I don’t know what to think anymore

The problem, of course, is this…

What am I supposed to think?

A friend of mine sent me this link about a week ago, saying, “Just saw it again online.  As someone commented, ‘Looks sucktacular’. Couldn't have said it better myself.”

I know that as a card-carrying movie cynic I should feel the same.  But I don’t.

I found it…erm…fascinating, reading in a recent article in the Hollywood Reporter, “Despite ‘Trek's’ indisputable cultural brand and avid fan base, the filmmakers and the studio hope to bypass two potential obstacles on the way to blockbuster box office returns: the MySpace generation's unfamiliarity with the series and genre and the franchise's typically anemic performance in the global market.”

That struck a chord with me.  Then I realized they’re right.  My kids grew up with “Star Trek” meaning Captain Picard and then meaning that kinda lame series of shows and movies, most of which were over-fixated on this “Borg” thing or time dilation.  And it was never really a factor in their lives, save for the fact their dad was kinda kooky over it.  They liked it because I liked it and because they enjoyed enjoying things with me.

But that’s not what “Star Trek” means to me.  I was born into it.  The real thing—the universe of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock—was high drama of Shakespearean proportions as far as I was concerned, and it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  It felt real and a little scary, and, by god, it was, wasn’t it?  It was the future!

For me, “Star Wars” was the upstart usurper.  Yep, it captured my attention.  Yep, it eclipsed “Star Trek”.  Yet, its eclipse was of the “second love” variety.  Bigger, better, but always second.

You never forget your first love they say, and the 79 episodes of the original “Star Trek” series were that for me.  Pretty much everything else, save for “The Wrath of Kahn” movie, felt a little like a white lie.  We nodded and called it “Star Trek" because we wanted more, but we knew…

Then I caught a glimpse of these photos on IMDb, and something stirred inside me.

I looked at them, and I felt it…”Star Trek”.

Then I watched the trailer, and I felt it again.  Yep, updated.  Yep, slicker.  Yep, bigger.  But there was something there.

Funny…I didn’t even completely process until my second watching that the actors in the trailer were different than those I remember from TV.  I got it.  I bought it.  Done deal.

My friend, Mike, says that this new “Star Trek” looks like a community theatre production.  To which I say, “I know.  That’s part of what I like about it.”

It’s all the things I mentioned above and just hokey looking enough to feel familiar.  To feel real.  To wake up my inner eleven year-old and let him take a turn at the controls for a change.   And, of course, to believe.

But here's the rub: I don’t trust it.

By the way, the answer is "Yes": I know that I investing far too much energy and thought into all this.  Yet, I am not only familiar with the “Star Trek” universe, it is part of what defines me.  It’s important in the way that all cultural icons are important and more.  I was not only raised on “Star Trek”, but because of the nature of what it was—the morality play nature of it all—I was also raised by it.

If it’s true you can’t go home again, I am setting myself up for a fall.  Then these pictures and this trailer are like memory ghosts, idealized visions of the way things were and might have been.

If Mr. Abrams and co. aren’t as good as everyone claims they are, and the 43 year-old isn’t entertained alongside the eleven year-old…  Because that’s Abrams' challenge here, isn’t it?  It isn’t just connecting with the MySpace generation, which isn’t the real target audience (save for opening up opportunities for sequels) anyway.  It’s two audiences—eleven year-olds and 43 year-olds—caught in a situation of “Star Trek” proportions themselves…they occupy the same body.  And if this production can’t adequately deliver to those two audiences…

I don’t even wanna think about it.  Thank heavens it’s still six months away.  I can hide my head in the sand till then.

Relax… It’s good for you?

I've been in a funk lately.  And not the cute sitcom kind where I sit on the couch for a day or so and fire pithy quips at the boob tube or whomever blocks my view during Oprah.

No…this has been a bonafide funk.  The real deal.

I've lived my life, sure.  Every day, though, has felt like slogging through mud.  Every action requires five times the energy.  And everything that comes out of my mouth seems lame.  Probably is lame, as the dead space between me and whatever thought I'm searching for, much less the right word, can be measured in astronomical units, and then there’s no guarantee that whatever I latch onto is right or appropriate or even coherent.

It’s really bugged me because I am at a “feet don’t fail me now” point in my life.  It’s not simply that there are a lot of things I want to accomplish; there are myriad things I need to get done.  You know…keep life integral stuff.

I make lists and then sit down in front of my computer (through which most of said work must be done)…and nothing.  Well, not if you count reading Yahoo! News or thumbing through my iTunes library.  I excel at those lately.

What gives?  It’s not only that I have to get these things done…I want to.  There’s so many things I want to do, and this goddamned funk—it’s mucking it all up.

For every day the list is swelling with the things I didn’t get done the day before.  Things small and large.  Overflowing.  Dropping onto the floor around my feet.  In pieces.  Which leaves another, more complicated and troublesome task to heap atop everything else: picking up the pieces and trying to put them back together.

And trying to keep forward movement—hell! ANY movement—going.

So far, I’ve been able to keep things reasonably together.  Things are fine.  The speaking has been going well, and things have been moving forward with INCARNATION.  But I know.  Inside I now that my performance is sub-par.  And there have been outward signs lately—the orbital decay has become apparent to others.

That sucks.

I am tired of hearing the whys and the well-meaning hypotheses, from me as much as anyone else.  I just want my energy back.  I just want me back.

The silver lining in this dark cloud is that when the world is quiet (or I succeed in simply ignoring it), I am experiencing some of the most creative journeys ever through my inner space.  The result is that the MANIACAL ENGINEERING story I’ve landed on is, I believe, pretty good.  It feels fresh and inspired.  As I work to put it together, I am realizing that it represents a real evolution in not just my storytelling ability, but in my story generating ability as well.

And then there’s the matter of the other thing that’s cooking in my head all of a sudden.  The stuff that Facebook entries like “Bill had an interesting creative realization Monday that set his mind a-whirring. Me thinks…it just might work” are made of.  I don’t wanna say too much about it.  I’ve bounced it off a couple of people in my inner sanctum and gotten the wide-eyed, smiling nods that tell me I am on the trail of something worthy of pursuit.

It’s important for now that I keep the idea close to my chest.  Not that I think it’s gonna get stolen or anything like that.  At the moment, it’s simply delicate, fragile.  It’s going to require a lot of TLC to grow into a strong and full-fledged concept, much less a great script.

But for the first time since the germ of this idea popped into being (which was a few years ago), scenes are playing in my head.  I am hearing characters talk, seeing them interact.  Dots are being connected between them.  The world and the path through it are revealing themselves to me.  That feels good.

And it’s a TV idea.  I’ve been wanting to come back to TV for over a decade now.  Even gooder.

Which leads me inevitably to this: do I just relax?

All the billboards along the Interstate warning us about the dangers of depression aside, everyone gets the blues, right?  I mean, please don’t misunderstand—I’m not demeaning the seriousness of depression.  I know it’s real.  I know it’s devastating.  I know it’s a killer.

Trust me.  I know.

My statement isn’t one of denigration or denial, it’s one of recognition, yet trying to get a handle on type and severity.  Of trying to identify whether or not I am on well-trodden common ground or somewhere else…somewhere lost and needing to call for help.

It’s not like I’ve never been in a funk before.  It’s not like I have never been flat-out depressed before.  And though this funk has felt more acute than others in the past, I sort of understand how I got here.  Take everything that’s happened in the last several years and line it up, and it makes sense that I would feel tired.  Yet, I don’t want to make the mistake of dismissing it out of hand because I know how slippery a slope these funky things can be.

Hmmm…  Well, I guess here’s where I stand (hence my “do I just relax?” comment)…I know that over the course of the past couple of weeks I've been feeling incrementally better.  I feel a little lighter. I know that through sheer force of will I am kick-starting myself and attending to a number of things that have been screaming for my attention.   These are good signs, adding up to a feeling of “I’m on the upswing.”

I know that all of a sudden I am writing again. That’s a good sign, too.

And there’s the rub.  I am writing again.  Harvesting ideas fertilized and cultivated in the manure pile of this funk.

I remember telling a psychologist once that I wanted to be happy in my life, “but not too happy.”  I worried that through the course of therapy I would lose a grip on my underlying angst.  That it might dissipate and be gone forever.  That would be a bad thing, I thought.  Tantamount to a creative lobotomy.

Well, fear not, self.  You have nothing to worry about.  Through thick and thin, your beloved angst hasn’t gone anywhere.  I doubt it ever will.  Then again, you know now what you knew then, huh?  It’s par for the course.  An occupational hazard, if you will.

Laborers have back injuries.  Typists have carpel tunnel and eye-strain.  Miners have black lung.

Writers…we have our angst.  Our funks.  In the end, I suppose it’s a good thing.  It is, after all, as much a source of our inspiration—maybe even more so—than our elation.  And, I must admit, there is an odd comfort in that.

Keeping it in check.  Keeping perspective.  Only heading so far down the rabbit hole.  Now that’s the trick, ain’t it?

Of Dreams

In a recent post, where I unveiled my latest ode to my beloved (and my muse), I mentioned that someday I would probably write and record a song that had to do with "something else".

That idea got under my skin.  I wondered, though, what that song might look like.  The answer was right under my nose.

I took my inspiration from INCARNATION, which has been monopolizing my time and mind and soul, anyway.  I decided to start from the standpoint of what would I do if someone approached me and asked me to write an end title song for the movie.  What would that sound like?

My vantage was Harry, the main character.  How could I capture an aspect of his internal stuggle and his journey musically.  Whether or not this song fits that bill is questionable, but It’s clearly inspired by it.

I am reasonably happy with the outcome, though I find these songs are usually "finished" when I get sick of futzing with them versus being perfect.  I don’t know whether perfect is possible considering my equipment, ability, time, and talent.  There are aspects of this one that make me cringe a bit–my vocals in parts and the drum track, where I had limited options for programming/editing to create more variety, in particular.  But I am satisfied overall–enough so to share it here to all of you.

That said, here it is.  I present to you: OF DREAMS.

Let me know what you think.

Of Dreams

I’m dreaming
Heaven weeps
While you sleep
And I-
I open my eyes again

I walk alone
A heart turned to stone
Eternity just laughs at me
And you-
You hang on my mind again

When all is said and done
Line up the setting suns
With endless nights
And I’m still left wondering
If they’re all a simple waste
Of dreams

Turn around
O! You silly clown
The light of day
Is the other way

When all is said and done
Line up the setting suns
With endless nights
And I’m still left wondering
In all our “come what mays”
In all our passion plays
In the fleeting taste
Of all our ought to bes
Is it all a simple waste
Is it worth us to embrace
And live, in fact, in place
Of dreams?

The top of the mountain ain’t enough

These were two good men in this race–two men whom I would have been proud to call my President.  Yes, I had my issues with John McCain.  Mostly, though, they were of the "scratching my head and wondering where the hell the John McCain I thought I knew went" variety.  But I knew in my heart that both of these good men truly put "Country First."

So…first off, thank you, John McCain.  Thank you for everything you have given to this nation–so much–and thank you for your continued service in its name.

Last night, monkeys tumbled off our great nation’s back in droves.  So much history was made last night–I love the way David Gergen on CNN kept saying, "The significance of this night cannot be overstated."  Certainly, it is going to take this country, its citizens, and the world years to understand and then live into that significance.  It sure feels good, however, to be here today.

I am excited.  Strangely enough, it’s not because we’ve just elected our first black president.  I clearly pay homage to this amazing milestone, but what truly excites me is how President-Elect Obama brought something back to many, many of us that it felt like we’d lost.  How, above all, he embodies this.

I feel like an American again.

When Michelle Obama said at the beginning of the year, "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback," she took a lot of heat.  Of course, what those who seized on that comment didn’t mention was that her remark was a follow up to this statement: "People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics."

How folks could misconstrue her comment as somehow un-American, was beyond me.  In fact, I took it as one of the most American statements of the election year.  I mean, since when did questioning our leaders and our political landscape demonstrate a lack of patriotism in this country?  Questioning authority is, after all, the foundation upon which this country was built.

More to the point, Ms. Obama’s comment, In a sentence, it summed it all up.  I don’t know if I could put myself as squarely in the "not proud of my country my adult life" as she was.  I felt pretty damned skippy voting for Bill Clinton in ’92 and ’96.  I felt like our country was moving in the right direction.  But these past eight years…

I had, myself, begun to lose hope.  How we could allow an election to be stolen.  How we could buy into politics of divisiveness and ideology.  How we could be at each others’ throats.  How we could, in eight short years, become the "bad guy" in the rest of the world’s eyes.  How we could move from relative prosperity to the brink of economic ruin.  And how, as Rome was burning, we were fiddling–still arguing and bickering as flaming pieces of our society fell charred and broken at our feet.

I felt like an alien in this place.  Or like I’d somehow waken up in a parallel dimension, in some strange Shadow America.  Like the evil Star Trek Universe: American Political Landscape Edition.

I woke up again last night.  Finally at home.  And my hope returned last night.  Not in the feeling of having bet on the right horse, but in Obama’s first words as President-Elect where he told the nation:

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.  Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.  Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.  As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

I was and am proud of our resiliency as a nation and as a people.  Of our ability to learn from our mistakes.  Of the renewed sense of purpose that seems to be taking root in our hearts and, more importantly, in our actions.

For the first time in a long time I stand on the road and look down it thinking, come what may we might just be okay.  Not because Barack Obama was elected President, but because of how he was elected President.  By people of all ages, colors, and creeds coming together under the cause of reclaiming our unity while celebrating the diversity this nation–a nation of immigrants–was created to celebrate.  Because for the the first time in a long time, it seems not about how "I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m good and you’re bad."  Rather, it seems to be about "how can we lift each other up."

I can get behind that.

That said, I woke up this morning feeling only mostly good.  The world didn’t suddenly change over night, though we would like to think it somehow did so magically.  We face the same problems waking up this morning that we faced yesterday and the day before–and not just the tangible ones, like the economy or the war in Iraq.

I am talking here about the harder to peg, much less resolve, issue of defining ourselves and each other by our differences as opposed to our similarities.  I’m talking about the thing that gives us permission to de-humanize each other and knock each other down.  The thing that puts me and my agenda above you–sometimes at any cost.

That didn’t go away last night.  Truth be told, in some ways, the potential for it to raise its ugly head even higher was kicked up a notch or two.  That makes this time one of great potential, but as I’ve told my kids time and time again, potential is a double-edged sword.  Because from this vantage point, I can see how we can go either way, folks.  This could lead to our darkest hour as easily as it could lead to our brightest one.

Achieving our potential as a nation won’t just happen; it requires great vigilance and patience and sensitivity and action on all our parts.  It requires each of us reaching across the divide.  Graciously and humbly.  Everyone…no matter who you voted for.

Yes…I want a healed economy and a healed international landscape, but even more I want a healed country.  A country of healed hearts and spirits–across the spectrum.  If we’re ever going to live up to our claim of "one nation under God", we need that.  All of us.

So, President-Elect Obama, I congratulate you.  And I call upon you…to be your word.  To be the leader we all pray you are.  To really be President to all of us, as you promised.  And to lead us not merely to the top of the mountain, where the view is great.  Yessiree.  But also to the other side, where, as Martin Luther King envisioned, "all of God’s children, black men and white
men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands
and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last!
thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’"

Can we do that?

This I believe: Yes, we can.

A special message from “Meesus Beell”

Dear Friends:

I wanted to make you aware of an Art Fair I am participating in this weekend. The event should be a very well-attended and a lot of fun.

Tell your friends! Hope to see you there!

(I’ll be the one selling the photo cards and prints)





Jump start your holiday

shopping at the
Arts & Craft Fair
located at
Excelsior and Grand in
St. Louis Park.

Over 30 local artists will be

Where: Excelsior and Grand Clubroom
3820 Grand Way
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
(Next to Panera Bread)

When: Saturday, November 8
11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

This event is free to the public!!!
Free parking available in the parking ramps.

#4–Bill’s top 10 highlights for the 2008 Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference

Over the next 5 days, I am going to post the highlights of this year’s
AFF screenwriters conference.  Well, my highlights, that is.

To conclude our journey, here are #s 7-10.


– – – – –

7. Caught the preview screening of “W.” – Austin, TX was, of course, THE place in the country to see this flick.

Strange…I mean, I realize that Bush spent a lot of time in this city.  Duh, right?  I had, in fact, my own brush with the man as his motorcade blocked in (and blocked from view) my rental car when I was in town for the ’05 festival.  So I walked around the downtown for hours thinking I was going insane.  On the phone with Robbye trying to explain why this joker she’d just started dating was missing his flight home, praying she didn’t hang up thinking I was an absolute loser.  FINALLY!  Three hours later, the multitude of black SUVs pulled away, and there was my little car—two blocks away from the coffee shop where I’d met my friend, Troy.

If I haven’t officially said it before, let me say it now.  Thanks, George W. Bush.  For nothin’.

Bush has always been kind of a "Big Brother" character for me.  Larger than life, looming above.  Like a movie star or a fictional character, except that his impact on all our lives and safety and pocketbooks is far from stellar or fictional.  So I knew he was real.  Quite real.  And yet…with the distance between us, it was hard to think of Bush as a real person.

It wasn’t the movie, itself, that changed this perspective for me.  It was the conversation after the movie that did.  In the Driskill, later, talking to the several Austinites with whom Robbye and I befriended, I was suddenly cognizant of how many of these people actually KNEW George Bush or knew someone who knew the guy.  People who had interacted with him before he was President or Governor.  When he was a mere mortal.

I’m not gonna dish any dirt here about the guy.  Buy your own ticket to Austin; you’ll get plenty.  My point is that it was a little freaky hearing about this man, who had basically ruled my world (and tried to rule the world) for the last eight years—someone whom I hold in righteous contempt—like he was Joe the Plumber down the street.  Weird.

Anyway, the movie was fine.  Not Oliver Stone at his best.  The whole affair felt a little slapdash, which it was, apparently.  The script was the biggest problem, as it was pretty uneven.

It was the cast that made this movie.  Josh Brolin did about the best Bush impersonation I think I’ve ever seen.  Richard Dreyfus was bang-on for Cheney.  And though she’s taken some potshots for being too much a caricature, I think Thandi Newton was an absolute treat as Condi Rice.  Yeah…she played it for laughs, but that was the intent of her character.  She performed, I believe, exactly as Stone wanted her to.  And every time the woman opened her mouth or gave one of those goofy looks, I laughed out loud.

The highlight for me, though, was James Cromwell as Bush Sr.  More on that in the next highlight.

8. Sat in on a talk by James Cromwell – The morning after the “W.” screening, James Cromwell graciously offered up an ad hoc panel to talk about—well, I presumed his amazing career and a little about his work on “W.”  I’m not quite sure where the moderator’s wires got crossed, but the questions on her list were such that virtually the entire talk I felt like I was back in junior high.  “So…what did Oliver and Josh do?  What were they saying?  And why did they do this and that?”

It was odd.  I felt for Mr. Cromwell.

Especially since, given the tenor of some of his answers, it seemed that he and Stone might not have had the best working relationship on the film.  You could hear the tension in his voice.  If it was me, I woulda left it well enough alone, much less forced the guy to second guess a guy with whom he’d obviously struggled.

Cromwell, however, performed admirably.

And even when the talk kept straying from movies to politics, Cromwell stepped up to the plate in grand fashion.  It was quite amazing, in fact.  Every question for him was an opening for a grand soliloquy.  He’s quite articulate and passionate and poetic—far more so than the characters he plays.  As he spoke about everything from getting out the vote to saving the planet to why he turned vegan, the entire room was captivated.  His talk really inspired me.  To vote and to save the planet, that is.  I’m sorry…I tried the vegan thang once.  ‘Nuff said.

I did get a chance to ask him one question.  Everyone was wandering aimlessly with their questions, and no one was asking him about how he prepared for his part.  Because he was brilliant.

The night before, in the brief Q&A post-film, he’d mentioned that he had tried to mimic Bush Sr. early on in the shooting, but Stone had pulled him away from that.  I was shocked to hear it.  Then I realized, oh my god, the guy didn’t sound like Bush Sr.  Rather, he was simply (and so thoroughly) Bush Sr. that I never questioned it.  The voice, which was such a distinctive thing about Bush Sr., didn’t matter.  Cromwell had inhabited his character so well; I bought him as the person hook, line, and sinker.

Needless to say, my opinion of James Crowell—which was already pretty high—bumped up several notches as a result of my 2008 Austin experience.

9. Met my new friend, writer Scott Richter –
Not a whole lot to say here, except that Scott’s a really cool guy.  I talked before about how we were one panel together and had a great time of it.

I was tickled and grateful when Scott offered to take some time out of his Saturday morning to have breakfast with Robbye and me, and help me prepare for moderating my “Know Your Rights” panel.  Of course, little did I know that we’d hit it off so well that the “discussing the panel” portion of our breakfast would be shoved into the 15 minutes before we said our good-byes.  After all, we’d already been sitting there for over two hours.  Oops!

It’s a good thing to meet good people who are not only in the business, but also live in the LA area.  The prospect of moving there can be a scary one, the conventional wisdom being that the place is a kind of Sodom and Gomorrah on blow, and the industry chews people up and spits people out in little, broken pieces.  Robbye and I have been fortunate that we’ve had the exact opposite experience.  Everyone we’ve met out there is really cool and really supportive and really decent.  We’re amazed at how many friends—and what a great support system—we’re amassing in CA.  In fact, two of Robbye’s bestest girlfriends, Lisa and Miriam, live out there.  Who’da thunk?

10. Met the “Dr. Evil” of the ISS – The other big treat of the AFF was meeting our new friend, Bill Frank.  I am reading one of Bill’s scripts right now, but that’s not the only interesting thing about him.  He works for NASA and he is one of the leads that helps train astronauts how to handle problems on the ISS.  In his own words, he “breaks the space station” so astronauts can figure out how to fix them.  How cool is that?

We met him in the line for “W.” and were virtually inseparable after that.  I am amazed when I meet old friends for the first time.  That’s what it felt like…like we went to high school together and were getting back together decades later.

Bill said that if we find ourselves in Houston, that he’d take us for a tour of the ISS simulator.  That’s great, but what do we have to offer in return should he and his family come to pay us a visit?  The Mall of America..?  Whatever.  How “terrestrial”.

#3–Bill’s top 10 highlights for the 2008 Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference

Over the next 5 days, I am going to post the highlights of this year’s
AFF screenwriters conference.  Well, my highlights, that is.

To continue our journey, here are #s 5 & 6.


– – – – –

5. Analyzed movies with Robbye – I think this was the highest highlight of the entire trip.  We were driving home, and it was kinda quiet.  Robbye was napping.  I decided to use the time to try to work out beats in this new spec script I’m writing, based on a short script I’d written a few years back called MANIACAL ENGINEERING.

After miles of silence, this from the backseat: “Can I read your ‘Cat’ book?”


“Your ‘Cat’ book.  The writing one.”

“You mean ‘Save the Cat’?”

“Yeah.  That one.  You keep talking about it, and that Blake Snyder guy was nice.”  (she’d met him at the Great American Pitchfest…like she met Syd Field, and I didn’t.  Go figure)

She climbed into the front passenger seat.

“I think I’m learning something about the screenwriting thing.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.  “You’ve picked up quite a bit.  But that doesn’t surprise me.  You’re pretty sharp.”

She went on to explain that she’d been listening to me as I judged the pitch competition and in conversations, and she noticed I was using categorical phrases like “fish out of water” and “man in a box” to describe the types of stories that people were talking about.  And she remembered me talking about INCARNATION as a “quest” story.

“I’ve been thinking about that movie, BLINDNESS, that we saw.  That was a ‘man in a box’ story, wasn’t it?”


“But something like CHILDREN OF MEN—even though people are comparing the two—isn’t the same kind of movie.  Because that’s a ‘quest’ plot.”

“You’re right.”

Next thing, she gets out her bumblebee notebook and a pen.  She’s poised.

“What other types of stories are there?”

I rattle them off, and she jots then down.

For the next couple of hours, we found ourselves dissecting dozens of movies—what their A plots were, what their B plots were.  What kinds of story structure they employed and how that structure was evident as the plot unfolded.

Every time she got a little stuck, I’d say, “Look at the inciting incident.  The best clue to the type of story it is right there.”

To this, she said something that was cute as hell.  “That inciting incident.  It plagues me.”

I thought I was gonna drive off the road, I was laughing so hard.

We live busy, full lives.  We find ourselves on the run most days, my beloved and me.  The road trip down to Austin was supposed to be a time where we could slow things down a little and just be together.  To reconnect.

As I’ve previously documented, the way to Austin was not exactly conducive to this reconnection.  For my part, I found myself a little worse for wear having missed out on that experience.  This moment, though…this was exactly what we were hoping for.  Just what the doctor ordered.

It’s really cool when your friends are interested in what you’re passionate about.  Even better when it’s your best friend.

I can’t adequately express my gratitude or my enjoyment of that small moment in time.  All I can tell you is that I will treasure it as long I live.

And then…  Robbye got that look on her face.  The one where I know she’s committing to do something.  The one where I know said commitment WILL be fulfilled.

“I was thinking that I might write a screenplay.”


“Is that dumb?”

“Are you kidding?!?  No way, it’s not dumb.  I think it’s a great idea.  You’re a great writer.  Better than me.”

It’s true.  She’s got about the best natural voice I’ve ever read.  I think she’d write a great screenplay, and I, for one, look forward to reading it.

6. Kicked ass at judging the pitch competition –
Robbye and I got in the night before the conference began and decided to stay in and rest up.  The AFF, after all, is a marathon, not a sprint.  Plus, we were celebrating having met each other three year ago to the day.  Champagne, jalapeño pretzels, beef jerky, and PROJECT RUNWAY.  What else did we need?

Well, over the course of the evening, we got no fewer than four calls from people asking if we were coming out meet up at the Driskill Bar.  One of the calls came from Monica Jones, who is the director of the AFF Pitch Competition.

“You’re a celebrity, Bill True,” was how she greeted me.

“Why thank you,” I replied.  “But to what do I owe this proclamation?”

“You’re judging the first round of the competition tomorrow, and it’s sold out.  And it’s the first session that sold out.  We’ve never sold out the first round before, much less it selling out before other ones.  I think it’s you.  People have been talking about your feedback during past years, and other people want to hear you give critique.”

Wow.  I was kind of speechless.  And kind of tickled.

Then, the next morning, as I stared ahead at the standing room only crowd in the small pitch competition room, I was a little nervous.  These people were there to hear what I had to say..?  And though I was flattered when Monica introduced me, I was also a little anxious when she referred to me as the “favorite pitch competition judge from the past two years.”  Ikes!

I was on the verge of psyching myself out, hoping I wouldn’t fall on my face or say something stupid or embarrass myself.  Or worse…that I wouldn’t disappoint these good folks who’d put their money on the line to participate in this competition and relying on me to be on my best game. I decided to use a little SagePresence connection exercise to get out of the little feedback loop I was generating.  As always, worked like a charm.  Thank you, Dean Hyers.

In the end, the round went great.  We all had a lot of fun, and people seemed to respond really well to the feedback.  In fact, if I can brag just a little, one of the co-winners of the competition, Jim Macak, wrote to me afterward with this really nice testimonial:

I’ve written episodes for a number of TV shows including “NYPD Blue” but pitching was always a huge problem for me.  The only reason I got the writing jobs that I did was because some producers like David Milch were forgiving enough to let me submit a written pitch.  But those producers are extremely rare and I inevitably lost out on numerous others jobs.  This year, I decided to give the Pitch Competition at the Austin Film Festival a shot.  I was fortunate enough to go second-to-last in a session judged by Bill True.  As I listened to his criticism of other pitches, I realized that what and how I intended to pitch that day would have left me in last place.  I chucked that pitch and improvised one on the spot.  And, yes, that’s scary as hell and I stumbled over some words.  But it was enough to get me into the finals.  Bill gave me additional some additional criticism after that – and I took every single note he gave me.   There were 120 contestants in the pitch competition – and I ended up tying for first place.   To say I would not have won without Bill’s advice would be a gross understatement.   He’s got to be the best coach in the business.

Cool, huh?

Honestly, I am just glad that I can help.  And it’s damned fun!  I mean, how cool is it to be able to sit with your kind and dissect movies for an hour-and-a-half?  And be a part of other people maybe getting their scripts sold or movies made, and seeing their dreams and all their hard work maybe come to fruition?

Twist my arm.

The feedback, however, is nice.  And affirming.  It tells me that I am on the right path.  That, though it rarely be easy, it is truly worth it.

BTW – my good and talented friend, Troy Miller, took second place with his pitch for THE WOODS.  In my humble opinion, the competition should have been a three-way tie, because Troy rocked the freakin’ casbah.  Way to go, Miller!