Saturday, October 22, 2005

Today's the day

“I hate people. Do you hate people?”
“I don't hate people. I just like it a lot better when they're not around.”

Name that movie. *

Today was one of those days where I just wanted to work. Just work, be left alone. Thank you very much.
The actual outline for the day went some - thing - like - this.

  • Modem acts funny.

  • Goes down.

  • Damn it!

  • Call the cable company (on the land line which I haven’t quite disconnected yet)

  • Talk to them for a while.

  • Stump them.

  • Damn it!

  • A service guy will be there between 1:00 and 7:00.

  • Be thankful that it’s not Monday instead.

In the meantime, try to work.
No, because:

  • Time for a meeting.

  • Damn it!

  • Cable guy eventually shows up.

  • Can’t figure out the problem

  • Finally gets cable limping along.

  • Schedules a lineman for Monday.

  • Cable guy leaves.

  • Try to work.

  • FIRE ENGINE pulls in front of my house, lights flashing, horns HOWLING – followed by EMT truck doing the same.

  • WHAT THE---?

  • Watch all the goings-ons through the window because really – what else are you going to do when THAT happens?

  • I guess someone with an overly reactive 911 trigger finger made a call -- as the gurney was wheeled out of the house as empty as it went in. That’s a good thing.

  • Visit from another filmmaker in town for a festival.

  • She leaves and I can sit down to hopefully write.

  • Call from another very angry filmmaker seeking advice about crooked distributors and what to do about them.

  • Dinner Date.

And so was my day. I wrote one goddamn line of story. Oh, and I had already written that one line about fifty times before.

I’m hoping tomorrow will be better.

I now have a stat counter hooked into this blog. I’m amazed by how many people are reading it. Hundreds, thousands. Well, not really, but more then ten people, I guess. It’s nice, but now I feel this pressure to perform.

So, in order not to completely disappoint, I present a bit of trivial news you can use if you’re up for risking twenty bucks:
I finally got my copy of “The American Astronaut”. I saw this movie at a festival in North Carolina a couple years ago. It blew me away and in scan/checking the DVD, I see it will be as great on second viewing. If you’re looking for the coolest, weirdest movie to blow THOSE friends away - you know, the ones that think they know everything cool before you do - this is the movie with which to knock them out. They will be humbled and see you as the finder of odd, cool movies.
Imagine you’re the one who discovered Eraserhead and was the first to show it to your friends.

Trust me on it.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Hunting at Night

Over the last several years, I’ve gotten bunches of email regarding my movies -- fan mail, hate mail, questions, psychos, even a stalker who is now doing jail time, for real.
For every ten fan mails or good reviews, one bad one can really kill you. You develop a thick skin after a while, and the more mass there is to the overall review pool, the less each one matters.

Something I really tend never to do is respond to hate mail, just delete it.

However - Today I got the coolest hate mail yet. So cool, in fact – that here’s the link to the guys who sent it.
Check out “The Enemies” theme. Pretty good tune. Bit of a “Ramones” knock off, but hey, better than a lot of stuff I hear today.

It’s not everyday that a punk band writes a song about how much you suck and how much they hate you. It’s even rarer when the hatred of you is cited as an actual influence for the band.


Lest someone else think that innovative hate mail is going to impress me… it won’t. It’s the uniqueness of this one that caused me stop, laugh, and acknowledge it.

My rewrite of Diamond Road continues. Like a bad taco, the plot holes are slowly being squeezed through the second act. I’m hoping for them to vanish before act three or this is going to be a painful month. I also hope that it ends with the story feeling better, rather than just leaving a stench to be fanned away.

No matter what, I am determined to make the mistakes on paper, work each and every bug out before I hit the road to production. It’s a slow, frustrating time. I re-remember now, why movies get pushed towards production. It’s easier to see progress then. You’re spending money, the wheels are in motion, people are producing.

Got an interesting Press Release forwarded to me from composer, Vincent Gillioz.

news: October 2005
Shore's 'King Kong' rejected:
Howard Shore's score for King Kong has been rejected and will be replaced by a score from James Newton Howard. The shocking news was confirmed by Universal Studios in a press release today.Peter Jackson, the film's director and producer, says in a statement: ""I have greatly enjoyed my collaborations with Howard Shore, whose musical themes made immeasurable contributions to 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy. During the last few weeks, Howard and I came to realize that we had differing creative aspirations for the score of King Kong. Rather than waste time arguing with a friend and trying to unify our points of view, we decided amicably to let another composer score the film. I'm looking forward to working with James Newton Howard, a composer whose work I've long admired, and I thank Howard Shore, whose talent is surpassed only by his graciousness."Howard Shore had already recorded large portions of his score in New Zealand. The new score by James Newton Howard will, reportedly, be recorded in Los Angeles and has to be written at a very fast pace. The film will open on 14 December.

That’s the kind of thing that sends shivers down any composer’s spine. It’s also yet another reminder that no movie is made without hitches worries and fears about how it’s going.

Here’s one final tidbit to put a different light on things – Howard Shore is no stranger to film scores that are rejected. He was hired at the last minute to replace Elmer Bernstein’s score for Gangs of New York.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


The Packet8 box arrived. Installation was as painless as hooking up a phone. Plug in the box and go. Nice. However, a strange thing happened with my DLINK Router - the wireless portion of it vanished. It required shutting down, waiting, rebooting, to get it to reappear. I hope this was just a hiccup because the last time this happened, the fix required exchanging the router. Don’t think it was coincidence; something about plugging into a packet8 box adapter messed with its head.

So far, the voip phone thing has been working - pretty well. There are the occasional strange digital hits. I upgraded the firmware, so we’ll see if that fixes it in any way. The most novel thing that I have noticed is that caller ID now works on the phone. It’s cool to see your handset suddenly tell you something new.

It’s been a good day of writing (re-re-re-writing) thus far. I’ve been playing with “the big board” again, which means that I’m breaking the story down into plot elements yet again.
For those of you who write or are planning to write, you probably know what “the big board” is. If not, try it – it’s a super tool, and better than anything you can do in front of a computer.

Snippets of paper on a cork board. Some people recommend 3x5 cards. Personally, I think they’re too big for what I do. I cut tiny pieces out of scrap paper. Anyway, time after time, I have found it to be a more effective way of organizing stories than any software solution.

So why am I blogging about 3x5 cards on a supposedly good day of “real” writing?

Because I’m procrastinating!

Today (because of The Big Board), I’m writing inside. I’ve been out on the patio for the past week. Lately though, the birds in the trees have given me pause. In a way, the fears being presented on the news are a bit more insidious than anything presented in that ole Hitchcock film, aren’t they? A Bird Flu case here, one there… all the special reports on CNN describing what could happen. No question, it is scary. Somehow though, with all the orange alerts, and all the “threats” we’ve been warned about over the past several years, I’m getting a bit suspicious.
What exactly is in it for the government if we’re all afraid of birds?

Hopefully, this will vanish like so much SARS.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


We’re giving it a try. Enough of my friends are using it, and enough annoyance with the phone company has transpired.

After a bit of research and talking to users, I decided to go with Hopefully my experience will be a good one. Common among reviews (online and from friends) is that their support stinks, but the service is good. Well, that’s okay, I guess. I’m usually a DIY kinda guy, so calling support tends to be a last ditch effort, usually ending with stumping the Indian on the other side, and getting an RMA number issued. I’d rather the product be good then the support. A ‘Maytag” man philosophy, one might say. I ordered it last Wednesday and finally today (Monday) got an email confirming the product and info had shipped. FedEx – two days… One week to get it from Santa Jose, Ca. – about five hours from here. Maybe not the greatest start, but eh… we’ll see. For the moment, we’re using a temporary phone number. If we like it, we’ll ‘LNP’ our land line phone number. That’s “Line Number Portability” for those of you who haven’t had to go through the hell of switching cell phone providers while keeping your phone number.

I’ll report on the status of my VOIP experience.

Talked to a friend at length in Argentina via Skype. That system works pretty darn well – especially, considering the price of the call. HEHE. Since I’m talking into my computer though, I am more accepting of the occasional garble. We’re so used to perfect land lines, that VOIP has a bit of an uphill battle.

We live in interesting times. As I’ve pondered before – the technology is wonderful, allowing us to do things never before possible. It’s also becoming fascinating to see how some companies are making fortunes while others are finding it tougher to continue to make fortunes. Change happens. Nothing you can do about it. Dinosaurs grumble, but will go extinct if they don’t evolve.
The record industry, the telephone industry – change is happening, whether you like it or not.

Next up – the motion picture industry.

In 2000, I had a conversation with Michael Shamberg of Jersey Films – brief, but I pitched him an idea. Let the public see a version – a complete version of a movie before it’s made. For free – give it away on the net. Build hype early. There was a lot more to it, but that was the essence of it. My argument was if you saw a comic book version (or animatic) of a cool movie, you’d want to see the movie when it came out. Conversely, if you saw a comic book of a crappy movie, you wouldn’t waste money to see the real thing. It could allow movies to “test screen” before being made, to evolve in a bigger way. It could lead to much higher quality movies actually being made, and a higher percentage of profitable movies. One could gather so much information, business and artistic, that it’d redefine movie making.

He thought it was a bold, but risky. At least that’s what he told me – he might have thought the idea was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. He went on to say that he didn’t think it would go far.  I paraphrase, “The movie industry is a mature and extremely slow moving industry”. That was the end of it – and end of my hopes of having a professional relationship with an extremely cool company and person.  At that point in time, he was, most likely, right.  Now, five years later, Peter Jackson has done a very similar thing with his web site for King Kong. Of course it will work now. The movie will do gangbusters – A. because the story is a classic, and being done by a great filmmaker, and B. because the hype is going to be incredible.

The studios don’t know what to do. They fear marketing differently. They fear releasing movies differently. Heck, they still don’t want to do things digitally. Now Mark Cuban is quickly becoming their biggest pain in the ass.

He’ll be a bit harder to ignore than me.

I have maintained now for five years, that there’s gotta be a way how to give movies away for free, legally and still make a ton of money.

Think about it for a while.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


High Speed Internet is fully operational.
And there was much rejoicing.

I know how reliant I am upon the Internet. It is disconcerting how reliant upon high speed Internet I am. It’s a part of my computer, my computer is a part of my life, hence –

Maybe you’ve already heard of this. I had, but never played with it until a friend called me to tell me about it.

Well, if you’re prepared to have your mind blown, and if you’re ready to lose a few hours of your life, and if you have broadband…
You’ve been warned…

Download this toy from Google.

(Sorry MAC users. It’s not available for you yet.)

See you in a couple hours.

We live in the future. That’s all I can say. I love technology, I just love it. I wish we as humans, could advance ¼ as much as the technology we are creating.

So ends this quick and useless entry.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Talked to Lance. He alerted me of a rumor. I googled, I checked. I confirmed.

Robert Altman’s newest movie, “The Prairie Home Companion”, has been tentatively re-titled. What’s the new title, you ask?

Take a guess.

“The Last Broadcast.”

Really. No kidding.

So, journey with me to a potential future typical conversation at a potential future typical party.

“So what do you do”.
“I’m a writer-director.”
“Oh, what have you made?”
“Well, my first movie was “The Game”.
“Really? You know Michael Douglas”?”
“It wasn’t that “The Game” it was another – made a couple years before”.
“Oh. What else?”
“I co-directed a movie called “The Last Broadcast”.
“Really? So you know Woody Harrelson and Garrison Keillor?”
“No, not that “The Last Broadcast”. Mine was about these people who go into the woods with video cameras and die and then a year later the footage is found and a documentary is made…”
“That sounds like –“
“Yes, I know. Mine was made a year before… say, I’m going to go get another drink”.

A few years ago a British band called “The Doves” put out an album called “The Last Broadcast”. That same year, Sheryl Crow put out an album with a song on it called “Diamond Road”. I registered that screenplay way back in 1994.

So, what does it all mean? Eh, probably not much. Just that I need to wrap the tin foil around my head a bit tighter.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Start up

Start up.

Today, I am sitting under the new Pergola and – writing!!
I am back to work, which feels like a relief in many ways. The weather has turned absolutely beautiful, and the area which I built is doing its job well – creating a bucolic environment within to write.

The problem may be that pleasant environments are not good ones in which to write. I think it may be a misconception – created by hopeful writers and composers.

Does great need a level of discomfort? Certainly invention does, and writing, painting, sculpture – all of it – are inventions.
It would be interesting to study the environments of great creators. I do know that Paul Simon stands in front of a large white wall, and throws a ball at it.

Maybe I need to build a big wall with which to bounce a ball from. Ha. Of course not because in the end, it’s the person doing the throwing, not the wall. I’m guessing that Paul Simon has come up with great lyrics while cleaning his garage.

I think that the Achilles heal of today’s creative world is the accoutrements  – the best synths, the best computers. More time is spent collecting software and hardware than actually using it. I know supposed filmmakers who spend so much time talking about what camera they’re going to use, what formats are good and bad, that they have yet to make a movie!
I don’t think that journalists and novelists go as crazy, but I do know that many ‘wannabe’ screenwriters spend an inordinate amount of time discussing what software to use to write their opus. More often than not, they never get past page ten. Lawrence Kasdan writes with a pencil. Says something, doesn’t it?

I spent an awful lot of time buying this latest computer, and building my latest office – outside office and inside office. My house is clean and ready.

The moment of truth is now.

(picture of hands tentatively above keyboard)

BTW – I use Final Draft for screenwriting.