My blogging-to-actual-work ratio has tipped decidedly to the things-I-get-paid-for side over the last few weeks, as a number of projects have commanded a lot more of my time. So I thought it only fair to explain what’s pulled me out of my beloved bent-brad bunker.
Here’s an update on my previous post, about my current projects.
★ ACTIVE ★
This one-hour drama pilot about private military contractors has suddenly roared back to life, with Fox giving the go-ahead to start casting. We’re out to directors, and — knock wood — should be able to shoot early in the year. For various reasons, the episode we’d planned to start with might now become number three in the season, so that means a whole new script to write (with co-creator Jordan Mechner). But TV scripts are short. And it will be nice to get back into that world.
Casting a TV show takes forever. We’ll have a big pow-wow with the network and the studio, going over their lists of who they have deals with, and who they’ve always liked. Then we’ll meet with those actors. The less-established actors will be fine coming in for an audition, but the bigger names will only “meet.” Which often means coffee. Which often takes a hell of a lot longer.
Eventually, we’ll have big casting sessions, where we’ll audition 15 or more actors in an afternoon, one after the other. On the other two TV shows, I’ve always been in the room for those sessions, but given the newborn and the other projects on this list, I’ll probably be watching videotape for more of these casting sessions.
Untitled Broadway Musical
I’ve had work sessions with the composer this week. We’re now up to seven songs, plus a fair amount of connective tissue (“the book,” which is my job). It’s strange working with someone who can hear something once and immediately play it back on the piano, with elaborations, in a different key. I don’t sell myself short — I’m good at what I do — but I’d love to have that kind of gift.
My basic strategy for working with a composer is to offer effusive praise at anything that sounds right, and to feign musical ignorance when it’s clear what’s not working. “There’s something about that part of the song where it goes — what’s the word when it’s not happy, but — yes, minor. Maybe if it were the opposite of that, it could work, maybe?”
I will ultimately pay a horrible price for this passive-agressive behavior. But for now, the songs sure are pretty.
Father Knows Less
Just yesterday, I saw that Charles Shyer signed on to direct this Dustin Hoffman comedy at New Line. I’d rewritten Aline Brosh McKenna’s script, and now another writer is working with Shyer. Which is fine. The original director, Shawn Levy, fell off a few months ago over budget issues. Since then, I’ve talked to several director acquaintances who’d recently read the script. So it’s good to know that New Line was serious about making the movie.
Tim Burton’s movie
I hope to sit down with Tim in the next few weeks to talk over a few things that are in the planning stages. As busy as I get, I hope to always be able to write Tim’s next movie.
★ LIMBO ★
Prince of Persia
I’m executive producing this adaptation of Jordan Mechner’s videogame for Disney. What does an executive producer do? Here’s my analogy: Imagine you’re in the cockpit of a 747. You know how to fly it; you know where to go. But you’re not allowed to touch the controls.
If that sounds frustrating, it is. There are decisions to be made, and I’m not the one making them. But I’m hoping the right decisions get made regardless, because Prince of Persia deserves to be a giant summer tentpole movie.
This Hideo Nakata-directed horror remake is supposed to star Renee Zellweger, but I haven’t heard anything new since I turned in my rewrite months ago. It’s still floating out there. I doubt I’ll need to pick up my pen again, though.
After visiting the two motion-capture film currently in production at Sony, I got thinking more about doing Tarzan that way. It would certainly be a big help in addressing two major issues with filming it: creating a mythical Africa, and humanely handling the apes.
★ FINISHED ★
How to Eat Fried Worms
This project was the very first script I was paid to write, way back in 1996 or so. And now it’s an actual movie. But I can safely say it’s not my movie.
When a film completes production, the WGA sends the final shooting script to all the screenwriters who worked on it, which in this case was only two: me and Bob Dolman, who directed it. I read the script, and had the option to arbitrate for screenwriting credit. I passed. Dolman really did his own thing, and beyond one basic part of the setup (Billy and his family have just moved to a new town), there’s nothing I’d really claim as my own.
Regardless, it’s kind of comforting to have one dangling thread tied up.