Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cars and Screenplays.

For a few months there I put aside a screenplay I had been working rather dilligently on because the producer was in Europe doing an entirely different project. Also, I coudn't make the damn thing work in my head and just needed some time away from it. And aside from a few small things, nothing much was happening on the acting front. So in an effort to remain constructive I did a couple of things: I wrote a pilot for a new series I'm attempting to get off the ground and pulled out my old chestnut, Praying Small, and turned it into a screenplay. The pilot was a labor of love because it is about boxing. Boxing in the 1960s, to be precise. And Praying Small was less difficult than one might imagine because it is so episodic to begin with.

So imagine my surprise when I threw it out there on the end of my pole and suddenly I'm struggling to land a really, really big leaping, turning, twisting, giant, open-water swordfish. Which is exactly what happened almost immediately. Naturally, it wouldn't be prudent to go into details yet except to say it's in the hands now of a highly visible producer and a very recognizable star type at this very moment.

My wife and I always joke about something she said right after I moved to Los Angeles. We were yapping back and forth about some acting gig that was on the horizon. It didn't pan out. But in the middle of the conversation (and I'm taking this completely out of context) she said, "Listen, honey, the only way you're gonna make a dime in this town is as a writer." She didn't mean it the way it came out, but that's what was said. These days, of course, that has proven not to be true, thank God, but I always drag it out and remind her. We laugh about it, of course, because it wasn't meant the way it sounded. I bring this up because we laughed about it again last night after all the Praying Small stuff was going down in back and forth phone calls and texts and emails.

I've always known Praying Small could be a very powerful piece in the right hands and productions in Chicago, New York and here in Los Angeles over the years have proven me right. I also knew it wouldn't be a terribly long leap to turn the damn thing into a screenplay. So while I was procrastinating and avoiding the other project, the one I couldn't make work in my head, I sat down and started writing non-stop on Praying Small for a few weeks. I sent it to a producer/director here in Hollywood last week. This week I get a message saying, "I love this script and I want to produce and direct it." I love it when a plan comes together.

So last night I get a call about the script going to yet another producer (to add to the budget) and the afore mentioned star. I said, 'Let me clean it up a bit and make sure the formatting is just so.' Which is what I did last night for several hours. And upon re-working it I realized what a tight script it is for the big screen. I don't know why I didn't do this years ago.

Funny story: one of the actors who had performed in one of the stage productions of the piece wrote me some time back (I was still in Chicago, in fact) and asked my permission to rework the script into a screenplay. Since at the time I had no inclination to do it myself I said, 'sure.' About a year later, after I'd come to LA, I asked him if he'd ever done that. He said yes. So I asked if I might see it. He said yes and showed me what he had written. It was EXACTLY, word for word, scene for scene, the same script except at the end the main character is seen walking through a park playing frisbee with a dog with the words 'Fade to' written before it. I said, 'Well, I see you've really opened it up.'

In any event, I'll know more next week how it all stands.

Off this morning to read (again) for a guest starring thing on 'Parks and Recreation.' It's a funny show, I've always thought so, and I wouldn't mind doing one. Not as funny as 30 Rock, but funny. So...we'll see. It's an AFTRA contract and like just about any actor in LA will tell you, AFTRA is, well, um, a bit ghetto when it comes to unions.

I started watching a film last night called 'Stone' with DeNiro and Edward Norton. Norton is always interesting to watch even when he's not ('The Illusionist' comes to mind) but I was reminded all over again how very, very good Robert DeNiro is in the right role. He's a marvel of subtlety in this. I have always contended that one of the great American screen performances is his Michael in 'The Deerhunter.' It is one of those performances that, no matter how many times I see it, I see something new in DeNiro's work in it. I didn't finish 'Stone' because, well, I got sleepy. But what I saw was good. Very good.

And finally, we're looking at new cars. Well, not NEW cars but new to us. And yesterday, just for shits and giggles, we were talking to a dealer about an incredible 750i BMW. We didn't test drive it because I suspect if we had all my defenses would have crumbled and I would have written the check on the spot, even though it would have bounced. Angie, although impressed with it, too, simply said, 'It's too much car for us.' And when she said that I had another of those terrible moments of clarity making me realize I'm fifty years old. She's right. It is too much car for us. After talking to the dealer awhile about what kind of deal we could make we wisely moved on to looking at a Volvo. The Volvo is not too much car for us. But as we looked at the trim, spare, utilitarian Volvo, my eyes kept wandering over to the big, black, smokin' BMW, my youth zipping around in my head, my mind's eye imagining myself behind that dark wooden wheel, my wife beside me, maybe taking a daytrip up to Santa Barbara or heading over to Vegas at the spur of the moment, no cares, no responsibities, finding myself on a deserted stretch of highway and crankin' that big, black bastard up to about 105. The Volvo was nice, though.

See you tomorrow.

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