Strange Currencies

The Internet has changed so much in our lives; who knew it could change language also?  One of my daily rituals with this website is to log into the user panel and see if anybody’s left feedback on my ramblings.  Generally there’s a good 8-10 responses logged, and if I’m lucky one of those responses will actually be from a person who actually read it.  The rest of them are always spam and likely spambots, but I like to think that they are some Nigerian Royalty or Phillipino child laborer passionately trying to help me score a cheap knock-off Rolex or Ugg Boots or Viagra.

Newsflash: If I really want cheap knockoff illegal merchandise, Canal Street is a subway ride away.  And furthermore; who actually reads an email about cheap Viagra and actually say “hey, that sounds like a good deal!”  There has to be at least a couple out there to make the mass spamming cost effective.  There’s more than six billion people on earth; if only one tenth of one per cent of the people on the planet actually respond to the spam and buy the cheap Viagra, that’s still 16,743,135.1 totally gullible morons out there who I should really track down and pitch an “exciting investment opportunity” to.  And if you accept the fact that the percentile of absolute fucking morons on earth are in the forty to fifty per cent range, well, clearly those spammers aren’t going out of business anytime soon.

So yes, I clean out the spam and curse you all for reading these posts and not responding to them (seriously, help a brother out, ‘kay?), but damn it all, I can’t get angry at them … just check out the absolute BRILLIANCE of this work of genius.  I wish I could write something this profound:

Ultimately, I founded the expertise I was looking out for. We have been holding out due diligence on this topic, and for four days I preserve obtaining web-sites which are supposed to possess what I am hunting for, only to be disappointed working with the don’t have of what I wished. I wish I could have discovered your site sooner! I had about 25% of what I applied to get in need of and your web page has that, plus the rest of what I important to end my studying. We now have activated to this site right here I like that you will observe authentic report written content that you’ll be capable to hardly find out elsewhere. One beneficial point, you perhaps can receive nevertheless these types of weblogs, ensure you go on! I can no extended see the well-known media. It may be there a lot rubbish printed, I bear it no significantly much more quickly. A certainly pleasant weblog and good write-up. I shell out days inside the planet huge world-wide-web learning blogs, about tons of quite a few subjects. I should original of all give kudos to whoever founded your web sites and second of all to you for composing what i can only describe as an post. I honestly feel there’s a capacity to writing articles or web site blogposts that only several posses and frankly you may have it. The mixture of interesting and exceptional content material is unquestionably exceptionally tight utilizing the massive volume of web round the on the net world.Usually retain a extremely excellent give good final results!”

“Extremely excellent give good final results?”  Damn that could be the most positive review of anything I’ve ever done ever.  It’s also comforting that what I write here “ should give kudos to whoever founded your web sites and second of all to you for composing what I can only describe as an post.”  Well my friend it certainly is “an post” and I’m glad it touched you in that special place and in that special way.

Isn’t that amazing?  It’s like some weird beat poetry.  If I was motivated enough to make an asshole out of myself (at least in public – I do a good enough job of that here), I’d don a black turtleneck and traipse down to the Village to one of those open mic night/poetry slams and read that fucking thing in front of a crowd. It’s the written equivalent of trying to deal with Hewlett Packard’s customer service; they try so damn hard to convince you that they’re not in some call center in Mumbai but in the good ol U S of A like you, and as anxious to give you advice that won’t help you one bit as they are about talking about “that sporting match on the telly the other day, y’all.”

It’s actually quite charming and the fact the spam doesn’t annoy me as much as it should is because of that Dali-esque prose that’s somewhere between Dylan Thomas three seconds before face-planting outside the White Horse Tavern, and Ziggy Stardust.

But spam doesn’t have to be the annoyance we so often let it be.  Back in the early 00’s – the Oughties — my spam folder would fill up with messages from around the world.  The messages were always deleted but not before I looked over the names of the senders, because a lot of the fictitious names posted were, to a writer’s ear, great character names that I would appropriate and use in my own work.  Two of the characters in RoboCop Prime Directives – Ed Hobley and Sandra Smyles – were spam names.  The unproduced Black Christmas screenplay I wrote had Heather Roach and Charlie Stokes pulled from the world wide web and into what is widely regarded as one of the best unproduced remake screenplays ever.  Prior to RoboCop, my former writing partner and I drafted a treatment for what was to be a black comedy set in the funeral industry, which boasted spam worthy names like Dorianne Butters, Stan Talon, Lloyd Bangs and Joy Meadows … only in a couple cases they were real names of actual people who, for legal reasons, shall not be revealed.

So the fact that one “Douglass Medus” took the time to write —

I’m thankful for this beneficial brilliant page; this could be the variety of subject that sustains me though out the day.We’ve often heard been not long ago looking close to inside your web-site ideal immediately after I noticed about these from a near good friend and was delighted when I was in a very placement to acquire it adhering to looking out for some time. Being a enthusiastic blogger, I’m happy to view other people today taking effort and including to the neighborhood. I just wanted to remark to demonstrate my comprehending for a upload because it is particularly inviting, and many writers do not get the credit score they have earned. I’m optimistic I’ll be back again once again and can send a couple of of my friends.

— means that Douglass is totally being written into the screenplay I’m polishing up for presentation.  Hell with a name like Douglass Medus, he should be the goddamn hero of the tale.  He won’t get me to release any information on my credit score, but he can be content in the knowledge that he’s about to be immortalized in screenplay format.  You’re welcome, Douglass.  You’re so welcome.

And to “Rodrigo Poage” and “Cordia Blakeney” – keep smiling, sunshine, ‘cause you’re next.

Not finished – just abandoned

I’m in a celebratory mood this week, as I just completed drafting a new screenplay.  It’s not “finished” to the degree of finality you you’d expect for, in the words of Leonardo da Vinci, “Art is never finished; merely abandoned.”  So with that in mind, I am ready to abandon this one for the time being and see where it takes me, but it does lead me to want to answer a question I’m asked with alarming frequency; “how long does it take you to write a screenplay?”

In the case of the one just completed, the answer is easy – one year; twelve months, 365 days and so forth.  That’s one year, from sitting at this very desk and outlining the story, to typing Fade To Black and The End.  That’s been the average in my experience.

Now, that’s not to say the entire year was spend writing; in this case, I spent a month writing the detailed treatment and character bios, let six months pass before tackling the first rough draft, then another six passed before tackling the second pass, the result being the First Draft.   Bearing that in mind, it was actually twelve weeks of work; three months of actual physical put-your-ass-in-your-chair-and-write work.  And those twelve weeks of actual work came only after seven years of the idea sitting in the back of my brain, gathering dust and waiting for me to nut up and get to it.

[Lest I blow any chance of working for anyone ever again, I wrote all eight hours of RoboCop Prime Directives between January and August of 1999.  That’s four movies in eight months – you do the math.  If I’m doing nothing but solid writing I can bang out a solid 6 pages a day and be done a draft in four weeks.  The fastest I’ve ever drafted a movie was three weeks, and that was because a frankly ridiculous deadline had been imposed on me that I met if only to prove I could meet it (I did meet it too, so there).  But generally, when hired to write a screenplay the entire process, from contracting to meetings and treatments to drafts and rewrites and more meetings all the way to the final draft in my contract winds up being one year anyway.  I’ve never missed a deadline.

Anyway, a year seems to be the norm to get something into good enough shape to be seen.  That’s because it’s the “down period” between drafts that the real work is done.  I fill this time by working on other projects; magazine work, comic books, my long in gestation novel, and other work-for-hire assignments.  I’m never *not* working – even when I’m away from my desk. The time away from my own work serves as a palate cleanser so, when I finally decide to open the old file and read what I wrote I can look at it with a fresh perspective.

Writing is an art form, and there are two classical schools of art that apply to writing; painting, and sculpture.  I fit into the latter category – I’ll spill everything I have onto the page to get it out of my head and onto paper, before I can begin work in earnest.  I’ll start to cut, to chisel away at words and sentences and paragraphs, polish and chisel and chip away at the raw material until the shape of the story emerges from the page, like a statue emerges from marble.   For example, if you click on this:

Assuming you can decipher my scrawl, you’ll see a lot of notes scribbled in the margin, a lot of stuff crossed out and replace, or omitted entirely.  That’s how I work; by taking that great big slab of raw material and whacking it with a hammer until I find what I’m looking for in it.  That process of refinement is the end and the beginning of the process; it all starts with the idea.

In the case of the recently completed project, it began life as a pitch for a job penning a remake of an old suspense thriller.  I never got the job – actually I never got the chance to pitch it, as the company in question ended up axing pretty much their entire development staff right before Christmas and let the remake rights lapse in the process. So while I never got the chance to pitch the remake, the approach I had to it was unique enough that it could stand on its own as an original piece of work.  All I needed to do was sit down and write the thing.

This was 2003.

Cut to 2009 and found myself at that point between one job and the next, where I ask myself (or more apropos, my wife asks me) what I plan to work on next.  I had a couple ideas, none of which were really exciting me at the time, when she asked about that project – the suspense thriller remake.  I hadn’t forgotten it by any means, but it had been relegated to the dust heap.  I wanted to go onto something new and fresh, but found myself coming back to the old concept. I had been itching to draft a high-concept thriller for a while, something stripped down and minimalist compared to the previous few projects I worked on.  I rummaged through the files and found some early draft outlines – a page here, a scene there, and decided to expand on them, string together the various bits, and see if there was a story in all that mess.  A month later, I had a 30 page treatment that was pretty good, I thought, and decided to put it away for a bit.

That bit became March 2010, when I pulled the treatment out, gave it a read, and felt ready to tackle a draft of it, which I did over the next four weeks.  Upon completion, I shoved it in the drawer and forgot about it until late September, when I pulled it out and read it over, pen in hand, marking the pages up as you have already seen.  Once I got through the edit pass, I got back to work on it and spent the following two weeks inputting the revisions and then rewriting the entire thing all over again, right up until 12:30 pm on Friday October 15th when I finished it; “Finished” in the “ready for some constructive and brutal feedback by my usual stable of readers” sense, not the “stick a fork in it” sense.

Anytime I actually reach The End of a project, I’m only reminded of how much further its journey has to go.  There will be rewrites, there will be changes, and at some point I’ll send it out into the world and hope it becomes one of the lucky few to land a home someplace.  But for now, I’m just pleased that the characters, scenarios and story that’s been rattling around my skull for seven years finally has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Now all it needs is a title.

This may take a while …

Distance Equals Rate X Time

Typically my workday begins with me at my desk, enjoying my one cup of coffee for the day, checking email, drafting responses, deleting spam, and reading the usual websites.  I do this for as long as it takes to drink my coffee before I get down to work.  I always start with The Onion, and their AV Club website, and on Friday September 10, they ran an article inspired by a question comedian Patton Oswalt asked them: 

Everyone says things like “Oh man, how cool would it be to be in Dealey Plaza during the JFK assassination, or see The Beatles during one of their Cavern Club concerts, or witness ancient Rome?” Well, what if you were given the chance? 

Here are the conditions. You’ve been granted a hypothetical ticket to live, in comfort and coherence, during one five-year time period. Maybe you want to be in New York in Chicago during Prohibition, or Victorian London, or France right before the Revolution. (Or during—no judgments.) You’ll be able to understand and speak the language (if needed), have enough disposable cash to live at leisure, and experience whatever you want, with no need for a job. You’ll have a comfy apartment or house to return to, full period wardrobe, and as much time as you need before making this trip to study up on the period you’ll live in. 

But you must stay within a five-mile radius of where/whenever you choose to live. Thus you can’t go see the Kennedy assassination, then go zipping around the world to London to watch the birth of the British Invasion, or New York for the early years of Greenwich Village. Want to see the Kennedy assassination? Fine. But then you’re stuck in Dallas for the next five years.  What historical period (and place), in your opinion, offers the most enticing experiences in one five-year period?

Now, who among us hasn’t waned to experience life in a different place and time?  I certainly have; three of my screenplays have taken place between 1901 and 1918, centered, for the most part, around World War One.  I’m something of a WW1 buff actually, more so than its sequel.  At any rate I wondered; what period outside of The Great War would I find to be the most enticing experience in one five-year period? 

Typically I had several, but narrowed it down to the following three;

Florence, Italy – 1409-1504

I live in the Renaissance City at the height of said Renaissance.  I apprentice myself to Leonardo da Vinci and serve as assistant to him in the creation of his many great machines, convincing him to actually construct many of them. Then when he leaves to travel with the Papal Army, I cross town and apprentice under his rival Michelangelo and help him sculpt David.  On my off days I hang out in taverns with Niccolo Machiavelli and tell him “sure, a book about Cesare Borgia sounds like a brilliant idea, but you may want to pick a different title; how about The Prince?”  I then ingratiate myself with the crème of Florentine society and end up spending a lot of time at the Borgia court, and get to watch first-hand as Cesare Borgia and his father Pope Alexander IV launch their plot to unite the Italian City States under papal rule.  I make a successful play for Cesare’s sister Lucrezia, incur Cesare’s wrath, but make sure to take copious notes so, upon returning to the present day at the exact moment I left it, I finally have all the research materials I need to finish my damn novel already.

Los Angeles, California – 1971-1976

Armed with a pile of screenplays that will be thirty years ahead of their time, I’ll convince Hollywood to produce the lot of them, befriend George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Marty Scorsese, become heavily involved in the making of American Graffiti, Jaws and Taxi Driver, rewriting all of them and ensuring they become the classics they are remembered for (since I ‘ve already seen the finished product).  I also tell Lucas about my idea for a thing called “Star Wars,” which I sell to him for one dollar, with an agreement that I receive 50% of the gross profits from the film, its sequels and spinoffs, in perpetuity.  This is agreed to in an iron-clad contract.  Said funds are deposited directly into a numbered Swiss bank account.  On returning to 2010, I make a big mother of a withdrawl from said account, and return to Hollywood, buy out MGM and become a Selzneckian mogul.

Seattle, Washington – 1988-1993

Sure I could go with Manchester circa 85-89, Swinging London, or Haight Ashbury circa ’66, but I’m going to be predictable and settle on Seattle at the birth of the Grunge Era.  I’d hang out in coffee shops, go to clubs and see Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, and countless others.  I make friends with the perpetually starving artists; buying them dinner, letting them crash at my pad, buying them beer and just hanging out.  I become a Svengali type to them all, and bear witness to the last great era in rock music as it’s happening around people who don’t realize it, and depart in late 1993, before everything turns tragic (but not before making sure I’m with Mia Zapata the night of July 7, 1993, to make sure she isn’t murdered by some, so I can see how great her and her band can become).  I also tell Kurt Cobain, to chill on the worries about fame, that it’s fleeting, and he should cancel the rest of the In Utero Tour, move out to the middle of nowhere and just hang around reading books.  I’m mentioned in the liner notes to Nevermind, Badmotorfinger, Ten and Dirt.  People wonder whatever happened to me and I become this mythic figure.  Years later someone does a documentary about me.  I’m tracked down, but the notion I was the guy is dismissed, as I would have been 15-20 years old at the time.  My secret remains safe.

Now narrowing those three down to one is a difficult task.  Florence seems the most practical as it pertains to a long in gestation project I’m currently embroiled in, but I would fear that the reality of this time and place and its people would clash with my somewhat romanticized interpretation of these historical figures.  Hollywood fits with my desire to conquer the entertainment world, to influence the making of several classic movies, and attain the financial security I desire – but who says I’m not already on the road to doing that?

The nostalgic in me zeroes in on Seattle, and given how much writing I’ve done on music recently would indicate that.  But for me, there’s certainly an appeal in pulling up stakes and living, anonymously, in a place and time contemporary to my life and experiences.  

Of course, I could really do none of these things; how could I when I have so much to do right now?

This is not a test … this is ROCK AND ROLL!

Okay, so after six months of owning, I finally have the means to post regular updates to it.

And I’m drawing a blank.

That’s discouraging for someone who makes his living as a writer.

If you’ve surfed on over here, it’s probably because you saw my most recent film Stonehenge Apocalypse and want to give me either a hearty pat on the back, or to spit in my face. That’s right, I’m a screenwriter by trade and take full ownership of the awesomeness that was and is STONEHENGE APOCALYPSE, the SyFy original that premiered in June 2010 to record ratings. Reviews have even been somewhat kind, with Innsmouth Free Press actually singling out my contribution in a positive light, and Dread Central saying it registered “a high magnitude on the Richter scale of ridiculousness.”

There are a share of negative reviews too, but I’ll let you seek them out. All I’ll say is that they’re written by uniformly boring people who lack the sense of humor or self-awareness to realize when something is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek piss take on disaster movies. The types who judge a movie called STONEHENGE APOCALYPSE upon one glance at the title. The types who would give their right arm for the opportunity to write something called STONEHENGE APOCALYPSE and cry bitter tears with each passing day that they realize they only write about movies, since nobody’s lining up to ask them to write one themselves.

Can you tell how much I dig the title STONEHENGE APOCALYPSE? Is the near half dozen mentions of it not enough of a clue?  I’ll detail more background on the project and my involvement with it over the coming months.

So now that I’m unleashed upon the world wide web (estimated time before I somehow manage to destroy it: three days from now), I plan to offer a frank, honest and entertaining look into the life of a screenwriter, the projects I’m working on, the ones that got away, and the ones that escaped despite everyone’s best efforts to subdue them.

There will be profanity.

There will be blood.

There will not be boredom.