Friday, February 27, 2009

Victory Dance

Every time I finish a new script, I do a shot of the best whiskey I have in the house. I started this tradition with my first script and I've never missed one. I think it's important to find a way to celebrate the little victories in life. Tonight, Anthony and I turned in the first draft of our new psychological thriller and Evan Williams answered the call.

Here's hoping we all have something to celebrate this year.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Best Acceptance Speech?

Mickey Rourke accepting his Best Male Lead award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Disclaimer: NOT safe for work, children or your grandmother. I mean it. You've been warned.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Picks

I still have not received my invitation. If I had a publicist, I would fire them.

This is who I think is going to win, not who I want to win. I'm never very good at this but here we go, short and sweet:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director: David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Gus Van Sant could steal it from him.)

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler

Best Actress: Kate Winslet for The Reader

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis for Doubt

Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for Milk

Adapted Screenplay: Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Radio Silence

I've been a big fan of 97.1 FM Talk since my days selling copy machines. I would wake up in the morning and listen to Howard Stern ramble on about porn stars and midgets during my commute from Burbank to Santa Fe Springs. When I left the office to hit the field, Frosty, Heidi and Frank kept me company with their amicable and often insightful banter. At three o'clock, Tom Leykis took over with his loud mouth and rules for getting laid without spending any money. The guys in the office were all fans, and we would talk about what he said when we got back to our cubicles around five.

When you sell copy machines you spend a lot of time in the car. You wander all over your territory in search of a business you haven't seen before and nobody wants to talk to you. It can get lonely out there and it hit me hard in the beginning. I found myself getting really involved in all the shows on 97.1.

I listened every day. EVERY DAY. Okay, fine, I may have listened to my iPod every now and again, and I flipped over to NPR to catch up on world events from time to time, but there really wasn't a day that went by that didn't have 97.1 in it. Over time I grew to prefer Frosty, Heidi and Frank over the others, but I still listened to all of them.

When Howard left for Sirius I got Adam Corolla as a replacement. He had some hiccups in the beginning but I was one of the early adopters, empathizing with the enormous expectations he had hanging over him. His support staff changed a little over time, eventually adding Teresa Strasser, Bald Brian and then Danny Bonaduce. Danny didn't last long, but they did give him his own hour between FHF and Tom as a consolation prize. I listened through it all.

When I switched over to selling pharmaceuticals, I lost touch with a lot of my copier friends but everyone at 97.1 came with me. For four years now I've heard their thoughts, laughed at their jokes and choked up at their personal tragedies as they aired their dirty laundry on the airwaves. I've sent them emails, called their shows and loitered on their websites.

On Thursday, I found out there was going to be a format change.

CBS radio had decided to end the FM Talk station entirely, firing everybody on every show in favor of a computer-generated, Top 40 format. No more hilarious rants from Adam, no more tongue-in-cheek apologies from FHF, no more narcissistic bragging from Danny and no more insensitive, shock-jock antics from Tom. My friends were scattering and they all stumbled through their Thursday shows, trying to find the right words after years of talking.

Cut to Friday. This was THE DAY and everybody was prepared with montages, testimonials, special guests and grand gestures. I lucked out and was able to hear Adam Corolla sign off, promising to show up in the form of podcasts and TV shows. I jumped in my car for the last forty-five minutes of Frosty, Heidi and Frank, wiping my eyes as they thanked their listeners for being such a big part of their lives. I had to work through Danny's big goodbye but I did manage to catch Tom "blowing up" the station with one of his trademark nuclear drops (Blow Me Up, Tom!) as I drove home, another week in the books.

The air went dead. Then there was a long tone, like something out of a bad science fiction movie where all the robots try to kill everybody. More dead air. Then the montage started...

I don't know enough about pop music to tell you all the artists represented in the hodgepodge of craptastic music, but I can tell you it felt like a bullet in my chest. After they wrapped up their medley and promised 10,000 songs without commercial interruption, they played their first song: Kanye West's Paranoid. I turned off the radio before the song finished.

Look, I understand the money angle on this whole thing. Eight people worked on Adam Corolla's show alone, and all of them had to be paid. You'd have to pull down some absurd ratings all day long if you wanted to justify the staff costs for that many shows when you could get mediocre ratings from a computer playing the latest Beyonce hit. The economy is bad and every company has to tighten its belt. I get it, but I can't feel good about it.

It's Saturday now and I'm sure my radio friends are all trying to deal with their hangovers. I can't speak for the others, but I know that Frosty will dive into a pile of cheeseburgers, Heidi will go for a run and Frank will smoke a joint, all of them trying to clear their heads and figure out what to do now. They will all make it through the day and so will I, because it's Saturday.

Come Monday, I have no idea what I'm going to do without them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Durex condom commercial.

This will never air in the United States, which is a shame.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another birthday without me.

My nephew, Tyler, turned fifteen today. When I packed up a van and left Michigan, he was nine. I was there the day he was born. I was not there the day he turned ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen or fifteen. I was represented by a gift certificate, a check, a video game or a phone call. This hurts me. I know it hurts him, too.

How do you stay in touch with a teenager who doesn't like the phone? Video games. Last summer I bought an Xbox 360 because he bought one and they come with headsets. Since then I've killed people in the worlds of Halo, Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto just to stay in his life. My guilt is a trail of burnt, dead bodies on the internet.

(Hold on, I should take a moment and admit that I do, in fact, like video games. Always have. This Xbox thing is no great sacrifice. Let's move on.)

My niece, Hollie, doesn't mind talking on the phone but she's better at text messages and snarky Facebook comments. She just turned seventeen and she's about ready to go off to college. She was twelve when I left, she can't possibly be ready to go to college, can she?

When you move to the other side of a continent, you either hate your family or love your dreams. Ugh. "Dreams." I've grown to hate that word. It makes me think of American Idol speeches. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to love it.

"Follow your dreams!"

"Never give up on your dreams!"

"Keep true to the dreams of thy youth!"

In grade school I wanted to be a novelist. In college I wanted to be a poet and a playwright. After nine screenplays, a couple of minor options and a bigger one they wrote about in Variety, I am a screenwriter. When I moved to California I didn't know anybody and I didn't have much of a plan. I was slowly dying in Michigan because I felt like my life was secretly happening somewhere else. After five and a half years of looking, I found it in Hollywood. You know what? I love it. It has a fantastic woman in it. It has a great dog. It has a healthy bank account and no debt. The price for all of this is an empty chair at many, many birthday parties.

I've given up all these birthdays to follow my dreams and I'm not done yet. Every time one rolls around I'm reminded that I better get back to work. I better do one more rewrite, flesh out one more pitch because I'm paying for this time with every candle they blow out without me, and I'll never get them back. My only hope is that my family can understand how important this is for me, and that they don't hold all those candles against me.

Happy Birthday, Ty. I hope you have the courage to follow your own dreams, no matter what they cost you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bow Tie Friday

This all started because, after three years of being a drug rep, I still had doctors that didn't know my name. This bugged the hell out of me because "Relationship Building" has always been one of my strengths. I know their spouses, their dirty jokes and their taste in movies. I have a little file in my head for every doctor and I'm not afraid to use it. I'm good at this, damn it! Some of my doctors, it turns out, thought of me as just another drug rep. A nameless, faceless automaton who dropped off samples and brought lunch for the office. They didn't know who I was, what I sold and had no idea I had a secret life as a screenwriter.

I set out to raise my profile.

Step One: Grow a beard.

I went home to Michigan for Christmas. It was cold. I refuse to shave on vacation and when I got back to Los Angeles, I had a halfway respectable beard. I had never seen another rep with a beard, so I figured, what the hell, right?

EVERYBODY had to tell me how they felt about my fresh scruff. Admins, nurses, echo techs and, most importantly, doctors. My Russian doctors embraced me as one of their own. Love it or hate it, doctors talked to me and remembered me the next time I saw them. It became a thing.

Step Two: Bow Tie Friday.

Now I was the Beard Guy and doctors that never talked to me before were going out of their way to ask me how everybody liked it and talk about how it was growing in. I used this time to get my message out and burrow into their brains, kicking out competitors as I went. I started to wonder how I could take it up a notch. Then, like a jolt of serotonin, it came to me. Bow ties!

NOBODY wears bow ties anymore. Sales people looked at me funny when I asked for them. They'd pull out a dusty box and try to talk me out of it. Men's Wearhouse had formal bows but nothing you could wear with a suit. Nordstrom's finally came through at the low, low price of $45. Sold, to the man in the boring neck tie! I took my prize home and prepared to take over the world.

Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to tie a bow tie? I had to look it up on YouTube and there were a hundred excellent examples of how to royally mess up a bow tie. Then I found Lucky Levinson.

Done and done. Thanks, Lucky.

Now, when should I debut the thing? I settled on Friday because there's a more casual atmosphere in most offices and doctors are in a better mood. I wore it to Cedars Sinai on the next one that rolled around. Guess what I found out? Bow ties make people happy.

Two doctors paraded me through their waiting rooms to show their patients. Another doctor came right up to me and started adjusting the thing, breathing in my face. I could feel eyes on me everywhere I went. Some nurses laughed at me, lots of people chatted me up in the elevator and I had one doctor holding back tears as he told me about how his father always wore one. Bow ties, it turns out, are connected to some very emotional memories. That's a very good thing.

When I came back through those offices, this time in a regular tie, those doctors not only remembered my name but went out of their way to spend time with me. I had broken through the wall and become a bearded, unique face.

At this point you probably think I'm over selling the idea. I don't blame you. I wouldn't believe it either if I hadn't just worn it out into the world for the second time with the same results. I'm not saying that bow ties are magical or anything, just that they command attention. So, go ahead, shake up your life a little and make a statement:


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Makes me want to.

If I had a sticker, I would put it on this piece of paper. Right now I'm thinking a Chiquita Banana sticker would fit the bill without incriminating anybody. Otherwise, I'm on a mission to find a sticker for my competitor.

I must learn to control these capitalist impulses...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

She's a Bitsa. Bitsa this, bitsa that.

This is Gypsy. Animal Control found her running down the 134 Freeway with a big nasty shock collar around her neck. It took them a week to catch her. We adopted her a week later when my parents wanted to give me a dog for my 30th birthday. Best present I ever got.

A burning question.

My mother tells me that I never asked her "Why?" like so many kids do. I find this hard to believe because I know I questioned why I had to come in when the streetlights came on, why I had to eat those revolting beets and why I had to march in yet another Tulip Time parade. She sticks to her story and insists that my question, the one that drove her crazy, was "And then what happened?" I'll provide an example for you:

"Your father and I got married and went to the Pocono Mountains for our honeymoon."

"And then what happened?"

"It rained the whole time we were there."

"And then what happened?"

"Your sister happened."

You get the idea. Every time somebody recounted their day, I provided a minefield of questions about what happened next. I had an insatiable desire to find out the rest of the story. What I remember is that there was always more. Something always happened after whatever they were trying to tell me and it was almost always more interesting than whatever they originally wanted to share.

I have carried this fascination with me into adulthood. It serves me well in the world of screenwriting, but in my personal life it has become this giant, unspeakable thing in the center of my brain, dictating every action, every thought. Tomorrow is always more interesting than today. My accomplishments are nothing compared to what I'm going to do. The people in my life are never as impressive as the people I will meet tomorrow.

This is no way to live.

This never-ending quest I've been on to find the future and to dig into consequences has left me unable to fully appreciate the moment I'm living through. I never smile about today without worrying about tomorrow.

Some days I think the best thing that could happen is that I could be diagnosed with some terminal illness and be given six months to live. Poof! The future would be gone in a string of sentences uttered by some Beverly Hills doctor. Just like that I'd be free to let the world happen around me at its own pace. Fortunately, that's not my story.

My terminal disease is life. If I live to be eighty, I'll have almost fifty years to learn to forget about tomorrow and live for today, to stop being promising and start being good and to make a life on purpose instead of holding out for some vague nothing out there on the horizon.

As a child you can be anything, so I think I just wanted to know my options. As an adult I have already been many things, and now I find my list of available options getting shorter. Every day I cross off a few more and boil me down further to find whatever lies beneath my manicured layers of artifice and ego in a blind search for what I want my life to be. I know I'm getting close to it but I can't touch it yet, can't taste it on my tongue. I took a big step by writing this and putting it out there.

And then what happened?