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December 27, 2008

Electric Chainsaw Massacre - Special East Coast Screening


Over the summer, a hardy bunch of us shot a film in the woods of Maryland and an abandoned Dairy Barn.

Now, the bountiful fruits of our sacrifice are available to all of you. Regardless of your plans.... pop in on New Year's Eve and enjoy the best 10 consecutive minutes of your entire life! (Then you could leave and go back to your other plans!)

It's a horror spoof comedy, it would probably be rated PG, and it stars the incomparable REBEKAH LATSHAW (also known as Rebekah Wendell or Becky Wendell) in a performance that has people buzzing with excitement. And we are happy to introduce to many of you the talents of Todd Ryan Jones. You will not be disappointed!

Come and watch it with the filmmakers and the stars! It's gonna be in HD Blu-Ray on the famous Kempista Big Screen TV. It should be a blast.

PS. This will be one of the few chances to see it for a while because since we're submitting it to festivals we're not allowed to post it online.

PPS. It might be too intense for kids. But you can still bring kids– we could show it twice so parents could take turns watching their children in another room.

Posted by jason on 02:04 PM | Comments (2)

December 21, 2008

The Long Trip Home

At 4 am on Wednesday December 17th, we set out from our LA condo to the airport, visions of being home in frosty PA/DE by 5.30 Eastern Standard Time. It would be perfect, just enough time to still grab a bite to eat and catch up with family before we had to catch some Z's.

We caught our plane out of LAX without a hitch – showing up early and being well prepared will do that for you. And that's about the last time anything worked out for us.

We landed in Las Vegas for a 15 minute layover. We weren't even allowed off the plane, it was going to be so short! Just 15 minutes. But then we were told that Philly wasn't giving us clearance to take off. Wicked, difficult Philly! Something about swirling weather patterns. So we waited. And we waited. And we waited.

They let us off the plane. "But be sure to hang around the gate as we may have to reboard on a moments notice so we can take off!" That's what we did. And then we got that blessed call, time to reboard, time to take off! OK, so now 5.30 EST would be turning into the slightly less convenient 7.30 EST. So maybe not a long leisurely dinner, but something quick before we want to bed.

Then it started to snow. In Las Vegas. What?

Now let me now tell you that I didn't even know it ever did snow in Las Vegas. And that's because it doesn't, normally. But this was no normal trip, so it was snowing. Apparently the people who ran the airport also didn't know it snowed in Las Vegas, because they only had two de-icers for all the planes that needed to take off. Because of this, they told us we could get off the plane again, but still.... to be read at a moment's notice. Another couple of hours pass, and the snow is now a strange surreal desert blizzard. The kids, who had been doing so well, were now getting frazzled and impatient.

But then we got the call again! Scramble scramble back onto the plane, and this time we actually pull out from the gate. Yes, we're finally leaving. We may have blown our arrival time by 6 or 7 hours but we'll be there. But then the captain says, "I hate to have to give you bad news again..." which had become a fairly common intro to just about everything he had to say. Because those two de-icers were not able to de-ice fast enough, apparently. And now, at 4.30 PM, for a flight that had landed at 9 AM and was meant to be back in the air by 9.15, we were told the airport was closed and all flights canceled.

MADNESS. Like some kind of apocalypse, without the antichrist and the zombies. Phones weren't working anymore, people were sobbing (the leader of which being Ollie, who was just heartbroken to hear we were stuck there.) The line to re-book a flight instantly grew hundreds of people long. The baggage claim was basically a riot of angry travelers and bags that weren't ours. I was able to get enough of a signal to call a casino / hotel on the strip called 'New York New York" and book a room. Darby tried to entertain Ollie by putting him in a wheelchair. It didn't work. Lyric heard people saying, "Oh, the saddest thing... that little disabled boy just wants to see his cousins for Christmas and he won't be able to." Darby kicked the cheering up a notch, sitting herself in the wheelchair and putting Ollie on her lap and then rolling down an incline – all to nearly disastrous results as she lost control of the contraption and nearly collided, mother and child, into the floor. She insists only an angel stopped them from certain calamity.

Our kids our too tired to make them wait as we sit in that neverending line. The Southwest phone number is so overloaded it just hangs up on you. You can't rebook online because the internet is slammed and unresponsive. Ollie and Lyric get scolded for leaning against a slot machine in the airport – They are everywhere!

We wait for our bags at the crowded baggage claim. Our kids are losing it – it's now nearly 8 PM and they're bitterly disappointed. Loud, inappropriate Vegas-y ads run on the big screens. Ollie really starts to lose it, so Darby and Lyric plan to meet us at NY NY with the bags later so I can take him now. This was a bad idea, we should have just left, because Darby and Lyric never saw our bags.

Ollie and I take a shuttle to NY NY. The Shuttle driver stops to TAKE A PICTURE OF THE SNOW. "This never happens here!" Lucky us.

Ollie's spirits brighten because he gets to make snowballs and throw them at cars. I vaguely sense this isn't the best behavior, but it's been a long day and honestly I feel like throwing snowballs at cars too so I let it slide. We get to NY NY, which is a huge bustling (pretty cool) replica of the city. As we wait in a forever long line to get our key and all that, Ollie and I have a good conversation about gambling.

Ollie: Why can't kids play with these (slot machines), they look like they're for kids (which they do.)
Jason: Because Gambling is actually very dangerous for people.
Ollie: What's Gambling?
Jason: When you spend some money to try to win a lot more money.
Ollie: But then why wouldn't kids like that? Kids love money.
Jason: normally you lose. You normally lose all your money.
Ollie: Oh, is that why they call it "Lost Vegas"? (clever, that boy!)
Jason: You know what, if that's not why they call it that, they should start doing that. But some adults lose their houses, all their money in the bank, even money they don't have. Some become homeless.
Ollie: Well, that wouldn't happen to kids. I'd just spend the dollar you give me!

I finally get the key and get to the room. Darby texts me and lets me know that Lyric is now breaking down. I tell her to forget the bags – which we've learned will be sent to Philly – and just come to NY NY. I finally get through to the airline. And now the horrible reality of our situation... no new flight until 12/19, and it won't get us into Philly until midnight. So we've now lost 3 days of our time home. These tickets cost me $2,000 for the family, in the hopes of getting together with family and friends, to lose 3 days was killer. It made me quite grumpy. I got all Jack Bauer on the phone, telling them to route us to NY or Washington or Baltimore but we needed to leave the next day. She said SWA hadn't authorized rebooking outside of the original city pair, and they had no control over the weather. I said what they did have control over was authorizing a new city pair, and that's what they needed to do. She got a manager to do this, but no flights to any of those cities were available either. Jack Bauer hung up.

Darby and Lyric finally arrive at 10 PM. Lyric is very tired. This girl hates things to change, and I feel so bad for her. We go to bed.

The next day, we make the best of it. We go to a fun arcade called Gameworks, check out a bunch of the themed hotels which are fun to see, go to a "Secret Garden" which has lions and dolphins and cheetahs and tigers. We have a genuinely good time despite the disappointment of not being elsewhere. Darby and I also have to do our best to shield our kids' eyes from seeing the many different advertisements and billboards and videos which prove that Vegas has earned the name Sin CIty. In the words of my daughter Lyric, much of it was "Weird."

That night, Lyric gets violently ill and throws up every 20 minutes. Darby decides that we'll probably have to postpone our flight again because Lyric can't travel like this. I check the Saturday flights, and the only one available routes through Chicago, which has a winter storm advisory. I honestly, at this point, consider just going back to Calfornia. Vegas has run us all down, and I can't imagine waiting our an illness in this hotel room and paying for all the meals and the room rate for who knows how many days. Darby says maybe if Lyric can sleep until 10 AM, she might get healthy enough to fly. She asks me to take the wakening Ollie "out" so she and Lyric can get some sleep.

Taking a 6 year old boy out into 7.30 AM Vegas is not fun. The only thing people do in Vegas at this time is drink and gamble. There really isn't really anywhere to even sit and do anything else. Ollie and I wandered around from casino to casino in the sub zero weather, trying to find an arcade or a pad of paper for sale or even a pen. Fortunately we found a pad of paper for sale, but no pen. Finally we found a cheap breakfast buffet at Excaliber. Sick of Vegas buffets (this being our 3rd in 2 days), Ollie got yogurt and I ate a biscuit. It occurred to me that as cheap as it was, we weren't getting our money's worth. We folded paper airplanes and tried not to eat the nasty food available to us. Then we wandered again, upset at all the arcades that wouldn't open until 10. We found a 2 foot long novelty pen and bought that. I wrote him math problems and he answered them as we sat on the floor of a casino lobby.

Finally, we found an arcade that was open. But it was lame, because half the games stole your coins, and the other half had parts that were broken. Why are all arcades like this now? on the skee ball game, only the "30" would register any points, all others would give you zero. Ollie and I proclaimed the arcade bad and were about to leave when a bleary eyed man gave us a fistful of prize tickets. We cashed them in and got a pretty nice assortment of prizes, half of them for Lyric because Ollie's a thoughtful little guy.

We brought Lyric bottled water and muffins and the arcade prizes. She had slept the 4 hours and was feeling better. Not good, but better. The flight was a go.

At the airport, we couldn't print our tickets at the self service because they were a switched flight. There wa a line about 200 people long to get our tickets printed for us. We saw, however, that there was a MUCH shorter line of people in wheelchairs.... Let's see. Wheelchairs. Sick kid. Short line. Wheelchairs.

it wasn't too long before Lyric was (embarrassed to be) in a wheelchair and we were in that shorter line. It worked like a charm. Except for the fact that it made Ollie insanely jealous, and he faked a knee injury, an eye injury, a sick stomach, tried to make himself throw up, and frequently collapsed to the floor in an attempt to score one for himself.

But it was a good thing we picked up extra time by skipping that long line, because the ticket lady took FOREVER issuing our tickets because there was an "issue." After whispering to coworkers and typing furiously and calling people and checking handbooks for what must have been 15 minutes, she finally issued us our tickets.

These tickets with the dreaded "SSSS" printed on them. Oh yes, of course we were selected for the "Specially Selected for Secured Screening." Lyric – in a wheel chair – and Ollie both got a complete pat down, (and of course Darby and me, too). They went through every one of our carry-on bags, and there were six of them. It took forever. Fortunately, the flight out of Las Vegas happened without incident, and we landed in Phoenix...

And sat on the runway for 45 minutes while we watched our connecting flight's board time come and go. And the take off time come and go. You know that portable hallway that they attach to planes so you can exit? THE ENGINE FELL OFF OF IT. Once again, we hear a chorus of "That's the first time I've ever seen that happen!" So now we have to wait for another gate to open. It does, and it's in another terminal from our connecting flight, which has fortunately been delayed an hour. (Finally, one of these neverending delays works in our favor!)

We run, Forrest Gump style, Darby pushing Lyric in a wheelchair, me carrying about 100 pounds of carry-on bags and truly winded, and Ollie sprinting like quite a champ. He had been complaining but I got down to his level and said, "Ollie, if we do not make this flight, we will not get back to the east coast tonight, and it's leaving soon!" Ollie took off like Steve Prefontaine, no more begging to be in a wheelchair, no more pretending like he needed to be in a wheelchair. it was impressive.

And finally, we arrived at the connecting flight with minutes to spare. As we were boarding the attendant said, "Folks, we don't mean to rush you, but if we aren't able to take off in the next 18 minutes, Philly Air Traffic Control will not authorize us to leave because of a winter storm warning they are receiving." Oh my goodness, de ja vu! Wicked Philly again, rejecting us. But people took the warning seriously, and in fact they boarded and left in record time. And then... a mere 4 hours later, we arrived in Philly. Only 55 hours later than we had expected.

Posted by jason on 12:32 AM | Comments (12)

December 15, 2008

Holiday Traditions

As a family, we've developed three new holiday traditions here in LA, all of them awesome. And the nice part is that we get to add them to the traditions we had at home on the east coast, too, so we are all traditioned up this time of year.

1) Christmas at Disneyland
It's hard to describe just how awesome Disneyland is for Christmas, but let me try. First of all, there are real reindeers there. Yes, real ones. Secondly, they have a special fireworks and castle show just for Christmas, and a Christmas only parade too. All of these things are on par with their normal year round productions, and they end with it actually snowing on Main Street USA (ok, it's not real snow, but you wouldn't know that by looking at it.) They also (and I think this is unique to Disneyland, Disney World doesn't do this) do a complete and total overlay of both Small World and The Haunted Mansion for Christmas. Both of these overlays are incredibly impressive. Jack Skelton, from Nightmare Before Christmas, moves into the Haunted Mansion. Small World just gets all Christmas-fied, in a very impressive way. And then they project all these Christmas-y lights onto the Small World castle. Add to this the Christmas lights all over the park, and... Seriously, Disneyland owns Christmas.

2) The Grove. The Grove in LA is another place where it snows. I get more snow in LA for Christmas than I did on the East Coast. There are carolers and synchronized fountains and it's just very beautiful and fun. And because it's all outdoors, it has a certain Dickensian feel to it.

3) Ice Skating at Santa Monica. We just did this for the first time last night, but it's quite obviously an instant classic for our family. The kids LOVED it. They set up an outdoor skating rink in Santa Monica with lights and decorations and it's just so much fun. With an admission ticket, you also get a free drink from Starbucks, so that made Darby very happy. Finish a perfect evening off with a trip to Benihana's and really, how could this not be a wonderful Christmas tradition?

So I get to add these to the East Coast staples - the Wintethur Fairy Garden and The Longwood Christmas Lights... which unfortunately don't really end up being annual because it's so darn cold and not eveyone wants to go out every year. But still, when I can get everyone feeling adventurous, those are always fine evenings, too. But there is always singing O Holy Night while holding a candle at the Adoration Service.

What are some Holiday Traditions that you look forward to?

Posted by jason on 03:44 PM | Comments (12)

December 13, 2008

The most positive rejection letter ever

I really can't help but feel good after reading this rejection... it's funny.

Thanks so much for having [person I know at the Sundance Labs] give me A WELL ADJUSTED BOY. With regrets, I'm writing to let you know the disappointing news that we did not select it for our Screenwriters Lab. We thought your writing displayed a fresh voice and that your characters were charming, and we ultimately found the story to be quite touching. I can absolutely see why [person I know at Sundance Labs] is such a fan of yours. The unfortunate reality of having so few spaces at the Lab is that we just can't support all the worthy and engaging projects that come our way, and we end up having to make some really tough decisions. We sincerely appreciate you giving us the opportunity to consider the script, and wish you the best of luck with finding the resources to move forward with it. I hope you'll think of us again with future work. Warmest wishes for a joyful holiday season and a very Happy New Year.

Posted by jason on 01:26 PM | Comments (3)

I'll be home for Christmas

The idea of Christmas being a time when family and friends reunite and get to spend time together now truly resonates with me since I live thousands of miles away from home. It's wonderful that there's a time when everyone can get together and be in one place.

I'm looking forward to it very much (even if our 2 and a half weeks at home are already all scheduled out to the day...)

Posted by jason on 04:52 AM | Comments (12)

December 09, 2008

The Power of "No."

Recently a screenwriting friend of mine landed a very well placed manager. It was a big deal. But then my friend wrote an awesome new screenplay and the manager didn't like it. The manager said, "It was a good exercise, but you need to write something new." After checking with a number of other trusted people over whether the script is good, and getting confirmation that it is, my friend made a difficult decision.

The manager had to go.

This was a gutsy decision. And it rocks because it shows that he's not desperate, at all. He has the confidence that someone else will pay attention to him, and he doesn't need to hang on to someone that isn't a good fit.

Just today I had to say "No" to people who expressed interest in me. It's never easy, but again, it's a skill that needs to be developed. In this case, these were producers who sent me an option offer on two of my scripts. Unfortunately, the offers were not what I wanted at all. The option term was too long, the money offered for the money was too low, and it specified a purchase price should they be able to set the project up when I'd want to be able to negotiate my own deal at that point. (Or, have my agent do that for me.)

The producers told me that this was a standard offer for a first time writer. And I understand that, but it's also a bad decision. One that desperate people who so badly want some kind of positive attention would make. So as awkward as the conversation was (and unfortunately it was rather strange because they were not happy that I wasn't eager to take their deal!), I have no doubt that I did the right thing. And I'm so glad that the instructors at UCLA do a great job warning their writers about the bad deals that flow through Hollywood like the River Nile...

Posted by jason on 07:47 PM | Comments (11)

You have to believe to see...

Many people have heard the phrase "I'll believe it when I see it." Yet often the exact opposite is true. You only start to see things when you believe in them. What you'll expect, what you believe is possible creates a context by which you'll filter the world.

Lately I've been writing with a screenwriter from Delaware who placed in the Nicholl competition, just like I did. He's kind of my strange "what I might be." He has two kids and a wife and is very hesitant to move from Delaware to CA. He said the main reason was that "he didn't know if he was good enough." And if he "knew he was good enough, he'd move in a heartbeat."

He wants to see something, and then he'll believe. So much so that he's kind of ignored things that are right in front of his face - placing in the Nicholl competition should be a pretty good hint that you're a good writer! - and still not really believing. I told him that what he wants is some kind of guarantee against failure, and that faith rarely gets such things. What faith will give you, though, is the ability to accomplish and see things that you DEFINITELY wouldn't get to do or see without it. I doesn't make things a 100% sure bet, but It opens up the possibilities in such a beautiful and dramatic way.

Here are UCLA some of the new screenwriting students are not having a very good time of things. It's odd, this class in particular just seems to be disappointed by the experience. By and large, my year did not feel this way. The teacher that we thought was a complete and total genius, a treasure to filmmakers, and worth his weight in gold they consider a prattering old fool. The teacher that I know to be an incredible inspiration they think to be bossy and arrogant. The teacher I believe to be a true professional and a dispenser of decades of hard fought insider tips and wisdom they've labeled a loud blowhard.

And guess what? I get the geniuses, the inspiration, and the wisdom. They get the boring old fools, bossy and arrogant. Because you have to believe to see. You tell me, whose getting the better deal here in school?

Posted by jason on 12:34 AM | Comments (4)

December 06, 2008


I'm thrilled to announce that as of today I officially have an agent. This is a HUGE step towards a screenwriting career. And the good news is... I very much like my agent. He's got a great attitude. It seems like such a great match.

And by the way, the producer option deal finally came my way... and predictably, though still disappointedly, the deals are not good. But at this point that's just fine, because Paul (my agent) wants to try to sell both of the scripts anyway, and for a much better deal than I'd get from a new producer.

Posted by jason on 02:56 AM | Comments (13)

December 04, 2008

Autumn's Honey

This quarter I've been developing an idea for a TV half-hour series that is called "Autumn's Honey." Thought I'd share what I have so far with you. There's a lot of material. Be warned!

The Pitch

AUTUMN BOY (MIKE) BUFFALO (28), is the oldest son of SID (short for Siddharta) and MAG (short for Magdalene) (early 50s), the beloved leaders of a sprawling mother-earth-christian-buddhist-hybrid-honey-growing-home-schooling-gun-
toting commune in the mountains of Topanga, California called “Sid and Mag's Spiritual Path Towards Luminance (or, to the chagrin of Sid and Mag, “Sid and Mag's SPTL, pronounced "Spittle”). Autumn asks that people call him Mike, his birthname. No one in the commune does.

Mike has many brothers and sisters but he really only knows three of them. (Because there are SO MANY.) SUMMER BOY (26), a former math league superstar pining for his former glory, expects to step into SPTL's Lead Guru position some day. WINTER GIRL (23), is a honey savant who inherited her mom's bee sense. SPRING GIRL (18) acts like the perfect commune resident, but is living a double life.

Those are the kids that his parents had when they were still a normal 9-to-5 suburban couple (a lawyer and an accountant!) – before Sid has his Moment of Illumination at a roadside honey stand somewhere in the Valley, a dramatic moment that involved accidentally dropping acid, a velvet painting of Christ, and a Buddha keychain. Sid and Mag renamed their children and themselves, dropped out of the rat race, and
bought as much cheap land in Topanga as they could afford.

Mike dreams of having a normal ”sit in a cubicle farm all day” job. He longs for the day when he might himself be a corporate sellout, enjoying the life his parents once lived and now disdain. He craves structure and normalcy.

But instead he's stuck tending the Hallelujah Homemade Honey Shack selling Autumn Boy's Organically Blessed Honey. (Yes, they named it after him since he's so sweet!) This Honey is Organically Blessed... Since the honey bees regularly pollinate robust crops of Marijuana, Opium, and Patchouli, the Honey has a unique kick to it. Sid and Maggie run California's largest organic honey empire.

But Mike's parents are controlling and any mention of getting out of the Commune is met with weeks of theatrical mourning. Even a forced weekend long “love shackle” session, which involves a sweat lodge, a couple acoustic guitars, and three of the prettiest girls from the commune.

Mike dreams of living in an fancy apartment complex in Santa Monica and living a normal life. But truly, in a twist that puts both Mike's dreams and Mike's relationship with his older brother, Summer Boy, at risk, Sid and Mag are grooming Mike to take over the commune once they retire.

The Main Characters

Twenty-eight. Son of the founders of the “Spiritual Path Towards Luminance” commune. He has mixed feelings about it. “Oh, the SPTL commune? I’ve visited it once or twice. They have good honey there. Oh, you heard I lived there? Well, yes, by “visited it,” I guess I mean “lived there my whole life.” But really, it’s just like any other place, except for the free love and the armory.” He wants everyone to call him “Mike.” Nobody does.

Mike leads a double life. He’s comfortable at the commune, but often miserable. He cares for every person in his community, yet dreams of getting away from them and living his own life. Mike often secretly dresses up in a 3 piece suit he has hidden under his mattress and hitches his way into the big city (Santa Monica). “Imagine for a moment, a whole cube, all to yourself. Three walls, a phone and a computer. Writing memos, drinking from a water cooler, logging your hours. Living the dream.”

But often, normally just at the moment when he’s on the cusp of getting such a job, a crippling fear sets in. “I just don’t know if I’m really outbound telemarketing material. It’s a pretty cut-throat world, one I don’t think I’m prepared for.” He longs to live in a world that he doesn’t believe he can survive in. Because of this, he’s often studying books from the popular “For Dummies” series. “Telemarketing For Dummies is the best, even though half of it was in Indian.”

Mike longs for love. Normal love. The boring kind. Not the free wheeling casual love that the commune encourages.

Mike is loyal to and protective of his parents – even while he thinks they’re loony. Yet, Mike gets what they’re doing and even believes in it... to a degree great enough that he doesn’t really fit in anywhere. At the commune, he’s a black sheep because he’s not a totally sold-out true believer. Outside the commune, he’s often viewed as weird because he’s from the compound. His instincts are just a little off. He has almost no shared cultural references with people.

Mike’s friends are split into two groups – true believers and refugees from the commune.

Twenty Nine. Mole is a refugee from the commune, trying to scrape out something approaching a normal life. He’s Mike’s best friend. He is the manager of the pizza section of the Countrywide Mortgage Corporate Cafeteria (something he definitely lords over Mike.) “What can I say, Mikey Boy, some of us are born with special talents, with the ability to survive outside the warm safe cocoon you cling to. But I can’t blame you, serving pizza slices isn’t exactly something you can learn. you either have it or you don’t.”

Mole rues the fact that the best he can do to give his name any semblance of normality is to take on a nickname based on a small furry creature, but oh well he didn’t have much to work with.
Mole is one of those guys who is always working on some plan, some scheme, some new project. He’s often developing a new skill that no one had any clue he even had an interest in. Like luging, or thermonuclear physics, or animal husbandry (focusing on albino rats for the time being, thank you very much.)

And while he’s amazingly – almost in a charmed way – successful, in the end he often makes decisions that mean his life doesn’t really change for the better.

Case in point: Mole played the lotto. And he actually won. $37.3 million dollars, after taxes. Quits his job. Wonderful!

But then he was back the next day, asking for his same job back. Why, you may wonder? Well, it turns out that he had purchased, at auction, the life sized model of the Millennium Falcon used in the actual filming of Star Wars: A New Hope. It was $37.2 million dollars. He spent all his money, and, along with the fees from the warehouse that it’s stored in he now owes an extra $127,438.23. So yeah, he’s handing out pizza slices again. But also, he lives in the Millennium Falcon. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world, are you kidding? Whose living in the Millennium Falcon? Oh yeah, it’s me.”

Now, you wouldn’t believe it, but that Falcon does bring in the ladies. Course, most of them are wearing metal bikinis or have blue skin, but Mole finds that kind of hot anyway. One part of the commune which Mole has no need to rebel against is the free loving.

Fifty Three. Sid (short for Siddharta) rules the commune with a surprisingly blissed out iron fist. “My child, all good things here, the hooka and the free love and the organically blessed honey, they all declare that every word pouring forth from my mouth are direct to you from Jesus, Buddha, or whichever Hindu god you prefer. But if that doesn’t convince you, remember... I’m the one with the key to the gun room.”

Sid, once a corporate lawyer, now wouldn’t be caught with such corporate frivolities such as tailored suits, or blackberries, or shoes. He wouldn’t be caught with these things, because he hides them all in a heavily secured underground bunker. Here, he indulges in his love of all things fashionable and technological without anyone needing to know. No one, that is, except for his two close personal friends, Donald Rumsfield and Bill Gates. They’re the only ones who are ever allowed into Sid’s special bunker. “It is true I have banned fancy Italian suits and the creeping influence of Microsoft Vista from this compound to protect my flock while at the same time enjoying the smooth silky goodness and the talking paperclip. Does that make me a hypocrite? No, my friends, it makes me a leader.”

Because of a booming honey empire, Sid is actually a very wealthy man, and takes care of any number of problems by throwing money at it. FBI staking out the compound? Here’s a bribe. A rival compound trying to move in on the honey business? Pay some burnt out homeless men to set up a shanty town near their honey shacks and scare away customers. His prophecy about rain looking increasingly unlikely? Hire the government to seed the clouds.

For all his faults, Sid is trying to lead the way on the Spiritual Path Towards Luminance, and does truly believe in his quest, regardless of how many times he might swerve, falter, or father illegitimate children.

Fifty two. Mag doesn’t believe in SPTL as much as Sid does. She still keeps her accounting books and outfits hidden away, just in case. Sid was the one who had the vision, and Mag’s kind of along for the ride. But part of that ride includes children – lots of them – and since Mag truly delights in her many kids, she doesn’t complain too much. And the bees, Mag LOVES the bees.

More than anything, Mag doesn’t want to be abandoned. Mag’s mom left her family and had an affair with the local family dentist when Mag was only 8. Mag never really got over it. “Mom used to say, “At least you get your cavities filled for free now!” but all I could wonder was who would fill this cavity in my heart.”

Mag talks like that a lot, semi-poetic, semi-Hallmark, but never fake. Always genuine. Because of her childhood issues, any hint that a family member might be thinking of leaving unleashes a flood of tears, guilt-tripping, and knit hats.

When Mag is stressed out, she knits. Her family can always tell how things are going by how many knit items are in Sid and Mag’s Grass Roofed Geodesic Dome. And we’re not talking peaceful, soothing knitting either, we’re talking angry, swear-word muttering, extreme knitting.

Mag has a soft spot for Mike, and often defends Mike against Sid. She can relate to Mike, because in many ways she feels the same way.

Mag is preternaturally beautiful and fertile, considering her age. Many people confuse her for Mike’s sister. In a free love environment, this leads to some very uncomfortable moments for Mike. The way Mag dresses, she doesn’t exactly discourage this, but she’s also oblivious to her affect on the boys. “One of the Anderson’s sweet boys told me that he’d like a chance to get together and spread my honey, isn’t that a hoot? It’s good to see the kids take an interest in honey.”

Twenty Five. Isabel’s a sweet, hip, buttoned up, beautiful, driven midwestern girl who moved to California to conquer Hollywood. She has very strict boundaries, and is very strict about having strict boundaries. “In order to maintain true intimacy in any relationships, I first have to establish healthy intellectual, emotional, and physical boundaries. In other words, next time please ask before you take a bite of my king sized snickers bar.”

She meets Mike when she visits the commune to option Sid and Mag’s story rights, because her studio wants to make a feature film about SPTL. She’s always wound a little too tight, and Mike helps her out of a semi-nervous-breakdown.

Mike and Isabel are intrigued with each other, yet reluctant to admit it. Though Isabel likes Mike, they share so little common understanding that they are often at odds. Isabel: “No, Mike, a Glock 179 is not a good present for a first date.” Mike: “I knew I should have gone with the Beretta 92. I just didn’t know if that would be sending the wrong message.”

Isabel lives the life that Mike can only dream of, and Mike, smack dab in the middle of communal living, basically lives Isabel’s nightmare. And it certainly won’t help this conflict-ridden relationship when Mike eventually learns that Isabel wants to shape the SPTL feature film so that it portrays Sid as a corrupt, manic David-Koresh-style cult leader.

Isabel has no interest in kids or marriage until “she’s old,” and spends most of her free time surfing or singing in her medieval chamber music choir. Both of these activities are very strictly kept secrets, however.

The Pilot Episode Treatment

Autumn’s Honey Pilot Treatment “Honey Sticks Like Glue”

AUTUMN BOY “MIKE” LUMINS (28) rides a beat-up rusty bicycle wearing a three piece suit and slicked-back hair. Mike changes in a public beach restroom and stuffs the suit into a backpack. Mike dons loose-fitting hemp cloths and musses up his hair. Mike rides his bike up steep canyon roads. He talks to himself, practicing what he should have said in a failed job interview he’s just now leaving. “Yes, Mr. Wundkell, I do believe that I would make an impressive addition to your already formidable staff. Ugh! Of course that’s what I should have said. Is it so difficult, Mike?”
Mike pulls up to an IMPOSING GATE marked “Spiritual Pathway Towards Luminescence” (SPTL, pronounced “Spittle”). Mike’s ordered to lie on the ground. A group of hippy soldiers with LARGE ASSAULT RIFLES surround Mike. Mike calls many of the soldiers by name, tells them they don’t have to do this with him. They shoot in the air. Mike drops to the ground. They pat Mike down, and then cheerfully let him into a compound. The guards inform Mike, who they call Autumn, that he must see his parents for an audience. Mike asks that they call him “Mike.” They don’t.
Mike sneaks into his crowded, shared Yurt (a permanent circular tent) and thankfully finds it empty. Mike hides his suit in a large underground compartment normally covered by a rug woven from Yak fur. Mike takes a weathered brochure advertising a Santa Monica condo high-rise building and looks at it longingly, and then sticks that in a pocket.
Mike is shocked to find his friend, MOLE, hiding in the compartment. Mole and Mike discuss Mike’s failed interview from earlier in the day. Mike hears people outside the tent and tenses up, trying to force Mole back into hiding since the refugee Mole is not welcome on the compound anymore.
Mike rushes to meet with his parents. On the way, Mike meets a number of wacky inhabitants of this commune. It’s clear that people count on him for all sorts of compound-related problems – to referee heated disputes, fix the finest dish of tofu cutlets, even to drain a filled up organic outhouse.
Mike visits his parents, SID and MAG (50s), the leaders of this commune. They ask Mike where he’s been, and Mikes fibs about looking for... “new strains of honey.” Sid informs Mike that Sid has tragic news: a Cousin has left the compound and taken a swanky corporate job in the Big City, abandoning their values and betraying all of them in process (The Cousin is a clerk at the Walmart in West Hills.) Mag dramatically breaks down at the news. Sid acts as if this Cousin was selling state secrets to Bin Laden. Mike tries to defend the Cousin, which doesn’t go over well. Finally, Sid demands Mike get out to the Hallelujah Honey Shack – the compound’s popular roadside shop on the border of the compound and “the outside world” – to meet a visitor, a woman. Most likely an FBI agent, Sid and Mag have Mike believe.

Mike meets ISABEL PORTAL (20’s), at the Hallelujah Honey Shack. Mike acts as if Isabel is an FBI Agent, because Sid and Mag suspected she would be, but Isabel is actually a movie producer. Following compound protocol, Mike presses the “FBI Panic” button and compound members swarm the Honey Shack with weapons, anointing oils, and their finest blends of honey (not available for sale to the public!), terrifying the other customers and Isabel in the chaos. Only after Isabel is threatened, sanctified, and bribed is she able to make Mike understand that she’s not FBI. Isabel offers to buy Sid’s life rights because she wants to make a movie about the commune leader.
During the meeting, Isabel’s boyfriend, FRANK WILLS (30s) enters the Honey Shack, angry to discover that Isabel is here on business. Frank is rude and calls her a workaholic (among other things.) Mike steps in to defend her. Frank becomes jealous of Mike and drives away, promising to move out. Isabel is on the verge of tears. Mike skillfully works to pull together a honey-based remedy for her. While doing so he drops the brochure to the Santa Monica high-rise on the ground. It’s actually where Isabel lives! On impulse (no doubt influenced by the Organic Honey Drink), Isabel mentions that she’ll need a roommate to cover her rent. On impulse, Mike declares he could live there with her. They plan on a meeting place where Isabel will pick him up later that night.
Mike approaches his parents to tell them he’s moving out. While there, Mike cannot get the words out. Sid and Mag are cunning, and by the end of the conversation, instead of leaving, Mike’s been given more commune responsibilities, and gets re-assigned to a nicer Yurt.
Isabel waits at the meeting place. It’s dark. She checks the time and drives away, sad.
Mike leads a new meeting at the commune and then moves into his fancy new Yurt. He examines the condo brochure and turns it over. It’s Isabel’s number. He hides the brochure under his pillow.

Posted by jason on 03:30 AM | Comments (16)

December 03, 2008

Great great meeting today

I had a fantastic meeting today that represents amazing progress towards the whole screenwriting dream. If you'd like details, email me.

Posted by jason on 11:06 PM | Comments (4)

One Night Only with Tom Hanks

Seems the ET video clip was taken down from Youtube, so here's another clip about it.

Posted by jason on 05:17 PM | Comments (2)

An evening with the stars

Tonight Collin and I got to attend an amazing event on campus at UCLA. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson hosted a special fundraiser for the Film School, which was extremely generous of them. To do this, they staged a reading of "You Can't Take It With You," and invited a number of their friends. Like William Shatner and Martin Short and John Hamm (Donald Draper from MAD MEN!), and Annette Benning, and Mila Kunas, and James Cromwell and Peter Krause... all amazing actors. It was simply a stunning performance, seeing all these stars on stage. And they were having such fun, sometimes improving lines. Tom Hanks was just incredible as a Russian dance instructor and truly all the performances were so amazing that to single out too many would give the false impression that others weren't up to the same level.


Posted by jason on 04:12 AM | Comments (11)