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.
For those coming in from the Amazon.com feed, I actually talk about my writing at some point. So, bear with me.
Disaster and Opportunity
Many thanks to those who sent notes in the wake of my cryptic non-blog post last week. It's nice to know there are so many who care. I know that for many bloggers, the venue is a place to vent at the universe. And I know that many find me funny when I'm on tear (I think that's a trait that I get from the southern relations). Goodness knows I don't mind fussing up a storm when the mood strikes. But I'm also somewhat superstitious. I find that when I put mostly positive energy out into the ether (the heavens, not the flammable liquid), I get mostly positive energy in return. The events of last week put us in such a state of extreme limbo, that I couldn't find anything really positive to say. I didn't want to frighten people with all of the negative outcomes I was seeing in my mind at the time, so I thought I should hold off on the blog until I had a better idea of what was happening and was less terrified.
On any given week, Jon and I have a tumultuous ride in our creative lives. It is often as soul crushing as it is exhilarating. That's why we really embrace the Chinese definition of chaos. We are always coping with impending disaster and opportunity. Most weeks, the positive outweighs the negative enough that we keep slugging along. The ideas keep coming, the writing keeps flowing, and there is enough entertaining strangeness to keep life interesting. A key part of balancing the chaos has been having the security that our basic financial needs are being met. Our day jobs keep body and soul together fairly well, and we have enough breathing room to enjoy some minor luxuries and indulgences. The day job, like any day job, is a grind that gets tiresome at times. For me, the physical drain has not helped my back or joints. But the security it provides is essential for us to be able to reach for the stars. Last Wednesday, we were surprised to learn that our day jobs were going away as of July 31st due to the budget crisis facing UCLA.
That's not a lot of notice. Despite the generous severance offer, the prospect of unemployment (the writing grant for many a writer like John Sayles), and the fact that Jon and I are in a count down to starting the film projects, I was terrified. In the best of circumstances, one likes to leave a day job on your own terms and fully secure in where that move will be and how much that move will pay. While the film countdown is on schedule (more on that later in the blog), we also know how easily everything can evaporate. Our current standard for when we're willing to give notice to a day job is beyond contracts being signed and beyond seeing a check. We want that check to have cleared in the bank and our pay deposited in our account before we quit a job. Why yes, we have quite jobs only to have a film disintegrate. That was a very hard learned lesson, and the big reason why I don't like to give up my basic security. Yes, I've already said that.
There was a long shot possibility of finding another space for the LA part of the Archive as they still had funding for the staff to continue and actually grow in size. We were all asked to pitch ideas no matter how remote. I contacted Ralph about a liaison from the Mayor's Office who could be helpful. That call prompted Ralph to suggest that our friend Lucy may have the space at her new sound stage warehouse. It's a cavernous building that will house several kinds of sets (hospital, labs, morgue, court room, jail, a mansion with a gourmet kitchen and working bathrooms among others). She has the space and it would benefit her as well to do something for a nonprofit organization. Thus, the day job will continue without interruption until the move. I'm pleased that my co-workers won't be losing their jobs, and that I can stop having night sweats and nausea, but this is a weird situation to be in. I try to keep my life in compartments. It's less messy that way. I've been working on Lucy's behalf first with researching funding then with sending contacts to her for bookings. Jon is working on the first version of the website and organizing her prop database. We plan to shoot at least one of the films there and using her facility has factored into the budget for the Blood Oath proposal. Our worlds are about smash together in strange and unpredictable ways. For instance, there is the live lion that will be on the premises for a music video shortly after the Archive is due to move there. On the other hand, I'll have access to a commercial kitchen with fridge and freezer to hone my skills. The trade offs will be interesting for the time I'll be straddling both worlds.
One True Sentence
One of the bright spots during this past week was the arrival of A Moveable Feast : The Restored Edition. I have loved the original book since my dear friend Kim gave it to me for Christmas several years ago. And this version purports to be the way the author intended it to be published along with material that was never included for publication in a separate section at the end. The book combines my love of writing and writers with my obsession with Paris. I can only read it a half chapter at a time. Every sentence is a bit of art, or what Hemingway a true sentence. I like to write sparse sentences in my fiction. But reading this book reminded me that there is still room in sparse text to take time to bring the reader into the feel and flavor of the place and time being detailed. In a scant 4 and a half page chapter, A Good Cafe on Place St.- Michel, it is easy to feel the damp cold wind ripping through the dark streets contrasted against the warm cheeriness of the cafe. And the reader is schooled on how this good cafe differs from one nearby that is filled with unwashed rummies in just a few vivid, visceral paragraphs. Any reader can appreciate this experience, but I confess to a better understanding to Hemingway's treat after finishing a story more than I could before. I have now had raw oysters with a crisp white wine. I find I agree that the taste is sharp and salty and clean, but I found that they tasted like a well made martini as much as they did the sea.
Reading that wonderful, well crafted prose made me realize that I needed to put on the breaks – maybe even go in reverse with some of my recent writings. I've been making a lot of progress, but I had notice a lack of satisfaction with the prose. Reading this book again made me realize why. I needed to get into the ambiance and enjoy the moment. In some cases, I realized that I had forgotten some nuances in my outlines as I rushed to finish pages. I'm now correcting that. Trying to do pages for the sake of filling pages or rising word counts is a danger in writing. That should never be a measure of progress, but it often is. In scripts it's how many scenes or minutes against the outline, but it's similar to prose. I've been going too fast. But going over my work has been satisfying. After all, part of why I write is to spend time enjoying the places and people in my prose. Though the past week was perilous, I have found some measure of peace and enjoyment in writing.
Updates, New Digs and Live Animal Acts
Strangely, the only constant in the last couple of weeks is that we are still moving toward pre-production. It still looks like the end of August will be the start. Aiding our cause with at least one of the films and with Blood Oath is our association with Lucy's business, Central City Studio. She has acquired some high quality sets and real equipment and furniture. The hospital sets from her last location, lucy's hospital set was used in the Jack In the Box superbowl ad. In addition to that she has access to a great deal of space to erect sets that she doesn't have already built. It's in a part of the county that's getting two kinds of tax breaks for filming in that location, making it competitive enough against other states offering incentives that makes traveling less attractive when we don't have to. Thus, our budgets have become more attractive to funding sources while raising our production values. Mind you, we can't shoot Luv U 4 Ever there. No place in the world looks like New Jersey. We also can't shoot The Gunslinger there. I don't think horses or cattle would like the confines of a warehouse, no matter how big. As it is, I'm not sure that lion is going to be happy during that music video. Fortunately, our offices are on another floor. Yes, Dragoncor - Earthdraggon Entertainment will have a real production office to call home complete with audition and rehearsal space. Thus, the film making side of our lives has been more predictable than the regular, reliable day job. Go figure.
The other big news is that, despite all the upheaval, Jon and I will be making a pilgrimage to the ancestral home of Philadelphia in about three weeks. I will actually cook for my family there for the first time in over 15 years. The next few blogs will likely include details about my obsessive compulsive preparations for travel. Hopefully, I won't sound too crazy.