Wednesday, August 31, 2005

DFL and Crimson Ape Redux

I've received some questions regarding The Dumb Fucking Lesbian Trilogy so I thought I'd do a little post just to clear them up.

Some of you are under the impression that the woman sitting with the Crimson Ape at the restaurant was another agent and that some sort of conspiracy was afoot. The woman was actually a development executive for a production company. It's rare you see two agents lunching together because anyone who saw the two of them together would assume they had no one better to have lunch with. And then their careers would be over. Agents only get within five feet of other agents if they're a) plotting a way to steal a client or b) using the car pool lane to steal a client.

Furthermore, I'm absolutely certain that neither the Crimson Ape nor the Development Woman knew what I looked like. In fact, I've been working in Hollywood for over ten years and I'm still absolutely certain nobody knows what I look like. And if they did, they would most likely confuse me for one of the other out of shape ill-shaven writers that we in the business call "Jews."

The Crimson Ape is not my agent. He has occasionally threatened to invite me out to smoke cigars or stalk deer in paintball wars. (The Crimson Ape is in tremendous physical shape and never ignores an opportunity to squeeze your hand and make it hurt.)

I have never stalked deer in a paintball war with the Crimson Ape. I have asthma and do not smoke cigars.

Someone asked me whether the people I've been writing about know that they're subjects on my blog and how do they feel if they do know. Until very recently the Dump Fucking Lesbian was unaware that I was writing about her. In fact, once notified (by me), she required my wife's help with this crazy new thing called "the internet." Upon reading the trilogy the DFL became "choked up" because a) it reminded her of our good times together and b) random people on the internet were interested in her life.

On a side note: she has agreed to be interviewed for the blog at a later date.

I have had no contact with anyone else who's on the blog but I look forward to the time RSVP WOMAN and I can get together and laugh about the crazy fun we had trying to fuck me out of going to my own premiere.

As a bonus: anyone who wishes to know more about the Crimson Ape should rent Charlie Kaufman's "Adaptation." Charlie's agent in the film is also the Crimson Ape. Not actually the Crimson Ape. But a representation of him...well, you get the picture.

As both a side note and a bonus because at least five of you are probably thinking it: yes, I'm also considering a round table with the DFL, the Crimson Ape and myself. Perhaps we will smoke cigars and play paintball.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

DFL III: The Rise of the Crimson Ape

Where was I?


So the Dumb Fucking Lesbian and I become an unconquerable duo. I do my infinite monkey thing and she pimps me so hard we get invited to the Players' Ball where we all sport matching green alligator boots and jade pinky rings shaped like the Eiffel Tower.

Maybe. Memory's fuzzy there.

She's still working at the small agency but no longer an assistant and I've stopped worrying I won't get a job because she's out on a Starbucks run.

Which leads me to the beginning of the end.

One day I'm in Beverly Hills with a friend having lunch at a Chinese restaurant. It's a well known place and quite crowded. Furthermore, the tables are scrunched together to maximize the potsticker per square foot ratio. We're tucked into a corner crammed next to another twosome. They're both dressed in business attire and as neither of them remotely resembles a chicken potsticker I pay them no mind (the infinite monkey loves his chicken potstickers).

My friend and I turn to the menus and I try to control the excitement I always feel when ordering at a Chinese restaurant without parental supervision. Out of the restaurant noise this reaches me:


I look at my friend. He's heard it, too. It's coming from the neighoring table and so I check these two out. A woman in her mid-to late twenties, Hollywood uniform. A man of the same age, with a slightly ruddy simian quality to him. We'll call her WOMAN. We'll call him THE CRIMSON APE. Here's the gist of the conversation:

CRIMSON APE: All I'm sayin' is...Josh Friedman could do better.
WOMAN: But what's wrong with Josh Friedman's career?
CRIMSON APE: Nothing! But (Dumb Fucking Lesbian) is a lightweight.
WOMAN: Have you ever met her?
WOMAN: I have. She's great. And she's doing a great job with Josh Friedman's career.
CRIMSON APE: Hah. Grunt.

They go back to their lunch and the subject changes. I return to my menu and strategize a way to get my friend to order more food than he's going to eat so I can vulture it while still only paying half. A few minutes later...

CRIMSON APE: I'm just saying...Josh Friedman doesn't know what he's doing.
WOMAN: Josh Friedman's loyal to her.
CRIMSON APE: I'd kick ass representing Josh Friedman. Josh Friedman's making a huge mistake. Josh Friedman's an idiot.

All righty now.

My food still hasn't arrived otherwise this (and the rest of my life) may have turned out differently. But I'm pumped up on tea and Diet Coke and after all he is talking about me. I lean over and put my hand on their table. They stop their conversation.

ME: Look, I don't mean to be rude and interrupt. I hope you don't think I was eavesdropping. I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm Josh Friedman.

I now witness two of the greatest reaction shots in the history of my-life-as-film. Crimson Ape's jaw drops some eighteen inches down to the table while Woman is wearing the BIGGEST SHIT-EATING GRIN I HAVE EVER SEEN. She can't help herself and frankly who can blame her.

WOMAN: Wow. This is...quite a Hollywood moment. We were just talking about you.
ME: I know.
CRIMSON APE: We're...big fans.
ME: Uh huh.
WOMAN: Yeah. (Still grinning) BIG FANS.

If I'm honest with myself I'll admit I don't think I've ever made a woman happier than I did WOMAN that day. And note this: Crimson Ape still has not said his name and I'm wondering if he thinks he's gonna get away with not telling me...

So I introduce my friend to them. And she says "LOVELY TO MEET YOU MY NAME IS (SO FUCKING LUCKY I WAS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THIS)."

I turn to him so he knows he's gonna have to fess up.

ME: So you said.


And he disappears through a hole in the floor.

Now the reason I'm in Beverly Hills is because I have a meeting with a producer after lunch. And I'm so excited because I'm always looking for good stories for the warm-up section of the meeting. And now I've got a doozy. I walk my jaunty walk into the producer's office, get my free Diet Coke and start in with my funniness. I get thirty seconds into the story and she says:

PRODUCER: Are you referring to The Crimson Ape?
ME: Excuse me?
PRODUCER: The Crimson Ape. It's the Crimson Ape, right?
ME: do you know?
PRODUCER: He's a friend of mine. He called me from the car right after lunch.

Now understand this: the Crimson Ape had NO IDEA I was meeting with this woman. But he called HER. I am a little unsettled by this and begin to wonder about his powers. I decide not to tell the Dumb Fucking Lesbian the story because she's a little high-strung and I fear her knowing we're being stalked by a Crimson Ape.

I see her four hours later at a fund-raiser she's guilted me into attending. This is the first thing out of her mouth:


And now I'm starting to feel like the monkey in Outbreak.

I tell her the story and she takes it with good humor but now I'm totally freaked. The Crimson Ape has taken a story that ostensibly makes him look like a loudmouth jackass and is spreading it ALL OVER TOWN. He is taking MY STORY and making it HIS STORY.

And I begin wondering if he's doing this on purpose to take the sting out of my version of the events, or he's just such an insane megalomaniac it never occurs to him not every story which stars you makes you look like a hero.

The Crimson Ape may be a genius.

But like one of those movies that opens on 200 screens and then bursts onto 1200 the next week when the studio realizes its per screen averages are through the roof and word of mouth is wildfire, The Crimson Ape Story becomes a sleeper hit. People I've never met ask me about it but I stop bringing it up myself.

I realize with every telling the Crimson Ape gets stronger.

And then I hear something that chills me to the jelly. The Dumb Fucking Lesbian tells me that she's met the Crimson Ape at a party. And he's quite smart and funny (if a little obnoxious). They laughed and laughed about The Crimson Ape Story. And boy isn't he kinda self-deprecating in a weird way...

Do you see where this is going? I didn't.

ME: Yes, Dumb Fucking Lesbian?
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: You know I've been talking with my agency about giving me a little more respect?
ME: You mean money.
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: Well, no. I mean...Yeah. Money.
ME: What about it?
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: I'm moving to another agency.
ME: What? Really? But I love our little agency!
ME: Our little agency has pizza party Fridays! With beer!
ME: Does our new agency have pizza party Fridays?
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: Josh I'm moving to The Crimson Ape's agency. He talked me into it.

Oh Dear God the Crimson Ape is a motherfucking Warlock.

I cannot begin to describe the horror and anger. I'd gone to bed a member of the Rebellion and woken up a Sith droid. How dare she! But understand this: there was never a thought in my mind of not going with the Dumb Fucking Lesbian. As I've said before, it's the agent, not the agency that matters.

But for God sakes she's taking me to the Nest of the Crimson Ape!

So the Dumb Fucking Lesbian leaves her skanky stroll in Westwood for a shiny bordello in Beverly Hills. And we bitches go with her. But I make one thing clear to her: I will not meet with other agents. I will not talk to them on the phone. No one calls me but for my Dumb Fucking Lesbian. IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES (such as, the Dumb Fucking Lesbian is out sick and I need someone to make a phone call) I will pre-approve one or two other agents. And at no time will The Crimson Ape do work on my behalf.

By the way have I mentioned that I'm insane?

And then one day it happens. I stop by The Nest to drop something off with the DFL. And there he is, strutting the polished marble hallways like the alpha ape warlock he is...Before I can gut-shoot him he's got a vice grip on my hand and pulls me close in what innocent bystanders may think of as an affectionate almost-man-hug but I immediately recognize as the death hold of some ancient evil spirit.

He bares his teeth in a "smile" and whispers in my ear:

"One way or the other, dude. Gotcha."

Some of you may not know but in a previous life I was Boris Spassky's cut man in his world championship battle against Bobby Fischer. I was sitting next to Spassky in Reykjavik when Fischer dropped him like he was Yuri Averbakh if you know what I mean. I'll always remember Spassky's vacant stare as I pulled him out from under his bed at the Reykjavik Hilton. But it was not until my encounter with the Crimson Ape in his Nest did I truly understand Spassky's last words to me:

"Goddamn. That cocksucker really fucked me."

I wish this was the end of the story. But a Nest lined by the black magic of the Crimson Ape was sure to spawn darkness. Sure enough, I began hearing stories from the Dumb Fucking Lesbian about how unhappy she was. The Nest was a big corporation and (back then) a dysfunctional one. There were no Friday pizza and beer parties and while my memory is fuzzy I'm pretty sure they didn't even have Fridays.

One day she asks me to lunch. Never a good sign, by the way. Dinner with your agent: something good's happened. Lunch with your agent: something bad's happened.

She was quitting. And not just the Nest. She was quitting being an agent and taking a job as A STUDIO EXECUTIVE. Whatever it was that had made her happy and love her job and talk in capital letters had been lost...It had been replaced with insanity.

I was going to kill that fucking Ape.

But there was a catch. And here's where Hollywood will fuck you if no one else will...The Dumb Fucking Lesbian had six months left on her contract with the Nest. In order for her to leave and go take another job they had to "release" her from her contract. And while she won't say this at the lunch I read between the lines: the only way they're letting her leave is if she convinces me to stay. At the Nest. The Ape's Nest.

HER: Just until I get settled.
ME: How long do you think that'll be?
HER: Six months.
ME: You mean the remainder of your contract?
HER: Is that what it is?

So because I love that goofy little pimp and I want her to be happy I stay. They assign me another agent--he's smart, cynical, urbane and skinny. The anti-Ape. But because I'm insane this is what I do: I sit in my house. And do not write. And do not take a job. And do not make the Nest a plug nickel. For the next six months.

Boy I showed them.

I begin planning my escape. (This doesn't really require a lot of planning unless you're also planning to enact a specific revenge fantasy against a specific Warlock Ape.)

In the middle of this New Agent calls. Here's what he says:

NEW AGENT: Have you ever heard of the book "The Black Dahlia?"

That was eight years ago. I'm still there. So is my (Not So New Anymore) Agent.

And so is the Crimson Ape.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm Your Friend, Eddie

A number of you have written me (or one of you with multiple personalities) and asked if I'm still represented by the dumb fucking lesbian from my last post. The answer is no. But I love her like the crazy sister I never had, was ashamed of, denied being related to until forced by my parents, and then ultimately appreciated for all her quirks. Despite her absolute stone cold inability to keep a straight face during negotiations she was one of the best agents a boy could have. Here's why:


If any of you have checked me out on IMDB you'll note that I wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay to Keanu Reeves's most famous movie "Chain Reaction." I've only got a shared story credit now but it began as a spec script sold by yours truly some months after making his first $20,000 on the previously discussed serial killer movie. I got paid pretty well but I was still living in the attic and driving my mother's Honda. In the future I'll write about selling this script but all you need to know right now is this: There is ONE line in the movie left over from my spec.

"I'm your friend, Eddie."

I was fired after writing three drafts which included three totally different third acts. The studio told me they thought I was "burned out." This happens when people set you on fire.

My original script (called Dead Drop) was set in Washington, D.C. and concerned a married, fifty-year-old inventor for the CIA who goes on the run with his wife after discovering one of his inventions was used to kill a Senator.

The movie Chain Reaction is not about that. It's about cold fusion.

For those of you who don't know, cold fusion is a scientific process by which development executives set young writers on fire and create jackass movie macguffins in the resulting oxygen vacuum.

So I'm fired because clearly I'm not qualified to fuck up a good idea like the adults can. I'm sent to the kiddie table (also known as "the unemployment line") while a series of writers (at least eight) take their seats around the Idea Lazy Susan (also known as Development of an Action Movie).

Months go by. The movie is greenlit. Pre-production comes and goes...Film rolls...

Then the fun begins. RING. RING.

PRODUCERS: Hey Josh. Long time no talk.
ME: How's it going?
PRODUCERS: Well, you know we're in production here in Chicago.
ME: I heard.
PRODUCERS: Thing is, we kinda don't have a writer.
ME: Hm?
PRODUCERS: Our writer left. We need one.
ME: Really? But you had so many of them.
PRODUCERS: And a third act. We need that, too.
ME: Don't have a third act, do you? With all those writers?
PRODUCERS: So whattya say...why don't you come on out to Chicago for ten weeks? We'll put you up in the Four Seasons. Pay you a weekly rate. It'll be great.
PRODUCERS: It is YOUR script. You OWE IT to your work. Oh and by the way...You'd need to come the day after tomorrow.

I'm beginning to suspect that Eddie may not actually be my friend.

Now I have not seen the script for months. They send it over and I read it before lunch. It's...well, let's just say a lot of cold fusion has taken place. I try to communicate my dismay to Agent but she's just too excited by this AWESOME AMOUNT OF MONEY I'll make if I take this job at a weekly rate. I ask her to read the script over lunch so we can talk. But I know where she's at: she's a 25 year old newbie agent whose client has a shot to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. Who cares if the script's drifted a little bit?

She reads the script and calls me.

AGENT: This isn't your script.
ME: They claim it is.
AGENT: It's nothing like your script. What do they expect from you?
ME: They said Mamet was fired off of The Verdict and he came back and won an Academy Award.
AGENT: They went back to Mamet's script on The Verdict. They're already shooting this movie.
ME: Not the third act.
AGENT: Don't do it.
ME: What?
AGENT: Don't do it. Don't be your own hack.

Now understand that I did not have another job at this time. And she had approximately...three clients. Between the two of us we could've used the gig.

So of course I didn't do it.

I would love to say that some wonderful job came around the corner soon after that--a job I would not have been able to do had I been freezing my ass off in Chicago. But nothing did. Still I don't regret the decision and love my old agent for supporting me as a writer and not just a paycheck.

I also love her for this:

The premiere rolls around and I take Agent along with Girlfriend Before Wife. I watch the movie like anyone else would: I have no fucking clue what's going to happen. Especially in the third act. When it's over I stagger out mumbling something about my Eddie. I tell Agent I'm going home instead of to the party. She goes ballistic on me:


So I went to the party and I would love to say it was this total Molly Ringwald "Pretty in Pink" moment where I'm in my homemade dress and Girlfriend Before Wife is Ducky but here's the reality:

I smiled my fucking smile. I ate their fucking food and drank their fucking alcohol. I sat in a corner with Girlfriend Before Wife and only one person approached us the whole night to say hello. It was bitter and awkward and felt a little like Jewish Summer Camp.

And I'd have been really pissed if I'd missed that.

In my next post I'll conclude my Dumb Fucking Lesbian Trilogy with the Demise of our Partnership...

Monday, August 22, 2005

One Day at a Time...

I've been getting some questions about my origin story and while I'd love to have been rescued from an aquarium fire by a sentient fluke whale and his dolphin sidekick I'm not nearly that lucky. Instead I went to USC Film School where I almost got my MFA but did not due to the fact that the people who work there are insufferable assholes. But we'll save that for another day.

This is a story about agents and lawyers. Many people want to know how to get representation and what I would tell you is to move to Los Angeles, write a good script and wait. While you're waiting you should probably write another script and hopefully it's better than the one you wrote before it. In my case I won a screenwriting prize while I was at USC Film school where I almost got my MFA but did not due to the fact that the people who work there are insufferable assholes. The award wasn't a huge deal but a couple agents took notice. I met with them but it didn't feel exactly right so I kinda kept fucking around and hoping something better would come along. To this day this is how I run my life.

Meanwhile I met these guys who fancied themselves producers and wanted to option that script. I had no lawyer. No agent. Nothing. But because I am the dumbest monkey in the fucking tree I did something that I regret EVERY TIME I do it.

I asked my Dad for help.

Now understand this. Back then my father's knowledge of the entertainment business didn't extend past what he'd learned kissing Bonnie Franklin once in high school. (Of course now he checks WOTW daily grosses on Box Office Mojo and wants to know if the DVD industry is in a slump and whether this will affect my ability to provide food and comfort for my family.)

So he recommends me a cheap lawyer friend of his who I find out later only came to this "lawyer gig" late in life. What he really wants to do is park his Volvo near the beach and sleep. But hey, he's got one of those law degree thingies so I figure what the fuck. He then proceeds to negotiate a contract between me and the producers WHICH ALLOWS THEM TO OPTION MY SCRIPT FOR $2500 AND THEN RENEW SAID OPTION EVERY YEAR UNTIL THE END OF TIME.

A tiny error on his part.

So here I am with one script to my name (which I will never see again), this little lucite award on my shelf and no agent. Did I mention the script is a prison drama taking place on death row in real time and at the end the guy gets killed? Sure, real time electrocution stories have always been a hot genre, but for some reason none of the big agencies wanted to take on a client whose only script was already optioned UNTIL THE END OF TIME and whose second script (unfinished) was in that other really hot genre: "Death at a Jewish Summer Camp".

Then a screenwriter buddy of mine says a friend of his from high school (currently working as an agent's assistant at a tiny agency) may soon get to represent clients on her own. She's read my peppy prison drama and would love to have dinner. I'm a little nervous about this because this was my same friend who admitting masturbating every time he got stuck writing a scene. (I'd read his scripts. He got stuck a lot.) But the almost-agent and I meet and I tell her my script is already under option UNTIL THE END OF TIME and I'm fairly certain my next script ain't exactly The Last Boy Scout.

She says she couldn't care less and I officially become Her First Client and she becomes My First Agent. The funny part was, she was still an assistant. So occasionally she'd get confused and I'd call her line and she'd answer as if it were her boss's line, and I'd think: "Wow. My career is in the hands of a yahoo."

But she was the most enthusiastic yahoo I had ever met. She took that one little script of mine and flogged the shit out of it. I had meetings all over town. And that is ALL you can ask your agent to be and do. The rest is up to you. A lot of people want to get signed at a big agency but what's really important is the agent NOT the agency. Having a fancy cover on your script doesn't mean fuck all if it's only being used by your agent's assistant to test-drive her new Prada book bag.

On the other hand, if you need a lawyer don't call my dad.

After a number of months I get my first offer: rewriting a serial killer movie for this little production company. I was living in an attic with shag carpeting, a velour sectional and a mattress on the floor. I had $1500 to my name. Unbeknownst to me until years later, this is how the negotiations went:

MY AGENT: I'm calling to discuss the Josh Friedman deal.
BUSINESS AFFAIRS: Great. I hear it's his first job. Congratulations.
MY AGENT: Thanks.
BUSINESS AFFAIRS: Whatcha looking for?
MY AGENT: A million dollars.
BUSINESS AFFAIRS: What kind of dumb fucking lesbian are you?
MY AGENT: Can I have a second chance?
BUSINESS AFFAIRS: Twenty thousand dollars. Take it or leave it.
MY AGENT: Take it. Thank you very much.
BUSINESS AFFAIRS: I'm sorry about the dumb fucking lesbian comment.
MY AGENT: No problem.


And it was.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Koepp and I (Part II)

So where was I?

Right. Driving around Los Angeles counting billboards with my name on them (too high, can't see, who cares) and posters without my name on them (eye level, every bustop and movie theater, drive by two of them five times a day on my way home from anywhere). But whatever. I'm bigger than that.

Did I mention the trailers?

I try to find my happy place and look forward to the big Westwood premiere. I tell myself I'm bigger than this but I know part of my excitement for the Westwood premiere will be walking around afterwards and NOT having to tell the 1200 suits who saw the movie that I wrote it.

And in case you don't know how this is going I'll get right to it: there is no Westwood premiere. Only a New York premiere. A big fancy Red Cross Benefit downtown at the Ziegfield Theater with a big hoo-hah afterwards at a Museum somewhere.

An away game.

Here are three important factors:

1. I hate to travel.
2. I hate to travel on airplanes due to a previously discussed motion sickness issue and a very real fear of death.
3. I won't know anybody at the premiere other than Wife whom I can confidently say is going to speak to me.

So I decide to go.

Agent's assistant calls the studio: Josh and Wife are coming to New York for the premiere.
Studio: That's well and fine for Josh and Wife. But don't think we're paying for his airfare or his hotel.
Agent's assistant: It's in his contract that you have to pay for his airfare and hotel.
Studio: No it isn't. Prove it to us.
Agent's assistant: I'm faxing over the relevant page right now.
(sound of fax machine...)
Studio: Would they like a smoking or non-smoking room?

This is how they do you in Hollywood.

So Wife and I get our shit together to go on our first trip away from our baby and I try to convince myself everything's gonna be fine and no one's gonna stop me at the door and ask me for a secret handshake I don't know. The night before we leave I'm packing everything up and I take a look at the fancy invite I've had sitting on my desk for three weeks. There's an RSVP number on it that I've never called because I'M THE WRITER OF THE FUCKING MOVIE and it's never occurred to me that after a dozen phone calls with the studio coordinating flights and hotels and limos, etc. that I should have to RSVP TO MY OWN FUCKING MOVIE.

You see where this is going.

I call. be sure.

RSVP WOMAN: Hello, War of the Worlds RSVP line.
ME: Hi, yeah. This is Josh Friedman. I'm calling to RSVP. I know I'm four days late on that, but...I mean this RSVP wasn't really referring to me was it?
RSVP WOMAN: It refers to everyone, sir.
ME: But not, like, me, right? I wrote the movie.
RSVP WOMAN: Everyone.
ME: So what does that mean?
RSVP WOMAN: It means I don't have seats for you.

Now understand something: the office with which I am dealing is the SAME OFFICE that is handling my airfare, hotel and limousine service. There are TWO PEOPLE working in this office and THE OTHER ONE is the one we've been talking to. But these are two different people and two different desks and clearly two different yet parallel worlds. One world I exist in, the other I don't. It's enough to make me miss dating Stephen Hawking. I cannot help but wonder aloud (but not too aloud) whether or not Tom and Katie RSVP'd.

So six phone calls later (including one where Agent tells me I'm an idiot for not RSVPing) we get the thing sorted out. But this is RSVP WOMAN'S WORLD and she has the last laugh. Which is this:

"Don't worry. Josh's got tickets SOMEWHERE in the theater."

Thanks for coming to Chevron. Have a nice day.

Wife and I wing off to NY and have a lovely time in First Class on Studio's dime. Wife watches three DVDs on the personal player supplied by Fancy First Class Attendant and I take two Ativan and stare at a couple very small pinhole cracks in the plastic bulkhead in front of me wondering what kind of g-forces it's gonna take to bust them wide open and bring this puppy down.

(If you're wondering who thought up the plane crash sequence, stop wondering.)

The next day the limo picks us up for the premiere. We're on the early side and our limo is the second one to get there. The first one belongs to the future Mr. and Mrs. Tom Cruise. Now this post is not called "The Cruise and I" so I will not analyze the man despite being asked Tom Cruise questions at a rate of 20 to 1 compared to all other WOTW-related questions.

All you need to know is this: the man is a fucking movie star and even if he didn't travel with two hundred flashbulbs surrounding him he would still glow.

So the Cruises-to-be exit their limo and the Friedmans-already exit theirs within two minutes of each other. The Cruises-to-be make it maybe five feet onto the red carpet and the world explodes in flashing, yelling, posing, kissing, big smiles, two guffaws and at least one gasp.

PR WOMAN: Maybe the two of you should just, you know, wait a sec or two to head down the carpet.
ME: Yeah. Good idea. Kind of what I was thinking.

Five minutes later no one has moved and it becomes clear to me that the reason the Cruises-to-be are here AN HOUR AND A HALF before the movie starts is because it's going to take them that long to get down the red carpet.

The reasons the Friedmans are here that early is because we're dorks.

Finally the PR woman decides to shuffle us past the Cruises-to-be and down the red carpet. We slip past the happy couple and I resist the urge to give Tom a big hug and say "We did it, man!"

Instead the Friedmans slide by quietly and head down the red carpet--fifty yards of empty red rug with NO ONE ELSE on it and surrounded by THREE HUNDRED photographers.

No one takes our picture. No one even bothers to ask us who we are. We look like no one in the movie and thus cannot even be mistaken for maybe the DESPERATE MOM or RAY'S DOCKWORKER FRIEND.

Which would've been cool.

Inside the theater I'm terrified to find my seat in case RSVP WOMAN has put us up in the balcony with the radio contest winners. Every row in the main section has a name tag on it: CRUISE. CHATWIN. SPIELBERG. FANNING. ROBBINS. KOEPP.

Don't think I've forgotten about Koepp.

But two rows back is FRIEDMAN and even though my wife and I don't command the whole row we do have nice seats in the middle and I almost take back all of the revenge fantasies I've had about RSVP WOMAN.

So we sit and sit and sit and it's now ten minutes before curtain time and occurs to me that a lot of people must be coming in but they're not filling the theater. I realize I've made a tactical mistake because everyone who's involved in the movie is probably now in the lobby hanging around with each other telling inside jokes and war stories and getting congratulated and humbly nodding and eating free popcorn.

So I tell my wife I have to pee and I head back outside to see what's up. And there he is. Surrounded by what we in the business refer to as "friends and family".

David Koepp.

I know what he looks like because I met him years ago on the Panic Room set when I was working with David Fincher on Black Dahlia. I count on him not recognizing me and I slip by him, heading for the bathroom but really trying to get a sense of the man and his mood.

He seems pretty happy. I go pee.

Minutes later I return to the theater and he's sitting in his KOEPP seat. I decide to take him now even though he's got eleven other people with him and I've just got Wife and Best Friend (who's in New York on business and weaseled himself a ticket (Fuck you RSVP WOMAN). Koepp's a tall man but even though he's got reach on me I'm pretty sure I outweigh him by forty pounds. I've also got the element of surprise.

But here's my big problem. I like the movie. I like the script. I like most of the changes he's made. I'm proud to share a credit with him even if he's disappointed to share one with me.

So that's what I tell him.

And he's happy to see me. And touched that I would come talk to him. And excited for the movie. And he's proud to share a credit with me. I end up spending more time talking to David Koepp at the premiere than I do anybody else. He comes to my table to meet my wife, I go to his to meet his fiancee...We're both a little drunk and there's hugging and email exchanging and promises to stay in touch.

It's a serious fucking love fest. (I'm sorry to disappoint.)

But throughout the evening (because at the core I'm still a horrible person) I will admit to glancing over at Koepp's table to see who's coming to congratulate him (because I know they ain't coming over to talk to me). And frankly, he spent the evening much as I did: talking with loved ones. (For this particular evening my loved ones included the guy who played RAY'S DOCKWORKER FRIEND--who didn't rate his own table and instead shared one with us.)

Because if there's a lesson it's this: you can be David Koepp or Josh Friedman or fucking Shakespeare...If you're a screenwriter you're a screenwriter and if you want people to give you love at your premiere you better bring 'em with you.


So it's all over and after the premiere I've got a warm glowy thing going except that I've gotta wait in a line to get back our cellphones which have been confiscated so no one can pirate the movie. (No comment.) The line's ALL THE WAY DOWN THE CITY BLOCK and it's going to take AN HOUR to get our phones back. Wife is not good standing in lines so I send her to try and find PR WOMAN to see if I can wield my mighty influence and get our phones back sooner. While in line I chat up the woman next to me who's complaining about waiting an hour. Here's word for word how it goes:

LADY: I can't believe we have to wait in this line.
ME: I know what you're sayin'...
LADY: It's gonna take all night.
ME: If it makes you feel any better...I wrote this movie and I'm waiting in this line.
LADY: You're David Koepp? I thought you were taller.

And so it goes.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Brief History of Nausea

So I have this 9am breakfast meeting with a producer pitching me a sci-fi idea. After WOTW I get pitched a lot of sci-fi ideas. Some good, some bad, and one so stupendously stupid I'm silently praying that particular producer gets hit by a truck so I can talk about it without reprisal.

Today's breakfast idea happens to be a good one. It also includes a possible chance to hang out with Stephen Hawking. You read me right. Stephen Hawking. Now understand that this is a common producer trick--dangling the cool "research experience" as some sort of bonus inducement to do the project.

This rarely works on me because I'm a fat lazy fuck.

Furthermore, for some bizarre reason my opportunities seem to revolve around water. And I hate water. People are constantly pitching me what they always call "boat repo movies" but what I call "modern day pirates without Johnny Depp movies". With those projects the "cool opportunity" is always the promise of "hanging out with the boat guys". But I can see the future: me, the producer and some sun-stroked pirate with that white shit on his nose looking like Dennis Connor from America's Cup in 1983. There'll be twenty foot swells (whatever that means) and I'll have so many seasickness patches on my body I look like the Yeti but it won't matter as I vomit so hard I throw up my brain.

But the Terminator teaches us the future is ours to make of it what we will and as we say down in Kentucky: "That Jew don't hunt".

And so I'm always left to tell these boat repo producers that a) I'm not going anywhere near the water or the project and b) there's like, six other boat repo projects and c) none of them are gonna work without Johnny Depp.

So I don't do water meetings anymore.

I also once had a producer promise me a ride in that weightless "Vomit Comet" thing they used for Apollo 13. Here was the conversation with Agent:

Agent: So whattya think of (silly movie idea)?
Me: They want me to go up in that weightless "Vomit Comet" thing they used for Apollo 13.
Agent: Cool! So Whattya think of (silly movie idea)?
Me: You know there's no fucking way I'm going up in that thing.
Agent: I'm sure it's not a requirement for the job.
Me: I think it is. I think there'll be peer pressure.
Agent: So...

Perhaps you're starting to see a pattern here.

My first girlfriend in high school was a closet smoker (and possibly a closet have-sexer with her neighbor while I was taking Driver's Ed). She scared me silly and I often threw up in her presence, sometimes just at the prospect of driving to her house and being alone with her. We went out for a year and by the end I weighed twenty-seven pounds. Ah. Good times.

Which naturally brings us back to Stephen Hawking. Because here's something else you might not know about me: I'm an idiot. A complete moron. I don't know jack shit about jack shit. No writer really does. He may pretend he does. He may have read a book or two, or gone on a "research trip". But honestly, if we really wanted to master a subject we'd make it our life's work.

Just like Stephen Hawking did.

Here's how it's gonna go:

Hawking: Wormhole theory, event horizon, Schroedinger's Cat...
Me: Um hmm...
Hawking: You all right Josh?
Me: Yeah, sure. I'm fine.
Hawking: You seem...pensive.
Me: No. Really. I'm good.
Hawking: You can tell me.
Me: Well. It's I smell cigarettes?

And then I throw up my brain.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane

My apologies to all seven of you who were waiting with bated breath for the second part of "The Koepp and I". I'm working on it. Okay, I'm not working on it. If I had been working on it you wouldn't be reading this instead. Whatever. I'll get to it. It's not like I don't know what happens. But like I said before...I've got limited good material and I need to stretch it out.

So I'm reading the internet the other day as we webmasters are wont to do and I come across the news that I've been praying about for months: the film formerly known as SNAKES ON A PLANE and then recently known as PACIFIC AIR ONE-TWENTY WHO GIVES A FLYING FUCK has been returned to its glory and is being renamed SNAKES ON A PLANE!

I think.

You can read the article yourself. Now nowhere does the studio actually say they're changing the title. But Sam Jackson's pretty sure he's doing a movie called SNAKES ON A PLANE. And if Sam Jackson thinks he's doing a movie called SNAKES ON A're doing a movie called SNAKES ON A PLANE.

Why do I care? Because I love SNAKES ON A PLANE. Love it. It makes me giggle like the fat, lazy schoolgirl I am. Here's why:

Some months ago my agent called me (we'll call him...Agent). Agent says: "New Line's got a project they want you to look at. They're making the movie. They love it. It needs a little work."

Now when a studio tells you something needs "a little work" what that really means is "maybe it needs a little work, maybe it needs a lotta work, maybe you should tell us how much work it needs...but we want to make this movie so let's all just agree that no matter how much work it is, we'll call it 'a little work'".

I ask Agent the name of the project, what it's about, etc. He says: Snakes on a Plane. Holy shit, I'm thinking. It's a title. It's a concept. It's a poster and a logline and whatever else you need it to be. It's perfect. Perfect. It's the Everlasting Gobstopper of movie titles.

I say to Agent: "Tell me nothing else. Get me the script and put me on the phone with those lucky bastards at New Line Cinema!"

So he does and he does.

Now out of both loyalty to the sacred bond between studio and screenwriter and also a serious desire to keep getting hired in this town, I will not give away any of the plot details of SNAKES ON A PLANE. But know this. As the great Sam Jackson would say: There are motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane.

What else do you need to know? How the snakes get on the plane, what the snakes do once they're on the plane, who puts the snakes on the plane, who is trying to get the snakes off the plane...This is not for you to ponder. There are snakes on the plane. End of fucking story.

In fact, during the two or three days that precedes my phone call with the studio, I become obsessed with the concept. Not as a movie. But as a sort of philosophy. Somnewhere in between "Cest la vie", "Whattya gonna do?" and "Shit happens" falls my new zen koan "Snakes on a Plane".

WIFE: "Honey you stepped in dog poop again. "
ME: "Snakes on a Plane..."
DOCTOR: "Your cholesterol is 290. Perhaps you want to mix in a walk once in a while."
ME: "Snakes on a Plane..."
WIFE: "Honey while you were on your cholesterol walk you stepped in dog poop again."

You get the picture.

Now I'm not a big rewrite guy and I do not love the ambulance chasing quality to script doctoring...I have done less than many but more than some and it's been a while since I've been holier than thou about that part of the business.

So I get on the phone. It's a conference call and I think maybe three people are on the phone and one's an old friend of mine and she and I do most of the talking. But here's the salient part and it comes early:

ME: "Oh my God I just have to say first and foremost that SNAKES ON A PLANE is the single greatest movie title of all time. I'm even using it as a zen koan. You have to promise me if I sign on to rewrite this you will NEVER change the title to something sort of generic and stupid like FLIGHT ONE-TWENTY WHO GIVES A FUCK."
ME: "You're changing the title aren't you?"
OLD FRIEND: Well, we were thinking, we need to make it a little scarier, a little more thriller-y, something not so camp..."

Needless to say things go downhill fast from there. I become sort of ornery and nitpicky on the phone and do the thing that studio executives and my wife hate more than anything: I bring up problems without providing any sort of solutions.

People hate that.

So I don't do the job and someone else does and frankly at that point I lose interest in following the SNAKES ON A PLANE saga. The movie could be the Next Great Deadly Animal Loose on a Plane movie and my heart'll always be a little sad. And believe it or not maybe there's a little screenwriting lesson in here somewhere:

If you're gonna do it, do it. Don't creep right up close to it, think about doing it, and then back off just a bit and try to convince yourself you're still doing it. You're not. It's binary. You either have faith or you don't. You're either doing it, or you're not.

I hope I've made myself clear.


Weeks later I am sitting in a lobby waiting to have a meeting with a producer who has kept me waiting an hour because he is "catching up" with Paris Hilton. (There is no story there. That's all I know.) Sitting next to me is a special effects team who's working on one of the producer's other movies. They have been waiting almost two hours and I have been bumped in line ahead of them. I feel bad about this and give them a sheepish smile and shrug. One of them says: "Whattya gonna do?" The other one shakes her head and says "Snakes on a Plane..."

I fall off my chair.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Koepp and I (A Play in Two Parts)

Well the blog's been open for twelve hours and so far there's two requests for Black Dahlia and one request for War of the Worlds. I'm gonna have to stretch this stuff out because these are my red meat. After that I may have to start dipping into my "back when I was rewriting Chain Reaction for Keanu" stories.

The WOTW question relates to the arbitration and of course that's a sticky little fucking wicket. But it's a question I get asked a lot. I did a Q&A at the WGA theater after a WOTW screening a few weeks back and the moderator prepped me ahead of time by saying: "Whatever you do, don't talk about the arbitration." The Q&A starts and maybe the second question out of the box is: "Tell us about the arbitration". I lean forward with my microphone and she puts her hand in front of my chest like she's a parent trying to keep her kid's head from hitting the windshield. I shrug her off. Fuck it. These people stayed late on a Friday night to ask me questions. The least I can do is give a little love.

A little history: I wrote the first three drafts of WOTW for Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise in late '02 and early '03. We handed the script in to Paramount and the previous regime (NO ONE remains) did not greenlight the movie. I had no more steps in my contract and there wasn't much talk about paying me to do more work. I left and went on to other projects. After some months David Koepp was hired and rewrote me. After MI-3 was delayed Cruise's schedule opened up and the movie was greenlit. The fellas went off and made the movie in record speed.

All movies are assigned temporary credits which are the studio's best guess as to what the credit will be. The Artful Writer has a great discussion on this topic here.

Obviously it's a complicated issue as temporary credits can be a studio's good faith effort to figure out what they think the credit will be...But the temporary credit is just as likely to be an expression of the studio's wishes. Does it matter what that temporary credit is given that the WGA arbitrators have final say? Of course it matters. WOTW is a perfect example.

Now...ya'll may not know this...but David Koepp is a much more successful and well-known screenwriter than I am. I know. Shocking to find out. I'd link you to his IMDB but frankly the guy doesn't need my help and you probably know his credits better than I do. He's very good and he works his ass off and people trust him to get movies made. And they should.

So they put David up for sole credit. What was their reasoning? Was that their best guess? Was that what they wanted to see happen? Dunno. Didn't ask. Didn't care. Didn't surprise me. IT'S EXACTLY WHAT I WOULD DO IF I WORKED FOR THE STUDIO. It's better for every single person working on WOTW for David Koepp to have sole credit on the screen. Except for me. And my wife. I'd include my parents but I think Dad secretly thought it finally validated his theory that I was too lazy to be successful.

So what happens? David Koepp is free to continue being David Koepp. He can do interviews. He can be in magazines. It's his movie, baby. Well, his and Steven's and Tom's...but we can dream, right? And here's the thing...he's doing EXACTLY WHAT I WOULD DO IN HIS SITUATION. How often to do you find yourself the sole credited writer of the most hyped movie of the summer? Granted, it happens to him about every other year, but for the rest of us...

So you're David Koepp and you press your advantage. As far as you and just about everybody else is concerned, you're it. He was on the set. It's his shooting draft. He's David fucking Koepp. Let me reiterate. He's doing EXACTLY WHAT I WOULD DO IN HIS SITUATION.

Where does that leave me? Did I mention that when I was working on the script it was supposed to be hush-hush? Yeah...nobody knew about it...Kinda cool when I was working on it...Kinda not so cool three years later. Here's sample dialogue of meetings I would have in the months before the arbitration:

PRODUCER/STUDIO EXEC: Dude. Whattya been up to?
ME: Not much, you know. Getting ready for the summer...
PRODUCER/STUDIO EXEC: Excited for anything comin' out?
ME: Well, you know, besides the obvious...
PRODUCER/STUDIO EXEC: Yeah I'm a big Star Wars fan, too. Hope it rocks.
ME: Uh, no. I meant War of the Worlds.
PRODUCER/STUDIO EXEC: I'm psyched for that, too. I think Steven's gonna knock it out of the park.
(Awkward silence as I try for the smooth segue...)
ME: You know I wrote that, don't you?

So I write my statement. I can't give out any details but to say this: it was twenty single-spaced pages and I rewrote it more times than I do my scripts. I'm not exaggerating and here's why: it's worth more fucking money than any script I've written. A shared screenplay credit on WOTW puts my son through school. K thru Graduate. All private if he wants. He can probably bring a friend. Am i being crass? I don't think so. Because what it comes down to is BUSINESS. The studio does what's best for BUSINESS. They're SELLING a movie. Not trying to punish Josh Friedman. You MUST believe this or you can drive yourself crazy. Because ultimately arbitrations are the products of success. If you're not arbitrating, you're probably not getting movies made. Is there ego involved? Professional pride? The Quest for Justice?


Gettin' all Norma Rae about it might help you but it just got me a little too hopped up and made it tough for me to sleep without drugs. The point is, it's a long and painful process. So whatever trick you play on your brain to help you write the best statement you can is strongly encouraged. For me I prefer not to consider the idea that the most powerful people in Hollywood don't like me.

I win the thing. Thank God. Because I cannot tell you how short this post would've been had I lost. There are rumblings. I hear that Koepp's not too happy (no shit), CAA's apoplectic (Koepp's agents), and my father takes the time to remind me that Koepp is only three years older than I am and (said with emphasis by Dad) ALSO A PRODUCER AND A DIRECTOR.

Don't ask.

So it's gold, right? I'm whisked away on everybody's shoulders (well, me on one shoulder and Koepp on the other).

Hmm. No. Because remember, this movie's been made so fast it's probably traveled through a wormhole and by the time the arbitration is done almost all of the advertising (especially the posters and trailers) is finished. And they don't go back and correct things. It's not like they pull 3500 trailers and start over. The studio is only responsible for any new promotional material going forward that hasn't already been finished.

Which means of course: I've got a credit on this movie and still nobody has any idea who the fuck I am.

In Part Two of "The Koepp and I" I'll detail the face-to-face showdown between myself and David Koepp at the New York premiere...

Monday, August 15, 2005

This is for you Fay(e)

Let's start here with an incomplete list:

John August, Craig Mazin, Ted Elliot, John Rogers, tv writers I've never heard of, Kevin Smith, Roger Avary, Tim Minear, some Canadians, Lee Goldberg, Ted Elliot again, those podcasting guys, that dude who was in film school but moved away...

As you can see, the world needs another screenwriter blog like the world needs another Michael Bay.

Not that we need the first Michael Bay, but fuck, he's here in all his terrible glory, raining shit down upon us in a gauzy undercranked nightmare starring Peter Horton as Michael Bay and (choose your Affleck) as the collective yours truly.

(My first script I ever had optioned was to Propaganda Films some years ago and they put me in a utility closet to do the rewrite. That closet opened to the cubicle of Michael Bay's assistant, Fay, or Fanny, possibly Ethel but I'm fairly sure it was Fay (or Faye). I never met Michael Bay--I'm not sure he came in to the office or knew where it was. Every day Fay(e) cried as he screamed at her over the phone. She deserved it, I'm sure. Directing milk is hard work.)

So Bay's here and we're here and he's a dark lord but we're sort of a guerrilla resistance holding out for regime change. On good days I imagine all these blogs are the secret dojos of the rebels as they gird for war. Scripts are ninjas we train from childhood and send out under the cover of night (or CAA) praying they've learned their lessons well and deadly. On bad days I wonder if Doyle Brunson was right when he said he forever regretted writing Super/System and teaching every valet on the strip how to play poker.

On that final point I am comforted by a number of factors: a) there are no writing "secrets" b) if I'm wrong and there are secrets I don't know them and c) if there were and I did I wouldn't tell...because while there is enough money to go around there is never enough praise and although I don't care if you get a job instead of me I hate the idea of you doing it better than I would.

Time out for a libel disclaimer: I cannot with any certainty be sure the Michael Bay who directed milk commercials for Propaganda in the 90s is the same "Michael Bay" who would call Michael Bay's assistant Fay(e) and make her cry. Neither can I assert for sure that Michael Bay is a dark lord.

So Bay's here and we're here and if this is his Hollywood then it might as well be our Hollywood. The screenwriting blogworld grows day by day and may soon include more blogs than writers. In all honesty I don't know for sure what this blog will bring--ask me whatever you want about my experiences in Hollywood, my movies, thoughts on writing, etc. I'll answer to the best of my abilities. I'm not much of a webmaster and there probably won't be a ton of what net experts like to call "links".

This is for you Fay(e).