Monday, January 24, 2005

D&D: Some background for cast

Part of the Diogenes/Dionysus plotline involves a series of nightmares. Just as background, here is a series of clips from BBC on the subject of nightmares:

TDB: Schedule details

The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey

S.T.A.G.E. - Spotlight Theatre Arts Group Etc./Krause House
[A 20-year-old company located in the Texas Hill Country committed to the development of public interest in theatre. In addition to a regular season, S.T.A.G.E., Inc. offers unique touring productions. 1300 Bulverde Road, Bulverde, Texas 78163. The theatre is located on Bulverde Road, about 1.7 miles south of the junction with Texas 46 between New Braunfels and Boerne. Bulverde Road is just west of US281 (about 4 miles).]

This beautifully written play moves from toughness and hilarity to something devastating and tender. "THE DRAWER BOY touches the heart and mind in equal measure."

Director: Catherine Babbitt, Assistant Director: Catherine Hayes.

Run Dates: February 03, 2005 thru February 20, 2005
Times: Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. (Dinner available before the show). Sunday 2:30 p.m. (Lunch available before the show)
Tickets: $14.00 for Adult and $12.00 for Senior and Student seats
Phone: (830) 438-2339

Sunday, January 23, 2005

MSC: An era passes

Johnny Carson, late-night TV legend, dies at 79
CNN, Sunday, January 23, 2005
Posted: 7:01 PM EST (0001 GMT)

Johnny Carson, host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" for nearly 30 years, died Sunday of emphysema.

"He passed away this morning," Carson's nephew, Jeffrey Sotzing, told CNN.

Carson, a longtime smoker, was 79 and had announced in 2002 that he was suffering from the disease.

Carson was host of the late-night talk show from October 1, 1962, to May 22, 1992, taking over from Jack Paar and handing off to Jay Leno after 4,531 episodes.

"It is a sad day for his family and for the country," "Late Show" host David Letterman said in a statement Sunday. "He was the best -- a star and a gentleman."

Carson kept a low profile after leaving "The Tonight Show" in 1992.

"He has been greatly missed since his retirement" Letterman said. "Thank God for videotapes and DVDs. In this regard, he will always be around."

Born John William Carson on October 23, 1925, in Corning, Iowa, he is survived by his fourth wife, Alexis, and sons Christopher and Cory from his first marriage, to Joan "Jody" Wolcott.

Another son, Richard, died in a car accident in 1991.

Despite decades on television, Carson was never open publicly with the details of his personal life.

"Nobody got to know him," said comedian Joan Rivers, who often substituted for Carson as a

"Tonight Show" guest host. "He was very private."

Carson began his show business career as a teenage magician and ventriloquist before serving in the Navy during World War II.

After the Navy, he attended the University of Nebraska, graduating in 1949 with a bachelor of arts degree.

While still in college, Carson took a job as an announcer with KFAB in Lincoln, Nebraska, and two years later moved to Los Angeles, California, where he took an announcer's job at KNXT-TV.

A year later, the boyish-looking budding comedian had his own show -- "Carson's Cellar" -- 15 minutes of poking fun at the news, on which Carson persuaded stars of the 1940s and 1950s to appear for free.

In the midst of the show's run, famed clown Red Skelton hired Carson as a writer -- and even put him on as host on live television when Skelton was injured during a rehearsal.

"The Johnny Carson Show" spent 39 weeks on CBS in 1955 and 1956, then he moved to New York, where he was host of ABC's quiz show "Who Do You Trust?" and met Ed McMahon, who became Carson's sidekick until Carson retired from "The Tonight Show" 35 years later.

Under Carson, "The Tonight Show" earned 42 Emmy nominations and won seven trophies. Carson picked up a Golden Globe nomination in 1975, three years after moving the show from New York to Hollywood.

Carson was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1987. An estimated 50 million people watched his final broadcast in 1992.

"And so it has come to this. I am one of the lucky people in the world. I found something that I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it," Carson said to close his final show. "I bid you a very heartfelt goodnight."

President George H.W. Bush awarded Carson the Medal of Freedom on December 11, 1992, and the following year he was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award.

Carson's departure led to a bitter battle to replace him, between Letterman, whose "Late Night with David Letterman" followed "The Tonight Show" on NBC's schedule, and frequent guest host Jay Leno. Leno won and remains the host; Letterman jumped to CBS, where he is host of "The Late Show."

Carson is credited with boosting the careers of numerous young comedians.

"The Carson show changed your life," Rivers said. "If Carson liked you, you were set. He got the bright comics. He picked the ones who were different, who were smart."

The list of other Carson alumni reads like a Who's Who of top comics -- Bill Cosby, David Brenner, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin and Garry Shandling.

"He gave me a shot on his show and in doing so gave me a career," Letterman said. "A night doesn't go by that I don't ask myself, 'What would Johnny have done?'"

"All of us who came after are pretenders," Letterman said. "We will not see the likes of him again."

Rivers said she, too, owes her start -- and her later introduction to the man who became her husband -- to Carson.

"We all started on his show," Rivers said. "Every solid comedian today really got their break on the Carson show."

Carson had a special knack for putting people at ease, comedian Jackie Mason said.

"The nervousness never lasted more than a second because he was so congenial and comfortable," Mason said. "He made more stars on his show, probably, than anybody in the whole history of show business."

A guest's ability to make the host laugh was the sign of a successful appearance, said Dr. Joyce Brothers, who appeared on Carson's show about 90 times.

"If you made Johnny Carson laugh, the sun shone. It was such a triumph for you, and he was always, always kind," Brothers said. "[He] never said a cutting remark in all of the years that I watched the show, and I watched it for years and years, because it was fun to go to bed feeling happy and pleased."

"He was kindness personified," Brothers said.

Rivers called Carson "the best straight man in the business."

"Nobody in the world was like him," she said. "He was absolutely the best I've ever worked with."

But Rivers said Carson never spoke to her again after she left to start her own late-night show -- one of many challenges he fended off during his time on "The Tonight Show."

And Carson worked hard to maintain his privacy, Brothers said.

"He had his own entrance onto the stage," she said. "He had his own makeup room.

"You never spoke to him at all before the show. He didn't want the guests to say something funny, and then feel that they were too embarrassed to say it on air."

Peter Lassally, Carson's executive producer for 23 years, took credit for Carson's continuing to write jokes for Letterman until recently.

"It gave him great pleasure," Lassally told CNN. "He'd pick up the paper in the morning and could think of a dozen jokes and had no outlet for them, so I urged him to share them with America."

Carson was everyman, with charisma
Day he left ‘Tonight’ was the day that television died

By Michael Ventre
MSNBC, Updated: 4:05 p.m. ET Jan. 23, 2005

“The day the music died” was February 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly’s plane crashed outside of Clear Lake, Iowa.

The day television died was May 22, 1992, when Johnny Carson hustled out of a Burbank studio, leaving tear-soaked cheeks, 30 years of memories and a void that could never be filled.

Like music, television carried on, but it was never quite the same again. Carson was princely. He was to television what Sinatra was to music, what Brando was to acting, what JFK was to the presidency. He was Carnac the Magnificent’s alter-ego, as trusted and reliable as the turbaned Carnac was inept. (Answer: “Ben Gay.” Question: “Why didn’t Ben Franklin have any children?”

But Carson’s strength was his accessibility. You could take him to bed. Every night. Millions did.

From 1962, when he relieved Jack Paar of hosting duties for NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” Johnny came through the curtain, stood center stage in a natty suit, leaned back on his heels, cast sly asides at the live audience and at Middle America through the cameras, and did a 10 minute monologue that killed, even when it bombed. He made you laugh at jokes that were funny, and others that weren’t. He had you in his pocket even before you laid eyes on him.

Born in Iowa but raised in Norfolk, Neb., he discovered early on what the heartland found entertaining. He did magic tricks. He worked as a ventriloquist. He kept enlisted men in stitches as a Naval officer. He wrote comedy and announced commercials for radio stations. He hosted game shows. He penned jokes for Red Skelton.

He paid his dues.

When he took over for Paar, he was ripe and ready, and quickly became a late-night ritual.

Millions of kids grew up over the years hearing the voices of Carson, Ed McMahon, Doc Severinsen and myriad celebrity guests emanating from the tube in their parents’ bedroom.

Cackles of laughter ensued. Often, it sounded like mom and dad were having a party in there. They were.

The Jimmy Stewart of late nightCarson succeeded with a mixture of everyman charm and movie-star charisma. He took the tools of vaudeville, gave them a modern sheen, and displayed them before television cameras. Over the years, he developed regular bits like “Stump the Band,” “Floyd R. Turbo,” “The Mighty Carson Art Players,” “Art Fern’s Tea Time Movie” and, of course, “Carnac,” which was funniest when the folks in the audience groaned over a dud of a line. Carnac would glare at them and offer an ominous reproach: “May a love-starved fruit fly molest your sister’s nectarines.”

You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps, and Johnny assembled a dream team and kept it intact for most of his run. Often it seemed McMahon’s primary role was to guffaw, but he also served as a trusted friend as well as an able accomplice in Johnny’s shenanigans. McMahon did not create the sidekick, but when it came to late-night television, he had no peer.

Bandleader Severinsen, and stand-in Tommy Newsom, handled banter like Jim Fowler and Joan Embery handled critters. Producer Fred de Cordova ran a smooth ship, and helped to keep “The Tonight Show” atop the late-night ratings despite assaults by challengers like Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin, Joey Bishop, David Frost and Joan Rivers.

All the while, there were the guests. Regulars like Don Rickles, Rodney Dangerfield, Bob Newhart, David Brenner, Buddy Hackett, Albert Brooks and John Davidson provided familiarity, like relatives visiting. Others like Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman represented the young turks who longed for recognition, hoping after their routines that they would be invited over to the inner sanctum that was Johnny’s couch.

Unlucky in love — or too lucky?Of course, Johnny had better luck picking guests than wives. He was married four times, and the first three came away with significant chunks of his salary. But it also provided material: “The difference between divorce and a legal separation is that a legal separation gives a husband time to hide his money.”

When he stepped down in 1992, it’s because he saw comic legends like Bob Hope and Jack Benny struggle in later years, and he feared becoming his industry’s version of Willie Mays, stumbling around in the outfield long after his gifts had evaporated. Around the time of the 10th anniversary of his retirement, he told Esquire magazine: “I think I left at the right time. You’ve got to know when to get the hell off the stage, and the timing was right for me. The reason I really don’t go back or do interviews is because I just let the work speak for itself.”

Aside from a few cameos, including a voiceover on “The Simpsons” and an appearance on Letterman’s show, a man who once enjoyed massive popularity went directly into seclusion and stayed there. He shunned large gatherings and requests for his time: “I will not even talk to myself without an appointment.”

The day that television died was May 22, 1992. The day it was buried was today.

At the risk of sounding indelicate, I think he should close with a joke. If Mel Blanc can have “That’s All, Folks!” on his tombstone, then Johnny can have “Heeeerreee’s Johnny!” on his.

I don’t think Johnny Carson would mind if I pointed out how wrong it is that the nation can no longer enjoy his talents, or even his presence, by using a joke. It was one of his:
“If life was fair, Elvis would still be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.”

REV: You gotta see this

Once in a while there's something i just gotta see, even if the critics savage it. The critics haven't seen this one yet, but it's definitely on my "to see" list. Check out the trailer for Sin City!

MSC: About the odds

The Sundance Odds Get Even Longer

The New York Times
Published: January 16, 2005

FEW days ago I was sitting by myself at the movies, soaking up Hollywood dreams turned into light, when a college-age man came over and sat down next to me.

"You're a producer, aren't you?" he asked. "How can I get my movie made?"

I hear this question all the time at dinners, meetings or restaurants from waiters, friends and the children of friends; and most often, from people I have never met before.

These days, I tell them, the challenge isn't getting your movie made. Practically anyone can make a motion picture today. All it takes is a personal time commitment to the process and access to a credit card, a digital video camera and a computer loaded with $1,000 of editing software. The result might not be as good as "The Blair Witch Project" or "Open Water," but it will still be a completed movie.

The challenge, as it turns out, is actually getting your movie seen. As an example, let's take the 2,613 feature films - up 29 percent from 2,023 last year - that were submitted to what has become the primary portal for new filmmakers seeking an audience, the Sundance Film Festival, which begins on Thursday. These completed movies make up the collective hopes and creative output of tens of thousands of talented people. But only 120 of these films -fewer than 5 percent of all submissions - were selected for screening at the festival.

If it's a good year, maybe, just maybe, 10 of these movies, or 0.3 percent of the submissions, will be picked up for distribution within the United States. What will happen to the remaining 2,603 movie submissions? For the most part, nothing. You'll never see them, not even at your local video rental store. Without the marketing push, awareness and word-of-mouth that's generated by a theatrical release, it's not feasible for video chains to stock your picture.

Of course, Sundance isn't the only festival. In fact, there are at least 2,500 film festivals around the world, so theoretically you could enter your movie in each of those festivals, and hope that it is accepted at one. But getting your film considered at all 2,500 festivals will require a fair amount of dedication: you would have to send out about seven letters of inquiry or DVD screening copies of your movie to different festivals each day for a year, with no days off.

Still, let's say you beat the odds to this point. Miracle of miracles, your movie gets accepted by a festival and then is picked up for distribution. The question now becomes: Will it ever have more than a minuscule audience? Approximately 450 movies are released in the United States every year by about 30 recognizable distributors. Of those, major film studios release about half, and independent distributors release the others. But the numbers are even tougher than they look, because roughly 90 percent of the box-office receipts will be sucked up by the studio releases, leaving about 225 independent releases - most likely including your picture - to compete for the remaining sales. When you realize that there will be only a few independent movies that genuinely captivate the popular imagination every year (in 2004 those included "The Passion of the Christ," "Fahrenheit 9/11" and, perhaps, "Supersize Me") you'll see what a thin sliver of pie is left for everyone else.

Alternatively, maybe you'll look at these statistics and realize there's very little chance of financial success or even recognition if you produce an independent film, even if it gets released, so you decide to consider another tack: writing your way into the business. It worked for Francis Ford Coppola; it worked for Frank Darabont; it worked for Nora Ephron. Could it work for you?

To protect your story and screenplay, you'll realize that you want to register it with the Writers Guild of America, West. If somebody tries to rip you off, registration helps you prove you had the idea first. So, feeling positive, you go online and register your script. Then you discover that the guild registered 55,000 pieces last year, up nearly 60 percent from 35,000 in 2001. (With fees pegged at $10 for members, $20 for everyone else, registrations appear to pump close to a million dollars from hopefuls around the world through the guild every year.)

Next, you will need an agent. The guild maintains a directory of 93 agencies (the number fluctuates) that are guild signatories in California: that is, the agencies have agreed to abide by the standards imposed by the professional writers' organization. But of the 93 agencies listed, nearly two dozen state flat out that they won't accept unsolicited material, and only one says it will consider material from new writers. (It's called Qualità Dell'Arte and it's in Woodland Hills, Calif.) About 70 agencies indicate they might read your work if you are referred to them by an existing client or if you send them a letter of inquiry, but the agencies receive an average of 100 queries each week and can respond positively to only about one each month.

If an agency does agree to read your script, it goes next to the story department, where readers will synopsize it and offer their critiques. This is called coverage. A large agency might typically send between 15,000 and 30,000 projects to coverage each year, including material from new writers as well as existing clients' work.

Now, let's say your script comes back from the story department with glowingly wonderful coverage (almost none do) - will an agent take you on? Unfortunately, it's not likely. An agent may have responsibility for 50 clients, and a new writer is the most difficult of the breed: you will consume a great deal of your agent's time as he or she educates people about you and your talents, sends around your script and schedules meetings for you. And as you are a new writer, if the agent does make the sale, the price of your script will almost certainly be set at the minimum "scale fee," currently about $36,000 for a low-budget script, as prescribed by the Writers Guild, for your services. That's a lot of work for 10 percent of very little.

But I urge you, stay positive. Let's assume an agent agrees to sign you, thinks your script is the best material since "The Day After Tomorrow" and decides to take it out to the marketplace in a full-blown auction. An agency can put a big push behind only one so-called "spec" script each week, and as many as 20 of these may be vying for the spot, so your agent will have to battle other agents internally (not a pretty picture) to get your work into prime position.

Your script will go out to approximately 20 key buyers: the eight major studios (formerly nine, but MGM is selling out to Sony) and a handful of the bigger specialty film houses and independent financiers that can get a movie made. Each of these, in turn, will send your script to coverage by its story department, and if your spec is hot, it will be covered overnight; a major studio's story department may cover 75 to 250 script submissions each week. You can imagine the process from this point: if your script receives high praise and feels fresh, exciting and imaginative, not to mention commercial, someone might actually buy it.

Every month, in fact, between 20 and 50 spec scripts and pitches are sold. (In 2004, according to The Hollywood Reporter, 298 new projects were sold: 98 were spec scripts, 87 came from literary material, 70 were pitches, 16 were remakes, 10 were comic books, 6 were true-life stories, 4 came from video games, 2 each derived from television shows and magazine articles, and 1 was from an action figure.)

Then your project will go into development. You'll be assigned a development executive, who is probably working on at least 30 other projects and who will work to shape your script through rewrites (some of which may even be done by you), package it with talent and - as generally happens with fewer than 20 percent of projects in even the leanest studio development pool - shepherd it into production.

So who actually gets a picture made? Already, you're remembering that the major studios release about 225 movies a year, which means that each studio releases perhaps 30 movies.

Take Sony Pictures as an example. In 2004 Sony released 39 movies in the United States, but it didn't actually make all of them. Six were financed through Sony's partnership with Revolution Studios. A whopping 22 were already completed movies acquired by the company's specialty distribution arm, Sony Pictures Classics, and many of these received only a very limited release in New York and Los Angeles. Of the theatrical feature films Sony actually made, 3 were sequels ("Spider-Man 2," "Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2"and "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid"), 2 were remakes, 1 came from a play and 1 from a novella, and 1 was written and directed by a famous writer-director (James L. Brooks's "Spanglish"). Of the 39 movies that Sony released only 3 could have possibly come from original, new scripts by promising artists like you.

Or to put it another way: there are about a dozen development executives at Sony, each of whom is assigned to about 20 to 30 projects. Yet there were only three produced projects that weren't remakes, sequels, purchased from or paid for by another producer, or derived from novels, comic books or video games. So, these dozen executives are competing with each other to get three original movies made, which means each executive has only a 1-in-4 chance of getting the green light for an original script, most of which will have come from veteran writers with impressive credits.

By the way, if you successfully navigate Hollywood's gauntlet and your movie is made and released, it's unlikely you'll ever see real money from it. A studio movie costs on average $64 million to produce and $62 million to market, for a total average investment of $128 million per film. (And this is just an average. Many motion pictures have famously cost far more to produce and market.) Last year, only 20 movies grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office, and, after the theaters take their share, only about 50 percent of the box-office gross revenue comes back to the studio. Even though the domestic box office accounts for about 25 percent of total potential film revenues (booming DVD sales account for a big share of the rest), there is rarely much left over from the three-year income cycle of a feature film: profit participations must be deducted and paid to the stars and other luminaries, studio overhead of 20 percent is assessed, distribution fees of 15 to 20 percent are charged, home video marketing costs are recaptured, and the interest accrued on the initial money allocated to produce and market the film is paid off.

But don't let these daunting statistics cause you to lose heart. Hollywood has always been a haven for creative, quixotic types who know it's impossible to get a movie made, yet seek to do the impossible every day. And once you've tasted the delirious rush of seeing one of your movies open at multiplexes across America, there's no stopping the addiction.

The numbers may be against you, but hang in there. Because in Hollywood, the dream of being No. 1 keeps the whole town going - even if it happens only 0.3 percent of the time.
Adam Leipzig is president of National Geographic Feature Films.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

MSC: Jeff Scott news

Got word today from Jeff Scott that he'll be directing The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shakspear (abridged) [or however it's unspelled] this summer at Texas Tech. 'Spect old Jeff will be a perfessional soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

ENV: The backyarders

Edgar and Chewbacca

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Monday, January 17, 2005

D&D: Award winners in our midst

All right, i'm starting this post over since it got unwieldy and now i have most, if not all, of the information.

At the Pointy Awards on Sunday quite a few of the winners were folks involved in Diogenes/Dionysus. Here's a rundown:

Graham Douglass (Colt in D&D, a subject in the documentary The Extra Mile) won Best Actor in a Musical for his stunning performance as the Emcee in Cabaret

Peter Navarra (Will in D&D, subject of the documentary Cold & Glass) won Best Youth Actor in a Comedy or Drama for his Dewey Maples in The Diviners

Leaman Valentine (D&D crew/support, plus a writer of, and actor in, Rampaging Rhinos' Zerosum) won a Director's Choice Award for his turn as C.C. Showers in The Diviners

Chris Valentine (D&D crew/support, Zerosum crew) won Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama for his turn as Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace

Holly Riedel (Mrs. Bennett in D&D) won Best Actress in a Comedy or Drama for her Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Taylor Danielson (Brent in D&D) received a Director's Choice Award for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and Best Actor in a Comedy or Drama for his outstanding work as Buddy Layman in The Diviners

Ryan Batley (D&D crew, Zerosum writer and director) received the Director's Choice Award for Dracula.

Marie Cearley (a teacher in D&D) was awarded the Director's Choice Award for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Emily Houghton (D&D extra/support) received a Director's Choice Award for her work as Assistant Director on Inspecting Carol.

Also last week:

Clifton Fifer (D&D extra/support) received an Earnest T. Player award for his work as Tom in To Kill a Mockingbird

Rachel Hensley (as Chava in Fiddler on the Roof; D&D extra/support) won an Earnest T. Player award for Outstanding Performance by a Youth Actor.

Meg Lewis (as Genevra in Appointment with Death; D&D extra/support) took home an Earnest T. Player award for Outstanding Performance by a Youth Actor.

Congrats to all.

And since i reviewed it -- In addition to Holly and Marie, and the unawarded but incredible Roy Burney (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf; appearing as well in D&D), Ella Johnson won Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Drama for Honey in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Caleb Straus won Newcomer of the Year for Nick in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Congrats to all of them, and to Director Jeff Scott, for awards in what i consider to be the best thing i saw in 2004.

(updated Tuesday, January 18th and Wednesday, January 19th and Thursday, January 20th)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

ITM: New theatre close to ready

I probably should have had some mention earlier about this but i wasn't connecting. The Ingram Tom Moore High School Theatre Department has been renovating an old auditorium for a full-time theatre home. I have yet to see it (hope to this week) but i hear it looks really sharp -- lights and sound system are in. What's not complete, and the reason for this post, is the seating. They're still selling seats (with little plaques) as a way to upgrade the seat quality. If you'd like to be a part of this project, call the district office at 830-367-5517.

[Update Thursday, Jaunary 21st: While the seating is definitely still available, i now understand the theatre is not as far along as was hoped. The kids may not be able to get in until next year. More details as i find them out.]

Friday, January 14, 2005

D&D: School scenes are a go

I met yesterday with Superintendent Bruce Faust and Principal Pamela Morris and we had a nice discussion about Diogenes. I explained the plotline, and the four scenes we needed to shoot, and the logistics of the shoot and they were very encouraging about the film and the shoot. We will be getting together in small groups and individually over the next few weeks to plan way in advance for a shooting date at the school, since it will involve all principals and lots of extras -- we need to lock in a date for everyone. It will likely be about a three to four hour shoot and we have some options that include weekends, spring break, and weekdays. The critical factors will be a) availability of cast and crew, and b) sunlight. We're probably looking at an April or May shoot, so start thinking of dates and ranges that may work for you. I'll be in touch soon.

Also, i am now and have been the last few weeks heavily into editing the Rio Vista films and will be swamped until those are completed -- they are my top priority. My well-known nuclear computer meltdown has delayed my work on that and made my schedule a wreck. But that has to get done, as i have several hundred antsy kids waiting for it. Once it's finished i'll come up for air and we'll go about working on the other projects, especially Diogenes, Extra Mile and Cold & Glass. Plus i'll be working feverishly on Ode to a River and Wisdom since both of those have spring premieres. Does someone have an extra couple of months they can lend me?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

ITM: Mark's in town

Well, ran into Mark Este tonight at Wal-Mart for our bimonthly run-in at Wal-Mart (we subconsciously plan these things). He was with Noel looking for me (so he says) and i was looking for a cheap, unwatched, great-reviewed movie (nope). I'd have been looking for Mark and Noel except i'm there every night and they'd get suspicious if all i did was show up to look for Mark and Noel, who, like, only come in every other month. So i was looking for a movie i knew didn't exist. There, i feel better, and thought everyone should know Mark's in town, he's not going to Colorado next week, he's (sorta) looking for a job, and he's not in any plays right now. Yo Mark!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

REV: Meet those people

I've now seen Meet the Fockers, and will post a longer review later. In brief, not a great movie, with some of the usual sillinesses, disgusting product placements and setup for the next sequel, but still some pretty funny little moments and nice performances from some of the leads.

Update: Okay, i better do the kind thing and warn that i've included some plot spoilers in the review, though anyone with half a brain can see it coming which is the point i make while doing the spoiling. Anyway, you're warned if it matters.

SOR: Pictures posted

Candids and production stills from Sons of the Rodeo have now been posted by the production photog David Cox -- they're at:

Friday, January 07, 2005

MSC: More notes -- Austin Screenwriters Group

I see that the topic has continued; so, partly to stay in the fray, and also to
vaguely answer some of the questions, especially Ms. Smith's fine question
about adapting a book, i'll offer a small (if long) story.

Some years ago (like in the last millennium) i was sitting at a campfire
when an old friend told a story to a bunch of kids about his grandfather.
The story roughly went that his grandpa was a rough, bitter man confined to
a care facility. One day he was assigned a roommate, whom he not only didn't
want but resented.

The roommate however, was all too happy to be in a place where there was
someone to talk to and leaned heavily on the art of uninvited conversation.
The grandpa was rude and dismissive, but as time wore on he managed to just
keep his mouth shut while the new guy rambled on and on.

As time passed the new roommate also found he had less and less to actually
tell my friend's grandpa, having run through the family history, then his
own exploits as a kid, a stint in the service, and through a full marriage
and kids and grandkids of his own. Out of the need to keep talking, perhaps
to keep his own sanity, the man began describing what was going on outside
the window of their room, obscured from gramps by a heavy screen. Day after
day he kept this up, the parade of life going on outside, notes on people
who were there everyday and what they did, especially a man who came to sit
on a bench and eat lunch with his young daughter every day. The roomie even
trying to conjure what their conversations might be like.

Well, to shorten this a bit, i'll get to the end. One day gramps wakes up
and eats his breakfast and after some minutes realizes that there's no
verbosity coming from the flipside of the screen. He hollers a couple of
times along the lines of "Hey, when'd you learn to keep your old trap shut?"
But there was no reply. When the nurse comes to retrieve his breakfast tray
he says, "Hey, where's old what's-his-name?" And the nurse says, "Why, Mr.
Davis, he passed away during the night. I thought you knew."

Gramps looks at her, blinks, and says, "Well, get over to the window and
tell me what's going on outside there." And after a moment of stunned
silence, she says, "Why, Mr. Davis, there's no window in this room . . ."

Okay, end of story. Make of it what you will, but i flipped over it,
especially my friend's choked up rendering of it. After the kids left, i
told him i thought it was just an incredible story, it had so many layers
(and i gushed i guess). I asked my bud if he minded if i wrote that up, that
it was so inspirational. He said sure.

I spent a year working on it, writing, re-writing, polishing (then going
back to earlier versions after i'd polished the shine completely off and
starting again). By the time i saw him again, nearly a year later, i was
pretty proud of it. I had a clean, crisp (dot-matrix!) copy ready, with his
name as co-author, and awaiting only his final check that i hadn't missed
anything before i sent it off to Reader's Digest, or some other publisher of
truly inspirational stories.

It was the night of another campfire for us, and i was hoping he'd tell the
story again, but i couldn't wait to actually show him i had been good for my
word. I put a copy in his hands, aptly titled "The Window" and looked for
his reaction.

It came -- he barely had read a sentence when the color drained from his
face. I said, "What's wrong?" He said, "I'm sorry, i guess i misunderstood
what you wanted to do . . . that was a story i'd read in Reader's Digest."

Then the color drained from my face.

Well, this is a little off-the-path since we're talking adaptation. You
can't adapt a story into just another story (and i wasn't writing scripts at
that time), especially when you stick to the details.

Or can you. PO'ed that i'd spent a year plagiarizing a story (which
thankfully i hadn't sent anywhere), i resolved that the plotline (someone
with a big heart helps someone else with a cold and bitter heart to see
things in a different way) was so good that maybe the story could be written
another way.

So, i came up with an alternate story -- two blind kids, a girl who's bitter
because she can't do things that sighted kids can, meets a boy who does a
lot of things sighted kids never get off the couch to do. He teaches her how
to enjoy her life in ways she never dreamed. The twist? -- the girl never
knows the boy is blind too.

After ten years of my telling that story (my version) around a lot of
campfires i took it and turned it into a stage play and it has been
workshopped twice by regional theatres, and i now have a composer working on
a musical version. A success? Well, not yet, if ever. But i did get a script
by doing a different kind of adaptation.

The other similar kind of thing i've done (besides script-adapt a story that
was itself an adaptation) is to adapt one of my own "books," an unfinished
novel that took another life when i began converting it -- such that, once
i've finished the script, i'll likely go back and finish the novel.

Just some more idle thoughts,

tony g

Special thanks to Kaye Abikhaled and Sylvia Dickey Smith for their comments!

"Give a man a play and he will read for a day.
Teach a man to act and he will never eat again."
-- Sarah Tacey, actor/director

Thursday, January 06, 2005

MSC: Outta here . . .

Crossfire gone?

Goodbye and good riddance to junktalk.

Jon Stewart and Frank Zappa are my heroes.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

MSC: Tsunami videos take over blogworld

Here's a good place to start:

MSNBC Blog review

Update: This has run off the end of the blog now. I don't know how to access the archives.

Monday, January 03, 2005

MSC: Notes to the Austin Screenwriters Group

I really enjoyed reading and re-reading yesterday's commentary which, by
itself, provides a lesson. If i were to try to wrap the various comments
together in a neat summary i'd say the primary advice (both by admission of
the other posters, and by their descriptions of what works for them) is to
do whatever it is that works. And McKee certainly works for some. Only
experience at trying things will determine what's best for you.

In my humble opinion, the single biggest mistake beginning writers make, in
any genre, is to write before they have a story to tell. I tell my students
to never turn down the chance for an experience -- that's where original
stories come from. Some experiences go bad, but then that's life, isn't it.
Definition: a writer is someone who is rich with experience, not someone who
spells well (although that helps).

The bulk of "new" writers at my seminars are folks who've sat around their
living rooms eating potato chips and suddenly have a cholesterol vision that
they are pre-ordained to be a writer. Well, fine, but you won't write a
great script by watching Star Trek reruns. You A) need to have experienced
life; and B) you need to understand humanity (even if you're writing
dialogue for Ewoks, they have to emote humanly in order for humans to
identify with them).

From the realization that one "has" a story, one must choose how to go about
the process in the way that best gets the material from your heads/hearts
onto paper. And then to make it work within the genre you have chosen.

I too have studied "Story" and much is to be gained from it McKee's ideas
have certainly redirected my ability, post-writing, to analyze and tighten
my structure. HOWEVER, i almost always write first.

(I haven't seen it mentioned here yet, but folks unsteady with the conflict
in styles being discussed should watch "Adaptation" for an instructive
lesson on McKee and the process of screenwriting -- it is a parallel theme
tied nicely into the "controlling idea." And even as the plot device is to
march out of spontaneity and into lockstep with the "method," the story
itself, and ultimately the screenplay, are a triumph of spontaneity,
undoubtedly followed by tight, formulaic editing. It is also the best
rendition of the "screenwriter writing the screenplay which is to become the
story you are already watching" genre. Note too that the "story" only comes
to fruition after the writer jumps into the story himself -- both
figuratively and literally in this case.)

To satisfy myself, i tried to use his method: i've had seeds of ideas, put
together outlines, and then written . . . and failed miserably. It's
happened twice. The first time, trying to see if it would inspire me, i
started with only a theme (a controlling idea as it were) and a character.
The finished project looked exactly like i had no story to begin with and
tried to force one into an outline. It was stilted.

The second time, i had the story dribbling out of my ears. I knew what was
going on and where it was headed. But i forced myself to structure it first.
By the time i was happy with the structural outline, the whole instaflow
process had left me, as did my enthusiasm. Sure i got it down, but it's
lacking. I could easily be wrong, but i think the process done at the wrong
time is what sapped me of the creative energy on that one.

So i abandoned McKee. In the strictest sense anyway. Went back to my own
self-evolved method. And wrote again.

I have certainly absorbed some of his lessons -- someone mentioned the
script analysis section already, i agree. But i can no longer distinguish
what i specifically got from "Story" and what comes from other places, other
analyses, other writers. I don't go to workshops. I taught workshops for a
while, until i figured out that my "method" wasn't right for very many
others, and i didn't want to do harm to, or discourage, budding writers.
Likewise, i see other workshops as 20 hours of haystack for one or two

I DO attend lectures, screenings, Q&As, etc., and i ask questions. That's
how i learn, and it's a much richer process. It's how i teach now as well. I
read something, or screen something, and then let folks ask me specifically
what they want to know, and then i say, "Well, here's how i do it . . ."
After that, you can't hardly shut me up.

What has emerged for me, finally, is that when i have an idea i just sit and
write until i can't write any more. Then i decide if it's a short story, a
poem, a song, OR a script. And i work from there. Occasionally i have to
decide whether something is going to be fiction or non-fiction! There are
some pieces i have done that have ended their lives as more than one thing.
In one case, as an example, i have a piece that became a poem, then it
evolved into a performance (slam) piece, graduated to a one-man one-act
stagescript and, i suspect, will someday be a short film.

Sometimes i only get halfway through a piece before i run out of juice. THEN
i "outline" and that usually gets me going again. If it doesn't, i set it
aside, and move on to something else that's itching to get out of me.

(I find that i often like my original idea, but by the time i've been
through extensive editing i have come to be not so fond of it. I put it down
for a while. Often, after a year or two (sometimes longer) on the shelf, a
re-read looks pretty darn swell, and gets me the battery power i need to
polish it.)

Next i begin the long arduous editing process. While i feel this is the most
important part of all writing (the perfecting if you will), it is also the
least creative in an immediately gratifying sense. Everyone should see
though that it IS creative in bringing the final project to fruition, yet it
is often tedious, and sometimes disheartening (having to discard that
incredible turn of phrase because it simply doesn't fit, dropping a
character because they add nothing but momentary quirkiness, etc.).

So, back to process. A) I write 'til i can't write any more; B) then i parse
what i've written to find that conflict, the values of each character and
how they play against each other and fit in the storyline; and C) i decide
what the denouement, the resolution of the conflict, is going to be, or
perhaps what the choices are, and then pick one, or a combination that can
be fulfilled simulatneously. ( M. Night Shyamalan's signature, i believe, is
that he can't do this particular step, and just throws everything in -- it
sorta worked in "Sixth Sense" but hasn't worked since, with "The Village"
his nadir thus far).

Then comes the structure part for me. I do what i call mapping. It's more
visual to me than notecards or a linear outline (though what i strive for is
the same). I map what i have written like a flow chart -- who does what,
what they do, how far it strays from the storyline, and in what direction.

As i edit (including adding/subtracting people, action, lines) i map as i
go. I know several things must happen -- everything must tie into that
denouement before climax; i can leave no one and no specific action just
hanging out there alone on the map (it must either be cut completely, or
brought back into the main highway for resolution). I can get quite creative
with this, but ultimately i have to judge whether i'm fooling myself into
thinking something cute i wrote really propels the story.

In the end, what i have may not much resemble what i spat out in that
initial wave of writing, but i believe what i end with could never have
happened without letting that first burst of writing energy loose.

To add evidence to the idea that everyone is different and must deal with
their own specificity, i have to relate that, of the 27 scripts i've written
(mostly stage plays), the four best ones were all written in single
sittings; then mapped with very little subsequent editing. They feel like
they just "happened". The same with my best work in other genres. The really
good stuff sorta writes itself.

(I feel like my best are so by a fur piece; some of my other scripts will
never see the light of day [the two strictly McKee process pieces for
example], some just need more work, and some others are okay but not

I think it's the theme for the best advice i can give (if anyone wants it):
when the story hits, write it down immediately. If it doesn't hit like that
for you, then do an outline. Again, if you had the story to begin with,
it'll happen for you. If you don't . . . well what can i say?

I write down everything i see that strikes some chord in me. There's a
journal with me 24/7. I write down everything -- if i don't i lose them. I
record scenes i see played out, lists of items i might not otherwise know,
lines of real dialogue and lines that just occur to me, highway signs, odd
houses (sketched), full descriptions of importat things, the dreams that
wake me. I'm writing at the theatre when i see something on the screen that
strikes me as a neat angle, etc.; i make notes on lighting, and make lists
of bird sounds that are incorrect for the presumed film location. I have
dozens of these journals on my shelf.

Dare i say i think writer's block is a myth? That IS exactly what i think. I
can't stop writing (witness this post!). And if i have finished something,
or need to start a new project, and nothing's on the edge of my brain, i
just thumb through an old journal. I rarely get a few pages in before i'm
off and writing again. If you ask me, and i realize this may ignite a
firestorm, but someone with "writer's block," either A) doesn't have a story
to begin with and needs an excuse; or B) are just burned out (which means
that you're subconsciously just tired of the game) and need to do something
else for a while. You can't write all the time anyway, somewhere there has
to be room for human interaction, which keeps you grounded, and for
experiencing those things that ultimately are part of your arsenal. As a
writer you should get very used to doing other things for a while anyway
(for paying-the-bills reasons).

I attended a lecture at UT a few years back by Edward Albee (playwright;
Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf; Pulitzer; etc.). Someone asked about his
writing process and how many drafts he goes through. "One," he said. "I hate
to write. The story is complete in my head before I put it down on paper,
which I write longhand on a tablet. I might check it once for punctuation."
That's in my journal.

I could go on and on, but . . .

tony g

"Give a man a play and he will read for a day.
Teach a man to act and he will never eat again."
-- Sarah Tacey, actor/director

Sunday, January 02, 2005

D&D: Scheduling update

No specific dates are now scheduled, but here are the scene pickups we will be doing soon for D&D:

9:00 a.m. for 10:00 a.m. shoot, Katy's call in the store at Alexa's Boutique, Kerrville -- Whitney W., Lauren H., Lauren B., crew

2:00 p.m. 12yos at playground and dam, meet at Guadalupe Park, by UGRA Dam, Kerrville -- Taylor F., Nolan B., Connor B., Wyndham B., Jacob L.; 8yos at playground and dam -- Faith D., Martha D., Derek B., Chris B., crew

3:30 p.m. Colt's call at the dam, plus scenics -- Graham D., Peter N., crew

5:30 p.m. for 6:00 p.m. shoot, Cop scene at Kerrville Police Department -- Peter N., Leaman V., Chris V., crew

6:00 p.m. at The Point dancing -- Lillian B., Whitney W., Graham D., Peter N.

6:00 p.m. Dusty's conversation (reshoot of scene 33), at Rio Vista -- Aaron H.

6:00 p.m. Melissa's call from Colt, at an unknown house -- Lillian B.

All Day - Four scenes in a high school hallway -- Peter N., Graham D., Lauren B., all support and extras, Holly R., Roy B., Marie C.

Various scenics, one-shots, and nightmare sequences

REV: Top flix & theatre, etc.

My run at the year-end bandwagon looks like this. . .

First are the best movies i saw for the first time in 2004. Some were at the theatre, some were on DVD, some were new, some were old. They are, simply, the best things i watched in 2004. There are a number of things i'm looking forward to seeing, released in 2004, but that haven't reached podunk, texas yet. There's nothing here though that i wouldn't recommend to someone else. And they're not in any particular order.
Donnie Darko, The Bourne Supremacy (and the Bourne Identity, although i thought Supremacy better), Elephant, Les Miserables (in concert), The Last Samurai, Sweet Jane, Shattered Glass, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Bowling for Columbine, The Company, Friday Night Lights, Reason Thirteen, Amarillo by Morning, The Incredibles, Sweet Sixteen, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Dogtown & Z-Boys, The United States of Leland, Finding Nemo, The Emperor's Club, Miracle, Fahrenheit 9/11

Things i watched over again in 2004 that rate way up there on my all-time list:
Liberty Heights, The Outsiders, Whale Rider, Center Stage, 8 Mile, Tigerland, Memento, Billy Elliott, The Wonder Boys, Blackhawk Down, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, Ordinary People, Dralion, What's Eating Gilbert Grape

These are the worst things i watched in 2004, and which i wouldn't recommend to anyone:
The Village, Signs, Passion of the Christ (for movie reasons, not religious reasons), When the Bough Breaks (now in the top three worst things i've ever seen)

Things i'm looking forward to seeing soon:
The Aquatic Life with Steve Zissou, The Lords of Dogtown, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, The Aviator, A Confederacy of Dunces, A Prairie Home Companion

The best theatre of 2004 that i didn't appear in (that conflict of interest thing you know):
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Jeff Scott at HCAF), Les Miserables (Roy Burney and ITM at HCAF)

Best other performances:
Myles Smith and Scott Rotge (acoustic sets at Inn of the Hills & Nautilus Beach Bar), Body Talk Dance Company (in Austin), Slam (at Ego's, Austin), Black Eagle (host drum at the Austin Powwow), Biff Henderson (on David Letterman)

My time to get out and see performances this last year was heavily impacted by work (specifically a computer meltdown that's doubled my hours) and my own theatre and film schedule. I appeared in four plays, and did some sort of technical work on six. I also appeared in four films, worked camera on two others, and have been working on six of my own. I watched 76 movies in 2004, most of which i considered worth watching. I saw few total stinkers last year (but then i rely heavily on reviews, and recommendations from trusted cinephile friends). I saw a total of 62 performances of 18 theatrical and dance productions last year. I also saw a dozen concerts (also a slow year for me).

Saturday, January 01, 2005

MSC: Merry Newyearmas


Well, a new year has arrived. I, for one, am glad it has. I hope 2005 is twice the year 2004 was -- the good parts, i'm talking about the good parts. I never make resolutions, BUT: i will be trying to forget the election and everything that went with it (while not forgetting the ugly lessons); will be trying to finish some films (and enjoying it every minute); will wish the big earthquake never happened, but knowing that the bad news from it has not ended, and that we all have to move past it as soon as we can; will be looking to do more, with less, in smaller timeframes; and mostly, hoping you, all of you, have only the best happen to you, and that you do only the best things, despite the continued spiral into mediocrity our country/world has become.

all my best,