Thursday, June 23, 2011

Screenplays and Documentaries.

Building this new website was quite a bit more challenging and fun than I originally thought but actually getting it up and online turned out to be sort of nightmarish. That's where, oddly, it got complicated for me. For one thing, a buddy of mine, as a favor to me, had purchased the domain name some time back and then lost the code or password or that site turned out to be useless to me, however well intentioned. So I had to go with, which makes me sound like a Forbes 500 company. To make matters worse I didn't see the fine print that says it will take up to 72 hours to get it posted so when it didn't appear I bought another domain, (a tad egocentric) and then had to go back and cancel that one. It was all rather maddening. And although I had successfully navigated the actual website building part of it, I was terribly confused about how to get to the next step. But I think all has been worked out and am now simply waiting for it to post.

Of course, at first I had way too much information posted in the site. Eventually I pared it down to just the nuts and bolts. I was reminded it was a 'business' site, not a 'fan' site. One reason for this is, aside from Franny and Zooey, I have no fans. This was a hard pill to chew. Well, to be fair, there was that portly lady in Roanoke, VA, back in the mid-nineties who kept coming back over and over to see me onstage. She was a fan.

Today it's back to the 'German' script for me; expanding, flushing out, connecting the dots. Writing is indeed rewriting. Fortunately for me, with both of my projects, I have very understanding producers (the guys who sign the checks) and they realize that it's a process, and sometimes a long one at that. With the exception of Jack Kerouac, writing is rarely accidental.

The 'German' script started out as a short film (about a half hour or so) that the producer wanted, in a perfect world, to shoot this fall and then submit to various festivals...Berlin, Toronto, Sundance, etc. However, after reviewing what we have on the page so far, he made the unexpected decision to film a full-length. Consequently, our contract had to be renogotiated which could turn out to be a cool thing for me, assuming I can write the damned thing.

The other project, a stage piece, is now in the hands of my other producer who happens to be in France at the moment. He suggested that we could, perhaps, work on it there if I would fly over. I counter-offered that we meet in Van Nuys. Paris seems a bit out of my budget at the moment, I told him. I mean, really. Paris? "The rich, they're not like you and I."

Angie and I happened to catch the old film, 'Get Shorty,' last night. Hollywood loves making movies about itself. They seem to be under the impression that everyone in the world thinks making movies is as interesting as they think it is. But it was a fun little film to watch, mostly because Travolta is always good and Gene Hackman is of course seemingly impossible of being bad on film. But the one thing they get right in that film is everyone's instatiable appetite to be in the movie business out here. And I guess it's true. Everyone, and I mean EVERYone, has a screenplay or an idea for a screenplay out here. I think if I were to question our mailman today he would admit to having a screenplay tucked away somewhere.

I was watching the documentary channel a while back and they were showing a piece called 'Overnight' about the vile young man that wrote and directed a film called 'Boondock Saints.' Aside from being endlessly fascinating (akin to a car wreck), it gave me an insight into just how insidious this business is on the highest levels. This guy, the writer and director of the piece, is just shameless. A guy so egotistical as to be comic. He has no background whatsoever in the entertainment field, not as an actor, a writer or director. He's a bartender at a 'hip' club. And somehow, against all odds, he gets his screenplay into the 'right' hands, in this case Mirimax. And they like it. And overnight (hence the title) it becomes the hottest property in Hollywood.

His journey to get the film made is appalling. Simply appalling. Not so much because of Hollywood's treatment of him but rather his unbelievably swelled head that comes out of it all. This guy has no sense of the history of film, no appreciation of great movie-making, doesn't know the difference between Citizen Kane and Porky's, and what's more, doesn't care. In addition, he and his cohorts, a bunch of losers that were once in a garage band with him, truly believe they are all 'geniuses.' It is a case of someone actually believing his own press. And Hollywood does love hyperbole.

In any case, he self-destructs, as one might imagine. And sadly, the viewer is rooting for him to self-destruct. He's that horrible; a sincerely awful human being. And here he is, having written a violent screenplay of some sort, suddenly being handed hundreds of thousands of dollars, sitting in an office somewhere and talking to studio executives in dialogue not even David Mamet could have written. The whole thing made me physically ill. Although it doesn't come right out and say it, the documentary implies he's now bartending again somewhere.

Eventually, Mirimax dumps him, mostly because he's just astonishingly ignorant and vindictive, but he somehow gets the movie made anyway with half the budget. I'm tempted to Netflix it just to see what the fuss was all about. I looked it up online and most critics compared it unfavorably to Quenton Tarantino's stuff, which at least has an irony and smirk behind it. I'm not a big Tarantino fan, but I don't actively dislike it for that very reason...Tarantino has a sense of humor.

If you get a chance, take a look at this documentary...'Overnight.' I told Angie it literally made me want to take a shower after I'd seen it. It is evrything bad and discouraging about the business of Hollywood. It is a shining example of how and why mediocrity is celebrated in this town.

And finally, I saw on the news that Glen Campbell has Alzheimer's. I hope he doesn't forget the words to 'Wichita Lineman' 'cause I really like that song. In fact, I like it so much, it nearly makes me forgive him for single-handedly destroying the original 'True Grit.'

See you tomorrow.