Thursday, February 11, 2010

something like a bio?

Okay, my parents were beatniks/hippies who more concerned with saving the world through progressive education than they were in earning a living and providing for their family. They separated when I was 10, divorced when I was 13 --- that year (1978) my father took me, my sister and twin brothers cross-country for six months. Fun!

I returned to the alternative private high school that my father had started (private school free for me, why not?). I developed a crush on classmate back then and we have been married for almost 18 years. We have two daughters.

My parents had both been show-biz oriented as kids. My mother was actress up through college (she found out that she was pregnant with me two weeks before her graduation, thus the end of her acting career) and my father was a professional tap dancer as a teenager.

So, I guess I got the show-biz genes from them, started acting as a kid and also became a movie junkie, not just watching them but reading about them and the behind-the-scenes of production, finally starting to make my own Super 8 films when I was 9 at elementary school. Have you seen "A History Of Violence"? The Oscar-nominated screenwriter was two years ahead of me in school. Quentin Tarantino's executive producer was in my class from nursery school to sixth grade. The producer of "Lost In Translation" was two years behind me.

So, from an early age, I wanted to be a filmmaker and I always just thought that I would grow out of it and get a "real job." Never happened.

I always say that screenwriting or filmaking is like drinking, smoking or doing drugs ---- it might look appealing to some people even though we all know that it usually only winds up being destructive and we know we shouldn't do it, do it anyway and, by the time we decide that we want to stop, it's pretty hard.

I was a film major at Temple, an unremarkable student. I worked on two feature films back-to-back a year after college. I went from working (for free) on a low-budget indie film where everyone did everything for three or four months, finishing on a Saturday and going to work on a big budget Hollywood film on the following Monday, working one boring job day in and day out, making buckets of money and the study in contrasts was really life changing.

I saw so many inflated egos and so much financial waste on the Hollywood film that it really turned my stomach. It was during this time that the whole 'independent film' movement was becoming more high profile and I drifted towards it creatively and philosophically. I liked those kind of films and I wanted to make those kind of edgy, offbeat films.

I took a bit of time off between 1988 and 1990 to be the primary care-giver to my mother when she was terminally ill. When she was diagnosed with cancer in 1985 she became an AIDS activist, working as a volunteer to help patients because she felt that like cancer had been when she younger, people were afraid to talk about AIDS. People Magazine did a story about her, she was on the cover of the Philadelphia Inquirer and was ABC News' Person Of The Week in 1988.

In 1991, a screenplay of mine was a semi-finalist for the prestigious Sundance Institute's screenwriter's lab ---- out of 500 applicants, they chose 24 semi-finalists and from them, 12 got into the lab.

In 1995 my short film, "The True Meaning Of Cool" won an award from the American Film Institute. The art of film is getting people to believe that they are seeing something when they are actually seeing something else. So, when I say that I have an award from the AFI, people are impressed. The reality is that I entered the film into 30 festivals, was rejected by 29 and was a runner up in the AFI sponsored contest. So, sure I have a hunk of plastic on my desk that says AFI but the illusion I've created is less impressive than the reality. Everyone does this!

Really, the bulk of my adult life has been in retail, much of it in video stores, something I loved for quite a long time. I was the movie guy in an extremely high profile, popular store, part of a staff of wacky characters, all of whom were incredibly knowledgeable about film. I drifted into teaching in 1999.

Now, I am an adjunct instructor, barely earning a living, always scrambling for work. My original screenplay "Aftermath" was optioned by an LA producer last year, I got a chunk of change (most of which went to pay for my daughter's bat mitzvah) and I am waiting to see if they actually make it, give me more money and, hopefully, see my career launched. I have written or doctored 20 (give or take) screenplays since 2006, one of which was produced but with a script radically re-written by the director and the rest of which are either in various stages of development or just gathering dust in the office of the person who hired me to write it.

My hope is that one or two of these scripts will be produced, take off and launch me so that I can make a living as a screenwriter and eventually direct my own stuff.

I left a lot out but I guess that's it. Any questions?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rated PG? Me?

So, it looks like I am going to be writing a PG family film. NOTE TO SELF: No matter what, climax cannot involve the kids riding their bikes REALLY FAST in order to save the park/school play/wildlife preserve/grand old building/mythical creature/magic animal etc.

Pre-sold franchises

Well, I think that they're going to keep going with the super-hero movies because they are pre-sold franchises, known entities with built-in fan bases that will come out in support or out of curiosity.

It's so hard to introduce anything "new" these days -- which is why we see so many movies based on TV shows, comic books, video games, toys or other...

See More movies, ditto Broadway plays based on movies and now, more and more, pop music.

Apparently ticket sales are brisk for the Green Day musical opening in April. Of course, things like this have been going on for years.

Great as it is, "Singin' In The Rain" was conceived a venue to showcase the pre-existing music and that's what begat "Mamma Mia", "Tommy", "Movin' Out", "Jersey Boys" and so on. The concept is really being taken to the extreme with the "Spider-Man" play with music by U2 -- if that ever winds up happening.