WHAT HAPPENED TO MY ASS?
It’s always most fun if I’m in a crowded, family friendly place—like the popcorn line at a Pixar movie—when someone asks me, “What happened to your Ass Blog?”
If I’m thinking clearly, I respond with a clear, “I turned it into a movie,” but most times I fumble through lame excuses of how finding time to write is difficult. Both answers are true.
As far as excuse #2, I’m reminded of teaching a film class at my son’s high school. At the bottom of the syllabus, I added a note that was as much for me as my students:
“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
- Benjamin Franklin
Half the class took it to heart and created with passion, while the other half seemed to remain on their own teen-brain planet where “I think I am going to be sick next week* ” and “Prom is coming up* ” seem like legitimate updates to “My dog ate my paper.”
(*both real examples, btw)
I’ve attempted to shroud my no-time-to-write-excuse so it feels like an inspired elevator pitch:
I pivoted from writing a blog about the Green Acres journey of mini victories amid heartbreaking defeat toward writing a screenplay called AMANDA & JACK GO GLAMPING.
The idea for writing a new script was born out of the ashes of a crushing defeat as a year of development, adapting a book into a screenplay, and fundraising for a new feature film came to an abrupt halt in the middle of casting and pre-production.
It had gotten off to such great start.
It was almost providential. The day my thirteen-year-old son watched STAND BY ME for the first time was the same day producer Susan Kirr introduced me to an award-winning Icelandic novel she was developing into a feature. I was drawn to this timeless story of youthful friendship thrown into a spin when an outsider moves into town, just as my son was through the iconic film.
The story was so compelling and I was so enthralled that I threw myself into the process of turning it into a film.
I was humblejoyed (all at once humbled and jumping up and down) when Susan, who’s production credits include SPRING BREAKERS and THE TREE OF LIFE, considered me to dive in as writer/director. And I was absolutely thrilled when I realized the guitarist for The Sugar Cubes wrote the original book. When we finally jumped on a Skype call with the producer in Reykjavik, I had to fight the urge to blurt out that as a Bjork fanboy, I used to play a track from “Stick Around for Joy” every time I DJ’ed my “Brando Show” at my college radio station. With my third draft in hand, the rest of financing secured, and Academy-Award-nominated producer Cathleen Sutherland (BOYHOOD) joining the party, all systems were finally go.
And then, they weren’t.
The green light turned red. In the middle of auditions, the promised Icelandic matching fund disappeared like a Gálgahraun elf. My hopes were crushed. I was twelve years old again, playing Red Light/Green Light at Skateway — just when you thought you were going to make it to the winning wall, you were caught flinching on the floor with two-sizes-too-small roller skates and banished to do the skate-of-shame to join the other losers on the sidelines.
For days, and then weeks, I wandered Green Acres with Donkey at my side, giving me that “I see right through you” stare.
I was beyond bummed. It had taken my film VICTOR five years to find its way to theaters and Netflix. My documentary A SINGLE FRAME remained an obscure festival-only pic for two years before iTunes. Losing another year in a project that was D.O.A. was utterly overwhelming. I began dwelling in failure and defeat like an ichthyologist-out-of-water as I continued to manage our boutique Glamping Retreat. The whole time, I wished I were yelling “Action!” instead of “Hiyah!” at the coyotes that came too close to the guests’ yurts.
Alone, isolated, and defeated with no money, no story, and no producers—I finally got to work on a new Act 1, Scene 1:
Without realizing it, I started the film the same way all my films begin — a main character leaves the familiar to go to a new place where personal change must take place amid cultural challenges. SIRONIA follows Thomas from LA to Waco; VICTOR travels from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn, and even Jeff Bowden in, A SINGLE FRAME, journeys from Austin to Kosovo.
Whether you have to “write what you know” is subject to debate, but I find the sentiment incredibly helpful as an emotional sandbox for me to play in. Maybe “play” is the wrong word, as the process feels more like painful self-therapy than a day of surfing. Still, it’s easier to steer a ship once it’s moving, and my Jack Spencer character became my way forward.
Things are looking up, and there are no more excuses. There are more stories to be shared.
The Ass Blog is back.
More stories coming soon(ish).