Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Party Party

So last week over the extended Holiday break I went to three parties (four if you count going to the beach with 400,000 other people) and each one was a micro study in LA. The first was a party one of the guys I work with throws every year out in the Valley. It's a day-long kegger with periodic plunges into the pool and bands and DJs and games of Asshole into the wee hours of the night. Basically, the kind of party I like and have plenty of experience at. I rode out there with Skylar, and at one point this rather tall woman with blond dreadlocks and a fiery tattoo that looked a little like the cover of Journey's "Escape" on her shoulder came up to me and said, "I don't know you but you look like somebody I'd like to know." This excited Skylar immensely, and I'll admit to being a little intrigued myself. Skylar left shortly thereafter, leaving me to fend for myself, which is never a problem in LA as somebody is always going to your part of town and is happy to provide a ride. The rest of the night involved listening to bands, all of whom were talented, and chatting up whoever came into my immediate orbit. I ran into a guy I met through my voice-over class, which was weird because we were both like "what are you doing here?" The crowd here was youngish, mostly 25-35, cool people but not pretentious Hollywood assholes, all somewhere in the early stages of their Hollywood careers (reality TV if I had to guess). I finally found a ride home around midnight and made one last ditch effort to corner the dreadlocked woman for a drunken make-out session to no avail, but I count the night as a success nonetheless.

The next party was on the 4th as I went out to Santa Monica to Julie and Ian's for an early-afternoon cookout. Julie and Ian have a great place not far from the beach, and the crowd here was a little more mature, say in the next LA age bracket of 35-45. When I say mature I mean that everybody arrived with their spouses and babies in tow. It was a total baby fest, so much so that I was wondering where I could find a surrogate infant for the next party like this I was to attend. Ian manned the grilled and delivered some amazing meat and hand-prepared slaws and salad, and later there was homemade pie. Turns out Ian loves to cook and is good at it. There was some badminton before all the shuttlecocks disintegrated. I met Julie's mom and immediately saw where Julie gets her sharp sense of humor, and I also met her brother who gave me some tips about what to do and what not to do when writing scripts and trying to get people to read them. I also ran into somebody at this party that I had met before through no connection to Julie and Ian, a friend of Doug Gochman's. A city of 10 million people and I run into people I'd already met at two consecutive parties. Go figure. There was white wine and sangria but no keg. I stayed a couple of hours and left when most others did as I had to drive to the East side for another cookout and fireworks watching party.

The fireworks party was in Eagle Rock, which is out on the east side near Pasadena, at Matt's house. Matt is a friend of Skylar's and is one of the guys I've been playing basketball with. He bought this place that has an amazing back deck that looks out at the San Fernando mountains, and from this vantage point we could see three different fireworks displays, including the one over the Rose Bowl. I was already rather full from the dogs and burgers at Julie and Ian's, but had to try some of the grilled shrimp and brisket Matt was preparing. By the end of the weekend I was so packed full of meat you could have slipped a case around me and sold me as a sausage. This party was interesting as it was the first time I told somebody I was from somewhere besides Columbus. When you tell people out here that you're from Columbus, Ohio, they look at you with a sort of pity. On at least five different occasions, upon hearing that I moved here from Columbus, people have asked, "have you lived anywhere else?" As in "this city is going to eat you alive." So I was out on the back deck talking to these two girls who claimed to be models for American Apparel, and when one asked me where I was from I had one of the Bullet In The Brain moments where in a split second I thought, "If I say Columbus she's going to think I'm a hick. But fuck that! These provincial assholes out here have no idea how small this country is, that cable and the internet and the profusion of pop culture has everybody feeding from the same trough, and why shouldn't I say Columbus? That's where I'm from! This girl is probably from Des Moines or something!" So I said, "I'm from Chicago." And of course she loved that answer and the rest of the night kept saying things like, "of course this guy knows how to open a beer with a lighter! He's from Chicago!" Oh god, the transformation has begun.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Enter The Shocker

Five weeks into the job and the seesaw journey continues. For some reason I feel like I turned some sort of corner this week and have started feeling pretty good about the job and where it might lead me. The way it's been going out here, I feel pretty good for awhile, then pretty shitty for awhile, then good, etc. etc. Sometimes the swings take days and sometimes they take hours. But this week I've been feeling pretty positive all week, which is in sharp contrast to last week, which was probably the hardest week I've had yet out here. Not sure why, but everything just seemed so hard and I was wondering what I was doing here, why I gave up a good job and lots of friends who I care deeply about, and why should I stay out here? There were a couple of moments when I actually considered the idea of leaving and heading back to Columbus, but something about that move seems premature to me. I've promised myself two years, and I'm going to stick it out, and then I'll know I gave it a fair shake. Parker MacDonell, my good friend from 320 Medick Way in Worthington, was out here this week and he had some sage advice. Parker lived in LA for seven years and eventually moved back to Ohio. He said I'll always feel that magnetic attraction to Ohio until I find a counterbalance out here - friends, lovers, career, etc. That's wise and true, but I'm not sure I want the pull of home to ever go away completely.

There are many good things about working this job. First is having a routine, which I think is a good thing for me. Granted my routine is get home from work around 4:00, go to sleep at 6:00, wake up at 1:10, work on various things until 5:30, then get showered up and go to work at 6:00, but it is a routine. Rinse and repeat. For some reason this routine has me eating less crap and drinking less beer, the net result being I've lost some weight and I feel pretty good. Before leaving Columbus I believe I was tipping the scales at around 205 at my porkiest, and now I'm down to about 190. I feel like my fighting weight is about 180, so I'll see what I look and feel like when I get there. If I look unhealthy I'll pack a few pounds back on which shouldn't be hard to do. Another part of my routine is doing push-ups and sit-ups from 4:00-5:00 while watching Star Trek: The New Generation. This to offset the drop in weight so I won't look too much like a wet noodle. I've also had a crush on Dr. Beverly Crusher since the show came on the air so if I do run into Gates McFadden out here I want to look my best. Granted she's got 20 years on me, but I've always had that thing for redheads.

Career-wise, here's what's happening outside of the job. I finished the Rescue Me script and sent it off to the ABC/Disney Fellowship in writing. If I am one of the 50 people selected from the 15,000 applicants, Disney will pay me $50,000 for a one-year intensive program that helps develop writing talent. I'm also trying to track down some leads that would help me get that script in the hands of some agents. I haven't looked at it for a week or so, but I think I'll take one more pass at it and then go back to the Whimbeldon White script. Other projects that are kicking around in my head: turning Flytown into a feature script, turning my short story "Hernando De Soto Has Never Been Here" into a feature script, and a new, very commercial, idea I've been playing with that is basically "3:10 to Yuma" meets "Collateral." It would be very action-y. It's all very rough at this stage but here's the basic set-up: An LA cop and his partner are undercover to bust the biggest supplier of Meth in the city. Nobody knows who this guy is, they just know he exists. They give him a code name, something like The Shocker (he was always my favorite bad guy from Marvel comics - a street thug who, through his technical brilliance, develops a suit that allows him to shoot bolts of electricity from his arms). They get close, set up a buy, and things go bad. The cop's partner gets killed, other cop left for dead. The reason they don't know anything about The Shocker is because he's not from the city. He's hunkered down out in his compound in the desert in some small town where he runs everything. The cop, an African-American, recovers and tracks The Shocker down to his desert compound and discovers a scary world of tatooted white power freaks making meth and selling it all over the west coast. These guys are scary and bad, but the cop is badder. He finds The Shocker, whose real name is something like Ed Jablonksi, and battles his way through his army to get him. His car is destroyed, his cell phone is destroyed, so he marches the The Shocker through the desert at night to the sheriff's station in the little desert town. Problem is, the sheriff is bought and paid for, so he has to go in the cell too, but not before he tips the white power freaks to what's up. The phones have been cut, he has no car, and the army of tatooted white power freaks is outside waiting to take their man back and exact some revenge. The only way the cop can get the guy back is on the Greyhound Bus that departs the little desert town at 3:10, bound for LA. So the waiting and the strategizing begin, and all the while The Shocker, who is actually a very intelligent and articulate guy, is trying to talk the cop out of bringing him. Bribes, appeals to his street sense, offers he can't refuse. Can the cop survive, can he find justice for his fallen partner, and can he resist the temptations thrown at him?

So there's that.

Inside the job I've already started making inquiries about how I can move from the editing department to the story department. I'm not sure how long that would take, but I firmly believe I am capable of doing that job and I'm starting to get to know some people who work up there. I've also heard that if you make it known that you can operate a camera and are willing to go out on shoots, the company may throw some of that work your way on the weekends. That would be fun.

The voice-over demo is almost done, so I'll send that out as well. Just one more potential road out of the wage slave game.