Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hollywood and Me: A Look Back at 2006

I'm beginning to see a pattern here. Every Christmas, my brain just happens to come up with a new screenplay idea that I can't wait to attack. It has nothing to do with art - I'm just trying to avoid the holidays.

Speaking of screenplays, I see that hopeless show-off Mike Rich has another movie out. It's called "The Nativity Story" and I think he might have had some help on this one. The plot looks damn familiar.

I pretend to be annoyed at Mike, but it's just to hide my true feelings: I'm furious at Mike. Wait, it's not because he's a big-time screenwriter, although there is some connection. I actually respect the hell out of anyone who can break into that game, much less stick around. No, what bothers me about Mike is that he put my Sean Connery anecdote right into the garbage can. I sold a joke to Leno on a night when Sean Connery was a guest and when he came out he mentioned the joke and even acted it out. I had to be the only one in Portland who had written something that 007 himself had brought to life, right?

Then along came a movie written by Portlander Mike Rich and starring Sean Connery. It was called "Finding Forester"- I believe it's about a man searching for his Subaru. Suddenly my "Portlander-Sean Connery" story lost a lot of steam. Oh well, enough of this. The trouble with pain is that it's so painful.

Besides, I had my own real chance this year to make it in the movies. In fact, it was tailor-made. My producer friend came through town and presented his documentary about special effects with screenings and talks at the Bagdad Theater and the Kennedy School. Here, I'm trying to keep in contact with the guy down in Los Angeles, and he shows up a short walk from where I live in Portland. It seemed like destiny.

Having him appear in town propelled me to bang out another script and he went crazy for it. Incidentally, I am rerunning the cable access show I did with him Sunday at 10 on Channel 22, Tuesday at 10 on 23, and Friday at 11 on Channel 11. Right after we taped it, we went down to my office and he sat at my computer and knocked out a contract, based on one we already have. We actually did 2 that night - updating an older effort - and the terms for the new one were great. If someone had made the damn thing for a decent budget, I would have gotten 700 large plus a producer's share. The man also wrote me a check before heading back to L.A. I'm not saying it was a huge amount for polite society, but at that particular time in my life, it was a huge amount for me. Plus, it was not bad for something I had written in less than 2 weeks.

The crescendo of the whole experience was that the green-light vice president at one of the biggest studios read it personally. As you can tell, my friend has access from God, so we go right to the top. Unfortunately, this man called it a "one-line joke", and believe me, nobody was laughing when he said that. My email response was, "Jaws was only about one fish." Of course, with most comedies - and I'm talking about my life here - there is usually a tag, and sure enough, my latest year of courting Hollywood had a classic tag ending.

My producer connection sees me as a subversive, writing scripts that are fairly out there. It's the old dilemma: You have to be sufficiently cutting edge to stick out from the crowd, but then the money people see you as an unacceptable risk. The show Sunday - which I haven't seen myself in 6 months - describes this ongoing process. However, it does capture the producer's enthusiasm for my work, so in that sense, it is dated. He's certainly not quite as pleased right now, after getting no takers for this particular effort.

Along the way, the producer started talking to me about the latest project his hot-shot son was helping to edit - a little film called "Borat". So not only did my can't-miss script, miss the mark, but someone from my producer's own family was involved with the biggest comedy splash of the year. Perfect. That was my tag for 2006.

So I give thanks for these holidays. They are such a tedious pain that I go into a traumatic self-protection mechanism - my brain creates a new screenplay just to escape. In short, I'm walking around with a comedy script in my head that makes the plot of Borat look like "Miracle on 34th Street". Now, if the producer will only let 2006 go and agree to read the new one. Sure, the check he wrote me in 2006, just turned into a useless stack of documents on his shelf in Los Angeles, but it is the holidays. It's a time for peace, joy, forgiveness, and maybe even new life. That's my Nativity Story and I'm sticking to it.


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