Thursday, May 31, 2007
Have a break soon from students and need it.
I'm overwhelmed by how busy my summer is going to be -- and yet, I do my best work when I am doing several projects at once.
A curiosity: thus far, the response from senior actors has largely been from men. I thought I'd hear from women and have trouble getting men. It appears to be the opposite. Interesting.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
p.s. 30 minutes later. By God the earlier Carver post was causing the problem. I deleted it and now everything works. Amazing.
H emailed to say I have five packages waiting for me! I assume this includes the camera and the editing software I ordered. Alas, I'm coming home with so many student scripts, I really can't afford the time to play too much. But this weekend I can!
Monday, May 28, 2007
Surrounded by the same stately trees for which it was named, The Oaks, in Portland, Oregon in 2005 will celebrate its 100th consecutive year of operation, making it one of the oldest continuously operating amusement parks in America. Built by the Oregon Water Power and Navigation Company, the park opened its gates on May 30, 1905 to Portlanders who arrived by foot and on horseback, in automobiles and by boat from the Willamette River. In keeping with the design of other "Trolley Parks" across the country, most of its visitors disembarked from trolley cars which ran along the Portland-to-Oregon City tracks forming the eastern boundary of the park.
Here's a film filled with charm, though I'm not as enthusiastic about it as many critics were -- or my wife, for that matter. I'd give it a B but not an A. I think it's weakest at the end, straining too much for all the right happy beats when the real ending has already happened. For me, it works better as a satiric comedy than a feel good story.
Of the entire process, I may most enjoy editing. I actually did some film editing as a young man, in the summer of 1966, just before entering grad school. We were housekeeping my folks' house in Medford while they visited relatives in New Jersey. My summer project was organizing and editing my dad's large library of 8mm home movies. From it I extracted a short film focusing on the considerable antics of my brother, which I called "Here Comes Artie Rainbow" (if I remember correctly). I loved choosing and extracting the strips of film and reassembling them. Digital editing will be even more involved -- and more fun, I'm sure. I think I'll be using Adobe Premiere Elements for this. The reviews suggest this software most will suit my purposes.
I've also ordered a CD of legal forms I'll need, primarily with the actors. Even though this is a non-commercial venture, I like to be upfront and professional. If by chance something came of our work -- winning a contest or something -- I'd use the same co-op ("shares") model that worked so well when I produced hyperdrama in the 80s.
There're a zillion things to consider when you do something like this.
And ... ! Last night I finished the draft of the script. It's rough. But it's close, and that's the main thing. It also reveals, almost immediately, the parts that will be easy to shoot and the scenes that won't be so easy to shoot. I'm already making some changes that will make finding locations easier. Writers can forget about practical matters like this and put the story anywhere. But when you actually have to go there and shoot it, you put on a different mind set and look for easier ways to communicate the scene, that is, putting the action in more accessible locations.
In the heat of all this, of course, I've pushed aside my other projects. Now it's time to return to them. I feel more secure about the video with a script draft. I have three actors to whom to give screen tests, and I'm looking forward to meeting one Tuesday, a woman with a very impressive list of credits.
I have student scripts to read this morning. This afternoon, we want to check out a fair in town. Later maybe I can do some work on the music drama and/or novel and/or other screenplay. Busy, busy. I love it.
And there are only two weeks left of school, and finals week!
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Unfortunately, they blew it with their rules. They define a complete script as at least 20,000 words. I checked the word count of my last three feature length screenplays: 14,008, 14,500 and 13,924. They want almost 50% more verbosity in a very economical writing genre! This serves to encourage same, which is a very unprofessional attitude to take. They should measure scripts by page counts, not word counts. Otherwise, shame on them.
Found some clips using the small minicamcorder I'll be using. I think it's important to write and tell the story appropriate to the tools you are using (I hate plays that would make better movies, for example! Indeed, my first test of a play: is this A PLAY?, that is, it can not be improved as a movie. Last night Vinegar Tom is a perfect example, a play that would not work as well as a film). Knowing we are only shooting video for small screens, we don't need a lot of video quality -- and what we aim to do, is make up for it with strong writing, directing, editing and acting quality.
I'll start the first script today. I should be able to start screen tests as soon as I return from L.A., in about 3 weeks. I'd like to start shooting the first one by mid-July. What a rush.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Strangling heat and gases emanating from the earth and sea, not asteroids, most likely caused several ancient mass extinctions. Could the same killer-greenhouse conditions build once again?
Tonight's performance had an added attraction, a graduate student of mine this term in the cast, who did an excellent job (and who is a good screenwriter).
Tuesday I am having coffee with a transplanted NY actress interested in my summer project. Has experience from soap operas, roles at Lincoln Center, solid NYC credentials. She has the right look from her photo. I look forward to talking to her. (Besides, out of curiosity, I suppose, she read The Brazen Wing and loved it. Flattery will get you everywhere.)
So I have two interested in screen tests, both male. I thought I'd have a harder time finding men than women.
I fiddled more with the storyboard this morning, of course. These story tools are perpetually in flux. Not sure when I'll start writing the script. I want at least to write the audition pieces soon.
If you want to schedule a screen test, email me at email@example.com with SCREEN TEST in the subject line.
What I can do over the summer is this:
- storyboard and write several scripts
- shoot them all while I have a free schedule
- do editing and post-production later
- in other words, get the raw footage during the summer and worry about the finished product later
It would be great if I could do more than one over the summer. I'm not sure how long it would take to shoot these. Even if it took a month to shoot, which I doubt, I should be able to do three. I think around ten minutes is the right length for a project like this.
Friday, May 25, 2007
And I already heard from an interested senior actor!
So I posted a notice on craigslist to test the waters for senior actors. I also wrote the honchos at two local senior theater organizations.
Looks like a busy summer indeed! But I'm always best when very, very, very, very busy. I find it easier to live in my work than to live in my life, to paraphrase a line in My Dinner With Andre.
I took some pages from it to piano class, and the teacher played it. Sounded good. My fellow students are amazed, of course, but I reminded them that you must do this in strict accordance to two important principles:
- A little learning is a dangerous thing.
- I don't know what I'm doing but I know what I like.
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
Hence the tradition of wearing red on Memorial Day.
There's also a realpolitik version, a cynical version. of this sentiment but I haven't been able to track it down.
My mother's brother, whom she said I take after and my brother was named after, was killed at Pearl Harbor, so in my family Memorial Day was an important holiday.
In Kerouac's Scroll, I write a scene based on the unsettling experience of my first trip to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl:
Gathered on the dock was a long line of Japanese tourists waiting to board the small boat to the memorial, which was built around the partially exposed hulk of the sunken battleship. Mary and I took our place at the end of the line.
I leaned close to Mary.
“I didn’t realize so many Japanese would be here.”
“Some Chinese, too, I think. Koreans.”
“And so many cameras.”
“It’s a major tourist attraction.”
“This feels weird. They sunk the ship, a lot of ships, and here they are. Are they gloating?”
“Do we gloat when we go to Hiroshima? I think not. You’re here for a reason, Robert. Focus on that.”
I tried to but it was difficult. Staring at the name of Hooker’s father on a large bronze plaque, I realized that flashbulbs were going off all around me. The cramped quarters of the ship’s deck resounded with chatting in a language I didn’t understand, and I wondered what these visitors, these Japanese tourists, were talking about. Were they gloating?
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Been brooding a lot about the Cold War novel, making connections about bringing the new parts of my new structure into what I had before. It's making sense to me.
Should get my video camera next week! I can take it to L.A. with me.
Ever since I bought H one of these miniature computer plugin video camcorders for Xmas I've been wanting one for myself. Caught a sale and just ordered one, and now I'm brooding about various summer video projects I might do. One is recording readings by up and coming writers. I might also write some monologues, or connecting monologues, for actors. Or interview some old hardcore drinkers in a bar. Lots of possibilities!
At any rate, locally we have an arsonist on the prowl.
Seven torched autos in two days have anti-terror agents on the
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
One of the artist's featured in the summer review is the transplanted Chinese painter Ming Wei. Some examples of his work.
A full leisurely yet busy day, mostly working on the review but also getting some lawn work done and the inevitable writerly chores and errands. A full day in class tomorrow working scenes, which is always energetic and fun. Then a relatively free holiday weekend before I get really busy at school next week.
THE GHOST IN THE GRAVY
The old man sitting alone at the counter
laughs so hard that he starts coughing
and drools into his biscuits and gravy.
Wiping his mouth with a sleeve,
he bundles himself into proper propriety.
Then he mutters something so softly
only his best friend, dead two years,
can hear it
across the memory of
3258 shared breakfasts.
The Greeks understood that comedy (the gods' view of life) is superior to tragedy (the merely human). But since the middle ages, western culture has overvalued the tragic and undervalued the comic. This is why fiction today is so full of anxiety and suffering. It's time writers got back to the serious business of making us laugh ... by Julian Gough
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
He also weighed over 300 lbs. One term our class was on the 4th floor of an historic building on campus that had no elevator. Man, it was a question of whether he was going to recover in time to hold a class. He finally started coming half an hour early so he'd catch his breath before the bell rang.
Dean directed the first play I ever had produced, a one-act, and I learned so much from him. My second mentor, Leland Starnes (former head of the Yale Drama School), would come in a few years, and between the two of them I got my education in playwriting.
Dean died in the 80s, I believe. I kept in contact with him for a while. He always sounded so depressed after he returned home, probably feeling like his tail was between his legs. He was a fine teacher. He also was a decent playwright. I especially remember a verse play about his father called "Shadow of a Great Rock."
(I just did a search for this title: over 7000 entries. How nice if one were his script, but I very much doubt it. He died before desktop computers became common.)
Dean Regenos was good people. I miss him.
Hallie E. Ford's gift to the Pacific Northwest College of
Monday, May 21, 2007
- Number, the Language of Science by Tobias Dantzig
- Why I Am Not A Christian and Marriage and Morals by Bertrand Russell
- Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee
- Love's Body by Norman O. Brown
- Genesis Angels by Aram Saroyan
- Mrs. Bridge by Evan Connell (I believe when this was first published he went by Evan S. Connell, Jr.)
- The Quiet American by Graham Greene
- "The Moon In Its Path," a short story by Gilbert Sorrentino
The songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had started Spark Records, and in 1955 produced "Smokey Joe's Cafe" for The Robins. The record was popular enough that Atlantic Records offered Leiber and Stoller an independent production contract to produce The Robins for the Atlantic label. Only two of The Robins-- Gardner and Nunn -- were willing to make the move to Atlantic.
The Coasters' association with Leiber and Stoller was an immediate success.
The Coasters crossed over to the national charts in a big way with the double-sided "Young Blood"/"Searchin'". Searchin was the group's first U.S. Top 10 hit, and topped the R&B charts for 13 weeks
The tape shows a 63-year-old homeless woman named Carol Ann Reyes wandering in the street.
Reyes had just been discharged from Kaiser Permanente Bellflower hospital where, after taking a fall, she had been treated for three days.