According to the little-known Osmosis Theory of Writing, while trying to write a tight, sharp, crime thriller, you should watch a tight, sharp crime thriller, like, say, Ronin (directed by John Frankenheimer, screenplay by David Mamet on JD Zeik‘s story). It helps if it’s got insane chase scenes over roads you used to travel regularly (Paris, Nice, La Turbie). If you do this, the doors will fly open, and your screenwriting muse will spray you with inspiration, like so much shrapnel in a waterfront ambush.
That’s the theory, anyway.
Your screenwriting kit should include: Ronin (with the Frankenheimer’s commentary) and his 1962 classic, The Manchurian Candidate, on DVD, and Frankenheimer interviews at The Onion AV Club and Movie Express.
Iraqi troops aren’t puttin’ up a good enough fight for you? Your teams didn’t make it into the Final Four? Your need to engage, even vicariously, in tales of the life-consuming urge to win is going unmet? Read Anna Ditkoff’s under-the-skirts, behind-the-scenes look at the Miss Gay Maryland pageant. [via Romenesko’s Obscure Store]
[Doing sultry, smoky ballads instead of the more common, flashy, diva dance numbers] is a risky gamble, and in the four times that Jenkins has gone to Miss Maryland he has never placed higher than fourth. “In a contest, it’s about the crown, it’s about the name, it’s about the recognition, it’s about all these things that some of these insecure girls really, really have to have. And they’re willing to do anything for it,” Jenkins says. “For me, if I win, I win. If I don’t, I don’t, but you’ll remember me. You will remember my name.”
Drag competitions, drill team championships, Westminster, rhythmic gymnastics, ice skating, track, cricket, baseball– I better stop there for now. Jennie Livingston‘s amazing 1990 documentary about Harlem drag balls, Paris is Burning, is currently only available on VHS.
Hardly ever, frankly. But William Hamilton’s wonderful story of the Kellams, a couple who lived alone, together, on an island off Mount Desert Island, really got me for some reason. Hamilton mentions David Graham’s book about the couple, Alone Together, published by Ponds Press
“What did he read to you,” Mrs. Kellam was asked…
“It was always the right thing,” she answered…
Kippy Stroud, a summer resident who runs an arts camp on Mount Desert Island, said, “We just admired them so much.” Ms. Stroud introduced Mr. Graham, William Wegman and other artists to Placentia to see the Kellams’ world as it faded, like a patch of light in a forest.
The story has the best ending I’ve ever read.
Bill & Nada’s Cafe was where I had my first script idea. It’s not that the Salt Lake dance clubs were cooler than the ones in Provo, there were no dance clubs in Provo. (Don’t talk to me about The Palace; that was like a church dance in Orange County). So we’d drive to Salt Lake to go out. Finding a designated driver was never a problem (think about it). Then after the clubs closed, we’d go to Bill & Nada’s. Much cooler than Denny’s. And full of characters, whether at 3AM or 8AM or lunchtime. Clubbies trying to be bad, punks, mothers with home-dyed hair, Willy Lomans, and always a few grizzled friends of Bill at the counter, truckers, probably. Or prospectors.
It was the time warp kind of diner that hadn’t changed since the early sixties. Ancient country music on the jukeboxes (one on each table. There’d always be some jerk who’d order up Patsy Cline’s Crazy ten times, just as he was getting his check. Damn college kids.) The most famous dish was eggs & brains, but I’d always get pancakes (“Breakfast served all day”), which were orange (fertilized eggs, they’d say) and tapioca pudding. Or a patty melt. Every hour, the head waitress’d saunter over and spin the wheel. If your seat number hit, your order was free (there are little stick-on numbers at each spot, it turns out). There’s a vintage Field & Stream-like mural of a mountain lake on one wall, and a portrait of Bill, in full metal jacket and chaps, on his show horse. Just like in the Pioneer Day parade, every July.
There were stories, told on the way home, about why the pictures of Bill & Nada are so old, too. “Go ask where she is,” some smart ass’d say, but no one ever did. Uncovering the urban legend we were sure lurked behind Bill & Nada’s was to be my first documentary, I decided; So many characters! And so quirky! (I was running the International Cinema program at BYU my senior year.) Half-assed research and writing efforts in the following years yielded one problematic result: there was no mystery, nothing lurking behind anything at Bill & Nada’s. What do you do when the reality turns out to be far less sensational than what you’d built it up to be in your mind? In my case, you go to business school, I guess.
I found this meal ticket from Bill & Nada’s today while sorting through some tax receipts. I bought it for the clean design. Despite the slogan, Bill & Nada’s closed at the end of 1999. On their last night in business, I took my DV camera down there and roamed around for a couple of hours, capturing the atmosphere, shooting detail shots, so I could recreate it on a set, when the time came. Looks like longtime patron Bert Singleton did the same thing before they tore the place down last January.
LIVE@WTC DESIGN PRESS CON. PIX ETC 2 FOLLOW
In the Casino resaurant, not the slightest impedance at all to getting in, no drop in temperature perceptible to his skin, Slothrop sits down at a table where somebody has left last Tuesday’s London Times. Hmmm. Hasn’t seen one of them in a while….Leafing through, dum, dum de-doo, yeah, the War’s still on, Allies closing in east and west on Berlin, powdered eggs still going one and three a dozen, “Fallen Officers,” MacGregory, Mucker-Maffick, Whitestreet, Personal Tributes…Meet Me in St Louis showing at the Empire Cinema (recalls doing the penis-in- the-popcorn-box routine there with one Madelyn, who was less than– ) —
Tantivy. Oh shit no, no wait–
“True charm…humblemindedness…strength of character…fundamental Christian cleanness and goodness…We all loved Oliver…his courage, kindness of heart and unfailing good humour were an inspiration to all of us…died bravely in battle leading a gallant attempt to rescue members of his unit, who were pinned down by German artillery…” And signed by his most devoted comrade in arms, Theodore Bloat. Major Theodore Bloat now–
Staring out the window, staring at nothing, gripping a table knife so hard maybe some bones of his hand will break. It happens sometimes to lepers. Failure of feedback to the brain–no way to know how fiercely they may be making a fist. You know these lepers. Well–
Ten minutes later, back up in his room, he’s lying face-down on the bed, feeling empty. Can’t cry. Can’t do anything.
They did it it. Took his friend out to some deathtrap, probably let him fake an “honourable” death…and then just closed up his file…
It will occur to him later that maybe the whole story was a lie. They could’ve planted it easy enough in that London Times, couldn’t they? Left the paper for Slothrop to find? But by the time he figures that one out, there’ll be no turning around.
– Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow p. 293
So I’m reading Gravity’s Rainbow, small, resonant details of which, I freely acknowledge, find their way into the animated musical screenplay. But when I mention Anthony Lane’s writing about Cannes one day and read this bit of Pynchon (set in Nice. !) the next, please understand –please, just don’t sneer– if Lewis’s post the next day about Cannes and the grisly fate of first-time filmmakers weirds me out just a little.
Not that I’ve been expecting a full-blown review for Souvenir in the New Yorker…but, maybe a smart little bit in Talk of the Town…
Post-script: A reader pointed out that using the mass media to send messages to the troubled protagonist is a plot point in The Bourne Identity as well. So what are you saying? That stealing ideas from Pynchon, the best I can hope for is to be Robert Ludlum? Or that I’m (un)consciously campaigning to have Matt Damon play me in the movie?
Film critic Anthony Lane is writing the diary at Slate. So far, it’s been torrid accounts of the perils of writing. It’s pretty suspenseful stuff, journaling as a pitch/plea for giving Lane the Charlie Kaufman Treatment. (Kaufman wrote the screenplay adaptation of Susan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief, which became Adaptation, starring Ms Meryl Streep as Ms Orlean.) Vivid imagery, action movie material, even. Tuesday, rewrite day, for instance:
“If this [my Tuesday as a New Yorker writer] were an Indiana Jones movie, I would merely have proceeded to the next plank in the creaking, swaying rope bridge over a ravine. Below me, the crocodiles gape. One more pace, twice as fraught, will bring me to the fact-checking department, into whose miasmic maw writers far stronger than I have disappeared, their cries fading into the dark. Pray God that I come out alive.
(There’s much more of this in the book, Nobody’s Perfect: Selected Writings from the New Yorker. We should have breakfast about it. London? Fine. Tea.) I enjoy Lane’s writing. A favorite is his 1997 report from Cannes [Yeah, I got the book, hardcover. When you’ve been throwing out the paperback version every week, what can you do? Just buy it!]:
…at Cannes, unlike anywhere else, the act of waiting justifies what you are waiting for, and deepens your need to get there. I wandered around town for two full days in a tuxedo, feeling like the world’s most underused gigolo, for no other reason than to smooth my path into screenings of films from which I would normally run a mile.
Hmmm. Get me Richard Gere on the phone…
K&K’s process: “Mr. Piesiewicz would propose an idea, he said, and then he and Kieslowski would collaborate on a short-story-like prose version of the eventual script. Then Mr. Piesiewicz would write the screenplay, with ample input from Kieslowski.” Heaven was in the short story stage. Kieslowski’s films have topped my list of influences and inspirations for a loong time. (search the site for Kieslowski, or go to the complete movie index for references. And I met Tykwer in 1999 when he was in the US for the run of Run Lola Run. Nice guy. very low key, very smart, and pretty old for a new director, something I don’t think anymore, obviously. Bonus: The article includes a handy pronunciation guide for all three men’s names. Clip it and put it in your wallet for party talk.
The way I read this NY Times article, Joseph Epstein is secretly hoping his advice is wrong. “As the author of 14 books, with a 15th to be published next spring…” he writes, “…don’t write that book, my advice is, don’t even think about it. Keep it inside you, where it belongs.” [via camworld]
Send as-yet unpublished manuscripts; self-published books; slim volumes of verse; literary or creative labors-of-love of all kinds, whether yours or not, to:
Prof. Joseph Epstein (author, most recently, of “Snobbery”)
University Hall 215
1897 Sheridan Rd
Evanston, IL 60208-2240
The campaign appears on searches for the names of directors who inspired/influenced me, either stylistically or professionally (or both). Since all these directors have turned up here during the making of Souvenir November 2001, I figured ads using their names wouldn’t be gratuituous, but relevant. In addition, I figured someone who searches for a director’s name (especially one of these directors) would be a nice audience for the site and the movie; they’re presumably interested not only in independent film, but in the filmmaking process, too. And if we share interest in these directors specifically, well… Here’s an example of the ads:
Damn you, Wes Anderson!
You made me want to make a movie,
so I did. click to read about it.
I spent $10 for each name/ad combination, which, bought about 7-800 impressions (at the retail $15CPM). With this spending cap, the duration of each ad was determined by the frequency of Google searches for each director’s name. Next: results data and analysis for the campaign.
Poetry using Google Adwords: One more non-traditional (at least by contemporary standards) medium for creative expression (besides ebay and amazon reviews, which I mentioned last week.) The difference with adwords, of course, is that it costs you money ($15/thousand views these days). This guy did it in April. I did it in February. 2001.
There are two creative elements of an ad on google, of course: the ad itself, and the keywords it appears on. To drive a little traffic to my site (and to amuse myself, really) I set an ad to appear on searches for “haiku.” It wasn’t that the site that has anything to do with haiku, it was Google’s adword format–which had launched at the end of 2000–which clearly resembled haiku:
to my cluster of sites
through keyword purchase