My goodness, 2009 seems to be a quiet year so far on the blog. I will have lots of trouble recalling the months, come this January… some trips, some weddings, a funeral, some milestone birthday celebrations, some parents in the ER, some writing, some excellent favorite-sports-team-victories in college hoops and baseball, some new business… right now, it all blends together. It’s November in Seattle, and there is very little sunshine to report. When a bit of light makes its way through the considerable cloud cover, my eyes — my whole body — can’t stop searching for more and more of it. Bright natural light feels so noticeably different than the gray.
The holidays approach. I’m off to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, and praying for some sunshine down there, along with the good friends I will visit. This is only my second west coast, away-from-my-family Thanksgiving since I moved out here seven years ago. I will miss the family and the farm.
Yesterday I did a second writing workshop with my former UW teachers, and now have the outline for my second full-length feature film. It’s not clicking quite right yet, but I will keep tuning it for a few more weeks and maybe then try to write a first draft…. as I continue to search for sun. Spring feels very far off.
I’m thankful for the peace and prosperity of the year.
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I’m going to try to do my annual summary of the year… it feels like I just wrote this for ’07. Well, certainly a few happy things happened this past year, so best to take note.
January. New Years at the yurt! Snowshoeing at Tahoe. A day with the Rotellis. Beginning the first draft of the script. A lot of screenplay writing. In spurts. A surprise trip to Virginia to spend my birthday with family, very fun. February. The Script. Total inability to sleep like a normal person. The seeds of a new business venture. A lot of rain and gray skies, good for writing. Super Bowl with the Nakamoto/Bortscheller clan. An ovarian cyst? Great pain. Visits to Dara. My discovery of “Arrested Development”, oh sweet Lord, how did I not know? Family tensions. March. Bend!! (the place, not the verb) The Old St. Francis Hotel! The finale of Extras. Steve Martin’s “Born Standing Up” on audio on the drive there and home. God, I love Oregon. Also, March Madness. Of course, it only lead to heartbreak in… April. Enough said about UNC hoops. The Rewrite. Wow. Complete immersion in The Script. New business seeds trying to germinate, some office space and new work friends, very welcome. Another trip east, hoping to help ease some of my family-based worries. Honestly, I barely recall this trip. I may have popped up to NJ — I did, it’s when I saw PF and learned he was leaving for Kabul… and I think my sister bought a house. Seattle Jane became East Coast Jane, but treated us to an amazing meal at Le Gourmand before her departure. I miss her. God, that meal was great. May. Someone broke into my car as it sat in the driveway… good bye, CD’s. Getting toward a final draft. An unprecedented amount of worry over my family… Sheer disbelief, really. Still waiting for seeds to germinate on that business. Once again, May must have been pretty and warm and a relief, but I don’t really recall much. Hmm. June. A bluebird for the fledgling business! Graduation from UW. The never-ending house painting project. Actual work in the software field. Visits with some UNC people, including an old friend, here in Seattle. The comfort of finding several old friends, really. Online, mostly. Family matters stabilize slightly, but they heat up again in July. My sister settles into her house in Virginia. Dad lands in the ER after a brief roto-tilling project out at the farm. Cause? Dehydration. A quick cross country jaunt to be sure he and Mum are ok after the scare. They are. I discover “Friday Night Lights”. Oh yeah… and my Mac dies suddenly. Ouch. Wow, it’s like I have a real job now. August. Bus trips downtown for work. The Rotellis visit for a few hours on a Sunday. Later that week, the Tufanos visit and we have dinner at Ray’s Boathouse… the locks, the salmon running. Ah, the Olympics! No, not the mountains, the sporting extravaganza! Aaron Piersol, so dreamy. Cousin Richie and Peggy get engaged. September. A blur. Two weeks on the Outer Banks… preceeded by Henry’s tummy troubles/surgery AND my mom in the ER. Cause? Dehydration. It’s a family trait. A semi-relaxing vacation, but not really. Excellent barbecue. Once back in Seattle, yet another ER visit — the veterinary ER. How did they diagnose Hen? Dehydration. And a bit of constipation. Poor little guy. He survived. The final game in Yankee Stadium. I won’t even mention the season the Yanks had. October. iPhone! Austin Film Festival. Business planning. Not a lot of writing.
My discovery of “Mad Men”. The odd feeling of income. November. Election Day. R&P’s wedding in California. A day with the Rotellis. Lovely all around. Meeting Paul Feig! Thanksgiving in Virginia and New Jersey. Business planning some more. December. High hopes for the Tar Heels as the hoops season kicks off. Holiday travel, amidst Seattle’s complete shutdown. Some work, some rest. An immense amount of time concerned about my parents. It was a rough year, and we all seem older for it. Concern for family in general. Concern for my future. Frankly, a dark month that caused me to reflect (maybe a bit too much) on my loss of faith and optimism… hopefully only temporarily. This post began with taking note of the happy things. What happened?!
In short, I don’t know what the sentence completion of, “Until one day, when…” looks like at all yet. It feels like it’s time to make things happen, but I can’t quite figure out what actions to take. Keep on working on the business. Keep on writing, if I can somehow get un-stuck. Get some better exercise going. Think positive. Create good energy. Will good things come my way? I need a few nudges from the universe to restore my faith that they will.
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I’m supposed to be in Virginia by now…
Seattle got slammed by another, much bigger, snow storm yesterday, and my car service to the airport canceled. So, rather than try driving myself at 5am this morning on frozen roads (calling a taxi seemed like a terrible idea), I called my airline and got on a flight on Saturday instead — for NO additional cost, I’m now flying direct (had a stop in Denver originally), at a totally reasonable hour, and in first class. Sweet! That never happens.
Henry loved the plan, as it means I’m home for an extra day. Man, he has large paws.
I know very few people (if any) read this blog at this point, but have a nice holiday season and a safe and jolly new year.
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Here is something you don’t see every day:
The news says Seattle hasn’t seen weather this cold since the 1950’s…. back when my uninsulated house was only 10 years old.
We already have snow on the ground…
Mmmm. Time for more hot beverages!
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Wow, it’s been a very long time. Busy summer. Lots of fun. Hey, need a nice gift? Why not go shopping here?
Other words to describe the summer?
Of my Mac’s hard drive. Horrible, horrible feeling. Someone broke into my car and took all my CDs in… what was that? June? More loss.
In September, Henry almost left this earth with an unchewable piece of steak in his intestine, causing a blockage and requiring surgery. And a 2-week stay at the vet while I was out of town. Ups, downs. Wait, is that actual income? Worried flights across country.
Dehydrated elderly parents in emergency rooms in Virginia.
Outer Banks for 2 weeks in September… while Henry was in recovery at the vet. And my first work project came to its busy delivery date.
I’m going to marry my cousin in a few weeks. Wait, that came out poorly… I’m now a minister in the Universal Life Church, and will preside at my cousin Richie’s wedding. That’s better. And, thanks to the lords of procrastination, I’ve been writing this blog entry for weeks months, and the wedding is now done. Splendid!
BUT, the intent of this post is to recap my trip to the Austin Film Festival last month in October. Hooray! It was a bit terrifying to face it alone, so I enlisted said cousin Richie and his fiancee Peggy to tag along for moral support. I did all the panels, meetings, and parties solo, but they were there for me the rest of the time.
How was it?
Daunting for my shy self. Meeting total strangers. Some of them famous. Before departure, I worked on finding the right wardrobe for a writer, and got a makeup lesson from my dear pal Amy, a total pro. Texas, here I come.
- Flew all day… arrived, and got settled at the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel. Nice digs, though not quite as nice as the Driskill, where I spent loads of time as well. Picked up badge.
- Attempted to find the Welcome Reception at some bar (Mohawk) many blocks from the hotels, gave up (despondent)… wandered back toward hotels. Found GIANT line of badge holders!
- Stood in line for the premiere of “W”, along with several thousand others. Texted with Richie to find out they were about to pull up in a cab fresh from the airport, so I skipped out on the film, though I did get close up to James Cromwell, who was on the red carpet.
- Recent purchase of iPhone: priceless.
- Made a few trips to the Driskill Hotel Bar (this was a nightly theme, it turned out) and met some tool named “Trace” while watching Red Sox game. He claimed to be a finalist (in the festival’s script competition), but I had serious doubts about that. Lots of people, fun crowd. Imagined I saw Tom Skerritt, and Richie will likely make fun of me for it for the remainder of my days… boy, was I wrong.
- Skipped the late-night party, as it was held at the same venue as the f*(cking Welcome Reception, and I was still not yet acquainted with any other festival badge holders — other than Trace, who asked me 17 times if I was going, and who seemed to lack the required badge. Hmm.
- Signed up for the Writer/Director roundtable later that afternoon. Little did I know what that would entail…
- First Panel: TV Development. Mark Stegemann from Scrubs (well, now writing for Greek), some producer from the Starz Network, and a moderator… Matt Weiner (creator of Mad Men) was supposed to be there, but he was a no-show, darn. I think there was a prof there from UT Film School, I forget. It was an OK discussion… the part I remember best was that I actually asked a question. You see, I have two spec scripts (The Office, Weeds) and now a feature film… I was wondering if it’s better to build a portfolio of spec scripts that focuses on a single genre (like, writing another comedy) or branch out and try a one-hour drama. Make myself look versatile, right? Or wrong? Scrubs guy said to stick to one genre. And then there was some discussion, and he seemed to change his mind. He pointed out that all the Mad Men writers used to be comedy writers… so who knows? Scrubs guy (as he was known all weekend) didn’t answer the mail, but I liked him.
- Second Panel: The Dramatic Story. Alex and Andrew Smith (twin brothers and writing partners, known for The Slaughter Rule), Jeff Nathanson (The Terminal, Catch Me If You Can, Speed 2, several others), and Boaz Yakin (a writer/director… wrote a bunch of stuff, including Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights… this, however, is not a good portrait of the man. He’s dark. Real dark.) Here I learned about the very stark dichotomy between scripts a writer writes for a studio (“soul-killing, but it pays the bills”) and scripts that are for the purity of one’s craft and out of necessity as an artist (“…the ones you pour yourself into, and go broke making, or they just sit in your desk drawer… that’s fine, too. The important part is to write them when you have the chance.”)
- Lunch break. Pub on Sixth with R&P. Delightful.
- Third Panel: Writing for Laughs: The Sitcom. With… hey! It’s Scrubs guy again! Plus Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond… and Jake Kasdan, who wrote and directed the film, The TV Set. This might have been my favorite panel. Phil R. was hilarious! So great. Lots of laughing, great comic timing. The sad message was… the sitcom is dead. Reality TV has killed it, and it’s in a sad, sad state. Despite that, this was a fun discussion. I’ve heard that the sitcom is a closed world of Jewish guys from New York. I think this panel supported that fairly well, though they did all have nice things to say about Tina Fey. AND, though it took me over an hour to realize it, I sat in the audience next to an actor I love! Dana Wheeler-Nicholson. She’s on Friday Night Lights, and she was the female lead in Fletch… an all-time favorite. Ha! Right there! On my left!
- Phew. See how tiring this day is already? Oh, and I haven’t mentioned it yet, but everywhere I went… high school kids. No, seriously.
- Fourth Session was a Roundtable. We conference attendees sat at round tables, and the Writer/Directors would speak, interact, take questions, and after 20 minutes, they’d get up and move to the next table. I got to meet Mike Akels, Robert Townsend, and Greg Carter. Look em up. I was lucky enough to have Robert Townsend completely catch me off-guard and point to me (why me!?) and yell “Ninety seconds! Pitch your script! Now!” — my first 30 seconds were smoothe as silk. The last 60 were less so. I lost ’em, they were all confused. D’oh. A good lesson: PRACTICE THE PITCH IN THE MIRROR, not just in my head. Still, this was way fun and I met a few nice people. And, heck, I made an impression.
- A quick change of clothes, and I was on the shuttle bus to the Texas Barbecue Picnic. “…just that event is worth the cost of the Producer’s Badge”, they claimed when I was debating what badge to buy. Luckily, I found the guy I had just sat next to at the roundtable, Cliff, and his pal, Patti, both from Albequerque. They totally let me tag along with them and I was able to relax and chat much more than at any other event. I loved those two; they were really sweet. Mind you, I did do some recon on my own at the picnic, and found the REAL Tom Skerritt. No, I didn’t meet him, but Patti did. She had no fear at all. She’d even slipped Jimmy Cromwell one of Cliff’s scripts the night before! Yeah, Jimmy. That’s what she called him.
- Back to the hotel after wandering the grounds of the picnic site (it was a huge place and a ton of people)… where Richie and Peggy ordered some great take-out. Then, Richie and I hit the Driskill Hotel Bar once again. It was a quick trip. We did spy Cliff and Patti.
One Fig Newton for breakfast, and I was off to my panels.
- First Panel: The Art of the Pitch. After Friday’s Robert Townsend ambush, it seemed like the right thing to do. A well-known producer and a writer who can pitch as well as anyone did a great panel. They did an actual pitch session, followed by analysis. So useful!
- Between panels, I got hungry (no surprise) and went and fetched the box of Fig Newtons from the hotel room. As I was walking back into the Driskill for my next session, I passed Scrubs writer. Since I’d seen him a lot, and it was just the two of us out in the beautiful morning, I had to say hello… with a Fig Newton shoved in my mouth. Oops. Pegs and Richie were able to witness this entire transaction from our hotel’s dining room window across the street. Nice.
- Second Panel: Manager/Writer Relationship, facilitated by Warren Etheredge. I love Warren. He’s from Seattle, and I’ve wanted to meet him for a while. This panel was two managers and two writers. The writers could not have been older than 25. One manager was part of a large agency, and the other was very exclusive. It’s quite the black magic, getting a manager as a new writer. And, judging by the writers, the industry in general will piss you off something awful once you’re “in”. Great.
- Lunch. R&P took me for a walk, as I was getting a bit “fried” by this point. We ended up at a little outdoor place full of football fans. See photo on right.
Love that necklace!!
- Third Session: Tell Your Story: Lawrence Kasdan. About 15 of us, seated on the floor of a cool, dark room. Larry had the option of a chair, but he chose to sit on the floor with us. Yep, the writer of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Big Chill, and many others. He was nice. He told good stories. Again, the huge dichotomy between what a writer wants to write, and maybe then make, for him/herself (The Big Chill) and what a studio asks for (all the Harrison Ford stuff) — a theme of the weekend. Like me, Larry would LIKE to be the kind of writer who can work on a schedule, and who works in the mornings and afternoons. But, in practice, it always ends up being the late late nights that produce the best work. And he ends up sleeping very little. And he can’t seem to fix that.
- Fourth Session: A Conversation With Greg Daniels. Creator of The Office (US)… he’d just picked up his honorary award for his work in television. What a down-to-earth guy. His parents and brother were there. Little did I know, but Paul Lieberstein was also there, and had introduced him at the awards lunch. Toby! Very cool, and he stood right next to me (I was sitting in the front row) before they started, and looked right at me. “Give me a job in your writers room!!”, I attempted to convey in my nod to him.
- At this point, after the GD talk, Richie and Peggy met up with me in the ballroom and I showed them who Greg Daniels was. We headed (again) to the Driskill Bar and set ourselves up on a great big leather couch, near the UT football game on TV (played there in Austin, vs. Missouri, on a weekend when UT was #1 in the country. Yeeehaaa!) We ordered drinks and snacks. I was buried in my iPhone for a few minutes.
- A tap on my shoulder, and I looked up to see Randi, one of the nice people from my roundtable discussions the day prior. Wow. A friend! She invited me – no lie – to come on over and meet her friends over a slice of pie. Pie in the bar. With football. And writers. Why not?
- So, I went. I met Max, the 19 year-old film maker and bright star of the future. Mark, who had also been at my roundtable, and who was originally from Ridgewood, NJ (small world, as that’s where I was born), and Shane, who complained almost immediately after meeting me that he’d spied a hottie in the bar and that despite her perfect hair, makeup and boobs, she was 8 months pregnant, and that made him quite perturbed. Yup, Shane was just charming. Randi asked him why not hit on a cutie like me, and he looked me up and down and said “Nah, she’s a sweetie.” So I glared back and said (while laughing, but not sweetly) “How would you know that? You just met me!” Yup, that was me. In the bar. Sassing Shane Black. Over pie. Look him up on IMDB sometime if you’re not familiar. Here, I’ll do it for you.
- Let’s see. Football game. Walk around Austin. Pretty. Sunny.
- An Evening with Greg Daniels, in a nearby theater… I got there late, so I had to sit front and center, much like my seat at his earlier talk. Fine, I’m a stalker. He showed funny clips that were “rejected” by the standards people at Fox from The Simpsons, some King of the Hill clips, and some stuff from The Office, including the first act of the episode that aired later that week. Fun!
- Up early and headed to the brunch for Producer Badge holders… a bit grouchy about not getting any coffee before I left, and about the 10 blocks I had to walk while hungry to find it. When I arrived, there was a very long line of people waiting to get into the small diner-like place, with open patio. So, I stood on line, last person to arrive. I met the ladies in front of me and we chatted for a while. Then, a bunch of people emerged from a door at a plain building nearby and proceeded to stand behind me in line… Tom Skerritt again! And a posse of people with him. We all waited, various fans kept coming up and asking Tom for his autograph and for photos, it got hotter. I had no ability to introduce myself at this point. Starving, feeling like I’d come across as a simpering fan but wanting to connect as more of a person in the craft. Eventually, Tom got tired of standing around and went and sat in the open patio area with other, presumably famous, people. His posse, however remained on the line. I made my move and introduced myself to them! Long story short (ha), eventually I was sharing a booth with lots of well-known film and writer people from Seattle, including Tom Skerritt (he got warm outside, came in, sat down across from me and we talked about his early career and Detroit, his hometown) and Warren Etheredge. Go me!
- Sunday afternoon I managed only one panel, but it was great. Warren moderated, and Tom Skerritt and Dana Wheeler-Nicholson were the panelists for “What Actors Look for in a Script”. A packed ballroom, full of now-familiar faces. It culminated with Tom yelling “We need to take back this craft and write the good scripts that need to be written, make the films that need to be made! In Seattle! In Austin! We need to take this industry back from Hollywood and the studios!” … or something akin to that. So there. I felt like I was part of something big. A big feeling. Amazing.
- Finally, late Sunday, Richie, Peggy and I went to the premiere of Role Models…. in a packed theater, with hundreds of revved up festival-goers. We all laughed so loud and often, we missed half the humor. It was great fun, as was the Q&A afterward with the director and a few actors, including the amazing Jane Lynch.
And so, that was Austin. Fun. Exciting. Daunting. I wish my script had placed… I need to write one that will! I want to make it big in Austin. I want to return and feel less like an outsider, more like a contributor.
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Who knew?! Who knew the Jonas Brothers were from such a cool hometown!?
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Greetings from the land of the dental chair. No, not really, it just feels like it. My landlady has hired a team of “professional” painters to paint the house I live in (and rent). It’s well into Day Eight right now, and they are still power sanding… after seven straight days, three to four simultaneous power sanders, ten hours a day. The high, vibrating hum of the tools, the house sort of reverberating non-stop. It’s loud. It feels like I’m in a dental chair, with a drill going, all day long. When they leave at six, it is a major blessing. Peace, quiet, and a lot of dust. Is this normal? To add to the fun, Seattle is having a heat wave, and now I can’t have any doors or windows open. A dental chair AND an oven! Perfect. Henry is understandably grouchy.
In other news, I graduated from UW with a certificate in Screenwriting. My script, now polished, has gone out to a few contests and festivals, with a few more slated this summer. I’m hoping to attend the Austin Film Festival in October. I’ve joined a weekly writers’ chat room. I’m trying to figure out the balance between the two sides of my brain, as I hope to continue the writing for more-than-just-a-hobby, and still seek gainful employment… you know, so I can, like, afford food and gas at $4.34/gallon (that’s the WA state average price right now, $.25 higher than national). Frankly, neither side of my brain works very well while power sanders are whirring.
It must be lunch time for the crew. It’s blissfully silent right now. Ahhhh.
Sex and the City: The Movie was funny and more dramatic than I’d expected. Good, in that sense. Technically not very well-written (ah, the snobbery of higher education), but fun and a lot like candy. Yum.
Otherwise, it’s been a month of high stress for a whole ball of reasons I don’t want to go into. Nothing life-threatening, just heavy on the phone bills, the nerves, and the cross-country emotional support, mostly flowing from west to east.
I should be making a trip to the greater DC area some time in the next month or so. I keep saying that, and the airfares just keep rising.
Well, for now I need to stay put while the house exterior is ripped off, one molecule at a time, and total strangers walk in and out of my back door, to use the various facilities. Hope everyone is having a nice summer. This image made me laugh. It’s stolen from Lee Moyer’s blog. Hi Lee!
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