Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thank goodness for British television

I’m back at work now, but while I was resting up I watched a lot of British television. It started with Sherlock Holmes. I’d been meaning to watch it, so between naps I watched some, then fell asleep, then watched some more, then slept. And it was quite enjoyable. I especially enjoy saying the name Benedict Cumberpatch. How very British.

Then I caught a recent episode of Primeval and realized I’d never seen the pilot, so I watched all seasons up to this one. Dinosaurs in London. When you watch all the episodes in a row, it’s a lot easier to follow the plot, but it’s also a lot easier to spot the ridiculousness of that show. I don’t care, it’s fun. Dinosaurs in London. And since there’s only 12 episodes per season, it didn’t take me long to work my way up to the present.

Then I remembered that I used to watch MI-5 (AKA Spooks) until it suddenly stopped appearing on BBCA. So I checked and sure enough, Netflix has it on instant. I managed to get through the first two seasons before I had to go back to work, so now I’m inching my way through the rest. There's a lot - that show's been on forever.

Watching Spooks makes me realize how silly 24 was. Fun, but very silly. Spooks has a much more sinister feel. Bad guys aren’t so black and white, and neither are the good guys. And when you look at the actors who have cycled through this show, it’s easy to be impressed with the casting people. And Tony Head, who has officially appeared on every show ever filmed in England.

The other day I was watching an episode and some young blond guy did one scene in a chair and I said to myself, Hey, I think that’s Benedict Cumberpatch! Which is, of course, fun to say. Benedict Cumberpatch, everybody! And I looked on IMDB and yep, that blond fella was indeed Sherlock Holmes. And we’ve come full circle.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The project I'm working on right now is three years old. I wrote it and revised it and then put it away and now I'm getting it back out. I never stopped thinking about it. Occasionally I'd ask someone to read it and give me some advice, and then I'd put it away again to think about that advice.

Recently I spent a lot of time compiling the perfect outline of the story. I wrote down all kinds of specific details, did full character bios, filled in all the gaps, pondered the most effective story choices.

Then I had surgery. Before my surgery I could type for maybe 15 minutes with slight pain. I still usually typed for an hour at a time then rested, but that last 45 minutes was excruciating. I was cringing with every letter, which makes writing comedy extra challenging. It's fun writing hilarious action sequences when it feels like a professional strong man is repeatedly slamming a hammer into your wrist at top speed.

After the surgery the doc gave me an assignment: Type, text, play video games. So I did. First I finished LA Noir over the weekend.

Then yesterday I typed and typed and typed. And it didn't hurt at all. A little stiffness after a while, but no pain.

NO PAIN. I can write with no pain. You have no idea how amazing that is. I've been alternately crying with joy and laughing like a maniac for the past four days as I discover new things I can do now that I used to take for granted. Watch me unlock this door! Watch me put on a bra! Watch me brush my hair! IT'S AMAZING!

Remember all that work I put into planning this story? And now I can write with no pain? Fuck yes, kids. I just ran with it. I wrote 10 pages in 2 1/2 hours. I cranked the tunes and just typed and typed and typed and the words flowed out of me like never before. So far it's a shitload of dialogue for an action flick, but I'll fix that on rewrite. I'm just excited to throw those words up on that screen.

And today when I went to see my doctor he told me I was making amazing progress. "I typed for two and a half hours yesterday," I said.

"Yep, that's probably what did it," he said.

So how about that? Screenwriting is good for me.

And thank you to everyone who has wished me well during this process. I appreciate your kind words.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Post op

Today my doctor told me that in 17 years of medicine he as never seen a wrist as fucked up as mine. The majority of his clientele is professional athletes, so I feel a dubious pride in knowing I did the most damage ever in the history of his practice. "I did some amazing work in there," he said. Apparently my ligament was twisted and torn and littering debris across the inside of my wrist. It was ugly.

So it's pretty cool to know that after therapy I'll be able to do normal human things like pick up a mug of hot chocolate or brush my hair. The best part is that for the next few weeks I can't pick up anything heavy, but I must type. I must text, play Xbox, and Miss America wave. Yes, I am under doctor's orders to play video games. But no washing dishes or taking out trash. Oh, the humanity.

I can type now - I'm supposed to type now. It's good exercise, I'm told. This week I'm going to go kick this screenplay's ass.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An old interview with Alan Ball that I find inspiring

I just wrote the most therapeutic long post about my current state of mind and the process of waking up to some truths that I've experienced over the last two weeks, and then I realized it would piss somebody off, so I decided it's not worth it. Who cares if other people know whether or not you're over their bullshit?

Instead, I'll post this:

Like I posted Tuesday, I've been wrestling lately with the idea of writing a passion project that is not terribly commercial, a project I've been working on for some time and have been dying to write. I have a more commercial idea waiting to be written, but I'm meh about it, and I want to get back into darker stuff anyway, but it's still risky to spend time working on something that people may not think they can sell.

But you only have so many years to live, and if I'm writing for free then I'm going to write something fun.

Then I came across the old interview with Alan Ball about his process with American Beauty. A relevant portion:

I pitched him two fairly standard romantic comedies that were pretty, you know -- if I couldn't pitch them in one sentence, I could pitch them in two. And then I pitched him American Beauty, which I had tried to write as a play years ago and I had sort of been toying around with these characters and their stories for years. And as you can imagine, the pitch was rambling, but I think I was really excited, you know.

"You think it's about this, but it's about something else, and you're feeling it -- oh, and underneath it is all about this whole sort of what's the nature of reality and there's this kind of metaphysical thing." I was totally expecting him to just sort of go catatonic and fall out of his chair.

And to my surprise he says, "That's the one I think you should write." 
And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because it's obviously the one you feel the most passionate about." It's the best piece of advice I ever got.

He goes on to talk in great deal about the creative choices he made and the process of working the script through the system from start to finish. It's a great interview, and it inspired me to feel more confident in what I have to do.

The full interview is here: Inside Film Online.

If you've never read it, do. And thanks to Greg Beal for mentioning this interview in a recent Done Deal thread.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Back in the saddle

I wrote three whole pages today. I needed those pages. They felt good.

I'm trying not to push it too hard - I had a panic attack after I picked up a too-heavy Pyrex bowl and convinced myself that I had undone all the work the surgery did - but three pages is not too bad for a day's work when one hand is wrapped in thirty thousand bandages that are getting really dirty.

The project I'm working on now is my old passion project. It's really risky because it's a period piece with a really modern flair but some old fashioned ideals. But I figure, if Alex Litvak can do it, so can I. And the time just feels right to rework this script. This is very much me. I've spent the past couple of years writing more commercial fair, so even though I enjoyed each of those script, I've missed getting dark and gritty. A lot of the assignments I crave are grittier scripts, but all I've written for the last couple of years were light and fun projects, so I hope this will showcase my dark side.

I'm going to take a few months to enjoy writing this material as much as I can before I start to think practically again. And who knows? Maybe this script will blow people away with its originality. I can only hope. All I know is, I'm going to try as hard as I can to make it as good as I can.

Isn't that what they say? Write the best script you can and the rest will follow? So to hell with the market or the gurus, I'm just happy to be writing again without pain. I'm going to be grateful for the freedom I am getting back and write something I truly love.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I'm alive

funny pictures of cats with captions
I just wrote a whole post about surgery and how awesome my perfect doctor is and my mom has been cool enough to detail my kitchen and make most of my thanksgiving dinner while I slept. Then my supposedly smart phone deleted my post to go update my Groupon app. So suffice to say it is weird to be talking to a guy about tequila and my mom having a panic attack trying to drive in LA traffic, and the next minute I'm watching my doctor pass out flyers for his book signing while a nurse offers you the world's most necessary apple juice. I hope to be back to writing soon. The goal is to type for hours with no pain. And to do push ups. And maybe if I work really hard in therapy I can punch a heavy bag again and learn Jujitsu. That would make me happy.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Thoughts on the film: A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas

So Harold and Kumar was fucking great. The third one was better than the first. Yeah, I said it. I loved that Christmas 3D movie. Best comedy I've seen all year.

Here's why.

1) It was funny. Jokes galore. Self-referential stuff, 3D absurdity, general absurdity, and the glorious Neil Patrick Harris. Neil Patrick Harris was fucking hysterical. I can't imagine anyone having a better time playing a drugged up lunatic, except maybe that kid who played the baby. I laughed from the opening scene all the way to the end. This morning the Beefcake and I were freely quoting from the film, particularly when I started preparing our pancake breakfast.

2) This movie was about stuff. Friendship, growing up, accepting responsibility, waffles vs pancakes. There was deep emotional stuff. So while on one end you have NPH trying to sexually molest a dancer and a penis getting stuck to a pole, on the other end you have a story about two friends who have grown apart - one because he's too much of a grown up, and one because he's too much of a child. All that theme stuff was perfectly executed. The story was more than just a delivery system for jokes.

3) I related to this one far more than the other two. There's a scene where our boys find themselves a party full of silly kids. The kids make fun of them for being old and washed up, and they have to remember when they used to be cool, way cooler than these little punks today. As a grown-up who spends all day around teenagers, I could 100% get with that. The kids I teach often declare that they hope they never turn 30 because it's SO OLD. And I just smile and think of all I've learned and accomplished since I was that age. I could have been Harold in that scene with the kids at the party. I never was a pothead, but I was young, and I have worried sometimes that this house and the dogs and the suburbs have made me a chode.

So what I'm trying to say is, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas made me feel better about life.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Harold and Kumar do Christmas in 3D

For some reason, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas is coming out before Thanksgiving. Why? Why not at Christmas, since it's a Christmas movie? It's just weird. It's not enough that Rite Aid starts selling Christmas stockings the week before Halloween, now we have to enjoy Santa in early November. Weird.

But I will see it, and in 3D even, despite the fact that I despise 3D.

I enjoyed the White Castle thing. That was good. I'm not into pot movies and I'm not sure I understood the weird shit with that inbred tow truck driver and his slutty wife, but all in all, solid film.

Then I saw Guantanamo Bay, and it was more inbred truck driver than fun with Neil Patrick Harris, so I didn't enjoy it so much. I think where White Castle was a movie designed to be enjoyed by potheads and straights alike, Guantanamo Bay was pretty much a movie you only enjoy while high. And I don't get high. The stuff just makes me want to take a nap.

Anyway, then I saw the trailer for the Christmas movie on Youtube and thought it looked stupid.

Then The Beefcake and I went to see Fright Night, and it turned out when we got to the theater that the time we chose was for the 3D screening. The next 2D screening wasn't for a couple of hours. So we ponied up and saw it in 3D. I enjoyed it, especially David Tenant, but that's not the point.

The previews were also in 3D. One of them Was Harold and Kumar.

Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is why 3D was invented. Ping Pong balls flew at my face, people waved their hands over my head, explosions came out at me.

3D ain't no artsy fartsy color enhanced shit. 3D is silly, in-your-face ridiculousness, and Harold and Kumar appears to have embraced the potential for fun. The preview without the 3D looked dumb, but for once, adding 3D suddenly enhanced the film. I suddenly understood.

So tomorrow night, the Beefcake and I will go see this film, glasses and all. And then we will laugh about it over Japanese barbecue. I hope.

And I will take an Ibuprofen beforehand in case it's headache inducing.

I really hope this silly film is good.