Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Apparently “pitching” has a completely different meaning than the one I learned in prison

This is unfortunate. I never had to do hard time like my manager Murray, but the stint I served for stealing lawn-mowers in the early 90’s did teach me the value of a good forced buggering for the purpose of establishing social hierarchy. A “pecking order” if you will.

At McLean-Stevenson Correctional Center we had “pitchers” and “catchers.” The fuckers and the fucked. What side of the fence you sat on was decided your first day in. There’d be orientation in the morning, lunch followed sport activities in the yard such as tether ball, then some light rape. McLean-Stevenson being a medium security facility, we didn’t resort to wanton shanking like at your harder calabooses. This was a kinder, gentler penitentiary with a focus on reform over retribution. Toothbrush shivs were reserved for only the direst of situations. Thus gang-bangs were enforced with mere rough name-calling and a cudgel made from a tin of Spam stuffed in an old sweat sock. Nobody took one up the digestive tract unless they really wanted it. If you stood your ground and fought like a man you’d earn instant cell-block cred and were generally given first crack at the next piece of sweet-meat rolling in for a six month stretch.

So you can imagine my surprise when Murray (no stranger to prison love) explained to me the do’s-and-don’ts of “pitching” as it pertains to the outside. Because it sounded a lot more like “catching” to me. After 3 re-schedules I’d go in and dance like a hambone minstrel for some sub-Ivy League pedigreed executive, practically offering up my baboon-red posterior for his ill-formed abortion maker to vandalize? Then, after withdrawing his spent unit and dripping syphilis-tainted DNA matter down the front of his Armani sport slacks he’d say to me “so what else you got?” I hadn’t felt this much like a whore since, well, since I was a whore. And in my tenure as a sexual service provider I never once wore the tell-tale knee pads and face mask of the bottom bitch. As a matter of fact, the few same-sex customers I took on during a financial dry-spell were only allowed to blow me through a hole in the wall of a Chevron toilet stall. I’m a lot of things, but I ain’t no fag.

Murray did his best to reassure me en route to my first pitch meeting at XYZ Productions (not the real name), the vanity imprint of a VERY IMPORTANT leading man who -- despite having recently joined a cult that worships a giant fire-breathing arthropod -- carried green-light heft at the studio where his office was situated. This was all part of the game, Murray explained, and the game is what it is. I trusted Murray. He’d been in the B.I.Z. since I was knee-high to a dung beetle and knew the in’s and out’s better than anyone. I arrived at XYZ’s bungalow lubed and ready for six inches of whatever they had to offer.

After a pat-down from security I informed the receptionist that I was to meet with Steve (his real name), VP of Production and the man directly beneath the man who mattered. I was handed a bottle of courtesy spring water then escorted to the conference room by Steve’s large-breasted assistant. Steve bounded into the room with the energy of a man operating on an exclusive diet of low-carb Red Bull and high-grade cocaine. He also exuded that false self-confidence so common to those in his position, the kind they beat into you at prep schools and those private colleges for kids with net worths far greater than their SAT scores. Even though I was the kind of guy who made him lock the doors of his Volvo SUV when he saw me on the median strip selling oranges, Steve’s body language let me know that here in THIS domain HE was king.

After making the compulsory small-talk I gave him my pitch for Giant Robot Jesus. I explained that in the wake of the monumental success of Passion of the Christ -- and what with all the buzz surrounding the forthcoming Transformers live-actioner -- it was the perfect time for a robot/religious hybrid. This was a film that answered the question: What would happen if the Son of Man was a giant robot, with shoulder-mounted rockets, who could transform into a Volkswagon micro-bus? Steve soaked it in. Or maybe he was soaking in his own piss. I couldn’t tell if his quivering was due to the large quantity of stimulants coursing through bloodstream or because he suspected he’d been left in the room alone with a madman. Steve cleared his throat and asked me, “So what else you got?”

I then launched into my pitch du resistance, the best I’d been saving for last: Die Hard With Monkeys.

“See, it’s Die Hard, right? Only with monkeys.”

“Okay… and what’s it about?”

“Die Hard. With monkeys.”

“But what happens?”

“Die Hard. With monkeys.”

“I mean what’s the story?”

“Die Hard. With monkeys.”

“No. The plot.”

“Oh, that! You’ve seen Die Hard, right?”

“Of course.”

“Replace all the terrorists with monkeys. But not just any monkeys. Super-monkeys. Experimental government monkeys.”

There was a silence. A long, awkward-as-Michael-J-Fox-on-roller-skates silence. Then Steve, mustering every ounce of his prep school instilled courage, muttered the following phrase:

“That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard in my life.”

I'm still not quite sure why I reacted as I did. All I know is before he could speak the period at the end of that sentence I’d pulled the shiv out of my boot (guard missed it during the pat-down, natch) and installed a picture window in Steve’s personal-trainer-sculpted abs. I don’t remember kicking the receptionist in the tits or bludgeoning the security guard with the Oscar I’d pulled from the glass display case (Murray relayed all this to me later with much amusement). I just remember a blur of activity and waking up the next day in a safe house belonging to some of Murray’s Mexican Mafia friends.

Murray stopped by later with a bottle of tequila and filled in the blanks for me. This wasn’t the first time I’d blacked out in a violent rage and certainly wouldn’t be the last, and Murray having a legendary explosive temper himself understood that I’d merely done what I had to do. Of course there’d be repercussions. I’d have to lie low for a few months until things cooled off. I’d have to change my name, the titles of my scripts, and I’d probably have to wear a fake moustache to future meetings. But my career was far from over. In fact, it was just beginning. Hey, I didn’t get into this business thinking things would be easy. I knew there’d be a lot of hard work and occasional stabbings. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that I have the tenacity, the guts, and the TALENT to make it in this town. I’m not just some shady drifter with bad jailhouse tats and a rap sheet longer than his leg; I’m all that, AND a writer.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Thank fucking Crom. The snakes have finally landed.

It wasn’t the caustic bombast the marketing fucks at New Line were expecting. It was more of a dull thud, like the sound a severed pony head makes with it falls into a pile of leaves. And now, finally, for the moment at least, the internet is safe.

SNAKES performed below expectations (some trackers had guestimated ridiculous weekend tallies of up to $ 40 million), coming in just a pussy-hair above TALLADEGA at $ 13.8 million. Now in a logical world -- one without Paris Hilton or President Down Syndrome or James “someone please shove a shotgun in my mouth and do what I don’t have the courage to do” Blunt –- this would have been a rousing success for a low-budget movie full of CGI serpents and jive-talking Negroes. But in the Bizarro Universe where we reside -- the one where Superman speaks like a retard and “My Humps” is the number one song for 800 weeks because millions of chubby white girls downloaded it to their cell phones to annoy the fuck out of their fellow Orange Julius employees –- the numbers for SNAKES were, well, a bit of a letdown.

It’s not that SNAKES won’t make money. It was made for 10 cents and bag of turds, at least by Hollywood standards. The reason for all the bowed heads and furrowed brows is that every fucking entertainment journalist with an opinion has been touting SNAKES as the FINAL PROOF we’ve all been waiting for of the POWERS OF THE INTERNETS. The problem was, like most people with opinions, they just didn’t get it. Just like New Line didn’t get it, just like every industry parrot with a Blackberry and expense account didn’t get it:

You can’t fake oblivious irony, kids.

The reason SNAKES became the web meme it did was simple: No one could believe a major studio would greenlight a script that Roger Corman’s cleaning crew found wedged underneath his mini-fridge. The concept was ludicrous. The title was ludicrous. It was a very, very stupid idea that managed to work its way up the chain of command to the HEAD OF A STUDIO. It was proof o' pudding that those smug fucks in Hollywood hadn’t the slightest idea how to do their jobs. They were just pissin’ in the wind. And it was funny.

For about fifteen minutes.

And just like Star Wars Kid and the gay dude in the Peter Pan suit, the humor was derived from their self-unawareness. We laughed at them like we laugh at fat children or a blind guy falling in front of an 18-wheeler. Key words being: AT THEM. Not with them. As your inbox full of YouTube forwards will confirm, the key to humor on the internet is that you're witnessing someone else’s pain, suffering and humiliation. We’re a sick bunch, we humans, but we know what we like. And if you’re in on the joke, it ain’t fucking funny.

But then the retroactive nudge-nudge wink-winking started. “Oh, we meant to do this. This is high camp.” And for a while it seemed like the general public was buying their bullshit. I couldn’t go to TGI Friday's without seeing some drunken frat boy in a striped shirt shouting “snakes on a motherfucking plane!” into the ear of the girl he was slipping rohypnol to. I pictured the NL marketing execs twirling their fingers together and muah-ha-ha-ing like mad scientists bent on world domination. Their evil plan of shit-and-spin had actually worked. Or so it seemed.

Because like they say in the German porn industry, timing is everything. If New Line had dropped SNAKES 6 months earlier it surely would’ve made a dumptruck full of greenbacks. But by spending all that extra time getting their digital snakes JUST RIGHT (like anyone cared), the window of opportunity had been locked, barred and shuttered. Sorry, G: Your shit done got played out.

And I have to say, the relative failure of SNAKES has restored my faith in humanity. When it comes right down to it bad is bad and people know it. Or maybe we just don't like the stink of a dead horse.

Make no mistake: I'm not saying mindless B-movies are not a pleasure worth pursuing. It's like PBR and expired luncheon meat, sometimes we just want to revel in the joy of BEING BAD. But a GOOD bad movie, I mean a REAL good bad movie should be pulled off the dusty shelf of the video clearance house dollar-movie rack; not shoved down our throat by a $30 million dollar marketing machine. Films like THE APPLE or RIDING THE BUS WITH MY SISTER are enjoyable in spite of themselves because we are witnessing sweet, wonderful, unintentional failure. Trying to make a good-bad movie is like trying to shove your own cock up your ass: even if you succeed, you only succeed in fucking yourself.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Snakes on a Plane: As topical as saying "I'm Rick James, bitch"

If I want to be ironic this weekend I'll sooner spend my 12 dollars paying a hobo to piss in my mouth. The end result is the same but it'll be over with in about 30 seconds not 2 hours. And I can spend the rest of that time walking around screaming "there's motherfucking hobo piss in my motherfucking mouth!" Only it will sound like "rhuu rhuuu-rhuuu-rhuu-rhuuu rhuu-rhuuu rhuu rhu rhu rhuuu-rhuuu-rhuuu-rhuuu rhuugh!" And I get the warm satisfaction of knowing I just helped someone less fortunate than myself buy 12 dollars worth of crack. Which isn't a lot of crack, but it's enough.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Spec Market Fucking Rocks!

Damn, I’m high. Soooo fucking high. It’s 11:38am and though I’ve only been awake 15 minutes I somehow managed to get so high that I can peek around the corners of time and poke my future contingent self in the ass with the piece of wire I use to scrape out my bong. In about an hour I’m going to feel it and it’s going to hurt, especially that last poke when I got a little carried away and drew blood. Or will draw blood, since it technically hasn’t happened yet.

We’ve been warned of the dangers of using time travel to fuck with the past since causality can spiral out of control, i.e. just spitting a wad of gum on the sidewalk in 1902 could indirectly spawn a nuclear holocaust, thus we return from our time-travel journey to find a bunch of cannibalistic mole people living in underground bunkers plotting a revolution against the giant invisible dinosaur robots that roam the surface. We’ve been warned about that shit countless times by the movies, speculative fiction novels and comic books from which we glean the REAL truth.

Yet fucking with the future seems a bit safer. Yeah, we still have to live with the consequences of our actions, but not for a while. It’s like cigarettes. You know the cancer’s a-coming yet you rest easy knowing the science-doctors will find out a cure by the time it’s your problem. Same deal with global warming. Or crystal meth.

Note to self: Score some crystal meth.

So as to the reason I’m up before noon and already hard at work getting high: My spec script hit the market a week ago and I’ve got a bunch of important meetings lined up with actual studio execs, one this very afternoon. Which means I can’t adhere to my usual schedule of sleep until 4:00pm, wake n’ bake, play Unreal Tournament for 5 or 6 hours, eat a bowl of Chef Boyardee, write for a half hour, play Unreal Tournament for another 4 hours, crash/repeat. Nope. Today I have to make myself reasonably presentable, hell maybe even take a shower so I can wow the panties off whatever creative exec Murray has lined up to suck my big fat writer’s cock. I’m going to win them over them with my freshness, positive attitude, and winning spirit. And if those don’t work I’ll threaten to cut the little faggot’s throat with a Bowie knife. That’s what Murray says I should do anyway.

Murray’s my manager. I met him at a car wash. Not the pansy-ass hand wash crap where you pay an illegal immigrant 15 bucks to rub a dirty rag all over your ‘86 Jetta. I met Murray at the coin-op Wash Ur Self in Van Nuys. We got to talking and as it turned out Murray used to work at William Morris back in the day. Had some big clients but got fired after a little controversy involving a transvestite hooker whom the police claimed Murray beat to death with a shovel. Murray insisted s/he’d died of a broken heart and while I have no reason to doubt Murray’s account the police apparently did because Murray ended up doing 20 years (with another 10 years tacked on for stabbing a screw in Folsom). So Murray, out on parole, decided to go the route of Mike Ovitz and put up his own management shingle; all he needed were some clients. “You need clients? Well fuck,” I says. “I can rap, I do impersonations, I play bass guitar in a Night Ranger tribute band and to top it all off… I’ve got this great idea for a fucking screenplay that I know will be a big fucking hit, hell bigger than BOAT TRIP!” I pitched my idea to Murray and he was so impressed that he signed me that afternoon, for the very reasonable fee of $1000 cash upfront and 50% of all my future earnings.

So I drove down to the machine shop, told my boss to go fuck himself then went home to write. 18 months later I’ve got 56 pages of the funniest script-writing since 1997’s FOOLS RUSH IN. Murray’s sending it to every producer and studio exec in town with the demand that they read it ASAP or face the same fate as that transvestite hooker (that’s just Murray’s shtick, playing off his bad-boy image). And now I’ve got meetings with potential buyers up the wazoo. 4 meetings. 4 fucking meetings. If you look at writing like a job, which it apparently is for some people, that’s like having 4 interviews in one month. Well hell, that’s more job interviews than I’ve had in my whole entire life! To think that 2 years ago I was eating irregular Ramen in a sublet storage closet with no windows, contemplating faking my own death to get out of paying back taxes and child support – and now, thanks to Murray, I’m just a cunt-hair away from selling my first screenplay for something like 8 million dollars!

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I know the reality of the situation. These meetings could all be a bust; scheduled merely to placate Murray and cease his constant shovel-threatening. That’s why I’m being cautiously optimistic. I’m not going out and spending money I don’t have. I only borrowed enough from the loan shark for a down payment on the Porsche. That’s it. The mounds of coke, mansion in Bel Air, and Russian sex slaves can wait until this afternoon, AFTER Murray closes the big deal. Hey, I wasn’t born yesterday.

Well, I better get in the shower soon or I’m gonna be late. Wish me luck! Not that I think I’ll need it, because my writing speaks for itself, but just in case… JESUS!!! OW!!! FUCKING CHRIST!!!

Damn, my ass hurts. And it's bleeding like a son of a bitch. Note to self: Fucking with the space-time continuum should be reserved for more noble pursuits than poking one's self in the ass with a bong-scraper. Like cheating at internet poker.