Friday, November 25, 2005

Way of the Warrior

"Warrior I or Virabhdrasana I is a pose of great power. In this posture, the warrior is preparing for battle by observing the field and calming the mind. This is not necessarily, though, the idea of violence or war -- but rather the inner struggle between doing what is right and doing what is easy. This posture calms and prepares us to face these choices head-on, with a clear view of the path that we must take. Warrior I builds confidence in the face of difficulty."

This is a passage from a yoga book my wife is working on. I find myself referring to it often -- and doing the pose doesn't hurt, either! Increasingly I am pursuing what would have been difficult only several months ago, difficult for me. Making the phone calls, "putting myself out there," as a friend puts it. Making things happen. Even this blog is an effort in that direction.

This friend and I have had endless debates on "art versus marketing." I'd argue for the need to develop one's craft before concerning oneself with the marketing side; he would argue that marketing is of the utmost importance. To me, if your script is crap nothing else matters. To him, if you can't get your script into the right hands, you'll never make it. Of course, both things must be in place. And so, craft reasonably developed, I'm embarking on the "marketing" side of things. I got my HCDs, I'm working (okay, struggling) on loglines and queries, all the little essential steps that are simply part of the greater process. Preparing for battle.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

George Lucas . . . prepare to be toormahnated.

I am not a cyborg from the future. Honest. And I wish nothing but light and goodness for George. I swear. But all the pics from the Austin pitch competition suggest that behind those glowing red eyes, lurking beneath that grainy facade, is the endoskeleton of a T-101 (or is it T-800?). Of course, the script Thomas and I pitched, American Jedi, is about an obsessed fan who sets out to kill George for ruining Star Wars. You know, a light assassination comedy.

In fact, as Thomas I were wrapping up the fourth draft last spring, we received a curious phone call. Seems Lucasfilm had hired a local private investigator to make sure we were on the up and up. The short we had made to promote the script had worked its way around Los Angeles. The letter we sent George about the short had not yet been returned to us unopened -- that would happen a few days later. So within the hour our intrepid gumshoe arrived at Thomas's house and we had a nice chat in the living room.

We played the video for her on Thomas's widescreen TV, and she laughed. She pointed out her favorite part. We agreed. She admitted that she wasn't really into the whole Star Wars thing, but that her son really dug the video. We pointed out that the web site's URL was displayed in the video's background and that anyone in the target audience would be in on the joke.

Of course, she expressed Lucasfilm's desire for us to take down the web site, cease distributing the video file, and presumably move on to more George-friendly subject matter. Of course, none of this was in writing. Now, admittedly, we were slightly intimidated, not knowing how far this would go, so we did take the video down -- for awhile. But the site itself stayed up, and in a matter of days we had thousands of hits from within the Lucasfilm empire: LucasArts, Skywalker Sound, ILM. Someone was watching and not just a bunch of lawyers.

Time passed and we never once noticed armed thugs trailing us. Our P.I. did call us once more -- this time to request that we take down my pen-and-ink wash of George (which incidentally was part of a dream journal I did for an art class nine years prior) and that we change the name of the web site and presumably the script. But again, nothing in writing.

Several months later, at the Minnesota Men's Conference, I had the good fortune of meeting the amazing Doug von Koss. He worked in the art department on several of George's movies. I told him about our project and how we were interested in holding a mirror up to fan culture. I relayed how our protagonist was a firm believer in the widespread AICN Talkback-type sentiment "George Lucas raped my childhood. " Doug was appalled: "That's the most awful thing I've ever heard." I asked him about George. And he said that George is one of the most genuine people he's ever met. An inspiration.

And that's what I had hoped to hear. That's why we wrote American Jedi. So, yeah, I'm not a cyborg from the future. And I'm pretty sure Thomas isn't one, either.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

One cut.

You know that feeling you have when you really, really want something — and you don’t get it? What do they call that? Disappointment? No, that can’t be it. This feels much darker.

I didn’t make the cut for Round Two of the Writer’s Arc fellowship. Apparently, my metaphysical-supernatural-thriller approach wasn’t . . . right. Could be, I don’t know, a thousand reasons why. It’s alright, though. I will make other cuts.

A long time ago I had the good fortune of studying iaido with a teacher who had studied various martial arts for over 40 years, and who held a rank of seventh dan in Tae Kwan Do. Cross Obi-Wan Kenobi with Toshiro Mifune and you might have a sense of this man’s dignity and character. Now, iaido is the Japanese art of drawing the sword, as opposed to iaijutsu, its older, more combative ancestor; or kenjutsu, which is more about fighting extended engagements.

(I will make the cut.)

My iaido teacher once told the following story. Long ago he had studied sword techniques under an old Korean master. The master’s command of English was shaky, but his intent was always very clear, and he had something of a temper. The master gathered together his students and announced their training assignment for the weekend.

“You must make one thousand cuts,” the old master said.

“Yes, master,” his students obediently replied, bowing their heads. Inwardly, each of them despaired of the hours of practice such an assignment would require.

“No! One thousand cuts.”

“Yes, master.” Again the students nodded.

“NO!” he shouted, stomping his foot. “One cut. Perfect. One thousand times!

One cut.


One thousand times.

P.S. Go Tina!

Monday, November 07, 2005

So just what is "slow burn?"

Chock full of amylopectins!

Long-chain polysaccharides!

That'll pack them in at the multiplex.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Victory! We Have Victory!

No, we didn’t stave off 10,000 of Saruman’s fighting Uruk-hai at Helm’s Deep. We merely won the Third Annual Pitch Competition at the Austin Film Festival. We being Thomas Crymes (far left), my writing partner on American Jedi, and little ol’ me.

Which reminds me. The funny thing about the festival is that I almost didn’t exist. For weeks prior I had been receiving confirmation e-mails from the festival coordinators assuring "Thomas Crymes" that he had a spot reserved. I was happy for Thomas but not a little concerned that I would be spending over a thousand dollars to travel to a foreign country only to be turned away at the door because my papers weren’t in order. And since one goal of attending the festival was to become somewhat less of a non-entity to the film industry, well, this was a little vexing.

When we arrived at the Driskill I went through the process of proving my identity and managed to have a conference badge produced on the spot. The festival coordinators even threw in passes to that night’s Food and Film event. We were hungry and the food was good. Pretty cool.

So we’re at the first round of the pitch competition and it’s our turn to go. Thomas is called, I join him on the stage, we pitch, folks laugh, the judges advance us to the final round, and we make sure that my name is registered for the finals later that evening.


The Finals. Cuba Libre, downtown Austin. (Strangely, it’s right next door to the Alamo Draft House, which we’d written into the script.) We’d been waiting the whole day for this and I wanted to get to the fun stuff, like imbibing. The festival wrap a couple hours before seemed a cruel joke, since I’m a very spotty drinker and wanted to be sharp for the performance.

“Next up . . . Thomas Crymes.”

Okay, I get it. I’m not really here. This is all a dream. We had thought the whole two-person team concept was down, but maybe not. Thomas and I wend our way to the stage and I give my name.


There is only one mike, and it's not like we've done this before. I briefly entertain the idea of crooning a duet but reason returns in a flash. I hold the mike, Thomas leans in. We give our pitch, the crowd goes nuts, the judges try to stop laughing . . . and I promptly have a Guinness. We wait for the rest of the contestants to do their thing. A strange balance between trying not to wish ill fortune upon our fellow competitors (I’m better than that, aren’t I?) and yet holding myself open to the possibility of a royal fuckup (maybe not).

And we wait. And finally the emcee takes the mike.

“And our winner is . . . Thomas Crymes.”

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