Saturday, May 31, 2008

Word on the Writing Life

I have been emailing another writer, trying to figure out why a local writing group is heading towards dysfunction city.

Just an acute observation, take it with a slug of vinegar.

There are usually three kinds of writers;
those who talk about it,
those who try to do it
and those who get it done.

Everyone has their 'life'.
For some of us, writing is our life.

Everything else is done just to pay the bills and get more writing time.

You Wanna Be In Movies, Part Five

This security cop couldn't be more serious. He was going to throw me off the lot.

I looked around, David was crossing the parking lot, headed towards an equipment truck. He looked toward me and I waved him over. The security cop asked me my name again.
I didn't say anything, as David walked up, "What's going on?"
"This officer wants to throw me off the set for taking photos."
David shook his head, "I'm one of the crew, he's with me. It's OK for him to shoot photos. He's not taking any pictures of the set, only the museum trains."
The cop looked at David, then at me as he growled, "Fine. Just doing my job."
"Thanks officer."
He gave me a dirty look, threw his clipboard back on the seat, dropped his car into gear.
I looked over at David as the police car threw gravel on us as it hurried off, "Thanks, I appreciate it."
"No problem, that guy is just trying to make points."
"Why didn't he stop me when we were looking at the trains and taking photos?"
"Probably too busy to notice. I've got to get the generator set up."
"Yeah, thanks again." David nodded and walked away.

I went back to my car, slid in and put the camera away. There wasn't going to be much to see around here, the sun was dropping, so I left for the low-rent motel.

Motels, hotels, trains, planes, none of them are any good for sleep. Great to meet people, have some fun, but rest, forget it. Never, if you have a choice, get a room next to a stairwell. Unless you like to hear every drugged/drunk loudmouth in the world stumble around trying to get upstairs or fight with the semi-functional ice machine.

On the other side, I had a couple of construction workers. Been on the road together for ten years, punching holes in the ground for elevators in new buildings. The older one came over as I unloaded the car. He wanted to buy the Porsche, right then and there. Offered me cash for it, as long as I would take a check. Uh, huh, sure. What's it drawn on, the Bank of Wishful Thinking? It turned out that he knew quite a bit about Porsches, except that this one isn't for sale.

We talked for a long time, long enough for them to cook dinner on their barbecue grill, mounted on the back of their work truck. They were completely equipped, two large coolers, one for pop, the other for beer, a frig for their food. Steaks, potatoes, condiments. They offered to cook me a steak, but I declined. Told them I was too nervous about going to my 'job interview' the next day. Which led to the inevitable questions about the 'job'.

I fended this off for about an hour, before I finally told them that it was really just a one day background extra part in a movie. They were surprised that they hadn't heard anything about it. They had been in town for over a week and no one had said anything about a feature film being shot in Chattanooga. I told them that it wasn't that big a deal.

I really wanted to try and talk to the producer or a couple of the stars. I have a screenplay with characters that I think they would be interested in playing.

We talked about my screenplay, "A Model Heist" for a while, I explained to them that it's about war veterans who come home to a changed country. They got the idea, nothing is like it was. Which is the way things work, everything undergoes change, that's what life is, constant change.

What they couldn't understand was the stuff they had to watch on TV. Their big complaint was that everything was either a bad copy or rerun of something that was done better, in the old days. I pointed out that TV shows have a lot of writers and they tend to dilute the product. You know the old saying about "Too many cooks spoil the pot".

Then they asked about movies and I had to tell them that it was the same problem. For some reason, executives seem to think that the more writers they add to a project, the better it gets. After they give them notes on how to write it. Which rarely improves the work.

Look at people like Hitchcock; get a good screenwriter, work out the camera angles, rehearse your actors, shoot the damn film.

Now, everyone's a writer, even the actors. Who also want to direct, produce, etc. Which is why I drove to Chattanooga. You have to know as much as possible about the entire movie business, if you want to play in the game. There comes a time though, when you have to cut to the chase and get the camera rolling.

These good ole boys could understand all of that. They just couldn't understand, with all the money and talent, how the majority of new stuff is terrible. Like I told them. Too many people who want to influence the film or TV show and claim that they were the 'creative force' behind it.

That's not even taking into factor that with all the available networks, you have dilution. Stuff gets thrown against the wall that would never be seen in a more competitive situation.I left them to their cable TV programs and went back to the room to do my daily writing. In this case, a journal entry for the day.

At 10PM, I tried to get to sleep. It was going to be an early call in the AM and the construction guys were going to be up before me. Didn't happen, parking lot noises, random shouts and conversations, general crashing and banging of people hauling themselves up the stairs.

After about 6 hours of fitful sleep, I got up and took a shower. Time to get dressed and head for the set.

My first time on camera in a feature film, please get my good side.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spring Sprung Sprang a Leak

Thought that I would be back with Part Five of the series, but heavy rain, almost all weekend and the past two days.

Which led to the roof over the kitchen leaking down the old chimney vent and into the kitchen. I've moved everything around and have a fan in the kitchen right now, drying the place out. Old farmhouses are so rustic...not to mention crustic. There's never a lack of work around the farm.

We also have been having power surges/outages, which kicks my computer offline. A pain, but you learn to live with it.

Luna has taken to accepting Thor. He just gives her the jaundiced eye when she now hisses and spits at him. His paw is bigger than her head. It's a good thing that he's Mr. Cool.

I'll have the next in the series up yet this week.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Internet Holiday

Took an Internet Holiday yesterday. Didn't get on the computer.

Long hours at the farm, had to get a neighbor's hay baler out of the barn. After he had let it sit over here for the past 9 months. Then spent the rest of the day welding up one of the bushhogs, tuning up and using the chainsaw and then, bushhogging around my house. Just the simple, easy 12 hour day.

Got a new farm cat, "Luna". She's a calico intimidator. Was real quiet when I went to pick her out. Has now turned into a whiny baby, unless Thor's around. Then she hisses, spits, arches her back and stares him down. He just looks at me, disgusted, walks away, then flops on the porch. An 8 ounce kitten backing down an 80 pound German Shepherd

She was sitting in my lap watching me type and had to jump on my fingers then onto the keyboard

Now she's done something to the keyboard and all the spacing and punctuation is acting up

I can't even put a period on the end of the sentences

I'll have to come back to this later

Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Wanna Be In Movies, Part 4

It's easy to get on a movie set. Just drive up in a fancy car and act like you own the place. Which is not what I did, but it sounds like it.

After I had checked in, they sent me to the haircut tent,where I got my genuine, authentic 1920's style haircut. I was told to shave my mustache, shown how to trim my sideburns for the correct look. Then sent back out into the cool March afternoon.

This is when I met the Politician. He came over and commented on the 912, shocked to find out that it wasn't a new car. We discussed how we got the 'job' and did the 'where you from' thing.

We started discussing what we knew about the movie, which wasn't much. As we talked, he asked me if I wanted to see the train. Huh? Like that wouldn't get the crew's attention? I told him that the last thing I wanted to do was to get thrown off the set after I had just got there.

He just smiled and laughed, told me that he had already been through it. We started walking over towards it, then climbed aboard.

I've been on plenty of trains in my life. Taken them all over Europe and England. Other than riding subway trains in New York City, I can't remember ever being on an American train. As a boy in Memphis, I got into trouble one day, playing in the rail yards near my house. If it's got an engine, I have to check it out.

These were older cars, wooden trim, but with steel framework and brass fittings. We wandered around, avoiding the crew as they set up. The cars were in fair condition, not shiny new or over restored. What you would expect from carriages that were seeing service. They had the right look for a film.

Walking through the old cars made me realize just how much things have changed with technology. The last time I had been on a train was an old clunker that took me from London to Southampton. It had a plaque on it that stated it had been built in 1937. It creaked and rattled and felt like it was going to come apart as we banged down the tracks.

Almost like a time trip movie for me, as I had just got off the Eurostar from Paris. We had blasted across the French countryside, in a cocoon of solitude, with nary a ripple in your glass of wine. The scenery outside the window going backwards like a film in hyper reverse, at over 160 MPH. Then into the Chunnel, with the thought of all those tons of seawater pressing against the walls.

We moved through the two cars before I realized that the engine wasn't hooked up to them. The Politician pulled out a cellphone, with a built in camera. He took a few shots, then put it back in his pocket. It only took about ten minutes to look them over and then we were back outside, walking along the tracks. Other actors were arriving, checking in and getting their haircuts.

The Politician and I wound up next to his car, where his girlfriend was talking on her cellphone. He was going to take off, get ready for the big day. I grabbed my camera from my car and went back over towards the old steam engines, away from the movie train cars.

The best light in either in early morning or late afternoon. The sun was just about right for me to get some good shots of the old trains. I positioned myself in the middle of the empty parking lot, shot a few photos. Moved over to get a different angle, heard a car approaching, crunching the gravel behind me. It was a security cop.

He ordered me to come over to the car. Asked me what I was doing with the camera. Resisting the urge to make a snarky comment, I told him, "Taking pictures of the trains."

Mr. Security, who wasn't around to keep me from driving on the set unquestioned, then told me that I was in violation of the rules, laws, edicts and pronouncements of the production company. We would be going to the big tent and I would be thrown off the set.

I couldn't believe it. After just leaving the set, where the Politician had shot photos of it with his cellphone camera, here I was, getting thrown out for shooting photos of trains that weren't going to be in the movie!

Now I was upset. What the hell did I do that was such a crime? I offered to show the cop my photos, so he could see that there weren't any of the movie set.

No dice. The security cop was adamant. He grabbed up a clipboard from the passenger seat and asked me my name.

How was I going to get out of this?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You Wanna Be In Movies, Part 3

It was an uneasy drive to Chattanooga. The entire way, I worried about the car deciding to burn itself down. The first hundred miles, approaching Nashville were easy. The light, Sunday morning traffic wasn't bad, the weather good for March. It's not quite three hundred miles and I covered the distance in less than four hours. The only hassle was an asshole in a pickup truck who wanted to run over the car. It comes with the territory. You drive a sports car, you'll have clowns who hate it. They don't appreciate the good points of the car.

One of the reasons that I drive this car is the great gas mileage. The 912 gets around 30 miles per gallon on the highway, even with the A/C running. One of the other reasons is that I can work on it. Yes, I know, most people hate to check the air in the tires, much less crawl underneath a grimy car to service it. The Porsche's not grimy and it's easy to maintain. Even though it's a four cylinder, it's still fairly fast. I don't need four hundred horsepower, I'll just want to use it. That's why all my big bikes are now gone. Let's just say that it's difficult to have something that will do 150 MPH and not drive it that fast.

I got to Chattanooga two hours early for my haircut. The location was in an older, industrial part of town. I found it without too much trouble. When I rolled onto the set, I was surprised at how deserted it was. No one stopped me at the entrance, I just drove in. There were a few people about, most of them crew who were doing prep work for the day's shoot. I parked the 912 and walked around, getting the lay of the land, so to speak.

They had three medium-sized tents set up for dressing rooms and a place for the caterers. The Tennessee Valley Railroad is a train museum, so they had a pretty good collection of trains. Since I'm a gearhead, I wandered around, up and down the tracks, looking at the different models.

Met a Teamster who used to work on the Union Pacific railroad. David and I wandered around, looking at the old steam engines, then he opened the engine covers, like big steel doors, on one of the newer diesels. Huge engine. I have written service and operator's manuals on big diesels, but nothing like the engine in a train.

The whole time, I was shooting photos. Only after I asked him about doing it. He assured me that as long as I was with him and didn't point my camera towards the train they were going to use for the shoot, that I would be OK. Which was reassuring, since I wanted to at least get some pictures to prove that I had 'been there, done that'. Didn't figure that there were going to be any t-shirts available.

David gave me some background on the movie, told me that they might need people who could drive a Model T Ford. Which I know that I could, but I've never had the chance. My neighbor had one, which I've ridden in, but never driven. Something to look into.

Meanwhile, I checked in, got on the list for my free haircut and met some of the other actors. The first person I met was a dude that I'll call the Politician. He has that tall, semi-dignified attitude, while being just a touch disconnected from what's going on. Glad to meet you and let me show you what I know. Don't worry about a thing, I'm sure that I can do this and not get into any trouble. You, on the other hand, might just get hung for doing it.

I wasn't out of Tennessee and here I was, back swimming with the land sharks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Slight Pause

It's been about a week since my last post. Hectic/frantic week with long hours.

Cracked/fractured a finger last week while bushhogging with the tractor. Doesn't affect my typing, but did slow down my other work. Which left me with less time for the blog.

Will return with "You Wanna Be In Movies, Part 3" in the next day or so.

Monday, May 12, 2008

You Wanna Be In Movies, Part 2

Tell me that you don't do things to attract another person. It doesn't matter which sex you're interested in, we all do what it takes to get their attention. Movies, whether homemade or professional, give a person the double shot of ego boost and personal appeal. You look good on screen, the babes have to love ya, if your head doesn't explode first.

Due to the nature of my community, I decided to not tell anyone about getting this movie job. Instead, I told everyone that I was going to a job interview. Which is the way that I looked at it. Too many times, when mentioning that I've been on a film set, like "Milk Money" or "Hart's War", people would turn frosty towards me. Yes, everyone wants to be in movies, but they don't want to hear about you doing it. So, the game plan was to play it low and cool. No mention of the film, until after it was shot. I have enough problems with people as it is, being a writer.

After all, if I got a chance to talk to the star or one of the producers, maybe I could get some more work. They were going to be shooting in a couple of nearby states over the next few months, so there was hope that I might land a speaking role. I also took a copy of one of my screenplays, which I feel is 'right' for the star. You never know when you're going to get your chance, so you should always be ready. Just don't push it on people. If they ask, then deliver.

The way it looked to me, it was going to be a three day trip. Drive down early Sunday, get the haircut and fitted for my clothes, then the shoot on Monday. Spend Monday night at the motel, leave Tuesday morning, visit a high school teacher on the way back home. When you go to high school overseas, you usually don't get to have any reunions, much less see anyone after graduation. This teacher had mentored me when I was learning photography. I wanted to stop and see him, drop off a copy of my book. So, the route was planned and arrangements made with all concerned.

The casting company didn't give me much notice when the shoot date was decided, probably a security thing. They gave me less than a week, which kicked things into high gear around the farm. My dogs would be taken care of by a neighbor. Another neighbor would get my mail. I drove into town to get oil and parts to do a tune-up on my 30+ year old car.

Maybe it was an omen. You know, a warning that things weren't going to go the way you expect them to. The car's a good vehicle, it's just got some wear on it. It was acting up, bogging down when I tried to accelerate. It was due for a tuneup. I stopped at the car parts store, picked up oil and a filter. Then drove off.

I didn't make it more than 100 feet. The car backfired, I looked into the rear view mirror. There was a ball of flames coming out of the engine compartment. My Porsche was on fire!

This made for the fire dance. I popped the engine cover, whipped off my jacket, threw it on the flames, didn't do any good. Ran back to the door, flipped the seat forward and grabbed the fire extinguisher. Dashed back to the engine, flames are higher than ever. Ripped the pin from the extinguisher, aimed at the bottom of the carburetor, pulled the trigger, powder everywhere. The flames snuffed, I stood back, heaved a sigh of relief.

A couple of good old boys pulled up in their pickup truck. They had been sitting in the Kentucky Fried Chicken, about 50 feet away, watching me. They finished their meal, got a bucket of water and came over to help. About five minutes after the fire started. Which would have been enough time for the entire car to be engulfed in flames. That's why I carry a fire extinguisher. They still wanted to help, but I told them I had it under control.
Then, the driver said, "Hey, what'ca gonna do now, get it towed?"
"Nope, I'll get the trailer from the farm and haul it back home. If it doesn't start."

The driver and his buddy both got a laugh out of that comment. After all, I look like a geek, driving a foreign car that's probably nothing but trouble, so I deserve what I get. I just shrugged at them, then starting taking the air cleaner off.

The next half hour was spent cleaning up the carb, getting as much of the extinguisher powder off the engine. None had got inside the carb, just all over the air cleaner. I put everything back together, then started the car. It ran OK, but I knew that it might quit at any time, so I took off down the road.

This was on Thursday afternoon. I had to leave on Sunday morning. I spent the next two days tearing the Porsche's carbs apart, tuning it up, getting my clothes ready and generally burning the candle at both ends. I still had farm work that had to be done, at the same time.

When I fell into bed on Saturday night, it was after midnight. I got about six hours of sleep, got up, loaded the car and left for Chattanooga. There was a fresh fire extinguisher in the back seat.

The last thing I wanted was Porsche flambe alongside the interstate.

It's not exactly my idea of a good meal.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

You Wanna Be In Movies? Part 1

As promised, the story of how I, a humble, unknown writer, photographer, farm hand, got onto a feature film. Not guaranteed to work for anyone. But it was fun!

It gets cold in the South. Not the bone chilling cold you get in a Northern winter, like a blizzard blowing in out of Canada. The deep snow, howling wind, frostbite kind of cold, which I don't miss a bit. Ohio can have it. It's more a rainy, damp cold, just enough to make your bones creak and your muscles stiff. While your head tries to act like a leaky human faucet.

Around the first of February, 2007, I got an email from Film Nashville. I've been to their soirees and workshops. Used to spend a day and drive up to Nashville to meet people and find out about the film community. Went to acting classes, showed up for auditions, did a 48 Hour Film one year. Attended meetings of the Tennessee Screenwriters, everybody hopeful that their screenplay would get bought and they would have to give up hearth and home for the wilds of Hollywood. I did this for about three years, but slowly stopped making it a monthly trip. It was eating into my savings and my writing time.

The email had a notice that a feature film was going to need extras. It would be one day of work, so it wouldn't be too much of a strain. I didn't have a hope in hell of getting any work from this gig, but being bored, sitting in the living room/office, knowing that the weather wasn't going to let up for at least another couple of months...what the hell.

Did a self-portrait, up against the living room wall, once I removed the General McArthur poster. Figured out my hat size, all those other pertinent personal details that they need when they put you in costume. Put the info on the back of the headshot that I printed up for the casting company. Typed up a letter. Slid it all into a big, manila envelope.

On my trip into town that week, I mailed if from the post office. They have almost gotten used to my letters and packages to people in strange places like New York and LA. I usually tell Beverly what's in them, but didn't this time.

I went to the library, got some books and a couple of DVDs, went back to the homestead. Read the books, background info for the novel that I'm working on, watched the DVDs. Forgot all about the headshot.

When the weather wasn't freezing cold, I would do repair work on the farm equipment. Came in from the tractor shed one afternoon and the phone was blinking at me. It was the casting company.

They had called while I working, wanted to know if I was going to be available for the shoot. I sat down and looked at the calendar, then the map. Then I called them up to find out the specifics of the situation.

They explained that I needed to 'stop by' and get fitted for my clothes and get a proper 'era' haircut the day before filming. Uh huh, anything else? Just wear a white dress shirt, dark dress slacks and dress shoes. No problem, part of the work uniform when I was a corporate type.

Would I be able to confirm being a 'background extra' for them. I begged off, I wanted to check and be sure that I would be able to get someone to take care of things on the farm. They agreed to let me call them the next day to let them know whether I was going to do it or not. I got off the phone.

Then, I started laughing.

They thought that I lived somewhere near Chattanooga. In truth, I would have to drive about 300 miles to get to the set. When I figured out the wages, cost of a motel room, gas, etc. I would be paying to be in the movie.

Still, how often do you get the chance to be in a feature film with a couple of Academy Award winners?

Yeah, I buy lottery tickets every so often, too.

This would mean possibly getting my mug up on the big screen.

Then again, it might wind up being stepped on, while reposing on the cutting room floor.

Either way, it would give me time on a feature film set. Which would give me some perspective as to how a major film gets shot. All of which would help when I write a screenplay.

Who am I kidding?

I did it for the women.

Flea Market Weekend

How thrilling can things get?

Not very, especially when the highpoint of your weekend is going to the flea market.

I loaded up the old Gilson Brothers rototiller, it's about thirty years old and a big, heavy-duty model. An animal that can drag you across the garden if it hooks up and takes off. 8 horsepower will do that.

It's been sitting in the smokehouse for the past two years. Since we got the four foot wide tiller for the small tractor, I didn't have any reason to use the Gilson. Someone out there will love to have it, beats the hell out of using a hoe. They can also cancel their health club membership. You can lose about two pounds in an hour, but you won't be able to pick up a glass of water the next day!

Saturday is the best day down at the flea market. The religious folks frown on doing any Sunday sales, but will be out in force with their plants, canned and baked goods. I had a late night Friday, working on cleaning up the tiller and getting a few other goodies ready for the market. Got a late start and didn't make it to the market until almost 10:30. Much later than my planned 8 o'clock.

It didn't make any difference. There was hardly anyone around. Set up my wares, putting out all the stuff from my grandmother that I find to be unmanly around the house. Like woven baskets, old glassware, stuff like that. If it's not car/motorcycle parts or books, I don't need it.

Got to talking to the folks across the way. I set up near them, since they have the local used book emporium. We had a pretty lively discussion going with difference groups of people. Most of whom were looking and not buying. It all boiled down to the economy or lack of it.

They told me that they had good business up until about 18 months ago. Then, weekly customers started coming around every couple of weeks, now they show up about once a month. Gas prices are keeping people from getting out and travelling.

For me, it's about 22 miles to the flea market. An average trip for me. The closest town is more than five miles. They have one store, one restaurant (OK, that's stretching it, but I can't call it a cafe, either), a bank and a junk shop. That's all, no post office. It's ten miles to the post office.

To a town with more than 210 people, it's 17 miles. So, you waste an hour doing anything. One of the reasons that I don't leave the farm more than a couple of times a month. Get the list out, hit all the stores, etc. then back to the homestead.

It gives me plenty of time for writing, when I don't have to deal with the farm.

The flea market was a bust. The bookseller maybe sold $25 worth of books and old glassware. I didn't even do that well. I sold a dog cage and a little kid's red wagon. The tiller's still here, now back in the tractor shed, waiting for next weekend.

I couldn't even sell my "Diesel Smoke Makes Me Horny" license plate, even though about a dozen people stopped to fondle it.

Now, that's a depressed economy.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Swamped in Cherry Bottom

What a week. I planned on having at least three more posts up, but there has been more work and unexpected incidents. Will have the posts on the feature film up this weekend.

This past Monday was a 20 hour day. Farm life is simple, you 'make hay while the sun shines'. Grab a five hour nap and get up to do it again. Unless you have about three inches of rain, then you deal with the problems that causes. Like a leaky roof. It's an old farm house, so it comes with it's share of character.

Some of my tardiness can be laid off on the fact that I got a nice, second-degree burn on the palm of my hand over the weekend. Hadn't gas welded anything in awhile. After I welded up a broken handle on a rototiller, I went to move it about five minutes later. Without my welding gloves on. It's a lovely, silver dollar-sized burn, right where your palm folds over when making a fist. Yes, it hurts and it bleeds nicely also. Didn't hurt the rototiller at all.

All the wet weather has given the bugs and varmints impetus to harass people. When the Wisconsin Wildman showed up the other day to scream about politics, we stood in the driveway and talked about current events for a while. My ankle started to itch, raised my pants leg and found six ticks! WW was standing there in t-shirt, shorts and sandals, he just looked at me, "Why aren't there any on me?"
"Hell, I don't know, maybe they like that cruise ship soap that I'm using, maybe they like the taste of me." It ended the conversation, then and there. He jumped into his truck and I went into the house. I was now itching, just south of my navel. Where I found that I had five more ticks, one of which had already hooked into me. They wanted to have my genitalia for breakfast. Not the way to start the day.

Later in the afternoon, working in the tractor shed on a piece of farm equipment, I walked outside, looked up the lane towards the old log cabin. There was a stick next to the school bus, just past the dump truck. Which wasn't there five minutes earlier. It didn't seem to be a car part from my father's esoteric collection of motor vehicles. He also has an ambulance. I have no problem with prop cars when I want to shoot a video!

The stick moved, raised it's head. Hmm, a serpent in the lane. Not good. I walked over towards it. Got about twenty feet away from the sucker. He was stretched out, digesting his meal of chicken eggs. My neighbor had told me that she didn't get any hen fruit that day, which didn't make any sense. It did now.

From a distance, it looked like a chicken snake. Which, surprise, surprise, eats chicken eggs. This one was about five feet long. He pivoted his head towards me. It was more triangular than I liked, so I went back and got a pistol. I prefer a shotgun when dealing with snakes, but you use what you have.

Now, I know that all of you gun control people out there are probably screaming about this, but how many large snakes have you faced in your life? I get to deal with about three a year, sometimes more. This was the second one this year, the first was a small copperhead that wanted to bite me when I opened the door to the tractor shed. I crushed his head with my boot heel. Remind me sometime to tell you the story about the python.

Most snakes take off and run when they see a human or a dog. Not this one. He just stayed there, sunning himself. I was about twenty feet away, had to call Thor back. He wanted to inspect the reptile. I stood next to the dump truck, getting an angle that would lessen the possibility of a ricochet hitting any farm equipment. The first round hit him about four inches behind the head. He coiled up, wanting to fight. I put two more rounds downrange, hitting him right behind the head and then a head shot. Now he was flipping around, snakes will do that for hours, even with a kill shot. I walked closer, missed, hit with the next round and then missed again as he flopped some more.

Thor was wanting to get in on the action, but stayed back after I called him off. He could sense the danger and tried to stay between me and the snake. I walked over and poked the snake with a tree branch. It was a water moccasin, also called a cottonmouth. One of the few snakes that are aggressive and will come after you. Nothing like a poisonous reptile in the driveway.

I went and got the neighbor, to get his opinion. This was the first cottonmouth that I had seen in a long time. Snakes vary in color, due to age and injury. I pried his mouth open and we both looked at those needle-like fangs. I picked him up and threw him into the back of an old pickup truck. Want to get a photo later.

We got another couple of inches of rain yesterday and that slowed me down. The electric system is so funky that I can't use the computer during a storm. We either get an electrical surge or a power outage, either one kicks in my battery back-up and throws me off the internet and the computer. Spent most of the day reading a book, "Free Lunch" by David Cay Johnston. This book should be required reading for everyone in the country. Especially in an election year.

I won't even go into the emails that I should have answered earlier this week. There are a couple of people out there who are probably wondering what I'm doing. I try to answer my emails immediately after I receive them, unless they require research or other work. Will get those caught up ASAP.

It's Friday, wonder what the weekend is going to be like.

Probably just another boring day in the country.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hollywood, Lawyers, The Office and Me

A friend in Hollywood suggested, months ago, that I write about my efforts to 'get to Hollywood'. Which is interesting in and of itself, since I've been out to LA five times now. They weren't vacations, each time I went was due to the Biz, or as it's known to the rest of the world, Hollywood and the movies.

The first time was due to an agent. He told me that my screenplay 'has potential', wanted to meet with me. This was before the internet and cellphones were common. You called people long distance, sent a letter or went and met them. Doing what any normal, level-headed person would do, I quit my job and drove to the West Coast. Yes, I used capital letters, it's a nation unto itself.

You want the grimy details on that trip, it's covered in my book, "Going Dutch, Trials of a Wage Slave". Let's just say that the agent and I weren't a good match and leave it at that.

I won't bore you with the details of the other trips. A couple were for a film commission that I worked with in Ohio. The last two were for screenwriter conferences and meetings. You have to stay up to speed, even if you live in the hills of Tennessee, if you want to get your movie made.

Even here, we have Hollywood come to visit. I've attended the Nashville Screenwriters Conference and got some great advice. One of the lawyers that flew in from New York gave the definitive breakdown on the writer hierarchy. Let me give you the short list.

1) Playwrights
2) Novelists
3) Screenwriters

Playwrights have almost total control, right down to the sets and director. Novelists work with an editor, who usually has notes on the work in progress. Screenwriters get to hear from everyone, the director, the producer, the actors, the studio suits, ad infinum. Guess which writer has the most power?

Which is why I have gone back to writing novels. I would like to write a play, but that would mean having to stage it. Rather difficult here, there aren't too many theaters around and the local high school productions are a bit reserved. Don't expect to see "Oh, Calcutta" or "Hair" being done down at the local school anytime soon.

As for the screenplays. I still write them. I still send them out. Some are being rewritten as novels. I don't give up on projects. Why should I, after all the work that has gone into them.

When I wrote "Going Dutch, Trials of a Wage Slave", it was before "The Office" became a big hit in the USA. My work in different industries and my last corporate job were pretty funny situations. They were both hilarious and funny strange.

Funny strange due to the office politics and power plays by different people and groups in the companies. In time, I have displaced the anger that I felt during the game playing with humor. Reflecting on the efforts of some of the non-performers, who were just scared people trying to do what they could to keep their jobs. Right up to and including lies, rumors, innuendo and conspiracy. As seen on TV!

You have to wonder about people who go home from work to watch TV about people at work in an office. TV used to be all game shows, historical shows and sitcoms. The reality stuff is almost a farce. Which is probably one of the most accurate reflections of our current society.

I now have added 'blogger' to my repertoire. Which is almost as effective as standing on the front porch, talking into the wind. You get the words out, but you really have to wonder if anyone is listening to you. Does George Bush do this at the White House?

One of my next posts will be about another one of my efforts to 'get to Hollywood'. In this case, I was cast as a 'background extra' on a feature film. Part of it was shot in Tennessee.

The film's out now. I haven't been to see it. Don't know if it's going to make the local theater or not. They only play one movie a week. Talk about a 'one horse town'.

Which means that I can always wait until in comes out on DVD. If they still make DVDs.

There is more than one way to 'get to Hollywood'.

The main thing is that you do it your way.