Sep 27, 2004

I Like Saying "Tomb of Decay"

My first day attempting a strict new routine - one with coffee, and exercise, and writing - has been barely half successful. I vastly overslept, then immediately lost focus when I received an e-mail informing me that my new $600.00 miniDV camcorder would be rush-delivered to my apartment in Harlem. Where I don’t live.

Of course, I didn’t order the camcorder, so no problem. Except the identity theft.

Hours were spent on the phone, canceling the order, reporting the card in my hand “stolen.” All I can say is - FUCK THE POST OFFICE. They’ve managed to forward 1 out of every 35 pieces of my mail - at best. This has already cost me late fees and lost me replies from contests and producers. Now, it’s put my credit card bills in the hands of some creep that’s moved into my former residence, who’s ordering camcorders and merchandise from jessicalondon.com. FUCK THAT CREEP. AND FUCK THE POST OFFICE.

Most of all, fuck NEW YORK CITY. Just cause. May that dank, crowded tomb collapse in decay.

In the immortal words of Soul Coughing:
New York, New York
I won’t go back

To which, they add, in another tune:
In one way or another,
We are all going to Reseda,
To die.

Sep 25, 2004

Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Groom

Gabe and Gwynne were wed yesterday. I caught the garter but had no date; my lesbian accompaniment stood me up. Both of the bridesmaids were spoken for.

Afterward, I went to see Shaun of the Dead with Shaun and Michelle. I can't imagine why anyone would feel the need to keep making zombie movies after recognizing the existance of this excellent flick - but that seems to be Misplaced Planet's next indulgence, led by Benni's obsession and money.

As pointless as the exercise may be, particularly now, it would be more pointless to exclude myself. So, instead, I will attempt to wriggle my way into tackling the screenplay to Benni's story co-credit. I will try to face it as an amazing challenge (at this point, what the hell can be done to make a zombie movie unique, and in less than 15 minutes?). It will cost me only time, and, meanwhile, profit me experience, participation, and another ticket in the lottery of movie-making.

Besides, I can always use a pen-name.

I need a new one. Debrevis De La Fontes and Dmitri Deabler are getting old.

Sep 23, 2004

The Night Before the Night Before.

I've been making phone calls, pacing hands-free in the backyard. I wore a track in the grass and emptied a final half-pack of cigarettes. I smoked enough to make myself ill, and caught Stirling in a momentof drunken confession mania.

His rant was an odd balance for someone so inebriated. It sounded like a break-up from the, "It's not you, it's me," school. On one hand, he claimed to have given up film-making; on the other, he's pushing Mark D'Agostino's newest script on his boss for production, even if it lacks an ending. He said that I'd be successful and inspire the next generation of filmmakers and artists, but seemed to dismiss my work as pandering and shallow. He apologized for ditching Ladies and Gentlemen, but said he'd had different, political aspirations for it, aspirations that conflicted with mine and doomed the project. He apologized for not contributing to Momentary Engineering, but expressed his distaste for the script. He said he would've given $5000 if we'd gone with the other script (Twenty Feet Less Dead) - the script no one seemed to like - including him!

The repeated theme was that I should not listen to him, that he was a lead balloon, but also the King of New York. He said I had to escape the "intellectual" and arrogant East Coast, I had to stop him, Benni, Shaun, whoever, from holding me back.

What motivates these statements? Was it to pump my ego up big enough so I couldn't see around it and notice his dismissal of my work as just Hollywood tinsel? I have noticed.

Yet. Does he think he's not pretentious because he's called his own aims pretentious? If he sees what he is, calls a spade a spade, but holds onto his hand - does that not mean that he values a spade more? Is his adoption of the dismissive term "pretentious" not simply an attempt to speak "my" language? Does he not really mean, I am what you would call pretentious, and you are what I would call pandering. You belong on the West Coast where the air is light with whimsy. I belong in a New York tomb where the air is heavy with truth.

If so, is his calling me pandering, and thus bound for greatness, and himself pretentious, and thus bound for failure, not the most pretentious thing he could say? And, at the same time, the best way to excuse himself from the pursuit, without turning blame for that surrender onto himself? In the end, isn't this a way to exonerate himself of having abandoned these dreams, using creative differences to hide up the more significant difference in our levels of dedication?

His aspirations have shifted. He's selected financial security over what he'd called his dreams a year earlier. His path no longer run with mine. He's changed; I've stayed the same. He must now come to terms with that choice, and this is his way of doing it. His sales-pitch to me was troubling, because ultimately, while he tried to make it sound like encouragement offered to me, it was absolution offered to himself.

In truth, he doesn't know my aspirations - politically, artistically, professionally. He knows that he will no longer sacrifice stability and leisure to follow those dreams and agendas - I will - and so he must invent a line of separation, a line whose reason for being drawn he can live with. He has chosen a line that sets him on the side of unprofitable, but sincere, political intellectualism; and me, on the side of successful, shallow, pandering entertainment. By drawing the line there, he can rationalize his choice to back off. With the line drawn there, he would be silly to do otherwise.

But the line isn't there. Sincerity, political progressiveness, and intellectual depth need not be severed from entertainment. Sincerity, new ideas, and intelligence ARE entertaining. But the key is to utilize a form of communication that reaches those who live in that world (the "East Coast intellectuals") as well as those who do not ("the people I pander to"). That communication is, and always has been, STORIES.

What Stirling, and the ilk, fail to see is this: they are not put-off by someone pandering to the masses - they are put off by someone failing to pander to their intellectual crowd! If the issues and buzz-words and art-house obscurities are absent, they assume the message is not addressed to them, that there could be only foolishness inside, and they disregard it without opening it.

Both the "masses" and the "intellectuals" must accept with openness, must absorb without pre-judgment, the content of a story. One cannot dismiss the entertaining as inherently unintelligent. One cannot dismiss the intelligent as unentertaining.

Story is the first language. Its syntax is the interconnections between ideas and emotions. If one refuses to feel, ideas are lost. If one refuses to think, feeling is lost. The mindlessness of an action movie leaves the action flat and tedious. The callousness and distance of an "art" film leaves the ideas stagnant and unpersuasive. An effective story finds the emotion that makes the idea unforgettable; it finds the idea that makes the emotion unavoidable. An effective story does more than preach to the choir of its making. It is its own decoder.

In short, Stirling, and the rest, can have their self-preserving rationalizations disguised as praise for me and deprecation for themselves; I will keep my self-preserving rationalization disguised as a treatise on the polarizing misconception that sucks life out of movies, novels, and music.

So there.

Sep 13, 2004

Awaiting Second Wind

Almost eleven at night. Another day. Another contest in which I failed to win or even place. I'm overcome with boredom. This is a mode that's grown too familiar. I get up. If I don't get a life-changing e-mail, if I don't get a life-changing phone call, if I don’t get a life-changing postal mail – the day is over. I just wait for the credits to roll. For sixteen hours.

I've taken benedryl again this evening. I risk it, though it brings me down. It will lull me to sleep. It will put a haze over tomorrow. But it's okay. I don't expect much from tomorrow. Barb is in "town," but I expect her schedule to be full. I don't expect to even catch her on the phone.

It seems like a long, long time since my schedule has been full. That was my element. How, again, did I do this to myself? And how, again, can I get a life?

Thursday, I fly to Los Angeles. I don't know what I'll do there. I say that I'm scouting for apartments, but I can't move there until the end of the year. So what am I doing? I'm filling hours. I'm guarding my sanity against solitude.

Benni called. Shaun called. Caroline called. Alli called. That should describe a banner day. In a sad way, it does. It gives me a few voices to mull over, but far too few words.

They express envy for my position. I would express the same envy, were I energized to write, were I released from this dread, were I with company.

I need to start writing again. I hate when I'm between projects. It always seems like the end of the world. But. The impossibility of my dreams hang over my head at present. I cannot spend my life this way, but I cannot get into a passing gear. I cannot get a break. Money simply drains and drains. How long can I afford to keep trying?

The things that bring me joy require unimaginable amounts of money, and many people. These two things I lack the most.

Sep 12, 2004

Storybook Park

I cracked into the long-ignored file folder for Storybook Park and found a two-page snippet of prose that I'd completely forgotten having written. It seemed so unfamiliar, I wondered for a moment whether I'd actually written it. Maybe I'd just clipped it from online for inspiration.

But no. I wrote it. I recall doing so. In Princeton. In Marguerite's bed. On her laptop. It's quite good in parts (awful in others), but somehow it captures the thrill I had about the idea that night. These words that I looked at only once, half-asleep, more than a year ago, capture the seed of the story I now need to tell. In those two pages, the stale concept that's been stewing on my back burner is fresh, intact, and exciting. I am grateful to have it. I hope it will drive me to begin, and guide me to finish.

My ten thousand dollar short is shot. My fifth screenplay, which took almost a year, which I swore would make or break me, is off to competitions and agents and producers, and bound to break me. So it's time to start screenplay number six.

I think that this one is for me.

Flat Socks

It's technically September 13th, but until Cynosure announces its winners as promised, it's still the 12th in all ways that matter to me. I have absolutely no reason to believe that I'll win or even place - quite the contrary. But waiting gives the night character. It makes my passing of time goal-oriented

I spent about half-an-hour ironing socks. I just set the iron on each folded pair and let it hiss and gurgle while I searched out the next match. They stack better steamed and flattened.

As I once again begin cutting my smoking back to "only from bumming," I speculate that my lethargy might be better alleviated by coffee than by will power. A tall cup today pulled me through the tedium of 3 PM, the third 3PM in as many days. This allowed me to put together a few more script packets, as well as preparing for cold-calling and query-lettering. I also bathed my dog, sent some mail, brushed my dog, put air in my tires, bought milk, and had an ATM refuse to sell me stamps. Post-filming, this monumental amount of activity has only been matched when I deced to mow an acre of grandma's grass with a push mower.

So, perhaps coffee is the answer.

Then again, I also spent the entire day in movie-surplus navy-blue zip-up cover-alls, courtesy of Momentary Engineering. It was meant to state my seriousness about getting writing done.

Notice. Writing was not on my list of things I got done.

Sep 9, 2004

Nostrum Plums

Since I can't find a love to motivate me, I suppose that I should start writing for its own sake again...

Momentary Engineering sure is finished. As of yet, the film has left no permanent marks of change on my daily life. It was a brief vacation from the status quo, but I'm now quite sure -- it will be virtually impossible to repeat. It was a sweet spot. A moment when compromise was in the air. A project we all cared about. Now, everyone wants to move onto their personal pet project, but personal pet projects rarely inspire group love. You are the only person who wants to kiss your pet.

I watched Shawshank Redemption, and kept thinking that surely I would write if I were in prison. But somehow, I can't write now, here, presently. I suppose, here, as in prison, I have to come to grips with the fact that writing can not free me. Writing will not free me.

But I don't know what else to do.

Is Los Angeles just another nostrum -- an arbitrary event toward which I can delay? Is it another carpet to get tugged out from beneath me, like New York?

New York's a lot like love. It seems real romantic from the outside.

What exactly is it that I'll be able to do in Los Angeles that I can't do here, that I couldn't do in New York? Answers do not come flooding in. I fear that my ambition is great, and I may even have some talent, and I may even work harder than most, but none of it will ever total up enough to overcome my introverted nature. I am not gregarious or false, and yet, I'm trying to break into the world's most gregarious, false, and closed-off business.

Keep getting up.

Sep 4, 2004

Momentary Engineering

Momentary Engineering is wrapped. It ballooned to a $10,000 shoot. Massive. Overwhelming. Exhausting. And absolutely wonderful. We were blessed with a better cast than I could ever dream. The D.P. and gaffer, though sometimes on the slow side, gave us spectacular lighting. Box-trucks full of equipment. Parking passes, permits, and the RNC protests.

Now that it's gone, there is a vacuum. This is what I want to do. This is why I write screenplays instead of novels. To see my story inspiring these people, to see them all excited and working their asses off in 120 degree humidity, until 8 in the morning -- that's what keeps me going. These moments are brief, and the work is hard, but what else could I possibly live for?

I am sad that I'll be moving to Los Angeles before Misplaced Planet can produce another short. I am particularly interested in co-directing a short with Shaun Boyle. However, soon enough, there will be bickering and squabbling amongst the team. Everyone wants to write. Everyone wants to direct. This was a magic sweet-spot, and I can't change my future plans based on the desire to work with these people -- that was what got me to NYC, to do Ladies and Gentlemen.

About that. Little story. I recently received a letter from Slamdance about the Ladies and Gentlemen screenplay. Some good ideas for improvement. Very positive. (They think I should find a name actress or small producer to champion it. I love recommendations like that. They also recommended that I grow a third arm from my forehead and learn to stand on it.) But. Since they estimated the cost to produce it at less than $10 million (I estimate it at less than 1 million) - they recommended producing it myself. At least in part. To shop it around.

Funny that. I thought the same thing.

Shame on those NYC kids. Shame on them for letting a good thing die. And shame on me for allowing it to happen.