Thursday, May 27, 2010

C&W, "...the medication of the rural masses..."

Well, its Thursday morning, and I'm wondering if I still know how to do this—it's been so long since I've posted. I'm still in Boulder, waiting to see if I have a job in Austin. As I mentioned before, I got some interest in my film script, 'Blackout Blues', and went to Los Angeles to meet with the producer and the director of three films, actually, the first, 'Love and The Texas Sky' is a love story that takes place, (ironically) in Austin, Texas, then my film will get made second, and then a western yet to be determined. So, its been really an exciting time for me, except I know with this business things can change in a day. So, I've tried to be optimistic, but hold out a part of myself for disappointment in the event that it all turns to not. So many things can change the scenario. The director finds another movie script he's interested in. The money falls through. The great thing, however, with this deal has been the producer, who has kept me in the loop every couple of days. He's very determined, and seems to have a real handle on what he's doing. The other cool thing about this whole process is that the reason I even 'got the job' is because of a play script and my resume, which is lengthy after years of doing theatre. In fact, as I was just looking at it this morning, I thought, "this resume is unbelievable!" There are some years I remember doing eight plays, (not all of them mine) but 1996 and 1997 were banner years . We had two theatres going at the same time. Some nights, one play would be up in one theatre with another playing in the other. Keep in mind, these were 'new' plays, which sounds trivial, but there are always issues with new plays. Because we didn't have loads of money, we had to entice good actors to 'want to do a new play'. To flesh out the other parts, they were often cast with actors who were novice, or in many cases had never been on the stage before. This was sometimes very good, and sometimes very bad. They were years of very little sleep.

Continuing on with the film story, when I did Bohemian Cowboy in Los Angeles, I made sure to 'sprinkle' some other plays around the theatre. I was always in the office, pitching a new play. Miracle upon miracles, one of the plays that I have mentioned, 'Under the Desert' was read and partly performed in a class by a young actress there. She wanted to produce the play, but couldn't raise the money. Enter Sean Thomas, the actor and producer I am working with now. He told me, (his words) "it was the best play he's read in eight years." (I don’t' know why he chose eight years, but I was happy with that!) He wanted to produce it. So, thus begins the odyssey of the movie chase. At the same time, he came in contact with a director, Steven R Monroe, who was looking for film scripts. Sean told him he knew a writer who's play he had just read who was really, really, good. (Sorry I have to blow my own horn here, but he said it not me) Enter the negotiation of the film scripts and synopses that would consume my next three weeks, now further, the weeks that have passed since that three weeks. After I had sent the director five screenplays, he read and wanted me to come to Los Angeles to meet. It was a great meeting. I have to tell you here, after a good meeting, talking about making your script into a movie, it doesn't matter what happens after that, because like theatre, on that particular day, you are walking on cloud nine. After a meeting like that in Hollywood, you walk down the street and feel like you own the city! Then the next day comes, and then you have to find that next meeting, and that next meeting. You have to keep the interest in your work with others 'high'. So, this is when the finesse happens. Its also when you get out all 'your chops' out and begin to write, write, write. You can't imagine the e-mails I've sent, the sample work, the notes I've taken, the working night into morning. It's been busy. And, like I told you when Kurt and I were working in LA on Bohemian Cowboy, no one seemed to know what we were doing in the rehearsal room, sitting with pens and a script, re-writing and discussing the strategy. People around the theatre would politely shut the door and let us continue. Until they saw the show we produced. It’s a little of the same here. I've been holed up in this trailer in Lower Boulder, writing all kinds of strange things. I think everyone is thinking, "What's he doing in there?" After I had exhausted what notes I had taken, I started to work on an old play. During the periods of thinking, "This ain't going to happen…" I always go back to a play. When you are on the inside of working on a play, it doesn't matter what is happening in the rest of the world. You could be starving, not showered for days, your body could be hurting, the sky could be falling, but when you come away from a day with good writing, none of that matters. It’s a little hard to describe. Oh, it's like being addicted to a drug.

After seeing 'Crazy Heart' for the third time, I started tearing into my boxes for my play, C&W, which was written and produced in 1996, I believe. Not that it was a similar story, but it was the same theme, a country music singer who hits bottom and disappears into Montana to try and recover. His 'posse', manager, ex-girlfriend, bass player, locate him and go to Montana to lure him back into the fold. It is a wild play, and when I did it in Phoenix, the critics didn't know what to think of it. They had never been around these kind of drinkers, the kind that would get out their guns and guitars for an evening of either, love or torture. Even though I had seen these things happen, (and been a part of them) the critics thought this was impossible, for someone to act like this. It was funny, really, to read what they would say in the papers. The reviews were reluctantly good, and I tried to extend it, until the actress who was playing the ex-girlfriend started acting exactly like her character in the play. (She ran off to Vegas with someone she had met at the play one night) so I had to close the play. I didn't have the energy to rehearse and find another actress for the part. So, in short, the play died. This often happens with plays, if you have a season lined up and people waiting to rehearse their plays it's very hard to say, "Let's run this play for six months and see what happens…" So, you close the show and move on. Still, I've always had this play in my mind. It's only taken twelve years to get back to it. However, after twelve years of writing and living, it’s a marvel what begins to happen once you get back inside of it. The next issue was that I couldn't find a hard copy of the play, and I'd written it on an old computer that has long since gone to the bone yard. "My God, I thought, a complete play disappeared into hardware obscurity…" So, the search began. Finally, after going through disk after disk, I found a disk that had 'remnants' of the play. This hard drive had been saved on several disks, tucked in a box without labels. I begin to find a scene here and a scene there on these disks. After a day long search, I had pieced back together an old version of the play. I went to work in a frenzy of five days, rewriting, adding, restructuring, and getting the document back in order. It was a tedious joy. (is that an oxymoron?) After day three, my right arm, I began to notice, was getting sore. When I tried to lift it over my head, I realized how much. Yes, I had gone on a five day 'play jag'. It's like an alcohol bender, only I think healthier for you, even though at the end of the five days it feels similar to a hangover. So, finally, yesterday, I had a finished product of 'C&W, "…the medication of the rural masses…". Many of the songs I have written over the last ten years fit perfectly into the play. In many ways, its one of my best plays, (I always say that after one of these jags), only because it has a structure that covers less than twenty-four hours. I always loved plays that were tight in the time period. I always thought, if you could reveal the whole history of character in twenty-four hours, that was an achievement. It's my 'Long Day's Journey Into Night' play. I always approached a drama by saying, "What was the worst day of this character's life, and what happened on that day?" (Playwrights, It’s a great approach to a play.) So, what to do with it? I sat last night in the parking lot of Hills and Hollows Store in Boulder, (I don't have internet down here) and sent the play off to anyone and any theatre I could think of. That's the life, that’s the pursuit of some sort of happiness for me. For five days, it didn't matter what happened with the movie, (I still haven't got the call to pack my bags) 'the play is the thing, that will catch the conscious of the king…" So said William Shakespeare. A funny thing I noticed. When I'm writing like that, my hair begins to stand straight up on my head, as though all the electricity of my body is all in my brain. It's really quite funny to look up into a mirror and see your hair sticking up like a bolt of electricity has just shot out of the top of your head. Does that happen to anyone else? Is this some kind of physical phenomenon ? Good Lord, people would think I was crazy if I opened up my door! They may be right!

Of course, there have been other things happening. Baby had her first encounter with a skunk. So, we've had to deal with that. She can't figure out why I won't pet her right now. She can't figure out why she can't sleep on the bed. I've heard all the remedies, (washing her in tomato juice seems to be the most common one) We've now had two baths, but now the smell of skunk has permeated the trailer, my clothes, and my being. I hope she learned that skunks are not cats or dogs… we'll see.


Gerry said...

It's been a long time since you wrote, son, but I see you still have been writing, writing, just not on your blog. I still remember C&W and what an exciting premiere that was with some genuine acting country western types as your side kicks, girlfriends, and managers. There surely must have been a country western ma in there somewhere like Ma Barker. You should see the video Doc forced me to make in which I discuss my terrible preoccupation with sobering up old drunks until they die still vowing to stay drunk until the end, cigarette falling out of their cold dead hands. Doc is obviously very drunk and can't understand why I insist on attacking every stupid word he says until I sound like a demented banshee. I can't put it on the Internet yet because it goes on his channel and he is sleeping off a two day drunk with Navaho Dave. Oh what a mother you have got, son, I don't know how you ever survived her. Your latest failure of a stepfather seems to be in the last stages of drink yourself senseless. You must make C&W one of these days. Say a prayer for me in there who has tried to sober up so many old drunks she is practically staggering herself. I am glad you have come back to the blogging world as I felt myself blogging alone out here. The blogging world needs a voice like yours, too. Well, good luck, and hope you will realize part of your dreams with a call to go to Austin with your songs and your guitar and your smelly dog. Poor Baby! said...

I had to laugh at the skunk story..I've lived with the skunk killing dog Jerk. He caused many a stinky night. It's great you are blogging again. I sent Cheryl a picture today of Grace Ormand on a horse with a gun! I didn't even notice that gun at first, but there she is with a gun. She is definitely an Ormand from the old stock.
She told me today of marrying then divorcing Claron as he was 'tipping' and chased girls. Once she started talking, she talked and I didn't have a recorder on. I couldn't believe it as I have tried to get her talking before. Another wild western tale.
I hope those movies are made!