never been a bitch so I don't act bitchy

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Goodbye Buttlips & Blood On The Asphalt!

One of my favorite jazz trumpet players of all time died last week. His name was Maynard Ferguson and he lived to be 78. He owned the trumpet, known for his big band arrangements and his mastery of the instrument, especially his superhuman capacity for pushing the upper range of the horn. "Screaming," they call it. You know, at the end of a big band song, as the band holds a note, you'll suddenly hear, above everything, a trumpet belting out a note an octive above his counterparts? And then maybe switching higher still, to a fifth above that? That was him. What fascinated me so much about Maynard Ferguson back when I used to play jazz trumpet myself (poorly) was, first of all, his arrangements. My band played his charts and they were sparkling compositions. Really great. The second was a story I'm not even sure is true. But the story was that he blew out his lips, and in order to reconstruct them, he had to have skin and muscle from his buttocks grafted onto his mouth. Disgusting and kind of cool!

Maynard Ferguson played until he died, suddenly becoming sick after a recent gig in late July. He died with all four of his daughters by his side. Working until the end and being surrounded by family sounds pretty okay to me.

You know what doesn't sound like a good way to die? Running out of gas on the 710 freeway and being hit by a 18-wheeler. That's what almost happened to me last night. I ran out of gas like a dodo because I'm stupid and have a new car and am stupid. Having never run out of gas before, I didn't know that the car really just dies. It doesn't care if you're in the middle of lanes with traffic going 70mph around you. It stalls and the steering and brakes lock up and you die. Or almost. I was lucky enough to have the momentum to get over to the shoulder. And I called AAA and waited for over half an hour, visions of those cop-car-made "Scariest Police Videos" of cars getting sidewiped while stopped on the freeway. I was in the middle of nowhere with nothing to walk to and no way to get there anyway, so I switched between sitting in the passenger seat with the seatbelt on, and being scared of the car getting run into, and getting out. But then being scared of flying debris kicked up from the trucks going by a foot away from my face, and getting back in. And to top it off, my cell phone was almost out of juice. Eventually the guy came, but he didn't bring gas as promised, so he had to flatbed the car and then we drove around Commerce looking for a gas station, as he'd never been to that (gross) neighborhood before. We eventually found gas and once I tipped him for saving my life, he was very friendly and waited while I pumped gas. And then he laughed at me for running out of gas in the first place, but that was okay because we were friends by that point and that's what friends do.

I was on my way to the Bicycle Casino for the first time to watch the WPT-organized benefit tournament for Paul Hannum, my friend who died a month ago. It was a 1000 dollar buy-in event and I got to see some of my friends make it to the final two tables, playing with the likes of Chris "Jesus" Ferguson (no relation, I don't think...), John Juanda, Phil Laak, a very drunk Gavin Smith, (who organized the event along with WPT CEO Steve Lipscomb), and The Bride of Chucky herself, Jennifer Tilly, who went on to win the whole thing. The event raised lots of money for Paul's soon-to-be-born child, as well as gifts and toys.

Aside from my almost dying, it was a very nice night.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Sounds of Silence

Shhhh. Oh my god. That's so great. That's so- The quiet. It's so fucking beautiful! I'm sorry, I just had no idea how much I missed this. Let's enjoy it while it lasts. Shh...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

An Open Letter To The Guy Advertising His Screenplay On The Eagle Rock Car Wash Bulletin Board

Dear Barry,

I was getting my car washed the other day because it had half of all the bugs between Seattle and Los Angeles on it, and I was walking down that long, dark corridor where you can watch your car going through the machinery. There should be videogames there, but at this car wash, there are none. There is nothing, except this weird little bulletin board where people advertise used washing machines, or sublets, or their real estate practice. (Sometimes the real estate guys get very fancy and put on a tuxedo for the occasion. Quite a nice touch. I mean, come on. My real estate agent is wearing a tux! Of course you're going to sell your house to me. He's wearing a tux!)

And because there was no Tekken 2 machine with half the buttons broken, or one of those bootleg Japanese "HAPPY FUN GAME!!!" machines with some weird hacked Dig Dug rip-off from the '80's involving penguins or bubbles with faces, I scanned the board. And I came across your little card advertising your screenplay.

I mean. I like the color. Fuchsia, right? And that comet sticker you put on there. Really catches the eye and highlights the fact that it is indeed an "Original Story." And I like the fact that you have an agent. That shows me that you're professional and you don't really need me, which, as we all know, is key, because we don't like neediness in Hollywood, right... Barry? (Can I call you Barry? Because, you know, it's written there. In nice block letters. With no last name. Just, you know, Barry.)

But let get serious for a second, Barry. Eagle Rock? I mean, I love my little townlet. It's up and coming yet still diverse, it's a bit removed yet close enough to everything. Great restaurants, a college town, a few hip bars, great pizza, cafes with free WiFi, etc. etc. But, you know, it's still Eagle Rock. It's not like any reputable producers are on their lunch break from their offices on Wilshire and are hopping over to Eagle Rock to get their car washed. And a car wash? I mean. You know. A car wash bulletin board. I mean, I love the entrepreneurial spirit and the thinking outside the box, but a car wash?

I know how hard it is to get past the velvet rope or over the wall or whatever metaphor you'd like to fuck up. God knows I struggled for years to get someone, anyone, to read my shit. I mean, I've worked steadily in this business for over 4 years now and I still have no idea how you do it. But there are smarter ways to get noticed, is my point. Ways that better use your energy and resources (and that preserve your sticker collection) -- craft a great, funny query letter and send it to the young agents at all the reputable agencies, enter screenwriting contests, search Craiglist for screenwriting groups and network from there, make a no budget short and put it on YouTube, start a blog. There are lots of good ideas... and then there's a fuchsia notecard in a dark corridor in the car wash in Eagle Rock.

I've said it before, but this business is all about "evidence." No one will hire you or sign you or even blow you if someone else hasn't hired you or signed your or blown you first. To circumnavigate this fucking monster Catch-22, you must create a body of evidence proving your talent/blowability, which will then hopefully act as a substitute for that first job, blow or otherwise. In less fellatiotic terms, you have to collect a bunch of small external validations of your talent that will look, to the shiny, hungry, myopic eyes of The Business, close enough to internal, Hollywood validation to confuse them.

I got my first agent because she read my blog. But I only really "got" her because I then had scripts to send her which were professional and, well, good. And I also had positive reviews of plays I'd had produced. And I'd done well in screenplay competitions. I had a tape of a short I'd written and produced. And then when we met, I displayed to her an understanding of the business, because I had done my research. I couldn't afford to buy Variety, so I went to 7-11 every day after my temp job and stood there and read it cover to cover. And once I got her, I continued to amass evidence with and without her help. And I continued to write like a fiend. And from there I got my manager. And then moved to a different agency. And so on and so on.

I know, Barry, that it seems impossible when you come to this town and know no one and nothing. And so you throw darts blindly in all directions. I guess my point is that it is possible, with a lot of hard work, to get to the point that you're at least facing the dartboard.

Wishing you the best,


ps: But come on, just between me and you. You don't really have an agent. Because if you do: fire her.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sarah Hall's Rejected Punny Movie Tie-In Titles For Reporting On Kate Hudson's Divorce From Chris Robinson

Almost Single
You, Me, And A Divorce Attorney
200 Marijuana Cigarettes
Dr. C And The Women... You'll Now Be Able To Have Sex With Because You'll Soon Be Single
Le Divorce

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Public Art, Private Confession

Is it okay that I kind of have the hots for the green dress-wearing, vaguely evil-looking violinist on the mural visible when you're driving North on the 110 through downtown?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Oh, Snap!

From today's Daily Variety:

All the pundits and big time agents and bloggers and politicians and religious leaders scolding you don't mean shit. When Kirk Douglas feels the need to weigh in, you're officially fucked.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Requiem For An Acquaintance

There is a guy name Paul. I played poker with Paul just about every Monday night for the last two years. Paul is a nice guy. Paul is a young, healthy man. Paul is fortyish and plays very crafty poker and enjoys bluffing, and is a gentleman when called on his bluffs, and at all other times. Paul takes a long time to make decisions and his mind is agile and fierce and if you're sitting across from him at the poker table and you are the subject of his gaze, it is a fearful stare and believe me Paul can make you squirm. Paul is a gifted poker player and a very nice man, and one who makes his living photographing poker players and running camera for the World Poker Tour. Paul is loved by many and liked by even more.

Paul played in a tournament earlier this week and went home complaining of stomach pains. He thought perhaps he contracted food poisoning from bad pizza or whatever he ate at the tournament and went so far as to call another participant to see if he too felt ill. The other person did not. Paul replied on his evite for our weekly Monday night game that he was too sick to play that week. We thought nothing of it.

On Tuesday he went to the hospital and sat in the emergency room for seven hours and was seen and sent home. He returned later that night and sat for another seven hours. During his unimaginably long wait, his appendix ruptured. Such a small thing. Such an insignificant, tiny, sitcom thing. His appendix. Stupid, unnecessary appendix. What a cliché organ to be inflamed. Finally, he was seen. But too late. After two surgeries, Paul died.

In truth, I cannot say that Paul was my friend. I might say he was my friend if I ran into him in, say, Greece while on vacation and we saw each other at the airport and in the refracted light of the bizarre, unexpected encounter in a distant, strange land I might say, "That was my friend Paul! Unbelievable to run into him here in Crete!" But no, Paul is not my friend. He was an acquaintance. His number was not in my cell phone. I simply saw him every week and admired his play and enjoyed his company. His loss is not one that fills me with honest, true, full, blinding grief. That providence is saved for his girlfriend, who is seven months pregnant with his child, and his family, and his true friends, like my friend Becky. No, real grief is the providence of those who worked with him day in and day out and who mourn his sudden, horrific, cruel, sick, unimaginable death like a razor slash to the face. I simply reel in the loss and the dull ache of this wonderful life we all share that can turn in such amazingly unexpected, awesome, ridiculously tragic seconds like the sound of an orchestra strike, an earthquake at 4am while your cats drape themselves across your bed, snoring.

I do weep for my acquaintance Paul. I have no right to the grief and I don't want it. I really don't. But I weep for him nonetheless. Real tears. For him. Not for my dead father or anyone else who has passed. For him. For Paul. Hurt more acute than I have earned.

Goodbye, my friend. I am so sorry.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Reality Television

I love the windowless WGA van in the beginning. I picture them driving slowly by Spago, the doors opening up, and suddenly Akiva Goldsman, Paul Attanasio, and David Crane jump out dressed in black, grab Brian Grazer and throw him in the back. His spiky hair quivering as they drive away.