Wednesday, February 28, 2007

When Self-Doubt Attacks

Last night I was giving my Mom the update on Siege. The Big Company. Producer Dude. May/June start date. Blah blah blah. In classic Mom fashion, she responded with amazement at our roller-coaster ride.

"My goodness, Charlie. After all this craziness and waiting, I sure hope its good when it finally comes out!"

Which, of course, immediately sent me spiraling into a self-flagellating tailspin of doubt and worry.

I mean... the screenplay's now been read by enough outside parties that I believe it reads halfway decent. Its no Citizen Kane, God knows, but its got the making of a fun, exciting action flick.

But who knows how it might play out on screen. Even if it were produced by Michael Bay, some of the banter between characters could come off as cheesy, not cheeky, once projected. The big action sequences that to us are supposed to feel claustrophobic could instead feel just... small. Our heroes and characters could come out not feeling "larger than life," but more... "dumber than sticks."

And even if the script IS good to go, there's so much else that can go wrong. Bad directing. Bad acting. Bad editing. Bad post. I mean... we have helicopters blowing up here... and since I know that Producer Dude ain't buying helicopters to blow up, one bad CGI artist could screw us.

I've seen Producer Dude's other work. He's got some good, fun stuff out there. And then again... some of its... you know... not so much any of that. Luckily, the more recent stuff seems stronger than the older. He's on a roll.

Still... what happens a year from now if, against all odds, this thing finally gets shot and sees the light of day? I cringe thinking about the posts on this site from Tim or Grubber or Eric somewhere down the road that're like... "YOU MOTHERF**KERS! I WANT THE $15.99 I WASTED ON THE PIECE OF CELLULOID ASS KNOWN AS THE SIEGE DVD BACK!!"

In calmer, more lucid moments I realize that a script is like a child. You try to raise it the best you can - instill good values, teach it right, and give it lots of love.

And if it grows up to be a meth-dealing, glue-sniffing, satan-worshipping, sodomist street-walker crackwhore... well... you can at least know you did everything possible.

I send you into the world a babe, Siege. Come back to me a man.

- Charlie

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Easy Come... Easy Go.

Well... here we are, back at the beginning. Nearly a year and 1/2 from when we kicked off this blog... shortly after starting work on Siege.

Since then its been conceptually optioned by Producer Dude. Gone into pseudo pre-pro. Stalled while waiting funding. Sat stagnant while awaiting funding. Melted on the ground in a puddle while waiting for funding. Another BIG NAME company expressed interest. Read it. Liked it. So we pulled it from Producer Dude (with his blessing) while they thought about it. Thought about it some more. Thought about it even more. Thought about it one last time. Took a pass. Untook the pass while they re-thought thinking about it. Took a final pass.

And then we sold it back to Producer Dude. For more money than the original agreement. That Dave... he's a freakin' negotiating genius.

As regular reader, and friend of the BMovie Writers perfectly phrased it: "Long live Producer Dude! I thought he wasn't going to make the third act..."

But make the third act, he has. He's back, with renewed passion and vigor. Contracts are being re-signed. Monies are being mailed. Things are happening. Who knows... I always saw Dave and I as the heroes of this tale. Sort of a post-modern Laurel & Hardy meets John McClane and Zeus Carver (I'd be Zeus). But maybe I was wrong. Maybe he and I are the supporting characters and Producer Dude is freakin' George Custer, riding in with his hands raised high, tightly clutching a rifle in one, and money and contracts in the other.

Regardless, Producer Dude's currently working on another flick which should wrap up in May, if I understand correctly, and he'll then be turning his attention to Siege. He's mentioned a May/June start date.

So... we sit back and wait some more. A zillion things could happen between now and then to cause Siege to STILL not get made. If there's one thing I've learned over the last 18+ months, its that I shouldn't bank on the movie being complete until I have a final check in one hand and a DVD in the other.

Frankly, at this point, Siege should be a Zombie flick. Its died and been raised from the dead more times than that nasty cat in "Pet Sematary."

- Charlie

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Imitation is the ... yada yada.. Flattery.

So you've all rented my movie, The Eliminator, right?

No? What's wrong with you people! Go rent it now!

Anyway, it's a happy little story about a group of people who are taken against their will and dropped on an island and told to fight it out, last one standing wins.

More or less.

Highly original, I know. Astoundingly brilliant, I agree. But hey, it got made. Back in ought-5. (2005).

So now there's this trailer for a new film starring Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Condemned. Near as I can figure, it's about a group of people who are taken against their will and dropped on an island and told to fight it out, last one standing wins.

Hmmm. That seems so familiar.

Am I saying somebody watched my tiny, insignificant movie and said "You know, pump 40 million into this, and this is an awesome flick!"?

No. But just watching the trailer, there are some similarities.

1) The lead is a big, burly bald guy. Just like my lead.

2) They are transported to the island by helicopter, and thrown out of the helicopter while still in the air and still chained/tied up. just like in my movie.

3) The lead guy shoots down a helicopter with a rifle. Just like in my movie.

4) Groups of people are shown watching the event take place on monitors and big screen TVs. Betting on the outcome. Just like my movie.

That's just the trailer.

So let that be a lesson to us all. B-Movies aren't bad movies, they're big action blockbusters made without any budget. If you take the same damn story, pump money into it, you get a wide release.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Siege is Dead, Long Live Siege

Well Big Company passed on Siege.

I got the word from My Agent. The competing project is moving forward, so there's no space for Siege. it was a long, loving email, filled with regret and support as My Agent tried to let me know that Big Company.. ah screw it. Here's the email.

"siege dead - competing project a go"

So there you go. Now, sly businessmen that we are, Charlie and I have turned around and offered Siege to... Producer Dude. He wants it. He's got it. Claims he'll start shooting in May/June.

I'm not holding my breath. But he also claims to be sending us a small token to officially option the script. My words. His words, he's sending a "deposit."

So we're back on this bandwagon. Will Siege ever get made? Your guess is as good as mine.

But if it does get made, I weaseled a slightly larger fee for the script out of Producer Dude.

It's all about the Benjamins.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Driven to Distraction Deux: Procrastination's Revenge

As you may recall, I’m supposed to be polishing a comedy with Dave. Unfortunately, its been slow going. Things have been busy at work, at home, etc, etc. Plus Dave’s distracted by his own writing, so he’s not busting my chops about it, which is one of the key reasons I ever get ANYTHING done.

It’s easy to get distracted in these situations. In fact, in the interest of celebrating the infernal distractions that interfere with my ability to make nay headway on this rewrite, I proudly present the following:


10. Sift through the change in my pocket and try to find new Montana quarters.
9. Clean rabbit poop. Or dog poop. Or kid poop.
8. Watch America’s Funniest Videos. Yes, I admit it – I’m a closet AFV fan.
7. Watch the “good scenes” in CLOSER again and again. Natalie Portman in a thong. Yay!
6. Rake the carpet.
5. Have a drunken breakdown, shave my head, and get a belly tattoo.
4. See how many pieces of Orbit “Mojito” flavored gum I can eat in a single sitting. Mmmm. Mojito.
3. Think up cool Top Gun fighter pilot nicknames. Mine would be “Melissa.”
2. Instant message Dave repeatedly, asking if we’ve heard from his agent yet. Call repeatedly once he turns off IM.
1. Have too many drinks, pass out on the keyboard, and wake up with an embarrassing draft of Bio-Dome II.

For you other writers out there… what distracts YOU?


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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Ying and Yang of Hollywood

Siege news!

So I'm minding my own business, working on a freelance writing gig I picked up to get some income while I wait for the riches to pour in (FYI: I'm a really great freelance writer, interviews, reviews, what not. Hire me!) when I get the following email from My Agent.

"Big Company passed on Siege."

That was the entire email. My Agent is an Agent of Many Words. Actually, My Agent didn't even spell out Big Company, but used initials. And all lowercase. So really it was:

"bc passed on siege."

So bummer. I write back.

"Bummer. Did they say why? Are they open to other projects from Charlie and myself? You got anyone else you want to run Siege by? Cause if not, if it's just gonna sit on the shelf, then Producer Dude wants it, so we'd just as soon give it back to him. Let me know."

So I tell Charlie. He cries. I tell My Manager. My Manager doesn't really care, because My Manager is concentrating on my big TV development deal with Other Big Company. Everyone agrees that once I get the say-so from My Agent, Siege rolls back to Producer Dude.

So the reply from My Agent?

"Hold off on giving Siege back to Producer Dude, David. Big Company has another project which is similar to Siege. That's why they passed. but now Contact at Big Company isn't sure that first project is going to happen, so Siege may still be alive. He'll know more on Monday after he talks with The Guy You've All Probably Heard Of."

Except, again, all lowercase. And not quite as eloquent. My Agent is, as I've said, an Agent of few words. It was actually more:

"hold off. competing project may break down, per c. c'll talk to g y p h o monday."

Funny how the initials for Guy You've Probably Heard Of come out "gypho." Sounds like a creature starring in one of the Sci-Fi Channel Saturday Night Monster Movies.

"They thought they were going for a relaxing monorail ride. They didn't count.. on Gypho!"

So my big "Siege News!" is.. that we'll hear more on Monday. See, they passed, before they didn't pass, until they know if they can pass.

I love Hollywood.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bring the Pain

While Charlie and I wait to hear back from Big Company, and while I continue to work with Other Big Company on Big TV Project that will eventually Make Me Rich and allow Charlie to Ride My Coattails, I thought I'd talk about a little something I found both amusing and enlightening.

My Next Big Horror Project. I finished the first draft, as astute readers will know, on New Year's Eve. But before I could finish it, I had to write it. And I did one thing while writing that I've been doing more and more.

Actual research.

See, I do some nasty things to my characters. And I wanted to make sure I was being realistic. So I made a call. An old friend who works as a Physician's Assistant. Let's call him Mr. O.

Mr. O: Hello?

David: Mr. O? Dave Neilsen. How ya doing?


Mr. O: Don't you owe me money?

David: No.

Mr. O: You sure?

David: Yes. How's it been?

Mr. O: Can I call you back?



Mr. O: Hello?

David: Mr. O! What up!

Mr. O: (sigh) Hi, Dave.

David: So I have some questions. medical questions. Thought you could help me.

Mr. O: I suppose.

David: Mind if I run them by you?

Mr. O: This isn't really the best time-

David: If a guy got stabbed in the shoulder by the antlers of a moose, how long would he have to be in the hospital before he'd be released? And would he have a sling, or a cast, or what? Would he be able to wield a knife with that arm? Maybe after a couple of days?


Mr. O: It depends. Did he hit any muscles when he got punctured? There're a lot of muscles up there. What sort of damage are we talking about? Why are you asking about this?

David: I'm writing something. Let's say he didn't hit any muscles. Damage is whatever lets him out of the hospital ASAP.

Mr. O: If he got lucky and the antlers missed anything vital, it becomes a simple flesh wound. He could be out in a couple of days.

David: Awesome. Would he need drugs?

Mr. O: He'd be in serious pain, so yeah. Pain killers. Good ones. Also, he probably wouldn 't have a regular sling. More likely something that supported his shoulder from the back.

David: Like a bra for guys?

Mr. O: ...sure. You know, if you want to really screw with him, you could break his collar bone. It's easy to do.

David: But then he'd need one of those collars, right? Like a recently neutered dog?

Mr. O: What, he's trying to lick himself?

David: You know what I mean.

Mr. O: No, he wouldn't need one. I mean he might. But it's cool, people break their collar bone all the time. Shoulders are harder to break.

David: He doesn't have to break his shoulder. I just want him speared.

Mr. O: I'm just saying. You should break someone's collar bone sometime. In one of your stories.

David: OK. Thanks.

Mr. O: Anything else?

David: Oh! Yeah! What about a nail through the palm?

Mr. O: Piece of cake. I get three or four of those a week. Wrap up the hand, be out in an hour.

David: Really? I mean don't you shatter the palm?

Mr. O: You can shove all sorts of things through your palm. There's a lot of space in between the bones. I mean, yeah. An ill-placed nail could do some damage. Wouldn't be able to use the hand. And you're not talking about crushing the hand, right? Just a nail? Like from an industrial nail gun?

David: Exactly.

Mr. O: No sweat. It would probably happen so fast, it'd be over before he even knew he was in pain. Same guy?

David: Different guy.

Mr. O: OK. Oh, hey. The antlers spearing the shoulder. He'd probably go into shock.

David: Oh, is that bad?

Mr. O: Shock is bad, yeah. But if he gets treatment right away, he should be OK. It's more of an immediate problem, but the long-term damage would still be to the shoulder.

David: Cool. What about crushing a foot?

Mr. O: Like dropping something heavy on it?

David: More like having it slowly crushed in front of your eyes. Like under a bulldozer.

Mr. O: Well if your foot is trapped under a bulldozed, the rest of you is probably going to follow. So, not much to worry about in terms of your foot.

David: Good point. Thanks.

Mr. O: No problem.

As far as I'm concerned, that's what friends are for. To tell me all about the horrible things I can do to a character and still have them punch out their best friend in the next scene.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Just say the word...oh....

Over the weekend I re-read a screenplay that I wrote around 6 years ago.

It's one of the first full scripts I did. A “romantic comedy” about a guy who has no interest in love, only to – of course – realize it's what he always wanted in his life.

And it’s a steaming dung-pile.

When I originally came up with the idea, it was a fairly dark comedy about a suicidal guy. I wrote a treatment based on the concept, but somewhere on the way to a final draft, it got watered down.

The suicidal inclinations became a guy PRETENDING he was dying, in order to wave off his shrew of a girlfriend.

The chick he digs went from being a crazy, happy-go-lucky girl next door to a chick version of Steve Irwin (RIP).

And the comedy went from being funny to being a bunch of loosely strung-together sitcom moments.

Even at the time I knew it was turning into pablum, but it was too late to stop it. Sometimes things just take on a life of their own and you're powerless - or too lazy - to stop them. In the end, this screenplay became a very run of the mill rom-com – the likes of which Jennifer Anniston or Heather Graham constantly star in. And yeah, its poopy-on-3-hole-punch-paper, but its no worse than those self-same Anniston/Graham fiascos (usually co-starring Mark Ruffalo… what’s with that guy? He’s actually a decent actor, but he's constantly starring in these craptastic chick flicks, usually looking like he's got 2 days worth of dip in his lower lip).

Still… everytime I read it, it makes my skin crawl. The stuff I’ve written in the last couple of years with Dave is, by all definitions, “B,” but at least that’s by design. We’re writing fun, over-the-top, action-packed thrillers that hopefully get your blood rushing, your hair standing on end, and your heart crawling into your throat.

My rom-com only succeeded in getting my lunch crawling into my throat, unfortunately.

Live and learn, learn and grow. That’s what Dave always says.**

- Charlie

** This is a dirty lie. I’ve never heard Dave utter this phrase… or really espouse any other philosophy whatsoever. Well… unless you count “It’s Hip To Be Square” and “Sususudio” as philosophy.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Check me out, I've got a development deal!

Well, no.

But then, well, yeah.

See, My Manager hooked me up with a Big Company (a different Big Company, not the one looking at Siege). They (the Big Company I'm referring to in this post) read a big-ass 40+ page writer's Bible I created for a TV show pitch that My Manager and I have cooked up. They (B.C.) like it. We had a call. I talked to Mr. K. (my name for him. Not his real name. I don't use real names in this blog, or did you think someone named their kid "Producer Dude"?) Mr. K. really liked my idea, we played with it back and forth on the call, he had some great ideas, and none of his ideas really changed my idea, which is a good thing.

See, often time, or at least so I'm told, executives will get an idea i their heads. They want to make a show about, say, a talking lizard. So they'll find a TV pitch all about bringing Godzilla to the small screen in a series. They'll say "hey, Godzilla is a lizard!" So the executive tells the writer's people that he wants to meet with the writer. They meet. The writer is, of course, totally excited that someone wants to make his show about Godzilla. (Nevermind that the writer is racing head-long for a lawsuit from the Japanese company that owns Godzilla) So the writer gets on the call and it goes something like this.

Executive: Your show idea is great.

Writer: Thanks!

Executive: Godzilla is hip. Lizards are hip right now.

Writer: I know!

Executive: Who do you see as Godzilla?

Writer: Well he's probably CGI.

Executive: I know, I know. But for the voice.

Writer: ...voice?

Executive: I think he should talk. Don't you think he should talk?

Writer: Well... he can grunt...

Executive: Maybe Ray Romano. He does voices. He's very funny.

Writer: Ray Romano as Godzilla?

Executive: And maybe his family, the ones who own him, they have to hide the fact that their pet lizard talks.

Writer: Godzilla is someone's pet? He stomps on buildings.

Executive: Plastic ones, sure. In his cage. And says something witty when he does it. like "Boo-ya!"

Writer: That's not witty.

Executive: Well I'm not a writer, but you get the idea. I think this show is great, and you're the guy to make it happen. I could sell this.

Writer: We're not talking about my idea anymore, are we?

Executive: So when can I see a pilot script?

Writer: Am I being punk'd?

But Mr. K, he's on the same page as I am. It's the same show. It's (going back to the metaphor) Godzilla stomping on buildings every week. But, like, he thought it would be cool if we also saw Godzilla fight Mothra every now and then. Which is totally cool.

So My Manager and Mr. K have had more talks, and I'm having another call, and then I'm gonna write a pilot script. And then Big Company (I should call it, like, Big Company 2 or something, to avoid confusion) wants to take it to the networks during development season.

This could be good. This could be very, very good.

And if I get a TV show made, you know people will knock down our doors to make Siege, the pygmy/lesbian/circus script, or anything else Charlie and I cook up.

See, I'm doing this for him.


Oh, wait. Siege news. There is none. Well, I DID say we wouldn't hear back for a month or so. Of course Producer Dude is IMing me telling me how his preparations for Siege are going rally well and he can't wait to start production. I'm pretty sure he knows that he may not get the script. Pretty sure.