Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Class Acts, Autmn Leaves, and Film Perils

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

This has been a very difficult week. We’re working on the script in every spare moment. The pressure on us for more progress is growing, but we can’t leave the day jobs until we know that our support is secure. The news this week on the financial front does not make us feel secure in the least. My notion of stuffing the film’s entire budget in various mattresses doesn’t look so silly right now. In this instance, I would have preferred not being right. The stress is taking its toll. Even cooking therapy hasn’t helped. Though I did make a very nice pizza dough (that didn’t try to eat my fridge) and a very yummy Tuscan White Bean Soup. Jon finally dragged me off for a full massage on Saturday. He may have figured out that I was having trouble turning my head. The poor masseuse was exhausted when she finished. I felt a lot better though. More on the re-write and such later.

Much More than a Pretty Face

My love for movies and my extensive experience with them began with my mother. She liked all of them from the earliest to the newest opener. I spent a lot of time with her watching older films on Channel 48. Click on the link and you’ll find out how Jon and I got exposed to so much anime as kids. Channel 48 was also the first station to run Star Trek in syndication. Yep, spent a lot of time glue to that station. Click here for more of its history. It was through that experience watching films with my Mother that I fell in love with the big stars like Errol Flynn, Katherine Hepburn, Betty Davis and many others. Paul Newman was a big favorite. He is responsible for the very high bar I set for beautiful actors. Aside from the amazing color of his eyes, there was a lot going on in them. And those eyes had something different going on with each new character. He could be sexy or naughty or sardonic, or self-effacing or dangerous without ever opening his mouth. Paul Newman was always more than a very pretty face on screen and off. His passing is a hard thing to think about. Hopefully, there will be a tribute marathon on TV somewhere. I highly recommend The Long, Hot Summer for it’s very steamy sensuality, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for the razor sharp dialogue, or The Sting, my favorite caper film. It’s also the film that caused me to closely watch plots unfold. Few films since that one can pull a twist ending with me. The Sting actually began my scriptwriting career. So be enthralled and even inspired by enjoying a film from Paul Newman’s brilliant career.

Autumn Leaves, Winter Snow and the Perils of Film Making

Since we have no idea when principal photography begins, we have no clue what the streets in New Jersey will look like. We’re hoping for a stark fall days through the shoot. Jon would like to try to get leaves saved from the neighborhood for the option of having leaves blowing on the ground. That should be interesting. I don’t even know how we’ll go about that. The bigger problem would be snow. That part of the country seldom sees snow before January, but there have been big exceptions. We’d have to really clear it out of everywhere we’re shooting. It can be done and has been done fairly often. It’s just a bit pricey (though sometimes the production insurance will cover it), and there is the worry that what has been cleared will get snowed over. And then there is the specter of working through both Thanksgiving and very close to Christmas. The over time, holiday pay and the cost of flights at that time of year all gives me agita. But it’s what we may have to do.

I finished the first pass on the schedule last Sunday. Schedules are as fluid as scripts are in film. Depending on the weather and actor availability, it will change many times over the length of the project. Fortunately, this is the only one I will be generating. The most important part of the schedule for me to finish was the actors’ day out of days (how many days each actor is working out of the entire length of the shoot). That data heavily influences negotiations for salaries and perks. I am so glad to have that out of my hands. We’ve also resolved the problems with all of the character arcs last week as well. Thus, Jon is finally starting on the new draft. He’s a fairly quick writer once all of the character issues are resolved in his mind.

Meanwhile, we did the pitch to the cable network. I have some work to do on tailoring the material that has gotten the most interest to the mission of the network. I’m hoping to get some of the concepts online this week to get feedback. No guarantees though. The aftermath of the massage has left me better relaxed but exhausted. And I’m still working on the current film budget with out partners today. Really, how do I know how many store patrons we’ll need in the furniture store? I haven’t seen any of the potential locations yet. Stay tuned.

The Fall Premiers
Possible Spoilers for CSI: Miami and Criminal Minds

First off Horatio Caine lives. He was back before the first commercial break on CSI: Miami, I believe. The ‘faked’ assassination was exposed in short order. And despite his cryptic statements about going underground until he could unmask those trying to kill him, Horatio kept turning up in places where anyone could see him – like his office. I could see if he were being Ninja-like and appearing from thin air or dropping from the ceiling behind his staff. But he was just lurking around the building. It was a little creepy. Most of the plot made no sense, but there were more sci-fi type whizzes and bangs in the lab, and everyone looked pretty. In other words, it was a typical episode. Kind of a let down from the cliffhanger, but not surprising. The next episode seems to involve spontaneous human combustion. I’m not sure. In the promo, there are people bursting into flames. Whatever. Criminal Minds was really taught drama and fast paced action that played well during the episode. But after thinking about it, I must agree with Jon that it was a slicker, better performed Wo Fat episode from Hawaii 5-0. – convoluted and completely implausible. Overall, I’m left a bit disappointed.

I had some other fun stuff for this blog, but it’s late and I have so much work to do. I’ll save that for next week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pitches, Re-Writes and The Fall TV Preview

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

There will be much in the way of wandering to follow. I’ve had a long, crazy week.

I feel like Joe Friday when I report on the weather in Los Angeles. It was sunny in Los Angeles, Jon and I were working on the romantic comedy division our boss is the guy with the money. My name is Warner. I’ve watched a lot of Dragnet lately. It’s free on Hulu. It’s easy to listen to while working on something else. Probably because it had been a radio show before it reached TV. I think Joe Friday has a record sized police beat. It almost covers all of LA County. Only Fred Dryer’s Sgt. Hunter had a bigger one. I think his goes to Dan Diego. But back to the weather. The humidity is gone for the moment. I think it returns later in the week. There was talk of a monsoonal trough in our new, doppler driven micro-climate forecast. I have no idea what a micro-climate forecast. I’d think it would be a climate so small that no one would notice.

Re-Write and Divining Dramaturgy

The re-write continues. How close it is to being completed, I won’t say. We’re keeping to our original deadline to make sure that we aren’t unduly pressured to rush through the draft. Since this is such a big film for us, we’re being thorough in detailing the underpinnings of each character’s action throughout the individual arcs. Most of it will never be put on the pages of the script (I think it would be 300 pages, if we did). But we have to know everything about every one of these characters. Now, we don’t have experience with these disparate walks of life. I’ve been pestering most of my musician friends about why they do what they do (there are a few of you still out there I want to talk to). I’ve been pestering my contracting guru about house renovations. Jon’s been pestering me about the dynamics of a catered event (one of my thousands of careers involved bartending for a caterer). We get a lot of input from wherever we can find it. The effort is worth it. We’ve discovered during our past shoots that rehearsals and blocking movements on set are far smoother when we can answer any question about the characters quickly and succinctly. It’s also a better acting experience for our performers. Though the work can be tedious at times, we have been enjoying it. I like all of these characters, and I enjoy spending time in their heads. The big excitement beyond the re-write is the big banking scare. We thought the funding was jeopardy. Thus far, I’m only partially convinced that we shouldn’t keep the entire budget of the film in our mattresses until it’s needed. Barely convinced. The latest in casting news is that all of the leads we are interested in are ready to have meetings with us. I hope to be told the schedule for these meetings this week.

Speaking of the meetings, we have our pitch meeting this week with the cable network execs for the shows on the Dragoncor Concept page. We know one of the execs very well, and even cast him in one of our projects, so I’m not as nervous as I usually would be. Nervous, yes, but not panicked. Success would mean one more task on the pile that we’d have to attend to, but we’d rather be insanely busy than creatively idle for years at a stretch. In a move that some might consider arrogant (even I do), I’m going ahead with developing a title sequence and some scenes for Blood Oath, the like action version of the Soldiers novels. I am anticipating having to do a proof of concept trailer. The show has a lot of stunts and special FX. We maintain that they can be done within the budgets of the network’s other programs. We may have to prove it. As I do with everything I work on, I’ll be developing a web page to follow the progress.

Fall Preview
Spoiler warning for CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds, CSI: Crime Scene Investivation and Whatever, Martha

The Fall TV season sort of snuck up on me. Honestly, I haven’t seen a single preview until today while watching the Eagles torture their fans against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I checked my cable guide to find that almost everyone is back. When last we saw Horatio Caine, he was lying on an airport tarmac with an allegedly fatal gunshot wound. I had my suspicions. Storyline wise, one must remember that his brother, Ray Caine, faked his own death twice. Reality wise, if David Caruso left the leading role of another series, it would have been all over the news and the internet. Lo and Behold, the episode title for the season opener is Resurrection. Surprise! Now, we’ve established last year the show won’t go so far as having zombies, so he has to have never been killed (yes, that sentence is messy, so is the show). Meanwhile, a show that usually has a lot more common sense than my beloved CSI: Miami is having it’s own dubious opener. Criminal Minds ended last season by blowing up a car containing one of the main cast. All the black SUVs looked the same, so we don’t know which one it is. Horrors! Again, any defection of a main cast member from a hit show would have made news in a lot of places. There hasn’t been a peep. And now I’ve just seen a very revealing promo during the football game. really don’t like being arbitrarily manipulated in a cliff-hanger. Criminal Minds doesn’t need to do that. Of course, we saw Warrick Brown get shot at the end of CSI and we know that the actor, Gary Dourdan (hot Philly fellow) has left the series. No resurrection there, but there will be much angst.

A new show that I must recommend is Whatever Martha on the Fine Living Netowrk. In short, Martha’s daughter, Alexis and her best firend are skewering segments from Martha Stewart Living. Since Martha herself is in the opening credits and the executive producer, I doubt she minds. The women are wickedly funny and Martha’s own acntics make the show hysterical. I lughed so hard, I cried. Mind, I have the Martha chip in my brain that makes me engage in all sorts of extreme entertainment related projects (thought I refuse to wrap an entire turkey in puff pastery). I can’t wait until they do my favorite Halloween episode where Martha was dressed like a pirate. One of the lines in the segment was ‘You can get a navigation wheel for your pirate ship at your local yatch club.’ Sure, Martha. They let me borrow from them all the time. And then there is the egg nog segment that I watch religiously every year. I’ve never made it according to the recipe though. I’ve never had that much liquor in my house at once. If memory serves, there was rum, buurbon and Napoleon brandy. She says that a small punch cup wouldn’t cause any harm. I’d still have to collect car keys after just one. Take a look at a clip on making s’mores and proper s’more sticks here.

I’ve got cooking and scheduling to do. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jitters, Puppies and Re-Writes

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

It’s cloudy in Los Angeles. It’s been that kind of gray that makes the summer colors really pop. It’s a nice change of pace. They may be autumn colors, but since they are not the oranges, reds and yellows I associate with that season, I still think of them as summer. And it’s still freaking hot here. I’m more scatter brained than usual today. We were exiled from our apartment for the second time is six weeks. Thus, we had an unexpected six hour tour of Culver City and Marina del Rey while our building endured another landlord action. Then, we spent the evening putting the apartment back together. I’m really, really tired and punchy.

White Knuckles, Actors and the Re-write

This week was really crazy. We had a 24 hour period where we received some extremely important contracts just after noon. We had to get them singed and notarized ASAP. Of course our lawyer was in meetings, then we had to get the language corrected and have new contracts sent. Then the printer died while generating the document to sign. I think aliens briefly abducted the messenger. The documents were returned in a timely fashion by all accounts, but I was left feeling jittery – 20 cups of coffee in an hour jittery. Shortly after that, we were contacted by our New Jersey partners about hiring key crew (art director, costume desisgner, etc). Things are moving along.

Meanwhile, the re-write continues. We now know how many original tunes we’ll need for the film, and we’ve started generating a list of existing songs that we’d like to license. If anyone out there has some suggestions for dance music from the early 70s (pre-disco), send me your list at deborahlwarner@gmail.com. We’re now looking at the flow of the story and where each character arc ends. Ideally, each of the main characters will go through an experience that makes them different people from when the film began. We had to move around some scenes, because the arcs were over a while before the ending credits roll. That’s not good. Also, in comedies, there have to be funny bits scattered throughout the film, but not in a predictable fashion. It takes some trail and error to get the scenes to flow in a natural manner. After this version is complete, we’ll likely stage a table read with some of the cast and some substitutes to figure out if the jokes and timing work as well as judge the film’s length.

We’ve been having a lot of fun with one aspect of the re-write. We have worked with some of the actors that are to be cast in the film. It’s a lot of fun writing dialogue for someone familiar. It’s easy to know what will sound good coming from them. And we know to give them some wiggle room for adlibs and changes. There is a new character that is omni-present in the B&B as it is being renovated. The character, Carl Yablonski, was inspired by Eldin Bernecky from Murphy Brown and Carl Brutananadilewski from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a show set in Red Bank, New Jersey, ironically enough. I know it sounds disparate and weird, but the character works and the actor is really funny. Though he is way cuter than either of the characters that inspired Carl. The casting of the leads has caused slight problems with the re-write. The prospective Michaels and Lindas are different enough that we will have to do a little more refinement of the character arcs depending on who is ultimately cast. I know it’s maddening not to know, but I can’t blab yet. It’s driving me crazy.

No Time for Fun

Not fun like going out to dinner and having fabulous clam chowder and a big hunk of warm crusty bread. Hmmm, that sounds really good. Where was I? Oh, I have no time for following up on some really cool ideas for the next Soldiers sequel. I actually have enough ideas for a couple more books. All of these tantalizing notions are coming to me when I have no time to follow up on them. I have jotted them down. After all, I have to come up with enough storylines for a full series run in the live action version. That meeting should take place very soon. It has to bee soon as I’ll be traveling a great deal in the next several weeks. The other profound distraction is an erotic romance script that has been tugging at my mind for months. I am working on that in very short bursts when I have a rare lull in the action. I may have an opportunity to get the script to the actor I really want in the lead role this February. I’m doing a long treatment that I’ll work into a draft after the shoot wraps. I suspect I’ll find moments to work on it as a diversion during the shoot. Yes, I am quite pleased to say that I still write as a pleasant diversion. It has yet to become a chore. Also, for those who have inquired, I am still working on Vincent Greven’s Cookbook. Cookbook writing is a new skill set, so it’s slow going. I also keep getting distracted by testing the recipes. I plan to put up the free e-book next month.

Concho and Craig
As the days wind down for us at the Archive, we have a new addition to the staff that has caused much happiness for all. One of the librarians has been bringing her puppy, Concho, to hang out on the patio outside the breakroom. He’s a mix breed, shelter dog with floppy ears and a wonderful personality. He bounces while frolicking in the grass, and his tail is almost always wagging. He’s adorable when taking a nap while stretched out in the sun. Everyone looks for him as they come in for their shifts or breaks. He gets loads of attention. We’re planning on buying him a chew toy. And Concho loves Craig to pieces. Of late, my conversations with Craig consists mainly of listening him say ‘Who’s a good dog? Who’s my best buddy?’ It’s been highly entertaining to see such a gruff, acerbic guy turn all cuddly and silly around this very happy critter. It’s making these last days at the Archive a lot of fun even with the white knuckle moments.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Pop Music, Re-Writes and More Naked Men

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

Are You Ready?

For some football? My favorite time of the year is here. It’s the time of year when I stumble out of bed on Sunday to recline on the sofa and watch football with one eye open (or both eyes closed) until I wake up enough to pay attention. Unless The Philadelphia Eagles are playing. Then I have both eyes open and my brain set to the spew obscenities option. This is a complete non sequitur, but I was titckled to see Will Smith wearing a discolored Eagles cap in Hancock. There was a lot of speculation on the net about whose team the hat was from, but come on. What else could it be? I knew what it was from the shape of the Eagle and at a distance. Anyway, the season will be somewhat annoying for me, because of the New York Giants being the reigning champs. They are a nemesis of the Eagles (the team has more of them than Horatio Cain). Though I’m still glad they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl(the Patriots and Arlen Specter know why). The problem is that we’ll be deep in the heart of Giants country (they play in New Jersey – I dunno) and there will be rabid Giants fans in our midst on set. Ah well.

Speaking of autumn, the weather here has gone nuts. It’s actually been humid for the last few weeks. This past week, it felt more like we were in New Jersey in July than late summer in LA. It’s been down right funky. And not in the fun musical way. Maybe that’s a good thing (though my sinuses and hair would beg to differ). It may still be funky when the shoot begins. We would be acclimated. Though it could also easily be freezing.

The Re-write Stuff

Yes, it’s a bad pun. Jon is on the last scenes of his detailed, line by line treatment. He likes to block every single action and the underlying motivation in single sentences for the entire film before going directly to the script. It’s a great way for him to think out everything for each of the characters making it easier to direct the actors. But it can drive me a little crazy. Questions like ‘Why would Michael do that?’ often draw a response from me like ‘Because he’s a man.’ That’s not very helpful as far as Jon is concerned though it’s a reasonable answer from my point of view. We typically resolve the confusion with a more specific question. Clarity has been very important during this re-write. And it can be surprisingly difficult to achieve for the more subjective aspects of this film. For example, what makes a rock band successful or not successful? That can be a highly subjective question. The answers can cause a fight if poorly phrased. One of the characters is a young man who heads of band (The band has no name as yet. We were going to call it Codfish Aristocracy after a strange book Jon recently processed at the Archive. However, there already is an active band with that name. Go figure.) that plays incomprehensible music. Most folks who read the earlier draft of the script thought it meant that Dave’s band was bad. They can play their instruments and can sing; however, they have trouble connecting with an audience. Their lyrics are odd. And their style of performing is more like performance art than playing rock music. I watched a lot of live music in my clubbing days in a part of the country where some great acts were born. Still, it was hard to articulate what I thought was wrong with Dave’s band. I’ve seen weird acts that I’ve liked. One of them, Sparks and the tune I Predict, were an inspiration for Dave’s band. Being weird isn’t enough for a band to fail to connect with an audience. I thought Sweet or The Sweet had the weirdest lyrics I’ve ever heard (Ballroom Blitz, Little Willie, Fox on the Run), but I liked them a lot as a teen (Lord, I’ve just dated myself). And I’ve seen bands where the audience was irrelevant to the performance. Some of those worked for me, because the band was having such a great time that it was just fun to watch them be with each other. It took a lot of Youtube surfing and annoying a radio jock friend of mine, Bruce Kline, in the wee small hours of the morning to figure out how to explain why Dave’s band gets bad reactions from most of the other characters in the film yet the aging Pop Star, Billy Swain, thinks they could still make it.

It’s a matter of the members the band completely owning the material they are performing. There is an energy level among band mates who are confident in the material and their performance of it. That energy is infectious even if the lyrics are inane or even incomprehensible outside of the performance. I was finally able to explain Dave’s band enough to Jon for him to find a way to make that problem cinematic. Early on, we see a Youtube performance of Dave’s signature song performed by his band. It is not fun to watch. Later, Billy performs the song during the battle of the bands at the climatic Reunion Dance. If Billy was nothing else, he is a consummate performer who knows how to own a song. When he performs it, everyone is on their feet dancing. One script problem solved. I’m still trying to explain teenaged girls’ brains to Jon. I don’t think Youtube or Bruce can help me with that. Still, we think the script will be finished soon. I almost finished with the initial schedule. The negotiations with the actors is going well. We should be able to start talking about them in a couple of weeks, if not sooner.

Two Sides of Naked

I am most often chided by my friends back east for being jaded about working in film, even on my heretofore modest level. After all, what isn’t fun about seeing gorgeous men live and up close in various states of undress? In theory it’s fabulous to see someone like Karl Urban or, more recently, Travis Willingham, half naked. But that’s only if you don’t have work to do while around such distractions. You have to look that them really critically, make adjustments (I’ve often been on my knees in front of the most amazing torsos trying to get trousers to lay correctly) and send them on their way to the next scene. I don’t even really notice what’s actually in front of me until the day is over. Then, there is poor Jon who really doesn’t think about what he’s actually looking at until he’s almost asleep long after we’ve wrapped for the night. Then, he’ll just exclaim “Woo-hoo” and go to sleep. Maybe that’s why the ladies are so comfortable in states of undress around him. They sense his oblivious-ness. My crew guys like Randy almost never get to see the beautiful women undressed or nearly so. He always ends up talking to some guy who is quite comfortable hanging out in his boxers. Randy is not comfortable talking to men in their boxers. Early in his career out here, I overheard him telling an Ohio buddy that he really liked Apollo on Battlestar Galactica, but doesn’t that guy have any pants?

There are times, however, when I am supposed to look at an actor’s performance and evaluate everything about it, including his appearance. That can be quite a challenge to my professionalism. This week, Matty Ferraro, debuted in the second season opener of here!TV’s The Lair as Ian, a troubled young man who is also a werewolf. Matty was one of our very small crew that worked on the The Gunslinger short in February. He is also a talented actor. One of the more pleasant things I do out here is watch actors I know work. It’s hard to get to the plays sometimes, but we’ve gone to screenings and catch most of the TV appearances. My favorite until yesterday, was Garett Maggart’s guest appearance on CSI: Miami. It was only usurped because there was no nakedness as there was in The Lair. Garett and I talked while I was watching. He asked what I was so happy about. Upon hearing that I was watching a homoerotic werewolf, he dryly replied ‘well, of course, what else would you be watching?’

My prurient nature aside, I enjoyed Matty’s initial performance on The Lair. Ian is mysterious and compelling and vulnerable all at once. Even before the audience gets to see his scars, it is clear that he is a wounded soul. When Riley picks him up hitching on the road, it is clear that Ian is more hungry for human contact than he is interested in sex. Thus, when the men come together the encounter is tender and truly intimate and not just carnal. I could still see Ian and Riley during the sex scene. And it helped that both men are beautiful. I was very interested in seeing Matty in these scenes because I want him to portray Vincent in the live action version of the Soldiers novels. He did not disappoint. He is elegantly built and graceful in movement. I never lost Ian’s character while he was in a love scene. His performance was everything I had hoped to see. My biggest challenge was telling Matty all of this without sounding like a drooling lech. I think I managed to pull it off.

On the flip side, is Matty’s talent manager and our production partner, Ralph Lliteras. He, too, hears from many who are not in the business that his job must be a lot of fun. I think he should have a web cam in his office, because even to my jaded eyes, most days for Ralph are truly bizarre and unbelievable. I think he’s had everything short of a llama stampede in his office over the years. Weirdness aside, Ralph is a dedicated manager who makes sure to see as many of his clients’ performances as humanly possible. Ralph is also very, very straight. He approached viewing The Lair with a far different mindset than mine. He gamely watched through the scenes with the muscle bound leathermen in a group grope-fest and other fun things until Matty appeared toward the end of the episode. I was speaking to him on the phone when he commented on understanding why the producers were impressed with Matty. His wife, Marguerite was loudly commenting in the background that she saw why the producers were impressed with him. Ralph just sighed. He was very happy with Matty’s performance. And don’t fret for his sensibilities. Two of his more lovely female clients have some risqué appearances on the horizon. He’ll be a much happier manager then.

This has been a really long blog. I’ll have to save the return of Craig from Ohio and the Adventures of Choncho, the library dog, for next week.