Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sirens At Starbucks

About a week ago I am sitting in the Starbucks in Pleasant Hill, CA (on the same site as the old Pleasant Hill Motor Movies used to be) and there was this cute 20-something girl sitting at the next table talking a mile a minute to her boyfriend. The boyfriend had earphones on and was trying to do something with his laptop... ignoring her. Some of the things the cute girl was saying were kind of weird, but I figured that stuff was some kind of in-joke between her and her boyfriend. She said some strange things about food additives and veganism, which made me think he was a vegan and she was trying to say something that would turn his attention from the laptop to her.

She was really cute, I would have paid more attention to her - but that’s what happens in relationships... you become accustomed to the other person and begin taking them for granted. (Medusa took the men who stared at her for granite). You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone...

And when some guy at another table with long hair got up to leave, the cute 20-something chatterbox started talking to him, flirting with him... right in front of her boyfriend. Then she said some odd things to the guy with long hair about how some food additives were poisons. Um, okay. This *is* the San Fran Bay Area, so there’s no shortage of hippie-types and the children and grandchildren of hippie-types. Maybe "food additives are poison" is a good pick up line up here. The long haired guy had somewhere to go, said goodbye to her and left. The whole time, her boyfriend had his nose buried in his laptop. I thought, “He’s going to lose her if he doesn’t at least pay a little attention to her.”

But a few moments later, she began talking to someone else... and saying crazy things. And I realize the guy with the headphones ignoring her was *not* her boyfriend - he was some poor guy trying to work who was being pestered by some cute 20-something mentally ill girl.

The next night I am in the same Starbucks and she is there again, pestering some other guy, and she suddenly begins screaming at the top of her lungs. The manager asks her to be quiet... then asked her to leave. The cute 20-something girl screamed that Starbucks security cameras were stealing her image and broadcasting them on You Tube... then left... for about five minutes... when she returned with more strange accusations about the Starbucks Security Camera - YouTube Conspiracy.

About the fourth or fifth time she ran into the store screaming about her stolen image, the manager called the police... and then there were sirens. They came and cuffed her and we all waited for an ambulance to take her to the county hospital’s mental ward (J Ward at Mt. Diablo Hospital). She was screaming strange things the whole time, and getting in the policemen’s faces. Weird. But she was really cute.


Last night I’m at my corner Starbucks on Ventura & Vineland, which is a homeless hangout. That corner is a main bus stop, and it is an upscale neighborhood (Britney Spears comes into that Starbucks sometimes), so homeless people can get their easily and have plenty of people to hit up for money. The homeless thing is a big problem at that Starbucks, every Starbucks I go to (which is a lot) have homeless people hanging around.

Starbucks is like a homeless shelter - they can get something to drink and snooze on the chairs and wash up in the bathrooms (which seems to take a half hour per homeless person, so I hope you have a strong bladder after drinking all of that coffee). But because of that bus stop, Ventura & Vineland seems to have more than its fair share of homeless people, and company policy seems to be to give them water and not kick them out unless they do something really over the line - like the time the homeless guy in a dirty lemon yellow track suit and 1930s aviator goggles dropped his pants and began masturbating in the middle of the Starbucks. He had done all kinds of odd things before that, but they allowed him to sit in the comfy chairs and drink ice water (that he added half and half and chocolate powder to)... I guess whipping it out and playing with it in public was over the line.

Even before the masturbation incident, customers avoided the comfy chairs because homeless people often pissed in them. Hey, why wait in line for the restroom when you can just let it go? These homeless folks are not people who lost their jobs and homes and are now on the street - these are menatlly ill people who are living on the streets. No amount of job training will help them. There's a young guy who screams and fights people, there's an old guy who screams Bible quotes at passing cars, there's the woman who has three stuffed animals clutched in her arms at all times. I feel sorry for all of these people, but buying them a coffee is not the answer - a few of them now know my name and hit me up for a coffee. I'll be hitting on Cute Barista and some homeless dude will start some crazy conversation with me and want me to buy him coffee. This will not sound good in print, but I don't want to be that crazy homeless guy's friend. Sorry.

Other homeless people take up most of the outdoor chairs. They used to smoke like crazy, but Starbucks has a new rule that bans outdoor smoking near the store. I don’t know if that rule was aimed at the homeless people or not, but they ignore it. If someone comes out and tells them they can’t smoke, they pretend to stop... then just start again. If the shopping center security guy is called (he’s always downstairs chalking your tires - the shopping center has a 2 hour parking limit, and they used to chalk my car times constantly. They actually chalk my bicycle tires, now!) the guard tells the homeless people they can’t smoke there, and the homeless people grab their chairs and move to the street. Hey, where did all of the outdoor chairs go?

The most heartbreaking homeless guy to me is this old guy who used to live in an apartment in the neighborhood. Stylish guy, always wore one of those Australian snap hats and black clothes with silver studs. He saw me writing one day, pulled up a chair, and told me he was also a pro-writer. Mentioned his big credit - an exploitation film from the 70s that I had actually seen. He’d written some other things I had never heard of, too. Anyway, I’d say hello every time I saw him at Starbucks. Then, something happened, and he was on the street. He got dirty, he began drinking with the other homeless guys on the bus bench in front of the Rite Aid, and now he’s another one of the drunk homeless guys smoking outside of Starbucks. I have bought him coffee a couple of times, but I do not give him money - he’d just spend it on booze. I don’t really know what I can do for the guy, but I wish there was someplace he could live. I suspect he's mental health is deteriorating with every half gallon of booze he drinks... and the more you hang out with crazy people, the more that seems normal.

So, last night there’s a homeless guy (not the ex-screenwriter) in one of the chairs (smoking) and he saying crazy things to anyone who passes by. He says crazy things to me. I go inside, sit down, start working... And I see through the window his buddy is trying to help him stand up, but this guy is drunk and crazy and smoking and when he gets to his feet... falls flat on his face.

And a few minutes later an ambulance siren is wailing and a bunch of paramedics are defribbing the guy a few feet from where I am sitting. After shocking him, they put him in the back of the ambulance and take him to the county hospital.


Tonight I am sitting in another Starbucks, and there is a woman I have seen in this Starbucks before who is sleeping on one of the comfy chairs. I have nicknamed her “Hot & Homeless” because she could be a model... except she looks like she’s been living on the street and she talks to herself. Because she seems to be in this Starbucks every time I’m here (which is not often) I think she kind of lives here.

Three different Starbucks, all have crazy homeless people in them. We used to have state asylums for crazy people... but all of those are gone, now. We have all kinds of mentally ill homeless people out there, and we need to do something about it. You can complain about “warehousing the mentally ill” all you want, but at least they had a roof over their heads. If it makes us feel better to call a facility a “Homeless Resort” or something, that is fine with me - but we need some sort of shelter system and some sort of mental health facility for these people. Hey, it can have a Starbucks or fake Starbucks where they can sit outside and smoke or play with themselves if they want. Even if it ends up just being warehousing without much in the way of help, it’s a roof over their heads. It’s meals, instead of ice water with half and half and sugar and chocolate powder or digging through the trash cans. Will this cost us money? Of course - but isn’t the point of a society to look out for each other? To show a little charity? Plus, you won’t have to deal with that masturbating homeless guy, who is probably just in some other Starbucks whipping it out and playing with it as I type this. Yech.

I Googled up "Homeless Shelter Charity" to find some link where people might help, but page one listed several homeless shelter charities in *England* and other parts of the UK and *animal* shelters here in the USA. Why are we more concerned with homeless animals than homeless people? What can we do *as a country* to help these people?

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Why We Write - what is your motivation for wanting to be a screenwriter?
Dinner: A burrito as big as my head at Tortas on Ventura (near Vineland in the same shopping center as Fantastic Sams). They make the best burritos I've had so far in Los Angeles... and I dare you to eat the whole thing. I was riding out in Van Nuys one day and stopped at this Mexican Mexican place (ie: from Mexico) and their burritos were greasy and small. Mexican food can be greasy, but Tortas seems to work at removing the grease. Plus, if you are friendly, they give you free chips and salsa... other places charge for that. If you live in the area, check them out! (I eat there all the time, always good.)
Pages: Well, I played with *my* cop action script a little.
Bicycle: No... but my wrist is much better, and I'm going to ride on Thursday just to see what happens.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm Back!

I'm Back! Only two links, so I'm keeping Lancelot in his cage.

1) Movie Posters With Original Casting.

2) EMPIRE STRIKES BACK - silent movie version:

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Nice Antagonists - And Rom-Com Bellamys... sometimes it helps if your antagonist is boring.
Dinner: Something on the road.
Bicycle: No.
Pages: No.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm Sorry...

I was shopping in Target today and found a whole bunch of these 4 Movie On 2 DVD sets on the shelf...

So you may want to avoid Target's DVD section for a while. I can't speak for the other 3 films, but CRASH DIVE *is* a disaster.

- Bill

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Fingered Typist

The plan was to tell you about the two high school reunions (even though you probably don't care), and some of my adventures in my home town hanging out with old friends and some of the behind the scenes stuff on the Bill’s Little Movie Project and the first short story about Mitch Robertson that I outlined in the Santa Fe Airport months ago and, of course, Friday’s With Hitchcock: REBECCA - which has been half written for a while and I brought the DVD with me to watch again so that I could finish the article...

But this bike accident thing has put a crimp in those plans.

What is a two fingered typist to do when one of his hands is in a split? I now have 50% fewer fingers to type with!

So the act of typing, which even with only two fingers has become second nature to me, is now something that’s a struggle - especially with the keys on the left side of the board and the shift key. I have to *work* at it. Some of the letters in that sentence were easy, others required a full rethink-rewire of the brain to type. If I could only write sentences with the letters YUIOPHJKLVBNM it would be easy. But I don’t know any words with those letters, mon.

(you, boy, lob, pub, in....)

Which means the article for Script I had notes on that I was going to dash out a few days ago? Still slowly pecking away at it - should finish it today. If it had only been about a boy in a pub! Next up in priority are the book chapter rewrites... but I suspect I will hang out with friends instead of getting much done, as I have not spent much time doing that so far. Mostly, I’ve been taking it easy.

Left hand is still swollen, though not as bad - but that’s the injury that I’m most worried about, and the right knee is much better... the right elbow road rash is still ugly. If wrist is still messed up when I return to Los Angeles I will see my doctor about it, but it does seem to be getting better. I am keeping it splinted and not using it - which is why sentences like this take longer to write than usual. Over the years my brain has become a kind of manual typewriter with my fingers as those long things with the letters on the end that strike through the ribbon to the page. Now it’s like some of those little arms are tangled, making it more difficult for the others to strike the ribbon. 75% of you probably have no idea what I am talking about.

Strange (not an easy word) thing (easier) is how my brain has wired itself over the years to use my right hand on the right side of the keyboard without any real thought required anymore... but I must consciously think about hitting any keys on the left side with my right hand - and my brain kind of fights me on this. We (hard) program ourselves to think in a certain way, and thinking in some other way is difficult even if we try. I think that may be a trap to creativity - doing things the same way all the time. Maybe we need to try doing things in different ways every once in a while to break away whatever cobwebs or plaque build up from following the same patterns? Maybe being a one fingered typist for a while is a blessing instead of a curse?

Though, after spending at least twice as long to type this as usual, I’m using my one finger for a different purpose... and flipping off this wrist splint.

- Bill

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just Like Riding A Bike!

I made this executive decision to throw away my “fat pants”. Because I am riding my bicycle, now, instead of driving a block to the corner Starbucks I have lost some weight and had to buy new jeans. When I was a kid, we were poor, so I got into the habit of keeping everything - hey, I might put all of that weight back on and those jeans will fit again! Hey, maybe this broken vacuum cleaner can be fixed? These are the first steps to being the subject of one of those TV shows about hoarders. So the fat pants - some of which were almost new - went to Goodwill.

When I arrived at my parent’s house, my mom had dinner for me... which is what mom’s do. And she will cook my favorite meals while I am home and make cookies and... well, that’s what mom’s do. And when I am not eating my mom’s cooking, I am out at some restaurant with old friends eating too much and drinking too many beers and then getting little to no exercise. There is an all-you-can-eat Chinese place here called China Wall that my friend John and I always go to - and I try to see how much I can eat before exploding like Mr. Creosote. So I usually put on weight when I go home. As you know from reading the blog, I eat crap - biking instead of driving a block or two is the only thing keeping me from reverting back to blimp-sized.

When I was a kid, my brother and I would ride our bikes everywhere, and even as an adult I would ride my bike (battling weight) rather than drive whenever possible. When I worked for Safeway Grocery, I lived on North Main Street in Walnut Creek and worked way out on Clayton Road... had to drive it. When Wendy and I were house hunting, we found a great house closer to the Clayton Road store... and as soon as we moved in I was transferred to Safeway 928 - about ten blocks from my old apartment, and a couple blocks from where I went to high school. Once again, instead of biking I ended up driving. Except store 928 was filled with lunatics (I have a treatment about those folks called NIGHT STOCKERS I’m going to script some day), and a couple of the guys lived near my new house, and there was a bike path that cut through part of the city... so we decided to give bike riding to work a shot. I would start out on the path, and then Jon Beeman would show up and then a couple of other guys... and for a while a group of us biked to work. Those were great days in my life - which is why there’s a script in there somewhere. And why it would be fun to relive them.

A year ago I decided to buy a bike to keep at my parent’s house, my dad said there was no reason to buy one, he had one that he’s only ridden a couple of times. Except it had been out in the rain and was rusty. Over the holidays I tried to clean it up, but it’s 90% rust now. Even though it is still in the side yard, I am *not* working on it now... instead I decided to buy a cheap bike, and the first day I was here went down to that section of Contra Costa Blvd where K-mart is next door to Toys R Us is next door to Target. Found a Huffy on sale at Toys R Us, and bought it - and will ride it anyplace fairly close while I am here. Though I planned to drive to the reunion dinner, I will ride the bike to the reunion picnic the next day, which is at my old high school’s upper field, just for nostalgia: I will be riding the same route I did as a kid for three years until I bought my ex-Concord Police car at the auction... slight body damage ended up being a bullet hole in the door! Chick magnet? No... but much easier to date with than a bicycle.

So that was the plan - bike to the picnic on Sunday taking the old route I used to ride when I was a kid. One possible problem - there was a shortcut pedestrian bridge over a creek that I always used as a kid - it connected my neighborhood to the elementary school where I went... and cut several blocks off the ride to the high school (which was much farther away). Does that shortcut bridge still exist?

On Saturday afternoon (before the reunion dinner) I went to pick up the new bike and ride it to my parent’s house. This should be no problem at all - I ride my bike almost every day in Los Angeles, and my parent's house is not that far. When I pick up the bike, the seat is low, and I’m 6'4", so I pulled it up, but didn’t have any tools with me to adjust the slope of the seat or raise the handlebars - but my dad has tools once I got it home. It would be a little uncomfortable to ride until I get to my parent’s house, but big deal.

You know that old saying that if you haven’t been on a bike fir a while, it all comes back to you? That knife cuts two ways. My bike in Los Angeles is broken in and I am used to riding it. The brakes are a little loose, but I’m used to squeezing ‘em hard to stop. So I get on this new bike, and even though the seat is a little off and the handlebars are a little low, I have it zooming along in no time. Just like my bike back home. Then I come to a red light, and squeeze the brakes hard...

And I am launched over the handlebars when the bike stops on a dime.

For a moment, I was flying! It was great - I was just like Superman! Soaring over the street...

Then - I hit the street.

Land on my right knee, right elbow, left wrist.

Giant bruise on right knee. Giant road-rash on right elbow. Left wrist - well, swollen and I hope not broken, in one of those Ace wrist splint things right now.

Went to the reunion dinner in pain...

And Sunday I am *driving* to the reunion picnic. Probably end up driving everywhere while I am here because my wrist is messed up. New bike will go unused... I just hope to keep it out of the rain so that it doesn’t rust.


Indulge me - there’s an entry about the reunions coming up that has nothing to do with screenwriting.

- Bill

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday!

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who wanted King Kong and Fay Wray to walk off into the sunset together, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

1) Fake Lucas Lee movie posters from SCOTT PILGRIM. - Edgar Wright says ACTION DOCTOR will be his next film.

2) Top Ten Movie Montages.

3) STAR WARS opening crawl - revised. The winners write the history.

4) Writing for No Budget... and THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED.

5) Lando is the lead in BLACK STAR WARS:

Blaxploitation Star Wars? I'm there on opening day!

6) Fiction "tropes" - devices you have seen a hundred times, that always work.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Always The Journey - Why SUNSET BLVD works even though we know the end.
Dinner: Something on the road.
Bicycle: No.
Pages: No.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Heading Home Today

Not home to Los Angeles, home to Concord, CA. There's a class reunion, and a bunch of old friends to hang out with. Plus, some ground work to be done on the movie project that I thought I'd be filming this month... but instead I got these damned paying gigs writing screenplays!

On Friday Hitchcock will return with SUSPICION, and there are some more new blog entries on the way (thought I would have one finished for today... but all kinds of last minute stuff to take care of before I go.)

The plan for this month is to finish the book rewrite.

Meanwhile: Opening this weekend is SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, which is wild fun. Tomorrow's links will include the posters for fake movies from the film, and Edgar let slip that his next film will be one of them!

Monday I went over the hill to the Sunset 5 to see THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED - and if you want to see how to make a great low budget movie, this is the perfect example. Three actors total. Most of it takes place in an apartment. Two guns. Two handcuffs. Two kidnappers. One victim. And who is really in power changes minute-by-minute. The films has all kinds of twists and suspense - and telling you anything about it other than the basic concept would spoil it.

Two ex-cons kidnap the 20 something daughter of a rich guy.

Sounds boring, but that's because I can't tell you anything without revealing all of the twists and reversals.

One great thing about this movie - nothing is ever easy for any of the characters. If it can go wrong, it will. And the film is so detail oriented that it becomes fun to try and figure out what will happen because of that dropped object... because something *will* happen. If a character puts his car keys on the table instead of the hook, that will lead to all kinds of problems later on. Movie opens with a *long* silent passage where the two kidnappers prepare - it builds and builds and builds! Then they snatch the girl. Great stuff.

Playing "selected cities" now, so catch it if you can. May also be a VOD title you can stream.

Now, on to the I-5 and cow poop.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Lame Confessions - Bad Exposition, and that evil co-star Prompter Exposition.
Dinner: El Pollo Loco in NoHo - breast & wing, black beans, corn.
Bicycle: Medium.
Pages: Putzed around on an action spec.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Assignment Is Finished....

Okay, the script assignment is finsihed... and now I am on to the next project (which is finishing the rewrite on the action book). Along the way, I hope to get some actual new blog entries finsihed and posted, and finish up the SUSPICION and REBECCA entries on Fridays With Hitchcock... which have been half done for a while, now.

Then it's on to the rewrite job, and finish up the script for the movie I was *supposed* to be shooting this summer (now it is penciled in for end of the year). Before that end of the year, I also hope to finish two stalled-out screenplays which were set aside long ago. A cop action script and one about pirates that are nowhere near the Caribbean.

I usually take a couple of weeks "off" in July (I work in some other city - usually Las vegas) but that hasn't happened, yet - so I may take a week off in August.

Another script finished!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Should I Pay For Notes? - there are people who charge *thousands* of dollars to read screenplays - should you pay them?
Dinner: I was a bad boy - burgers ar Burger King.
Bicycle: Medium - rode west into the valley.
Pages: Well, finsihed... and did some rewriting and added a scene or two... 9 pages plus the rewriting.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Under The Mountain... on DVD

My friend Jonathan King made the brilliant film BLACK SHEEP about killer sheep attacking in New Zealand - kind of like JAWS-with-wool. If you haven't seen that movie, it is funny... and scary... and manages to tell a dramatic story about two brothers who have taken very different paths in life. Three very different things - and it does them all well.

His new movie is about to be released on DVD in the USA on August 10th, and it's an epic scary adventure for young people, based on the classic kid's novel UNDER THE MOUNTAIN. The film stars some kids and Sam Neill (before his first day on set, Jonathan posted a list of all of the directors Neill has worked with on a private message board we belong to - Spielberg was one of the minor names on the list). The film was selected by some Film Festivals: Toronto, Seattle, Hawaii, others - so it's good *and* scary! Lions Gate picked it up for USA, Disney took it for much of the rest of the world.

I've ordered it through Amazon (click the DVD box for info), and it'll be available from NetFlix and in those old fashioned video stores like Blockbuster.

And BLACK SHEEP is still out there, and a lot of fun. It has great quotable dialogue ("Those fish died free!") and at least one scene that will give every male viewer nightmares about what might happen to their private parts if angry sheep get a hold of them. Yikes!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Who's Driving? - who or what is driving your story? And JUMPER.
Dinner: Salad bar at a Sizzler in NoHo.
Bicycle: Medium.
Pages: I am 3 pages from finished with the assignment... but was *supposed* to be finished on Friday. I had a couple of awful days, and even though I did okay on Sunday, I was fighting a back ache the whole time. A couple of days ago I started at page one and rewrote through, so it's in good shape - once I finish those 3 pages I can hand it in.
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