END OF YEAR UPDATE...

Well, we’re closing in on the end of another year. For me, 2009 was a year filled with some ups and some downs. Thankfully, mostly ups. For inquiring minds with a need to know, here’s an update on what I’ve been up to in the last few months:

Item #1: I’ve been working on a reality show. It’s an exciting idea. An idea that’s hard-hitting, gritty, and will—hopefully—benefit many in communities all over the country. The first episode has been shot (in the process of editing), the trailer cut, and sponsors are signing on.

Item #2: Regarding my web series My Roommate Sam…I’m really stumped, folks. The fella who ran the show on this one—he was the producer and the director—has basically disappeared off the face of the map. After months of telling cast and crew, “I’ve been editing. It looks really good. It’ll definitely go up soon,” none of us have heard a word from the guy. He doesn’t return calls or e-mail. It’s a head-scratcher, it really is. We put a lot of faith in this guy and he’s let us down. Well, he put up the money for the project, so I guess he can do what he wants, but I feel bad for those of us who put so much time and talent into the project. I think our actors and crew did a really solid job and they deserve to have their work seen. Who knows, perhaps one day soon Sam will hit the web. As with everything else in this business, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Item #3: I recently met with a producer who’s hot for one of my thriller scripts. He’s confident it’s a project he can get off the ground (not that this means a whole lot, but hey, it’s a start). He knows what it is I expect as far as option money and purchase price, credit and “back end” participation (cough cough), and he feels we can definitely make a deal. When he returns from Europe in a few days, we’ll proceed forward with our negotiations.

Item #4: A rather well-known production company (one that makes smaller genre movies) loves this action-adventure piece I wrote. It’s one of nine scripts they’re considering producing for 2010. Of the nine, they’ll choose six. This means I have a 66% chance of making a sale. Certainly not the worst percentage in the word. I should know something by the end of the year.

Item# 5: I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book. Well, technically, I’ve already written a book (Q & A: The Working Screenwriter), but that was a book consisting of interviews with 16 working screenwriters. No, now I’m thinking of something in the form of a novel. I’ve been cranking out pages in recent weeks and really enjoying the process. Not quite sure why I’ve suddenly developed a tastes for this type of writing, but I have. Odd. Anyway, I’ll have to see where it all goes.

Item #6: I’m currently in the midst of a second draft of that script I was hired to rewrite a few months ago. The producer and I have butted heads on a few key elements of the script, but I think we’ve worked things out sufficiently. (He quite often asks me to make changes that simply won’t work. It’s up to me to justify my reasons why. I’m usually successful with these justifications. Not always, but usually.) I anticipate completing this second draft around the beginning of the New Year.

And that’s about it. For now. I plan on coasting through the rest of this year and tackling 2010 with my usual—and very necessary—passion and enthusiasm. Hope you’ll do the same.

Wishing health, happiness, and great success to you all in 2010!

JV

The Perfect Writing Spot...


We all have preferred places to do our writing—places that make us feel comfortable, creative, and inspired. I know I do.

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I get quite a bit of writing done at cool all-night diners, funky coffee houses, posh hotel lounges, the beach, middle-of-nowhere roadside rest stops, and even cruise ships. Just a yellow legal pad and pen, a cozy, relatively quiet spot to work, perhaps a nice view and a beverage of some sort, and I’m a truly happy fella.

Earlier today—while sweating through another 95 degree day in sunny L.A.—I got to thinking about perfect writing spots and happily recalled one of my all-time favorites. It was early last December at a Starbucks in New York City. There was nothing overly interesting or special about this particular Starbucks—I only went there because it was a couple blocks from my hotel.

Anyway...during that week last December, the city was experiencing some truly great fall weather: chilly, breezy, overcast days; not really raining, but everything was wet. As far as I’m concerned, that’s sheer perfection in the ol’ weather department. (Don’t ask me why I live in L.A. Just don’t.)

So, one drizzly late-afternoon I’m sitting in this Starbucks, cozily ensconced at a table near the window, a half-written script in front of me, people chatting happily all around me, the delightful music from A Charlie Brown Christmas wafting from the store’s sound system, and there’s this content little smile on my face. “Ahh”, I thought, “this is what it’s all about.” Then, as I do with all special moments in my life, I paused for a few seconds to really let it sink in. I even took a photo from where I sat (see above). Then I buckled down and cranked out a bunch more pages.

Now, this is the fab part about being a writer: you can do it just about anywhere. If you’re lucky—and my apologies for getting just a tad bit sappy here—you can find places in our world that have meaning and value to your inner being.

So do yourself a favor once in a while and find that perfect writing spot. Not only will you be doing an awful lot of good for your head, you’ll be doing a lot of good for your heart. For a writer, that can be a very good thing.

NEWSFLASH: THE END OF MY WEBSITE, BUT...

Dear Everybody:

My popular website TheWorkingScreenwriter.com is no more. Yup, I got tired of scraping together the ten bucks a year to keep it up and running. But...all that great material—no, really, ALL OF IT—can now be found here on Blogger. Yes, the former website is now a blog! (Sure, it makes a certain amount of sense...doesn’t it?) So, from this day forth, please feel free to visit The Working Screenwriter 2 (catchy name, eh?) at:

http://theworkingscreenwriter2.blogspot.com/

PS: Please help me get the word out. Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Tell anyone and everyone who wants to write movie scripts!

Not a bad couple of weeks!

Item #1:

I finally signed that deal with the producer up north. I’ll be doing a rewrite on an existing screenplay. Have to get it done—a first draft anyway—in about five weeks. I got an early start and I’m already nearly halfway through. I’m anticipating a few stumbling blocks during this latter portion of the script, so I’ll need every moment of those five weeks. As for the deal we signed: I’ll get some solid up-front cash, co-writer credit, and a percentage of whatever the script sells for...if it sells. Happily, there’s a money guy who's already interested in seeing this project get made. If he approves my rewrite—and I'm confident he will—he's agreed to put up a good portion of the financing. Look, I certainly realize this is all a long shot, but hey, I’m having fun with the rewrite...and I put a few bucks in the ol’ back pocket!

Item #2:

So...a few weeks ago, a producer I know calls me and says, “I’d like you to send your script __________over to this development executive I know. I think it might be right up his alley.” My obvious response: “Sure!” So I send the script off to this development exec (who works for a prodco you all know). He e-mails me back, says, “Thanks for the script. I’ll definitely give it a read.” A week or so later he gets back to me. He says it’s a really good script—and he enjoyed it—but it’s not quite the sort of thing his company does. It “doesn’t fit our franchise.” But he says, “You’re a strong writer” and “I’ll read anything you send me.” Then he tops it off with, “It’s just a matter of finding the right script.” Then I remember a script I wrote a few years back. It might—might—just be something that would work well for them. So I pitched it. He says send it. I did. Two days later he e-mails: “I like this script. Let me run it by my partner.” So now I’m waiting for a response. The way I figure it, even if they don’t go for that particular script, they’ll read whatever I send them. With some luck, I think we’ll find—or I’ll eventually write—something that fits the franchise.

Item #3:

Tonight is the final performance of my play. I was in attendance with some friends last night and we had a lot of fun. The cast was in top form and the rest of the audience (a packed house!) seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. Who knows, I might tackle another play...one of these days.

Item #4:

I spoke with the producer/director of my upcoming web series MY ROOMMATE SAM. He’s putting the finishing touches on the first couple episodes, so hopefully there will be a premiere soon. I know I’ve been building this up for a looooong while. I do hope it’s all worth it. I wish I had more control over the final product. But what can ya do? You just gotta hope for the best. Anyway, as soon as I know something, you’ll know something.

Interview with Darren Howell: September 2009 Update...

In April 2008, Summit Entertainment optioned the sci-fi action spec Arena written by first-time feature writers Toby Wagstaff and Darren Howell. The story of Arena revolves around a group of modern-day soldiers mysteriously transported from the thick of battle to a terrain-shifting landscape where they must fight the best warriors from different eras and histories in a gladiatorial fight to the death or be killed by the all-powerful operators of the "Arena." Last week, the UK-based Darren gave me a quick update on the progress made by producers. (Be sure to read Darren’s initial interview from June 20, 2008.)


JV: What’s the current status of the project?
DH: Things are ticking along and progressing from what I understand.

JV: So...the BIG question I have to ask: Have you been able to quit your day job yet?
DH: Noooo...still working the Underground [the UK rail system]. To be honest, I never expected to be able to quit on the strength of one sale, and I wasn't going to do anything dumb like just walk out. It's good in a way—it gives me some good time to think up new stuff and develop ideas.

JV: Are the producers keeping you involved in the rewrite process?
DH: The rewrite is done. They're happy with it, apparently. There are meetings taking place.

JV: Thus far, what’s been the most frustrating aspect of the development process for you?
DH: Probably being so far away and missing out on the meetings; the face to face interaction, if you like. They get me on the phone when possible—or when we're invited! But it's a pain in the arse sometimes.

JV: I don’t want to get you into trouble with the powers-that-be on the production, but have you experienced any Development Hell?
DH: I don't think there's been any Development Hell yet as such. My own “hell” is my impatience. Everything seems to take sooooooo long. Is that me—or is that Hollywood in general?

JV: Do you find the producers are resistant to your ideas as the script is being developed?
DH: Haven't really encountered that as yet.

JV: What are some of the most exciting aspects of where you are now in the process?
DH: I just find the whole thing pretty exciting—that someone's gonna make a movie out of an idea you had! I'll probably go into excitement overdrive during the actual production and when I see it on the screen.

JV: Has a director been attached to the project?
DH: Yes, Jeff (Cry Wolf) Wadlow. It's been announced in the trade papers, so no one's gonna shoot me for telling you. He's a great guy. I met him when I was out [in Los Angeles] last. He's really enthusiastic about Arena and has had some neat ideas of his own.

JV: Have any actors been attached?
DH: Not yet, I don't think. I have my own fantasy cast list though.

JV: Have you shared your "fantasy cast" list with the producers? If so, what sort of response did you get?
DH: No, Toby and I have run a few names between us, but only for fun. There were a few names floating around when I met Jeff last June, but I think this was more his own fantasy cast list. I guess casting relies a lot on what they finally fix the budget at, so we'll just have to wait and see, and hopefully be pleasantly surprised.

JV: Now that you have a screenplay on the fast track, now that you're getting some nice attention, have you been offered any other screenwriting assignments?
DH: Yeah, we've had a few things come our way, but nothing solid for one reason or another. We got asked to take a look at the Highlander remake, which was pretty cool as I love the original, but we lost out to the guys that wrote Ironman.

JV: Give me some detail on going up for the Highlander remake. How did that all evolve—and finally, devolve?
DH: Off the back of our sale of Arena, we were asked by Summit to come up with a treatment for their re-imagining of the original Highlander. We were pretty fired up by it—I LOVE the original! Anyway, we submitted our ideas during a lengthy meeting (with me on the phone in London). They really seemed to like our take. So the waiting game started...until we found out the guys that wrote Iron Man got the job. C'est la vie, I guess. The more experienced guys got the job.

JV: Do you have other screenplays on the shelf? If so, now that you’ve got a project in development/pre-production, are you garnering any interest in those screenplays?
DH: We've got our old faithful “The Duritz Find” waiting in the wings after a radical strip down, re-jigging and title change. And I'm currently working on a cheeky chappy cockney crime caper, kinda like The Italian Job (the original!) meets Snatch. And we've got a few other ideas...

JV: You’ve struggled over the years and now you’re enjoying the fruits of that struggle. What piece of advice would you give the budding screenwriter—the writer who’s in the midst of his or her own struggle?
DH: Well, I dunno if I'd go as far as “enjoying the fruits of your struggle” yet, after all I'm still plodding along with the day job. However, I understand what you're getting at. I've always believed, as the adage goes: “It's better to try and fail, than not try.” It's like I said before, if you have faith in what you're doing; if you have what you believe to be a good solid product—stick with it. All the more better if your circle of family and friends and guinea pig readers agree! Keep going, don't give up. And the beauty of writing is that there's not much of an initial outlay—most people have got a PC and some paper. Personally, I have an awesome writing partner who I couldn't do without. I'm not suggesting that having a writing partner is essential, but it’s worked for me!

* * *

Thanks for keeping us posted on things, Darren. I’m sure all my WS blog readers join me in wishing you continued success with Arena—and we look forward to future updates! (And perhaps a ticket to the premiere for yours truly.)

(Update: To read Part 3 of Darren's interview, click here.)

A New Rewrite Gig...

An assignment recently came my way from a producer up north.

George (not his real name) had a script that—he felt—needed a minor rewrite. Sure, sounds good. But first I needed to read the script. So he sent me a copy. It took me a while, but I eventually got through it.

A “minor” rewrite? Um, no, this thing needed a major rewrite. It needed to be torn down to its base and rebuilt. The script contained all the usual maladies: on-the-nose dialogue, yawn-inducing descriptions, scenes that did absolutely nothing to push the story forward...all the usual novice stuff. I relayed all this via several pages of notes. OK, so now George is definitely interested in having me do the rewrite. But before we sign the deal, I wanted him to know precisely what I’d be doing to the script. He needed to know that I wasn’t going to simply tweak a few words here and there. No, I was pretty much gonna eviscerate the script. He also needed to know that my eventual rewrite draft would be something that could actually sell. So I took the first few scenes of the script and rewrote them.

Three days after I e-mailed my rewrite pages I still hadn’t heard back from him. So I shot off an e-mail: “What’s up? Did you get the pages I sent?” I heard back a few hours later. George admitted that he was somewhat shocked by my changes. He said, “I expected a light trim. What you gave me was a buzz cut!” I told him, “Trust me, it’s precisely what the script needs.”

So a few more days go by and I don’t hear a single word from him. I figured I scared him off. But he finally contacts me, saying, “I gave the script to an associate of mine. I wanted to get his opinion on the changes you made.” So here’s the e-mail George received from the associate:

“Honestly, your screenwriter is doing you a service. Your draft is lovely, but the pacing is very slow, laborious and you will lose your audience quickly. The screenwriter has picked up the pace for you immensely, given it some energy and kept it moving so that it keeps the reader’s interest. You lose none of the beauty of the story in his draft; he has just focused it more—to highlight the important beats. I think you should stick with him.”

So, thanks to his very perceptive associate, George now has a newfound respect for my abilities and is most agreeable to the changes I need to make. The first installment of my fee has been paid and the rewrite is coming along nicely. Contrary to popular belief among many novice screenwriters, rewriting can be a lot of fun. I’ve really been enjoying tackling this script and transforming unworkable scenes into scenes that, well...work. I plan to have a first rewrite draft in the next few weeks. With some luck, I’ll have a “final” draft—something George can take to money people, actors, etc.—completed by mid-October. That’s my plan, anyway.

UPDATE: SUMMER 2009...

Sorry for being away for so long. It’s been a crazy couple of months.

On the personal side: the house I live in has been getting a major makeover. New paint job, new carpeting, some construction. Right now the place looks like a typhoon hit it.

Then my parked car got totaled by some idiot who wasn’t paying attention to where he was driving. It all worked out: I got a slightly newer, marginally better car.

Then my somewhat off-kilter ex-wife came into town and turned my life upside down for a couple of weeks. (The poor girl has some, um, issues.)

But yup, it’s been a fairly hectic summer. No time for some of the luxuries I usually enjoy. To wit, I typically blaze through four or five movies from Netflix each week. I’m now down to a mere one movie a week. Yikes!

On the professional front: I recently completed a quick writing gig. A proposal for a reality series. Just three pages. Fun and creative. Easy money.

I’m waiting to start work on creating a treatment for an existing story (not mine) for a producer here in town. The person I'll be working with is a pretty well-known music producer. Should be fun.

I’m also gearing up to do a co-write job on an existing script with a “writer” up in Seattle. We still have some contractual issues to iron out, but hopefully it’ll all come together in the next week or so.

Last month my manager brought me three potential gigs: two page-one rewrites and one from-scratch assignment. Alas, not one of these jobs actually materialized for me. C’est la vie.

I’ve been doing a fairly steady stream of script critiques. (I guess summer is when people need critiques!) A couple of the scripts were, quite surprisingly, pretty decent. They need a lot of work, but they might actually become marketable. Hopefully I gave the writers what they need to get their scripts whipped into shape.

As for my Web-series My Roommate Sam: I just got word that the first episode has nearly completed post-production and will soon premier. Geesh, finally.

A play I wrote—yes, a play, and the only one I’ve ever written—just got picked up by a theater group here in L.A. It’s scheduled to go up for two weekends next month. This could go over well or it could become a dismal abomination. We’ll just have to hope for the best and see where it goes. (If it does become an abomination, I'll be thankful that it's only a play and not captured forever on film.)

A couple months ago I mentioned that I was planning to do a follow-up interview with UK screenwriter Darren Howell. I have yet to do it...but I will. Soon.

And finally...I’m giving very serious thought to shutting down my website The Working Screenwriter. What I’m planning to do is transfer all the info on the site over to a standard blog (like the one you’re reading now). I think it’ll work just fine. It’ll have all the same great information for the novice and intermediate scribe—and I won’t have to pay a fee every year to keep it running. (Anyway, I never ever liked the way the website looked.) If I do this, and I’m sure I will, it’ll happen in the next few weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

Stuff you can look at...and some Mr. Creepy news!

And now, a bit of silliness...

About five years ago I was visiting my old pal Taunia (pronounced “Tanya”) for the weekend at her home in Arizona. One of the things I’ve always really liked about Taunia—and we’ve known each other for 30 years—is her never-ending well of creativity. She’s game for just about anything.

Anywho...one afternoon during my visit, we decided to get out the ol’ digital camera and shoot something. This is what I refer to as a “Spontaneous Film”—something made at the spur of the moment. No planning, no real thought other than to do something fun and creative for a few hours.

(Please hold your critiques about how the lighting sucks, or how the camera work could’ve been better. None of that is really important. This is merely a matter of coming up with an idea, a bit of goofy wardrobe, a prop or two, shooting it, then cutting it all together. What ya get is what ya get.)

This particular short is entitled “Home for Lunch.” In it, I play a rather high-spirited, rotund little man who has an appetite for mid-day snacks and a penchant for...well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

What’s funny, at least to me, is that I haven’t really thought about this project since we shot it. It was just another bit of silliness I got involved in. Lo and behold, Taunia sent me this edited/scored version just last week. (Five years—what took her so long?)

I’ll tell ya, I actually got a kick out of it. I found it to be alternately silly and, um, oddly disturbing. So I figured I’d share it with all of you WS readers...and I hope you find it at least somewhat entertaining. If not, please forward your letters of hostility to Taunia. I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.

To watch “Home for Lunch," click here! (PS: For the record, no, that’s not my real stomach you’ll be seeing.)

"Mr. Creepy" news!

For those of you following my long saga with “Mr. Creepy” (see January 12, 2009 blog entry): Well, ol’ Mr. C finally realized he was wrong about me trying to destroy him. It seems somebody was passing himself off as me and wreaking havoc upon poor Mr. C’s already damaged psyche. But I’m pleased to announce that Mr. C has done the right thing and pulled all his let’s-bash-Jim-Vines videos from his YouTube account. So there.

A thought for the day...

OK, so I’ve got a question for all of you. Here it is:

Why do we create?

Is it for the FAME? Is it for the GLORY? Is it for the MONEY?

Fame? Quick, name five “famous” screenwriters. Let’s see, William Goldman...Shane Black...um... wait, don’t tell me...

Glory? OK, so who won Best Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards?

Money? Hmm, what’s the statistic from the Writers Guild? I think the average screenwriter make about $60,000 a year.

So if you’re looking for “fame,” “glory,” or big bucks, the life of a screenwriter probably isn’t for you.

For me, it’s about the creative process. Just the notion that I can come up with the germ of an idea...cultivate that idea...nurture it, hone it...slowly transform it into 100 pages of marketable screenplay...well, that’s pretty darn exciting. And if we’re lucky enough to have those 100 pages turned into a movie, and even luckier that a modicum of fame, glory, and money follow...it’s all icing on the cake.

Another exciting phase to the creative process is what happens to your work once it’s set forth into the world.

I had an experience just the other day...an experience that pretty much sums it all up for me. It clarified my own personal reason why I love to create the things I create.

I was chatting on the phone with a friend/business associate. She was telling me how much she enjoyed a couple of my recently-completed screenplays. Being the fairly modest fellow I am (no, really, I am), I downplayed it with the usual, “Yeah, I think they’re pretty good.” But no, she insisted that they were really quite excellent. She was, apparently, very entertained by both scripts. (I should point out that she is currently trying to get these scripts to the next level: a producer who will actually buy them.) Then she mentioned a short film that I made a few years back. She said she really loved this little film. In fact, she loved it enough to send it to several of her friends. Apparently they loved it too. In fact, one friend told her something like, “The day you sent me the link to Jim’s film, I was really feeling low. Pretty miserable. But I watched the film. I have to tell you, I laughed and laughed. It really cheered me up.” (Click here to see my short film.)

Wow, that’s a pretty terrific feeling. It’s nice to know that this little movie I made...this goofy little project my childhood friend and I did simply to do it, to have a little fun and work our creative muscles a bit...had the ability to transform a person’s day from gloomy to, well, just a little bit sunnier. Yup, a pretty terrific feeling, all right.

This, friends, is why I create.

So think of that the next time to sit down to write your screenplay, or shoot that funny little YouTube video, or paint that picture, or shoot a photograph suitable for framing, realize that you’re creating something that will more than likely touch other people in same way. You will created something that says, I was here.


A New Screenwriting Site: A Review...

Fellow screenwriter Ashley Scott Meyers contacted me recently, asking if I’d do a review of his new screenwriting website SellingYourScreenplay.com. He said I could give the site a positive or negative review...just as long as I helped him get the word out that the site is up and running. Sure, I’m always happy to help a fellow scribe...

So I gave the website a whirl.

Now, as we all know (or should know), there aren’t necessarily any easy answers in the screenwriting arena. There is no true “best” way to do any of it. So I’m always a bit dubious of any book or website that even vaguely proclaims, "This is how you sell your script." I’m not saying that Mr. Meyers’ website is proclaiming any easy pathways or any surefire methods to selling a screenplay, but with a site name such as "Selling Your Screenplay,” well...

OK, so just who is this Ashley Scott Meyers?

Well, he’s the author of—yup, you guessed it— Selling Your Screenplay (which I have not read), and the writer or co-writer of three movies: Man Overboard (2008), Reunion (2005), and Dish Dog (2000). It seems only the latter is available via Netflix and Amazon.

But honestly, do we really need another screenwriting website regurgitating all the usual information? How many times can we read topics such as, “How to Write a Query Letter,” or ““Who Do You Address Your Query Letter To?” or “Should I Put My WGA Registration Number on My Screenplay?” or “How to Get an Agent”? Um, come to think of it, with the endless stream of people diving into the screenwriting pool on a daily basis, people looking for any crumb of information (and face it, most do tend to ask the same monotonous questions over and over again), perhaps one more “how-to” site can’t hurt. With that in mind, if SellingYourScreenplay.com happens to be one of the first screenwriting website you land on, you could probably do far worse.

You’ll find a modicum of solid advice on the site. Mr. Meyers comes across as earnest, likeable, and truly seems to have a sincere desire to help the neophyte screenwriter. I found no trace of an over-inflated ego or “DO-IT-THIS-WAY” dogma. Though a handful of topics/subjects are “the same ol’, same ol,” I found at least one entry, “How I Optioned and Sold My First Screenplay,” particularly valuable.

My chief complaint: aside from the aforementioned entry (and a few others), there’s nothing truly unique being imparted on the site. Virtually all the information can be found on a hundred or so other screenwriting sites, my own included. (I should point out that SellingYourScreenplay.com has only been in existence a relatively short time. As of this moment, June 2009, there isn’t what I’d call a wealth of information posted. I’m confident it will be far more comprehensive six months or a year from now. At least we can hope so.)

Another complaint—a minor one, really—is the plethora of Google ads positioned throughout. I noticed one or two for a notorious “scam” lit agency. I know this isn’t the fault of Mr. Meyers (those ads are automatically placed by Google)...I just think that sort of thing tends to drop a site’s legitimacy a notch or two.

So, do I think this site is a waste of time? No, absolutely not. If you’ve been around the block once or twice in the ol’ screenwriting game, you probably won’t discover too much that’s new and exciting. However...I’m confident that novice and intermediate scribes alike will find a few valuable nuggets that will aid them in their journey through the Hollywood maze. That, along with Mr. Meyers’ seemingly genuine desire to aid the budding screenwriter, certainly makes a visit to SellingYourScreenplay.com worthy of your time.

***

APRIL 2015 ANNOUNCEMENT: My debut novel, Luigi's Chinese Delicatessen, is now available in paperback from Amazon.com and Kindle e-book! (You're gonna love it cuz it's all about Hollywood and screenwriting!)

Well, that's showbiz!

I got word yesterday that the Canadian prodco will NOT be renewing the option on my script. They cite the troubled economy as the ultimate reason they couldn’t pull together the financing. This puts to an end a deal that’s been in the works for more than three years. Three years of meetings, e-mails, phone calls, yadda yadda yadda.

When a disappointment like this happens, I do what I always do: I kick into high gear and get my reps to put the feelers out, get in touch with folks who might've shown some interest early on. Then I start making phone calls and sending e-mails on my own. I’ve already got some potential prospects percolating.

So, onward and upward.

But who knows, maybe when the economy turns around, and when money starts flowing again, that Canadian company will want to get rolling on things again. Sure, that’d be great...if I haven’t already sold the script, that is.

I’ll keep ya posted.

Oh, one more thing...a couple of you have written to me, asking "What happened to your Izen-Vines website?" For those of you who don't know, the Izen-Vines site was sort of a fun "tribute" site that explored my fun, very creative days attending Beverly Hills High School in the late-70s, early-80s. Sadly, the site in no more. Nope, we couldn't scrape together the $9.00 to keep it in operation. But for those of you who are at all interested (and maybe just a little bit bored out of your minds), you can visit the MySpace page of the the all-time #1 Izen-Vines fan, Nezi Nevins. In fact, here's the link: myspace.com/nezinevins.

So stop by, say howdy to ol' Nezi, take a gander at some of the goofball pictures of yours truly...and have a laugh. Or not.

Wow, it's already May??

Still in a holding pattern...

...with a few of my projects. I should find out any day now whether or not the prodco up in Canada will extend the option on my script. They've already had the script about three years. The last I heard, they were getting close to obtaining full financing. But ya never know how these things will work out. So we wait.

Web-series news...

We wrapped our final day of shooting earlier this week. Now it’s into the editing room to put it all together. I’m hoping we can roll out the first couple of episodes by the end of June. As always, I’ll keep you posted.

On a sad note...

Entertainer Danny Gans passed away early yesterday at the young age of 52.

For those of you unaware of who Mr. Gans was, he was an entertainer who has performed regularly in Las Vegas for several years.

My friend Craig and I had the great pleasure of seeing Mr. Gans perform last May 29th at the spectacular Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. Let me tell you, I’m a guy who is very difficult to impress, but Mr. Gans sure impressed me. Wow, what a show. For 90 minutes, he tore up the stage with impersonations of just about any singer or dancer you can think of. His repartee with the audience was hilarious. No dirty jokes, no crass innuendo—this was clean, wholesome entertainment.

After returning to L.A. a couple days later, I couldn’t stop raving about Mr. Gans. I told everyone I knew, “When you go to Vegas, you gotta see this guy!”

But what I found so special about Mr. Gans—other than his extraordinary talent—was his humility. He stopped the show to tell the audience that he knew he was a very lucky man indeed. He had a fantastic wife and great kids, and a career that far surpassed anything he’d ever dreamed. He was also active in many charity organizations.

Yes, Danny Gans had a full life...and he will be greatly missed.

Here are some clips of Danny to enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-9l9bdKsDc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BWqVygS83Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEm7cmqWvPI

What’s new in Jim’s world?

Well, for those of you who care (and even for those of you who don’t), here’s the latest:

Item 1: The web-series is almost done shooting. We had some rain delays, an extra day or two tacked on due to scheduling and location conflicts, but right now it looks as if we’re down to just one more day of principal photography (giving us a total of seven days). It’s been a fun shoot, the actors, the director and crew have all done a bang-up job, and I’m quite pleased with what we’ve got in the can. I’m hoping we can start posting these first seven episodes by late spring. I’ll keep ya posted on a “grand premier” date.

Item 2: Last week my manager sent a producer (one I’ve worked for previously) a recently-completed thriller script of mine. The producer read it...then got back to us. Though he said he liked it well enough (insisting it was something he would’ve been interested in a year ago), he made it clear that the releasing company he now works with is looking for "different" material. Um, OK, so what kind of material are they looking for? Well, it seems even the releasing company isn’t sure what they’re looking for, as requirements change for them virtually on a monthly basis! Well, whatever. One producer down, a few more to go.

Item 3: Earlier this month I had a meeting down in San Diego with a guy who was looking to hire a screenwriter for a true-life story. In fact, it was his true-life story. (You old-school, hardcore skateboarding fans would definitely know who this fella is. He was HUGE back in the 70s and 80s.) Anyway, I sat with this gentleman (now in his late-40s) for about an hour and tossed around some ideas. He seemed to really like my "take" on things. Then we shook hands and went our separate ways. Maybe something will come of this meeting; then again, maybe not...but hey, San Diego sure was nice!

Item 4: I was at a tuxedo rental store in Beverly Hills last week, picking up a tuxedo for the wedding of one of my best friends. I was just about to leave when a gentleman (who had just completed a fitting) asked if I was getting married. "Nope. Been there, done that. My best friend is the one on the chopping block this time." For some really odd reason, the gentleman then asked what I did for a living. I told him that I was a screenwriter. His face lit up. I then spent the next 45 minutes listening as he pitched this rather interesting (though not necessarily commercial) story he’d like to see turned into a movie. We traded some ideas, and I schooled him a bit on how the film industry works (he was a real estate developer). He seemed pretty excited about it all. Then I gave him my card, the contact information for my manager...and I walked out the door with my tux. It’s now more than a week later and we have yet to hear anything from the guy. To be honest, I didn’t actually think he’d get in touch, but ya kinda gotta wonder why he’d go to all the trouble about telling me this story, then all the bla bla bla about he’d "really like to move forward on this!" In Hollywood, talk is cheap. Actually picking up a phone an making a call and making things happen...well, that’s another story.

Item 5: My thriller project up in Canada (which has been in the works for at least a few years now) seems to be inching closer to full financing (yawn). If the financing doesn’t come through by the time the option expires in early May, I’m hoping the producers decide to renew. Based on recent conversations they’ve had with my rep, I’m thinking they will. Then again, this is the film business we’re talking about. We’ll see.

Item 6: Another producer is currently trying to get financial backing for one of my scripts. Unfortunately, with the economy the way it’s been, money is awfully tight, and getting movies made is even more difficult than usual. (Yup, it’s pretty bleak out there, folks. This crazy economy has even managed to sideline the El Salvador project I wrote last year. Well, at least I got paid in full on that one!) But I got word a few days ago that this producer has a potential backer who might read the script if we can pitch it to him in a brief written synopsis. Ugh, I hate writing those things. Anyone who knows me knows it’s easier for me to write a full-length screenplay than it is to write a one-page synopsis. Well, I guess I’ll just have to buckle down and do it. UPDATE: I wrote the synopsis in two days. The potential backer seemed to like it well enough to request a script, which went out today.

And finally, only in Hollywood...

My buddy Craig and I hit a few west side watering holes last night. Our final stop (at 12:15 in the morning) was at a bar in Beverly Hills. As we pulled into the valet parking garage, I noticed a young guy and girl sitting cozily on a couch; both were quietly checking their Blackberries. Then I realized the guy wasn’t a guy. Nope, it was Samantha Ronson...and the attractive girl with her was Lindsay Lohan. Now, this is Beverly Hills and you tend to see this sort of thing all the time, so that’s not what I found interesting. No, what I found interesting was that it was Craig and I, Samantha and Lindsay, a couple of parking attendants...and not a single crazed paparazzi with a camera. Not one! Hmm, I guess they’d been there earlier and had their fill of picture-taking. Or maybe paparazzos don’t work past midnight?

The Collaborative Process...

Ya know, the Collaborative Process is truly an amazing thing. For me, it’s what makes filmmaking such a thrilling (and fun!) form of expression.

During our shoot last night (or this morning, depending on how you look at it), something really pretty cool occurred. We were working on this one scene—a fantasy sequence, a brief, fun little scene. As originally written, it was roughly half a page.

About three weeks ago, the director called me and asked if I’d be willing to tweak that particular scene a bit. He told me his idea, which I loved. So yes, I was happy to rework the scene and send him the revision ASAP.

So, fast forward a few weeks (to last night, in fact) and we’re on the set and preparing to shoot the revised sequence. For reasons that aren’t at all important to this anecdote, the three actors in the scene only had a chance to read the revision mere moments prior to shooting.

OK, so this is where the cool part comes in.

Our three actors really seemed to get a kick out of the new scene (which became funnier and weirder in the rewrite). Infused by sudden inspiration, each actor made certain choices with regards to their wardrobe and the blocking of the scene. I chimed in with an idea or two. Our camera operator came up with interesting camera moves and lighting. Even our sound guy made a suggestion. Sure, I realize this is what generally happens during the course of shooting any scripted film or TV production (especially in the low budget arena), but what made this so much fun is that it all came together in such a spontaneous burst of creativity—all these creative people pitching in to make that half-page scene far more than what I initially envisioned. So, pretty cool, don't ya think?

Collaboration: it’s pretty exiting stuff...if you allow it to happen.

WEB-SERIES UPDATE: HALFWAY THERE!

Well, it’s 5:30 in the morning and I’ve just come off a nearly 13-hour shooting day. We are now halfway through filming the first seven episodes of the web-series. We would’ve been a bit further along by now if it hadn’t been for a rainstorm last week. But the shoot has been going well—on schedule each day and problems and obstacles have been few.

On our first night, literally the penultimate shot, and after 10 hours of shooting, a LAPD helicopter decided to circle over our location for quite a while. So we waited...and waited...and waited. The copter eventually raced off into the night and we were able to get our final shots and wrap for the day (at 12:30 in the morning).

My primary role during production has been as on-set still photographer (which was something I did during my pre-screenwriting days). And hey, if a sandbag needs lugging, or a boom pole needs holding, or if a set needs to be dressed up a little, I’m more than happy to lend a hand. It’s all part of the fun of being involved in such a project. I’m also on-hand to assist with any dialogue tweaks that might arise. Yes, I even managed to insert myself into one brief scene—and wrote myself a bit of dialogue, too!

As for the small crew: they’re professional and hardworking. The actors, as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, are enthusiastic, eager to do a good job and come well-prepared. In fact, they know the script better than I do! Most important of all: our crafts service has been quite good. OK, so I’m being a bit facetious here. But as anyone who’s been involved in a TV or film production will tell you, having sufficient food and drink available on the set can (and will) make or break a production. So a big THANKS to our producer for providing some pretty decent sustenance during our shooting days!

So...things look pretty good as of this moment. With some luck, and if the stormy skies don’t unleash another torrent upon us, we’ll wrap shooting next week. Stay tuned!

Web-series News, “Hey, Where’d My Thriller Go?” & “Mr. Creepy”

WEB-SERIES NEWS...

We had another round of auditions last week. Our director called for them after determining the two candidates for male lead, auditioned a few weeks ago, simply weren’t right. (There was one actor the director liked quite a bit, and one actor I thought would be pretty terrific. Alas, after further consideration, it was deemed that neither were “the one.”) We saw approximately 25 actors in 4 hours...and when all was said and done, we were confident that we’d found the right actor for the job. We’re assembling our cast for a table-read next week; then, if all goes well (and if none of the actors jump ship), we’ll begin pre-production soon after. The plan is to shoot our first (hopefully not last) episodes in mid-February.

“HEY, WHERE’D MY THRILLER GO?”

So, I stopped by my manager’s office the other day to pick up a check. (Yay, money!!) We also played catch-up after a bit of down time during the holidays. One of the things I inquired about was my thriller project that’s supposed to be in the works up in Canada. I asked if she’d heard anything from the producers. She said she’d sent them an e-mail a month or so ago but didn’t hear anything back. Then she added, “But it (the project) is posted on their Website (categorized under “in development”).”

So when I got home later that night, I went online and checked out the prodco’s site. My project’s title was nowhere to be found. Huh? So I shot off an e-mail to my manager: “Contact the producers in Canada – find out what’s going on.” The following day I get a voice-mail from my manager (paraphrased here): “Heard back from Canada. They’re still waiting on financing to come through.” Now, I’m not entirely certain what this means...or even how accurate it is. From what I understood based on communications months ago, the Canadian producers had a three-picture deal in place, and MY project was one of them. The rather generous option extension fee I was paid at the time told me they were confident my script would go before a camera within a year’s time. Since that option expires in roughly four months, I’d assume they’d be a little further along that merely “still waiting on financing.”

Well, whatever. Hopefully this will all come together soon and everything’ll be on track. If not...well, it’ll be yet another gut-wrenching dip in the roller-coaster ride known as writing movies.

I’ll keep you posted.


“MR. CREEPY”...

They say you’re nobody until somebody is out to get you. Well, it looks like I’ve finally become somebody cuz I’ve got some highly unstable gentleman trying to drag me into his own personal Hell. I won’t go into any great detail about all this, but here’s the gist:

“Mr. Creepy,” as I like to call him, contacted me several months ago, asking if I’d read his script, then, if I liked what I read, help him get it out to any producers I might know. I told him I’d be happy to read his first ten pages. If I like what I was reading, I’d definitely read the rest of the script—and yes, I’d be happy to pass the script forward to any film-types that might be interested. Well, I read those first ten pages.

In a word: dreadful.

So I wrote up a page or two of notes, explaining to Mr. Creepy how his descriptions weren’t at all cinematic/interesting, his dialogue was on-the-nose/flat/unrealistic, and how none of it seemed at all interesting or compelling. Creepy took umbrage to these notes and BLEW HIS STACK. Not only did he send me a blazingly angry missive, but a warning not to steal his script idea. If I did, there’d be a lawsuit. And oh, I shouldn’t even try contacting him because he’s putting my e-mail on his ignore list.

I’ve done north of 100 critiques in recent years. I’ve had maybe three people get a little bent out of shape with the notes I’ve sent them (they just couldn’t accept my blatant honesty), but I’ve never, never, never had anyone go as nutty as this fella.

But wait, it gets better.

Creepy also has a habit of posting videos of himself on the Net where he whines about how nobody understands him, how nobody is willing to give him a chance, and how “Jim Vines is out to destroy me.” I didn’t even know about these video-blogs—especially the tirade against ME—until an acquaintance of mine brought it to my attention. At first I was a tad bit flabbergasted, but then I could barely control the laughter. I mean, this guy went on and on with this nonsense about yours truly for several minutes (not to mention a flurry of other videos he’s got posted, all venting dramatically about his rather dismal existence)! I won’t even discuss the odd fascination/crush he professes to have for the teenage pop star Miley Cyrus. But hey, this is why I lovingly call him Mr. Creepy. He really is. Anyway...

I nearly forgot about ol’ Creepy until I got an e-mail from the aforementioned acquaintance just a few days ago: “He’s at it again.” Sure enough, all these months later, the guy is still on the war path, still trying to bash me, and still making completely manufactured accusations against me. The guy is downright scary. But...

I feel bad for him. I do. He’s a sad, troubled man and is in need of psychiatric help. I hope he gets it, and I hope he can find some peace of mind. (And no, don’t ask me to post links to Mr. Creepy’s videos. He doesn’t deserve that sort of attention. He really doesn’t.) Moving on...