i'm a quarterfinalist!

A few months ago I entered a screenplay in an annual contest sponsored by the Academy (the folks who bring you the Oscars) called the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. It’s arguably the biggest and most important such competition in town. So appropriately enough while writing with Todd this weekend, I got my mail and found an envelope from the Nicholl people. It was thin. Like one piece of paper thin, and so I figured, oh well, and opened it. The first word I read was CONGRATULATIONS, and I kinda screamed like a girl: my screenplay has advanced to the quarterfinals. What this means, apparently, is that out of 4200 scripts, about 200 move on, and mine is one of them. Semis come next. Then about 8 to 12 make it into the finals. From there, generally 5 of the scripts "win". The winners get $25,000 and are basically the shit. From what I’ve heard, the contest carries a good amount of weight among the community and that having even "Nicholl Quarterfinalist" on your resume ups your (for me, non-existent) stock a step. (Arlington Road was a Nicoll’s winning script.) Regardless of whether or not I go any farther in the competition, it’s a big confidence booster. Nastily, it was especially nice to open the envelope in front of Todd who’s preparing to head off to work on a new hotly anticipated network show and also just booked a guest spot on some other new cop show. Helped my bruised and battered ego a bit.

So this weekend: Friday night found me with cancelled plans (once again, last minute, and by my apparently oft unreliable new friend Winston), and almost getting sucked into "Providence". I say almost, because, well… c’mon.

So I wrote. Worked on the screenplay that outlined itself on my recent trip to Berkeley. I typed away, and researched, and acted out scenes I was having trouble with. (I find this often helps with dialogue and such.) Quite proud of myself I cracked open a beer and watched a tape of The Tom Green Show. Why do I love The Tom Green Show? I don’t know. The Tom Green thing is so obviously a schtick for him that I’m constantly ready to be very annoyed, but then the boy does something: he steps it up a notch. The lanky Canadian is so absolutely willing to do anything for a laugh, that it just works. And it seems that this means anything – he was almost killed by a group of angry NYC softball players when he rolled himself in a massive bubble onto the field, claiming to be allergic to the environment. Jim Carrey has a similar insane need to amuse, but Tom Green doesn’t have that same sense of timing. It’s almost as though he ignores normal rules of comic timing and simply barrels over anyone and everyone. So much that when Jeanine Garofalo appeared on the show recently, all she could do was giggle and smile almost like a schoolgirl with a crush watching Tom’s nutso antics. (Boy, nothing like analysis of humor to really make it sound exciting, huh.)

On Saturday M. and I spent the morning at a downtown thrift shop. I coveted this groovy used piano and fantasized about the day when I can afford to live in a house and have a piano, a garden, set up my darkroom equipment, and raise dogs. Afterwards I met friend Becky up at this cool diner in Beachwood canyon, near my place. Becky is an actress and quite talented. She has the best attitude of anyone I know, and works her ass off. During lunch, a couple came up to me and asked, "excuse me, but do you do voice-overs?" "A little," said I, lying. (Actually, I am doing one for the Griffith Observatory next week.) The guy went on to talk about how much he liked my voice and the resonance blah blah blah until his lady pulled him away. I get that a lot, actually, so that I really don’t pay any attention anymore. It’s one of the few positive things people say about me that I have just accepted as fact – I have a nice voice (after all I did spent lots of time and money in voice classes in New York – speaking, not singing – can’t sing at all). So after they leave, Becky starts yelling at me, telling me how stupid I am that I have never done or even tried to get into voice-overs. She recently made a tape, took classes, and has been meeting with agents. And the funny thing is this: four years ago when I moved here I meant to. I started looking into it, got too busy doing theatre and such, and just never followed up on it. And then… I forgot about it. It’s not like I tried and failed, I just plum forgot to! So when Becky finished yelling at me, I said, "OK, I will". And I will. I know how small and closed the community is and that everyone and his mom wants to make easy money talking into a mic – but I don’t care. It makes me wonder how many other things I really wanted to do that I just forgot about. But I suppose if you really want something, you don't need a reminder.

Afterwards Todd and I spent like 6 hours working on the screenplay we’ve been writing together forever. We wrote a massive chase sequence that takes place on a studio lot. Action sequences are quite fun but I find it difficult to describe the action in a lively and exciting way, and still have everything be clear to the reader. Coming from playwriting, I’m Dialogue-Boy, and it’s a constant struggle to curb my desire to have the characters talk talk talk. I’m most proud of myself when I have the strength to cut clever dialogue, no matter how in love with it I might be. We drank beer, ate pizza, and listened to music. All writing should be this much fun. I almost feel guilty, but then when I'm writing alone it is often pretty torturous, so I think I’m allowed. But honestly, I was also pretty fucking psyched about the contest.

Yesterday M. and I made breakfast. Since I stopped eating red meat like 12 years ago, the thing I have most missed is bacon. Well I finally tried Turkey Bacon. It’s fantastic! I’m so happy. Satisfied, we then spent most of the day having a career counseling session with each other. Basically kicking each other in the ass for hours. I figure if you’re going to surround yourself with other artists, you might as well get something out of it. And whereas many of these sessions have been grand failures in the past, ending up with us fighting or just depressed, we were hugely successful this time; it’s not that we made each other feel better about where we are, but that we made each other feel better about finding a way to get to where we want to be.

We bought plants and repotted many of mine, and then rearranged all the artwork in my apartment. When I get a new painting or mixed-media piece, I just find available wall space and hammer it up. Well M. knows about groupings and color schemes – shit I know nothing about – and she basically put everything together in a way that, like, "works". Who knew! We ended the weekend with an expensive but well-deserved dinner at Prizzi’s, a damn fine Italian joint near my house (and incidentally across the street from the Scientology Celebrity Centre).

All right, I promise I'm done patting myself on the back.

This is where I let Larry King take over my body for a few minutes.

The short parody film I auditioned for and have been following the progress of with astonishment and envy, George Lucas in Love, just landed its director, a nerdy young guy I rapped with for about 45 minutes lo 3 months ago, a directing gig at DreamWorks. Grrrrrrrrrrrr…Blair Witch rolls on with another $2 Million in only 30 theatres…The weather this weekend was so nice. Not too hot – breezy. Is this just a mellow summer (for the West Coast) or are we due to be royally fucked later…