I suck as a friend (or “Watch this movie!”)

I can’t believe I waited so long to see this movie.  Geeze!

My friend, Greg Lessans, is a stellar guy and a helluva producer.  He runs a production company in Hollywood called Terra Firma Films with Adam Herz of AMERICAN PIE (and AMERICAN EVERYTHING) fame.

Terra Firma’s first movie , MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL (on which Greg is one of the producers), came out on September 19.

http://www.youtube.com/v/8Cr7pcPG8Hc&hl=en&fs=1

Greg and I met nearly five years ago at Sundance, when I tried to pawn a script for what at that time was called MICHAEL’S LETTERS on him.  In the end, that script got sold, got re-titled, and became RUNAWAY.  Anyway, he took my card, and I thought that was the last time I’d hear from him.  But Greg is not Hollywood as usual.  Within a week, I’d gotten an email from his assistant saying that he’d like to meet me sometime.

A month later, I was on the Universal lot and spending an hour or so visiting with him.  I had a great time, if you don’t consider that I was also suffering from a minor bout of food poisoning (bad egg salad sandwich from earlier in the day–lunch meeting with a guy from WMA…appropos, no?).  We’ve kind of kept in touch after that, and have gotten together a few times when I’ve been in LA for meetings and such.

We’ve been in a perennial search for a project we can work on together.  Truth be told, the person getting in the way of that lately has been your truly.  This past spring, we were discussing an idea, and it’s been in my corner to make the next volley.  With all the work (and subsequent progress) on INCARNATION and the springing up of this new project, UNDONE–not to mention my SagePresence responsibilities–I simply haven’t had the time to noodle any more on the idea to flesh it out.  But Greg is a very patient guy…thank God.

That’s one of the things I really appreciate about Greg, by the way.  He’s been such a stalwart supporter of my work.  He consistently reinforces the stance that it’s not "if" we work together, but "when".  I am hoping that day comes sooner than later because I think he’d be a gas to work with and I’ve learned tons from him already just by hanging out with him and talking on the phone–he has this uncanny ability to dissect ideas and concepts and test their marketability and "movie-ness" immediately and in the moment.  It’s an amazing thing to see in action.  Frustrating, if you’re a writer trying to get him to say yes to a project, but secretly you’re thankful for it later because you know he really just wants you to succeed.

But I digress from the point of this post…

I had every intention of seeing the movie that day and sending Greg a bottle of champagne or something.  I ended up being in Chicago at the time, and my plans got kinda torpedoed.  I told myself that I would see the movie as soon as I got home, but life had other plans.

FINALLY!  Last night I told Robbye we had to go see it.  I plied her with the promise of a 55-gallon barrel of Cherry Coke and a tub of butter with popcorn sprinkles.  And so we went.

Mbfgside It was a fun movie.  Perfect for date night.  It’s kinda sweet and kinda caustic all at the same time, and Dane Cook is hilarious.  Not to mention Alec Baldwin, who has, it seems, found a whole new career as the wise-cracking curmudgeon and delivers here in spades.

Last time I checked, it’s still playing in over 1,700 screens around the country.  If you’ve got a couple of hours on your hands this weekend, head on over to your local cineplex and check it out.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

And support my friend, Greg!  Way to go, man.  I am quite proud.

P.S. Also, props out to my other friend, Josh Alexander, who has a great cameo as a prissy salon manager in the flick.  There’s a funny moment with him, Cook, and Jason Biggs (and the gal who plays Roxy in ARMY WIVES…yeah, I watch it.  What’s it to ya?).  I had forgotten that he was in it, and it was a little embarrassing when I noticed him and said way-too-out loud, "Oh, my god!  I know him!"

And now for something completely different

My new and good friend, Chris Mulkey, is playing Saturday night (August 23 at 9:30 PM) at Rusty’s on the Santa Monica Pier.

He gave me a copy of his latest CD, Ride This One Out, at lunch last month, and it’s been a staple on my iTunes rotation ever since.

Mulkey_2
He’s quite the talented guy, that Mulkey.  As if being one of the most prolific character actors of the past 30 years isn’t enough.  How about I launch a music career, to boot?

What I like most about Chris, though, is he is one of the most authentic and gracious people I have met.  I’ll never forget…I knew the guy, like, two days and he’s saying to me, "next time you come to L.A., Karen and I will have you and Robbye over for dinner.  I’m gonna cook for you!"

And you know what?  He really meant it.

Knock ’em dead, Chris!

The hootin’ and hollerin’ you hear drifting over from the east?  That’s us cheering you on.

Dalton Trumbo and me

Trumbo
Strange that there should a mere two degrees of Kevin Bacon between this legend and me.

Filbert Steps‘ (RIP) follow up to RUNAWAY was TRUMBO, a documentary based on letters Dalton Trumbo wrote from prison, courtesy of McCarthy-era blacklisting.  The letters were assembled by his son, Christopher, who got a who’s who of Hollywood to read them on stage during a very successful Off-Broadway run.

My good friends Al Klingenstein and David Viola met Christopher and his directing partner, Peter Askin, at Sundance in 2006.  I don’t think the guys were thinking their next movie was going to be a documentary, but life takes you in strange directions.  One of the draws, I believe, was that they were going to be able to attract a stellar cast (which they did, as many of the actors who did the play in NYC signed on to the movie) and make a movie that had an upfront chance at a decent distribution deal for a change.

Sitting on the sidelines of this production, I had an interesting vantage point.  There was more than one pound of flesh sacrificed to the cinema gods in the name of bringing the letters of Dalton Trumbo to the screen, but none of it was mine.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  My "sacrifice" for this movie was that the guys were so distracted once the shit hit the fan that they pretty much had to forget that RUNAWAY existed for a year or so.  Any and all of the progress we’d made in late-2005/early-2006 to get the thing released was abandoned.  And there I was, just the guy who wrote the thing, screaming in an empty yard.  Eventually, I stopped screaming.  RUNAWAY’s prospects sort of vanished after that.

On a side note–someday I will share the whole "RUNAWAY release that never was" story.  If you’ve ever read Peter Biskind’s book, Down and Dirty Pictures, you’ll know what I mean when I say that the RUNAWAY distribution saga could be a chapter in the book.  I am not certain what medium is best for sharing this tale, though, and for now I keep it pretty close to my chest because blabbing it to the world when I am still feeling a little bent outta shape about the whole affair feels like a career limiting move.

The silver lining in all of this (though I am not certain I am supposed to spill the beans…so keep it to yourself, please) is that I have been reassured as recently as last Friday that the company managing rights for RUNAWAY is on the home stretch in finalizing a deal to get the movie out in the world–where it belongs.

Anyway…I admit that for awhile I was upset over the whole "TRUMBO supplants RUNAWAY" business.  But I was happy for my friends and even happier when the movie started getting rave reviews.  Made my "sacrifice" feel worth it.  A least a little bit.  The spotlight was gonna shine on this amazing man who is not only one of the great screenwriting talents of all time, but a bonafide hero who put it all on the line to do the right thing.

Now, I have the honor of announcing that TRUMBO is playing in limited release around the country.  It either is or will be in most major markets at some point over the next 3-4 months.  Here is a link to the cities, dates, and theatres where it is/will be playing.

There’s Oscar buzz on this one, folks.  You’re going to want to make a point to see it.

Good job, Al and David!  Congrats!

No. Freakin’. Way.

Okay…so when I get emails on this computer, Outlook pops up a little window in the bottom right corner of my screen.

Monday night, I am working away, furiously trying to get ready for the upcoming trip to LA (7:00 AM tomorrow morning…can you say coffee?) for the pitchfest/screeningfest/meetingfest.  And I glance down in said corner, and guess whats I sees!?!

An email from none other than…Wil Wheaton.

Yep.  No kiddin’.

I clicked immediately over to read it.  Unfortunately, he and his wife are on a family vacation this weekend, so they can’t make the screening.  But he sent a really nice message:

Hi Bill,

Thank you so much for inviting us. We’re out of town, and won’t be able to
attend.
However, I wanted to take a moment and congratulate in our absence.
Have fun,
Wil

Short and sweet, but I am impressed that he answered at all.  It shows that the man is not only a helluva writer and master blogger, but an all around, straight up cool guy.

Now, more than ever, I hope I get a chance to meet him someday.

Mr. Wheaton, I dubbeth thee St. Wil.
Stwil_copy

I guess my typo didn’t scare him off too badly.

True dat.

Hold, please…

Hello, OLU Reader.  You have reached Bill’s blog.  Bill isn’t available right now because, as you know, THE SCRIPT, MY FRIENDS, MUST GET DONE!  Bill will make his triumphant return to the blogshpere just as soon as he puts this @#&$^%&@ to bed.

In the meantime, perhaps you might enjoy a little music while you wait.

Got a message from my friend, Jason Morphew, who, you might remember was the original composer/songster on RUNAWAY.  Things happened and yada yada, and suddenly one day his music is off the movie.

Don’t get me wrong–I love Robert Miller’s haunting score.  It’s one of the most impressive parts of the movie.  And when I first heard the chilling and mournful strains of the main theme, I was nearly moved to tears.  Uh…yeah.  That kinda good.

The biggest loss when Jason left the project, I believe, was the hole left where his uber terrific Bull in the China Shop of Love used to be.  What a cool song.  Funny and poignant, innocent and menacing all at the same time.  And it’s hip and catchy.  Nothing against The Libertines’ song, which is a worthy replacement.  The movie was, however, designed around the Morphew song, and its absence shows.  And the experience of the movie–over the top uber magnificent as it is–is somewhat diminished as a result.

Anyway, got a little side-tracked there.

Vaporizercover
Jason’s new album, Vaporizer, has hit store shelves, physical and metaphysical alike.  In his email announcement, he included an mp3 of one of the tracks, Taking Things for Granted, which is kinda flowery and boppy, but also carries a subtle aspect of ennui that gives it unexpected heft.

The tune is downloadable on his MySpace page.  But in an effort to save you from the torture that is MySpace, I have included a link to the mp3 here:

Taking Things for Granted by Jason Morphew

The album seems to be getting some good buzz and positive notices, with one reviewer calling Jason "one of the most gifted songwriters now going."

Not bad.

You can purchase Vaporizer on iTunes, or by visiting Jason’s website.

Congrats, Jason!  I hope over-the-top success solidifies around Vaporizer.  (yes…I just had to say it.  The temptation was simply too great.)

BACKSEAT

Hey, all–

If you’re up for some great cinematic hijinks, check out my friend, Josh Alexander’s, new movie, BACKSEAT!

BACKSEAT won the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival the same year RUNAWAY won the Narrative Feature Award.  Josh, who is an exceedingly cool cat, and I became fast friends.  I was quite tickled when I discovered that his movie–which receives nothing but raves-is finally getting a well-deserved release.

It is good, dear readers, to see good things happening for good people who do good work.  Go, Josh!

BACKSEAT opens in the following cities on these dates:

  • March 28 – The Quad Cinema in New York City
  • April 4 – Landmark Opera Plaza in San Francisco
  • April 4 – Landrmark Shattuck Cinemas in Berkely, CA
  • April 11 – Landmark Dobie Theatre in Austin, TX
  • April 18 – Landmark Varsity Theatre in Seattle

Hopefully, there will be more cities/dates added soon.  I will keep y’all posted!

Meanwhile, whet your appetite by either visiting the BACKSEAT website or watching the trailer, courtesy of YouTube:

 

http://www.youtube.com/v/UdjVO8NLO5M&hl=en

Catching up

Dear friends,

Hello.  How are you?

I am fine.

Thank you for stopping by today.

What’s going on?  Oh, man!  Where do I start?

Remember this l’il thing?

Headhurts1

Apparently, I should be provide a little more explanation when I post something like that.

Reminds me of the time when I posted this (really bad) poem I wrote as a kind of nod to Pablo Picasso and Surrealism a couple of years back and promptly left town for a week to the lands beyond cell service coverage.  Oh, my…  Can you say voice mail messages?  Took me over a week to convince everyone that I was neither losing it nor suicidal.

Friends and family.  God love ’em, but sometimes it’s hard to be a writer trying to strut his stuff in their line of sight.

Oh, well…occupational hazard.

No one said it was gonna be easy.  Trying to understand a writer guy, yet trying to care about him at the same time, that is.  It requires a whole new compass than most folks are used to.  North doesn’t always point north.  What’s worse is north changes, sometimes shifting unexpectedly and for inexplicable reasons.  So you can’t obtain a compass for the purposes of getting a good read on us writer types.  You gotta build ’em from scratch.

Oh, well…all guys like me can hope is that the rest of you think it’s worth the trouble.

That said, from the "What I really meant" department, comes this:

I had a lot going on.  I tried to write it all out in a sort of "let’s catch up with Bill" missive, but there was so much to say.  It gave me a head ache.  My creative response to said cranial distress was to let the long, rambling post go and simply (and, I thought, humorously) "depict" my feelings over trying to describe the myriad plates I had spinning at the time.  The rest, as they say….

In truth, everything was fine, though I admit that I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed of late.  Hyperactivity, with rarely enough energy to tackle each zone of my crazy/beautiful life with the gusto, creativity, and passion it deserves.  There have been many days, in fact, when I’ve felt like I’m losing ground everywhere.  And even moments when I’ve felt like an utter failure.

Then again…that’s nothing new.

Occupational hazard…of being me.

But the strike is over, and far from my previous fears, Hollywood seems to be welcoming me with reasonably open arms.  Yeah..check this out–

  • It’s not out of the realm of possibility that RUNAWAY could see some sort of distribution in the near future.
  • The management company I would like to work with seems genuinely interested in working with me.
  • I am in very active talks with a very reputable production company to develop a real, live Hollywood movie (a proposed budget in the mid-eight figures was tossed onto the table yesterday).
  • I have a good bead on (and have been highly recommended to) a great agent at a major agency.
  • INCARNATION, all of a sudden, is getting a lot of attention and seems to be taking on a life of its own.
  • As I plan on making a pilgrimage to the Tower of Tinsel in the next few weeks, people seem to really wanna meet with me.  For the first time ever, I think that my dance card will be full–with real and meaningful meetings to show for it.  Yikes!
  • If I play my cards right, I’ll have a first draft new spec script (which already has parties interested in reading it) ready to show the world by the end of March.

Holy crap, right?  Makes my head spin.  Mostly in a good way.

SagePresence is going equally well.  People are really responding to it, and we’re getting opportunities to speak and train all over.  The biggest problem there is there’s only three of us.  At some point in the VERY near future, we will have need to hire someone (or somones) to help us manage this thing.  Especially as word about what we’re doing spreads outside the Twin Cities, as it’s beginning to do so.  It’s quite amazing and scary cool.

Funny how this professional speaking thing so powerfully supports the screenwriting career, and vice versa.  Equally, how much fun I’m having going around and talking to folks.  Having such an immediate, profound, and positive impact for people–seeing it on their faces and hearing their stories of trouble and triumph–really makes my day.

And home…  With respect to that, let me simply say that Georges Seurat would be proud.  As I am proud of us.  All of us.  Yesterday, I noticed a piece of me was calm in the face of an otherwise tubulent day.  That piece was the one associated with home.

It was a bit of a surprise, as honoring this Great Love, this great family, and "putting it together" hasn’t always been the most calm of affairs.  But yesterday’s discovery spoke volumes.  It spoke of healing.  It spoke of health and happiness.  It spoke of peace and prosperity.  It spoke of adventure and accomplishment.  It whispered in my ear, visions of the future that brought a smile to my lips.

Today, my head doesn’t hurt.  Nothing has changed, except for today I feel a little less overwhelmed by this crazy/beautiful life.  That’s all.

Because I know head aches come with the job description.

Husband.

Dad.

Partner.

Speaker.

Friend.

Family.

Screenwriter.

Superhero.

None of ’em easy.  All of ’em worth it.

Dear friend…I hope you are well, too.  I look forward to catching up again in the near future.

Best to you and yours.  Let’s get together soon!

Yours TRUE-ly,

Bill