Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Business Proposal - Check

Now, the business side of the movie business starts to takeover.

Interestingly, the script is on the back burner and showing the money is front and center. We're now at the point where we need to make offers to talent and start securing critical crew members.

Our budget has been set and we need about half of that to get started. Happily, we have a major commitment towards that goal. Now, we need to raise a bit more to round out a figure that will enable us to be taken more seriously.

To that end, the latest bit of creative writing has involved a business proposal. While not an outright solicitation of funds, it is a document for the investors so they can better understand the project. More specifically, how are they going to make their money back and do the people they are giving their money to have any clue as to what they are doing.

The document makes things seem more real even if Hollywood isn't. Or as Alan Arkin's character says in Argo: "You want to lie to Hollywood, a town where everybody lies for a living."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Look Book

The Passaic look book is complete. Here's the cover.

The look book is used to give an overview of the script, the people involved and their backgrounds along with budget notes. In short, the look book is one vehicle we use to raise money.

And it already looks like it's working. We have some financial commitments and even an A-list actress who is willing to come onboard. (It certainly helps that the director is good friends with her).

The goal is to complete financing by the end of June and start shooting in the fall!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Where the Hell have you been?

Wow, it's been well over a year since I posted something. Quite lame.

The truth is, a lot of my writing for this blog was based on a very dark space that I was inhabiting. I truly felt, I was already dead and this was hell.

But this past year, things have been going well. I feel great physically and mentally and have a bright view of the future. A few years back, I couldn't honestly say that.

What caused this turnaround?

Diet and exercise. A few marketing consultant clients who pay well and appreciate the work being done for them. And the inching ever closer of a project I have been totally passionate about - a screenplay.

I started working seriously on a story idea I had for a movie about 8 years ago. If you told me it would have taken 8 years just to get to this spot, I would not have started. But I'm in a good place right now. My screenplay took 3rd place in a national writing contest in 2012, a Hollywood director contacted me soon after with interest in making this project happen, and now we're gearing up for production in the fall! It's your basic overnight success.

And while I still don't know what the future holds or if we'll actually make it to the finish line, I'd like to chronicle what happens next in this blog.

As we secure actors, locations, and more financing, I'll let you in on these particulars. Until then, I'll keep it mysterious. I may even tell you what the movie is about. For now, think of it as "Big Fish" meets "All the President's Men".

TODAY: 2 hour call with the director (who was just hanging out with Heather Graham and Bradley Cooper) and a potential line producer to discuss the practicality of shooting, in all places - Maine. Interestingly, this movie is based on actual events that happened in New Jersey in the 1960s. Maine, as it turns out, is a great stand in for that era and can be had for much less money.

We're looking at $2.5 million budget (this is an Indie film) and shooting outside of the NY/NJ area is the way to get in at this number for a period piece. Also, trimming the script down from 119 pages to 97 certainly helps.

Next step is to finalize the budget, get our casting director on board and secure lead talent. Oh yeah, and raise more money. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So Here's the Drill

I was astonished to learn recently that there are three types of emergency drills practiced in the high school. Three of them! That’s two more than I ever needed to know when I grew up.

Perhaps, some of you practiced the nuclear attack drills in addition to the fire drills. For some reason, my school system didn’t find it necessary. Maybe it was because Mr. Yamamoto, our Japanese school superintendent, threw caution to the wind and hated Americans.

I always thought the fire drills we practiced were not even necessary. I mean when was the last time you heard about a school going up in a ball of fire? Most schools are made of cinder blocks, brick and glass. Materials, not so combustible.

The fire drills did have a benefit, though. It got me out of class and near Mary Alice O’Connor, the prettiest girl in the 7th grade – long, blonde hair and an early developer. Because of Mary Alice, I had always hoped there would be a real fire. I had even thought of setting one on her behalf, because I imagined myself rescuing her from some raging inferno and being her hero.

She would be alone in the library, the fire’s epicenter - because books are the only things that would burn in a school. She would be trapped in the young adult fiction section, falling unconscious due to smoke inhalation. I would dash in, clawing through the burning books that impeded her exit. Wildly throwing to the side Anne of Green Gables, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, My Friend Flicka. I would grab her, just under her heaving chest, and drag her limp body past the non-fiction section, the reference books, the audio books on cassette and out the front door to safety where I would resuscitate her with an impassioned mouth-to-mouth.


But, of course, there was never a fire.  And I’m quite sure Mary Alice, captain of the school’s cheerleading squad, never set foot in a library.

But for you lucky ones who practiced for nuclear Armageddon, I can only imagine the post apocalyptical stories you could weave.  How I wish I could’ve practiced the Duck and Cover drill. I can only imagine how many more lives I could imagine saving.

Duck and cover was the ingenious method of personal protection the US Government taught to generations of school children. It was supposed to protect them in the event of an unexpected nuclear attack, which, they were told, could come at any time without warning.  So thank you, US Government for instilling fear and paranoia at such an early age. Now you know why the 60s and 70s were filled with drugs.

The drill was brilliant. If a giant, blinding flash occurred, you had to stop what you were doing and get on the ground under some cover—such as a table, or near a wall. I remember an old black & white Civil Defense movie where a family picnics on a blanket. The flash goes off, they fling the food into the air and throw the blanket over their heads. The narrator then announces boldly that they have achieved the best protection against the bomb.

I mean, our Government developed the atomic bomb and that was the best thing they could come up with to protect us? But alas, this drill no longer exists.

So back to the three drills, which are practiced today and no doubt were designed by another Government employee.

There’s, of course, the fire drill. And according to my kids, not much has changed. The bell goes off and you walk outside the building – because we all know how flammable a school can be. And you stand there, usually in the cold, until they tell you to go back inside.

Then there’s the bomb evacuation drill. It’s pretty much the same as the fire drill except now you’re supposed to walk a little further away from the school, so if the bomb goes off you won’t be near the flying cinder blocks, brick and glass.

I would think the bomber, who is set on mass destruction, would figure out that he should plant the bomb not in the school but outside, perhaps in the parking lot where everyone gathers.

And third, there’s the shooter in the school drill. So sad our kids after to practice this one. But here the kids are told to huddle in the corner of their classroom, and hope the shooter doesn’t see them when he walks by looking through the window. 

As if it wasn’t already hard enough for the deranged shooter to hunt kids down one-by-one, now we make it easier for him by assembling all the targets in one spot in the corner of the room.

And if the shooter does walk in, the teacher, who has a union contract and hasn’t received a raise in 3 years is supposed to run at the shooter, flailing her arms and screaming in hopes of disarming the perpetrator.

I told my kids that if there’s any huddling make sure they’re the ones closest to the wall. I don’t care if you have to yank kids out of the way, get to that wall and make sure there’s a bunch of fat kids on the outside.

My son said he wouldn't be in the huddle. “I’m jumping out the window," he said. Our building is only 2-stories high and saving myself.”

“What about saving the girl?,” I asked him.

He just looked at me. “Dad, I’m jumping.”

I guess that’s good a time to be self-centered. But me, I’m just a hopeless romantic when it comes to disasters. And that’s my drill.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Goodbye Fran

I said goodbye to my friend's mother today. Goodbye as in the final goodbye that is. She was in the hospital in a coma after suffering a very severe stroke. I was saddened to hear about the stroke and even more so when I learned there was no way she was going to recover from it.

Fran was 73 and quite vivacious. She wasn't the person you would expect to have been felled by a stroke. I've known several people who had strokes recently. They were not in as good shape as my friend's mother. But they all were able to snap back from it. I just figured Fran would, too.

The people sitting in the ICU waiting room looked like they should be the ones in the hospital bed, not Fran. They were old and weathered. One was wearing a body brace and using a walker due to a recent spinal compression surgery. Most were overweight and walked unsteadily due their aches and pains. These people were all contemporaries of Fran and people I had known since the 5th grade. They had aged, but Fran never seemed to age in my eyes.

She was slim and sprite. Always had a smile to greet you with and a big laugh that exposed her warmth. It wasn't her time to go, but who am I to say? In the end I guess it was.

One of my cousins is a top cancer doctor and researcher. He once said that the problem with being a doctor is that you will always fail. That's because the patient will with absolute certainty die one day. So what is the doctor's job? How long do you to try to preserve life? Who can determine when enough is enough?

I suppose we all think we can cheat death. We try to keep life going a bit longer because we know that the answers we seek will surely come tomorrow. We hope to find out if there is something better than the present, or we convince ourselves it must've been in the past. We forget that living is now, until it's not.

I was graciously invited to go into Fran's room by the family. I didn't want to intrude or impose but everyone was welcoming, especially Fran's husband, Ron. Big Ron as I knew him growing up. A large man in stature and personality. And from a kid's perspective at the time, somewhat intimidating. Fran was always a good counter to Big Ron.

I instinctively put my hand on his back and rubbed it. I told him how peaceful and at rest Fran looked. It was true. She had been in the hospital less than 24 hours so she still had color on her skin. Her eyes were not sunken into her head. I'd seen the death pallor before on ill patients who were awake and clinging to life. The open mouth, shocked eyes. You knew death was knocking. Fran was just asleep, resting peacefully. It was good to see this and I needed to tell Ron.

I think he appreciated it. He turned to me and said he suddenly felt at peace too.

The nurse walked in with her clipboard shortly after and started asking some perfunctory questions: What medications does she take? When did she take her last pill? Has she had a history of illness? Does she have cancer?

All of us in the room chuckled. We knew those questions didn't mean anything now. Fran was being kept alive on life support just so we could say goodbye. But Ron answered all the questions politely and patiently.  When the nurse asked if he had any questions she could answer Ron said yes he had only one. With his wry sense of humor he simply asked, "Why?"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Dog Sucks

My dog is asleep on the couch next to me. He breathes or rather sighs just like a person. It's kind of interesting to think he is alive just like me. Then he kicks me with his hind legs as he stretches out. I get up and leave.

I'm asleep in my bed. My dog comes up to my room, stands next to my bed and cries. He starts out with a slow whine then moves into a loud song until I awake and pat my bed giving him the okay to jump up. He walks across the bed deftly missing my legs and lays down next to me, like a human. His breath stinks and I feel the air from his dog lungs pass over his coarse tongue and yellow teeth that held roadkill earlier that day.

I now hear a lapping sound. Check that. A slurping sound. My dog is licking his dick. He calls it cleaning. I call it lucky.

He finishes and falls asleep next to me, his leg twitching and kicking me every so often. I put my arm around him just like a human, without realizing he probably has ticks that now embed themselves into my skin. My dog sucks.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Story Slam: Sometimes Death Happens

This entry, honed down to 5 minutes, is an updated version of an earlier story I wrote a couple of years ago. I used this piece at a recent Story Slam contest where 12 of us were selected to get up and read in front of an audience of 80-90 people, 3 of which were literary agents.

I didn't win - someone else did.

I was hit by a deer.

Yes, the deer hit me. He shot out of someone's front yard, as I was driving down the road one afternoon and smacked right into the side door of my car, a large white minivan, which is now referred to as the deer magnet.

This must’ve been the stupidest deer in the world. Who doesn’t see a large white minivan?

I’ve lived here for over 20 years. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve seen the post-accident carnage, but I never experienced it firsthand. Now, I could claim a kill, and it felt good, until my eleven-year-old daughter who was in the backseat screamed: "What was that? Did you hit someone?”

"No, it was just a deer and he hit me," I said.

"You killed a deer!? A deer!? What are you gonna do?" she cried.

I wasn’t sure. At least it wasn’t a person, I thought. If it were a person I would know what to do.

I slowed the car down, and reluctantly pulled to the side of the road. Should I even be stopping? I couldn’t do anything for it. The best thing for all us at that point was for the deer to die -- quickly.

I looked down the road, but I didn't see anything at first. Perhaps, he was just stunned. Maybe he got up and ran away. Or maybe his deer friends were watching from behind a bush laughing at the motorist who stopped.

Nope. He was there, in the gutter, on his back, his leg twitching, his body quivering. Not dead, but dying -- slowly.

My heart sank. What would Joe Pesci do?

I could never bring myself to whack his little deer skull to bits with a tire iron. But, I could back up the car and do a little forward/reverse action, just to help him crossover.

No, my daughter was in the car. She’d figure out why we were going over the same bump again and again.

Rhetorically, the words slipped out of my mouth. "What should I do?"

"I don't know, you're the adult!" my daughter snapped back at me.

She was right, but I still didn't know what to do.


A few weeks later, our fish died.

He was a freshwater blue gourami and joined our family six years earlier. He was a replacement for the five goldfish, which were won at a school fair by my two sons.

A word to the wise, don’t invest in a 10-gallon tank, filter, plastic plants and a castle until at least three weeks after bringing a goldfish into your home.

During that time span, each goldfish would take a turn dying in our beautifully decorated aquarium, now known as Davy Jones Locker.

And along with that died any hope of teaching the children compassion for another living thing. The boys had cheered wildly for more of the floaters.

The gourami was a second chance at redemption for the boys and my parenting skills. The gourami was thick and hearty and put those carnival fish to shame. He was surely going to live longer than 3 weeks.

And he did, but the kids were not impressed. He couldn’t be taught tricks and the only thing of interest to them was the long string of excrement that would trail out of his little fish anus.

The only other attention paid to him was when we returned home from occasional long weekends or vacations. The boys would race into the house to see the tank, only to shout out disappointedly: "He’s still alive!"

Until one day, he wasn’t. This 7-inch long fish that over the six years was once blue in color, then orange, had now turned stark white. He lay on his side at the bottom of the tank. He had struggled to die for two days, his gills gasping fruitlessly, his body sucked against the black filter.

I called the children into the room so they could see the final demise of this pet without a name. I suppose six years was not long enough to earn your own name. We had expected him to die like those before him, so we never bothered.

“Finally!” my eldest son exclaimed. The others concurred.

I told them he deserved a little more respect after all these years, and now I knew what to do. I told them we would have a proper burial in the backyard -- immediately.

The boys rolled their eyes.

"Where are you gonna bury him?" my daughter asked.

"Back by the dead tree stump."

"The neighbor's cat is gonna dig him up,” my middle son said. “He always pees there.”

"Get the shovel. We'll dig deep," I promised.

The burial site was prepared. And I gently flipped the fish into the hole. I have to admit the fish looked a little odd resting in the soil. But there he was, the white fish against the dark earth. I knew the cat would find him.

I managed to get a few words in: "Thank you fish for being part of our family. We're sorry we never named you, but we all knew who you were. You had a good, long life just like the man at the store said you would, so thanks for that, too."

 I went to cover the fish with dirt when all of a sudden his mouth opened wide and his fin flapped up and down.

"Oh my god! He's not dead," my daughter screamed. "Why are you burying him? He’s still alive."

I panicked. Thoughts of the deer struggling to survive went through my head. Should I do it right this time and just stamp on his body to finish him off? No, too many witnesses.

Quickly, I got on my knees and scooped the dirt onto the fish with my hands. The boys laughed. My daughter cried.

"I'm sorry,” I said to her. “He was just about dead. There’s nothing else we could do."

"He wasn't floating at the top like the others,” she sobbed. “He was still alive. You're a murderer! All you do is kill things!"

I looked at her helplessly. Still on my knees, with my shoulders shrugged and palms facing up, I said, "Sometimes death happens."