Friday, February 27, 2009

Movies On The Radio

On Wednesday I was a guest on the Screenwriter’s Utopia radio show. I think I may have been one of Chris’ first interviews on his website over a decade ago, so it was kind of cool. The subject was The Oscars, so I did some research and made sure I was prepared, with notes set out in front of me when I called in...

I like to be prepared. I was on some panel a few years back on some subject that I had an opinion on, but didn’t really know much outside of my personal experience... so I hit the books and did some research and had some great notes on the subject so that I could sound like an expert. Let’s face it, we all have opinions on all kinds of things we don’t know a damn thing about. This stimulus package? Hey - any money given out for infrastructure projects should only be used on *existing* roads and bridges and stuff - no new stuff! The new stuff can be pork! But, I actually know nothing about any of that stuff... I just have an opinion. We all have opinions, and they are all worthless. Only the facts count. What I believe doesn’t matter - the truth is what matters. So I made sure I wasn’t talking out of my backside and had the facts... and probably should have handed my notes to the moderator, because after we introduced ourselves he threw it open to questions and the very first question was off topic and the whole discussion never even touched on the subject of the panel... and all of my research went to waste.

And, true to form, after a couple of Oscar questions... the subject changed to me. Now, this is my least favorite subject. If you read my article in the new issue of Script Magazine, it’s all about two movies - not about me. When I wrote that out of print book the note I got from everyone was “more personal stories”... I argued that I’m not William Goldman, but everyone said I have such funny stories about how my scripts got screwed up, I should include a couple. When I first began doing classes (at Raindance) they were all about writing screenplays with nothing about me or my experiences... except the Q&A section of the class ended up being all questions about my experiences and my writing and “how did you sell your first script”, etc. So the class evolved to include some horror stories...

I think I’m a boring subject.

I was also not prepared to talk about myself.

And in a class or in a script tip or whatever - when I talk about some experience I’ve had on the front lines in the world of writing the screenplays you would not want to have on your resume, I do it to *illustrate some aspect of screenwriting*. Just like my subscription to Playboy, references to my career are strictly for educational purposes.

So when they began asking me questions about my so called career without any noticeable educational purpose, I had no idea where it was going an no idea how to form my answer. And sometimes when the purpose of the question became clear, I realized I had given the completely wrong answer... They asked me about breaking in through direct to video movies, and I gave the factual answer - the middle has completely dropped out of the DTV business, leaving studio sequels (AMERICAN PIE 27: STIFFLER’S MOM GOES TO BAND CAMP) and movies made for pocket change by Asylum. The studio sequels are studio movies - and getting that job is the same as getting any other studio screenwriting job (not easy). The surviving low end D2DVD guys like Asylum make movies for next to nothing and pay writers a couple thousand bucks (or less) for the script and rewrites. You can’t make a living doing that. And with DVD sales flat right now (bad economy, people are renting more than buying) the DVD world is even more difficult to break in to, because they will probably be making fewer original DVDs until this whole economy thing gets straightened out. Anyway, that was not the answer they wanted to hear - I think they wanted to know some easy way to break in. Instead, I was Debbie Downer.

Then I said, if some company like Asylum is only going to pay you $1k for your script, you’re better off making the film yourself... And that was not the answer they wanted, either. As someone who frequently stresses that money is supposed to flow *to* the screenwriter (rather than away from the screenwriter into someone else’s pocket), I understand their POV.

Anyway, all kinds of things that were not the Oscars were discussed, but it came off more the free-form screenwriting conversation I might have in the Driskill Bar during the Austin Film Festival after several beers (though, no alcohol was consumed during the radio interview). One of the reasons why I prefer doing online interviews than “talkers” is because I can come up with a good answer, instead of fumbling around for a while until I come up with a good answer... if I ever do. And, I guess, because as a writer - I would rather *write* the answers. But it was relatively painless, and I hope to be a guest on the show again sometime in the future.

Damn! This whole blog entry ended up about me!

I’m still trying to get caught up - I have a bunch of things on the To Do List, and it keeps growing. I have a bunch of half written blog entries that I need to finish...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Character Secrets - and The Tuxedo.
Yesterday’s Dinner: McD's - on the bicycle - The bacon angus burger.

Bicycle: I only slept 4 hours on Monday night, and had the same problem on Wednesday night... so Tuesday and Thursday were just screwed up. Instead of getting on the bicycle and trying to get some blood flowing, I sat around and ate a bunch of junk food. Making me feel even worse. So today (Friday), having slept okay last night, I decided to take an epic bike ride. Actually, I never decided... I was sitting in one Starbucks and decided to ride to another Starbucks, and just kept riding. There’s a Circuit City in Van Nuys, and DVDs are 60% off, and there’s a bike path that goes from the North Hollywood subway station across the valley, so I just started riding. It's not a short ride. Once I got to Circuit City - sweaty - I went to the DVD racks... picked over, not much left. Lots of copies of HANCOCK and CRYSTAL SKULL (I mean *lots*) and as the guy on the other side of the aisle joked to his buddy, Nic Cage movies were over represented, there really wasn’t anything I wanted. But at 60% off, I grabbed that DMX Iceberg Slim movie - $4 - and stood in the never-ending line... which suddenly came to a dead stop when the cashier’s day came to an end and her replacement hadn’t arrived, yet. Ten minutes later the guy shows, and after all kinds of drama, he starts doing his job and the line starts moving again. And I pay my $4 and can get back on my bike and ride home... except I stop at this Starbucks about 3/4s of the way home to rest and check my e-mail and type up this blog entry. Now I’m going to ride the rest of the way home - I think my legs are ready for it. Anyway - a good bike ride today.


Earl Newton said...

Am I the only one with a dirty fantasy of making a movie for Asylum? I think it'd be fun as hell.

wcmartell said...

I know people who have worked on their films and they did not have fun.

I think it would be fun to make a crazy schlocky low budget movie - and had one of my best film experiences with that movie about robot hookers from outer space I did for Corman.

But I think my little backyard film will be more fun - I'm in charge, no one to screw up the script but me.

- Bill

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