David Frost, eat yer heart out!

What a cool day. As part of my new commentator gig for filmcatcher.com, FilmcatcherI was covering the Austin Film Festival. This much we know, right? During that time, I was trying to catch some interviews with some industry folks to post them on the my filmcatcher blog, The Runaway Screenwriter.

Well…let’s just say that I was…er…not exactly prepared. I don’t know where my proverbial shit was, but it sure wasn’t…you know…together. Well, that, and I really had no idea how to make the whole interview thang work.

I thought about buying a recorder, but then I’d have to transcribe each damn conversation. Like I had time. I barely had a minute to take dump, much less sit at a keyboard for, like, six hours a day trying figure out if the guy said “the business is in a period of evolution” or “the bees whiz in a periodontal solution.”

So I made the tough choice: become transcribing bee-otch in Hell or schmooze and drink (for free, I might add) at the AFF’s cornucopia of parties. It was a tough call.

That said, I really like Karl Williams. He was one of my favorite folks. As I mention below, I had the pleasure of sitting on a couple of panels with him. He is one of the most real, lucid, and intelligent cats I have met in the business. And he’s simply good people.

I am really glad I’ve gotten to know him. Next time we’re in L.A., Robbye and I already have dinner plans with the Williams clan. Sweet!

That said, I wanted to find a way to make good on my promise to interview Karl for filmcatcher. Turns out, where there’s an Internet connection, there’s a way. Here’s an excerpt from the interview. I hope you enjoy it. We had a blast doing it.

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A Conversation with Karl Williams: Screenwriting Superhero

Hey, all. I finally made it happen! Karl Williams, AFF screenwriting hat tricker and about-to-be-produced writer, and I sat down for a little Google Chat action earlier today. We couldn’t make it happen in Austin, but thanks to the power of technology…

As you may have read, I had the honor of serving on two panels with Karl at this year’s Austin Film Festival Screenwriters’ Conference. He’s got such a great perspective on writing and on the undustry, I thought my fellow filmcatcherians should have the opportunity to benefit from his insight and wisdom beyond the walls of the Driskill Hotel.

That said, without further adieu, may I present a conversation with Karl Williams.

(note: about the photo–Karl and I on the “How to Get the Most Out of [Screenwriting] Competitions” panel at the 2007 Austin Film Festival Screenwriters’ Conference)
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Bill: Hi, Karl.

Karl: Hi Bill

Bill: Let’s begin our conversation with a little
background on Karl Williams. You’re a couple months away from
production on your first sold screenplay, PUNCTURED, right?

KwbtoluKarl: Allegedly! You’re never quite sure until someone
says “Action.” But we are tentatively scheduled for January 2008.
We will need to make that date or close to it, at least with
the cast we have currently signed…they won’t be available to do the
film much past that point. So that makes it a bit more “real” that it
will really film in Jan.

Bill: Can you tell us who your cast is?

Karl: Well, I can confirm Jonathan Silverman for the
lead and Eugene Levy for the “mentor” role – I think it’s okay to
reveal their involvement because they ended up on IMDB somehow.

Bill: Hah! I know how that goes. Was Jan. ’08 always the start
date? If not, can you talk a little bit about the proverbial journey
from script to set? How did you sell this script and what happened
after you sold it?

Karl: It’s been the sterotypical odyssey – I was
working with a producer on something else that almost got made (a TV
show) but it fell apart; he asked what else I had and liked this
script. He found a director with money, or at least a director who
knew people with money, and we were off and running. That was a year
ago, and January ’08 is our third start date. Although it’s more real
now since we have cast attached.
Although, as you know, cast changes can happen right up until about
the last possible minute…

Bill: Was the cast attachment the clincher to greenlight? In my
movie, RUNAWAY, the financier was always in place. But signing Aaron
Stanford, hot off TADPOLE & X-MEN, was the checkmark he required to
let loose the funds.

Karl: I think Eugene’s interest in the project helped us (he
is very well known and liked, obviously). My impression is that it helped
get Jonathan involved. Having an actor people have heard of is a
definite plus – your project just gets taken a bit more seriously by
anyone who considers it.

Bill: Absolutely.

Click here to read the rest of the interview at filmcatcher.com

No. Freaking. Way.

Holy Crap! Robbye, Zach and I just pulled in from Rob’s mom & extra-dad’s a few minutes ago. I am in desperate need to get some SagePRESENCE work done in preparation for the debut of our new event this coming Thursday. It’s gonna be a late night, and I was kinda tired sitting down in front of the old iBook at around 10:15 in the PM.

BoxofficeAnd then I looked at email. Second from the top was one from Randy Webb, a gent Robbye and I met at the Austin Film Festival & Conference. He had been asking if he could connect with me for 15 or 20 minutes while we were in Austin to do a little interview for a blog he was doing for boxoffice.com on his AFF experience. I said, heck yeah! But I kept zigging when he was zagging, and except for connecting for a beer at the Driskill, like, Friday or Saturday, we never did get that sit down.

I emailed him the day Robbye and I were heading home and told him that if he was still game, I would be happy to conduct the interview via email. He said, great, and we did that. Well, turns out the folks at Boxoffice really liked the interview…but it was too long for their blog thing, I guess. So…they decided to publish it as a stand-alone piece.
Way. Cool!

I don’t know what to say. I’ve never been interviewed before. So I guess all I will say is, Thanks, Randy Webb. You rock the Universe! And you are a gentleman and a scholar.

Click here to read the interview at boxoffice.com.

Things we find cleaning house

I had an unexpected burst of ambition yesterday. I suppose it was excess adrenaline from Friday’s mad dash to get materials off to a prospective agent for Saturday delivery. So much is bubbling up on the screenwriting front right now–all good–that it’s been a little crazy.

The result was that, while Robbye was at her jewelry party, I cleaned. And cleaned. I mean, not that the house was a terrible mess or anything. But a week away with no one paying attention to the dog fur that collects on the floors alone is enough to throw anyone over the edge. And it was stifling. I felt like we were wading through it.

After I put the main floor and the majority of the top floor back in shape, I just couldn’t quit. What the hell? I was on a roll, and Robbye was running errands. So I decided to tackle my office. Which was a terrible mess.

The last week or so before we left for Austin had been hard on my little office. During that time, I was pretty much a maniacal freak, and I could neither find nor keep track of anything. It sucked, and it was kind of unnerving. So I basically threw stuff around my office like a madman. That whole “looks like a tornado hit the place” thang? Yeah…I had it going on. Big time.

But now all of that is fixed. Everything is put in its place. Everything is wiped down, and I even Febreezed my chair. Yay!

And when I was putting away some files, something fell out. It was an unfinished stageplay I was working on–gawd!–way back in…1990? I don’t know. I think. No matter. A long time ago.

For those of you who don’t know, I have this thing about the painter, Renoir. He pretty much rocks in my book. He is my favorite artist, hands down. There are reasons for this, but I will not bore you with them now, as I am working really hard to keep these blog posts to a reasonable length. You know…under 3000 words.

Back in the day, though, I had just read a really cool book called RENOIR: AN INTIMATE RECORD by a gentleman named Ambroise Vollard. For those of you who are familiar with the Parisian art scene of the late-19th/early 20th Centuries, you recognize the name. He was arguably one of the most significant art dealers of his time and helped launch more than a few big-name artists during his career.

Yet, he was more than a mere dealer. He was simply in love with art. And artists. He was their biggest fan, their best partron, and, to many of them, their best friend. That certainly was the case with Renoir.

Vollard wrote other books, including one about Degas and even his own memoir. But none of them feels as tender and loving as the one about Renoir. Even though the book is pretty much just dictated conversations between the two men, you can absolutely sense Vollard’s affection for Renoir, who was quite old by then, his hands wracked with arthritis and confined to a wheelchair. But nonetheless alive. Quite alive.

I used to think a lot about Vollard and Renoir, and their great friendship. So one day, I decided to write a play about it, I guess. The idea behind it was to explore the chasm between the desire to be a great artist and the ability to actually become one. (No latent symbolism there, eh?) The story was centered around a fictitious series of encounters where Vollard engages Renoir to teach him how to paint, himself. The only problem is, of course, that Vollard can’t paint for shit.

Anyway, I got about 20 pages in and then quit. I don’t know why. Probably because…I don’t know. That was a dark time for me, particularly with respect to anything writing-related. Looking at it from this end of the telescope, I was probably scared more than anything else. Scared that I was Ambriose Vollard.

But I read it now, and I wonder why I was so afraid. I mean, it ain’t great, but then again, it was a first draft. Right? The five scenes I wrote all had a pretty good voice and a neat subtextual undercurrent. And a certain charm. I dunno. I can’t remember why I thought the state of writing affairs was as dismal as I did. Why I was so hard on that guy.

I hope one day I hope I can go back and work on this project again. I would like to finish it. Maybe even see it on stage. Perhaps next year, if I can get a little breathing room. Who knows?

Meanwhile, I thought I would share this. It’s a scene between Renoir and his wife, after one of Renoir’s sessions with Vollard. Thought y’all might get a kick out of it.

Click here to read it.

Okay…I gotta head back upstairs. Robbye’s wondering why the hell I’m writing at 4:00 in the morning and not cuddling her. Frankly, I am wondering the same damn thing. See ya.

All’s Quiet on the Midwestern Front

I posted this over at filmcatcher.com, but realized that it as (if not more) appropriately belongs here. So…here you go–

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It’s Saturday morning. Robbye and I just got done with morning coffee. She’s in the shower now, getting ready to go to a friend’s jewelry party.

And I am getting ready to write.

Cuppajoe1But as we were talking over coffee, a realization hit both of us. That the AFF this year has proven to be a turning point for me–for us. I don’t know what the difference is exactly. It seems to have something to do with a feeling of viability. Me feeling like I am viable and finally claiming my spot somewhere in the part of movies they call “the industry”.

So when I sit down and write today, “professional screenwriter” doesn’t feel like a suit that I put on over the “real” me. It feels like the real me. And when I talk about myself to other people, I have that same experience.

The other day, I was at a surprise b-day party for a friend of mine. Everyone who interacted with me that day said that something was different. Something intangible…an air about me. In fact, another friend made a point of emailing me later, saying, “The other day I just really noticed a sense of you having arrived.”

Turning a corner. And for the first time in over a year, more excited than afraid to see what lies around it.

Take a breath. Take a step.

The Runaway Screenwriter

Bzzzt..! Kshhhhh… Bzzzt!!!

We interrupt our irregularly scheduled programming for this important announcement.

FilmcatcherI have been asked by the new (and up-and-coming) indie film site, filmcatcher.com, to be a contributor and commentator. Cool! In particular, they’ve asked if I will chronicle my adventures as a panelist at this year’s Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters’ Conference. Way cool!

2007_logoEach day over the next seven days, I will be checking in via a blog set up on the filmcatcher.com website to talk about the experience and to post interviews with other panelists/participants on the craft, the events, and the hijinks.

Click here to read the The Runaway Screenwriter at filmcatcher.com!

See ya…