My good friend Matt Young is a fantastic writer and he’s started a cool blog that focuses more on the nuts and bolts of screenwriting. He’s also interviewing working screenwriters, and he just posted an interview with me. Check it out here.
I don’t usually make new year resolutions but last year, in this blog, I made a resolution to blog faster and more often. I failed completely. And in public, no less. Oh well. I could beat myself up about it or I could do what we should all do when we fail at something…try and do better the next time.
So here I am at the end of the first “work-week” of the year and honestly, it’s been going fine. Last year I co-created a new horror/comedy web-series called 20 SECONDS TO LIVE.
It’s taken a lot longer than we’d anticipated for a couple reasons: we had no money but we were adamant that the series look fantastic. It’s been said before: fast, cheap, good…pick two. We picked cheap and good. But coordinating schedules with talented people generous enough to donate their time meant we pushed shoots often. By the end of the summer, we had three in the can and wanted to shoot two more before the end of the year and call that our first season. Then I got married, which took me off the grid for nearly a month. Then the holidays came and…it was looking like we’d never shoot them.
But someone (not me) suggested we start the new year on fire, shooting two episodes back to back on the first weekend of January. I thought we were crazy to consider it…but we did it! We worked with a fantastic crew and a stunning gang of actors. I can’t wait to share specifics but honestly, we’re focused on getting everything ready to unleash the series as soon as we can. I have to admit, it feels good to hit the ground running, as opposed to easing into the new year.
In addition to the web-series, there are a couple of TV opportunities I’m waiting to hear about and I’m starting work on a new feature screenplay. All that and I’m going to blog more! I’m not calling it a resolution. I’m just saying it out loud. In public. Let’s see how it goes this time.
Thought I’d follow up my last blog, where I discussed how much mental real estate you can contribute to multiple projects. I was tracking about five categories of stuff in my head. Here’s where I am now:
1) Getting married.
2) What was the question again?
Seriously, our big day is almost here and my brain is fried. In theater terms, I describe it as putting on the biggest show of your life…one performance only! You have one hour to rehearse and tech and there’s no dress rehearsal, but your cast and production team are the people you love most in the world and everyone’s allowed to drink during the show. And if you’re lucky, you have the greatest co-star ever (which I do).
In addition to our endless wedding-related to-do list, I’ve managed to squeak in some other stuff. My feature script THE FREELANCER is making the rounds. My producers and reps are going out with my new spec TV pilot. We shot a third episode of 20 Seconds To Live, the new web-series I co-created with Ben Rock. Along with out amazing producer Cat Pasciak, we’re shooting two more for the first season, but we recently pushed production until after the wedding.
And we got a new kitten. If I have anything to teach you it’s this…maybe getting a kitten a few months before you get married is not the best idea. Luckily, she’s a lovable little scamp.
I also got a random bit of good news. Earlier this year, I submitted a short play of mine to a one-act festival in NYC, then promptly forgot about it. Turns out they received over a thousand submissions and picked twelve including my one-act “Rocket Sex”! So if you’re in NYC, you can see it in Program A of the Collective:10 Play Festival. I’d be there to check it out, but would you believe, it’s during our honeymoon.
In other random news, my friend Courtney Rackley created a cool rom-com web-series called “Firsts“. Last year she asked me to write an episode that ended up being the season one finale. So here’s my episode, First I Love You. I think there’s some dirty language in there (I should remember, but y’know, brain fry).
There. Now I can cross “update blog” off my to-do list. The big show opens in a couple days, closes the same night, and it just might be one of those legendary “You really saw the Beatles live?” kind of events. I know it will be for me, since I get to marry the best girl in the world.
My brain may be filled with way too much real estate right now, but there’s room enough to squeeze in something important that I always need to remember: I’m a very lucky guy.
A few months ago, I was chatting with my manager about what I was working on. I pitched one of my projects as “something just for fun, it won’t take much time.” This is a code for saying, “I’ll still have time to work on stuff that could make us money.” He instantly made his own point: “You only have so much mental real estate.”
This has stuck with me. Learning how to balance multiple projects is a must in Hollywood. Unless I’m on a writing staff or getting paid to write a feature, then everything is written on “spec”…which means I’m writing it for free in the hopes of selling it or using it to get work. When it’s all on spec, you can work on as many things simultaneously as you can handle.
But can you really? There’s the time I’m actually at the computer, working on one or more of my projects. Then there’s the rest of my day, and it’s interesting when I realize much work is done during that time. Taking a shower, walking to the store, driving to a meeting…those are times when the brain gets to wander. And almost always, my brain wanders to the most pressing of my projects. And I know I’m in trouble when during those precious times, my brain wanders to something other than my latest script.
Here’s what’s currently taking up my mental real estate:
1) I’m writing the first draft of a spec TV pilot. It was brought to me by a producing team and it’s based on an upcoming graphic novel.
2) I’m two drafts into a new feature screenplay, probably only a draft or two away from showing it to my agents and “sending it out”.
3) I’m co-creating a web-series called 20 Seconds to Live with my good friend, director Ben Rock. Along with our producer Cat Pasciak , we’ve shot two episodes (they’re very short) and are getting ready to shoot another batch of episodes before releasing them later this year.
4) I’m the marketing associate for the upcoming Sacred Fools Theater Company main-stage show, the world premiere of TASTE. It’s a very cool, very dark show directed by horror icon Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator). My job is to get butts in the seats any way I can, but mostly by writing press releases, doing community outreach, and blasting out the word via social media outlets.
5) Oh yeah, I also have a life. There’s spending time with my fiancée and our two cats, planning wedding events, studying kenpo, working out, my monthly writers group meeting, seeing my friends, and every once in a while, I write a blog.
There’s a lot going on in my brain. Too much, probably. Luckily, things are sorting themselves out. But the lesson remains. There’s tons of fun stuff to get involved with, plenty of ways to pack my schedule with projects involving people I love.
But I only have so much mental real estate. And so do you. So fill it carefully.
Years ago, I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman doing a Q&A after Capote. When asked about his reputation for being “difficult” on set, he talked about how most people wake up in the morning, put on their armor, and go out to face the world while keeping their private selves private.But his job is to be private…in public. And that’s just not easy.
It’s something we take for granted. We marvel at someone’s brilliance, the way they can reveal something truthful and authentic about the human condition. But what’s the cost of doing that every day? What’s the cost of making a living being private in public? We’ll never know for sure.
We can only feel the sadness for an artist gone to soon, and thank him for letting us inside his private self, if only for a short time.
Number of times I’ve attended the Sundance Film Festival, including this year: 9
Days we attended this year: 4
Films we saw this year: 5
Amount of films we usually see: 7 to 10
Amount of time we spent cursing the terrible new waistlist system: too much
Elijah Wood sightings this year: 2
Elijah Wood sightings (lifetime): 5
Percentage chance that I’m stalking Elijah Wood: 50
Percentage chance that Elijah Wood is stalking me: 50?
Celebrity sightings in bathrooms: 2 (Michael C. Hall and Dane DeHann)
Random run-ins with friends whose names are musical styles: 2 (Disco)
Days we skied: .5
Parties/lounges attended: 8
Meals where we actually sat down and ordered food: 2
Meals where we were standing at parties eating off tiny plates: lost count
Free drinks: a billion?
Celebrity encounters: 1 (ended up strolling next to Joshua Jackson. Told him we missed “Fringe”. He smiled and hustled away – into another dimension perhaps?)
Great movies we saw: 1 (Dead Snow 2, an incredibly entraining horror/comedy about nazi zombies)
Pretty good movies we saw: 2 (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – the best black and white Iranian vampire movie ever made – and Cooties – a horror/comedy about teachers trapped in a school during an outbreak of a virus that turns children into mutant cannibals – really)
‘Meh’ movies we saw: 2 (War Story and Foxy Merkins, though the latter wins for coolest title of the year)
Star-making moments witnessed: 1 (Ana Lily Amirpour, the writer/director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, gave a Q&A after her film that was electric, ballsy, and loaded with sass. The second biggest disappointment of the festival, after the new wait list system, is that my fiancee didn’t get to hug her)
Roommates sharing our two-bedroom with a loft condo: 6
Roommates who got the dreaded Sundance plague: 1 (me)
Days it’s had me in its grip: 7?
Day I’m finally feeling almost human: today
I was watching the season premiere of “Justified” the other night and saw a familiar face: actor Michael Rapaport. I’ve been a fan of Michael’s ever since he played struggling actor Dick Ritchie in “True Romance”. But there’s another reason I have a soft spot for him.
Movies take forever to get made and one of the reasons is that building momentum just takes time. It begins with a script, of course. But after that, you need a producer to assemble the team. You need a director to lead that team. You need a studio or an independent financier to provide the money. And of course, you need actors to bring the magic.
I love actors. One of my favorite things in the world is when an actor loves something I’ve written. My first film, “The Air I Breathe“, was an incredible ride and one of the reasons is that so many actors liked the script. My director and co-writer Jieho Lee met with almost every actor who read it (including, funny enough, Justified’s Timothy Olymphant). We ended up with a stellar cast that was pretty unbelievable for a first time feature director.
But there was another script that was almost my first. Back in the late 90’s, I wrote an ensemble crime drama called “Shooting Blanks”. I optioned it to some ambitious Orlando producers who worked their butts off to get the movie made. They assembled a great cast and director and came very, very close to putting the financing together. But alas, it never happened.
The first actor who formally attached himself to that script was Michael Rapaport. We never got to meet, and the movie was never made. But every time I see him in something, it makes me so happy.
Michael Rapaport was my first movie star.