 years working there and collect the pension and 401K... because within a few months you will be unemployed again and be out looking for another job. You will probably spend more time looking for work than actually working.

So here’s what I have going on right now:

1) The studio sequel project. Meeting with the producer on the horizon.
2) Sci-Fi script out to a producer who will spend under $10 million.
3) Another Sci-Fi script out to a producer who will spend half that.
4) A thriller out to a producer who plans on making a film in an exotic land.
5) A thriller I did a page one rewrite on so that a producer could read it... and that was a month ago.
6) I sent out an action script to another producer a couple of months ago I haven’t heard back from - my guess is that it’s dead.
7) A bunch of other scripts floating around that I have lost track of.
8) The guy blows up script out to a Manager - this is a guy I’ve been on panels with who has a pretty well known company. If he passes, well, I go out to everyone in the world. But this guy has first shot.
9) I also have a producer who likes my work trying to get a distrib to give him some money based on a fist full of loglines for existing scripts. - longshot city!
10) Before leaving for London I sent out 50 query letters - even more of a longshot. Most of those things get thrown in a dumpster unopened.

Now, that’s not much going on at all. That’s what’s going on when I’m not scrambling to find a job. Unless things go completely wrong, I should be able to last until the end of this year on what I have in the bank from previous script sales... And a large part of my plan right now is to snag an agent or manager and get something going before the end of October...

Because things can go wrong if there is a strike and everything closes down.

That’s one of the reasons I’m prepping new screenwriting books.

But if I don’t get an agent or manager for the "stockpile scripts" (new high concept material like the guy blows up script that no one has read - I have a half dozen right now) soon, I’m going into panic-sell-mode and set up a couple of deals in September and October with non-stockpile scripts. Producers will be in the same panic mode that I am in - they need scripts if there’s a strike. If that doesn’t work, "Would you like fries with your order?"

I’m also working on new material and rewriting many of my old scripts. By the end of August I should have a new action script - SLEEPER AGENTS - which began many years ago as one of those pointless pitches I made in the 90s that went nowhere. Then it was called HIT LIST. Same story - it has to do with deep cover terrorists living next door to you... Who can be activated with a cell phone call and blow up an airport, power plant, police station. At one point it was called SLEEPER CELL - but some danged TV show used that title. After the doctors car bomb plot, it seems really topical.

I’m also part way through a rewrite on a really old script called COWBOY NIGHTS which is kind of URBAN COWBOY meets BLOOD SIMPLE - a thriller that takes place in a New Mexico night club and has lots of plot twists.

And I’m outlining a new spec I’m calling the Moonspinner Project - it actually came from the same batch of pitches as SLEEPER AGENTS that I came up with for some long-forgotten producer almost a decade ago - about recent high school grads on summer holiday in Europe who become involved in international intrigue - sort of GOTCHA! for the new millennium. That’s for the stockpile.

I’ve realized, oddly enough, that I have a shortage of action scripts. Well, I have plenty of old ones that need a page one rewrite, but outside the stockpile scripts I have very few actions scripts that I could sell right now. Most of the non-sci-fi action scripts I’ve written since I became a pro screenwriter have been sold. So I need to write a few new non-stockpile action scripts (or rewrite some old ones) to sell while I’m waiting for one of the stockpile scripts to sell for a high six figures.

Plus, I’m tinkering around on a bunch of other old scripts, figuring out how I would rewrite them. And the usual tips and articles and other stuff that I have to do every day. It’s a never-ending cycle.

My plan is to do another post in the middle of next month to tell you what actually was written and how all of these potential projects crashed and burned and how others have taken their place. Because that’s really what the writers life is - you keep throwing stuff against the wall until something sticks. Then, you have a job... for a few months.

- Bill

PS: While writing this I made an executive decision about the class CDs. I’ve been editing them, trying to turn an out of control live recording into a controlled studio sounding recording. Ain’t gonna happen. So, I’ve decided to just keep the recordings as is - to release them in their raw form. A "live" recording is never going to sound as good as one done in a studio with a tech at a mixing board making sure the sound levels are perfect. Instead of editing the rest of the classes, I’m going to knock out one of those rewrites over the next week.


Yesterday’s Lunch: Oatmeal - apple & spice.
Movies: Finally saw 1408 on one of my jet-lag days. Pretty good, but seemed like it needed a rewrite. Seemed like a short story. I wanted this to me the big *emotional* event in John Cusack's character's life. In Matheson's HELL HOUSE, the reason for investigating the haunted house is the guy behind it has never believed in an afterlife... and now he is dying and wants to know whether he has a future besides having his body eaten by worms. This film needed something like that. Also, the post office scene probably looked good on paper, but took *forever* - would have been better if it had just been the postman is familiar... then *instantly* things happen. Make it a shock moment. Overall, a good return to classic horror movies that are more about scares and dread and less about powertools.
Pages: Finished editing one of the class CDs and decided that was it... then prepped COWBOY NIGHTS rewrite.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Return Of The... well, not the king or the jedi...

I'm back in Los Angeles, typing in Starbucks, and I don't feel as bad as I should. Often, I have delayed jet lag - first day is okay, second day it hits. I've also have delayed hang overs.

From the time I stepped on the plane at Heathrow in London to the time I dragged my luggage into my apartment - 22 hours. Add 4 hours waiting for the plane in Heathrow, a little over an hour getting to Heathrow from my hotel, and two hours after the travel alarm went off but before I left for Heathrow... and you have almost 30 hours since I last slept or showered.

You know, that doesn't really sound like much...but it's being in a crowded airport or a cramped plane that makes it suck.

Anyway, I'm back.

I've decided to do some low-key projects for the next week - I have hundreds of articles, enough for 5-6 new books, and I need to catalogue them. When I first began writing for Script all of my articles were about writing specifically for indie movies and producers... and for a year I wrote a screenwriting column focusing on indie screenwriting for the Independent Film Channel Magazine. Plus I have the Indie Red Book and CD class. Now, some of these articles have duplicate info, some of the articles and info haven't been seen in over a decade. I need to find out what I have and which is the best version and start to rewrite the articles with new examples and fill in some new material... and end up with a book. Lots of "stupid work".

And I'm just the guy to do it.

- Bill

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Closely Watched Planes

I'm sitting in Heathrow waiting for my plane.

This seems like the shortest time I have ever been anywhere - I feel like I've just arrived. It may be that I travelled on Wednesdays, so instead of doing my class (exhausting) and then flying home the next day and being exhausted on the plane, I did my class in the middle of my stay and seemed to never get over jet lag. Or it may be that I had many more things to do this time - a class Thursday night and an interview on Monday for "Raindance Television". Or maybe it was just all of the things I had to do *before* I hopped the plane to London.

This time was also disorganized on my part - there were all sorts of people I planned on meeting while I was here, and some slipped through the cracks (Sorry, Janet!). part of that was due to the *possibility* of Raindance asking me to do an additional evening class *after* my weekend class. That was up in the air until I was down on the ground and arrived at the Raindance offices on Thursday... a few hours before doing my 3 hour thriller class. Because Friday ended up being "recovery day" that left Monday and Tuesday and last minute planning.

Next time: I plan everything in advance. I will have a drinks night and a coffee/tea afternoon.

*** Over Eight Hours Later... ***

I'm sitting in Dulles Airport. The mystery of the 15 hour, 41 minute flight is solved - an unlisted plane swap in Washington. Maybe they don't want terrorists to know. But the problem is, after more than eight hours getting here, with 5 hours left to get to LAX, my flight is delayed by 3 hours. Sweet! So I'll be pulling into LAX around 3am... and then take the Flyaway Bus to Van Nuys, then take a taxi home... and I realized I have no liquids in the fridge, so I'll have to go to Ralphs (open 24 hours) - I'm probably not hitting the pillows until 5am or so!

And I'm stuck in the airport - it's hot - I'm tired and grumpy - the guy sitting next to me on the plane kept invading my space all the way from London. I am tall, but believe I should keep my arms on my side of the armrest. This guy must have poked me in the ribs with his elbow 150 times. And his feet were under the seat in front of *me*, kicking at me. And he was probabaly ten inches shorter than me - no reason to spill into my space. There was a point where I almost hit him... but that would have resulted in me being kicked off the plane...

Which gave me an idea. Terrorists should have a decoy guy on the plane to scream and get the secret Air Marshals to expose themselves. I had another idea about a section for parents traveling with kids - sound-proofed and isolated from the rest of us. Okay, I'm just grumpy. And I think I may have missed the restaurants - they seem to be closing right now.

I can't wait to get back to LA and sleep.

- Bill

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Slow Death By Hard Cider

So, teaching my class over the weekend I had a couple of cups of coffee a day and a couple of small bottles of Dr Pepper. Then something to drink with dinner. Not enough liquids for my brisk walks.

Sunday night after the class I walked back to my hotel, cleaned up, then did a brisk walk to the Renoir Cinema to see a French thriller based on an American novel I had read. I decided not to use a map, to find it based on the time I stayed in that neighborhood and my basic guess-knowledge of London city geography. I actually found it without problem, but thought there would probably be a 9pm showing... I was there at 8:30... the last showing was 8:15. Missed it!

So I walked around for a while, headed to a couple of restaurants where I had eaten at before... but hit the dinner rush and would have to wait for a table. So I kept walking. From restaurant to restaurant until it was getting late and I decided to head back to my hotel and have dinner there. Ordered food and decided to have a hard cider to go with it. Tasty. I had another. And another...

And somewhere along the line they caught up with me. When you drink something that tastes like unsweet apple juice, you can easily quaff it... then realize you are drunk. And still thirsty. In fact, maybe more thirsty than before - alcohol does that.

Problem was, the corner grocer - where they sell big bottles of water - was closed. I had enough change for the hotel's vending machine - and a small small bottle of water.

I woke up thirsty on Monday.

Drank some coffee, walked briskly across town to the Raindance office where they interviewed me for their TV show, then I had to leave to hit the mystery book store Murder One and buy something to read on the plane. After that, a brisk walk back to the hotel where I got cleaned up and went to the Holborn tube station to meet anyone from online who wanted to drink with me. Some people showed up, some people who said they would show did not, and we wandered to a local pub and had some pints...

I was *thirsty* from all of the walking and not drinking enough liquids.

By the time I got back to my hotel (by tube) I was dying of thirst and the markets were all closed. What's more, I had no change for the vending machine. I went to sleep... woke up at 5am so thirsty I thought I might die, threw on clothes and went wandering the streets. All the way across town in Soho I knew where there was a 24 hour store - but would the brisk walk there put me in even more trouble? Would I be found laying on the streets of London - dehydrated? Dying of thirst in a city where it always rains - ironic!

I stumbled into the Euston train station, thinking they may have a change machine so that I could go back to the hotel's vending machine (or maybe they have a vending machine there) and noticed a guy at a pastry shop unlocking the rolling doors. I begged him to sell me some bottled water. He sold me two big bottles - and I drank one while walking back to the hotel! Because one bottle was gone, I used some of my change to buy an orange juice from the vending machine at the hotel... and drank most of the other large bottle of water and all of the OJ. Went back to sleep.

Woke up this morning *not* peeing as much as I thought I was going to. I was really dry!

Finished the water, then began the brisk walk to the coffee shop...

I will never drink hard cider again.

Yeah, right.

- Bill

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Eat or Sleep?

The question is always the same: Should I have something to eat?

Yesterday I woke up an hour before my new Boots bought travel alarm went off. So I sat around and had several leisurely cups of coffee before going to class... and grabbing a mocha at Café Nero. I usually drink a huge iced coffee with 3 pumps of mocha syrup before doing a class, but here in London there is more call for warm drinks than cold - especially compared to Los Angeles. Cold drinks are unusual.

Though it was cold wet and a little windy, the weekend has been warm. More LA weather than London weather. So I drink hot coffee and then take a brisk walk cross town in warm weather... drinking hot coffee along the way. I end up sweaty by the time I get to the venue. Yesterday I decided to wash my face in the restroom - but the venue has no paper towels., just one of those blower things. Can’t really dry your face on one of those.

Today, I also woke up an hour early - sun coming through the not-very-good black out curtains. But today I decided to go back to sleep instead of drinking coffee for an hour. Was that the right decision? I ended up with less coffee and more sleep. How much sleep equals an hour of drinking coffee?

This morning, only Café Nero was open. Yesterday I passed a Starbucks, and I thought they might have iced coffee... but they were closed today. They open late on Sundays. So I have no idea whether they have iced coffee or not - I was back at Nero’s drinking hot mocha as I took my brisk walk cross town. I didn’t even try to dry my face today, I just splashed water on it.

Because the venue was used by someone else last night, we disconnected all of my video gear... and today no one was there who remembered how it was connected (not me). So one of the Raindance guys had to phone another Raindance guy who talked him through the connection. He got it working (excellent) but partway through the DVD player just crapped out right before lunch. Ended up being the DVD itself - had a huge smudge on it. I always bring *two* extra clip DVDs, and put a new one in - worked perfect... so we broke for lunch.

Yesterday I didn’t eat lunch. I was afraid it would make me sleepy... and maybe even make me puke. Day over here is night back home, so it’s like eating lunch in the middle of the night - I’m kind of afraid my body will reject it. Don’t really want to vomit in class. But mostly I’m just afraid of the post lunch drowsies. I’m already jet lagged and half asleep, difficult to keep the energy up... last thing I want to do is eat a meal that brings me crashing down...

But I always wonder if that is the right decision. Maybe that lunch is the energy I need to keep going? Difficult to tell.

Today during lunch I was interviewed by a magazine reporter comped into the class. Took about half an hour. Always interesting to be interviewed by someone - I always think of other questions I would ask myself that they haven’t thought of. One of the reasons why I prefer email interviews is that I can answer questions never asked. The ones they forgot to ask or the ones they just never even thought of - but should have.

After the interview I had a half hour,,, and bought a pastry stuffed with potatoes and ham and some cheesey sauce stuff. Though it didn’t make me fall asleep during class, it did make me belch these terrible belches. Yech.

Clips worked fine for the rest of class, and I only went 45 minutes over. I even remembered to mention my CDs for sale...

When I did my Thursday night class - packed room, maybe 100 people or more - I had brought me CDs to sell... and forgot all about them. Never mentioned them. I’m terrible at the commerce part. Yesterday I had my CDs and forgot to mention them at all. Today, I set some out on a table and almost forgot there were there - but someone asked. So at the end of the class I mentioned I had some other classes on audio CD, and that was that. I sold a couple, but I’m taking most home with me (as usual).

I packed up all of my stuff in my rolling bag and dragged it back cross town to the hotel. Over the past few days my plan has been to go to the cinema and see this French thriller, but every time I get back to the hotel I’m just too tired. Already I know it won’t be tonight. After I clean up and get some Indian Vegetarian food in the neighborhood, it will probably be too late.

I actually felt better today with more coffee and less sleep and lunch... but maybe that’s just getting over the jet lag?


So, as we were playing with the A/V stuff yesterday, one of the guys mentioned this screenwriting teacher who had come over a years or so ago. They were trying to get his laptop attached to the digital projector, and he hit the wrong button on his laptop... launching a slideshow of his personal porn collection for the class to see. And it was *unusual* porn - though the guy wouldn't divulge specifics. But when a fellow with a bunch of tattoos and some face piercings says the porn was unusual - well, I'm betting it was something I may not even be able to imagine.

- Bill

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Original plan for last night was to see a movie, but I was exhausted, and went to be early. Slept well, woke up an hour before the new travel alarm went off. Had some coffee, grabbed my big rolling case and walked from Euston Station area to central Soho to teach the class - stopping at Cafe Nero for a Mocha along the way. Felt fine...

Until about halfway through the class, when my body realized I should be asleep. I decided to *not* eat lunch - which may have been a mistake - and took a walk around Soho during my lunch hour. Blood circulating again, I did the second half of today's class... but somewhere along the line I lost control (of the class, not my bladder or temper) and answered a string of questions that had to do with people's individual script problems. Took a minute to get back on track. Finished the day, and then realized that the room we are using had another function going on it it and we'd have to pack everything up.

Our big issue ended up being film clips - as usual. We checked out the venue yesterday, but there was no one there who knew the tech stuff about how to plug into the digital projector... or even how to lower the screen (it had a remote control - but we didn't know where that was). So the half hour before class was scrambling to figure out how to make it all work... and we never really did. No one could find the video in plugs, so we decided to run it off a laptop - not mine, but one of the Raindance guy's. It had issues. I was able to show one or two clips - without sound - before we realized this wasn't going to work. At lunch we connected my portable DVD player, and it worked fine. I took my walk through Soho to keep my blood flowing and it was smooth sailing as far as clips were concerned for the rest of the day...

Except tomorrow morning we'll have to figure out how to connect everything all over again. And the day ended with me dragging my bag back to the Raindance office - tomorrow one of the Raindance guys is supposed to bring it to the venue. It has *everything* in it... I hope he remembers.

- Bill

Friday, July 06, 2007

My Love / Hate Of Travel

I love being in interesting places.
I hate getting there.

So, I wake up at 8am in Los Angeles, packed and ready to go. I have a cab ordered for 9am. This will get me to LAX by 10am, and my flight leaves at 2pm. Due to the terrorist activities in London (my destination) they have ramped up security at LAX and are suggesting arriving 4 hours before international flights. I would rather sit in LAX and work on my laptop than miss my plane because they were exraing my shoes or something.

At about 8:40 I get a call - my cab is early. Okay, I'll just get to LAX earlier... and without coffee.

At LAX, there is increased security, but it runs smoothly (except they still have no place for you to *put on* your shoes after you've removed them) and I spend some time in LAX drinking coffee and doing some work. I post the message below.... then they call my flight.

I get on a packed plane to Chicago. They *cancel* flights that are not packed these days.

In Chicago, I race to my next plane. Think I have enough time to post an entry, but end up spending $6.95 in internet fees to post the quip about pushing the plane.

Flight from Chicago to London is full... no empty seats at all... and lots of children. Sweet! Hey, and they are tired and screaming. Sweeter still!

I don't sleep on planes and I'm tall. I fly economy to these things because I don't want to be the guy charging off a luxury vacation to people who want to take my class. Other people who teach classes for Raindance *do* fly first class and *do* spend a ton of Raindance's money to do these things, not me. Since I can't sleep on a plane anyway, what's the difference? I keep my costs low, so that they keep bringing me over... and I love London, so I want to keep coming here. I am also inexpensive in other ways - I know that others they bring over *don't* go to neighborhood restaurants. I would rather have fish & chips in newspaper than eat at someplace where they have more forks than courses. Part of the fun of travel for me is to live like a "native" rather than live like a tourist. That also ends up being less expensive. I also enjoy walking in London - I walk everywhere. I don't take taxis - taxis all look the same inside. I'd rather see the city.

So after a long long long flight, we land at Hearthrow at 11am Thursday.... and there is no gate available. We wait for a while, then the pilot (or someone) makes an executive decision and they bring rolling stairways and buses. Each bus is filled, pulls away, and we have to wait on the plane for the next bus, then it fills, pulls away, and we wait for the next bus. Time passes as I stand in the aisle on the plane - my *heavy* computer bag on my shoulder - as bus after bus is filled until I get to the stairs, stumble down them onto the bus to terminal. Now I go through a series of lines - passport control, luggage pick up, etc.

Raindance emailed me a month ago asking for my flight into so that they could send someone to pick me up at the airport. I usually just take the subway to Picadilly, then drag my luggage to the Raindance office. So I do a "parade" walking through the gauntlet of people with cardboard signs looking for my name or a familiar face. Nothing. I do this for maybe half an hour, thinking that maybe they were late. No one.

So I take the subway, as usual. Because I was in Term 3, this means I had to drag all of my luggae to Term 1 (subway station) - and the moving sidewalks are almost all out of order. I just want to sleep. I get to the subway, and realize I do not have change. The station is *crowded* - lines very long. I stand in a ticket window line *forever* until I realize the change window line is moving faster. I switch lines. Get change. Stand in the ticket machine line. Get a ticket... then drag my luggage down to the trains.

At Picadilly, there are stairs. I drag my luggage up stairs. Then up more stairs. Then almost tumble down the long escalator when my luggage isn't entirely on a step. Then - more stairs to the street. As usual, the wrong side of the street. I rest for a moment, then drag my luggage down to the Raindance office, passing through the tunnel of strip clubs, where barkers ask me if I would like to see a naked woman. I like women. I like naked woman. But right now all I want to see is a bed.

Raindance office - more stairs. And a wait until they take me to my hotel. I am sweaty and smelly and exhausted... and I have to make conversation as I wait. This happens every time. From the Raindance POV it's not a problem - they are doing things while I wait that have to do with my stay (getting my per diem, etc) - from MY POV, I just want to sleep right now.

The hotel is cross town, we'll have to take a taxi. Fine with me - I'm too tired to drag my suitcases any farther. We can't find a taxi. We have to walk several streets over until we get to a larger street and even then all of the taxis are full. After what seems to me to be forever (probably 20 minutes) we get a cab. Go to the hotel. It's like an Ikea Hotel - very spartan. But it has a bed. I have to teach a class at 6:30pm... they want me there at 6pm. I shower off the plane grime - it is 3pm. I probably need to wake up at 5pm and shave and shower and dress and grab a cab to get to the college at 6pm. That's when I realize my travel alarm is in Los Angeles. The automated wake up call isn't working. I've been awake since Wednesday 8am - if I sleep now, I will sleep for *hours*. Can't chance it. I rest until 5 - careful not to fall asleep - then do everything and take a taxi to the college (I had no idea where it was, and when I asked Raindace for directions they told me it was easier for me to get a cab - I would have rather walked to get the blood flowing).

I sleepwalk through the class. Oddly, everyone likes it. I get emails today from several people. I also meet a longtime ScriptSecrets website reader who lives here - this is great, I really like meeting folks whose email addresses I recognize.

Back to the hotel - after buying some basics the spartan hotel doesn't provide. I'm exhausted, but haven't eaten all day. I was afraid it would make me sleepy before my class. The hotel's rooms may be spartan, but the bar is luxurious and they have a 24 hour kitchen. I order a pizza and have a Guiness or two. The pizza is *huge* - I eat most of it but no way I can finish it. Listen to some teachers in the bar talk about movies - almost join in (they are women - but fully clothed) - realize I'm so tired I probably would just babble. Go up to my room and sleep... fitfully.

After around 7 hours, I get up, unpack and sort things out, shower and head out into the cold, windy, slighty rainy London day and walk down crowded sidewalks to the Subway Sandwich/Easy Internet on Tottencourt Road. The travelling part is over, the being here part has begun.

This is the part I love.

- Bill

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Heading To London

Here I am, in LAX, on my way to London and hoping that I have packed everything and taken care of everything. Every time I go out of town, there is about a week before when I'm just going crazy prepping. I have to put together the class workbook (this time, the London guys decided to change from Character First Class to Big Idea Class a couple of weeks ago - meaning I had to dig out that workbook and do some additions... then completely rebuild *my* book for the class). I have to go through the clip reel and refresh my memory of the class. I usually watch a couple of movies to add to the class. I have to creat that big ol' list of tips for while I'm gone. I have to answer any e-mail and ship any last minute orders (never fails - when I'm gone for several weeks and warn people to order now, they wait until the day before I hop the plane to order all kinds ofthings, and I spend the day before I leave in line at the post office! This time, I'm only gone for a week, so it's no big deal.) Plus, I have to pack and clean house and take care of any bills and do laundry and all of the normal travel stuff.

This time a couple of other things popped up - I went to a friend's July 4th Barbeque on Saturday and I had to send some scripts to producers who requested them. I also decided to send out 20 query letters - kind of stoking the fire while I'm gone. One of the scripts I sent out was the Guy Blows Up script - draft number nine million - to a manager who requested it a couple of months ago. Since then it's had a page one rewrite and two normal rewrites. I hope to return from London with something new going on.

People ask how long the flight is - I have a stop on the way, which adds time, but coming home is a direct flight... 15 hours and 41 minutes! A long time on a plane filled with crying babies.

Hey, they're calling my flight!

- Bill
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