Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This Is Why It's Called Development Hell

Hi. Long time no see. How you been? Yeah? Me? I've been OK, I guess. You know, same old, same old...

Oh who am I kidding.

Last week, my dream was momentarily crushed.

So you all (or you both, or maybe just "you") remember how I was working on a super-secret TV project with a hot big-name director who was gonna develop it and start selling it to networks who would have all jumped at the chance to work with this guy? Life was good.

We (me, My Manager, some other people on my side of the bill) were working with them (the big-name director and his underlings) for about six months. Sending drafts back and forth, getting notes, refining the script and treatment to fit their brand, etc. We were close. Actually, I thought we were done.

Turns out, all was not what it seemed.

The big-name director hadn't actually ever read any version of the script, or if he had, it was the earliest version, back when this started. After that, it was all Us and His Underlings. And His Underlings were developing (in our opinion, at times over-developing) the script with a fine-toothed comb. Then we got to a point where We and Them figured it was time to run our baby by the big-name director. So the big-name director took it home over a weekend, read the script, read the treatment, read the "this is what's really happening, but don't tell the audience" document, and came back to work on Monday.

And he told My Manager that, while he thought it was decent, it didn't really fire him up, and he was gonna pass. He had other projects that interested him more in his lap.

They walked away.

So, well, fuck.

Where does this leave the project? Well it's ours again, and we're gonna have a meeting of the minds, decide what version, or what part of each version, we want to keep, draft a new version and send it out again. There were other big-name directors interested six months ago (though none as big as this guy) so we'll see if they are still interested, and we'll see if we can get anyone else interested.

And the TV project will continue to exist in a little place known in Hollywood as Development Hell.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When is Technology 3.0 TOO interactive?

Before heading back to China from my recent US visit, I became obsessed with Amazon's new Kindle 2.0 digital reader.

To a frequent traveler and overseas resident, it seemed like the perfect way to get American reading material. Sure, you can get books, but also newspapers and magazines as well. Mind you, GIANT HOOTERS MONTHLY isn't on the list yet, but I'll settle for Newsweek and Foreign Policy these days.

So I plunked down $300, bought a few books (to include Russell Brand's fantastic My Booky Wook), and subscribed to Newsweek and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. And, of course, having finally taking the plunge, I began a vigorous letter writing campaign to Jeff Bezos to demand inclusion of GIANT HOOTERS MONTHLY in the Kindle magazine store. So far no dice.

Anyhow... so far I really dig my Kindle. Every day I read the Atlanta news from back in the US, keep up to date on national goings-on with Newsweek, and am reading 2 novels at once (this from a reformed reader who'd turned, instead, to film and tv as my media of choice). I drag my Kindle everywhere.

So here's the killer bonus to having a Kindle: It's a better chick-magnet than a freaking dog or a baby. The minute I pull out the bloody thing I'm swarmed with people wanting to talk about it. And by people I mean people who read, which would by anyone with breasts, and (manageable collateral impact) old men. Everyone knows young guys don't read.

During my flight back to China I, no exaggeration, was approached by more than 20 random strangers, 19 of whom were female, wanting to look at the Kindle, talk about it, ask how I like it, etc.

Point here being... if you're a single guy (I'm not, so mostly this was just entertainment value for me) -- BUY A FREAKING KINDLE, STAT. You will meet more chicks than you can shake a stick at. Of course, if you're a single old lady, you may want to consider this, as well.

As long as we're on the subject of interactivity, I'd like to ask what the hell is up with Twitterholics?

Now, I'm more geek-inclined than most. I've been working in the internet industry since 1995, and have ridden the wave of nearly every nerdy innovation along the way... especially those that are social in nature. I blog (as you know). I facebook. And, driven by many of my friends Twittering, I recently decided to get on board that trend and open a Twitter account. I added a bunch of buddies, they added me, and a-Twitterin' I planned to go.

But here's the thing about "micro-blogging." People seem to broadcast their every action. Sure, I get promoting your business, or talking about especially noteworthy events in your life like you'd do on Facebook or in a blog (even if its periodic updates of the mundane). But I'm looking at Twitter and I see an ENDLESS, FREQUENTLY updated thread of human minutia that no one could possibly care about. Here's what my current TWITTER home page feed looks like:

FRED: Why is Charmin so expensive compared to Kroger brand?
FRED: Wiping...
TONY: Relax, don't do it!
FRED: Pooping!!
FRED: Sitting down... seat is cold.
ELMER: How can you tell which Craigslist ads are hookers?
FRED: Closing bathroom door and locking.
SALLY: Hrmm... ground beef and an old onion.
TONY: The Reflex is an only child...
TONY: Too-raa-loo-raaa-loo-raaa-laaay
SALLY: What should I make for dinner?
FRED: Have to use toilet.
ELMER: Who wants to buy a '78 Pontiac Firebird?

Seriously. There isn't a drop of valuable information in that 1-hour's worth of posts, unless one's an 80's music fanatic or a fecaphile. Do I need this level of communication with my friends?!

Upon reflection, maybe my friends just suck. I know... I'll pull out my Kindle and make some new ones!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Missing Chipper...

As I write this, I'm en route from Atlanta back to Beijing.

There are lots of things I love about China, and Beijing. Frankly, its rapidly becoming one of my favorite places I've ever lived -- and I've lived in a lot of damn places. The people, the food, the culture... even my job. They're all great.

But there's a critical thing that's missing -- Chip.

Chip's my son, and he remains in Atlanta. With each mile that passes 31,000 feet below me, further separating us, my heart grows heavier. I tell myself I'm doing this for the greater good - and I truly believe I am - but it doesn't make it any easier. Being around him is like breathing sunshine.

Miss ya, buddy... can't wait to see you soon!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Motherf**in' Culture Shock

A lifetime ago I was in the Army. For 5 years, no less. This is often a shock for people who only know me as old, soft, weak, fragile Charlie, but indeed I served my country.

Like anyone in the Army, I'd go on field exercises and deployments. When you're "in the field," things get kinda salty. You curse a lot, you spit, do dip, talk a lot of trash, and generally act macho and tough. And when you return from the field to "the world," its always a bit of a transition. The old joke, but dead accurate, is that when you go home for Thanksgiving you'll inevitably end up saying "Pass the motherfu*king potatoes, Grandma."

Returning to the US is kind of like that. I've now been in China for 2 months as an expat, versus just a periodic visit, and have just returned to Atlanta for my first visit. Its a bit of a transition.

First off, forks suck. At nearly every sitting, I find myself desperately missing chopsticks. Its just so much easier to eat with them. Even something like steak or a chicken breast... I'd so much rather pick up the whole bloody thing with chopsticks and take a big bite outta it like some kind of hobo than be inconvenienced taking a knife and fork... cutting a piece... setting the knife back down, eating the single piece, then getting the knife again, later, rinse, repeat. Waste of damn time and effort. Western manners suck.

And dealing with bones, gristle, shells, olive pits, etc is so much easier in China. Here you have to delicately spit the non-digestible item into a napkin, elegantly and discretely. In China if you don't wanna swallow it, you just spit it out... right there on the table. PTOOOEY. Problem solved.

I also miss screaming "FUYAN" across a restaurant every time I want something. Its so much easier to bark for service than having to wait for a waiter to happen buy, or desperately trying to flag one down from across the room. I'm dying to scream "HEY WAITRESS" at the top of my lungs across TGI MCFUGNUTS to get a fresh order of wings, but I know I'd get tossed out for doing so...

And I probably don't need to mention the dirty looks I got when I hocked a big loogie on the street this morning? Mind you, I usually get funny looks in China when i do it but its more of a "HEY! LOOK! The big laowai just spit on the sidewalk, too" than any true judgment.

Another weird transition is driving again. I haven't been behind the wheel of a car in over 60 days, and now have Beijing cabbies as my automotive role model. Atlantans seem less tolerant of me honking, swerving and weaving, stopping wherever I want, turning without a signal across multiple lanes, and driving with an unpredictable mix of g-force speed and an unexplained crawl.

And could I actually be craving baiju?! I swear I miss the stuff. Tonight I soaked a dirty sock in some grain alcohol trying to recreate that perfect mix of burning and stinking. Its just not the same.

But, oh man... Five Guys Burgers make it all worthwhile. Aside from my son, Chip, 5 Guys may just be the finest thing in America. I'd like to marry a 5 guys burger, have sex with it, and have baby 5 Guys burgers, just so i could eat them, too.

And you know as I was enjoying it, without thinking, I asked my Grandma to pass the motherf*ckin' french fries. Some things never change.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The One Where Charlie Gets Rubbed By A Guy

It started innocently enough.

It'd been a very long day. I'm heading back to the US in a few days, and my Mom wanted me to bring back some wall-hangings for her. So after 3+ hours at the Panjiayuan antique market, haggling and negotiating and fighting and arguing, I was beat.

And when in Beijing and tired, only one thing will do - a nice foot massage!

For those not familiar with this heavenly blessing, a good Chinese foot massage lasts 90 minutes and really involves a good back and shoulder massage, followed by a lengthy deep-tissue rub of both feet, followed by the legs. During this, at a decent spa, you'll gnosh on gratis snacks and tea. One of the better spas in Beijing, Oriental Taipan, conveniently has a location just 2 blocks from my apartment.

And so off I went. It started off innocently enough. I went in, indicated I'd like a foot massage, was shown to a room, ordered some snacks, ordered my usual foot-massage girl (#22 - she does a good job), and settled in for 90 minutes of pampering.

When there was a knock at the door I barely even glanced up, knowing it'd be Ol' #22. I'd already taken off my shoes and socks and had reclined my chair into a position of total relaxation. I didn't even look up as #22 carried in the standard vat of hot tea to soak my feet. She took the customary seat, placed my feet in the steaming tea and started washing down my feet.

This was the first hint that something wasn't right. #22's touch seemed different than usual. Stronger and more... hrmmm... manly, almost? I forced myself to open my eyes and sit up enough to glance down and see what was amiss... maybe she was wearing gloves or something?


Now, not that there's anything wrong with it, but this wasn't what I had in mind. I quickly hit the buzzer for the hostess. She came in and I explained that, no offense to the guy at my feet, but where the heck was #22?!! She explained that #22 was no longer with the spa and, unfortunately, all the other female masseuses were with customers. Only guys were available, and I should be psyched, since they have stronger hands and give a better massage.

At this point I was already calf-deep in hot tea, so I figured in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound and shrugged. Besides, I reasoned with myself, who had it worse? Me or the poor bastard who had to rub my tired dogs?

To paraphrase Lilly Allen, "A guy rubbed me down, and I liked it." #34's touch was strong and firm. He worked on muscles I didn't know I had. In fact, even now, days later, I have a bruise on my shoulder from where he went after a muscle-knot like a dog on a bone.

Really, my only complaint would be that during the 3rd act of the massage (Act 1: Shoulders/arms; Act 2: Feet; Act 3: legs), his leg massage went decidedly north. Like... to the waist. He got my thighs and enough of my pelvis that he was getting close to Melvin & The Boys. Never made contact, thank God, but I was sweating it... I figure he was about a quarter-inch from an international incident.

He was less shy when getting the back of my thighs, kneading my butt like pizza dough.

So I guess its true what they say - once you go masseur, you never go back. Next time I visit Oriental Taipan, I'll be asking for #34 by name... er... number, and revisiting the forbidden fruit of the man-massage.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The First Firsts - Absinthe Brings The Pain

This was a weekend oriented around some interesting "firsts."

Friday night I went out with some friends to a local watering hole called TUN. TUN's a melting pot of East-meets-West that's roughly 50/50 (depending on the night) foreign to Chinese customers. Its also CRAZY packed on Friday nights. That's because its ladies night - girls drink absolutely free from 9pm to midnight. And even for us guys, drinks are pretty cheap - $4 gets you a jack and coke.

Anyhow, I went with some folks from work and then we met up with some Chinese friends of theirs. As we made introductions, the friends-of-friends announced they'd had a REALLY long week and wanted to tie one on to unwind. "Charlie can help you order," they were informed by my astute colleagues, " he knows all about this."

Now... of course I knew what to get them, but I felt like some precautionary disclaimers were in order. I shared with them how, true story, the week before I'd sat at that same table, in that same chair, and watched a gaggle of laowai schoolteachers drink themselves blind before one (a heavyset German gal) passed out in a heap of her own sick.

My new Chinese friends weren't having any of it, though. "We're CHINESE," they insisted, "we drink Baiju all the time at work and never pass out or barf." Okie dokie. The rest of the evening played out as you would imagine. I like to remember it as a series of smash-cuts, like you would see in a movie:

10:55 Charlie orders a round of Absinthe.

11:01 Round of absinthe arrives. Everyone drinks - its their first experience with Absinthe. Even the tough Baiju drinkers wince.

11:16 My new Chinese friends tell me how great I am and that America's so much better than France. "Frogs suck" I'm informed. Farbeit for me to disagree...

11:21 Erin (names changed to protect the innocent) goes down for the count. She sleeps peacefully on the table. Jimmy (also a pseudonym) dances like a retarded monkey, grinning from ear to ear, as happy as anyone I've ever seen.

11:31 Erin turns a disturbing shade of green, lifts her head, and projectile vomits all over the table next to us.

11:32 Erin collapses in a heap, totally unconscious. Jimmy continues to dance around, oblivious, smiling like a 8 year-old kid on Christmas morning.

11:33 I pronounce our evening officially dead and we haul Erin outside and pile into a taxi. I think she's breathing. Jimmy begins to cry unconsolably. "No body loves me," he wails, "I've got nothing. Nobody. My life is so awful." He howls like a new widow the whole way.

The rest of its just a bunch of struggling to drop off superunbelievablydrunk people and really not worth smashcutting to.

So... the first first was Jimmy and Erin's virgin experience with Absinthe. I think its safe to assume neither will revisit the Green Fairy again anytime soon.

Next post tease: My first time having a guy rub my butt.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Me? You Want To Know About Me?

Well, since Charlie has gone all Red Dragon on me and time shifted 12 hours into the future so he's never on IM the same time as me, it seems the only way to stay up to date with each other is by publicly spilling our guts on the Internet.

So OK. Here's the latest on Producer Dude.


Actually, in a bizarre twist of fate, the film he made before he was going to make our film has found a surprising amount of success. Something called The Dark Knight. Not. But his masterpeice has won some b-movie awards and can be found in pirated-DVD stalls across the globe, as attested to by Charlie Chang-Yang-Ming himself.

Is this good for us? Well, on one hand, the next film made by Producer Guy will undoubtedly have an audience based on his most recent success. On the other hand, this is Producer Dude. So.. no.

So what have I been doing?

Glad you asked.


My brilliant Hollywood Manager remains brilliant. With My Manager's help, I have developed a TV show. So what does an unknown writer do with an original TV show? He searches far and wide for someone who is not unknown to become interested. Or, more precisely, he waits for His Manager to find the Golden Calf.

Golden Calf found.

I can't name names, and I won't, but after bumping around between a couple of different companies, my TV show has garnered the interest of a company centered on a currently very big Hollywood individual. I have been working with this company, and just sent them a final draft of the Pilot episode on Thursday. They read it over the weekend, love it to death, thought we hit all their notes just right, and will be be getting it back into the hands of the Golden Calf next week. Why next week and not right away? Because due to the Golden Calf's latest project, the Golden Calf will be kind of distracted until on Sunday.

If you can read between the lines, you won't know who the Golden Calf is, but you might understand why things look pretty damn good.

Anyway, that's me. When I'm able to say more, I will say more. But for now, I have to go back and take my drumming from Charlie in scrabble- who I never thought would be so damned good at the game.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How The East Was Won

There's a lot I want to share about China, but one of the most critical revelations I've had here relates to a rather unexpected topic:

Bare baby ass.

The Chinese people are a hardy, stalwart, lot. Over the course of thousands of years they've faced war, famine, disease, natural disasters, plague, and countless other hardships. Even today, with an entire generation of Chinese Gen-X'ers who spend the day sipping Starbucks carmel macchiatos and doodling with iPhones while shopping at Prada, there are still countless billions (literally) of people in this country who struggle on a daily basis to get by.

But they do it, just like they always have. The grit their teeth and face whatever obstacles life has thrown at them. Chinese people are tough, man, and they know it. They take pride in the determination, gumption and tenacity they possess as a nation and as a race. And I'll readily admit that I admire the strength and will displayed here on a daily basis, and wish I could posess even a fraction of the indomitable Chinese spirit.

And so I've been left to wonder: How is it that this nation has produced such stoicism?

The answer hit me a couple of days ago. It was bitter cold in Beijing. I was bundled-up warmly, from head to toe: long underwear, heavy coat, scarf, hat, gloves, and yet I was still freezing. I was working my way down a narrow-street - the kind that perfectly conducts bone-numbing gusts of cold wind - when I happened upon a Chinese mom and her toddler kid. The kid was bundled up from head to toe with so many layers that she looked like a miniature Hello-Kitty-pink version of the Michelin Man. As she waddle-danced around looking uncomfortable, her mom barked out something in Mandarin, and the kid stopped squirming, squatted, and let a massive river of steaming kid pee loose on the sidewalk.

Now, you'll note I didn't say "stopped, dropped her britches, squatted, etc, etc..." That's because, from my observations, Chinese kids under the age of 3 or so tend to cruise around in crotchless Garanimals.

As its been explained to me, this is a matter of practicality. There are still a lot of people who can't really afford the cost associated with disposable diapers, and having to deal with constantly cleaning soiled cloth nappies is something that can be extremely burdensome in areas where running/hot water can be a scarce commodity. So... if you've got a kid who's not potty-trained yet, crotchless attire allows them to take care of business without a whole lot of muss or fuss, regardless of when and where you are.

And this leads me to my theory on the intestinal fortitude of Chinese people.

Think about it. From the time of birth their genitals are exposed to the entire world. Subject to the elements: Freezing cold. Driving rain. Scorching heat. Gusting winds. Dust storms. Sand storms. Snow storms. Electrical storms. Passing animals. Small pebbles kicked up by passing cars. Ants. Plus the wandering eyes of the masses. (As you can see, I've given tremendous thought to the terrifying amount of things that could damage one's exposed nether region... I have nightmares).

Its no bloody wonder they're so tough. If you had your junk exposed 24/7 to Mother Nature and the entire neighborhood, you'd be able to withstand anything fate tossed your way, too. Me? I can barely muster the will to stand in front of a poorly-maintained urinal in a well-lit McDonalds, but as near as I can tell, Chinese kids all across this country are dropping trou on crowded streets, in sub-zero driving hail storms, to take a leak.

I'm sorry, man, but that'll make a person bad-ass.


B-Movie Writers Reloaded

So I know its been awhile since we've posted.  Like... 6 months. 

Most of you are probably long-gone.  You've moved on to bigger and better things:  Your "25 Totally Wacky Things You Didn't Know About Me" lists on Facebook;  Videos of a dog peeing on a baby on Youtube (Barney's right, it is funny); pictures of a kitten standing on a CD captioned "I IZ UR DJ NOW, RT?!"; and blogs about Monkey Attacks.

Let's face it.  We deserved to be deserted.  We let you down.  

But we've got an excuse.  I swear.  See... we didn't have anything meaningful to say.  I mean... a LOT has transpired, but not stuff that'd really be germane to readers of a blog about screenwriting.

So... I'm vowing to remedy this by, well, writing about stuff no longer germane to readers of a blog about screenwriting.  Hope you're all willing to go through a transition with us as we expand our horizons a bit and write a little more about general interest topics, entertainment in general and, God willing, occasionally something related to screenwriting.

Let me bring you up to speed:

Since we last wrote I've moved to Beijing, China, relatively full-time.  I  have a job here, an apartment here, several pairs of shoes, a bank account, and a gym membership.  If that ain't expatriation, I don't know what is.

And Dave... well... I don't really know WHAT Dave's been up to.  Frankly, that's part of the impetus behind rebooting this blog.  I miss the lil' fella.  We haven't written together in eons, though we communicate several times a week.  Unfortunately, here's what a typical communication these days looks like:

Charlie:  Hi Dave!
Dave:  WTF is a Zouk?!
Charlie:  Um... its a type of music?
Dave:  You couldn't possibly know that word.
Charlie:  Sure.  I rock out to zouk all the time.
Charlie:  Oooookay... Anything from Producer Dude?
Dave:  Go F yourself.  And no.

So we're rebooting.  I haven't mentioned this to Dave yet, so here's hoping he reads this blog still and comes along for the ride.

And in the meantime, I'll be writing about how nutty it is to be an expat American in China (it is), all the cool paces I get to go (China and beyond), all the zany things Chinese people eat (dog!), and will do my best to at least peripherally relate some of it to film and media.

And maybe Dave can write about how nutty it is to be an expat Californian in New York (it can't be), all the cool places he gets to go (the mall), all the nutty things New Yorkers eat (perogies!), and he's probably actually writing, so he can help keep us on topic.

So come back often, tell your friends, join our Followers List on the right, and buy the t-shirt.

-  Charlie